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




Riot police stand near a crucifix as smoke rises above Independence Square, where anti-government protesters are holding a rally in central Kiev, Ukraine, on 19 February. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Truce crumbles amid gunfire in Ukraine, protesters claim 100 dead (CNN) A short-lived truce crumbled Thursday as gunfire erupted at Independence Square, the center of anti-government protests and an increasingly violent crisis that threatens catastrophe for this divided nation. The head of the protesters’ medical service said 100 people died and 500 were injured in clashes on Thursday, just hours after the government declared a truce in fighting that had shocked world leaders with the deaths of 28 people two days before. The Ukrainian government has not released its own casualty figures, but Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko said 25 police officers had been wounded and an unspecified number of them had died. Some others had been taken hostage, he said. If Thursday’s death toll is confirmed, it would make it the deadliest day in Ukraine since protests began…

Priests on front line in battle for Ukraine (NBC News) Carrying a cross, and at times a shield, Orthodox priests have placed themselves in the line of fire amid the turmoil of Ukraine’s bloody uprising. On Thursday, several priests stood alongside protesters in central Kiev, performing blessings and delivering the last rites to those who were killed…

Israel begins sending African migrants to Uganda (ABC News) Israel has begun sending dozens of African migrants — mostly from Eritrea and Sudan — to Uganda, an Israeli official said Wednesday, a move that has sparked concerns that they are being coerced into going to a country that may not keep them safe. The resettlement of people in Uganda, and perhaps other countries, marks a new phase in Israel’s campaign to rid itself of thousands of Africans who have poured into the country in recent years. Migrants and activists said the arrangement, which includes a one-way ticket and a stipend, is questionable because it is unclear if there is an official agreement with Uganda that would secure the migrants’ status. They said the new arrivals risk deportation to their home countries, where they may face conflict or persecution. Uganda, for its part, denied any deal…

Iraq moves to preserve Christian heritage, Syriac language (Al Monitor) Over the past 11 years, the Christian population in Iraq has decreased by more than 75 percent. It started to decline gradually after 2003, following the overall rise in violence and attacks targeting Christians. Before 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, and according to recent church figures, only 300,000 remain. Perhaps this drastic difference pushed administrators in charge of education to find ways to preserve Christianity’s cultural and religious heritage in Iraq…

Aid workers deliver food to Damascus district: U.N. (Daily Star Lebanon) According to a statement by UNRWA, the relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees resumed food distribution inside the rebel-held district of the Syrian capital, which has been suffering from crippling shortages of food and medicine for months…

India’s government approves new 29th state (Washington Post) India’s Parliament has approved a plan to create a 29th state following days of political mayhem, including a melee in which a lawmaker unleashed pepper spray on his colleagues. The president is now expected to sign the bill to create the new state, called Telangana, from mostly poor, inland districts of Andhra Pradesh. Opponents had objected to including wealthy tech and industrial hub Hyderabad in Telangana…



Tags: India Ukraine Iraqi Christians Relief Migrants

19 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Anti-government protesters walk amid debris and flames near the perimeter of Kiev’s Independence Square on 19 February 2014. (photo: Brendan Hoffman/Euromaiden via Twitter)

Clashes leave 25 dead in Kiev (The New York Times) Ukraine’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 25 people, including police officers, protesters and a journalist found dead on a side street near the square, had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on the anti-government demonstrators Tuesday and in subsequent fighting on streets in the government district of the Ukrainian capital. The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been injured and that nine of the dead were police officers...

Pope appeals for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis called for peace in the Ukraine, saying “With a worried soul I have been following what is happening in Kyiv in these days.” The Holy Father assured the Ukrainian people of his closeness to them, and prayed for the victims of violence, for their families, and for the injured. The Pope called “on all parties to cease all violence and to seek harmony and peace in the country...”

