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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
5 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Russian President Putin’s special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari attend a signing of a memorandum to establish de-escalation zones in Syria during peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on 4 May 2017.
(photo: Aliia Raimbekova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Russia reaches deal for Syria safe zones (The New York Times) Russia, Iran and Turkey signed a memorandum on Thursday to create four “de-escalation zones” in Syria, to reduce bloodshed in a war now in its seventh year, but many questions remained about the plan...

Pope Francis to meet Donald Trump at Vatican later this month (CNS) President Donald Trump will visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis 24 May as part of his first foreign trip as president. White House officials said the visit will be part of a trip that will include stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia before Trump attends a NATO meeting in Brussels 25 May and the G7 summit in Taormina on the island of Sicily 26-27 May...

Mass evictions burying refugees in Lebanon in debt (Voice of America) Driven from their homes in Syria, thousands of refugees in Lebanon are once again in search of shelter. An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 refugees are on the move amid what is likely to be the biggest mass eviction of its kind in Lebanon since the war began...

Iraq, U.S. In talks to keep troops in Iraq after ISIS (AP) Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government...

Ukraine increasingly feels the east is lost to Russia (AP) Long unthinkable after years of fighting and about 10,000 deaths, Ukrainians increasingly are coming around to the idea of at least temporarily abandoning the region known as the Donbass, considering it to be de facto occupied by Russia...

Ethiopian mosque site offers example of religious tolerance (The Daily Sabah) The Ethiopian religious site of Teru Sina, which features unique architectural characteristics, provides a successful model of religious tolerance with its opportunities for religious learning and socializing. Religious pilgrimages to the shrine of Shaykh Awel reportedly take place twice a year, and it is not only Muslims who honor the Sufi saint, but Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as well...



4 May 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi Yazidis gather to celebrate the Yazidi New Year — known as Chwarshaba Sor, or Red Wednesday — in Dohuk, Iraq, on 18 April 2017. (photo: Muhammet Bamerni/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Yazidi genocide evidence mounting against ISIS: legal experts (Daily Star Lebanon) Legal experts said on Thursday there was growing evidence to prove atrocities by ISIS against Iraq’s Yazidi minority, including sexual slavery and mass killings, legally constitute genocide, which could help bring militants to justice if they ever go on trial…

Five years, billions of dollars needed to rebuild Mosul (AINA) Mosul’s wrecked roads, bridges and broader economy will take at least five years to repair and need billions of dollars of development that Iraq’s government will struggle to afford, officials returning to the battle-scarred city said…

Chaldean patriarch: In Egypt the pope has opened many doors (Fides) “With the speeches and gestures of his trip to Egypt, Pope Francis has opened many doors: with Islam, with political authorities, among Christians. We hope that now Muslims also take the opportunity, and take advantage of this support offered to them by the church,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, who was also present in at the pope’s visit to Cairo. “I stayed in Egypt even the following days” he said, “and I was able to register the great impression left by the visit of the pope…”

Indian bishops focus on migrants as trafficked victims on May Day (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic bishops have issued a message for 1 May, drawing attention especially to migrants who end up as victims of human trafficking. Migration and human trafficking “are interlinked since unorganized workers and uninformed people leave their home for work or are brought to work,” said Bishop Oswald Lewis of Jaipur, chairman of the Labor Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. “May Day,” he noted, “reminds us of the events and endeavors that have contributed to worker solidarity, the dignity of work and prosperity, unity and harmony among workers achieved through sweat and toil…”

Pope’s prayer intention for May: Christians in Africa (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for May is dedicated to Christians in Africa: That Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace…

Europe: 24,600 refugee children ‘in limbo’ at risk of mental distress, UNICEF warns (U.N. News Center) Nearly 75,000 refugees and migrants, including an estimated 24,600 children, currently stranded in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Western Balkans are at risk of psychosocial distress caused by living in a protracted state of limbo, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today…



Tags: Iraq India Refugees Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Yazidi

