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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
19 August 2014
Greg Kandra




A TV still image shows a firefighter standing next to the car in which three relatives of Pope Francis were killed on a highway between Rosario and Cordoba, Argentina, on 19 August.
(photo: CNS /DyN-www.noticraik.com handout via Reuters)


Relatives of Pope Francis killed in car crash (CNS) Pope Francis asked people to join him in prayer 19 August after he learned that two of his little great nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina and his nephew was in critical condition. The dead were identified as the wife and two young sons of Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio: Valeria Carmona, 39, Antonio Bergoglio, 8 months, and Joseph Bergoglio, 2 years. According to Argentine news reports, the 35-year-old son of the pope’s late brother Alberto Bergoglio underwent emergency surgery and was on a respirator...

Iraqi army advances toward Tikrit (Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces have launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the hometown of toppled President Saddam Hussein, from Islamic State fighters. Al Jazeera sources reported that the troops were advancing from the south and southwest and heavy clashes with the armed group were taking place 10km from the the city, capital of Salahidin province and located about 200km north of Baghdad. According to Reuters news agency, clashes are confined to the suburbs of the city as Iraqi forces have halted their advance into Tikrit in the face of heavy fighting...

Moscow-linked church calls for Crimea’s return to Kiev (Asia News) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate has spoken out in favor of the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic and against the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, which took place in March after a controversial referendum...

Israeli mob attacks Eritrean refugee (International Business Times) An angry Israeli mob has reportedly beaten a 23-year-old Eritrean refugee in Tel Aviv’s new Central Bus Station, leaving him unconscious and on the verge of dying. The young man’s life was saved by Yosef Ganem, a police sergeant and medic who found the body of the Eritrean on the fourth floor of the station and tried to revive him. “When I got there I saw the man sprawled out on the floor. He didn’t have a pulse and he was unconscious,” Ganem told Ynet news. The six suspects, two of them minors, claimed that the refugee had tried to rob one of them but an ongoing investigation showed that they had attacked the Eritrean first with punches and kicks...

Escaping the Islamic State (Der Spiegel) On the eighth day up on the mountain, Bagisa gave birth to her first child, a girl. She named her Khudaida.Bagisa and her husband Hadi had fled from the village of Sumari. The couple was lucky; they had left alone, allowing them to avoid the groups that came under fire from attackers. But being alone also meant that when they finally stopped running, in the shade of a cliff wall, they knew none of the others who likewise found shelter there. There was no one willing to share their valuable water with Bagisa. The couple now had a daughter, but they didn’t have anything to drink...

Jewish-Catholic dialogue pledges to build peace, understanding (USCCB) Violent acts against Christians and Christian sites across the world are a mounting concern to leaders of Catholic and Jewish communities in the United States, according to a joint statement issued 14 August by the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue sponsored by the National Council of Synagogues and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We deplore all acts of religious persecution no matter their target,” the joint statement said. “Church communities have been subject to persecution, attack, expulsion and even murder. As a result, these same communities have often seen their numbers decrease, especially as their populations are dislocated from centuries old homes...”

Canadians prepare for visit from Coptic pope (Edmonton Journal) Pierre Farage remembers tangles of people at the airport but can’t remember if he caught a glimpse of the guest of honour. Farage was just eight when Pope Shenouda III graced Mill Woods with a three-day visit in October 1989. The Egyptian pontiff shook hands, ate with congregants at St. Mary and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, and consecrated the altar of the young church. Twenty-five years later, Farage is helping prepare for the visit of Shenouda’s successor, Pope Tawadros II, who arrives in Edmonton on 17 September during his first visit to Canada...



