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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
20 August 2015
Greg Kandra




Egyptian policemen stand in front of a damaged national security building in northern Cairo on 20 August. (photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

ISIS claims responsibility for car bombing in Cairo (The Washington Post) ISIS claimed Thursday it carried out a massive car bombing that targeted Egyptian security forces in Cairo, calling the operation revenge for the deaths of some of its members earlier this year. Six policemen were injured in the predawn attack on a branch of the National Security Agency, the country’s domestic spy service, in the Cairo suburb of Shubra al Kheima, the Interior Ministry said. The powerful blast — which could be heard across several Cairo districts — has raised fears of stepped up insurgent attacks in the Egyptian capital. Islamists and other militants have waged an increasingly deadly campaign against Egyptian security forces since a military coup ousted President Muhammad Morsi in 2013…

Kidnapped Syrian priest released (Christian Today) A priest kidnapped in Syria a month ago has been released but others are still missing. The Rev. Tony Boutros, 50, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest, was taken by unknown assailants on 12 July when he was being driven to church. His driver was also kidnapped. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch, disclosed the release of Father Boutros. Still missing are Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio and two Orthodox Archishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi…

Hamas seizes ‘Israeli spy dolphin’ (BBC) Hamas claims to have captured a dolphin being used as an Israeli spy off the coast of Gaza, local media report. The group says the mammal was equipped with spying devices, including cameras, according to the newspaper Al Quds. It was apparently discovered by a naval unit of Hamas’s military wing and brought ashore…

Inside Aleppo (Newsweek) Over three years, this crude slaughter by both sides has turned Aleppo into a Syrian Stalingrad. It has also divided the city into two distinct halves. In the June attack, the jarra came in such numbers and over such a wide area that they sowed mass panic. Three days before Ramadan, the point of this barrage was to trumpet a major new rebel assault on the regime-held part of the city; the rebel militias, emboldened by new alliances and successes elsewhere in northern Syria, were hoping to break through the stalemate and take Aleppo once and for all. Their new offensive came amid persistent rumors that the Syrian regime might let go of the country’s second most important city, the better to defend its heartlands in the south and west of the country…

Torrential rains threaten historic Orthodox cathedral in Sitka, Alaska (oca.org) For two weeks, Archpriest Michael Boyle and the faithful of St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral here have been praying for relief from torrential rains that have pounded the region and flooded the historic structure’s basement. “While the cathedral, which stands in the middle of the downtown district, has been spared from mudslides, it has been significantly affected by rain — especially over the past 48 hours, during which at times up to an inch an hour fell,” said Father Michael…

Ethiopia restoring its first mosque (The Daily Trust) The history of Negash is one tied to that of Islam in Ethiopia dating back to the seventh century and is home to Africa’s first mosque built then. It has been dubbed ‘The second Mecca.’ Nigerian tourists were educated on the fact that during Haile Selassie’s reign, Muslim communities brought personal, inheritance and family issues before Islamic court. When our reporter visited, renovations were ongoing by the Turkish government as part of preparations to make it a UNESCO World Heritage site…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Orthodox ISIS

19 August 2015
Greg Kandra




Sources say Khaled Asaad, the 82-year-old archaeologist who supervised the ancient ruins of Palmyria in Syria, was beheaded by ISIS militants. (photo: Vatican Radio/AP)

ISIS militants reportedly behead archeologist in Syria (Vatican Radio) The archaeologist who looked after ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria is reported to have been killed by Islamic State (ISIS) militants. Khaled Asaad was taken hostage by the group after it seized the Unesco World Heritage site earlier this year. The family of the 82-year-old scholar said he had been beheaded by ISIS fighters, according to Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim...

Iraq’s economy battered by war (AP) Since early 2014, Iraq has suffered a serious economic decline after the Shiite-led government in Baghdad started losing territory to the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group. Low oil prices exacerbated the decline, wreaking havoc on Iraq’s national budget, of which oil revenue makes nearly 95 percent...

Israel turns focus to anti-tunnel technology (Reuters) A year after Hamas used cross-border tunnels to launch deadly attacks during the Gaza war, Israel is testing new techniques to detect the hidden passages as a “top priority,” sources say, but has yet to announce the system fully operational. Beyond standard military secrecy, the reticence to trumpet the measures may be to mask lingering short-falls in the system and avoid giving Israelis a false sense of security as they return to homes near the Gaza Strip abandoned during the war...

