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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
30 January 2015
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis poses with members of the Oriental Orthodox dialogue commission.
(photo: L’Osseervatore Romano/Vatican Radio)


Pope Francis meets with Oriental Orthodox (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday received the participants in a meeting — this week — of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Oriental Orthodox Churches those Orthodox Eastern Christian churches which recognize only the first three ecumenical councils, and rejected the formulae of the Council of Chalcedon, at which certain central Christological doctrines were dogmatically defined, most especially the dual nature — fully divine and fully human, perfectly united though without mixing, blending or alteration — of Christ...

Dozens killed in wave of bombings in Iraq (Daily Mail) The Islamic State jihadist group killed a senior Kurdish commander and five fighters major attack in Iraq’s Kirkuk province today, while bombings elsewhere left a further 27 dead. The assault on areas south and west of the northern city of Kirkuk began at around midnight, sparking fighting with medium and heavy weapons that was still ongoing this morning. Brigadier General Shirko Rauf and five other members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces were killed in clashes and 46 more were wounded, a police officer and a doctor said...

Ukraine battle raging (BBC) Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels are exchanging heavy tank and artillery fire in and around Debaltseve, a strategic town in eastern Ukraine. There are reports — not independently confirmed — that the rebels have seized the nearby town of Vuhlehirsk. Many civilians remain trapped in Debaltseve, while others — including people with shrapnel wounds — have managed to reach the town of Artemivsk. Russian media say shellfire has killed seven people in the city of Donetsk...

India investigating reports of mass “reconversion” of Christians (The Guardian) Reports of a new mass conversion of Christians in India have raised concerns over freedom of worship, days after Barack Obama challenged the country’s record on religious tolerance. Details of the incident are unclear but it was reported that between 50 and 100 Christians from some of the poorest communities in India were “welcomed back” to Hinduism in a “homecoming ceremony” in a remote area in the eastern state of West Bengal on Wednesday...

Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic studies marks 50th anniversary (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, known by its Latin or Italian acronym PISAI, is marking 50 years of its presence in Rome. Originally started in Tunisia by the Society of Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr), or the White Fathers after their white habit, the training centre prepared missionaries with a background of Arabic and Muslim culture. Today, PISAI is a study and research centre whose teaching and scientific activities provide the necessary preparation for an informed theological dialogue with Muslims...

Why Kerala drinks most among Indian states (Business Insider) India is surely living up in since the last couple of years. Increased alcohol consumption is the biggest indicator of this. No prizes for guessing the heaviest of drinkers. Among Indian states, the trend of bottom’s up is the highest in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Overall statistics is a bit alarming too. According to a survey that was compiled and presented recently, Indian population was studied between 2008 and 2012. The World Health Organization warned showing a startling 11% of the people starting from 15 years of age were among moderate to heavy drinkers...



Tags: Iraq India Ukraine Kerala Orthodox

29 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs meet in Bkerke, Lebanon, on 27 January, to address the crises in the Middle East. Pictured from left to right are Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III; Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch; Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Peter; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Catholic patriarchate)

Christian leaders meet in Lebanon, call for end to financing terrorists (CNS) Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs called for an end to financing terrorists and suggested that borders be closed when necessary to prevent their movement. The leaders also appealed for the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, based on a long-standing proposal for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and pleaded for the return of Palestinian refugees to their native lands. Their calls came in a statement released after a meeting on 27 January in Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Church north of Beirut, to address the situation of Christians in the Middle East, especially those displaced from Iraq and Syria. A representative of the Protestant churches of Syria and Lebanon as well as international aid officials also attended…

Oriental Orthodox and Catholics work to conclude joint document (Vatican Radio) Representatives of all the Oriental Orthodox churches are in Rome this week for a meeting of their International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue with the Catholic Church. During the five-day encounter, which began on Monday, participants hope to finalize a joint document on communion and communication in the first five centuries of Christianity…

