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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
19 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Refugees who have fled Mosul arrive at a camp for internally displaced persons.
(photo: Gail Orenstein/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Syria says U.S. air strike killed soldiers (AP) A Syrian military official said Friday that an aerial “aggression” by the U.S.-led coalition on a government military position near the border with Jordan the day before killed several soldiers and caused material damage. The strike was the first such close confrontation between U.S. forces and fighters backing President Bashar Assad and the development is likely to increase tensions in the war-torn country...

The last stand of ISIS in Mosul will test Iraqi forces (The Washington Post) After making rapid gains in a new offensive, Iraqi forces are close to choking off the last bastion of several hundred Islamic State fighters dug into the twisting alleyways and narrow streets of Mosul’s Old City. The final push will be led by Iraqi’s U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service units, the same forces that first entered the eastern reaches of the city in October when the battle to retake the city began, officers said. The plan involves clearing the final few neighborhoods north of the Old City and surrounding the square-mile-wide neighborhood...

Bishops say Church cannot ignore injustice in Israel-Palestine conflict (CAN) The Catholic Church will speak out against injustice and avoid any attempt to normalize the “festering wound” of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, a commission from the region’s leading Catholic bishops has said...

Trump embarks on trip to Middle East (Reuters) With turmoil enveloping his administration at home, President Donald Trump heads abroad on Friday for a trip the White House hopes will shift focus away from domestic controversies and on to his foreign policy agenda...

Russian patriarch asks U.N., Pope to intervene over religious laws (RT) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has appealed to a number of international religious and political leaders, asking them to not let Kiev enforce its recent initiative that might see Orthodox religious communities diminished in Ukraine...



18 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Displaced Iraqis rest amid rubble after fleeing fighting between Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces and Islamic State militants on 15 May in Mosul. (photo: CNS/Danish Siddiqui, Reuters)

U.N. expects 200,000 more people to be driven from Mosul as fighting intensifies (Reuters) The United Nations said on Thursday up to 200,000 more people could flee Mosul as Iraqi forces push into the last districts held by Islamic State militants. Iraqi authorities and aid agencies are already struggling to cope with a surge in displacement since security forces opened a new front against the militants in Mosul earlier this month...

Turkey opens ‘city’ for orphans of Syrian war (BBC) Turkey has opened a vast center dedicated to housing and educating orphans from war-torn Syria. The complex, in the south-eastern border town of Reyhanli, will house 990 children in what Turkish media say is a cozy, home environment. They will live in 55 villas and have access to four schools, a mosque, a playground and a sports arena...

Indian religious groups meet to prepare for catastrophes (Vatican Radio) Caritas India in New Delhi on Tuesday, brought together faith-based organizations active in disaster management to create a network to help India become more resilient when catastrophe strikes. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Buddhist organizations participated in the meeting along with former government officials from the Disaster Management Authority. “It is time not only to be change-makers but also make others into change-makers,” said Swamini Adityanand Saraswati from the Global Interfaith Wash Alliance while addressing the meeting...

Gaza left in dark amid power struggle (BBC) By night, much of the Gaza Strip is plunged into darkness with streets lit only by the headlights of passing cars...

Copts who sought sanctuary ordered back to Egypt (The Australian) Ashraf Boshre spent 48 years double-checking that the security doors of his home in Giza, Egypt, were firmly locked before going to sleep. A Coptic Christian, the 51-year-old brought his wife, Amany, and daughters Maria, 24, Mira, 19, and Monica, 13, to Australia in late 2013 on a visitors’ visa, before applying for protection following decades of abuse. “When I’m walking the street, going to church (here), no one is going to come attack you,” said Mr. Boshre, who now lives in Sydney’s south. “No one is going to come attack your daughters because they’re not wearing the head cover. It helps me, I feel happy.” But within days, Mr. Boshre, his family, his parents Ibrahim and Nora, and sisters will be asked to buy plane tickets and return to Giza...



