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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)
  
21 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A boy carries belongings on 17 November as he walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in Aleppo. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

‘Conflict freeze’ desperately needed in Aleppo (Al Monitor) The long stalemated northern front, which has seen little change since a rebel offensive took over half the city of Aleppo and almost the entirety of its countryside over two years ago, seems now to be entering a new phase, one which may either solidify the status quo via a U.N.-proposed “conflict freeze” or see the regime push on with its increasingly successful campaign to take Aleppo back from the rebels. Although opinion in the city is divided over the ambiguous “freeze” proposal, there is overwhelming support for a respite — brief or permanent — from the real hardships and dangers of war…

Pilgrims to defy Jerusalem tension on Via Crucis (ANSAmed) A prayer will be held in St Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem and the Stations of the Cross visited in the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday morning to call for peace in the region…

Conference reopens question of Palestinian children without citizenship (Fides) Many Palestinian children in East Jerusalem continue not to have an ID card or proof of permanent residency. Their condition was analyzed during a 19 November conference at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem. Children of Palestinians in prison, and those who belong to families separated — for example, they have a parent residing in the West Bank — are those who suffer most…

Pope Francis: Christian unity remains a priority for Catholics (Vatican Radio) The search for full Christian unity remains a priority for the Catholic Church and it is one of the pope’s principal daily concerns. That was the message that Pope Francis shared on Thursday with members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity who are taking part in a plenary session in the Vatican this week…

Ban urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to stand up to extremism (U.N. News Center) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he “extremely alarmed by the upsurge of violence in recent weeks,” and said both leaders must show the courage to do everything necessary to root out extremism…

Yazidi families reclaim girls seized by Islamic State — for a price (Christian Science Monitor) In interviews, girls who escaped or were bought back by their families tell of their brutal treatment at the hands of ISIS militants. Almost 150 girls have returned to Kurdish-controlled areas in recent weeks, according to activists, with families paying as much as a year’s income to get them back…

Sufis look for a political role in Egypt (Al Monitor) Following the car bombing of the Ahmad al Badawi Mosque — a Sufi mosque that contains the shrine of Al Sayyid al Badawi, founder of the Badawiyyah Sufi order — on 14 October, sheikhs of the Sufi order issued statements accusing the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist movements of carrying out the operation. They vowed that they would even the scores in the next parliamentary elections, as the Sufi orders, for the first time, would toss their hat in the ring, in coordination with other political forces…



Tags: Jerusalem Pilgrimage/pilgrims United Nations Christian Unity Aleppo

20 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis meets with José Graziano da Silva, director of the F.A.O., on 20 November in Rome. (photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis addresses F.A.O. nutrition conference (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis travelled to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome on Thursday to give a speech to the Second International Conference on Nutrition, taking place this week. In his address to participants, the pope spoke of waste and excessive consumption of food, as well as the rights of those who go hungry…

Israeli mayor imposes partial ban on Arab workers (Daily Star Lebanon) An Israeli mayor has imposed a partial ban on employing Arab workers in his city in a sign of mounting security concerns after a surge in deadly Palestinian attacks. Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni announced on Facebook that he was stopping “until further notice” the work of Arab laborers building bomb shelters in nursery schools in the city of 113,000, which is close to the Gaza Strip…

3,500 Palestinians stuck outside Gaza (Al Monitor) I had planned to travel with my son for two weeks, and got permission to take him out of school. I thought that this trip would make us forget about the last war on Gaza. But we are now facing an even harder reality. Since 5 November, we have been stuck in a Cairo hotel room. We found ourselves unable to board the plane in Paris, as airlines flying to Egypt were instructed not to allow Gazans aboard. When we landed in Istanbul to take the flight to Cairo, we were mistreated…

Suicide attempt highlights plight of Lebanese migrant workers (Al Monitor) The video of an Ethiopian domestic worker attempting suicide on 10 November by jumping off the fourth floor of her building in Beirut shocked the country. It once again brought Lebanon’s much-criticized sponsorship system (kafala, in Arabic), which controls the way domestic workers live, into the spotlight…

Almost 1,000 dead since east Ukraine truce (BBC) An average of 13 people have been killed daily in eastern Ukraine since a 5 September ceasefire came into place, the United Nations’ human rights office says. In the eight weeks since the truce came into force, the U.N. says 957 people have been killed, amid continuing violations on both sides…



