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Current Issue
June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
22 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis speaks about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, in an audience with members of ROACO. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope: Middle East is a ‘crossroads of suffering’ (Vatican News) ”The Middle East today is a crossroads of difficult situations, suffering,” Pope Francis said on Friday, in unscripted remarks to representatives of ROACO, the Reunion of Aid Agencies to the Oriental Churches (Italian: “Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali”). ROACO coordinates assistance and provides funding for initiatives that aid Eastern Catholic churches. In his extemporaneous comments, Pope Francis warned that there is the risk of “eliminating Christians” from the Middle East although he was careful to say that this did not mean this was anyone’s intention…

Report: Only ten Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria resettled in U.S. In 2018 (Christian Post) As the Trump administration has promised to help Christians and other religious minorities who faced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State, the U.S. government has resettled only ten Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria since the beginning of 2018…

Gaza border communities economically battered by kite fires (The Jerusalem Post) Gaza border communities are facing a new type of attack unlike rocket salvos from Hamas. Today, flaming kites and explosive condoms have scorched farmlands in nearby areas, backed-up highways as police sappers close roads to defuse incendiary devices, and led to a wave of canceled guests at local hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. While the burning kites have yet to kill or maim any Israeli civilians, they are increasingly inflicting an economic toll...

Syrian refugees creating items for IKEA (Mental Floss) After debuting the Tilltalande Collection at its Amman, Jordan location last year, IKEA is finally bringing it to the U.S. As Curbed reports, every item in the collection was created by women from Jordan and refugees from Syria. The new line is a collaboration between IKEA and the Jordan River Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Jordanians, especially women and children…

Meet Maxim, the champion powerlifting Russian Orthodox priest (Metro.co.uk) This is Maxim Pastuhov. He’s a Russian Orthodox priest… and also a champion powerlifter. When he’s not tending to his flock in Belgorod Oblast, Russia, the 41-year-old is down the gym getting busy with dumbells and barbells. Despite only having started weight training seven years ago, he’s already gained the title of “master of sport” — a prestigious title across Russia and former Soviet countries. ‘Weightlifting is a sport and is just my way of life,’ Maxim says…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Vatican Russian Orthodox

21 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis attends an encounter at the World Council of Churches' ecumenical center in Geneva on 21 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope in Geneva: ‘Our differences must not be excuses’ (CNS) Not only God, but today’s broken, divided world is begging for unity among Christians, Pope Francis said on an ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva. ”Our differences must not be excuses,” he said, because as Christ’s disciples, Christians can still pray together, evangelize and serve others…

Pope Francis flies to Geneva on ‘ecumenical pilgrimage’ (Vatican News) Pope Francis Thursday morning flew to Geneva to join the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a 350 member-group that is present in more than 110 countries and territories, making it the largest umbrella group of Christian denominations in the world. The WCC represents over 500 million Christians and includes most of world’s Orthodox Churches, a large number of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed Churches, as well as many United and Independent Churches…

Horrific details of chemical attack left out from U.N. report (The New York Times) At least twice this year, the Syrian military fired Iranian-made artillery shells filled with a chlorine-like substance that oozed poison slowly, giving victims just a few minutes to escape. In another attack, Syrian forces dropped a chemical bomb on the top-floor balcony of an apartment building, killing 49 people, including 11 children. Their skin turned blue. These details and others blaming Syria for atrocities in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, were uncovered by a United Nations commission investigating and documenting possible war crimes in the seven-year-old conflict. But when the commission issued a report on Wednesday, the details were omitted…

Holy See: human trafficking is the ’largest manifestation of modern slavery (Vatican News) The Holy See says that human trafficking, the “largest manifestation of modern slavery”, can be defeated by “eliminating the culture of consumerism” and fostering a culture of encounter centered on respect for human dignity. Even as Pope Francis was visiting Geneva on Thursday, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva made the statement at a Human Rights Council in the Swiss city during a session on trafficking in persons…