17 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis prepares to use incense to venerate an icon of the Holy Family as he celebrates Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo on 29 April. UNESCO plans to declare the path taken by the Holy Family through Egypt as a World Heritage site. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

‘Path of the Holy Family’ to be recognized by UNESCO (Fides) UNESCO is preparing to recognize the “Path of the Holy Family,” the itinerary that unites the places traveled, according to the millennial traditions, by Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus when they found refuge in Egypt to escape the violence of Herod, as “World Heritage” of humanity. This is what Adel Gindy, general head of the international relations of the Egyptian tourism development Authority reported to national media...

Syria denies it burned bodies of political prisoners (The New York Times) The Syrian government forcefully rejected on Tuesday accusations by the United States that the bodies of thousands of political prisoners had been disposed of in a crematory at a prison near Damascus, describing the allegations as “lies” to justify American aggression...

The Mosul families who lived in fear (Metro.co.uk) With ISIS on the brink of defeat in Mosul, a dark chapter in the history of the city looks set to come to an end. But for those civilians who fled, or found themselves trapped by the militants, there remains a long road ahead. Metro.co.uk spoke to the Iraqis who are trying to rebuild the lives that the terror group destroyed...

Ukraine’s president says his official website hit by a cyberattack (BBC) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s official website has been hit by an “organised” cyber-attack from Russia, his administration has said. It said it was Russia’s response to Mr Poroshenko’s decree banning some of Russia’s biggest social media networks and net services popular in Ukraine...

Russia fights computer virus with holy water (CNA) After malware hacked as many as 200,000 computers throughout the world, the Russians have an idea: blessing the computers with holy water...



16 May 2017
Greg Kandra




An Iraqi Federal Police member walks next to a destroyed house after their clashes with Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq, on 28 April. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Iraq says battle for Mosul is nearly won (Reuters) Iraqi forces have dislodged Islamic State from all but 12 square km of Mosul, a military spokesman said on Tuesday, after planes dropped leaflets into the city telling civilians the battle was nearly won. Seven months into the U.S.-backed campaign, the militants now control only a few districts in the western half of Mosul including the Old City, where Islamic State is expected to make its last stand...

U.S. says Syria built crematoriums to handle mass prisoner killings (The Washington Post) The Syrian government has constructed and is using a crematorium at its notorious Sednaya military prison near Damascus to clandestinely dispose of the bodies of prisoners it continues to execute inside the facility, the State Department said Monday...

Local Muslims contribute to building of Christian church in Egypt (Fides) It took little more than a year to build the second church in the village of Ismailia, in the Egyptian province of Minya. The Christian place of worship was also built in a short space of time thanks to the financial contribution of the local Muslim population. The inauguration of the new church, dedicated to St. George and the Virgin Mary, took place last week with the festive participation of many villagers, Christians and Muslims...

Catholic bishops seek help from Indian president to protect indigenous people (Vatican Radio) Catholic bishops from India's tribal lands have sought the intervention of President Pranab Mukherjee to ensure the rights of millions of adivasis or indigenous people. The memorandum signed by bishops from six states with large tribal populations said they were “saddened” by the policies of state governments that have trampled over tribal people’s rights...

Letter from patriarch regarding his resignation (ByzCath.org) Abandonment of Patriarchal Service is the culmination of my Catholic Christian, monastic and humanitarian life’s work: a period during which the Holy Savior has bestowed his blessings on me...

Russia finances restorations of ‘Star Street’ in Bethlehem (Fides) The Russian government has decided to finance $4 million in restoration and reconstruction work in the historic center of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus...



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Muslim ISIS

15 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis leads the Regina Coeli on Sunday 14 May. After, he entrusted all those suffering from war and conflict to Mary, the Queen of Peace. (photo: CNS/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope entrusts those afflicted by war to Mary, Queen of Peace (Vatican Radio) Following the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis entrusted “to Mary, the Queen of Peace, the destiny of the peoples afflicted by wars and conflicts, particularly in the Middle East.” Many innocent people, he said, whether Christians, or Muslims, or members of minority groups such as the Yazidis, are “sorely tried,” suffering “tragic violence and discrimination...”

