Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Russian trip part V (final): Goodbye Moscow

After a bit longer sleep than the days before I had an interesting discussion with two representatives working in the parliament. We discussed about the ways for collaboration. It was a long but constructive and friendly discussion. Many opinions about the current political situation were shared. It will be an interesting time because both Putin and Medvedev will probably candidate for the next year's presidential elections.

They suggested to organize a conference in the Russian Parliament, an interparliamentarian conference to discuss human dignity within the Russian context. If there is central approval, they would like to organise this in collaboration with the ECPM.


In the afternoon I had a meeting with the majority of members of the newly formed movement. First they discussed the working name of the movement. This discussion was led by Ekaterina. The working name became "Christian Civic Movement". After this I explained shortly the already famous "hour glass modell", a scheme which explains how to start a movement or a party. I explained that you have to develop first a vision document based on the Gospel and a vision on state & government, followed by a program, positions etc. After this they made a list of responsibilities for each member of the initiation committee. It was not an easy meeting but it became fruitful. The target was that after the conclusion of the conference the movement started with a plan. The hour glass model helped them to structure their ideas.

The next day I went with one of the volunteers and coordinator for Russia for the Haggai institute to the Center of Moscow. To say goodbye to the famous red square and to drink a coffee in the famous shopping mall there. We went to see as well some underground stations that were really like small museums. I can recommend everyone to go and see these wonderful underground stations.

Above the ground there was a cold wind and it was snowing again. I saw this as a sign that although an impressive beginning has made, the reality of each day in Russia is still hard. We must put all the shoulders together under the wheel to realise our vision: a new spring in this country with so many people that suffered already for too long....

I took the night plane to a whole other destination: Kyrgyzstan, the last destination for this journey.

Russian trip part IV: "This is not enthusiasm, this is hope"

The conference would start today later in the afternoon. Therefore I had time to go with Henkjan van Schothorst (Roel Kuiper left home already) to visit the Red Square. It remains a powerful square with the red building of the historical museum and the St Basil cathedral. We visited the cathedral and saw the nice interior and a few of the Red Square. While Henkjan went back to the hotel to pick up some things, I visited the church service in the cathedral. After that I went to the conference.


The first greeting was from the vice president of the 'Center for Slavic Culture and Literature' where the three days' event was hosted. This was followed by a Christian entrepreneur who explained that though there were many pressures, he tried to remain integer. He called the business people up not to be involved in corruption but to form a kind of Christian business club (he called it a parallel economy) where businesses were committed together to remain clean. His speech was followed by a councillor of a community in Russia. He explained the pressure that many business people face. He was not only mentioning about the obligations to pay not only high "taxes" back to the government, but also that because of false corrupt judges many honest business people were falsely accused and end up in prison. His list and his fights against a corrupted regime shocked also the participants.

After this the conclusions were drawn of the conference. There was a general agreement that a movement should be started based on the values of the former Christian Democratic Union of Russia. Many proposals were shared about how this should look like. After the discussions, people could propose others to participate in an initiation committee. The initiation committee of the conference (five people) was extended to 14 persons. Alexander Ogorodnikov took part as well and had an important role in the discussions, together with many others. The initiative committee for the movement which will be established exists now of all kinds of different people: journalists, philosophers, professors & scientists, students, politicians, dissidents, business people, lawyers, priests, pastors and so on. An important beginning was set.

In the evening a closing cocktail took place. Henkjan and I gave some Dutch presents to the organising committee and the volunteers. The Swedish buffet was received well. A businessman took care for good wine, the catering was well and a bucket of red caviar was quite finished in the end of the evening. The reactions of the participants were very enthusiastic.

"This is not enthusiasm, but this is hope" explained Ekaterina me. Another participant told me that since the '90s he cannot remember this sphere of friendship and hope for the future. It was special to have such a group from all layers of the society and of different religions together: eating, praying and discussing together how the Russian society can be changed and build on Christian Social values and based on Human Dignity. "We are too long treated as objects" said some participant to me, "it would be time to go back to our base of human dignity as it is written in the Holy Scripture". Special was also the gratitude given to Ekaterina, "the mother of the movement", who built the bridges and created the unity in the team.

