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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
28 August 2013
Greg Kandra




United Nations chemical weapons experts inspect one of the sites of an alleged poison gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya on 26 August. The U.N. inspectors in Syria met and took samples from victims of an apparent poison gas attack in the rebel-held area. (photo: CNS/Abo Alnour Alhaji, Reuters)

Dread grips Damascus as United States mulls military strike (The Daily Star) A heavy sense of dread pervades Damascus, as Washington and its allies mull military action after alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime outside the capital last week reportedly killed hundreds of people. Jihan is convinced the first United States strike on Syria would hit Mezzeh military airport near her Damascus home, and has already packed her family’s bags, ready to flee the capital. “They’ll hit Mezzeh, I’m sure; the target makes sense,” the young mother said of the facility, which President Bashar al Assad himself uses to travel within Syria…

Chaldean patriarch: Intervention against Syria would be a ‘disaster’ (Fides) The United States-led military intervention against Syria would be “a disaster,” according to Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I. “It would be like a volcano erupting with an explosion meant to destroy Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine. And maybe someone wants this.” The patriarch made his statement to Fides Agency with regards to his concern over the prospect of an outside attack, which seems to be imminent…

Russian Orthodox patriarchate expresses ‘strong concern’ about developments in Syria (Asia News) As a Western military intervention against the regime of Bashar al Assad appears increasingly likely, the Russian Orthodox Church expresses “strong concern” about possible developments of the crisis, this following United States charges that the regime used chemical weapons against civilians. “Once again, as was the case in Iraq, the United States is acting as an international executioner,” said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate…

Last group of Ethiopian Jews set to arrive in Israel (Jerusalem Post) The Jewish Agency is to bring the last of Ethiopia’s Jews to Israel on Wednesday afternoon with a flight of 400 Falash Mura, bringing an end to a saga that has spanned decades and seen tens of thousands of men, women and children coming to the Jewish state. Ethiopian-Israelis are planning a protest outside of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office at the same time that a plane representing the official end of Ethiopian aliya — the immigration of Jews to Israel — is scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion Airport…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Israel Russian Orthodox Church Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

27 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Men make homemade masks for protection against chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Zamalka in Syria on 23 August. Pope Francis denounced the atrocities in Syria, calling again for all sides to end to the fighting. (photo: CNS/Hadi Almonajed, Reuters)

Aleppo Christians fear Iraq-style ethnic cleansing (Al Monitor) It would be accurate to describe some areas of Aleppo as “Christian,” although this by no means implies any sort of self- or externally imposed segregation or discrimination. Residents of other faiths are found, and get along in those areas. Christians have enjoyed a large degree of social and religious freedom under the current regime. It is this unique identity and way of life that will most likely be the first victim of a rebel victory. With some rebel groups being largely made up of extremist Islamists and Al Qaeda affiliates, it is not such a stretch to deduce that Christians in Syria may suffer the same fate as they did in Iraq. For these reasons, one is likely to find young Christian men in Aleppo taking up arms and manning checkpoints to defend themselves…

Prayer and fasting for missing Jesuit in Syria (Fides) At the monastery of St. Moses the Ethiopian in Syria, 27 August, the eve of the liturgical feast of St. Moses, will be marked by prayer and fasting for the release of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio and for peace in Syria. This was reported to Fides Agency by Father Jacques Mourad, head of this historic monastic community of Syrian Catholics, re-founded in 1982 by Father Dall’Oglio. Over the years, the monastery opened its doors to accommodate members of other Christian denominations and launched a joint ecumenical spiritual community, which promotes dialogue between Christianity and Islam…

Syrian bishop warns intervention could spark ‘world war’ (AINA) A Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop on Monday warned that an armed intervention in Syria could unleash a “world war,” while the Vatican’s official newspaper called for more “prudence” from Western powers. “If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned,” Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Vatican radio. “We hope that the pope’s call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting,” he said…

Chaldean patriarch to Kurdistan Christians: Don’t sell your homes (Fides) Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I urged Christians of Iraqi Kurdistan to “cling to their villages” and not to sell the houses and lands passed down from their fathers. Iraqi Kurdistan, traditionally considered a safe place for Christians, has become just “the last stop” in Iraq for many seeking to emigrate abroad…

