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Winter, 2014
Volume 40, Number 4
  
27 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Assyrian Christian women and their daughters pray for the hundreds of Assyrian Christians abducted by the Islamic State from villages in northeastern Syria, in a church in Jdeideh, Lebanon, on 26 February. (photo: Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. report: Islamic State acts may be officially classifiable as ‘genocide’ (Jerusalem Post) According to a new United Nations report released Monday, atrocities committed by the Islamic State are liable to be officially classified as genocide. A joint effort issued by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the report details the abuses against Turkmen, Shabaks, Christians, Yazidi, Sabaeans, Kaka’i, Faili Kurds, Arab Shiite communities and posits that at least 165 executions were carried out by the Islamic State group’s ’courts’ in the areas it controls…

Amid hostage crisis, Assyrians and Kurds join forces (Christian Science Monitor) Syrian Assyrian Christians and Kurds have joined forces in a bid to regain territory from the Islamic State group, which seized dozens of Assyrian villages and scores of hostages in northern Syria this week…

New episodes of violence against Christian churches (Fides) New episodes of violence against Christian communities and buildings in India have been reported in various parts of India…

Ruble ripple: New Russian laws make life difficult for migrant workers (Al Jazeera) The rapid slide in the value of Russia’s currency since December has driven up inflation, placing immense pressure on the millions of migrant workers hard pressed to make ends meet on already meager salaries. Certainly it is no longer easy to pick up a job. Work permits now cost 22,000 rubles and carry a 4,000 ruble monthly fee. Before obtaining one, each applicant must purchase health insurance, supply proof of medical tests for HIV, tuberculosis, drug addiction and skin disease and pass a test on Russian language, history and law. All of which must be done within a month of arrival…

As Kiev pulls back in east, Ukraine struggles with what went wrong (Christian Science Monitor) Haggard Ukrainian Army soldiers withdrew 15 heavy artillery guns today, their armored convoy part of a delayed cease-fire agreement with Russian-backed separatists to ease a conflict that has taken nearly 6,000 lives. The fact that these first steps are being taken 12 days later than agreed — with rebel forces in the meantime capturing the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve — illustrates how separatist units that faced losses last summer have been transformed into a more capable force now making battlefield advances…



Tags: Syria India Ukraine Violence against Christians Russia

26 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




An officer inspects damages at the crime scene after unidentified attackers set fire to a Greek Orthodox seminary in West Jerusalem, on 26 February. (photo: Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Suspected Israeli nationalists torch Christian seminary in Jerusalem (Al Jazeera) Suspected Israeli nationalists set fire to a Christian seminary in Jerusalem and vandalized an elementary school in Nablus on Thursday, officials said. The attacks, which came a day after a similar group burned a mosque near Bethlehem, have been characterized as hate crimes by Israeli officials and “terrorism” by Palestinians…

Israeli president: Church arson ‘inconceivable’ (Arutz Sheva) President Reuven Rivlin spoke by phone Thursday with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, and expressed his sadness and shock at the arson and graffiti attack on a building within the Greek Orthodox compound on Mt. Zion…

More Assyrian Christians captured by Islamic State (New York Times) Continuing its assaults on a string of Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State militant group has seized scores more residents over the past two days, bringing the number of captives to as many as several hundred, Assyrian organizations inside and outside Syria said on Thursday…

The plight of Syria’s vulnerable Christian minority (Washington Post) Before a brutal civil war engulfed Syria, the country was testament to the religious and ethnic diversity of the Middle East. Arabs of different faiths, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrian Christians and others lived side by side, embracing a rather durable Syrian nationalism. But the increasingly sectarian character of the Syrian conflict and the rise of the Islamic State threaten to unravel the rich tapestry of Syrian society…

