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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
20 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2012 image, people gather at a mass burial for victims of an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla, Syria. (photo: CNS/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

Nearly 60 states back referral of Syria conflict to International Criminal Court (BBC) Nearly 60 countries led by Switzerland have expressed support for a proposal to refer the conflict in Syria to the International Criminal Court. They are calling on the I.C.C. to investigate possible crimes against humanity and war crimes…

Some 10,000 people in Ukraine now affected by displacement, U.N. says (U.N. News Center) The United Nations refugee agency estimated today that 10,000 people, most ethnic Tatars, but also Ukrainians, Russians and mixed families, have fled Crimea and restive eastern Ukraine to other parts of the country, out of fear of insecurity or persecution…

Religious tensions deepen Ukraine splits (Reuters) Religious tensions are deepening dividing lines in Ukraine’s crisis, with rival churches taking political sides and Kiev slighting the Russian Orthodox Church, a senior official of the Moscow-based church said on Friday. Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian church’s foreign relations department, said other churches had clearly lined up behind the Kiev government and he cited religious differences for its decision to refuse him entry to Ukraine last week…

Fears grow over Bulgaria’s Russian dependence (Der Spiegel) Concerns are growing within the German government that the European Union’s most impoverished member state, Bulgaria, could fall into the grips of Moscow’s influence. Internal reports, including those of the German foreign intelligence service, warn that Moscow may seek to expand its relations with the country in order to use Bulgaria as a political beachhead into the E.U., and then use that power to divide the block…

Pastoral visit to a detention facility in the Negev desert (Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel) Holot is an open detention facility in the Negev for Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who have arrived in Israel. On Thursday, 15 May 2014, the Latin Patriarchate sent a group of thirteen priests and sisters — including the Latin patriarchal vicar, the Rev. David Neuhaus — to pay a visit to the facility. Many inmates expressed confusion over their internment, asking what crimes they had committed…

Pope hopes to strengthen interfaith relations in Jerusalem visit (Al Jazeera) Fifty years after the historic embrace between the heads of the Catholic and Christian Orthodox churches, Pope Francis will become the fourth pope to visit the Holy Land…



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Ecumenism United Nations Migrants

19 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Yesterday, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej visited Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, and met with those providing aid to flood victims. (photo: Serbian Orthodox Church)

Worst deluge in a century inundates Serbia, Bosnia (Christian Science Monitor) Soldiers, police, and villagers battled to protect power plants in Serbia from rising floodwaters on Sunday as the death toll from the Balkan region’s worst rainfall in more than a century reached 37…

Caritas Serbia: situation still ‘chaotic’ (Vatican Radio) As large parts of the Balkan region remain under water, the coordinator for Caritas Serbia said people have begun to suffer from waterborne diseases. The situation is “still very chaotic” and it is “extremely difficult still to coordinate” aid, Darko Tot told Vatican Radio on Monday…

Unity is a difficult mission for Christians in Israel (NPR) Pope Francis visits the Middle East next week, including Israel, where Christians make up just 2 percent of the population. But since the last papal visit to the Holy Land five years ago, the number of Christians in Israel has increased, and the makeup of the Christian population has continued to shift…

Putin orders troops near Ukraine to return home (Al Jazeera) Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops deployed in regions near Ukraine to return to their home bases, the Kremlin said on Monday. The move appears to indicate Putin’s intention to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine, the worst in Russia’s relations with the West since the end of the Cold War, although previous pledges to withdraw troops have gone unmet…

Russian church the absent player at pope-patriarch summit (Reuters) When Pope Francis meets the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians next week, the speeches and symbolism will focus on how these ancient wings of Christianity want to come closer together. After almost a millennium apart, however, the key to the elusive unity they seek does not lie in Jerusalem, where the Catholic pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will embrace on 25 May. If anywhere, that key lies in Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church, by far the largest church in the Orthodox world and increasingly influential at home and abroad, has long been wary of these closer ties…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Christian Unity Holy Land Christians Serbia

