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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
23 March 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugee children at the Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan form the word “Syria” during an event to commemorate four years of the Syrian conflict, on 15 March.
(photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)


Flow of refugees into northern Iraq continues (NRTTV) Four years after the conflict in Syria started, the flow of refugees continues into northern Iraq. Up to 100 people cross the Tigris River per day aiming to reach the official border crossing at Peshkhabour. The pain they have had to endure is etched on their faces and some have traveled for weeks to get here...

U.K. reportedly to train Syrian opposition to ISIS (Wall Street Journal) Britain plans to participate in a U.S.-led effort to train Syrian opposition troops, according to people familiar with the matter, but it will stop short of joining its closest ally in conducting airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. The U.K. government will announce in the coming days its role in training moderate Syrian opposition forces in neighboring countries with the aim of bolstering their ability to fight the extremist group, the people said. Turkey and Jordan will be involved in the plan, one of the people said...

45,000 Egyptians flee Libya over fears of ISIS (International Business Times) More than 45,000 Egyptians living in Libya have fled the North African country since the Islamic State group posted a video last month purporting to show the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, many of whom were Egyptian, according to Agence France-Presse. Egyptian Copts have been increasingly subject to attacks by militants from the Islamic State group, leading Cairo to urge Egyptians to return home from Libya, which is plagued by political turmoil and a growing threat of extremism...

Seven months after war, scars remain in Gaza (The Los Angeles Times) most seven months after the cease-fire that ended a devastating war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the militant group Hamas, the fighting's ruinous effects are visible everywhere in this ragged coastal enclave. Reconstruction efforts have barely gotten off the rubble-strewn ground. Electricity flickers feebly through just six to eight hours each day. The economy, never robust, is in tatters. Government salaries mainly go unpaid. The infighting between Hamas, still the dominant power in Gaza, and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has grown even more bitter after a stillborn unity accord...

Report: Hindu group vandalizes cathedral in India (The Sun Daily) Indian police said on Monday they have arrested six people after Hindu fundamentalists were shown vandalising a cathedral in central India, the latest attack on Christian establishments in the Hindu-majority country. CCTV footage showed a group of men smashing plant pots, breaking down doors and shattering windows in the grounds of the cathedral in Madhya Pradesh state late Friday. The right-wing Hindu Dharma Sena group had accused the church of converting around 200 people from local tribal groups to Christianity, although it denies causing any damage to church property...

“Destruction, fear and mistrust” in the Holy Land (Archdiocese of Toronto) Every day in the news, we learn about the growing challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East. How can Canadians help support these vulnerable populations in the very lands where our faith originated? One way to help is through the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support. We interviewed CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, following his recent visit to the region...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank

20 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2013, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham is pictured visiting a church in Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)

Patriarch rejects calls for outside military intervention in Syria (CNS) The head of the Melkite Catholic Church rejected outright all calls for an international military intervention in Syria and urged Pope Francis and all Christian churches to “promote a concrete and realistic road map” to peace in the beleaguered nation. “It is reckless to think of military interventions, conducted from the outside, to defend Christians in Syria and the Middle East,” said Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria...

Pope reorganizes Hungarian Greek Catholic Church (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reorganized the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, and has elevated it to a Metropolitan Church “sui iuris”...

Skirmishes continue along Ukraine’s front line, despite cease fire (NPR) Fighting in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists has died down after a cease-fire agreement last month, but there are stretches of the front line where shooting has never really stopped. Near the village of Pisky, for instance, you can hear the dull thud of incoming mortar rounds, coming in sporadic waves...

Indian cardinal: protect “not only cows, but human beings” (The Australian) India’s most senior Catholic has appealed to the government to protect “not only cows, but human beings” following the rape of an elderly nun. The call from Cardinal Beselios Cleemis came as a Hindu Right leader claimed the exploitation of nuns was part of “Christian culture”. He flew to West Bengal yesterday for a bedside meeting with the 71-year-old nun attacked on Saturday at the Convent of Jesus and Mary school...

Syrian refugees seek new lives in U.S. (Indiana Public Media) The Brookings Institution says the influx of refugees into Jordan would be comparable to the United States taking in more than 23 million refugees in just two years. As a result of the high demand, other countries, including Germany, Sweden and the U.S., are starting to take in refugees. The U.S. began bringing in Syrian refugees in October and expects to allow in a total of 2,000 by the end of the fiscal year...



