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




Pope Francis accepts gifts from women in traditional dress as he arrives at the international airport in Skopje, North Macedonia, on 7 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Pope in Macedonia: respect human dignity, diversity (Vatican News) In his first speech on North Macedonian soil on Tuesday, Pope Francis encouraged the West Balkan state in its effort to be a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples. Addressing the nation’s authorities, the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society at the presidential palace in capital, Skopje, the Pope described the land as a bridge between East and West and a meeting-point for numerous cultural currents. With a Christian presence that dates back to the apostolic times, the country also bears elegant testimonies of its Byzantine and Ottoman past…

Early evacuation in India spares more than a million from deadline cyclone (CNS) A powerful cyclone ripped through eastern India and sideswiped Bangladesh, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 30 deaths. Authorities said the evacuation of 1.2 million people from more than 10,000 villages prior to Cyclone Fani’s landfall on 3 May prevented a larger death toll and minimized injuries, ucanews.com reported…

Jean Vanier dies at 90 (Vatican News) Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, a community which supports people with disabilities, died during the night, aged 90. The community is active all over the world with about 150 centers. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris. Pope Francis was informed of his death and the ad interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community.” Jean Vanier had met with Pope Francis in 2014, calling him a man of smiles and encounter…

Why Israel and Gaza keep fighting brief battles (The New York Times) More than two dozen people were killed and homes and businesses destroyed in the weekend’s fighting between Israel and Gaza, but on Monday leaders on both sides declared themselves satisfied with the outcome. The cycle of violence-ceasefire-repeat that keeps verging on all-out war may look like pointless destruction to the outside world. But analysts say it is amply serving the interests of the two main antagonists…

Syrian Kurds reshape region with books and schools (Reuters) A law student who was tortured for carrying a Kurdish book now owns a bookstore. A woman who once secretly huddled with friends at night to learn Kurdish is now a de facto education minister. Kurdish activists who could not protest without risking arrest now have printing presses, festivals and television channels. ”We never imagined this. This was a dream,” said Semira Haj Ali, who co-chairs the education board in the northeast. “Of course, we will not go back to before 2011. We will not turn back…”



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Balkans

6 May 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis visits with refugees in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 6 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope meets refugees in Bulgaria (CNS) Twelve boys and girls wearing white T-shirts and dark pants sang for Pope Francis at a refugee center on the outskirts of Sofia. Their songs were cheerful and the drawings they gave the pope were chock full of smiles and hearts, but their parents’ letters to Pope Francis contained appeals for help. Ismael Taha Saber, a 42-year-old father of six from Mosul, Iraq, was one of those who wrote to the pope for help finding a permanent home elsewhere after being in Bulgaria for three years…

Dozens killed after plane catches fire in Moscow (Vatican News) Forty-one people, including two children, were killed after a plane caught fire at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Russia. The Superjet 100 plane, which belongs to Russian National carrier Aeroflot, caught fire shortly after take—off. The crew immediately returned to the airport and made an emergency landing. Those who survived the fire escaped the plane using the evacuation slides. There are differing reports of the incident…

Gaza-Israel violence continues for third day (Vatican News) Palestinian militants have fired more than 450 rockets into Israel, drawing dozens of retaliatory air strikes on targets across the Gaza Strip. There had been a month-long lull in hostilities in the region, before this latest bout of violence. Cross-border attacks have now run into their third day. United Nations mediators, along with Egyptian officials credited with brokering ceasefires in the past, are working to prevent further hostilities. It is unclear if they have made any progress…

U.K. foreign secretary warns about persecution of Christians (AP) Britain’s foreign secretary has warned that governments in many parts of the world have failed to take action to slow the persecution of Christians. Jeremy Hunt said on an official visit to Ethiopia that governments have been “asleep on the watch” as anti-Christian actions spread. Interim findings of a report commissioned by Hunt released Friday suggest that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world with violence against them spreading…

