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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
31 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Young Syrian refugees are seen atop a vehicle at a camp in June in the village of Arsal, Lebanon. Officials say the refugee crisis in Lebanon continues, with the situation for many largely unchanged. (photo: CNS/Nabil Mounzer, EPA)

Syrian rebels destroy bridges in anticipation of offensive (AP) Syrian opposition fighters blew up bridges Friday linking areas they control to government-held territories in northwestern Syria in anticipation of a military offensive against their last stronghold in the country, activists and a war monitor said. The explosions rocked the area in al-Ghab plains, south of Idlib and came after rebels detected government troop movement in the area, according to Rami Abdurrahman, head of the war monitoring Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…

Status of Syrian refugees in Lebanon remains largely unchanged (CNS) While procedures are being put in place for Syrians to return to their war-torn country from neighboring Lebanon, the refugee crisis continues to linger and remains largely unchanged, a Caritas Lebanon official said…

Kerala needs a Marshall Plan (Times of India) The recent floods which have ravaged Kerala, in terms of scale and effect can be compared to post-war Germany. Kerala with a land mass of 38863 Sq. kms. is a little larger than Germany which has 35,021 Sq. kms. of land. With 7,24,649, people living in 5,645 camps, and the destruction of 10,000 kms of roads and extensive damage to industrial and agricultural infrastructure, it resembles a war-ravaged land. The repairing of the flood damaged Cochin airport, bridges, roads, dams, irrigation projects, waterways, schools, hospitals, homes, agriculture would all require vast amounts of money…

UN: four million refugee children out of school worldwide (The Jordan Times) Four million refugee children across the world remain out of school today, according to a new report issued by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday. The study, titled “Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis”, identified an increase by half a million in the number of out-of-school refugee children over the past year, warning that “despite the efforts of the governments of host countries, UNHCR and its partners, enrollment of refugee children in school is failing to keep pace with the growing refugee population…”

The scourge of child marriages in India (UCANews.com) All of 12 years old, a child with a cherubic face holding a balloon is the mother of a four-month-old baby girl. Both seem to consider the balloon to be a fun toy to play with. Each year at least 1.2 million children are married in India in violation of a law that sets a minimum marriage age of 18 for females and 21 for males…

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul (TASS) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia arrived in Istanbul on Friday and is due to hold a meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the press service of the Russian Orthodox Church head said. ”Patriarch Kirill has arrived at Istanbul’s airport. In an hour, a meeting between the two Patriarchs will begin,” the statement said…



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Russian Orthodox

30 August 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from April, Syrian children are seen inside an informal settlement for refugees in Bar Elias, Lebanon. Many refugees fear returning home, wondering what the future will bring after the war. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)

Kerala leader says economic impact of floods was immense (The Indian Express) During the special Assembly session convened to discuss the relief and rehabilitation measures underway to cope with the state’s worst floods in a century, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed the House that a total of 483 people lost their lives in rain-related incidents this monsoon. While 14 people are reported to be still missing, around 140 people were admitted to hospitals during this period…

U.S. concerned as Syrian regime moves helicopters (CNN) The Syrian regime has moved armed helicopters closer to the rebel stronghold of Idlib in the last few weeks, according to two defense officials. The US is concerned they could eventually be used to launch another chemical attack using chlorine filled barrel bombs, though they are readily available for a conventional assault…

Syrian refugees fear for future after the war (The Guardian) The blazing guns of insurgency have largely been silenced in central and southern Syria, and politicians in Damascus, Beirut and Amman are claiming with increasing vehemence that a ruined country from which at least 6 million people have fled is now a safe for them to return. Few Syrians in Lebanon seem convinced. “I’ll serve my country proudly and shed my blood for it with a smile on my face, but not like this,” said Abu Ahmed, 41, who hails from the former opposition stronghold of Ghouta…

Copts called ’infidels,’ harassed for attending church (The Tablet) Last week, two churches in Egypt were subject to demonstrations by Muslim hardliners who prevented Coptic Christians from worshiping, claiming the churches are unlicensed. In a third incident, a police officer broke onto a church and screamed at the worshippers “Infidels … you are all infidels…”

