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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
22 May 2015
Greg Kandra




The video above contains footage shot by a drone last fall as it flew over parts of Gaza, revealing dramatically the devastation to the region. A report out today says Gaza’s economy is on the “verge of collapse,” with the highest rate of unemployment in the world. (video: BBC)

ISIS seizes key Syria-Iraq border crossing (BBC) Islamic State militants have seized the last Syrian government-controlled border crossing between Syria and Iraq, a Syria monitoring group says. Government forces withdrew from al-Tanf — known as al-Waleed in Iraq — crossing as IS advanced, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. The loss of al-Tanf to IS follows the group’s takeover of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday. The US says that fighting the militants will be a “difficult challenge...”

Some Christian towns being recaptured from ISIS militants (CNS) Church bells are ringing once again in the Assyrian Christian villages dotting the Khabur River in northeastern Syria after ISIS militants were routed by a combination of forces. It’s a stark contrast to the mounting concerns for one of the most renowned archeological sites in the Middle East following the Islamic State militant sweep into the ancient Syrian city Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site. Despite the ISIS militant victories in Iraq and Palmyra, the extremists have suffered a setback in Syria’s northeastern province of Hassakeh. There, Kurdish and Assyrian Christian fighters have again wrested control over the Abdul-Aziz Mountain near the village of Tal Tamar, according to activists and Christian officials in Hassakeh...

Gaza economy “on verge of collapse” (The Guardian) The economy of Gaza — assailed by war, poor governance and a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade — has reached the “verge of collapse” with the coastal strip suffering the highest rate of unemployment in the world. The bleak picture is presented in a devastating report by the World Bank, released on Friday, which said that Gaza’s economy had been strangled by years of blockades, war and poor governance and faces a dangerous crisis over its ability to meet wages and other spending requirements. Calling for the “lifting of the blockade on the movement of goods and people to allow Gaza’s tradable sectors to recover” the report warned that about 43% of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are unemployed, with youth unemployment reaching about 60% by the end of last year...

Amnesty International: all sides in Ukraine conflict are committing war crimes (AP) Both warring sides in eastern Ukraine are perpetrating war crimes almost daily, including torturing prisoners and summarily killing them, the Amnesty International rights group said in a report Friday. Amnesty said in a statement that it has heard from former captives of both Ukrainian government and separatist forces who say they faced savage beatings, torture with electric shocks, kicking and stabbings...

Coptic vicar: church will respect death sentence for Morsi (CNS) Egypt’s Catholic Church has pledged respect for the country’s justice authorities after a deposed Islamist president was sentenced to death for alleged complicity in a planned jail break. “After long deliberations, the Catholic Church has declared itself against the death penalty in general,” said Fr. Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos, patriarchal vicar of the Coptic Catholic Church. “But Egypt is an Islamic country which, like the United States, uses this sentence. Far from intervening in particular judgments, the Catholic Church must respect the country’s laws and judicial system.” The priest spoke as protests continued against the May 16 decision by a Cairo court that sentenced former President Mohammed Morsi and dozens of others...

Cardinal hopes for “trialogue” between Christians, Muslims, Jews (Vatican Radio) The three day conference ‘Nostra Aetate — Celebrating 50 years of the Catholic Church’s Dialogue with Jews and Muslims’ concluded yesterday at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. The President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity — and also responsible for the Church’s dialogue with the Jewish people — Cardinal Kurt Koch, was there. He says the Nostra Aetate declaration was a landmark in relations between the Catholic Church and other faiths. But, he notes that while the Church has ongoing bilateral talks with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, it may be too early to engage in a “trialogue” among the three monotheistic faiths. “We don’t have trialogue and for us it is too early to make this because sometimes we speak about an Abrahamitic ecumenism — this is very clear — it is a good issue. But on the other hand, we have a very, very different interpretation of Abraham and we cannot deny this issue. And in the interreligious discussion, it is very important to treat also this difference that we have in the interpretation of Abraham...”



