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Winter, 2015
Volume 41, Number 4
  
12 February 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis tries on a sombrero while meeting journalists aboard his flight to Havana on 12 February. Traveling to Mexico for a six-day visit, the pope is stopping briefly in Cuba to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the Havana airport. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

U.S. and Russia announce plan for humanitarian aid, cease-fire in Syria (The New York Times) Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, announced that they had agreed on the delivery over the next few days of desperately needed aid to besieged Syrian cities, to be followed by a “cessation of hostilities” within a week on the way to a more formal cease-fire. “We have agreed to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities in one week’s time,” Mr. Kerry said early Friday morning, after all-day meetings. “That is ambitious...”

Pope, patriarch to hold historic meeting today (The Miami Herald) Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will meet in Havana on Friday, the first rapprochement between the two churches in the nearly 1,000 years since Christianity split between East and West. Despite a separation that dates back to the Great Schism of 1054, the Russian Orthodox Church has said that Islamic extremist attacks on Christian populations in the Middle East and North and Central Africa require urgent measures and closer cooperation between the Christian churches. “In the present tragic situation, it is necessary to put aside international disagreements and unite efforts for saving Christianity in the regions where it is subjected to the most severe persecution,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said in Moscow during a news conference on the patriarch’s trip...

Canada asked to recognize genocide of Christians (Catholic Register) The Canadian government should join the European Union in labelling the persecution of Christians by Islamic State jihadists a genocide, said Aid to the Church in Need. The Catholic charity, which supports the Church worldwide, has asked the Canadian government to follow the EU Parliament’s 4 February resolution that called ISIS attacks on Middle East Christians a genocide, a crime punishable under international law...

The “nuns of life” in Ethiopia (Scottish Catholic Observer) The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is not blessed with numbers. Most people here are either Ethiopian Orthodox or Muslim. Yet the work of the Catholic Church here still packs an incredible wallop. No one demonstrates that better than two nuns, who between them have saved thousands of lives: Sister Celine Louise and Sister Haimanot Amanuel...

High unemployment leads Gaza couple to crowdfund their wedding (The Washington Post) It’s a classic problem faced by many young couples the world over: How to finance one’s wedding? But for Abd El-Hakim Zughbor and his fiancée, Falastin Al-Tanani, residents of the Gaza Strip, which is partially blockaded by Israel and Egypt, governed by the hard-line Islamic group Hamas and guided by deeply entrenched social traditions, the challenge of making it to the happy day is compounded even further. That’s why, after seven years in love and no wedding date on the calendar, the two 27-year-olds opted for a new, rather unusual, method of celebrating one of society’s oldest institutions: with an online fundraising campaign via the website GoFundMe...



11 February 2016
Greg Kandra




Displaced Iraqis, who fled regions controlled by ISIS near Fallujah, carry their belongings on 8 February 2016 as they arrive in the Jwaibah area, on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi. Iraq now faces a growing economic crisis caused by war, plunging oil prices and an influx of refugees.
(photo: Moadh Al-Dulaimi/AFP/Getty Images)


Pope asks for prayers for meeting with patriarch (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for his forthcoming meeting with his “dear brother,” the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Head of the Russian Orthodox Church. That meeting is scheduled to take place on 12 February 12 at Cuba’s international airport as the Pope travels to Mexico for an apostolic journey...

War, plunging oil prices create economic crisis in Iraq (AP) Plunging oil prices have pitched Iraq into a severe financial crisis as it struggles to combat ISIS, play host to millions of refugees and rebuild cities and towns ravaged by war...

Turkey keeps borders closed to Syrian refugees (The Washington Post) Turkey angrily rejected demands Wednesday that it open its border to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees driven from their homes by relentless Russian airstrikes, saying that to do so would amount to complicity in the Russian-backed offensive to drive rebels out of the province of Aleppo...

Russia: U.S. Planes bombed Aleppo Wednesday (Reuters) Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday that two U.S. aircraft had bombed the Syrian city of Aleppo on 10 February and that Russian planes had not been operating in the area. A Pentagon spokesman had accused Russian and Syria government forces on Wednesday of destroying Aleppo’s two main hospitals with air strikes, though he did not specify when the strikes were alleged to have taken place...