Archbishop calls for ‘culture of encounter’ at U.N. (Vatican News) Genuine negotiation in dispute settlement calls for a “culture of encounter” that places at the center of all political, social and economic activity the human person, who enjoys the highest dignity, and respect for the common good. Genuine peace mediation needs trustworthy mediators and must include all parties for a good that is mutually beneficial to all the parties involved, said Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York…



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Kerala

29 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Kerala residents are returning home, but the economic impact is severe. The region's once-thriving tourism industry has been devastated and may take a long time to rebuild. (video: News18 Digital/YouTube)

After flood, tourism in Kerala is left a muddy mess (VOA) More than a week after the floodwater began subsiding, animal carcasses are still floating in Kerala’s backwaters, and in places a nauseating stench rises like a wall when the wake from a passing boat breaks the surface. These inland lagoons running parallel to the coast are one of the biggest tourist draws in India’s most southwesterly state, but the stain of death and devastation wrought by Kerala’s worst flood in a century will take longer than a season to wash away…

U.S., Russia in war of words as Syria attack looms (Al Jazeera) Russia has deployed a dozen warships to the Mediterranean Sea in what a Russian newspaper on Tuesday called Moscow’s largest naval buildup since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015. The reinforcement comes as Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is believed to be considering a major assault on the last rebel-held enclave in northern Idlib province…

Moscow, Kiev in tug-of-war over religious future of Ukraine (AP) As Kiev and Moscow clash on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, a new front has opened up in the religious sphere. Earlier this year Ukrainian’s president launched a campaign to persuade Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, seen by many as the first among equals of Eastern Orthodox leaders, to grant Ukrainian clerics full ecclesiastical independence from the Russian Orthodox Church to which they have been tied for hundreds of years…

Pope reaches out to other Christian churches, inviting them to serve the poor (Vatican News) Pope Francis has invited the faithful of the Waldensian and Methodist Churches to join Catholics in together proclaiming Jesus, especially to the poor and the marginalized of today. In a message sent to the participants in the annual synod of the Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches that is taking place in Torre Pellice, near Turin, northern Italy, the Pope expressed his and the Catholic Church’s fraternal closeness...



Tags: India Ukraine Russia

28 August 2018
Greg Kandra




The report above shows the life of a Syrian refugee in Jordan. Jordan now says it can take in no more refugees and is encouraging them to return home. (video: BBC/YouTube)

Jordan says it can’t host any more refugees (AFP) Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday his country has exceeded its capacity to host refugees from Syria and is backing their voluntary return home. Amman estimates that it has taken in close to 1.3 million refugees from its war-torn neighbor and says it has already spent more than $10 billion to host them…

India criticized for refusing UAE aid for Kerala (UCANews.com) India’s pro-Hindu government is facing criticism for refusing to accept aid worth US$100 million from the United Arab Emirates for flood-ravaged Kerala state. Catastrophic floods and landslides from 14 — 18 August killed an estimated 400 people and displaced 1.3 million to relief camps where they subsist on donated food and clothes...

Israel plans to expand mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall (Haaretz) A plan to expand the mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall has won final approval, following pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The plan, whose details are reported here for the first time, was approved under a special regulation that created a fast-track process authorizing the municipal engineer, in this case Jerusalem’s, to approve work to make a site handicapped-accessible. Such access was called for in the plan, in addition to the expansion of the area and its entrance…

Fishermen hailed as heroes of Kerala flood (UCANews.com) Fishermen in India’s Kerala state are being hailed as heroes for using their traditional wooden boats to rescue men, women and children from swirling floodwaters. ”You are like our God,” a woman with folded hands told fishermen who saved her along with another female villager and 30 youngsters trapped in a children’s home in Alappuzha district, an area laced with waterways…

Young Palestinians take hold of their future at Gaza tech hub (The Independent) ”Global tech hub” may not be the first three words that spring to mind when describing the besieged and war-ravaged Gaza Strip. But a group of young Palestinians in the tiny territory, home to some 1.8 million people, are trying to change assumptions…