Why Israel and Armenia should adopt the Yazidis (Huffington Post) The recent horrifying New York Times exposé on the Islamic State’s sex slavery system targeting Yazidi women was one of the most-read articles on the paper’s website in the last days. And yes, in a doubly perverse sense it feels good to be morally outraged at ISIS for a few minutes. But let us not get all too comfortable with our outrage over what the Times titled “Theology of Rape,” because we like to forget just how easily we forget. The history of mass media and atrocities in the modern world has taught us that the hurdle for us to really care — to the point where something is done about atrocities in progress — is just astoundingly high...

Russian cultural institutions urged to hold courses in self-defense (The Art Newspaper) After an attack last week by Russian Orthodox fundamentalists who damaged works of art in a Moscow exhibition, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the general director of St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum has urged the country’s cultural institutions to hold self-defence courses. In an open letter published on the museum’s website on Monday, 17 August, Piotrovsky proposed that Russia’s museums “immediately organise in-house training on protecting the state of their exhibitions, taking into account that as of November of this year, police will stop physically guarding museums,” due to budget cuts. He added that the Russian Museums Union, of which he is president, is looking to take legal measures against vandals...



Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel ISIS

18 August 2015
Greg Kandra




Bodies of Syrians are seen after Assad regime forces bombed a marketplace inside residential areas in Douma Town of East Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 16 August 2015.
(photo: Motasem Rashed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Civilians killed in fierce clashes in Ukraine (ABC — Australia) Ten people have reportedly been killed in eastern Ukraine in a flare-up in violence between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. Military and separatist sources said at least two Ukrainian soldiers and eight civilians were killed over the past day in several locations in the east of the country. It is thought to be the highest single day death toll in more than a month...

In Syria, UN “horrified” by attacks on civilians (BBC) The UN’s humanitarian chief has said he is “horrified” by the attacks on civilians taking place in Syria. Stephen O'Brien told reporters during a visit to Damascus that the targeting of non-combatants in the country’s war was “unlawful, unacceptable and must stop.” He was “particularly appalled” by government air strikes on a rebel-held suburb of the capital on Sunday...

Iraq’s summer of protest (Al Jazeera) For the past six weeks, thousands of Iraqis across the streets of Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and other cities have been protesting electricity cuts amid soaring temperatures, rampant corruption and the government’s mismanagement of basic services. They protestors, many of them young secular Iraqis, want government officials to be held accountable...

Church in Ethiopia works to promote family values (Vatican Radio) Series of workshops are being conducted for Pastoral Coordinators, Catechists, couples, laity councils, youth, Catholic students of Universitites, Catholic Life Community Movements and Young Catholic Workers on “Vocation and Mission of Families in the Church and in the Contemporary World.” According to the Rev. Hailegabriel Meleku, National Pastoral Coordinator, ‘Family’ is given great attention as the current situation of families is precarious in Ethiopia and the world. “All families have a mission to announce the Gospel of the family, the National plan of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat’s summer program is focused around the theme of the family, its vocation and their mission in the Church and the contemporary world,” he said...

Church leaders in India accuse authorities of tolerating crimes against Christians (UCANews.com) A parish church in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has been robbed, prompting Church leaders to accuse state authorities of allowing criminals to commit crimes against Christians with impunity. Thieves used the cover of darkness to break into St. Joseph Church in Ganj Basoda in Sagar diocese on 13 August and steal an unspecified amount of cash from the collection box, parish officials said. “This is the third theft or attempted theft from this church” in less than a year, parish priest Nitish Jacob told ucanews.com...



17 August 2015
Greg Kandra




Recruits of the Azov far-right Ukrainian volunteer battalion take their oaths during a ceremony in Kiev, on 14 August 2015. Two people were killed in another round of intense shelling between Western-backed Ukrainian government’s forces and pro-Russian fighters in the separatist east. Ukraine’s military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said one soldier was killed and six wounded in the past 24 hours of fighting across the mostly Russian-speaking war zone.
(photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)


Germany warns of new military escalation in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Germany’s foreign minister has warned that urgent Western-backed peace talks must be held to prevent “a new military escalation spiral” in Ukraine. Frank-Walter Steinmeier made the comments after reported intensified clashes in eastern Ukraine and renewed attempts by Kiev to show Russia’s military involvement in the conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists...