Ukrainian Orthodox Church calls for halt to bloodshed (InterFax) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has called for a halt of the bloodshed in Kiev and prevention of a civil war. “Since the beginning of the political crisis and in the course of the entire period of this conflict, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than once called for a halt of violence and a peaceful solution to the conflict. To our great regret, the voice of the Church has not been heard,” the property management of Metropolitan of Borispol and Brovar Antony said in a statement...

Patriarch calls for “Chaldean League” in Iraq (ByzCath.org) The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, has called for the formation of a “Chaldean League” to unite Catholic laity in a fragmented Iraqi society. “Our presence in society is weak, fragmented in the field of politics, culture, social action,” Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako told the Fides news agency. “A ‘Chaldean League’ can help us give a more concrete and effective contribution to the civic life of our country...”

Lebanon feels impact of Syrian conflict (BBC) For the first two years of the Arab uprisings, Lebanon seemed a haven of calm. But no-one expected the uprising and the war in Syria to last this long. The spillover became inevitable and the more it drags on the harder it will become for Lebanon to withstand the shockwaves, and resist the descent into chaos...

Pope names members for the Congregation of the Oriental Churches (VIS) Pope Francis nominated and confirmed several members of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches, including numberous consultors from around the world. View the complete list here.



18 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from last October, Pope Francis poses with cardinal advisers during a meeting at the Vatican. The cardinals are meeting with him this week to discuss possible reforms. Pictured from left are: Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary to the Council of Cardinals, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Pope Francis, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Australian Cardinal George Pell and Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope, cardinal advisers study Vatican financial, administrative reform (CNS) Pope Francis met for the third time in late February with his international Council of Cardinals, an eight-member group advising him on the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and other issues. The meetings focused on financial and bureaucratic matters even as the council was rumored to be working on a draft of an apostolic constitution that would reorganize the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia...

Syria talks stall (The Wall Street Journal) The Obama administration, exasperated by stalled talks over Syria and seeking ways to pressure the regime and its Russian allies, plans to revisit options ranging from expanding efforts to train and equip moderate rebels to setting up no-fly zones, according to officials briefed on the deliberations. The move means the administration again will consider military, diplomatic and intelligence options that previously were presented to the White House but set aside in favor of pursuing international talks...

Mayhem grips Kiev (The New York Times) Mayhem gripped the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday as riot police broke through barricades on the outer rim of a protest encampment and, pelted with rocks and fireworks, massed on the edge of Independence Square, the focal point of more than two months of protests against President Viktor F. Yanukovych. There were unconfirmed reports that three protesters had been killed...

Archbishop Chullikatt speaks of widespread persecution of Christians (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, last week spoke to a United States Congressional hearing on largely underreported assaults on the religious freedoms of Christians around the globe. “Flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet,” the Archbishop said. “No Christian is exempt, whether or not he or she is Arab. Arab Christians, a small but significant community, find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith. This tragedy is all the more egregious when one pauses to consider that these men and women of faith are loyal sons and daughters of the countries in which they are full citizens and in which they have been living at peace with their neighbors and fellow citizens for untold generations...”

Suicide bomber attacks pilgrims in Egypt (Reuters) The Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said on Tuesday the bombing of a tourist bus in Egypt’s Sinai that killed two South Koreans and the Egyptian driver on Sunday was a suicide attack carried out by one of its fighters, and threatened more strikes against economic targets. The attack on the bus, which was travelling to Israel from St. Catherine’s Monastery, a popular tourist destination in the south Sinai, was the first assault on tourists since President Mohamed Mursi's ouster spurred an Islamist insurgency...

A visit to “Ethiopia’s Lourdes" (CNN) rance has Lourdes, India has the Ganges. Ethiopia, meanwhile, has Gondar. Situated about 450 miles north of Addis Ababa, encapsulated by hills and tall trees, and dotted with 17th-century relics from the city’s glory days (when it was the country’s capital), Gondar today can seem somewhat remote. During the religious festival of “Timket,” however, the city is inundated with pilgrims who come to re-enact the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, and take a dip in the holy waters at the historical Fasilides Bath...