Burqa ban in India sparks controversy (UCANews.com) A Muslim educational group in India has banned women from wearing outfits that cover their faces in its institutions, but not all are happy about the move. The Muslim Education Society (MES) based in the southern state of Kerala issued a circular stating that female teachers and students in its 150 institutions should not wear the burqa, the garment Muslim women use to cover their whole body including the face. ”A dress code that is not acceptable to mainstream society cannot be allowed even if in the name of modernity or religious practice,” MES president P.A. Fazal Gafoor told media on 3 May after his 17 April circular became a media discussion point…



Tags: India Refugees Russia Orthodox Persecution

3 May 2019
Greg Kandra




The strongest cyclone to hit India in decades made landfall Friday. (video: AP/YouTube)

Tropical Cyclone Fani strikes India (CNN) The strongest tropical cyclone to hit India in 20 years made landfall Friday, killing two people and lashing the country’s east coast with ferocious winds and torrential downpours. Tropical Cyclone Fani struck near the city of Puri, in Odisha state, as the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane -- packing sustained winds of 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour). The storm is expected to weaken as it moves north-northeast in the next six hours toward Kolkata, one of India’s most populous cities, and Bangladesh…

Escalation in northern Syria threatens truce (AP) Syrian government forces have kept up an escalation against the last rebel-held enclave in northwestern Syria with a wave of airstrikes that killed several people Friday, activists and state media reported. The increased fighting threatens a cease-fire negotiated by Russia and Turkey, in place since September. The agreement has since been undermined with recurrent cycles of violence…

Houses face demolition in East Jerusalem (AP) Some 60 houses in the grassy quarter, known to its 500 residents as Wad Yasul, are facing demolition by Israeli authorities. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to hear the residents’ appeal against demolition orders, saying the structures were built without required permits in a municipally designated green space…

Pope: Nations stirring up nationalism betray their mission (CNS) Migrants are not a threat to a nation’s culture, traditions and values, Pope Francis said. Every nation is a product of immigration and the integration of diverse peoples, united by specific values, cultures and “healthy traditions,” he said. That is why any nation that “stirs up nationalistic sentiments in its people against other nations or groups of people would betray their mission,” the pope said on 2 May…

Journalists cautiously celebrate press freedom in Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) The Ethiopian government says it is preparing legislation that would impose up to three years in prison for those found to be disseminating hate speech and fake news. Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman at the prime minister’s office, says Ethiopia is trying to ensure accountability comes with renewed press freedom by drafting anti-hate speech legislation. ”Both citizens and government have responsibility to ensure the fabric of Ethiopian society isn’t broken,” she said…



Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Migrants

2 May 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




Cyclone Fani, at peak intensity, looms over the central western Bay of Bengal, near the eastern coast of India, on 2 May 2019. (photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, ‘Aqua’ satellite, via Wikimedia)

India evacuates nearly 1 million as powerful Cyclone Fani bears down (AccuWeather) Officials in India mobilized a massive evacuation effort on Thursday as the country braced for landfall from a potentially devastating Cyclone Fani. Nearly a million people are being evacuated ahead of the cyclone’s looming strike on the eastern India coastline as the week ends. One government official said the evacuation effort is the largest in the nation’s history…

Indian Christians seek better security at churches (UCAN India) Christian leaders in India have intensified their call to make churches safer after police arrested a man and accused him of having links to Islamic terror groups and planning to attack religious places in Kerala state…

India turning to midwives to reduce maternal mortality (Der Spiegel) In India, the second-most populous country in the world, giving birth isn’t just a fight for new life; it can also be a struggle for dignity and self-determination. For a country that has been striving to improve its maternal health indicators, India has greatly underestimated midwifery, lagging behind countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, both of which have invested in creating a professional cadre of midwives. That, though, is now changing…

Qatar brings Gaza beaches back to life (Al Monitor) The Gaza Electricity Distribution Co., in cooperation with Gaza Strip municipalities, completed on 18 April a Qatar-funded project designed to connect wastewater treatment plants to new power lines with the objective of supplying the plants with uninterrupted power around the clock…

What to expect from Pope Francis’ trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia (America magazine) Pope Francis will visit Bulgaria and North Macedonia from 5-7 May — two majority Orthodox countries with very small Catholic populations that are facing high unemployment, poverty and tensions over immigration. He goes as a messenger of peace to support these emerging countries on a visit that has a strong ecumenical dimension…