16 May 2014
Greg Kandra




A medic treats a boy who was injured after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad at a hospital in Idlib, Syria on 15 May.
(photo: CNS /Rasem Ghareeb, Reuters)


Rocket attack kills 13 in Aleppo (AP) A rebel rocket attack killed 13 people Friday in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo, the latest shelling to strike the country’s largest city, Syria’s state news agency reported. State news agency SANA said the rocket attack in Aleppo also wounded 17 people in the city’s northern neighborhood of Achrafieh. The agency said the attack was carried out by “terrorists,” the term the government uses to refer to rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad. It said the shells also damaged two houses in the area...

U.N. cites rising human rights violations in Ukraine (The New York Times) Armed groups are increasingly undermining the rights and basic freedoms of people in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations said Friday, expressing concern at the rising number of killings, abductions, beatings and detentions of journalists, politicians and local activists. “Primarily as a result of the actions of organized armed groups, the continuation of the rhetoric of hatred and propaganda fuels the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, with a potential of spiraling out of control,” the United Nations said in its second report on the issue in a month, which was released simultaneously in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and in Geneva...

Rabbi and Muslim leaders to accompany pope to Holy Land (Religion News Service) Pope Francis will be accompanied on his first visit to the Middle East by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud — two friends from Buenos Aires. It is the first time a pope has made an official visit accompanied by members of other faiths, and it underscores the interfaith focus of Francis’ trip to the Holy Land, the Vatican said on 15 May. “This dimension of interreligious dialogue has great significance,” the Vatican’s official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told the media...

Christian group in India calls for limits to extremist groups after election (Fides) While the official outcome of the Indian elections marked the victory of the nationalist “Bharatiya Janata Party,” its leader Narendra Modi—likely to become the next Prime Minister—announced “a new era for India, free from corruption and a strong economic recovery”. Modi has urged unity for the entire Indian population: “We put the people above politics,” he said, “hope over despair, healing over evil, inclusion over exclusion, development over divisions”. In a note sent to Fides Agency, the Christians of the “Global Council of Indian Chrsitians,” an organization that includes believers of different faiths, said that this will be possible if the government limits the violent action of Hindu extremist groups”...



Tags: Syria India Ukraine United Nations Pope

15 May 2014
Greg Kandra




U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis. J. Madden meet with Seyyed Mahmoud, left, at the Ayatollah Marashi Najafi Library in Qom, Iran, in March. At right is Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops’ office of International Justice and Peace. The meeting was part of a dialogue between the bishops and Iranian Muslim leaders on nuclear weapons.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Stephen M. Colecchi)


U.S. bishops, Iranian ayatollahs hold dialogue on nuclear weapons (CNS) Quietly, a small group of U.S. Catholic bishops and Iranian ayatollahs began in March what they intend to be an ongoing dialogue on nuclear weapons and the role of faith leaders in influencing political moves on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. The meetings in Iran, hosted by the Supreme Council of Seminary Teachers of Qom, began with basic discussions of areas of philosophical and theological commonality between Catholicism and Islam and concluded with a commitment to issue a joint statement, said the U.S. bishop who led the delegation...

Holy Land events are prelude to pope’s visit (CNS) As Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land approaches, the trip is being marked with special events, government sessions, online videos and a photography exhibition both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The activities look at the history of the relationship between the Vatican and the Holy Land and serve to urge Pope Francis to look at the current political situation in the region during his brief stay...

Vatican investigating Indian Jesuit’s work (CNS) A leading Indian Jesuit theologian specializing in mission, dialogue and inculturation, has been engaged in a dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but has not been censured or silenced by the Vatican. Jesuit Father Michael Amaladoss, 77, is director of the Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at the Jesuit-run Loyola College in Chennai, India. Jesuit Father Joe Antony, acting provincial of the Madurai province to which Father Amaladoss belongs, told Catholic News Service on 14 May: “There has been no condemnation or censure, but for nearly two years there has been a dialogue between Father Amaladoss and the doctrinal congregation...”

