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March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
3 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Smoke billows from the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor during an operation by Syrian government forces against ISIS on 2 November 2017. Syria’s army and allied forces have taken full control of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor from the Islamic State group, Syrian state television said.
(photo: AFP/Getty Images)


ISIS ousted from last major city in Syria (CNN) The Syrian army and allied forces have taken full control of the city of Deir Ezzor, the last major Syrian city in ISIS’ hands, Syria’s Defense Ministry and state media said Friday. “Syria’s Army in cooperation with allied forces liberated the entire city of Deir Ezzor from the ISIS after killing a large number of the terrorists, among them foreigners,” the Syrian Defense ministry said in a statement...

Bishop dismisses call to make India a Hindu nation (UCANews) An Indian bishops’ conference official has reacted sharply against a radical Hindu party for trying to negate the secular Indian Constitution. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference, also disagreed with their insistence that Hindus in India should get priority over Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities. “India is a secular country and it will also remain so. It was not born out of religion and we do not want it to turn it into some religion-based country,” he said...

Maronite bishops call for refugees’ safe return (The Daily Star) The Council of Maronite Bishops reiterated its humanitarian solidarity with Syrian refugees Wednesday, but called for the safe return of the displaced to their homeland. “If this crisis continues, there will be a generation of refugees with no national identity, so how will they partake in the future of Syria?” a statement from the council, released after a meeting in Bkirki, read...

English Catholic, Anglican leaders call for Palestinian homeland (CNS) Recognition of a national homeland for Palestinians is required to achieve justice and reconciliation in the Holy Land, English Catholic and Anglican leaders announced on 2 November. They used the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain declared its support for a Jewish state, to press for a two-state solution to decades of strife between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples...

Historic agreement on Holy Spirit signed in Dublin (AnglicanNews.org) Theologians from the Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox Churches have signed an historic agreement on the Holy Spirit. The Agreed Statement on the Procession and Work of the Holy Spirit was signed on Friday at the end of a week of discussions by the Anglican Oriental-Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC) and concludes two years of work on the subject...



2 November 2017
Greg Kandra






Pope condemns ‘murderous folly’ of terrorism (CNS) Pope Francis prayed for victims of the terrorist attack in New York, as well as victims of other terror attacks, and condemned the murder of innocent men and women in the name of God...

Syrian opposition rejects Russian dialogue initiative (Al Jazeera) The Syrian opposition attending the latest round of peace talks in Astana has rejected the Russian call for a Congress in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The “Syrian Congress on National Dialogue” proposed by Moscow during the two-day talks in the Kazakh capital is expected to discuss the reconciliation between all of the warring parties, political reform and discuss the proposed new Syrian constitution...

Hamas hands control of Gaza crossings to Palestinian Authority (The Guardian) The Palestinian militant group Hamas has formally relinquished security control of key crossings from the Gaza Strip to Egypt and Israel to its long-term rival, the Palestinian Authority, marking the first test of a fragile reconciliation accord agreed last month...

‘Race of Saints’ turns focus on India’s child brides (Vatican Radio) The “Don Bosco in the World” Foundation that organizes the event, wants to draw attention this year to the child brides of India who are forced to marry adult men, with serious health and psycho-physical consequences. The foundation will sent the fund raised by this year’s “Race of Saints” to the Salesians of Don Bosco of the Province of Bangalore, active in the southern state of Karnataka, who have been working to help child brides who are denied their childhood and rights...

Sister’s beatification ‘a joy for India’ (Vatican Radio) The CBCI Secretariat has issued a Press Release on Thursday, ahead of the Beatification of Sister Rani Maria which will be held on Saturday in Indore, India. Sister Rani Maria, professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation whose cause was cleared for beatification on 23 March 2017 will be declared ‘Blessed’ at a ceremony to be held on 4 November in Indore...