Activists say airstrikes on ISIS town killed at least 20 (AP) Syrian activists say airstrikes on a town held by the Islamic State group near the Iraqi border have killed at least 20 civilians. It isn’t clear who is behind the raid on Boukamal but various activist groups blame the U.S.-led coalition, which is waging war on IS. The claims could not be independently verified...

Bishop: Copts make up 15 percent of Egyptian population (Egyptian Independent) Copts are not a minority in Egyptian society as they number about 15 million, which is equivalent to more than 15 percent of the total population, said Bishop Daniel, Pope Tawadros’s deputy. In a welcoming ceremony for the African media delegation on behalf of Pope Tawadros II, who is currently on a pastoral tour to Egyptian churches in Europe, Daniel said Africa used to fall under the pastoral range of the Pope of the Coptic Church...

Kuwaiti doctors treating refugees in Jordan (Arab Times) Al-Rahma International, an affiliate of Kuwait’s Social Reforms Society, has sent in a team of medical volunteers of various specialties to treat Syrian refugees in the Kingdom...

Muslim birth rate on the rise in Kerala (Times of India) The Muslim birth rate in the state has been rising steadily, while the birth rate of Hindus and Christians has marked a decline, an analysis of vital statistics report prepared by economics and statistics department reveal...



12 May 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from February, a man fills buckets with drinking water in a public filling area in Aleppo, Syria. The U.N. reports that Aleppo is on the road to recovery, but it will be a long journey. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)

Aleppo progresses along the road to recovery (UNHCR) Six months on from the east Aleppo evacuations — when civilians first saw a glimmer of hope after many months of miserable existence and enormous suffering — life for some is slowly restarting. But the road to recovery will be a long one. There is catastrophic damage to infrastructure, destroyed homes and shops and questions over how those returning to their former lives can earn a living...

Maronite bishops praise establishment of ‘ministry for the fight against corruption’ in Lebanon (Fides) The national emergencies that all Lebanon’s political forces must urgently face are the fight against the “cancer” of corruption and the search for a widest possible consensus around a new electoral law that will allow the country to renew Parliament and safeguard it from the risk of falling into a new institutional paralysis. These are the suggestions addressed to Lebanese political forces by the Maronite Bishop’s Assembly which gathered on Wednesday, 10 May at the patriarchal seat of Bkerkè...

A helping hand for refugees in Jordan (Vatican Radio) With more than 5 million Syrian refugees living in nearby countries, ‘Collateral Repair Project’ is a charitable organization in Jordan that brings desperately-needed assistance to these refugees and other victims of war and conflict, those commonly referred to as “collateral damage...”

Islamic preacher faces religious contempt charges for calling Christians and Jews ‘infidels’ (Fides) Sheikh Salem Abdul Jalil has tried to soften the controversy caused by his recent televised statement in which he defined Christians and Jews “infidels” and their doctrine “corrupt.” But the controversy around the case does not seem to stop: several jurists — including Coptic Naguib Gabriel — denounced the Muslim Sheikh to the judicial authority on charges of religious contempt. And Jalil could appear before the judges on 25 June...

Documentary on Bethlehem turns into a mission for peace (Catholic Register) Finding peace in the birthplace of Christ has been an elusive mission, but one that Leila Sansour has taken on with determined vigour through her documentary film Open Bethlehem.The film, originally released in 2014, follows Sansour in her campaign to stop the building of a wall which Israel considers essential for protection from terrorists and Palestine says is meant to isolate its citizens. Whatever the viewpoint, what Sansour saw was her hometown suffering immensely because of the wall construction...



