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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
30 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A picture taken on 30 September, 2015 shows a general view of deserted streets and damaged buildings in the central Syrian town of Talbisseh in the Homs province. Russia confirmed that it carried out its first airstrike in Syria, near the city of Homs, marking the formal start of Moscow’s military intervention in the conflict. (photo: Mahmoud Taha/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia conducting airstrikes in Syria (The Washington Post) Russian warplanes launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, a U.S. official said, after Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin authorization to use military force in the multi-layered conflict. A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss Russian operations, told The Washington Post that Russia began conducting airstrikes in Syria. It was not immediately clear whether it was one airstrike or multiple sorties, the official said...

Russian Orthodox Church voices support for “holy battle” against ISIS (Israel National News) Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church on Wednesday voiced support for Moscow’s decision to carry out air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State group (ISIS), calling it a “holy battle.” “The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” said the head of the Church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, quoted by Interfax news agency...

Cardinal Sandri leads delegation to Armenia (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches has just returned from a visit to Armenia during which he met with President Serzh Sargsyan to highlight the importance of good relations with the Holy See. He also thanked the Armenian people for the welcome they have offered to thousands of refugees fleeing from the conflict in Syria...

Syrian refugees eager to build lives in Detroit (Detroit Free Press) Gazing through his living room window in a quiet block in Garden City, a 48-year-old Syrian refugee ponders his new life in America. “In Syria, there’s no safety; it’s too dangerous,” Moustafa Assad said from a sparsely furnished home he rents, with his two sons sitting next to him on his couch. “At least here, it’s safe for them. There’s no war. ... I want to stay here for my kids’ future so they can go to school and learn.” Assad’s hopes are echoed by up to 100 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Michigan this year, one of almost 1,500 who came to the U.S. in 2015, fleeing Syria’s four-year civil war and refugee camps...

Vatican launches digital communications library (Vatican Radio) At a press conference in the Vatican on Wednesday, a new online digital library was launched, offering access to over a thousand papal documents on communications from the first to the twenty-first century. The initiative, known as the Baragli Project, features papal teachings on communication, translated into different languages, and is geared especially to those working in Catholic education and training centers...

Work to begin on “Church of the Martyrs,” honoring slain Egyptian Copts (Egypt Daily News) Work will begin in the coming days in Minya on a church that was planned to honor the deaths of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians who died in a brutal sectarian attack by militants in Libya earlier this year. Plans and licences for the ‘Church of the Martyrs’ have been finalised to begin the work, head of the Samalout municipality in Minya said, as reported by MENA state news. Major General Gamal Mubaral Qinawy confirmed that the church will be built in the village of Al-Awar, in the district of Samalout...



Tags: Syria Egypt Russia Armenia Copts

29 September 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian children who lost one or both of their parents in Syria’s ongoing conflict line up to attend a party organised for them by the local NGO Douma Society in the rebel-held district of Douma, east of Damascus, on 28 September 2015. CNEWA and the Vatican have just announced a new global initiative to provide help for thousands of Syrian families this winter.
(photo: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)


CNEWA partners with Vatican to help Syrian refugees (CNEWA) In a new effort to support Christians in the Middle East, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has announced a major “global initiative” — partnering with Catholic Near East Welfare Association — to provide much-needed help for 6,000 families in Syria. The target is $2 million...

Obama and Putin play diplomatic poker over Syria (The New York Times) After circling each other for the past year, President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia squared off on Monday at the United Nations in dueling speeches that presented starkly different views on the Syrian crisis and how to bring stability to the Middle East. President Obama made a forceful defense of diplomacy and the system of rules represented by the international body, but in a veiled reference to Mr. Putin, he warned that “dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world...”

Syriac bishop warns of “destruction of Christians” in the Middle East (New Jersey Advance) Saying he represents a “forgotten people,” the leader of one of Catholicism’s oldest branches on Monday implored the United States and Europe to intercede in what he described as the systematic purging of Christians from the Middle East. Ignatius Youssef III Younan — bishop of the Syriac Catholic Church, one of nearly two dozen Eastern Rite churches in union with the Roman Catholic pope — issued his plea during a press conference at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark...

