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March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
15 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2008 photo, a foreign aid volunteer helps to harvest olives in a valley east of Nablus, in the West Bank region. There were several reports of violent incidents when settlers residing in Jewish outposts overlooking the valley opposed the presence of Palestinian harvesters in the area. To learn more about life as a Palestinian olive farmer, read Olive Offerings, from the January 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Ahikam Seri)

Palestinian olive season puts focus on Israeli settlements (Al Monitor) Members of various diplomatic missions to Palestine joined Palestinians in picking olives. The exercise was no simple picnic or act of volunteer work. Rather, it was another visible manifestation of the major problem of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the struggle for land. Olive trees have an important legal status. Since a large part of the West Bank is rural and often void of specific land deeds, authorities often rely on an old Ottoman ruling stating that any person who cultivates fruit-bearing trees can use this continuous relationship with the land to make claim for disputed lands. Palestinians complain that Israeli settlers cognizant of the social, legal and political importance of fruit-bearing trees have made destroying Palestinian olive trees their number one goal. Settler actions against Palestinian lands vary from cutting down olive trees, uprooting them or setting them ablaze…

Egyptians try to draft General Sisi for president (Washington Post) General Abdel Fatah al Sisi’s unofficial presidential campaign is hitting the streets with impressive momentum. Organizers claim that more than nine million people — over 10 percent of Egypt’s population — have already signed the petition calling for the man who orchestrated the July coup that overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected leader to become this nation’s next elected president. For many Egyptians, the rise of a new military man is a comforting idea after nearly three years of political turmoil since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Already, Sisi mania has swept the nation in a pattern reminiscent of past strongmen — the general’s face has become ubiquitous in shop windows and even on cupcakes. He is celebrated in songs, poems and chants…

Egypt struggles for control of Sinai (Der Spiegel) The Sinai Peninsula is both a vacation paradise and a haven for jihadists and gangs of thugs. The military and the police are trying to regain control over the region. But a new class of haughty warlords and a resentful public mean the state’s chances are remote. Though the entire country has descended into violence since the military coup in July, nowhere in Egypt is the fight being waged as bitterly and violently as on the Sinai Peninsula, which is roughly the size of the Republic of Ireland…

A journey through Russia’s struggling heartland (New York Times) On the jarring, 12-hour drive from St. Petersburg to Moscow, another Russia comes into view — one where people struggle with problems that belong to past centuries…

Russia detains scores of migrants after riot (Al Jazeera) Russian police rounded up more than 1,600 immigrants in Moscow a day after rioting by nationalists over a fatal stabbing of a Russian that many residents blame on a man from the Caucasus region. Some 200 residents rallied in the Biryulyovo district on Monday to call for tougher policing of labor migrants. The riot on Sunday broke out with nationalist chants of “white power” and “Russia for Russians.” About 380 people were arrested after demonstrators smashed windows and set fire to shops…



Tags: Egypt Palestine Russia Israeli-Palestinian conflict Farming/Agriculture

11 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2010 photo, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibis arrives for a session of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Syrian archbishop decries ‘Kurdish state’ in northern Syria (Fides) Recently, the Kurdish Democratic Party has declared ’’the intention of creating a Kurdish autonomous region in the Syrian province of Jazira.” Syrian Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibis commented on the committee meetings, which brought together the heads of different ethnic and religious communities, saying: “We have already rejected the proposal to create … a popular assembly proclaiming the autonomy of the region. Not even the majority of the Kurds want to create an autonomous political entity where the leadership is exercised by the dominant ethnic or religious group. At most one can propose a confederation of local communities that will set new relations with the central government in Damascus…”

Deal could see release of two bishops in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) A deal running in parallel with efforts to free the nine kidnapped Lebanese in Syria could see the release of two Greek Orthodox bishops who were kidnapped in Lebanon’s neighbor earlier this year, the head of the Syriac League told The Daily Star Friday. “There are positive signs over an imminent release of the two bishops,” said Habib Afram. Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Youhanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on 22 April while en route to Aleppo from the Turkish border. They are reportedly being held by a small group of rebels in the Syrian town of Bshaqtin, about 12 miles northwest of Aleppo…

