New York Times Highlights Breakaway Ukrainian Catholic Church

The New York Times has an interesting article by Andrew Higgins about the Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, a breakaway branch of the country’s Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) with some extravagantly vituperative and conspiratorial rhetoric:

The breakaway church… issued an appeal to Mr. Putin in December to intervene militarily to restore order and defeat what it scorned as “Euro-sodomitic occupation by Brussels programmed by U.S. agents.”

Higgins discusses the group’s leader, a Czech named Anthony Elias Dohnal, and notes an investigation by Ekpres, a Ukrainian newspaper:

…Before the 1989 collapse of Communism in his homeland, then still Czechoslovakia, Mr. Dohnal worked as an informer for Soviet intelligence. The newspaper published what it said was a document from former Czechoslovak archives that identified him as a mole for Soviet intelligence with the code name “Tonek.”

…On its website, however, the sect had responded to suspicions of ties to the Russian secret services by posting what it said was a letter from the Czech Interior Ministry’s Security Committee certifying that there was no record of any past link to secret services by Mr. Dohnal.

The Expres article, entitled “Fake Patriarch”, dates from 2012, and can be seen here – it includes a photograph of a photocopy of the relevant document. However, the Interior Ministry’s letter – dated 2o09, and posted to the church’s website in 2011 – explains (church’s translation):

It is a publicly known fact that Cibulka’s lists are not factual material because they do not contain only the names of KGB agents but also the names of those who were investigated by the KGB. Later on there were new lists issued which no longer contain the names of the aggrieved.

The letter comes with what appears to be a stamp and the signature of Josef Veselý, Director of the Security Department. The church’s website, which is maintained in several languages, carries a number of other aggrieved responses to Expres articles, although given its own highly abusive tirades it seems to be a case of being able to dish it out but not take it.

Dohnal was formerly a Greek Catholic priest and a member of the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat. In 2008, he was was one of four members of the order – along with Metoděj Špiřík, Markian Hitiuk and Robert Oberhauser – who were consecrated as bishops without the approval of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church and the Vatican. Together, the men are known to their supporters as the “Pidhirtsi Fathers” (var. “Pidhirci Fathers”), after the monastery where they were based at the time. They gave their reasons in a letter to the Pope:

Bishops, priests, religious and laymen have opened themselves to the spirit of occultism (homoeopathy, acupuncture, oriental meditations, modern psychological methods…) and syncretism with pagan religions (yoga, zen, martial arts, oriental philosophies…). However, the height of all is that there are still more and more bishops and priests who are homosexuals or paedophiles. In our Greek-Catholic Church there are several homosexual bishops, which is a scandal and decay of Christianity in its substance.

The antichristian system within the Church, enforced by Card. A. Casaroli, Card. A. Sodano and the present Prefect of Congregation for the Oriental Churches (COCh) Card. L. Sandri, has systematically and purposefully disintegrated our martyrish Church and has not only led her into a practical schism but also opened her to the spirit of apostasy…

Alas, the Pope was not impressed, and the “Fathers” were excommunicated. The group retaliated with “an excommunication upon Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II“; Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Moscow doesn’t get off lightly, either, having “betrayed Christ, the Church and the nation” by attending an inter-religious meeting in Astana (discussed by me here).

A Catholic website called Per Christum has some commentary from 2008. The unnamed author (“Asimplesinner”) begins by noting events in 2007, when another priest was excommunicated for links with the SSPX, although there doesn’t seem to be any link between the SSPX and the “Pidhirtsi Fathers”. The author is critical of Bishop Dionysius Lachovicz, the previous General Superior of the Basilian Order and now a UGCC bishop:

During his term as General Superior, he was infatuated with this messianic group and convinced of their savific role in the reform his order. Even against the advice of his general council, Lachovicz made decisions in favour of this group to the harm of his Order and to the Church, not only in Ukraine, but also in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia. In the autumn of 1997, Lachovicz had been warned by the Basilian Superior in Poland, Volodymyr Juszczak (currently Bishop of Wroclaw-Gdansk), and by the entire Basilian provincial council in Slovakia, that this “potential sect” would, in the long run, cause grave damage to the Church if given a special mission within the Basilian Order. Despite such warnings, on 21 October 1997, Lachovicz issued a decree giving this divisive group the canonical status of an “experimental community”, under his own personal authority as General. 

Apparently, Lachovicz sent the men to Pidhirtsi following controversies in  Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

It doesn’t seem to me that the group can be reduced to a Kremlin machination. However, it looks like some of its aims coincide with Russia’s interests – one can therefore imagine Russia providing some support, despite the group’s belief that Patriarch Kirill embodies “the spirit of Antichrist”. As the Times notes:

…nobody can figure out how a small sect with no obvious source of income can maintain an elaborate website in six different languages and a wide range of properties in Lviv and elsewhere.

