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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
19 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from last month, thousands of Iraqis fled the city of Ramadi as fighting intensified.
(photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


ISIS prepares to defend Ramadi, as humanitarian crisis looms (BBC) ISIS militants are preparing to defend the Iraqi city of Ramadi, witnesses say, as Iranian-backed militiamen gather east of the city. Residents said ISIS fighters had set up defensive positions and laid landmines after capturing the city on Sunday. Militants were also going door-to-door looking for government sympathisers and throwing bodies in the Euphrates river, residents were quoted as saying. Thousands have fled the city and the UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis. It says some 25,000 people have left the city, only 105km (65 miles) west of Baghdad, in recent days, adding to a flood of people already displaced from the area. Many were sleeping in the open...

Jordan denies Syria charge it is “training terrorists” (The Daily Star) Jordan Tuesday rejected Syrian accusations that “terrorists” were being given military training on its soil, insisting Amman favored a political solution to its neighbor’s conflict. The Syrian foreign ministry, in a protest letter sent to the United Nations Monday, alleged Jordan “provides logistical support to armed terrorist groups, including [Al-Qaeda affiliate] Al-Nusra Front.” It accused Jordan of having “set up terrorist training camps on its soil as well as operation centers to help these groups and facilitate the infiltration of thousands of terrorists a day.” Jordan’s government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani, quoted by state news agency Petra, said the charges had “no basis in reality...”

Syrian refugees struggle to survive in neighboring countries (U.S. News & World Report) With the Syria conflict in its fifth year, the struggle for survival is getting tougher for many of the close to 4 million Syrians who fled to neighboring countries, particularly those in Jordan and Lebanon, where the highest number of refugees have settled. There appears to be no quick and practical way to halt the downward slide...

Thousands of patients from Gaza receive treatment in Israel (The Times of Israel) Along with Egypt, Israel has maintained a blockade over the seaside territory to prevent Hamas importing weapons — and has fought three wars with the Strip’s Islamist gunmen — since the terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007. At the same time, the Jewish state also allows thousands of Gazans to travel each year to hospitals in Israel. This awkward arrangement, which sometimes includes security interrogations, highlights how after years of hostility, the fates of Israel and Gaza are deeply intertwined...



18 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of the canonization Mass for four new saints in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 May. Also pictured is Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household. The pope canonized four 19th-century nuns. The new saints are: Marie-Alphonsine and Mary of Jesus Crucified, both from historic Palestine; Jeanne Emilie De Villeneuve from France; and Maria Cristina Brando from Italy.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope canonizes nuns, including two from Palestine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis canonized four women religious on Sunday, all 19th century nuns who worked in education. St, Marie-Alphonsine and St. Mary of Jesus Crucified were from the territory that made up historical Palestine; St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve was a French nun and foundress; and St. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception came from Italy. “To abide in God and in His love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all — this is what the four women Saints canonized today did,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians”...

Pope, Palestinian President express hopes for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meeting in the Vatican Saturday, expressed their hopes for a resumption of peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel and for “courageous decisions” for peace, with international support. A Vatican statement described the talks as “cordial,” and said the two sides “expressed great satisfaction with the agreement reached on the text of a comprehensive agreement between the Parties concerning essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine, which will be signed in the near future...”

Shia militias plan counter-offensive after Iraqi city of Ramadi falls (BBC) Shia militias are assembling east of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to prepare for a counter-attack against Islamic State militants who captured it on Sunday. Iraqi state TV described tanks and other military vehicles entering al-Habbaniyah military camp. IS fighters are reportedly moving towards the base. The Iraqi government called for help from the Iran-backed militias after the military was routed and fled. About 500 people died in the city — only 70 miles (112km) west of Baghdad...

U.S. captures “treasure trove” in Syrian raid (The Wall Street Journal) The U.S. special-operations force that carried out a first-of-its-kind mission in Syria to capture the Islamic State finance chief and his wife over the weekend came away with a treasure trove of materials that could help in the attempt to pressure the extremist group...

Egyptian court sentences Mohammed Morsi to death (Vatican Radio) An Egyptian court sentenced ex-President Mohammed Morsi to death on Saturday for his part in a mass prison break that took place during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. More than 100 others also received the death penalty in connection with the uprising...