Islamic State bombed historic walls of Nineveh in Iraq (AINA) Jihadists resumed bombings against historic sites in Nineveh and destroyed remains of the ancient wall of Mosul, specialized sources reported today. A historian living in Mosul, the second largest in Iraq, told the publication Shafaq News that militants of the Islamic State destroyed on Tuesday night much of the historic city wall located on Tahrir neighborhood on the left coast of Mosul…

Double suicide attack kills 6, wounds 28 in Baghdad (Al Akhbar) A double suicide attack on a base housing militia groups fighting alongside the government north of Baghdad killed at least six people on Thursday, medical sources said. “The car rammed an army checkpoint protecting access to the base” in Mishahada, a Baghdad hospital official said. The first blast killed at least three people, including a civilian…

Yazidis ask Israel for help (Al Monitor) Desperate Yazidis are reaching out to Israel, asking for understanding and assistance, especially in the military domain for their fight against the Islamic State…

Hezbollah-Israel: No war for now (Al Jazeera) Neither Hezbollah nor Israel are interested in engaging in a full scale war, analysts say. Hezbollah’s attack on Wednesday, the strongest since 2006, was meant to restore the balance of deterrence between the two sides, following Israel’s game-changing move last week when it targeted and killed six Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian commander in Quneitra in Syria’s Golan Heights…

Living among the dead in Gaza (Al Monitor) “We smell the stench of death everywhere and all we see is the burial of the dead. We no longer know the meaning of leisure, as we have abandoned the hope of living.” This is how Abu Raed al Qahwaji described the life of his family, which now lives in a cemetery in central Gaza. Qahwaji, 39, who lives with his wife and four children, said, “We used to live in a small flat in an apartment building in the Shajaia neighborhood in central Gaza City. … However, the building was destroyed in the war and we were left with no other choice but this small hut I set up in the cemetery.” He explained that he could not find any other shelter given his dire situation, poverty and unemployment, while the demand on apartments was increasing following the war that destroyed tens of thousands of houses and apartment buildings…

Jordan demands proof captured pilot is alive as deadline passes (Washington Post) Jordan demanded proof Thursday from the Islamic State that a captured Jordanian pilot is still alive, as a deadline set by the militant group for the kingdom to release a convicted terrorist passed without word on the fate of both sides’ prisoners or any sign of an imminent exchange…



Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Jordan Ecumenism

28 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Palestinian boy looks down at tents erected next to homes destroyed during last year's 50-day war between Israel and Hamas-led militants in a neighborhood east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 28 January. (photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

People dying in Gaza, unable to pay for home repairs (Vatican Radio) The United Nations says that Palestinian refugees in Gaza are being forced to sleep in the rubble of their homes, which were destroyed during a 50-day conflict last year, and children are dying of hypothermia…

Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah trade fire across border (Washington Post) Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia exchanged deadly barrages Wednesday across a fractious border region monitored by U.N. peacekeepers in fighting that killed at least two Israeli soldiers and one U.N. observer…

Patriarchs of Antioch: To stop the conflict, stop arms trafficking (Fides) The wars that devastate the Middle East will end only when the flow of arms and money to armed factions and terrorist groups by allies and sponsors stops, say the leaders of Eastern churches during a 27 January meeting in Bkerké…

Turkey becomes springboard for Syrians heading to Europe (Der Spiegel) Turkey has become a hub for human traffickers, with freighters picking up Syrians in the port city and smuggling them on to Europe. It’s a lucrative business built on the hardships of others. This network consists of both Syrians and Turks, and person has different responsibilities, serving as only a tiny link at the end of a long chain…

Egypt: Protests marking uprising leave 18 dead (BBC) At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters across Egypt, officials said. Three police cadets were among the dead, and dozens of protesters were also injured, the officials said. The clashes follow the death of an activist in a march in the capital Cairo on Saturday…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel

26 January 2015
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets members of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Vatican. (photo: ANSA/Vatican Radio via Facebook)

Pope closes Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus in encountering, listening and working together with others to spread the message of the Gospel in the modern world. That was Pope Francis’ message to members of all the different Christian Churches gathered in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on Sunday evening to mark the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity...