31 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Samunder Singh, who stabbed and killed Sister Rani Maria, stands in prayer before a portrait kept in her former convent in Udainagar, a mission station in northern India. She will be beatified on Saturday. (photo: UCANews.com)

Beatification of Indian nun to inspire persecuted Christians (Malaysia Herald) The upcoming beatification of an Indian nun murdered over 20 years ago, will be an inspiration for India's persecuted Christians, say local church leaders. Indian Catholics are preparing for the 4 November beatification ceremony of Sister Rani Maria Vattalil who was killed in a knife attack on 25 February 1995 as she traveled on a bus near the city of Indore on her way to her home state Kerala for a vacation. Sister Rani Maria was a member of the indigenous Franciscan Clarist Congregation in Indore Diocese situated in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. She was 41 years of age when she was murdered...

Christians await compensation in India (UCANews) An ecumenical delegation has called on India’s Odisha state government to finally implement the Supreme Court’s directive to increase compensation payments to victims of anti-Christian violence. The Supreme Court issued the order more than a year ago...

Syrian refugees in Lebanon face mounting hostility (Haaretz) Heart-rending reports describe the difficulties of life in Lebanon, especially for children. Some of them, as young as 10 years old, have been forced to work. Their parents aren’t allowed to hold down jobs officially because the Lebanese government won’t give them work permits. The men who head households may find occasional employment, in construction or agriculture, but they are paid a pittance. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has explicitly clarified that Lebanon will not allow Syrian refugees to settle within its borders, and the establishment of so-called safe zones has become an excuse for the public to rally against the newcomers...

Patriarch Kirill appeals to shared faith in Romania (Christian Today) Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is extending an arm of friendship to Orthodox Christians in Romania in the first visit by a head of the Russian Church since the fall of communism. Romania, a NATO and European Union member which now hosts part of the US anti-missile shield and NATO’s anti-ballistic defense system, has had cool relations with Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, although the two countries share cultural and religious ties...

Salvaging bodies: a doctor’s everyday reality in Syria (Al Jazeera) Trauma surgeon Shazeer Majeed has worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Yemen, South Sudan and Iraq. He is now working in northern Syria, a region gripped by instability, and shares his day-to-day reality of trying to keep victims of war alive...

Lebanese cardinal blesses New York chapel to St. Charbel (CNS) Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, inaugurated a chapel to Lebanon’s St. Charbel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The chapel is the first of its kind outside Lebanon...

Pope names auxiliary Chaldean bishop in San Diego to head Toronto eparchy (CNS) Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Bawai Soro of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in San Diego as bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto. Bishop Soro, 63, has been an auxiliary bishop of the San Diego-based eparchy since the the pope named him to the post in January 2014...



30 October 2017
Greg Kandra




The tomb of the Jewish prophet Nahum in northern Iraq, shown above, is threatened by tensions in the region. (photo: Wikipedia)

Ancient tomb of Jewish prophet in danger (The Jerusalem Post) The tomb of the Prophet Nahum, which overlooks the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, is now near the forefront of tensions between the Iraqi federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government. Since last week Iraqi forces, including Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, have been fighting with Peshmerga in an attempt by Baghdad to push Kurdish forces out of disputed areas and take oil fields and strategic border areas from the Kurds. Although a cease-fire took effect on Friday, tensions remain high...

‘October Light’ spirituality energizes Mumbai children (Vatican Radio) St. Anthony’s Church, Vakola, Mumbai holds a week-long event ‘October Light’ for Sunday School children and enhances the significance of light during Diwali vacation...

Three Coptic Christian churches closed in Egypt (AP) Egyptian religious officials say authorities have shuttered three Coptic Christian churches over fears of attacks by Islamic militants. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by fundamentalists. A third was closed due to fears of attacks. The statement was issued late on Saturday, 28 October...

Pope urges U.S. to welcome migrants (CNS) Pope Francis called on the people of the United States to welcome migrants and urged those who are welcomed to respect the laws of the country. “To all people (of the U.S.) I ask: take care of the migrant who is a promise of life for the future. To migrants: take care of the country that welcomes you; accept and respect its laws and walk together along that path of love,” the pope said 26 October during a live video conversation with teenagers from around the world...



