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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
19 June 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




As Islamist militants battle Iraqi security forces for control of towns and cities not far from Baghdad, the capital has taken on the tense feel of a city under siege. (video: CNN)

Assyrians and Christians under attack in Iraq and Syria (AINA) With extremists battling for control of Iraq’s largest oilfield on Tuesday, raising the stakes in a burgeoning war against the central government in Baghdad, Iraq’s Christians once again find themselves at risk. Over the past 10 days, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a fundamentalist Islamist group, has streamed across the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq from its bases in eastern Syria, capturing a line of towns and cities, including several with large Assyrian and Chaldean Christian populations…

Black flags fly over Iraqi refinery, as U.S. weighs cooperation with Iran (Al Jazeera) ISIL fighters, who want to carve out an Islamic caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria, have reportedly made progress at Iraq’s largest oil refinery. The rebels hung their black banners on watchtowers at the Baiji refinery, 150 miles north of Baghdad, a witness said Thursday, though a top Iraqi security official said the government still held the facility…

Ukrainian Catholic leader appeals for Christian reconciliation (AsiaNews.it) Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis, tensions are getting worse between local Catholics and the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, which continues to denounce the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine for its alleged involvement with Western policy vis-à-vis Russia. In making an appeal for reconciliation, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk hopes Moscow will recognize the dignity of the Ukrainian people and open a sincere dialogue based on truth…

United Nations: ‘Climate of fear’ grips eastern Ukraine (U.N. News Center) With United Nations monitors reporting today that armed separatists have used killings, abductions and torture to instill a “climate of intimidation and fear” in eastern Ukraine, the world body’s human rights chief urged all armed groups to put down their weapons, end the violence and begin the process of long-term reconciliation…

Syrian refugees in Turkey exceed 1 million mark (The Guardian) The number of Syrians in neighboring Turkey has surpassed 1 million, the Turkish deputy prime minister has said. There are more than 20 refugee camps in Turkey near the roughly 500-mile border with Syria housing more than 220,000 people. But the bulk of people who have crossed the border are living in Turkish cities, mostly in the provinces of Hatay, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa. They have taken advantage of the “open border” policy maintained by Turkey, a staunch opponent of the regime in Damascus, towards Syrian refugees…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Refugees Iraqi Christians United Nations

18 June 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi refugees are seen in a camp near the northern city of Erbil on 12 June. Hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes in Mosul are left without access to aid, officials said. Christians from the city say they were targeted long before Iraqi security forces abandoned the major political and economic hub. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)

Pope Francis appeals for concrete help for refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to institutions to offer concrete help to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who continue to flee conflict and persecution in their homelands…

A country implodes: ISIS pushes Iraq to the brink (Der Spiegel) The militant organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has occupied vast portions of Syria and Iraq in the hopes of establishing a caliphate. The jihadists’ success lays bare Iraq’s disintegration and could ignite yet another civil war between Shiites and Sunnis in the country…

Chaldean archbishop of Mosul: Armed intervention does not solve problems (Fides) “In the villages in the Nineveh plain that accommodated part of the population fleeing from Mosul, the situation is worsening day by day. There has been no water and electricity for two days. Fuel is beginning to run out. And last night, a part of Mosul was bombed, causing a new exodus of civilians,” said Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona of Mosul…

ISIS and government forces battle for control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery (Christian Science Monitor) Iraq’s largest oil refinery is under attack by Islamic militants northwest of Baghdad, threatening domestic oil and electricity supplies and signaling the rapid acceleration of the group’s offensive against Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s Shiite government…

Ukraine president announces ‘unilateral’ cease-fire plan (Los Angeles Times) Ukraine’s president said Wednesday that government forces will unilaterally cease fire to allow pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country, a potential major development to bring peace to the country…

