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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
9 February 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian government soldiers celebrate after taking control of the village of Ratian, north of the embattled city of Aleppo, from rebel fighters on 6 February. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian government forces, with Russian support, turn a corner (Huffington Post) Late on 2 February, the news hit: “All communication and supply line[s]” between Turkey and Aleppo had been severed, according to a Elijah Magnier, a renowned Arab war correspondent with Alrai Media Group. It seems to be so; the Syrian army and allied militias, backed by Hezbollah and Russian air power, took control of a tendril of territory that cuts off Aleppo-based rebels from the Turkish border. Eastern supply lines for ISIS appear to have also been cut. Edward Dark, a pseudonym for a respected commentator on Syrian affairs living in Aleppo, said on 3 February: “This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After four years of war and terror, people can finally see the end in sight…”

Turkey under pressure to open border to Syrian refugees (Al Jazeera) Turkey came under mounting pressure to open its border Saturday as tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing a government onslaught sought entry and the European Union called on Ankara to grant them refuge. As many as 35,000 Syrians have amassed along the closed border, according to Suleyman Tapsiz, governor of the Turkish border province of Kilis. He said Turkey would provide aid to the displaced within Syria, but would only open the gates in the event of an “extraordinary crisis…”

Rebels threaten to execute anyone caught smuggling humanitarian aid to Foah and Kefraya (Al Masdar News) The Sharia Courts of Idlib that are run by the Islamist rebels of Jaysh al Fateh have issued a decree that bans the delivery of humanitarian aid to the predominately Shiite towns of Kefraya and Foah in the Idlib Governorate. Under this decree, any person(s) caught smuggling humanitarian aid to the aforementioned towns will be executed by the Shari’ah Courts of Idlib. This hard-lined stance against the delivery of humanitarian aid to the beleaguered civilians of Kefraya and Foah comes just one week after another convoy of humanitarian aid was delivered to the town of Madaya in western Damascus…

In Syria, war crimes don’t take sides, U.N. report says (CNN) They were prisoners of war on different sides of a conflict that’s raged for nearly five years. But all of them faced a horrifying reality, according to a new report on Syria released by the United Nations. Torture, mass executions and other war crimes have been carried out against detainees held by groups on practically all sides of the fighting, according to the report released Monday by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria…

Christians boycott peace conference; Chaldean Patriarch frustrated with empty words (Fides) Christian representatives invited to participate in the “Conference on the protection of peaceful coexistence,” held on Sunday, 7 February at the Iraqi Parliament, decided to boycott the event, to mark their distance from occasions when the calls to coexistence and harmony between different ethnic and religious identities are transformed into mere rhetorical formulas. In addition to the Christian communities, also other religious minorities, such as the Yazidis and Mandaeans boycotted the conference…

On the Great Council of the Orthodox Church (First Things) Already there is much talk about the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Between now and June 19, 2016, when the council officially opens on the island of Crete, there will be many rumors and much spin. Some will be justified; like other patriarchal institutions, Orthodox churches are not normally known for their transparency. However, other chatter will be less than helpful. What follow are some brief clarifications on basic questions surrounding the council…



Tags: Syria Refugees War Ecumenism

8 February 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian children who fled bombing in Aleppo wander among tents at the Oncupinar crossing, opposite the Turkish province of Kilis, on 6 February 2016. (photo: Kerem Kocalar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Syria refugee camps set up as Turkey limits entries (BBC) Turkish aid workers have been setting up tents and distributing supplies for thousands of new Syrian refugees kept from entering Turkey at the border. Some 35,000 people fled a Syrian government offensive in the Aleppo area last week, trying to enter Turkey’s Kilis border region. But Turkey has so far closed the border to most of them despite appeals by E.U. leaders to let them cross…

As Syrians flee anew, neighbors’ altruism hardens into resentment (New York Times) When the Syrian refugees first started streaming into this bedraggled border town, Gassim al Moghrebi was their tireless benefactor, distributing donations of food, money and clothes and sheltering as many as possible in two apartments he owned. “All of Ramtha was just like me,” Mr. Moghrebi said, describing a good will rooted in family ties that spanned the border, and sympathy for the victims of a pitiless war. “One man had ten apartments. He gave them to the Syrians for free.” But now, as Syria witnesses a new escalation of violence and flee again by the tens of thousands, neighboring countries are increasingly overwhelmed and reluctant to let them in. In many places, that early altruism has hardened into resentment — an ominous turn for those searching for safety from the war…