Pax Christi leaders see inequities in West Bank water distribution (CNS) It took only a slight turn of an eye to see the glaring difference in levels of water availability and consumption between the Israeli agricultural settlement of Petza’el and the three neighboring dusty Palestinian villages just outside Jericho. Up on the hill next to the settlement stood a gleaming white water tower for the use of the Israeli settlement, while in the village cluster, an old well built by Jordan prior to the 1967 war sat, neglected and locked, and an old agricultural aqueduct was dry. Some participants in Pax Christi International’s “Pilgrims on the Path to Peace” 70th anniversary conference, taking place in Bethlehem, gathered in the village on 13 May on one of the conference’s six simultaneous pilgrimages to see different realities of Palestinian life. Some 150 delegates from 30 countries participated in the five-day conference...

Ethiopia detains 200 suspected human smugglers (AP) Two hundred suspected human smugglers have been detained as part of the Ethiopian government’s efforts to stem the number of citizens trying to illegally migrate to Europe, a senior official said. The government is looking for 80 other alleged smugglers who are conducting overseas operations, Ethiopian Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam told the Ethiopian News Agency late Sunday...



15 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Sister Diana Momeka, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington titled “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities.” (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)

Help us ‘go back home,’ displaced Iraqi sister urges U.S. Congress (CNS) Speaking quietly and deliberately, Dominican Sister Diana Momeka from Iraq urged a congressional committee hearing May 13 to help the displaced Christian refugees in Iraq to “go back home.” “We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home,” Sister Diana, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena of Mosul, Iraq, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. During the hearing: “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities,” Sister Diana was one of four women who spoke of the urgent need to not only help and protect religious minorities but also to preserve and save religious sites...

Bishop says Syrians are exhausted (CNS) Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, and his people are exhausted. The bishop, who is president of the church’s charitable agency, Caritas Syria, left the country for a few days to attend the general assembly of Caritas Internationals in Rome from 12-17 May. Daily life “is becoming more and more difficult and tiring,” he told Catholic News Service. When the fighting first began in 2011, he said, the people of Aleppo held up well because the danger zones were far away. “Now our situation is very bad, very difficult,” he said. “We are without electricity, without (running) water.” “Something like 80 percent of people in Aleppo are without jobs. So they don't have any money to survive,” the bishop said...

Vatican-Palestine accord supports two-state solution (CNS) Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory. Without fanfare, the Vatican has been referring to the “State of Palestine” at least since January 2013. The “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican’s official yearbook, lists a diplomatic relationship with the “State of Palestine.” The Vatican, which praised the United Nations’ recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in 2012, said on 13 May that the bilateral commission working on the agreement had finalized the text...

Chaldean Patriarch visits Tehran (Fides) The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran “does not hesitate to support the people and the Iraqi government, because the two Countries share the same history and civilization.” This is what the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I said during his visit that began on 12 May in Iran, where the Primate of the Chaldean Church will be staying until 22 May...

ISIS reported on the offensive in Ramadi (CNN) ISIS has launched a wide-scale attack on Iraqi security forces in Ramadi in an apparent attempt to take the rest of the key central Iraqi city, a provincial governor said Friday. The ISIS offensive, which started Thursday night and continued into Friday, included suicide attacks with explosive-rigged cars near security posts in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Anbar Gov. Suhaib Al-Rawi said...

Cardinal Tagle elected head of Caritas (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines has been elected as the new president of Caritas Internationalis. He was nominated at the confederation’s 20th General Assembly in Rome. Following his election, the Cardinal, speaking by phone to the delegates from over 130 member organisations from all over the world said “Buona sera a tutti!” “Thank you for your trust. I’m limited in my capacities but with all of you, with the love that Jesus has poured into our hearts and in the name of all of the poor people in the world, I accept this election...”

Pope urges African bishops to promote inter-religious dialogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Catholic bishops of the Central African Republic (CAR) to promote inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence and encourage their flock to respond to hatred and violence with forgiveness and love...

Christian center, churches attacked in India (Vatican Radio) Tuesday night, suspected Hindu radicals attacked three churches in Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s largest city, and a temporary home of Augustinian nuns (OAS) in Pipaldhar, which houses a centre for disabled children run by nuns, as reported by AsiaNews. While, unknown attackers threw heavy bricks on the roof of the building, which is home to rehabilitation centre for children with mental disabilities, in Pipaldhar, the extremists threw stones, destroyed crosses, vandalised various items and attempted to set fire to one of the places of worship in Indore. However, police intervened before they could carry out their plans...