This was an impressive end of the conference. Henkjan would leave in the morning. I still will have the next day with the representatives of the parliament and the initiation committee to look how we could serve the initiatives further.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Personal message for Easter

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him. shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" (John 3:16,17)

Dear Friends

Easter is for me always a time also of self-reflection. This first thing that comes in my mind is Gods Love. This great love that God has for us is humanly speaking very hard to understand. He sent His Son to the earth. There He suffered, He was humiliated, tortured and finally killed. Finally Jesus was left alone by everyone: by His friends, by the people of Israel (whom He loved so much) and even by God His Father Himself! Carrying His Cross through the streets of Jerusalem. The cursed wood that would bring Him to death. If I see to this love of God, I wonder myself: "What is man that you are mindful of him; the son of man that you care for him" (Psalm 8:4), Because, who are we? Who are these sons of man? The mankind who exist of small, proud, unthankful and also evil people. We do not destroy only Gods Creation, but also ourselves and our fellow "sons of man" because of selfish motivation and captured by evil whose only motivation is to hurt and bring sufferings to others

However, God loves us, wants to save us and offer us a new beginning: a relationship that goes beyond the death. He wants to give us a future and eternal perspective! If I see this solidarity, then I think, that the world would be much better if we value the people around us as God did. I wish that the message of Easter will motivate us to have also feel the solidarity for the people around us. Jesus did not die only for the or for the poor, not only for white or colored people, nor only for female or male. Jesus message is the same for everyone! That is the real meaning of human dignity!

I will pray that the Easter message of solidarity and compassion will reflect in our own lives: based on the love for God and for the people around us. I hope therefore that the day of Good Friday, the day of Jesus' sufferings, will bring us to humbleness and will lead us to bow our knees, to look honestly to ourselves, and to pray to our heavenly God for forgiveness and salvation. In this way we are able to lift our cross together with Jesus and to leave our burden behind us so that we will see the Light of Resurrection Day. Jesus is not death, but He is alive and He should live further in our hearts!

With all my heart I wish you all a blessed, joyful and inspiring Easter!

Leo van Doesburg

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Russian trip part III: Papa Leo

The second day of the conference started with a lecture from Dutch Senator Roel Kuiper. He spoke about the important fact that Christians historically are wise focused on creating communities. The new movement that will be started is an example of this. He also mentioned that the main founders of the Christian social thinking can be laid by Pope Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper.

Interesting was that here in Moscow also a Leo and a Kuiper explained the basics of Christian Democracy. Christians always have been focused on the creation of communities and he wondered if the societies have become not too much based on contracts and less on covenants. The difference between a contract and a covenant is that the latter is focused on an agreement and a commitment for a longer sustainable time. Contracts are business like, short time oriented. In his eyes, moral capital is more important than social capital. Christian justice should be therefore be based on "shalom" and "cheset": justice but also taken the person into consideration!

During his speech, the translator made a hilarious mistake when Roel referred to my speech the day before saying: "Leo explained about..." which was translated with "pope Leo explained". Since then many people have called me ... "Papa Leo" ....

Not long after the speech of Roel Kuiper, Henkjan van Schorthorst (from the Dutch Reformed Party (SGP)) gave a clear explanation about how the European Union (dis)functions and why Christians were called to enter the European politics.

After the break opinions concerning politics were shared. There was even a speaker explaining recovering a monarchy based on Romanov blood. However the participants were not very agreeing with him and this let to some argumentations. After this an emotional discussion about the state of Russian democracy took place. There was a lot of dissatisfaction concerning the current regime and people spoke freely about this. One person was afraid that a new revolution will take place if nothing will be done by the civil society. The spirit of revolution is in Russian air, because people have reached their limit of tolerance toward corruption and social injustice; and there is not any publicity instrument availabel for people would share their concerns. It is the task of the new movement to unite peaceful and democratic forces in order to change the society in a positive way.

Alexander Ogorodnikov told about the Christian Democratic Movement in the 90's and the challenges and depressions they faced. An emotional discussion took place about the reasons why this movement finally failed and the absence of a clear support of the orthodox church for the movement. Others said that the failure was due to the fact that it was not the right time, the movement was too much focused on relations with the West and leas to the situation of the country and a lack of experience. However all the participants were agreeing that now the timing is much better and that this new initiative is carried much broader.

In the evening Henkjan, Ekaterina and me were invited for dinner from the patriarchate. Also Father Nicholas was present.

