Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Events of Today

Sorry for the continuous posts.

As you all know, two bombings occurred today in the Moscow metro -- one at "Лубянка" (Lubyanka) station and one at "Парк Культури" (Park Culturi).  Both happened within 30 minutes of each other--one around 8:00 a.m. and one around 8:30-8:45 a.m.  38 are dead, around 65 are injured

While trying not to co-op on other people's pain, Beth and I have never been closer to an attack like this than today.  We have come to regard this city as our home, and we share the pain of the citizens of Moscow.  We grieve with our friends here.  We fear with them.  These are just random places, these are places that we know and travel to often.

Our new language teacher, Irina, who has tutored for our company for years, her husband was injured in an explosion.  He is out of surgery and still has not regained consciousness as far as we know.  Please keep their family in your prayers.

As you probably noticed in an earlier post, Beth and I love the metro.  We don't give taking it a second thought.  It's just something that we do to get around Moscow.  But now there is this intense fear and apprehension with going near a station.  In reality, we are probably just as safe as we were the day before the attacks, but our emotions tell us otherwise.  Although we have to just live life normally, internally we feel at a stand still.

Please keep the families of the victims and injured in your prayers.  People are shaken all over Moscow-- a cashier I spoke through at the grocery store said it was "как кошмар" -- "like a nightmare."  If nothing else, we hope this time will be a reflection in all of our lives about what really matters-- and a reminder of how fleeting life is.  May we make every breath count.

Monday, March 29, 2010

We're Okay

Hey guys,

Sorry I didn't mention earlier that Beth and I are fine.  Actually, I had just gotten up to head out when I heard the news.  Needless to say my meeting was cancelled.

Here's a message from the Russian Cluster Leader, Ed Tarleton:

This is just a brief message to let you know that all of our folks in Moscow are safe and sound.  News reports continue to develop as to the full extent of the damages and loss of life caused by the explosions in the Moscow Metro System this morning.  Please lift up the people of Moscow to the Father.

Please keep those involved in your prayers, we have not heard from all of our friends here, so keep their safety in your prayers too.

Women suicide bombers kill dozens in Moscow Metro attacks - Times Online

Women suicide bombers kill dozens in Moscow Metro attacks - Times Online

At least 34 people were killed and dozens more injured when female suicide bombers attacked two Moscow metro stations at the height of rush hour this morning.

The first blast came at the Lubyanka station in central Moscow at 0756 (0356 GMT) killing 22 people.

The headquarters of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is located above the station which is just yards away the Kremlin.

Around 45 minutes later at 0838 (0438 GMT) the second explosion happened at Park Kultury station, killing at least 12 more people. "There are killed and injured," a security source said.

The blasts were caused by two women wearing belts packed with explosives, Moscow's chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin told reporters.

Surveillance camera footage posted on the Interbet showed motionless bodies lying in Lubyanka station lobby and emergency workers treating victims.

Passengers, many of them in tears, streamed out of the station, one man exclaiming over and over "This is how we live!"

No group immediately took responsibility for the blasts, but suspicion is likely to fall on Chechen militants and other groups from Russia's North Caucasus, where Russia is fighting a growing Islamist insurgency.

Russian emergencies ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said the first explosion happened as a metro train stopped at the Lubyanka station that was packed with peak hour commuters.

"The blast hit the second carriage of a metro train that stopped at Lubyanka," she said. Commuters were killed both on the platform and in the carriage and at least 10 people were wounded, she said.

The second blast also took place in a train carriage while it was stationary at the platform, she added.

The twin attacks practically paralysed movement on the city's main roads, as emergency vehicles sped to the stations. Helicopters hovered over the Park Kultury station area, which is next to the city's renowned Gorky Park.

Security sources told the state Interfax news agency the blast could have been caused by a suicide bomber. Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into terrorism, a spokesman of the investigative committee of prosecutors said.

Over the last decade the Russian capital has been hit by a string of deadly explosions claimed by Chechen militants.

The last fatal attack on the Moscow underground was in 2004. That attack, which killed 39 people and wounded another 150, was claimed by Chechen terrorists

The Moscow subway system is one of the world's busiest, carrying around 7 million passengers on an average workday, and is a key element in running the sprawling city.

Recent attacks in Russia

1994-1996 - Tens of thousands of people are killed in the first Chechen war.

June 1995 - Chechen rebels seize hundreds of hostages in a hospital in the southern Russian town of Budennovsk. More than 100 people are killed during the rebel assault and a botched Russian commando raid.