Tags: India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Bulgaria

1 May 2019
Greg Kandra




Sri Lanka is praying for calm after the Easter terror attacks on churches, and experts warn that more churches in the region may be under threat from ISIS. (video: CBC/YouTube)

Experts: Threat to churches in Asia growing in wake of Sri Lanka attacks (CNS) The grisly Sri Lankan bombings are a reminder that Asia -- not the Middle East -- is the region most afflicted by terrorist violence. The prognosis comes as the so-called Islamic State has splintered and gone back underground following the defeat of its caliphates in Iraq and Syria as well as the continued operation of other terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida in the region…

Report: Iran targeting religious minorities (Voice of America) A U.S. government body that monitors global religious freedom says conditions in Iran worsened last year, with escalated government targeting of non-Shi’ite Muslims and minority Baha’is and Christians. In its annual report published Monday, the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said Iran merits designation as one of 16 countries of particular concern based on conditions in 2018…

Latest round of Indian elections marred by violence (AP) The fourth phase of India’s staggered national election Monday was marred by multiple clashes that injured at least seven people and led to security forces firing warning shots outside one polling station…

The poor benefit from Delhi walkathon (UCANews.com) Last year was the walkathon’s first effort, and it proved to be a success, said Father John Britto, Chetanalaya director. The priest said someone participating in the walkathon usually walked the last part of their journey to work. “The money saved from walking would become the donation,” he said. Last year the program collected around 70,000 rupees which allowed them to fund nine physically challenged people plus two elderly people start small businesses similar to Kumar’s. The achievements of that program inspired participants to continue the walkathon this Lent, Father Britto said…

Waste from Kerala affecting residents elsewhere (The Times of India) Waste from neighboring Kerala continues to haunt residents of Mysuru…

Syria’s lost heritage stands about among broken minarets (Reuters) The sorry state of Aleppo’s Old City, a labyrinthine World Heritage Site and a battlefield from 2012-16, is obvious from a glance across the skyline at its shell-beaten minarets. They look down on an area that suffered massive damage in a conflict that brought down the medieval covered souk, smashed mosque domes and burnt churches. The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO in December said 10 percent of Aleppo’s historic buildings were destroyed and more than half the buildings they assessed showed severe to moderate damage…



Tags: Syria India Persecution Iran

30 April 2019
Greg Kandra




India's National Investigation Agency has arrested Riyas Aboobacker in connection with a planned attack by ISIS in Kerala. (photo: India Today/YouTube)

India arrests ISIS suspect allegedly plotting attacks in Kerala (The Daily Star) India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it has arrested a 29-year-old suspect linked to terror group Islamic State for allegedly conspiring to carry out a suicide attack in the southern state of Kerala…

Holy See urges Israel, Palestine to alleviate suffering of people (Vatican News) The Holy See is urging Israelis and Palestinians to alleviate the suffering of the people and pursue a future of peace and stability in the region. “Too many innocent civilians, on both sides, have paid the price of the indiscriminate use of violence and force,” lamented Monsignor Tomasz Grysa, the First Counsellor of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission at the United Nations in New York on Monday…

Students blamed for arson attacks at school in India (UCANews.com) Catholics in India’s Manipur state have accused a students’ organization of burning down a school after being angered by disciplinary action taken against some students. Seven classrooms, a records room and offices of St. Joseph School in the Sugnu area of Chandel district were destroyed by an arson attack on the night of 25 April after six students were suspended for indiscipline...