On the trail of the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia (The Independent) I arrived in Ethiopia as an unlikely Indiana Jones figure. My brother and I were tracing the watery route of the Ark of the Covenant, which was allegedly brought to Ethiopia in 400 BC and then proceeded to take a tour of the lakes for the next 800 years…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Ecumenism

20 June 2018
Greg Kandra




The video above, produced by the Vatican, recently won an international prize for its treatment of issues affecting migrants and refugees. (video: Vatican News/YouTube)

Pope supports bishops’ criticism of ‘immoral’ immigration policy (CNS) Pope Francis said he stands with the U.S. bishops who recently condemned the Trump administration’s policy on immigration that has led to children being held in government shelters while their parents are sent to federal prisons. ”I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” Pope Francis said in an interview with the Reuters news agency, published online 20 June. “Let it be clear that in these things, I respect (the position of) the bishops’ conference…”

Report on war crimes in eastern Ghouta (Euronews.com) United Nations investigators have accused both government and rebel forces of committing war crimes in the clashes around eastern Ghouta…

Vatican awarded international prize for video on migrants, refugees (Vatican News) A Vatican video campaign on migrants and refugees has become an internationally-recognized best practice in promoting positive change in society through social advertising. The International Social Advertising Festival or Publifestival awarded its “Best Strategy in Social Action” prize to a video made by the Section for Migrants and Refugees of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Promotion. The video was produced by the agency La Machi Communication for Good Causes…

Church agencies rushing to help victims of monsoon in India (UCANews.com) Church agencies are rushing aid to thousands of people in northeast India after floods and landslides claimed at least 23 lives in the past week. The worst-hit villages are in the states of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, where floodwater caused by monsoon rains inundated homes and farmland in low-lying areas. Landslides have cut off roads in hilly areas while rivers are rising to dangerous levels, leaving hundreds of villages marooned…

Filmmaker looks at hidden Jews of Ethiopia (Canadian Jewish News) For hundreds of years, perhaps longer, Ethiopian Jews were known by their neighbors as Falashas, a pejorative term meaning “landless” or “wanderer” that made them out to be perpetual outsiders in the east African country, even though Jews have resided there for millennia. Facing discrimination, some converted to Christianity. Others did not and from the late 1970s through to the ‘90s, the community was brought to Israel in several airlifts, including Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. The Christian converts, known as Falash Mura, were brought to Israel later, although several thousand still remain in the capital, Addis Ababa, waiting to join their relatives in the Promised Land…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Vatican

19 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis meets a group of refugees in St. Peter's Square. (photo: Vatican News/Caritas Internationalis)

Pope sends message to migrants, refugees (Vatican News) In a message to participants at a lunch organized by Caritas Rome in the city’s main soup kitchen that caters for tens of thousands of poor people, many of them migrants and refugees, Pope Francis on Tuesday highlighted the importance and the value of “sharing” spaces, events and simple things like a meal, in order to overcome barriers and nurture feelings of brotherhood…

Caritas Europa advocates for ’safe and legal pathways’ for refugees (Vatican News) Pope Francis said on Sunday that World Refugee Day, promoted by the UN is meant “to call attention to the anxiety and suffering lived by those who are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution”. ”We stand for a Europe that provides durable solutions for people in need of protection”, Caritas Europa wrote in a statement released for World Refugee Day (20 June). They also call for “global responsibility” in reaching this goal so the burden on the shoulders of “countries already hosting the majority of refugees worldwide” can be shared…

UN: One in every 110 people in the world is forcibly displaced (The Telegraph) A record 68.5 million people have been forced flee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, notably in places like Myanmar and Syria, the UN said on Tuesday. By the end of 2017, the number was nearly three million higher than the previous year and showed a 50-percent increase from the 42.7 million uprooted from their homes a decade ago, according to a report by the UN refugee agency…

Indians fleeing persecution among those being detained in U.S. (The Oregonian) Of the 123 people now in Sheridan, the most populous nationality is not Honduran or Guatemalan, it is East Indian. Fifty-two listed India as their home country. Several identified themselves as Sikhs or Christians fleeing religious persecution from the Hindu majority. The East Indians told the delegation that their Hindi and Punjabi translators were the first outsiders they’ve been able to talk to since they were imprisoned weeks ago..