Glenn Beck Says David Barton to Advise Former Soviet State

Right Wing Watch has a clip from Glenn Beck taking about David Barton:

David Barton is on his way over to one of the former Soviet states… because the Soviets, the former Soviets, called him up and said “uh, hey, you know more about the underpinnings of your Republic than anybody else, and we would like you to help us put those underpinnings together. Because while your country and the west is running from your Constitution, we need to understand it more, because that’s the solution. So, he’s on his way over to the, to former Soviet states, to help them. Is that not incredible?… I think it’s the main people in the government are saying “help us, please, or we will lose our way.”

Barton, of course, is a notorious pseudo-historian, famous for re-writing America’s past to suggest that the Founding Fathers of the USA were all right-wing evangelicals. In 2012, the conservative evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson chose to pulp a Barton tome on Thomas Jefferson after numerous misrepresentations were brought to its attention (in particular, the book was accused of ” glossing over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views”). Beck has puffed Barton’s teachings on numerous occasions; in return, Barton promotes Beck to the Christian Right by explaining away Beck’s Mormonism.

So, assuming Beck isn’t simply making it up, and ignoring his boastful slippage from one state to “states”, which “former Soviet state” does he mean? We can probably discount Azerbaijan and any of the -stans (despite Barton’s strangely ambiguous views on Shariah), and it’s unlikely that the Baltic states would have much interest: Estonia is reportedly the world’s least religious country. Belarus, meanwhile, remains under the tight control of a dictator who is hardly going to ask someone like Barton for advice.

I suppose it’s possible that some group in Georgia or Armenia might want Barton’s wisdom, but the most likely candidate is Ukraine. Although some US religious right figures admire anti-gay authoritarianism in Russia, there are longstanding links between Ukraine and American conservatives and evangelicals – and earlier this month saw a government “Prayer Breakfast” in Ukraine organised by the Fellowship. Beck’s phrasing of “on his way over to the, to former Soviet states” may indicate that he was about to say “the Ukraine“, then stopped himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1llnOjHVd1o

WND: ISIS Offensive May Be a Sign of the Rise of the Anti-Christ

As Iraq slides into chaos, one man claims to have special insight into how things may develop; not because he’s an expert on the Middle East, but because he’s a “prophecy expert”. Over to Joel Richardson at WND, discussing Chapter 8 of the Book of Daniel in a piece entitled “Is prophecy being fulfilled now in Iraq and Iran?”  (emphases added) :

…If the ultimate meaning of the entire vision is eschatological, pertaining to the time of the end, while it may certainly maintain a historical partial fulfillment, it may also very well speak of two forthcoming regional wars… After this time, it appears as though out of the ashes of these wars, in the region stretching from Nineveh (Mosul) to Turkey, we should expect to see the Antichrist arise, starting small but then gaining in power. With Iran already declaring that it will enter the fray in Iraq to respond to the ISIS offensive, the beginning of Daniel’s vision may very well be beginning to unfold right in front of us.

Richardson has made a career out of insisting that the Bible predicts that Muslims will at some point soon come under the spell of the Anti-Christ. His books on the subject are published by WND; one comes with a blurb by Robert Spencer (“A must-read for priests and pastors, students and lay readers everywhere”), and he has also expounded his theories to Glenn Beck. Richardson regularly takes his teachings around churches, and his reach within evangelicalism more broadly was recently demonstrated when Baker Books chose to foreground his endorsement of a memoir by Samaa Habib, a Muslim convert to Christianity.

Chapter 8 of the Book of Daniel, as Richardson acknowledges, appears most obviously to refer to Antiochus IV, the Syrian king who profaned the Jewish Temple in 168BCE. The text was written during this period of persecution, although the author writes pseudonymously as Daniel, a Judean exile in Babylon several centuries previously (a literary convention rather than a fraud).

However, self-proclaimed “prophecy experts” such as Richardson ignore this literary context, and instead insist that the text must indeed have been written ahead of the events it describes via supernatural means. Obscurities and difficulties, therefore, are to be resolved not by referring to the world of the text’s author, but by arbitrarily referring to later religious texts or to whatever newspaper headline happens to fit the interpreter’s interest. It’s a method that has seen Richardson blunder from one farrago of nonsense to another.

In this instance, Richardson focuses on verses 10-12:

It [the symbolic "horn" representing Antiochus] grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper.

Richardson suggests that the apparent cosmic elements in the above mean that something else is intended than just Antiochus:

Now, will anyone claim that Antiochus caused some of the angels (stars) to fall from heaven? I certainly hope not. In fact, the Book of Revelation describes precisely the same event, but there it is Satan the dragon, who causes the angels to fall, and it is something that takes place in the last seven years before the return of Christ.