Syria conflict: Toxic chemicals ‘used systematically’ in attacks (BBC) A team from the world’s chemical weapons watchdog believes toxic chemicals such as chlorine are being used in a “systematic manner” in Syria. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a fact-finding mission to the country’s north last month to investigate several incidents. The inspectors’ preliminary report says information was gathered that seemed to corroborate the testimony of medics…

Palestinians freed in 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner-swap back in custody (The Guardian) More than 50 Palestinians released in 2011 as part a high-profile deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit are back in custody after they were arrested during Israeli military operations to locate three missing teenagers. The overnight arrests — 65 in total — bring the number of Palestinians detained during the military campaign to locate the teenagers to 240, the Israeli Defense Forces confirmed on Wednesday. Gilad Shalit was an Israeli soldier captured in Gaza by Hamas in 2006 and held for five years before being traded for the release of 1,027 Palestinians…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Refugees Syrian Civil War Iraqi Refugees

17 June 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Claiming it owes $4.5 billion in unpaid bills, Russia has cut off Ukraine from its gas supply. Ukraine’s prime minister claims the move is intended to destabilize Ukraine. Kim Vinnell reports. (video: Al Jazeera)

Russia halts gas supplies to Ukraine amid clashes (Vatican Radio) Ukraine says neighboring Russia has cut off all natural gas supplies to Kiev, in a major escalation of a dispute over outstanding debt between the two nations. The latest standoff comes after Moscow also expressed anger over a crackdown by Ukrainian government forces on pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s troubled east…

The Ecumenical Laboratory of Ukraine (Catholic World Report) In this interview with the Catholic World Report, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 2001 until his retirement in 2011, offers his characteristically candid insight into the role of the church in Ukraine’s Maidan movement, the question of ecumenism in Ukraine, and the oftentimes complex relationship between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches…

Iraq’s fleeing Christians find safe haven in Kurdistan (France24) Mosul, in northern Iraq, had a substantial Christian population of around 10,000 until Sunni Islamist militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took the city in their lightning offensive last week. Most of them have fled, seeking refuge in nearby Kurdistan, an autonomous Kurdish territory where they feel protected from the hardline Sunni fighters by the local army…

Iraq conflict: Clashes on approaches to Baghdad (BBC) Iraqi government forces are engaged in heavy clashes with Sunni insurgents who have made major advances in the past week. Parts of the city of Baquba — just 37 miles from Baghdad — were briefly taken over by the rebels. Reports say 44 prisoners were killed during fighting at a police station in the city…

Israel considering expelling Hamas leaders from West Bank (The Guardian) Israel is considering expelling Hamas leaders from the West Bank to Gaza as part of its response to the kidnapping of three teenagers, which it has blamed on the Islamist group. The deliberations come as Israel continued to round up members of Hamas in six West Bank towns for the third night running, including senior Palestinian lawmakers, in one of the biggest waves of arrests in recent years…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict

16 June 2014
Greg Kandra




An Iraqi refugee carries a mattress at a camp near the northern city of Irbil on 12 June. Hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes in Mosul are left without access to aid, officials said. Christians from the city say they were targeted long before Iraqi security forces abandoned the major political and economic hub. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)

Pope asks for payers for Iraq (Vatican Radio) “I invite all of you to unite yourselves with my prayer for the dear Iraqi nation, especially for the victims and for those who most suffer the consequences of the growing violence, in particular the many persons, among whom are so many Christians, who have had to leave their homes.” Pope Francis made an appeal for prayers for Iraq on Sunday at his weekly Angelus address. “I am following with lively concern the events of these last days in Iraq,” the Pope said...

Chaldean patriarch calls for fasting and prayer for Iraq (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, with a widespread appeal on Sunday 15 June, called on all Chaldean communities in Iraq and the world to “dedicate next Wednesday 18 June to fasting and prayer for the restoration of security and stability in Iraq. “Fasting and Prayer” — reads the statement released to promote the initiative — “are capable to change the hearts of people and encourage them towards dialogue and respecting each other through the blessing of God”...