At border, Israelis watch Syria’s civil war through a fortified fence (Los Angeles Times) From the bunkers and watchtowers along this tense, fortified frontier, Israelis say they can do little more than view from afar the civil warfare raging across the border in Syria. And in a reminder of the helplessness and paralysis felt by the international community over what to do, Israel’s most visible strategy seems almost futile: It’s building a fence. With 20 feet of steel rebar, the structure is much taller and more imposing than the flimsy barbed wire coils and rusting posts that once separated Syria from Israeli-occupied Golan Heights…

In Karnataka, no end to violence against Christians (AsiaNews) Hindu ultra-nationalists continue their “brutal and relentless” violence against Christians and churches in the Indian state of Karnataka, according to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, who in a letter called on the state’s Chief Minister Siddaramiah to intervene. The seriousness of the situation is such that the central government acknowledged the situation, defining Karnataka as one of the six states in which extremist forces are targeting minorities for their own political end…

Pope Francis: Let anti-Semitism be banished from every heart (Vatican Radio) On Friday, Pope Francis met with members of Rome’s Jewish community to mark the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the city’s Jewish population during the Nazi occupation. Among those present were Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome; Dr. Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Jewish Community of Rome; and Dr. Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. “I’ve said it other times and I would like to repeat it now: It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” said the Pope. “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! Let anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman…”

Bishop Shahé Panossian elected primate of Lebanon (Catholicosate of Cilicia) On Monday, 7 October 2013, the Armenian Apostolic Diocesan Council of Lebanon met at St. Nishan Church in Beirut to elect a new primate of Lebanon from a short list of three names, ultimately selecting Bishop Shahé Panossian. The bishop was ordained deacon in 1976 and priest in 1980. From 1982-2006 he served, variously, as pastor of the Prelacy of Thessaloniki, Greece, and in the prelacies of Florida, Chicago and New Jersey in the United States of America. The former primate, Archbishop Gegham Khacheryan, resigned on 2 October…



Tags: India Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Armenian Apostolic Church Syrian Catholic

10 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




People enter the St. Simon Monastery 9 October to attend an event to commemorate the second anniversary of the clashes in Cairo’s Maspero Square, where 30 Christians were killed and more than 320 injured by security forces during a protest against discrimination. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

Two years after the massacre at Maspero, Copts still waiting for justice (Fides) On the second anniversary of the massacre of Maspero, which on 9 October 2011 saw dozens of Copts massacred by the departments of the Egyptian army, the Coptic community organized a vigil in Cairo with candles. The participants in the vigil yesterday showed photos of the victims and denounced again the perpetrators, pointing the finger at former General Marshal Hussein Tantawi and senior representatives of the army then. After the vigil, protesters tried to reach Tahrir Square in procession, but their attempt was prevented by army units that dispersed the demonstration by resorting to tear gas…

In Egypt, a campaign to promote an ‘Egyptian Islam’ (Washington Post) On a recent Friday, Egyptian officials dispatched an Islamic preacher named Mustafa Nawareg to a mosque full of angry people — distraught relatives and friends of demonstrators killed by security forces. It was a crowd used to hearing fiery sermons that called the dead “martyrs” and exhorted followers to take to the streets. But now the crowd would hear from Nawareg, who was sent there by the government to “correct the fallacies of extremist thought.” It took about five minutes for the shoes to start flying. “Come down from your stage, you infidel!” yelled a man as the crowd surged toward Nawareg. He felt hands clasp his neck before he managed to escape. Nawareg’s sermon was part of a campaign by Egypt’s military-backed government to “standardize religious discourse” and promote what authorities describe as the true “Egyptian Islam.” But critics say the effort could add fuel to a violent backlash that has included a suicide bombing in the heart of Cairo and regular attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula…