The Book of Revelation was written in Greek two hundred years later, in a very different political context and representing a very different religious agenda. It therefore does not help us to interpret Daniel’s meaning. It is more sensible to refer to Daniel 12 verse 3, where the people of God are compared to stars. That solves the contrived “problem” with more economy than suggesting that the text is about something else altogether.

But Richardson continues:

Next two angels began explaining the vision of the ram and the goat and the little horn, and Daniel is given some profound information concerning the timing of these things. One angel standing on the banks of the River Ulai (which is in modern day Iran) called to the other angel and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision” (v. 16). So Gabriel came to Daniel and said, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end” (v. 17).

For the author of Daniel – as for Richardson now – “the End” was close. It is a problem for Richardson that history instead actually continued, but it wasn’t so for the text’s author or for the original intended readership.

However, Richardson is astute enough not to bet the farm on his latest prognostication:

Am I saying that this is absolutely how it is going to happen and that “this is that?” Not yet, but I think we can all acknowledge that what is now unfolding in Iraq and Iran makes this all a very real possibility.

Some Notes On the Fellowship In Europe

Euro Prayer Breakfast

The Republic of Macedonia’s ePublika reports on the latest news about its Ambassador in the USA, Zoran Jolevski:

Ambassador Jolevski attends a business lunch in his honor in the Congress, hosted by Congressman Robert Aderholt, member of the Defense Committee to inform the Congress representatives on his new assignment as a Defense Minister…

Ambassador Jolevski, who has been Macedonia’s representative in Washington since 2007 and is a representative in the name dispute negotiations, returns to Skopje soon.

Jolevski first caught my attention a couple of days ago, when I noted his association with this year’s National Day of Prayer event in Washington – he co-led a “Prayer for the Nations” segment – and his friendship with Bill Hightower, a recently-elected member of the Alabama legislature.

The National Day of Prayer, while supposedly bipartisan, is a platform for the religious right: this year’s event saw Shirley Dobson denounce Obama as “the abortion President”, prompting a Democrat participant to walk out. Hightower, however, is involved with a rather more subtle manifestation of religious power in the USA: this is the National Prayer Breakfast, which is organised by a discrete but influential group called the Fellowship (aka the “Family”). A few days ago, Hightower took part in a related Prayer Breakfast in Ukraine, alongside Doug Burleigh, who is son-in-law to the Fellowship’s leader, Doug Coe.

This brings us back to Jolevski, and his business lunch hosted by Robert Aderholt; a 2010 report from Roll Call (“The source for news on Capitol Hill since 1955″) notes (link added):

A handful of Members of Congress have accepted more than $100,000 worth of free international travel from the religious organization affiliated with the “C Street house,” a Capitol Hill townhouse linked to recent Congressional sex scandals.

While most of the Members have taken a trip or two from the Fellowship Foundation, also known as the International Foundation, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) accepted foreign trips worth more than $50,000 over the past four years.

…For example, last month Aderholt spent a week in Greece, Albania and Croatia on a trip funded by the Fellowship Foundation at a cost of about $11,000… Aderholt arrived in Greece in time for the closing of the annual Southeast European Gathering, a Balkan version of the National Prayer Breakfast that he has attended several times on the foundation’s dime.

When I wrote about the Prayer Breakfast in Ukraine, I noted the presence of a participant named Paul Petrie, but I overlooked his significance; a one-post blog by Leo van Doesburg, an activist with the European Christian Political Movement (more on the ECPM here) noted at the end of 2008:

…In December the European Prayer Breakfast organized their annual event in the European Parliament. I had such a great collaboration with the organizors: Paul Petrie and Mary van Kesteren. In this way we could invite key people from the different regions in East Europe to the conference. Also the Dutch vice prime minister, Andre Rouvoet his political assistant, Reinier Koppelaar and MP Esme Wiegman joined the events.

(Van Doesburg also recalled taking part in an “International Leadership conference and Youth Leadership Forum in Skopje organized by the Boris Trajkovski foundation”; Hightower is also involved with this foundation, which is named after a former president on Macedonia who was killed in a plane crash while in office in 2004.)

Petrie is a Canadian living in Brussels; according to his website:

 …He serves a number of European and American organizations in leadership and consultancy capacities. He is an active public speaker, strategist, and mentor in both public and private institutions in Europe and the United States.

According to a bio page on the site, he started out working with Nicky Cruz’s Teen Challenge drug rehabilitation programme in New York in 1966, then founded his own programme in Lexington. A rather diverse career followed, including worldwide travel, a ranch in Zaire, founding a Christian community back in Lexington, and creating “International Outreach Ministries, a Non-Governmental Organization, which now works in 22 nations”. Further (links added):

In 1986 Mr. Petrie and his family moved to Brussels, Belgium, and helped found the organization “a.net” to serve both Belgian and expatriates living there. In the same year Mr. Petrie helped found the Association of Covenant Ministries in North America.

