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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
4 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 24 September photo, Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, right, greets Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia at the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin prior to the commencement of the first synod of the Armenian Apostolic Church in six centuries. (photo: Catholicosate of Cilicia)

Armenian Apostolic Church faces modern hurdles (New York Times) As church leaders gathered in Etchmiadzin last week for a rare bishops’ conference, they seemed to be ready to put differences aside as they confronted a new set of challenges: entrenched secularism at home, assimilation of followers in the large Armenian diaspora abroad and general disaffection with organized religion. “The church is in dire need of renewal,” Catholicos Aram I, the leader of the Lebanon-based faction of the church, said in an interview as he strolled across the campus here of the Mother See. “And by renewal, I mean the church has to be responsive to the needs and expectations of the people.” He added, “The church has to respond to the challenges of the present-day world…”

Christians under threat in Syria as Islamist extremists gain influence (Washington Post) When radical Islamists tore down a cross and hoisted a black flag above a church in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah last week, it underscored the increasingly hostile environment for the country’s Christians. Although Syria is majority Sunni Muslim, it is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, home to minorities including Christians, Druze and Shiite-offshoot Alawites and Ismailis. But the country’s conflict, now in its third year, is threatening that tapestry. While the primary front in the war has pitted Sunni against Shiite, Christians are increasingly caught in the firing line…

Muslim Brotherhood protest in Cairo challenges military rule (Al Jazeera) Defying a security crackdown, thousands of supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Muhammad Morsi marched in Cairo Friday toward Rabaa al Adawiya square, the site of their former protest camp, which security forces crushed in August, a Reuters witness said. At least one Muslim Brotherhood supporter died from a gunshot wound in Cairo after clashes broke out Friday in several cities throughout the country at pro-Morsi rallies, according to multiple sources…

Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church holds regular session (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill greeted the Holy Synod members, offered reflections on the 1025th anniversary of Christianization of Kievan Rus and introduced them to the agenda of the session, which focused heavily on pastoral formation and education…

Churches targeted by extremists in Karnataka (Fides) There has been a surge in anti-Christian violence in the state of Karnataka. The Evangelical Fellowship of India, which brings together thousands of evangelical Christian communities, said that religious services and prayer meetings of ecclesial communities over the last two months have been targeted, pastors beaten and Christians arrested. In recent episodes, Hindu fundamentalists attacked and looted a church in Mandya district in Karnataka…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Armenian Apostolic Church

3 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Rou’a, 10, from Daraya, plays on a swing with her cousin Abdullah, 2, at an informal refugee settlement in Talabaya in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The camp is home to some 55 families who fled to Lebanon from their homes in Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)

Flow of refugees destabilizes Lebanon (Der Spiegel) The flood of refugees is destabilizing an already weak and war-torn Lebanon, which borders Syria to the north and the east, and Israel to the south. The front between Sunnis and Shiites runs right through the heart of this tiny state, making Lebanon the focal point of a conflict that threatens to engulf the entire region. The Shiite Hezbollah militia uses Lebanon as a base for its struggle against the “Zionist enemy” — and since this spring, the group has been launching military operations here against the predominantly Sunni rebels in Syria…

Activists on all sides in Egypt feel the chill (Los Angeles Times) In Egypt, where nearly three years of political upheaval first toppled a tyrant, then ushered in and tossed out an Islamist government, and finally propelled a military man to power, activists of all stripes — many of them part of the country’s intellectual elite — are feeling the chill. To some, an increasingly authoritarian political climate is reminiscent of the bad old days under Hosni Mubarak. Back then many of those who dared dissent simply vanished into the maw of the security services, sometimes never to emerge. These days, though, the official dragnet extends far beyond the Brotherhood. Criticizing the army, the mere questioning of government policy, or expressing views that could be construed as sympathetic toward dead and detained Islamist “terrorists” has become a dangerous game…

