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RUSSIA GRAPPLES WITH HISTORY AS CENTENARY OF REVOLUTION APPROACHES
from: SBS News
(20 Oct.) A century after its revolution shook the world, Russia strives to strike an odd balance between remembering the uprising that brought about the Soviet Union, while stopping short of romanticising regime change. In a series of seismic events, the year 1917 saw Tsar Nicholas II abdicate in March and the Bolsheviks led by Lenin seize power in October.
Civil war erupted immediately afterwards, followed by the creation in 1922 of the USSR, built on the ruins of the Russian empire. A hundred years later, Russia still has trouble dealing with its revolutionary past, with the legacy of the 1917 uprising and the Soviet Union sparking fierce debate to this day. While the government tries to foster positive feelings towards the Soviet regime, which collapsed in 1991, it also wants to maintain the power and influence of the Orthodox Church.
To sing praises to Lenin, the leader of the revolution, is complicated by his view of religion and clerics as oppressors of the working class. Throughout the Soviet era, anniversaries of the revolution were marked with pomp on November 7 (or October 25 according to the Julian calendar used in 1917) - a massive holiday that featured military parades on Moscow's emblematic Red Square. Today the programme is far more subdued.
The Kremlin has tasked a committee of politicians and clerics - none of them Communists or monarchists - with planning the festivities. The committee's goal is to "draw lessons from history," build "unity" and learn about how to "peacefully resolve conflicts," said Sergei Naryshkin, who heads both the Russian Historical Society and the foreign intelligence service. At one of the committee meetings, Naryshkin said revolutions "always bring blood, death, destruction and disaster." [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: SURVEILLANCE, RAIDS, BIBLE DESTRUCTION, JAILING, TORTURE
by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service
(19 Oct.) After following a Protestant Pastor from Urgench and others they had put under surveillance on a visit to the neighbouring Karakalpakstan Region in Uzbekistan, police raided a meeting for a meal they were participating in, searched the house, and confiscated various electronic devices and Christian religious materials including a Bible. A friend of the host who also present during the police raid was summoned to Kungrad Police Station, where they were tortured. Police told Protestants who complained about the torture that "we do not care, you can complain anywhere."
One Protestant was jailed in absentia for 15 days and four others were given large fines. Judge Gairat Khudoyberganov also ordered literature including the Bible to be destroyed. The authorities refused to answer questions about the surveillance, raid, torture, jailing, fines and literature destruction. And in the region around the capital Tashkent, Anti-Terrorism Police in Yangiyul District raided the private homes of people in the local state-registered Baptist Church and confiscated literature. Baptists think that some of those raided may be fined.
Protestants told Forum 18 on 14 October that that "we suspect that police, using informants who visit the Church, have put Pastor Ahmadjon Nazarov [in Urgench in Khorezm Region, in the west of Uzbekistan] under close surveillance." People from a variety of religious communities have told Forum 18 of hidden microphones in places of worship, the presence of National Security Service (NSS) agents during meetings for worship, and the recruitment of spies within communities - including among leaders. [read more...]
(18 Oct.) The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations will contact interchurch associations and humanitarian institutions with a request to assist in the release of hostages.
This decision was taken by the AUCCRO during the discussion of this issue with Vasyl Hrytsak, Chief of the Security Service of Ukraine, with the participation of mothers and wives of hostages who have been held by the so-called "Donetsk People’s Republic" and "Luhansk People’s Republic" for more than three years the territory of the East of Ukraine beyond the government’s control, the Institute of Religious Freedom reports
The meeting was held on October 12 at the National Academy of Security Service of Ukraine in Kyiv. The participants discussed ways to assist the AUCCRO in the release of hostages, as well as possible practical measures - both joint measures and the ones to the best of abilities of each denomination.
The SBU Chief called on representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches to assist in the process of release of hostages. "We must use every opportunity to draw attention to this problem and find ways to solve it. To have common sense, and our captors have returned home," Vasyl Hrytsak said. [read more...]
TURKMENISTAN: COMPULSORY RE-REGISTRATION, CONTINUING STATE OBSTRUCTIONISM
by Felix Corley: Forum 18 News Service
(9 Oct.) Eighteen months after Turkmenistan's latest highly restrictive Religion Law came into force in April 2016, only two religious communities - both Protestant Christian - are so far known to have been re-registered. The Justice Ministry has claimed that many of the applications by other communities have "errors" which must be "corrected."
he new Religion Law requires all religious communities which had previously had state registration - and so permission to exist and exercise freedom of religion and belief - to apply for re-registration under the terms of the new Law. Communities with fewer than 50 adult members prepared to sign a registration application are no longer eligible to seek legal status, and so are not allowed by the state to exist. In March 2017 the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee strongly criticised the Religion Law and Turkmenistan's many other violations of freedom of religion and belief and interlinked human rights.