In 1996 Mr. Petrie, with a small group of like-minded professionals, founded the European Prayer Breakfast, which serves Members of the European Parliament, Commission, NATO and the diplomatic corps in Brussels. That same year, in conjunction with a European Parliamentarian, he facilitated gatherings at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg with the same goals. This has led to wide involvement with members of European governments, within and beyond the European Union.

In 2002 Mr. Petrie became foundationally associated with the Middle East Program, an initiative to develop relationships in the Middle East that will promote greater stability and peace in the region.

(Hightower is also involved with the Middle East Program, and he sits on the board of a school called Covenant Christian School.)

The European Prayer Breakfast has a website here; its appearance is bland, and its blurb is instantly recognisable as “Jesus Plus Nothing” Fellowship-speak:

As we look at Jesus of Nazareth and the principles which He taught and by which He lived, we see around Him a group of people He called friends who were central to His life. They had a commitment to each other and to a message which revolutionized the world. These principles hinged on two basic premises: to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus said that all other things hung on the framework of these two commands. This is a simple equation but has amazing power to change the world in which we live. The European Prayer Breakfast (EPB) was established in 1998 on these ideas.

This annual event is a facilitator for such a philosophy. It is a meeting place where people can come together and encourage each other to seek relationships which are focused around Jesus and his teachings…

There’s also a page entitled “The Strategy of Jesus”, consisting of a long quote from Elton Trueblood’s Alternative to Futility:

Jesus was deeply concerned for the continuation of His redemptive, reconciling work after the close of His earthly existence, and His chosen method was the formation of a small band of committed friends. He did not form an army, establish a headquarters, or even write a book. What He did was to collect a very few common men and women, inspire them with the sense of His spirit and vision, and build their lives into an intensive fellowship of affection, worship, and work…

That was written in 1948, and it shows: Jesus is the ultimate self-promoting brand, working through a Rotary Club of networkers. The Babbitt cult lives on. Jeff Sharlet has the background, in his book The Family (p. 186):

One Abram [Vereide] understudy, Dr. Elton Trueblood, made a career of packaging militant fundamentalism in the language of country club banal, churning out best sellers that conflated spiritual war with Cold War; he also drew a paycheck from from the United States Information Agency, for which he headed up the Office of Religious Information. On his watch “spiritual roots” – Christian ones, that is – as the foundation of American democracy became government policy, channeled through private organizations so that the office’s plans would not look like a “propaganda gimmick”.

Documents relating to the 2006 and 2009 European Prayer Breakfasts (including a letter of greeting from Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2009) have for some reason been posted to the website of Romania’s Parliament.

Further details on the European Prayer Breakfast appear in a 2007 book by Terry Wynn, a British MEP and a working-class Christian Socialist. The book, entitled Where are the Prophets?: A Book About Faith and Politics, comes with a blurb by Hightower (this was when he was the head of Tower Strategies Inc, rather than an elected official) and a Foreword by Chris Patten. Wynn became involved following an invitation from Petrie, and he writes:

Each year in the Parliament there is a European Prayer Breakfast, where two to three hundred parliamentarians from across Europe, ambassadors, NATO staff, civil servants from the EU institutions and others, meet together in Brussels. It’s not an easy event to organise and every time someone in Parliament’s administration always tries to put a spanner in the works either because of security reasons or sound system problems but each year it goes off successfully. It is a wonderful occasion and it is good to meet with Christians from across Europe in this way. It always has good music, good fellowship, good food and good contributions from those who read and speak. I’m sure it scares the pants off the secularists.

The Fellowship Comes to Ukraine

From the Religious Information Service of Ukraine:

Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast under the auspices of the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov was held on Wednesday with participation of representatives from the church, NGOs and religious organizations of Ukraine, as well as foreign guests, diplomatic missions and the people’s deputies of Ukraine, Press Service of Verkhovna Rada informs.

…Commenting on the situation in Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov… cited the Bible saying that “the Babylon will always remain destroyed, since its walls are built on human fear and disbelief.”

Oleksandr Turchynov (var. Alexander Turchinov) is himself a Baptist pastor. A photo of the helpfully bilingual programme shows that the event was entitled “New Ukraine: Into the Future with God”.

The original source in Ukrainian can be seen here; it includes a photo (see below) of a list of some special guests:

Alojz Peterie (European Parliament); Frank Heinrich (Germany); Andreas Karlsboeck (Austria); Valeriu Ghiletchi (Moldova); Egidijus Vareikis (Latvia); Bill Hightower (USA); Doug Burleigh (USA); Paul Petrie (Belgium); and Viktor Hamm (USA)

Hamm – originally from Russia – is with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (Vice President of Crusades) and is a friend of Turchynov, but Burleigh is more interesting: he’s son-in-law to Doug Coe, who heads “the Fellowship”, which in turn organizes the USA’s National Prayer Breakfast. The Fellowship, also known as “The Family”, has been the subject of ground-breaking investigations by Jeff Sharlet; a blurb for his 2008 book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power serves as a useful and succinct summary:

The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an itinerant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who speak the language of establishment power, a “family” that thrives to this day. In public, they host the National Prayer Breakfast; in private they preach a gospel of “biblical capitalism,” military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as model leaders, the Family’s current leader, Doug Coe, declares, “we work with power where we can, and build new power where we can’t.”