Indian diocese works to fight human trafficking (Fides) Human trafficking, mainly of women and girls, is one of the most serious violations of human dignity and human rights. Alarmed by the increase in cases of trafficking and exploitation of tribal girls, the Diocese of Ranchi in Jharkhand, northeastern state of India, has initiated a program aimed at protecting health, economic and social integration of the most vulnerable individuals. The project covers 30 villages in the district of Bero, about 20 miles west of Ranchi…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Iraqi Christians Emigration Indian Catholics human trafficking

26 August 2013
Greg Kandra




Civilians watch as workers remove debris and search rubble for casualties at building hit by shelling in the Bustan al Qasr district of Aleppo, Syria, on 21 August.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)


U.N. says snipers fired on weapons inspectors in Syria (New York Times) United Nations inspectors heading toward the site of a suspected chemical attack in Syria came under fire “multiple times by unidentified snipers” as they sought to cross into rebel-held territory on Monday, the United Nations said, and the first car in their convoy was hit. While there were no immediate reports of injuries, “the car was no longer serviceable,” so the inspectors “returned safely back to the Government check-point,” the United Nations said in a statement in New York, urging the combatants to cooperate with their effort to establish what happened in the attack last Wednesday. “The team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle,” the statement said...

Pope Francis renews calls for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in Syria. “It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.” The Holy Father called on the International Community to do everything in its power to help the “beloved Syrian nation” find a solution to the ongoing conflict. At the end of his remarks, Pope Francis lead all those listening in a prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace...

Patriarch: Christians pay highest price in Mideast conflicts (Vatican Radio) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter says Christians always pay the highest price when conflicts erupt in Middle East countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The cardinal also said that outside countries, especially in the West but also elsewhere, are helping to foment these conflicts...

Egyptian military using religion in propaganda campaign (New York Times) The Egyptian military has enlisted Muslim scholars in a propaganda campaign to persuade soldiers and policemen that they have a religious duty to obey orders to use deadly force against supporters of the ousted president, Muhammad Morsi. The effort is a signal that the generals are worried about insubordination in the ranks, after security forces have killed hundreds of their fellow Egyptians who were protesting against the military’s removal of the elected president — violence by the armed forces against civilians that is without precedent in the country’s modern history. The recourse to religion to justify the killing is also a new measure of the depth of the military’s determination to break down the main pillar of Mr. Morsi’s support, the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Ethiopian nun who may be Jerusalem’s best-kept musical secret (The Guardian) From a small, spartan room in the courtyard of the Ethiopian church off a narrow street in Jerusalem, a 90-year-old musical genius is emerging into the spotlight. For almost three decades, Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù has been closeted at the church, devoting herself to her life’s twin themes — faith and music. The Ethiopian nun, whose piano compositions have enthralled those who have stumbled across a handful of recordings in existence, has lived a simple life, rarely venturing beyond the monastery’s gates. But this month the nonagenarian’s scribbled musical scores have been published as a book, ensuring the long-term survival of her music. And on Tuesday, the composer will hear her work played in concert for the first time, at three performances in Jerusalem. Guebrù may even play a little.



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Jerusalem United Nations

23 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Grafitti is seen on the walls of an annex of the Chaldean Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Cairo on 18 August. The writing in red reads: “Dog of Israel.” The message in black calls Egypt’s army chief a traitor. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, especially in the impoverished south, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in the last week were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

‘Death to Christians’ a mantra among extremists in Egypt (Our Sunday Visitor) As the war continues to rage, Copts find themselves not only as collateral damage, but as targets of a powerful political group intent on pandemonium. Nuns were paraded through the streets like prisoners of war. In a kind of reverse Passover, Christian homes were marked for destruction. And it doesn’t look like peace will be coming soon for Egypt’s ancient Coptic Church, the primarily Orthodox community that makes up about 10 percent of the population. “The situation for Copts in Egypt is really tragic, and I fear it will only get worse,” reports Sophia Jones, a Cairo-based correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor. “Coptic homes have been marked with X’s before they are burned, dozens of churches have been destroyed, as well as businesses and Coptic orphanages.” Pope Francis called for “peace, dialogue and reconciliation” in Egypt, and includes in his prayers "the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering.” Besides prayer, Catholics also can help Egyptian Christians via the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Its website specifically accepts donations in support of Copts…