Rare 1,000-year-old amulet with Arabic blessing found in Jerusalem (LiveScience.com) Archaeologists discovered a 1,000-year-old clay amulet about the size of a dime at one of the oldest historical sites in Jerusalem. The tiny amulet belonged to a man named Kareem and is inscribed with a personal prayer, “Kareem trusts in Allah. Lord of the Worlds is Allah.” Teams from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University unearthed the rare ornamental piece beneath the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David, in Jerusalem Walls National Park. In the past decade, archaeologists have uncovered numerous artifacts, including precious stones and gold coins, beneath the Givati Parking Lot — the largest excavation site in Jerusalem…



Tags: India Jerusalem Immigration

15 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In recent message, Pope Francis urges justice, solidarity and compassion regardless of migration status. (video: Rome Reports)

What is the current state of the migration crisis in Europe? (The Guardian) Three years after Europe’s biggest influx of migrants and refugees since the Second World War, tensions between E.U. member states over how to handle irregular immigration from outside the bloc — mainly from the Middle East and Africa — are rising again…

Trauma forms the invisible ruins ISIS left behind on the Nineveh Plain (Crux) After the Islamic State was driven out of the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq in 2017, the scale of destruction left behind in a chain of historically Christian villages was staggering…

Iraq to rebuild Yazidi shrines in Sinjar (AINA) Iraq’s Ministry of Construction and Housing is rebuilding Yazidi shrines, administrative headquarters, and roads in Nineveh Province’s city of Sinjar, in what the ministry called a ‘major campaign,’ on Thursday…

Syria’s not waiting for peace to rebuild, and Iran wants to help (Al Monitor) Taking full control of the capital city of Damascus and the surrounding area for the first time since the civil war broke out in 2011 has given the Syrian government new impetus. That success also allows it to approach reconstruction of infrastructure and cities…

Church in Orissa prepares to commemorate anti-Christian massacres (Fides) The Catholic Church in the Indian state of Orissa, in eastern India, is preparing to celebrate the solemn commemoration of the victims of the anti-Christian massacres of 2008…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Migrants Yazidi

14 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2017 photo, Syrian refugee children play on the grounds of the Fratelli Association in Rmeileh village, which provides refugees with educational services. (photo: Philip Eubanks)

Lebanon witnesses rise in Syrian refugee child labor over past year (Daily Star Lebanon) Aid groups say more and more Syrian children are joining the workforce as poverty intensifies among about a million refugees living in Lebanon — roughly a quarter of the country’s population…

In Iraqi Christian village, ‘In God we trust’ isn’t just a slogan (Crux) Once a thriving Chaldean Catholic community, Qaramlesh today is the shadow of what it used to be, but many are working against the clock to make it what it was before summer ends…

Egypt sees rise in disappearances of Coptic Christian women (Christian Today) The disappearance of a number of Coptic Christian women in Egypt in recent months has sparked fears that they are being targeted for human trafficking…

U.N. slams ‘excessive’ Israeli force against Palestinians in Gaza (Al Jazeera) The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a resolution adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries. The 193-member world body rejected the United States’ efforts to blame Gaza’s Hamas rulers for the violence that has killed more than 120 Palestinians in the past two and half months…

U.N. condemns European countries’ refusal to take in migrants (Vatican News) The chief of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says a bitter dispute over which European country should take in a rescue boat carrying hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean “profoundly shameful” for the European Union…