Maronite patriarch: Without a president, Lebanon is on brink of collapse (AsiaNews) Religious leaders, international diplomats and citizens have launched a fresh appeal to the Lebanese Parliament to elect a new president, a position now vacant for over 20 months. In his Sunday homily Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter lent his voice to this call…

Coptic eparchy to celebrate anniversary of the martyrdom of 21 Copts in Libya (Fides) The Coptic Orthodox Eparchy of Samalot is preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of the martyrdom of 21 Copts killed in Libya by ISIS militants. Celebrations will culminate in the solemn liturgy on Tuesday, 16 February. The 21 Coptic Egyptians were kidnapped in Libya in early January 2015…

A Catholic-Orthodox meeting is spectacular but not unprecedented (The Economist) The announcement of a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, due to take place in Cuba on 12 February, is certainly a spectacular moment in ecumenical dialogue. But contrary to many reports that have appeared in the press this weekend, it is certainly not the first top-level encounter between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches since the East-West schism of 1054. Before speculating about what will happen in Havana, it’s worth recalling, in barest outline, some landmarks in the history of this often tortured relationship…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Refugee Camps Patriarch Kirill

20 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Before the advent of ISIS, northern Iraq’s minorities were reasonably secure in celebrating their heritage. Here, circa 2010, Christian faithful gather around a fire during a Christmas celebration in Qaraqosh. In the 1970’s, Iraq’s Baathist government had renamed the Assyro-Chaldean city Hamdaniya. Check out an account of the Nineveh Plain’s Christians from the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: STRINGER/IRAQ/Reuters/Corbis)



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS

20 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




St. Elijah Monastery in Mosul, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, dates back to the sixth century. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ISIS has destroyed one of Iraq’s oldest Christian sites (New York Times) The Islamic State destroyed one of the oldest Christian sites in Iraq as part of its campaign against ancient sites in the country, according to satellite photographs published by The Associated Press on Wednesday and confirmed by Iraqi officials and historians. The monastery of St. Elijah, or Dair Mar Elia, stood for more than 1,400 years above a riverbed south of the city of Mosul, which the Islamic State seized from Iraqi forces in June 2014. The satellite photographs — taken by DigitalGlobe, a private company with headquarters in Westminster, Colo. — showed that the monastery was razed in late August or September 2014, including the site’s square complex of partly ruined rooms and a largely intact sanctuary that dated from the 11th century…

U.N. agency calls on donors to support Syrian farmers in their hour of need (U.N. News Center) With the war in Syria now approaching its sixth year, agricultural production has plummeted and food supplies are at an all-time low, pushing millions of people into hunger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stressed today, calling on governments to boost funding to help farmers keep their lands in production and prevent the situation from deteriorating even further…

Syrian Orthodox patriarch organizes a meeting with diplomats in Damascus (Fides) His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch, organized a reception to mark the start of the new year where all the diplomats accredited to the Arab Republic of Syria were invited. The reception was held yesterday at the patriarchal seat, in the district of Bab Tuma, the area of the Old City of Damascus. During his speech to diplomats accredited to the government of Damascus, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem reiterated that terrorism and the ongoing war in Syria are fed from the outside, and has renewed his appeal for international support towards the Syrian people…

Pope Francis receives invitation to visit Rome’s mosque (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday received a delegation of Muslims who presented him with an invitation to visit the Mosque of Rome. The delegation included the imam Yahya Pallavicini from COREIS (The Islamic Community of Italy) and Abdellah Redouane, the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy…

Timket colorfully celebrated in Ethiopia (Ethiosports) Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany), which marks the Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River was colorfully celebrated throughout Ethiopia today. Timket is usually observed on 19 January; because this year is a leap year, it is celebrated today. The patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, His holiness Abune Mathias, spoke after a benediction to the crowd gathered at Jal Meda, urging those with wealth to share it with the less fortunate…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Monastery Catholic-Muslim relations