U.N.: Syrian child refugees count hits one million (Vatican Radio) The number of Syrian children living as refugees has reached one million, while another two million have been displaced within the country or recruited as fighters. This latest number comes from the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF. The U.N. said that the number of children living as refugees now accounts for half of all Syrians driven abroad by the conflict…

Russia urges Syria to cooperate with chemical weapons inquiry (New York Times) Russia urged President Bashar al Assad’s government on Friday to allow United Nations investigators to examine evidence of a suspected chemical weapons attack this week, joining the United States in seeking a full accounting of what happened early Wednesday in the Damascus suburbs. “The Russian side called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the U.N. chemical experts,” according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Russia, which has supported Mr. Assad throughout the conflict, has accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate the government. The Syrian government has denied any involvement. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, said at a diplomatic forum in Seoul on Friday that he could “think of no good reason why any party, either government or opposition forces, would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter…”

Twin blasts kill at least 27 in northern Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Two explosions killed at least 27 people and injured hundreds Friday in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, according to the Lebanese health minister. Ambulances rushed to the scene, and heavy black smoke covered the sky. Preliminary estimates from the health minister reported around 350 people injured in the explosions. The blasts went off near two mosques, which were filled with people on the Muslim day of prayer. A gun battle then broke out nearby between Jabal Mohsen, which supports Syria’s President Bashar al Assad, and the anti-Assad group Bab al Tabbaneh. Tripoli has seen clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, a Shiite sect to which Assad belongs…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians

22 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Startling images from Syria, but use of chemical weapons unclear (New York Times) Scores of men, women and children were killed outside Damascus on Wednesday in an attack marked by the telltale signs of chemical weapons: row after row of corpses without visible injury; hospitals flooded with victims, gasping for breath, trembling and staring ahead languidly; images of a gray cloud bursting over a neighborhood. But even with videos, witness accounts and testimonies by emergency medics, it was impossible to say for certain how many people had been killed and what exactly had killed them. The rebels blamed the government, the government denied involvement and Russia accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate President Bashar al Assad’s government. Images of death and chaos poured out of Syria after what may be the single deadliest attack in more than two years of civil war…

Experts say ‘little doubt’ of chemical weapon attacks in Syria (Der Spiegel) Experts are convinced that the hundreds of people who died in attacks in Syria on Wednesday were the victims of chemical weapons. It is yet to be confirmed, however, exactly what was deployed and whether the Assad regime is indeed responsible. Stefan Mogl, a chemical weapons expert with Spiez Laboratory of the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection, says that after viewing the videos he is left with little doubt: “The combination of symptoms indicates a nerve agent.” Such a thing would be very difficult to simulate, Mogl says. What’s more, many of the victims were children, making it even less likely the scenario could be faked. And the number of people affected by the attack also seems hard to explain by anything other than by the use of chemical weapons…

U.N. chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Syria (Al Jazeera) United Nations inspectors arrived Sunday in the Syrian capital of Damascus on a mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons, as Syrian officials vowed to fully cooperate with them. Their arrival comes after months of refusals by Syria’s government to let the teams into the war-ravaged country, where more than 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began in 2011. The United Nations team’s mission will be limited to investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in three areas, in particular the 19 March attack in Khan al Assal that President Bashar al Assad blames on rebels. The other two sites have been kept secret…

Monastery near Jerusalem defaced in suspected ‘price tag’ attack (Haaretz) Police are investigating a fire bomb attack Monday night on the Beit Jamal Monastery near Jerusalem in the latest “price tag” incident, Israeli shorthand for pro-settlement hate crimes. Perpetrators threw a fire bomb into the entrance hallway and sprayed the monastery walls with the words “price tag,” “death to the Gentiles,” and “revenge.” Footage from security cameras shows fire burning for several minutes, but no vegetation or wooden furniture caught fire and it died out. The Beit Jamal Monastery is known for its good relations with Israelis, who visit to buy its ceramics…