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ukraine

19 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from January, displaced Iraqi Yazidi children greet Catholic Relief Service workers and a delegation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during a visit to
Shariah Collective, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)


UN: ISIS may have committed genocide against Yazidis in Iraq (The Guardian) The United Nations human rights office has said that Islamic State fighters may have committed genocide against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilians including children. In a report based on interviews with more than 100 alleged victims and witnesses, published on Thursday, it urged the UN security council to refer the situation to the international criminal court for prosecution of the perpetrators. The report also said Iraqi government forces and affiliated militias “may have committed some war crimes” while battling the insurgency...

Catholic leader in Israel hopes Netanyahu victory gives impetus to pursue lasting peace (Vatican Radio) As right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu celebrates his latest election victory, analysts are asking what hopes remain for any peace negotiations with the Palestinians. In the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, the Likud party leader ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state in what he called the current context of rising Islamic extremism and instability in the Middle East. Jesuit Father David Neuhaus is in charge of the small Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel. He wasn’t surprised by Netanyahu’s win in the polls, but he says this election victory may also provide new impetus for the international community to step up its pressure on the Israeli government and provide an alternative vision for lasting peace in the region...

U.S. Allies may send troops to Syria (Reuters) Some U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS militants in Syria may be willing to send troops to accompany and support the Syrian opposition force the coalition is planning to train and send back to Syria, Army General Ray Odierno said Wednesday. Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee the military was aware the Syrian opposition force would need help and support once it returned home and was studying how best to provide that assistance...

Poland welcomes Ukrainian refugees (BBC) Almost 200 Ukrainians from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, carrying just one suitcase each, were bussed from the warzone to Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine before being flown to a military airfield in northern Poland. To qualify for evacuation they had to have at least one Polish ancestor in the family. Now they are living together in a centre run by Catholic charity Caritas. It sits in a beautiful location on a wooded hillside above a large lake a few kilometres south of the town of Stawiguda...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Refugees Israel

18 March 2015
Greg Kandra




A Syrian girl looks out from a UNICEF tent in an informal settlement near Amman, Jordan,
on 14 March (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)


Netanyahu claims victory in election (CNN) Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to keep his job as Israel’s Prime Minister, declaring victory Wednesday following a bitter campaign punctuated by his last-minute appeals to right-wing voters...

Vatican: Syrian children risk becoming “lost generation” (CNS) Without family, a legal identity and adequate education, children uprooted by the ongoing violence in Syria and the Middle East “are at risk of becoming a lost generation,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva. The archbishop noted that “children suffer the brutal consequences” of war and called for a “comprehensive system of protection for children” in these conflict zones...

United States returns looted artifacts to Iraq (NPR) The U.S. returned dozens of artifacts to the Iraqi government Monday. The cultural treasures, some dating back more than 4,000 years, were looted from Iraq and smuggled into the United States...

Egypt announces plans to build a new capital city (The Washington Post) Over the weekend, Egypt unveiled plans to build a wholly new capital. The new city would lie somewhere to Cairo’s east, closer to the Red Sea. It would sprawl across some 150 square miles and potentially be home to as many as 7 million people. Projected to cost $45 billion, it was announced at a summit in the seaside resort of Sharm El-Sheikh aimed at boosting the country’s flagging economy...



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Israel

16 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from October, refugees sit with their belongings after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey near Suruc, Turkey. (photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Syria’s military on offensive as conflict enters fifth year (Reuters) Syria’s air force carried out air strikes on Sunday on Douma city, an insurgent stronghold northeast of Damascus, with 18 people killed and at least 100 wounded including children and other civilians, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Overnight, Syria’s military killed dozens of combatants in southern Syria linked to al Qaeda’s Nusra Front including three senior members, state media reported. Four years into the conflict, the military has concentrated its forces in the south, the capital Damascus and areas along the country’s western coast...

Saddam Hussein’s tomb heavily damaged during fighting (Al Jazeera) The tomb of Iraq’s late ruler Saddam Hussein has suffered extensive damage in clashes between fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) and Iraqi security forces in a fight for control of the city of Tikrit. Fighting intensified to the north and south of Hussein’s hometown on Sunday as Iraqi security forces vowed to reach the centre of Tikrit within 48 hours. Video from the Associated Press news agency from the village of Ouja, just south of Tikrit, shows all that remains of Hussein’s once-lavish tomb are the support columns that held up the roof...

