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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
16 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Police officers stand guard at the entrance to the new Azraq Syrian refugee camp, which is under construction east of Amman, Jordan, 25 March. Azraq Refugee Camp will open on 30 April, according to a U.N. official. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Syria refugees face growing challenges in Jordan urban areas (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian refugees in urban areas of Jordan are struggling to cope with inadequate housing, high debts, rising costs and educational challenges for their children, a global relief agency said Wednesday. CARE International said a household assessment of more than 2,200 Syrian refugees showed 90 percent of them were living in debt to relatives, landlords, shopkeepers and neighbors. Jordan is home to more than 500,000 Syrian refugees…

Syria fighting leaves Maaloula, a historic Christian town, in ruins (Los Angeles Times) On Tuesday, Syrian forces were targeting the remnants of a rebel force in this historic town, long a center of Christian worship and pilgrimage. Though most insurgents had long fled, a determined few remained well concealed in buildings and within the rubble, moving through tunnels and blasted-out passages. But they faced overwhelming force. Russian-made tanks pounded their positions while automatic-weapons fire rained down on them. Snipers posted on the bare hillsides trained their rifles on remaining rebel redoubts…

Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israeli police at al Aqsa mosque (The Guardian) Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli police that erupted when the al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem was opened to Jewish visitors. A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, told AFP that Palestinians threw stones and firecrackers at police when they opened the walled compound’s gates on Wednesday…

All eyes on Russia as Ukraine begins offensive in East (Der Spiegel) Russia has repeatedly denied that it is mobilizing its forces on the Ukrainian border and dismissed satellite photos released by NATO last week — designed to prove the contrary — as being out of date. On Tuesday, Moscow said claims that some Russian troops were in eastern Ukraine were “absurd.” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he hopes that Kiev has “enough brains” to prevent a further escalation…

United against Moscow (The Tablet) The Easter season will be an uncertain one for the embattled people of Ukraine, but what is sure is that it will not herald improved relations between the region’s churches. Since Moscow’s creeping occupation of Crimea began in late February, the Russian Orthodox Church has echoed the line of President Vladimir Putin with an obsequiousness recalling the worst days of Soviet rule. Its stance has provoked resentment among local Catholics and forced Orthodox Ukrainians to make hard choices between spiritual and national loyalties. Recent efforts by Catholic leaders in Europe to cooperate with Russian Orthodoxy can hardly be sustained when such sharp differences emerge over freedom…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees Refugee Camps Palestinians

15 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Debris chokes a badly damaged church in the Monastery of Mar Sarkis in Maaloula after the Syrian government reclaimed it from rebel fighters on 14 April. (photo: CNS/Khaled al Hariri, Reuters)

Syrian army seizes ancient Christian town near Lebanon border (Reuters) Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, on Monday, military sources and state television said, further squeezing rebels’ supply routes through the Qalamoun mountains into Lebanon. Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner-exchange deal. Government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns in recent months, closing off supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus toward central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean…

Missile strikes an Armenian Catholic school (Fides) A child died and 61 people were injured when a missile hit an Armenian Catholic school in Damascus, in the district of Bab Tuma. “Rescuers arrived immediately and the injured were taken to three hospitals in the area,” said the Rev. George Bahi, a priest of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Damascus. “We are all shocked by what happened…”

Syria’s graffiti revolution (Al Monitor) Syrian graffiti artists seek to reclaim the spirit of the revolution by taking on both the Assad government and radical Islamists. “This [graffiti] is an opportunity to gain back the public space that was stolen from us by the militias, formerly occupied by the regime with the pictures of Bashar and Hafez al Assad, and now taken by Quranic verses [of ISIS],” says Syrian activist Amer Mattar. Amer is a member of Shera’ (Arabic for “the street”), a group of young activists in the northern Syrian town of Kafr Nabl who are using graffiti as a way to reclaim a revolution they feel has gone horribly astray…

