23 October 2015
Tents housing displaced Syrians are seen in camp on the southern outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 22 October 22 2015. (photo: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. debating ways to shield Syrian civilians (The New York Times) The Obama administration is locked in a sharp new debate over whether to deploy American military forces to establish no-fly zones and safe havens in Syria to protect civilians caught in its grinding civil war...
Lebanon says ranking ISIS official captured (The Daily Star) General Security Thursday announced the arrest of what it said was a prominent ISIS leader and other suspected militants who were based in the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh. It said via its Twitter account that the main suspect, who was not identified, was a “legitimate leader” of an ISIS cell plotting to carry out attacks in Lebanon. It did not specify his nationality...
Turkey says new wave of Syrian refugees will head for Europe (Reuters) Turkey is preparing for tens of thousands more refugees from Syria as government forces and Russian warplanes pound opposition-held areas, and officials said many would try illegally to get to Europe. Syrian government troops and their allies, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive against rebels battling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad south of Aleppo, still home to two million people, a week ago...
Meet the founder of Russia’s Orthodox TV channel (Financial Times) On a sunny afternoon in Moscow, the Russian tycoon Konstantin Malofeev is holding court in the studios of his newly launched television channel Tsargrad TV, dressed in a designer suit, a blue silk handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket. Above him is a makeshift cathedral cupola weighing in at half a tonne. Behind him are 24ft-high windows through which the Kremlin’s red towers are visible, their glass communist stars glistening...
22 October 2015
The Grigorian family gather in their home in Arevik, Armenia. The rich heritage and history of Armenia’s Catholics, with interwoven religions and traditions, is recounted in “A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics” in the January 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
22 October 2015
Smoke rises after the Syrian army bombed the opposition controlled Eastern Ghouta district of Damascus, Syria on 22 October 2015. (photo: Bassam Al-Shami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians under the gun in Syria (Voice of America) Since Russia launched its first round of airstrikes in Syria three weeks ago, reports have emerged that civilians were making up a shockingly large portion of the casualties. A report by a Syrian activist group is lending further weight to that accusation...
Russian Orthodox’s Metropolitan Hilarion meets with Pope Francis (Moscow Patriarchate) On 21 October 2015, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the DECR chairman, met with Pope Francis at the “Domus Sanctae Marthae” hotel in Vatican. Pope Francis thanked Metropolitan Hilarion for greetings he brought to the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church and conveyed his best wishes to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Discussed were topics on the agenda of bilateral relations of the Roman Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as the situation in the Middle East, where Christians have been persecuted by the terrorist groups...
Russian Orthodox priest ordained in China (USA Today) In the latest sign of warming ties between Moscow and Beijing, the Russian Orthodox Church ordained its first Chinese priest in 60 years, with the blessing of China’s atheist, Communist rulers. The rare move in the politically sensitive area of religion, which is tightly regulated in China, underscores how the two nations have moved closer at a time when each faces growing friction with the United States...
Dialogue between religions offers new challenges (Vatican Radio) The Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Msgr. Indunil Janakaratne Kodithuwakku, has given a lecture at a conference at the Confucius Institute at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan...
21 October 2015
Migrants from Syria warm themselves by a fire on 11 October as they wait to be registered outside a camp near Lesbos, Greece. Thousands of displaced Syrians who have been unable to leave their war-torn country now face a harsh winter. Help CNEWA and the Vatican to help them survive the cold. Visit this page to learn how. (photo: CNS/Yannis Kolesidis, EPA)
21 October 2015
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, on 21 October 2015.
(photo: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Assad flies to Moscow to thank Putin for air strikes (Vatican Radio) On Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew into Moscow for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the two men discussed their joint military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria. In his first foreign trip since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Assad’s visit came three weeks after Russia launched a campaign of air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria. Assad personally thanked Putin for his military support, emphasizing just how major a part Russia is playing in the Middle East...
Holy See denies report that pope has brain tumor (VIS) The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., issued the following statement this morning: “The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way”...
