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Current Issue
Summer, 2014
Volume 40, Number 2
imageofweek From the Archive
In this 1996 image, children attend a festival in New York celebrating Greek heritage. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
  
22 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Ukrainian woman weeps after being reunited with her son at the Russia-Ukraine border in Russia's Rostov region 22 August. Ukrainians mark Independence Day on 24 August amid ongoing tensions in the East. (photo: CNS/Alexander Demianchuk, Reuters)

With thousands dead, Ukraine refugees say aid is welcome but peace is better (Washington Post) Amid intensifying battles Friday for control of key cities in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine and Russia are clashing over the delivery of food, medicine and other supplies to areas hit by the conflict. But aid, some residents say, is not as critical as peace. “People are able to survive even without electricity and water,” Sologub said as she lay bandaged in a hospital in this government-held village eight miles from Luhansk, a Ukrainian city close to the Russian border that has seen some of the worst combat of the four-month conflict. “But you can’t prepare yourself for bombing…”

Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader discusses the very difficult situation in Ukraine (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) “For nine months Ukrainians, have been on an arduous pilgrimage from post-Soviet fear to freedom and God-given dignity,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk wrote in a recent letter. “All of the churches and religious organizations of Ukraine stood together against the violence of the Yanukovych regime, the annexation of Crimea, and the division of the country. … Unfortunately, the beleaguered Ukrainian Catholics, Greek and Roman, faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and Protestants in the east of Ukraine are further endangered by the rhetoric of the Orthodox leadership in Russia, which is becoming increasingly similar to the propaganda of Russian political authorities and media. … Ukraine needs the effective support of the global Christian community and support of all people of good will…”

Iraqi Christians reach France after fleeing Islamists (BBC) France has welcomed about 40 Iraqi Christian refugees who were flown to Paris from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius greeted them at the airport and said several hundred more Iraqi Christians would be flown to France in the coming weeks. They fled the swift advance of Islamic State militants, who now control big swathes of Iraq and Syria. French officials say Iraqi Christians who already have links with France will be considered more favorably…

Cardinal Fernando Filoni speaks of his mission in Iraq (Fides) Cardinal Fernando Filoni returned from Iraq last night after his visit as personal envoy of Pope Francis, and met the pope this morning to inform him about the mission entrusted to him. In the following interview, the cardinal told Fides Agency about the meetings and impressions that marked the days spent in the devastated Middle Eastern country…

Syrian civil war death toll rises to more than 191,000, according to U.N. (The Guardian) The death toll from Syria’s civil war has risen to more than 191,300 people, the United Nations has said. The U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, who oversees the Geneva-based office, said the figures are so much higher because they include additional killings from earlier periods, as well as deaths since the last report. “As the report explains, tragically it is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict,” she said…



Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Ukraine Iraqi Christians
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21 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, who headed a delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs to Iraq on 20 August, blesses a baby in Erbil. (photo: CNS/Courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)

Catholic, Orthodox patriarchs visit Erbil to support displaced Iraqis (CNS) A delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs visited Erbil, Iraq, to show their support and solidarity with the more than 100,000 Christians and minorities displaced in the country by the advance of Islamist militants. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter said the 20 August trip was “a first step in the implementation of the statement issued by the patriarchs,” referring to a special summit on 7 August to address the crisis facing Christians in Iraq and Syria…

Jerusalem patriarch calls for justice, international peace force for Gaza (Vatican Radio) As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to wreak destruction and death in Gaza, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has expressed dismay over the collapse of truce talks in Egypt. In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Italian service, the leader of the Latin Catholic Church in the Holy Land said despite hopes that the talks would succeed, “for years, there was this inner fear that things would not go well because there is no political good will to arrive at a final solution that is right for everyone…”

A Gaza family destroyed by Israeli bombs (Der Spiegel) Beit Hanoun’s 50,000 residents have long been accustomed to Israeli tanks driving through their town. But now it has become one of the worst battlefields of this war. Some 91 people have died here, including 23 children and 22 women. And eight members of the Wahdan family. The case of the Wahdan family is only a footnote in this war, in which more than 2,000 people have died. But it also exemplifies how innocent civilians became victims of the conflict. The fate of the Wahdan family helps provide answers to the question many are talking about, over whether this war was commensurate…