Syrian Armenians move to disputed territory (AINA) Azerbaijan on Wednesday accused Armenia of resettling Syrian refugees in a disputed territory the two have been fighting over for decades. Azerbaijan’s United Nations ambassador said the rival neighbor had started a “very dangerous process” by moving Syrian Armenians into Nagorny Karabakh. Armenia says it has accepted more than 10,000 ethnic Armenians. But Armenia’s U.N. envoy said claims they have been moved into Nagorny Karabakh are “lies and distortion.” Azerbaijan’s U.N. envoy Agshin Mehdiyev said, in a news conference: “We have information that they already started it — settlement of Syrian refugees in occupied territories — and of course it is a very dangerous process with unpredictable consequences…”

University students in Gaza hit hard by blockade (Al Monitor) The siege surrounding Gaza has affected hundreds of university students. Many studying in universities outside of the strip have been unable to enroll for the new semester because of the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The blockade imposed on Gaza in the last two months has led to deteriorating economic conditions and the unemployment of tens of thousands of workers, the two student councils at Islamic University — male and female students have separate councils — have protested and suspended classes…

Mufti of Russia: Dialogue is the only road to peace in Syria (AsiaNews) The vice president of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rushan Abbyasov, says we must defend the Christian presence in Syria, and calls for “dialogue and prayer” as a way out of the crisis in Syria. The religious leader condemns both foreign military intervention as well as attacks against Christians in the Middle East…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia

2 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Eleven-year-old Syrian refugee Mohamad Zarzur, who survived the battle of Idlib, poses for a photo in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. He hopes one day to return to a peaceful Syria. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

Interfaith hospital on Turkish border helps Syrians save themselves (CNS) Two international aid organizations — the German Catholic Malteser International and the Turkish Muslim International Blue Crescent Relief — have come together to launch a 28-bed mobile hospital in the southern Turkey border town where locals say the normal population of 88,000 has nearly doubled with the influx of refugees. The doctors, nurses and support staff at the new hospital, which opened on 13 September, are all Syrian…

Fighting breaks out in another historic Syrian village (Fides) Following the violence in Maaloula, the war has spread to Sednaya, a village in the north of Damascus known for its historical, cultural and religious heritage. Sednaya is characterized by a large presence of churches and monasteries and a local community that speaks Aramaic. The village is under constant threat of Islamist militias that organize raids to terrorize the civilian population…

Beirut: Syrian refugees adapt to makeshift lives (Al Jazeera) The Lebanese government estimates that 1.2 million Syrians have come to Lebanon since the uprising began in March 2011. The refugees span the entire social and economic strata of Syrian society. Some are rich, some are poor; many are from the towns and villages that have been pummeled by government airstrikes and artillery fire. Others have escaped the urban combat in Idlib, Aleppo or the Damascus suburbs. Four refugee families from Syria reveal a cross-section of this emerging society, sharing many concerns…

Syrian schools start new year — a return to some normality for kids (Los Angeles Times) Despite a raging civil war, schools opened last month across the capital and elsewhere in government-controlled swaths of Syria, where officials have long boasted of a comprehensive and free public education system. In Damascus, more than 800 schools opened their doors to about 500,000 students, said Atef Hassan, a veteran teacher and official at the Ministry of Education. Administrators insisted on starting fall classes on time despite the daunting challenges facing Syria’s battered educational infrastructure…

Nearly 1,000 Iraqis killed In September (Boston Herald) Sectarian bloodshed has surged to levels not seen in Iraq since 2008. More than 5,000 people have been killed since April, when a deadly government raid on a Sunni protest camp unleashed a new round of violence that showed Al Qaeda in Iraq is still strong despite years of U.S.-Iraqi offensives against the terror group. At least 979 people — 887 civilians and 92 soldiers and national policemen — were killed in September, a 22 percent increase from the previous month, the United Nations mission in Iraq said Tuesday…