New patriarch: religious language must be used at the service of peace (Fides) Political and religious speeches should serve to instill the spirit of love and service in the hearts, and not the contrary, fomenting conflict and division. This is the key concept expressed by Mar Gewargis III, new Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, at the liturgy for his inauguration, which marked the beginning of his patriarchal ministry...

Refugees tell of escaping homeland for fear of safety (Vatican Radio) Some refugees attempting to make their way across Europe say they left their home countries because they have become targets for refusing to kill innocent people...

Power crisis in Gaza causes boom in ice business (Al Monitor) The worsening electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip has caused a boom in the ice manufacturing and selling industry. The industry is thriving due to the increasing public demand on it by citizens and meat and fish vendors who are keen to preserve their products. The Gaza Strip has been suffering from an acute electricity crisis since Israeli warplanes bombed the only power plant in Gaza in 2006, following the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June of the same year. As a result, electrical power is only provided for six hours daily, and eight at best...

Ethiopians celebrate Meskel (AllAfrica.com) The Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, Meskel, is celebrated by Ethiopian Christians throughout the country every year on 26-27 September. The occasion has been observed for more than one and half millennium by the faithful, the clergy and the leaders of the Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahedo church, and UNESCO has declared it one of the “intangible heritages of humanity.” In Addis Ababa, the celebrations begins on 26 September with the building of the Damera, the bonfire, a conical pyre of poles surrounded by bundles of branches and torches, decorated with green grass and the yellow Meskel which symbolizing the New Year. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Meskel Square where priests in their colorful robes chant hymns and prayers and perform rhythmic dances in front of the pyre...

Indian judge urges Christians to be faithful to the Indian constitution (Pakistan Daily Times) A series of questions posed by Christians to India’s Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph showed that one of the main religious minority communities felt insecure across India, The Hindu newspaper reported. Atthe Juhanon Mar Thoma Lecture hosted by Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, Justice Kurian allayed their fears, gave them hope and pointed to the way to fight rightwing Hindutva forces. He spoke at length about the time and life of Jesus Christ, urging his fellow Christians to be faithful to the Indian Constitution...



Tags: Syria India CNEWA Ethiopia Russia

28 September 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis is shown visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York City and taking part in a prayer service featuring representatives from several religions. (video: Rome Reports)

U.N. General assembly opens with focus on Syria, ISIS, refugees (The New York Times) The United Nations General Assembly opened on Monday with all eyes on the war in Syria and the twin crises it has helped spawn: the unyielding spread of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the surge of refugees from the region into Europe. “Inequality is growing, trust is fading, and impatience with leadership can be seen and felt far and wide,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in formally convening the General Assembly’s 70th annual session. The remarks by Mr. Ban, who is approaching his last year as the secretary general, were unusually pointed...

Pope calls on U.N. to work for peace, justice (The Wall Street Journal) During a sweeping address before the United Nations, Pope Francis called on the international community to combat environmental degradation and social injustice, and praised the Iran nuclear deal as “proof of the potential of political good will.” Pope Francis, the fourth leader of the Catholic Church to address the U.N., used the occasion of Friday’s speech before the General Assembly to highlight signature themes of his pontificate...

Pope at 9/11 memorial: violence brings tears (CNS) Honoring both the pain and the strength of the families of those who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and drawing on the pools of water that are part of the site’s memorial, Pope Francis spoke about tears and quenching the world’s longing for peace. “The water we see flowing toward that empty pit remind us of all those lives” lost in 2001, he said. “The flowing water is also a symbol of our tears. Tears at so much devastation and ruin, past and present.” Afterward, Pope Francis joined a varied group of religious leaders and about 400 people in Foundation Hall to offer prayers for the deceased and for peace in the world...

Patriarch: Holy Land Christians “pray, weep, suffer and wait” with Jesus (CNS) Christian families in the Holy Land bear their daily suffering with hope, knowing that the cross is the cost of following Christ, said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. “We are a church of Calvary, and it is something that we have to accept,” he said during a session of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on 25 September. “Jesus says all who follow him will have to pick up their cross,” he continued. “We must take these words seriously. If we want to follow him, we have our daily cross.” The Latin-rite archbishop of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories contributed to a panel at the international four-day congress on the theme, “The Way of the Cross, the Way of the Heart: Suffering and the Family...”