Patriarchs’ Lenten messages focus on struggles of Middle East Christians (Catholic Sentinel) The Middle East is suffering a “Way of the Cross” that is the greatest tragedy since World War II, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III said in a Lenten message about suffering. He said the church, despite its efforts, is having difficulty meeting the growing needs it faces in the region. In a separate Lenten message, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter called for greater efforts to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East…

Coptic monks lie down in front of bulldozers (Fides) A new road running from the city of Fayoum threatens an archaeological area that stretches around a church dating to the fourth century. The project also threatens the water supply of the monastery and some cultivated areas belonging to it. In recent days, the monks launched an initiative of non-violent resistance, lying in the path of bulldozers…



Tags: Syria Egypt Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Jerusalem

25 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Group of Syrian Kurds return from Turkey to their hometown of Kobane, guided by Turkish officials on 25 February. (photo: Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

For Syria, an infusion of hope for desperate Christian community (Aleteia) The apparent kidnapping of some 90 Christians in the northeast of Syria is another reminder — if any is needed — that Christians and other religious groups continue to be at grave risk as Islamic jihadi groups gather steam in the Middle East. And that merely serves to put greater pressure on people of means to pick up their belongings and seek greener pastures in the West. But that option is one that many Christian leaders in the Middle East are fighting hard to counter. Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria, a couple hundred miles west of where the 90 Christians were captured Monday, knows that he must counter the temptation not only with material aid but with a real sense of hope that the current long lent Christians are suffering will indeed come to an end…

Islamic State selling looted Syrian art in London to fund its war (Washington Post) Almost 100 items of Syrian art and antiquities looted by the extremist Islamic State group have been smuggled into Britain and sold for money to fund the group’s activities, art crime experts and archeologists have warned. The items, allegedly being sold in London, range from looted gold and silver Byzantine coins to Roman pottery and glass together worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The London paper compared the phenomenon to Africa’s “blood diamond” industry, in which the money raised by the sale of precious African diamonds financed wars and conflicts across the continent…

Coptic Church forms committee to evacuate Egyptians from Libya (Fides) A “crisis unit” has been instituted at the request of the Synod of the Copt Orthodox Church to collect data and information regarding all Egyptians still present in Libya, in order to facilitate rapid evacuation and repatriation…

Strangers in their own land: Displaced Ukrainians face uncertain future (Al Jazeera) More than 1 million registered internally displaced people have been uprooted by the violent conflict in Ukraine’s east. In the 10 months since refugees started flowing out of the rebel-held territories, the number of displaced in Ukraine has risen to the most in Europe since the Balkan wars…

The war in Ukraine: A failure to evangelize? (Catholic News Agency) Conflict in eastern Ukraine has pitted the country’s government against separatists widely believed to be backed by Russia, and some are attributing the chaos to a failed evangelization in the country. According to the Rev. Wojciech Surówka, a Dominican priest who directs the St. Thomas Aquinas Institute of Religious Sciences in Kiev, “a dialogue of reconciliation between Ukrainians and Russians should begin from the church. If we do not start it, politicians will never do it. It would be nice if the formula of ‘forgive and ask forgiveness’ were delivered simultaneously by the Ukrainian and Russian bishops…”

Mosque torched near Bethlehem in a suspected ‘price tag’ act (i24 News) Palestinians near the Palestinian West Bank town of Bethlehem said a mosque in the village of Jab’awas was set on fire before dawn on Wednesday, arousing suspicions that the vandalism was carried out by right-wing extremists as part of the “price tag” campaign. Nationalist graffiti were sprayed on the mosque’s walls…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine West Bank Libya

24 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Six months after the bombs stopped falling, Nick Schifrin reports, the process of rebuilding Gaza has been slow and painful. (video: Al Jazeera)

Islamic State kidnaps scores of Christians in new military assault in Syria (Aleteia) The Islamic State group has abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in northeastern Syria. Quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the BBC said that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr…