Tags: Lebanon Pope Francis Ukraine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Hunger

19 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




An explosion following a 17 November airstrike is seen in central Kobane, Syria. Lebanon’s Catholic leaders have called for peace in Syria and Iraq. (photo: CNS/Osman Orsal, Reuters)

Watching Kobane (Al Monitor) I spent time on 15-16 November close to the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, located within half an hour’s drive from Turkey’s historical provincial capital Urfa. Suruc, the twin Kurdish town on the Turkish side of the border, is about 6.2 miles across a flat and fertile plain that was built on a hill overlooking the plain. Kurds from all corners of Turkey have come to express their solidarity with the epic Kobani resistance, now in its 63rd day, labeled as the “Stalingrad of Kurds” by the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) and its Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.)…

Pope Francis calls for peace after series of Jerusalem attacks (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has made a heartfelt plea to Israelis and Palestinians to put an end to the violence that has plagued Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land in recent weeks. His appeal follows an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday in which two Palestinian men armed with a meat cleaver and a gun killed three U.S.-Israeli rabbis and a British-Israeli man. An Israeli policeman later died of his wounds…

Vatican calls on United Nations to protect religious minorities in Iraq (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in New York has called on the U.N. to “act to prevent possible new massacres of defenseless religious and ethnic minorities” in Iraq by the so-called Islamic State…

Chaldean patriarch: Christians essential to Iraq’s future (AsiaNews) On the evening of 15 November a delegation of senior Baghdad officials, led by the speaker of Parliament, visited the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate to express solidarity and closeness to the Christian community. He also assured the support of the government for the religious minority…

Abu Faour: Lebanon’s food, water sanitation ‘catastrophic’ (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanon Health Minister Wael Abu Faour described the condition of food and water sanitation in Lebanon as “truly catastrophic,” after revealing that drinking water sold by unlicensed water companies contained traces of sewage…

Ukraine rejects Moscow’s call for direct talks with rebels (Al Jazeera) Russia urged Ukraine’s leaders on Wednesday to talk directly to separatists to end the conflict in the east, but Kiev rejected the call and told Moscow to stop “playing games” aimed at legitimizing “terrorists.” Kiev and the West accuse Russia of destabilizing Ukraine by providing the rebels with money, arms and reinforcements. The West has imposed sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in which more than 4,000 people have been killed since mid-April. Russia backs the separatists but denies it is directly involved in the conflict in the Donbass region…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Iraq Ukraine Jerusalem

18 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A boy sitting on the rubble of damaged buildings chats with other boys on 17 November in Aleppo, Syria. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

Map of regional and international influence in Aleppo (Al-Akhbar) Once again, the capital of the Syrian north finds itself the center of a proposal for an agreement among the parties to the conflict, despite the lack of any indications suggesting U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura’s proposal could become a viable agreement and put an end to suffering in the city of Aleppo. Al Akhbar sheds light on the armed groups present in the city, and the reality of their regional and international links, which will have a fundamental role in the success or failure of the international envoy’s proposals…

Latin patriarch decries attack against the synagogue in Jerusalem (Fides) “I extend my condolences to the relatives of the victims of the assault against the Synagogue of Jerusalem and all the violence that bloodies the Holy Land. In our churches, convents and monasteries, we will pray more than ever that the Lord helps us and helps political leaders to take the right steps so that there is peace and security for all, all, all,” said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem…

Jerusalem on edge as Israel vows ‘harsh response’ to synagogue attack (Al Jazeera) An attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in which four worshippers were killed by Palestinian attackers — later shot dead by police — has ramped up tensions in the region, with Israel vowing a “harsh” response to the latest act of violence…

Israeli settlers stab a Palestinian in Jerusalem, attack school in West Bank (Al-Akhbar) A Palestinian man was stabbed by a group of Israeli settlers in north Jerusalem on Tuesday, relatives told Ma’an news agency, hours after settlers attacked a Palestinian school in the village of Urif in the occupied West Bank. The two incidents came just hours after two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli Occupation Forces after attacking a Jerusalem synagogue and killing four Israelis, and two days after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged inside his vehicle in Jerusalem…

