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March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
13 August 2015
Greg Kandra




Iraqi men mourn outside a mosque in the holy city of Najaf on 13 August 2015 during the funeral of Shiite victims of this morning’s truck bombing in Baghdad’s northern suburb of Sadr City. The attack claimed by ISIS is one of the deadliest in the city in months.
(photo: Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images)


ISIS truck blast kills dozens in Baghdad (The Washington Post) A refrigerated truck packed with explosives detonated in a busy market Thursday, killing at least 60 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State and marking one of the bloodiest strikes in Baghdad since the militants’ rise last year. The blast struck the sprawling Jamila market in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City while it was packed with early-morning traders buying wholesale supplies for their stores...

Refugees in Lebanon face new challenges, dwindling support (The Daily Star) With more than 1.2 million refugees in the country, the Lebanese government issued stringent new visa and residency requirements for Syrians in January of this year, placing an onerous new burden on those who were able to flee the fighting. “We are prisoners of the circulars being issued by the Lebanese General Security office,” said one refugee who preferred to remain anonymous. After securing his place in line at the General Security office in Tripoli, he sat outside puffing a cigarette, a weary expression on his face...

Israel installs “smart” fences around Gaza (Ynetnews.com) Israel has installed new “smart” fences around Gaza-adjacent communities in the wake of Operation Protective Edge, featuring the ability to recognize suspicious activity and send troops to the scene in seconds. Reports have surfaced in recent days, both from Israeli and Palestinian sources, that Hamas has accelerated its construction of hidden attack tunnels. On Tuesday, Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer, a Hamas operative in Israeli custody, told the Shin Bet of the organization’s plans to use tunnels in a future conflict. Hamas also claimed on Wednesday that it had captured an Israeli drone and made it operational...

Iraqi refugees writes of the pain of leaving home (CNS) Throughout August, tens of thousands of displaced Christians in refugee camps in Kurdish-controlled Iraq are marking the first anniversary of their exile following the fall of the Ninevah Plain and its villages to Islamic State forces. Among them is Abo Remon, a 60-year-old man from Bartellah who is also known to refugees as “Mr. Matti.” Before the invasion, the married father-of- three had a good job in the communications sector. He now lives in the Al-Hikma center in Kaznanan, one of 120,000 people waiting in patience for their eventual liberation...

A visit to “Armenia’s Switzerland” (Huffington Post) Driving about 90 kilometers northeast of Armenia’s vibrant capital city of Yerevan, the highway narrows into mountainous roads as you enter the Tavush region famous for its resort town of Dilijan. The unseasonably hot and humid summer has vacationers flocking to “Armenia’s Switzerland” from across Armenia and bordering Georgia, Russia and Iran, as well as from various parts of Europe. They come seeking what affluent folks of Transcaucasia sought when they built their summer villas here — the crisp, alpine mountain air of unspoiled forests, preserved national park and lakes and to bask in the natural healing springs...



12 August 2015
Greg Kandra




A Ukrainian woman stands outside her home after it was destroyed as a result of shelling between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists on 10 August 2015 in Golmovsky village, Donetsk region. (photo: Aleksey Filippov/AFP/Getty Images)

EU: Surge in fighting in Ukraine violates ceasefire (BBC) The European Union says escalating attacks on government-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine violate a February peace deal with pro-Russia separatists. “The Minsk Agreements must be implemented in good faith, starting with full observation of the ceasefire and genuine withdrawal of heavy weapons,” the EU said. Ukraine on Monday accused rebels of carrying out the heaviest shelling since the truce was agreed. Russia denies any role in the fighting...

Papal message for World Peace Day focuses on overcoming indifference (CNS) Selfishness and fear keep too many people ignorant of the suffering of others and prevent them from finding creative ways to express solidarity and to promote peace, said a statement from the Vatican’s justice and peace office. To promote a reflection on the need for a “conversion of mind and heart” open to the needs of others, Pope Francis has chosen “Overcome indifference and win peace” as the theme for the church’s celebration of the World Day of Peace 2016. Announcing the theme for the 1 January celebration, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said that peace is difficult to achieve when people are indifferent “to the scourges of our time...”

Melkite patriarch opens sainthood cause for Boutros Wadih Kassab (Byzcath.org) On Friday 7 August 2015, at the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Cairo, HB Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, presided over the solemn opening of the cause for beatification and canonisation of Boutros Wadih Kassab (1913-86), the apostle of Upper Egypt. “It gives us great joy to open the process of the cause for beatification and canonisation of Boutros Wadih Kassab, a great Christian layman deeply committed to his faith, which led him to found and work for very many Catholic associations dedicated to serving young people...”