14 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Committee, during a meeting at the Vatican on 13 February. The pope said the modern relationship between Jews and Catholics has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Maronite patriarch: negotiations for release of nuns have “stumbled” (ByzCath.org) The patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church said that the release of a dozen kidnapped Syrian nuns appeared imminent until recently. In December, Syrian rebel forces abducted the nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Taqla in the historic Christian village of Ma’loula, whose residents still speak Aramaic...

UN urged to act on humanitarian aid to Syria (New York Times) The hard-won humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs — the sole success that occurred during the peace talks in Geneva — cannot be considered “progress,” the United Nations’ top official for emergency operations said Thursday evening as she urged the Security Council to ensure that aid reach those who need it and aid workers can do their work without getting shot...

Peace talks continue in Geneva over Syria (Reuters) Warning that “failure” was staring him in the face, the Syria peace talks mediator said on Thursday that the United States and Russia had promised renewed support to keep their rival Syrian allies talking. U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi met senior diplomats from Washington and Moscow in Geneva, hoping the co-sponsors of the three-week-old negotiating process could bury their own deep differences over Syria and prevail respectively on the opposition and government to move ahead and compromise...

Pope Francis meets with American Jewish leaders, asks for prayers ahead of trip to Holy Land (CNS) Pope Francis asked leaders of the American Jewish Committee to pray for his May trip to Jerusalem, “so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace.” The modern relationship between Jews and Catholics, he said on 13 February, has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” Pope Francis noted that in 2015, the Catholic Church will mark the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with other religions. The document, the pope said, is “the sure point of reference for relations with our ‘elder brothers.’”...

Alcoholism, crime on the rise in Kerala (ABC.net) The southern Indian state of Kerala, often referred to as God’s own country, has the best socio-economic indicators in the country. But its alarming alcohol addiction is earning the state a name for all the wrong reasons as the crime rate there also increases. The god of choice here is Bacchus, the Roman deity of wine. Alcoholism, among all age groups, is on the rise and it’s taking a toll on the state’s 33 million-strong population. In fact, Kerala has earned the tag of India’s “booziest state”, with the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country...

Ethiopia’s church forests threatened (California Academy of Sciences) Northern Ethiopia is hardly known for its forests. Less than 5 percent of what once stood here remains, and what’s left is under constant threat. As in so many developing countries, much of Ethiopia’s natural landscape has been cleared for agriculture, and for harvesting timber and firewood. Fortunately, there are still hundreds of notable exceptions: bright green patches of forest surrounding the country’s churches. Protected as sacred sanctuaries, some of these forests are over fifteen hundred years old. They range in size from just five acres to more than 1,000. A direct result of the Orthodox Church’s mission to retain a green necklace around the place of worship — a veritable “home for all God’s creatures” — these forests have become the centerpiece in the struggle to conserve what remains of northern Ethiopia’s biodiversity...



12 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from September 2013, children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

Witnessing Syria’s war through the eyes of its children (PBS) Nearly three years into the fighting, more than 10,000 children have been killed, 3 million have been displaced from their homes, and another 1.1 million now live as refugees, according to a recent United Nations report. Amid such turmoil, the notion of a normal childhood has all but disappeared for the young bystanders of war featured in last night’s FRONTLINE investigation, Children of Aleppo

Patriach headed to Vatican for talks (iloubnan.info) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter left Beirut on Tuesday morning, bound for the Vatican, where he will be staying for two weeks for talks with the Supreme Pontiff and to take part in the papal committees’ meetings. “I have one wish which I insist to express: If a cabinet were to be formed, it should not pave the way for a new crisis,” he said in a statement he had delivered prior to his departure…