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim

21 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrians stand and look out on the street of the ancient city of Palmyra on 18 May, a day after ISIS took control of the city, which is home to a 2,000-year-old World Heritage Site.
(photo: AFP/Getty Images)


ISIS takes full control of Palmyra (Reuters) Islamic State fighters tightened their grip on the historic city of Palmyra in Syria, days after capturing a provincial capital in neighboring Iraq, suggesting the growing momentum of the group which a monitor says now holds half of Syrian territory. The twin successes pile pressure not just on Damascus and Baghdad, but also throw doubt on U.S. strategy to rely almost exclusively on air strikes to defeat Islamic State. Extending its reach in the region, fighters loyal to the Sunni Muslim group have also consolidated their grip on the Libyan city of Sirte, hometown of former leader Muammar Gaddafi...

Cardinal: Christians, Muslims ‘still don’t know each other enough’ (CNS) “Despite 50 years of ‘Nostra Aetate,’” the Second Vatican Council’s document on interreligious relations, “we still don’t know each other well enough,” said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Speaking 19 May about Catholic-Muslim relations, Cardinal Tauran added, “Most of the problems we face are problems of ignorance...”

Ukraine tears up military cooperation agreement with Russia (AP) Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to suspend military cooperation with Russia in a long-anticipated move signaling a further break in relations between the once-close partners. Kiev also produced what it claimed was fresh confirmation of involvement by Russian intelligence in sowing unrest in breakaway eastern regions, saying it is evidence of continued Russian plans to destabilize Ukraine...

Pope urges prayers for China, persecuted Christians over Pentecost (CNS) Pope Francis asked Catholics worldwide to show solidarity through their prayers for Catholics in China and for persecuted Christians over the Pentecost weekend. The World Day of Prayer for the Church in China is observed each year on the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, 24 May, which this year falls on Pentecost. The pope also underlined a prayer initiative of the Italian bishops’ conference inviting all Italian dioceses to pray for persecuted Christians on the vigil of Pentecost. The vigil is intended to “remember the many brothers and sisters exiled or killed for the sole reason that they are Christian,” said the pope. “They are martyrs...”

Pope: Christians are called to be one (Vatican Radio) His wounds are the “price” that Jesus paid for the Church to be united forever to Him and to God. Christians today are called to ask for the grace of unity and to fight against all “spirit of division, of war, of jealousy.” That was Pope Francis’s reflection during his Homily at Mass Thursday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta guesthouse. For Pope Francis, “the great prayer of Jesus” is that the Church is united — that Christians “be one" as Jesus is with his Father. Drawing his reflections from the day’s readings, Pope Francis immerses us in the atmosphere of the Last Supper — not long before Christ gives Himself over to the Passion. Recalling Christ’s weighty words entrusted to the Apostles, the Pope warns us against “the great temptation” and entreats us not to yield to the other “father:” the one of “lies” and “division...”



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Muslim

20 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, papal envoy to Iraq, says words and good intentions are not enough to protect people in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope calls for an end to “unacceptable crime” of persecution (Vatican Radio) The many Christians who are being persecuted in our times “are martyrs” Pope Francis said on Wednesday, at the end of his General Audience. The Holy Father praised an initiative of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) to make a special remembrance, on the Vigil of Pentecost, of the many “brothers and sisters” who have been exiled or killed for no other reason than being Christian. He expressed his hope that the moment of prayer for the new Christian martyrs would increase the recognition that “religious liberty is an inalienable human right...”

ISIS reportedly seizes part of Palmyra in Syria (BBC) Islamic State fighters have seized the northern part of the ancient World Heritage-listed city of Palmyra in Syria, a monitoring group has said. Militants seized part of the town of Tadmur located on a strategic east-west route next to Palmyra on Saturday but had been pushed back from the ruins. Palmyra contains architecture of one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, according to Unesco...