Arabic and life lessons: a summer in Lebanon (Huffington Post) My parents encouraged me to study Arabic abroad. Grateful for my parent’s encouragement and after a few Google searches, I decided exactly where I wanted to go — Beirut, Lebanon. That summer I would spend six weeks in a Middle Eastern country, studying Arabic at the Lebanese American University. I travelled to Lebanon to learn Arabic, but also because of my interest in The Middle East. In Lebanon, I learned much about the simple concepts of sharing, understanding, and living. On the smallest of levels to the most complex, these concepts offered a rich educational experience. All the while, I searched for potential links between the West and the Middle East...

Ethiopian cardinal calls for charity, fasting (Vatican Radio) According to the Ethiopian Liturgical Calendar the 15 days fast from 7-21 August 2015, before the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an important time for the spiritual renewal of the faithful throughout the nation. In his message to the faithful for the occasion of the fast days H. Em. Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, President of CBCE and AMECEA Chairman, said we must follow the example of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary and take care of those in need of our support. “Charity and giving love to the needy and the vulnerable should be our religious responsibility, this fasting period is a good time to practice charity and make it part of our life,” he said...

Statue of Don Bosco vandalized in India (Vatican Radio) Politically motivated religious fanaticism reared its ugly head in northeast India on Friday when a crowd of miscreants vandalized a statue of Don Bosco and threw it into the Bharalu river, near Guwahati, the commercial capital of Assam state...



Tags: India Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia

11 August 2015
Greg Kandra




A burned-out section of the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, Israel, is seen after an arson fire in late June. The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land filed an official complaint to Israeli police against the leader of a radical Israeli movement over his remarks supporting and encouraging the burning of churches.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Church in Jerusalem)


Jewish extremist said to pose threat to Holy Land Christians (RNS) The church body authorized by the Vatican to oversee the Catholic Church’s property in Israel has asked Israel’s attorney general to indict a Jewish extremist who, it says, recently incited violence against Israel’s Christian churches. In a letter sent to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday, the Custody of the Holy Land said Benzion Gopstein, sometimes spelled “Gopshtein,” head of the Jewish extremist group Lehava, poses a threat to Holy Land Christians...

Hebrew-speaking Catholic community marks 60 years (Vatican Radio) Father David Neuhaus S.J., the Latin Patriarchal Vicar responsible for the Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel, has written a pastoral letter on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Work of Saint James in 1955 as a Catholic association dedicated to developing Hebrew-speaking Catholic communities in the State of Israel...

Iraq’s parliament approves reform plan (The New York Times) Iraq’s parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved an ambitious reform plan that would cut spending and eliminate senior posts, including the three largely symbolic vice presidencies, following mass protests against corruption and poor services...

U.N.: Funding prospects “bleak” for Syrian refugees (AP) Funding prospects are “bleak” and impoverished Syrian refugees face more cuts in food aid, the head of the World Food Program said in an interview, after inspecting the bare refrigerator of a refugee family and meeting boys forced to swap school for work to help their families survive. Ertharin Cousin, the U.N. agency’s executive director, called on donor countries to give more to millions displaced by the Syria conflict, now in its fifth year...

Ukraine bans 38 Russian “hate” books (BBC) Ukraine has banned 38 books published in Russia, alleging that they spread “hate ideology” and “separatism.” The ban includes works by Russian nationalists Alexander Dugin, Eduard Limonov and Sergei Glazyev. The blacklist was published by the Ukrainian State Television and Radio Committee. It accused Russia of waging “information warfare” against Ukraine...

Christians, Muslims observe “Black Day” in India (Vatican Radio) Christians and Muslims in Delhi on Monday observed “Black Day” to mark the 65th anniversary of signing of a presidential order that excluded their Dalit brethren from reservation. Some 200 people wore black badges and demonstrated in front of New Delhi’s Sacred Heart Cathedral to demand the repeal of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) order India’s first president Rajendra Prasad signed on 10 August 1950...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Ukraine Israel

10 August 2015
Greg Kandra




The Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo — shown in this image from 2013 — says he believes ISIS militants are seeking to push Christians out of Syria.
(photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)


Syrian bishop speaks out on kidnapping of Christians (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo in Syria, Antoine Audo says he believes the so-called Islamic State fighters are seeking to push Christians out of Syria and spread terror everywhere. He also warned that if the war continues, as seems likely, that gradually over the coming months and years, all Syria’s Christians will leave their homeland. Bishop Audo was reacting to the news of the abduction of dozens of Christians including women and children from the Syrian town of Qaryatain after the ISIS militants seized control of it earlier this week. The Christians were among a total of 230 residents in the town who were kidnapped by the militants...

