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Current Issue
Autumn, 2014
Volume 40, Number 3
imageofweek From the Archive
In this 1996 image, children attend a festival in New York celebrating Greek heritage. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
  
17 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




An armed supporter of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk smokes a cigarette while holding a position near an airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on 16 December. (photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. says death toll in eastern Ukraine up to 4,707 (Washington Post) Fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed at least at least 4,707 people since the conflict began in mid-April and more than a quarter of the recorded deaths have come since a much-ignored cease-fire, U.N. rights investigators said Monday. A new report from the U.N. team in Ukraine says at least 1,357 of the fatalities have been recorded since the cease-fire began in early September, but the team noted that some of those deaths may have occurred before then…

Lebanese parish reaches out to Christian Iraqi refugees for Christmas (CNS) As an expression of solidarity and to share the hope of Christmas, the Maronite Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection in Rabieh, an affluent suburb north of Beirut, hosted the group of Christian Iraqi refugees. Some of the refugees had arrived in Lebanon only days or weeks before, their hopes for a safe future overshadowed by memories of their expulsion from their homes in Mosul and the areas of the Nineveh Plain last summer, when Islamic State militants seized the areas and ordered minorities to convert to Islam, pay a protection tax, or face death…

Caritas Jordan: Child refugees need schools (Vatican Radio) “I think that people all over the world … need to be really aware of what is happening to the Iraqi and Syrian refugees and to listen to their stories,” says Dana Shahin, communications officer at Caritas headquarters in Amman, Jordan. She spoke with Vatican Radio about initiatives to aid the ever-growing number of refugees in Jordan who have fled the conflicts tearing their own countries apart. Education for the tens of thousands of refugee children, she says, is increasingly urgent and resources scarce…

When work doesn’t pay (Al Jazeera) Across Asia and the Middle East, millions of migrant workers are employed on guest worker programs in which they are sponsored by a specific employer to work on a short-term contract. Thousands are held in administrative detention each year when employers fail to obtain or renew their work permits. Given that their work visas are tied to their employers, many cannot leave a bad job for a better one and are reluctant to complain about abuse — not least because it could result in detention and jeopardize their right to stay in the country…



Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Jordan Iraqi Refugees Migrants

16 December 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from June, Pope Francis greets Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon after praying with him at the tomb of St. Peter at the conclusion of Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The metropolitan has expressed hope for progress toward full Christian unity. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Thousands of Christian refugees from Iraq now in Jordan (Fides) There are now more than 7,000 Iraqi Christians who have fled from Mosul and Nineveh Plain and have found refuge in Jordan and the resources available for their assistance will end within two months...

U.N.: Hardships growing in Ukraine (The New York Times) Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian armed groups is claiming an average of 13 lives a day, and after nine months of conflict, the approach of winter has created life-threatening conditions for many civilians in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations reported on Monday...

Leading Orthodox theologian hopes for “quick progress” toward full unity (ByzCath.org) One of the leading theologians of the Orthodox world has said that he sees prospects for “quick progress” toward full Christian unity under Pope Francis. Metropolitan John of Pergamon, the co-chairman of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, told the Vatican Insider that Pope Francis has brought new excitement to ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox world. “The way in which he is carrying out his ministry removes the many apprehensions and fears of the past” ...

Egypt’s Islamist Party to include women and Copts as candidates (AllAfrica) Egypt’s Salafi al-Nour Party announced on Saturday that its electoral list for the upcoming parliamentary elections will include Copts, youth, women, and other marginalised groups, as stipulated in the elections law...

Architects design unique bus terminal for a divided Jerusalem (Christian Science Monitor) In 2003, a decade after the initial Oslo Accord was signed, architecture students Karen Lee Bar-Sinai, Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, and Aya Shapira designed a bus terminal that would sit on the seam of divided Jerusalem under an eventual peace deal...



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Jerusalem Jordan Copts

15 December 2014
Greg Kandra




The video above describes an exhibit in Jerusalem tracing the footsteps of Christians in the Middle East over the last millenium. (video: Rome Reports)

Moscow condemns US aid to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Russia has condemned legislation passed by the United States Congress authorizing $350 million in military aid to Ukraine’s government, which has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east...