Iraq calls for volunteers to battle ISIS (BBC) Iraq’s government has called for volunteers to fight against Islamic State and help retake the city of Ramadi. A cabinet statement said a voluntary recruitment drive was necessary to fill shortages in squads in the west of Anbar province. Thousands have fled Ramadi since its capture by IS on Sunday. Meanwhile, the US National Security Council said it was considering “how best to support local ground forces”...

Report: Israel holding talks with Hamas about floating port for Gaza (Haaretz) Israel is conducting talks with Hamas about the possible construction of a floating port between Turkish Cyprus and the Gaza coast that would allow goods to be transferred the Palestinian coastal territory, the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour reported Tuesday, quoting Western diplomatic sources. According to the report, the talks, described as direct, have been ongoing in various European capitals with guarantees provided by Turkey, which has also been trying to advance dialogue between the two sides...

Dozens of priests reported leaving Ukraine (Interfax) Dozens of priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) are leaving Ukraine in fear of persecutions, the head of the sector for interreligious liaisons at the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synodal Department for External Church Relations Priest Dimitry Safonov said on Monday. “There are dozens of priests who had to leave Ukraine. The exact statistic is currently impossible. They are pressured into leaving Ukraine. Their families are getting death threats, they themselves are facing the threat of physical violence,” he told an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on combating the intolerance and discrimination towards Christians...

Copts kidnapped on way to Marian shrine (Fides) Four young Coptic Christians in the province of Minya, Upper Egypt, were kidnapped along while walking along a country road to reach the ancient church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the village of Jabal al-Tair, in the city of Salamut. This was reported by Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank

19 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from last month, thousands of Iraqis fled the city of Ramadi as fighting intensified.
(photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


ISIS prepares to defend Ramadi, as humanitarian crisis looms (BBC) ISIS militants are preparing to defend the Iraqi city of Ramadi, witnesses say, as Iranian-backed militiamen gather east of the city. Residents said ISIS fighters had set up defensive positions and laid landmines after capturing the city on Sunday. Militants were also going door-to-door looking for government sympathisers and throwing bodies in the Euphrates river, residents were quoted as saying. Thousands have fled the city and the UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis. It says some 25,000 people have left the city, only 105km (65 miles) west of Baghdad, in recent days, adding to a flood of people already displaced from the area. Many were sleeping in the open...

Jordan denies Syria charge it is “training terrorists” (The Daily Star) Jordan Tuesday rejected Syrian accusations that “terrorists” were being given military training on its soil, insisting Amman favored a political solution to its neighbor’s conflict. The Syrian foreign ministry, in a protest letter sent to the United Nations Monday, alleged Jordan “provides logistical support to armed terrorist groups, including [Al-Qaeda affiliate] Al-Nusra Front.” It accused Jordan of having “set up terrorist training camps on its soil as well as operation centers to help these groups and facilitate the infiltration of thousands of terrorists a day.” Jordan’s government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani, quoted by state news agency Petra, said the charges had “no basis in reality...”

Syrian refugees struggle to survive in neighboring countries (U.S. News & World Report) With the Syria conflict in its fifth year, the struggle for survival is getting tougher for many of the close to 4 million Syrians who fled to neighboring countries, particularly those in Jordan and Lebanon, where the highest number of refugees have settled. There appears to be no quick and practical way to halt the downward slide...

Thousands of patients from Gaza receive treatment in Israel (The Times of Israel) Along with Egypt, Israel has maintained a blockade over the seaside territory to prevent Hamas importing weapons — and has fought three wars with the Strip’s Islamist gunmen — since the terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007. At the same time, the Jewish state also allows thousands of Gazans to travel each year to hospitals in Israel. This awkward arrangement, which sometimes includes security interrogations, highlights how after years of hostility, the fates of Israel and Gaza are deeply intertwined...