More churches, fewer churchgoers in Russia (Radio Free Europe) The Russian Orthodox Church has been building numerous places of worship in recent years, but some residents have objected to plans to place them in previously public spaces…

German Christians to present golden menorah to Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) A group of 11 pro-Israel German Christians left on a boat for Israel Monday, bringing with them a 5-foot, 265-pound gilded menorah. A life-size replica of the Temple lamp, the menorah is traveling from Germany via Rome to the port of Haifa. It will arrive on 5 May and be presented to the public on 9 May at a special ceremony in Jerusalem…



Tags: India Jerusalem Palestine ISIS

29 April 2019
Greg Kandra




The video above shows some of the thousands of Christians who gathered in Jerusalem Saturday to receive and pass on the 'Holy Fire' marking Orthodox Easter. (video: YouTube)

Huge crowds mark Orthodox Easter with ‘Holy Fire’ (The Times of Israel) Huge crowds of pilgrims on Saturday marked the “Holy Fire” ceremony at Christianity’s holiest site in Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of Orthodox Easter. Some 10,000 Christians holding candles squeezed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Thousands more crammed the square outside and surrounding streets to receive the flame, representing the resurrection of Christ, which passed from candle to candle and will be taken back to Orthodox churches worldwide…

India searches for ISIS suspects (The Daily Star) India’s elite counter-terror body National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out searches at the houses of three suspects in Kerala on Sunday in connection with a suspected Islamic State (ISIS) module in which 21 Indians are said to have traveled to Syria and Afghanistan and joined ISIS in 2016…

Indian election a battle for hearts and minds (UCANews.com) The ongoing general election in India will decide who will rule its 1.2 billion people for the next five years. But the run-up to the polls not only pitted political parties against each other but also divided Indian intelligentsia, sadly centered on a bigoted religious ideology…

Syrian refugees in Lebanon evicted (Al Jazeera) At least 50 Syrian refugees, including children, have been evicted from an informal settlement along Lebanon’s Litani River as part of an anti-pollution drive, bringing the total number of refugees forced out of the area this year to 1,500…

Sri Lanka bans face coverings (CNN) Any face covering that “hinders the identification of individuals in a way that threatens national security” is now banned in Sri Lanka, according to a statement from the country’s President. The move follows a series of bombings on Easter Sunday that killed more than 250 people and wounded at least 500 in Sri Lankan churches and hotels…

How social media and political division feed attacks on sacred spaces (The Washington Post) Inspired by the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and enabled by the largely unchecked freedoms of social media, individual extremists have launched a steady series of assaults on religious institutions around the world, the latest at a California synagogue…



Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Muslim Persecution

26 April 2019
Greg Kandra




Both Christian and Muslim public prayers have been suspended in parts of Sri Lanka, and many Muslims say they fear reprisal attacks, following last weekend's suicide bombings reportedly carried out by a group linked to ISIS. (video: SkyNews/YouTube)

Sri Lanka fears new attacks as weekend prayers begin (CNN) The ongoing hunt for terrorist suspects in Sri Lanka, and fears of reprisal attacks, have cast a shadow over the country still reeling from the devastation of the Easter Sunday bombings. Sri Lankans of different faiths were being urged to pray privately amid fears of further attacks Friday, as the country’s prime minister told CNN that security forces were also working to pick up any terrorist “sleepers” — who could activate to initiate another round of attacks…

Daily life in war-weary Damascus (Bloomberg) The road to Damascus from the Lebanese border leaves nobody in doubt who has won the war that’s cast a dark shadow over the Middle East for eight years. “Welcome to victorious Syria,” a billboard says with a picture of a beaming President Bashar al-Assad superimposed over the country’s red, white and black flag. Instead of a frenzy of reconstruction and the promise of revival, Syrians have found themselves fighting another battle. Weary and traumatized from the violence, they’re focused on trying to survive in a decimated economy that shows no signs of imminent revival and with no peace dividend on the horizon…

New generation of refugees emerging in Jordan camp (Al Jazeera) Zaatari camp in Jordan near the Syrian border is home to almost 80,000 refugees — 40 percent of them aged under 11…

Indian archbishop seeks apology from pro-Hindu politician (UCANews.com) Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore has sought an apology from a pro-Hindu politician for describing Christians as dishonest and unpatriotic. Archbishop Machado, who heads the bishops’ council in Karnataka state, said K.S. Eshwarappa, a senior leader of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), should publicly apologize for his statement…

Orthodox mark Good Friday (The Times of Israel) Orthodox Christians from around the world marked Good Friday with a procession through Jerusalem’s Old City, retracing the steps Jesus is said to have taken on the way to his death. Thousands of pilgrims, many carrying wooden crosses and at least one wearing a crown of thorns on his head, visited the 14 Stations of the Cross marking the traditional sites of Jesus’s condemnation up to his crucifixion…