3 May 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Displaced Iraqis fleeing the fighting arrive in Mosul’s Bab al Abyad neighborhood on 3 May 2017. (photo: Ahmad al Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Without school, children of Mosul feared lost to poverty and conflict (AINA) Tens of thousands of children have been orphaned or left homeless by the war with ISIS, and forced to work to support their families in Mosul, the militant’s last major city stronghold in Iraq. Returning these children to school is a priority for Iraq to end the cycle of sectarian violence fueled in part by poverty and ignorance, the United Nations says…

Christian forum urges government to protect places of worship (Fides) A network of organizations, congregations and NGOs have submitted to the United Nations a report arguing that India’s government must work with greater urgency to protect life, personal security and places of religious worship of Christians. This report is a joint submission by Franciscans International, VIVAT International, Congregations of St. Joseph, Pax Romana, Sisters of Charity Federation, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries and other partners. These groups are seeking to raise the awareness of the U.N. Human Rights Council in view of the periodic review for India scheduled to take place in May 2017…

Egypt is a beacon of hope and refuge, pope says at audience (CNS) Just as it had been for centuries, Egypt can be a sign of hope for those who long for peace, Pope Francis said. During his weekly general audience on 3 May, the pope reflected on his recent visit to Egypt and said that because of its religious and cultural heritage as well as its role in the Middle East, Egypt has the task of promoting a lasting peace that “rests not on the law of force but on the force of law…”

Pope Francis hopes to strengthen ties with Oriental Orthodox churches (Crux) One major aspect of Pope Francis’s trip to Egypt is the ecumenical encounter with the Coptic Orthodox Church, a member of the Oriental Orthodox communion, which broke with what are now the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as early as the fifth century, when they rejected the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Together, the six churches in the communion represent some 84 million faithful and are among the oldest Christian bodies in the world…

Holy See to U.N.: no to nuclear proliferation (Vatican Radio) The head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, taking place in Vienna from 2 to 12 May, Msgr. Janusz S. Urbanczyk, has released his prepared address to the body. Below, please find the full text of his prepared remarks in English...

Jaish Al Islam releases hundreds of Alawite prisoners in rural Damascus (Al Masdar) Following a rare deal between the Syrian Arab Army and Jaish Al Islam, hundreds of captive civilians and soldiers, mostly Alawites, were released in return for 51 aid convoys entering Douma in eastern Damascus…

Armenian separatists condemn Turkish-Azerbaijani army drills (Vatican Radio) Armenia backed separatists have condemned joined military exercises by Turkey and Azerbaijan. The drills, which last until Friday, come amid tensions between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Ecumenism Azerbaijan

2 May 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinians stage a protest against Israeli siege over Palestinian lands and power cuts in Gaza City on 2 May 2017. (photo: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Catholic leaders urge Israel to meet Palestinian hunger strikers’ demands (CNS) Catholic leaders in the Holy Land urged Israel to concede to demands of Palestinian political prisoners on a hunger strike since 17 April. The prisoners are seeking an improvement in their prison conditions and an end to administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold prisoners almost indefinitely without having to charge them with a crime. The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land said the prisoners are asking that their human rights and dignity be respected according to international law and the Geneva Convention…

Problems faced by Egypt’s Coptic Christians run far deeper than ISIS attacks (The Independent) As a minority (maybe 10 percent of Egyptians), Christians naturally need the regime to protect them. Their fear — that the government deliberately failed to guard their churches (untrue) and the ignorant attacks on them by equally untrained, untaught Muslim preachers in upper Egypt (sadly true) — drew them closer and closer to Sisi. They became associated with the regime itself…

Kurdish-Arab alliance advances against ISIS near Raqqa (AINA) U.S.-backed fighters have captured 80 percent of Syria’s Tabqa from ISIS, a monitor said on Monday, a week after they first entered the town. The Syrian Democratic Forces broke into Tabqa from the south last week and have steadily advanced north, cornering ISIS in three contiguous neighborhoods on the bank of the Euphrates River. The strategic town of Tabqa sits on a supply route about 35 miles west of Raqqa city, the de facto capital of ISIS territory in Syria…