Jan 1996 - Chechen fighters take hundreds hostage in a hospital at Kizlyar in Dagestan, then move them by bus to Pervomaiskoye on the Chechen border. Most rebels escape but many hostages are killed when Russian forces attempt a rescue.

Sept 1999 - Bombs destroy apartment blocks in Moscow, Buynaksk and Volgodonsk. More than 200 people are killed. Moscow blames Chechens who in turn blame Russian secret services.

Aug-Sept 1999 - Hundreds of Russian soldiers killed battling Chechen militants in the mountains of Dagestan. The second Chechen war begins and Russia bombs Chechnya. Tens of thousands are killed in the war. Russia re-establishes direct rule in 2000.

Oct 23-26, 2002 - 129 hostages and 41 Chechen guerrillas are killed when Russian troops storm a Moscow theatre where rebels had taken 700 people captive three days earlier. Most of the hostages are killed by gas used to knock out the Chechens.

July 5, 2003 - Two women suicide bombers kill 15 other people when they blow themselves up at an open-air rock festival at Moscow's Tushino airfield. Sixty are injured.

Aug 1, 2003 - A suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives blows up a military hospital at Mozdok in North Ossetia bordering Chechnya. The blast kills at least 50.

Dec 5, 2003 - An explosion tears through a morning commuter train just outside Yessentuki station in Russia's southern fringe. Forty-six people are killed and 160 injured.

Dec 9, 2003 - A suicide bomber kills five other people near the Kremlin. At least 13 people are wounded.

Feb 6, 2004 - A suicide bombing kills at least 39 people and wounds more than 100 on an underground train in Moscow.

May 9, 2004 - Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov is killed in a bomb blast in Grozny.

June 22, 2004 - Rebels seize an interior ministry building in Ingushetia, near Chechnya, and attack other points in lightning attacks. At least 92 people are killed including the acting regional interior minister, Abukar Kostoyev.

Aug 24, 2004 - Two Russian passenger planes are blown up almost simultaneously, killing 90 people. One Tu-134, flying to Volgograd, goes down south of Moscow. Moments later a Tu-154 bound for Sochi crashes near Rostov-on-Don.

Aug 31, 2004 - A suicide bomb attack in central Moscow kills 10 people and injures 51.

Sept 1-3, 2004 - 331 hostages - half of them children - die in a chaotic storming of School No.1 in Beslan, after it is seized by rebels demanding Chechen independence.

Oct 13, 2005 - Up to 100 rebels attack key security points in Nalchik, main city of the Muslim Kabardino-Balkaria region. Twelve local residents are killed as well as 12 police. Twenty fighters are killed and 12 are seized by security forces.

Feb 10, 2006 - Seven Russian policemen and 12 gunmen are killed when special forces storm houses to fight rebels holed up in a village in the Stavropol region of southern Russia.

Aug 21, 2006 - A bomb kills 10 people in a Moscow suburban market.

April 27, 2007 - A Russian helicopter is shot down in Chechnya, killing 18 people.

Aug 13, 2007 - A bomb derails the Nevsky Express between Moscow and St Petersburg, injuring 60 people.

Aug 31, 2007 - A bomb on a bus in the Southern Russian city of Togliatti kills eight and injures 50 during the rush hour.

June 22, 2009 - Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is seriously injured when a suicide bomber detonates explosives beside his car. He later recovers and returns to work.

Aug 17, 2009 - A suicide bomber drives a truck into the gates of the main police station in Nazran, the largest city in Ingushetia, killing 20 people and wounding 138 others.

Nov 27, 2009 - A bomb blast derails the Nevsky Express with about 700 people on board. At least 26 people are killed and 100 injured.

Jan 6, 2010 - At least seven policemen are killed and 20 more injured in Dagestan when a suicide bomber detonates a car packed with explosives at a traffic police depot.

March 29, 2010 - At least two blasts strike Moscow metro stations during rush hour, killing 34 people and wounding 18.

At least 25 dead in Moscow metro explosion - Times Online

At least 25 dead in Moscow metro explosion - Times Online

At least 43 people have been killed and scores more injured as two explosions ripped through the Moscow metro at the height of rush hour this morning.

The first blast at the Lubyanka station in central Moscow happened at 0756 (0356 GMT) as thousands of passengers were packed onto trains.

The headquarters of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is located just above the station.

"The blast hit the second carriage of a metro train that stopped at Lubyanka," Russian emergencies ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said.

"Fourteen people died in the wagon of the train and 11 on the platform," said Ms Andrianova. At least 10 people were wounded, she said.

The second explosion happened at Park Kultury at 0838 (0438 GMT), killing at least 18 more people. "There are killed and injured," a security source said.