18 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of the canonization Mass for four new saints in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 May. Also pictured is Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household. The pope canonized four 19th-century nuns. The new saints are: Marie-Alphonsine and Mary of Jesus Crucified, both from historic Palestine; Jeanne Emilie De Villeneuve from France; and Maria Cristina Brando from Italy.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope canonizes nuns, including two from Palestine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis canonized four women religious on Sunday, all 19th century nuns who worked in education. St, Marie-Alphonsine and St. Mary of Jesus Crucified were from the territory that made up historical Palestine; St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve was a French nun and foundress; and St. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception came from Italy. “To abide in God and in His love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all — this is what the four women Saints canonized today did,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians”...

Pope, Palestinian President express hopes for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meeting in the Vatican Saturday, expressed their hopes for a resumption of peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel and for “courageous decisions” for peace, with international support. A Vatican statement described the talks as “cordial,” and said the two sides “expressed great satisfaction with the agreement reached on the text of a comprehensive agreement between the Parties concerning essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine, which will be signed in the near future...”

Shia militias plan counter-offensive after Iraqi city of Ramadi falls (BBC) Shia militias are assembling east of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to prepare for a counter-attack against Islamic State militants who captured it on Sunday. Iraqi state TV described tanks and other military vehicles entering al-Habbaniyah military camp. IS fighters are reportedly moving towards the base. The Iraqi government called for help from the Iran-backed militias after the military was routed and fled. About 500 people died in the city — only 70 miles (112km) west of Baghdad...

U.S. captures “treasure trove” in Syrian raid (The Wall Street Journal) The U.S. special-operations force that carried out a first-of-its-kind mission in Syria to capture the Islamic State finance chief and his wife over the weekend came away with a treasure trove of materials that could help in the attempt to pressure the extremist group...

Egyptian court sentences Mohammed Morsi to death (Vatican Radio) An Egyptian court sentenced ex-President Mohammed Morsi to death on Saturday for his part in a mass prison break that took place during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. More than 100 others also received the death penalty in connection with the uprising...

Pax Christi leaders see inequities in West Bank water distribution (CNS) It took only a slight turn of an eye to see the glaring difference in levels of water availability and consumption between the Israeli agricultural settlement of Petza’el and the three neighboring dusty Palestinian villages just outside Jericho. Up on the hill next to the settlement stood a gleaming white water tower for the use of the Israeli settlement, while in the village cluster, an old well built by Jordan prior to the 1967 war sat, neglected and locked, and an old agricultural aqueduct was dry. Some participants in Pax Christi International’s “Pilgrims on the Path to Peace” 70th anniversary conference, taking place in Bethlehem, gathered in the village on 13 May on one of the conference’s six simultaneous pilgrimages to see different realities of Palestinian life. Some 150 delegates from 30 countries participated in the five-day conference...

Ethiopia detains 200 suspected human smugglers (AP) Two hundred suspected human smugglers have been detained as part of the Ethiopian government’s efforts to stem the number of citizens trying to illegally migrate to Europe, a senior official said. The government is looking for 80 other alleged smugglers who are conducting overseas operations, Ethiopian Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam told the Ethiopian News Agency late Sunday...



15 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Sister Diana Momeka, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington titled “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities.” (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)

Help us ‘go back home,’ displaced Iraqi sister urges U.S. Congress (CNS) Speaking quietly and deliberately, Dominican Sister Diana Momeka from Iraq urged a congressional committee hearing May 13 to help the displaced Christian refugees in Iraq to “go back home.” “We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home,” Sister Diana, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena of Mosul, Iraq, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. During the hearing: “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities,” Sister Diana was one of four women who spoke of the urgent need to not only help and protect religious minorities but also to preserve and save religious sites...

Bishop says Syrians are exhausted (CNS) Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, and his people are exhausted. The bishop, who is president of the church’s charitable agency, Caritas Syria, left the country for a few days to attend the general assembly of Caritas Internationals in Rome from 12-17 May. Daily life “is becoming more and more difficult and tiring,” he told Catholic News Service. When the fighting first began in 2011, he said, the people of Aleppo held up well because the danger zones were far away. “Now our situation is very bad, very difficult,” he said. “We are without electricity, without (running) water.” “Something like 80 percent of people in Aleppo are without jobs. So they don't have any money to survive,” the bishop said...

