13 September 2012
Workers hang a Vatican flag 11 September near the main airport in Beirut in preparation for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Sharif Karim, Reuters)
With World on the Brink, Can Benedict Be a Firebreak? (NCR) Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Lebanon will be the first visit of a major Western leader to the Arab world after the attacks in Egypt and Libya. Big questions loom: Will the pope’s presence inflame extremist Islamic sentiment even further? Or, will the visit act as a firebreak, offering a counter-narrative of Muslim-Christian harmony? In either event, this 24th foreign journey by Pope Benedict XVI, and his fourth to the Middle East, could potentially be among his most consequential. A Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, says that the pope will bring a “message of dialogue and respect for all believers of different religions” to Lebanon.
Christian Presence in Sarajevo Fading (Kuwait Times) The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has warned that Christianity is under threat in Sarajevo, as Muslim and Christian clerics argued during talks meant to promote reconciliation. “The most tragic [thing] is that many who might want to, do not have the opportunity to return [to Sarajevo],” Irinej said on RTRS television, calling on Europe to “put right a great injustice.” A census taken in 1991, before the war in Bosnia, recorded Serbs as about 30% of Sarajevo’s population; though no official census has been taken since then, Serb presence is estimated to have fallen to half of that.
Many Christians Join Protests Against Film Mocking Islam (Fides) In Egypt, Christians are joining Muslims to protest against the film that denigrates the Prophet Muhammed. Father Rafic Greiche, director of the communications for the Catholic Church in Egypt, says: “Right now, demonstrations are in progress in the center of Cairo to protest against the American film which insults the Prophet Mohammed, with several clashes with the police. The situation is tense in the area around the U.S. Embassy, which is very close to Tahrir Square. It should be noted that among the demonstrators there are also many Christians, the Copts in particular, together with Muslims are protesting against the film. Also on Facebook and other social media, Christians and Muslims are united in the protest.” Additionally, even the leaders of the major Christian denominations in Egypt have made their voices heard. “The Catholic Church, the Orthodox and Protestant churches issued a statement in Arabic against the film in question,” Father Greiche says.
In Syria, Christians Take Up Arms for the First Time (The Telegraph) The Christian community has tried to avoid taking sides in the civil war, at first seeking only to protect churches. However, as the war moved into the city and spread across its suburbs, they have begun to accept weapons from the Syrian army and join forces with Armenian groups to repel opposition guerrillas. “Everybody is fighting everybody,” said George, an Armenian Christian from the city. “The Armenians are fighting because they believe the F.S.A. are sent by their Turkish oppressors to attack them, the Christians want to defend their neighbourhoods, Shabiha regime militia are there to kill and rape, the army is fighting the F.S.A., and the [Kurdish militant group] P.K.K. have their own militia too.” For the past six weeks up to 150 Christian and Armenian fighters have been fighting to prevent Free Syrian Army rebels from entering Christian heartland areas of Aleppo.
Armenian Primate Visits U.S. (The Armenian Mirror Spectator) Archbishop Avak Asadourian who has been the Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq for the past 33 years, during some of its most traumatic periods, is considered a hero among his people. He is currently visiting the United States for a special celebration to be accorded him by the large Iraqi-Armenian community in Glendale on 16 September, in honor of his 35 years as a clerical leader. On this trip, the Primate also visited the St. Vladimir’s and St. Nersess’ Seminaries in New York, from which he graduated in 1976. During an exclusive interview, the Primate spoke about the insecure condition of the Armenian and Christian communities since the time of the Iran-Iran war, which started in 1980, and the “ill-conceived war perpetrated by the NATO coalition against Iraq” in 2003.
Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Christian-Muslim relations Armenian Apostolic Church Coptic Christians