Syrian diplomat denies allegations of forced starvation, chemical attacks (CNN) Chemical attacks with chlorine gas. Barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Syrians starved into submission in opposition-controlled areas. The alleged assaults by the Syrian government against its own people are atrocious. But in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, the country’s deputy foreign minister says such claims are rubbish. “I assure you 100% that chlorine gas has never been used by the government,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said...

Ukrainian archbishop decries actions by Russia (Byzcath.org) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, condemned recent Russian actions during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “There was no tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Ukraine until the Russian government annexed Crimea,” Major Archbishop Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the Canadian leader during a recent meeting...

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue marks anniversary (VIS) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation on Monday 19 May. The dicastery was instituted with the name “Secretariat for non-Christians” on 19 May 1964 by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Letter “Progrediente Concilio”, with the aim of paying attention to those who were without the Christian religion and to whom the words of the Lord would seem to refer: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also”...



14 May 2014
Greg Kandra




People mourn on 14 May for their relatives and friends after a mine explosion a day earlier in Soma, Turkey. More than 225 people died in the explosion. Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience that his prayers were with those killed in the disaster.
(photo: CNS /Togla Bozoglu, EPA)


Pope prays for victims of Turkish mining disaster (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster in Turkey: “Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for the miners who died in the mine yesterday in Soma, Turkey, and for those who are still trapped in the tunnels. May the Lord receive the deceased in His house and give comfort to their families...”

UN mediator on Syria quits, peace prospects dim (The New York Times) International efforts to end the war in Syria faltered further on Tuesday as the United Nations mediator quit, citing frustrations over the moribund political negotiations, and France’s top diplomat said there was evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons more than a dozen times after it signed the treaty banning them. Taken together, the two events pointed to the failings of the West’s signature efforts on Syria, finding a diplomatic way out of a civil war in its fourth year — and a pact that was proudly touted as stopping the Syrian government from using chemical weapons...

Pope appeals to stop “shameful carnage” of migrant deaths (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling on Europe to unite forces and to put human rights in the forefront as the death toll of migrants trying to reach Europe continues to rise...

Talks to end crisis in Ukraine set to begin in Kiev (BBC) Talks to end the crisis in Ukraine are due to begin in Kiev, brokered by international monitors, but pro-Russian rebels look unlikely to attend. The round table was organised as part of a roadmap drawn up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE). Government and regional figures are to attend but the idea was for the talks to be as inclusive as possible...

Grand Mufti proposes “pact” between Muslims and Christians in Middle East (Fides) Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic and the highest authority of Sunni Islam in the Country of the cedars, proposed a Christian-Muslim pact as a contribution to the promotion of peaceful coexistence in the nation. He submitted the content to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai, during the meeting between Cardinal Rai and a delegation of the Islamic Sharia Council, which took place on 13 May at the Maronite patriarchal See in Bkerké...

Pope Tawadros says charter secures equality for all Egyptians (Gulfnews) New Egypt’s charter enshrines the rights of citizenship and equality for every Egyptian, Muslims and Copts, said Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark yesterday. Dismissing persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II told a news conference held in Abu Dhabi, as neighbours at home, partners at work, friends in schools and colleges, Muslims and Christians have been living in harmony for more than 14 centuries. “But some problems between Copts and Muslims pop up from time to time. The new constitution will help solve these problems, so that justice and peace prevail,” the Coptic Pope said, winding up a several days visit to the UAE...

Resort rises on site where Jesus may have taught (The New York Times) For the Rev. Juan M. Solana, it was the spiritual equivalent of striking oil. When he set out to develop a resort for Christian pilgrims in Galilee, he unearthed a holy site: the presumed hometown of Mary Magdalene and an ancient synagogue where experts say Jesus may well have taught. The project, which Father Solana, a Roman Catholic priest, describes as “providential,” will be blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land this month...