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Eritrea Coptic Christians

18 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A demonstrator marches with crutches outside the U.S. consulate in Erbil, Iraq, on 11 August. The pope’s envoy to the region, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, said people still do not know what will become of terrorized Christians. (photo: CNS/Sahar Mansour)

Chaldean Patriarch, papal envoy appeal for international aid (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has issued a communiqué concerning the visit of Pope Francis’ personal envoy to Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, and calling on the international organizations who “take their moral responsibilities seriously” to assist the people of Iraq…

Papal envoy to Iraq meets displaced Christians and Yazidis (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ personal envoy in Iraq, Cardinal Ferdinando Filoni says the displaced people he’s met during his current tour of northern Iraq are calling for immediate assistance from the international community before it’s too late…

Aleppo’s Christians in Syrian crossfire (Al Monitor) While the dire situation of Iraq’s Yazidis provoked United States military intervention against the Islamic State and nonstop media coverage, Aleppo’s Christians fear they are the war’s forgotten victims…

Fate of Gaza truce in balance as toll tops 2,000 (Daily Star Lebanon) The Gaza death toll rose over 2,000 Monday as the clock ticked towards a midnight deadline and negotiators in Cairo strove to hammer out a decisive end to weeks of bloodshed. As millions in and around Gaza enjoyed an eighth day of calm brought on by two back-to-back truce agreements, tensions were once again on the rise ahead of a new deadline ending a five-day cease-fire, which expires tonight. But there was little sign of any workable consensus emerging…

Ukrainian Orthodox Church urges gunmen in eastern Ukraine to lay down arms (Interfax) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate has expressed concern about the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine and called on members of illegal armed groups to surrender…

Egypt cracks down on human rights groups (Al Monitor) On 12 August, a special delegation from Human Rights Watch was to visit Cairo. However, Egypt’s government had other plans. The organization was to deliver a briefing alongside the release of its comprehensive report on the Egyptian security forces’ “clearance” of Rabia al Adawiya and other Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins last year that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,150 people…



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank

14 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Displaced people fleeing violence in Sinjar, Iraqi, take refuge at Dohuk province on 7 August. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)

Iraqi Christians ‘dying in crowded refugee camps’ (Catholic Herald) Iraqi Christians driven from their homes by Islamic State fighters are beginning to die in crowded camps, witnesses have claimed. Sahar Mansour, 40, who lectured in chemistry at the University of Mosul before she fled the city in June, said newborn babies, the sick and the elderly in the Ain Kawa refugee camp on the outskirts of Erbil are dying from diseases, thirst and malnutrition. The same claim was made by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad, who said in an 11 August statement that “death and sickness are grabbing the children and elderly people among the thousands of refugee families spread over the Kurdistan region…”

Clashes continue in Iraq as the displaced seek shelter (Vatican Radio) Clashes between Iraqi troops and Sunni militants west of Baghdad on Thursday killed at least four children. It happened as the United Nations announced its highest level of emergency for Iraq’s humanitarian crisis in the wake of the onslaught by the extremist Islamic State group. Since their blitz offensive in June, the Al Qaeda-breakaway group has overrun much of Iraq’s north and west and driven out hundreds of thousands from their homes…

Yazidis still reported trapped on mountain in northern Iraq (Washington Post) Kurdish officials and Yazidi refugees said Thursday that thousands of desperate Yazidis remain trapped on a mountain in northwestern Iraq, even as the Pentagon appeared to back away from launching a rescue mission to save them…

Coexisting: Christians open church doors to displaced Palestinians in Gaza (Al Bawaba) At the height of the displacement crisis at the beginning of August, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that only just over half of all the displaced were in U.N. shelters. The shelters, meant to hold around 500 people each, were stretched far beyond capacity and were holding an average of 2,800. It was up to ordinary Gazans to deal with the overflow, and dozens of organizations like al-Najd as well as religious institutions and ordinary people worked overtime to provide for the displaced as much as possible. The St. Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza’s Old City was another crucial place of refuge for thousands of Gazans. The church provided refuge for more than 3,000 people during the worst days of the Israeli bombardment, hosting 800 in the church itself and 2,500 in shops and homes in the surrounding community…

Evacuation of refugees organized at Donetsk Gorlovka cathedral (Interfax) With the blessing of Archbishop Mitrophan of Gorlovka and Slavyansk, the Gorlovka Eparchy has organized evacuation of refuges departing from the Epiphany Cathedral of Gorlovka, the local diocese official told Interfax-Religion. Residents of Gorlovka are evacuated free of charge with the help of volunteers and donors…

