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||FIRST, THE NEWS:
RUSSIAN PENTECOSTAL PASTOR SEEKS ASYLUM IN GERMANY, FEARS BEING DECLARED A TERRORIST BY RUSSIAN GOV'T.
from: Christian Post
(22 Sep) A Pentecostal pastor has applied for political asylum in Germany and is living there as a refugee with his family, saying that he is fearful of being arrested and treated as a terrorist back home in Russia.
"It is very dangerous to return to Russia. There, I will be declared a terrorist and put behind bars," pastor Alexey Kolyasnikov said in an interview with Germany's Deutsche Welle.
Kolyasnikov, his wife and three daughters have been living in a refugee camp in Leverkusen since July. The pastor explained that he chose to go to Germany because "the Protestant Church here is strong."
The pastor alleged that he has been investigated by Russian authorities simply for practicing his faith. He revealed that one evening back in 2014, he held a gathering with his Pentecostal congregation at a cafe in Sochi, since they do not own a church building. Kolyasnikov explained that police officers and members of Russia's main intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, appeared during the Bible reading, and accused him of holding an unauthorized gathering. [read more...]
CHINESE GOV’T. BANS KIDS FROM ATTENDING CHURCH SERVICES
from LIFESITE News
(11 Sep) China’s communist authorities are cracking down on Christianity, telling more than a hundred Christian churches that children are now forbidden from attending church services and joining Christian groups.
In August over a hundred churches in Wenzhou, within the largely Christian Zhejiang province, received official notices that children will be banned from entering any church. Church leaders were told that minors would be turned away at the doors, even if accompanied by their parents. The notices threaten Christians caught taking their child to services, stating that they "will be dealt with severely."
Chinese authorities claim that church attendance thwarts minors from "develop(ing) a correct worldview and set of values. Minors receiving religious education and formation too early in churches would seriously affect the normal implementation of the education system," the Ouhai district's notice explained.
Officials warned that government inspectors will "launch open and undercover investigations" on Sundays in both state-sanctioned churches and underground congregations to enforce the ban. [read more...]
THE HIERARCHS OF THE UKRAINIAN CHURCHES IN U.S. MET WITH THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(20 Sep) On Monday, September 18, 2017 His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel participated in the meeting of the Ukrainian-American Community and the representatives of the Crimean Tatar organizations with the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna at the Ukrainian Museum in New York City, NY.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was represented at the meeting by Bishop Pavlo (Khomnitsky), Eparch of Stamford Diocese, Bishop Basil (Losten), Bishop Emeritus of Stamford Diocese, and representatives of secular and civic organizations.
The Head of Ukrainian State thanked foreign Ukrainians for their support and assistance. "Never in the history of the Ukrainian state, after the restoration of independence, has Ukraine felt such a great assistance and unity of all Ukrainians in the world aimed to implement the tasks the Ukrainian state faces today," he emphasized.
The Head of State informed on the course of reforms in Ukraine. In particular, the education reform has been approved recently. The President added that the Verkhovna Rada would continue the consideration of the judicial reform to create an independent judicial institution and return the right to justice for Ukrainians. [read more...]
GEORGIA: CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES TO IMPOSE IMPERMISSIBLE FREEDOM RESTRICTIONS?
by Mariam Gavtadze, Forum 18 News Service
(19 Sep) Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream party appears to be moving to amend the Constitution to restrict freedom of religion and belief in ways Georgia's legally binding international human rights obligations do not allow. Unless the government changes the text before Parliament holds its third reading, the new amended Constitution would allow new restrictions on freedom of religion and belief based on the vague and undefined criteria of "state [national] security or public safety", "the prevention of crime", and "the implementation of justice."
Parliament - which is overwhelmingly dominated by ruling party deputies -could adopt the amended Constitution at its third and final reading as early as 26 September. The Council of Europe's Venice Commission is due to send to Georgia's Parliament its Draft Opinion on the latest text on 22 September.
The Public Defender (human rights ombudsperson), religious communities and human rights defenders are among those strongly protesting against these and other proposed Constitutional changes. The government ignored a Venice Commission legal Opinion on an earlier draft of the Constitution. [read more...]
