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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
28 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi security forces wave their flag on 28 December after recapturing the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, about 70 miles west of Baghdad. (photo: Ahmad al Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraq declares Ramadi liberated from ISIS, sweeps for bombs (Daily Star Lebanon) Iraq declared the city of Ramadi liberated from ISIS Monday and raised the national flag over its government complex after clinching a landmark victory against the extremists…

ISIS bomb Assyrian homes, monastery in Iraq, vandalizes cemeteries (AINA) Two days ago ISIS bombed ten Assyrian homes and a monastery in the Assyrian village of Tel Kaif in north Iraq. The blasts injured several people. The monastery belonged to Assyrian sisters. According to residents, ISIS threatened to bomb Assyrian homes in other villages in the area…

Christmas in Syria (Sputnik) [Slideshow] Despite the tense and volatile situation in Syria, the Christian residents of Damascus celebrate Christmas with a festive flair…

Syrian journalist who exposed ISIS Aleppo atrocities assassinated in Turkey (RT) A prominent Syrian journalist and filmmaker, known for his anti-Islamic State documentaries, was gunned down by unknown assailants in broad daylight in Gaziantep, Turkey. This is the third assassination of a journalist in the country over the last three months…

Catholic bishops react to anti-Christian extremist rabbi (Fides) The Assembly of Catholic Ordinary Bishops of the Holy Land condemned “with dismay” recent anti-Christian statements disseminated by Rabbi Benzi Gopstein. In recent days, the rabbi, known for his extremist positions and leader of the far-right Jewish nationalist Lehava movement, published his proposal on a website to ban Christian holidays and expel Christians from Israel, “before these vampires,” wrote Gopstein, “drink our blood…”



Tags: Syria Iraq Israel ISIS

23 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this image from September, Jordanian King Abdullah II addresses the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City. Yesterday, in a televised address, the king described Arab Christians as “an integral part” of his kingdom’s civilization. (photo: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

King Abdullah: Arab Christians are an integral part of our civilization (Fides) Arab Christians “are an integral part of our past, present and future” and right from the beginning “have been an essential partner in building our culture and civilization and in defending Islam,” King Abdullah II of Jordan said in a televised speech on Jordan state television on Tuesday 22 December…

Iraq sends more troops to fight ISIS in Ramadi (The New York Times) Iraq sent battalions of reinforcements on Wednesday to secure neighborhoods in Ramadi recaptured from ISIS, as soldiers continued an offensive for a second day to try to take full control of the city…

Russian Orthodox Church slams seizure of churches in Ukraine (TASS) Deacon Feodor Shulga, member of the secretariat for inter-Orthodox relations of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, says that by seizing cathedrals of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian authorities are attempting to draw the church into the political and civil conflict in the country…

Mumbai holds interreligious Christmas celebration (Vatican Radio) The much-anticipated annual interreligious celebration of Christmas, hosted by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, is a fitting introduction indeed to the season of Christmas with its message of good will to all. This year’s theme emphasizes that we are all brothers and sisters caring for each other and for creation, in keeping with Pope Francis’ encyclical…

Palestinian eviction case spotlights Jerusalem settler push (AP) Ahmad Sub-Laban’s family has lived for decades under threat of eviction from their home overlooking the gold-topped Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City. The experience inspired the 37-year-old Palestinian father of two to become a researcher for groups fighting attempts by Jewish settlers to move into properties in the city’s central Arab areas. The Israeli Supreme Court is now poised to rule in the final legal battle over the apartment, and Mr. Sub-Laban has tapped into his network of contacts to try to halt the eviction by putting pressure on the Israeli government. Under a longstanding U.S. framework for a peace deal, Jerusalem would be divided into two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods going to Israel and the Arab ones to Palestine. This complex arrangement becomes yet more challenging as more Jews move into Arab areas. Earlier this month, Jerusalem-based U.S. diplomat Dorothy Shea visited the Sub-Labans to express concern about their fate and the “pattern of evictions…”



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Jordan Interreligious

22 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Young displaced Iraqis try to dig a drainage trench after heavy rains in November at a camp
in Baghdad. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jalil, EPA)


Patriarchs encourage hope amid suffering in Middle East (CNS) Catholic patriarchs from the Middle East encouraged their trouble people to find inner peace at Christmas and urged the world to remember them. “In Iraq, we will celebrate the birth of Christ who comes into our hearts in silence and tears,” said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. However, he said, “We remain sustained by (an) inner peace that perpetuates the joy of faith and hope that we will, despite the trials, work toward a fairer country and a better future...”

