1 October 2012
In this November 2007 photo, Christians, including Catholic clergy and women religious, participate in a demonstration in New Delhi demanding an end to discrimination against dalit, or low-caste, Christians in India. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
‘Untouchable’ no more (Al Jazeera) Despite a constitutional ban on India’s caste system in 1950, activists say discrimination based on social hierarchy continues. Activists are recording the stories of those deemed “untouchable” in the hopes of changing hearts and minds. Will the project work, or is caste no longer a problem?
Three days of prayer and fasting before selecting Coptic pope (OCP News Service) The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria has announced fasting and prayer for three days in preparation for the selection of the new pope of Alexandria and patriarch the Holy See of St. Mark. The period will begin Monday, 1 October, and run through Wednesday, 3 October 2012.
Georgian Orthodox Church joins Muslim board in decrying anti-Islamic film (Interfax) The Georgian Orthodox Church and the Georgian office of the South Caucasus Muslim Board consider “unacceptable the public demonstration of the film Innocence of Muslims, which has insulted millions of people and caused justifiable outrage and protest worldwide.”
Iraq sees deadliest month in over two years (Al Jazeera) September was the deadliest month in Iraq in more than two years, with 365 people killed in violence that included waves of nationwide attacks, official figures show. It was the highest monthly toll given by the government since August 2010, when figures showed 426 people killed and 838 wounded in attacks.
Aleppo fighting “destroying cultural heritage” (Lebanon Daily Star) UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said that, as a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, Syria was obliged to safeguard its heritage from the ravages of war. “The human suffering caused by this situation is already extreme,” she said in a statement. “That the fighting is now destroying cultural heritage that bears witness to the country’s millenary history — valued and admired the world over — makes it even more tragic.”
20 September 2012
Tags: India Iraq Syrian Civil War Coptic Orthodox Church Aleppo
Concerned about what the future may hold without the protection afforded by the al-Assad regime, many Syrian Christians view the ongoing upheaval with trepidation. CNN reports:
19 September 2012
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians
Last weekend, Pope Benedict XVI delivered his apostolic exhortation, entitled “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” in Lebanon. This long and detailed document, a summary of which can be found at the Vatican news site, lays out the hopes, concerns and general attitude of the Catholic Church on the church in the Middle East.
A week before this, however, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue gave a terse, compact speech discussing many of the same key points, focusing specifically on what lies ahead for Syria:
In his speech, [Colombian priest] Father Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot — an expert on Islam and the Middle East, who headed the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies for a number of years before being called to the Curia in the early summer - summarises the Vatican’s five priorities for Syria: “an immediate end to violence from whatever part; dialogue towards reconciliation as the necessary path to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; preserve the unity of the Syrian people regardless of ethnicity and religious affiliation; an appeal from the Holy See to the international community to dedicate itself to a process of peace in Syria and the entire region for the benefit and well-being of all humanity.” ...
Father Guixot underlines that by avoiding “partisan politics,” the Christian community does not show “cowardice” but “courage”: a “bridge” between different communities. This statement is also an implicit call to Christian leaders to try to ensure that the Church does not take sides.
In his speech, the number two man of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue recognizes the legitimacy of the government in Damascus, unlike Western chancelleries, but stresses that the “aspirations” of the Syrian people are “legitimate” and should not be ignored or crushed as if they were “foreign forces,” as many Christian leaders are doing. It is important to note that the international community’s call for continued efforts towards peace does mention the possibility of some form of armed conflict. ...
According to the Vatican, human rights, particularly religious freedom, can only benefit from democratic regimes taking root in the country and “Christians in the Arab world, alongside their fellow Muslim citizens, are ready to play their part as citizens who together strive to build societies that respect the human rights of all citizens.”
The first elections that took place following the “spring” in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have led to the victory of Islamic parties which “have adopted the language of pragmatism and moderation.” In response to these results, the Holy See has emphasized the need to cultivate a “culture of democracy” that can prevent this development from “descending into a negative form of “majoritarianism.”
But Guixot also understands the reasons behind the scepticism expressed by many moderate Muslim leaders towards western democratic systems, associated with “atheist” and “non Islamic” values they see coming from the West and underlines the importance of documents produced by Egyptian university Al-Azhar – the most respected centre of Sunni Islamic learning. These documents support the building of democratic systems, human rights and freedom of worship within the context of Islamic tradition. The Holy See upholds this, against groups like the Salafi movement, which uses “religion as a tool to create discord among the various components of the nation.”
Read the whole piece at Vatican Insider.
13 September 2012
Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Vatican Arab Spring/Awakening
Workers hang a Vatican flag 11 September near the main airport in Beirut in preparation for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Sharif Karim, Reuters)
With World on the Brink, Can Benedict Be a Firebreak? (NCR) Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Lebanon will be the first visit of a major Western leader to the Arab world after the attacks in Egypt and Libya. Big questions loom: Will the pope’s presence inflame extremist Islamic sentiment even further? Or, will the visit act as a firebreak, offering a counter-narrative of Muslim-Christian harmony? In either event, this 24th foreign journey by Pope Benedict XVI, and his fourth to the Middle East, could potentially be among his most consequential. A Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, says that the pope will bring a “message of dialogue and respect for all believers of different religions” to Lebanon.