Tags: Syria India Muslim Orthodox Damascus

25 April 2019
Greg Kandra




A prelate swings a censer over the casket of a victim during a funeral Mass in Negombo, Sri Lanka on 24 April 2019, three days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island. (photo: CNS/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters)

India’s Latin-rite Church dedicates Divine Mercy Sunday to Sri Lanka bomb victims (Vatican News) India’s Latin-rite Church has pledged its closeness and solidarity with the victims of the terrorist bomb attacks in Sri Lanka on Sunday, dedicating Divine Mercy Sunday on 28 April as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Church and people of the island nation. Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), that comprises the country’s Latin-rite bishops, released a statement on Wednesday, inviting CCBI member dioceses and the major superiors of religious congregations to join the initiative…

Sri Lanka: Interreligious dialogue vital to healing process (Vatican News) Father Indunil Janakaratne is Undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which sent its condolences to President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka following the attacks. He underlined that interreligious dialogue has never been so vital. “Interreligious dialogue helps us to overcome these prejudices; interreligious dialogue also helps us to heal the wounds; interreligious dialogue helps us to build bridges,” he said…

Human chain in India honors Sri Lanka victims (UCANews.com) About 100 people including Muslims held hands to form a human chain in front of New Delhi’s Sacred Heart Cathedral to pay homage to the victims of suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed 359 people, mostly Christians. Leaders from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths joined hands on 23 April to express solidarity with families of victims of the Easter Sunday blasts…

USCCB names new head of ecumenical and interreligious affairs (USCCB) Rev. Walter Kedjierski of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York has been appointed as Executive Director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), based in Washington D.C…

Former Coptic monks sentenced to death for killing bishop (BBC) Two former Coptic Christian monks have been sentenced to death in Egypt over the murder of a bishop last year, officials have confirmed. Bishop Epiphanius, 64, was found dead in a pool of blood in July 2018 at a desert monastery north-west of Cairo. Authorities blamed the killing on unspecified “differences” between the monks and the bishop…



Tags: India Egypt Interreligious Coptic Christians Persecution

24 April 2019
Greg Kandra




Police stand guard at the gate of Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi following the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. (photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)

Police guard churches in New Delhi after Sri Lanka attacks (UCANews.com) Security has been beefed up at churches in Indian capital New Delhi after a series of suicide bombings killed more than 300 people in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Armed police are guarding Sacred Heart Cathedral in the capital and asking churchgoers to pass through metal detectors. They also frisk visitors who enter the 88-year-old building…

How Sri Lanka’s Christians became a target (The Atlantic) The deadly bombings in Sri Lanka over the weekend follow a pattern of religious terror that has become grimly familiar around the world. The attackers targeted churches on Easter Sunday, when Christians would be gathered in large numbers and vulnerable during worship. They also chose crowded and exposed public spaces, including hotels likely to be hosting foreign tourists…

Iraq cardinal says 25,000 Christians have returned to Qaraqosh (The National) Nearly 25,000 Iraqi Christians have returned to their homes in Qaraqosh over the past two years and were able to celebrate Easter last weekend, Iraq’s top Cardinal said on Wednesday. Also known as Bakhdida and Al Hamdaniyah, the town on the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq was once home to 50,000 Iraqi Christians, making it the religious minority’s largest community in the country…

Israel lets hundreds of Gazans celebrate Easter in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Israel has allowed 500 Christian Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry announced Monday, days after reports of an Israeli decision to give special permits to only 200 of the 1,200-strong Gazan Christian community drew criticism of Israel’s “arbitrary” change in policy…

Easter party brings together different religions in India (UCANews.com) Some 3,000 people including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs joined Christians this year in celebrating Easter at an event in central India’s Bhopal city aimed at promoting religious tolerance. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal was the main organizer of the inter-religious gathering in the capital of Madhya Pradesh state on Easter Sunday…



Tags: India Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Iraqi Christians Persecution





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