Greek Catholics warn of martyrdom in eastern Ukraine (AsiaNews) Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych warned yesterday that the Greek Catholic Church is experiencing a time of martyrdom in eastern Ukraine. A few days ago, Bishop Borys Gudziak, rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, also talked about “persecution” of the Greek Catholic Church in the regions torn by war between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Eastern Churches Patriarchs
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20 August 2014
Greg Kandra




An elderly Iraqi woman fleeing violence gestures at the Al Waleed refugee camp in Iraq
on 19 August. (photo: CNS/Morris Bernard, UNHCR handout via EPA)


U.S. Dominicans praying for Iraqi Dominicans, villagers (CNS) Dominican Sister Attracta Kelly in Adrian, Michigan, has been able to speak a few times with the superior of a group of Iraqi Dominicans and knows how desperate their situation is since they escaped Islamicists in northern Iraq. Sister Maria Hanna, the superior, and 51 other Dominican sisters, along with their family members and other villagers were driven from the Ninevah Plain by Islamic State fighters. “The problem is they have nothing,” Sister Kelly said of the group, which fled to the northern Kurdish city of Irbil. “They are sleeping in the streets, sleeping under trees. There is a church (where) they have been sleeping on pews, on the floor, outside in the yard, and they have no shelter. They are having a time getting food, and they want to leave the country...”

Pope thanks people for prayers (CNS) Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew’s wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience 20 August for their prayers. After each of the priests who translate the pope’s words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: “The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children — one who was 2 years old and the other several months...”

Strike in Gaza hits family of Hamas military commander (The New York Times) Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home...

Maronite patriarch prepared to meet with leader of Hezbollah to discuss ISIS (Fides) The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Bechara Boutros Rai said he was ready to meet soon the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, in order to address together growing concerns about the threat posed by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) that proclaimed the Caliphate in the regions which have fallen under their control in Syria and Iraq...

In Kerala, church decides not to bury bishops in sanctuaries (New India Express) In what could be called a revolutionary decision, the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three Catholic denominations in India, has decided not to bury bishops in the sanctuary (madbaha) of churches. The decision was taken at the Synod of the church that began at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, the headquarters of the Church, on Tuesday. “From now onwards, deceased bishops and metropolitans will be laid to rest in the crypt (an underground burial place in churches) if such a facility is available, or at the chapel attached to the cemetery,” said Syro-Malabar Church spokesperson Fr. Paul Thelakkatu...



Tags: Lebanon Pope Francis Iraq Kerala Maronite
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19 August 2014
Greg Kandra




A TV still image shows a firefighter standing next to the car in which three relatives of Pope Francis were killed on a highway between Rosario and Cordoba, Argentina, on 19 August.
(photo: CNS /DyN-www.noticraik.com handout via Reuters)


Relatives of Pope Francis killed in car crash (CNS) Pope Francis asked people to join him in prayer 19 August after he learned that two of his little great nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina and his nephew was in critical condition. The dead were identified as the wife and two young sons of Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio: Valeria Carmona, 39, Antonio Bergoglio, 8 months, and Joseph Bergoglio, 2 years. According to Argentine news reports, the 35-year-old son of the pope’s late brother Alberto Bergoglio underwent emergency surgery and was on a respirator...

Iraqi army advances toward Tikrit (Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces have launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the hometown of toppled President Saddam Hussein, from Islamic State fighters. Al Jazeera sources reported that the troops were advancing from the south and southwest and heavy clashes with the armed group were taking place 10km from the the city, capital of Salahidin province and located about 200km north of Baghdad. According to Reuters news agency, clashes are confined to the suburbs of the city as Iraqi forces have halted their advance into Tikrit in the face of heavy fighting...

Moscow-linked church calls for Crimea’s return to Kiev (Asia News) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate has spoken out in favor of the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic and against the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, which took place in March after a controversial referendum...

Israeli mob attacks Eritrean refugee (International Business Times) An angry Israeli mob has reportedly beaten a 23-year-old Eritrean refugee in Tel Aviv’s new Central Bus Station, leaving him unconscious and on the verge of dying. The young man’s life was saved by Yosef Ganem, a police sergeant and medic who found the body of the Eritrean on the fourth floor of the station and tried to revive him. “When I got there I saw the man sprawled out on the floor. He didn’t have a pulse and he was unconscious,” Ganem told Ynet news. The six suspects, two of them minors, claimed that the refugee had tried to rob one of them but an ongoing investigation showed that they had attacked the Eritrean first with punches and kicks...