Tags: Syria India Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank

24 August 2018
Greg Kandra




In India, hundreds of thousands of people in Kerala are coping with the worst flooding in a century. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)

After worst flooding in a century, India turns down foreign aid (The New York Times) After devastating floods killed more than 400 people and engulfed entire towns in a southern state in India, the United Arab Emirates offered $100 million to help the recovery. The Indian government’s response: thanks, but no thanks…

Fear of drought in parts of south India (The Times of India) In a cruel irony, surging rains in Kerala have lifted the monsoon’s performance in south India to an 11 percent surplus. The figure, however, doesn’t reveal the extremely skewed rain distribution in the region. Outside Kerala and coastal Andhra, half the districts in south India are grappling with deficient rainfall…

Ethnic unrest tarnishes new Ethiopian leader’s reforms (Reuters) A surge in ethnic violence, sometimes in the form of mob attacks, has displaced nearly 1 million people in the past four months in southern Ethiopia and is inflaming bad feeling between ethnic groups in other regions. The violence threatens to undermine Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s calls for unity in one of Africa’s most ethnically diverse countries. It also overshadows the popular liberal measures he has announced since coming to power in April…

Iraqi Christians unable to attend World Meeting of Families (AsiaNews) The Iraqi delegation’s exclusion from attending the 2018 World Meeting of Families, scheduled from 21-26 August in Dublin (Ireland) is “a terrible event”, says Msgr. Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad. The number two to the Chaldean patriarch confirms that there will be no faithful present at the Irish meeting due to a problem linked to the issue of entry permits. “They told us that it took months to process them — explains the prelate — and our online applications were not even granted…”

Report: in 24 hours, Armenia violates ceasefire 86 times (AzerNews) Over the past 24 hours, Armenian armed forces have 86 times violated the ceasefire along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said 24 August. Armenian armed forces were using heavy machine guns. The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts…



Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Armenia

23 August 2018
Greg Kandra




The video above shows how thousands of residents who fled their homes after the flooding in Kerala have begun returning home. What they are finding is often overwhelming. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)

Kerala victims try to pick up the pieces of their lives (CNN) Idicula Gevarghese, forced to abandon his home in the town of Venmoney in the southern Indian state of Kerala last week, returned with his family on Monday to the ruins of their lives. Three of them -- himself, his wife and their granddaughter -- came back to the swamped house armed with disinfectant, and began the overwhelming task of clearing out five days of muck and water…

Palestinians: No ‘deal of the century’ without Jerusalem as capital (Haaretz) The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement that Israel will have to give something in return to the Palestinians now that Jerusalem is “off the table,” calling it ”meaningless…”

A course for Catholics organized by Russian Orthodox patriarchate (AsiaNews) A training course for representatives of the Catholic Church opens in Moscow on 24 August. They will attend a program prepared for them by the Moscow Patriarchate until 2 September. This was announced by the press service of the Department for external ecclesiastical affairs of the Patriarchate, recalling that it is the fourth appointment of this kind. After some years of frosty relations, starting 2016 the Russian Orthodox Church began to share several initiatives with the Catholic Church, such as these study exchanges that the Orthodox themselves took advantage of last May, sending their own delegation to Rome…

Eritrea mulls building port on Red Sea (Bloomberg) Eritrea is considering building a port on its Red Sea coastline to export potash from deposits being developed in the Horn of Africa nation, a mines ministry official said. Plans for the harbor signal the country’s reemergence as a potential investor destination after its surprise rapprochement with neighboring Ethiopia last month ended two decades of political tensions…

UN marks international day for remembrance and abolition of slavery (Vatican News) The international observance “helps to guard against racial prejudices that have been developed to justify slavery and continue to fuel everyday racism and discrimination against people of African descent,” said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, in a message for Thursday’s observance. Since 2001, trafficking and slavery have been recognized by the international community as crimes against humanity, but Azoulay observed that “these scourges resurface at regular intervals in different ways and in different places.” ”That is why,” she said, “a better knowledge of the history of the slave trade and slavery is essential for a better understanding of the emergence of new forms of slavery, in order to prevent them…”