11 May 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from March, a Syrian refugee widow, 25-years-old Hawla Shafi, who fled from the Syrian town of Raqqa, is seen with her children in front of an abandoned electric transformer building in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Raqqa has just been recaptured by the opposition forces.
(photo: Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


U.S.-led coalition lauds capture of ISIS town in Syria (AP) The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says the Kurdish-led Syrian opposition forces’ capture of a key town and nearby dam in eastern Syria from the militants undermines IS’s ability to defend its de facto capital, Raqqa. Thursday’s coalition statement says the fall of Tabqa and its dam the day before also denies ISIS “a key coordination hub” used by the group’s foreign fighters since 2013 to plan operations and attacks against the West...

Drought surging once again in Ethiopia (AllAfrica.com) The national, Risk Management Commission reported the number of people who are in need of urgent assistance has reached 7.7 million. The number is 31 percent higher compared to what it was six months ago...

Focolare Movement organizes events in India to strengthen interreligious dialogue (Fides) Promoting unity, peace and solidarity among young people belonging to different religions in India: this is the aim of a series of events that the Focolare Movement in India have organized in May, especially to strengthen the path of interreligious dialogue. The theme of the special week, celebrated by young Focolare people at an international level, was “Change your heart to change the world...”

Metropolitan Tikhon addresses World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington (OCA.org) His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, offered welcoming remarks at the opening session of “Martyrs for Christ,” the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians that opened here on 10 May 2017. “This Summit takes place during the season of the resurrection of Christ, in which we celebrate the victory of the Life-giver over death and the destruction of corruption by the Divine Physician,” said Metropolitan Tikhon...

Russian found guilty for inciting religious hatred for playing ‘Pokemon Go’ in church (The Washington Post) A judge in Russia’s fourth-largest city has convicted a blogger who played ‘Pokémon Go” in a renowned Orthodox cathedral of inciting religious hatred and insulting the feelings of believers, the state RIA-Novosti news agency reported Thursday...



10 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II attend an ecumenical prayer service at St. Peter’s Church in Cairo on 28 April. The church was the site of a December 2016 bombing. In a letter to Pope Tawadros today, Pope Francis called for “unity in diversity.”
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope calls for unity in diversity in letter to Pope Tawadros II (CNS) In a letter to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, Pope Francis said he hoped that both their churches can continue along the path of true unity and communion. The bond between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church is a reminder “to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope wrote in a letter to the patriarch on 10 May...

Battle for Mosul: 400,000 Iraqis displaced in two months (Al Jazeera) More than 400,000 people have been displaced from western Mosul about two months into the Iraqi army’s battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to the UN. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, citing the Iraqi government, that 434,775 people have fled ISIL’s last stronghold in Iraq since Iraqi forces launched the western Mosul operation on 19 February...

Ethiopian cardinal calls for strengthening of families (Vatican Radio) His Eminence Cardinal Berhaneyesus, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, President of CBCE and AMECEA Chairman has called on parents to be a primary and reliable means of information for their children. He said that this post modern era is a challenging time for the youth to make an informed decision about their life and the path they want to choose. His Eminence said this in the speech he delivered at the national forum on building integral being of adolescents and youth organized by the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth and Sports in Addis Ababa...

Orthodox graffiti comes to Russia (GlobalVoices.org) The Russian Orthodox Church and street art don’t tend to go hand in hand, but a recent collaboration between a provincial street artist and a priest has proven an exception to that rule. Last month, an artist who goes by “Rimrus” from the city of Volgodonsk in southern Russia, noticed that the wall surrounding an Orthodox church in his hometown was covered in graffiti, and he decided to do something about it. In a letter to a local priest, Rimrus suggested the church cover up the graffiti with its own street art and proposed a design. The priest immediately granted permission and even offered to provide paint to the artist...



9 May 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, an Iraqi priest says Iraqis must learn to forgive “even those who led ISIS into our homes.” (video: Rome Reports)

Chaldean patriarch: ‘incendiary rhetoric’ fuels Islamaphobia (Fides) The Chaldean patriarch in a recent document condemned cases of preachers and self-proclaimed Muslim leaders who define Christians, Jews and Gentiles as “infidels” and instigate their followers to treat them with the same violent and discriminatory practices used against them by jihadists from ISIS...