Pope Francis issues an appeal for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued a heartfelt appeal on Sunday for Ukraine saying, “I am following with deep concern the escalation of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which continues to cause many casualties among the civilian population...

Russian Orthodox head criticizes French magazine’s mockery of Christians (Reuters) The head of Russia’s influential Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said on Sunday cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were “childish” compared to offences it had dished out to Christians. Charlie Hebdo has regularly offended Muslims, Christians and others with its irreverent cartoons. Gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris office of the weekly this month saying they were avenging the Prophet Mohammad, whom the magazine had depicted in cartoons in defiance of a ban in Islam on representing its founder. Kirill, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in a sermon that he opposed both terrorism and giving offence to religious feelings...

Pope: Listening is essential to interreligious dialogue (Vatican Radio) “If it is assumed that we all belong to human nature, prejudices and falsehoods can be overcome and an understanding of the other according to a new perspective can begin.” These were the words said by Pope Francis to the members of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies today. The audience coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Institute’s opening...

Gaza says it will end five-year boycott of Israeli products (Times of Israel). Gaza’s Ministry of Economy announced Monday it will end its 5-year boycott of Israeli products, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported. Many factories and processing facilities, which normally provide Gaza residents with food and other goods, were destroyed in this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, and rebuilding has been slow. Additionally, Israel and Egypt have destroyed many of the tunnels that Hamas uses to illegally import goods into the Gaza Strip, and Egypt has set up a buffer zone to further limit Hamas’s smuggling efforts....

Monks scramble to preserve Iraq’s Christian history (NPR) In an unfinished building in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, displaced Christian children sing a little song about returning to their village. “We’re going back,” they sing, “to our houses, our land, our church.” Right now, they’re living in an open concrete structure. The self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS, took over their home village of Qaraqosh, and the Christians fled in fear, on foot...



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox

22 January 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from December, an Iraqi Christian prays inside a shrine on the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church which has become home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes as the Islamic State advanced. The apostolic nuncio hopes Christians who fled northern Iraq can return later this year. (photo: Getty Images)

King Abdullah of Jordan praises pope (Fides) The views expressed by Pope Francis during his recent visit to Asia on the need to reconcile freedom of expression and respect for religions and religious symbols were praised and supported by King Abdullah II of Jordan, during a meeting with the leaders of the Bedouin tribe of Beni Sakhr...

Civilians killed during shelling in Ukraine (CNN) Seven civilians were killed when shells hit a trolley bus station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the City Council there said Thursday, as the months-long conflict in the country’s east showed little sign of easing. In total, 10 civilians have been killed and 20 injured in shelling of four city districts in the past 24 hours, the Donetsk City Council said on its website. “As of now, the situation remains difficult,” the statement reads...

Nuncio: Christians could return to northern Iraq this year (Catholic Herald) Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, has said that Christians may be able to return to their homes in northern Iraq later this year — but only if Islamic State is pushed out first. The archbishop, speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, a charity for persecuted Christians, said that once Mosul and the Nineveh Plains had been retaken the country must undergo a period of “national reconciliation”...

Gaza rebuilding to halt at end of January (Newsweek) A United Nations programme to rebuild Gaza and give aid and shelter to more than 100,000 Gazans made homeless by the 50-day summer war will be suspended at the end of January because world donors have reneged on promises to pay...



21 January 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from last October, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa, left, leaves the concluding session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican. Archbishop Brislin has just returned from a visit to the Holy Land and spoke of the challenges Christians there are facing. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Russia condemns European Union (Vatican Radio) Moscow has condemned the European Union’s decision to keep sanctions against Russia in place over its role in Ukraine, where at least six civilians died in increased fighting between government forces and pro-Russian forces...

Archbishop speaks of need for Christian unity in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) In this the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa has spoken of the “tremendous challenges” facing the Christian community in the Holy Land saying, that it is very important for them to stand together...