Ukrainians: don’t throw us under the bus (The Catholic Register) Nobody wants the Pope to meet Moscow’s Orthodox patriarch more than the Ukrainian Catholics, but the Eastern-rite Catholics want to be sure their Church is treated as a full partner in the dialogue between Rome and Moscow. “We want this. It’s about time... If anything we would like for these meetings to happen more often,” said Father Peter Galadza, acting director of the Sheptytsky Institute at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. “We don’t want to return to the old ostpolitik where the Eastern Catholic churches, especially the Ukrainian Catholic Church, get thrown under the bus...”



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Turkey Russian Orthodox

10 February 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian children, who fled bombing in Aleppo, wait in a tent city close to the Bab al Salam border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border on 10 February. (photo: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Damascus vows to recapture Aleppo from rebels (Business Insider) Damascus aims to secure Syria’s border with Turkey and recapture the city of Aleppo with its latest military offensive, a top adviser to President Bashar al Assad said on Tuesday. In an interview in her Damascus office, Bouthaina Shaaban held out little hope for diplomatic efforts to end the five-year civil war, telling Reuters proposals for a ceasefire were coming from states that “do not want an end to terrorism” and wanted to shore up insurgents who are losing ground. The Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, has launched a major advance in recent weeks near Aleppo, once Syria’s biggest city, now divided between rebel- and government-held sectors…

Doctors Without Borders: 23,000 flee Aleppo (ABC News) Doctors Without Borders says some 23,000 new arrivals fleeing the fighting in Aleppo are in urgent need of emergency shelter and support near Syria’s border with Turkey. In a press release issued Tuesday, the group says it has increased the number of beds in its hospital in Azaz district and is preparing to extend capacity if necessary…

Vicar of Aleppo says Syrian people do not want foreigners’ war (AsiaNews) The Syrian army, with the help of the Russians, is making great strides in the Aleppo region, says the apostolic vicar of Aleppo of the Latins, Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, O.F.M. “The goal is to free the area from militia extremists and allow people to return to their homes. In some areas, schools have reopened and the supply of electricity and water has returned,” he says. In a tense situation, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen sees positive glimmers: “Many of the local fighters, the Syrian guerrillas, are calling for an end to the war, and want reconciliation and dialogue with military and government. Where instead there is a prevalence of foreign jihadists and militants linked to foreign powers in the region and outside the region, war still rages on…”

Pope Francis meets with prime minister of Iraq (Vatican Radio) Before the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis met with the prime minister of Iraq, Haydar al Abadi. The meeting took place in the studio of the Paul VI Audience Hall. The two discussed the role of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities to promote tolerance and peace…

Pope-patriarch meeting historic, observers say, but substance is key (CNS) The planned 12 February meeting in Cuba between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church will be a historic event, those involved in ecumenical relations agree, but they contend the proof of the pudding will lie in the content of the joint statement the two church leaders are expected to sign at the end of their meeting…

Last Byzantine church in Ankara fights for survival (Christian Today) The last remaining Byzantine church in Ankara, Turkey, is fighting to survive as the crowded city continues to spread. The Orthodox Church of St. Clement, built at least 1,000 years ago, is in ruins and is quickly disappearing amid office buildings in the Altindag district. Despite being of cultural and historical importance, the church can only be visited by walking down an office fire escape with express permission from the owners…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis War Turkey Patriarch Kirill

9 February 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian government soldiers celebrate after taking control of the village of Ratian, north of the embattled city of Aleppo, from rebel fighters on 6 February. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian government forces, with Russian support, turn a corner (Huffington Post) Late on 2 February, the news hit: “All communication and supply line[s]” between Turkey and Aleppo had been severed, according to a Elijah Magnier, a renowned Arab war correspondent with Alrai Media Group. It seems to be so; the Syrian army and allied militias, backed by Hezbollah and Russian air power, took control of a tendril of territory that cuts off Aleppo-based rebels from the Turkish border. Eastern supply lines for ISIS appear to have also been cut. Edward Dark, a pseudonym for a respected commentator on Syrian affairs living in Aleppo, said on 3 February: “This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After four years of war and terror, people can finally see the end in sight…”