Ecumenical patriarch calls for peace in Ukraine (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “We believe that the good will of the Ukrainian people will succeed in bringing healing and ultimate reconciliation. … It is our wholehearted hope and prayer that, by that time, all divisions may be healed for the sake of the unity of the Ukrainian people,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said…

Ukraine says it has begun military operation in east (New York Times) After days of failing to enforce its own ultimatums, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday began what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. The first indication that the operation represented more than just words this time was a modest Ukrainian military checkpoint established on a highway north of the town of Slovyansk, which has been controlled by militants since Saturday…

Russia warns of encroaching Ukrainian civil war (Al Jazeera) Ukraine’s government said Tuesday that an “anti-terrorist operation” to oust pro-Russian rebels from occupied buildings in the east had begun, but attempts to wrest back control appeared sluggish amid warnings from Russia over the risk of civil war. “Blood has once again been spilt in Ukraine. The country is on the brink of civil war,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday, referring to at least two deaths on Sunday when Kyiv unsuccessfully tried to regain control in Slovyansk, one of about ten towns and cities where the rebels have seized buildings…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Violence against Christians Russia Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

11 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Studite Hieromonk Nykanor preaches from the iconostasis of the 17th-century Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Lviv. Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1901 to 1944, founded the Studite order along the lines of the monastic traditions of the Christian East to facilitate the reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. To learn more, read If You Pray, They Will Come, from the September-October 2003 issue of the magazine. (photo: Ivan Babichuk)



Tags: Ecumenism Eastern Christianity Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Eastern Catholics Monasticism

11 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man shouts during a pro-Russia rally near the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 6 April. (photo: CNS/Mikhail Maslovsky, Reuters)

Russian reboot of Crimea brings rubles and confusion (Al Jazeera) Just weeks after its blitzkrieg annexation of this Black Sea peninsula, the Kremlin is trying to do shock therapy with the region’s economy, moving swiftly to remake everything from the banking system and the legal system to the prices being set at open-air farmers’ markets and regular grocery markets…

Ukrainian Catholic clergy instructed on behavior during elections (RISU) The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church approved on 4 April a set of instructions for how the clergy should behave during elections. The authors were prompted to issue the document in response to the behavior of clergy during the parliamentary electoral campaign of 2012. The document states that a priest is strictly prohibited from being part of a political party, from distributing campaign materials in church, from campaigning for someone and from openly expressing their political views in private conversations with believers…

From Cairo to Suez, Egypt workers defy government with labor strikes (Washington Post) Thousands of Egyptian workers have staged strikes for higher wages and better working conditions in recent weeks, raising the possibility of a confrontation between impoverished laborers and a new president set to be elected this spring…

Warily, Jordan assists rebels in Syrian war (New York Times) During more than three years of civil war in Syria, Jordan has come to the world’s attention largely because it has struggled to shelter hundreds of thousands of refugees. But, quietly, the desert nation has also provided a staging ground for rebels and their foreign backers on Syria’s southern front…

Lebanese army launches Bekaa Valley security plan (Daily Star Lebanon) On Thursday, the Lebanese army began implementing a security plan in the Bekaa Valley, raiding locations in the eastern town of Brital, notorious for being off-limits to authorities, in search for wanted individuals, including abduction gangs and drug dealers…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Jordan Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Crimea

10 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, pictured in a 2012 photo, served as Chaldean patriarch from 2003 to 2013. Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in 2007. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, retired Chaldean patriarch, dies at 86 (The Catholic Register) Pope Francis praised the dedication of the retired patriarch of the Chaldean Church, Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, 86, who died April 8 in a hospital in San Diego, according to the California-based Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle. In a telegram of condolence to Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Pope Francis recalled “with deep gratitude the late patriarch’s dedication to his people and to the promotion of respectful, just and peaceful relations with followers of other religious traditions…”