Islamic extremists slaughter 15 soldiers in Northern Iraq (New York Times) Fighters from a Sunni extremist group attacked an army unit in a northern Iraqi city on Tuesday, killing 15 soldiers in a rampage of beheadings, shootings and a hanging, security officials said. The strike on the army unit in Mosul by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, showed how the group has moved beyond Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where it controls Falluja and parts of Ramadi, and extended its reach into territory throughout the country…

Governor of Basra vows to help Iraqi Christians return home (AsiaNews) Shiite leader Majid al Nasrawi, governor of Basra met with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I and vowed: “We will help Christians to return to the province, giving them a piece of land to cultivate and creating job opportunities and development for those who have fled in the past because of violence and insecurity…”

Russian church to be consecrated in Antarctica (Interfax) An expedition is traveling from Moscow to Antarctica to conduct a consecration of the southernmost Russian Orthodox church on earth…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Children Russian Orthodox Church Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

11 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti says he is inspired by the acts of Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Nick Schifrin reports. (video: Al Jazeera)

In West Bank settlements, Israeli jobs are double-edged sword (New York Times) The personal conflict that thousands of Palestinians face working for Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank is particularly stark for Hassan Jalaita, who for 18 years has repaired Israeli Army jeeps at the Zarfati garage here. Those are the very same jeeps that confront Mr. Jalaita at the checkpoint he crosses each morning — the same ones that sweep through villages where his friends and relatives live. But those jeeps also help pay his $1,471 monthly salary at Zarfati, more than triple the minimum wage in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, where a 19 percent unemployment rate and lack of labor laws make finding a decent job difficult. “I feel like I’m not a human being — we are serving the occupation,” said Mr. Jalaita…

Russian wives in Gaza long for home (Al Monitor) “I miss the scent of the forest. Sometimes, I feel that I can smell it.” This is what Svetlana Birova misses most from “Mother Russia” after 20 years in the Gaza Strip. “Although I miss my country, I consider my homeland to be where my husband, my son and my daughter Miriam are. I remember the difficulties I faced in the first years here because of the difference in cultures, but, with the help of my husband, I resisted homesickness,” Birova said. Birova isn’t the only Russian here in Gaza: There are more than 80 Russian women married to Gazan men living in the Strip. This is in addition to hundreds of other women from former Soviet states, according to the Compassionate Hearts Association, which is concerned with the affairs of these women…

Syria and rebels agree to extend rescue effort in city of Homs (Los Angeles Times) A plan to provide humanitarian aid to besieged residents in the Syrian city of Homs was extended Monday for three days, the United Nations announced, as a new round of Syrian peace talks began. The U.N. said the fresh cease-fire was reached to allow for the delivery of aid and the rescue of more civilians from Homs’ Old City, which is under rebel control and has been cut off from the rest of the city for almost two years. It came on the heels of a three-day effort that began Friday…

To protect Shiites, Hezbollah imposes its own checkpoints in Lebanon (Christian Science Monitor) The unusual sight of armed and uniformed Hezbollah men checking passing traffic underlines the fear and anger that has gripped Shiite areas of Lebanon amid an unprecedented spate of suicide bomb attacks that have left at least 40 people dead and nearly 300 wounded. It also raises the possibility of reciprocal checkpoints in Sunni areas, undermining the Lebanese army’s role as guarantor of internal stability. “The army said that if they allowed us to have checkpoints in Hermel they would have to allow the Sunnis to have checkpoints in Arsal,” a source close to Hezbollah says, referring to a Sunni town in the northeast Bekaa Valley that is a bedrock of support for the Syrian opposition…

Hundreds of Eritreans enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt (The Guardian) Hundreds of Eritrean refugees have been enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt in the past ten years, enduring weeks or months of violence and rape and extorted by traffickers often in collusion with state security forces. Some of the refugees have died, and many have been scarred for life — both physically and psychologically — as a result of mutilation, burning, beatings and sexual assault, according to dozens of testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch in a report published on Tuesday…