Two Christian villages bombarded by jihadists (Fides) At least two civilians were killed and another twenty injured by grenades on Monday 21 December by anti-regime jihadist fighters against the villages of Maharda and Sqelbyia, in the province of Hama. The two towns, currently controlled by the government army, are inhabited by Orthodox Christians...

Canada to double number of Syrian refugees in 2016 (Time) Canada announced it will double the amount of Syrian refugees it admits in 2016. The country had initially pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February, but John McCallum, the minister of immigration and citizenship, said that number would be upped to 50,000 by the end of 2016, the BBC reports...

Syriac Christians in Palestine keep hope alive (Middle East Eye) In an unassuming room off a quiet alleyway connecting the Armenian and Jewish quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City, the self-described mayor of this city’s tiny Syriac community holds court. A prominent local tailor, Sammy Barsoum has for decades campaigned for the recognition of the approximately 5,000 Syriac Christians that call Palestine home...

Report: Newly crowned “Miss Iraq” receives kidnapping threat from ISIS (Jerusalem Post) Iraq’s new beauty queen received a threatening phone call on Tuesday telling her to join the ranks of ISIS or she will be kidnapped, according to a report by the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan. Shayma Qassim, 20, won the first beauty pageant to be held in Iraq in 40 years on Saturday. According to the report, following her win, Qassim received a threatening phone call in which she was warned that if she refused to join the ranks of the Islamic State movement she would be kidnapped...



21 December 2015
Greg Kandra




A displaced Syrian woman holds her ten-day-old twin grandchildren in a town on the outskirts of Damascus where they have taken shelter on 20 December 2015.
(photo: AFP/Amer Almohibany/Getty Images)


Pope appeals for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for peace in Syria on Sunday, calling on the international community to realize in concrete action and genuine fact the endorsement of a UN-sponsored roadmap toward peace in the war-torn nation...

Christians disappearing from Gaza (USA Today) Dim lighting and candles softly illuminate decorative tapestries as the smell of incense fills the air and the harmonic sound of hundreds singing in unison drifts onto a busy street next to an overflowing church on a wet and windy Sunday morning. Despite the packed pews at Gaza’s Church of St. Porphyrius just weeks before Christmas, Christianity is not booming here. Rather, the worshipers at the 1,600-year-old shrine believe they may be the last group of Christians in Gaza, where they have lived and prayed since the birth of Jesus. The ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the highest unemployment rate in the world are prompting Christians to leave the besieged area in droves, some using the holiday season to their advantage...

Pope prays for flood victims in India (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed for the victims of massive flooding in India on Sunday. Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square after the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said. “My thoughts turn in this moment to the dear populations of India, recently stricken by a great flood.” The city of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state in southeastern India, was overwhelmed earlier this month after a series of record-breaking rainfalls triggered the flooding, in which some three hundred people perished. Much of the city’s 4.8 million population remains exposed to the threat of disease outbreak as a result of the flooding. Meteorologists fear unusually intense weather patterns could bring more rain...

President Assad visits a Catholic church (Fides) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the Melkite Catholic parish of Our Lady of Damascus, in the Damascene district of al Qussur, with his wife Asma. Of the presidential visit, which took place on Friday evening, 18 December, the official Syrian media released photos and video the next day...

Russia confirms food embargo against Ukraine (AFP) Russia will introduce a food embargo against Ukraine next month over Kiev’s trade deal with the EU, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday, extending punitive measures already in place against Western countries. “These measures will be extended to Ukraine too,” Medvedev said at a government meeting. “I have just signed the relevant decree...”

