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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
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

4 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Lebanese religious leaders pray during a 24 July sit-in in Beirut to express solidarity with the Iraqi Christians of Mosul and against Israel’s military action in Gaza. A prominent Syrian Christian political leader has warned of an impending assault on Syria’s northeastern province of Hassake amid reports that thousands of Islamist fighters are preparing to take control of the predominantly Christian and Kurdish area. (photo: CNS/Sharif Karim, Reuters)

Syrian rebels raid Lebanese border town (Christian Science Monitor) Syrian rebels killed ten Lebanese troops and likely captured over a dozen more in a raid on a Lebanese border town, the country’s military chief said, the most serious spillover of violence yet into the tiny country from its neighbor’s civil war…

Thousands displaced from Arsal (Daily Star Lebanon) At least 3,000 families from Arsal have been displaced so far in clashes between Islamist militants and the Lebanese Army, which began Saturday, the mayor of Labweh, Ramez Amhaz estimated. The Daily Star spoke to one Lebanese family, who asked not to be named, as they were fleeing the town. “The militants were letting the civilians out this morning, and we left with the wave of people. There was firing by our house last night,” said the father…

Islamic State seizes Sinjar, pushing out Kurds and sending Yazidis fleeing (Washington Post) The ancient northern Iraqi town of Sinjar emptied Sunday, with thousands of people fleeing on foot as Sunni extremist militants made their first significant punches through the defenses of overstretched Kurdish forces. Sinjar is an ancestral home of the long-persecuted Yazidi religious sect, which the Islamic State has branded as devil worshipers, and few of its residents stayed to find out what was planned for them when the group’s militants entered Sunday…

Baghdad patriarch: ‘brotherhood and solidarity’ the only way forward (AsiaNews) In Iraq today, we need “brotherhood and solidarity” in order for “our troubled nation” to be able to “overcome the current crisis,” which has “thrown terrible sufferings and insurmountable privations at thousands of innocent people in great difficulty,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad in a message sent to AsiaNews and published for World Day of Prayer for Iraq…

Israel declares partial Gaza ceasefire but fighting goes on in Rafah (The Guardian) Israel has declared a seven-hour “humanitarian window” in Gaza to start at 10 a.m. local time amid international outrage at the third deadly attack on a U.N. school sheltering displaced Palestinians and mounting pressure for the bloodshed to end. The Israeli army has exempted the area around the southern town of Rafah, where the U.N. school was struck on Sunday and fighting was continuing…

Bereaved Israeli, Palestinian families call to stop war (Al Monitor) Ben Kfir speaks calmly, but he has already been dealt a terrible blow by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A Hamas suicide bomber murdered his daughter Yael in an attack near the Tzrifin military base in 2003. A bereaved father living 10 miles from the Gaza Strip, in a Qassam-stricken town, he took the stage on the night of 26 July at the Rabin Square rally and said: “Our prime minister never misses an opportunity to stand in front of every microphone and say that the terror infrastructure must be destroyed, and I certainly agree with him. But I believe that Hamas is not the infrastructure of terrorism. The infrastructure is poverty, ignorance, hopelessness, despair and the basic absence of security. These are not things the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] can handle, and as my 8-year-old granddaughter says, ‘One doesn’t put out fire with fire…’ ”



Tags: Iraq Lebanon Syrian Civil War War Israeli-Palestinian conflict

1 August 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A handout picture made available by the official government Syrian Arab News Agency in May shows Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III walking with a Christian and Muslim delegation during a visit to the old city of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/EPA)

With Syria buried in the news, hopes fade for ending world’s bloodiest war (Al Jazeera) Syria’s civil war is buried beneath the headlines these days, as Israeli forces pound the Gaza Strip, Ukraine struggles with the downing of a 300-passenger commercial jet, and much of Iraq is taken over by Al Qaeda-inspired extremists. Libya, meanwhile, is literally going up in flames. Even with 1,400 Gazans killed over the past few weeks, Syria has not lost its mantle as home to the world’s deadliest conflict. During a ten-day stretch in mid-July, a record 1,800 people were killed, as the death toll from three years of fighting climbs past 170,000…