Ukrainian Catholic leader warns Ukraine could kick off new Cold War (RISU) If the United States and Europe abandon Ukraine or if they do not adopt a proactive policy, humanity may well be on the verge of a new Cold War, said Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on Chas Time, a U.S. news program broadcast by satellite to Ukraine…



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

10 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees living in Jordan wait to receive humanitarian supplies in Amman on 5 February. Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan from the besieged central city of Homs said some people there are starving to death for lack of food. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Break in siege is little relief to Syrian city (New York Times) A three-day humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs was supposed to be a small breakthrough, a moment of relief for civilians trapped in a grim civil war. But mortar rounds and gunfire struck near aid convoys, damaging vehicles and leaving victims lying in the streets. Snipers fired on civilians as they fled their besieged neighborhood. Others refused to leave, fearing a massacre of those left behind. Limited food made it in, and some of the nearly 700 people who reached safety said they had been surviving on one meal a day and that some of their neighbors had resorted to eating grass…

Syrian town of Sednaya battles armed groups (Al Monitor) The damage caused by the battles on the way leading to the Sednaya monastery is not major: some crumbled rocks or burnt grass. However, inside the monastery, the magnitude of damage is striking — whether it is the broken glass or the multiple blows inflicted to the roof. The destruction was caused by missiles used by gunmen to try to bring down the bronze sculpture of Christ. It is not the first time that the monastery has been attacked. A year ago, mortar shells fell on it and there were attempts to infiltrate it. The latest attack was the fourth…

Gunman kills two at Orthodox cathedral in Russian far east (Los Angeles Times) A gunman opened fire on worshipers at a Russian Orthodox cathedral on Sakhalin Island off Russia’s Pacific coast, killing a nun and a parishioner in an attack that rattled nerves across the nation. The gunman’s motives were unknown, and investigators at the scene said the suspect, who was in custody, would be subjected to a mental health evaluation. Sakhalin Island is more than 4,000 miles from the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Russia is hosting the Winter Olympic Games amid intense security fears…

Pro-government protesters clash with opponents in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) A tense calm has returned to the streets of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, following clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators. It comes at a time when protesters are remembering those who died in more than two months of unrest. Amid tensions, some 90 wooden crosses can now be seen on the barricades in central Kiev, were anti-government protesters have demanded the resignation of the president…

Bosnia: ‘It’s just like Ukraine’ (Deutsche Welle) Anti-government protests in Bosnia died down (BBC) over the weekend. However, former German envoy to Bosnia Christian Schwarz-Schilling tells D.W. that the problems there won’t go away for some time. “Once the poverty level reaches a certain barrier, once pensioners no longer receive their pensions, when teachers no longer receive their salaries and policemen aren’t paid — which is on the horizon — then a violent movement is more than likely to emerge. … It’s just like with Ukraine. There, the international community woke up only after a critical situation arose. The same thing will happen in Bosnia…”

Ecumenical patriarch delivers speech on dialogue and peace (Hurriyet Daily News) “Human conflict may well be inevitable in our world; but war and violence are certainly not,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. “The pursuit, however, of dialogue and peace calls for a radical reversal of what has become the normative way of survival in our world. It demands a transformation of values that are deeply seeded in our hearts and societies, hitherto determining our relationship with those who challenge our worldview or threaten our lifestyle. Transformation in the spiritual sense is our only hope of breaking the cycle of violence and injustice…”



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russia Bosnia and Herzegovina

7 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A boy pushes a stroller holding water and another child past destroyed buildings in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, on 2 February. Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan from Homs said some people there are starving to death for lack of food. (photo: CNS/Thaer al Khalidiya, Reuters)

Evacuation of Syrian civilians begins in besieged city of Homs (Al Jazeera) The evacuation of civilians from a besieged area of the Syrian city of Homs has begun under a humanitarian deal agreed to this week, Syrian state television reported Friday. The siege of Homs has gone on for more than a year amid Syria’s relentless civil war, and activists say 2,500 people are trapped in the area, struggling with hunger and a lack of basic necessities. Many other Syrians across the country are under similar situations and are in desperate need of aid. A U.N. convoy of buses has arrived in Homs to start the initial evacuation of 200 women and children. The evacuation will not include men between the ages of 15 and 55, who are deemed most likely to be fighters…