Visiting a monastery in Ethiopia (Daily Mail) The rope being tied around my waist by a monk comprised lengths of scraggly old leather attached to each other by granny knots. I have a fear of heights, and as I looked up, the cliff seemed to topple towards me by degrees. But this was the only way to visit the 6th century monastery of Debre Damo, which perches on a plateau in northern Ethiopia, a true wilderness...



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

18 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Jasan Zided of Hebron, West Bank, waits to sell Santa hats to tourists in an empty Manger Square on 15 December in Bethlehem, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Middle East situation dampens Christmas in Bethlehem (Catholic Register) Though the Christmas tree was lit in Nativity Square in the traditional ceremony, and some traditional pre-Christmas parades have taken place, the Christmas spirit this year in Bethlehem has been dampened by the political situation, which, since October, has taken the lives of almost 100 Palestinians and 22 Israelis. Few pilgrims are visiting the holy sites — or the souvenir shops that line Manger Square — and there is none of the customary festive caroling at the square in the evenings leading up to Christmas Eve…

Israel and Turkey agree to restore diplomatic ties (The New York Times) Israel and Turkey have reached a preliminary agreement to begin restoring full diplomatic relations after years of deep freeze, Israeli officials said on Thursday. The two countries, once close regional allies, fell out after a deadly confrontation in 2010 between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists on a passenger vessel seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip…

Syrian refugees snared in poverty (UNHCR) Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are facing dire levels of poverty, with the situation expected to worsen in the near future, a study published today by the World Bank Group and the UN Refugee Agency revealed. Nearly 1.7 million Syrian refugees registered in Jordan and Lebanon live in miserable conditions, often unable to afford the very basics including sufficient food, clothes and medicine. The majority are women and children who live on the margins in urban and rural areas, often in substandard accommodation, rather than in refugee camps…

Mother Teresa to be declared a saint (Vatican Radio) Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is to be made a Saint. Pope Francis on Thursday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa (née Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu)…

Coptic monasteries will not close over jihadist threats (Fides) Historical Coptic monasteries in the Wadi Natrun region will not suffer any closure for security reasons, after the jihadist threats aimed in particular against the monastery in Baramos, dedicated to the Virgin Mary…

Indian government assures justice for country’s Christians (UCANews.com) India’s government has assured the country’s Christian community of justice and protection against persecution. “We have always been with the Christian community and will always remain with them. There should be no confusion regarding this,” said Rajnath Singh, federal home minister, and second-in-command to India’s prime minister. Singh was speaking at a Christmas dinner organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in New Delhi on 17 December...



Tags: Refugees Israel Turkey Indian Christians Bethlehem

17 December 2015
Greg Kandra




During his annual Moscow press conference on 17 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on a number of topics, including the situation in Ukraine and the downing of a Russian combat jet by Turkey last month. (photo: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

Putin: Russia did have people in Ukraine doing ‘certain military tasks’ (Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia did have personnel in eastern Ukraine who were carrying out certain military tasks but denied Moscow had deployed regular troops there. “We never said there were no people there who were carrying out certain tasks including in the military sphere,” Putin told an annual news conference. Putin said Russia was ready to persuade separatists in eastern Ukraine that a compromise was needed in order to achieve a political settlement of the conflict there…

Saudi Arabia’s new anti-terrorism coalition stirs questions and controversy (Los Angeles Times) In a region chock full of anti-terrorism coalitions, the newest alliance, founded by Saudi Arabia, has managed to raise the ire of countries left out — as well as eyebrows among some named as part of the club. Absent from the list of countries are Iraq and Syria, despite the coalition’s operations being aimed at fighting terrorism in those countries. Also missing is Saudi Arabia’s regional rival and Shiite powerhouse Iran, which is pitted against the Saudis in Syria, Iraq and Yemen…