Escaping the Islamic State (Der Spiegel) On the eighth day up on the mountain, Bagisa gave birth to her first child, a girl. She named her Khudaida.Bagisa and her husband Hadi had fled from the village of Sumari. The couple was lucky; they had left alone, allowing them to avoid the groups that came under fire from attackers. But being alone also meant that when they finally stopped running, in the shade of a cliff wall, they knew none of the others who likewise found shelter there. There was no one willing to share their valuable water with Bagisa. The couple now had a daughter, but they didn’t have anything to drink...

Jewish-Catholic dialogue pledges to build peace, understanding (USCCB) Violent acts against Christians and Christian sites across the world are a mounting concern to leaders of Catholic and Jewish communities in the United States, according to a joint statement issued 14 August by the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue sponsored by the National Council of Synagogues and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We deplore all acts of religious persecution no matter their target,” the joint statement said. “Church communities have been subject to persecution, attack, expulsion and even murder. As a result, these same communities have often seen their numbers decrease, especially as their populations are dislocated from centuries old homes...”

Canadians prepare for visit from Coptic pope (Edmonton Journal) Pierre Farage remembers tangles of people at the airport but can’t remember if he caught a glimpse of the guest of honour. Farage was just eight when Pope Shenouda III graced Mill Woods with a three-day visit in October 1989. The Egyptian pontiff shook hands, ate with congregants at St. Mary and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, and consecrated the altar of the young church. Twenty-five years later, Farage is helping prepare for the visit of Shenouda’s successor, Pope Tawadros II, who arrives in Edmonton on 17 September during his first visit to Canada...



Tags: Pope Francis Iraq Ukraine Coptic Christians Eritrea
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18 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A demonstrator marches with crutches outside the U.S. consulate in Erbil, Iraq, on 11 August. The pope’s envoy to the region, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, said people still do not know what will become of terrorized Christians. (photo: CNS/Sahar Mansour)

Chaldean Patriarch, papal envoy appeal for international aid (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has issued a communiqué concerning the visit of Pope Francis’ personal envoy to Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, and calling on the international organizations who “take their moral responsibilities seriously” to assist the people of Iraq…

Papal envoy to Iraq meets displaced Christians and Yazidis (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ personal envoy in Iraq, Cardinal Ferdinando Filoni says the displaced people he’s met during his current tour of northern Iraq are calling for immediate assistance from the international community before it’s too late…

Aleppo’s Christians in Syrian crossfire (Al Monitor) While the dire situation of Iraq’s Yazidis provoked United States military intervention against the Islamic State and nonstop media coverage, Aleppo’s Christians fear they are the war’s forgotten victims…

Fate of Gaza truce in balance as toll tops 2,000 (Daily Star Lebanon) The Gaza death toll rose over 2,000 Monday as the clock ticked towards a midnight deadline and negotiators in Cairo strove to hammer out a decisive end to weeks of bloodshed. As millions in and around Gaza enjoyed an eighth day of calm brought on by two back-to-back truce agreements, tensions were once again on the rise ahead of a new deadline ending a five-day cease-fire, which expires tonight. But there was little sign of any workable consensus emerging…

Ukrainian Orthodox Church urges gunmen in eastern Ukraine to lay down arms (Interfax) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate has expressed concern about the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine and called on members of illegal armed groups to surrender…

Egypt cracks down on human rights groups (Al Monitor) On 12 August, a special delegation from Human Rights Watch was to visit Cairo. However, Egypt’s government had other plans. The organization was to deliver a briefing alongside the release of its comprehensive report on the Egyptian security forces’ “clearance” of Rabia al Adawiya and other Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins last year that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,150 people…



Tags: Syria Egypt Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank
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14 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Displaced people fleeing violence in Sinjar, Iraqi, take refuge at Dohuk province on 7 August. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)

Iraqi Christians ‘dying in crowded refugee camps’ (Catholic Herald) Iraqi Christians driven from their homes by Islamic State fighters are beginning to die in crowded camps, witnesses have claimed. Sahar Mansour, 40, who lectured in chemistry at the University of Mosul before she fled the city in June, said newborn babies, the sick and the elderly in the Ankawa refugee camp on the outskirts of Erbil are dying from diseases, thirst and malnutrition. The same claim was made by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad, who said in an 11 August statement that “death and sickness are grabbing the children and elderly people among the thousands of refugee families spread over the Kurdistan region…”