Tags: Iraq Refugees Syrian Civil War Education Health Care

1 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis greets a member of an international meeting for peace on 30 September at the Vatican. The pope met with religious, political and cultural leaders who were gathered for an annual dialogue on peace that began in 1986 with Blessed John Paul II in Assisi. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Dialogue for peace is religious obligation, pope tells leaders (CNS) Peace is so difficult to find because men and women struggle to stop focusing on their own interests long enough to listen to and learn from others, Pope Francis said. Pope Francis told the leaders that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to peace through their prayers and their actions, but for religious leaders that obligation is absolute because “the commandment of peace is deeply inscribed in the religious traditions we represent…”

Heads of churches visit Al Aqsa in solidarity (Fides) A delegation of senior representatives of the Christian churches of Jerusalem carried out a visit to the Mosque of Al Aqsa on Monday, 30 September, to publicly express their solidarity with the local Muslim community after the recent provocative actions staged by Jewish pro-settlement extremists nearby. The delegation included Catholic Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate; Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani; and the Armenian Patriarchal Vicar Joseph Kelekian…

Chaldean patriarch urges Muslim-Christian unity (Daily Star Lebanon) At the close of his visit to Lebanon, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I said the fate of the region depends upon Lebanon’s ability to maintain Christian-Muslim unity. The patriarch called on all Lebanese to “unite, leave their petty disputes behind and look to the future, because the region’s fate is tied to Christian and Muslim unity in Lebanon…”

Coptic bishop escapes assassination attempt in Egypt (AINA) Bishop Anba Makarios of Minya was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempted this morning. The bishop was driving into the town of Al Sario in the Minya province when his car came under a hail of bullets from several unidentified persons. The bishop’s driver was able to drive away and he brought the bishop to the home of a local Copt, where they took refuge. But the gunmen followed, surrounded the Copt’s house and shot at it for over 90 minutes, causing extensive damage to its windows, doors and walls…

Countries hosting Syrian refugees stretched to the limit (VOA) Participants at a United Nations refugee conference in Geneva are appealing for stronger international support for countries hosting large Syrian refugee populations. They say four neighboring countries of asylum are stretched to the limit. A U.N. video graphically shows the anguished evolution of Syria’s humanitarian crisis. What began as a series of peaceful protests in March 2011 has developed into a catastrophic situation in which more than 100,000 people have been killed and more than two million Syrians have fled the country…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Christian-Muslim relations

30 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis meets with cardinals at the Vatican on 30 September during the consistory in which he announced 27 April as the date for the canonization of Blesseds John XIII and John Paul II. The Polish pontiff who led the Catholic Church for 27 years and witnessed the fall of communism and Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council, will be declared saints in a single ceremony on Divine Mercy Sunday. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope to canonize Blessed John XXIII, John Paul II April 27 (CNS) Recognizing that Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II have widespread reputations for holiness and that years of studying their lives and actions have proven their exceptional virtue, Pope Francis announced he would declare his two predecessors saints at a single ceremony on 27 April. The pope made the announcement on 30 September at the end of an “ordinary public consistory,” a gathering of cardinals and promoters of the sainthood causes of the two late popes. The consistory took place in the context of a prayer service in Latin and included the reading of brief biographies of the two sainthood candidates…

Pope receives Greek Orthodox patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday received in audience in the Vatican His Beatitude Theodoros II, the Greek Orthodox pope and patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. The patriarch’s enthronement took place on 24 October 2004 at the Holy Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Alexandria, in the presence of many primates and representatives of all the churches, the cultural and political leaders of Greece and Egypt and thousands of Christians… [To learn more about the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Alexandria and All Africa, see our profile.]