Caritas president: International community must open refugee camps in Syria (Fides) “The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has reached an unsustainable threshold for Lebanon, equal to 25-30 percent of the population present on the national territory. The global and regional powers, instead of providing weapons to those who kill, should focus their interventions on this emergency,” said the Rev. Paul Karam, Maronite priest and president of Caritas Lebanon…

‘Risky’ operation brings aid to besieged Syrians in eastern Aleppo (U.N. News Center) The United Nations refugee agency and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said today it managed to bring humanitarian aid to a besieged neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, an area that had been cut off from assistance since last June. The “rare and risky” operation to deliver aid to Boustan al Qaser was carried out following agreement with the Syrian Government and the opposition, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees…

Catholic convent, Maronite village latest targets of vandals in Israel (CNS) A Catholic convent near Jerusalem and a largely Maronite village in Galilee were damaged in recent weeks as a two-year wave of vandalism directed at Christians and Muslims in Israel and the West Bank continued…

Catholic bishops condemn separatism and sectarianism (RISU) The Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops in Ukraine released a statement supporting Ukrainian unity and condemning the incitement of hatred on religious grounds…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Middle East United Nations Chaldean Church Maronite Church

8 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pro-Russia protesters scuffle with the police at the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 6 April. A Ukrainian Catholic bishop has warned his church could lose its legal status under Russian rule, and pledged to use “all possible means in the international arena” to defend it. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Ukraine cracks down on demonstrators; Russia issues warning (Los Angeles Times) Ukrainian riot police on Tuesday cleared a regional administration building and public square in the eastern city of Kharkiv of hundreds of pro-Russia protesters, detaining scores in the process, officials said. In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning against the use of force on pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine and alleged the direct involvement of private U.S. military experts…

Georgia’s ancient capital Mtskheta becomes holy city (Interfax) Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II has conferred the title of “holy city” on Georgia’s ancient capital Mtskheta, a place revered by Georgians…

Egypt’s media blackout on Sinai (Al Monitor) Ever since the beginning of the military operation that began in the Sinai Peninsula after the ouster of President Muhammad Morsi, there has been a media blackout regarding the events going on in this vital part of Egypt and the crises that its citizens are enduring. According to Mustafa Senger, a political activist from the Sinai, one of the most important problems is that mobile phone and Internet networks have stopped working…

Syria’s latest battle: The PR fight over sanctuary for Christians (Christian Science Monitor) When the Syrian opposition took over the Armenian Christian town of Kessab in coastal Syria last month, its 2,000 residents fled. Given the presence of Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al Nusra and other Islamist groups, they feared the worst for their town. So far, these fears have not been realized. Instead, rebels appear to be using Kessab as an opportunity to try to undo their reputation for extreme brutality towards Syria’s Christians and Shiites. But the Assad regime, which considers itself the protector of minorities, has launched a media campaign to demonstrate how Islamists are terrorizing Christians in Kessab, turning the town into a public relations battlefield in Syria’s civil war…

Fears rise about impact of drought on Syrians (U.N. World Food Program) The United Nations World Food Program (W.F.P.) provided assistance to a record 4 million people in Syria last month but a special report published today highlights how a potential drought would strain the country’s already fragile food security situation. W.F.P. food security analysts say rainfall since September has been less than half the long-term average, and will have a major impact on the next cereal harvest…

Syrians mourn slain Jesuit priest (Al Jazeera) After three years of civil war, during which brutal killing has become commonplace, many Syrians were left stunned Monday by the murder of a Dutch Jesuit priest gunned down in Homs, the besieged city that he refused to abandon. Francis Van Der Lugt — or Abouna (“Father”) Frans, as he was known to Syrians — touched the lives of many, not only Christians. As word of his death spread through Syria, Syrians grieved publically. On Facebook, young and old replaced their profile pictures with one of Frans: in a T-shirt, on a bicycle, among the olive trees, or smiling under the unmistakable black basalt arches of Homs’s Old City…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine United Nations Georgian Orthodox Church