Iraqi Christian refugees share their most treasured possessions (ABC News) Iraqi Christian Annosa Ishaa, poses for a photograph in her tented shelter erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Elias Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq. The church houses hundreds of Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes — many with less than an hour to do so — as the Islamic State advanced last year. Asked, after her family what was the one thing she could not leave behind, the nurse from Qaraqosh said her passport…

Christians mark 40th anniversary of celebrating Christmas together in Jordan (Fides) This year marks the 40th anniversary of the unification of the date on which all the Churches and Christian communities in Jordan celebrate Christmas. In 1975, the heads of Christian churches agreed to celebrate Christmas on 25 December, according to the Gregorian calendar, while celebrating Easter according to the Julian calendar…

In India, Christmas in solidarity with flood victims (Fides) Churches in South India will experience a Christmas of solidarity and humanitarian aid, to help the victims of the flooding that occurred in recent days in the area of Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The effort of the churches will involve all the faithful pitching in time and resources; parishes, priests, religious communities, associations, lay people and families will donate money they would have spent on the celebrations Christmas in charity initiatives for families affected by the flood, estimated as “the worst in a hundred years…”

Why Jewish-Catholic reconciliation gives hope for the future (Vanity Fair) The church faithful have, for the most part, become the allies of the Jews, not only in their long-term war against anti-Semitism, but also and especially in the joint effort to repair the world and restore human universality…

The Oromo protests and Ethiopia’s political vulnerabilities (Tesfa News) At least 40 people have been killed, hundreds wounded, and thousands detained in more than three weeks of uprisings in Ethiopia’s Oromia state, the largest of nine linguistic-based states. The Oromo people make up close to 50 percent of Ethiopia’s population. Protesters primarily oppose a draft for a plan that, if implemented, will expand the jurisdiction of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia. The ongoing protests began last month in Ginci, a small town about 50 miles west of Addis Ababa. There, the demands were limited and benign, largely centering on the ownership transfer of a local stadium and the clearing of nearby forest for development by foreign investors. The master plan formed only one piece of their demands. Authorities responded using disproportionate force, triggering a widespread outrage…



Tags: Ethiopia Middle East Iraqi Christians Christian-Jewish relations

16 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Special Representative of the United Nations in Iraq Jan Kubis, left, meets with Kirkuk Governor Najm al-Din Karim on 14 December 2015 in Kirkuk. The governor has just announced that as a “sign of solidarity” with Christians, 24 December will be a public holiday.
(photo: Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images)


Christmas Eve to be a public holiday as “sign of solidarity” in Kirkuk (Fides) This year, the birth of the Lord for the churches that follow the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, a public holiday for Muslims. This is why, as a sign of solidarity of the institutions and the whole society towards Christians, the governor of the province of Kirkuk, Kurdish Necmettin Karim, said that Thursday, 24 December, Christmas Eve, will be a public holiday...

Patriarch: “Mercy is a political act par excellence” (Fides) “Children of the world dream of a wonderful celebration with gifts, lights, decorated trees and crèches.” However, and I repeat the same words of Pope Francis, everything is distorted “because the world continues to make war.” This famous “third world war being fought in pieces,” which he speaks of so often, is unfolding before our eyes in our region.” This is what the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal writes in his traditional Christmas message, presented this morning at a press conference in Jerusalem, at the headquarters of the Latin Patriarchate...

Report describes “welfare of Syrian refugees” (The World Bank) Since the Syrian crisis began, nearly 1.7 million people have fled to neighboring Jordan and Lebanon. To better understand the profile and welfare of Syrian refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon, the World Bank Group and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have worked closely together to produce The Welfare of Syrian Refugees: Evidence from Jordan and Lebanon. The report explores the socio-economic profile, poverty, and vulnerability of refugees, evaluates current policies and discusses prospects for policy reforms...

How the Arab Spring became the Arab cataclysm (The New Yorker) Five years later, the costs and consequences of the uprisings have stunned the world. “Perhaps we in the international community, and the people on the ground, were naïve and misled by how easy the Tunisians made it seem,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, told me this week. “The Egyptians, too, got rid of a dictator. But we underestimated the forces against democracy and rights — and the way in which other forces of repression and destruction were able to fill the vacuums that the uprisings created...”