God is everywhere in Egypt (Los Angeles Times) In politically fractured Egypt, there’s one belief that almost every faction seems to hold in common: God is on our side. Egypt’s social and cultural mix is complex, comprising Islamists, progressives, conservatives, those marching in lock step with the powerful military and more. But in the Arab world’s most populous and influential country, the many guises of piety are rarely absent from discourse. Whether in fiery mosque sermons, slow-moving constitutional deliberations or triumphal military statements, the banner of heaven is being waved by all sides…

Bombings across Iraq now touch on formerly safe havens (Christian Science Monitor) A rash of car bombs killed dozens across Baghdad on Monday, the latest in a series of deadly bombings that have racked Iraq over the past several days. The violence has brought the country’s civilian death toll to its worst level since 2008. The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month that many Iraqis feel the civil war never really ended, and that the recent surge in violence is evidence of the sectarian divide still plaguing the country — as well as the government’s inability to unite Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites…

Chaldean patriarch: Eastern Christians united against extremism (AsiaNews) In pastoral visit in Lebanon, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I denounced the discrimination to which Christians are subdued and defended the contribution that they have made together with the Muslims for the history, culture and human rights in the Middle East. Referring to Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” the patriarch has asked all Christians to “remain firm” in their roots by educating their children in the faith received and strengthening the ecumenical work of unity among Christian denominations: without unity, he stressed, “we have no future…”

Four students arrested for anti-Christian vandalism in Israel (Fides) On Sunday afternoon, 29 September, four young Israeli Jews were arrested after they had severely damaged at least fifteen Christian graves in the cemetery situated on Mt. Zion, near the Old City of Jerusalem. The four were students attending a Jewish religious school situated in the west of the Old City. According to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, at least two of them seem to be activists connected to extremist movements in support of Jewish settlements in the West Bank…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Violence against Christians Pope John Paul II

27 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2012 photo, Anaadi Ahmad, a refugee from Homs, Syria, holds one of her children in a refugee camp in Al Four, at the foot of the mountains on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)

Lebanese official says Syrian refugees threaten Lebanon’s existence (Daily Star Lebanon) Energy Minister Gebran Bassil warned Friday the Syrian refugee crisis threatens the existence of Lebanon and said the country must stop receiving refugees. “The Syrian refugee crisis is the biggest crisis threatening the Lebanese entity,” Bassil told a news conference to address the surge in the number of Syrian refugees crossing into the country. “We should stop receiving refugees with the exception of those who need health care,” Bassil said. The United Nations is aiding over 750,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and there are hundreds of thousands more people who are uncounted. Lebanese officials say the country needs more international aid to cope with the huge numbers of refugees…

Syrian refugees in Lebanon set differences aside (Al Monitor) The Syrian conflict has affected Lebanon on many occasions, with attacks against Hezbollah occurring in recent months alongside sectarian fighting in Tripoli. Refugees in precarious conditions, however, seem to have put their political differences aside in the face of dire odds. Most refugees agree that tensions about Syrians, though they exist, are minor compared with those between Lebanese and Syrians. Organizations dealing with Syrian refugees in Lebanon such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Norwegian Refugee Council also report this finding. Dana Sleiman, an information officer for UNHCR, said that the organization has not observed “any form of political segregation” among Syrian refugees, but that “tensions appear mostly between Lebanese and Syrians, primarily on financial issues…”

Islamists torch statues, crosses in Syrian churches (AINA) Fighters linked to Al Qaeda set fire to statues and crosses inside churches in northern Syria on Thursday and destroyed a cross on a church clock tower, a watchdog said. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters entered the Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in the northern city of Raqa and torched the religious furnishings inside, the Syria Observatory for Human Rights said. They did the same at the Armenian Catholic Church of the Martyrs, and also destroyed a cross atop its clock tower, replacing it with the ISIL flag…

Orthodox patriarch shares pain of Syrian people with pope (Vatican Radio) The pain and suffering of Christians in Syria was at the heart of a meeting that Pope Francis had on Friday with Patriarch Youhanna X, head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East. On Sunday the patriarch will attend Mass in St. Peter’s Square, celebrated by the pope to mark the Day of Catechists. In his encounter with the Holy Father, the patriarch spoke about the difficulties facing the Christian community in Syria and the surrounding region. He also talked about the plight of his own brother who was kidnapped last April, together with the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo. The two leaders also shared their hopes for progress on the journey towards full Christian unity…