4 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2007 file photo, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Department of External Church Relations, sits in his study. (photo: Russian Orthodox Church/Wikimedia Commons)

The pan-Orthodox council, Ukraine crisis and Christian unity (National Catholic Register) Edward Pentin interviews Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The metropolitan discussed the crisis in Ukraine, the pan-Orthodox council planned for 2016 — the first of its kind in 12 centuries — and the current status of Catholic-Orthodox relations…

Pope Francis congratulates new Syriac Orthodox patriarch (VIS) The Holy Father has sent a message to Ignatius Aphrem II, the new Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, congratulating him on his election. Pope Francis expresses his joy at receiving this news and prays that His Holiness “may be a spiritual father for your people and an untiring builder of peace and justice, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East in today’s difficult circumstances…”

Israeli diplomat strike ends, clearing the way for papal visit (Vatican Insider) After a year of financial disputes and union battles and strikes that culminated in the complete suspension of all diplomatic activities in the past 11 days, Israel’s government and unions have reached an agreement, leading to the reopening, as of today, of all Israeli embassies and consulates across the world. This unprecedented Israeli union strike has caused serious harm to the country’s foreign policy, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a rare trip to Latin America. There had also been fears that the strike would affect Pope Francis’ late-May visit to the Holy Land, but the Vatican had assured it would be going ahead as scheduled…

Crimea’s schism splits Orthodox hierarchy (Al Jazeera) On the day of the Crimean referendum, a Russian-speaking Orthodox priest, flanked by two soldiers in unmarked uniforms, walked into a Ukrainian Orthodox church in the military town of Perevalnoye, Crimea. The Russian priest had made a 60-mile trip from Sevastopol to ask for proof that the Ukrainian church was properly registered. An hour-long theological debate ensued before soldiers and their accompanying priest left, according to the Ukrainian priest, Father Ivan Protoirey, 58. Father Ivan said the priest from Sevastopol’s message was clear: The Ukrainian church that aligns with the Kiev Patriarch, Filaret, rather than the Moscow Patriarch, Kiril, would have no place in the new, Russian-controlled Crimea…

Rebel assault in Kessab, Syria, revives dark memories for Armenians (Los Angeles Times) A rebel assault on the northern Syrian town of Kasab near the Turkish border has sparked a furor among Armenians worldwide and revived dark memories of the Ottoman-era genocide. It’s unclear how many civilian casualties occurred in the previously tranquil home to about 2,500 Armenian Christians. But the incident, which has also heightened tension between Turkey and Syria, provides a sharp new focus for the propaganda wars between the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and the disparate rebel forces that have been trying to topple him for three years…

Gaza theaters battle censorship, conservatism (Al Monitor) The joy of stage performance and creativity made actress Wala Mutir, 27, smile as she greeted the crowd in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. She played the leading role in “Scenes From Christine’s Heart,” a play adapted from the play “Mourning Becomes Electra” by Eugene O’Neill. But as an actress in the conservative Gaza region, Ms. Mutir faces challenges. A young man in the audience stood up and objected by saying: “We are in a society that doesn’t accept plays that incite women to reveal their feelings.” The theater is having difficulty finding talented female performers, according to actor-director Jamal Abu al Qumsan. “The situation here is difficult on the actresses because society judges them. Two of the best, Samah al Sheikh and Enas al Saqqa, had to leave Gaza and settle in Cairo,” he told Al Monitor…



Tags: Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Orthodox

3 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this September photo, Syrian children carry their belongings as they enter Turkey with their families at the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate. (photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)

Syria’s ‘lost generations’ of illiterate children a source of future conflict? (Vatican Radio) Caritas Lebanon’s former president, Msgr. Simon Faddoul, says he’s concerned that generations of young Syrians growing up without an education in a climate of conflict are learning to “excel at the language of war … and hatred.” He warns, “we may face another warring generation in the short and long term…”