Egypt will expand its security zone near the Gaza Strip (New York Times) Egypt’s military said on Monday that it intended to double the size of a secured buffer zone in a town bordering the Gaza Strip after discovering smuggling tunnels across the frontier that were longer than expected, according to state news media. Last month, with little warning, the military began destroying hundreds of houses and other dwellings in the border town, Rafah, displacing more than a thousand families in a security zone that stretched almost 1,650 feet, or 500 meters, from the border…

Iraq accuses ISIS of stealing a million tons of grain (Time) Iraq’s agriculture minister on Tuesday accused the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of pilfering more than 1.1 million tons of grain from the country’s northern region and delivering it to militant-controlled cities in Syria…



Tags: Syria Egypt Iraq Jerusalem Israeli-Palestinian conflict

17 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Imran Khan spotlights the lives of citizens who live in the areas seized by ISIS. (video: Al Jazeera)

Syria refugees need help as winter looms (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrians forced by nearly four years of war to flee their homes are in desperate need of more aid as winter approaches, a humanitarian group warned Monday. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the enormous numbers of Syrians displaced by the war faced plummeting temperatures and heavy rains…

Barred from entering Gaza, UN investigation begins in Jordan (Al Akhbar) The United Nations committee investigating possible war crimes by Israel during its summer assault on Gaza has spent the past week in Jordan listening to the testimonies of victims’ families and civil society organizations, Ma’an news agency reported on Sunday. The investigation committee, which was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, was forced to meet with Palestinians in Jordan after it was denied entry to the West Bank and Gaza by Israel…

Conference explores the role of religion in Maidan (Vatican Radio) One year after the Euromaidan in Ukraine, one thing is clear: religion was at the heart of the movement, says a Ukrainian Catholic professor. “Unlike many western societies, where religion has been relegated to the margins of the public square, in Ukraine, it has been up front and center,” said the Rev. Peter Galadza, director of the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa…

Council for Christian Unity marks half century of ecumenism (Vatican Radio) On Tuesday the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity begins a four-day plenary session that will include an ecumenical celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document ‘Unitatis Redintegratio.’ To celebrate the progress of the past half century, participants will attend ecumenical Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Thursday and a public commemorative session at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Friday morning…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Ecumenism

14 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Sister Micheline (left) and CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar visit a classroom in the elementary school opened by the sisters. 220 children, all Sunni, receive remedial education from qualified Syrian teachers. (photo: Michael La Civita)

Sisters risk lives to serve Syrian refugees (Catholic News Agency) Near the Lebanon-Syria border, two religious sisters are among the staff members at a refugee service center working to give relief — and hope — to thousands who have fled the armed conflict in Syria. “I keep my hope in prayer,” Sister Micheline Lattouff, a Good Shepherd Sister, told CNA at a 1 November meeting with journalists in Beirut. Sister Micheline is the director of the Social and Community Center of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon’s northern Bekaa Valley. The community center was originally established to run after-school programs and remedial classes for Lebanese children. The sisters have expanded their mission, helping educate refugee children and distribute food to Syrian families, while continuing to support a Christian tent settlement. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Catholic Relief Services support her efforts…

Syrian archbishop: U.S. attack on Syrian army would spell ‘second Libya’ (Fides) “If the U.S.-led intervention against the jihadists of the Islamic State eventually turns against the Syrian army, we could have a second Libya in Syria,” said Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Archeparchy of Hassaké-Nisibis. The archbishop describes the uncertainties and risks related to military intervention in Syria…

Pope’s visit to Turkey is a chance to bridge ancient divide (Al Monitor) As Ankara prepares to receive Pope Francis on 28-30 November, Turkish media have noted with raised eyebrows that Turkish affairs do not appear to be uppermost on the pope’s mind. His visit to the Turkish capital seems little more than an obligatory courtesy call on the host country of his real destination, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. His visit likely has less to do with Turkey than the opportunity to work toward mending the schism with the Orthodox Church…

Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access (BBC) The restrictions on Muslim male worshippers were imposed after tension and unrest in the city between Israel and the Palestinians. Extra police units were deployed in the city before Friday prayers, spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. Israel said the decision was linked to agreements reached during talks between Israel, the U.S. and Jordan in Amman…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Sisters Ecumenism