Syrian city of Homs shows signs of life amid moonscape of devastation (The Guardian) In Damascus, the ministry of information, which controls visas and access for foreign media, is keen to approve trips to Homs, where developments broadly fit the official grand narrative of a return to normality, stability and the start of reconstruction — and of course the victory claimed by Assad. Opposition activists now living elsewhere reject the government’s upbeat narrative. “Homs is a city of horror,” said Razan, whose Sunni family was involved in the mass protests of April 2011 and suffered in the subsequent army offensive and repression…

Assyrians leaving Hassake for fear of ISIS (AINA) The Assyrian population of Hassakah, Syria is leaving the region because of threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report by the Adnkronos News Agency (AKI). Citing an official from the Assyrian Democratic Organization, AKI reports that the Christian Assyrian residents are abandoning their lands and homes because of fear that what happened in Mosul will happen here…

Israeli soldier captured, 50 Palestinians dead as cease-fire collapses (Al Jazeera) A 72-hour Gaza cease-fire crumbled only hours after it began Friday, with at least 50 Palestinians killed by Israeli shelling and Israel saying one of its soldiers may have been abducted. Israel also accused Gaza fighters of violating the U.S.- and U.N.-brokered truce by firing rockets and mortars…

Patriarch Fouad Twal: Truce will not help if Gaza remains a desperate prison (Fides) “The truce which has begun is a good thing, but it will not help if the conditions in Gaza remain those of a desperate land under siege, where only fear and frustration that feed hatred can grow,” said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in a conversation with Fides. According to the patriarch, the structural conditions that feed blind hatred, starting from the embargo, must be removed…

Iraqis living under Isis rule in Mosul begin to show resistance (The Guardian) Iraqis living under Isis rule in Iraq, where non-Sunni residents have been forced from their homes and tens of mosques have been deemed idolatrous and marked for destruction, have started to push back against the extreme interpretation of Islam being imposed on them. With at least 8,000 years of continuous habitation, Mosul is considered an archeological treasure, with many heritage sites belonging to all religions and sects. Dubbed “small Iraq”, people from a range of religions and ethnicities have lived side by side peacefully for centuries. This solidarity remains in evidence through in these difficult times…



Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank War Israeli-Palestinian conflict

31 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Sister Gilbert Saliba, 79, visits Nidal Alawi, 11, of Gaza in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem on 30 July. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

In Jerusalem hospital, staff and family help Gaza trauma patients (CNS) St. Joseph Hospital specializes in head- and chest-trauma wounds. Jeries Ayyad, who was transferred from Gaza with the help of Caritas Jerusalem in cooperation with Israeli military, was one of 23 Gaza residents being treated at the hospital, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. Three more patients were expected to arrive later on 30 July. ”There is a moment when we see all the suffering that we ask, ‘Where is God?’ ” said Sister Gilbert Saliba, the hospital’s president. “But then we look at the cross and see Jesus Christ on that cross, and how he suffered a lot of pain and he is still living all this pain. And we know he wants to use our hearts, our eyes and our hands to be merciful to human beings…”

Catholic priest leads flock through the violence in Gaza (Vatican Radio) While more than 200,000 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes in Gaza since the conflict began, with the number growing daily, other inhabitants are staying put despite the almost constant bombardments. Among them is the Rev. Jorge Hernandez, pastor of Holy Family Church in Zeitun, where he cares for his flock while bombs continue to fly overhead and land too close to home. “Unfortunately, the resistance movement is situated near houses and in the streets. For us, this was a problem yesterday. At a certain point, we could not leave the house. Then the bombs fell. One house near the church was hit and there has been some major damage to our rectory and parish school,” said Father Hernandez…