Pope approves decree of martyrdom for Syriac Catholic bishop (Vatican Radio) On Saturday morning, Pope Francis received Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in a private audience. In the course of the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate the decree regarding the martyrdom of the Servant of God Flavien-Michel Malké, of the Fraternity of St. Ephrem, Eparch of Gazireh of the Syrians. Bishop Flavien-Michel Malké was born in 1858 in Kalat’ül Mara, Turkey and was killed in odium fidei in Gazireh, Turkey, on 29 August 1915...

Pope announces annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has decided to set up a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which will be celebrated on 1 September annually. He made the announcement in a letter to the heads of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity...

Ukraine reports heavy shelling by eastern rebels (Reuters) Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of carrying out the heaviest artillery attacks on government positions in six months and warned of signs the conflict was escalating despite a ceasefire deal. The military said 400 rebel fighters supported by tanks had attacked government forces around the village of Starohnativka, 50 km (30 miles) north of the Kiev-held port city of Mariupol. The rebels denied attacking government troops. Control of Mariupol could help the rebels form a corridor to the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine last year...

Minorities in Kurdistan push for greater political voice (Voice of America) Christian and Turkmen minority lawmakers threw their voices behind a proposal put to Kurdistan’s Constitutional Committee Monday that would set up political councils to enshrine the rights of ethnic and religious minorities and ensure their participation in the Iraqi region’s governance. Christians are often treated as second class citizens by the Kurdish majority, explained Srood Maqdasy, a Christian Member of Parliament...

A homemade church bears witness to faith in Ethiopia (The Daily Mail) The vast expanse of ramshackle wooden huts and lopsided tents has seen it christened ‘the Jungle’ by those who live there. But amongst the rubble and sand dunes of the migrant camp that has become the epicentre of the Calais crisis sits a towering structure that looks out of place due to its grandeur. Like most of the buildings that have sprung up in the campsite, the Ethiopian Orthodox church, known as ‘St. Michael’s Calais,’ was fashioned from wood and tarpaulin donated by charities or simply found as scrap. Yet the structure has become not just a symbol of community resolve, but of just how long the band of migrants are willing to bide their time in the French port to secure their passage to Britain...



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia

7 August 2015
Greg Kandra




An Iraqi Christian child who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, lies on a bed in 2014 at a church in Amman, Jordan. The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

Reports: ISIS has abducted dozens of Christians from Homs (BBC) Islamic State militants have abducted dozens of people, many Christian, from a Syrian town captured on Thursday from pro-regime forces, reports say. They were seized when the jihadists swept through al-Qaryatain in Homs province, monitoring groups say. Many of the Christians had fled to al-Qaryatain to escape fighting in Aleppo province to the north...

Pope condemns world silence on Iraqi refugees (CNS) The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. One year after Islamic State militants drove thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yezidis out of the country, Pope Francis prayed that people around the world would be more attentive and sensitive to the reality of religious persecution and that “the international community would not stand by mute and unresponsive before such unacceptable crimes.” The Pope sent his message to Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan after the Islamic State campaign in August 2014 sent tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes in the Ninevah Plain of northern Iraq...

Ukraine launches new police force in bid to head off corruption (The Wall Street Journal) A pro-Western government that swept into power last year with a promise to end corruption has largely disappointed Ukrainians, but one of Kiev’s new programs has been an instant hit: a new police force mostly made up of people with no law-enforcement experience...

Man transforms Gaza into place of color and art (Huffington Post) In the Al Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza, residents have transformed a conflict-stricken area into a vibrant work of art. Formerly bare doors and windows are now covered in rainbow shades of paint, and pastel-colored flower pots hang down alleyways. There are swirling murals on light purple and yellow walls, and brightly colored bricks line the sidewalks. The effort in Al Zaytoun to beautify the neighborhood was the brainchild of 58-year-old resident Mohammed Al Saedi, who wanted to create a positive atmosphere. He began painting pots in his own home, but had bigger ambitions...