13 May 2014
Greg Kandra




Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem pauses during an 11 May news conference in the northern city of Haifa, called because of recent attacks dubbed “price tagging.” Archbishop Twal said a spate of attacks he described as acts of terror against the church were poisoning the atmosphere ahead of this month’s visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to arrest more perpetrators. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Patriarch wants Israelis to crack down on vandalism at religious sites (CNS) The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem called a continuing wave of vandalism against Christian, Muslim and Druze properties a “blight on Israeli democracy” and urged authorities to step up prosecution against the perpetrators. Patriarch Fouad Twal said during a news conference on 11 May in the northern city of Haifa that the attacks, which involve scrawling and spray painting racist and anti-Christian and anti-Muslim messages on buildings and holy sites, was particularly troublesome in light of Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Holy Land on 24-26 May...

Cardinal challenges interfaith leaders to promote peace (Vatican Radio) Do the choices we make as individuals or collectively lead to increasing peace or increasing violence? That’s the question posed by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to participants at a seminar Monday at Petra University in Amman, Jordan exploring the theme “religion and violence.” In his discourse entitled, “Religion, society and violence: causes and results. The role of religious leaders for peace and social cohesion,” the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue challenged religious leaders to be at the forefront of efforts to promote peace in their societies...

Group claims Syria used chemical weapons last month (AP) An international human rights group said Tuesday it has strong evidence that the Syrian army used chlorine gas on three rebel-held towns last month. The statement by the New-York based Human Rights Watch adds to concerns that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, months after a chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians last August. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, said in April that it would investigate the chlorine claims but hasn’t commented further...

Metropolitan Hilarion says he was refused entry to Ukraine (Reuters) A top cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church said he was refused entry to Ukraine this week amid an escalating stand-off between Moscow and Kiev over separatist unrest in Ukraine’s east. The church’s Department of External Relations said its head, Metropolitan Hilarion, was turned back on Friday at the airport in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk where he came to award a prize to a local cleric. “I was given no explanation,” Hilarion told Russian state news channel Rossiya 24. “Apparently my name, and possibly the names of other Church hierarchs, are on a list of people who are banned from entering Ukraine.” The Ukrainian border guard declined to comment...



9 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., has been working tirelessly to ease the suffering of those who remain in Homs. To read more about his work, especially with children growing up in the crosshairs of snipers, read his Letter From Syria in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Jesuit priest’s work continues in Homs (Vatican Radio) A month after the Jesuit Rev. Frans van der Lugt was murdered in the Syrian city of Homs, his friend and fellow Jesuit, the Rev. Ziad Hilal, is continuing his tireless humanitarian work…

Pope: Church in Ethiopia, Eritrea a witness to unity (Vatican Radio) The church in Ethiopia and Eritrea is a unique example of “witness to the unity of the people of God.” Though from different countries and different rites, “each with its own particular richness” shares the same mission of service of Christ and his church. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ address to the bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea on their pilgrimage…

Lebanon deports Palestinians back to Syria (Al Jazeera) Lebanon’s General Security department has forcibly deported 41 Palestinian refugees back to Syria, despite the fact that they had entered the country legally. The move on 4 May ran counter to an earlier decision by the Lebanese government to not deport any refugee back to Syria under any circumstances. Lebanese authorities pointed out that the arrests and the following deportation was due to the fact that the detainees held forged visas to Libya. After long hours of interrogation at Beirut International Airport, a decision was made to deport the group…

Evidence mounts: Syrian regime hasn’t abandoned chemical weapons (Der Spiegel) Although Damascus has turned over 92.5 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin, as agreed, reports indicate it continues to deploy poison gas against the Syrian people. Given chlorine’s use in everyday products, it isn’t included in the list of weapons the regime has agreed to place under international control. Its deployment against humans is nonetheless prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which Syria is a signatory. At least 10 chlorine gas attacks have been carried out since April 10 in the border areas of the Idlib and Hama provinces…

Egypt’s Sisi tells media not to push for democratic reforms (Al Jazeera) Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the country’s former military chief, warned newspaper editors Thursday not to cover freedom-of-speech issues or press for other democratic reforms, as such actions could lead to protests that jeopardize national security…