Christian Presence in Sarajevo Fading (Kuwait Times) The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has warned that Christianity is under threat in Sarajevo, as Muslim and Christian clerics argued during talks meant to promote reconciliation. “The most tragic [thing] is that many who might want to, do not have the opportunity to return [to Sarajevo],” Irinej said on RTRS television, calling on Europe to “put right a great injustice.” A census taken in 1991, before the war in Bosnia, recorded Serbs as about 30% of Sarajevo’s population; though no official census has been taken since then, Serb presence is estimated to have fallen to half of that.
Many Christians Join Protests Against Film Mocking Islam (Fides) In Egypt, Christians are joining Muslims to protest against the film that denigrates the Prophet Muhammed. Father Rafic Greiche, director of the communications for the Catholic Church in Egypt, says: “Right now, demonstrations are in progress in the center of Cairo to protest against the American film which insults the Prophet Mohammed, with several clashes with the police. The situation is tense in the area around the U.S. Embassy, which is very close to Tahrir Square. It should be noted that among the demonstrators there are also many Christians, the Copts in particular, together with Muslims are protesting against the film. Also on Facebook and other social media, Christians and Muslims are united in the protest.” Additionally, even the leaders of the major Christian denominations in Egypt have made their voices heard. “The Catholic Church, the Orthodox and Protestant churches issued a statement in Arabic against the film in question,” Father Greiche says.
In Syria, Christians Take Up Arms for the First Time (The Telegraph) The Christian community has tried to avoid taking sides in the civil war, at first seeking only to protect churches. However, as the war moved into the city and spread across its suburbs, they have begun to accept weapons from the Syrian army and join forces with Armenian groups to repel opposition guerrillas. “Everybody is fighting everybody,” said George, an Armenian Christian from the city. “The Armenians are fighting because they believe the F.S.A. are sent by their Turkish oppressors to attack them, the Christians want to defend their neighbourhoods, Shabiha regime militia are there to kill and rape, the army is fighting the F.S.A., and the [Kurdish militant group] P.K.K. have their own militia too.” For the past six weeks up to 150 Christian and Armenian fighters have been fighting to prevent Free Syrian Army rebels from entering Christian heartland areas of Aleppo.
Armenian Primate Visits U.S. (The Armenian Mirror Spectator) Archbishop Avak Asadourian who has been the Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq for the past 33 years, during some of its most traumatic periods, is considered a hero among his people. He is currently visiting the United States for a special celebration to be accorded him by the large Iraqi-Armenian community in Glendale on 16 September, in honor of his 35 years as a clerical leader. On this trip, the Primate also visited the St. Vladimir’s and St. Nersess’ Seminaries in New York, from which he graduated in 1976. During an exclusive interview, the Primate spoke about the insecure condition of the Armenian and Christian communities since the time of the Iran-Iran war, which started in 1980, and the “ill-conceived war perpetrated by the NATO coalition against Iraq” in 2003.
12 September 2012
Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Christian-Muslim relations Armenian Apostolic Church Coptic Christians
Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia; Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk; and Archbishop Lawrence Huculak of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, process before the Divine Liturgy outside Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Cathedral in Winnipeg on 9 September. (photo: CNS/David Lipnowski)
Archbishop Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio: Great Expectations for Papal Visit (Fides) While the images of the Pope and the Lebanese and Vatican flags emerge everywhere, the slogan of the visit: “I give you my peace” dominates the front pages of newspapers. An evangelical phrase that, said Archbishop Caccia, “fully corresponds to the expectations of the people.” He further notes: “A special novena to prepare for the Pope’s visit is in progress in the churches in the Country.”
Pope Hopes to Further Interreligious Dialogue (Daily Star) Pope Benedict XVI hopes to advance the church’s relationship with Islam and help Christians keep their place in the Muslim world during his trip to Lebanon this week. The pope’s choice of Lebanon for his Middle East trip is not a casual one: the multi-confessional society — by which government posts are split among religious groups — was hailed by pope John Paul II as a model for the region. The visit will include meetings with representatives from Lebanon’s four main communities: Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Alawite.
Palestinian Prime Minister to Ease Protests with Price Cuts (Washington Post) After a meeting of his cabinet, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a decision to cancel increases this month in the prices of diesel fuel, kerosene and cooking gas, which are purchased from Israel, and to reduce the recently raised value-added tax, which is pegged to Israeli rates under an economic agreement with Israel. To make up for revenue losses from the price and tax reductions, the government will cut the salaries of ministers and other high-level officials and reduce some government expenditures.
Egyptian Town’s Muslim-Christian Unrest Points to Bigger Challenges (Los Angeles Times) It began when a Christian dry-cleaning business scorched a Muslim man’s shirt: First came the insults, and then Muslims and Christians were clashing in a square in this farming town rimmed by pyramids, culminating in a lethal explosion. “There was nothing wrong before all this,” said Ahmed Araby, a Muslim car dealer in a white tunic standing in the shade of a mosque. “It was a mistake. It was over a shirt. Muslims and Christians were like brothers, but a huge problem has fallen on our doorstep.”