Two million children forced to work in Turkey, including refugees (AsiaNews) About two million children work in Turkey, 78 percent of them without proper papers or health coverage. Officially, workplace accidents claimed the life of 56 of them in the past year, this according to a study released today by the DISK Genel-Is trade union confederation…

Iraq’s challenging path to reconciliation (Der Spiegel) Just outside recently liberated Mosul, two judges have been tasked with punishing Islamic State followers who committed crimes and helping victims find justice. But without any way to gather evidence, the process often verges on farce — and could lead to a new cycle of violence…

Middle East peace effort lacks progress on political front (U.N. News Center) The lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is impeding Palestine’s development, according to a new United Nations report, which also reiterates the international community’s commitment to a two-state solution in the region…



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Palestine Turkey

1 May 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis speaks to Egyptian Catholics during Mass on Saturday 29 April.
(video: CNS)


True faith means loving others to the extreme, pope tells Egypt’s Catholics (CNS) The only kind of fanaticism that is acceptable to God is being fanatical about loving and helping others, Pope Francis said on his final day in Egypt. “True faith,” he told Catholics, “makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost...”

Pope to Egypt’s priests and seminarians: be sowers of hope and dialogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday told Egypt’s priests, religious and seminarians to be sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue, despite the many difficulties they face...

Pope in Egypt: Catholics and Copts recognize shared baptism (Vatican Radio) In a common declaration, signed by Pope Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II, Catholics and Copts declare for the first time that they will recognise each other’s sacrament of baptism...

Turkey sacks 4,000 more officials in crackdown (BBC) The Turkish government has sacked almost 4,000 more public officials in what appears to be the latest purge related to a failed coup last July. They include more than 1,000 justice ministry workers, a similar number of army staff and more than 100 air force pilots, officials said. In a separate decree, Turkey banned TV dating shows — a move previously mooted by the government. Earlier on Saturday, Turkey blocked the online encyclopedia Wikipedia...

Caritas India helps farmers avoid migration (Vatican Radio) Caritas India has started the Agrarian Prosperity Program (APP) in several northern Indian villages to provide the villagers with alternative sources of income and to check economic migration. Caritas introduced farmers to new techniques such as organic farming, a system to preserve indigenous seeds besides intensifying activities to save water such as renovation and construction of check dams, ponds, tanks and wells...

Student-run Relief United raises funds for Syria (WABC) Really making a difference in the world is an ambitious idea seven teens from Westchester are truly committed to. “Even the smallest person can make a change,” a teen said. Motivated by the disturbing images and headlines coming from Syria, the longtime friends organized a picnic and benefit concert at Kingsland Point Park Friday to raise money for Syrian refugee families, hospitals, and schools...

New York high school students raise $15,000 for CNEWA’s work in Syria (Fios1news.com) Seven school students brought the community together Friday night in Sleepy Hollow to raise money for people struggling throughout Syria. As more than 300 people came out to support, the students say they well exceeded their goal of $5,000 in donations, crossing $15,000 in eight months...



28 April 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis walks with Egyptian Prime Minister Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, right, as he arrives at the international airport in Cairo 28 April. The pope was making a two-day visit to Egypt.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope arrives in Cairo to begin Egypt visit (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Egypt to begin an Apostolic Journey to the country. The Pope touched down at Cairo International Airport this Friday afternoon where he was met by the Apostolic Nuncio to Cairo, Bruno Musaro and a representative of the President of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah Al Sisi...

Pope brings to Cairo a message of peace (The New York Times) Francis, a politically savvy pontiff, will attempt a balancing act. He is expected to highlight the plight of Christians after recent violence in Egypt, while also continuing his mission to reach out to Muslims. Since December, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has signaled its intent to wage a sectarian war in Egypt by killing Christians in their homes, businesses or places of worship...

A hidden church in Cairo pins its hopes on good will from the Pope’s visit (The New York Times) For the past decade, a small Coptic Catholic congregation in a gritty north Cairo suburb has been trying to build a new church in the teeth of official resistance — a common tale in Egypt, where the law panders to old prejudices...