Metropolitan Onufriy elected head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (RISU) The Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate elected its new primate. The present Locum Tenens of the Kiev Cathedra, Metropolitan Onufriy of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna, will assume leadership. The results were announced 13 August, the same day the elections started…



Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Ukrainian Orthodox Church

13 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Volunteer Iraqi Shiite militia members near Hibhib stand guard against Islamic State militants 11 August. The Vatican called on Muslim leaders to condemn the “barbarity” and “unspeakable criminal acts” of Islamic State militants in Iraq, saying a failure to do so would jeopardize the future of interreligious dialogue. (photo: CNS/EPA)

Pope urges U.N. Secretary-General to call for international action in Iraq (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, regarding the situation in Iraq. Dated 9 August and released today, the letter condemns the violent persecutions underway in the country, and calls on the international community to act swiftly and decisively to stop the humanitarian disaster currently taking place…

Ban Ki-moon urges countries to do more to help Iraqi civilians (U.N. News Center) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Iraqi security forces against intervening in the country’s political process where heightened tensions, coupled with the current security threat from the armed group, the Islamic State, could lead the country into even deeper crisis…

Power outages add to Aleppo’s suffering (Al Monitor) For Aleppo residents, electricity is no longer a basic requirement: Its continuous interruption has led them to gradually dispense with it. Having electricity has turned into a luxury. Many residents have even sold their electrical tools, their TV’s, washing machines and irons, among other appliances that they no longer use. As for the refrigerators, they were turned into water tanks, or even libraries, whereas microwaves became used as storage for supplies…

Israel, Palestinians pursue Gaza deal as cease-fire deadline nears (Los Angeles Times) Talks in Cairo resumed Wednesday as the three-day truce between Israel and Gaza militants was expected to expire at midnight local time, so far without an agreement. Israel’s five-member negotiating team returned from the Egyptian capital overnight following the second day of marathon discussions. They headed back out Wednesday morning for the decisive stretch of talks…

Ukraine’s Catholic leaders back military campaign (The Tablet) The head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church has urged his countrymen “not to be afraid to defend their homeland” as official military chaplains began work for the first time in the country since Communist rule and Russian forces announced a major border exercise. “For the first time in the post-[Second World] war years, people need to give their lives and shed blood for their country’s independence,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych. “But God’s power is able to extinguish any conflict and confrontation — and people who hope in God remain undefeated and can defend their country and state…”



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine United Nations

12 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi Christian refugees gather in Ain Kawa, Iraq, on 4 August. Witnesses claim refugees are dying in the crowded camps. (photo: CNS/Sahar Mansour)

Priest from Nineveh: ‘Christianity is finished in Iraq’ (Catholic News Agency) A priest hailing from what used to be Iraq’s largest Christian city has lamented the exodus of over 100,000 Christians from the city, many of whom are fleeing on foot with no food, money or water. “Today the story of Christianity is finished in Iraq,” said a priest who identified himself as Father Nawar…

Aleppo’s forgotten Christians (Al Monitor) Walking through the largely Christian neighborhoods of Aleppo city — Azizieh, Siryan, Sulaimaniyah and Midan — you can still see the posters of the two bishops kidnapped by Islamist militants last year hanging on shop windows, walls and even cars. The people here haven’t forgotten them; the event is still as painful and fresh as if it had happened just yesterday. The bishops’ kidnapping was a symbolic event, indicative of the larger collapse of interfaith communal relations in a country under the strain of a sectarian civil war, and marking the end of a long era of relative peace and safety for the Christians of Syria. But fear of a new kind permeates this ancient and deeply rooted community. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are very real threats that haunt the collective conscience of Syria’s Christians. The terrible fate that befell their co-religionists across the border in Mosul has driven these points home in a rather blunt and frightening way…