Syria’s famous ice cream is melting hearts in Jordan (Haaretz) There are certain institutions that are immune to economic fluctuations and major upheavals. Such is the Bakdash ice-cream enterprise, which after seven years of civil war and more than half-a-million dead, is still making its famous product every day in the Al-Hamidiyah Souq in the old city of Damascus. And in our case, it is also weathering Jordan’s high cost of living, which is bringing masses of people to the streets in protest…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Palestine Kerala

22 August 2018
Greg Kandra




A young flood victims eats a meal inside a temporary relief shelter on 20 Augusut in Cochin, India. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)

Caritas India reaching out to flood victims (Vatican News) After heavy lashing by monsoon rains since 8 August, southern India’s Kerala state is limping back to normalcy with the rains subsiding since Monday. However, the task of recovery and rehabilitation remains enormous and arduous. According to Kerala state chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, 223 deaths have been reported and over a million people are staying in 3,274 relief camps, of which more than 100,000 are kids below 12 years of age. As waters recede, the threat of water-born and air-borne diseases loom large with scarcity of clean drinking water and sanitation in relief camps…

Assad and Aoun discuss ways for Syrian refugees to return from Lebanon (AsiaNews) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun recently discussed the refugee problem, one of the most serious consequences of the conflict that has been bloodying Syria for seven years, in a telephone conversation. According to sources of al-Akhbar newspaper, the two leaders have investigated ways and means “to accelerate their return home”…

Suicide attack kills Sunni fighters in northern Iraq (Reuters) A suicide attack on a former Iraqi lawmaker’s house killed at least six tribal militiamen and wounded seven others in a northern Sunni Muslim village early on Wednesday, police said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but Islamic State militants operate in the area…

Hindu musicians face opposition at Christian concerts in India (UCANews.com) Hindu classical musicians who perform at Christian concerts face stiff opposition from fans and hard-line Hindu groups in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. Carnatic singer O.S. Arun canceled a performance after he was severely criticized on social media and accused of helping Christians to proselyte and convert Hindus…



Tags: India Iraq Lebanon

21 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Flood victims are served food inside a temporary relief shelter on 20 August in Cochin, India. The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India's Kerala state. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)

More than one million in Kerala have fled to relief camps to escape flooding (The Guardian) More than 1 million people have packed into relief camps to escape the devastating monsoon floods in India’s south-western state of Kerala, where more than 410 people have died. About 50,000 homes have been destroyed, according to one official in Kerala, and people are flocking to the camps as the scale of the desolation is revealed by receding waters. Thousands of army, navy and air force personnel have been deployed across the state to help people stranded in remote and hilly areas…

Syrian refugees in Lebanon left with confusion over return (The Daily Star) A group of Syrians planning to return from the Bekaa to the Damascus countryside before the Eid al Adha holiday said they were left hanging for two days when Lebanese authorities unexpectedly put their returns on hold. But as of Monday evening, a coordinator for the refugees said they had gotten the go-ahead to return…

Hamas: Gaza close to ending blockade, Trump peace plan ‘clinically dead’ (Haaretz) Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday that “we are on the way to ending the blockade on Gaza,” adding “this is the result of your steadfastness and your struggle, and any humanitarian aid to Gaza will not be made at a diplomatic price.”Haniyeh further said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” was “clinically dead.” He added that any talks of internal Palestinian reconciliation requires the lifting of sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority, and called on the PA to cease security coordination with Israel and end what he termed persecution of Hamas and other resistance groups in the West Bank…

India’s Catholics pay tribute to late former prime minister (Vatican News) India’s Catholic Church has expressed profound sadness at the death of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 93. Vajpayee headed India’s government three times: first for just 13 days in 1996, for 13 months in 1998, and then from 1999 to 2004…

Muslims celebrate Eid al Adha in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) Eid al Adha, “The Feast of Sacrifice,” commemorates Abraham’s obedience to God’s command in his willingness to sacrifice his son. The sacrifice of a sheep is central to the holiday given God’s last-minute intervention, offering Abraham an animal instead. Four days before the slaughter of the sheep, it’s forbidden to shave or cut one’s nails, followed by a one-day fast. They break the fast with a meat-based feast, part of the feast is offered to the poor as part of the holiday’s celebration…



