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September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
19 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees collect food at the Bab al Salam refugee camp in Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border on 14 March. Catholic bishops of Syria called for a cease-fire in their country and for the pursuit of the Geneva peace talks to end the crisis. (photo: CNS/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)

Lebanon cannot bear brunt of Syrian refugee crisis alone, U.N. official warns (U.N. News Center) Massive international support is crucial as the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continues to rise and is on track to reaching 1.5 million by the end of this year, a senior United Nations humanitarian official stressed today. “It is imperative that the international community helps bear the brunt of the pressure on Lebanon,” Ross Mountain, the acting U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, told a news conference in Geneva…

Israel strikes Syria in Golan Heights (Al Jazeera) Israeli warplanes unleashed airstrikes Wednesday against Syrian army targets in response to a roadside bombing in the Golan Heights that wounded four soldiers the day before, the Israeli military said. Tuesday’s roadside bombing and Wednesday’s strikes are the most significant escalation between Israel and Syria since the Syrian conflict began three years ago, though neither country has expressed interest in entering a war…

What has become of Syria’s revolutionaries (Der Spiegel) The Syrian civil war has caused great suffering since the protests against President Bashar Assad began three years ago. We revisit some of those people we have met in our reporting…

Pope grants radio interview, remembers priests close to the poor (Vatican Radio) In a video interview with an Argentinean radio station, Pope Francis called for the adoption of a spirit of poverty and defended priests, who live and work in slums among the poor. The radio station, which broadcasts from the slums of Buenos Aires, projected the video interview on a large screen in the local parish on the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate. This poor neighborhood, located close to the soccer stadium, includes the same slums where Pope Francis, as archbishop, would celebrate the Eucharist, spend time among the poor and assign priests to serve…

Ukrainian government condemns persecution of clerics in Crimea (RISU) On 18 March, the director of the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Volodymyr Yushkevych, issued a statement decrying the persecution of clerics in the Crimea. The document calls “to stop the practice of terror and to ensure respect for rights and liberties…”

Pro-Russian forces capture Ukrainian naval base in Crimea without firing a shot (Christian Science Monitor) Pro-Russian forces overran Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Crimea today, ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine a day after Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty paving the way toward annexation. Russian troops and unarmed militiamen stormed the naval headquarters in the port city of Sevastopol, according to Reuters, and raised the Russian flag. No shots were reported fired, and unarmed Ukrainian servicemen were seen leaving the building in civilian clothing an hour later. Ukraine’s government in Kiev, which refuses to recognize Crimea’s annexation, took a firmer tone, vowing today not to withdraw its military from Crimea, according to The Washington Post…

Moscow moves to destabilize eastern Ukraine (Der Spiegel) It’s not only in Crimea where Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing with fire, but also in eastern Ukraine. The majority of the people in the economically powerful region speaks Russian and rejects the new government in Kiev…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees United Nations Crimea

18 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Istafanos Youssif, a university student from the port city of Suez, Egypt, stands inside the damaged Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Suez on 28 February. The church was among dozens of Christian properties that came under attack last August in the predominantly Muslim country. (photo: CNS/James Martone)

Egypt’s human rights situation is going from ugly to uglier (Christian Science Monitor) The severe abuses meted out to Egyptian citizens are gradually crushing any hopes of a pluralistic, truly democratic society. Jails teem with some 16,000 political activists; torture in detention centers and police stations reported to be growing more prevalent, not less so; and the taboo broken last August when the military attacked a Muslim Brotherhood protest camp at Rabaa al Adawey square. The group has since been outlawed. And while it’s true that the group’s supporters are bearing the brunt of the crackdown, it goes much wider…

A priest braces for the conquest of Crimea (Time) Archbishop Kliment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate began evacuating the holy icons from his church about two weeks ago, as soon as he realized that the region of Crimea, where he serves as the leader of his faith community, would soon fall to the Russians. He wasn’t so much afraid of looting or arson from the Russian soldiers occupying his region of Ukraine, although that concerned him too. He was preparing for nothing less than the nullification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Under Russian rule, “we will simply be liquidated,” he says. “Our church is an enemy to the order that Russia would impose here, and our churches would be either looted or in the best case forced to close…”