In Gaza, 11 members of a Palestinian family are killed in a single strike (Washington Post) The Balatas, like many Palestinian families, disliked Israel but also sought to distance themselves from Hamas. For more than three weeks, as the conflict has stretched on, the Balatas’ lives have revolved around how to best protect their large family, extending over several generations, in one of the most war-torn enclaves in Gaza. Now, trapped between the ambitions of Israel and Hamas, they have paid a heavy price…

Patriarch Gregory III: ‘Christians and Muslims, we are each other’s best guarantors’ (AsiaNews) In his message for the end of Ramadan, the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch notes that Christians and Muslims built the Arab civilization together and pleads with “our Arab brothers to come together to save Islam” from the extremist currents that are invading it. “We must, can and want to stay together, Muslims and Christians, to build together a better world for our future generations and our common future…”

As persecution of faithful rises, so does the religious response (Christian Science Monitor) Two recent reports about the restriction of religion around the world have come to the same conclusion: It’s getting worse. In its latest report, the Pew Research Center reported hostilities involving religion have risen since 2007. More than three-quarters of the world population live in places with high restrictions on religion, up by 12 percent. And in its latest report on religious freedom, the State Department said that 2013 saw “the largest displacement of members of religious communities in recent memory.” The biggest problems are in just a few countries, such as the Central African Republic, Syria, and Iraq…

The Middle East Council of Churches calls upon the international community (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) The Middle East Council of Churches issued a statement condemning the wars and the violence in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, with a special mention to the Christians of Iraq…

How the Russia-Ukraine war is being fought by churches (World Religion News) The Russian occupation of Ukraine has been under way for almost half a year. With the battle raging between the two nations, both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches have begun a war of words to express their desires for the future. While tempers between the two churches have remained moderate since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke off from Moscow’s leadership in 1991, they have now reached a boiling point, with each taking a more active role in the war as the occupation wears on…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict Christian-Muslim relations

30 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Basha family — Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid, 47; and Jamila, 44, pray on 27 July in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special liturgies for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Gaza’s Christians and Muslims grow closer in defiance of Israeli attacks (Middle East Eye) Without warning, an Israeli missile hit the house of the Palestinian Christian Ayyad family last Saturday. A memorial service for Jalila Ayyad, slain in the attack, was held on Sunday at St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church on Sunday. The church has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on. “The church has been our host for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed. Their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled. To the surprise of local journalists, both Muslims and Christians carried Jalila’s body to the grave…

Caritas Jerusalem: wholesale destruction in Gaza like WWII (Vatican Radio) Caritas Jerusalem is making a dramatic appeal for an end to the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza as the death toll climbs to more than 1300 people — overwhelmingly Palestinian. Caritas Jerusalem Director Father Raed Abusahliah says the conflict has also claimed its first Christian victim. You can hear Tracey McClure’s interview with the priest below…

Patriarch decries ‘mass cleansing’ of Mosul Christians (Catholic Herald) Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III traveled to Washington to meet United States government representatives to highlight the plight of Christians in Mosul. He spoke out about the “mass cleansing” of Christians from the Iraqi city by what he called “a bed of criminals…”

Lebanon’s Christians react to crisis in Mosul (Al Monitor) The tragedy that befell the Christian population in Mosul has raised concern in Lebanon, leading to a state of alert on the ecclesiastical and official levels and daily meetings on the matter. The flurry began on 23 July, when church representatives concerned with the crisis in Iraq met in the headquarters of the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate in Beirut…

Islamic militants destroy historic mosque in Mosul (AP) Militants from the Islamic State group blew up a mosque and shrine dating back to the 14th century in Mosul on Sunday, local residents said, the latest casualty in a week that has seen a half dozen of the Iraqi city’s most revered holy places destroyed. Mosul residents said the Prophet Jirjis Mosque and Shrine was bombed and destroyed by the radical jihadist group. They spoke anonymously to The Associated Press for fear of reprisal. The complex was built over the Quraysh cemetery in Mosul in the late 14th century, and included a small shrine dedicated to Nabi Jerjis, the Prophet George…