Gaza truce holds for second day (Al Jazeera) Talks to end a month-long war between Israel and Gaza militants are “difficult,” Palestinian delegates said on Tuesday, while an Israeli official said no progress had been made so far. As a 72-hour cease-fire held for a second day on Tuesday, Palestinian negotiators began talks with Egyptian intelligence after a meeting on Monday that lasted nine hours and the Israeli delegation returned to Cairo…

Violence in Gaza leads to youth radicalization (Der Spiegel) This war has demonstrated that there is no military solution to the Gaza problem. Every confrontation in recent years, each new round of reciprocal killings, has pushed more people to the radical fringes. There is no way around the need to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip, and it is in Israel’s interest to recognize that imperative…

New report revisits Cairo killings last year, alleges ‘crimes against humanity’ (Washington Post) Egyptian security forces likely committed crimes against humanity by carrying out mass killings of anti-government demonstrators in Cairo last summer, and former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sissi — now Egypt’s president — should be investigated for his role in the atrocities, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a new report released Tuesday…

A Ukrainian murder mystery ensnares a church in former rebel stronghold (Christian Science Monitor) On a warm June morning, a dozen masked, armed men burst into the Church of the Transfiguration in the Ukrainian town of Slaviansk, demanding to know who among its 300 congregants owned the four expensive vehicles parked in front. Four men stepped forward — the church priest’s two grown sons, Ruvim and Albert Pavenko, and two deacons, Victor Brodarsky and Vladimir Velichko — and were quickly hustled out of the large, Soviet-era edifice, thrust into their cars, and forced to drive away with the rebels. After 35 agonizing days of searching came evidence that all four were dead…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians

11 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I speaks to the media after a meeting with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, in Najaf on 9 August. (photo: CNS/Alaa al Marjani, Reuters)

Alarming refugee situation points to severity of disaster (Chaldean Patriarchate) Refugee families face a choice. Migration: Where and do they have the necessary documents and money? Staying: In the halls and in the refugee camps, waiting the summer to end and winter to come? Will the schools be reopened and will their children go to elementary schools, high schools or colleges? Will they be welcomed in the schools in Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah? What is the future of the properties and belongings, along with the jobs, of these thousands of innocent people forced to fee overnight from their dear villages? These are questions that should stir the conscience of every person and organization to act…

Pope Francis: Angelus appeal for peace in Iraq, Gaza (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his call for prayer and concrete assistance for the suffering populations of Iraq this Sunday. Addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus prayer, the pope also offered prayerful appeals for an end to the fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza, and for the victims of the Ebola outbreak and for all those fighting to stop it…

Iraq: US plans rescue mission for besieged Yazidi refugees (The Guardian) The United States is exploring options to evacuate thousands of Iraqi civilians trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq by Islamic militants after four nights of humanitarian relief airdrops, officials in Washington said. At least half of the 40,000 people besieged by jihadists on Mount Sinjar had escaped by Sunday night, aided by Kurdish rebels who crossed from Syria to rescue them…

Fresh ceasefire agreement holds in Gaza (Al Jazeera) A new 72-hour ceasefire has held into Monday morning in the Gaza Strip, raising hopes for a fresh respite in a bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas that has devastated the Palestinian enclave. The truce was agreed after Egypt said it had received “simultaneous consensus” from both sides for the truce, which began Sunday evening…

Egypt’s Pope Tawadros urges Sisi to continue church restoration (Copts United) Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros and leaders of other Egyptian Christian churches have urged Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al Sisi to continue to support the restoration of churches damaged in anti-Coptic assaults reportedly by supporters of ousted president Muhammad Morsi in August of 2013, a month after the ouster of the Islamist president…

Farmer suicides reflect growing desperation in rural India (Los Angeles Times) About every 30 minutes in India, a farmer commits suicide. Since 1995, the first year the government began keeping detailed records, about 300,000 farmers have taken their lives. The 2011 census found that the suicide rate for farmers was 47 percent higher than the national average. The suicides are a well-known phenomenon in India, where newspapers regularly carry stories about farmers — almost always men — taking their lives by hanging, drowning or ingesting pesticides. Yet there are few programs to provide farm families with the psychological support that experts say they need to relieve the worries of rural life…

