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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
24 October 2016
Greg Kandra




A boy raises his hand with a peace sign on 21 October after returning to his village that was liberated from ISIS militants near Mosul, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Thaier Al-Sudaini, Reuters)

Kurdish forces besiege town of Bashiqa (BBC) Kurdish forces taking part in the offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State (ISIS) militants are besieging a key town to the north. Peshmerga fighters have surrounded Bashiqa, which lies on a crucial supply route only 12km (8 miles) from Mosul, on three sides, a commander said. But the threat of suicide bomb attacks means they are advancing with caution...

UNICEF says up to 1.5 million may be affected by Mosul offensive (Euronews.com) Thousands of people who have fled the Mosul area, as the military offensive to retake the northern Iraqi city gathers pace, have been on the road for days. In the background is a stark, apocalyptic landscape, with fumes billowing into the air from oil fields set alight by the retreating militants. The United Nations has said several thousand people have fled areas around Mosul since the military operation began...

Pope expresses shock over cruelty waged against innocent Iraqis (CNS) As a military operation in northern Iraq fights to wrest control of areas held by retaliating Islamic State forces, Pope Francis criticized the “cruelty” and heinous violence waged against innocent civilians. Speaking to visitors in St. Peter’s Square on 23 October for the Angelus prayer, the Pope said, “In these dramatic hours, I am close to the entire population of Iraq, especially that of the city of Mosul.” He invited people to pray with him, asking that “Iraq, while gravely stricken, might be both strong and firm in the hope of moving toward a future of security, reconciliation and peace...”

More displaced people arrive at camps as Battle of Mosul nears (Fides) While the Kurdish peshmerga are now at the gates of Mosul and Isis prepares its last resistance in Iraq’s second city, the arrival of displaced people in camps in the southern areas of the governorate of Nineveh continues...

Christian philosophers meet in India (Fides) “We are proud to live in a country that is sovereign, secular, a democratic republic, with a Constitution that protects the fundamental rights of its citizens. The Indian tradition of plurality and diplomacy, its scientific progress and huge natural and human resources, are signs of its immense potential,” says the Association of Christian Philosophers of India, who met in recent days in Ranchi for their annual seminar...



21 October 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi refugees in a camp in Syria’s Hassake province, seen on 19 October, await an end to the war. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

Refugees want to return to Mosul (Fides) “The people hospitalized in refugee camps in Erbil, in Dibaga and Kirkuk are concerned,” says Mustafa Jabbar, coordinator in Erbil of the Federation of Christian Organizations for International Volunteer Service. “Many have friends and relatives forced to stay in Mosul, but many are relieved because they think that one could, with this new advance, try to go home, even if they do not know what they will find. It is feared that homes, businesses, places of worship have been destroyed…”

Fatal explosions and gunfire rock Kirkuk (Al Jazeera) ISIS fighters have attacked multiple targets in and around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, in a major assault that appeared aimed at diverting Iraqi and Kurdish forces from a massive push against Mosul, the armed group’s last major stronghold in Iraq…

ISIS attacks police compound, power plant in Kirkuk (Los Angeles Times) With an offensive underway to oust Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, militants staged a surprise attack early Friday about 95 miles south in Kirkuk…

Christian refugees facing persecution in Germany (AINA) The refugees of Christian descent who fled persecution in places like Syria and Northern Iraq are facing different kinds of attacks in Germany. According to the findings of a new survey from the Christian advocacy group Open Doors USA, religious minorities who seek safe haven in the European nation are finding a general lack of protection. Since February, nearly 800 Christian and Yazidi refugees were attacked by others at the relief centers and camps…

Russia extends ceasefire in Syrian airstrikes (Vatican Radio) Russia says a break in fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo has been extended for one more day. The announcement came moments after German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed anew for a long-term ceasefire in the devastated city following her talks with European leaders meeting in Berlin…