Vatican-Palestine accord supports two-state solution (CNS) Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory. Without fanfare, the Vatican has been referring to the “State of Palestine” at least since January 2013. The “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican’s official yearbook, lists a diplomatic relationship with the “State of Palestine.” The Vatican, which praised the United Nations’ recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in 2012, said on 13 May that the bilateral commission working on the agreement had finalized the text...

Chaldean Patriarch visits Tehran (Fides) The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran “does not hesitate to support the people and the Iraqi government, because the two Countries share the same history and civilization.” This is what the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I said during his visit that began on 12 May in Iran, where the Primate of the Chaldean Church will be staying until 22 May...

ISIS reported on the offensive in Ramadi (CNN) ISIS has launched a wide-scale attack on Iraqi security forces in Ramadi in an apparent attempt to take the rest of the key central Iraqi city, a provincial governor said Friday. The ISIS offensive, which started Thursday night and continued into Friday, included suicide attacks with explosive-rigged cars near security posts in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Anbar Gov. Suhaib Al-Rawi said...

Cardinal Tagle elected head of Caritas (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines has been elected as the new president of Caritas Internationalis. He was nominated at the confederation’s 20th General Assembly in Rome. Following his election, the Cardinal, speaking by phone to the delegates from over 130 member organisations from all over the world said “Buona sera a tutti!” “Thank you for your trust. I’m limited in my capacities but with all of you, with the love that Jesus has poured into our hearts and in the name of all of the poor people in the world, I accept this election...”

Pope urges African bishops to promote inter-religious dialogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Catholic bishops of the Central African Republic (CAR) to promote inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence and encourage their flock to respond to hatred and violence with forgiveness and love...

Christian center, churches attacked in India (Vatican Radio) Tuesday night, suspected Hindu radicals attacked three churches in Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s largest city, and a temporary home of Augustinian nuns (OAS) in Pipaldhar, which houses a centre for disabled children run by nuns, as reported by AsiaNews. While, unknown attackers threw heavy bricks on the roof of the building, which is home to rehabilitation centre for children with mental disabilities, in Pipaldhar, the extremists threw stones, destroyed crosses, vandalised various items and attempted to set fire to one of the places of worship in Indore. However, police intervened before they could carry out their plans...

Two new Palestinian saints (VIS) This morning in the Holy See Press Office Fr. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan, presented the figure of the Palestinian blesseds Sister Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, founder of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and the Carmelite Maryam Baouardy (Mary of Jesus Crucified). Along with another two women religious, the French Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve and the Italian Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception Brando, they will be canonized by Pope Francis this coming Sunday in St. Peter’s Square...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Palestine Iran

12 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from March, Khanon Hamo from Kobani tends to her 7-month-old twins in her tent in a refugee camp in Suruc, in the province of Sanliurfa, Turkey. Turkey has one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing civil war, with official estimates currently
at 1.6 million. (photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)


Turkish border crackdown imperils Syrian refugees (Voice of America) Turkish authorities have tightened controls, ending their open-door policy for Syrian refugees and making it more difficult for Syrians to enter Turkey and for international journalists to cover the war. There are even reports of people being fired upon as they approach the border...

European bishops to discuss dialogue with Muslims (Vatican Radio) The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences is having its 4th meeting of bishops and delegates in charge of relations with Muslims in Europe. The meeting is being held at the Abbey of Saint Maurice in Switzerland this week and will last for three days. Two key areas which will be covered are dialogue between Christians and Muslims, along with sociological realities...