Israeli Supreme Court rules on separation wall in the Cremisan Valley (Society of St. Yves) The Israeli Supreme Court announced its decision on the route of the separation wall in the Cremisan valley in Beit Jala, following the hearing held on 4 August 2014. The court decided Israel must take into consideration different possibilities by which both Salesian convents in Cremisan are taken in and included within the Palestinian side of the wall. The court gave Israel until 4 September to respond to its decision…



Tags: Iraq India Iraqi Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees

8 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Najaf takes in Christians displaced by Islamic State (Al Monitor) After Christians were forced to leave Mosul and other areas that fell under the control of the Islamic State, Kurdish and Shiite dominated cities opened their doors to receive them. Religious authorities adopted stances supporting Christians, as they called on residents to host and help their brothers in the country. The Imam Al Khoei Foundation, one of the prominent religious institutions in Najaf, issued on 30 July a statement in support of Christians and minorities in Iraq. An excerpt of the statement reads, “We announce our readiness to receive the displaced Iraqi families, be they Christians or Muslims. We call on all Iraqis to offer aid for the displaced families and protect them from the aggressors, in accordance with the principles of humanitarian and national fraternity…”

U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants in northern Iraq (Washington Post) U.S. military jets carried out two airstrikes Friday on Islamist militants outside the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, hours after President Obama authorized attacks against the Sunni extremists advancing on the northern Iraq city. The F-18 combat aircraft targeted artillery being used by militants of the Islamic State extremist group against Kurdish forces defending Erbil, the Pentagon said. It said the artillery was fired at Kurdish forces “near U.S. personnel…”

Humanitarian group warns that aid alone is not enough for people of Gaza (Vatican Radio) In Gaza, up to half a million people have been displaced by the month-long conflict with Israel and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The London-based Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD) has warned that aid alone is not enough for the people of the territory. CAFOD is appealing for donations and also asking its supporters to lobby the British government to push for a just and lasting peace. The agency’s Middle East representative, Mary Lucas, spoke to Susy Hodges about the situation on the ground in Gaza…

Gaza talks falter as deadly offensive reignites (Daily Star Lebanon) Deadly hostilities engulfed Gaza once again Friday where a 10-year-old boy was killed and Israeli warplanes struck targets in retaliation for dozens of Palestinian cross-border rockets attacks. Exactly one month after Israel launched a punishing air campaign to destroy Hamas rockets, the Jewish state said talks in Cairo on extending a 72-hour truce were over as rockets wounded two people in Israel. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” an official said on condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to retaliate “forcefully to the Hamas breach of the cease-fire,” as the violence ended long-term cease-fire negotiations in Cairo…

Cease-fire in Gaza expires, and strikes resume (New York Times) As a 72-hour truce in Gaza expired at 8 a.m. Friday, Palestinian militants fired barrages of rockets into Israel and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes, one of which killed a 10-year-old boy, according to relatives. The renewed hostilities interrupted the indirect talks in Cairo, brokered by Egypt and backed by the United States, for a more durable cease-fire agreement. Hamas is demanding a lifting of the blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt and an opening of all the border crossings to allow the free movement of people and goods in and out of the Palestinian coastal territory. Israel is demanding measures to prevent Hamas from rearming and, eventually, the demilitarization of Gaza…



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees

7 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Reporters present a video “notebook” collecting the sights and sounds behind the stories of war. (video: Al Jazeera)

Briefing U.N. Assembly, Ban urges end to ‘senseless cycle of suffering’ in Gaza (U.N. News Center) As the temporary ceasefire continues to hold in Gaza, senior United Nations officials today urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, and called on the 193 Member States to respond to calls for emergency humanitarian funding. In an informal meeting of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that for the moment, the near constant firing of Hamas rockets and Israeli missiles and mortars has subsided. “But … we cannot rest as the suffering continues. This ceasefire has come at a price that is almost too much to bear,” said Mr. Ban…