Leader of Ukrainian Greek Catholics says his Church could be banned (Vatican Radio) Twenty-five years after its legalization in the former Soviet Union, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church says his Church is faced once again with the possibility of being outlawed in parts of Ukraine...

Governor proclaims 25 December a public holiday in Kirkuk (Fides) The governor of the province of Kirkuk, Kurdish Necmettin Karim, proclaimed 25 December a public holiday, to express the solidarity of institutions and the whole society towards Christians, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. On that day all public institutions of the province, including schools will observe a day of rest...

Hamas marks its anniversary with a parade through Gaza (AFP) The Islamic militant group Hamas staged a show of strength to mark its 27th anniversary Sunday, with a military parade through Gaza including a flyover by a drone...

Exhibit charts history of Christians in Middle East (Rome Reports) The exhibition “Christians of the East,” hosted by the French Institute in Rome, is composed of 60 photographs, picked among over 20.000 from the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem. Some are over a century old, and they reflect the diversity of Christians that have proven over the years that coexistence is possible...



12 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Displaced Syrian children sit on a tarp after heavy rains in the Bab al Salam camp on the border with Turkey on 11 December. (photo: Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope urges Syriac Catholic bishops to coordinate efforts to meet needs (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with the patriarch, bishops and faithful of the Syriac Catholic Church on Friday, urging them to coordinate their efforts with the other churches in the Middle East and seek to meet the humanitarian needs of the people affected by the violence and unrest in the region…

Maronite priest suggests bombing Islamic State may prove counterproductive (ChristianToday) A senior priest and Arab Christian from the Middle East has called on the West not to attempt to defeat Islamic State by bombing. He predicts the organization will instead destroy itself from within. The Rev. Michel Jalakh from Beirut, secretary general of the Middle East Council of Churches and a Maronite Catholic, says it would be more productive to reach out to the region’s Christians who speak Arabic and have lived as neighbors and friends of Muslims for centuries. At grass-roots level, he said, the existence of Islamic State has not damaged Christian relations with Muslims, and most Muslims oppose it…

The silent deaths of refugees in Arsal (Al Akhbar) The security situation in Arsal made everyone forget that there are 80,000 refugees living there in a harsh climate and poor medical conditions. In a month and a half, 18 refugees have perished, including 12 children, but this has garnered little media attention. These same security conditions had led international organizations to abandon the town in August, leaving behind innocent people dying silently one by one…

In exile, Syrians build the country they never could under regime (Al Jazeera) For six years, Fadi Hallisso faithfully followed all the steps required to become a Jesuit priest. He gave up his career as a civil engineer in Syria. He spent two years of his novitiate in Cairo, reflecting deeply on his calling, including a month spent in silence. He took three vows, pledging poverty, celibacy and obedience. But last spring, he quit. His country was imploding. His native Aleppo had been destroyed. Though the 36-year-old feared that leaving his order would be his life’s regret, he decided to dedicate himself instead to the volunteer relief initiative he had started earlier with a few friends — another Syrian studying to become a Jesuit priest and a Syrian businesswoman — also living in Lebanon…

In tense West Bank city, she secretly meets Israelis to talk peace (Christian Science Monitor) Amid a sea of demure Palestinian young women in high heels, she wears jeans and Converse sneakers. In a city where many people support Hamas’s brand of armed resistance against Israel, she secretly meets with Israelis to talk about peace. “I think it’s better than doing nothing,” says Haya, a university student with fluent English. “And I might be president one day, and I will change everything. Because our president is not doing anything.” Haya was born in 1993, the year the Oslo Accords were signed. They laid out a framework for establishing a sovereign Palestinian state by the time she would be five years old. Now she is 21, and she has yet to know what it is to be a citizen. But she knows all too well what it is to live under Israeli occupation…