Syria safe zones on hold (The Guardian) Russian-backed plans for de-escalation zones in Syria are on hold as the US, France and the UK seek further detail on how exactly the agreement will be enforced. The deal, jointly signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Kazakhstan last week, agreed the establishment of four zones intended to halt conflict between government forces and rebels in key areas, and would potentially be policed by foreign troops...

Iraqi leader: 75 percent of all Iraqi Christians have fled (Christian Post) As many as 1.5 million Christians, or close to 75 percent of all followers of Christ in Iraq, have fled the country since 2003, according to an Iraqi Christian lawmaker. “The number of Christians living in the country now stands at between 500,000 and 850,000,” Josef Sleve told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday. “This means that over the past 14 years, some 1.5 million Christians have emigrated to other countries...”

Jordan’s king vows to protect Arab Christians (World Watch Monitor) King Abdullah II of Jordan said that he will protect the existence and identity of Arab Christians, when last week he met the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is on a 12-day tour of the Middle East. King Abdullah II spoke of Jordan as a model of harmonious coexistence between Christians and Muslims. Jordan used to be one of the most open and religiously free countries in the Middle East...

Priest kidnapped in Yemen pleads for help in video (CNS) Indian Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped in Yemen more than a year ago, in a video message pleaded for the Indian government and the Catholic Church to do more to secure his release...

Syrian refugees in Lebanon struggle after eviction (Reuters) Sitting in a dimly lit room with his three-year-old son on his lap, Taha points to the boy's lips where a rat had bitten him twice while he was sleeping in the night. With a look of hopelessness, Taha, a refugee from Syria, explains how he and his family of seven now live in a horse barn in the Bekaa Valley after last month they were served eviction notices to leave their camp by the Lebanese army. Taha and his family are among an estimated 10,500 Syrian refugees ordered to leave the makeshift camp, with the Lebanese military citing security reasons as the refugees were camped near the Rayak air base...

Indian women pray for peace (Vatican Radio) Around 450 Catholic women from the eight districts of eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh India, during a three-day convention, organized a candle light prayer rally on 6 May to pray for peace...



8 May 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III meets with children as they take part in a day of activities and prayers at a church in Damascus.
(photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)


Pope accepts resignation of Greek Melkite Patriarch (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham, from his pastoral office. A letter from the Holy Father to the Patriarch-emeritus and all the Melkite bishops explains that His Beatitude presented his resignation during the course of a special audience with the Holy Father in February, and that the Holy Father has decided to accept the resignation...

Syria will abide by ‘de-escalation’ plan (Reuters) Syria’s foreign minister said on Monday that his government would abide by the terms of a Russian plan for “de-escalation” zones so long as rebels also observed it. Walid al-Moualem told a televised news conference that rebels involved in the process must help clear areas they control of jihadist factions, including the former Nusra Front, and that the deal’s guarantors must help them do this...

ISIS reportedly infiltrates refugee camp at Jordan-Syria border (NBC News) Officially, [the camp] is located in a demilitarized zone. However, the pilot of the Jordanian military helicopter used during a recent NBC News visit wouldn’t fly over it for fear of being shot down by ISIS cells in the camp. Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, commander of Jordan’s army in the area, told NBC News that militants there “have whole weapons systems ... small arms, RPG’s, anti-aircraft.” He added: “They consider the camp a safe haven. We consider it an imminent threat...”

Survivors talk of life under ISIS (The Sun) Survivors of the brutal Mosul siege have told of the terror of living under the shadow of an ISIS regime which mercilessly punished anyone caught flouting their archaic laws. Those caught smoking or drinking faced death while even those caught wearing the ‘wrong kind’ of trousers would be thrown into jail for months on end...

Russian priest maintains war cemetery outside St. Petersburg (RT) Properly burying enemy soldiers is paramount, as victory is meaningless without the victor’s benevolence, Orthodox Priest Father Vyacheslav, who helped organize one of Europe’s largest German military cemeteries outside of St Petersburg, told RT...







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