As Israeli doctors aid Syrians, humanitarianism trumps geopolitics (Los Angeles Times) As civil war rages in Syria, with an estimated 130,000 people killed and millions displaced after nearly three years of fighting, Israel has been quietly providing aid to some of the wounded. Since the Israeli army launched the effort, officials say, more than 700 Syrians have received treatment at medical centers in Israel or at a field hospital operated by medics along the heavily fortified border. Patients have come from as far away as Homs, three hours to the north…

Amid truce, Hamas struggles to rein in rockets (Washington Post) Officially, a 14-month-old cease-fire between the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and its enemy, Israel, is holding. Unofficially, it is a truce that grows tenser by the day, as Hamas struggles to rein in armed factions that are not completely under its control. This kind of escalation has led to two wars in the past five years, and there is a palpable sense today that another could be on the horizon…

Lebanese politicians praise patriarch’s charter (Daily Star Lebanon) Politicians Thursday hailed the national charter announced by the Maronite Church a day earlier, saying it reflected Bkerke’s eagerness to preserve coexistence and the Lebanese state. After visiting Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter on Thursday, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, from the Progressive Socialist Party, said the charter reflected the will of the Lebanese to live together in peace. The charter stressed the need for the timely election of a new president and for Muslim-Christian partnership to run Lebanon…

Chaldean patriarch and grand mufti meet to discuss unity (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I and Grand Mufti of Iraq Sheikh Rafi Taha al Rifai met to discuss strategies to strengthen relations between the Christian and Muslim communities, as well as to encourage “joint action” to achieve the goal of a “lasting peace” in the country. The meeting dates back to 31 January, but details only recently emerged on the official website of the Chaldean Patriarchate, describing its atmosphere and objectives…

Ukraine: leak raises diplomatic tensions (Vatican Radio) In published remarks, an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. was funding Ukrainian “rebels” by as much as $20 million a day for weapons and other supplies. Sergei Glazyev urged the Ukrainian government to put down the “attempted coup,” and said Russia may have to intervene under the terms of a 1994 agreement between the United States and Russia…

Egypt: Six police wounded in twin Cairo bomb attacks (BBC) Six police officers have been wounded after two bombs went off in Cairo, the Egyptian health ministry says. The blasts were heard before 10 a.m. local time in the Giza area and were around two minutes apart. Local media report that the bombs targeted police vehicles stationed near a bridge…



Tags: Ukraine Lebanon Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Christian-Muslim relations

6 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




From 27-29 January the Canonization Committee of the Armenian Apostolic Church convened in the Mother Cathedral of the Great House of Cilicia. Prior to the meeting, the members of the Canonization Committee met with Catholicos Aram I, center, who offered a benediction. (photo: Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin)

Canonization committee convened to discuss massacre victims (Fides) Almost a century since the events that many call “the Armenian Genocide” — carried out in the territories of Turkey in 1915 — the Armenian Apostolic Church firmly and definitively confirms its intention to proceed with the canonization for martyrdom of the victims of what the Armenians call the “Great Evil…”

Syria: Deal struck to evacuate civilians from Homs (Lebanon Daily Star) The United Nations and Syria have reached a deal to allow aid into besieged areas of Homs and give civilians safe passage out, state news agency SANA said Thursday. “Homs governor Talal al Barazi and U.N. resident coordinator Yaacoub al Hillo have reached an agreement securing the exit of innocent civilians from the Old City [of Homs] and the entrance of humanitarian assistance for civilians who choose to stay,” it reported…