Bishops: ‘Persecution’ narratives play into the hands of extremists (Fides) The Bishops of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land warn against some misleading Western narratives of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The bishops recognize that there is no doubt the recent upheavals in the Middle East, initially called the “Arab Spring,” have opened the way for extremist groups and forces that, “in the name of a political interpretation of Islam, are wreaking havoc in many countries, particularly in Iraq, Egypt and Syria. There is no doubt that many of these extremists consider Christians as infidels, as enemies, as agents of hostile foreign powers or simply as an easy target for extortion.” However, according to the document, one must point out that Christians are not the only victims. Secular Muslims and those of other denominations, all those defined as “heretics” are being attacked and murdered, too…

Syrian Armenians, once insulated from war, forced to flee (Washington Post) Some fled in their nightclothes, others in their farming boots straight from the fields. Many thought they’d be able to return in a few hours but now fear they may never again. Until the shells started raining down late last month, the tiny Syrian village of Kessab and surrounding villages had been largely sheltered from the three-year-old conflict that has devastated other parts of Syria. But now the area is the focus of a rebel offensive in the coastal province of Latakia, and an accompanying social-media storm of disinformation…

Million Syria refugees registered in Lebanon (BBC) The number of refugees who have fled Syria and registered in Lebanon has surpassed the “devastating milestone” of one million, the U.N. says. Lebanon now has “the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide”, said the head of the U.N. refugee agency. “For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” he added…

Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader: ‘Educate Christians for honest politics’ (Catholic World Report) On 28 March, a newspaper in Kiev published a lengthy interview with the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. “The [Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church] believes in the possibility of Christian democracy, but it will never become part of the political process. More than once we have said that we support no political party or individual politician. But we strive to educate Christians, who would be capable of honest politics…”

Kiev-loyal Orthodox church doubtful of its future in Crimea (Ecumenical News) Ukrainian Orthodox Christians who are loyal to Kiev feel increasingly unsafe in Crimea after Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula and some have already left, church leaders said on Monday. Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the advent of an independent Ukraine, the country’s Orthodox faithful have been split principally between the Kiev and Moscow Patriarchates. The much larger Moscow-based Church does not recognize its Kiev-based rival, which is not part of the global Orthodox communion. The estimated 220,000 Crimeans loyal to the Kiev Patriarchate have long felt marginalized because of the region’s strong pro-Russian sympathies, but Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula has fuelled their feelings of vulnerability…



Tags: Ukraine Refugees Children Syrian Civil War Crimea

2 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




President Bashar al Assad Receives Patriarch-elect Mar Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All the East on 2 April. (photo: SANA)

Newly elected patriarch: Syrians are determined to remain steadfast (SANA) St. George’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Damascus held a reception on Tuesday on the occasion of the arrival of Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, patriarch-elect of Antioch and all the East. He stressed that followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church are determined to remain steadfast in homeland. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch stressed he will work with Patriarch-elect Ignatius Aphrem and all other patriarchs of Christian churches in Syria to make the church of Damascus one apostolic community that expresses Syria’s richness and diversity…

Palestinians defy U.S. and Israel; Middle East talks falter (New York Times) Defying the United States and Israel, the Palestinian leadership formally submitted applications on Wednesday to join 15 international agencies, leaving the troubled Middle East talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry on the verge of breakdown. The applications were signed by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday evening as part of a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiation process…

Syria death toll over 150,000, says human rights body (The Guardian) At least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year-old civil war, a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said. The U.K.-based Observatory, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of activists and medical or security sources, said the real toll was likely to be significantly higher at about 220,000 deaths…

U.S. official says measles next menace to Syrian children (Al Monitor) A senior United States aid official has warned that the next health crisis facing Syrian children may be measles, as the Syrian government refuses to implement a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding urgent improvement in humanitarian access to war-battered populations…