Ukraine’s political divisions play out among its Orthodox congregations (Christian Science Monitor) As Ukraine’s political divisions play out on the geopolitical stage, the country also faces an unsettling schism among its main churchgoers. And, as with national politics, a tug-of-war between pro- and anti-Moscow factions may be fueling the centrifugal forces that threaten to unravel Ukraine…



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Christian Unity Eritrea Ethiopian Christianity

8 May 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis embraces the catholicos-patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, during a meeting at the Vatican on 8 May.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)


Pope Francis to Armenian Catholicos: blood of martyrs is seed of unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, on Thursday at the Vatican. The Catholicos is in Rome on a three-day visit that concludes on 9 May. In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s 2001 visit to Armenia, and the many other visits the Catholicos has made to Rome and to the Popes in the Vatican, especially his 2008 visit to Pope Benedict XVI and his participation in the inauguration of Pope Francis’ own pontificate...

Explosion destroys hotel in Aleppo (BBC) A large explosion in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo has destroyed a hotel and several other buildings, state media and activists report. Rebel fighters are believed to have detonated a bomb placed in a tunnel beneath the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near the city’s medieval citadel and souk. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops had been based there and at least 14 died...

Report documents "egregious" violations of religious freedom in Syria (National Catholic Register) The U.S. government should designate Syria as a “country of particular concern” due to “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” in its ongoing conflict, a global religious liberty group said. “The existing humanitarian disaster and egregious human rights and religious freedom violations pose a serious danger to Syria’s religious diversity post-conflict,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2014 report...

American Christians pledge solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria (Fox News) On behalf of the suffering churches of Egypt, Iraq and Syria, a broad array of American Christians, with a degree of unity rarely seen since the Council of Nicaea in 325, have joined together in a “pledge of solidarity and call to action.” Their action results from deepening concern about the “wave of persecution” in the region of Christianity’s roots. Some 200 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders have signed on — from Catholic Cardinal Wuerl, to National Association of Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church to Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan...

Special novena organized ahead of pope’s trip to Holy Land (L’Osservatore Romano) Nine days of special prayer have been organized in preparation for Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the Holy Land from 24 to 26 May. According to the website of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Latins, the Jerusalemite Churches and Christian communities from 24-26 May will spiritually prepare and support the Pope’s pilgrimage and his meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, which will take place in the holy city...



7 May 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from May 2013, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis shake hands after exchanging gifts during a private audience in the pontiff's library at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Andreas Solaro, pool via Reuters)

Coptic pope to Pope Francis: Let us unify our Easter celebrations (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II sent a letter to Pope Francis on the occasion of the first anniversary of their meeting at the Vatican. Among the topics discussed therein, Pope Tawadros invites the bishop of Rome to find a single date for the Easter celebration in all Christian churches. A papal representative in turn submitted to Pope Tawadros an invitation to send a representative of his church to the next assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, to be held in October and dedicated to the theme of the family...

Separatists in Ukraine wage an information war (Washington Post) Since pro-Russian militants have taken control of several areas in eastern Ukraine, and as a referendum on independence from Ukraine looms, journalists say there has been a systematic campaign to shut down opposing voices and substitute pro-Russian propaganda...

Archbishop: Ukraine’s struggle is for dignity (Catholic Register) Amid the violence and turmoil plaguing Ukraine, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said one must remember to love thy neighbour. “As I bring you greetings from a country and a people who are caught, of no fault of their own, in a life-and-death struggle for their own future I want to highlight the importance of a faith perspective amid the leadership class,” said Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. “You should love your neighbour as you love yourself. There is no greater commandment than this.” Shevchuk spoke on 2 May at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College...