U.N. report condemns torture, sexual abuse of Syrian children (Al Jazeera) Children in Syria have been subjected to torture and sexual violence during the years-old civil war, the United Nations has said, calling on both government forces and armed opposition groups to stop the brutal treatment of minors caught up in the conflict. The plea comes as violence in Syria continues despite attempts to bring the unrest to an end…

Israel approves plans for 550 Jerusalem settler housing units (The Jordan Times) Israel pushed forward on Wednesday with plans for more than 550 new housing units in three settlement neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem, the city council said. In a move likely to escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians as they hold U.S.-backed peace talks, the council said it had granted private contractors permits to build 386 units in Jabal Abu Ghneim — known to Israelis as Har Homa — 136 units in Neve Yaakov and 36 units in Pisgat Zeev…

Ukraine: a voice from the barricades (Vatican Radio) The international community is putting pressure on the Ukrainian government to take immediate steps to resolve the nation’s political crisis. Over two months of intense protests have put President Yanukovych under substantial pressure. Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to Bogdan Voron, creator of one of the art projects giving voice to the protesters in Kiev…



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church

4 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this video, Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports on a refugee community in Arsal, Lebanon, that received funding to run an informal school. The school teaches the full Syrian curriculum, and though students do not receive certificates, time spent in class is always fruitful. (video: Al Jazeera)

Syria in need of humanitarian corridors (Vatican Radio) Despite sharp differences over the conflict in Syria, Russia and Western countries have joined forces to initiate peace talks that began last month in Geneva. Meanwhile, a meeting in Rome yesterday aimed at tackling the humanitarian crisis stemming from the Syrian conflict…

Syria: Dutch priest trapped in Homs says residents going mad with hunger (The Telegraph) A Dutch priest trapped in the siege on the Syrian city of Homs has told how residents around him are being driven mad with starvation, as they are “abandoned” by the international community. The Rev. Frans Van der Lugt, a 75-year-old Roman Catholic and local leader in the besieged Old City in Homs, told of his community’s battle for survival in two years of living in a district brutalized by war and without food. “Our city has become a lawless jungle,” said Father Van der Lugt. “We are trying our best to behave in a fraternal way, so that we don’t turn on each other for the hunger…”

Maronite priest new president of Caritas Lebanon (Fides) The Council of Catholic Patriarchates and Priests, which convenes under Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, appointed the Maronite Rev. Paul Karam as new president of Caritas Lebanon on 31 January. Father Karam is currently the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon. The decision was made after assessing Caritas Lebanon’s role in light of increasing social challenges posed by the deluge of Syrian refugees — nearly 900,000 according to U.N. sources, or more than a million according to the Lebanese authorities — and the catastrophic conditions in which many of them live…

Police working against the abduction of Copts (Fides) In the first days of February, Egyptian security forces carried out a huge operation in the city of Assiut to dismantle an organized crime network that for months organized kidnappings, robberies and extortion against the local Coptic community. Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut sees a decisive change of pace in the intervention carried out by the local police. “For months and months,” he says, describing the prevailing situation before this shift, “Coptic families and entire communities in Assiut and the province have lived in anguish. Kidnappings took place every day. … The perpetrators of these crimes were known to all, but when the Copts claimed and reported them to the security forces, nothing happened…”

Ukraine political impasse headed for parliament (Al Jazeera) Leaders of the anti-government protests that have gripped Ukraine’s capital for more than two months said they will seek constitutional changes Tuesday that would weaken the president’s powers. Meanwhile, Western officials are returning to the country this week in an attempt to resolve the political crisis, with help that could come partly in the form of a financial aid package currently under discussion between the United States and European Union. The constitutional changes were expected to be discussed in a parliamentary session Tuesday as Ukraine’s political crisis continues unabated, with protesters still refusing to leave their encampment in downtown Kiev or vacate buildings they occupy. The demonstrators, who clashed with police last month, are holding to an uneasy truce, and taking pains to adopt tactics of persuasion, as seen in this video



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Lebanon Refugees





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