Current Issue
March, 2019
Volume 45, Number 1
25 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Young men pass buildings destroyed by Syrian airstrikes in Damascus on 17 January. (photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

Syrian rebels destroy Shi’ite site, loot churches (Yahoo! News) Rebels in Syria have burned and looted the religious sites of minorities, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, as the longest and deadliest of the Arab Spring revolts becomes increasingly sectarian. The 22-month-old rebellion against President Bashar al Assad started as a peaceful protest movement but has turned into civil war, pitting mostly Sunni Muslim rebels against a state security and military establishment dominated by Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. In the northern Idlib province, where rebels have taken swaths of territory from government forces, the New York-based rights group said opposition fighters destroyed a Shi’ite “husseiniya” — a religious site devoted to Hussein, a martyr in Shi’ite tradition. In the western Latakia province, Human Rights Watch quoted residents as saying gunmen working “in the name of the opposition” had broken into and stolen from Christian churches in two villages…

Coptic Catholic bishop: Egypt must not become Islamist (Fides) On the second anniversary of the Revolution of 25 January 2011, while there are reports of new clashes in the streets between police and anti-government protesters, Coptic Catholic Bishop Youhanna Qulta outlines the contours of the delicate moment lived by the great north African country. According to Bishop Qulta, “if the government and the Muslim Brotherhood try to repress the demonstrations held these days, the nightmare of civil war will return in Egypt.” Bishop Qulta, as a representative of the Catholic Churches in Egypt, took part in the Constituent Assembly called upon to write a new Constitution. Today he confirms the reason he and other Christian representatives withdrew from that body: “Work had begun on the right note, but at some point it became clear that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis wanted to impose an Islamic Constitution. We discussed with their leaders, but they did not want to listen. We realized that our function was only decorative, and went away.” According to Bishop Qulta: “Egypt is not Mali. It is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. More than ten million Christians live there. Its economy is based on tourism and trade. This is why one cannot agree to allow it to become an Islamist Country.” The bishop added: “I love my Muslim brothers and my sisters. I also dedicated my studies and my Ph.D. to Islamic culture.” For Bishop Qulta, the real problem is the relationship between politics and religion: “Who wants to be religious, cannot claim to compel by law the people to pray, not to drink alcohol and follow all practices related to his religion. In Arab countries, only by separating religion and politics one can have democracy”…

Bishop warns of “toughest times” for Serbs since 2004 pogrom (B92) A Serbian Orthodox bishop based in Kosovo has said that the position of the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija has not been this difficult ever since March 2004. Ethnic Albanians at that time organized widespread attacks on Serbs, their property, and holy places. “Eight full years have passed since the horrible event, and we still see that part of the Albanian community is ready to commit the most serious crimes, including the barbaric desecration of graves,” Bishop Teodosije of Raska-Prizren was quoted as saying. Commenting on the latest spate of violence in which several dozen gravestones were either destroyed or damaged in Serbian Orthodox cemeteries in Kosovo and Metohija, the Bishop said that “the feelings at seeing images of broken tombs and crosses set on fire are terrible”…

Pope receives members of key ecumenical commission (VIS) Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches. The commission was instituted ten years ago as a initiative of the ecclesial authorities of the family of the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The commission has dedicated this week to exploring “more fully the communion and communication which existed between the churches in the first five centuries of Christian history,” Pope Benedict XVI said, expressing his hope that “relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches will continue to develop in a fraternal spirit of cooperation, particularly through the growth of a theological dialogue capable of helping all the Lord’s followers to grow in communion and to bear witness before the world to the saving truth of the Gospel.” The full text of his address can be found here

Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Ecumenism