Patriarch Aram I proposes that the Kessab region be declared a demilitarized zone (Catholicosate of Cilicia) After describing the situation in Kessab and the role of Turkey, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, head of the Armenian Apostolic Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, proposed that the Kessab region be declared a demilitarized zone. U.N. Undersecretary Jeffrey Feltman promised the catholicos to follow it up and discuss with Arab League Special Envoy Lakhtar Ibrahimi…

Blasts at Cairo University kill two (Daily Star Lebanon) A series of explosions outside Cairo University killed two people on Wednesday, including a police brigadier-general, security officials said, in what appeared to be the latest militant attack in a fast-growing insurgency. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist militants have carried out many similar operations against security forces since the army ousted President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July after mass protests against him…

Zerqa parish first to acquire solar energy system (Fides) The Twelve Apostles Church of Zerqa is the first church in the Middle East to acquire a solar energy system. “The idea came to me during the summer period, when the heat in June, July and August makes us suffer,” says the Rev. Kurzum Elias. “I thought: Why not exploit it in order to pay less money?” The city of Zerqa is located in a semi-arid area, and the number of sunshine days is estimated at 300 days a year. “We cover, thanks to the sun, half of the total energy consumption. We aim to add more panels…”



Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Armenian Apostolic Church

31 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church convened and elected Mor Cyril Aphram Karim, metropolitan of the Archeparchy of the Eastern United States, to lead the church. He will be known as Patriarch Ignatius Aphram II upon his installation and will be the 123rd patriarch of Antioch. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Syriac Orthodox Church elects new patriarch (ABC News) The Syriac Orthodox Church has elected a new patriarch to lead one of the world’s oldest Christian sects, Lebanon’s national news agency said Monday. The announcement of the election of Cyril Aphrem Karim, a 48-year-old Syrian, was made by the Syriac Orthodox Church’s Lebanese headquarters in the village of Atshaneh northeast of the capital Beirut. Karim, who served as bishop in the United States, replaces Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I, who died on 21 March at the age of 80…

Egypt presidential election set for 26-27 May (Al Jazeera) Egypt’s electoral commission announced Sunday that the country’s presidential election will take place on 26-27 May, less than a year after the army overthrew President Muhammad Morsi. The man who toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected leader in July, former army chief Abdel Fattah el Sisi, is expected to win the vote easily…

After Crimea’s annexation, what Tatars might do next (Christian Science Monitor) Leaders of Crimea’s Tatar minority gathered Saturday to condemn Russia’s annexation of the peninsula and appealed to international bodies for recognition as an autonomous group. Tatars, an ethnically Turkic and mainly Muslim group that was subjected to mass deportation from their native Crimea by Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1944, gathered to forge a collective response to Russia’s absorption of their native region…

Ukraine crisis: Crimea celebrates switch to Moscow time (BBC) People in the Crimean capital Simferopol have been celebrating the clocks changing to synchronise with the time in Moscow. Moscow formally annexed Crimea earlier in March after the predominantly ethnically Russian region held a referendum which backed joining Russia…

After Crimea, Russians say they want Alaska back (The Moscow Times) After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which the Kremlin said corrected a “historical mistake,” some in Russia would like to see the divide with Alaska eliminated by having Russia stake a new claim on the territory, which Tsar Alexander II sold to the U.S. for $7.2 million in 1867…

Activists return to northern Syria as extremists retreat (Al Jazeera) After a campaign of kidnappings and executions, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is starting to retreat. In areas the group controls, the ISIL has sought to impose Sharia, or Islamic law. In Raqqa, one of the group’s strongholds, the ISIL has forced women to completely cover themselves, banned smoking and forced business owners to close their shops during prayer times. The group recently imposed Sharia on Christians in Raqqa, telling them they couldn’t display any outward signs of faith and charging them a religious tax…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Syrian Civil War Crimea Syriac Orthodox Church





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