The authorities also continue to deny state permission to exist to many religious communities, especially independent mosques, new Russian Orthodox communities, many Protestant communities and Jehovah's Witnesses. Also denied permission to exist is any religious community which chooses not to apply for registration, or is not granted registration or re-registration. [read more...]
METROPOLITAN HILARION HOLDS UP PROTESTANT MISSIONARIES AS AN EXAMPLE FOR ORTHODOX PRIESTS
(18 Oct.) Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk recommends Orthodox believers to study Gospels and points out to Protestant missionaries who know Biblical texts profoundly. "In my official capacity I have to communicate with protestants. Sometimes I am impressed how well they know Biblical texts," he said at a presentation of the sixth volume of his book Jesus Christ. Life and Teaching in Moscow.
The metropolitan told that at a conference in the USA he once met a Protestant pastor whose speech was rich in quotations from the Bible and each time the missionary pointed out to the verse and the chapter. When the missionary came up to the Metropolitan Hilarion, the hierarch saw that the Bible in his hands was covered with lines in different colors - "in red and blue pencils, there were notes in the margins." When the missionary saw that the metropolitan was surprised he explained that he lived the whole life with this book and it was always with him.
"And I think, even if we don't speak about the whole Bible, but only about its most important part, the Gospels, if we know the Gospels like this, we won't be afraid of any competitors," Metropolitan Hilarion summed up. [read more...]
METROPOLITAN HILARION: EUROPE MUST DEFEND CHRISTIAN ROOTS
from: Google News
(20 Oct.) Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for external affairs, believes Europe must defend its Christian roots and change its immigration policies or "face annihilation."
Speaking to the Register Oct. 12 at a conference for persecuted Christians in Budapest, Hungary, the Russian Orthodox leader warned that if Europe "officially denies Christ and Christianity, in a few generations there will be other people living in Europe professing other faiths." He congratulated the Hungarian government for the attention it is giving to persecuted Christians, and also praised its Prime Minister, Victor Orban, for urging Western nations to put aside "political correctness" and draw attention to concrete problems.
When asked, "What is your opinion on Hungary’s unique help for persecuted Christians?" he replied, "I think it’s very important that Hungary is a country which takes the issue of persecution of Christians very seriously. Also it is one of very few countries whose officials are openly speaking about persecution of Christians. There are many countries that would prefer to avoid speaking about persecution of Christians and instead use other phrases such as discrimination of religious minorities. Hungary, in the person of its Prime Minister Viktor Orban who spoke at this conference, is very outspoken about this phenomenon. And as a country, it not only speaks about helping Christians, but helps Christians."
Asked again, "How are they doing this?" Metr. Hiarion answered, "We heard today about several projects, including donations to Syrian Christian churches, scholarships for Christian students from the Middle East. Also what I find it very important about Mr. Orban’s position is that we should not provide help for Middle Eastern Christians here in Europe, but we should provide possibilities for them to stay in their homes. It is for them to stay in their homes or return to their homes." [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
KAZAKHSTAN: MORE RESTRICTIONS TO PARLIAMENT IN DECEMBER?
from Forum 18 News Service
STATIONS OF THE CROSS AT LVIV’S VYSOKYY CASTLE DESTROYED BY VANDALS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
SGA HELPING CHURCHES IN WAR-TORN UKRAINE
from Mission Network News
MOSCOW COURT DECLINES DEFENSE LAWYERS' APPEAL AGAINST ARREST OF CHRISTIAN STATE LEADER KALININ
POKLONSKAYA APPEALS TO PROSECUTOR GENERAL AFTER PATRIARCH'S WORDS ABOUT "MATILDA"
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH DELEGATE TAKES PART IN 4TH INT'L CONFERENCE FOR PASTORAL HEALTH CARE
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
REGINA’S STORY: MINISTRY TO YOUNG CANCER PATIENTS
from Mission Eurasia
1,000-STRONG MASS INFANT BAPTISM TO BE CELEBRATED IN BULGARIA
from Orthodox Christianity
TODAY’S MARTYRS FOR CHRISTIANITY
from National Review
PATRIARCH KIRILL URGES TO BASE LEGISLATION ON MORAL LAW
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
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This month marks the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. As explained in our first news article RUSSIA GRAPPLES WITH HISTORY AS CENTENARY OF REVOLUTION APPROACHES, Russia is in a quandry about how to commemorate it: the Bolsheviks murdered and tortured tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians, confiscated their church buildings and monasteries, and drove many more thousands out of the country. Most of the Orthodox Christians around Pittsburgh PA where we live immigrated to the USA about 100 years ago from Russia and Ukraine.