Russia moves to annex Crimea with Putin decree (Vatican Radio) Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognized Crimea as an independent state and says approving the region’s entry into the Russian Federation makes sense. He informed Russia’s parliament shortly after the European Union and the United States announced sanctions against dozens of officials from Russia and Ukraine who they blame for Russia’s military incursion into Crimea…

Scores killed and scores injured in Iraq attacks (AINA) Heavily armed militants attacked the home of a militiaman north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing and decapitating his wife and two sons and killing another person in a brutal assault before dawn. In the Baghdad area on Sunday, meanwhile, a bombing and two shootings killed three people, security and medical officials said. The latest bloodshed came a day after five car bombs were set off in commercial areas of the Iraqi capital, killing 15 people and wounding more than 50 others…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Ukraine Russia Crimea

14 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation near a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on 7 March. A Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest in Ukraine’s Crimea region said church members are “alarmed and frightened” by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities could be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent. (photo: CNS/Vasily Fedosenko, Reuters)

Russian troops mass at border with Ukraine (New York Times) With a referendum on secession looming in Crimea, Russia massed troops and armored vehicles in at least three regions along Ukraine’s eastern border on Thursday, alarming the interim Ukraine government about a possible invasion and significantly escalating tensions in the crisis between the Kremlin and the West…

As E.U. doors open, Bulgarian and Romanian migrants see minds closing (Los Angeles Times) Bulgaria and neighboring Romania are among the most recent countries to have joined the 28-nation European Union. Both won admission in 2007, part of the E.U.’s ambitious drive to knit together the whole of a once-war-torn continent. Since 1 January, Bulgarians and Romanians have had the right to live and work as they please in any member country, from Ireland to Italy. However, this is putting the E.U.’s founding principles to the test; a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment is sweeping the region, with critics in richer nations looking for ways to put walls back up…

Gaza militants and Israel exchange strikes despite ‘truce’ (BBC) Rocket and air strikes have continued between Gaza militants and Israel despite Palestinian claims a truce had been restored. Several rockets hit Israeli soil on Thursday and Israel’s military said it had launched retaliatory air strikes…

Syrian archbishop discusses Lent during war (Fides) Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus says another Lent spent in war “will mean pain and violence,” but “from this abyss of suffering [one can also see] miraculous signs of light and hope, [such as] the mutual assistance and solidarity expressed spontaneously by poor families who open their doors to impoverished refugees…”



Tags: Ukraine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Crimea Romania Bulgaria

13 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man runs while carrying a child who survived what activists say was an airstrike by government forces in Aleppo on 21 January. (photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)

Aleppo TV provides lifeline in wartime (Al Jazeera) On TV, a group of boys play soccer in a street littered with broken concrete, amid apartment buildings scarred by bullet and shell holes. One of the boys accidentally kicks the ball down an alley, where it comes to rest near a hidden mine. As the boy is just inches from stepping on the detonator, a Syrian opposition fighter scoops him up. An announcer’s voice warns children to beware of mines and unexploded ordnance. This is one of the messages that the Syrian satellite TV station Aleppo Today airs daily that, along with its news programs and a breaking-news ticker, have made it the most popular network for current residents of Aleppo, refugees who have fled the war-torn city and opposition fighters in Syria’s north. The 24-hour, opposition-aligned news channel started a few months after the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, in order to cover protests and broadcast news about the uprising against President Bashar al Assad, back when it was hard to find any independent, non-government-controlled news out of Syria’s largest city…

Syrian women refugees humiliated, exploited in Turkey (Al Monitor) Women refugees from Syria are being sexually harassed by employers, landlords and even aid distributors in Lebanon, reported Human Rights Watch late in November. The organization “interviewed a dozen women who described being groped, harassed and pressured to have sex.” According to refugees, young Syrian women are facing the same difficulties in Turkey, including early marriages, abuse and even prostitution. Although Turkey is arguably one of the countries most hospitable toward Syrian refugees, these problems are reportedly on the rise…