Decade of violence threatens to uproot Iraq’s remaining Christians (Al Monitor) With the rise of internal disputes and religious extremism, Iraqi Christians are fleeing Iraq at alarming rates. This fall, Rafael Aichoa, an Iraqi Christian in his 40’s, will emigrate to Australia, joining the rest of his brothers and relatives. Aichoa realized that his connection to his ancestors’ land had completely come to an end late last year, when he discovered his parents’ mutilated bodies. Unlike Aichoa’s family, Saad Touma, a young Iraqi Christian, succeeded in escaping from his captors in the winter of 2008. Now, along with the rest of his family, Touma is preparing to leave the relatively safe Iraqi Kurdistan Region for Turkey as a prelude to permanent migration to Europe. Like thousands of other Iraqi Christians, Aichoa and Touma fear that the circle of violence in Iraq will widen to include all parts of the country. In the face of repeated targeting, nearly 700,000 Christians emigrated from Iraq, out of a total Christian population estimated at 1.4 million in 2003, according to international reports based on church records and civic organizations. Ablahad Afraim, the head of the Chaldean Democratic Union Party, believes that the number of Christians remaining in Iraq is less than 400,000…

Kidnappings, forced conversions and violence against Christians in India (Fides) Episodes of violence have troubled the Christian communities in India in recent days. Police in Chennai, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, are looking for the parents who attacked their 23-year-old daughter over her conversion to Christianity and her desire to become a nun. A few days before, in the state of Rajasthan, the mother of a Christian pastor was severely beaten by Hindu extremists who had threatened to kill her and cut her to pieces if she did not convert to Hinduism…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Jerusalem Indian Christians

21 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Worshipers pray in the Chaldean Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Cairo on 18 August. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, especially in the impoverished south, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in the last week were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

Young Muslim: We can only rebuild Egypt together with Christians (AsiaNews) Muhammad Elhariry, a young Muslim businessman from Cairo, speaks about the growing unity between Muslims and Christians who want to rebuild a nation where different ethnicities and religions have lived together for 1,400 years. “Muslims were impressed by the attitude of Catholics, Coptic Orthodox and Protestant victims of the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Elhariry said. “The Christians did not ask for help from other countries of the same religion, instead they believed in themselves and in the Egyptian people. … We Muslims offered to protect churches and religious buildings, but our Christian brothers and sisters said: ‘Do not waste your souls, they are so precious to us. We have closed these buildings for now. Together we will rebuild our churches once we have eradicated terrorism.’ … What is sacred to one of my neighbors is also sacred for me. I have respect for him and his free will…”

Bishop says Christians and Muslims united against Islamists (AsiaNews) “Egyptian Christians and Muslims are united to change the country,” says Yohanna Golta, Coptic Catholic bishop of Andropoli and auxiliary bishop of Alexandria. In contrast, he notes: “The Muslim Brotherhood is an international movement that is not aiming for the good of Egypt.” The prelate describes the dramatic climate of violence that pervades Egypt and criticizes those who ignore the views of millions of Egyptians and reduce the conflict to a political struggle between the military and Muslim Brotherhood…

Syria opposition alleges chemical strike (Al Jazeera) Syrian activists accused President Bashar al Assad’s forces of launching a gas attack that reportedly killed hundreds, according to the Syrian Revolution General Commission — an umbrella organization for at least 40 opposition groups Wednesday. The attack would, if confirmed, be the worst reported use of chemical arms in the two-year civil war. The government attacks reportedly took place in the Ghouta region, east of Damascus, in suburbs including Zamalka, Arbeen, and Ein Tarm. Video footage from districts east of the capital showed people choking, some of them foaming at the mouth, and many bodies with no signs of injuries. The country’s main opposition group, Syrian National Coalition, accused the regime of killing more than 650 people in the attack: “Over 650 confirmed dead result of deadly chemical weapon attack in Syria,” the National Coalition said on Twitter…