Bombs kill nearly 30 in Aleppo (AFP) Syrian regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs Monday on opposition-held districts in the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 30 people including several children, an activist group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a number of people were injured, some of them seriously, in the attacks on the Sukkari and Ashrafiyeh neighborhoods....

Russian Orthodox church to rise in Paris (Bloomberg News) A stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower and Paris’s famed Alexandre III bridge, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is putting his mark on the French capital. Construction of a new Russian Orthodox church with five golden domes in central Paris gets under way in the next few weeks, with U.S. and European efforts to slam Putin’s Russia for its incursions into Ukraine doing little to halt its progress. The yet-to-be-named church is being built on a plot of land sold in 2010 to Russia by the French state for 73 million euros ($99 million). The deal was sealed by Former President Nicolas Sarkozy. His successor Francois Hollande’s government says it’s “determined” to see the monument erected...



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Russia Russian Orthodox

13 June 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2013, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri arrives for a prayer service at St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinal, who is prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, says he is following events in Iraq with “extreme concern.” (photo: CNS/Paul Haring).

Iraqis flee as militants close in (CNN) Radical Islamists pushed forward in Iraq as an increasingly nervous United States sought ways to stop the militants from closing in on Baghdad. As Iraq further disintegrated, residents fled Mosul in droves. Militants captured the country’s second-largest city this week after soldiers scattered, leaving their uniforms and weapons behind. Jittery families eager to leave sat in traffic jams stretching as far as the eye could see. Violence is spreading and security deteriorating in the nation, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to say the beleaguered government required assistance…

Cardinal Sandri expresses concern for situation in Iraq (Vatican Radio) The Congregation for Eastern Churches has issued a press statement saying the Cardinal Prefect, Leonardo Sandri is following the unfolding of events in Iraq with extreme concern, and is united in prayer with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael, all the bishops, priests and lay faithful of Iraq…

Archbishop says Mosul now emptied of Christians (Vatican Radio) Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona, said he thought Mosul’s last remaining Christians had left now a city which until 2003 was home to 35,000 faithful. The Christians are among 500,000 thought to have fled Mosul whose overthrow was followed by news of militant attacks on the Iraqi city of Tikrit 95 miles north of the capital, Baghdad. Describing reports of attacks to four churches and a monastery in Mosul, the archbishop, 46, said: “We received threats ... [and] now all the faithful have fled the city. I wonder if they will ever return there…”

Thousands of Syrian refugee children forced to work (Reuters) At least 50,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are working, often in dire conditions and for 12 hours a day, to pay for food and shelter for their families, aid organization CARE said. More than a million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, making up a quarter of the country’s population, having fled a civil war in its fourth year, which has left more than 160,000 dead…

Pope Francis: world economic system inevitably leads to war (CNS) Pope Francis said the world economic system inevitably promotes military conflict as way to enrich the most powerful nations. He also condemned religious fundamentalism, defended the controversial record of Pope Pius XII and said he does not worry about his personal security because, “at my age I don’t have much to lose.” Pope Francis’ words appeared in a wide-ranging interview published 12 June in the Spanish daily La Vanguardia…

Ukraine’s president offers safe passage for people fleeing (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s new president has ordered security officials to create a corridor for safe passage for thousands of civilians fleeing eastern regions that have been rocked by deadly clashes between government forces and pro-Russia separatists…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Lebanon Refugees

12 June 2014
Greg Kandra




A member of the Iraqi security forces searches a man at a checkpoint in Baghdad on 11 June. Baghdad will cooperate with Kurdish forces to drive militants out of Mosul, the country’s second-biggest city. Christians are among 500,000 fleeing Mosul after Islamist forces seized
it in early June. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)


Iraqi militants take aim at Baghdad (The New York Times) Sunni militants consolidated and extended their control over northern Iraq on Wednesday, seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, threatening the strategic oil refining town of Baiji and pushing south toward Baghdad, their ultimate target, Iraqi sources said...