Despite politics, Israeli doctors treat Syrians (Christian Science Monitor) The West Galilee Hospital in Nahariya is no stranger to war. Located only six miles south of the Lebanese border, it took a direct missile hit during the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. But the Syrian war has pervaded these halls and wards in a much more personal way: through wounded Syrians, who are picked up at the border and brought here by the Israeli military for free treatment. Israel has a tradition of offering humanitarian assistance in war zones and natural disasters around the world, even where it is not particularly welcome. But treating Syrians, whose country is still officially at war with Israel, is not only a logistical miracle but also an extraordinary exercise in humanity trumping hate…

Gaza ceasefire agreed after two-day flareup (Reuters) Egypt brokered a ceasefire on Thursday aimed at ending a flare-up of rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns and Israeli air strikes in the Palestinian enclave, the Islamic Jihad militant group said. There was no immediate word from Israel, but a senior Defense Ministry official said earlier in the day he expected the fighting to die down soon. “Following intensive Egyptian contacts and efforts, the agreement for calm has been restored in accordance with understandings reached in 2012 in Cairo,” Khaled al Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader, wrote on Facebook, referring to a truce that ended an eight-day Gaza war two years ago…

Egypt may have to wait for presidential vote (Los Angeles Times) Egypt’s presidential election, previously set for this spring, could be pushed back to midsummer, state media reported, shifting the deadline from mid-april to 17 July. Political parties have been arguing over a contentious new election law that rules out legal challenges to the results as determined by the country’s main electoral body. Critics call the measure unconstitutional, and the only declared candidate in the presidential race so far, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, says it casts doubt on the integrity of any vote…

Ukrainian Catholics fear ‘new oppression’ after Russian takeover (National Catholic Reporter) A Ukrainian Catholic priest in Crimea said church members are alarmed and frightened by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities might be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent. The Rev. Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in Kerch, Ukraine, described the atmosphere as tense because many residents of the town located in the eastern part of Crimea were unsure of their future. “No one knows what will happen. Many people are trying to sell their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine,” Father Milchakovskyi told Catholic News Service on Wednesday…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict

12 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Rafat Abdurmanov indicates a list of people from the village of Hromivka, Crimea, who were killed by German forces in the 1940’s. For more on the ethnic composition of Crimea, read An Ethnic & Religious Patchwork, in the March 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)

An uncertain quiet for Crimean Tatars (New York Times) More than 20 years after her family returned from decades of exile to their Crimean roots, Emine Ziyatdinova wonders if the upheaval in Crimea will again force Tatars from their homeland…

Ukraine crisis in maps (New York Times) The Times shares a visual guide to the ongoing conflict over Crimea…

Papal trip to Israel encounters mounting difficulties (AsiaNews) An ongoing strike by employees of the Israeli diplomatic service could bring the activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a grinding halt. British Prime Minister David Cameron was due to visit this week but his trip has already been canceled, as has a planned speech to the U.N. Future engagements are also at risk, such as President Shimon Peres’s trip to Austria, scheduled for the end of this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Colombia and Mexico in April and Pope Francis’ visit in May…

Syria’s unknown victims: the thousands missing or dead in regime custody (The Guardian) Among the more than 100,000 counted as dead in the three years since the Syrian civil war began are at least 11,000 who have disappeared into the Assad regime’s custody. But the true number may be much higher, the Guardian finds in interviews with released prisoners and relatives of those missing persons…

Vandals attack Catholic church in Gaza (Al Monitor) “The assailants entered from the west side of the church and detonated a very small explosive. It did not inflict any damage. They also wrote phrases on the walls,” police spokesman Ayoub Abu Shaar said in a phone interview. Mr. Abu Shaar denied media reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had claimed responsibility for the attack, stressing that said organization has no presence in the Gaza Strip. “What happened was not an organized attack, but rather the work of individuals. As soon as we find the perpetrators they will be referred to trial,” he added…

Chaldean patriarchate and Caritas Iraq aid Muslim families fleeing violence (AsiaNews) A delegation led by Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis visited the Sunni mosque of Umm al Qura, west of Baghdad, and distributed food and medicine. The patriarch expressed solidarity with the displaced from Fallujah and Ramadi, who have fled from Islamist militias…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Syrian Civil War Crimea

11 March 2014
Greg Kandra




Mother Plagia Sayyaf of Mar Thecla monastery in Maaloula, Syria, left, who along with at least 11 other nuns was freed after three months, attends a prayer service at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus on 10 March. Islamist rebels claim ed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria's ancient town of Maaloula.
(photo: CNS/Khaled al-Hariri, Reuters)