Syria divided: Crossing a bridge where a sniper waits (Los Angeles Times) The Karaj al Hajez crossing that spans Aleppo’s Queiq River is a 300-yard stretch of no man’s land that divides the two Aleppos: one held by the rebels, one by the government. Every day, a government sniper holed up in city hall picks off at least a few people. On good days, no one dies. People call it the crossing of death. The first time Battoul crossed, she kept replaying all the terrifying stories she had heard. But once across safely, her fear slipped away. “Life has to go on,” she says. “People cross and someone gets shot and they pick up the martyr and keep going…”

Gaza faces environmental disaster (Al Monitor) People driving through the municipalities of the Gaza Strip can easily tell when they have reached the Wadi Gaza Bridge. They are forced to hold their noses to avoid inhaling the odor of waste and sewage coming from the valley, which has turned into an environmental disaster. Wadi Gaza is one of the main natural features of the Gaza Strip. It stems from the hills of the Negev and the southern highlands of the city of Hebron. It is about 65 miles in length, and it extends from the armistice line east of Gaza to the Mediterranean coast. Not many citizens live on the banks of the valley anymore due to municipal neglect. Furthermore, the Palestinian families there live in constant fear that Israel will open the dams it has set up on its borders with the Gaza Strip, causing a major humanitarian disaster. In January 2010, the Israeli authorities opened the dam of Wadi Gaza without prior warning. This led to the inundation of dozens of houses and the displacement of about 100 Palestinian families. Gaza’s Civil Defense reported having to save seven people from drowning. Fred Bleiha, a local shepherd, says: “The area has transformed from a natural reserve that attracts tourists into a high-risk environmental disaster…”

Albania seizes Orthodox church (Greek Reporter) Tension still prevails in Përmet in Albania, where hundreds of Orthodox residents of the town came into conflict with police outside of the Church of the Virgin Mary. The church was forcibly taken over some days before following the orders of the municipal authorities. Photos of the scene showed crews building a brick wall at the entrance to prevent people from using the church as well as using sheet metal around columns. The municipality sent police to the church in order to implement a controversial Supreme Court decision that the church property belonged to municipal authorities…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Albania

20 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




The caskets of 25 policemen killed in an ambush near the north Sinai town of Rafah lay on the ground after arriving at a military airport in Cairo on 19 August. Attacks by Islamist militants in the lawless north Sinai region have intensified since the overthrow of President Muhammad Morsi. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

Egyptian police arrest spiritual leader of Muslim Brotherhood (New York Times) The Egyptian police arrested the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood early on Tuesday, hours after a court ordered the release of former President Hosni Mubarak. The arrest of Muhammad Badie appeared to represent a red line the police never crossed during Mr. Mubarak’s own crackdowns on the group. Taken together with the fact that the former president’s release for the first time seems conceivable, the developments offered a measure of how far and how quickly the tumult shaking Egypt in recent days and weeks has rolled back the changes brought by the revolution of 2011…

Bishop of Luxor concerned with isolation, dwindling supplies (Fides) “Muslims and Christians who reside in [the area] have nothing because food supplies are running out and people are afraid to leave the house. Even those who are well off cannot buy food because all the shops are closed. I would like to reach them to give them help but I cannot because I am also segregated at home,” says Coptic Catholic Bishop Youhannes Zakaria of Luxor. On Friday, 16 August, demonstrators chased the bishop away from the center of Luxor. Police are standing watch at the bishopric…

Christian-Muslim animosity becomes incendiary subplot in Egypt (Los Angeles Times) Tensions between Muslims and Christians since the coup that overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Morsi have become an incendiary subplot to the intensifying battle for the nation’s future being waged between Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement and the military-backed government. Two Christians have reportedly been killed in recent days. Churches, schools, convents and at least one Christian orphanage have been attacked, torched or robbed, many of them in the southern deserts. Vestments have been scorched, statues shattered. Police have often provided little protection; parishioners said security forces didn’t arrive at St. George’s Church until three hours after the gunmen had fled…

Coptic church in Minya cancels Sunday liturgy for first time in 1,600 years (The Times of Israel) Amid escalating violence against Egypt’s Copts, churches in Minya, located in upper Egypt, canceled the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Other churches in Minya have also canceled prayer services. “We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years,” says the Rev. Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary Monastery. He said supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi destroyed the monastery, which includes three churches, one of which is an archaeological site. “One of the extremists wrote on the monastery’s wall, ‘donate [this] to the martyrs’ mosque,’ ” Lotfy added…

