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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
9 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Syrian refugee child is seen at a refugee camp in Adana, Turkey, on 6 July. (photo: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency)

Syrian refugee count over four million (U.N. News Center) The exodus spawned by the four-year long Syrian conflict has now become the United Nations refugee agency’s largest crisis in almost a quarter of a century and risks deteriorating even further as fighting in the country shows no sign of abating. In a news release issued earlier today, UNHCR confirmed the latest figures received from the field indicating that more than four million Syrian refugees have fled the Middle Eastern nation since hostilities began there in March 2011. “This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “It is a population that deserves the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into abject poverty…”

Over 200 Christians in Syria rescued by Belgium in secret operation (Christian Post) Nearly 240 people, mostly Christians but also Yazidis, have been taken out of the Syrian city of Aleppo and transported to Belgium, where they are expected to be granted asylum, a report has said. The BBC reported that a Brussels government spokesman, who wasn’t named, revealed that the operation took place over two months amid great secrecy…

Syria army battles ISIS outside Palmyra (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian army troops backed by war planes advanced to within several miles of Palmyra Thursday, battling ISIS fighters outside the famed ancient city, activists said…

ISIS loses last headquarters in Iraq’s Diyala (FARS News) The Iraqi security forces captured the main ISIS base in the eastern Diyala province and purged the terrorists from the region…

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem schools earn high marks (Fides) In the eight schools of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem scattered in the Palestinian territories, the final exams this year showed outstanding results, which confirm the excellence of the work carried out by teachers and students, in a difficult and uncertain period...



Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Holy Land United Nations

8 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




On the anniversary of last year’s 50-day war on Gaza, over 100,000 residents are still displaced and suffering. (video: Al Jazeera)

Gaza: How it looks one year after the conflict — then and now (The Guardian) Today marks the first anniversary the devastating war in Gaza. The 50-day conflict began when Israel launched an intense air and ground assault aiming to end persistent rocket fire from Gaza. It was the third major conflict since 2007. Last year’s fighting killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, as well as 73 Israelis, most of them soldiers. More than 100,000 buildings in Gaza were left damaged or destroyed and have not been rebuilt…

Israeli Supreme Court reverses April decision, approves Cremisan wall (Fides) On Monday, the Supreme Court of Israel gave the green light to the construction of the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine in the stretch that crosses the Cremisan Valley. This new provision contradicts the previous pronouncement, which in early April had ruled against the wall route proposed by the army. Under the new provisions, the school and the two Salesian convents in the area will find themselves still in Palestinian territory, accessible from the town of Beit Jala, while the wall will incorporate, on the Israeli side, the agricultural land valley belonging to 58 Palestinian families in the area…

Iraqi Christians who fled ISIS detained in California (Business Insider) A group of 20 Iraqi Christians seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing ISIS have been held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for over four months now. The imprisoned Chaldeans are being detained for an unusually long time with no explanation, even though they have family members willing to sponsor them in San Diego County…

Syrian army, Hezbollah advance into heart of Zabadani (PressTV) Syrian troops and fighters of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah have made fresh advances in their offensive into the border town of Zabadani, encircling the militants deep into the city. Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV reported Monday that fighters of the group, backed by Syrian troops, are advancing into central parts of Zabadani to purge the militants from the last positions they held inside the city…

Greek crisis: A new approach (Vatican Radio) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the European Parliament on Wednesday that he would deliver sweeping reform proposals this week to secure a bailout funding deal that can keep Greece in the euro zone. Mr Tsipras said he was determined to fix years of bad government as well as reverse the increasing inequalities caused by five years of creditor-imposed austerity…



Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Greece

7 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Erbil. (photo: Getty Images/AFP/Safin Hamed)

Burying Christians under ISIS guns (Daily Beast) Christians whose roots go back many centuries in Iraq are risking everything today, braving snipers and mortar fire, to bring their dead back from asylum abroad and bury them in villages previously abandoned to ISIS. Many of those making these hasty pilgrimages fear that otherwise the age of Christians in Mesopotamia is coming to an end. Their dead, they say, may be their only lasting legacy…