The Fellowship has been good at working both sides of the aisle; Burleigh features in a 2010 New Yorker article by Peter Boyer, talking about supportive messages Coe received from Bill Clinton. However, this moderate and bi-partisan impression came under critical scrutiny when Jeff drew attention to links between the organisation and David Bahati, the author of Uganda’s notorious anti-gay law. Bahati himself later told journalists that

 …the idea for the bill first sprang from a conversation with members of The Fellowship in 2008, because it was “too late” in America to propose such legislation.

Also of interest from that guest list is Bill Hightower – he’s a member of the Alabama legislature (R-Mobile, and elected last year), and he has hosted events in association with the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. He also has a long-standing interest in the Republic of Macedonia, and is friends with the ambassador, Zoran Jolevski.*

Prayer Breakfast Ukraine

UPDATE (15 June): More on the Fellowship in Europe today.

Footnote

*Jolevski also took part in the recent National Day of Prayer event in Washington DC, listed as leading a “Prayer for the Nations” alongside “Ambassador” Bobby Little (Little is actually with an evangelical group called the “Christian Embassy”, which is why I added quote marks). This is not a Fellowship activity, and it’s an altogether less subtle affair than than the National Prayer Breakfast – this year’s event saw Shirley Dobson denounce Obama as “the abortion President”, prompting a Democrat participant to walk out.

Franklin Graham and Mat Staver Speak At Israel Solidarity Event

From the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

“I support Israel,” Franklin Graham said Thursday during the 13th Annual Israel Solidarity Event at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. “I support Israel not only because I worship a Jew but because of what the Bible says about Israel and the future of Israel.”

The solidarity event was part of the National Day of Prayer activities, and Franklin Graham was asked to speak about why Evangelicals support Israel.

That was posted on 1 May; for some reason the same details have just appeared on WND as an “exclusive”. The BGEA has always been very good at presenting itself as embodying a benign evangelicalism that transcends the religious right, and perhaps this is why the actual sponsors of the event are not mentioned: Mark Tooley’s Institute on Religion and Democracy, and Mat Staver’s Liberty Counsel.

According to an LC press release:

“For the first time since Harry Truman recognized the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, America’s support of Israel is waning,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “There has never been a more important time for people to stand up for Israel!”

“America shares a common bond through our history, heritage, and faith. Christians and Jews must stand in solidarity to one another, and together they must stand in solidarity with Israel and its right to exist as a sovereign nation. Along with our shared common values, Israel and America also share common threats. We are comforted and assured by the Scriptures that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not intimidated by adversity,” said Staver.

This was also the first Israel Solidarity Event featuring Ron Dermer, who replaced Michael Oren as Israel’s Ambassador to the USA last autumn. Dermer – a former US citizen whose family in Florida are friends with Jeb Bush – is a former senior adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, and like Netanyahu he knows very well what evangelicals want to hear (hint: it’s not that Tel Aviv is “the world’s most gay friendly city” – Staver in particular wants to see Russian- and Nigerian-style anti-gay measures in the USA); according to Tooley, Dermer spoke on

the remarkable, historically unprecedented return of the Jews to their ancient homeland after two millennia.

Graham, meanwhile, went on to discuss anti-Semitism in Christian history:

In the past,” Franklin said, “there were many wicked, evil men who in the name of Jesus Christ used this story to persecute the Jews. To kill the Jews. They called them ‘Christ-killers.’…”

Of course, Graham’s own father famously opined on “two kinds of Jews”, in private conversation with Richard Nixon:

One is called the Synagogue of Satan. They’re the ones putting out the pornographic literature. They’re the ones putting out these obscene films.

Report of Russian Oligarch’s “Secret Meeting” in Vienna With Right-Wing Ideologues

Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger has an intriguing article about a “secret meeting” of conservative ideologues and politicians that reportedly recently took place at Vienna’s Palais Liechtenstein under the auspices of Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev and his St Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. According to reporter Bernhard Odehnal, topics discussed included how to oppose liberalism in Europe and the “Satanic” gay lobby.