Keeping the Khachkars (OCP Media Network) The cross is arguably the most familiar symbol of Christianity, but nowhere is this iconography as crucial or culturally entrenched as it is in Armenia. Wherever you go, thousands of khachkars, or cross-stones, provide a rare glimpse into the art of spiritual expression. Starting from the 4th century, the conversion of Armenians, and the instatement of Christianity — and by extension, the Armenian Apostolic Church — as a state religion in 301 issued a new era of national consciousness. Upon initial inspection, the khachkar bears resemblance to other forms of Christian art, namely the Celtic high cross and the Lithuanian kryzdirbyste, but in order to understand how a medieval stone became so charged with the Armenian spirit, a brief lesson in iconology is needed…



Tags: Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Cultural Identity Armenia

26 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro





Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter I has expressed disappointment with the international response to the Syrian crisis, saying that only the pope has made a solid statement against war. He believes that the profitable weapons trade explains the silence of most countries. (video: Rome Reports)

Maronite patriarch helps pope with Mass, thanks him for peace call (Daily Star Lebanon) The Maronite patriarch of Antioch assisted Pope Francis during a Mass Wednesday at the Vatican and thanked the pontiff for his recent calls for peace in the Middle East. A cardinal of the Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Peter was accompanied by a number of Maronite bishops and heads of monastic orders during the morning ceremony, according to the National News Agency. At the conclusion of the Mass, the patriarch thanked Francis for his efforts to promote peace in the region, and also spoke about the dispersion of Maronites throughout the world…

Chaldean patriarch speaks out against emigration (Daily Star Lebanon) The Chaldean patriarch arrived in Lebanon for a rare visit Thursday and urged Christians to not leave their homeland. Patriarch Louis Raphael of Babylon made the comments at Rafik Hariri International Airport, before heading to the Beirut suburb of Hazmieh for the holding of religious services. “Christians, wherever they are, should not emigrate, because this is considered a withdrawal from the scene and a loss of identity,” he said. “In countries of emigration, they are refugees and emigres, but here, they have an identity, a role and a history…”

Daily suicide bombings keep Iraqis in state of shock (Al Monitor) As suicide bombings become a daily occurrence, Iraqis contemplate their lives. Ali Wajih, a young Iraqi poet, told Al Monitor, “I’m no longer intimidated by death. … I talk about death and laugh with my friends. Haven’t I told you that death has become trivial?” Some Iraqi intellectuals criticize media outlets for disregarding the human aspects of the victims of bombings and acts of violence, simply counting them on a daily basis and following up on the government’s reactions and stated measures. This picture has become a daily routine in Iraq. Iraqis go about their lives expecting a car bomb to explode next to them at any time. They say goodbye to their families in the morning, and deep down inside they do not rule out the idea that this could be their final goodbye.…

Largest Syrian rebel groups form Islamic alliance (Washington Post) American hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s fractious rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed opposition coalition and announced the formation of a new alliance dedicated to creating an Islamic state. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group, which will further complicate fledgling U.S. efforts to provide lethal aid to “moderate” rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Others include the Tawheed Brigade, the biggest Free Syrian Army unit in the northern city of Aleppo; Liwa al Islam, the largest rebel group in the capital, Damascus; and Ahrar al Sham, the most successful nationwide franchise of mostly Syrian Salafist fighters. Collectively, the new front, which does not yet have a formal name but has been dubbed by its members the “Islamist Alliance,” claims to represent 75 percent of the rebels fighting to topple Assad…

In Kerala, ancient murals draw visitors (The Hindu) The murals in St. Mary’s Soonoro Church in Angamaly — a Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church — with its Biblical themes rendered in vibrant colors, continue to draw keen visitors. Though churches across Kerala have had a longstanding tradition of murals, the ones at Angamaly are particularly noted for their antiquity and the way they have weathered these years. The original church on this site is believed to have been consecrated in 409, though the present church was built in the 16th century… [Click to learn more about Jacobites or the larger Indian Orthodox Church to which they belong.]



Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

25 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia speaks at the opening ceremony of the Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church on 24 September. (photo: Catholicosate of Cilicia)

Synod of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church commences (The Armenian Church) On 24 September in Etchmiadzin, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians and Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia presided over the opening of the Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Present at the meeting were 62 archbishops and bishops from the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan attended the opening ceremony…

Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo details the Syrian disaster (Fides) In a note sent to Fides Agency, Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, metropolitan of Aleppo of the Greek Catholics, has compiled a great deal quantitative data to lend an understanding of the scale of the disaster. According to the metropolitan archbishop, in Aleppo alone, “1,400 factories and shops were looted, demolished or burned, while across the country more than 2,000 schools have been devastated or put out of use…”

NGO documents violence against Copts (Daily News Egypt) The destruction of 30 houses of worship and over 60 Christian shops, homes and cars made August 2013 the “fiercest violent scene throughout Egypt’s contemporary history,” according to a new report by the Egyptian Centre for Public Policy Studies. The report found a systematic and organized surge in violence against Coptic Christians — mostly in Upper Egypt — since the 14 August dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa al Adaweya and Nahda Square…

Maspero Coptic group proposes amendments to Egyptian constitution (Ahram Online) The Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic youth movement, met on Wednesday with the 50-member committee charged with amending the constitution, to propose several amendments to the charter. According to union member Bishoy Tamry, the group proposed amendments to articles related to religious rights and issues. The activist told Ahram Online that the group “is against any religious article including Article 2,” which states “Islam is the main source of legislation.” The group also proposes that an article is included that states Egypt is a “civil state…”

Egyptian minister postpones dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood (Washington Post) An Egyptian minister said Tuesday that the government would “postpone” the court-ordered dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency. The statement comes after an obscure court issued a sweeping but legally questionable decision Monday to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and all related organizations and activities, which appears to grant the military-backed government expansive legal authority to go after the group’s finances and other assets and essentially criminalizes its political and social service work…

Interview with Patriarch Twal: Christians ‘go against the current’ (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) “We’re going against the current. It is a constant effort, but it requires the search for truth.” Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, was in Amman for a meeting between the leaders and representatives of the churches of the East, convened by the king of Jordan to reflect on the challenges that Arab Christians face today and which are a matter of grave concern for King Abdullah II. “The major urgency now is to set straight the religious discourse of so many imams who, from within their mosques, preach violence against non-Muslims…”



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Armenian Apostolic Church Patriarch Fouad Twal

24 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2012 photo, Syrian refugee Ferian, who fled to Lebanon to escape the conflict that claimed the lives of her three brothers, sits in an informal refugee camp in Al Four at the foot of the mountains on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)

Pope: ‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity’ (AsiaNews) The reality of migration, which in our time has reached unprecedented proportions, “needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner,” because “migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity” and “can not be reduced to mere economic growth, development, achieved, often without looking at the weakest and most defenseless.” The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner…

Egyptian NGO, Copts urge against guaranteed electoral quotas (Fides) The Egyptian Center for Development Studies and Human Rights — an NGO close to the Coptic Orthodox Church — has asked that the forthcoming elections be celebrated by putting aside the quota system of seats reserved for Christians. According to the organization, the practice of reserving seats in parliament to some social groups defined on the basis of religion contradicts the principle of equality among citizens that must be guaranteed by the new constitution, on which 50 members of a Constitutional Commission have been working since 8 September. Even Bishop of Minya of the Catholic Copts Botros Fahim Awad Hanna reported to Fides Agency his opposition to the system of quotas, which in his opinion “favors the division of the Country on sectarian basis…”