Clashes continue in Iraq as the displaced seek shelter (Vatican Radio) Clashes between Iraqi troops and Sunni militants west of Baghdad on Thursday killed at least four children. It happened as the United Nations announced its highest level of emergency for Iraq’s humanitarian crisis in the wake of the onslaught by the extremist Islamic State group. Since their blitz offensive in June, the Al Qaeda-breakaway group has overrun much of Iraq’s north and west and driven out hundreds of thousands from their homes…

Yazidis still reported trapped on mountain in northern Iraq (Washington Post) Kurdish officials and Yazidi refugees said Thursday that thousands of desperate Yazidis remain trapped on a mountain in northwestern Iraq, even as the Pentagon appeared to back away from launching a rescue mission to save them…

Coexisting: Christians open church doors to displaced Palestinians in Gaza (Al Bawaba) At the height of the displacement crisis at the beginning of August, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that only just over half of all the displaced were in U.N. shelters. The shelters, meant to hold around 500 people each, were stretched far beyond capacity and were holding an average of 2,800. It was up to ordinary Gazans to deal with the overflow, and dozens of organizations like al-Najd as well as religious institutions and ordinary people worked overtime to provide for the displaced as much as possible. The St. Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza’s Old City was another crucial place of refuge for thousands of Gazans. The church provided refuge for more than 3,000 people during the worst days of the Israeli bombardment, hosting 800 in the church itself and 2,500 in shops and homes in the surrounding community…

Evacuation of refugees organized at Donetsk Gorlovka cathedral (Interfax) With the blessing of Archbishop Mitrophan of Gorlovka and Slavyansk, the Gorlovka Eparchy has organized evacuation of refuges departing from the Epiphany Cathedral of Gorlovka, the local diocese official told Interfax-Religion. Residents of Gorlovka are evacuated free of charge with the help of volunteers and donors…

Metropolitan Onufriy elected head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (RISU) The Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate elected its new primate. The present Locum Tenens of the Kiev Cathedra, Metropolitan Onufriy of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna, will assume leadership. The results were announced 13 August, the same day the elections started…



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Refugees Ukrainian Orthodox Church
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13 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Volunteer Iraqi Shiite militia members near Hibhib stand guard against Islamic State militants 11 August. The Vatican called on Muslim leaders to condemn the “barbarity” and “unspeakable criminal acts” of Islamic State militants in Iraq, saying a failure to do so would jeopardize the future of interreligious dialogue. (photo: CNS/EPA)

Pope urges U.N. Secretary-General to call for international action in Iraq (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, regarding the situation in Iraq. Dated 9 August and released today, the letter condemns the violent persecutions underway in the country, and calls on the international community to act swiftly and decisively to stop the humanitarian disaster currently taking place…

Ban Ki-moon urges countries to do more to help Iraqi civilians (U.N. News Center) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Iraqi security forces against intervening in the country’s political process where heightened tensions, coupled with the current security threat from the armed group, the Islamic State, could lead the country into even deeper crisis…

Power outages add to Aleppo’s suffering (Al Monitor) For Aleppo residents, electricity is no longer a basic requirement: Its continuous interruption has led them to gradually dispense with it. Having electricity has turned into a luxury. Many residents have even sold their electrical tools, their TV’s, washing machines and irons, among other appliances that they no longer use. As for the refrigerators, they were turned into water tanks, or even libraries, whereas microwaves became used as storage for supplies…

Israel, Palestinians pursue Gaza deal as cease-fire deadline nears (Los Angeles Times) Talks in Cairo resumed Wednesday as the three-day truce between Israel and Gaza militants was expected to expire at midnight local time, so far without an agreement. Israel’s five-member negotiating team returned from the Egyptian capital overnight following the second day of marathon discussions. They headed back out Wednesday morning for the decisive stretch of talks…

Ukraine’s Catholic leaders back military campaign (The Tablet) The head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church has urged his countrymen “not to be afraid to defend their homeland” as official military chaplains began work for the first time in the country since Communist rule and Russian forces announced a major border exercise. “For the first time in the post-[Second World] war years, people need to give their lives and shed blood for their country’s independence,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych. “But God’s power is able to extinguish any conflict and confrontation — and people who hope in God remain undefeated and can defend their country and state…”



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Iraq Ukraine United Nations
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12 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi Christian refugees gather in Ain Kawa, Iraq, on 4 August. Witnesses claim refugees are dying in the crowded camps. (photo: CNS/Sahar Mansour)