Obama and Putin to confront tensions in Ukraine (AP) Face-to-face for the first time in nearly a year, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday will confront rising tensions over Moscow’s military engagement in Syria, as well as the stubborn crisis in Ukraine...

Pope Tawadros II begins visit to Ethiopia (StarAfrica) Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (Egypt) and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark has begun a six day visit to Ethiopia from Saturday to celebrate participate in the celebrations of finding of the true cross which is to be observed by Ethiopian Christians on Monday. The Pope, during his visit, is expected to meet the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Mathias I, the President and members of Ethiopia’s Public Diplomacy Delegation which visited Egypt last year...

AUDIO: Saving Russian religious music traditions (VOA) Many religions use music to help communicate their message. What you are listening to now is a choral work performed in the Russian Orthodox Church. This kind of singing is different from other religious traditions. And it is this kind of singing that a U.S.-based choir hopes to keep alive. The choir is part of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute. The group recently went to Russia for training in what is known as the Slavonic tradition of music...



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia Muslim

24 September 2015
Greg Kandra




Saudi emergency personnel and Hajj pilgrims stand near bodies covered in sheets at the site where at least 700 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on 24 September 2015. The stampede, the second deadly accident to strike the pilgrims this year, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Stampede kills hundreds at pilgrimage near Mecca (CNN) A stampede during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season — the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca — has killed more than 700 people and injured 800 others in Saudi Arabia. The stampede occurred Thursday morning during the ritual known as “stoning the devil” in the tent city of Mina, about 2 miles from Mecca, Islam’s holiest city...

Turkey alarmed over Russian buildup in Syria (Voice of America) Turkey has dubbed Russia’s rapid military buildup in Syria as “very dangerous.” The condemnation came as U.S. officials said they were still trying to fathom Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Syria — whether his military objective is to help battle against Islamic State extremists, as Moscow claims, or to strike at rebel fighters seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally...

Radical Russian Orthodox leader sentenced to jail (The Moscow Times) The leader of a radical Russian Orthodox group has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for vandalizing an art exhibition in Moscow this summer, a news report said Tuesday. A Moscow city court on Tuesday found Dmitry “Enteo” Tsorionov, who heads the “God’s Will” group, guilty of petty hooliganism for his organization’s 14 August attack on the Manezh exhibition center, the RIA Novosti news agency reported...

Israel to allow more exports from Gaza (Haaretz) For the first time since 2007, Israel will allow Gaza to export ironware, furniture and textiles to Israel in a bid to improve the embattled enclave’s economy, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, said Monday. The new rules will go into effect 7 October with the aim of “improving the Gaza economy and reducing unemployment,” said the office, which is responsible for civilian affairs vis a vis West Bank and Gazan Palestinians...

African episcopal conferences obtain observer status at African Union (Fides) The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar has obtained observer status at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, the observer status was obtained following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the President of SECAM, His Exc. Mgr. Gabriel Mbilingi. The Archbishop of Lubango, and the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, Ms. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi...



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Turkey Russia Muslim

23 September 2015
Greg Kandra




On his flight from Cuba to the United States Tuesday, Pope Francis defended his teaching
on social issues. (video: Rome Reports)


Is Russia planning to move more troops into Syria? (CNN) Russia may be preparing to station troops at two new sites in Syria as it continues its rapid military buildup in the conflict-ravaged nation, a research firm says. IHS Jane’s said Tuesday that it had spotted two previously unreported sites in satellite imagery of western Syria where steps appear to be being taken to receive Russian forces...

Pope defends teaching on social issues (CNS) Pope Francis defended his position on the economy, the environment and other social issues as faithful repetitions of the basic Catholic social doctrine. Speaking to reporters flying with him from Cuba to Washington on 22 September, the Pope was asked about comments, mainly from the United States, claiming the Pope is a communist and about the Newsweek headline, “Is the Pope Catholic?” “I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” he responded. “I follow the church and in this, I do not think I am wrong”...