At least 1,500 arrests in Ethiopian state of emergency, claims news agency (The Guardian) Ethiopian authorities have arrested more than 1,500 people since declaring a state of emergency less than two weeks ago, according to a statement published by state-controlled news agency Fana. The body set up by authorities to oversee the state of emergency said 1,120 people had been arrested in the towns of Shashemene and West Arsi — south of the capital, Addis Ababa — for “violence and property damage…”

Islamic State threat to Kerala Christians worries leaders (Herald Malaysia Online) The Times of India daily recently reported that Kerala police have busted an ISIS-inspired cell. Interrogations reportedly revealed that the Islamic militant outfit was targeting churches and institutions run by “a denomination of Christians of Syrian lineage.” The report did not specify the denomination, but said they were targeted because their ancestors had killed Muslims during the historical crusades. Those from Syrian traditions form the bulk of Christians in Kerala…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Kerala Iraqi Refugees

20 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Women who recently fled the Islamic State's stronghold of Hawija receive donated food in Iraq’s Debaga camp, outside Erbil, on 19 October. (photo: CNS /Zohra Bensemra, Reuters)

Mosul operation moving faster than expected (CNN) The operation to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul after more than two years of ISIS rule is going faster than expected, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday, as a CNN analysis of the battlefield showed forces have now captured at least 100 square kilometers [about 38 miles] of territory. The sweeping gains come as Peshmerga fighters opened a new front from the north, liberating several villages from ISIS control some 20 kilometers [12 miles] from the city...

Chaldean patriarch calls for unity in Iraq (Vatican Radio) As Iraqi troops move on Mosul to liberate the strategic city from the so-called Islamic State, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, has called for peace and national unity in Iraq...

In Turkey, Iraqi Christians live in limbo (CNS) Yako Hanna, 36, always keeps an eye on his phone waiting for a call that would change his life. “Anytime it rings, you think it is the U.N., so you have to be careful. Even if you go to the bathroom, you have to take your mobile with you,” Hanna said, referring to the call he might receive from the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, which is handling his resettlement application to Australia, where he has relatives. Hanna is one of the thousands of Iraqi Christians that are in Turkey waiting, from a few months to a few years, for an answer to their resettlement applications to Western countries...

Talks move ahead on Ukraine (Reuters) Germany and France pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend a pause in air strikes in Syria and halt the “criminal” bombardment of civilians, but said four-way talks aimed at ending violence in eastern Ukraine made some progress. “We are talking here about criminal activities, about crimes against the civilians,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after what she described as a difficult discussion with Putin about the crisis in Syria...



19 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Peshmerga forces advance 18 October to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq.
(photo: CNS/Thaier Al-Sudani, Reuters)


Iraqi forces closing in on Mosul (CNN) The Iraqi army’s armored division is closing in on Mosul’s fringes after sweeping through enemy-controlled land in the past 48 hours, liberating communities village by village, the division’s commander told CNN Wednesday, as the operation to liberate Mosul from the brutal grip of ISIS militants intensifies...

Report: thousands have fled Mosul ahead of offensive (Voice of America) Save The Children said Wednesday thousands of people have fled the Mosul area in order to escape an offensive by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake the city from Islamic State militants. The aid group said about 5,000 people have arrived at a refugee camp in Syria during the past 10 days and that it is at risk of being overwhelmed as more people come. “These families arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs and find almost nothing to help them,” said Tarik Kadir, who heads the group’s Mosul response...

Displaced Christians celebrate as Iraq forces near Mosul (AFP) Hundreds of displaced Iraqi Christians danced and sang to celebrate an Iraqi military operation to retake their community’s main hub of Qaraqosh from jihadists. Iraqi Christian men, women and children — some of them holding candles — gathered at Mar Shimon church in the Kurdish capital of Arbil to pray and celebrate, an AFP correspondent reported on Tuesday. Iraqi federal forces on Tuesday moved deep into Qaraqosh, a town that lies around 15 kilometres (10 miles) southeast of Mosul and was seized by the Islamic State jihadist group in August 2014. “Today is a happy moment. There is no doubt our land will be liberated and we thank God, Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary,” said Hazem Djedjou Cardomi, a journalist among the crowd...