For some in New Delhi, no church for Christmas (The Times of India) Having lost their church temporarily to a mysterious fire 11 days ago, regulars to St. Sebastian’s are now looking for alternative venues to celebrate Christmas. The 13-year-old church, most of the parishioners of which are Syro-Malabar Catholics, was ravaged by fire on 1 December and sealed the following day…

Crimea leader makes a surprise visit to India (Al Jazeera) Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, but the meeting between the two long-standing allies was overshadowed by an unannounced guest: Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov. The bizarre episode reveals the subtext of an otherwise anodyne visit: a Russian leader looking to provoke his adversaries at any opportunity and an Indian prime minister playing both sides of the standoff between Russia and the West…



Tags: Syria India Refugees West Bank Syriac Catholic Church

11 December 2014
Greg Kandra




Indian sex workers attend a rally for their rights in Kolkata, India, on 8 November. Pope Francis addresses the plight of victims of sex trafficking and modern-day slavery in his message for World Peace Day. (photo: CNS/Piyal Adhikary, EPA)

Shi’ite pilgrims flock to holy city in Iraq (Reuters) From across Iraq and neighboring states, millions of Shi’ite pilgrims are heading this week to the city of Kerbala for a religious ceremony that authorities say radical Sunni fighters are targeting for attack...

Report: Pakistani terrorists doing charity work in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) The Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is now reportedly engaged in charity work in Gaza. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor has found evidence that the Pakistani group’s charity arms — Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) — are active in the Gaza Strip. Tufail Ahmad, director of the South Asia Studies Project at MEMRI, told The Jerusalem Poston Wednesday that “the move by Lashkar-e-Taiba to establish a footprint in Gaza seems to be part of a well-thought-out jihadist strategy from Pakistan”...

Vatican releases pope’s message for World Day of Peace (CNS) When shopping and when interacting with people on city streets, everyone can help fight the evil of modern-day slavery, Pope Francis said in his annual message for the World Day of Peace on 1 January. “Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers,” the pope said. “Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply an economic — act.” But with the Global Slavery Index estimating there are nearly 30 million people worldwide living in slave-like conditions, Pope Francis said, “We are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself”...

Nuns face off against sex traffickers (CNS) Leaving their habits behind and disguised along with police in regular clothes, a small group of three or four nuns raid brothels in Kolkata, India, at night, snatching young women and girls as young as 12 from the clutches of their captors. In four years, “we have put 30 traffickers in jail,” Sister Sharmi D’Souza, a member of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, told journalists at a Vatican news conference 10 December. She and a number of other religious women attended the event that presented Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message, which urged everyone to fight modern forms of slavery...

Governor pays tribute to India’s Christians (The Free Press Journal) Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao paid glowing tributes to the Christian community in India saying that in spite of being numerically small the community has made significant contributions to the socio-economic progress of the nation. “We are proud of you (Christian community) for enriching India’s social, cultural, economic and political life. The idea of India is difficult to imagine without you,” said the Governor...



Tags: India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim

10 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this November photo, residents walk past tents for displaced Syrians at Bab al Salam camp in Azaz, Syria, near the Turkish border. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

U.N. resumes food aid for Syrian refugees after cash injection (Al Jazeera) The United Nations World Food Program is restarting its aid program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees scattered across the Middle East — days after shutting down the crucial service due to insufficient funds. On Tuesday, the agency said that a fundraising drive since 1 December had raised $80 million…

Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III: Let us help to grasp the ‘signs of the times’ (Fides) Syrian Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom “since ancient times.” And today, faced with the situation in the Middle East, the first task of the pastor is to spiritually contextualize this, said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III of Antioch…

Senior Palestinian official dies after clash with Israeli forces in West Bank (Washington Post) A Palestinian cabinet member in charge of opposing Jewish settlements died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli forces at a protest march in the West Bank, officials said, touching off outrage from the Palestinian leadership and an appeal by a U.N. envoy for a full Israeli probe. The death of Ziad Abu Ein sharpened tensions after a recent wave of terrorist attacks and clashes set in motion by showdowns over a contested holy site in Jerusalem. The full details of the incident were not immediately clear. Some witnesses said Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister. Other reports said he was struck by an Israeli soldier’s rifle butt…