27 October 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Indian flower farmer Kanubhai Patel shows “divine roses,” which have suffered this year due to the hot weather, at his farm in Badarkha village outside Ahmedabad on 18 October. (photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images)

The uninhabitable village (New York Times) Hotter temperatures are forcing families in southern India to decide: Try to survive here, or leave? Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have committed suicide in the past 30 years, and some climate researchers believe hotter weather has driven crop failure and made the problem worse…

ISIS shores up last stronghold on Syria-Iraq border (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS is building up its defenses in a pocket of territory on the Syrian-Iraqi frontier, the U.S.-led coalition said Friday, in an anticipation of assaults by Syrian and Iraqi forces aiming to snuff out the extremists’ last stronghold…

Iraq’s Christians ponder future in wake of Kurdish independence vote (Al Monitor) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, in a 16 October press interview, expressed his concern that the Kurdish crisis would risk Christians’ presence in Iraq. He said the current conflict in the disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil would impede the Christians’ return to their areas, and prompt Christians to rush to leave their country for good. The leader appealed to Christians to unite their ranks and engage in dialogue to preserve the Christian component in Iraq. Nevertheless, the church’s calls for a dialogue that would have Iraq’s Christians discuss the future of “the Christian component” may not gain much traction because of the great divide among this religious grouping…

Iranian Christian official, Iraqi prime minister discuss safety of Assyrians (AINA) Mr. Yonathan Betkolia, the secretary general of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Assyrian representative in the Iranian Parliament, attended a special meeting between Iranian legislators and Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider al Abadi. During the meeting Mr. Betkolia raised concerns about the safety and security of Assyrians in Iraq…

Vice President Pence says U.S. will help Middle East Christians directly (AINA) The vice president delivered a keynote address at the annual In Defense of Christians Solidarity Dinner. “America will support these people in their hour of need,” he said…



Tags: Iraq India United States ISIS Assyrian Church

26 October 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition walk down a street in Raqqa past destroyed vehicles and heavily damaged buildings on 20 October, after a Kurdish-led force expelled ISIS. (photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

ISIS ‘on the run,’ U.S. commander says (New York Times) The American commander of the international military campaign against ISIS said Wednesday that the militants were “on the run” and facing defeat as the American-led coalition made plans to kill or capture several thousand remaining insurgents…

Tensions on the Nineveh Plain: Iraqi bishops appeal for dialogue (Fides) In Tel Kaif, Christian militias allege aggression from Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Catholic bishops of Iraq have again expressed concern over these tensions, calling on national political leaders “to engage in peace through dialogue,” and urging that the cities on the Nineveh Plain do not become the object of division among opposing military forces…

Army shells Iraqi town, but Assyrian priest refuses to leave (AINA) A senior Iraqi priest refused to leave Tel Eskov, even after military forces gathered there for battle. Chaldean cleric Father Salar Kajo and nine church workers remained in the Christian-majority town on the Nineveh Plains, around 19 miles north of Mosul, despite Iraqi and Peshmerga armies amassing there over the last 48 hours. All other inhabitants left Tuesday, following mortar attacks that injured three children…

Christian Kandhamal victims deserve greater compensation, says bishop (AsiaNews) Christian leaders today handed the authorities a memorandum, in which they call on them to enforce the supreme court ruling that awarded compensation to victims of the 2008 anti-Christian pogrom in Kandhamal…

Breaking barriers, Arab-Israeli women join movement to ‘wage peace’ (Christian Science Monitor) Frustrated with the peace process, more Arab-Israeli women are joining the ranks of Women Wage Peace, rejecting pressure not to “normalize” relations with Israeli Jews. “We want, in our own way, to make peace,” says one member…

Lebanon looks to recreate Palestinian society in refugee camp (Al Monitor) A few streets away from Mohammad al Hajj Hussein’s home, a piece of graffiti scrawls across a wall. It reads, “typical neighborhood.” Compared to residential neighborhoods in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab world, the statement rings true. There are broad concrete streets punctuated by corner shops and modern, pastel-colored apartment blocks of multi-bedroom homes and breezy courtyards. Nahr al Bared, however, is not a typical neighborhood but a Palestinian refugee camp, places usually known in Lebanon for their overcrowded, ramshackle squalor. It is also atypical because it preserves social structures that can be traced back to villages uprooted in Palestine in 1948…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Lebanon Women (rights/issues)