Bishop returns from Iraq, describes plight of refugees (National Catholic Register) Qaraqosh, a bed of Christianity since the first century, was totally Syriac Catholic. Syriac-Catholic Bishop Barnaba Yousif Habash of the Syrian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance, based in Bayonne, N.J., is a native of Qaroqosh. He describes his birthplace as “the biggest island of Christianity in the Islamic ocean.” Bishop Habash traveled to Irbil to spend the holidays with the more than 100,000 displaced Christians who were uprooted from Mosul and Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, as well as from Qaraqosh, by the advance of the Islamic State. The exiled Christians are still camping out in tents and uncompleted buildings in harsh winter conditions. Among them are priests, nuns and two bishops...

Ethiopians mark Epiphany (Turkish Press) Millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians continued for the second day to celebrate Epiphany, a three-day occasion marking the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River and locally known as Timket. Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Mathias, offered a benediction for thousands of people who congregated to mark the holy occasion in Jan Meda, a wide open field in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa...

Russian Orthodox activists urge ban on award-winning film (RT.com) Russian Orthodox activists are pressing the Culture Ministry in Moscow to create an “Orthodox Hollywood” and ban the distribution of the Golden Globe-winning “Leviathan.” The believers say that the drama tarnishes the reputation of the Russian Orthodox Church, openly criticizes the Russian government and shouldn’t appear on the big screen...



20 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 20 January photo, Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffin of a fallen comrade across the Maidan Square in Kiev. (photo: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

As fighting deepens in eastern Ukraine, death toll rises (Washington Post) Intensifying battles, mounting death tolls and dire new warnings from Russia have dragged eastern Ukraine’s long-running conflict into some of the worst fighting since last summer, rendering a months-old cease-fire agreement effectively defunct…

A new eparchy for Ethiopia and a new metropolitan for Eritrea (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has erected a new eparchy in Ethiopia, which will be known as the Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessie, and in another development, Pope Francis has also erected the Metropolitan Church of Asmara in Eritrea. Although Eritrea as a nation won its independence in 1991, the Catholic Church of Ethiopia and Eritrea have always been regarded as one episcopal conference. As of Monday, the two are now separate…

Flow of Syrian refugees to Lebanon drops after restrictions (Daily Star Lebanon) A United Nations official says the flow of Syrian refugees into Lebanon has dropped sharply due to restrictions recently imposed by Lebanese authorities. Although Lebanese border officials began informally restricting the entry of Syrians last October, Beirut officially imposed visa regulations earlier this month on their neighbors. The move was the first such in decades. Ninette Kelley, the U.N. refugee agency’s representative in Lebanon, told reporters Tuesday the number of new Syrian refugees in Lebanon dropped by 44 percent in 2014, compared to the previous year…

Maronite patriarch: Poverty destabilizes the Middle East (Fides) Poverty is a key factor in the lack of stability in the Middle East, because “there cannot be peace where there is underdevelopment,” said Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter. Thus, Jihadist factions shore up their numbers by virtue of financial resources, paying the salaries of the new fighters enrolled in its ranks…

Patriarch urges Christians, Muslims to lead fight against extremism (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael is calling upon Christians and Muslims of the world to lead the fight against fundamentalism by being the first to reject all forms of discrimination and violence. He made the call at a conference organized at the weekend in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, by the Iraqi Center for Diversity Management…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Ethiopia Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Eritrea

16 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Turkmen refugee child who fled Syria to the Akkar district in north Beirut, Lebanon, waits to receive humanitarian aid from the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency on 15 January. (photo: Ratib al Safadi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Prayers and calls for peace in Syria, Iraq (Vatican Radio) The ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq and the suffering of persecuted Christians there was the focus of a prayer effort in Rome on Thursday. The vigil took place as the United Nations issued a call for solutions to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for Oriental Churches, led the vigil. In his homily, the cardinal prayed “for the conversion of those who do evil, that their hardened hearts open to a new way of seeing, a new experience of humanity, to an authentic religiosity that does not kill or persecute, but which promotes the good of the other, even if they are different…”

