Friday, July 23, 2004

From Forum 18, those pesky Norwegians with a point about religious liberty
Government of Red China blocks religious websites
Chinese web-users are denied access to a range of religious sites based abroad, Forum 18 News Service has found after a two-month survey of how far the Chinese government's Golden Shield firewall, used to censor the Internet, affects access to religious websites. Sites blocked include those related to the persecution of Christians and other religious faiths, the Dalai Lama, the Falun Gong religious movement, the Muslim Uygurs of Xinjiang and a number of Catholic sites, including the website of the Hong Kong diocese and the Divine Word Missionaries in Taiwan.

Bulgaria: Police raid Orthodox churches
Bulgarian police have forcibly expelled members of the alternative Orthodox synod [sic] from some 250 churches they have been using for over 10 years, causing deep concern in Bulgaria, although one government official has defended the expulsions to Forum 18 News Service. The police raids follow a long-standing split in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and a controversial religion law favouring one side in the split. Baptist pastor Theodor Angelov, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, was blunt in his support for the ousted Orthodox parishes. "We have full sympathy for our Orthodox brothers and sisters. This is a very difficult moment for all the Churches and the whole population of Bulgaria." He told Forum 18 that he condemned what he regarded as communist-style methods not seen in Bulgaria since the end of the communist period. "Using violence in a time that pretends to be democratic is unacceptable."

The Orthodox often are the bad guys in Forum 18's coverage so when they do seem to favour them it's usually some group in schism, not the actual Orthodox church of the Eastern European country in question. While repugnant to countries that - in theory at least - have religious liberty, what Bulgaria is doing is explainable. First a recap of basic Catholic ecclesiology - one bishop, one city, and schism is a sin. An 'alternative Orthodox synod' is a contradiction in terms.

I reckon Mr Angelov would like to 'divide and conquer' to get a Protestant foothold in his native land.

Moldova: Why can’t Muslims or Russian Orthodox Church Abroad register?
Muslim and Orthodox communities have been repeatedly denied state registration, despite the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad winning a case against the government in the Moldovan Supreme Court. Two of the communities have told Forum 18 News Service that they have now appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR fined Moldova in 2002 for denying the Romanian Orthodox Church registration, and the government subsequently registered the church. Unregistered religious communities can be fined, and they cannot hold a bank account, publish literature in their own name, or build a prominent place of worship. State officials have refused to tell the communities or Forum 18 why the registration applications have been repeatedly refused.

Again, setting up altar against altar is wrong according to the internal discipline of the Orthodox as it is in the Catholic faith in general. Either the Church of Russia or the Church of Romania can claim Moldova (Romanians whose land, Bessarabia, is a longtime part of the Russian empire and who are now independent.) The USSR has been gone since 1991 so the presence of the Russian Church Abroad, a US-based group for exiles from the USSR, in the бывший Союз (ex-USSR) is problematic ecclesiologically.

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