15 January 2013
In this 2010 photograph, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem waves after celebrating Mass at the cathedral in Valparaiso, Chile, on 8 November. (photo: CNS/Eliseo Fernandez, Reuters)
Patriarch Twal urges democratic participation among Jordanians (Fides) Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal has sent a message to the “dear children” of Jordan in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for 23 January. In the message, the patriarch thanked King Abdullah II for ensuring that all citizens are able to exercise their electoral rights enshrined in the Constitution, and recalls the words addressed by the king to Pope Benedict XVI in May 2009, during the papal visit to Jordan: “The sons of our people, Muslims and Christians are equal citizens before the law, and all are involved in shaping the future of our country.” Patriarch Twal notes that country, after the worship due to the one God, occupies a position of first importance, since dedication towards one’s country precedes and guarantees the protection of the legitimate interests of individuals or groups. “There is no contradiction between the worship of God and belonging to one’s own country.”
Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II’s ‘star power’ (Eurasianet.org) Georgia’s two squabbling rulers, the prime minister and the president, both need love — the love of the country’s spiritual leader, the guardian of national unity, the primus inter pares, Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II. A recent, seemingly playful exchange in which the president and prime minister bickered over whom the patriarch loved more showed rather clearly that Georgia’s political system is not a diarchy, but a triumvirate, and that secular leaders need to vie for the holy graces of the chief of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Georgians’ infatuation with their political leaders is pretty much a one-night stand; they tend to lose interest the moment leaders take office. But the patriarch always tops the national love charts. And, so, well aware of the patriarch’s star power, the civic leaders turned up at the celebrations that marked Orthodox New Year, plus Ilia II’s 80th birthday and the anniversary of his 1977 enthronement — “a celebration of love,” as the church leader himself put it.
Rapes and bombings drive half a million refugees out of Syria (Christian Science Monitor) The flood of refugees from Syria, driven by rampant bombings and the widespread use of rape as an instrument of terror, threatens to destabilize the Middle East. The Syrian government bombed areas around Damascus on Monday as part of its push to keep rebel fighters out of the capital, leaving many children among the dozens killed, anti-regime activists said. An international aid organization cited such raids, along with rape and widespread destruction, as key factors in the exodus of more than a half-million Syrians to neighboring countries since the conflict began in March 2011. The International Rescue Committee said it could be “months, if not years” before the refugees can return home and warned that Syria’s civil war could enflame tensions in the Middle East.
Coptic Christians fleeing Egypt following Islamist takeover (The Telegraph) Tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians are leaving the country in the wake of the Egyptian revolution and subsequent Islamist takeover of politics, priests and community leaders say. Coptic Christian churches in the United States say they are having to expand to cope with new arrivals, as priests in cities like Cairo and Alexandria talk of a new climate of fear and uncertainty. “Most of our people are afraid,” said Father Mina Adel, a priest at the Church of Two Saints in Alexandria. “Not a few are leaving — for America, Canada and Australia. Dozens of families from this church alone are trying to go too.” Father Mina’s church has an important place in the history of the Arab Spring. It was struck by a car bomb on New Year’s Eve 2010, Egypt’s worst sectarian attack in recent decades, in which 23 people were killed. After the bombing, liberal Muslim groups staged protests in support of Christians, printing posters showing the cross and the crescent interlinked which then went on to be symbols of inter-faith unity during the Tahrir Square protests three weeks later. But the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary and presidential elections has changed the mood — particularly as the biggest opposition party is the even more hardline Salafist movement which wants strict Sharia law implemented.
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Jordan Patriarch Fouad Twal Georgian Orthodox Church