Food enters besieged Homs, Syria after local deal (Daily Star Lebanon) U.N. aid workers have started delivering food to tens of thousands of people trapped in a besieged district of Homs city in Syria following negotiations with warring parties, officials said Friday. In the absence of a nationwide peace deal, relief groups have tried to get localized agreements with fighters on all sides of the conflict to get convoys through to people in battle zones…

Lebanon: Syrians refugees facing deadly winter with little aid (Al Akhbar) For the refugees living in tents in Lebanon, the storm has yet to subside. The fear of death stays with them like the snow that has swept through their tents. Noura, who escaped from the hell of Aleppo to end up in an unofficial camp in Bar Elias, expresses grave concern over the situation. Carrying her baby in her arms to give him warmth, she says: “I only received food aid twice in the past four months. If the cold doesn’t kill us, we will certainly die of hunger…”

The small miracle amid the carnage in Syria (Talking Points Memo) In the beginning of October, Islamic State forces surrounded and besieged the Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria at the border with Turkey. IS had swept through Iraq quickly, picking up American tanks and mortars abandoned by the fleeing Iraqi army along the way. Observers feared a humanitarian disaster akin to the IS massacre of ethnic Yazidis on Mount Sinjar in August. The Pentagon insisted that, with no ground troops to fight, Kobane could not be saved. Turkish tanks sat at the border, waiting for an IS victory and a possible ground invasion. Months after it was supposed to fall, Kobane still stands, and IS has been forced back. The story of the town’s resistance is an epic tale of determination and self-defense…

Ukraine backs mobilization of troops in east (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s parliament has approved a mass military mobilization amid allegations that thousands of Russian troops have invaded the east where separatists have sharply increased their activities. The measures come amid confusion over who is in control over the strategic airport area in Donetsk…

Bishops discusses support for Egyptian Christian schools (Fides) On 13 and 14 January, Egyptian Catholic bishops met in the district of Maadi to discuss coordination among various Catholic communities, with special focus on schools. Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac presided over the meeting, which was also attended by Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregory III, as vice-president of the ecclesial organization…



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Ukraine Lebanon

15 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees endure harsh living conditions at the Atmeh refugee camp in Idlib, Syria, on 11 January. (photo: Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Syrian refugee freezes to death in Bekaa as storm toll hits 12 (Al Akhbar) A Syrian refugee woman froze to death in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on Wednesday, as the stormy weather that hit the country last week returned. Ramah Mohammed Tehrani is yet another name added to the list of Syrian refugees who perished in the latest ice storm, dubbed “Zina,” in Lebanon. Tehrani was found dead in her home, which she shared with her family in the outskirts of the city of Baalbek. She was a mother of three, including a 5-year-old daughter. “I am a maternal orphan now,” said her eldest son, 15-year-old Hekmat. His father is reportedly still in Syria…

Coptic pope: The cartoons of Muhammad are offensive (Fides) The cartoons on Muhammad published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are “offensive” and any insult must be rejected “at all levels,” said Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II. After the massacre, the magazine printed 5 million copies — whose cover shows a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad crying and holding a sign that says “je suis Charlie” under the title, “all is forgiven.” Religious insults, Pope Tawadros said, “do not help [the cause of] peace in the world, and do not produce any benefit…”

Pope says respect for religion should limit freedom of expression (CNS) Commenting on recent killings by Islamist terrorists at a Paris newspaper, Pope Francis condemned killing in the name of God, but said freedom of expression should be limited by respect for religion and that mockery of faith can be expected to provoke violence. The pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised “without giving offense…”

Chaldean bishops elected and confirmed (VIS) Pope Francis has approved the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Church of Rev. Basel Yaldo as auxiliary of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans. Additional appointments include Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona as bishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle in Sydney, Australia, and Chorbishop Emmanuel Challita as bishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of Mar Addai in Toronto, Canada…