Let me call you ‘brother’: Pope Francis takes ecumenism one step at a time (CNS) The only name Pope Francis wants divided Christians to call each other is “brother” or “sister.” The pope himself acknowledged that some people would be shocked by his decision to visit a Pentecostal church; while the Vatican has had an official dialogue with some Pentecostals and evangelicals since the 1970’s, by and large, Catholic-Pentecostal relations have not been easy…



Tags: Pope Francis Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Israeli-Palestinian conflict

29 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Christian refugees march against persecution by Islamic State fighters outside the U.N. compound near the airport in Erbil, Iraq, on 24 July. (photo: CNS/Sahar Mansour)

Iraqi Christians brave heat to demand help from United Nations (The Catholic Transcript) Iraqi Christian refugees braved temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit to demand that the United Nations intervene to protect them from persecution by Islamist militants…

Forced from Mosul, centuries-old Christian community vanishes (Al Monitor) According to accounts by displaced Christians, at the beginning of its rule, ISIS managed to provide intermittent electricity and water services and regulated traffic at intersections. In an attempt likely devised to win hearts and minds, they even provided free public transportation at times. For local Christians, however, everything began to change dramatically around 14 July, with a campaign to identify Christian properties. Militants painted the letter “N” for “Nasrani” (Arabic for “Christian”) on properties owned by Christians and designated them as the “Islamic State’s estate…”

Iraq Catholic leader says Islamic State worse than Genghis Khan (Reuters) The head of Iraq’s largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who ransacked medieval Baghdad…

A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in Gaza (Der Spiegel) Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip triggered a bloody war. Brutal images of dead and injured Palestinians have circulated widely, but a cease-fire still appears to be a long way off…

Eid offers no respite for war-weary Palestinians in Gaza (Christian Science Monitor) Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, is usually marked joyously. This year the only thing that seemed to elicit cheer in Gaza was rockets fired at Israel…

Palestinians say they were waiting to evacuate when U.N. shelter was hit (Los Angeles Times) Hundreds of people were crammed into a United Nations-run elementary school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday when the converted shelter was hit by a series of explosions. At least 15 people were killed and more than 120 injured, according to local health officials…

In D.C., Syrian defector displays photos of regime’s crimes (Washington Post) A Syrian defector who smuggled out thousands of photos of mutilated corpses, showed some of those images in Washington on Monday and said they depicted prisoners who were tortured and killed by the security services of Syrian President Bashar al Assad…

Patriarch to France: We want to stay in our land (Daily Star Lebanon) Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Tuesday rebuked France’s offer to welcome Iraq’s Christians, saying the minority group is instead seeking international effort to help them remain in their land…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict

28 July 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis issues new appeals for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday made another urgent appeal for an end to the conflicts in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Ukraine. Speaking after his regular Angelus address to thousands of people gathered in a hot and sunny St. Peter’s Square, the pope spoke of the victims of war, in particular the children who die or are injured and orphaned by the violence…

Chaldean patriarch: ‘The situation is dire’ in Iraq (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I says the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate quickly. He said the country has suffered tremendously at the hands of the ISIS militant group, also known as Islamic State — extremist Muslim rebels, who one month ago declared a caliphate on the border with Syria and Iraq. With ISIS pledging to expand its control over the region, there is very little relief from the attacks in sight…

Palestinian sources: Israeli airstrike hits Gaza hospital (CBS News) The Gaza police operations room and a Palestinian health official say separate Israeli airstrikes hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby park, causing casualties. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. Camera crews were prevented from filming the area of impact at Shifa Hospital. Health official Ayman Sahabani says several people were wounded in the strikes…