13 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Israeli Border Police patrol the the site in Jerusalem's Old City known as Haram al Sharif by Muslims and that Jews refer to as the Temple Mount on 6 November. Recent tensions at the site, which is important to the faith life of Jews and Muslims, led the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land to call for calm, saying that attachments to holy places should not be a cause of bloodshed, hatred or violence. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)

Catholics and Muslims, working together to serve others (VIS) The third seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum was held in Rome from 11 to 13 November, on the theme “Working Together to Serve Others.” Three specific issues were considered: working together to serve young people, enhancing interreligious dialogue, and service to society…

Jordanian prince: Jerusalem, a sanctuary for all (Al Monitor) What is to be done about Jerusalem? Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this region is witnessing new walls being built in vain attempts to contain problems between people. When will we realize that walls for separating cultures and people only exacerbate sectarianism and accelerate fragmentation? How long will walls, figurative and physical, continue to poison our humanity? A walk through Jerusalem is a tour of world religion, architectural ascendancy and the winners and losers of wars…

International protection for Christians in the Nineveh Plain is needed (Fides) The international community must take charge of the return and protection of Christians in the Nineveh Plain, the bishops of the Syriac Orthodox Church said on 11 and 12 November in a synodal assembly in Lebanon, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II…

Syria conflict: ‘Door closing’ on refugees, say NGOs (BBC) Syria’s neighbors are sharply reducing numbers of refugees from the conflict that they let onto their soil, two prominent humanitarian agencies say. Fewer than 18,500 fled Syria in October compared with more than 150,000 a month on average in 2013. The NGOs accused the international community of “a total collapse of solidarity…”

Yazidi families struggle to bring enslaved daughters home from captivity (Al Jazeera) The Yazidis caught the world’s attention in August when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked the Sinjar region of northern Iraq. Some 200,000 Yazidis fled into the mountains, walking for days as the weakest died of hunger and thirst. International forces sent humanitarian supplies and attacked ISIL fighters from the air, opening a path for Kurdish militias to evacuate the Yazidis. They flooded through Syria and took shelter in tents, parks and schools in Iraqi Kurdistan. Amid the subsequent politics of forming an international anti-ISIL coalition, few asked what happened to those Yazidis who didn’t escape…



Tags: Middle East Christians Jerusalem Christian-Muslim relations Middle East Peace Process Yazidi

12 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi children play outside a tent in Ain Kawa, where some 300 Kaka’i have taken shelter. The Kaka’i, a lesser-known religious minority, were forced to flee their homes in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants in August. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)

Minority communities wonder why Iraqi government fails to protect them (CNS) Two months after Islamic State militants snatched 3-year-old Christina, Ayda Abada wonders about the fate of her daughter. Her Syriac Catholic family suffers from loss, grief and despair like so many other religious minorities in Iraq targeted by attacks by the fundamentalist group. Not only are many of Iraq’s religious minorities speaking out against the militants, but they are questioning why the Iraqi government has failed to protect them…

Iraqi Shiites join Sunnis to fight Islamic State (Al Monitor) The Islamic State aimed to create a Shiite-Sunni conflict to impose its control, but Iraqi Sunnis have instead turned to help from Shiites to get rid of the extremist group…

Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal speaks to Vatican Radio (Vatican Radio) “To lose Christianity from the birthplace of Christianity,” said the Jordanian prince, speaking to Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure at the Royal Palace in Amman, “would be to lose the richness of the tapestry of this pluralist region…”

Pope calls for global defense of Christians facing persecution (CNS) Pope Francis condemned the “absurd violence” being used against Christians in several countries and called on people of good will everywhere to take up the cause of religious freedom. At the end of his general audience on 12 November, Pope Francis asked the estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square to join him in reciting the Lord’s Prayer for Christians facing persecution…

Syrian bishop: Peace talk for Aleppo must be genuine (Fides) “Among the population of Aleppo there is hope, but also skepticism regarding the hypothesis of a truce to silence the weapons in the region of Aleppo,” said Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, O.F.M. The bishop describes mixed feelings among residents of the Syrian city in front of the negotiations put in place by the United Nations to achieve a cease-fire in the conflict between the Syrian army and the rebel militias. “Everyone wants truce to represent only the first step to establish an authentic process of peace and reconciliation. Otherwise, a temporary ceasefire would only give the warring parties time to reorganize themselves…”