For some Palestinians in East Jerusalem, a pragmatic ‘Israelification’ (Christian Science Monitor) In recent years, a modest shift has begun as a growing number of Palestinians are embracing elements of Israel, including hundreds of applicants for citizenship every year when once there were almost none. Palestinians are also increasingly moving into Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, while others are studying Hebrew to attend Israeli colleges and universities…

Hungary votes to for border fence against migrant influx (Vatican Radio) Hungary has passed new legislation to tighten asylum laws which include the erection of a four-meter-high fence along the Serbian border to keep out the tens of thousands of migrants trying to enter the country. The parliament approved amendments on Monday to tighten the country’s asylum system to deal with the influx of migrants flooding the region…

Lebanon to poll Christians on choice for president (Al Monitor) Ever since the presidential vacuum started on 25 May 2014, Lebanese Christian political circles seem to be striving to find an innovative solution to the crisis. Their latest effort is a joint political-ecclesiastical proposal to poll Lebanon’s Christian communities on the Maronite candidate that would garner the largest proportion of supporters among Christians…

ISIS executes over 3,000 in first year of caliphate (Christian Post) In the first year of its self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate, ISIS jihadists executed over 3,027 people, among them being at least 86 women and 76 children, as reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Some analysts have suggested that such executions are part of an “apocalypse ideology.” The report, released earlier this week, looks back at the atrocities the jihadists have committed throughout the past year, since it first invaded Iraq back in June 2014…

Syrian Christians face new threat from rebel alliance (NPR) Christians living through the war in Syria face a new threat as an Islamist rebel alliance surges in the country’s north. Today, amid the heaviest fighting for months, the Islamist alliance launched an attempt to seize the key city of Aleppo from government forces. With backing from U.S. allies, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, this rebel coalition fights both the Syrian regime and ISIS. But the coalition has extremists in its own ranks who have mistreated Christians and forced them out of their homes…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Iraqi Christians ISIS Hungary

6 July 2015
Greg Kandra




Kurdish fighters stand watch during clashes with ISIS on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Hassake on 30 June. (photo: Uygar Onder Simsek/AFP/Getty Images)

US-led airstrikes target ISIS in Syria, Iraq (Voice of America) The U.S.-led coalition carried out 38 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq over a 24-hour period Saturday into Sunday with nearly half of the sorties conducted around the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa. Fighting in northern Syria has alarmed neighboring Turkey, which has vowed retaliation if it feels threatened...

Coptic church distributes food to Muslims for Ramadan (Fides) The Coptic Orthodox Church of Saints Anthony and Paul, in the Egyptian district of Nasser oversees the weekly distribution of food parcels to hundreds of poor Muslim families during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month particularly characterized by the practice of fasting combined with prayer...

Gaza grieves for its child casualties (The Guardian) The walls of the office of Salim Abu Rous, headmaster of the Doha boys’ secondary school in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, are decorated with medals and trophies. He has photo albums of the boys in football teams and other clubs. Six pupils from the Doha school were killed in the war, more than from any other school in Gaza. In total, more than 550 Palestinian children died during the conflict. Across Gaza, schools lost pupils and teachers, and thousands were injured...

Ukraine launches Western-style police force (Reuters) The first 2,000 recruits of a new Ukrainian police force passed out in the capital Kiev at the weekend, intended by the government as a visible sign of its commitment to shake off a deep-rooted culture of corruption in public institutions. Trained by U.S. and Canadian forces, and given less militaristic uniforms and the name ‘Politsiya’ to mark a break with the old, Soviet-style ‘Militsiya,’ the young officers pledged to forsake the bribes associated with their job. President Petro Poroshenko told the force, which will first patrol big towns and then be deployed across the country, that it was their task not only to uphold the law but “also to make people believe that reforms are inevitable”...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Muslim Copts