Kerala budget proposes panel for Dalit Christians (The Indian Express) Stung by the recent trend of converted Christians returning to Hinduism, the Kerala budget has made a proposal to set up a new commission to study how Dalit Christians could be brought to mainstream society...

Nun raped in West Bengal, India (Vatican Radio) A 72-year-old Catholic nun was allegedly gang-raped by around eight dacoits at a school-cum-convent in Eastern India’s State of West Bengal, late Friday night. The nun is undergoing surgery; her condition is said to be critical. According to authorities of the Convent of Jesus and Mary, at Ranagath, the accused broke into the convent after 1 am and allegedly raped the ailing nun. After tying three of the five sisters, they entered the principal’s room and ransacked it, destroying property and taking money, a laptop and a mobile phone, Fr. Dominic Gomes, Vicar General of Kolkata Archdiocese, said in a statement...

UN alarmed over plight of children in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The United Nations has expressed alarm over the impact of Ukraine’s ongoing conflict on children, amid ongoing concerns over a fragile ceasefire and fresh revelations about the downing of a passenger plane last year...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Kerala ISIS

13 March 2015
Greg Kandra




Iraqi Christians attend Mass at a church in Baghdad on 1 March.
(photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)


Holy See draws up declaration supporting Christians in Middle East (Vatican Radio) The Holy See, together with the Russian Federation and Lebanon, has drawn up a declaration in support of Christians and members of other communities in the Middle East who continue to suffer from serious human rights violations. The statement from the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva will be presented on Friday, 13 March, during the assembly of the 28th Session of the UN’s Human Rights Council in the Palais des Nations...

After four years, Syria’s humanitarian crisis deepens (Vatican Radio) This week will mark the fourth year since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, and a political solution to the crisis continues to be nowhere in sight. The humanitarian situation is growing worse, and fewer and fewer people have adequate access to health care. Before the conflict began, Syria possessed an advanced health care system, but now more than half of all hospitals have been destroyed or severely damaged due to the war...

Iraq’s first Christian brigade set to battle ISIS (Al Arabiya) Iraq’s first Christian-only brigade of regular forces graduated Thursday to help retake the community’s towns and villages from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. The new brigade will answer to the government of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, whose pesh merga fighters are playing a leading role in the war against the militants...

Gaza exports first produce to Israel since 2007 (AP) Israeli authorities allowed the import of Gaza produce on Thursday for the first time since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, a move that will aid Gaza’s battered economy and help pious Jews observe a biblical farming sabbatical. Some 27 tons of tomatoes and five tons of eggplants were cleared to leave Gaza for Israel, Palestinian officials and Gaza merchants said...



12 March 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Displaced Assyrians, who had fled their hometowns due to Islamic State attacks against their communities, take part in a prayer at the Ibrahim al Khalil Melkite Greek Catholic Church on the outskirts of Damascus on 1 March. (photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

15 March 2015: A day of fasting, prayer for war-torn Syria (Catholic News Agency) As the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian civil war approaches, the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has called for a world day of prayer and fasting for peace in his country. “Lent is a way of the cross, and we are in the fifth year of the way of the cross of our Arab countries, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine, but also in Lebanon, which is influenced in a dramatic way by the wars that have flared up around it,” wrote Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch…

U.N. urges support to pull Syrians out of ‘nightmare of suffering’ (U.N. News Center) As the Syria conflict enters its fifth year, the United Nations is urging for greater support to help the millions of refugees, including millions of children, across the region caught up in alarmingly deteriorating conditions and facing an even bleaker future than initially thought…

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits refugee camp (Serbian Orthodox Church) Last week, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited refugees from Iraq on the northeast Turkish border of Yalova, near the east coast of the Sea of Marmara…

Lebanon struggles to aid Iraqi refugees (AINA) Iraqis have been leaving their country following the expansion of the Islamic State into their areas. Approximately 30,000 Iraqis, of all Christian and Muslim denominations, have arrived in Lebanon since July, according to Chaldean Archbishop in Lebanon Michel Kassarji. Of this number, 7,000 are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Iraqi Refugees Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

11 March 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Sunni woman weeps after fleeing her village near the city of Tikrit, Iraq, on 8 March. (photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqis in Tikrit feel trapped by war (USA Today) Omer al Juburi could have left Tikrit a few weeks ago, but he stayed because he didn’t want to abandon his home and grocery store or force his wife and three children to become refugees. He and many others have been trapped, as Iraqi Shiite militias and government forces wage a pitched battle to wrest back control of Saddam Hussein’s hometown from the radical Islamic State group…