Syria claims it freed 25 prisoners in exchange for nuns ( Al Jazeera) Syria freed only 25 prisoners, not 150 as had been reported, in exchange for a group of kidnapped nuns, the country’s information minister Omran al-Zoubi has said. The statement came despite mediators and the opposition saying 150 female detainees had been freed in exchange for the nuns, who were kidnapped from the town of Maalula by rebels fighters last year. “The number of people released in exchange for the Maalula nuns is not more than 25 people, whose hands had not been stained by the blood of the Syrian people,” state news agency SANA quoted Zoubi as saying. “Everything that has been said on this issue is not accurate and has been exaggerated...”

Catholic officials call release of nuns an answer to prayers (CNS) The release of at least 12 Greek Orthodox nuns who were abducted in Syria in December was an answer to prayers, said regional Catholic officials. Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said 10 March that he felt “a wave of joy” along with “thousands and thousands” of other people when he heard the nuns had been freed a day earlier. Islamist rebels claimed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria’s ancient town of Maaloula, where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. Two Orthodox bishops and three priests, including an Armenian Catholic and Italian Jesuit, also have been abducted in Syria and remain missing...

Ukraine’s ousted leader urges resistance to new government (The New York Times) As Russia tightened its grip on Crimea, Ukraine’s ousted president appealed on Tuesday to the country’s military units to refuse to follow the orders of the new interim authorities, declaring that he remained commander in chief and would return to the country as soon as conditions permitted. Appearing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for the first time since the scale of Russia’s intervention in Crimea became evident, the ousted leader, Viktor F. Yanukovych, denounced the West for rushing to recognize and to provide financial assistance to a government he said was a junta...

Orthodox to hold a pan-Orthodox synod in 2016 (Catholic World News) The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will preside over a pan-Orthodox council in 2016, according to a statement from the patriarchate. The decision to hold a pan-Orthodox council — officially called the “Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church” — was announced at the conclusion of a meeting of all the heads of the Eastern Orthodox churches. During the meeting, the leaders also discussed the situation in Syria and Ukraine...

Communists and Catholics forge alliance in India (UCANews.com) The Communist party in Kerala has thrown its support behind five Christian candidates in the southern Indian state, a traditionally Christian stronghold, in the country’s forthcoming national elections. The move highlights a bridging of the divide between communists and Christians in the state, as well as a growing disaffection between Christians and the ruling Congress party, particularly over the issue of the government’s plans to protect the Western Ghats, a hilly region that runs through Kerala. Christians, who comprise less than 20 percent of the state’s 30 million population, have been politically decisive in some pockets of the state’s electorate and are traditionally strong backers of the Congress party...



10 March 2014
Greg Kandra




A boy cries as he stands amid rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)


Kidnapped Syrian nuns freed (The New York Times) Syrian insurgents released 13 nuns and three attendants who disappeared three months ago from their monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Lebanese and Syrian officials said early Monday, ending a drama in which rebels said they were protecting the women from government shelling and Syrian officials said they were abducted in an act of intimidation against Christians. The handoff was infused with suspense until the last moment. Officials said Sunday afternoon that the nuns had crossed the mountainous border to Arsal, a pro-rebel town in Lebanon, to be handed off to Lebanese officials and driven to Syria...

Russia condemns “lawlessness” in Ukraine (CNN) Russia accused far-right groups Monday of “conniving” with the new authorities in Ukraine, as pro-Moscow forces consolidated their hold on their neighbor’s Black Sea peninsula. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned “lawlessness” in eastern Ukraine and accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place against Russian citizens, such as one incident last week when it said masked gunmen fired on and injured peaceful protesters...

Bishop of Aleppo writes: “We Christians live in fear” (The Telegraph) Today, the first Sunday of Lent, will see churches crowded across the globe. But here in Syria, where St Paul found his faith, many churches stand empty, targets for bombardment and desecration. Aleppo, where I have been bishop for 25 years, is devastated. We have become accustomed to the daily dose of death and destruction, but living in such uncertainty and fear exhausts the body and the mind...