Turkey under pressure to open border to Syrian refugees (Al Jazeera) Turkey came under mounting pressure to open its border Saturday as tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing a government onslaught sought entry and the European Union called on Ankara to grant them refuge. As many as 35,000 Syrians have amassed along the closed border, according to Suleyman Tapsiz, governor of the Turkish border province of Kilis. He said Turkey would provide aid to the displaced within Syria, but would only open the gates in the event of an “extraordinary crisis…”

Rebels threaten to execute anyone caught smuggling humanitarian aid to Foah and Kefraya (Al Masdar News) The Sharia Courts of Idlib that are run by the Islamist rebels of Jaysh al Fateh have issued a decree that bans the delivery of humanitarian aid to the predominately Shiite towns of Kefraya and Foah in the Idlib Governorate. Under this decree, any person(s) caught smuggling humanitarian aid to the aforementioned towns will be executed by the Shari’ah Courts of Idlib. This hard-lined stance against the delivery of humanitarian aid to the beleaguered civilians of Kefraya and Foah comes just one week after another convoy of humanitarian aid was delivered to the town of Madaya in western Damascus…

In Syria, war crimes don’t take sides, U.N. report says (CNN) They were prisoners of war on different sides of a conflict that’s raged for nearly five years. But all of them faced a horrifying reality, according to a new report on Syria released by the United Nations. Torture, mass executions and other war crimes have been carried out against detainees held by groups on practically all sides of the fighting, according to the report released Monday by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria…

Christians boycott peace conference; Chaldean Patriarch frustrated with empty words (Fides) Christian representatives invited to participate in the “Conference on the protection of peaceful coexistence,” held on Sunday, 7 February at the Iraqi Parliament, decided to boycott the event, to mark their distance from occasions when the calls to coexistence and harmony between different ethnic and religious identities are transformed into mere rhetorical formulas. In addition to the Christian communities, also other religious minorities, such as the Yazidis and Mandaeans boycotted the conference…

On the Great Council of the Orthodox Church (First Things) Already there is much talk about the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Between now and June 19, 2016, when the council officially opens on the island of Crete, there will be many rumors and much spin. Some will be justified; like other patriarchal institutions, Orthodox churches are not normally known for their transparency. However, other chatter will be less than helpful. What follow are some brief clarifications on basic questions surrounding the council…



Tags: Syria Refugees War Ecumenism

8 February 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian children who fled bombing in Aleppo wander among tents at the Oncupinar crossing, opposite the Turkish province of Kilis, on 6 February 2016. (photo: Kerem Kocalar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Syria refugee camps set up as Turkey limits entries (BBC) Turkish aid workers have been setting up tents and distributing supplies for thousands of new Syrian refugees kept from entering Turkey at the border. Some 35,000 people fled a Syrian government offensive in the Aleppo area last week, trying to enter Turkey’s Kilis border region. But Turkey has so far closed the border to most of them despite appeals by E.U. leaders to let them cross…

As Syrians flee anew, neighbors’ altruism hardens into resentment (New York Times) When the Syrian refugees first started streaming into this bedraggled border town, Gassim al Moghrebi was their tireless benefactor, distributing donations of food, money and clothes and sheltering as many as possible in two apartments he owned. “All of Ramtha was just like me,” Mr. Moghrebi said, describing a good will rooted in family ties that spanned the border, and sympathy for the victims of a pitiless war. “One man had ten apartments. He gave them to the Syrians for free.” But now, as Syria witnesses a new escalation of violence and flee again by the tens of thousands, neighboring countries are increasingly overwhelmed and reluctant to let them in. In many places, that early altruism has hardened into resentment — an ominous turn for those searching for safety from the war…

Maronite patriarch: Without a president, Lebanon is on brink of collapse (AsiaNews) Religious leaders, international diplomats and citizens have launched a fresh appeal to the Lebanese Parliament to elect a new president, a position now vacant for over 20 months. In his Sunday homily Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter lent his voice to this call…

Coptic eparchy to celebrate anniversary of the martyrdom of 21 Copts in Libya (Fides) The Coptic Orthodox Eparchy of Samalot is preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of the martyrdom of 21 Copts killed in Libya by ISIS militants. Celebrations will culminate in the solemn liturgy on Tuesday, 16 February. The 21 Coptic Egyptians were kidnapped in Libya in early January 2015…