Security sources told the state Interfax news agency the blast could have been caused by a suicide bomber

The Russian capital over the last decade was hit by a string of deadly explosions claimed by Chechen militants.

The last fatal attack on the Moscow underground was 2004, killing 39 people and wounded another 150. That attack was claimed by Chechen terrorists

more to come

Sunday, March 28, 2010

BKAR -- Eastern Orthodxy: An Overview

After posting the introduction I started realizing how daunting of a task this is.  After much thought, I've decided to separate this "Better Know a Religion:  Eastern Orthodoxy" in to the following sections:

  • An Overview (this post)
  • Orthodox Beliefs (Similarities and Differences)
  • The Day-To-Day (What Orthodoxy Looks Like)
  • and etc.

In this overview we decided to give basic facts and statistics and a little history about Orthodoxy.  Granted, you can probably go to Wikipedia and read practically the same thing, but pretend you don't know that.

The Orthodox Church around the world is estimated to have between 225 - 300 million members (varying sites give varying numbers).  Although these members are found all over the world, a majority are found in the former Soviet countries (Russia, namely, as well as Belarus, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Georgia,  Romania, and so on), Greece, and Ethopia.

In Russia, 80% of the population claim to be Orthodox (a number I was surprised at--I actually thought it would be higher).  10% of this group attend church regularly, while 43% only go on holidays (sound familiar westerners??).

Although the split between the West (Catholic) and East (Orthodox) occurred in 1054 (known as the Great Schism), thus forming both churches, the tension between regions had been growing for centuries.

In the beginning, however, there was a sort of "unity despite diversity" between the churches of the Latin West and the Greek East.  There was this understanding that because of the varied cultures and ways of thinking and approaches to living, the church would have to find ways to make the gospel meaningful to their present culture.   The West had a more pragmatic, logical, and legal view of the Gospel (as America tends to even today), talking about laws and justice.  According to Dr. James R. Payton, Jr., the distinctly Roman approach was the practical application of the gospel.

Despite the similarities of reason and democracy, the East took a different approach.  Because of the philosophical background of the ancient Greeks, the East had a more abstract and mystical approach to the Gospel.  An old saying goes, "the Greeks built metaphysical systems; the Romans built roads."  While the West relied on reason to help in understanding Christianity, the east put limitations on what reason could attain.  The Eastern mindset was not on justice, guilt, and laws, but light and darkness, spirit and matter, life and death, good and evil.

It is important to note here that both viewpoints are not a contradiction, nor is one better than the other-- they are complimentary.  Dr. Payton writes:

As the Christian message spread into these divergent cultures, it came to people whose attitudes and concerns had been shaped by those cultures.  These people had the same longings, needs, and ultimate concerns as any human would, but the particular ways in which they thought, acted, and lived, and the questions with which the wrestled, were inevitably shaped y and inextricably bound up with the cultures in which they had grown up.
Thus, contextualization was not a merely theoretical issue but the need of the hour for the fledgling church.  Without departing from the teaching of Christ and the apostles, the church nevertheless, in bringing the gospel relevantly to each of these great cultures, spoke it into those cultures in ways that their people could understand.  Those who heard the gospel and responded in faith also incorporated it in terms of the concerns they already knew and the questions with which they traditionally wrestled.  Because of this, from early in the church's existence, different emphases and stresses in teaching and preaching emerged in the two halves of the Roman Empire.  These distinguishable emphases did not contradict each other, but they were nevertheless different.  Each was a relevant response to the distinct culture into which the gospel had come.

As I mentioned earlier, in the beginning these differences between Western and Eastern Christianity did not split the church; there was in fact surprising unity.  However, by the 5th century, relations began to change and become strained.  That, along with differences of beliefs in icons, when Easter should be celebrated, and so on, caused wider rifts.  Finally, because of differing beliefs on whether the Holy Sprit proceeded from God (patrioque), or God and Jesus (filioque), the Great Schism occurred in 1054, splitting the church into Catholic and Orthodox.

This is definitely not a comprehensive history.  But I wanted to give an idea as to the background of the branches of Christianity that led to Orthodoxy.  I feel this will help with the next post in understanding the beliefs and traditions, and why they might be similar in some cases and different in others to Protestantism and Catholicism.

For much more detail than I could give here, I recommend these great books on the matter:

  Light From the Christian East:  An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition by James R. Payton,  Jr.

 Eastern Orthodox Christianity:  A Western Perspective by Daniel Clendenin

 This upcoming week Beth and I will also be observing the daily traditions from Palm Sunday tomorrow leading up to Resurrection Sunday.  I know "tradition" is a word that many Protestants hiss at, but there can be great purpose in tradition, and must not be mistaken with traditionalism (Jaroslav Pelikan, in The Vindication of Tradition, writes "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living").  More on that later.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baby Shower в Москве!