EU pushes through deal to share refugees (The Guardian) European governments have forced through a deal to impose refugee quotas, sharing 120,000 people between them in a watershed decision that several states bitterly opposed. The decision to overrule opponents in the newer states of central Europe was highly unusual and perceived as an assault on their sovereignty by the four countries that voted against. While applauded by NGOs and immigration professionals as a belated attempt by the EU to get to grips with its biggest ever migration crisis, the decision was highly divisive and sets the scene for a tense summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday dedicated to the refugee emergency...

Jerusalem mayor takes tough stand against Al-Aqsa rock throwers (RNS) he Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem cannot be used to harbour violent agitators, the city’s mayor said after Muslims stockpiled rocks and pipe bombs inside the mosque just before and after the start of the Jewish New Year and violently clashed with Israeli police. “People can’t think they can use religious sites as a safe haven for violence,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on 17 September. “We will increase measures ... to ensure terrorists do not gain what they seek to gain.”...

Putin opens Moscow’s most elaborate mosque (The New York Times) The most elaborate mosque ever built in Moscow, a city that is home to one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in Europe, was opened on Wednesday by President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Putin, in brief remarks, called the new, modern mosque the biggest in Europe and said that it was a worthy addition to a capital and a country built on the idea of uniting different nationalities and faiths. The mosque is a central part of Russia’s efforts to develop its own system of Muslim religious education and training to counteract extremists seeking recruits, the president said. “Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State actually cast a shadow on the great global religion of Islam,” he said. “Their ideology is built on hate”...



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Jerusalem Russia Muslim

22 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A young Syrian refugee covered with dust arrives with her family in the town of Ruwaished, where they are welcomed by Jordanian authorities. While many refugees are trying to make their way to Europe, the vast majority are remaining in the region.
(photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)


Most refugees remaining in Syria (The New York Times) As the West grapples with a new flood of asylum seekers bursting across Europe’s borders, the vast majority of Syrian refugees remain in the region: 1.9 million in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon and 630,000 registered here in Jordan. Underfunded aid agencies and overburdened host countries have been struggling for years to support them...

Russia expands fleet in Syria (The New York Times) Russia has sharply increased the number of combat aircraft at an air base near Latakia, Syria, giving its forces a new ability to strike targets on the ground in the war-stricken country. Over the weekend, Russia deployed a dozen Su-24 Fencer and a dozen Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes, bringing to 28 the number of warplanes at the base, a senior United States official said on Monday. Until the weekend, the only combat planes there had been four Flanker air-to-air fighters...

Compensation announced for the burning of church in Tabgha (Fides) On Monday 21 September, Israel’s Attorney General announced that the State of Israel will offer compensation to the Sanctuary of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, in Tabgha, which on 18 June was burnt by terrorists of the extreme radical right wing. This was reported by official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem...

Report: Egypt demolishing homes in Gaza (The Times of Israel) The Egyptian military’s campaign against Islamic insurgents in northern Sinai is harming thousands of civilians and risks turning more people against the government, Human Rights Watch said in a report Tuesday. The government has evicted 3,200 families over the past two years, and razed hundreds of acres of farmland and thousands of homes in its bid to destroy illegal smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip with Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, the rights group said....

The “other” refugees, from Eritrea (America) The mounting refugee problem in Europe — often seen as a result of the Syrian war — has attracted the attention of the world’s media. But there is another, often forgotten, dimension to the crisis which has been on going for a number of years: the political instability in North Africa, Eritrea specifically...

Why haven’t Jews responded to Vatican II after 50 years? (The Forward) The arrival of Pope Francis in America and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s landmark declaration, Nostra Aetate, have allowed us, as Jews, to marvel at the revolutionary developments in our relations with the Catholic Church in the past half-century. But while the church has taken great strides in re-examining the way it considers and interacts with Judaism and the Jewish people, Jews have done little in response...



18 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A volunteer from the German Red Cross plays with a migrant girl from Syria in an emergency shelter in Rottenburg on 16 September. The Apostolic Almoner today announced that a Syrian refugee family has been received by a parish in the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Wolfram Kastli, EPA)

Pope’s almoner assists refugees (VIS) According to a press release issued today by the Apostolic Almoner, the parish community of St. Anna in the Vatican has received a family of refugees, consisting of a father, mother and two children. They are Syrian, Christians of Catholic Greek-Melkite rite, and fled from their war-torn home city of Damascus, arriving in the Vatican on Sunday 6 September, when the Pope launched an appeal to each parish, religious community, monastery and shrine to offer shelter to a family...