Airstrikes rain death on Syrian town (CNN) Airstrikes from Syrian government forces hit the rebel-held town of Douma on Sunday, killing as many as 82 people and wounding hundreds, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and aid groups. Graphic video purporting to show the immediate aftermath of the blast depicted massive plumes of smoke, bodies strewn on the street, and people frantically running for their lives...

Concerns raised over reports of ISIS using chemical weapons in Iraq (AFP) The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Monday voiced “serious concern” over reports that the Islamic State group has used chemical weapons in Iraq. “Recent reports of possible use of chemical weapons in Iraq by non-State actors are a matter of serious concern,” The Hague-based OPCW said in a statement...

ISIS enshrines a “theology of rape” (The New York Times) The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets...

Port project divides Christians in India (UCANews.com) A massive port project has divided Christians in southern India, with a Catholic archbishop opposing it and a Protestant Church of South India bishop backing it. Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum led a protest march 13 August against the proposed Vizhinjam port. If implemented, he believes the project will destroy the livelihoods of 50,000 fishermen and displace thousands of families covering 12 parishes in his coastal archdiocese. “We are not against development. But we want the rights of the poor fishermen to be protected,” the archbishop said while addressing some 3,000 protesters, mostly Catholics, in front of the Kerala state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram...

Ethiopian cardinal: Synod will be flexible with regional family situations (CNS) One of the leading voices among Africa’s bishops predicts a new flexibility in Catholic teaching at this October’s Synod of Bishops on the family, which he predicts will allow bishops in different parts of the world to adapt church teaching on the family to the region’s culture, political landscape and economic situation. “The Catholic Church is a universal institution, both human and divine,” said Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa. “It is not a European church, it is not a Canadian church or a U.S. church. It’s different. The issues families are facing in some parts of the world would be different than in other parts of the world...”

The secret Jews of Ethiopia (The Jerusalem Post) The first historical account of Jewish presence in Ethiopia came from a 10th-century Jewish merchant and traveler Eldad Ha-Dani. He recounts that when the Northern Kingdom tribes of Israel went to war against the Southern Kingdom tribe of Judah, the Danites, who were renowned as skilled warriors, refused to fight against their kinsmen and left Israel for Egypt. They continued their journey until they reached the land of Cush where they finally settled...



14 August 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees bed down at parks and mosque courtyards in the Izmir province of Turkey. (photo: Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Syrian refugees in Turkey: ‘Nothing for us here’ (BBC) Around 70,000 Syrian refugees are gathered in the port city of Izmir in Turkey, which has become a hub for human smuggling. Many are hoping to move on into the rest of Europe. Families are forced to live on the streets and say they have no other option but to resort to the sea route…

Iraqi Christians who fled ISIS living in limbo while in exile (Quantara.de) A year after tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled communities overtaken by Islamic State militants, their lives are on hold in exile: they won’t go back to Iraq, saying it’s not safe for Christians, but as refugees they’re barred from working in temporary asylum countries such as Jordan. Expectations of quick resettlement to the West have been dashed…

Seven Assyrian villages in northern Iraq hit by Turkish air strikes (AINA) The German public TV channel ARD reported yesterday that Assyrian villages in the Qandil mountains were hit by the recent Turkish air strikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The villages hit by air strikes were Sharanish, Baz, Barwary Bala, Hayes, Dawoodiya and Margerija. “The airplanes are over our heads,” said one displaced Assyrian. “They bomb the area and we do not know where we can escape to…”

Peshmerga ‘ready’ to advance on ISIS (Al Monitor) Fighting continues between Kurdish forces and ISIS, but the two sides seem to be in a holding pattern as the Kurds await commands from Baghdad and coordination with the United States to advance…

Dabke troupes dance on in Gaza (Al Monitor) Every Palestinian wedding in the Gaza Strip is characterized by the folk art of fadous bands, which are male-only groups that perform at wedding ceremonies and whose members play drums and sing traditional songs while marching. Hundreds of unemployed young men are joining these bands to break free from idleness and poverty…



Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Cultural Identity Turkey

13 August 2015
Greg Kandra




Iraqi men mourn outside a mosque in the holy city of Najaf on 13 August 2015 during the funeral of Shiite victims of this morning’s truck bombing in Baghdad’s northern suburb of Sadr City. The attack claimed by ISIS is one of the deadliest in the city in months.
(photo: Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images)


ISIS truck blast kills dozens in Baghdad (The Washington Post) A refrigerated truck packed with explosives detonated in a busy market Thursday, killing at least 60 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State and marking one of the bloodiest strikes in Baghdad since the militants’ rise last year. The blast struck the sprawling Jamila market in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City while it was packed with early-morning traders buying wholesale supplies for their stores...