Orthodox Coptic bishop addresses bishops at plenary (B.C. Catholic) Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Mina of the Eparchy of Mississauga, Vancouver, shared the plight of Copts and other Christians in Egypt with Canada’s Catholic Bishops on 23 September. “Living in Canada and experiencing freedom of religion is something people take for granted,” Mina told the more than 80 bishops gathered at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (C.C.C.B.) annual plenary here. “It is my pleasure to clarify for your graces reality of events taking place in Egypt at this time…”

Christian graves in Jerusalem still being vandalized (Washington Post) Christian leaders in Israel are up in arms over what they say is a string of relentless attacks on church properties and religious sites — most recently the desecration of a historic Protestant cemetery where vandals toppled stone crosses from graves and bludgeoned them to pieces. The attack in the Protestant Cemetery of Mount Zion, one of Jerusalem’s most important historic graveyards, has struck a particularly sensitive nerve because some of the damaged graves belong to famous figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, a key period in Jerusalem’s history. Among them are a German diplomat, the founder of an orphanage who was a significant contributor to modernizing the city, and a relative of the owners of a prominent hotel…

Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate hosts theological conference (Basilica News Agency) On 3 October 2013, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel opened the International Theological Congress, an assembly joining representatives of state institutions, of hierarchs, and other participants from around the world. The conference will focus on the work of the late Rev. Dumitru Staniloae, a Romanian Orthodox priest, theologian and professor. “The role of the theologian is to emphasize spiritual virtues. I only want to underline the fact that Father Staniloae related the rationalist Occident to the contemplative Occident. Today, Father Staniloae is not only the famous Romanian theologian — he is a European who offers our country full European vocation and individualizes us as a nation,” said Victor Opaschi, Romania’s minister of religious affairs…



Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Jerusalem Coptic Orthodox Church Romanian Orthodox Church

9 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis greets New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and chair of CNEWA’s board, at the Vatican on 7 October. Leaders of the U.S.C.C.B. were at the Vatican for an annual meeting. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Cardinal Dolan reflects on meeting with Pope Francis (Vatican Radio) Of their half hour meeting with the pope, Cardinal Dolan said: “We conveyed to him the love and the admiration and the esteem and gratitude of the Catholic people of the United States, and indeed of the people of the United States and especially the bishops. We had spoken about a beautiful new sense of a freshness and creativity within the church that’s thanks to his providential leadership.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan says last week’s shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, in which hundreds of African migrants died, continues to bring tears to the pope’s eyes…

Pope Francis urges prayer for peace in embattled regions (VIS) In his greetings in various languages following today’s catechesis, the pope addressed with special affection the bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea, reiterating his closeness to them “in prayer and in suffering for the many sons of their land who lost their lives in the tragedy of Lampedusa.” Pope Francis also recalled, during his greetings to Arabic-speaking faithful Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” delivered a year ago in Lebanon. “I ask you to pray for peace in the Middle East: in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Lebanon and in the Holy Land, where the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, was born. Pray that the light of Christ reaches all hearts and all places, unto the ends of the earth…”

How the E.U. turns its back on refugees (Der Spiegel) They come seeking refuge, but when asylum seekers cross into the European Union, they often find little compassion. In Greece, they are held in squalid detention camps, while in Italy they often end up on the street. The correspondents of Spiegel Online report on the situation at entry points in various European countries…

Syria fighting continues amid disarmament program (Al Jazeera) Syrian government warplanes bombed rebel positions near a strategic northern town Tuesday, as international inspectors continued to tour production and storage facilities of the country’s chemical-weapons arsenal, activists said. The warfare is a reminder that the agreement to destroy the Assad regime’s unconventional weapons doesn’t address an ongoing civil war that has seen more than 100,000 killed with conventional arms…