2 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Smoke rises over Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula after militants launched attacks on Egyptian military checkpoints on 1 July. (photo: Anadolu Agency)

Copts flee northern Sinai (Al Monitor) In the northern region of the Sinai peninsula, battles are raging between the Egyptian army and radical Islamist militias, displacing the local Coptic population…

Syrian forces retake another major district (FARS News) The Syrian army continued to make more gains in its battle against ISIS in the northeastern city of Hassake, recapturing another major district. According to Syrian media outlets, the army troops inflicted massive losses on the terrorists and managed to retake the Ghoweiran neighborhood, which is located south of Hassake…

Syria refugee child labor a ‘growing, dangerous problem’ (Daily Star Lebanon) A growing number of Syrian refugee children are being pushed into the labor market to support their families and exploited, often in dangerous conditions, said a report released Thursday…

Syria’s Kurds warn Turkey against military move (Daily Star Lebanon) Syria’s main Kurdish party warned Turkey Wednesday that any military intervention would threaten international peace and said the country’s main Kurdish militia is ready to face any “aggression.” The statement by the Democratic Union Party comes as Turkish media is abuzz with talk of a military intervention to push ISIS back from the Turkish border — a move that would also outflank any Kurdish attempt to create a state along Turkey’s southern frontier…

Pope Francis urges faithful to pray for Greece (Catholic Herald) Pope Francis has called on the faithful to unite in prayer for Greece. In a statement released by the Holy See yesterday, the pope expressed his closeness to the Greek people as they face increasing economic and social turbulence. The statement referred to the “economic and social situation of the country as worrying” and expressed concern for “the many families gravely beset by such a complex and keenly felt human and social crisis…”



Tags: Syria Egypt War Turkey Greece

1 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II visits St. George Monastery in Tartab on 28 June, where some displaced families from Hassake are currently seeking refuge. After praying together, the patriarch sat with the families and listened to their stories. (photo: Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II’s Facebook page)

Syriac Orthodox patriarch: ‘Stop arming our assassins’ (AINA) In recent days, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II has become involved in the trials and tribulations that are afflicting his people. His last pastoral mission, which has just come to an end, was in Qamishli, his home town. He went there to meet the thousands of new Christian refugees who fled attacks against the nearby urban center of Hassake. “We are not asking the West for military intervention to defend Christians and all others,” the patriarch said. “We are asking them to stop arming and supporting terrorist groups that are destroying our countries and massacring our people. If they want to help, they should support local governments, which need sufficient armies and forces to maintain security and defend respective populations against attacks. State institutions need to be strengthened and stabilized. Instead, what we see is their forced dismemberment being fuelled from the outside…”

Leaflet purportedly issued by ISIS threatens Jerusalem Christians (Haaretz) A leaflet threatening Christians purportedly issued by Islamic State was found in several locations around Jerusalem on Saturday. It is unclear if the leaflet, inscribed with the ISIS standard, was prepared by a group affiliated with the Islamist militants or whether it was a prank…

ISIS threatens to topple Hamas in Gaza (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS insurgents threatened Tuesday to turn the Gaza Strip into another of their Middle East fiefdoms, accusing Hamas, the organization that rules the Palestinian territory, of being insufficiently stringent about religious enforcement…

Indian Christians protest inaction in sister’s sexual assault case (Vatican Radio) On Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India organized a protest in the Indian capital, New Delhi, ?to protest atrocities committed against sisters and the laxity of police and authorities in bringing the perpetrators to justice…

Austria, Hungary, Serbia urge E.U. to help amid refugee crisis (Vatican Radio) Austria, Hungary and Serbia have urged the European Union to step up efforts to fight human smuggling through the Balkans and to not just focus on southern immigration routes as they face a massive influx of refugees…



Tags: India Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Eastern Europe Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II

30 June 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from last autumn, Syrian Christians pray in a church in Qamishli, Syria. The city has now become a haven for thousands of families fleeing ISIS. (photo: Eddie Gerald/Getty Images)

Thousands of Syrians fleeing Hassakè (Fides) Fighting it taking place in the Syrian city of Hassakè, the largest town in the northeastern province of Jazira, after the jihadist militants of ISIS managed last Thursday, to enter some neighborhoods, causing the mass exodus of at least 120,000 people. Nearly 4,000 Christian families belonging to various churches were among the first to flee, and have largely taken refuge in the nearby urban area of Qamishli...