The first day was about society, the second day about politics, tomorrow it will be about Christian business and the conclusions of the conference will be drafted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Russian trip part II: About a shared vision

The next day, after we picked up Roel Kuiper from the hotel, we went to the place where the conference will start: the Orthodox center for Slavic languages. After the openings prayer of Father Nicholas, advisor for external affairs and the opening of Ekaterina, I was asked to give the opening lecture. The subject I chose was human dignity as base for the Christian Social thinking. I told about different views on dignity in history and talked about the catholic and Protestant view on Human Dignity and the universal declaration on human dignity recognizing that we are created in the image and likeness of God from the conception till the natural death as base for legal charters and legislation (even as base for the universal declaration for human rights) and motivate the participants to promote the principles also in Russia.

Although I thought that the lecture I gave might be long and somehow heavy in the morning, the reactions were enormous encouraging. Father Nicholai said that he was very encouraged about the things that have been said and that it was for him very good because it was also the direction the Russian orthodox church wanted to follow. "What you have said will have much more impact you will think and you will see the fruits" he added. Besides him someone said that he was encouraged that the Christian ideas I shared were so fitting with the Russian culture that this should be a base of a renewed friendship between Russia and Western Europe, because it is focused on ideas of the old Europe of some centuries ago, when these Christian values were the base of friendships amongst countries. Many people came to offer me books and the advisor of the chairman of the Senate of the Russian State Duma explained me that he would like to be in touch with me to look how these principles could be implemented in the Duma.

In the afternoon we went to the Russian State Duma where we met Father Nicholas, representatives of the 'United Russia' party and two representatives of the Parliament. The delegation from our side existed of senator Roel Kuiper (ChristianUnion, NL), Henk Jan van Schorthorst(Dutch Reformed Party (SGP), NL), Ekaterina and me. We had a good and constructive discussion about possibilities to promote values of human dignity in the State Duma and they were open for the idea to start a Human dignity group within the Russian Parliament. They were also interested in sharing information about how to deal with challenges of a multicultural society with different religions (relation between Muslims and Christians in some areas of Russia). A following up with the representatives of United Russia was planned to discuss concrete plans.

This meeting was followed by a lunch in the Parliament. After the lunch I had a meeting with another Member of Parliament who is member of the foreign affairs committee and member of the Parliamentarian Assembly of the Council of Europe. As a promoter for Christian values within this Council, we discussed about ways how Russia could play a role in protecting the traditional values in Europe. It was a constructive and good meeting.

Then we went back to the Orthodox Center for Slavic culture and languages where the conference was continuing in the mean time. It was good to see and speak with Alexander Ogorodnikov who is already an old friend of mine and we updated each other about our activities. He was a Russian dissident in Soviet times and was one of the founders of the Christian Democratic movement that existed in the 1990s. We talked as well about the fact that we already discussed for times about restarting such a movement, and that it seemed to be the moment now.

In the evening a nice dinner banquet was prepared for the most important guests. Many toasts were given. Roel Kuiper gave an inspiring toast and I gave the final toast about the importance to follow Jesus footsteps as Christian in the society where not power but impact is most important. It was interesting that although people came from different areas (mostly from Moscow and St Petersburg) and from different church background (protestant, orthodox), everyone found himself connected in this vision.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Hungarian Constitution

Congratulations to Hungary for adopting a new constitution with references to Christianity, protection the life of a foetus "from conception" and which preserves "the institution of marriage between man and woman" the New Constitution! Please find here their new constitution in the English language. Below you find some additional information.

The 2011 Constitution
In 2010, a drafting process for a new constitution began to take place, was finalized by April 11, 2011, and was adopted by the Parliament on April 18. It is expected to be signed into law by Pál Schmitt on April 25 and will go into effect on January 1, 2012.
On February 4, 2011, a National Consultative Body was set up with József Szájer as head, and János Csák, Hungarian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Zsigmond Járai, chairman of the supervisory board of the National Bank of Hungary, József Pálinkás, president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and Katalin Szili, former house speaker, as members.

The new constitution, called Magyarország Alaptörvénye (Basic Law of Hungary), contains an extended preamble called the National Creed which claims the period between March 19, 1944 and May 2, 1990 legally nonexistent. The new constitution revives the historical constitution of Hungary.

Russian trip part I: The Russian Spring...

On 5 April in the evening i was in a taxi driving me to my destination in Moscow. The taxi driver was a very friendly man although he could not speak English. "Ich bin ein Dumkopf" ("I'm a fool") he said in broken German and that was all he could say. He pointed to beautiful churches, the river 'Moskva' and we got into Moscow. While in most parts of Europe the Spring already has begun, in Moscow the weather was still cold and snowy.