Cardinal Sandri on Egypt: anti-Christian violence unacceptable (Vatican Radio) The prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has condemned violence against Christians in Egypt, and called for national reconciliation, justice and lasting peace through dialogue. Speaking in French to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Sandri said, “The destruction of Christian churches is unacceptable.” Cardinal Sandri went on to say, “The revival of the country must take place in respect of the human person, in the mutual respect of all religions, in respect for religious freedom.” Cardinal Sandri said that faith or religion may not ever be used to justify violence…

Pope sends message to Hungary for feast of Saint Stephen (Vatican Radio) On Tuesday, Pope Francis sent a message to the president János Áder of Hungary to mark the feast of the nation’s founder and first king, Saint Stephan, which is celebrated each year on 20 August. The Holy Father wrote: “I ask God that the Hungarian people might find within themselves, and their human and spiritual heritage, the moral resources necessary in order to build a future of peace and fraternity…”

Ecumenical patriarch asks Turkey to end stalemate on seminary (Al Monitor) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has expressed his hope that the Turkish government will reopen the theological seminary on Istanbul’s Halki Island. Speaking at an iftar dinner recently, Bartholomew looked his host — Istanbul’s top Muslim clergyman Mufti Rahmi Yaran — in the eye and said: “Religious officials should be properly educated and set examples based on their training. Now that we are entering a dangerous stage of lacking qualified religious officials, we would like to emphasize the gravity of the situation at the Halki Seminary…”



Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Hungary Coptic Catholic Church

19 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 18 June photo, Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac prays during the liturgy in Rome. In an 18 August statement, he said the violence and unrest in Egypt are “not a political struggle between different factions.” (photo: CNS/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)

Catholic, Orthodox leaders in Egypt deny Christian-Muslim conflict (CNS) Speaking on behalf of Catholics in Egypt, Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac said the violence and unrest in his country are “not a political struggle between different factions, but a war against terrorism.” While mobs began attacking Christian churches, schools and convents, claiming the Christians supported Morsi’s ouster, there also were reports of Muslims forming cordons around Christian churches to protect them from the mobs and of Muslims offering shelter to their Christian neighbors. The Rev. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, confirms this (Fides), noting that despite attacks against about 60 churches throughout Egypt, “Muslims who live in the vicinity of the affected churches have helped men and women religious to put out the fires.” Father Greiche adds: “The majority of the population is against terrorism and religious extremism.” Coptic Pope Tawadros II issued a statement yesterday (AINA) along similar lines. “The attacks on government buildings and peaceful churches terrorize everyone, whether they be Copts or Muslims,” he said. “These actions go against any religion, any moral code and any sense of humanity…”

Egypt police killed in Sinai ambush (Al Jazeera) At least 24 Egyptian police officers have been killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in northern Sinai, security officials say. The officials said the Monday morning attack took place as the officers were driving through a village near the border town of Rafah in the volatile Sinai Peninsula. Egypt shut the Rafah border crossing after the deadly attack, a border official has told AFP news agency. Rafah is the sole crossing into the Gaza strip…

Syrian Palestinians pack Lebanon refugee camp (Los Angeles Times) Palestinians are a minority among the more than 600,000 Syrian refugees who have come to Lebanon. But their stateless status as lifelong refugees now forced to flee relatively secure lives in Syria has complicated the regional humanitarian crisis. Most were born in Syria, descendants of parents and grandparents who left ancestral homes in what is now Israel. While camp residents, including several relatives, have been welcoming, the Syrian Palestinians say the garbage-strewn squalor of this and other Palestinian camps in Lebanon has stunned them. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this, I still can’t believe it: the dirty streets, the lack of electricity, the broken houses, the soldiers guarding the entrances, the walls, the overcrowding,” says Ammar, an emigrant from Damascus incredulous at the plight of fellow Palestinians. “Animals live like this, not humans…”