A Catholic-Orthodox meeting is spectacular but not unprecedented (The Economist) The announcement of a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, due to take place in Cuba on 12 February, is certainly a spectacular moment in ecumenical dialogue. But contrary to many reports that have appeared in the press this weekend, it is certainly not the first top-level encounter between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches since the East-West schism of 1054. Before speculating about what will happen in Havana, it’s worth recalling, in barest outline, some landmarks in the history of this often tortured relationship…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Refugee Camps Patriarch Kirill

5 February 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill reads a prayer during the Christmas service 7 January at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. After almost three decades of tense Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations, Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Kirill 12 February in Cuba, en route to Mexico.
(photo: CNS/Sergei Chirikov, EPA)


Pope, Russian Orthodox patriarch to meet in Cuba, Vatican announces (CNS) After almost three decades of tense Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations, Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Kirill of Moscow 12 February in Cuba on the pope’s way to Mexico. It will be the first-ever meeting of a pope and Moscow patriarch, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters 5 February...

Lebanese churches concerned about religious discrimination with regards to access to functions and public resources (Fides) Maronite bishops expressed their concern over the imbalance that is being produced regarding access to public offices and state financial resources, with silent discrimination that see Christians penalized. The concern emerged during the last monthly meeting of the Assembly of Maronite Bishops, who met on Wednesday, 3 February, at the patriarchal see in Bkerke, under the presidency of Patriarch Bechara Peter...

Syrian rebels are losing Aleppo and perhaps also the war (Washington Post) Syrian rebels battled for their survival in and around Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Thursday after a blitz of Russian airstrikes helped government loyalists sever a vital supply route and sent a new surge of refugees fleeing toward the border with Turkey...

Economic effect of Syrian war at $35 bn: World Bank (Al-Monitor) The devastating economic impact of the war in Syria and its spillover into nearby countries stands at $35 billion and climbing, the World Bank said. The estimate, included in a quarterly World Bank report on the Middle East and North Africa, was released on the same day that world leaders in London pledged more than $10 billion through 2020 to help the Syrians...

A seminar on the environment in Jordan (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) The Catholic Center for Studies and Media (C.C.S.M.), in cooperation with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung held on Saturday, 30 January 2016 a seminar titled, “Environment: The Common Home of Humanity.” C.C.S.M. Director Father Rif’at Bader said that the preservation of the environment has become one of the greatest global challenges facing humanity. He added that Pope Francis’ historic message of the environment titled, “Laudato Si on Care for Our Common Home” stresses that most the people living on Earth state that they are faithful which entails orchestrating inter-religious dialogue in order to care for the environment, to defend the poor, and to ensure respect for the other brethren...



4 February 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees wait at the border on 13 January near Royashed, Jordan. World leaders pledged billions on Thursday to help support refugees. (photo: CNS/EPA)

Leaders pledge billions for Syrian refugees (Voice of America) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged nearly $1 billion in new U.S. aid for Syrian refugees at an international donors conference and is calling for the Syrian government and Russia to halt attacks on rebel-held areas in order to let humanitarian aid through. The donors conference opened Thursday in London with European Union nations pledging more than three billion dollars to support people in Syria as well as in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, neighbor countries that are strained by the exodus of refugees fleeing the fighting...

Syria peace talks suspended (BBC) The third round of Geneva peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition has been suspended three days after a shaky start, underlining the mammoth challenge of putting an end to Syria’s five-year war. Riad Hijab, the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) co-ordinator, arrived in Geneva on Wednesday to give an extra weight to the troubled talks. But comments of Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Russian strikes will not cease “until we really defeat terrorist organisations like al-Nusra Front” clearly made it difficult for both the UN and Syrian opposition to press ahead...

Iraq building a wall around Baghdad (BBC) Iraqi security forces have begun building a wall around the capital Baghdad in an effort to prevent attacks by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The reported 300km (186 miles) barrier will surround the city from all sides, an official said...

Christian associations react to rumors about discovery of weapons in a church in Turkey (Fides) The Federation of Assyrian associations have reacted harshly to the rumors — circulated in recent days on the Turkish media — that a cache of weapons and ammunition belonging to Kurdish armed groups was discovered by the army in Ankara at the Syrian Orthodox church of Santa Maria, in Diyarbakir. “More lies, another disgrace, still an operation aimed to hit a target,” wrote the international network of associations linked to Assyrian Christian communities scattered throughout the world in a statement. “We” says the statement sent to Agenzia Fides, “condemn this hostile attitude, which affects all Syrians and which was intended to indicate a target...”