World Bank: Israeli restrictions cost Palestinian economy billions (Los Angeles Times) Israeli restrictions in the West Bank cost the struggling Palestinian economy more than $3.4 billion a year, according to a report released by the World Bank on Tuesday. More than half of West Bank lands are largely off-limits to Palestinians, the report said. Increasing access to these lands could boost gross domestic production by as much as 35 percent, generate $800 million in additional annual revenue for the Palestinian Authority, cut its deficit in half and reduce reliance on foreign aid, it said…

Ousted Egyptian president to stand trial next month (Los Angeles Times) Muhammad Morsi, the deposed Egyptian president, will be put on trial next month, the state news agency reported Wednesday. Mr. Morsi, who has been detained since the military forced him from office on 3 July, will face charges of inciting the killing of opponents, an accusation that his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood have called trumped-up…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Israeli-Palestinian conflict Immigration

8 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




For Syrian refugees in Jordan, a new sense of home (New York Times) (slideshow)

Egyptian attacks escalating amid stalemate (New York Times) The lethal conflict between Egypt’s military-backed government and its Islamist opponents escalated on Monday, with an expansion of attacks against government targets, signs that the authorities have failed to secure the streets and that both sides refuse to back down. Three brazen attacks across the country included a drive-by shooting near the Suez Canal that killed six soldiers, a car bomb that killed three police officers and wounded dozens near the Red Sea resorts area, and the first rocket-propelled grenade launched in the struggle, exploding near an elite enclave of the capital and damaging a satellite transmitter…

Life goes on in Damascus, despite civil war (Der Spiegel) During dinners with politicians and professors, or in conversations in the narrow streets of the old city, everyone, without exception, expressed fear of the rebels. They worry that the rebels will be accompanied by fundamentalists, who will bring with them Sharia law. All the people we spoke with said that they distrust the West because the reasoning there is too simplistic and countries there set moral standards they fail to live up to themselves. And most said that while they don’t support Assad, they want to preserve their way of life. “Just look at what’s happening in Egypt and Libya,” said one man…

Christians march to denounce acts of intimidation by extremist settlers (Fides) A spontaneous march of Christians in Jerusalem was held on Monday, 7 October, through the streets of the Holy City to denounce the frequent desecration perpetrated by groups of extremist Jewish settlers against Christian places of worship. A group of more than 100 Christians, starting at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, then walked to Latin Catholic and Anglican cemeteries, desecrated in recent weeks with racist graffiti…

Patriarchs: Let us create a joint committee for dialogue (Fides) Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Church of the East, and Louis Raphael I, patriarch of the Chaldean Church, have come together in agreement regarding the creation of a “joint committee” as a tool to tackle together the difficulties shared by the two sister churches…



Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Violence against Christians Christian Unity

7 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Ecumenical Bartholomew I led the closing celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, beginning with a solemn doxology, in St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade on 5 October. (photo: Serbian Orthodox Church)

Orthodox Christians mark 1,700th anniversary of Edict of Milan (Yahoo! News) Eight Orthodox Christian leaders, dignitaries from other faiths, politicians and thousands of others on Sunday celebrated the anniversary of the Edict of Milan, which established toleration for Christianity in the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called in a sermon for more religious freedom and reconciliation, flanked by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Patriarch Kirill of Russia, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and their counterparts from Albania, Cyprus, Poland, Slovakia and other smaller Orthodox churches…

Kidnapped Italian Jesuit reported alive in Syria (Vatican Insider) “Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is alive and is being treated well by his kidnappers, who are members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) extremist group,” says anti-regime activist Khalaf Ali Khalaf, reporting on information received from Al Qaeda-affiliated sources close to the extremist group…

Chaldean Patriarchate prohibits unauthorized sale of church property (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has formally prohibited the sale of land and houses belonging to the patrimony of the church without permission “of the high ecclesiastical authorities.” The restrictive provision was made public in a statement on 5 October and makes explicit reference to the Holy See as a last resort call to grant licenses for the sale of properties belonging to the church…