Christians in the Nineveh Plain host evening meal with Muslim neighbors (Fides) On Tuesday, a community iftar was hosted in the city of Bartella, about ten miles from Mosul, at the local community center of the Syriac Orthodox Church. This evening meal interrupts the daily fasting Muslims undertake during Ramadan…

Ukraine’s Greek Catholic chief sees ‘no choice’ but dialogue with Russia (Crux) “For us, for the simple people, for the Christians, reconciliation means not only prayer for reconciliation, but also effective acts of reconciliation, because that is how we construct a peace for the next generation,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, in an interview with a small group of reporters…



Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Refugees Iraqi Christians Palestinians

13 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this August 2017 photo, a man shovels the road in Qaraqosh’s main commercial street, heavily destroyed by fighting between Islamic State militants and Iraqi coalition forces. (photo: Raed Rafei)

In post-ISIS Christian town, heroism and paradox both abound (Crux) Over the centuries, the Middle East has always been a land where expectations tend to experience especially tough collisions with reality, so it probably should be no surprise that a massive effort to rebuild the Christian village which was the epicenter of a brutal ISIS onslaught in 2014 has, at its heart, three grand paradoxes. Qaraqosh — or “Baghdeda” to Christians, who make up 96 percent of the population and prefer to use the city’s Aramaic name to reclaim their Christian identity — was the largest Christian community on the Nineveh Plains, a swath of land that overlaps the border between Iraq and Kurdish-controlled territory…

Georgian Prime Minister Kvirikashvili resigns (The Daily Star) Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday amid a disagreement with the leader of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is a former prime minister and the ex-Soviet country’s richest man. “We’ve had some disagreements with the leader of the ruling party,” Kvirikashvili said in a televised statement. “I think there is a moment now when the leader of the (ruling) party should be given an opportunity to staff a new cabinet.” Kvirikashvili, 50, has been prime minister since 2015…

U.N. votes on condemning Israel over Gaza violence (Al Monitor) The United Nations General Assembly will vote Wednesday on condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza in a resolution fiercely opposed by the United States. At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March…

Can Jordan’s new prime minister reform the government? (Washington Post) Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II appointed former education minister Omar Razzaz as the new prime minister after protests rocked the country. And Razzaz has already made several concessions to the protesters over taxes. But more interesting is that Razzaz said a “new social contract” will be a top item on his government’s agenda…



Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Georgia

12 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man pushes a cart loaded with lunch boxes through a flooded street after heavy rain in Mumbai on 9 June 2018. (photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images)

Caritas India offers climate change survival classes (UCAN India) As India continues to be struck by natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, a church group is pitching in with others to help prepare villagers for when calamity strikes. Since April, dust storms and rains across the northern and eastern part of the country have killed 278 people, 223 of them in the first fortnight of May…

Iraqi shepherd determined that Christianity not only survive, but thrive (Crux) Officially speaking, there’s no index of the moral heroes of Catholicism in our time. There would be plenty of candidates, clergy and religious lay men and women, all over the world who put their lives on the line in every imaginable way to serve the planet’s most marginalized and suffering people. Somewhere near the top of the list, however, would have to be Archbishop Bashar Warda, leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq…

Iraq’s favorite lake dries up in sign of worse to come (Al Monitor) Karbala’s Lake Milh hasn’t seen a lot of visitors in the last few years. Once a popular picnic destination for Karbala residents, the lake’s water has dwindled, leaving most of it a desert with nothing but derelict fishing boats and dead animals…

Debunking four myths surrounding the Palestinian protests (Vice) Over the past ten weeks, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the “March of Return,” mass nonviolent demonstrations to protest Israel’s illegal siege. Throughout, Israel has responded with violent force. In order to legitimize its resort to overwhelming force, Israel has sought to cast doubt on the popular character of the demonstrations in Gaza and to present them as a threat to its security. A number of myths about the Gaza protests have consequently gained widespread traction…