Refugees in Lebanon face new challenges, dwindling support (The Daily Star) With more than 1.2 million refugees in the country, the Lebanese government issued stringent new visa and residency requirements for Syrians in January of this year, placing an onerous new burden on those who were able to flee the fighting. “We are prisoners of the circulars being issued by the Lebanese General Security office,” said one refugee who preferred to remain anonymous. After securing his place in line at the General Security office in Tripoli, he sat outside puffing a cigarette, a weary expression on his face...

Israel installs “smart” fences around Gaza (Ynetnews.com) Israel has installed new “smart” fences around Gaza-adjacent communities in the wake of Operation Protective Edge, featuring the ability to recognize suspicious activity and send troops to the scene in seconds. Reports have surfaced in recent days, both from Israeli and Palestinian sources, that Hamas has accelerated its construction of hidden attack tunnels. On Tuesday, Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer, a Hamas operative in Israeli custody, told the Shin Bet of the organization’s plans to use tunnels in a future conflict. Hamas also claimed on Wednesday that it had captured an Israeli drone and made it operational...

Iraqi refugees writes of the pain of leaving home (CNS) Throughout August, tens of thousands of displaced Christians in refugee camps in Kurdish-controlled Iraq are marking the first anniversary of their exile following the fall of the Ninevah Plain and its villages to Islamic State forces. Among them is Abo Remon, a 60-year-old man from Bartellah who is also known to refugees as “Mr. Matti.” Before the invasion, the married father-of- three had a good job in the communications sector. He now lives in the Al-Hikma center in Kaznanan, one of 120,000 people waiting in patience for their eventual liberation...

A visit to “Armenia’s Switzerland” (Huffington Post) Driving about 90 kilometers northeast of Armenia’s vibrant capital city of Yerevan, the highway narrows into mountainous roads as you enter the Tavush region famous for its resort town of Dilijan. The unseasonably hot and humid summer has vacationers flocking to “Armenia’s Switzerland” from across Armenia and bordering Georgia, Russia and Iran, as well as from various parts of Europe. They come seeking what affluent folks of Transcaucasia sought when they built their summer villas here — the crisp, alpine mountain air of unspoiled forests, preserved national park and lakes and to bask in the natural healing springs...



12 August 2015
Greg Kandra




A Ukrainian woman stands outside her home after it was destroyed as a result of shelling between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists on 10 August 2015 in Golmovsky village, Donetsk region. (photo: Aleksey Filippov/AFP/Getty Images)

EU: Surge in fighting in Ukraine violates ceasefire (BBC) The European Union says escalating attacks on government-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine violate a February peace deal with pro-Russia separatists. “The Minsk Agreements must be implemented in good faith, starting with full observation of the ceasefire and genuine withdrawal of heavy weapons,” the EU said. Ukraine on Monday accused rebels of carrying out the heaviest shelling since the truce was agreed. Russia denies any role in the fighting...

Papal message for World Peace Day focuses on overcoming indifference (CNS) Selfishness and fear keep too many people ignorant of the suffering of others and prevent them from finding creative ways to express solidarity and to promote peace, said a statement from the Vatican’s justice and peace office. To promote a reflection on the need for a “conversion of mind and heart” open to the needs of others, Pope Francis has chosen “Overcome indifference and win peace” as the theme for the church’s celebration of the World Day of Peace 2016. Announcing the theme for the 1 January celebration, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said that peace is difficult to achieve when people are indifferent “to the scourges of our time...”

Melkite patriarch opens sainthood cause for Boutros Wadih Kassab (Byzcath.org) On Friday 7 August 2015, at the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Cairo, HB Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, presided over the solemn opening of the cause for beatification and canonisation of Boutros Wadih Kassab (1913-86), the apostle of Upper Egypt. “It gives us great joy to open the process of the cause for beatification and canonisation of Boutros Wadih Kassab, a great Christian layman deeply committed to his faith, which led him to found and work for very many Catholic associations dedicated to serving young people...”