Tags: India Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank

20 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Residents survey the aftermath of severe flooding in Kerala that has caused massive damage and loss of life in the Indian state. (photo: CNEWA)

Pope prays for victims of Kerala floods (Vatican News) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for victims of the flooding in the Indian state of Kerala. “In recent days,” he noted, “the inhabitants of Kerala have been harshly struck by intense rains, which have caused flooding and landslides, with heavy loss of human life, with many people missing and displaced, with extensive damage to crops and homes…”

Kerala focuses on cleanup, relief, rehabilitation (Vatican News) With a lull in the rains and no heavy downpours forecast in the next five days, morale has surged in southern India’s Kerala state, boosting the ongoing relief, rescue and cleanup operations. About 22,000 people were reported rescued on Sunday, after monsoon rains finally eased. No red alert was issued for any of Kerala’s rain-ravaged 14 districts…

Lebanese Foreign Minister: no reason for Syria refugees to stay in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Russia lashed out at Western countries accusing them of blocking UN aid for Syria’s reconstruction and trying to prevent the return of refugees. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks on Monday with his Lebanese counterpart, Gibran Bassil, the US refusal to provide assistance for rebuilding Syria after more than seven years of fighting would deter Syrians from returning to their homes…

Murder mystery reverberates in Coptic Church (The New York Times) Christian monks living in the solitude of Egypt’s deserts have always faced the threat of attack from outside. In the early centuries, they built drawbridges and windowless towers to repel marauding nomads. More recently, barricades and armed police officers ring the monasteries to guard against Islamic State suicide bombers, who target Christians. But now, to the shock of the faithful, it turns out that danger also lurks inside the monastery walls…

Patriarch Kirill visits Russia’s northernmost Orthodox church (TASS) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has arrived in Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, where he performed a divine service in one of Russia’s northernmost Orthodox churches — the Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker in Belushya Guba, an administrative center of Novaya Zemlya, a TASS correspondent reported. This church in Russia’s Far North dates back to pre-revolutionary times, but this is the first visit by the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church there…



Tags: India Lebanon Kerala Russian Orthodox

17 August 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Palestinian woman hangs laundry at a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip 20 June. World Refugee Day is 20 June. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)

Egypt finalizing details of five-year Hamas-Israel truce (Daily Star Lebanon) Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security source said Thursday, amid easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some 2 million Palestinians live. Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid al Adha feast, which starts next week…

Christians, Muslims in Israeli village feel ‘second class’ after new law passed (Crux) In Deir Hanna, a small hillside village in the Lower Galilee, a church steeple and a minaret pierce the sky above its winding streets — neighboring dual structures that are symbolic of life on the ground where the town’s Muslim and Christian inhabitants live peacefully alongside one another. For the ancient town of Deir Hanna — which consists of fewer than 10,000 residents, approximately 20 percent of whom are Christians and 80 percent Muslims — the two faith communities have coexisted for centuries surrounded by their nearby Jewish neighbors, despite longstanding regional conflict being a way of life. Yet, as of last month when the Israeli government passed legislation to define itself as “the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” a new source of tension has emerged, where Christians and Muslims alike are charging that the new bill is not only not necessary, but also discriminatory against minority populations — and in this town, their Jewish neighbors agree…

Church ‘out in the field’ in flood-hit Kerala (UCAN India) The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India’s Kerala state, killing 75 people within a week. All 41 Catholic dioceses in the southern state have opened schools and other institutions to accommodate flood victims and are cooperating to send food, clothes and other relief materials to affected areas…

Caritas Syria: Ghouta refugees starving for food and love (AsiaNews) Displaced people speak of their condition in eastern Ghouta, an area on the outskirts of Damascus that was controlled for a long time by rebel forces. These people who, despite hardship and deprivation, are often without food to give to their children, claim they have “more need for love than for food.” And they reject the association with extremist and rebel groups who have long controlled the area and who today “have fled to Turkey and live happily. We, on the other hand, have not hurt anyone, we are suffering…”



Tags: Syria India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Galilee





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