15 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Father Androwas Bahus performs a wedding at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the city of Shefa-‘Amr, Israel. For more, you can read about a day in the life of this Melkite Greek Catholic priest in Israel, or watch an interview with the photographer who shared this glimpse. (photo: Ilene Perlman)



Tags: Israel Cultural Identity Melkite Greek Catholic Church Melkite Galilee

15 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Mersen Chala shows a picture of his brother, Dinka Chala, who was killed by Ethiopian forces on 16 December for alleged participation in protests. (photo: Zacharias Abebeker/AFP/Getty Images)

Ethiopia confronts its worst ethnic violence in years (Washington Post) The cows are back in the valley near the village of Wenchi in Ethiopia’s highlands, after being driven out five years ago by the arrival of a Dutch agricultural company. They returned in the past few weeks, after villagers burned the warehouses filled with seed potatoes that were to be planted on communal grazing lands that authorities had turned over to the Solagrow PLC company. This attack is among dozens of demonstrations taking place for the past two months across Ethiopia’s Oromia region, which comprises a third of the country. Protesters from the Oromo ethnic group say the government is trying to take away their lands and use them for everything from industrial development to luxury housing projects. The response has been harsh; as many as 140 people have been killed by security forces using live rounds to quell the protests…

ISIS releases 16 Christian hostages of Khabur (Fides) Yesterday, ISIS released 16 more Assyrian Christians who were part of the large group of hostages that they captured and deported on 23 February, following an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the Khabur valley river of Hassake. Eight members of the group of released hostages were children. All appeared in decent condition. “This time,” said Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassake-Nisibis, “the hostages released were left near the city of Tel Tamar, and from there were able to reach their village of Tel Jazira…”

Mini-republics: A Syrian village seeks to survive amid carnage (Der Spiegel) Even as war continues to rage in Syria, normal people in the country are doing their best to survive in places like the village of Korin. It has transformed into a kind of mini-republic and has WiFi on the town square. But its population is slowly dwindling…

Russian military declares new objective: Humanitarian aid in Syria (Reuters) Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday a new objective of Russian forces in Syria was to provide humanitarian aid. Russian air force planes have delivered 24 tons of aid in the region around the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, a ministry official said in a televised briefing…

United Methodist Church blacklists five Israeli banks (United Methodist Church) A recent decision by the United Methodist Church’s pension fund to halt investments in five Israeli banks is in keeping with its plan to use a human rights guideline for investments, announced a year ago. The banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot. In a recent press release, United Methodist Kairos Response, an advocacy group, said it was pleased with the pension agency’s action. The group called the move “the first time a major church pension fund has acted to preclude investment in Israeli banks that sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land…”



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Israel ISIS

30 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Rev. Androwas Bahus, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest working in Galilee, shares the view from the roof of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Akko, Israel. To learn about Father Bahus and the Israeli Catholic communities he serves, read A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest, the cover story of the new Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)



Tags: Israel Holy Land Cultural Identity Melkite Galilee

30 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 1996 photo, worshipers walk to the entrance of St. Mariam’s Orthodox Cathedral in Asmara, Eritrea. Earlier this week, the funeral of the fourth patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church was held in this distinctive cathedral. (photo: Raphael Gaillarde/Gamma‑Rapho via Getty Images)

Funeral held for fourth patriarch of Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (AllAfrica) A funeral for the fourth patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Abune Dioskoros, was held on Saturday, 26 December, following a night-long vigil at St. Mariam Orthodox Cathedral in Asmara. Abune Dioskoros has led his church since his election by the Holy Synod of the Eritrean Orthodox Church in April 2007. Due to controversy surrounding the removal of his predecessor, Abune Antonios, several Oriental Orthodox sister churches — such as the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo churches — disputed the legitimacy of the election of the late patriarch…

Ecumenical patriarch: ‘Refugee Jesus’ is authentic guardian of refugees (Pappas Post) In his annual Christmas message, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, described as “truly a disgrace for the entire human race” the fact that children who have a right to life, education and development within their own family are forced to leave their homeland. Offering help and assistance to these brothers and sisters is “the most precious gifts of the wise men to the newborn Lord.” Forced to flee Herod’s murderous intentions, the child Jesus “is the authentic guardian of today’s refugees…”