Noah’s Ark and the Assyrian relief (AINA) A team of archaeologists is searching Turkey’s Mount Cudi (also called Judi Dagh) for the resting place of Noah’s Ark. While their investigations have not turned up any new evidence of the fabled ship, they have discovered an ancient Assyrian relief, carved into the stone of the mountain…

Hungary & Ukraine inaugurate orphanage amid concerns (Vatican News) Anita Herczegh, the wife of Hungarian President János Áder, and Ukrainian First Lady Marina Poroshenko came to the St. Michael Center in Rativci with a mission: They want to ensure that orphans in what is Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region can grow up in family homes at a time when Ukraine faces war and hardship…



Tags: India Chaldean Church Palestinians Hungary

11 June 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2015, Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia presides at a liturgy during the annual Knights of Columbus convention in Philadelphia. Hundreds turned out to pay tribute to him this weekend as he plans to retire. (photo: CNS /Knights of Columbus)

Syrian orphans who fled war find new home (AP) Nearly 50 children orphaned by the Syrian war escaped the hell that was their hometown of Aleppo after they appeared in a distressing video and appealed for their lives as government forces moved in under a hail of fire. In the year and half since, the children and their instructors have been uprooted twice more: once to escape similar bombardment in another rebel stronghold and again when they fled a town that has been overwhelmed by people seeking shelter from Syria’s war…

Gaza students do well at Catholic-run school (CNS) Though it can be “devastating” to hear about the situation along the border, the Rosary School students interviewed — all Muslims, as are the majority of the students at the school — said it was clear to them they can help the Palestinian cause by getting an education and contributing to society in the future…

Hundreds turn out to bid farewell to retiring Ukrainian Catholic archbishop (Philly.com) For 17 years, [Archbishop] Stefan Soroka has presided over a 100,000-member national church in transition. He has led the nation’s Ukrainian Catholics as membership has declined and immigrants from Ukraine have helped to replenish the pews, all while coping with health challenges that include a heart condition and cancer. Earlier this year, he decided to follow his doctor’s advice and resign from his duties. On Sunday, a crowd of more than 600 filled the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Northern Liberties to honor him and say goodbye…

Lebanon installs electronic gates at refugee camp (Middle East Monitor) The Lebanese army has installed electronic gates at the entrances to the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon, residents say according to a report by The New Arab. The gates, which are placed at four main entrances and smaller exit points, are the latest measure to ramp up security at the Palestinian refugee camp…



Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Ukrainian Catholic

8 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Russian planes have reportedly attacked the rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria. The video above shows how some displaced Syrians are living in the region after settling in makeshift camps. (video: Doctors Without Borders/YouTube)

Pope names two new bishops for India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Friday made two appointments in India. He nominated the Rev. Fulgence Aloysius Tigga as Bishop of Raiganj Diocese in the eastern state of West Bengal, and the Rev. Dennis Panipitchai has been appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Miao Diocese, in Arunachal Pradesh state, northeast India…

Syria: Russian warplanes bomb rebel-held area, dozens dead (Al Jazeera) Air attacks believed to have been carried out by Russia on a village in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province killed at least 44 people overnight, inflicting the highest death toll in a single attack on the region this year, a monitoring group said on Friday…

Putin: Russia has no plans to pull out of Syria (Al Jazeera) President Vladimir Putin says Russia has no plans to pull its military out of Syria, but isn’t building permanent facilities there. The troops “will stay there for as long as it is to Russia’s advantage, and to fulfill our international responsibilities,” Putin said during his annual televised call-in show on Thursday…

Gaza anti-blockade protest on ’Jerusalem Day’ (AP) Palestinians burned tires and Israeli troops fired heavy volleys of tear gas Friday to push back large Gaza crowds from the area of the fence separating the blockaded territory from Israel. It was the latest in a series of protests against the decade-long blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. Friday’s march also coincided with the annual “Jerusalem Day,” instituted by Iran to protest against Israeli rule of the holy city. Israel and Iran have been arch enemies since Tehran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution…



Tags: Syria India Russia Indian Bishops





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