Olive harvest has begun in Gethsemane (Fides) The olive harvest in the garden of Gestsemani began on Saturday 17 October and will last at least one week. As usual, even this year the Franciscan friars, guardian of the Sacred Garden where Jesus prayed on Holy Thursday, invited the people of Jerusalem and volunteers from every part of the world to spend a few hours or an entire day to olive picking...
Fact-checking Israel’s statement to the UN Security Council (PalestineUN.org) On 16 October 2015, Israeli Ambassador Roet addressed the UN Security Council in an emergency session on the escalating situation in Israel and Palestine. Below are his statements followed by facts disproving the statements...
Thousands fleeing Eritrea in migrant crisis (The Wall Street Journal) On a cool March evening soon after his 16th birthday, Binyam Abraham waited until his mother and young siblings were sleeping and slipped away to begin the long trek toward Eritrea’s southern border. With his father trapped in open-ended military service that would soon snare him, too, Binyam walked for 19 hours without food or water to reach Ethiopia. He made a choice 5,000 of his countrymen make each month, by a United Nations estimate: to flee Eritrea and brave the world’s deadliest migrant trail, across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to Europe...
20 October 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Palestine Russia Eritrea
Margaret Injak, 63, a Catholic resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, prays on 18 October
in St. Saviour’s Parish near her home. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
As tensions mount and violence increases in Jerusalem, Christians are turning to prayer:
“We are very tired,” said Margaret Injak, 63, who lives near the third station of the cross along the Via Dolorosa. “We are very afraid of the police, we are afraid of the Israelis, we are afraid of the Muslims. I am for peace; I want peace for all the world, just peace.”
Christians have been staying mainly in the Christian Quarter of the Old City as yet another wave of violence plays itself out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, she said, and parents have been keeping a closer eye on their children.
Most of the attacks have been carried out by young Palestinians, some as young as 13, and what started in Jerusalem has spread to other Israeli cities. Fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians continues in the West Bank and along the border with Gaza. The clashes between the two left at least 44 Palestinians and seven Israelis dead since the beginning of October.
St. Saviour is in the Christian Quarter, but not far from where, earlier in the month, stabbings took place on a part of the Via Dolorosa that is in the Muslim Quarter.
Over a number of decades, several Muslim Quarter properties have been bought by Jews, including a religious seminary and a long unused house purchased by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It is also along this portion of the Via Dolorosa that Jews walk through from the main Damascus Gate to reach the Western Wall.
The armed Israeli border policemen standing guard at the fourth and fifth station of the cross, where a metal detector has been placed, are meant to prevent further attacks.
Since the tensions began, Frieda Michail, 53, said she no longer lets her children go out and takes them and picks them up from school herself.
“We tell our children that politics is not for us, to leave it for the big people. If you want to live in peace you have to take care of your children. I tell them we are the brothers of Muslims and we are the brothers of Jews,” said her husband, William, 54. “I tell my children to be safe; to be good. I think there is only one God, for Muslims, Christians and Jews. If one of us has a problem, there are problems for all of us. I say it is not right these kids killing each other. It is sad for everybody.”
Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said that as he made his way into the church accompanied by several children preparing their readings for the mid-morning family Mass, it was more important than ever to remain strong in faith.
“We keep our children safe by teaching them their faith, sending them to Catholic school and giving them a good example,” he told CNS.
In the church, religious try to keep a warm atmosphere for the children, teaching them about the Catholic faith and providing them with a safe gathering place. But recently the children have been very tense and anxious, said Gustavo Ramirez, a Salesian seminarian from Mexico who has been in Jerusalem for two years and who has been helping in catechism classes.
“We try to talk and smile and calm them by the way we do our work,” he said. “For me, it is sacrilegious that these things are happening in the Holy Land, but at the same time, upon reflection, the Via Dolorosa is the symbol of Christ’s suffering, and these people are experiencing that suffering now. It is the suffering of both people.”
Though the streets are less crowded than normal and hotels have reported cancellations, groups of pilgrims from Taiwan, Poland, India and Spain still walk the Via Dolorosa, or Way of the Cross, stopping at the stations and taking the presence of the border police in stride, with some pausing to snap pictures with the obliging young men and women in uniform.