Panel accused of whitewashing Israeli discrimination against Christians (Al Monitor) A panel of experts created by Congress to defend religious freedom is being accused of whitewashing Israeli discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities. In an unprecedented public dissent against the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the only Middle East Christian on the panel is accusing the panel of a “continuing and glaring refusal” to hold Israel to account since the commission’s founding in 1998...

The Eritreans heading to Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) The disputed border town of Badme is where war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998. It lasted for two years and devastated both countries. In 2002, a Hague boundary commission ruled that Badme was part of Eritrea. It was a ruling that both countries initially accepted. But Ethiopian troops continue to occupy the town. Nowadays an uneasy standoff exists between the two country’s armies along the still-contested border a few kilometres north of Badme, at the tip of Ethiopia's Yirga Triangle, which juts into Eritrea. But now there are others moving along the border: Eritreans who travel through the region’s hills, trying to keep out of sight of their own military, to escape into Ethiopia...



27 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from January, children wave Iraqi flags to celebrate the partial liberation of their city as they climb on top of armored military vehicles in Mosul, Iraq. Life in parts of the city has returned to normal, but the battle to liberate the rest of Mosul continues.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)


‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus (BBC) An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report. A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said...

Defiance and dreams of peace in east Mosul (Irish Times) After an operation to retake the city began last October, Iraqi forces declared the eastern half of Mosul liberated in January, allowing normal life to return — insofar as possible in a city ruined by months of war...

Organ trafficker preys on Syrian refugees (BBC) Some refugees beg on the streets — particularly children. Young boys shine shoes, dodge between cars in traffic jams to sell chewing gum or tissues through the windows, or end up exploited as child labour. Others turn to prostitution. But selling an organ is one way to make money quickly...

Egypt’s Coptic Christians under siege ahead of Pope Francis’s visit (ABC.net) While Egypt’s Copts, the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East — thought to make up about 10 per cent of the country’s population of 90 million — have said they largely appreciate Pope Francis’s anticipated message of peaceful religious co-existence and respect, the community faces deep and intrinsic problems...

Indian community in New Zealand celebrates Christian and Hindu holidays together (Indian Weekender) In what can be termed as an excellent example of religious harmony in New Zealand, and more so, shining a bright light on India’s age-old diverse traditions, last weekend, Keralites in Christchurch celebrated Easter, a Christian festival, and Vishu, a Hindu festival, together...



26 April 2017
Greg Kandra




A cross above a church is seen alongside minarets of a mosque on 17 April in Cairo ahead of Pope Francis’ visit later this week. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

Copts, Muslims expected at Mass celebrated by Pope (Fides) Copt Catholic Bishop Antonios Mina says Copt Orthodox Christians will be present at the Mass celebrated by the Pope, as well as many Muslims...

In TED talk, pope urges people to make real connections (CNS) While searching for a connection today often means looking for Wi-Fi, Pope Francis said real connections between people are the only hope for the future. “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said in a video talk played 25 April for 1,800 people attending TED 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and posted online with subtitles in 20 languages...

France says it has evidence Assad was behind Syrian chemical attack (The Washingon Post) Samples from a deadly sarin attack in Syria bear “the signature” of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, French officials said Wednesday. The announcement marks the strongest evidence yet that Assad’s government was responsible for the daybreak attack on the northwestern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month which killed at least 86 people, many of them as they slept...

In Mosul, a battle against ISIS and time (The New York Times) Every day, for weeks, the battle to take western Mosul from the Islamic State has looked like this: a block-by-block crawl as casualties mount...

Bishops in India meet with government official to discuss anti-Christian harassment (Crux) Seven bishops from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have met with the chief minister of the state to discuss the recent disruptions of Christian places of worship in the state. In recent months, right-wing activists from the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) have stopped services and harassed worshipers in the state, which is India’s largest, accusing churches of trying to convert the local Hindu population to Christianity...

