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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
12 July 2017
Greg Kandra




The powerful video above, shot from a drone after Mosul’s liberation from ISIS, shows the devastation of one of Iraq’s largest cities. (video: Radio Free Europe/YouTube)

Iraq celebrates victory over ISIS, but challenges remain (The New York Times) It is a moment for Iraqis to celebrate after nearly nine months of bloody warfare against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. But despite the flaring of hope for a new national unity, the government’s costly victory in Mosul and the questions hanging over its aftermath feel more like the next chapter in the long story of Iraq’s unraveling...

Kurdish leader sponsors referendum on independence (Fides) The referendum convened by the government of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan to sanction their independence from Iraq is a decisive step for the future of that region...

Copts keep the faith (Financial Times) In their 20 centuries of history since Saint Mark brought Christianity to Egypt, Coptic Christians have endured intermittent waves of persecution at the hands of Roman and Muslim rulers. But in modern times, there has been nothing like the scale of the threat posed by Isis, which declared the community in February to be its “primary target and favorite prey...”

Tension and violence reported among radicals in India (Fides) In the past few days, clashes and violent protests of the local Muslim community occurred in the Western Bengal state, after the provocation of a young Hindu extremist who on the social network Facebook had insulted Islam. After days of tension and violence, police managed to restore calm in the towns of Baduria and Basirhat, in the “North 24 Parganas” district...

Catholics and Anglicans share education projects for Syrians (Fides) The episcopal Church of Jerusalem, belonging to the Anglican Communion, signed a partnership protocol with Caritas Jordan on Tuesday, 11 July, to jointly set up a project regarding school assistance for children belonging to Syrian refugee families...



11 July 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from January, residents of Mosul celebrate the partial liberation of their city from ISIS control by taking a selfie in front of Iraqi security forces. Six months later, the country’s prime minister has declared the city completely liberated, and expressed hope that Christians will return. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Iraq’s prime minister: we hope Christians return soon to Mosul (Fides) After the liberation of the city of Mosul, from the militia of the self-styled Islamic State that had conquered the city in June 2014, the hope is “that all displaced people and the sons of religions, nationalities and creeds come back, including Christians in particular, to their homes in Mosul.” This is what Iraqi Prime Minister Haider at Abadi said on Monday 10 July, to a delegation of Christians in Mosul...

Syrian truce survives first day (The New York Times) Representatives of Syria’s warring parties gathered in Geneva on Monday for the seventh round of peace talks, as a limited truce, negotiated by their big-power backers, appeared to be holding for a full day in southwest Syria, according to local residents and human rights monitors...

U.N. official: Gaza may already be ‘unlivable’ (The Times of Israel) e Gaza Strip may already be “unlivable,” a United Nations official warns, after a decade of Hamas rule and a crippling Israeli blockade. Robert Piper, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the West Bank and Gaza, tells AFP in an interview to mark a new report on living conditions in Gaza that all the “indicators are going in the wrong direction...”

Indian’s Supreme Court stays government ban on cow slaughter (AP) India’s top court on Tuesday stayed for three months a ban introduced by the Hindu nationalist government on the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter. The Supreme Court approved a lower court ruling that said people have a basic right to choose their food...

Eritrean capital, once known as ‘Little Rome,’ becomes a World Heritage site (The New York Times) The capital of Eritrea has been designated a World Heritage site by Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization. The capital, Asmara, is sometimes called “Africa’s Miami” because of its many Art Deco buildings. The city flourished when Eritrea was an Italian colony, from 1889 until World War II, and it became a paradise for Italian architects, who could try out their boldest ideas there, away from Europe’s conservative cultural norms. In the 1930’s, nearly half of Asmara’s residents were Italian, earning the capital another nickname, “Little Rome...”



10 July 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Iraqi forces are seen declaring victory over ISIS in Mosul.
(video: ABC News/YouTube)


Iraq’s prime minister arrives in Mosul, declares victory over ISIS (The New York Times) Dressed in a military uniform, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived here in Mosul on Sunday to congratulate Iraq’s armed forces for wresting the city from the Islamic State. The victory marked the formal end of a bloody campaign that lasted nearly nine months, left much of Iraq’s second-largest city in ruins, killed thousands of people and displaced nearly a million more...