From 8-10 April an important conference will take place. Recently, an initiative group was formed that would bring representatives, churches and people active in politics together to discuss how Christians could have more impact in their society, social-economy and politics. The name of the conference was: "Civic responsibility of a Christian for his Russian fatherland" and was organized in collaboration with the ECPM and the Dutch Reformed Party (SGP).

I arrived safely to my destination. The next day I slept out a bit and worked on my presentation and the preparations for the event. I talked with Ekaterina, the project coordinator for Russia and with Sergey, the Russian expert about Christian Democracy and one of the most active of the organization committee. The committee exists of five persons: Ekaterina, Sergej, father German, serving as priest from the Russian Orthodox Church, Vladimir, a colonel who served in Afghanistan and in the Balkans and Valeri a Christian business person who is active in the battle against corruption. The preparations went well and it looks quite promising.

Next day I had meetings with two important persons working in the Russian parliament. One was of more philosophical background and the other person was also connected more with the Russian orthodox church. Both they wanted to build bridges between the parliamentarian groups in the Russian Duma and the Christian values. We had a good discussion and also we talked about the meeting in the Russian parliament they wanted to organise the next day. In the afternoon Dutch senator Roel Kuiper arrived and joined us for dinner with the people from the organizing committee. Tomorrow the event will start.

When I arrived, the snow was melting.
Spring will start in Russia as well...!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Will the EU define marriage? Enforced EU-wide recognition of same-sex marriage? Your action is needed!

The European Christian Political Foundation (www.ecpf.info) wants to draw your attention to a report done by European Dignity Watch
(www.europeandignitywatch.org) on a new proposal from the European Commission regarding the automatic recognition of civil status documents that could lead to a situation in which the EU member states will no longer define marriage. Instead, member states could be forced to recognize forms of “marriage”, civil partnerships, same-sex adoption and other practices, even if these contradict their national laws and public order.

European Dignity Watch issued an analysis of the Greenpaper, which you find below. The analysis is meant to facilitate answers that can be sent to the European Commission as reaction to the public consultation (Green Paper). The ECPM asks all decision makers on national and European level to take note of this report and take action in their own political body. If the ideas in this green paper would become EU policy, all action taken on the national level to safeguard the definition of marriage on the national level will become pointless. However, your action can make a big difference since this proposal is now in its first stage of the political process. The report of European Dignity Watch will help you to take action. We need to react to the call for public consultation by the Commission, pointing out the severe consequences of an automatic mutual recognition of civil status documents on family policy and the infringement of the principle of subsidiarity.

This EDW report (and especially their analysis in six languages) can help you to convince people to protect subsidiarity and gives you analytical and very practical advice in how to react and to whom precisely in the European Commission. European Dignity Watch report on the recognition of civil status documents: The European Commission is pushing for “automatic mutual recognition” of public documents in all EU Member States. Among them are marriage and adoption documents. Automatic recognition, as practical as it may seem at first a glance, entails a severe danger: that of a forced recognition of civil unions, same-sex marriages and corresponding adoption rights by all Member States – even if this goes against their national laws and public order.

A public consultation (Green Paper) on the topic has been opened by the Commission. Every NGO, group or individual can participate! Herewith, we provide you with all the necessary information you may need to send your opinion to the Commission. A solid analysis of the questions asked by the Commission will help you to frame your answer. All information is available in six languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish and German. Much is at stake! We urge you to help advocate for freedom and the principle of subsidiarity! This is how you can get involved:

  1. Write your answer to the Commission by April 31, 2011, at the latest. Find here all information you need for this.

  2. Use the six language versions of the analysis on our website and spread the word among your network.

  3. Contact politicians, provide them with our information and ask them to get involved.

Abstract
The purpose of the Green Paper, issued by the European Commission on December 14, 2010, is to achieve a cross-border harmonization of public and civil status documents in order to “reduce bureaucracy”.

There is no doubt that a reasonable reduction of bureaucracy is desirable within the EU. However, the simplistic audit of the issues involved—as conducted by the Commission in its Green Paper—leads to an even greater issue: that of compelling EU Member States to recognize same-sex civil unions (or same-sex adoption) even when this goes against their national laws and public morality (and despite the fact that Member States are theoretically protected against such coercion by Article 81.3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). Since family law is a competency of each Member State—and not of the EU—the imposition of a recognition of civil unions and other practises that contradict their domestic public morality would constitute a serious infringement of national sovereignty and a violation of the principle of subsidiarity. This is precisely the danger posed by the idea of “automatic mutual recognition” of public documents, as the European Commission seems to suggest.