Dozens killed in clashes as Egyptian identity politics turns violent (Christian Science Monitor) Large crowds gathered nationwide to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel. Supporters of former president Muhammad Morsi, ousted in a 3 July military takeover, also rallied in support of their leader and the democratic process they believe he embodies. In the capital, 30 anti-coup protesters were killed during pitched battles with the security services. Marching through the streets of west Cairo’s Dokki district, protesters shouted “we are not real… all this is photoshopped” in reference to the common refrain that Muslim Brotherhood supporters fabricate attendance numbers for the weekly demonstrations that have followed Mr. Morsi’s ouster…

At least 66 people killed in a day of bloodshed in Iraq (Washington Post) A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims passing through a mainly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad and another detonated his explosives inside a cafe north of the capital, the deadliest of several attacks across Iraq on Saturday that killed at least 66 people. The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, are part of the deadliest surge in violence to hit Iraq in five years. The accelerating bloodshed is raising fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that brought it to the edge of civil war in the years after the 2003 United States-led invasion…

Israelis, Palestinians intensify talks despite skepticism (Daily Star Lebanon) Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a new round of talks on Monday, picking up the tempo of their meetings at the request of the United States in the face of widespread skepticism that they will ever reach a deal. The two sides resumed direct peace negotiations in late July after three years of stalemate and have conducted a series of discussions far from the gaze of the media over recent weeks, without any outward hint of the slightest breakthrough…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Ecumenism Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

4 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 24 September photo, Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, right, greets Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia at the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin prior to the commencement of the first synod of the Armenian Apostolic Church in six centuries. (photo: Catholicosate of Cilicia)

Armenian Apostolic Church faces modern hurdles (New York Times) As church leaders gathered in Etchmiadzin last week for a rare bishops’ conference, they seemed to be ready to put differences aside as they confronted a new set of challenges: entrenched secularism at home, assimilation of followers in the large Armenian diaspora abroad and general disaffection with organized religion. “The church is in dire need of renewal,” Catholicos Aram I, the leader of the Lebanon-based faction of the church, said in an interview as he strolled across the campus here of the Mother See. “And by renewal, I mean the church has to be responsive to the needs and expectations of the people.” He added, “The church has to respond to the challenges of the present-day world…”

Christians under threat in Syria as Islamist extremists gain influence (Washington Post) When radical Islamists tore down a cross and hoisted a black flag above a church in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah last week, it underscored the increasingly hostile environment for the country’s Christians. Although Syria is majority Sunni Muslim, it is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, home to minorities including Christians, Druze and Shiite-offshoot Alawites and Ismailis. But the country’s conflict, now in its third year, is threatening that tapestry. While the primary front in the war has pitted Sunni against Shiite, Christians are increasingly caught in the firing line…

Muslim Brotherhood protest in Cairo challenges military rule (Al Jazeera) Defying a security crackdown, thousands of supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Muhammad Morsi marched in Cairo Friday toward Rabaa al Adawiya square, the site of their former protest camp, which security forces crushed in August, a Reuters witness said. At least one Muslim Brotherhood supporter died from a gunshot wound in Cairo after clashes broke out Friday in several cities throughout the country at pro-Morsi rallies, according to multiple sources…

Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church holds regular session (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill greeted the Holy Synod members, offered reflections on the 1025th anniversary of Christianization of Kievan Rus and introduced them to the agenda of the session, which focused heavily on pastoral formation and education…

Churches targeted by extremists in Karnataka (Fides) There has been a surge in anti-Christian violence in the state of Karnataka. The Evangelical Fellowship of India, which brings together thousands of evangelical Christian communities, said that religious services and prayer meetings of ecclesial communities over the last two months have been targeted, pastors beaten and Christians arrested. In recent episodes, Hindu fundamentalists attacked and looted a church in Mandya district in Karnataka…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Armenian Apostolic Church