Two new Palestinian saints (VIS) This morning in the Holy See Press Office Fr. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan, presented the figure of the Palestinian blesseds Sister Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, founder of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and the Carmelite Maryam Baouardy (Mary of Jesus Crucified). Along with another two women religious, the French Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve and the Italian Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception Brando, they will be canonized by Pope Francis this coming Sunday in St. Peter’s Square...



Tags: Syria India Iraq Palestine Iran

12 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from March, Khanon Hamo from Kobani tends to her 7-month-old twins in her tent in a refugee camp in Suruc, in the province of Sanliurfa, Turkey. Turkey has one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing civil war, with official estimates currently
at 1.6 million. (photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)


Turkish border crackdown imperils Syrian refugees (Voice of America) Turkish authorities have tightened controls, ending their open-door policy for Syrian refugees and making it more difficult for Syrians to enter Turkey and for international journalists to cover the war. There are even reports of people being fired upon as they approach the border...

European bishops to discuss dialogue with Muslims (Vatican Radio) The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences is having its 4th meeting of bishops and delegates in charge of relations with Muslims in Europe. The meeting is being held at the Abbey of Saint Maurice in Switzerland this week and will last for three days. Two key areas which will be covered are dialogue between Christians and Muslims, along with sociological realities...

Report: Hundreds of Russian soldiers died in Ukraine (The New York Times) Russian opposition activists published a report Tuesday that they claim proves that Russia is deeply involved in the war in Ukraine, seeking to counter overwhelming state media reports casting the events as a local uprising against the Ukrainian government. Prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov was working on the report, entitled “Putin.War,” after Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the time of his murder in February. Drawing on media accounts, testimonies from relatives and other representatives of dead soldiers and confidential sources, the 64-page report maintains that hundreds of Russian troops have died fighting in a war that has cost Russia hundreds of millions of dollars...

Life in Syria for Christians: teaching tolerance and harmony among the faithful (Deseret News) Since 2013, I had traveled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan as part of my Project Amal ou Salam, which translates from Arabic to mean Project Hope and Peace. I had led workshops to over 5,000 kids, teaching them about diversity, tolerance and nonviolence. Having grown up in Syria, leaving at the age of 17 to attend university in Canada, this was my way of giving back to the future of my country. But I have also learned as well. The more Syrian children I work with, the more I understand the dynamics of Syrian society that I hadn’t noticed before...



Tags: Syria Ukraine Turkey Muslim

8 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a humanitarian worker in Syria decsribes the situation in his country.
(video: Rome Reports)


Caritas: pray for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial capital, has been on the front lines of the conflict there in recent weeks. Amnesty International this week slammed government and opposition forces for indiscriminate bombings targeting civilians, hospitals and schools...

Group with links to ISIS claims responsibility for attack in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) State ties claimed responsibility for a Friday mortar attack at a Hamas base in the Gaza Strip. According to AFP, witnesses at the scene said they heard explosions at the base, close to Khan Yunis. Information of any damage or injuries was not reported. The group, which calls itself “Supporters of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Jerusalem,” said in an online statement that the rockets it fired were aimed at a base occupied by Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam...

Catholic charities impacted by “Francis effect” (CNS) Catholic charities around the world have no doubt about the reality of a “Francis effect” on their work. Because of the ongoing global economic crisis, most of the 164 national Catholic charities that form the Caritas Internationalis confederation report no significant increase in donations. However, the secretary-general of the Vatican-based network says Pope Francis has had a huge impact on their programs and priorities, on the number of volunteers and, especially, on their sharing...

Ethiopians held in Libya return home (BBC) A group of 35 Ethiopians who had been held in Libya have arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Officials welcomed them at the airport where they flew in from Egypt’s capital, Cairo. Ethiopia said their rescue was made possible “through co-ordinated effort” with the Egyptian government, but it is unclear who was holding them. More than 20 Ethiopians were killed in April by the Libyan branch of Islamic State, which filmed the executions...