Trapped Palestinian students demand Gaza crossings reopen (Al Monitor) Approximately 1,500 Palestinian students enrolled in foreign universities are stuck in Gaza, and are protesting for the reopening of the Rafah or Erez crossings…



Tags: Syria Refugees Palestinians Hunger Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan

9 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis sent a video message expressing his support for Iraqi Christians driven from their homes. The complete text of this message can be found here. (video: CTV)

Francis sends message of support to Iraqi Christians (Catholic Herald) Pope Francis has sent a message of support to Christians displaced by violence in the Middle East, praising them for bearing witness to the love of Christ. To those Christians driven out of Iraq by ISIS, Pope Francis expressed hope that they will be able to return home…

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri to meet patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox (Vatican Radio) Over the weekend, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches began a visit to Ethiopia until 11 December. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches is the dicastery of the Roman Curia responsible for contact with the Eastern Catholic churches. Toward the end of his visit in Ethiopia, the cardinal will meet with the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to confirm the love and the openness of Pope Francis towards the Orthodox Church…

Palestinians become observers at I.C.C. (Al Jazeera) The Palestinians on Monday officially became observers at the summit meeting of the 122 countries that are members of the International Criminal Court, a move they say is a step toward joining the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to seek membership in the ICC in order to press charges against Israel for alleged war crimes…

Ukraine launches new ceasefire but peace talks uncertain (Vatican Radio) A ceasefire called by President Petro Poroshenko has begun in eastern Ukraine as part of efforts to revive a violated truce with pro-Russian separatists, but it remained unclear whether a peace meeting would go ahead as planned on Tuesday…



Tags: Pope Francis Palestine Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Ethiopian Orthodox Church

5 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2013 photo, a Salesian sister in the Cremisan Valley indicates the projected path of the separation barrier through the convent's property. (photo: CNEWA)

Catholic bishops in the Holy Land urge action on Cremisan (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land calls on the international community to take immediate action to protect the Cremisan Valley’s integrity within the Palestinian side, hoping the Israeli High Court changes the route of the separation barrier…

Jordan’s prince on third Catholic-Muslim summit (Vatican Radio) Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal says he is one of the Muslim world’s leaders who has responded to Pope Francis’ call for universal condemnation of violent extremism in the name of religion. This, as Christians in the Middle East feel increasing pressure — if not persecution — from Islamic extremists determined to cleanse the region of its Christian presence…

Latin Church leader: Support Syrian/Iraqi refugees in Jordan (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Maroun Lahham, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s patriarchal vicar in Jordan, says Caritas Jordan and Christian parishes across the country are struggling to help tens of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many outside the protective umbrella of the United Nations Refugee agency, UNHCR. The situation is becoming even more urgent with the arrival in Jordan of more than 100 Iraqi Christian refugees almost every day, he says…

ISIS, Al Nusra clash near Lebanon border (Daily Star Lebanon) Clashes erupted between ISIS and Al Nusra Front fighters near the border with Lebanon Friday, after gunmen rejected an attempt by the latter to unite the opposition in Syria’s Qalamoun region under a single leader. The clashes were concentrated on the outskirts of the Syrian village of Ras al Maara, a few miles from Lebanon’s northeastern town of Arsal…

Crimea is a ‘sacred’ land... but for whom? (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) Russian President Vladimir Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Crimea on 4 December by invoking Kievan Rus leader Vladimir the Great, who is said to have been baptized on the peninsula in the tenth century and converted the medieval Slavic state to Orthodox Christianity. Ukrainians, however, could deploy the same logic to justify Crimea’s inclusion in the modern Ukrainian state, historians and religious experts say…



Tags: Refugees Palestine Jordan Crimea Catholic-Muslim relations

4 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




This 20 November photo shows smoke rising from a neighborhood in Kobane, Syria, damaged by fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish forces. (photo: CNS/Osman Orsal, Reuters)