Fighting in Ukraine continues, despite ceasefire (The Guardian) “This doesn’t smell like peace to me,” said the Monk, sighing heavily in his makeshift control centre, a former chandelier shop in the basement of a block of flats, near the remains of what not long ago was Donetsk international airport. “There is shooting all the time,” he said. A 47-year-old former policeman from Donetsk whose real name is Oleg Gorlenko, he was given his nom de guerre, he said, because he never cheated on his wife. He has been fighting the Ukrainian army for more than a year and does not believe in the current ceasefire. “Often it’s hard to tell who is shooting at whom. Nobody knows what anyone else is doing. But it definitely isn’t a ceasefire”...

Pope Francis: Christians and Jews, brothers and friends (Vatican Radio) This week members of the International Council of Christians and Jews have been meeting to discuss “The 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate: The Past, Present and Future of the Christian-Jewish Relationship,” and it was on this theme that Pope Francis addressed the participants on Tuesday in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican...

Buddhists, Catholics call for closer cooperation on shared values (Vatican Radio) Buddhist and Catholic leaders from the United States have concluded a meeting in Rome calling for closer cooperation on key environmental and social justice initiatives. A joint statement at the end of the meeting, which was held from 23-27 June on the theme of “Suffering, Liberation and Fraternity,” said the dialogue “strengthened mutual understanding” about these issues and “deepened relationships as a basis for interreligious cooperation based on shared values”...



Tags: Syria Ukraine Jews

29 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis salutes Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon, a hierarch under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, at the end a mass for the investiture of the pallium on 29 June. (photo: AFP/Filippo Monteforte)

Pope welcomes Orthodox delegation for feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (Vatican Radio) On the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis urged 46 new metropolitan archbishops to hear the first apostles’ call to prayer, to faith and to witness. The pope’s words came during his homily at Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, which included several significant ecumenical initiatives…

Historic meeting of pope and Russian Orthodox head approaching (Reuters) A historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is “getting closer every day,” a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on Sunday. The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054…

Al Azhar and Vatican against terrorism (AsiaNews) There is a clear common vision between Al Azhar, the most prestigious and authoritative university in the Sunni world, and what the Vatican has been saying for over a year now — terrorism is a global challenge and must be addressed with an all-out campaign. However, it is increasingly clear that many countries prefer the distinctions of ambiguous alliances, focusing particularly on mere economic interests…

Christians organize ‘banquet of unity’ for Ramadan (Fides) Once again this year, according to custom, parishes and Christian families in Egypt have organized to celebrate with their Muslim neighbors who in these weeks observe, from dawn to dusk, the fast prescribed in the holy month of Ramadan…

Gaza-bound flotilla vessel seized by Israeli navy (Al Jazeera) Israel has boarded and taken over a vessel attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip, officials said. In a statement the Israeli army said on Monday that it did not use force in redirecting the main boat Marianne to the Israeli city of Ashdod…

Aleppo’s fuel prices quadruple (Al Monitor) The rebel-held parts of northern Syria that extend from Aleppo to Idlib and through Hama’s northern countryside are paralyzed; vehicular traffic is significantly reduced while fuel vendors are no longer present on the side of the roads. This was not the case before 31 May, when the Islamic State prevented the entry of fuel to rebel-controlled areas…

Anti-Christian Violence in Kerala (Fides) Christians in India continue to face attacks by Hindu extremist groups. As reported to Fides by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, a new episode of anti-Christian violence took place on 14 June in Kerala: A group of worshipers was attacked during a celebration in a Protestant church in the town of Attingal. As reported to Fides, over 200 militants of radical Hindu organizations entered the hall of worship shouting slogans like “Bharat Mathaki Jai” (”Hail Mother India”)…