Two Arab countries fall apart (The Economist) Whoeveer chose the Twitter handle “Jihadi Spring” was prescient. Three years of turmoil in the region, on the back of unpopular American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have benefited extreme Islamists, none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a group that outdoes even al-Qaeda in brutality and fanaticism. In the past year or so, as borders and government control have frayed across the region, ISIS has made gains across a swathe of territory encompassing much of eastern and northern Syria and western and northern Iraq. On 10 June it achieved its biggest prize to date by capturing Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and most of the surrounding province of Nineveh. The next day it advanced south towards Baghdad, the capital, taking several towns on the way. Ministers in Iraq’s government admitted that a catastrophe was in the making. A decade after the American invasion, the country looks as fragile, bloody and pitiful as ever...

Two Indians to be canonized in November (Vatican Radio) During mid morning prayer on Thursday in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis gathered with the College of Cardinals to vote on the Canonisations of six Blesseds who will become Saints of the Church. They include two Indians, Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara who was a priest and the founder of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and who is remembered for his solid leadership. He is also recognized for having saved the Church in Kerala from a schism in 1861. The other is Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Congregation of Mount Carmel, of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel; who was born in 1877 in Kattur and became known as the “Praying Nun”...

Pope issues message for opening of World Cup (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered a video message to the organisers, players and fans participating in the 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil. Delivered in Portuguese, the message expresses the Holy Father’s hope that, in addition to a celebration of sport, this World Cup can be transformed into a festival of solidarity between peoples...



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Kerala

11 June 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis holds up a pamphlet for the Red Card to Child Labor campaign as he leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican 11 June. One day in advance of the World Day against Child Labor, the pope appealed to the international community to help safeguard children from forced labor. The words on the pamphlet in Italian say: “All together
against child labor.” (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)


In Iraq, the next target is Kirkuk (Fides) After the capture of Mosul, the advance continues on the Iraqi territory on behalf of rebels of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the jihadist faction also active in the Syrian conflict. On Tuesday, 10 June also large areas of the governorate of Kirkuk fell under their control and, according to local sources, the rebels of ISIL are now stationed at the gates of the city 250km from the capital Baghdad. Meanwhile, according to information gathered by Fides, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Shamon Nona, and all the priests of the city have fled from the urban areas and found refuge in the villages of Kramles and Tilkif...

Pope denounces child labor (CNS) Pope Francis denounced those responsible for human trafficking, slave labor and arms manufacturing, saying people producing weapons of war are “merchants of death.” “One day everything comes to an end and they will be held accountable to God,” the pope said at his weekly general audience on 11 June. The pope also launched an appeal to the international community to help safeguard children from forced labor, highlighting the plight of an estimated 160 million child workers worldwide. Holding up a bright red leaflet, which had, in Italian, “All together against child labor” written on it, the pope asked the world community to help “eradicate this scourge.” The leaflet was part of the International Labor Organization’s #RedCard campaign, urging people to “blow the whistle,” like a referee on a soccer field, and give a “red card” to those exploiting children...

Summit of religious leaders calls for release of Meriam Ibrahaim (Vatican Radio) A minute’s silence for the victims of the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24 and a call for Sudan to urgently release Meriam Ibrahim the Sudanese Christian who has been condemned to death for ‘apostasy’, marked the beginning of the 10th Summit of Religious Leaders at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday...

Kerala women protest rape (IBNLive.com) The rape and hanging of two young girls at Badaun in Uttar Pradesh has failed to generate widespread protests and sympathy across India. There have been some protests and candlelight marches, but it is nothing compared to the ‘Nirbhaya’ incident of Delhi. In distant Kerala, a group of women created a furor when they stood in public, wrapped in banners with anti-rape messages on them. According to a report in ‘Global Voices’ a group of women, angry over the fact that nothing has been done yet, held a protest in Ernakulam in Kerala, covering themselves with banners that were in tri-colours symbolising the Indian flag. The ‘sthreekoottayma’ group that consisted of a small group of women arranged this protest event..



