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Volume 43, Number 4
  
18 December 2012
Greg Kandra




The date of Patriarch-elect Youhanna X's enthronement has not yet been announced. (photo: OCA.org)

New patriarch of Antioch elected (OCA.org) Patriarch-elect Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East, formerly the metropolitan archbishop of Western and Central Europe, was elected by the members of the Holy Synod earlier today, 17 December 2012, during a special session held at the Balamand Patriarchal Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos…

In India, mourners crowd the funeral of nurse caught in hoax (ABC News) Family and friends of the nurse found hanging in her room days after she had been duped by a “royal” hoax call from Australian disc jockeys gathered in a church in south India for her funeral Monday. Jacintha Saldanha’s body was kept at her husband’s home in the town of Shirva for a few hours before being taken to the church for a prayer service and burial. Mourners crowded the Our Lady of Health Church in Shirva for the memorial service before heading to the cemetery in the church grounds. Catholic priests recited prayers as Saldanha’s body was interred in a grave marked by a simple black cross. Saldanha’s husband and two children had accompanied the body from London, where her death on 7 December is being investigated as an apparent suicide...

Syrian war fueling Christian flight from Middle East (BBC) The Lebanese city of Zahle sits high in the Bekaa valley, on the ancient highway that connects Damascus to Beirut and the world beyond. To reach it from the coast by road in December, you must climb sharply through a series of hairpin bends — every few minutes you catch a glimpse of the steep highland scenery as a gap appears in the raw, foggy air. This Christian city has known dark times. It became a dangerous frontline as the armed forces of Syria intervened in Lebanon’s long, complex and bitter civil war in the 1980s. In a very similar conflict in the 1860s it was torched by besieging Druze and Turkish fighters after its Christian defenders were defeated. Civilians were massacred in the bloody aftermath. These days, Zahle is a place of safety. Christian families fleeing the violence and chaos of Syria’s civil war just a few kilometers further down that ancient highway are arriving in the city where Christian aid agencies care for them…

Catholics in Kerala may have to confess drinking to a priest (The Asian Age) For Catholics in Kerala, alcohol consumption will soon be a sin, which has to be confessed before a priest. That is, if a church panel has its way. The temperance commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (K.C.B.C.), which has taken up the issue, is also seeking a ban on employing people who drink in institutions run by the church…

Celebrating Hanukkah with the last Jews of Egypt (Foreign Policy) There were fewer attendees than usual at Thursday night’s Hanukkah celebration in the Egyptian capital, perhaps due to the political unrest that has gripped the city — or maybe just because of the cold weather. The tiny Jewish community of Cairo consists almost entirely of elderly women, and they have weathered the current period of national crisis just as they survived hardships decades ago. As the wax dripped from the candles on the menorah at the downtown Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue, protesters continued to mass outside the presidential palace across town and blocked off Tahrir Square, only a short walk away. The first round of voting in a contentious constitutional referendum took place Saturday, the penultimate day of Hanukkah…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Syrian Civil War Indian Christians Patriarchs

17 December 2012
Greg Kandra






Pope offers prayers for Newtown victims (CNS) After 20 children and six adults were shot dead in Connecticut, Pope Benedict XVI offered his condolences and prayers, urging all to dedicate themselves to acts of peace in the face of such “senseless violence.” After reciting the Angelus on 17 December, the pope, speaking in English, said he was “deeply saddened” by the 14 December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. In addition to the students and staff killed, the gunman took his own life. “I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer,” he said. “May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain...”

Pope receives Palestinian president This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace Pope Benedict XVI received in audience Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States. In a press release Monday, the Holy See’s Press Office said “the cordial discussions made reference to the recent Resolution approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations by which Palestine was recognised as a Non-member Observer State of the aforementioned Organization...”

Bombs in Kirkuk during Cardinal Sandri’s Mass (Fides) Terrorist attacks struck yesterday, Sunday, 16 December, in the city of Kirkuk, causing nine deaths (including two children) and more than 50 injuries. Two coordinated attacks — carried out with two car bombs and seven bombs placed on the sides of the roads — targeted two Shiite mosques on the outskirts of the city. But the explosions were felt distinctly even in the Chaldean Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, during the celebration of the Mass where Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, presided...

Russian Nationalists criticize plans to build mosques in Moscow (RT) Moscow city authorities are about to announce the allocation of plots of land for three new mosques in the city, but ethnic Russian nationalists have voiced their protests saying that no one asked local residents before passing this decision...

Holy See releases pope’s message for World Day of Peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Peace Day 2013 was presented to journalists at a press conference in the Vatican on Friday by the president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council. Entitled ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’, the message looks at both the theological and practical foundations for promoting justice and peace in today’s world...



Tags: Iraq Palestine Pope Benedict XVI Russia

14 December 2012
Greg Kandra




Report: possible Russian-US joint ultimatum in Syria (Fides) Russia and the United States are getting ready to order a joint ultimatum to Syria’s President Bashar Assad through the special envoy of the UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, in order for Assad to leave power “with dignity.” According to the news, reported today by the French newspaper “Le Figaro,” Washington and Moscow seem to have “exchanged the names” of leaders who could appear in the transitional government...