25 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken on 23 October 2017, in the southern Gaza Strip, shows diggers searching for tunnels on the Egyptian side of the border with the Palestinian enclave. Reports indicate they were looking for three Palestinians who went missing. (photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Mideast church leaders look to U.S. to help obtain peace (CNS) Two prominent Mideast church leaders told a U.S. audience that they were looking to the United States for leadership to obtain peace in the Middle East. “We look to America to lead the international community in so many ways,” said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch...

Thousands of ISIS supporters return home (Al Jazeera) Thousands of foreign ISIS supporters have returned to their home countries after leaving Syria and Iraq over the past two years, a US-based security analysis group has said. At least 5,600 people from 33 countries left ISIS-held areas in that period, with numbers increasing as the group began to suffer territorial losses, the Soufan Center said in a report published on Tuesday...

Israeli bulldozers raze land along Gaza border (Ma’an News Agency) Several Israeli bulldozers entered into the “buffer zone” in the central Gaza Strip, along the border with Israel, and leveled lands in the area on Tuesday morning. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that four Israeli bulldozers entered dozens of meters into the Juhr al-Dik area and razed lands as drones flew overhead...

New Quebec law deemed ‘discriminatory’ against Muslims (Catholic Register) The new Quebec law on state neutrality on religion is under fire, as many deem it “discriminatory” against some Muslim women. Bill 62, officially “Act to foster adherence to state religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies,” was adopted 18 October. This legislative text requires that, from now on, all public services be given and received without anything covering a person’s face...

Sharing cultures and religions at Sunday dinner (Huntington Herald-Dispatch) For more than 40 years, parishioners at Holy Spirit Antiochian Orthodox Church have treated the Tri-State to taste of their heritage at its annual Middle Eastern dinner, hosted Sunday, 22 October at the church in Huntington. From the heart of the Bible Belt to the Mediterranean coast and beyond, Sunday dinner holds a special place in the hearts of Christians worldwide — a time for family and friends to enjoy the Sabbath’s rest over a plate of home cooking from wherever home may be...



24 October 2017
Greg Kandra




A displaced Iraqi Christian family is seen in 2014 at a camp in Erbil. Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl has issued a letter calling for Catholics to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jalill, EPA)

Pope meets delegation from Tel Aviv University (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday with a delegation from Tel Aviv University, stressing the need to develop a culture of wisdom that can form future leaders who are sensitive to the profound ethical issues facing our societies...

Cardinal Wuerl urges solidarity with persecuted Christians (Catholic Standard) Reliable reports indicate that some 200 million Christians worldwide, simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ, are still enduring or are at risk of physical violence, arrest, torture and death. Christians, in greater number, also face varying levels of oppression and restrictions on fully living their faith. Ironically — and tragically — the place where persecution of Christians is being most severely experienced is in that region of the world that is the birthplace of Christianity. Last July, His Eminence Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the designation of Sunday, 26 November 2017 as a day of prayer for persecuted Christians which also initiates “Solidarity in Suffering,” a week of awareness and education. The Solemnity of Christ the King is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and persecution...

Migration causing drop in Christian population in Kerala (Times of India) Migration is leading to a significant dip in Christian population in Kerala, and studies have indicated their share may come down from the current level of 17 to 10% by 2030, according to writer and former DGP Alexander Jacob...

Humanitarian aid convoy headed to Gaza (Petra News Agency) The Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO), in cooperation with the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army, on Tuesday dispatched a humanitarian aid convoy to the Gaza Strip...

Syrian refugee with love for icons knows God is guiding his life (The Catholic Leader) Murhaf Obeid, packing his bag to fly from Lebanon to Australia, had first thoughts, not for toothbrush, clothes or shoes, but for his art. It was about a year ago, and the Syrian refugee was preparing to fly out with his wife Rim and their sons Michel, now four, and Marc, one. Among thousands of people forced to flee the region in the wake of ISIS’ brutal takeover of large parts of Syria and Iraq, the Obeids were desperate for a new life in Australia. And life, for Murhaf, has to include art and especially his love of creating icons...