Ethiopian church helps those affected by drought (Vatican Radio) Caritas Italiana has applauded the Ethiopian Catholic Church’s Social and Development Commission for the successful implementation of the Drought Recovery and Rehabilitation Project. The project is designed to rehabilitate and improve drought-affected households in the targeted 19 districts…



Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Refugee Camps Palestinians Ethiopian Catholic Church

16 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi take part in a protest near Ennour Mosque in Cairo on 16 August, following clashes that left over 600 dead. (photo: CNS/Louafi Larbi, Reuters)

Islamists urge day of ‘rage’ in Cairo to protest military (New York Times) The Muslim Brotherhood, for decades the repository of Islamist sentiment, said it wanted millions to march on Friday to display “the pain and sorrow over the loss of our martyrs.” On Thursday, many of those waiting outside a makeshift morgue talked of civil war. Some blamed members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority for supporting the military takeover. A few argued openly for a turn to violence. “The solution might be an assassination list,” said Ahmed, 27, who like others refused to use his full name for fear of reprisals from the new authorities. “Shoot anyone in uniform. It doesn’t matter if the good is taken with the bad, because that is what happened to us last night.” Mohamed Rasmy, a 30-year-old engineer, interrupted. “That is not the solution,” he said, insisting that Islamist leaders would re-emerge with a plan “to come together in protest.” He argued that the bloodshed was now turning the rest of the public against the military-appointed government. “It is already happening,” he said…

Coptic bishop: No civil war in Egypt (America magazine) A Coptic Catholic bishop who served as a member of the assembly that drafted Egypt’s 2012 constitution said his country will not have a civil war, and foreign powers — including the United Nations — should not interfere. In a wide-ranging interview with Arab West Report, Bishop Youhanna Golta of Alexandria also said people must view Egypt as a whole and not just be concerned about Coptic Christians. He discussed the history of Islam and asked for patience for Egyptian democracy, reminding people that European democracy took four centuries to evolve, and Egyptians have only had two or three years. “Civil war is when a part of the country turns against the other part. This is not the case in Egypt. … In Egypt, the people are united against a certain group that doesn’t represent more than 2 percent of the country,” he said, referring to extremists within the Muslim Brotherhood. “With respect to the burning of the churches, I said today in the Akhbar newspaper that ’burning of the churches makes us [Christians] proud, because we are contributing to the liberation of Egypt,’ ” said the bishop, who serves as an assistant to the Coptic Catholic patriarch…

Working-class Cairo neighborhood contemplates recent tragedy (New York Times) Egypt seems more divided than ever after a brutal day of violence here that left hundreds of people dead. Supporters of the ousted president, Muhammad Morsi, mourned those killed, vowed revenge, planned their next moves. Many other Egyptians, though, directed their ire at the protesters who had camped out in the streets for weeks. For them, what occurred made sense. “It was necessary,” Akmal William, standing in his auto-detailing shop on Talaat Harb Street, said of the raid by soldiers and police officers. “They had to be strict.” Witnesses described a disproportionate, ruthless attack. Condemnations came from human rights advocates, a few Egyptian political figures, and from abroad. But many Egyptians viewed things differently, focusing on what they said were continuing threats from Mr. Morsi’s supporters, who were frequently referred to as terrorists. In their view, the army was the only force standing in the Islamists’ way. Between the parallel realities, others were torn between the claims of the security forces of violent demonstrators who threatened the country — a view parroted by the state news media — and what they heard from Islamist friends about how the battle on the streets had unfolded on Wednesday morning…

Pope asks Mary to bring calm to Egypt (CNS) As the official death toll emerged from the 14 August clashes in Egypt and as the damage done to Christian churches was being assessed, Pope Francis invoked Mary, queen of peace, to bring calm to the country. In light of the “painful news” coming from Egypt on 15 August, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Pope Francis said he was praying for “all the victims and their families, for the injured and those who are suffering…”

U.N. chief arrives to aid Israeli-Palestinian negotiations (Los Angeles Times) United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Ramallah Thursday in a bid to boost Palestinian-Israeli negotiations launched in Jerusalem the day before after three years of deadlock. Speaking at a news conference with his host, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Ban expressed strong support for efforts to revive the peace talks, promising to do everything he could as United Nations chief to reach the goal of two states for two peoples…