United Nations calls for cease fire in Gaza (Associated Press) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reinforced the Security Council’s call for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” in the Gaza war on Monday and demanded that Israel andHamas end the violence &ldquoin the name of humanity.” The U.N. chief accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal of being irresponsible and “morally wrong” for letting their people get killed in the conflict. He urged them to demonstrate “political will” and “compassionate leadership” to end the suffering of war-weary citizens. “Gaza is in critical condition” after pummeling by Israeli forces that has killed helpless civilians and raised “serious questions about proportionality,” he told reporters…

India’s largest Ramadan gathering held in Kerala (Arab News) Hundreds of thousands of believers gathered at the Swalath Nagar in the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district in the southern Indian state of Kerala overnight Thursday in what is claimed as the the world’s third largest Ramadan congregation. Organizers say some half a million people attended the annual prayer meet in the past two years and they expect similar or increased numbers this year…



Tags: Israel Holy Land Kerala Chaldeans

25 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




An Israeli soldier prays in front of a tank at a military staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip on 24 July. Fighting pushed the Palestinian death toll over 700. (photo: CNS/Nir Elias, Reuters)

Israel-Palestine conflict: The voice of reason silenced by the blast of weapons (VIS) Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See permanent observer at the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, spoke at the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council dedicated to the question of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem, which took place on 23 July. “As the number of people killed, wounded, uprooted from their homes, continues to increase in the conflict between Israel and some Palestinian groups, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the voice of reason seems submerged by the blast of arms. … The perpetration of injustices and the violation of human rights, especially the right to life and to live in peace and security, sow fresh seeds of hatred and resentment. … Demonizing others, however, does not eliminate their rights. Instead, the way to the future lies in recognizing our common humanity…”

‘Appalled’ by attack on U.N.-run school in Gaza, Ban urges halt to fighting (U.N. News Center) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he is “appalled” by the news of an attack on a United Nations-run school in Gaza where hundreds of people had taken refuge from the ongoing hostilities, adding that the incident underscores the need to stop all fighting immediately. Media reports say at least 15 people died in the attack on the school in Beit Hanoun, which was run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). More than 100,000 Gazans — 5 percent of the total population — have sought refuge in UNRWA facilities since the conflict began over two weeks ago…

World’s top Muslim leaders condemn attacks on Iraqi Christians (Vatican Radio) Two of the leading voices in the Muslim world denounced the persecution of Christians in Iraq, at the hands of extremists proclaiming a caliphate under the name Islamic State. The most explicit condemnation came from Iyad Ameen Madani, the secretary general for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the group representing 57 countries, and 1.4 billion Muslims. Meanwhile, Mehmet Gormez, Turkey’s top cleric and the spiritual successor to the caliphate under the Ottoman Empire, also touched on the topic during a peace conference of Islamic scholars…

Pope Francis calls Patriarch in solidarity with Iraqi Christians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reassured the patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church, Ignatius Joseph III, that he is following news out of Iraq with concern — particularly the dramatic situation of Christians in Mosul who have been threatened with death and seizure of their homes by Islamic militants…

Italy tries to cope with crush of migrants seeking refuge in Europe (Los Angeles Times) An estimated 71,000 people have made the dangerous 350-mile voyage to Italy this year from the Libyan coast. The number already exceeds the total for all of the previous record year, 2011, at the height of the “Arab Spring” uprisings. Chaos in Libya, traditionally a staging point for would-be émigrés trying to reach the European Union, has turned the operation into something of a free-for-all…

India: Salesians open child assistance center in Bangalore (Vatican Radio) A new child assistance center was inaugurated in Bangalore Railway Station under the direction of Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO) on 9 July by Mr. Anil Kumar Agarwal, Divisional Railway Manager, Southern Western Railways. The Child Rescue Booth, which will start functioning from Platform Four of Bangalore City railway station, aims to rescue the scores of children who arrive there daily, and to protect child rights in general. It is estimated that 50-60 runaway children arrive daily in the city of Bangalore, mostly at the railway station and Bus station…



Tags: India Iraqi Christians Christian-Muslim relations United Nations Migrants





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