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

7 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, speaks with displaced Iraqis on 4 May in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Report: Number of internally displaced around the world grows (AP) A group that monitors the plight of people forced out of their homes by conflicts says the number of people displaced within their own countries surged to 38 million last year, with a few countries led by Iraq accounting for much of the increase. The Geneva-based International Displacement Monitoring Center said the number of internally displaced people worldwide was 4.7 million higher than in 2013...

Rescue workers report evidence of Syria using chemical weapons (The New York Times) Two years after President Bashar al-Assad agreed to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, there is mounting evidence that his government is flouting international law to drop jerry-built chlorine bombs on insurgent-held areas...

Troops killed as ceasefire in Ukraine falters (CNN) Fighting has again shaken a nearly three-month ceasefire deal between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, leaving five Ukrainian troops dead in a 24-hour period, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday. Twelve other Ukrainian service members were injured in the fighting in separatist areas of eastern Ukraine, the country’s National Security and Defense Council said...

Israel investigating underground tunnels near kibbutz (Haaretz) The Israeli army on Wednesday notified Kibbutz Nirim in the northwest Negev that it will check for underground tunnels in the area, following geological surveys carried out in the kibbutz by a private company. Some two months ago a number of kibbutz members contracted Geotech, a company specializing in airborne geophysical survey mapping, to check for underground digging in the area. The kibbutz members had been complaining since the war in Gaza in the summer that they were hearing noises of digging underground...

How can American Catholics help Christians in the Middle East? (U.S. Catholic) The ISIS blitzkrieg into northern Iraq last summer and the subsequent decimation of one of the oldest Christian communities of the church — coupled with the so-called Islamic State’s recent executions of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians — have earned Middle East Christians some attention, if not quite the respect, of the politicians, candidates, policy wonks and journalists inside the Beltway. The headlines are dramatic and betray a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. How can Catholics respond to this diabolical assault?...



6 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees walk the street at Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan, on 14 March. Jordan officials report international aid continues to fall short of what the country needs to host 1.4 million Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

Situation in Ukraine “deteriorating” (Reuters) Five Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 12 injured over the past 24 hours despite a ceasefire deal, Ukraine’s military said on Wednesday, describing a worsening situation in separatist eastern territories. The deaths came ahead of a meeting later on Wednesday of envoys from Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE rights watchdog and pro-Russian separatists. They are expected to discuss how to shore up the peace accord they agreed in Minsk, Belarus, in February. “In the past 24 hours the situation in the conflict zone deteriorated. The intensity of attacks is not falling,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said, accusing the separatists of using weapons outlawed under the ceasefire deal...

Jordan faces shortfall in funds to help refugees (Catholic Herald) International aid continues to fall short of what Jordan needs to host 1.4 million Syrian refugees, Jordanian officials reported, saying the number represents the equivalent of the United States hosting 60 million refugees. With no end in sight to the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, officials are calling the situation critical. So far this year, Jordan has received only 7.2 percent of $2.9 billion needed for services to Syrian refugees and host communities...

Massacre site in Iraq becomes a monument to suffering (The New York Times) The concrete platform at the river’s edge is festooned with flowers and streaked with blood. Along a back wall are photographs taken from a video of the horror that unfolded here last year: a procession of Shiite men, shot in the head one by one by Islamic State fighters and shoved into the waters of the Tigris. The riverbank has become a memorial of the massacre and a site of Shiite pilgrimage, already taking a prominent place in Iraq’s ledger of sectarian atrocities. In all, roughly 1,700 Shiite military personnel from the Camp Speicher base are believed to have been methodically gunned down by the Sunni extremists at Saddam Hussein’s old palace complex in Tikrit in June...

UN begins talks with Syrians to find “common ground” (BBC) The UN has begun consultations with Syrian government and opposition officials as it seeks to find enough common ground to restart peace talks. Special envoy Staffan de Mistura said more than 40 groups had been invited to attend one-on-one meetings over the next five to six weeks. Iran and Turkey have also been invited, but jihadist militant groups have not. Mr. de Mistura described it as a stock-taking process, saying there would be no big roundtable discussions. The last round of peace talks in Geneva collapsed in early 2014 with the government refusing to discuss opposition demands...