Arabic and life lessons: a summer in Lebanon (Huffington Post) My parents encouraged me to study Arabic abroad. Grateful for my parent’s encouragement and after a few Google searches, I decided exactly where I wanted to go — Beirut, Lebanon. That summer I would spend six weeks in a Middle Eastern country, studying Arabic at the Lebanese American University. I travelled to Lebanon to learn Arabic, but also because of my interest in The Middle East. In Lebanon, I learned much about the simple concepts of sharing, understanding, and living. On the smallest of levels to the most complex, these concepts offered a rich educational experience. All the while, I searched for potential links between the West and the Middle East...

Ethiopian cardinal calls for charity, fasting (Vatican Radio) According to the Ethiopian Liturgical Calendar the 15 days fast from 7-21 August 2015, before the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an important time for the spiritual renewal of the faithful throughout the nation. In his message to the faithful for the occasion of the fast days H. Em. Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, President of CBCE and AMECEA Chairman, said we must follow the example of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary and take care of those in need of our support. “Charity and giving love to the needy and the vulnerable should be our religious responsibility, this fasting period is a good time to practice charity and make it part of our life,” he said...

Statue of Don Bosco vandalized in India (Vatican Radio) Politically motivated religious fanaticism reared its ugly head in northeast India on Friday when a crowd of miscreants vandalized a statue of Don Bosco and threw it into the Bharalu river, near Guwahati, the commercial capital of Assam state...



Tags: India Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia

11 August 2015
Greg Kandra




A burned-out section of the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, Israel, is seen after an arson fire in late June. The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land filed an official complaint to Israeli police against the leader of a radical Israeli movement over his remarks supporting and encouraging the burning of churches.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Church in Jerusalem)


Jewish extremist said to pose threat to Holy Land Christians (RNS) The church body authorized by the Vatican to oversee the Catholic Church’s property in Israel has asked Israel’s attorney general to indict a Jewish extremist who, it says, recently incited violence against Israel’s Christian churches. In a letter sent to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday, the Custody of the Holy Land said Benzion Gopstein, sometimes spelled “Gopshtein,” head of the Jewish extremist group Lehava, poses a threat to Holy Land Christians...

Hebrew-speaking Catholic community marks 60 years (Vatican Radio) Father David Neuhaus S.J., the Latin Patriarchal Vicar responsible for the Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel, has written a pastoral letter on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Work of Saint James in 1955 as a Catholic association dedicated to developing Hebrew-speaking Catholic communities in the State of Israel...

Iraq’s parliament approves reform plan (The New York Times) Iraq’s parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved an ambitious reform plan that would cut spending and eliminate senior posts, including the three largely symbolic vice presidencies, following mass protests against corruption and poor services...

U.N.: Funding prospects “bleak” for Syrian refugees (AP) Funding prospects are “bleak” and impoverished Syrian refugees face more cuts in food aid, the head of the World Food Program said in an interview, after inspecting the bare refrigerator of a refugee family and meeting boys forced to swap school for work to help their families survive. Ertharin Cousin, the U.N. agency’s executive director, called on donor countries to give more to millions displaced by the Syria conflict, now in its fifth year...

Ukraine bans 38 Russian “hate” books (BBC) Ukraine has banned 38 books published in Russia, alleging that they spread “hate ideology” and “separatism.” The ban includes works by Russian nationalists Alexander Dugin, Eduard Limonov and Sergei Glazyev. The blacklist was published by the Ukrainian State Television and Radio Committee. It accused Russia of waging “information warfare” against Ukraine...

Christians, Muslims observe “Black Day” in India (Vatican Radio) Christians and Muslims in Delhi on Monday observed “Black Day” to mark the 65th anniversary of signing of a presidential order that excluded their Dalit brethren from reservation. Some 200 people wore black badges and demonstrated in front of New Delhi’s Sacred Heart Cathedral to demand the repeal of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) order India’s first president Rajendra Prasad signed on 10 August 1950...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Ukraine Israel

10 August 2015
Greg Kandra




The Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo — shown in this image from 2013 — says he believes ISIS militants are seeking to push Christians out of Syria.
(photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)


Syrian bishop speaks out on kidnapping of Christians (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo in Syria, Antoine Audo says he believes the so-called Islamic State fighters are seeking to push Christians out of Syria and spread terror everywhere. He also warned that if the war continues, as seems likely, that gradually over the coming months and years, all Syria’s Christians will leave their homeland. Bishop Audo was reacting to the news of the abduction of dozens of Christians including women and children from the Syrian town of Qaryatain after the ISIS militants seized control of it earlier this week. The Christians were among a total of 230 residents in the town who were kidnapped by the militants...