Beirut car bomb kills 21 (Washington Post) A powerful car bomb ripped through a busy shopping street in Hezbollah’s stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Thursday, killing at least 21 people and injuring hundreds in the deadliest attack to hit the Lebanese capital in more than eight years. The explosion early Thursday evening tore the facades off apartment buildings and set afire parked cars in the Ruwais neighborhood, an area of staunch support for Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement…

In India, people thirsty despite rain (The Hindu) “Whether monsoon or summer, the people of Upper Kuttanad are left to bear the bane of drinking water scarcity, despite being surrounded by water round the year,” says Sreedharan Nair, an elderly farmer in the Upper Kuttanad village of Nedumpram. Potable water has become a precious commodity, as the well water, reddish yellow water with a bad taste and odor, is unsuitable for consumption. The recent floods have further contaminated well water, leaving the people to depend solely on the Kerala Water Authority for their daily drinking water needs. A drinking water management and sanitation scheme of Bodhana, a social service organization associated with the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, has turned out to be a solace in some areas…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Lebanon Middle East Peace Process Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

14 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this video, Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane reports on the violence that erupted in Cairo today. At least 40 people were reportedly killed when security forces launched an operation to remove two pro-Morsi sit-ins. (video: Al Jazeera)

Security crackdown kills scores in Egypt (Al Jazeera) Security forces have stormed two Cairo protest camps set up by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Muhammad Morsi. The event quickly turned into a bloodbath, leaving dozens dead. Conflicting reports have emerged over the number of people killed on Wednesday. Al Jazeera’s correspondent counted 94 bodies in Rabaa al Adawiya’s makeshift hospital, while some members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood say the death toll is was as high as 2,200, with about 10,000 injured. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the Brotherhood’s figure. Two journalists were also killed while covering the violence on Wednesday. Mick Deane, a cameraman for the U.K.-based Sky News channel, and Habiba Abd Elaziz, a reporter for the U.A.E.-based Xpress newspaper, died of gunshot wounds…

Coptic Church: Constitution’s Sharia provisions not all at odds with civil state (Egypt Independent) While the Salafi-oriented Nour Party has threatened to quit politics if articles on Islamic Sharia are modified, the Coptic Church declared that it had no objection in maintaining the second article of the document, which stipulates that Islam is the country’s official religion, that Arabic is its official language, and that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation. But Kamal Zakher, a Coptic writer, voiced reservations to Egypt Independent regarding Article 219 of the old constitution. “There is no objection to maintaining Article 2 of the 1971 constitution. The disagreement is not on the recognition of Islamic Sharia, but rather on its interpretation by various Islamic currents. Sharia respects our own religious laws and vows to protect them…”

Italian Jesuit seen as ‘icon’ of Syrian revolution (Al Monitor) Demonstrations were held in the Syrian city of Raqqa to demand the release of the Italian Jesuit priest, speculated to be held captive by Islamists affiliated with Al Qaeda. Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who in the 1980’s rebuilt the Syriac Catholic Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian north of Damascus, has been a consistent voice for interfaith dialogue and peaceful coexistence founded on mutual respect and understanding. But his messages soon came under threat as a result of the civil war that even now ravages Syria — his adoptive home since the late 1970’s, when he resigned from the Italian army to embark on a journey of contemplation eastward. He once observed: “Why do you grieve when shells hit the Umayyad Mosque? We have the old maps and plans and we will rebuild and restore it once the regime falls. The most important thing is that the dictator leaves; the rest is easy.” Now, this icon of the revolution, first ejected from the country for his harsh criticisms of the Assad regime, is believed to be a captive of the very forces battling the regime…

Assyrian monastery attacked in Turkey (AINA) A group of Muslims attacked the staff of the St. Abraham monastery on Sunday, 11 August, in the city of Midyat in southeastern Turkey. The attack started when the staff turned away the visiting group, explaining that visiting hours had ended for the day. The visitors then began to threaten and curse the Assyrians. A fight then broke out as they tried to batter their way into the monastery…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Turkey Islam





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