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ethiopia Kerala

10 June 2014
Greg Kandra




Syrian children from Aleppo play in a shanty near Gaziantep, Turkey, on 25 May According to U.N. agencies, more than 40 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.4 million has been displaced by the conflict. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)

Iraqi Christians on the run (Fides) Insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, conquered in the late evening of 9 June the seat of the provincial government in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The governor Athel Nujafi was able to escape before the building fell into the hands of the assailants armed with grenade launchers and machine guns mounted on all-terrain vehicles. On Monday, Governor Nujiafi, with a televised appeal, urged the people of Mosul and the province to organize themselves into self-defense groups to resist the ISIL attack. As Fides learns, the attack of Al-qaeda militants has accelerated the flight of Christian families to the villages in the Nineveh Plain, where in recent days the presence of the militia “Peshmerga” Kurds has strengthened...

Initiative urges help to save Syria’s Christians (Public Radio of Armenia) “First Christians,” a new Facebook community of faith devoted to protecting the first Christian nations, has asked all those devoted to religious freedom to join together in calling upon President Obama to bring an end to the latest wave of brutal attacks by extremist groups upon the Christian civilian population of Syria, Asbarez reports...

Ukrainian Catholic bishops thank world for prayers (CNS) Ukrainian Catholic bishops thanked people around the world for their prayers over the last six months and asked for continued prayers for peace in their country. “The dignity that Ukrainians yearn for is not first and foremost material,” said a message from the Permanent Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “They seek a God-given dignity, a respect for their very being. Their right for self-determination, territorial integrity, cultural and especially ecclesial tradition has been violated brutally in the past and is demeaned today.” The bishops described recent events in Ukraine as “truly miraculous,” noting that “transforming grace poured down upon the people of our country...”

Russian Orthodox Church backs renaming Volgograd (Ecumenical News) The Russian Orthodox Church is said to have tentatively voiced its support of a referendum suggesting the renaming of Volgograd, the Russian city formerly known as Stalingrad. A Washington Post blog on June said that the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed support for holding a referendum, but rather wishes to go back to the city’s original name Tsaritsyn, which was the city’s name since 1589 before it became Stalingrad in 1925...

Hundreds of Christians convert to Islam in Turkey (ABNA News Agency) According to the information reported in the Turkish press and from the General Secretariat of Religious Affairs in Turkey, 779 people residing in the Country have converted to Islam since the beginning of 2014. The overwhelming majority of the converts were Christians (616) while the former atheists are only 21, 3 former Hindu and those from Judaism and 132 new Muslims who previously belonged to other religions. A significant number of converts are foreigners living in Turkey, including 150 Germans and 52 Russians...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Islam Russian Orthodox Church

9 June 2014
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis prays with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican on 8 June. (video: from CNS)

Pope: only God can bring peace to the Holy Land (CNS) Praying for peace in the Holy Land alongside leaders of long-antagonistic nations, Pope Francis called on God to act where human efforts had failed, to end what he described as violence inspired by the devil. “More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” the pope said June 8 at an evening ceremony in the Vatican Gardens. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.” The pope addressed his remarks to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an “invocation for peace” in the Holy Land, to which he had invited them during his visit to the region two weeks earlier...

Text: Pope Francis’s remarks at the “invocation for peace” (Vatican Radio) Your presence, dear Presidents, is a great sign of brotherhood which you offer as children of Abraham. It is also a concrete expression of trust in God, the Lord of history, who today looks upon all of us as brothers and who desires to guide us in his ways. This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions: they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication. It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies...