Priest from Nineveh: ‘Christianity is finished in Iraq’ (Catholic News Agency) A priest hailing from what used to be Iraq’s largest Christian city has lamented the exodus of over 100,000 Christians from the city, many of whom are fleeing on foot with no food, money or water. “Today the story of Christianity is finished in Iraq,” said a priest who identified himself as Father Nawar…

Aleppo’s forgotten Christians (Al Monitor) Walking through the largely Christian neighborhoods of Aleppo city — Azizieh, Siryan, Sulaimaniyah and Midan — you can still see the posters of the two bishops kidnapped by Islamist militants last year hanging on shop windows, walls and even cars. The people here haven’t forgotten them; the event is still as painful and fresh as if it had happened just yesterday. The bishops’ kidnapping was a symbolic event, indicative of the larger collapse of interfaith communal relations in a country under the strain of a sectarian civil war, and marking the end of a long era of relative peace and safety for the Christians of Syria. But fear of a new kind permeates this ancient and deeply rooted community. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are very real threats that haunt the collective conscience of Syria’s Christians. The terrible fate that befell their co-religionists across the border in Mosul has driven these points home in a rather blunt and frightening way…

Gaza truce holds for second day (Al Jazeera) Talks to end a month-long war between Israel and Gaza militants are “difficult,” Palestinian delegates said on Tuesday, while an Israeli official said no progress had been made so far. As a 72-hour cease-fire held for a second day on Tuesday, Palestinian negotiators began talks with Egyptian intelligence after a meeting on Monday that lasted nine hours and the Israeli delegation returned to Cairo…

Violence in Gaza leads to youth radicalization (Der Spiegel) This war has demonstrated that there is no military solution to the Gaza problem. Every confrontation in recent years, each new round of reciprocal killings, has pushed more people to the radical fringes. There is no way around the need to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip, and it is in Israel’s interest to recognize that imperative…

New report revisits Cairo killings last year, alleges ‘crimes against humanity’ (Washington Post) Egyptian security forces likely committed crimes against humanity by carrying out mass killings of anti-government demonstrators in Cairo last summer, and former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sissi — now Egypt’s president — should be investigated for his role in the atrocities, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a new report released Tuesday…

A Ukrainian murder mystery ensnares a church in former rebel stronghold (Christian Science Monitor) On a warm June morning, a dozen masked, armed men burst into the Church of the Transfiguration in the Ukrainian town of Slaviansk, demanding to know who among its 300 congregants owned the four expensive vehicles parked in front. Four men stepped forward — the church priest’s two grown sons, Ruvim and Albert Pavenko, and two deacons, Victor Brodarsky and Vladimir Velichko — and were quickly hustled out of the large, Soviet-era edifice, thrust into their cars, and forced to drive away with the rebels. After 35 agonizing days of searching came evidence that all four were dead…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Iraqi Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank
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11 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I speaks to the media after a meeting with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, in Najaf on 9 August. (photo: CNS/Alaa al Marjani, Reuters)

Alarming refugee situation points to severity of disaster (Chaldean Patriarchate) Refugee families face a choice. Migration: Where and do they have the necessary documents and money? Staying: In the halls and in the refugee camps, waiting the summer to end and winter to come? Will the schools be reopened and will their children go to elementary schools, high schools or colleges? Will they be welcomed in the schools in Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah? What is the future of the properties and belongings, along with the jobs, of these thousands of innocent people forced to fee overnight from their dear villages? These are questions that should stir the conscience of every person and organization to act…

Pope Francis: Angelus appeal for peace in Iraq, Gaza (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his call for prayer and concrete assistance for the suffering populations of Iraq this Sunday. Addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus prayer, the pope also offered prayerful appeals for an end to the fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza, and for the victims of the Ebola outbreak and for all those fighting to stop it…

Iraq: US plans rescue mission for besieged Yazidi refugees (The Guardian) The United States is exploring options to evacuate thousands of Iraqi civilians trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq by Islamic militants after four nights of humanitarian relief airdrops, officials in Washington said. At least half of the 40,000 people besieged by jihadists on Mount Sinjar had escaped by Sunday night, aided by Kurdish rebels who crossed from Syria to rescue them…