Iraq: Islamic State ‘destroys historical church’ in Mosul (Anadolu Agency) An Iraqi government representative has accused the Islamic State of destroying a historical church early Monday in Mosul. Dureid Hikmat Tobia, a Nineveh province official, says the militant group blew up St. Markourkas Church — a tenth-century Chaldean Catholic building…

Syrian rebels’ march on Damascus becomes fight for their survival (Christian Science Monitor) With the Syrian crisis entering its fifth year, a months-long campaign by the largest antigovernment militia in the south to march on Damascus and turn the tide of the war has become a bitter fight for its very survival…

Pope to wash feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will visit inmates and staff of a Rome prison on Holy Thursday, 2 April. The Prefecture of the Papal Household reports that the pope will visit the new complex of the Casa Circondariale Rebibbia in the Rome suburbs, where he will wash the feet of a group of male prisoners and female inmates from the nearby women’s penitentiary…



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Refugees Iraqi Refugees

10 March 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country are seen at an urban renewal area where the buildings were demolished in the Sulaimaniyah neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, on 26 February. (photo: Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This week marks four year since start of uprising in Syria (Al Jazeera) This week marks four years since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. Though it began as an uprising connected to the larger Arab Spring movement, it spiraled into a war that has left more than 200,000 people dead and more than nine million others displaced…

Lenten call to Catholics to support church in the Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Parishes across the world year after year take up the traditional annual Good Friday collection for the church in the Holy Land. This year is no different and the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has written a letter to all pastors of the universal church in which he expresses the gratitude of Pope Francis, of his dicastery and of all the churches “in the land of Christ” for their attention and generous response to the collection…

Middle East peace needed to defeat extremists: Jordan king (Daily Star Lebanon) King Abdullah II of Jordan warned Tuesday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was essential for combating Islamic extremists, saying the conflict served as a rallying cry for jihadis. Abdullah told the European Parliament that the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was “first and foremost” a fight for Muslim nations to carry out…

Gaza’s female mediators stand up for women’s rights (Al Monitor) Women in Palestinian society are ashamed to discuss their problems with the male elders in charge of mediation committees. However, today, things have become easier for women, as the first female mediators have pushed forward social reform and now defend women’s rights in tribal councils headed by men. Gazans go to these councils to settle their family problems and avoid going to court, where the resolution process is much longer and complicated…

The isolation of Donetsk: A visit to Europe’s absurd new border (Der Spiegel) The heavy fighting may have stopped for the time being, but Donetsk is more isolated than ever. Those wishing to enter and leave the city need a difficult-to-obtain special ID. Meanwhile, food and other supplies are only trickling into the metropolis…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Middle East Peace Process

5 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Syrian and Iraqi church leaders discuss how the Islamic State has impacted their region. (video: Rome Reports)

Islamic State claims upper hand in fight for Iraq’s cities (CBS News) The front line in Iraq’s Kirkuk province was as close as CBS News correspondent Holly Williams and her team could get Thursday to the battle for Tikrit. The black flags of the Islamic State flew just 30 yards from Williams’ position with Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and beyond that, in Islamic State territory, was Iraq’s main north-south highway…

Dozens reported killed in mine blast in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Local officials say at least 24 people have been killed and 9 remain missing after a massive blast at a coal mine in war-torn eastern Ukraine. The announcement came while Kiev accused authorities in rebel-controlled Donetsk of not doing enough to save lives…

War threatens to fracture Russian Orthodox faithful (U.S. News & World Report) One year on, war is threatening to further fracture Orthodoxy in Ukraine. While Orthodoxy has played a role in Ukraine-Russia relations long before the 2013 to 2014 Euromaidan protests and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine, a decades-long divide has found renewed prominence in the past year. From churches being used to store weapons for the rebels to calls from pro-Ukrainian church leadership to send weapons to Kiev, it’s hard to deny that the war has come to the pews…

Israel moves to alleviate water shortage in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Israel plans to double the amount of water it sells to the Gaza Strip to help relieve the water crisis there and ease the burden on the overtaxed coastal aquifer. It is the latest in a series of gestures Israel has made recently to the Palestinians there and in the West Bank…

Rebels attack Syrian intelligence office (Associated Press) Rebels of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and other radical Islamic factions carried out an assault on Wednesday on a government intelligence building in the northern city of Aleppo, blowing up part of it, two activist groups said…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel





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