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Arab Spring

15 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Members of the Turkish Coast Guard near Izmir, Turkey, register Syrian migrants after capturing a boat carrying them on 10 December as they attempted to reach Greek island of Chios. Pope Francis spoke of the crisis facing refugees and migrants in his message for World Peace Day.
(photo: CNS/Tolga Bozoglu, EPA)


In Peace Day message, pope addresses death penalty, migrants (CNS) Pope Francis called for abolishing the death penalty worldwide, lifting the burden of debt on poor nations, global aid policies that respect life and revamped laws that welcome and integrate migrants. He urged individuals, communities and nations to not let indifference, information overload or pessimism discourage them from concrete efforts “to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors and places of employment.” Building peace, he said, is not accomplished by words alone, but through the grace of God, a conversion of heart, an attitude of compassion and the courage to act against despair. The pope’s multifaceted plea came in his message for World Peace Day, 1 January. The message, which was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican on 15 December...

ISIS beheads three imams in Mosul (Fides) The self-styled Islamic State of jihadists beheaded three well-known Sunni imams in Mosul in the public square accused of not obeying orders that forced them to recruit young people for the Jihad. The three imams, known by the local people for their profile of authentic men of God: Kazim Abdulkarim, Bilal al-Sheikh Agha and Abdullah al-Hayalli, had opposed to the atrocities committed by jihadists in the name of their bloody religious ideology. They were killed on Monday, 14 December, in front of dozens of people gathered to witness the beheading...

Thousands rally to mark anniversary of Hamas (Al Bawaba.com) A thousands-strong rally in the Gaza Strip has marked the 28th anniversary of the foundation of the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas, Press TV reports. The event was held in Gaza City on Monday, with attendees reaffirming their support for the movement. Since its establishment in December 1987, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel and adhered to resistance against the Israeli occupation, which it believes is the sole way of bringing about the liberation of occupied Palestinian territories. The movement says its goal is to liberate the entire historical Palestine...

Posters in Baghdad ask Christian women to wear the veil (Fides) There are posters on the walls of Baghdad, near the churches and in neighborhoods where there are still Christian communities asking women to wear the veil. The message is addressed directly to Christian women, since the poster portrays the image of the Virgin Mary and a text in which it is emphasized that even the Virgin Mary, docile to the teaching received, wore the veil. The same posters had appeared in some areas of the city in the month of November...

Letter of His Beatitude Gregorios III for the Feast of the Nativity (ByzCath.org) Glad tidings! Gospel! Great joy! Thus begins the Gospel of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thus begins Christianity. Thus begins our holy Christian faith. This is the Feast of the Nativity. On this holy day, this year we hear anew the Christmas angel in the dark night, in the fields of Beit Sahur and Bethlehem, and in all parts of the world. We hear again the voice of the angel announcing to us all without exception, and particularly to all those receiving this letter, “I bring you glad tidings of great joy. I bring to you a Gospel, the Gospel of joy. This joy is Jesus himself, the Saviour...”



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank

14 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad is pictured in a 2014 photo in Geneva.
(photo: CNS/Salvatore Di Nolfi, EPA)


Iraqi patriarch says Christian persecution has reached “critical, violent” point (CNS) The survival of Christianity in the Middle East has reached such a critical point that the chances of dialogue and reconciliation in the region are being threatened, said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. “The situation is very bad, very critical and always violent,” Sako told Catholic News Service on 10 December. “Last year in August, 120,000 Christian people were expelled from their homes, their villages and now they are living in some camps with nothing, but the Church is helping them.” Sako was among the keynote speakers at a 10-12 December international conference on Christian persecution in the world. He told CNS that the mass exodus of Christians in the region will only worsen the situation due to growing tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims who “are killing each other...”