Odehnal has details of the alleged guest list (via Google translate, emphases added):

… the chief ideologue of the Eurasian Movement, Alexander Dugin [more on him here - RB], as well as the well-known nationalist painter Ilya Glazunov. From France, the deputies of the National Front, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen came (granddaughter of the party’s founder and niece of Marine Le Pen) and the historian Aymeric Chauprade. From Spain traveled to Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma, leader of the Catholic-monarchist Carlist movement, from Switzerland Serge de PAHLEN, director of the Geneva financial company and husband of the heiress Margherita Agnelli de Fiat PAHLEN. From Austria, the chairman of the right-wing populist Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, his deputy John Gudenus and the Vienna FPÖ politician Johann Herzog participated, from Bulgaria, the chairman and founder of the far-right Ataka party, Volen Siderov. Next in attendance were right-wing extremists from Croatia, noblemen from Georgia and Russia, and a Catholic priest.

Malofeev has featured on this blog previously: in July 2013, Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute wrote about meeting him in Russia and discussing whether “some sort of grand global alliance between the Orthodox and Catholics can be achieved and what effect that might have on the global culture war advanced by the sexual left.” Malofeev made a similar suggestion while attending a World Congress of Families event in Sydney:

Konstantin’s presentation entitled “A New Global Pro-Family Alliance” contrasting the situation in the West with that of the USSR in the 1980s, or as his graphic illustrated, Christians vs Communism.

…Konstantin then contrasted the situation of the 1980s with that in 2010: In the West there were attacks on religious freedom, a “war” on Christmas, atheistic education curricula, political correctness censorship, radical LGBT ideology imposed, ll countries recognized same-sex “marriage” and others are expected to follow.

Right Wing Watch notes:

According to a talk WCF’s managing director gave in February, Malofeev’s St. Basil the Great Foundation was to be a major sponsor of WCF’s since-postponed conference in Moscow this year and Malofeev was a member of the conference’s planning committee.

The WCF’s leadership also works closely with Vladimir Yakunin, a member of Putin’s inner circle who is currently under sanction. The WCF says that it “takes no position on foreign affairs, except as they affect the natural family”, although the group’s spokesman, Don Feder, wrote a piece in March for the American Thinker with the title “Putin Doesn’t Threaten Our National Security, Obama Does”.

(H/T Right Wing Watch; TowleroadAustrian Independent)

PS: Note that German transliterations of Russian names tend to end with “w” rather than “v”; thus “Konstantin Malofeew”

Hope Not Hate Claims that Paul Golding Used to Attend James McConnell’s Church

From Matthew Collins at Hope Not Hate:

Much news in Northern Ireland today about the outrageous comments made by Belfast’s Pastor James McConnell and then the support he received for his comments by the First Minister, Peter Robinson.

James McConnell described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic”, during an address at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Church over a week ago…

Well, it will come as no surprise to people who have followed the rise of Britain First that the leader of the street gang, Paul Golding, who turns up uninvited in Mosques to hand out bibles, is a regular attendee at the church…

 Although Golding no longer resides in Northern Ireland, when he was living there for nearly two years working under his paymaster Jim Dowson, he became something of a born-again Christian, but obviously not a very nice one.

As I noted in February in the wake of Britain First’s “Christian Patrol” in East London, Dowson – formerly of the BNP - is a “Reverend, and the group was set up in 2011 to protect “British and Christian morality”. The group’s website shows an active interest in promoting Christianity as an aspect of traditional values: Golding writes of a “Holy Crusade” and of “Christian soldiers and fellow patriots”; there is a “Sunday Sermon” section “on the fundamental role that Christianity played in our long and glorious heritage”; and the site includes attacks on a “sordid” sex education video and on Boris Johnson for vetoing “an advertisement from two Christian groups regarding homosexuality”. However, until I read the above, my assumption was that the group’s Christianity is not likely to go deeper than a half-remembered collection of romantic cultural motifs. It’s still difficult to picture Britain First Bible study or hymn-singing sessions.

The Tabernacle, meanwhile, is a mega-church (reviewed by Ship of Fools in 2010), and McConnell attracts a congregation from across Northern Ireland; there is no reason to suppose that he has ever personally met or had anything to do with either Dowson or Golding. Also, it should be noted that the church self-consciously avoids the kind of Ulster nationalism associated with Ian Paisley; as the sociologist Steve Bruce wrote in 1994 (Edge of the Union: The Ulster Loyalist Political Vision, p. 35):

In 1986 unionist-controlled councils signalled their attitude to the Anglo-Irish accord by displaying large banners which read ‘Ulster Says No’. Pastor James McConnell’s Metropolitan Church of God in north Belfast put up a similar-sized banner which used the same design style to say: ‘Ulster Needs Christ’. When, two years later, the councils replaced the first banners with ones reading ‘Ulster Still Says No’, McConnell changed his to read ‘Ulster Still Needs Christ’!  