“North America’s Churches Can Be an Example for Ukraine” (CNS) Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Yurij of Winnipeg, Manitoba, told several dozen Ukrainian Catholic bishops that the North American Catholic and Orthodox bishops have worked through the “animosity” that once marked relations between their churches, and they now collaborate. “In Ukraine, they have to go through the same kind of process,” he said, adding that bishops outside Ukraine must be patient with their brothers.
23 August 2012
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Interreligious Palestinian Authority Ukrainian Catholic Synod
Dr. Yousef Zaknoun, director of The Cardinal Martini Leadership Institute at Bethlehem University, accepted the Sciat vt Serviat Award on behalf of the university.
(photo: Bethlehem University)
Last month, at its General Assembly in São Paulo, Brazil, The International Federation of Catholic Universities presented its prestigious Sciat vt Serviat Award to Bethlehem University for its “remarkable commitment … in building a sustainable society in the Holy Land.” From the university’s website:
Designed to enhance the mission of IFCU and of Catholic universities across the globe, the Sciat vt Serviat Award rewards creative initiatives that represent a significant and inspiring contribution to Catholic university culture. Dr. Yousef Zaknoun, Director of The Cardinal Martini Leadership Institute at Bethlehem University, was among the 300 participants at the IFCU International Assembly in São Paulo, Brazil on Thursday, 26 July 2012 when it was announced that Bethlehem University was this year’s recipient of the Sciat vt Serviat Award. ...
Bethlehem University is the third such institution to receive the Sciat vt Serviat Award, being singled out for “the social commitment of its Faculty Members and Students in favor of the Interreligious Dialogue and Peacebuilding.” This is evidenced by the engagement of all students in an interreligious dialogue class during their fourth year of study; the prominent voice of Bethlehem University faculty, staff, and students at the “Christians in the Holy Land Conference” last summer at Lambeth Palace in London; the leadership of Bethlehem University faculty in the international discourse around the Christian presence in the Holy Land, such as through Kairos Palestine; and countless other initiatives.
For the rest of the story, complete with a photo album, click here.
Bethlehem University bears the distinction of being the only Catholic university in the Holy Land. CNEWA played a significant role in its founding by Pope Paul VI in 1973, and maintains a permanent endowment for its continued operation. To read more about Bethlehem University, see Paul Wachter's The Perseverance of Bethlehem University, from the November 2004 issue of ONE, or George Martin's Preparing Palestinians for a New Millennium, from the October 1998 issue.
2 August 2012
Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Education Catholic education Bethlehem University
Relief efforts of CNEWA and partners highlighted (EWTN)
Rebel forces in Aleppo capture tank, shell military airbase (Reuters)
Egyptian President to swear in new Cabinet today (USA Today)
Greek government commits to new round of spending cuts (Huffington Post)
Revival of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine (Voice of Russia)
Patriarch Kirill blesses new church near Moscow's Federal Security Service (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)
1 August 2012
Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine War Russian Orthodox Church
Center in Bethlehem provides care for those suffering post-traumatic stress (Catholic News Service)
Maronite bishops criticize Lebanese government (The Daily Star)
Fighting in Syria reaches Christian areas of Damascus (The Daily Star)
Irrigation technology to improve Ethiopian food security (News Dire)
Power restored in India, ending two-day blackout for more than half a billion (BBC)
Disavowed letter from Egyptian president pledges new peace efforts with Israel (Washington Post)
31 July 2012
Tags: Syria India Egypt Lebanon Ethiopia
Combat in Aleppo worsens with increasing aerial firepower (Al Jazeera)
Concerns in Israel about Syrian government's chemical weapons (Spiegel)
670 million without power in second Indian blackout (Reuters)
Audit reveals wasted resources in Iraqi police training program (L.A. Times)
Two car bombs kill 20 in Shiite neighborhood in Iraq (Washington Post)
Israeli West Bank settlements growing rapidly (The Guardian)
One in four refugees in the world is Palestinian (Turkish Weekly)
Relationship between Bulgaria and Israel strained by bus bombing (New York Times)
Egyptian Coptic Christians voice concerns over new leadership (Lincoln Star Ledger)
30 July 2012
Tags: Syria India Iraq Palestine Israel
In Syria, conflicting reports over the battle for Aleppo (Al Jazeera)
Lebanese concerned violence could cross the Syrian border (Washington Post)
Pope Benedict XVI appeals for peace in Syria and in Iraq (Vatican Radio)
Ethiopian authorities halt violence between two warring tribes (Washington Post)
Weak monsoon season hurting crops in India (Washington Post)
West Bank's tech sector growing despite checkpoints (New York Times)
Hezbollah releases footage of attack leading to 2006 Lebanon war (The Independent)
Romania's president beats impeachment vote (BBC)
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Pope Benedict XVI