European bishops call for “appropriate solution” in Cremisan case (Fides) The European Bishops hope that “the sensitive situation in the Cremisan might find an appropriate solution respectful of the rights of families, their properties and the two religious communities, as well as their educational mission.” The hope around the issue of Palestinian lands expropriated in the area of Beit Jala for the construction of the separation wall, is contained in the final message of the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, which this year was held in the Holy Land from 11 to 16 September...

Stressed Ukraine fighters face alcohol threat (AFP) Some Ukrainian troops play hours of football while others take dips in the sea as they try to adjust to a sudden drop in fighting following a fresh ceasefire deal. Kiev’s war commanders are ready to allow almost anything to save soldiers from the gravest danger facing them during the current tentative truce — booze...

Church in India promotes remembrance of martyrs (National Catholic Register) The Church in the state of Odisha in eastern India has committed to make “Kandhamal Martyrs Day” a regular memorial for the dozens of Christians martyred for their faith, in the anti-Christian violence that engulfed the Kandhamal district seven years ago. The annual meeting of the five bishops of Odisha (known as Orissa until 2011) decided 30 August to observe the day beginning next year...

Report: Ethiopia to become world’s fastest-growing economy (Sudan Tribune) A report released by a research project, said that Ethiopia is on course to become world’s fastest growing economy. The new report “One foot on the ground, one foot in the air” released by the UK-based think tank group Overseas Development Institute (ODI) forecasts for Ethiopia said Ethiopia’s economy would significantly accelerate in the coming three years...



17 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A migrant child wakes up to a more peaceful morning on 17 September after the previous day's friction at the border crossings in Horgos, Serbia. (photo: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Pope: no one can remain oblivious to atrocities in Syria and Iraq (VIS) “One of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades are the terrible consequences that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have on civilian populations as well as on cultural heritage. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need. They are forced to leave their native lands. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey today carry the weight of millions of refugees, which they have generously received. Faced with such a situation and conflicts that are expanding and disturbing in an alarming way the internal and regional equilibrium, the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.” With these words the Pope addressed the participants in the meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq, organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, attended by Catholic charitable bodies and the bishops of the region, among others, and to which more than thirty organisations have lent their support...

Aleppo archbishop: only 50,000 Christians left in the city (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, warned this week that only 50,000 Christians are now left in the city which has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s ongoing civil war. He urged the international community to provide help to enable Christians to remain in Syria and carry on bearing witness to their faith...

Syrian refugees flee to Gaza (International Business Times) In a coffee shop in Gaza City, Syrian refugee Anas Katerji bursts into a well-known Palestinian song: “Palestine my homeland, my victory bath, Palestine stays my heart’s passion.” The 28-year-old fled his home in Aleppo in the face of vicious fighting between rebel forces and Bashar al-Assad’s army and after eventually reaching Egypt, he did not receive the welcome he had expected. He and a group of other Syrians made the dangerous trip across the Sinai and into Gaza through smuggling tunnels...

Refugees facing tear gas, water cannons (The Washington Post) Refugees blazed a new pathway through Europe on Wednesday, with hundreds hiking through cornfields to reach welcoming Croatia even as others faced tear gas and water cannons from Hungarian police determined to turn them away. The contrasting scenes along the Serbian border highlighted both the make-or-break resolve of the asylum seekers and the growing friction facing Europe, which has failed to create a coordinated policy for the unprecedented influx of economic migrants and war refugees from the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “We hit a stone and we flow around it,” said Arazak Dubal, 28, a computer programmer from Damascus, who had been on the road for 18 days...



16 September 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees wait at the mosque courtyard at the Istanbul bus terminal as they try to get tickets to go to Germany through Greece on 16 September 2015.
(photo: Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Syria’s Assad blames West for refugee crisis (Reuters) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed Europe’s refugee crisis on Western support for “terrorists,” as people fleeing his country’s civil war stream towards the European Union. In his first public comments on the mass migration, broadcast on Wednesday, Assad said Europe could expect more refugees. Countries including the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia want to see Assad gone from power and have supported the opposition to his rule during the four-year-old war, including some of the armed groups fighting him...