Catholicism growing in heart of Muslim world (The Boston Globe) Many Americans have heard or read reports about an exodus of Christians out of the Middle East, and in terms of the indigenous Arab Christian population that’s all too real. Christians now make up only 5 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago. In places like Iraq, whole Christian communities are on the brink of extinction. Yet the Arabian Peninsula today is also, improbably, seeing one of the most dramatic Catholic growth rates anywhere in the world. The expansion is being driven not by Arab converts, but by foreign ex-pats whom the region increasingly relies on for manual labor and domestic service...

Pope and World Council of Churches discuss opportunities for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”, focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations. They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent action on climate change...

A visit to Kerala: they don’t call it “God’s own country” for nothing (The Washington Post) As grandiose slogans go, Kerala has one of the best: “God’s Own Country,” they call it, an assertion of divine provenance that’s loudly proclaimed on countless signposts and bumper stickers across the state. In most corners of the planet, such a boast would sound unbearably self-satisfied, tourist-oriented branding at its tritest. But here in this prosperous state on the southwest coast of India, it doesn’t sound smug so much as sincere, precise even. “Rest your eyes on our natural splendor,” it seems to say, “and believe...”



7 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this October photograph, stuffed animals sit atop the coffins of children, lined up alongside coffins of other African migrants who drowned trying to reach Italian shores in Lampedusa, Italy. (photo: CNS/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters)

Eritrea: A humanitarian emergency (Vatican Radio) Vatican Radio held a conference on Thursday, sponsored by the International Organization for Migration, on the plight of Eritreans forced to flee their country. Since 2004 over 200,000 Eritreans — more than 3 percent of the 5.6 million people in the nation — have fled to border camps in Eastern Sudan and also Israel. Thousands have also tried to escape to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean on low-quality or improvised boats, many dying on the journey…

Georgian Orthodox Church committed to securing Georgian E.U. membership (Eurasia Review) Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said during a meeting with visiting European Union official that the church “will do everything” to help Georgia become a member state. The patriarch remarked that “incorrect information is disseminated in some countries,” suggesting the church seeks to hinder this process, but dismissed such claims as perhaps being financially motivated…

Iraqi atheists demand recognition, guarantee of their rights (Al Monitor) Atheism might seem a surprising phenomenon in a country such as Iraq, where the degree of interest in religion is very high. Yet there are many in the nation who identify themselves as atheists and who demand that their rights be safeguarded in accordance with U.N. resolutions that guarantee freedom of belief. Surveys have indicated the existence of a growing agnostic movement in the country, which continues to expand at a remarkable pace. Atheism has deep historical roots in Iraq, typically as an elitist phenomenon restricted to intellectuals and scholars, but has in recent times expanded in scope to cross many social boundaries…

The role of the churches in the Ukrainian revolution (ABC News) The churches are playing a decisive role in the Ukrainian revolution. This is apparent from the prominence in Maidan Square of dozens of priests and pastors from different religious confessions who have been there every day for three months, offering to gather ecumenically with the faithful in prayer…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Eastern Churches Eritrea Georgian Orthodox Church

6 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from 2009, two years before Syria’s civil war, youth in Aleppo participate in a basketball competition hosted by an organization that uses sports to bridge sectarian lines. (photo: Spencer Osberg)

Syrian army to impose blockade in Aleppo (Al Monitor) The Syrian army is launching attacks on Aleppo and its surroundings to try to isolate armed militants, in light of a visit by a Baath delegation to the city. The army has recently intensified its raids on the city’s eastern neighborhoods that are under the grip of the militants, thus leading to the displacement of most citizens to the northern suburbs…

Ukraine: Crimean parliament moves to secede (Al Jazeera) The parliament of Crimea, a, majority-Russian peninsula in Ukraine currently under Russian occupation, has unanimously voted in favor of joining the Russia federation and moved a public referendum on the matter up to 16 March, decisions which the new government in Kiev called illegitimate and illegal…

Ukrainian Orthodox bishop urges Putin to withdraw from Ukraine (RISU) The head of the Lviv Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Filaret, sent Vladimir Putin a request to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. “My message may seem rude, but today we can no longer speak streamlined phrases, it’s time to act in accordance with the Gospel: ‘But let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.” Anything more than this is from the evil one.’ … There are no grounds for Russian soldiers to control the socio-political or any other situations in our country. Peace and a sustainable solution to Ukraine’s crisis are most important for us today,” he said…