Today most of Russia's leaders are former members of the Communist Party, but are trying to "make nice" with the Russian Orthodox Church. They need the Orthodox Church's ideological support because the old Marxist ideology is discredited, and the Church is happy to comply. But in spite of the fact that the USSR collapsed over 25 years ago, the new government has never yet officially denounced and repented of its persecution of Christians. It will be interesting to read and report on what kind of statements issue from the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church in the coming weeks regarding the 1917 Revolution.
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The Kingdom of Eternal Happiness
There seems to be no end of televangelists, church pastors and roadside billboards preaching a "cheap grace" happy-clappy message of "Just say - 'Ah bleevin Jeezuz,' and you'll be guaranteed a home in the Kingdom of Eternal Happiness!" It doesn't matter, they say, which Jeezuz you bleevin: merely a great moral teacher, or a good man that God used, or a god-like being that appeared to be a human, just bleev! That's the magic formula to get free salvation and the secularized version of it: free homes, free food, free clothes, free TV, free phones, free education, free medical care, etc. ...until the money-printing presses burn out, the world heats up, and the hurricanes and floods take away the east, west and gulf coasts, leaving just the heartland of hard-working people who were taxed to pay for all the free stuff being handed out.
My point here is that a so-called gospel of "cheap grace" that whips up people into a state of euphoria by promising health and wealth on earth and eternal happiness in heaven is way out of sync with reality and with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who said: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for My sake, the same will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own soul? For whoever will be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:23-26). And about those televangelists, church pastors and roadside billboards, Christ said:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. A good tree can't produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn't grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:15-21).
These wolves in sheep's clothing are like the "coyotes" who promise to guide illegal immigrants across the U.S. border in exchange for a hefty fee that the wolves/coyotes keep, even if the illegals die in the desert or are arrested and deported. Those poor people believed the lie of an eternal paradise of "free stuff" just across the river, but in fact were sold down the river. The false prophets stroke the "sheeple" with soft, sweet words and gentle music as the offering plates are passed and their bank accounts are filled. But preachers who tell it like it is, who preach the pure Gospel of Christ, are like the prophet Jeremiah, who said to Hananiah the false prophet:
"Listen, Hananiah: the Lord has not sent you; but you are making this people to believe in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord, Behold, I will wipe you off the face of the earth: this year you shall die, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month." (Jeremiah 28:15-17)
But Jeremiah, for his inveighing against the false prophets who foretold lies that the Jewish people wouldn't be conquered and taken away as slaves, eventually was arrested, thrown into a well, and later sawn in two. He complained to the Lord:
"Cursed be the day in which I was born: don't let the day in which my mother bore me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought news to my father, saying, A manchild is born to you; making him very glad. Let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and didn't repent: and let him hear a cry in the morning, and shouting at noontime; because he didn't kill me from the womb; and so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb always great. Why did I come forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?" (Jeremiah 20:14-18)
The glory of the coming Kingdom as described in the New Testament is not the happy-clappy glory-halleluiah of the smiley-face "Ah bleevin Jeezuz" crowd. The Apostle John wrote about Christ's glory this way: "The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Most assuredly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me. Where I am, there will My servant also be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. Now My soul is troubled. What shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this time?' But for this cause I came to this time. Father, glorify Your name! Then there came a voice out of heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." (John 11:23-28).
How was Christ glorified? By dying and being buried, falling into the ground like a grain of wheat. The Apostle Paul stated that "through many afflictions we must enter into the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22b). And Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi that Christ "emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted Him, and gave to Him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:7-11).
So the true glory isn't free, it costs us our whole life, becoming a "living sacrifice" in order to be transformed into Christ's image and likeness: "Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2). Also, "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). The word "transformed" is the same Greek word as "transfigured" like when Jesus was transfigured and shone in His glory. This is our goal as Christians: it isn't cheap or easy, but it's worth it!
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Please remember to pray for Christians in socialist countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. This life is preparation for eternity. When we fully grasp this fact, we will live only for eternal values.