What is a Green Paper?
A Green Paper is a broad public consultation on the role of the EU in a certain policy field. Every citizen and organization can contribute their opinion. A Green Paper is an explicit invitation for organizations, public and private entities, and individuals to contribute to the opinion-making process of the European Commission on a specific topic. The contributions are usually taken into account by the European Commission to define further policy strategies in the field concerned. Your contribution is needed Each and every contribution on this public consultation is important. If you are an NGO or a civil society organization, please submit your response to the Commission’s Green Paper in the name of your organization. If you are an individual, please submit your answer in your own name, stating your full name and address. In our analysis of the Green Paper, we have provided suggestions for possible responses to the questions contained in the document.. Find here our propositions to write an answer.

Deadline for responses: 30 April 2011.
Answers need to be sent to: European Commission Directorate-General for Justice Unit A1 - Judicial Cooperation in Civil Matters B-1049 Brussels Fax No: + 32-2/299 64.57

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Article of the Criminal Code changed for Rymasheuski and Sieviarynets

On March, 30 the co-chairman of the organizing committee for the BCD and ex-candidate for the presidential post Vital Rymasheuski was indicted anew under article 342 of the Criminal Code ("Organization and preparation of activities that grossly violate public order or active participation in such activities"). Thus, the article under which he had been previously indicted was changed for a milder one. The same change of article under the Criminal Code took place also in relation to ex-candidate Uladzimir Niaklyaeu, deputy chairman of the Young Front Nasta Palazhanka and representatives of the campaign “Speak the truth” Alaxandr Fiaduta, Siarhei Wazniak and Andrej Dzmitryeu.


On April, 4 accusations against Paval Sieviarynets, Dzmirty Bandarenka, Iryna Khalip, Siarhej Martsaleu have been also re-qualified in the same way.

Ex-presidential candidates Mikalaj Statkevich, Dzmitry Us and Andrej Sannikau,as well as Aliaksandr Klaskouski are still suspected in organising mass riots.


The penalty under article 342 provides for a fine or arrest for up to six months, or restraint of liberty for up to three years, or imprisonment for the same period.

Vital Rymasheuski was let know of the change at the time of interrogation, which began at 2 pm on March, 30.

"I was called in for questioning at 2 pm without any explanation. I was not aware that I would be indicted anew during the interrogation. Despite the fact that the new article is milder than the previous one, this does not mean that the decision of the court will be legal and fair. The fact that the article was changed is a surprise for me but I do not think that the situation for me or for the BCD has become somewhat different. The previous ungrounded sentences in relation to other participants of the “case of December, 19” are still in force, - said the co-chairman of the BCD.

"The change of articles does not constitute a victory in releasing the prisoners, such victory will only be reached by unconditional acquittals. I do not feel particularly happy because people who were groundlessly arrested continue to be kept in jails. And a verdict against me, despite the change of article, might be as tough as up to three years of imprisonment"- continued Vital Rymasheuski.

--
BCD international committee
bchd.by@gmail.com http://www.bchd.info/english/

New Hungarian Constitution would not mention sexual orientation and focus on marriage-only families

Hungary, 4 Mar 2011 – Parliament is currently discussing the draft Constitution (PDF Hungarian) submitted by an ad-hoc committee. The Constitution does not mention sexual orientation as a forbidden ground for discrimination and protects only family based on marriage, defined to be a union between a man and a woman. The final vote should take place at the end of April.

When the centre-right government took power, it announced the drafting of a new constitution. The Committee is headed by Jozsef Szajer, an MEP of the ruling party, and by two other members, Gergely Gulyas of Fidesz and Laszlo Salamon of the Christian Democrats. The wording of Article 9 does not mention sexual orientation, even though it could be understood to be included [Budapester Zeitung report, in German]. Article 7 defines marriage and protects family. The suggested text reads: "The Constitution . . . places marriage as the most fundamental and natural union between man and woman . . . and the family stemming therefrom under special protection".

The Socialist Party is protesting against the procedure chosen for the revision by not taking part in the discussion.

Source: www.equal-jus.eu (article is from Alexander Schuster)