Obama weighs talks with Putin on Syria (The New York Times) For more than a year, President Obama has resisted meeting one on one with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and only reluctantly taken a phone call, freezing out the Kremlin leader over his intervention in Ukraine in their own personal cold war. But this month, the two leaders will be in the same city at the same time amid rising tension in Syria, and the White House is divided by a debate over whether they should meet to try to work out their differences before the tumult in the Middle East escalates even further...

Power cuts prompt protests in Gaza (The New York Times) Several hundred Palestinians demonstrated in central Gaza on Monday evening over increasing power cuts, the latest in a series of protests that appear to have erupted over the issue. The demonstrations, which began Saturday in Rafah, a southern city in the Gaza Strip, are the largest in years. Still, it is uncertain if the protesters can sustain their momentum, and it is unclear if they will pose a challenge to Gaza’s Hamas rulers...

European bishops hold assembly in the Holy Land (Vatican Radio) The Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) this week is holding its Plenary Assembly in the Holy Land. The meeting came at the invitation of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. By accepting the invitation for the Holy Land to host their meeting, the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences said it allowed for the meeting to be a pilgrimage to the very roots of European culture...

Ethiopia says hundreds of “Eritrea-backed” rebels have surrendered (Channel NewsAsia) Hundreds of Ethiopian rebels have fled their base in Eritrea and surrendered to authorities, handing over their weapons, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.The little-known Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) says it launched an insurgency 14 years ago seeking to “establish a popular democratic government” in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has previously dismissed the group as “puppets” acting under the orders of arch-foe Eritrea, with whom it is embroiled in a border dispute...



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Russia

15 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A picture taken on 14 September 2015 shows smoke billowing from the Syrian rebel-held area of Douma, east of the capital Damascus, following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces. The besieged area east of Syria’s capital suffered one of its bloodiest months in August, with ‘intense’ regime bombing attacks that killed and wounded hundreds,
Doctors Without Borders said. (photo: ABD Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)


For those who remain in Syria, daily life is a nightmare (The New York Times) Every morning, at the dawn call to prayer, women and children move silently from the Damascus suburb of Douma to the surrounding farm fields, seeking safety from the day’s bombardments by the Syrian government. The walk is part of a surreal routine described by the fraction of Douma’s residents who remain: shopping on half-demolished streets, scavenging wild greens, carrying out mass burials. But not even the fields are safe; recently, medics said, bombs killed two families there — 10 people, including seven children. As crowds of Syrians transfix the world with their flight to Europe, this kind of life is one of the many nightmares they are fleeing...

Vatican welcomes Iran agreement (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has welcomed Iran’s efforts to reduce or convert its nuclear facilities to peaceful purposes in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. In a statement delivered to the 59th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Monday, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the Vatican “values positively” Iran’s recent agreement with the European Union and the so-called ‘P5 plus 1’ group of nations because “it considers that the way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation”...

Canadian troops arrive in Ukraine to train soldiers (The Globe and Mail) The Canadian training mission is taking place 1,200 kilometres away from the front lines, but the Kremlin nonetheless sees the exercises as part of a NATO buildup on its doorstep. The Russian embassy in Ottawa has criticized the mission as “counterproductive and deplorable.”

Conference looks at impact of social media in Middle East (Fides) In the tragic events that plague the people of the Middle East, an undeniable and growing role is also played by communication through social media. In order to address this emergency and rediscover social media as a space for dialogue and understanding among different identities, the Kaiciid has organized the first training program for operators in this sector in Amman, entitled “United Against Violence in the Name of Religion”...

Catholic activist reportedly receives death threats in India (Fides) The well-known Catholic intellectual and human rights activist John Dayal has received death threats by radical Hindu groups. This is what Fides learns from sources in the Indian Catholic community. Dayal has denounced the threats to the police in New Delhi. According to information confirmed to Fides by Fr. Savari Muthu, a priest in New Delhi and spokesman of the Archdiocese, Hindu radicals started threatening Dayal on 12 September with telephone intimidations and on social networks, with derogatory and offensive comments towards Dayal and the Christian faith...







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