Coptic patriarch visits dioceses, speaks out against domestic violence (Fides) Domestic violence, whose victims are mainly women and children, represent a devastating social phenomenon that has severe effects on people’s lives and also on civil society. This is what Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II said during his catechesis and prayer meeting on Wednesday, at the church of St. George, in the suburb of Guizeh, attended by thousands of faithful...



3 February 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the plight of a 10-day-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon illustrates the challenges facing many who have been displaced by Syria’s civil war. World leaders are gathering in London this week to try and find solutions for Syria’s refugee crisis. (video: Rome Reports)

World leaders aim to raise billions for Syrian refugees (The Guardian) World leaders are gathering in London for a conference aimed at raising $9bn for Syrian refugees and preventing the creation of a permanent underclass of uneducated, restless and jobless Syrians living in countries’ bordering their homeland. Organizers want the aid to be diverted from food handouts towards work and education opportunities for Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan...

Report: More than 10,000 refugee, migrant children have disappeared in Europe (Al Jazeera) More than 10,000 unaccompanied refugee and migrant children have disappeared in Europe, the EU police agency Europol said on Sunday, fearing many have been whisked into sex trafficking rings or the slave trade. Europol’s press office confirmed to Al Jazeera the figures published in British newspaper The Observer. The number relates to the past 18-24 months...

Pope greets UN peacekeepers at audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday met with a group of soldiers serving as United Nations peacekeepers from Paraguay and Argentina. The group was attending the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square...

UNESCO recognizes baptism site of Jesus as World Heritage Site (Fides) The site of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River has been officially declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, during a ceremony held in Paris on the evening of Tuesday 2 February. The ceremony was also attended by a delegation from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, including the Jordanian Minister for Tourism Nayef H Al-Fayez and Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem...

Chaldean monastery in Tehran reopens (Fides) On the eve of the meeting in the Vatican between Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Pope Francis, it was possible to reopen the Chaldean monastery of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary in Tehran. This was reported by official sources of the Chaldean Patriarchate, recalling that the monastery had been closed since 2013...

Why the Middle East’s largest Christian community is fleeing Egypt (International Business Times) Egyptian churches across New York and New Jersey have seen their communities swell in recent years as Egypt has faced political turmoil, a slumping economy and a growing militant insurgency. The exodus has intensified fears for the future for Christianity in the Middle East, as some now worry for the fate of Egypt’s Christians, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities...

Ukraine’s economy minister quits (Bloomberg) Ukraine’s government, splintering over issues from the war in the nation’s east to faltering anti-corruption efforts, suffered a new setback as its reform-minded economy minister stepped down. Aivaras Abromavicius, 40, a Lithuanian-born former fund manager, said Wednesday that he wouldn’t be a “puppet” for officials he accuses of blocking overhauls of the ex-Soviet republic’s economy and institutions...



Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Jordan Chaldeans

2 February 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Jordan’s King Abdullah II describes the difficulties his country is facing dealing with the influx of refugees from Syria. (video: BBC)

Jordan’s king says citizens are “at a boiling point” over refugees (International Business Times) Jordan’s King Abdullah II has said that people in his country are at “boiling point” due to the influx of thousands of refugees from Syria, BBC reported Tuesday. Abdullah’s comments came on the heels of the U.N. refugee agency’s statement Sunday that about 20,000 Syrian refugees have been stranded on the war-torn country’s border with Jordan. Jordan has been accepting refugees from Palestine and Iraq for decades and now asylum-seekers from Syria make up nearly 20 percent of the country’s population, BBC reported. “For the first time we can’t do it any more,” Abdullah said...

Russia open to hard-liners attending Syria peace talks (AP) Russia said Tuesday it supports the inclusion of all opposition parties in Syrian peace talks, including representatives of two hard-line Islamic groups, as President Bashar Assad’s troops captured a village north of Syria’s largest city with the aid of Russian airstrikes. Syria’s official SANA news agency reported the capture of Hardatneen, north of Aleppo, as U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura kicked off what he called a second day of peace talks in Geneva by hosting a government delegation for the second time since Friday. He also planned a separate meeting with the main opposition group later in the day...