Gaza farmers unable to export produce (Al Monitor) Gaza’s farmers have increasingly suffered since the Israeli siege was first imposed in 2006. Despite the Ministry of Agriculture’s announcement of self-sufficiency, the fluctuation of international support and Israel preventing the exportation of agricultural products have destroyed the only source of livelihood for farmers, especially after the recent war…

Coptic bishop: Great witness, exemplary faith of martyrs (Vatican Radio) The 21 Coptic Christians slaughtered by members of the so-called “Islamic State” in Libya, have been officially recognized as martyrs — a fact that ought to give Christians everywhere both hope and pause, says Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos, the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom…

Ukrainian Catholic leader invites pope, says visit could bring peace (CNS) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church invited Pope Francis to visit the war-torn nation, saying it would help bring peace. “It would be a prophetic gesture that would show the power of prayer and Christian solidarity, give us courage and hope and build a better future for everyone,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych…

The Islamic State’s dangerous gains in Libya (Der Spiegel) Rival militias in Libya have thrown the country into civil war and made it easy prey for the Islamic State. The recent execution of 21 Copts is only one sign of the terrorist group’s growing footprint in North Africa. The Christian massacre has the potential give the country a final push into open civil war. But the dissolution of Libya started long before…

Chaldean patriarch: ‘Italy must not fall into the [Islamic State] trap’ (Zenit) Patriarch Louis Raphael I, who underwent minor surgery at Padre Pio’s Hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, spoke on topics ranging from veneration to Padre Pio in Baghdad to the difficulties faced by the church in Iraq — a “wall of suffering.” On the matter of the current Libyan crisis, the patriarch said, “It’s a trap. Italy must be careful not to engage in war…”



Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

23 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin celebrates the Christmas liturgy on 6 January 2011. (photo: Tigran Mehrabyan/AFP/Getty Images)

St. Gregory of Narek, doctor of the church (VIS) On Saturday, 21 February, Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he confirmed the proposal by the cardinals and bishops, members of the plenary session of the congregation, to concede the title of doctor of the universal church to St. Gregory of Narek, priest and monk, who was born in Andzevatsij (then Armenia, present-day Turkey) in 1005 and died in Narek (then Armenia, present-day Turkey) around 1005.

Ukraine’s front-line fighters balk at peace (Al Jazeera) Today, the ceasefire is a truce in name only. With the capture of Debaltseve a few days ago, the Minsk II agreement has gone the way of its predecessor as fighting continues to rage along the front. “No one believes in this truce. No one believes [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will honor it,” one soldier said. The bigger problem for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is not that his soldiers do not trust Mr. Putin, but that they do not trust him, their leader…

Egypt’s grand mufti says Islamic State attack against Copts un-Islamic (Ahram Online) Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, the Egyptian state’s authority responsible for issuing religious edicts, said on Monday in a statement that the Islamic State executing 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya was an act empty of the “great tolerance of Islam.” He insisted that the militant group has no understanding of the meaning of the Holy Quran. He added that the group’s attribution of certain sayings to Prophet Mohamed was erroneous…

Coptic Catholics consecrate first-ever church in Sinai (Aid to the Church in Need) The same day the Islamic State released gruesome video of the execution of Copts in Libya, 15 February 2015, Egypt’s Coptic Catholic Church celebrated the consecration of its first-ever church in Sinai: Our Lady of Peace, in the community of Sharm al Sheikh. The name had been chosen by Suzanne Mubarak, wife of the ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mrs. Mubarak, who was educated by Catholic sisters, ensured that construction of the church could proceed after years of delay and opposition by local political leadership. Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac, head of the 200,000-member Coptic Catholic Church, presided over the consecration ceremony…

Gazans forced to sell their belongings (Al Monitor) The harsh economic crisis that has been worsening in the Gaza Strip has forced Gazans to sell their belongings to avoid begging for money. Asked about these crises, economist Samir Hamattu explained that these result from various political and economic conditions, including the Israeli blockade, the war on Gaza, the closure of border tunnels with Egypt, the closing of the Rafah border crossing, Hamas-Fatah political differences and the financial crisis currently plaguing the Palestinian Authority’s institutions…