The continued suffering of civilians in Mosul (Vatican Radio) Iraqi forces slowly advanced Monday to retake the last patch of ground in Mosul where Islamic State militants are holding on to a tiny sliver of the Old City. The operation comes a day after the prime minister visited the soldiers to congratulate troops on the hard-fought battle...

Turkey says for now it will not expropriate Christian churches around Mardin (Fides) Turkey declares that it has not yet implemented any measure to expropriate 50 Christian churches and monasteries scattered around Mardin, in the Turkish southwestern Tur Abdin region, to transfer its full control to Diyanet, the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs, a body directly linked to the Prime Minister...

A 700-year-old Christian tradition thrives in Jerusalem (CNA) In the Old City of Jerusalem it’s hard to escape the ancient history that’s still alive within its walls. A simple smartphone search can send you on a walk to a centuries-old shop, bring you to the steps of a millennium-old Church, or lead you past the 3,000 year-old Temple Mount — all bursting with people and energy. But it's only within the stone walls of Razzouk Ink that the modern pilgrim can have that history etched onto his or her body for the rest of their lives...



7 July 2017
Greg Kandra




The video above shows civilians still trapped in Mosul, as the battle against ISIS there rages on in its final days. (video: AFP/YouTube)

No escape from Mosul, and an unlikely chance of surrender (The New York Times) More than eight months after the Iraqi forces, supported by American airstrikes and advisers, began to wrest Mosul back from the Islamic State extremists, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appears to be poised to announce that the forces have finally retaken all of Iraq’s second-largest city. In Mosul, that victory appears to be tantalizingly close, but not quite at hand...

Stories patients told me in Mosul (The New York Times) There are unknown thousands of residents still trapped in Mosul. People who have managed to escape describe a dire situation. They say that Islamic State fighters, surrounded by the Iraqi forces, have been holding the population hostage and use them as human shields. Civilians have few options. Escape and risk the Islamic State snipers’ bullets, or stay and risk being accidentally hit by shells or mortars from the Iraqi forces...

Maronite bishops express concerns over private weapons (Fides) The proliferation of private weapons among civilians worries the Maronite bishops who call upon the Lebanese authorities to counteract it with effective measures. The Maronite bishops expressed their concerns about the spread of individual weapons among the civilians during their monthly meeting, held on Wednesday, 5 July, in the patriarchal seat in Berkeley...

Egypt’s Copts have no plans to arm youth groups (Al Monitor) Despite a recent news report, the Coptic Church of Egypt has no intention of arming or training its parishioners to fight, according to Bishop Anba Makarios, the top Coptic Orthodox cleric in Minya governorate...

Prime Minister Modi gives Netanyahu replicas of relics from Kerala (The Hindu) Prime Minister Karendra Modi on Tuesday gifted his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, with replicas of two sets of relics from Kerala, regarded as key artifacts of the long Jewish history in India...

Legendary photographer visits isolated Christian community in Ethiopia (Smithsonian) A sacred encounter, reminiscent of the biblical scene in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, was a highlight of the extraordinary journey that led Sebastião Salgado to create the pictures on these pages. They commemorate a people’s profound connection to both the heavens and the earth...



6 July 2017
Greg Kandra




In this photo from 2016, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill reads a payer during the Christmas service at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Russia’s Orthodox church has just reported a sharp rise in seminary admissions, with a record number now training for the priesthood.
(photo: CNS/Sergei Chirikov, EPA)


Iraqi Prime Minister: ‘We managed to liberate Mosul’ (Reuters) Iraq’s prime minister on Tuesday congratulated his fighters on “the big victory in Mosul” — even as fighting with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS) militants continued in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood where Iraqi forces are about 250 meters from the Tigris River and facing increasingly fierce resistance. Haider al-Abadi spoke during a press conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to ISIS’ self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces achieved an incremental win by retaking the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City. “Praise be to God, we managed to liberate (Mosul) and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said...