“I know that violence is inherent to this place,” said Luis Vernajo, 66, a pilgrim from Madrid on his fourth visit to the Holy Land. “It is very complicated for a person to face that hate, but the desire to be here is so strong that you put that to the side. This place deserves for us to come here. Since the Psalm of David there has been a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, and we all have to try and contribute to this. We all have to pray for a better peace of Jerusalem.”
Franciscan Brother Mark McPherson, an American originally from Los Angeles who has been in the Holy Land for three years, said he tries to make his presence on the Via Dolorosa a positive influence. He chats amiably equally with the Muslim shopkeepers as well as the Israeli soldiers.
“I try to be warm and friendly to everybody, also to the soldiers,” he said, noting a shopkeeper had just chastised him for taking a picture with some soldiers, calling them “killers.” “They are also probably scared, they are also young kids. You can't assume they are killers.”
Near the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, at the fourth station, a young Jewish Orthodox mother, wearing a long skirt and a blue turban wrapped around her hair, walked down the street with her baby strapped to her chest in a baby carrier. Three armed private security guards towered over her as they accompanied her along the street. Shortly after, a border policeman called over a young Palestinian man to stand by the wall and frisked him for possible concealed weapons.
Heading down toward the Muslim quarter from the Christian Quarter, Jack Hliemat, 17, made the sign of the cross as he passed Saint Saviour and hurried to pick up breakfast for his family before they went to Mass.
“My parents tell me to be careful when I go out, but I am not afraid because I don’t do anything wrong,” he said.
Not far from the spot where a few week earlier an Israeli family was stabbed, killing the father and injuring the mother, Samir Asm, 56, reads a newspaper in front of the T-shirt shop he has run for 35 years. A blue T-shirt emblazoned with the word “peace” in Hebrew, Arabic and English hangs on display next to him.
“We like peace and we should help each other,” he said. “Even if we don’t have peace, I will sell my (peace) T-shirts.”
20 October 2015
The video above, broadcast on Russian state TV, reportedly shows drone footage of Syria’s
front lines. (video: YouTube)
Russian TV releases drone footage claiming to show scenes from Syrian battlefront (Vox) Most of us will never see Syria’s front lines. But on Monday, Russian state TV released a brief clip showing what it claims is HD footage of fighting there, taken by a drone camera hovering overhead...
Quiet in Ukraine offers hope for peace (The New York Times) Once Russian warplanes started bombing targets in Syria on 30 September, the world’s attention shifted away from Ukraine, a development that in the view of some analysts may have been part of the Kremlin’s calculations all along. Whether this was the intention of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, it is certainly true that the tenuous cease-fire in eastern Ukraine and the tense negotiations underway in Minsk, Belarus, to find a political solution are no longer in the news, not in Russia and not in the West...
Praying and hoping for peace in Jerusalem’s Old City (CNS) Following a week that included Palestinians stabbing Israelis, bloody clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces, and despair rising on both sides, the parishioners of St. Saviour Church in the Old City of Jerusalem came to Mass on 19 October to pray, mainly for peace. “We are very tired,” said Margaret Injak, 63, who lives near the third station of the cross along the Via Dolorosa. “We are very afraid of the police, we are afraid of the Israelis, we are afraid of the Muslims. I am for peace; I want peace for all the world, just peace...”
Courage, strength needed for peace in Holy Land, says Pope (CNS) There is a need for great courage and strength in order to reject hatred and to carry out acts of peace in the Holy Land, Pope Francis said. Before reciting the Angelus on 18 October, the pope expressed his concern for the increase in violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The clashes between the two left at least seven Israelis and 44 Palestinians dead since the beginning of October. “I am following with great concern the situation of high tension and violence that afflicts the Holy Land,” the pope said...
Meet the man trying to save Gaza’s antiquities (Al Monitor) Perched on the roof of a house in Al-Shati camp, west of Gaza City, is a small room with a tin roof and plastic windows. Palestinian sculptor Nafez Abed uses the room as a studio, where visitors are dazzled by the artifacts and sculptures, some of which his hands shaped dozens of years ago...