Beth and I are much more blessed than we deserve.  Our amazing friends gave us a baby shower last night (hosted by Andrea with assistance from Charlotte, Mary Louise, and Lori).  It was a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Incredible Moscow Metro

One of our favorite aspects of Moscow is its public transportation.  Yes it can be kind of crazy at times, but you can get nearly anywhere you like in all of Moscow.  The metro system is one of the best in the world, and is the second busiest after  Tokyo's twin subway.  7+ million passengers ride the metro DAILY.

The Moscow Metro is something that everyone should experience.

If you cannot see this video, click HERE.

If you cannot see this video, click HERE.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Better Know a Religion: Eastern Orthodoxy

A popular saying in Russia goes, "To be Russian is to be Orthodox."  And from the vast customs and traditions to the very language itself, it is obvious that Eastern Orthodoxy is deeply embedded in the culture in Russia. 

The sad fact of the matter is that many westerners have very little knowledge and understanding of such an old and unique religion, but it's somewhat understandable.  For many reasons, possibly the biggest being the Cold War during '50s the through late '80s/ early '90s (and Communism's attempt to squelch religion in the Soviet Union), there has been this fear of all things Eastern Europe, where a majority of Orthodoxy is practiced.  Also, us westerners tend to lump Orthodoxy in with Catholicism--and although there are similarities, there are many differences as well (in fact, most Orthodox believers think Protestants and Catholics are more similar).

Leading up to Easter, Beth and I would like to share more about Orthodoxy--after all, it's the state religion here in Russia.  Through living in Russia-- and individual study and attending a class on Orthodoxy in college, we have come to greatly appreciate this unique and beautiful branch of Christianity.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Movie Night!

As usual, Friday night was once again English Movie Night.  This time around we watched The Hurt Locker -- being the Oscar winner for Best Picture we felt it was timely.

Here are some pictures from the night!

And finally, here's a picture of Beth!  At week 30!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Trip to the Винзавод!

Over the weekend Beth and I met up with Mary Louise and a friend of hers to visit an art gallery called "Винзавод."  The name actually means "wine factory" in Russian, and that's exactly what the location was in the past.  Recently the buildings were renovated and are now different art galleries showcasing all sorts of paintings, photographs, gifts, and so on.  It's an interesting place to visit, and like most truly interesting places here in Moscow, they're a little difficult to find.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March: The Great Thaw

It's so hard to believe it's already March.  Beth and I are nearing our one year anniversary of our arrival here in Moscow (April 18, 2009).  It's hard to believe it's already been that long--it feels as if we just arrived here only a few months ago.

Since returning from Germany as I mentioned before, we've been able to get back into the swing of life here. Things have been going really well, and we've definitely been busy with multiple events and items on our plate. We've been able to resume everything as planned, and have been able to use these different events (Alpha Course, Movie Night, etc.) to really continue friendships and make new relationships here in Moscow.  We are so blessed to have an incredible family of friends here in Moscow.

As for Beth and her upcoming delivery (she just started her third trimester today!), we have found a great hospital to give birth--and it's just about a 30 minute walk from our apartment.  It's actually the one place Beth's doctor recommended, and we also have a friend who is studying to become an obstetrician who has friends who work there.  She too recommended this particular place, and is going to give Beth a tour in the coming weeks.  It seems like every question and worry we've had is slowly being answered over time, and working out better than we could have expected!

Beth is going to make a visa run around mid-April, and was given approval to make a trip to the U.S.  Around April 10 or so she's going to be back in the states for around a week.  I'm sure she'd love to see you-- so get in touch with her about meeting up if it's possible!  As for me, it'll be business as usual in Moscow.  I'm definitely bummed I won't be able to see friends and family with Beth (and if we're completely honest, eat at Chik-Fil-a, among other missed restaurants), but I'm so happy she can take the trip and get spoiled a little.  After walking miles in ice every day, she deserves it!

As for life here in Moscow-- things have begun to kind of thaw out.  Winter is still over a month away from ending, but since last week things have begun to warm up (and by warm up I mean temperatures have rose to slightly above freezing) and the snow and ice have begun to melt.  While that's a good thing because it gives us something to look forward to, all that snow melting can make things a little messy.  Now we're walking around in brown slush, tracking mud everywhere.  It's kind of disgusting.

Here are some amusing photos we've taken, right after the intense blizzard that came through here a couple weekends ago.

There's a bench in there somewhere.

It's very easy to tell which cars have been used recently...