The “Francis Doctrine” puts the Vatican on the world stage (RNS) The Israeli-Palestinian prayer summit is drawing particular attention because it comes as traditional diplomatic efforts in the region have once again stalled. It also follows on the heels of Francis’ three-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land, where he spoke forcefully on behalf of peace, and often matched his words with bold actions. That approach raised both hopes and the Vatican’s profile, and it’s the formula Francis has used since he was elected in March last year: repeatedly calling for reconciliation in global hot zones like South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and Latin America, and dispatching emissaries or launching initiatives when he can. Francis has been especially engaged in the intractable Syria conflict, organizing a fast and a public prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square last year and insisting that the Holy See be present at peace talks in Switzerland this year. “Francis is not resigned to a passive vision of world affairs,” Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organization active in conflict resolution and peace brokering, said last summer. “We must prepare for a new age of political audacity for the Holy See...”

Orthodox-Catholic group urges Vatican to lift ban on ordination of married priests (USCCB) The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation voted in early June to encourage the “lifting of the restrictions regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches of North America.” “This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition, and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two Churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned,” the consultation said in a statement released on 6 June. “We are convinced that this action would enhance the spiritual lives of Eastern Catholics and would encourage the restoration of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians,” the statement said...

Syria’s president issues amnesty for prisoners (AP) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared a general amnesty Monday for prisoners in the country, state media reported. It was not clear how many — if any — prisoners would be freed after the presidential decree, issued just five days after al-Assad had won a third, seven-year term in office amid the three-year-old civil war in his country...

Eritrean bishops describe life in the country (BBC) Four Eritrean Catholic bishops have published a letter criticizing life in the country — a rare move in one of the world’s most tightly controlled states. Although they were careful not to condemn the government directly, correspondents say the letter-writers are taking a huge risk. The bishops describe the country as “desolate” because so many people had fled or were in prison or the army...



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Palestine Israel Vatican

6 June 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis and Catholicos Aram I, head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, prayed at the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel. (video: Rome Reports)

Armenian Catholicos praises Pope Francis’ efforts for Middle East peace (Vatican Radio) Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia told Pope Francis on Thursday that he hoped his invitation to the Palestinian and Israeli presidents to pray for peace in the Vatican would be the start of a process leading to justice and peace in the Middle East. He said the pope and the Vatican are playing an important role in expressing solidarity with Christians throughout the Middle East and in Syria in particular…

Sisi victory deals ‘deadly blow’ to revolutionary youth movement (Al Monitor) As Egypt’s military strongman Abdel Fattah al Sisi was declared president with a landslide 96.9 percent of the vote, and as the ailing nation prepares an inauguration ceremony that will cost millions, the revolutionary youth are contemplating a grim political future wherever they are — in jail, in exile or occupying opposition seats expected to be extremely vulnerable to the highly anticipated wave of oppression…

Egypt criminalises sexual harassment for first time (The Guardian) Egypt has criminalised sexual harassment for the first time, in a move that campaigners say is just the first step towards ending an endemic problem. United Nations research from 2013 suggested that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment, but it is often the victims who are blamed for their experience, rather than the harassers. Campaigners welcomed the law, but warned that it remained to be seen whether police will enforce it…

Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk keeps humming amid insurgency (Washington Post) For two months, Donetsk, a city of 1 million people, has been occupied by pro-Russian insurgents who have declared the Donetsk region a sovereign republic, independent of Ukraine. They have vowed a radical transformation of the established order and, backed by a considerable arsenal, they have overtaken dozens of government buildings. But the insurgents, as it turns out, don’t have much time or inclination for the daily drudgery of governing. Rather than risk the ire of residents by disrupting public services, they have left the business of running this city to the same people who were doing it all along: Donetsk’s 13,500 municipal employees, who have kept the metropolis humming even as battles rage all around. “Our workers haven’t missed a day,” said Konstantin Savinov, the city administrator. “But it’s not easy to work under the threat of weapons…”



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Ecumenism Armenian Apostolic Church





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