Catholics vs. Muslims in Rome’s first interfaith cricket match (Vatican Radio) Sporting history was made in Rome at the weekend as an all-Muslim cricket team played against St Peter’s Cricket Club, comprised of Catholic seminarians in training for the priesthood. The St Peter’s XI was launched in 2013 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture, with ecumenical and interfaith relations as an important part of the club’s mission. The Mount Cricket Club from Yorkshire in the north of England was founded back in the 1970s by children of Asian immigrant families and is today involved in both charitable initiatives and wider community integration...
16 October 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia
Israeli and border police stand guard on 9 October near a gate to the compound known by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif and by Jews as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
(photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
Palestinians torch Jewish shrine (Vatican Radio) Palestinians set fire to a Jewish shrine in the West Bank on Friday as the Islamist group Hamas called for a day of rage against Israel. Israeli military officials say about 100 people converged on the tomb of the biblical patriarch Joseph, which is located in the Palestinian city of Nablus. They were pushed back by Palestinian security forces who arrived on site, but not in time to stop rebels setting parts of it on fire...
Holy site at center of increased tensions in Jerusalem (CNS) It has been painful to watch as violence has taken over Jerusalem once again, especially along the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus suffered in order to dissuade the use of violence, said Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, Latin Patriarchate chancellor. This violence goes against Jerusalem’s vocation as a holy city, which should be open to all people of faith, he said. “We are shocked at what is happening,” Bishop Shomali told Catholic News Service in mid-October, after two weeks of unrest. “Violence does not help. We do not accept violence by any side...”
Syrian refugees encountering racism, but also kindness (AP) For the Syrian refugee family, one reprieve from crushing boredom in the asylum centre is short walks to a lake. But in a town teeming with neo-Nazis, the excursions can bring more distress than relief: A man recently stormed out of a coffee shop and screamed at two women of the Habashieh family to take off their hijabs “because we’re in Europe!” Another time, people inside a car yelled: “Auslaender raus!!” — Foreigners out!! Fear and frustration, however, have been tempered by kindness. A volunteer from nearby Dresden has befriended the Habashiehs, who fled Syria’s civil war and are now living in a temporary facility in the eastern town of Heidenau after arriving in Germany last month, following a perilous journey from Damascus. The experience mirrors the mixture of hostility and generosity that has greeted hundreds of thousands of migrants streaming into Europe this year...
Pontifical council issues document on human trafficking (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council of Migrant and Itinerant People’s has issued a final document following an international symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Road. The document and plan of action offers reflections and recommendations highlighting the scurge of human trafficking and calls on states and governments to “protect with all legal measures children and women earning a living or living on roads and streets, who are often victims of socio-economic inconsistencies and/or human trafficking...”
Christians kidnapped by ISIS released (VIS) At least 50 Christians in Qaryatayn taken hostage last August by jihadists of the Islamic State were released on Sunday 11 October, and were able to return to the villages of Zaydal and Fairuzeh in an area controlled by the Syrian government army. Their release, confirmed by the media linked to the Assyrian community, took place a few hours after the release of Syrian priest Jacques Murad, Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian, who was carrying out negotiations to restore freedom to more than 200 Christians and Muslims in Qaryatayn still under the control of the jihadists of Daesh...
Pentecostal pastor killed in India (UCANews) A Christian minister was shot dead in eastern India, an act a church leader said points to a trend of terrorizing Christians in the tribal-dominated Jharkhand state. Chamu Hasda Purty, 54, of the Independent Pentecostal Church, was shot dead 12 October in Sandhi village of the state’s Khunti district. Police officials said they are unsure of the motives for the murder and that the attackers are on the run...
15 October 2015
Tags: Syria Refugees Palestine Jerusalem Israel
Pope Francis accepts an icon of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt from Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, Kafr El-Sheikh, and Bararya, all in Egypt, before a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on 15 October. CNEWA has launched an urgent appeal to support Egypt's Christians. Visit this web page to learn more. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
14 October 2015
An Egyptian boy plays with a toy camera he found in the garbage. Cairo’s “Zabbaleen,” or “garbage people” earn a meager living hauling trash and make up a significant part of the city’s underclass. Read about them in “Salvaging Dignity” from the September 2012 edition of ONE.
(photo: Dana Smillie)