Russian Orthodox church sees sharp rise in vocations (The Tablet) Russia’s Orthodox church has reported a sharp rise in seminary admissions, with the highest numbers ever recorded now training for the priesthood in its 261 eparchies, or dioceses. The Interfax news agency said 1593 ordinands were expected to begin studies this summer, a 19 percent increase from 2016, while a further 827 young men would also join the church’s preparatory course, or propaedeuticum, a quarter more than last year. It added that a total of 5877 seminarians were now preparing for ordination, a figure comparable to that of Poland’s Catholic Church in its peak years 1985-7...

Catholic and Reformed Churches mark ecumenical milestone (Vatican Radio) Another “milestone” in ecumenical relations takes place in the German town of Wittenberg on Wednesday, as the World Communion of Reformed Churches signs up to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification...

Indian archbishop warns about harassing Christians (Crux) Hindu nationalists are using “the conversion bogey” to harass Christians and other religious minorities in India. Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, SDB, Archbishop emeritus of Guwahati, spoke to Crux about the situation of Christians in the country on the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, who is believed to have brought the Gospel to India, and to have been martyred near modern day Chennai. Thomas is the patron saint of the country, and the 3 July celebration is a solemnity in India...

UNESCO: no changes to alter the status of Jerusalem holy sites (Fides) The old city of Jerusalem and its historic walls remain in the list of world heritage sites to be considered “in danger.” And all the “facts” and the legislative or administrative measures put in place by Israel that have altered or claimed to alter the character and status of the Holy City should be considered null and void and revoked. This is how the resolution on the status of the Old Town of Jerusalem was voted on Wednesday 5 July by participants at the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, gathered in Krakow...



5 July 2017
Greg Kandra




The Vatican’s nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, greets religious leaders during an interfaith conference at Notre Dame University Louaize in Zouk Mosbeh, Lebanon, on 1 July.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Mychel Akl, Maronite Catholic Patriarchate)


Agencies worry about refugees in limbo (CNS) Agencies and organizations that help refugees start new lives in the U.S. worry about the fate that awaits migrants in transit as well as those who will not be allowed into the country as the partial ban that the U.S. Supreme Court set in motion with its late June ruling goes into effect in early July...

Christian, Muslims leaders point to Lebanon as a model of coexistence (CNS) Top Christian and Muslim leaders and Lebanese government representatives agreed that Lebanon should be highlighted as an example of peaceful coexistence, noting that “the deepening of democracy in Lebanon sends a message of hope to the Arabs and to the world.” They also reiterated calls for peace and various churches’ support for “the Palestinian people and their national rights” and for Christians to remain in the Holy Land...

After backing Trump, Christians who fled Iraq fall into his dragnet (The New York Times) A few Sundays ago, federal immigration agents walked through the doors of handsome houses here in the Detroit suburbs, brushing past tearful children, stunned wives and statuettes of the Virgin Mary in search of men whose time was up. If the Trump administration prevails, more than 100 of these men may soon be deported, like the tens of thousands of other people rounded up this year as part of a national clampdown on illegal immigration. But the arrests may have stunned this community more than most...

Can jobs in Ethiopia keep Eritrean refugees out of Europe? (BBC) Many thousands of Eritreans have fled the country for Europe in search for a better life. A multinational initiative is now trying to stem the flow of migrants to Europe by training refugees and giving them jobs in neighboring Ethiopia...

India’s West Bengal state tops trafficking in children, women (Vatican Radio) There were 35,000 cases of child trafficking and 1,25,750 cases of women trafficking reported in India in 2016-17, with West Bengal state topping in both categories, a senior official of the National Anti-Trafficking Committee (NATC) has said...

Regardless of your religion, it’s worth making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (The Sunday Times) Jerusalem is my high school history teacher, a teller of captivating stories that makes history real today. In a single morning, I heard a nun sing the Lord’s prayer in Aramaic, which was the language of Jesus; I visited a Russian Orthodox church; and then I watched children celebrate the 2500-year-old Jewish holiday of Purim on an ancient Roman road...