Report: Hundreds of Russian soldiers died in Ukraine (The New York Times) Russian opposition activists published a report Tuesday that they claim proves that Russia is deeply involved in the war in Ukraine, seeking to counter overwhelming state media reports casting the events as a local uprising against the Ukrainian government. Prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov was working on the report, entitled “Putin.War,” after Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the time of his murder in February. Drawing on media accounts, testimonies from relatives and other representatives of dead soldiers and confidential sources, the 64-page report maintains that hundreds of Russian troops have died fighting in a war that has cost Russia hundreds of millions of dollars...

Life in Syria for Christians: teaching tolerance and harmony among the faithful (Deseret News) Since 2013, I had traveled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan as part of my Project Amal ou Salam, which translates from Arabic to mean Project Hope and Peace. I had led workshops to over 5,000 kids, teaching them about diversity, tolerance and nonviolence. Having grown up in Syria, leaving at the age of 17 to attend university in Canada, this was my way of giving back to the future of my country. But I have also learned as well. The more Syrian children I work with, the more I understand the dynamics of Syrian society that I hadn’t noticed before...



Tags: Syria Ukraine Turkey Muslim

8 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a humanitarian worker in Syria decsribes the situation in his country.
(video: Rome Reports)


Caritas: pray for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial capital, has been on the front lines of the conflict there in recent weeks. Amnesty International this week slammed government and opposition forces for indiscriminate bombings targeting civilians, hospitals and schools...

Group with links to ISIS claims responsibility for attack in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) State ties claimed responsibility for a Friday mortar attack at a Hamas base in the Gaza Strip. According to AFP, witnesses at the scene said they heard explosions at the base, close to Khan Yunis. Information of any damage or injuries was not reported. The group, which calls itself “Supporters of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Jerusalem,” said in an online statement that the rockets it fired were aimed at a base occupied by Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam...

Catholic charities impacted by “Francis effect” (CNS) Catholic charities around the world have no doubt about the reality of a “Francis effect” on their work. Because of the ongoing global economic crisis, most of the 164 national Catholic charities that form the Caritas Internationalis confederation report no significant increase in donations. However, the secretary-general of the Vatican-based network says Pope Francis has had a huge impact on their programs and priorities, on the number of volunteers and, especially, on their sharing...

Ethiopians held in Libya return home (BBC) A group of 35 Ethiopians who had been held in Libya have arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Officials welcomed them at the airport where they flew in from Egypt’s capital, Cairo. Ethiopia said their rescue was made possible “through co-ordinated effort” with the Egyptian government, but it is unclear who was holding them. More than 20 Ethiopians were killed in April by the Libyan branch of Islamic State, which filmed the executions...



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

7 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, speaks with displaced Iraqis on 4 May in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Report: Number of internally displaced around the world grows (AP) A group that monitors the plight of people forced out of their homes by conflicts says the number of people displaced within their own countries surged to 38 million last year, with a few countries led by Iraq accounting for much of the increase. The Geneva-based International Displacement Monitoring Center said the number of internally displaced people worldwide was 4.7 million higher than in 2013...

Rescue workers report evidence of Syria using chemical weapons (The New York Times) Two years after President Bashar al-Assad agreed to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, there is mounting evidence that his government is flouting international law to drop jerry-built chlorine bombs on insurgent-held areas...

Troops killed as ceasefire in Ukraine falters (CNN) Fighting has again shaken a nearly three-month ceasefire deal between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, leaving five Ukrainian troops dead in a 24-hour period, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday. Twelve other Ukrainian service members were injured in the fighting in separatist areas of eastern Ukraine, the country’s National Security and Defense Council said...

Israel investigating underground tunnels near kibbutz (Haaretz) The Israeli army on Wednesday notified Kibbutz Nirim in the northwest Negev that it will check for underground tunnels in the area, following geological surveys carried out in the kibbutz by a private company. Some two months ago a number of kibbutz members contracted Geotech, a company specializing in airborne geophysical survey mapping, to check for underground digging in the area. The kibbutz members had been complaining since the war in Gaza in the summer that they were hearing noises of digging underground...