3 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Rou’a, 10, from Daraya, plays on a swing with her cousin Abdullah, 2, at an informal refugee settlement in Talabaya in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The camp is home to some 55 families who fled to Lebanon from their homes in Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)

Flow of refugees destabilizes Lebanon (Der Spiegel) The flood of refugees is destabilizing an already weak and war-torn Lebanon, which borders Syria to the north and the east, and Israel to the south. The front between Sunnis and Shiites runs right through the heart of this tiny state, making Lebanon the focal point of a conflict that threatens to engulf the entire region. The Shiite Hezbollah militia uses Lebanon as a base for its struggle against the “Zionist enemy” — and since this spring, the group has been launching military operations here against the predominantly Sunni rebels in Syria…

Activists on all sides in Egypt feel the chill (Los Angeles Times) In Egypt, where nearly three years of political upheaval first toppled a tyrant, then ushered in and tossed out an Islamist government, and finally propelled a military man to power, activists of all stripes — many of them part of the country’s intellectual elite — are feeling the chill. To some, an increasingly authoritarian political climate is reminiscent of the bad old days under Hosni Mubarak. Back then many of those who dared dissent simply vanished into the maw of the security services, sometimes never to emerge. These days, though, the official dragnet extends far beyond the Brotherhood. Criticizing the army, the mere questioning of government policy, or expressing views that could be construed as sympathetic toward dead and detained Islamist “terrorists” has become a dangerous game…

Syrian Armenians move to disputed territory (AINA) Azerbaijan on Wednesday accused Armenia of resettling Syrian refugees in a disputed territory the two have been fighting over for decades. Azerbaijan’s United Nations ambassador said the rival neighbor had started a “very dangerous process” by moving Syrian Armenians into Nagorny Karabakh. Armenia says it has accepted more than 10,000 ethnic Armenians. But Armenia’s U.N. envoy said claims they have been moved into Nagorny Karabakh are “lies and distortion.” Azerbaijan’s U.N. envoy Agshin Mehdiyev said, in a news conference: “We have information that they already started it — settlement of Syrian refugees in occupied territories — and of course it is a very dangerous process with unpredictable consequences…”

University students in Gaza hit hard by blockade (Al Monitor) The siege surrounding Gaza has affected hundreds of university students. Many studying in universities outside of the strip have been unable to enroll for the new semester because of the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The blockade imposed on Gaza in the last two months has led to deteriorating economic conditions and the unemployment of tens of thousands of workers, the two student councils at Islamic University — male and female students have separate councils — have protested and suspended classes…

Mufti of Russia: Dialogue is the only road to peace in Syria (AsiaNews) The vice president of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rushan Abbyasov, says we must defend the Christian presence in Syria, and calls for “dialogue and prayer” as a way out of the crisis in Syria. The religious leader condemns both foreign military intervention as well as attacks against Christians in the Middle East…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia

2 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Eleven-year-old Syrian refugee Mohamad Zarzur, who survived the battle of Idlib, poses for a photo in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. He hopes one day to return to a peaceful Syria. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

Interfaith hospital on Turkish border helps Syrians save themselves (CNS) Two international aid organizations — the German Catholic Malteser International and the Turkish Muslim International Blue Crescent Relief — have come together to launch a 28-bed mobile hospital in the southern Turkey border town where locals say the normal population of 88,000 has nearly doubled with the influx of refugees. The doctors, nurses and support staff at the new hospital, which opened on 13 September, are all Syrian…

Fighting breaks out in another historic Syrian village (Fides) Following the violence in Maaloula, the war has spread to Sednaya, a village in the north of Damascus known for its historical, cultural and religious heritage. Sednaya is characterized by a large presence of churches and monasteries and a local community that speaks Aramaic. The village is under constant threat of Islamist militias that organize raids to terrorize the civilian population…