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank

6 August 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from May, displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community, who fled violence between ISIS and Peshmerga fighters in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, are seen at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in an area near the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk.
(photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)


Remembering the invasion of Nineveh, one year later (Fides) “It was horrible. I will never forget the terror imprinted on the face of tens of thousands of people. They were convinced that Isis would have killed them.” Rami, 22 years old, is one of the Christian refugees welcomed at the Mar Elias center, a refugee camp run by the Church in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. In a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, the young man reports on that tragic night between 6 and 7 August 2014, when he and his family had to flee from Qaraqosh together with other 60,000 Christians...

Struggle continues for Yazidis (Al Monitor) Faced with the hardships of living as internally displaced persons and scarred as a community by the brutality of ISIS, many Yazidis, especially young people, appear to have lost hope in having a future in Iraq. As a result they are migrating north toward Europe. The preferred destination for many is Germany, where there is a large Yazidi community estimated at around 60,000...

Russia invites Syrian opposition coalition to Moscow (Vatican Radio) Russia has invited the main Syrian opposition group to Moscow as part of international efforts to end the civil war that has killed more than 250,000 people. The invitation also comes as Croatia is anxiously awaiting news of a kidnapped citizen threatened with death by the so-called Islamic State...

Pope creates exarchate for Syro-Malabar Catholics in Canada (CNS) Pope Francis has established an apostolic exarchate, the precursor to a diocese, for Syro-Malabar Catholics in Canada and has named their current Toronto-based chaplain, Father Jose Kalluvelil, a bishop and head of the exarchate. Announcing the appointment on 6 August, the Vatican said about 9,000 faithful of the India-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church live in Canada. They are served by 15 priests, three of whom belong to religious orders. The new exarchate will be based in Mississauga, Ontario, near Toronto...

Pope approves new bishop for Adilabad eparchy of Syro-Malabar Church (Vatican Radio) The Holy Father has approved the election of Rev. Dr. Antony Prince Panengaden, until now vicar general of the Eparchy of Adilabad and pastor of the Cathedral Parish, as the Bishop of the same eparchy of the Syro-Malabar Church, in India. The approval follows the Holy Father’s acceptance of the resignation presented by Mons. Joseph Kunnath, C.M.I. from the pastoral governance of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Adilabad, according to canon 210 §§ 1-2 of the Code of Canon law of the Oriental Churches...



5 August 2015
Greg Kandra




In Baghdad last week, an Iraqi man shows a thermometer reading more than 50 degrees Celsius, or over 120 degree Farenheit. (photo: AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Iraqis suffer through heat wave (The New York Times) Even after sunset, as the temperature coasts down from 122 degrees Fahrenheit, or 50 degrees Celsius, to perhaps 108, Baghdad’s heat can seem like a living thing. It clings to every contour of the body, squeezing tight. Iraq has been hot even by its own standards. Taking all conditions into account, the Weather Channel calculated that the peak day in Baghdad this summer felt like 159 degrees. It was a data point most likely of little use to outsiders unable to imagine even 122 degrees, and of little comfort to Iraqis living in it...

Refugees flood Greek island of Lesbos (The New York Times) Since the beginning of the year, the number of refugees and migrants arriving here and on other Greek islands has surged to full-scale humanitarian-crisis levels. Arrivals by sea have surpassed 107,000 through July, according to United Nations figures, eclipsing even the numbers of people reaching Italy. Most of those who arrive on the shores of Lesbos, a popular tourist destination just off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea, are fleeing the wars in Syria and Afghanistan and hoping to head deeper into Western Europe. In June, 15,254 migrants and refugees arrived on Lesbos, according to the Greek Coast Guard, compared with 921 the same month last year...

“Water project” for Aleppo concludes (Fides) Aleppo has again been without water since 31 July. A heat wave is expected for this week that will bring the temperature up to 45 degrees,” said a statement sent to Agenzia Fides by the NGO “Let us help Syria,” which along with the Marist Brothers and the Diocesan Missionary Centre of Rome have launched a project for the distribution of water in the martyred Syrian city. The extraordinary project “Water for Aleppo!” concluded two weeks after the launch, the statement said and “the collection of funds exceeded the budget initially planned for its realization, allowing its expansion.The purpose of the initiative was to allow Aleppo to cope with the terrible crisis caused by the interruption of the water supply that periodically prostrates residents of the second city of Syria...