Tags: India Pope Francis Middle East Ecumenism North Africa

26 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian Kurds wait behind the barbed wired on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey after fleeing the Syrian town of Kobane on 26 June. (photo: AFP/Bulent Kilic)

Why many Kurds in Turkey are willing to die in Syria’s border towns (Washington Post) The battle for Kobane raged once more this week after ISIS fighters launched an assault on the Syrian border town, which had been firmly in the control of Kurdish militias ever since they chased out the jihadist organization in January. Initial reports suggested dozens died in the fighting, including numerous civilians, with Syrian Kurdish militias forces either killing, capturing, or cornering most of the Islamic State militants. The plight of Kobane, a predominantly Kurdish town right on the border with Turkey, is a lightning rod for many Kurds in Turkey…

ISIS offensive on Syria’s Kobane leaves almost 150 dead (Haaretz) An attack by Islamic State fighters on the Syrian town of Kobane and a nearby village has so far killed at least 146 civilians, the second-biggest massacre by the hardline group in the country, a conflict monitor said on Friday…

Vatican signs treaty with Palestine, calls for two-state solution (National Catholic Reporter) The Vatican on Friday signed a comprehensive agreement formally recognizing the state of Palestine following 15 years of negotiations on a bilateral accord that is said to provide juridical recognition for Catholic churches and call for a two-state solution with Israel on the basis of their borders in 1967…

Patriarch calls for Iraqi churches to unite after centuries of division (Catholic Herald) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has proposed that the three main Iraqi Christian churches should merge in order to secure the survival of the faith in that country. Writing on the patriarchate website the head of the Chaldean Church, which has been in communion with Rome, proposed a reunion between his church and the two largest Assyrian churches: the Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East…

Maronite head demands help for the exiled Iraqi Christians (The Tablet) The head of the Maronite Church has condemned the “international silence” over the suffering of Iraq’s Christians, during a one-day visit to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. At the head of a Lebanese-Italian delegation to visit refugees, Patriarch Bechara Peter demanded action from the international community to help Iraqi Christians stay in their homeland…



Tags: Syria Iraq Middle East Christians Turkey Patriarchs

25 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis looks on after greeting Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX during a 12 April Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Today, the pope sent a telegram to the the Patriarchate of Cilicia in Beirut to express condolences for the death of the patriarch. (photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX dies in Lebanon (Daily Star Lebanon) Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia Nerses Bedros XIX passed away Thursday after suffering from a heart attack, media reported. The renowned Egyptian patriarch, who resided in Lebanon, was widely known for serving the Armenian community and promoting its interests. The patriarch had visited Armenian communities in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. to boost Armenian Catholic schools…

Displaced Iraqis still wait to return home (Al Monitor) Amid accusations of affiliation with ISIS and an uncompleted demining process in the liberated areas, most of Iraq’s displaced have yet to return to their cities…

ISIS trying to retake Kobane in northern Syria (Christian Science Monitor) ISIS militants launched two major attacks in northern Syria on Thursday, storming government-held areas in the mostly Kurdish city of Hassake and pushing into Kobane — the Syrian Kurdish border town they were expelled from early this year — where they set off three cars bombs, killing and wounding dozens, activists and officials said…

On Greek island, migrants bring stark contrast to the usual tourists (Washington Post) This is the second front in Europe’s migrant crisis. Tens of thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia are rushing the shores of Europe, with Greece now just behind Italy as the single largest entry point. From clandestine ports in Turkey as close as 30 minutes by raft, dozens of newcomers are landing every day…

Indian government denies any crackdown on Caritas India (Vatican Radio) A government spokesperson addressed popular reports claiming that Caritas India has been put under a “prior approval” category, saying the organization had been remitted money by a Netherlands-based donor under that category…



Tags: Iraqi Refugees Migrants Greece ISIS Armenian Catholic Church





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