Patriarchs decry Christian exodus, demand U.N. act (Daily Star Lebanon) The heads of Eastern churches expressed outrage Thursday over the displacement of Christians in north Iraq, appealing to the international community, and Arab and Islamic states in particular, to take swift action to stop the onslaught at the hands of jihadist groups. “We call upon the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court to take swift, effective and immediate salvaging action,” the patriarchs said in a statement. “The United Nations is requested to take a firm decision to ensure the return of the people to their lands by all possible means and in the quickest possible time…”

Isis seizes Iraq’s largest Christian town (The Guardian) Jihadists have taken over Iraq’s largest Christian town, Qaraqosh, and the surrounding areas sending tens of thousands of residents fleeing towards autonomous Kurdistan, according to officials and witnesses. Islamic State (Isis) militants moved in overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish peshmerga troops, who are stretched thin across several fronts in Iraq, residents said. “I now know that the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants,” Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, told AFP…

Pope asks for international action to help Iraq’s persecuted Christians (CNS) Pope Francis asked Catholics around the world to pray for tens of thousands of Christians from villages in northeastern Iraq who were forced from their homes in the middle of the night by Islamic State militants. The pope also made a “pressing appeal to the international community to take initiatives to put an end to the humanitarian drama underway, to take steps to protect those involved and threatened by violence and to ensure the necessary aid for so many displaced people whose fate depends on the solidarity of others,” the Vatican spokesman said on 7 August…

Jordan ‘refuses’ Palestinians fleeing Syria conflict (BBC) Jordan is turning away Palestinian refugees from Syria in violation of international law, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch says. It is said to have forcibly repatriated more than 100 asylum seekers, including women and children, since mid-2012. Most of the Palestinians come from refugee camps or villages in Syria that have experienced heavy fighting. It appears that Jordan fears an influx of Syrian Palestinians would cause instability…

Poland, Hungary recall Roma holocaust (Vatican Radio) While Europe remembers the outbreak of World War I, commemorations have been held in Hungary and Poland for what often has been called the “forgotten Holocaust”: the murder of hundreds of thousands of Roma people during World War II…



Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians Roma

6 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Chermera (or “40 Men”) Temple, a Yazidi holy site, occupies the highest peak of the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq. (photo: an American soldier from the 334th Signal Company, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, April 2004)

Iraqi Yazidis stranded on isolated mountaintop begin to die of thirst (Washington Post) Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst. Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children…

Iraq’s Islamists have vowed to wipe out the Yazidis (Christian Science Monitor) The arrival of the Islamic State (IS) in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar over the weekend sent the native religious minority fleeing. Yazidis, labeled by IS (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIS) “devil worshippers,” have a long history of persecution. Who are the Yazidis? Yazidis (sometimes spelled Yezidis), belong to an ethno-religious group which predates Islam and has roots in Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion that developed in ancient Persia around 600 B.C. (an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the estimated time of the faith’s founding). Yazidis have been described as a “Kurdish heterodox group,” meaning that they’re ethnic Kurds, but outside the mainstream of the community and culture…

Baghdad: Iraqi Christians and Muslims pray together for peace and freedom (AsiaNews) Amid tragedy, Iraq’s Christians and Muslims came together to pray for peace. With the slogan “There is no Iraq without Christians,” St. George Church in Baghdad hosted a meeting last night, an opportunity to meet on the eve of the feast of the Transfiguration and the World Day of Prayer for Iraq, celebrated today. Muslim civil society leaders, officials from Baghdad and neighboring cities, Christian leaders and ordinary believers gathered in the church to pray for peace and revive the desire for “unity and solidarity” in the country…

Syrians left to fend for themselves as world agenda focuses on Gaza (Haaretz) If June was Iraq’s month, July belongs to the Palestinians, even though that month saw hundreds die in Iraq and over 1,500 Syrians killed in a single week in July — slightly higher than the Palestinian death toll. Syria, though, has been pushed to the bottom of the world’s list of priorities. No new diplomatic endeavors were launched to solve the crisis there this month. The international commissions discussing the Syrian civil war have gone on summer recess. The American aid totaling a half a billion dollars for the rebels is waiting for Congress’ approval. With over 3 million refugees the humanitarian crisis is far from a solution. Even the fact that the Islamic State has taken over parts of Syria and Iraq is quickly becoming the accepted as the new reality…

