||FIRST, THE NEWS:
AMERICAN PASTOR FACES FINES, END OF MINISTRY UNDER NEW RUSSIAN LAW
from: Fox News
(30 Sep) An American missionary's bid to spread the Gospel in Russia is facing hard times after authorities accused him of violating an anti-religion law that was sneaked into recently passed anti-terror legislation. Christian pastor Donald Ossewaarde, 55, is the first American citizen to be charged under Russia’s new “Yarovaya” anti-terror laws that contain a provision that increases regulation on evangelism. Included is a full ban on any missionary activities in non-religious settings, meaning anyone who preaches outside of a church or designated religious center faces stiff penalties.
Ossewaarde is due in court in the town of Oryol, 224 miles south of Moscow, after he held religious services in his home and posted advertisements for the service on bulletin boards in nearby housing blocks. The pastor was fined the equivalent of $630 for violating what is also known as the "anti-sharing beliefs amendment."
“The Yarovaya laws have sent Russia careening back toward the days of the Soviet Union in terms of religious freedom,” Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, told FoxNews.com. “Donald’s case is likely just the tip of the iceberg; these laws affect everyone in Russia, not just foreign missionaries.” [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: PUNISHED FOR POSSESSING RELIGIOUS BOOKS AT HOME
by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service
(29 Sep) Stanislav Kim, a Baptist from Urgench [Urganch] in the north-western Khorezm Region has been punished for a second time within a year for having Christian books at home, which state officials regard as "illegal". As this was a second punishment, Kim was convicted under the Criminal Code, receiving a two-year corrective labour sentence. A Presbyterian Christian in the capital Tashkent was fined in May for having religious literature at home. The Christian literature was ordered to be handed to the state-backed Muslim Board. A criminal trial against him began in September for "illegal" use of computers.
In Surkhandarya Region, four Baptists were punished for religious literature confiscated during an illegal house search. Two Bibles, as well as other books and discs, were ordered destroyed. Officials claimed one book was banned because it could be used to spread a faith. They also claimed Baptists are banned in the Region because they do not have state registration.
In Zarafshan, a Baptist pastor and his wife were fined for Bibles and Baptist song books seized from their home. These eight individuals are among many punished for having personal religious literature in their homes. The authorities regard such possession of religious literature as "illegal." [read more...]
MAKSYM VASIN: RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN DONBAS AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE RUSSIAN AGGRESSION
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(30 Sep) "The OSCE should defend the fundamental right for freedom of religion for those, who have suffered daily in eastern Ukraine because of the Russian aggression," stated Maksym Vasin, CEO of the Institute for Religious Freedom, at the OSCE HDIM (Session 12) on September 27, 2016 in Warsaw. "It has been 2.5 years that the fundamental human rights in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine have been violated. The Russian-backed separatists have systematically exploited the religious factor, trying to reinforce their imposed governance and eradicate any kind of dissent."
Instead of religious freedom and pluralism, which are inherent in the rest part of Ukraine, in the Donbas religion is used as ground for persecution, torture and even the murder of priests and believers. Now among the captured is Prof. Ihor Kozlovskyi, a religious studies scholar, held for over 8 months, charged with the support of religious minorities. Until now numerous temples and places of worship remain under control of the Russian-backed separatists, and often are used as military facilities. For example, a complex of buildings of the Donetsk Christian University, a building of the “Word of Life” Bible Institute on Tkachenko Street 100 in Donetsk, and several other places of worship.
A year ago Mr. Zakharchenko, a head of Donetsk separatists, declared that he will "actively fight against sects." After this a new wave of religious persecution was experienced by Evangelical Christians, Orthodox of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Greek-Catholics and other religious minorities. As a consequence, in September of 2015 the separatists organized a rally in the city of Shakhtarsk, which confronted Baptist Christians in front of their house of worship, with the intent of banishing the all “sects” from the Donbas region. More currently, in 2016, a similar rally against “sects” was organized in front of the Greek-Catholic temple in Donetsk. Even children and school pupils were engaged to carry banners with political and hate speech slogans against religious minorities. [read more...]