Arson attacks on mosque, synagogue inflame Holy Land tensions (Al Jazeera) Palestinians officials blamed Israeli settlers for an arson attack on a mosque in a West Bank village early Wednesday, hours after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an ancient synagogue in a predominantly Palestinian town in Israel — incidents that underscore the tit-for-tat nature of recent violence…

Israel approves 200 new east Jerusalem settler homes (Daily Star Lebanon) An Israeli planning committee Wednesday approved plans to build 200 homes in a Jewish settlement neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem, a city councilor told AFP…



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Israeli-Palestinian conflict religious freedom

10 November 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita




The Monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was built by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, in the sixth century. The monastery marks where Moses is said to have encountered the Lord in the burning bush and received the tablets of the Law. To read more about this unique holy site — which houses some of the most important treasures of the early church — see ONE’s profile of the Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai.
(photo: Jean-Luc Manaud/Getty Images)


St. Catherine’s Monastery denies the news of an Islamist attack (Fides) St. Catherine’s Monastery, located in the region of Sinai, has denied reports of alleged assaults carried out by Islamist groups, put into circulation in recent days by Christian media and blogs....

The Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox: may the Churches unify the dates for the Easter celebration (Fides) A new appeal to all Christian Churches so that they celebrate the solemnity of Easter on the same date has been launched by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Tawadros II...

To counter rise of Islamic State, Jordan imposes rules on Muslim clerics (Washington Post) Jordanian authorities have begun a campaign to coax — and, when necessary, pressure — Muslim clerics to preach messages of peaceful Islam from their pulpits. The main targets are Jordan’s more than 5,000 imams, including lay clerics and those on the government dole, who give the traditional sermon that follows Friday prayers...

The video of an Israeli cop shooting Arab citizen that has rocked the country (Washington Post) [T]he grainy black and white tape of police shooting a man in the Galilee early Saturday has lit a fuse in Israel, sparking praise and condemnation, and begging bigger questions about police conduct, allegiance to the state and who, really, is an Israeli and who is not...

The furniture of Christian homes put up for sale in the markets of Mosul (Fides) In the markets of Mosul entire areas are now occupied by the furniture and the tools looted in the houses abandoned by the Christians. The looted goods are put on sale at bargain prices...



7 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Catholic clergyman, center, stands with members of the Druze community at the funeral of Israeli border police officer Jedan Assad in Galilee on 6 November. A Palestinian man rammed his vehicle into pedestrians and Israeli border police on a road straddling East and West Jerusalem, killing Assad and wounding at least a dozen others. (photo: CNS/Finbarr O’Reilly, Reuters)

Statement from the heads of churches in Jerusalem (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) On 6 November 2014, patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem published a statement in which they express their concern about the outbreak of violence and the rapid deterioration of the situation in the Holy City. They also call for the respect of the Status Quo, especially on the Haram al Sharif, the esplanade of the Mosques…

Jerusalem: Netanyahu seeks to reassure Jordan’s king as tensions spike (Christian Science Monitor) A day after Jordan recalled its ambassador over Israel’s handling of clashes at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque, Israel’s prime minister called King Abdullah. But Netanyahu’s diplomatic options are limited…

Gaza bombings stir tension between Fatah and Hamas (Los Angeles Times) Tensions grew high Friday between Palestinian political adversaries Fatah and Hamas, which share a unity government, following a series of explosions in the Gaza Strip that targeted the homes of key Fatah members. The blasts caused no injuries but shook Palestinian politics, which is still recovering from the seven-year rift between Fatah and Hamas, which formally reconciled in April…

Stagnation and infighting take hold in eastern Ukraine (Der Spiegel) There was a time when it looked as though eastern Ukraine might become part of Russia. Now, though, rebels in the region have been fighting among themselves and Moscow is unsure how to proceed. Sunday’s election changed nothing…

Vatican releases message for Sikh holiday (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on Friday released a message to mark the Sikh festival of Guru Nanak Jayanti, an annual recurrence celebrating the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. The theme of the message is “Christians and Sikhs — together to promote compassionate service.” The full text of the message is available below…



Tags: Ukraine Jerusalem Gaza Strip/West Bank Interreligious Interfaith





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