Tens of thousands of besieged Syrians receive food aid for first time (U.N. News Center) More people in besieged and difficult-to-reach areas of Syria are getting food due to a Security Council resolution approved last month that allows delivery trucks to more easily cross borders and conflict lines, the United Nations emergency food agency today confirmed. The U.N. World Food Program said it has made “significant progress” over the previous few weeks, reaching 3.7 million people in July. More than 300,000 of those people are in hard-to-reach areas, said spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs, a figure that is “twice the number of people reached using cross-line convoys in June…”

Gaza: Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks begin in Cairo (BBC) Indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives are taking place in the Egyptian capital Cairo. They come after a four-week conflict in Gaza that has claimed more than 1,900 lives. Egyptian mediators are shuttling between the two delegations, relaying each side’s demands. A 72-hour truce is now in its second day in Gaza, the longest lull in fighting since the conflict began on 8 July…

Bloody clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia over disputed territory (The Guardian) The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia are expected to meet for talks this week to try to calm tensions over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh after some of the bloodiest clashes since the two sides signed a ceasefire in 1994. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said 14 of its soldiers had been killed in multiple confrontations, which began on 30 July. According to Azeri news agency APA, Armenian reconnaissance groups tried to cross the contact line along the border, and Azeri armed forces responded…



Tags: Syria Iraq Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees Yazidi

5 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi community fled their homes in northern Iraq on Sunday, after Islamic militants attacked the towns of Sinjar and Zunmar. (video: USA Today)

Islamic extremists impose reign of terror on Iraq (U.S.A. Today) Police cars have been repainted to say “Islamic police.” Women are forbidden from wearing bright colors and prints. The homes of Shiites and others have signs stating they are property of the Islamic State. And everyone walks in fear amid a new reign of terror. This is what life is like in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities in northern and western Iraq under the control of Islamic extremists after their lightning-fast military campaign that overwhelmed the Iraqi army in June…

Displaced Iraqi Christians from Mosul face humanitarian crisis (Vatican Radio) The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has called for an end to the violent persecution of Iraqi Christians that threatens to extinguish their community. The bishops are also urging Catholics to join in a global day of prayer for Iraq’s Christians taking place on Wednesday, 6 August…

Baghdad patriarch: Iraqi Christian tragedy rooted in superpowers’ selfishness (AsiaNews) The international community and the world’s superpowers must realize the need for “concrete actions of solidarity” for Iraqi Christians because the “very survival” of the minority in the country and in middle East is at stake, said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad in a message to Pope Francis, eastern patriarchs and the presidents of bishops’ conferences. Faced with a never-ending tragedy, the patriarch of Baghdad addresses directly world powers, asking them to drop their “self-interest” and join together to achieve a “peaceful political solution” that alone can put an end to the conflict…

Gaza: No place to bury the dead (Al Jazeera) Corpses of dead Palestinians have overwhelmed morgues at Rafah’s hospitals, and relatives have been left with no option but to keep their loved-ones in commercial refrigerators. At the city’s Kuwaiti hospital on Monday, a stream of ambulances negotiated its way through crowds of medical staff and families, delivering bodies to be laid out on the gravel outside the building…

Gaza war stifles democracy in Israel (Al Monitor) The current Israel-Hamas conflict has generated an aggressive political patriotic discourse in Israel that has taken a heavy toll on Israeli democracy, in which those who dare to oppose the operation are expected to keep silent…

The quest to save Syria’s history (Der Spiegel) While the civil war in Syria has killed tens of thousands of people, it has also destroyed countless of the country’s ancient treasures. Now a number of Syrians are trying to save what artifacts they can — and are risking their lives to do so…



Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Iraqi Christians Cultural Identity Israeli-Palestinian conflict





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