Pilgrimage to Ethiopia’s 12th century churches (Al Jazeera) The 11 medieval churches hewn from solid, volcanic rock in the heart of Ethiopia were built on the orders of King Lalibela in the 12th century. Lalibela set out to construct a “New Jerusalem” in Africa after Muslims conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Legend has it that the design and layout of the churches mimic those observed by the king in Jerusalem, which he had visited as a youth. Many place names across the town are also said to originate from the king’s memories of the Biblical city...



30 June 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a young survivor of the recent attack on a Coptic Christian church describes what he witnessed. (video: AfricaNews/YouTube)

Survivor of Coptic church attack tells his story (Reuters) Ten-year-old Egyptian schoolboy Mina Habib recounts the day Islamist gunmen killed his father in an attack on a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in Minya, southern Egypt last month. The boy rarely leaves his house these days. He is still recovering from seeing Islamist gunmen kill his father for being a Christian...

Lebanon refugee camps hit by suicide bombers (BBC) Five militants have blown themselves up during a raid by Lebanese troops on refugee camps near the Syrian border, Lebanon’s army said. A young girl was killed and three soldiers wounded by the blasts. Four others were hurt when an attacker threw a hand grenade, the army said. It happened during an operation to search for militants and weapons in an area near the town of Arsal...

Christians in the Golan Heights endure (AFP) Few Christians remain on the Israeli-held part of the strategic plateau northeast of the Sea of Galilee, where Christians believe Jesus walked on water. Only two isolated Christian families still live there, according to the families themselves and a researcher on the Golan Heights. Their churches open only on rare occasions, such as for a recent solidarity visit by Arabs from the Israeli cities of Haifa and Nazareth...

Report confirms chemical weapons used in Syria (The New York Times) Sarin nerve agent or a similar poison was used in the 4 April aerial attack in northern Syria that killed nearly 100 villagers, including children, the monitoring group that polices the chemical arms ban treaty concluded Thursday in a report shared with United Nations diplomats...

New liquor policy comes to Kerala (India Legal) It was champagne time for the tourism, liquor and hospitality industry in Kerala recently. What brought good cheer was the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s decision to scrap the phased prohibition policy initiated by the Congress-led UDF government that preceded it. Justifying the move, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan labelled the earlier policy as “impractical...”



29 June 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, a volunteer embraces refugee children at a makeshift camp in near Idomeni, Greece. The Holy See has called for financial donations to developing countries to go toward supporting migrants, refugees and the local poor.
(photo: CNS/Nikos Arvanitdis, pool via EPA)


Holy See calls for donations to help migrants and the poor (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has called for financial donations to developing countries hosting refugees and forced migrants to go equally towards supporting arriving migrants and the local poor. It also said migrants and refugees should be both welcomed in their countries of arrival and accompanied before, during, and after their migratory journey...

Rosaries and rifles: Christians battling ISIS in Raqa (AFP) As the fightback against IS intensified the Syriac Military Council (SMC) — formed in 2013 to defend the community during Syria’s civil war — joined with the SDF. After a months-long operation to encircle Raqa, the SDF burst into the city on 6 June and are chipping away at jihadist-held districts, with help from heavy US-led coalition air strikes. Now the SMC’s fighters are battling jihadists on the frontline in Raqa, some proudly wearing their religion on their sleeves — literally. Many fighters have tattoos of rosaries inked around their wrists and the word "JESUS" printed down their forearms...

The courage of a Christian town on the frontline of Jihad (Newsweek) Qaa has now become a symbol for the courage of Christians of Lebanon — and not for the first time. During Lebanon’s civil war (1975-90), Qaa’s Christians were the target of sectarian attacks and, later,on the receiving end of regime brutality during the Syrian occupation, which only ended in 2005 after the Cedar Revolution...