Cardinal Sandri dedicates new cathedrals in California (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, on Saturday elevated the Church of Saint Anne in Los Angeles to the level of Co-cathedral of the Catholic Eparchy of Newton of the Greek Melkites. Bishop Nicholas Samra, the Eparch of Newton, was present at the celebration, as well as the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez... On Sunday, he presided over the Divine Armenian Liturgy celebrated at the new Cathedral of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in Glendale, California. It was during this liturgy that the seat of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy was transferred from New York to Glendale and the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator was raised to the level of Cathedral...

Ukraine army gets help from classic car restorers (BBC) The war in eastern Ukraine has prompted a group of classic car restorers to put their hobby aside and help the army instead. They are now busy fixing military kit — some of which is vintage, like the cars they usually repair. The enthusiasts work at the privately-run Phaeton museum in the city of Zaporizhya. It is just a few hours’ drive from the front line, where Ukrainian troops are battling Russian-backed separatists...



Tags: Syria Iraq Greece Melkite

4 August 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from March, Mustafa Abdülcemil Kirimoğlu, leader of Crimean Tatars, speaks at the U.N. in New York. According to reports, he’s announced the creation of a special military unit of Muslim soldiers to protect Crimea. (photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine to create Muslim military unit (International Business Times) Ukraine will create a unit of Muslim soldiers to protect the Crimean border and monitor imports and exports amid an increasingly violent battle with pro-Russian rebels, a Ukraine leader said Monday. The Muslim battalion will be formed of Crimean Tatars, Kazan Tatars, Uzbeks, Chechens, Azeris, Meskhetian Turks and other Muslim groups, said Mustafa Abdülcemil Kirimoğlu, leader of Crimean Tatars, according to local media reports. The Muslim battalion is part of growing relations between Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians and will report to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said Kirimoğlu. Crimean Tatars are an ethnically Turkic and religiously Sunni Islam minority group that has faced decades of religious and political persecution under Russian rule...

Pentagon ramps up airstrikes in Syria (Los Angeles Times) U.S. officials Monday confirmed an expanded bombing campaign in Syria that increases the risk of confrontation with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, possibly drawing Washington more deeply into that country’s punishing four-year war. The Obama administration authorized the Pentagon to use force to help defend a small, U.S.-trained Syrian rebel unit against other insurgent factions — or against fighters allied with the Syrian government, officials said...

Facing threat from ISIS, Iraq digitizes its national library (AP) The dimly lit, dust-caked stacks of the Baghdad National Library hide a treasure of the ages: crinkled, yellowing papers holding the true stories of sultans and kings; imperialists and socialists; occupation and liberation; war and peace. These are the original chronicles of Iraq’s rich and tumultuous history — and now librarians and academics in Baghdad are working feverishly to preserve what’s left after thousands of documents were lost or damaged at the height of the U.S.-led invasion...

More children doing dangerous work in cotton fields in India (Fides) The number of children working in cotton fields continues to rise. According to a survey by the Indo-Dutch Committee and the private body Stop Child Labour Coalition, in India this activity involves some 200,000 minors age 14, minimum legal age for labour in the country. This year India is expected to become the world’s largest cotton producing country. It is to be noted that the number of children working in the cotton industry in India today is 100,000 higher than in 2010, the survey said, adding that working conditions in the fields are still dangerous and the children are exploited...

Ethiopia jails Muslim activists (Reuters) An Ethiopian court sentenced 17 Muslim activists on Monday to prison sentences ranging from seven to 22 years on charges they plotted to create an Islamic state in the majority Christian country. A journalist for a Muslim newspaper was also sentenced for conspiring with the activists, the court in Addis Ababa said. The defendants, who all denied the charges, were arrested in 2012 on charges of plotting to stage attacks to create an Islamic state in Ethiopia, which has a sizable Muslim minority...



3 August 2015
Greg Kandra




The Vladimir Cathedral stands near the ruins of Chersonesus, which Vladimir Putin has said is as sacred to the Orthodox as the Temple Mount is to Muslims and Jews.
(photo: Vatican Radio/Reuters)


Russia fights Islamic militants (Vatican Radio) Russia’s counterterrorism agency says its forces in North Caucasus have killed eight militants who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, including a local leader...

Putin puts “Temple Mount of Orthodox Christians” under federal control (Vatican Radio) Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed a major archaeological site in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine, under federal control. The move comes amid turmoil over the appointment of a director over what Putin views as the Temple Mount of Orthodox Christians. The Kremlin said the president ordered the area in the ancient Greek city of Chersonesus to be placed under federal oversight. The site is located just outside Sevastopol, the main port city in Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine last year...