Syria insists on cooperation in fight against antiquities theft (New York Times) The world will have to cooperate with Syria to halt the trade in looted antiquities that helps fund jihadist groups, Syria’s culture minister said, putting the onus on Turkey to stop the smuggling across their shared frontier. Culture minister Issam Khalil said a U.N. Security Council resolution that aims to stop groups including Islamic State from benefiting from the illicit antiquities trade would not be effective without the help of Damascus, a pariah to many Arab and Western states since Syria’s war erupted in 2011…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia

20 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




People living in war-torn eastern Ukraine struggle to feed themselves and their children as provisions become increasingly scarce. The World Food Program says it is scaling up its emergency operation in the region to help the nearly 190,000 people displaced by the conflict. (video: The Guardian)

Retreating soldiers bring echoes of war’s chaos to a Ukrainian town (New York Times) As violence continued to plague eastern Ukraine on Thursday, demoralized Ukrainian soldiers straggled into the town of Artemivsk, griping about incompetent leadership and recounting desperate conditions and gruesome killing as they beat a haphazard retreat from the strategic town of Debaltseve…

Pope Francis tells Ukrainian bishops to stay out of politics (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis has called on Catholic bishops in Ukraine to stay out of political debates and focus their energies on caring for their people and in reaffirming Christian values. Speaking Friday to various Catholic prelates of the country, Francis said he understood that “recent historical events that have marked your land are still present in the collective memory.” But, the pope said, those events are not for bishops to respond to. Instead, he said, “there are also sociocultural and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution…”

Church speaks out against Dalit discrimination (Fides) The Catholic Church in India is calling on the government to end legalized discrimination against Dalit Christians. Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi says it is time to re-introduce for Dalit Christians the same benefits enjoyed by Hindu Dalits, denied for six decades to Christians…

No information on fate of Christian leaders abducted in Syria in 2013 (Interfax) Two Christian leaders abducted in Syria nearly two years ago have still not been found, Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East said at a meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Moscow…

Iraqi Christian men fight to keep Islamic State away from homes (The Daily Signal) Since the summer, some 30,000 Christians have fled the Nineveh Plains. Without official government support, and with minimal equipment primarily funded through donations, the young Christian men — most in their early to mid 20’s — feel a responsibility to defend their own…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Iraqi Christians Dalits

19 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




On Monday, 16 February, Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury of the British Orthodox Church — a jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church — appeared on a BBC news broadcast to speak on the recent killing of Copts by the Islamic State in Libya. (source: British Orthodox Church YouTube channel)

Jerusalem’s Copts mourn Egyptian Christians beheaded in Libya (Jerusalem Post) Just days after Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, dozens of Coptic Christians attended a prayer service in Jerusalem’s Coptic Orthodox church located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday to mourn the victims…

Russian Orthodox patriarch extends condolences to Copts (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent condolences to the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Mr. Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and Pope Tawadros II over the murder of more than 20 Coptic Christians in Libya…

Ukrainian Orthodox Church patriarchates at odds over Ukraine conflict (AsiaNews.it) Representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate said they were “concerned” that Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, had given encouragement to the government to continue the fight in Donbass. In an interview, Metropolitan Filaret rejected the charges against him…

Indian bishops call for “concrete action” to back prime minister’s words (Vatican Radio) “Words to be followed by concrete action.” With this remark, the Catholic bishops of India responded to a statement by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who promised commitment on the part of his government to protect religious minorities…

Migration Congress recommendations released (Vatican Radio) The final document of the 7th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants was made public on Thursday, and called for those charged with the mission of teaching within the church to make an effort to broaden their knowledge and turn theory into practice at the local level. The full text of the document is below…