23 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III at the Vatican. (photo: Vatican Radio)

Pope meets Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, calling for an end to violence and discrimination against people of different faiths in the Holy Land...

Calls to set up ‘safe zones’ for Christians in Iraq (Middle East Monitor) Researchers at the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies have called for a “safe zone” to be set up for Christians in Iraq, Arab48 has reported. Speaking at a conference on Christian Arabs in the Greater Arab Mashreq, Yahya Al-Kubaisi said that the number of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, in particular the Christians, have become the subject of a political dispute...

Dozens of bodies found at site of Syrian ‘massacre’ (USA Today) The bodies of at least 67 Syrian civilians have been found in a central Syrian town in the aftermath of the government reclaiming control from the Islamic State, according to The Associated Press. The bodies were found in Qaryatayn, a strategic town the Islamic State had seized in August 2015 to defend the historic city of Palmyra...

Pope sends letter for World Mission Sunday (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, on occasion of the 2017 iteration of World Mission Sunday. In the letter, the Holy Father reflects on the upcoming centenary of the great missionary charter of the 20th century, the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, promulgated on 30 November 1919...

Coptic group seeks funds for persecution data base (ConatusNews.com) A Coptic human rights organization seeks funding to build a database on incidents of persecution against Copts in Egypt. Coptic Solidarity (CS) is an organisation dedicated to the rights of Egyptian Coptic Christians. CS are aiming to raise $12,000 to build a database documenting incidents against Copts...

Palestinian girl wins Arab reading challenge (Middle East Monitor) A Palestinian student was crowned champion of the Arab Reading Challenge. Now in its second year, the competition saw seven million entrants vie for the awards in Dubai, UAE, which saw Palestinian Afaf Sharif from Al-Bireh Secondary School for Girls come top. Palestinian Minister of Education Sabri Saydam stressed that this victory will illuminate the path for other Palestinian children during “their hard work and perseverance to be at the forefront of children of the world...”



20 October 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




An Iraqi soldier stands guard as another raises the national flag from an oil silo at the Bai Hassan oil field, west of the multi-ethnic northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, on 19 October. (photo: Ahmad Al‑Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqi workers return after oil fields retaken from Kurds (Al Monitor) Turfed out three years ago by Kurdish forces, Iraqi oil workers are donning their overalls and inspecting equipment as they look to get down to work at installations snatched back by Baghdad…

Chaldean patriarch calls Iraqi politicians to national reconciliation (Fides) The “unprecedented circumstances” that the country is going through are “the result of all that happened in Iraq from the north to the south for years and until now,” says Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I. Therefore, the church leader says, this critical phase requires a comprehensive and national collaboration…

Expansion of Gaza fishing zone ‘pointless PR stunt’ (Al Jazeera) For the 4,000 registered fishermen in the besieged Gaza Strip, a proposed Israeli plan to let them temporarily fish farther out from shore is “far from enough.” Fishermen told Al Jazeera that Israel’s move to slightly expand the fishing zone limit from six to nine nautical miles, implemented this week, will have little effect in reality. “It makes no difference whatsoever to us,” Nizar Ayash, head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union, told Al Jazeera. The expansion, which will last for six weeks, is not applicable to boats in Gaza’s northern port…

Delhi covered in toxic haze after night of Diwali fireworks (The Guardian) Air pollution in Delhi has hit 18 times the healthy limit and left the city under a thick, toxic haze after Diwali was celebrated with a night of fireworks — despite a court-ordered ban on their sales…

Amman design fair pays homage to disappearing crafts (Al Monitor) For Rana Beiruti, the co-founder of Amman Design Week, the beauty of an object is linked to the story behind it. That is why she and her colleague Abeer Seikaly put the craftsmen, particularly those whose crafts were disappearing, at the heart of their design event this month…



Tags: Iraq India Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan





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