CHRISTIAN STATE LEADER KALININ MAY BE PROSECUTED FOR FOMENTING HOSTILITY BY TORCHING CARS
(20 Sep) Alexander Kalinin, the leader of the organization Christian State - Holy Russia, may be prosecuted for fomenting hostility, a law enforcement source told Interfax. "Kalinin has been detained in the Lipetsk Region, and the opening of a criminal case against him on charges of fomenting discord or hostility is under consideration now," a police source said.
Konstantin Dobrynin, a lawyer for Russian film director Alexey Uchitel, had demanded earlier that Kalinin be held criminally liable. The law enforcement source said that, apart from Kalinin, police had also detained three other people on suspicion of setting fire to cars near Dobrynin's office in Moscow. Alexander Bayanov, Kalinin's cousin, is among the suspects.
Uchitel is the director of the film 'Matilda', whose official release is scheduled for October 26. The film deals with the relationship between future Russian Emperor Nicholas II and ballerina Matilda (Matylda) Krzesinska. The film has gained a lot of publicity long before its release. In particular, State Duma deputy Natalya Poklonskaya has been fervently opposing its distribution. [read more...]
BUCHAREST MAYOR TO ALLOCATE 1 MILLION EUROS FOR LARGE CATHEDRAL
from: Romania Insider
(12 Sep) The Bucharest City Hall will allocate EUR 1 million for the Redemption Cathedral in Bucharest, the biggest church in Romania, which is currently being built.
Romania’s Redemption Cathedral will have 25-ton bell with the Patriarch’s portrait on it. Bucharest’s General Council approved the budget amendment on Monday, September 11.
The City Hall will also allocate EUR 6 million to support disabled children, EUR 4 million for the Carol Davila hospital and EUR 3.8 million to modernize Bucharest’s thermal energy distributor RADET. Another EUR 2.8 million will be allocated to acquire 12 snow melting machines.
Bucharest’s public bus and tram system RATB will get EUR 2.7 million to introduce air conditioning, following the budget amendment. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
UZBEKISTAN: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SURVEY, SEPTEMBER 2017
from Forum 18 News Service
POROSHENKO CALLS ON UN MEMBER STATES TO RECOGNIZE THE HOLODOMOR OF 1932-1933 AS GENOCIDE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
SGA SEEKS TO HELP UKRAINIAN ORPHANS
from Mission Network News
RUSSIAN POLICE READY TO CURB PROVOCATIONS, ENSURE SECURITY OF MATILDA FILM VIEWERS
DIVISIONS IN ORTHODOX CHURCH OVER RESPONSE TO CONTROVERSIAL MOVIE MATILDA
16TH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 TERROR ATTACK IN THE UNITED STATES WAS MARKED BY REQUIEM SERVICE IN MOSCOW
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
ELZA'S TESTIMONY: THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE
from Mission Eurasia
THE MINISTRY OF FR. NIKOLAY IN IRELAND: PASTOR, FAMILY MAN, PROGRAMMER
from Orthodox Christianity
RUSSIAN COURT ORDERS HANDOVER OF MUCH-CONTESTED SOVIET-SEIZED BUILDINGS TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
from The Tablet
500,000 UKRAINIANS GATHER TO CELEBRATE REFORMATION AND GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
from Mission Network News
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It is disheartening to read about how Russia and China are reverting to old soviet-style religious repression - see our first news article RUSSIAN PENTECOSTAL PASTOR SEEKS ASYLUM IN GERMANY, FEARS BEING DECLARED A TERRORIST BY RUSSIAN GOV'T. and our second article CHINESE GOV’T. BANS KIDS FROM ATTENDING CHURCH SERVICES. But even in the country of Georgia that until recently had a western-oriented government - see GEORGIA: CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES TO IMPOSE IMPERMISSIBLE FREEDOM RESTRICTIONS? this is happening.