Beirut: Syrian refugees adapt to makeshift lives (Al Jazeera) The Lebanese government estimates that 1.2 million Syrians have come to Lebanon since the uprising began in March 2011. The refugees span the entire social and economic strata of Syrian society. Some are rich, some are poor; many are from the towns and villages that have been pummeled by government airstrikes and artillery fire. Others have escaped the urban combat in Idlib, Aleppo or the Damascus suburbs. Four refugee families from Syria reveal a cross-section of this emerging society, sharing many concerns…

Syrian schools start new year — a return to some normality for kids (Los Angeles Times) Despite a raging civil war, schools opened last month across the capital and elsewhere in government-controlled swaths of Syria, where officials have long boasted of a comprehensive and free public education system. In Damascus, more than 800 schools opened their doors to about 500,000 students, said Atef Hassan, a veteran teacher and official at the Ministry of Education. Administrators insisted on starting fall classes on time despite the daunting challenges facing Syria’s battered educational infrastructure…

Nearly 1,000 Iraqis killed In September (Boston Herald) Sectarian bloodshed has surged to levels not seen in Iraq since 2008. More than 5,000 people have been killed since April, when a deadly government raid on a Sunni protest camp unleashed a new round of violence that showed Al Qaeda in Iraq is still strong despite years of U.S.-Iraqi offensives against the terror group. At least 979 people — 887 civilians and 92 soldiers and national policemen — were killed in September, a 22 percent increase from the previous month, the United Nations mission in Iraq said Tuesday…



Tags: Iraq Refugees Syrian Civil War Education Health Care

1 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis greets a member of an international meeting for peace on 30 September at the Vatican. The pope met with religious, political and cultural leaders who were gathered for an annual dialogue on peace that began in 1986 with Blessed John Paul II in Assisi. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Dialogue for peace is religious obligation, pope tells leaders (CNS) Peace is so difficult to find because men and women struggle to stop focusing on their own interests long enough to listen to and learn from others, Pope Francis said. Pope Francis told the leaders that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to peace through their prayers and their actions, but for religious leaders that obligation is absolute because “the commandment of peace is deeply inscribed in the religious traditions we represent…”

Heads of churches visit Al Aqsa in solidarity (Fides) A delegation of senior representatives of the Christian churches of Jerusalem carried out a visit to the Mosque of Al Aqsa on Monday, 30 September, to publicly express their solidarity with the local Muslim community after the recent provocative actions staged by Jewish pro-settlement extremists nearby. The delegation included Catholic Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate; Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani; and the Armenian Patriarchal Vicar Joseph Kelekian…

Chaldean patriarch urges Muslim-Christian unity (Daily Star Lebanon) At the close of his visit to Lebanon, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I said the fate of the region depends upon Lebanon’s ability to maintain Christian-Muslim unity. The patriarch called on all Lebanese to “unite, leave their petty disputes behind and look to the future, because the region’s fate is tied to Christian and Muslim unity in Lebanon…”

Coptic bishop escapes assassination attempt in Egypt (AINA) Bishop Anba Makarios of Minya was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempted this morning. The bishop was driving into the town of Al Sario in the Minya province when his car came under a hail of bullets from several unidentified persons. The bishop’s driver was able to drive away and he brought the bishop to the home of a local Copt, where they took refuge. But the gunmen followed, surrounded the Copt’s house and shot at it for over 90 minutes, causing extensive damage to its windows, doors and walls…

Countries hosting Syrian refugees stretched to the limit (VOA) Participants at a United Nations refugee conference in Geneva are appealing for stronger international support for countries hosting large Syrian refugee populations. They say four neighboring countries of asylum are stretched to the limit. A U.N. video graphically shows the anguished evolution of Syria’s humanitarian crisis. What began as a series of peaceful protests in March 2011 has developed into a catastrophic situation in which more than 100,000 people have been killed and more than two million Syrians have fled the country…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Christian-Muslim relations





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