Tags: India Ukraine Violence against Christians Copts Libya

18 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A boy looks at his flooded home in the village of Mifol, Albania, on 3 February. Floods caused by heavy rains forced the evacuation of hundreds of villagers. (photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images)

Orthodox Church of Albania aids areas hit by flooding (Orthodox Church of Albania) The massive rainfalls at the beginning of February caused flooding in many parts of Albania. The area most affected was southern Albania, where many villages suffered severe damage to households and, in some cases, agricultural production and livestock. The Albanian Orthodox has responded by shipping boxes of food and clothing to the local areas affected…

Chaldean patriarch’s call for prayer for unity (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I urged prayer, reflection, discernment and examination of conscience in a message commemorating the beginning of the Lenten season. The patriarch lamented the sin of division and invited all Muslim brothers and sisters to join Christians in fasting for the intention of peace, stability and dignity…

‘Guantanamo of the East’: Ukraine locks up refugees at EU’s behest (Der Spiegel) Most migrants reach Europe through Italy or Greece. Many die on the way. A broad coalition, with voices ranging from Pope Francis to German President Joachim Gauck, is demanding better protection for refugees on Europe’s southern border and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, describes the route across the Mediterranean as the world’s deadliest. But when it comes to the eastern route, and the fate of migrants like Hasan Hirsi — who describes how Ukrainian security forces robbed, beat and tortured him — interest has thus far been limited…

Syrian army gains ground in Aleppo offensive (Al Akhbar) The Syrian army and its allied forces continue to fight in neighborhoods under the control of the opposition in the city of Aleppo, and to break the siege around the towns of Nubl and Al Zahraa in the city’s northern countryside…

War separates lovers in Aleppo (Al Monitor) Twenty-three-year-old Louay was not alone on Valentine’s night, but he wasn’t with his girlfriend, either. He and some lovesick friends gathered by candlelight for an intimate evening. Louay arranged candles in the shape of the letter R and told his friends about the last time he saw his girlfriend, Rama. More than 13 months have passed since Louay and Rama’s last meeting. In February 2014, regime forces closed the only crossing that connected the two parts of Aleppo — the eastern side under opposition control, and the western side under the regime. As a result, the city has been divided and families separated. All of Louay’s friends have their own love stories to tell, all marked by the same kind of suffering — a lost future, a divided country and a distant lover because of the raging war…



Tags: Ukraine Refugees Aleppo Albania Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

17 February 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis offers prayers for the Coptic Christians slain over the weekend.
(video: Rome Reports)


Pope offers Mass for slain Copts (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered Mass Tuesday morning for the repose of the souls of the twenty-one Coptic Christians martyred for their faith in Christ. The Mass was attended by the Pope’s personal secretary, Abuna Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who is Coptic Catholic...

Statement by Coptic Orthodox Church (via Facebook and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church) The Coptic Orthodox Church headed by Pope Tawadros II lays in the hands of God - in this critical time — its innocent martyrs, assured that their great homeland will not rest until the evil perpetrators are justly punished for their evil crime...

Patriarch: slain Copts were “martyrs of the faith” (Fides) At the news of the massacre of 21 Egyptian Copts decapitated in Libya by jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Patriarch of Alexandria of Coptic Catholics, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, “offers his condolence to all the families of these martyrs who gave their lives for the faith, and at the same time expresses his gratitude to President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and all the institutions of the Egyptian government for giving an immediate response to this act of terrorism...”

Muslims and Christians condemn execution of Copts in Libya (L’Osservatore Romano) The barbarity shocked not only the Egyptian Christian community, but the more numerous Muslim authorities have also harshly condemned the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians who had had been held hostage for weeks by Libyan jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State. Video of the execution was broadcast on the internet throughout the day on Sunday...

Pope creates 20 new cardinals (L’Osservatore Romano) “The more we are ‘incardinated’ in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit”. This was Pope Francis’ recommendation to the 20 Cardinals created in the Ordinary Public Consistory held on Saturday, 14 February, in the Vatican Basilica. Benedict XVI was also present at the Consistory...