A new island in the Mediterranean? (The New York Times) Israel’s intelligence and transport minister has long pushed the idea of an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip, with plans for a port, cargo terminal and even an airport to boost the territory’s economy and connect it to the world. But now the minister, Israel Katz, has released a slick, high-production video setting out his proposal in more detail, complete with a dramatic, English-speaking narration, colorful graphics and stirring music...



28 June 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the leader of an NGO providing support in the Middle East describes the remarkable and unshakable faith of the Iraqi people she has met. (video: Rome Reports)

Airstrike on ISIS prison reportedly kills dozens (The New York Times) An airstrike in eastern Syria destroyed a house that the Islamic State had turned into a prison, killing dozens of people, Syrian activists said Tuesday, and they blamed the military coalition led by the United States for the attack. A spokesman for the coalition confirmed that it had bombed buildings controlled by the Islamic State in the area on Monday and said that it was investigating the reports of civilian deaths...

Iraqi military says it has retaken two Mosul neighborhoods (Reuters) Iraq’s military said on Wednesday it had retaken two more neighborhoods from Islamic State in Mosul’s Old City, bringing it closer to total control of the city...

Some towns in Italy seek refugees for economic growth (Financial Review) During the past decade, a flood of migrants and refugees has begun to replace the Italians who left. From 2008 to 2013, the percentage of foreign migrant workers in the Italian farm industry nearly doubled to 37 per cent from 19 per cent, according to the National Institute of Agricultural Economics...

Unpacking recent violence against Egypt’s Copts (Eurasia Review) On 26 May, the Islamic State (ISIS) murdered 29 Coptic Christians on a bus in Minya, the latest targeting of Egypt’s largest minority community. Three church bombings since December, also claimed by ISIS, have killed over 70 Copts. The government of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi casts itself as the protector of Egyptian Copts, and violence against them appears to result straightforwardly from the ideological-strategic imperatives of ISIS. Yet such a shallow narrative is inadequate to understand recent outbreaks of violence affecting the Coptic community...

Gaza on the brink (Foreign Affairs) An ongoing electricity crisis is placing an inordinate amount of pressure on Gaza. If not addressed, it could end with a political implosion, a full-blown humanitarian disaster, and yet another round of violence between Hamas and Israel...

Cyberattack hits Ukraine, then spreads (The New York Times) Computer systems from Ukraine to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that was similar to a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide...



27 June 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Vatican.
(photo: Vatican Radio)


Pope meets Orthodox delegation from Ecumenical Patriarchate (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with members of an Orthodox delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate who are here in Rome to celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In his greeting, the Pope noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first exchange of visits between a Roman pontiff and an Ecumenical Patriarch. It was those historic encounters that inaugurated the tradition of sending Catholic and Orthodox delegations to Rome and Istanbul to celebrate the patron saints of the East and Western Churches...

ISIS counterattacks stall parts of Mosul push (AP) Counterattacks by Islamic State militants on the western edge of Mosul have stalled Iraqi forces’ push in the Old City, the last IS stronghold in the battle, an Iraqi officer said Tuesday. The attacks forced Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition to pull some assets away from the Old City to again clear the Yarmouk and Tanak neighborhoods, which were declared liberated of IS in May...

ISIS loses ground in Sinai, searches for foothold in Egypt (Al Monitor) The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced June 22 the killing of seven people it believed were involved in recent attacks against Copts, including church bombings and shootings in which about 100 people were killed. The ministry said in a statement it was “certain that a group of individuals had been stationed in some areas in the Western Desert, where they received military training on how to use weapons and assemble explosive devices in order to carry out more terrorist attacks...”

Pope Francis marks 25 years as a bishop (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Tuesday morning in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, together with the members of the College of Cardinals present in the city, in roder to mark the 25th jubilee of his ordination to the episcopacy. The Dean of the College of Cardinals offered greetings and best wishes to Pope Francis on the occasion, recalling the words of St. Paul the Apostle in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, “Make room for us in your hearts,” Cardinal Sodano said. “Holy Father, you need not tell us to make room for you in our hearts,” he continued, pledging him all the love and reverence due the Successor to Peter...







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