UNESCO chief calls for ‘protected cultural zones’ in war-torn Iraq, Syria (U.N. News Center) Denouncing the persecution of minorities, attacks on cultural heritage and illicit trafficking in cultural properties in Iraq and Syria as “part of a strategy of deliberate cultural cleansing of exceptional violence,” the head of the United Nations cultural agency today urged the creation of “protected cultural zones” around heritage sites in the two crisis-riven countries…

Israel’s unexploded ordnance endangers Jordan Valley residents (Al Monitor) On 23 November Ahmed al Sheikh from the village of Bardala in the occupied Jordan Valley, near the Jordan River, was killed by an exploding mine left behind by the Israeli army following military maneuvers in the region. Sheikh was the head a family of five, his youngest son being only 5 years old. The Israeli army holds periodic military exercises in the Jordan Valley involving the use of warplanes and live ammunition. With the death of Sheikh, the number of those killed by Israel’s unexploded ordnance in the Jordan Valley has reached three since the beginning of 2014…

Chechen gun battle leaves at least 19 dead (Christian Science Monitor) Security forces in the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya stormed two buildings, including a school, in fierce gun battles with militants early Thursday that left at least 19 dead, authorities said. The fighting, which punctured the patina of stability ensured by years of heavy-handed rule by the Kremlin-appointed leader, erupted just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was to give his annual state of the nation address in Moscow…

Ukraine’s new government faces tough challenges (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s re-elected Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has warned of an even more difficult year ahead after parliament voted in his government. The prime minister made clear to legislators that his new cabinet faces major challenges in a nation still facing fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists that killed more than 4,300 people…

Gaza war leaves students with ruined classrooms (Al Monitor) Israel shelled dozens of schools during the recent Gaza war, destroying and damaging classrooms and leaving many students to study in impossible conditions…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Palestine United Nations

3 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugee children gather in front of their family’s tent home in Lebanon, in late 2013. (photo: John E. Kozar)

The ‘suffocating’ life of Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s tents (Al Akhbar) In the tents of Syrian refugees, stories abound and tragedies surround them daily. After three years, the tattered canvas of the tents attests to their grief. However, in each tent, there remains room for the laughter of children who have matured too soon. These tents were not set up as a scouting activity. We are not in a camp among friends. But the people here know each other and have become friends in tragedy. With the passage of time, a tent becomes a home and shelter, their only place in this limited world. When rain exhausts the roof of the tents and wind uproots them, the refugees agonize as much as they did over the destruction of their houses in Raqqa or Aleppo. “We may have grown accustomed to our tent. Some of us like it, and others still cannot stand it. Do you know how the world can become a tent?”…

Ukraine human rights ‘deteriorating rapidly’ (Al Jazeera) Ukraine has seen the most rapid deterioration of human rights globally in 2014 according to a new report released by a rights watchdog. Continuing conflict, internal displacement, and worsening economic conditions in the country mean it has dropped 19 places in the past year — and is now 44th most “at risk” in the world according to the Maplecroft Human Rights Risk Atlas 2015, released on Wednesday…

St. Sebastian Church in Delhi set on fire (Vatican Radio) The mysterious fire on Monday morning reduced to ashes St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden on the eastern extreme of India’s national capital. The news about the fire brought hundreds of people to the church. The crowd stood on the road before the church building and prayed for peace and communal harmony. Later they marched to the local police station and staged a sit-in to protest police’s alleged slackness in dealing with the case…

Some see unity vision reignited by pope, patriarch’s gestures in Turkey (CNS) After watching firsthand as Pope Francis bowed his head for a blessing from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during the pope’s 28-30 November trip to Turkey, an American-born Orthodox priest felt a joyful disbelief. “I couldn’t sleep that night,” said Orthodox Father Emmanuel Lemelson, an American priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who was part of the official Orthodox delegation during the papal visit to Turkey…

Pope seeks meeting with Russian Orthodox leader (KFVS12) Pope Francis said Sunday he is ready to go anywhere, anytime to meet with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church — even while acknowledging that he doubts the day will ever come that Catholic and Orthodox theologians will agree to end the 1,000-year schism…



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Refugees Ecumenism





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