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned, and crackdown could broaden (Washington Post) An Egyptian court on Monday banned the Muslim Brotherhood and its vast social services network in what could be a devastating blow to the Islamist organization, which swept Mohamed Morsi to the presidency just last year and has fiercely resisted the military coup that ousted him in July. The far-reaching ruling appears to apply to any group remotely associated with the world’s oldest Islamist movement, granting temporary legal cover to the military-backed government of General Abdel Fatah al Sisi to broaden a crackdown that has already left the Brotherhood battered…

Nuns, orphans trapped in Syria’s Maaloula (France24) Nearly 40 nuns and orphans are trapped inside a convent in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula, where regime troops are battling rebel forces, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said Tuesday. The famed town, where residents still speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is thought to have spoken, has been the scene of clashes since earlier this month. “The Mar Takla convent is living through painful days because it is in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous,” the Damascus-based Patriarchate said in a statement…

Iraq clashes, attacks kill 25 (Daily Star Lebanon) Fighting between security forces and militants killed 25 people in Iraq on Tuesday, as the U.N. warned that sectarian attacks threaten to force more Iraqis from their homes. Violence in Iraq has reached a level this year not seen since 2008, when the country was emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War

23 September 2013
Greg Kandra




Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria,
on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)


U.S. faces tough challenges bringing aid to Syria (Associated Press) As the Syrian crisis rages and debate heats up over Syria’s chemical weapons, U.S. officials are fighting a quieter battle: The delivery of nearly $1.3 billion in assistance in a war zone so chaotic that ambulances are used for target practice and aid is halted by armed men at random checkpoints...

Syria’s tragedy, up close (Catholic Register) While diplomats shuffle between Geneva, Moscow and Washington, their plans to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control are having no impact on the war of attrition Syrians are fighting with rifles, rocket propelled grenades, tanks and bombing raids. As the violence that’s killed more than 100,000 Syrians wears on, Turkey is seeing more and more of the human toll in the form of refugees and wounded fighters....

Egypt bans Muslim Brotherhood (Associated Press) An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Egypt state TV said the court issued its ruling on Monday...

Thousands of Christians travel to Israel for Sukkot (JNS.org) More than 5,000 Christian pilgrims from 100 countries will descend on Israel this week as part of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s (ICEJ) Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) celebration. The festival begins 20 Sept. at the Oasis Hotel in Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea and will continue for the reminder of Sukkot at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. The weeklong celebration is expected to generate more than $16 million in revenue, and is the largest annual tourist event to Israel. “We are thrilled that thousands of Christians from all over the world will be arriving in Jerusalem this week to take part in our annual Feast gathering, despite the recent tensions in the region over the Syrian conflict,” Dr. Jürgen Bühler, the ICEJ’s executive director, said in a statement. “Their visit to Jerusalem is a timely message of solidarity with the people of Israel....”

Pope Francis: social communications is for bringing others to Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Pope Francis said the goal of the Church for its communications efforts is “to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes.” The Holy Father said we must examine if the communications of the Church are helping others to meet Christ...

In India, Kerala weddings go from spartan to splashy (Times of India) The caparisoned elephant at the entrance is the first shock. Then, you walk straight into Nala and Damayanti, the star-crossed couple from Mahabharata, in full Kathakali regalia waiting to usher you into the hall. This is after you have been welcomed by a percussion ensemble, and watched Mohiniyattam and Kathakali tableaux go by. At a big Christian wedding in the same city, the bride has decided to be Cinderella. She is dropped off by a pumpkin chariot in a white gown and gloves and various other Disney type props. Even Muslim nikaahs have been spiced up with ‘sufi nites.’ There used to be an old joke about Malayali weddings in Delhi. A friend of the groom, freezing in the January cold, steps out of the temple for a quick smoke before the rituals begin. He returns five minutes later — to find the wedding over. Stories like this are now history...







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