Pope approves decree of martyrdom for Syriac Catholic bishop (Vatican Radio) On Saturday morning, Pope Francis received Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in a private audience. In the course of the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate the decree regarding the martyrdom of the Servant of God Flavien-Michel Malké, of the Fraternity of St. Ephrem, Eparch of Gazireh of the Syrians. Bishop Flavien-Michel Malké was born in 1858 in Kalat’ül Mara, Turkey and was killed in odium fidei in Gazireh, Turkey, on 29 August 1915...

Pope announces annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has decided to set up a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which will be celebrated on 1 September annually. He made the announcement in a letter to the heads of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity...

Ukraine reports heavy shelling by eastern rebels (Reuters) Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of carrying out the heaviest artillery attacks on government positions in six months and warned of signs the conflict was escalating despite a ceasefire deal. The military said 400 rebel fighters supported by tanks had attacked government forces around the village of Starohnativka, 50 km (30 miles) north of the Kiev-held port city of Mariupol. The rebels denied attacking government troops. Control of Mariupol could help the rebels form a corridor to the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine last year...

Minorities in Kurdistan push for greater political voice (Voice of America) Christian and Turkmen minority lawmakers threw their voices behind a proposal put to Kurdistan’s Constitutional Committee Monday that would set up political councils to enshrine the rights of ethnic and religious minorities and ensure their participation in the Iraqi region’s governance. Christians are often treated as second class citizens by the Kurdish majority, explained Srood Maqdasy, a Christian Member of Parliament...

A homemade church bears witness to faith in Ethiopia (The Daily Mail) The vast expanse of ramshackle wooden huts and lopsided tents has seen it christened ‘the Jungle’ by those who live there. But amongst the rubble and sand dunes of the migrant camp that has become the epicentre of the Calais crisis sits a towering structure that looks out of place due to its grandeur. Like most of the buildings that have sprung up in the campsite, the Ethiopian Orthodox church, known as ‘St. Michael’s Calais,’ was fashioned from wood and tarpaulin donated by charities or simply found as scrap. Yet the structure has become not just a symbol of community resolve, but of just how long the band of migrants are willing to bide their time in the French port to secure their passage to Britain...



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia

7 August 2015
Greg Kandra




An Iraqi Christian child who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, lies on a bed in 2014 at a church in Amman, Jordan. The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

Reports: ISIS has abducted dozens of Christians from Homs (BBC) Islamic State militants have abducted dozens of people, many Christian, from a Syrian town captured on Thursday from pro-regime forces, reports say. They were seized when the jihadists swept through al-Qaryatain in Homs province, monitoring groups say. Many of the Christians had fled to al-Qaryatain to escape fighting in Aleppo province to the north...

Pope condemns world silence on Iraqi refugees (CNS) The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. One year after Islamic State militants drove thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yezidis out of the country, Pope Francis prayed that people around the world would be more attentive and sensitive to the reality of religious persecution and that “the international community would not stand by mute and unresponsive before such unacceptable crimes.” The Pope sent his message to Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan after the Islamic State campaign in August 2014 sent tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes in the Ninevah Plain of northern Iraq...

Ukraine launches new police force in bid to head off corruption (The Wall Street Journal) A pro-Western government that swept into power last year with a promise to end corruption has largely disappointed Ukrainians, but one of Kiev’s new programs has been an instant hit: a new police force mostly made up of people with no law-enforcement experience...

Man transforms Gaza into place of color and art (Huffington Post) In the Al Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza, residents have transformed a conflict-stricken area into a vibrant work of art. Formerly bare doors and windows are now covered in rainbow shades of paint, and pastel-colored flower pots hang down alleyways. There are swirling murals on light purple and yellow walls, and brightly colored bricks line the sidewalks. The effort in Al Zaytoun to beautify the neighborhood was the brainchild of 58-year-old resident Mohammed Al Saedi, who wanted to create a positive atmosphere. He began painting pots in his own home, but had bigger ambitions...



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





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