Fresh ceasefire agreement holds in Gaza (Al Jazeera) A new 72-hour ceasefire has held into Monday morning in the Gaza Strip, raising hopes for a fresh respite in a bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas that has devastated the Palestinian enclave. The truce was agreed after Egypt said it had received “simultaneous consensus” from both sides for the truce, which began Sunday evening…

Egypt’s Pope Tawadros urges Sisi to continue church restoration (Copts United) Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros and leaders of other Egyptian Christian churches have urged Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al Sisi to continue to support the restoration of churches damaged in anti-Coptic assaults reportedly by supporters of ousted president Muhammad Morsi in August of 2013, a month after the ouster of the Islamist president…

Farmer suicides reflect growing desperation in rural India (Los Angeles Times) About every 30 minutes in India, a farmer commits suicide. Since 1995, the first year the government began keeping detailed records, about 300,000 farmers have taken their lives. The 2011 census found that the suicide rate for farmers was 47 percent higher than the national average. The suicides are a well-known phenomenon in India, where newspapers regularly carry stories about farmers — almost always men — taking their lives by hanging, drowning or ingesting pesticides. Yet there are few programs to provide farm families with the psychological support that experts say they need to relieve the worries of rural life…

Israeli Supreme Court rules on separation wall in the Cremisan Valley (Society of St. Yves) The Israeli Supreme Court announced its decision on the route of the separation wall in the Cremisan valley in Beit Jala, following the hearing held on 4 August 2014. The court decided Israel must take into consideration different possibilities by which both Salesian convents in Cremisan are taken in and included within the Palestinian side of the wall. The court gave Israel until 4 September to respond to its decision…



Tags: India Iraq Iraqi Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees
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8 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Najaf takes in Christians displaced by Islamic State (Al Monitor) After Christians were forced to leave Mosul and other areas that fell under the control of the Islamic State, Kurdish and Shiite dominated cities opened their doors to receive them. Religious authorities adopted stances supporting Christians, as they called on residents to host and help their brothers in the country. The Imam Al Khoei Foundation, one of the prominent religious institutions in Najaf, issued on 30 July a statement in support of Christians and minorities in Iraq. An excerpt of the statement reads, “We announce our readiness to receive the displaced Iraqi families, be they Christians or Muslims. We call on all Iraqis to offer aid for the displaced families and protect them from the aggressors, in accordance with the principles of humanitarian and national fraternity…”

U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants in northern Iraq (Washington Post) U.S. military jets carried out two airstrikes Friday on Islamist militants outside the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, hours after President Obama authorized attacks against the Sunni extremists advancing on the northern Iraq city. The F-18 combat aircraft targeted artillery being used by militants of the Islamic State extremist group against Kurdish forces defending Erbil, the Pentagon said. It said the artillery was fired at Kurdish forces “near U.S. personnel…”

Humanitarian group warns that aid alone is not enough for people of Gaza (Vatican Radio) In Gaza, up to half a million people have been displaced by the month-long conflict with Israel and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The London-based Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD) has warned that aid alone is not enough for the people of the territory. CAFOD is appealing for donations and also asking its supporters to lobby the British government to push for a just and lasting peace. The agency’s Middle East representative, Mary Lucas, spoke to Susy Hodges about the situation on the ground in Gaza…

Gaza talks falter as deadly offensive reignites (Daily Star Lebanon) Deadly hostilities engulfed Gaza once again Friday where a 10-year-old boy was killed and Israeli warplanes struck targets in retaliation for dozens of Palestinian cross-border rockets attacks. Exactly one month after Israel launched a punishing air campaign to destroy Hamas rockets, the Jewish state said talks in Cairo on extending a 72-hour truce were over as rockets wounded two people in Israel. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” an official said on condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to retaliate “forcefully to the Hamas breach of the cease-fire,” as the violence ended long-term cease-fire negotiations in Cairo…

Cease-fire in Gaza expires, and strikes resume (New York Times) As a 72-hour truce in Gaza expired at 8 a.m. Friday, Palestinian militants fired barrages of rockets into Israel and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes, one of which killed a 10-year-old boy, according to relatives. The renewed hostilities interrupted the indirect talks in Cairo, brokered by Egypt and backed by the United States, for a more durable cease-fire agreement. Hamas is demanding a lifting of the blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt and an opening of all the border crossings to allow the free movement of people and goods in and out of the Palestinian coastal territory. Israel is demanding measures to prevent Hamas from rearming and, eventually, the demilitarization of Gaza…



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees
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