And journalist Marcus Tanner observes (Ireland’s Holy Wars: The Struggle for a Nation’s Soul, 1500-2000, 2001, p. 428):

Pastor McConnell has discarded the baggage of history and divorced nationalism from worship. McConnell may have started out preaching to an audience of ten in an Orange hall but Orange or Union flags are seen in the Tabernacle and there are no slogans about God and Ulster on the walls. When Pastor McConnell claims, as he did the evening I was there, that ex-IRA people sit in that vast throng, I feel inclined to believe him.

McConnell is a Pentecostal – Tanner says his biography includes “frequent encounters with devils and a direct meeting with an angel in September 1973″ – and his theology is fundamentalist (in the broad sense) and focused on the need for urgent evangelism in the end times. His views on Islam are what you might expect them to be, although his sermon failed to make the fine distinction he is careful to draw when it comes to Catholicism; in 2011 he responded to claims of anti-Catholicism by telling Radio Ulster that “he criticises the Catholic Church and its priests, he does not criticise Catholics.” But in contrast, when it comes to Islam and Muslims:

 …People say there are good Muslims in Britain. That may be so, but I don’t trust them. Enoch Powell was right, and he lost his career because of it. Enoch Powell was a prophet. He called it that blood would flow in the streets, and it has happened…

The reference to Powell is utterly gratuitous, and is actually more striking than his archaically-formulated attack on “heathenism”: Powell’s “prophecy”, made on 20 April 1968, was about race relations rather than religious fanaticism, and it included the claim that:

That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century.

Powell’s “intractable phenomenon” diagnosis came just two weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King; things at the time may have looked bleak, but history has proven that it was the man who had the dream who saw the future, and not the supposed “prophet” over here. But there’s no need for me to rake over an infamous subject that others have tackled with more acuity than I could ever muster – this post by Oliver Kamm is a good starting point.

Apparently, McConnell is now being investigated by police for “a hate crime motive”; I’d very surprised if that goes anywhere. However, UK Christian Right  lobby group are on the case; according to a statement:

Andrea Williams comments: “Islam does not provide a coherent basis for peaceful coexistence. Pastor McConnell is right to recognise the danger that Islam represents not just in places such as Sudan but here in Britain. For the sake of society, it is vital that the freedom to critique is maintained and freedom of speech safeguarded.”

Williams recently addressed a rally in Jamaica, where she reportedly urged a crowd spread the word that homosexuality is linked with paedophilia. Christian Concern’s statement makes no reference to McConnell’s enthusiasm for Powell.

“World Civilizations” Conflab Held in China

From China Today:

The Third Nishan Forum on World Civilizations was held in Ji-nan in Shandong province over three days last week. The conference, with a theme of “common human ethics amid different beliefs,” attracted some 130 experts and academics on philosophy, theology, religious and cultural studies from different cultural backgrounds.

…Xu Jialu, president of the organizing committee, says the root cause of the crisis shared by human beings nowadays is the distortion of moral values and overlooking of the importance of ethics.

…Fred Dallmayr, a US professor from the University of Notre Dame and co-chair of the World Public Forum, says that since the Renaissance, there has been a tendency in the West to emphasize individualism.

Meanwhile, in Confucian teaching, there is no isolated being, and people live in all kinds of relationships. This sense of interaction can foster the merits of tolerance, generosity and respect, which can help people overcome their hostility toward others, Dallmayr suggests.

Dallmayr and the World Public Forum have featured on this blog a number of times: the organisation was co-founded by Vladmir Yakunin, a devoutly Orthodox member of Putin’s inner circle and the head of Russia’s railways. As I’ve noted previously, the WPF has made links with an extraordinary array of top-tier academics, religious leaders, and emeritus politicians (along with some rather more eccentric figures), who have spoken at conferences in Rhodes and Vienna and written for WPF publications. Dallmayr and other figures associated with the WPF recently signed a letter calling on the USA to rescind sanctions against Yakunin.

The WPF’s full name is the “World Public Forum: Dialogue of Civilizations”, and the “Nishan Forum on World Civilizations” seems to serve the same kind of “soft power” purpose for China as the WPF does for Russia. An article by a China scholar named Andrew Chubb and Fairfax Media’s Asia Pacific editor John Garnaut notes an unexpected overlap with an NGO called the China Energy Fund Committee:

The “NGO” was granted Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council which, in turn, enabled it to segue away from oil and war in order to co-host a “dialogue between Confucianism and Christianity” at United Nations headquarters in New York, in November 2012.

CEFC’s partner in that venture, the Nishan Forum on World Civilizations, is another new and mysterious Chinese organisation that describes itself as an NGO.

Its personnel and aspirations overlap with those of CEFC.

The interests of the Nishan vice chairman, Xing Yunming, reach far beyond Confucius and religion and might provide a clue to what lies behind the CEFC think tank.

…Mr Xing is in fact a lieutenant-general in the People’s Liberation Army and, according to isolated, and perhaps inadvertent, reports in provincial media, he is director of the military’s secretive political warfare agency – the Liaison Department of the PLA General Political Department (GPD).