Syrian rebels, government reach truce in besieged area (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian rebels and government forces began observing a 10-day truce Thursday in the last rebel-held area of the central city of Homs, marking another setback for opposition fighters, activists said…

U.N. envoy vows to press on for Aleppo truce (Daily Star Lebanon) U.N. peace envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura Thursday vowed to press on with efforts for a truce in Aleppo, adding that wanted a resolution of the devastating conflict this year. De Mistura, a Swedish-Italian diplomat appointed as U.N. envoy on Syria in July, said the second city of Aleppo was a “symbolic microcosm of all of Syria.” This was so “because it has the highest number of displaced people, because it has seen two years of suffering, because while the government and the opposition continue being involved in heavy fighting between them, ISIS is only 20 miles away from Aleppo,” he said…

Sunni-Alawite couples in Syria defy sectarianism (Al Monitor) Many believe that the conflict in Syria is a power struggle between Sunnis and Alawites, while others assert that the conflict is between a dictatorial regime and armed revolutionaries. In both cases, there is no doubt that sectarianism and hatred between Alawite extremists and Sunni extremists plays a major role in this conflict. Still, there are young men and women from different communities who continue to challenge this paradigm through love, determination and marriage. Damascus, despite the war, is still able to witness such love stories in these difficult days…

The Great Wall of Saudi Arabia? (Christian Science Monitor) Saudi Arabia has been constructing a 600-mile East-West barrier on its Northern Border with Iraq since September. The main function of the barrier will be keeping out ISIS militants, who have stated that among their goals is an eventual takeover of the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, both of which lie deep inside Saudi territory, according to United Press International…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Chaldean Church religious freedom

14 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A displaced Yazidi child looks out of a temporary shelter covered in Kurdish writing (“genocide in Sinjar”) in the Dawodiya refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraq, on 14 January. (photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

Yazidi refugees at risk of genocide (AsiaNews) ISIS’s hatred for Yazidis is even stronger than that towards Christians. The latter can convert or pay the jizya (a tax levied on some non-Muslims for protection). For Yazidis, whose beliefs are a mixture of Zoroastrian, Christian and Muslim influences, there can only be extermination to “cleanse” Islamic land from paganism. Women are the exception; younger women are given in marriage to ISIS fighters, while older women are used as slaves and prostitutes…

Shiite leaders forbid insults against Sunnis (Al Monitor) During the last week of 2014, Al Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al Tayeb demanded that Shiite authorities in Iran and Iraq issue clear fatwas strictly forbidding the insulting of Sunni figures and their sanctities. This happened during the visit of Mahmoud Mahmoudian, the new head of Iran’s Interest Desk in Egypt. The grand imam called on Muslim scholars to “avoid strife between Sunnis and Shiites, as it is tearing the Islamic nation apart and preventing consensus and dialogue between both sects…”

Libyan militants claim kidnapping of 21 Egyptian Christians (New York Times) Libyan militants calling themselves part of the Islamic State said on Monday that they were holding captive 21 Egyptian Christians, raising new fears about the extremist group’s spreading influence beyond the battlegrounds of Syria and Iraq. The statement came on the same day that hackers linking themselves to the Islamic State temporarily seized control of the Twitter account of the United States military’s Central Command, and just days after the emergence of a video-recorded vow of allegiance to the group by one of the perpetrators of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris…

Oppressive policies unite Egypt activists (Al Jazeera) Ahead of the fourth anniversary of the 25 January uprising, Egypt’s Islamist and liberal activists, remain poles apart despite speculations that they may be considering some kind of rapprochement. “The time has come for us to restore popular unity in preparation for a new wave of the January revolution,” read a statement released by 20 Egyptian opposition groups on Sunday…

Closing Jewish tomb in Egypt raises tensions (Al Monitor) Egypt’s closure of the tomb of Rabbi Abu Hasira and the cancelation of the annual festival celebrating his birth in the Nile Delta have angered Jewish pilgrims and tourists, inciting Tel Aviv to take the matter to UNESCO…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Copts Libya Yazidi





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