Syrian artist shows pain of war (CNS) The sad realities of Syria’s civil war permeate the paintings of Essa Neima, a 34-year-old Syrian national. At a recent exhibit, his oil on acrylic works ranged from depictions of damaged church and mosque mosaics, to a broken icon of Mary and a refugee woman forced into servitude by the need to survive. Most of the paintings were strewn with the deep red color of blood. “It is like treasure ... covered by blood because (of) what’s happening now, the sad events happening in Syria,” Neima told Catholic News Service in Washington, thousands of miles from his country, where conflict has killed nearly 200,000 people and dispersed about 10 million others, according to U.N. Estimates...

If borders were opened, “100,000 people would leave Gaza” (Al Jazeera) Electricity runs only six to eight hours a day in the Gaza Strip. More than 160,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in last summer’s war with Israel, and 100,000 people are still homeless. International donors pledged to give $3.5 billion in reconstruction funds in October, but barely a quarter of that has materialized so far. Israel’s economic blockade continues, Palestinian leaders are divided, houses lie in ruin, and youths feel unable to escape from or change the situation...



5 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from April, a man walks past the rubble of a building following reported shelling by Syrian government forces in the Bab al-Hadid neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo. Aleppo has been devastated by fighting since rebel fighters seized its eastern half in 2012, setting up a front line that carves through its historic heart. (photo: ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP/Getty Images)

“Crimes against humanity” reported in Aleppo (AFP) Syrian government forces are committing “crimes against humanity” by indiscriminately bombing Aleppo, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, as it also criticized rebels for abuses including “war crimes.” In a new report, the rights watchdog said “relentless” government aerial bombardment of Syria’s former economic powerhouse had forced many residents to “eke out an existence underground.” It slammed the “horrendous war crimes and other abuses in the city by government forces and armed opposition groups on a daily basis.” “Some of the government’s actions in Aleppo amount to crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said...

Hundreds of Yazidis reportedly killed near Mosul (BBC) Several hundred Yazidi captives have been killed in Iraq by Islamic State (IS) militants west of Mosul, Yazidi and Iraqi officials say. A statement from the Yazidi Progress Party said 300 captives were killed on Friday in the Tal Afar district near the city. Iraqi Vice-President Osama al-Nujaifi described the reported deaths as “horrific and barbaric...”

Catholics join efforts to save Yazidi (Catholic Register) For Ghina Al-Sewaidi — lawyer, Muslim and Iraqi-Canadian — the correct word to describe Islamic State attacks on Yazidi and Mandaean people is genocide. The correct response is to sponsor the survivors through Canada’s refugee system. Toronto Catholics have joined with Al-Sewaidi to help bring Yazidi and Mandaean refugees to Canada. Al-Sewaidi has teamed up with Toronto Police Inspector Chuck Konkel, the Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto and the 18 volunteer police chaplains in Toronto. Catholic parishes, such as Konkel’s St. Anselm’s, have stepped up to support the sponsorship efforts. “We can’t bring everybody here, but if we bring one or two families to start with, that would really be a start for us,” said Al-Sewaidi. “The Iraqi people, putting the government aside, they help each other from whichever ethnic minority they are, from whatever religion you are...”

Patriarch praises pope, criticizes Greek Catholics (Interfax) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has praised Vatican’s position on the Ukrainian crisis but condemned the activities in Ukraine of the followers of the Greek Catholic Church (Uniates). “Pope Francis and the Holy See’s State secretary have taken a considered position on the situation in Ukraine, avoiding unilateral assessments and calling for an end to the fratricidal war,” the patriarch said at a ceremony on Thursday which saw him receiving honorary doctorate from the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy...

Vatican releases details for Jubilee of Mercy (VIS) This morning in the Holy See Press Office, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, and Msgr. Graham Bell presented the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (8 December 2015 to 20 November 2016). The archbishop began, “The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which continues be the programmatic outline for the pontificate of Pope Francis, offers a meaningful expression of the very essence of the Extraordinary Jubilee announced on 11 April...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Russian Orthodox

4 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from October, Argentinian Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, leaves the Synod Hall at the end of a session of the Synod on the themes of family in Vatican City. He’s now making a pastoral visit to Iraq.
(photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)


Cardinal Sandri calls for support for Iraq’s Christians (Vatican Radio) The Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, was the homilist at Divine Liturgy in the Chaldean cathedral of Baghdad on Friday afternoon. The Liturgy and Cardinal Sandri’s participation in it were part of the Prefect’s three-day visit to the country, which began on Friday morning. He renewed his call — and the Holy Father’s — for assistance from the international community in favor of all those facing persecution in Iraq, and especially for the country’s suffering and sorely tried Christian community, thanking the UN’s High Representative for Iraq for his presence at the Liturgy...