In 2011, according to the authors, the CEFC caused some alarm when its “strategic analyst”, Colonel Dai Xu (using the pen name Long Tao) wrote a newspaper op-ed suggesting that China ought to wage war against Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea in order to scare away the USA. The CEFC is headed by a certain Ye Jianming; Ye is also CEO of the China Huaxin Energy Company, which “came from nowhere in 2010 to claim revenues of more than US$30 billion last year [2012].” Further, “Huaxin’s English name, China CEFC Energy Co, is almost identical to that of the CEFC think tank and until recently it listed the think tank as one of its charitable ventures.” One nice detail:

Despite his tender years, he has won the admiration of global statesmen from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to Henry Kissinger, who apparently addresses him as “Chairman”.

A post by Russell L.C. Hsiao on Nottingham University’s China Policy Institute Blog places the CEFC in the context of “political warfare”:

In general, political warfare in the Chinese context seeks to undermine the legitimacy of Taiwan, challenge the liberal democratic order, shore up CCP authority domestically, challenge international rules of the road, and promote alternatives to widely accepted universal values.

…The CEFC recently hosted a high-profile Sino-U.S. colloquium, which was billed as an “intercultural dialogue” between China and the United States, at the heart of the nation’s capital in Washington, DC. The title of the conference was “Core Values and World Order” A panel in the conference presented arguments from Chinese academics who called for a paradigm shift from the Westphalian nation-state system to a civilizational system to avert a potential “clash of civilization.” 

This it a very nice fit with Yakunin’s grumblings about “hegemonic ideology and unipolar power”; it looks to me that Ye and Yakunin are made for each other.

Kazakh Atheist May Face Seven-Year Sentence

Euasianet draws attention to the predicament of Kazakh atheist Aleksandr Kharlamov, currently living on bail in the town of Ridder:

…Kharlamov, a staunch atheist, is accused of stoking religious tensions in a Kafkaesque case which could see him jailed for seven years.

Kharlamov has already spent six months behind bars, some of it in a psychiatric ward, broadening the controversy over religious freedom into a row over the alleged misuse of psychiatry.

“My criticism of religion was interpreted as incitement of religious enmity and strife,” said Kharlamov… “There’s no crime. There’s no incitement of religious enmity. I criticized all religions – I didn’t choose just one.”

…The chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Robert George, cited Kharlamov’s case last year as grounds for believing that “Kazakhstan, once a leader in Central Asia on freedom of religion or belief, is a leader no more.”

George’s comment suggests decline; but Kazakhstan as a “leader… on freedom of religion or belief” was always a con. Certainly, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has promoted inter-religious dialogue, both within Kazakhstan and internationally, but his purpose has always been to strengthen his domestic position and international reputation: in 2006, then-Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzer gushed that the autocrat is following “in the footsteps of Abraham”, while the former President of the International Islamic University of Pakistan opined that he should receive a Nobel Prize. However, religious groups that seek converts – such as the Hare Krishna movement or the Jehovah’s Witnesses - have suffered repression.

The justification for Nazarbayev’s restrictions on religious freedom is that they help prevent the rise of inter-religious strife and extremism: but that’s the perennial apology for “necessary” authoritarian measures, and difficult to take seriously given that Nazarbayev has been in charge since 1989. I’m sure the aim keeping good order in the country was also served at the end of  2011, when unarmed protesters were massacred by armed police in Zhanaozen.

Nazarbayev expressed his personal opposition to atheism, termed as “militant godlessness”, in 2012; of course, it’s not surprising he would react against the anti-religious indoctrination that was formerly imposed on his homeland when it was part of the USSR, but his claims verged on hysteria:

Nazarbayev believes the increase of moral crises in the world is indicated by “instances of aggressive campaigns against clergymen and attempts to remove religion from social processes.”

“Facts of blasphemous treatment of religious holy things are observed in many countries in virtually all religions. This involves public burning of holy books, desecration and arsons of mosques, synagogues, and other religious buildings, discreditation of the clergy, and beatings and killings of the flock,” he said.

“We condemn such things and express our support for all religious leaders and all religious in their resistance of the outbreak of militant godlessness,” Nazarbayev said.

Nazarbayev famously employs Tony Blair as a consultant, and Blair in turn has arranged for Alastair Campbell to work with the dictator. Another western adviser is Alfred Gusenbauer, the former Chancellor of Austria; Gusenbauer is also involved with a Russian initiative called the World Public Forum. The head of the WPF, a Putin confidant and Orthodox activist named Vladimir Yakunin (who featured on the blog just yesterday), presented Nazarbayev with a WPF award just before elections in 2011, for “outstanding achievements in the preservation of historical and cultural heritage in Eurasia and for the implementation of the principles of dialogue of civilizations into practice.”