Chaldean patriarch: Christian persecution a crime against humanity (National Catholic Register) “In one night, 120,000 Christians left their homes just with their clothes and have been living in camps for one and a half years. Is this not a crime against humanity?” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad spoke of this and other serious hardships and persecutions against Christians at a recent Rome conference on religious freedom…

Moscow archbishop: A holy year to boost Catholic and Orthodox collaboration (AsiaNews) The Jubilee of Mercy is an opportunity to boost the cooperation and communication between Catholics and Orthodox, in support of the family, the poor, prisoners and the disabled, says Roman Catholic Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Mother of God at Moscow…

Syrian army backed by Russian jets enters rebel-held southern town (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian troops fought their way into a rebel-held town in the southern province of Dara’a Wednesday in an assault which rebels said was supported by the heaviest Russian aerial bombing campaign so far in the south…

Israeli group helps blockaded Gazans negotiate path to outside world (Christian Science Monitor) The phone calls from Gaza start in the morning. There are students trying to get to universities abroad; a daughter trying to see a terminally ill parent in the West Bank; a bride trying to get to her own wedding in Jordan. On the other end of the line — at a cluttered desk in a cramped Tel Aviv office — sits Shadi Bathish, a 39-year-old paralegal who helps Palestinians navigate the Israeli military’s sometimes Kafkaesque bureaucracy and obtain the rare permits to exit the blockaded coastal territory. The job makes Mr. Bathish one of the few Israelis with a direct line to the hardships of Gaza residents, many of whose homes and neighborhoods were destroyed by the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel…



Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Christian Unity Eritrea Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

29 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic Bishop Milan Sasik, C.M., shows off a model of a church in the distinctive Rusyn style, built from wooden joints without the use of nails. To learn more, read our recent profile of Bishop Milan, or our feature on his rapidly reviving church, Out From Underground. (photo: Igor Grigoryev)



Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Carpatho-Rusyn Ruthenians Ruysn

29 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Farmers harvest crops from their fields in October in Alaga, Ethiopia. (photo: Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images)

In Ethiopia, drought threatens to overshadow progress (Newsweek) This year’s drought comes despite Ethiopia’s strides in economic development over the past decade. The country’s GDP growth hovered around 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, ranking it among the fastest-growing economies in the world. But the county’s economy is heavily invested in agriculture, which accounts for 38 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP and 80 percent of nationwide employment. If the drought continues it will undoubtedly affect Ethiopia’s economy…

Too early to cheer victory over ISIS in Ramadi, experts say (AINA) Washington is hailing Iraq’s recapture of Ramadi from ISIS as a key step forward in the global battle against terror, but it may still be too early to celebrate. Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, was seized by the militant organization in May. On Monday, Iraqi government forces finally declared victory after months of fighting, with televised images showing the Iraqi flag flying at a government complex. “They are still clearing out pockets of the city, there’s going to be a long process before they can call Ramadi secure. And then, there’s still the continuing threat from IS, which still holds Fallujah and other areas in Anbar,” said Iraqi General Ismail al Mahlawi, head of military operations in Anbar.

Refugees find freedoms and dangers in Brazil (Los Angeles Times) For many newly arrived Syrians in Sao Paulo, it is hard to find work, hard to communicate, hard to live in constant fear of street crime. They think of it as temporary refuge en route to more permanent homes, in more familiar lands. But in this freewheeling megacity of horizon-to-horizon skyscrapers and vertiginous freedoms, some also find space to remake themselves, in ways large and small…

A refugee’s journey: After risking everything to reach Europe, what next? (The Guardian) Earlier this year Patrick Kingsley met a Syrian family in Cairo and learned about their harrowing journey to Egypt. Patrick followed the father, Hashem al Souki, as he gambled on crossing the Mediterranean to seek asylum for them all in Sweden. Six months later he catches up with Hashem to see what happened next…

Syrian rebels shell Shiite villages after local truce, residents say (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian rebels shelled two Shiite villages in the northwest of the country on Tuesday, killing at least one person, residents said, a day after pro-government fighters and civilians left the area for Turkey under a local ceasefire agreement…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Refugees Drought





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