Ethiopian cardinal: “A total surprise and a humbling experience” (Vatican Radio) Speaking just before the ceremony to Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa, the new Cardinal of Addis Ababa, Berhaneyesus Souraphiel described his nomination as a total surprise. “This nomination came as a total surprise to me... We did not know it. You see, in the former days these nominations were done through the Apostolic Nunciature. This time, this was done directly by Pope Francis himself. So it was a total surprise and a very humbling experience that the Holy Father has thought it fit to ask me to help him in his great responsibility of governing the universal Church,” Cardinal Berhaneyesus said...

Leaders seek to end fighting in eastern Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have agreed that fighting should end around a railway hub in eastern Ukraine where clashes continue despite a ceasefire accord...

Patriarch to Christians in India: churches are doorways to peace (The New Indian Express) Christian churches are the doorways to peace, said Patriarch of Antioch, supreme head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Ignatius Aphrem-II. Speaking after inaugurating the 40th annual celebrations at the Thuruthissery Valiyapalli at Nedumbassery on Monday, the Partriarch said, “a real Christian is a person who is able to love all human beings equally without any discrimination based on caste, creed or religion. Peace will reign only in a society that understands the love of God,” he said. The Patriarch was accorded a grand reception at the Thuruthissery Church...



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ethiopia Muslim Coptic Christians

13 February 2015
Greg Kandra




Ukrainians attend a funeral in Kiev on 2 February for a serviceman killed in the eastern Ukrainian conflict with Russia. (photo: CNS/Sergey Dolzhenko, EPA)

New accord raises hopes for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The United States and the European Union have expressed caution about a new Ukraine peace agreement reached during talks in Minsk between the Russian, Ukrainian, French and German leaders. Thursday's accord includes a ceasefire starting Sunday, followed by the withdrawal of weapons, the establishment of a demilitarized zone and the exchange of prisoners...

Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the U.S. issue appeal for prayers for peace (Pennsylvania Catholic Conference) The Ukrainian Catholic Bishops in the United States have issued an appeal to clergy, religious and faithful for meditation and fasting for Ukraine. In their letter, the bishops state “The bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine with Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk have asked their faithful to fast and to pray daily for various intentions, among them, for the President and elected officials of Ukraine, for the conversion of the aggressors, for the Ukrainian army, for those who protect citizens, for the souls of the deceased, and for unity and independence of Ukraine. Let us join them in holy prayer and fasting...

AP: High civilian death toll in Gaza strikes (AP) The Associated Press examined 247 airstrikes that — according to witness accounts and site visits — hit residential compounds, out of the some 5,000 Israeli strikes during the conflict. Its reporters compiled a detailed casualty count, determining 844 dead in those strikes. The review found that 508 of those dead — just over 60 percent — were children, women and older men, all presumed to be civilians. Hamas says it did not use women as fighters in the war, and an Israel-based research group tracking militants among the dead said it has no evidence women participated in combat...

Report: Islamic State plans to execute kidnapped Copts (Fides) The 21 Copts kidnapped in Libya in early January are in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State, who in an article published online foreshadow their execution by presenting it as a revenge against the alleged “violence” suffered in the past by Egyptian Muslim women on behalf of the Coptic Church...

In Armenia, towns without men as migrants leave to find work (The Washington Post) Winter is wedding season in Lichk because as soon as the snow melts, all the adult men here — and in the nine other towns served by its little church — leave to work in Russia. For years, these villages have been like countless others in former Soviet republics, where able-bodied men are lured to Russia by seasonal work and higher wages. But stiffer laws for foreign workers and Russia’s worsening economy are making many migrant laborers reconsider their annual journey. For the men of Lichk — and other Armenian workers, who as members of the Eurasian Economic Union don’t need special work permits in Russia — it has meant working abroad longer but sending less money home...



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia Copts





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