U.S. weighs options to speed Iraq’s fight to retake Mosul (Reuters) The United States is willing to deploy Apache attack helicopters and advisers to help Iraq retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State as it considers options to speed up the campaign against the militant group, a top U.S. general said on Monday...

Winter plunging Iraqis deeper in debt (Huffington Post) These days, 40 year-old Syrian father of three, Faruq Mohammed Hamo, tells me there are local shops where he dare not go and show his face. Faruq is deep in debt and is ashamed to go to stores where he can’t pay back the food items he’s bought on credit. His family fled conflict in the Kobane, Syria, in September 2014. They now live in Qaladze, north of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, just a few kilometres from the border with Iran. They fled with nothing and have been helped by neighbours as well as getting help from UNHCR. But, Faruq says, he has been unable to find regular work and things are going from bad to worse...

Pope: Consecrated life must be close to the people (VIS) Pope Francis spoke to participants in the Jubilee of Consecrated Life yesterday, noting: “Men and women are consecrated, not to distance themselves from people and to live in comfort; no, to become closer to and to understand the life of Christians and non-Christians, their suffering, their problems, the many things that can be understood only if a consecrated man or woman is close to them. ... Consecrated life is not a status that allows us to watch others from a distance...”



1 February 2016
Greg Kandra




In this picture from 10 January, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa, center, listens to an Israeli border policeman after he stopped a delegation of bishops near the Palestinian land in the Cremisan Valley in Beit Jala, West Bank. An Israeli court has rejected appeals to stop construction of the wall dividing the Cremisan Valley. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Israeli court rejects appeals to stop Cremisan wall (Fides) The Israeli High Court rejected the appeals that had been presented to counter the resumption of the construction of the “wall of division” in the Cremisan Valley. The appeals were presented by the Salesian Sisters of the Convent located in the area affected by the works, by the municipality of Beit Jala and by the Palestinian owners of agricultural land expropriated to build the barrier...

Jordan seeks international aid to help with Syrian refugees (Financial Times) Jordan is prepared to allow tens of thousands of Syrians to work in the kingdom, the country’s prime minister said, if the international community agrees to extend billions of dollars worth of aid for its economy, which is buckling under the burden of hosting more than one million refugees...

Iraq faces calamity from dropping oil prices (The New York Times) Iraqis seeking to withdraw money from banks are told there is not enough cash. Hospitals in Baghdad are falling back to the deprivation of the 1990s sanctions era, resterilizing, over and over, needles and other medical products meant for one-time use. In the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, the economic crisis is even worse: government workers — and the pesh merga fighters who are battling the Islamic State — have not been paid in months. Already, there have been strikes and protests that have turned violent. These scenes present a portrait of a country in the midst of an expensive war against the Islamic State that is now facing economic calamity brought on by the collapse in the price of oil, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the Iraqi government’s revenue...

Coptic professer sentenced to three years in prison for insulting Islam (Fides) The court of Beni Mazar sentenced a Coptic teacher on charges of insulting Islam to three years in prison. The episode happened last spring, at a village school in Nasiriyya, near the town of Beni Mazar, in the Egyptian province of Minya. Four students of the school were arrested for having shown a video, filmed with a mobile phone, where they mimicked the scene of the slaughter of a faithful Muslim in an attitude of prayer, in imitation of the horrific executions committed by jihadists of the Islamic State...

Ukraine authorities demand French TV pull documentary on Maidan uprising (RT.com) Ukraine’s authorities have urged a French broadcaster to take a documentary titled “Masks of Revolution” off the air. They claim the movie misrepresents Maidan events, and have a list of their own suggestions for what needs to be shown. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in their facebook statement went as far as to urge Canal+ TV to overhaul their editorial policy...

Artist depicts life in one of Europe’s largest refugee camps (Mashable.com) The first impression of the “Jungle” — the refugee and migrant camp in northern France that is home to some 6,000 people — is of rubbish. Huge piles of rubbish, everywhere. Food waste, torn sleeping bags, children’s toys, Christmas trees, you name it, it’s probably lying abandoned somewhere in the camp. Amongst it all, people...







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