Hotels in Greece filling with Syrian refugees (Greek Reporter) Syrian refugees have flooded numerous hotels in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, according to Greek newspaper “Ethnos.” Refugees that can afford to stay at hotels, book one or two nights as a layover in their trip to central or northern Europe. The long-suffering Middle Eastern country quickly rose to 5th place in the ranking of customers arriving at Thessaloniki hotels in the first half of 2015, from the 30th place they occupied during the same period last year, noted the newspaper, based on data released by the city’s hoteliers association...

Report: U.S.-led airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Iraq, Syria (AP) U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria likely have killed hundreds of civilians, a report by an independent monitoring group said Monday. The coalition had no immediate comment. The report by Airwars, a project aimed at tracking the international airstrikes targeting the extremists, said it believed 57 specific strikes killed at least 459 civilians and caused 48 suspected “friendly fire” deaths. While Airwars noted the difficulty of verifying information in territory held by the Islamic State group, which has beheaded journalists and shot dead activists, other groups have reported similar casualties from the U.S.-led airstrikes...

Finding Ethiopian cuisine in Jerusalem (Roads & Kingdoms) There are now an estimated 130,000 Ethiopians living in Israel, a majority of them Jewish and Israeli citizens. Most of them or their families immigrated over the past three decades as part of Israel’s push to bring in Ethiopia’s Jews living in hardship. Their status as citizens is different from the smaller number of Israel’s Ethiopian Christians, many who made the journey, sometimes via smuggling routes through Sudan and Egypt’s Sinai, to find work and opportunities, or to seek refugee and asylum status. Ethiopians are now a very visible part of the fabric of Jerusalem. But the cuisine, as food trends go, has remained largely off the map...



31 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Sisters, along with Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, attend a Divine Liturgy celebrating the coronation of the Virgin Mary, on 31 May in Erbil. (photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

After one year stranded in Kurdistan, women religious speak (Aid to the Church in Need) The date of 6 August will mark the one-year anniversary of the expulsion of a group of Dominican sisters from their convent in Iraq’s Nineveh Plane to Erbil, capital of Kurdistan. Discovering that Kurdish militia had fled the ISIS assault, the sisters decided to leave their convent in Qaraqosh and march to safety along with thousands of refugees; they had just 30 minutes to pack their things. “We were panicked when they told us ISIS had gotten into the roads, so many people left with even just their nightgowns on,” recalls Sister Lyca…

Melkite patriarch criticizes West’s Middle East policies (Aid to the Church in Need) The worldwide head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has charged that support from the West earmarked for moderate opposition groups in Syria is ending up in the hands of ISIS and other Islamic extremists. In an interview, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, head of the largest Catholic community in Syria, said money and weapons given to allegedly moderate groups are being repeatedly seized by ISIS…

Christian population in the Middle East is dropping rapidly (AINA) Christians now face the worst religious persecution in over a thousand years in the Middle East, reports Christianity Today, based on a study conducted by the Pew Research Center…

Assyrian Christian woman shares story of captivity by Islamic State (Al Monitor) An Assyrian Christian woman released recently agreed to meet with Al Monitor at her daughter’s home in the outskirts of Beirut and tell her story of those months living as an ISIS hostage, and what she could learn about her captors and their identities. For security reasons, her name will not be disclosed. Sitting on her mattress on the floor, she says she is safe now, but the rest of her family is still held by ISIS in Syria’s Shaddadeh. As far as she knows her family is still there, where they had all been kept since February, when the villages were attacked…

Will Indian court ruling help ‘reconversions’ of Dalit Christians? (UCANews) A Hindu leader who promotes religious conversions in a southern Indian state says plans to convert some 100,000 Christians this year to Hinduism will be easier because of a recent court verdict. Radical Hindu groups have been conducting public “reconversion” ceremonies. The movement, known as Ghar Vapasi, or homecoming, claims to bring Christians “back” to Hinduism. Church leaders have pointed out that Hindu groups call it “conversion” when people convert to Christianity, but when Christians convert to Hinduism they call it “homecoming…”

Testing the limits: How many refugees can Germany handle? (Der Spiegel) More Germans than ever before are positively disposed toward asylum-seekers. This year, Germany is expecting to receive around 400,000 new refugees, a figure that may test the country’s new welcoming culture…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Middle East Christians Indian Christians





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