Pope Francis: access to food, water is a basic human right (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said access to food and water is a basic human right, and called on believers and people of good will everywhere to take personal responsibility for the needs of their neighbors...

Bishops meet to discuss pastoral care of Eastern Catholic migrants (Vatican Radio) Bishops of the Catholic Eastern Rite Churches in Europe are meeting in Portugal from 20-23 October to discuss the challenge of the pastoral care of Eastern Catholic migrants in Western European nations, especially the preservation of their cultural and ecclesial identity...

Russia opens new church in Paris (AP) Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has attended a ceremony to inaugurate a Russian Orthodox church and cultural center next to the Eiffel Tower. Russian President Vladimir Putin had planned to attend Wednesday’s ceremony at the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center but postponed his visit to Paris due to diplomatic tensions between Russia and France over the war in Syria. The complex, including the Holy Trinity Cathedral, has been built on the site of the former headquarters of France’s national weather forecasting services, near the Seine River...



18 October 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the leader of a Caritas humanitarian program in Jordan describes who some Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria have experienced. Iraqi soldiers are battling to retake from ISIS the city of Mosul. (video: Rome Reports)

Aid groups brace for civilian casualties from battle for Mosul (NPR) The battle for the ISIS-held city of Mosul, now in its second day, is expected to drag on for weeks or months. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces approach the city, aid groups in the region are preparing for a humanitarian crisis...

Ethiopian bishops call for dialogue (Vatican Radio) About 60 percent of Ethiopia’s population has been involved in protest and civil unrest for the past year. The Ahmara and Omoro are the two largest ethnic groups in the nation and are also the majority of the protesters. International entities such as the United Nations and European Union have called for government intervention. The Bishops of the Catholic Church of Ethiopia are calling for action...

Cardinal speaks out against religious intolerance (Fides) prominent Asian Cardinal has hit out against religious intolerance in his home nation, calling it a “poison for society.” Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, sent the strongly worded message to the “Fides” Agency, which held an event on Saturday to mark the launch of a book entitled “On the Brink” which examines the realities of life for religious minorities in Asian countries...

Leaders worry about ISIS threat to Kerala Christians (UCANews) Media reports that terrorists connected to the so-called Islamic State (IS) plan to target Syrian Christians in Kerala is causing concerns for religious leaders in the southern Indian state. The Times of India daily recently reported that Kerala police have busted an IS-inspired cell. Interrogations reportedly revealed that the Islamic militant outfit was targeting churches and institutions run by “a denomination of Christians of Syrian lineage.”

Cardinal Sandri visits Mt. Nebo (Vatican Radio) The Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, was in Jordan over the weekend, where he presided over a liturgy celebrating the official re-opening of the shrine atop Mt. Nebo...



17 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters deploy on the top of Mount Zardak, about 15 miles east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against ISIS on 17 October 2016.
(photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)


Battle for Mosul begins (CNN) Iraq’s military says it has inflicted “heavy losses of life and equipment” on ISIS in a district southeast of Mosul, as Iraqi-led forces close in on the city in the long-awaited battle to recapture it from the terror group. Hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of the offensive, Iraq’s military said it had inflicted losses and made advances in the Hamdaniya district...

UN fears 100,000 may flee Mosul for Syria, Turkey (Reuters) Up to 100,000 Iraqis may flee to Syria and Turkey to escape the Iraqi government’s military assault aimed at ousting Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, the United Nations refugee agency said on Monday. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued an appeal for an additional $61 million to provide tents, camps, winter items and stoves for displaced inside Iraq and new refugees needing shelter in the two neighboring countries...

Egypt re-opens border crossing to Gaza (UPI) Egypt announced it temporarily reopened the Rafah crossing for two days to allow Palestinians to enter or leave the Gaza Strip, and plans to do so a second time later this week. The Egyptian government reopened the Rafah crossing on the south side of the Gaza Strip to allow students, people with work permits and humanitarian cases to enter or leave for two days and will do so for four more days later this week...