Patriarch visits Egypt (Fides) Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Peter Rai carried out a four-day visit to Egypt, which ended yesterday, Sunday 13 December and was characterized by a busy schedule, not only from a pastoral point of view. The occasion for the patriarchal visit was the inauguration of the church dedicated to St. Maron, which underwent major restoration in the Cairo district of Heliopolis. During the visit in Egypt, the Primate of the Maronite Church had high-level contacts and met among others the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad al Tayyeb, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi...

Russia angry at Turkey’s military presence in Iraq (New Europe) The scale of Turkey’s military presence in northern Iraq cannot be justified by the tasks of training any local groups, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Sunday. “We think that Turkey’s actions in northern Iraq are illegal. It is an invasion into a neighboring state,” he said. “Moreover, the scale of these actions cannot be justified by any training-related argument.” Iraq appealed to the United Nations Security Council on Friday to demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Turkish troops from northern Iraq, calling Turkey’s military incursion a “flagrant violation” of international law...

Syrian refugees receive a primer on Canadian life (The Globe and Mail) As the new Syrian arrivals take in the mundane details of Canadian life like so many refugees before them, there are signs of the emotional toll of the past few years. There is also evidence of the network of support that is ready to help, the sponsors who have brought them here, the volunteers on hand to translate. With as many as 25,000 refugees expected in the coming months, this is a scene that will play out again and again across Canada...

Bhopal archbishop receives peace award (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Leo Cornelio SVD, of Bhopal on Thursday received the prestigious International Human Rights Award for the year 2015 at the India Islamic Centre, New Delhi in a glittering ceremony organized by All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice...

Hanukkah lights the darkness in Ukraine (FoxNews.com) Since the crisis began two years ago, the Jewish community of Ukraine, numbering an estimated 300-350,000 Jews, has come together not just to provide much-needed aid, but also to celebrate the Jewish holidays with bravery and gusto unmatched under such circumstances. They have been joined in this massive undertaking by my organization, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and other overseas Jewish and Christian aid groups — the Jewish Federations, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, World Jewish Relief, and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews — individual philanthropists, foundations, community leaders, and activists all seeking to ensure that life goes on even under duress...



11 December 2015
Greg Kandra




An aerial view from an Indian relief helicopter shows flood affected areas of Chennai.
(photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)


Some India Catholic churches to cancel Christmas celebrations after flooding (Vatican Radio) Catholic churches in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are cancelling Christmas in order to divert funds to help victims of flooding in Chennai — the worst in more than a century that are being blamed on climate change. Dozens were killed and thousands were left homeless as Chennai — the fifth most populous city in India — suffered the worst November rainfall in more than 20 years and the wettest December day in over a century when more than 12 inches fell on 1 December...

Canada’s prime minister welcomes Syrian refugees (BBC) The first military plane carrying Syrian refugees to be resettled in Canada has arrived in the country. Welcoming the 163 refugees, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country was “showing the world how to open our hearts”. The newly elected Liberal government has pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February. Canada’s stance on the issue differs sharply to that of the US, which has been reluctant to take in migrants. Another plane is due in Montreal on Saturday...

Studying Hebrew in Gaza: Bridging two peoples (Haaretz) At the small mixed-gender training room of the Nafha center for Hebrew and Israeli studies, six students of various ages have gathered. “Me’ayin is the Hebrew word for ‘from where,’” the teacher, Ahmed Alfaleet, explains. Alfaleet, the head of the center, was once a prisoner in Israeli jails. The 42-year-old was one of the more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011; after he was freed, he decided to take on the challenge of spreading the Hebrew language in Gaza...

Analysis: Jews and Catholics must implement new interfaith partnership (Vatican Radio) The new Vatican document on the Catholic Church’s changed relationship with the Jewish world will only be effective if it is shared “on the streets, in the pulpits, in the pews of our churches and synagogues”. That’s the view of Dr. Edward Kessler, founding director of the interfaith Woolf Institute in Cambridge and one of the two Jewish speakers at a press conference presenting the new Vatican document on Thursday...



Tags: Syria India Gaza Strip/West Bank Jews





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