Lebanon’s migrant workers demand rights (AL Monitor) More than a quarter of a million migrant domestic workers are estimated to work in Lebanon. Most come from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, among other African and Asian countries. Though there are difficulties for all migrant workers in Lebanon, it is the migrant domestic workers who are most vulnerable. The exclusion of migrant domestic workers under Lebanon’s labor law prevents them from benefiting from general protections afforded to workers in other sectors, such as annual and sick leave, a minimum wage, set working hours, the right to change employers and the ability to create associations, among other things...

Kerala celebrates Pooram (ANI News) Artisans in Kerala are burning midnight oil to weave colourful ornaments and parasols to adorn the tuskers for the last day of the Hindu festival of Pooram in Thrissur district. World famous annual seven-day Hindu temple festival Pooram started with traditional flag hoisting ceremony on 3 May and will conclude on 9 May. “People from all religious groups—the Hindus, the Christians, irrespective of caste and creed, everybody is cooperating. It was started by the famous Keralite ruler Sakthan Thampuran around 200 years back,” said an artisan, Prasar Murlidharan...



6 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Krak des Chevaliers, pictured here in 2010, has stood for nearly a millennium near the Syrian city of Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Krak des Chevaliers: Priceless castle battered by Syria’s civil war (Christian Science Monitor) The Krak des Chevaliers once held off a siege by the Muslim warrior Saladin some 900 years ago, but today bears the wounds of modern warfare — heavy artillery damaged its walls, an airstrike punctured its roof, and shrapnel tore through its religious artifacts. From its towering hilltop perch in western Syria, the world’s best preserved medieval Crusader castle has fallen victim to the chaos of Syria’s civil war as rebels fight to topple President Bashar al Assad. The damage done to the majestic stone structure, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, shows that the warring sides will stop at nothing, including the destruction of the country’s rich heritage, to hold on to power or territory.

Syrian government says Maaloula’s sites sacked by rebels (Al Monitor) An official report issued by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums for the Rif Damascus governorate revealed the destruction inflicted upon the city of Maaloula and its historical Christian sites, weeks after the army regained control of the city. This report was issued after a visit made by a specialized mission of the Directorate to probe the level of losses incurred by the city. The “armed opposition” has damaged historical Christian sites in the city, destroyed sites and altars, painted over traditional icons and paintings, removed and burned crosses, searched for treasures under altars and in tombs, and searched among the remains of monks and nuns…

In Syria, activists in Raqqa try to confront militant Islamist group (Los Angeles Times) In the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the main commercial street was busy. Shops were open, with customers strolling the aisles, and cars filled the streets. Only a few dozen stores were closed. It wasn’t what activists had hoped for when they called for a citywide strike among business owners on Saturday to protest a tax imposed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has demanded payment in exchange for electricity, water, street cleaning and protection. Though shop owners chafed at the imposition of a “protection tax,” they feared retribution from the Al Qaeda offshoot group for any act of defiance…

Whose water is it anyways? Resentment pools on Israel-Lebanon border (Christian Science Monitor) The Israeli-Lebanese border has enjoyed a rare, eight-year spell of calm, but worsening water shortages threaten to spark tensions once again. A sealed well used for more than a century by residents of Blida, a small village in southern Lebanon, has found itself on the wrong side of the border as water shortages entice local farmers to tap it. A few miles east along the border, another territorial dispute looms at a Lebanese tourist site beside the Hasbani river, which flows into Israel…

Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II to visit Rome (VIS) His Holiness Karekin II, head of the of the Catholicate of Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church will visit Rome from 7 to 9 May to meet with Pope Francis. The Armenian Church consists of two catholicates and two patriarchates, and around six million faithful. The two catholicates — the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia and the Great House Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon — are in full communion, but they are independent from an administrative point of view…

Mayor of Baghdad: No discrimination against Christians in housing initiative (Fides) The mayor of Baghdad, Abub Naim al Kaabi, has made known his intention to make available public land and housing for low-income Christians in the city. The initiative, according to sources close to the Chaldean Patriarchate, is politically sponsored by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who said: “We will give the keys of prefabricated houses to the citizens without any discrimination…”



Tags: Iraq Lebanon Syrian Civil War Israel Armenian Apostolic Church





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