Finding refuge: Vetting refugees at a Jordanian camp (CBS News) A majority of U.S. governors have called for a halt to the refugee program too. The Syrians who are finding refuge in the U.S. now find themselves at the center of a heated debate, pitting our American tradition of altruism against our fear of terrorism. We wanted to see for ourselves who these refugees are, and what is the vetting process...

Patriarch Kirill consecrates cathedral in London (RT) Hundreds of people including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prince Michael of Kent gathered in London’s Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and All Saints to attend a historic service conducted by the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church. Up to one thousand people attended the ceremonies on Sunday, according to the patriarch’s press service. The service included the consecration of London’s largest Orthodox Christian Cathedral, which had undergone a major refurbishment, and the Divine Liturgy, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in the British Isles...



14 October 2016
Greg Kandra




A man reacts on the rubble of destroyed buildings on 11 October after losing relatives to an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. The United States on Saturday plans to mount new efforts to pursue a cease fire for Aleppo. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

New diplomatic push for Syria cease fire (The New York Times) Secretary of State John Kerry will mount a fresh effort on Saturday to pursue a cease-fire for the besieged city of Aleppo by meeting with representatives from the regional powers most directly involved in the Syria conflict, American officials said on Wednesday. Just last week the Obama administration suspended talks with Russia on Syria after accusing the Russian military of conducting a bombing campaign so brutal that Mr. Kerry has urged that it be the subject of a war crimes investigation...

Britain’s first Syro-Malabar bishop ordained (Catholic Herald) Britain’s Syro-Malabar community has taken a major step forward with the ordination of its first bishop. In a ceremony attended by over 12,000 people, Cardinal George Alencherry, the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, ordained Mar Joseph Srampickal...

Pope Francis: Christians are united by ‘blood’ ecumenism (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Christians are already united when they are persecuted by terrorists or world powers in what he called an ecumenism of the “blood.” He was speaking in an off-the-cuff address on Wednesday to participants at the Conference for Secretaries of the Christian World Communions, an international ecumenical organization...

Lviv unearths its tragic past (Al Jazeera) Far from the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, this charming city some 750 miles to the west is known for its cafes and cobblestone streets. Besides being a top tourist destination, Lviv is also touted as a model for transparency and good local governance. But under its architectural beauty and progressive streak lies a dark past — a fact Svyatoslav Sheremeta confronted last August, when his team of archaeologists dug up the remains of a dozen people they believe were murdered by the Soviet secret police during World War II...

Pope greets restorers of the Basilica of the Nativity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday during his General Audience greeted the restorers of the Basilica of the Nativity in Jerusalem, accompanied by the vicar general of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fra Dobromir Jasztal, OFM...



12 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on 12 October. The pope called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria so that civilians can be rescued.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope Francis calls for cease fire in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria on Wednesday. Addressing pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis said, “I want to emphasize and reiterate my solidarity with all victims of inhuman conflict in Syria...”

Sviatoslav reminds Catholic bishops ‘the first victim of war is truth’ (ByzCath.org) On 6-9 October, Monaco hosted the Plenary Assembly of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe. On Saturday, 8 October, the regular working meeting of the heads of Catholic Dioceses across Europe heard reports on pastoral challenges the Church faces in their communities. In his speech, His Beatitude Sviatoslav told his brothers-bishops about the third year of suffering afflicted to the Ukrainians by war. He stressed that despite diplomatic efforts and other activities of the international community, no lasting cease-fire has been achieved in Ukraine...

Warming Russia-Turkey relations sends chill through Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor) Leaders of Turkey and Russia signed a long-delayed deal Monday to build the TurkStream gas pipeline under the Black Sea to deliver Russian gas to Europe’s doorstep within three years. The rapid warming trend in Russo-Turkish relations holds deep implications for Syria’s immediate crisis, which dominated the talks and the subsequent headlines, but the fallout from that pipeline deal is a potentially crushing blow to struggling pro-Western Ukraine and may be rearranging strategic realities around the region for many years to come...