PATRIARCH KIRILL SIGNS A PETITION CALLING FOR BAN ON ABORTIONS IN RUSSIA
(28 Sep) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia signed a petition after a divine service in Archangel Michael Church in the village of Belousovo in New Moscow at the meeting with the participants in all-Russian public movement For Life and The Orthodox Volunteers movement, the website of the Russian Church reports. "We, the citizens of the Russian Federation, are in favor of the termination of the existing practice of abortion in our country which is the legal killing of children before birth and require making changes in the legal system to recognize that a conceived child has a status of human being, whose life, health and well-being should be protected by law," the appeal reads as its text was agreed with the Patriarchal Commission for the Family, Maternity and Childhood Protection.
Its authors also stand for banning surgical and medical abortions, contraceptives with abortive effects, assisted reproductive technologies, "an integral component of which is humiliation of human dignity and murder of children in the initial stages of embryonic development.” They suggest providing financial assistance from the state budget to pregnant women and families with children in the amount not less than the subsistence minimum. Patriarch Kirill thanked the participants for their work and gave them his blessing. [read more...]
LUKASHENKO IN FAVOR OF MORE ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT OF CHURCH IN SOCIAL PROCESSES
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(26 Sep) The church should be more actively involved in social processes, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting with the Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church on 22 September, BelTA has learned. “We hope that the church will be more actively involved in social processes. It is very important for the Orthodox Church to continue promoting religious accord in Belarus demonstrating an example of civilized relations,” Alexander Lukashenko stressed. The President remarked that the Belarusian Orthodox Church plays a leading role in the life of the country together with other religious denominations.
"They have always coexisted peacefully thanks to the rational and balanced policy of the state and the Orthodox Church in relation to Catholics and other believers. My position is clear: we have nothing to quarrel over. As a strong and large religious denomination, the Orthodox Church should respect and support others," the head of state is convinced. Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the education of the younger generation and the engagement of young people in various social projects is a priority for the church. "The country has created excellent conditions for education and work, is doing its best to support talented youth. However, the society regularly has to solve new tasks, and the church should take a more active part in the resolution of these tasks," the Belarusian leader stressed. [read more...]
PRISTINA: ALBANIAN STUDENTS DEMAND DEMOLITION OF CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST THE SAVIOR
(18 Sep) Muslim students from Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Pristina University in Kosovo sent a letter to local media on Friday calling for the demolition or repurposing of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, BIRN reports. “As this building was built in the time of Milosevic’s regime, right in the courtyard of the university campus, we express our deep indignation about why nothing has yet been done by the Republic of Kosovo to destroy that building, or turning it into a type of building that will serve the students of the University of Pristina ‘Hasan Pristina’ for their studies, such as a library,” said the letter.
The students also said that renewed construction work on the unfinished church, preparations for which started on Thursday, should stop permanently, BIRN reports. “We believe that this construction only started to raise inter-ethnic tensions, therefore we have not taken any action yet, but if it continues in the coming days, we will react as Kosovo’s Albanians students always have done, with various [protest] actions and student protests,” the letter warned.