How can American Catholics help Christians in the Middle East? (U.S. Catholic) The ISIS blitzkrieg into northern Iraq last summer and the subsequent decimation of one of the oldest Christian communities of the church — coupled with the so-called Islamic State’s recent executions of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians — have earned Middle East Christians some attention, if not quite the respect, of the politicians, candidates, policy wonks and journalists inside the Beltway. The headlines are dramatic and betray a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. How can Catholics respond to this diabolical assault?...



6 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees walk the street at Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan, on 14 March. Jordan officials report international aid continues to fall short of what the country needs to host 1.4 million Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

Situation in Ukraine “deteriorating” (Reuters) Five Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 12 injured over the past 24 hours despite a ceasefire deal, Ukraine’s military said on Wednesday, describing a worsening situation in separatist eastern territories. The deaths came ahead of a meeting later on Wednesday of envoys from Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE rights watchdog and pro-Russian separatists. They are expected to discuss how to shore up the peace accord they agreed in Minsk, Belarus, in February. “In the past 24 hours the situation in the conflict zone deteriorated. The intensity of attacks is not falling,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said, accusing the separatists of using weapons outlawed under the ceasefire deal...

Jordan faces shortfall in funds to help refugees (Catholic Herald) International aid continues to fall short of what Jordan needs to host 1.4 million Syrian refugees, Jordanian officials reported, saying the number represents the equivalent of the United States hosting 60 million refugees. With no end in sight to the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, officials are calling the situation critical. So far this year, Jordan has received only 7.2 percent of $2.9 billion needed for services to Syrian refugees and host communities...

Massacre site in Iraq becomes a monument to suffering (The New York Times) The concrete platform at the river’s edge is festooned with flowers and streaked with blood. Along a back wall are photographs taken from a video of the horror that unfolded here last year: a procession of Shiite men, shot in the head one by one by Islamic State fighters and shoved into the waters of the Tigris. The riverbank has become a memorial of the massacre and a site of Shiite pilgrimage, already taking a prominent place in Iraq’s ledger of sectarian atrocities. In all, roughly 1,700 Shiite military personnel from the Camp Speicher base are believed to have been methodically gunned down by the Sunni extremists at Saddam Hussein’s old palace complex in Tikrit in June...

UN begins talks with Syrians to find “common ground” (BBC) The UN has begun consultations with Syrian government and opposition officials as it seeks to find enough common ground to restart peace talks. Special envoy Staffan de Mistura said more than 40 groups had been invited to attend one-on-one meetings over the next five to six weeks. Iran and Turkey have also been invited, but jihadist militant groups have not. Mr. de Mistura described it as a stock-taking process, saying there would be no big roundtable discussions. The last round of peace talks in Geneva collapsed in early 2014 with the government refusing to discuss opposition demands...

Syrian artist shows pain of war (CNS) The sad realities of Syria’s civil war permeate the paintings of Essa Neima, a 34-year-old Syrian national. At a recent exhibit, his oil on acrylic works ranged from depictions of damaged church and mosque mosaics, to a broken icon of Mary and a refugee woman forced into servitude by the need to survive. Most of the paintings were strewn with the deep red color of blood. “It is like treasure ... covered by blood because (of) what’s happening now, the sad events happening in Syria,” Neima told Catholic News Service in Washington, thousands of miles from his country, where conflict has killed nearly 200,000 people and dispersed about 10 million others, according to U.N. Estimates...

If borders were opened, “100,000 people would leave Gaza” (Al Jazeera) Electricity runs only six to eight hours a day in the Gaza Strip. More than 160,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in last summer’s war with Israel, and 100,000 people are still homeless. International donors pledged to give $3.5 billion in reconstruction funds in October, but barely a quarter of that has materialized so far. Israel’s economic blockade continues, Palestinian leaders are divided, houses lie in ruin, and youths feel unable to escape from or change the situation...







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