Offering mental health support to refugees in Lebanon (Huffington Post) For the more than one million refugees who have fled war in Syria and Iraq to Lebanon, mental health and psychosocial needs are many and complex. Unlike physical health issues, the lack of visible symptoms for mental health disorders often leads to them being overlooked. Many of the refugees who find safety in Lebanon have survived physical violence including torture, trauma, and have born witness to the atrocities of the unabated armed conflict...

Sister accuses media of bias in Syria coverage (CNS) A religious sister working with Christian families in Aleppo, Syria, has criticized Western media for their allegedly biased coverage of the six-year conflict. Sister Annie Demerjian, a member of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, questioned why Western journalists focused on the plight of people in areas held by rebels and jihadis but seldom those in regions controlled by the government of Bashar Assad. “It is not fair,” she told Catholic News Service in a 10 October interview in Lancaster...



11 October 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad describes what he and other Christians have endured in Iraq. As the country prepares for the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, there have been disputes about who will control the territory. (video: Rome Reports)

Disputes over future control of Mosul (Fides) The preliminary phases to the military assault for the liberation of Mosul from jihadists of the Islamic State sees the increase of political, geopolitical and sectarian disputes about the future political and ethno-religious structure of the region among the various actors in the field, after the possible defeat of the Caliphate...

The rise of Syria’s White Helmets (The Economist) Operating across rebel-held parts of the country, Syria’s civil-defence team has grown from small, ragtag bands of untrained volunteers into a formidable search-and-rescue force. The group has rescued more than 60,000 people since 2014, when it began to keep count. Known as the White Helmets for the color of the hard hats they wear, the rescue workers were nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize...

Turkey extends state of emergency following failed coup (NPR) In Turkey, the sweeping crackdown that began after the failed coup attempt in July isn’t slowing down. A three-month state of emergency billed as a temporary measure has just been extended for another three months...

Israel shuts down access to Gaza, West Bank for Yom Kippur (AFP) Israeli authorities have barred Palestinians from entering the country from the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ahead of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday that begins on Tuesday evening, the army said. Such closures are often put in place for major Jewish holidays, but Israeli security forces are on especially high alert following an attack by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem on Sunday that killed two people...

Bees bring hope to Palestine (Vatican Radio) On the West Bank, near Ramallah, honey production has become one of the basic economic resources for a group of women...



7 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees arrive at a refugee camp in early May at the Jordan border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

U.N. to make aid delivery to Syrian refugees on Jordan’s border (Reuters) United Nations aid agencies will make their first deliveries of relief in two months to thousands of Syrian refugees stranded on Jordan’s northeastern border with Syria, the world body said on Thursday. More than 75,000 people, mostly women and children, have been stuck for months in makeshift camps in a no-man’s land on the Syrian side of the border, after fleeing central and eastern Syria…

Maronite archbishop: Aleppo is divided like a new Berlin (Vatican Radio) Daily life in the fiercely contested Syrian city of Aleppo becomes worse by the day. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo said nowhere is safe in the Syrian city which he called a “new Berlin.” The archbishop described how the residents of Aleppo are living with death on a daily basis as a result of the frequent bombardments and shelling, saying they celebrate at least ten funerals every day for those killed by the fighting…

A million children in Syria sign appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) More than one million children in Syria have been signing a petition calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the Syrian civil war…

Kidnapped Christians released in Egypt (Christian Today) Four Coptic Christians, including a child, who were kidnapped on Monday in the Egyptian town of Manfalout in Assiut, have returned home safely after a ransom was paid, according to the independent Cairo newspaper Watani…

Evidence of ancient Assyrian church discovered in Kazakhstan (The Astana Times) The ancient city of Ilyn Balik is well known from pilgrims’ travels. Recent excavations in Usharal village have uncovered an ancient city and cemetery with eight Nestorian gravestones and the markers prove Christianity was present in Kazakhstan long before Western imperialism…



Tags: Syria Egypt Jordan





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