‘Poor man’s kebab’ is Gaza’s most treasured food (The Electronic Intifada) Every morning after I open my store, I buy falafel and hummus for breakfast. It’s the most popular meal in our market because of its reasonable price and high nutritional value,” said Arafat Ashour, 44, the owner of a produce stand at al-Zawya market, one of the oldest markets in Gaza. “I eat it with my friend who works with me. Sometimes customers join us.” Its ingredients may be humble, but falafel enjoys a high status in Gaza...



25 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, an expert on Islam offers analysis on the pope’s upcoming trip to Egypt. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis sends video message to Egyptians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Egypt ahead of his apostolic journey to the country, saying the “world needs peace, love and mercy”…

Tight security is ‘new normal’ ahead of papal visit (CNS) Despite the ongoing risk of terrorism, Pope Francis planned to travel to Egypt as a sign of being close to the people there, said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman. Heightened security is part of the “new normal” in many countries, but even in the wake of the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt, it is the pope’s desire “to go ahead, to also be a sign of his closeness” to those affected by violence and all the people of Egypt, Burke told journalists on 24 April…

Iraqi troops capture largest neighborhood in Mosul (AP) A senior military commander says Iraqi troops have driven out Islamic State militants from the largest neighborhood in the western half of the city of Mosul. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al Saadi told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the sprawling Al Tanek neighborhood “is fully liberated and under full control” of the security forces. Al Saadi didn’t provide more details…

American killed on monitoring mission in Ukraine (Reuters) A member of the European monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine was killed and two others were injured Sunday when their vehicle drove over a mine near Luhansk. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which runs the monitoring mission, said it was investigating. The monitor who was killed was an American man, according to a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of Austria, which holds the rotating presidency of the 57-nation organization. The man’s name was not released…

Christianity could be restricted in parts of Ethiopia (Christian Today) Christianity could be outlawed in Ethiopia for smaller congregations and house churches where worshippers meet for less formal prayer or smaller services. Tigray State, in the north of Ethiopia, is considering changing its laws to ban Christian activities outside official church compounds, reports World Watch Monitor…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia

24 April 2017
Greg Kandra




During a prayer service at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew in Rome on 22 April, Pope Francis greets Roselyne Hamel, sister of the Rev. Jacques Hamel, who was killed in Rouen, France, last year. (photo: CNS/Maurizio Brambatti, pool)

Pope pays tribute to modern martyrs (CNS) The church today needs believers who witness each day to the power of God’s love, but it also needs the heroic witness of those who stand up to hatred even when it means giving up their lives, Pope Francis said. At Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew, a shrine to modern martyrs, Pope Francis presided over an evening prayer service 22 April, honoring Christians killed under Nazism, communism, dictatorships and terrorism...

Here’s what is left of Aleppo (Los Angeles Times) A sense of relative stability has descended on the district, despite vast expanses of pancaked buildings, rubble-strewn streets and walls perforated with bullet holes and shrapnel scars. Some residents who fled during the war years have returned, and there is a halting sense of renewed life on the streets. But the area remains largely depopulated. And no one dares say that the war is ending anytime soon…

IKEA launches initiative to give jobs to thousands of refugees in Jordan (Curbed.com) IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, can get a bad rap for igniting relationship disputes and making hard-to-assemble wares. But the Sweden-born store also recognizes that with massive power comes massive opportunity for doing good. Case in point: The company has teamed up with Jordan River Foundation, a non-governmental organization founded by Queen Rania of Jordan, to launch an ambitious employment initiative projected to hire some 200,000 impoverished people around the globe in the next 15 years…

Kerala bishop opposes bill to govern church property (Vatican Radio) The Latin rite archbishop of Kerala, in a letter dated 15 April has urged the government not to interfere in the administration of church properties. Archbishop M. Soosa Pakiam, president of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, wrote to the secretary of the Kerala State Minority Commission to assert the fundamental right of Christians to manage and administer church property…



Tags: Jordan Kerala Catholic Aleppo Martyred





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