One goal in hand, Kiev’s demonstrators vow to stay ‘until the end’ (New York Times) Those who stood up to Ukraine’s ousted authorities trust neither their interim government nor Russia, and many intend to remain in place at least through elections in late spring. Only then will they decide if they are satisfied enough to leave their fighting positions in the capital’s central square…

U.N. envoy cuts short visit to Crimea under threat of armed men (Christian Science Monitor) A special U.N. envoy cut short his mission in Crimea on Wednesday after being threatened by 10-15 armed men and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff, U.N. officials said…

Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate creates commission for dialogue (RISU) The Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate welcomed the decision of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate to enter into dialogue. In this regard, the former expressed its readiness, “on a canonical basis,” to “restore the unity and establish a national status for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine…”

Trial of Al Jazeera reporters resumes in Egypt (BBC) The trial of Al Jazeera journalists accused of joining or aiding a terrorist group has resumed in Egypt. One asked the judge to free him on bail so he could receive medical treatment. In all, 20 people — including former BBC correspondent Peter Greste — are on trial, 12 of them in absentia. Al Jazeera says only nine of the defendants are among its employees…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russia Crimea

5 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




People attend a prayer service at a church in Kiev, Ukraine, on 23 February. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Hoping to shore up Ukraine government, European Union offers billions in aid (New York Times) The European Union added a significant financial underpinning to the struggling Ukraine government on Wednesday in the midst of the East-West crisis with Russia over Ukraine’s future, offering aid worth as much as $15 billion over the next two years. The offer comes on top of the $1 billion in American loan guarantees to ease Ukraine’s economic transition, announced here on Tuesday by Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit aimed at reassuring the interim Ukraine authorities and challenging Russia, which escalated the crisis last weekend by seizing control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula…

Pro-Russian crowd recaptures Donetsk building (Daily Star Lebanon) A crowd of pro-Russian activists recaptured the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday, hours after they were ejected by police. Donetsk has seen the most persistent of a wave of pro-Russian demonstrations that broke out in southern and eastern cities on Saturday as President Vladimir Putin was declaring Russia’s right to invade…

With Ukraine under siege, Georgia and Moldova double down on Europe (Al Jazeera) On 22 February, as Ukraine politicians voted to remove their Kremlin-friendly president, a roaring crowd in another nation took on their Russian foe. The Georgian rugby team defeated the Russian Bears, 36-10, before a near sold-out crowd in their home stadium. During the lap of honor, the Georgian players held up a banner: “Sokhumi and Tskhinvali = Georgia.” It referred to the capitals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which like Transnistria in Moldova and potentially Crimea in Ukraine, are breakaway regions now under de facto Russian control. Russia has long tried to intimidate Georgia and Moldova out of their westward shift; Moldova is currently bleeding from a Kremlin boycott of its wine, and Georgia is still nursing the wounds of its 2008 war. But watching Russian troops move into Ukraine has only steeled the resolve of these two small nations to join Europe as quickly as possible. It has also made Western leaders more committed to making that happen…

Patriarch Twal says pope’s visit will boost the peace process (Fides) The visit Pope Francis will carry out in the Holy Land at the end of May will give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, wrote Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in a pastoral letter for Lent. “[The pope] will come to confirm our faith, to intensify ecumenical relations and interreligious dialogue and give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, strengthening relations between the Vatican and each of the Countries that he will visit: Jordan, Palestine and Israel…”

Creative Gazans develop new crafts to cope with siege (Al Monitor) In times of crises and hopelessness, people search for the smallest things to make life livable. The intensification of the siege has spawned creativity in the most unlikely of places, as citizens seek outlets in an attempt to adapt to the crisis. Mohammed al Zomar, Hassan Saad and Ahmed al Arouqi each took an idea and defeated despair using light, water and colors…

Christians under threat in Syria (U.S. Department of State) Last week in Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced it will force Syrian Christians to either convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death. These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights. The Syrian people have a long history of tolerance and coexistence, but both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. We strongly condemn these abuses and urge all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia Georgia





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