The students said that they are not against any religion or religious building, but against what they called the "degradation" of the university. The cleaning was organized by local Serbs and the church after unknown perpetrators put tires in the building and set fire to them on September 9, but their work was stopped by the Pristina municipality’s inspection office, which claimed they did not have the proper permit for it. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
ST. SOPHIA CHURCH NOT TO HOST EUROVISION, SAYS NELIA KUKOVALSKA
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
PROCLAIMING ‘LIFE’ IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
from Mission Network News
GREEK-CATHOLIC AGGRESSION SHOULD BECOME THE MAIN TOPIC IN ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC DIALOGUE - METR. HILARION
NEW FINE AND NEW CASE REGARDING ILLEGAL EVANGELISM, THIS TIME IN KEMEROVO, RUSSIA
from SOVA Center for News and Analysis
THE JOINT COMMISSION FOR THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE BETWEEN ORTHODOX AND ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCHES COMPLETES ITS WORK
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
THE 90TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SCHISM OF TYLAWA: REUNION OF EASTERN CATHOLICS WITH THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
GEORGIA: POPE VISITS TBILISI
RUSSIA'S MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND MINISTRY OF HEALTH OPPOSE PROPOSED ABORTION BAN
from Russia Beyond the Headlines
RUSSIA SENDS METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH GAY PASTOR PACKING FOR WORKING WITH LGBT ACTIVISTS
from Pittsburgh CityPaper
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Our lead news article AMERICAN PASTOR FACES FINES, END OF MINISTRY UNDER NEW RUSSIAN LAW and our news headlines NEW FINE AND NEW CASE REGARDING ILLEGAL EVANGELISM, THIS TIME IN KEMEROVO, RUSSIA and RUSSIA SENDS METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH GAY PASTOR PACKING FOR WORKING WITH LGBT ACTIVISTS each describe the chilling effects of the new "anti-extremism, anti-terror" law that was passed this July in Russia. Two U.S. citizens and an Ukrainian citizen were the targets of this new law. While I certainly do not endorse the beliefs and lifestyle of the gay pastor, it seems clear that the new law is being selectively applied against any non-Orthodox outreach.
I find quite interesting the wording GREEK-CATHOLIC AGGRESSION SHOULD BECOME THE MAIN TOPIC IN ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC DIALOGUE - METR. HILARION. This is a fine example of "the pot calling the kettle black" and is not a productive way to conduct dialogue. What if Catholics replied with "RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ANTI-SECT AGRESSION IN UKRAINE SHOULD BE THE MAIN TOPIC OF ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC DIALOGUE"? - See our third news article MAKSYM VASIN: RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN DONBAS AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE RUSSIAN AGGRESSION on this.
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Are Christians Rabble-Rousers?
The photo on the left is from the online Commonweal magazine subtitled "The First Christians Were Not Like Us" by Dr. David Bentley Hart, a renowned Orthodox theologian. This photo depicting plaster-of-Paris saintly-looking disciples surrounding Jesus that introduced the article aptly illustrates Dr. Hart's disdain for an acculturated, saccharine-sweet version of Christianity.
I have been asked to write a short essay on this article for a seminary course on Christian Ethics that I'm auditing. The assignment is simple: "Do you agree with Dr. Hart's conclusions? Why or why not?" My short answer is: "Yes and no." That's the easy part, now for the hard part. While working on a fresh translation of the New Testament, Dr. Hart began to consider what life was like for the early disciples. He writes, it "caused me to absorb certain conclusions about the world of the early church at a deeper level than I could have anticipated. Most of them I already knew, admittedly, if often as little more than shadows glimpsed through a veil of conventional theological habits of thought...."
As one who has spent many years as editor of a revision the Russian Synodal Bible, I can relate to Dr. Hart's pondering while working with the scriptural texts. Our "conventional theological habits of thought" frame our faith in logical constructs and cultural customs that have developed over the past 2,000 years. Dr. Hart questions the conventional meaning of the word Christian as "someone who is baptized or who adheres to a particular set of religious observances and beliefs," but this is far removed from what the New Testament describes as a Christian:
In the Book of Acts we read: "Therefore those who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). This verse I adopted as a teenager for my life verse, and it has proved true - I have traveled the world preaching God's Word in four languages. A few chapters later the author Luke picks up the same thread of thought: "They therefore who were scattered abroad by the oppression that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews only. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord" (Acts 11:19-21).
The Good News of Jesus Christ was spread across the entire known world not by seminary-educated scholars, but by rude-and-crude former fishermen, publicans, rebels and ex-prostitutes who were "scattered abroad" - driven out of one town after another. The same has happened to me, by the way, being forced out of three different cities in Russia. But the key phrase comes a few verses later, when Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch: "It happened, that for a whole year they were gathered together with the church, and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). There the term "Christian" was invented (probably sometime later by Evodius, the second Bishop of Antioch). But the question is: What were they called before they were called Christians?
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