Much fuss has been made all over Russia about the upcoming movie "Matilda" that depicts a love afffair of the future Tsar Alexander II with a certain ballerina by the name of Matilda. Russians have canonized the country's last Tsar as a saint, so how could he possibly have committed fornication as a youth? But even a cursory reading of the lives of the saints shows us that some of them led less than virtuous lives before committing themselves wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ. Alexander Kalinin's organization Christian State - Holy Russia that torched a few cars in Moscow is just one group among many that resort to violence in their protests against anything they consider un-Orthodox.
My wife and I experienced this more than once in our 17 years as missionaries in Russia. Once a drunken Orthodox priest had the police ban us from his village. Another time, the Orthodox "missionary committee" hired a group of neo-Nazis to disrupt some evangelistic meetings we helped organize. And when the Baptist church we were attending had been allocated some land for a church building, a crowd of local Russians stormed the watchman's shack, and later painted "Death to Baptists!" on the wooden fence around the construction site.
But sadly, such ethnocentric, nationalistic behavior is also encountered in the West, as we have seen in the recent riots in Charlotteville and elsewhere. The idea of civil society in which people calmly discuss and debate their differences until they come up with a modus vivendi, a workable solution to live peaceably with each other, seems to be fading from the public consciousness lately, giving way more and more to extremists on both the Right and the Left.
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"Dark" or Unseen Matter and Energy
My last essay - Is Reality Really Real, or Is It All in Your Head? included an image of Albert Einstein with the quote - "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." He was referring to the idea that what we in the modern age have been trained to consider as "reality" is the material universe that we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell, but all of that is just a tiny portion of what's really real.
Add to these five senses the instrumentation of detecting electromagnetic and atomic radiation that we have on earth and can launch into or with which we can peer into deep space, and we seem to be able to detect and measure the contents of the whole universe. Astronomers and physicists have determined that the universe is about 13.5 billion years old and that it is expanding at an ever greater rate of speed.
But in all these explorations we've come across clues of something "out there" that we can't detect or measure, all we can observe is its effect on the known universe. Scientists often call this "something" dark matter and energy, and as the illustration here points out, dark matter according to their estimates makes up about 23% and dark energy makes up about 73% of the universe, for a total of 96% of everyting that exists. This leaves just 4% of the universe as what we call "material reality" - what we can observe with our five senses and all our scientific instrumentation and mathematical calculations.
A French researcher has called this unknowable matter and energy "unseen" or "invisible" rather than using the word "dark" which can imply a negative or evil connotation to this unknowable stuff. Could this be what causes some plants to develop structures that follow precise mathematical patterns and what enables birds to migrate along routes they have never flown before? A strictly materialist universe governed only by random chance could never produce the structured complexity we see all around us. Lisa Randall, Professor of Science at Harvard University, is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who thinks that unseen matter and energy could actually harbor forms of intelligent life far beyond our abilities to comprehend.
This is consistent with what we read in Hebrews 11:3 - "By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the Word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible." The unseen, invisible force in the universe, the Word of God, is the creator of the visible universe. This Word of God is the Logos, the logic or informational patterning in the universe, as St. Paul wrote - "For by Him were all things created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through Him, and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things are held together" (Colossians 1:16-17).
So the ancient theologians were right: the Logos is both transcendent (above and beyond the universe) and immanent (interpenetrating everything that exists in the material universe), or as they said - "He is everywhere present and fills all things." The Apostle John wrote - "In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him. Without Him was not anything made that has been made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it" John 1:1-5).
But not only the Logos exists before all things, Who is the Light that enlightens all mankind, that divine spark that differentiates humans from lower animals. There are also dark forces "out there," as St. Paul wrote - "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
We are involved in a cosmic battle in a realm that our material senses cannot comprehend. There are spiritual forces all around us, angels and demons, who are fighting for control over our minds and spirits, as St. Paul explained - "For though we walk in the flesh, we don't wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
If we allow ourselves to be taken captive by the spirit of this age, we'll come out as losers in this great cosmic battle. Living just for material wealth, ease and pleasure is a losing proposition. If, however, we give ourselves to serving Christ, we will be on the winning side: the darkness will not overcome the Light!
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Bob & Cheryl
p.s. There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and trying to make them equal. - F.A. Hayek