Israeli group accuses military of “indiscriminate fire” during Gaza war (BBC) An Israeli activist group has accused the military of employing a “policy of indiscriminate fire” that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians during last year’s Gaza war. Breaking the Silence said the rules of engagement during the 50-day conflict were “the most permissive” it had seen...

Ethiopian Israelis: “A community crying out” (CNN) The clashes between Ethiopian-Israeli protesters and police over the weekend have drawn international attention to one of the most disadvantaged groups in Israel. Though the demonstrations were set off by the police beating of a uniformed Israeli soldier, captured on video, experts say the issues between the Ethiopian-Israeli community and the government are not new ones...

Minorities see Russian meddling in Ukraine (Al Jazeera) As the conflict between Moscow-backed separatists and Kiev’s forces rages on in eastern Ukraine, minority groups say Russia’s state-owned media have been trying to provoke dissent in the multicultural region of Transcarpathia, on the edge of the European Union...

CNEWA Canada marks 10th anniversary with appeal for Iraq, Syria (Catholic Register) As Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) Canada marks its 10th anniversary this year, it is making an urgent appeal for continued help for imperilled families under Islamic State siege in Iraq and Syria. “The best way we can celebrate the 10 years of success of CNEWA in Canada is to redouble our prayers and our financial support to aid those most in need,” said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, who hosts the CNEWA Canada offices in his diocese and chairs the CNEWA Canada board of directors, in a statement. “May we celebrate the Year of Mercy remembering our sisters and brothers in the East for whom we can be an agent of mercy with the help of CNEWA...”



Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East

1 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from February, U.S. European Commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove conducts a news briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Gen. Breedlove said yesterday Russian-backed forces appear to be preparing for a new offensive in Ukraine.
(photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)


NATO commander sees threat of offensive in Ukraine (The Wall Street Journal) NATO’s military chief said that Russia-backed forces appear to be “preparing, training and equipping” for a potential new offensive in eastern Ukraine, even as European leaders said the conflict there was entering a “political phase.” U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s top commander, said Thursday that the separatist forces have been using the relative lull in fighting since a cease-fire was signed in February to regroup. “These preparations are consistent with the possibility of an offensive,” Gen. Breedlove said at a Pentagon news conference. “And that is what we have seen through several of the previous pauses in eastern Ukraine...”

Cardinal: world community must not resign itself to the tragedy of the Middle East (VIS) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, spoke at the opening of the Symposium “Christians in the Middle East: what future?,” organised by the Sant’Egidio Community and the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, Italy. In his address, the cardinal remarked that many Christians in the East, hearing just a few days ago the story of Pilate’s famous gesture of washing his hands, “may have thought of the indifference and inaction to which the international community appears to have resigned itself before the tragedies that have for some years now been wearing away at Syria and Iraq.” He added, “it is also saddening to see the incapacity of leaders in Lebanon, even those who are Christians, to arrive at consensus on the new president on the basis of a line of conduct due less to conscience than to the weighty influences of the forces that compete for supremacy in the area...”

“Freedom Flotilla” reportedly set to sail for Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Three ships are expected to set sail for Gaza this summer as part of a humanitarian mission to Gaza, Ma’an News Agency reported Friday. Details of the mission, coined “Freedom Flotilla III,” remain under the radar. Berawi Zaher, coordinator of the international mission, told Ma’an that its details, including the ships’ departure time and fleet location, will not be released in an effort to hamper Israeli authorities from intervening and exerting international pressure to halt the execution of the mission...

Religious leaders call for calm during elections in Ethiopia (The Turkish Weekly) Leaders of seven Ethiopian religious institutions on Wednesday issued joint calls for peace and calm during parliamentary polls slated for 24 May. “The age-old culture of understanding, tolerance and peaceful co-existence in the face of diversity should be maintained in the political competition,” Zerihun Degu, secretary-general of the Ethiopian Interfaith Council, said at a meeting in Addis Ababa...



Tags: Ethiopia Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East





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