Car bomb kills at least 16 in Syria (Vatican Radio) Russia today said Syrian rebels are gaining ground and might win, on a day which saw a car bomb kill at least 16 people in Qatana, a town 25 kilometres southwest of Damascus. “One must look the facts in the face,” Russia’s state-run RIA quoted Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s special envoy for Middle East affairs as saying. “Unfortunately, the victory of the Syrian opposition cannot be ruled out...”

Photo essay: Egyptian Copts gather to pray ahead of vote on constitution (AFP via NBC News) Thousands of Egyptian Copts attended a Mass in the Cave Cathedral, or St Sama’ans, in the Manshiet Nasser district of Cairo on 13 December 2012, where they prayed for Egypt ahead of the disputed referendum on the new draft constitution slated for Saturday...

Christmas shopping in India (The Telegraph) Cochin has the highest density of Christians in India, and is dotted with cathedrals and churches. In a parody of our high streets back home, the roads are rammed with fevered shoppers, their faces consumed with the business of Christmas. The crowd scoops me up and funnels me into an alley, where I bash my ankles on rough wooden nativity scenes strewn along the ground. We move into a wider street now, and I step back to avoid a rickshaw driver who is unable to see through the baby Jesuses and fir trees swinging from his sun visor. I push my way into a shop; it is Christmas-decoration heaven. A sharp-elbowed nun lunges for the perfect bauble, scattering boxes of glittering stars to the floor...



Tags: Syria India Egypt Coptic

13 December 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Following the latest act of settler-associated vandalism at the 11th-century Monastery of the Cross, Father Claudio remains unflappable: “The first time, I forgive; the second time, I forgive; the seventh time, I forgive; the 75th, the 77th time I forgive.” (video: Melanie Lidman)

Jerusalem Orthodox Christian monastery vandalized (Jerusalem Post) “Price-tag” vandals targeted sites in Jerusalem and near Ramallah overnight Tuesday, spraying extremist graffiti and puncturing car tires. The words “tag mahir” (“price tag”), painted on the site, have become affiliated with the extreme fringe of the settlement and right-wing movements. Father Claudio, the superior of the Monastery of the Cross, said he discovered the graffiti on Wednesday morning after morning prayers. “This person needs to write outside. Okay. But he needs to come inside the Monastery. Sit with me, drink one coffee, and I will explain to him why I believe in Jesus and why that is my freedom [to believe],” Father Claudio said. “He needs to come face to face. And I will tell him, ‘Welcome.’ ... Let’s sit, and speak. This is the heart of the religions. ... I say to these people, ‘Hanukkah Sameach’ [‘Happy Hanukkah’].” This is the fifth price-tag attack against a Christian site this year, including the previous vandalism at the Monastery of the Cross and incidents at the Latrun Monastery, the Baptist Church in west Jerusalem and the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion...

Violence and terror in the ‘Valley of the Christians’ (Fides) About 150 thousand Christians live in fear in more than 40 villages in the so-called “Valley of the Christians” (“Wadi al Nasarah”) in western Syria. The valley, a historical stronghold of the Syrian Christians, received in recent months thousands of refugees from Homs and other cities and provinces. Today, Christians are under fire from Islamist militias who have settled in the Crusader fortress “Krak des Chevaliers,” built in the eleventh century by a Muslim emir, rebuilt by the Knights Hospitallers and today UNESCO world cultural heritage. From the hill on which the fortress stands, the militias have been firing for days at the villages below. Their targets are the barricades in the area erected by the Syrian army, but no thought is given to the Christian civilians in the line of fire...

Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers clash in Hebron (Al Jazeera) Five people have been injured in clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron, after a Palestinian teenager was shot by Israeli soldiers on Wednesday. Dozens of Palestinian youths were reported to have thrown stones and bottles at the soldiers early on Thursday morning, while Associated Press news agency reported that the Israeli soldiers had responded by firing tear gas on the youths. Five Palestinians were hospitalized after the clashes, reported Ma’an News Agency. Thursday’s clashes came ahead of the funeral for 17-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah, who was shot dead by an Israeli policewoman at a checkpoint in the city on Wednesday, for allegedly carrying a gun which later turned out to be “fake”...

Muslim Brotherhood struggles to retain political power (Der Spiegel) Little is known about the inner workings of the Muslim Brotherhood, though that is now changing. More and more members are leaving the organization, and they are taking their criticism public. They include young members who reject the Brotherhood’s hierarchical structures as well as older supporters like Tharwat al Gharbawi, a well-known attorney, who says that the Brotherhood’s authoritarian ideology always becomes more prevalent when the organization comes under pressure. “As long as the guidance office of the Brotherhood is dominated by hardliners, a compromise isn’t to be expected,” says Gharbawi. Now, the group’s support seems to be crumbling. More than 30 buildings owned by the Muslim Brotherhood were set on fire in the last two weeks, and the protesters are now chanting the same words they chanted before Mubarak was overthrown: “Down with the regime.” Most importantly, opposition leaders have set aside differences to unite in their opposition to Morsi and the Brotherhood...



Tags: Syria Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Jerusalem

12 December 2012
Greg Kandra




A protester opposed to President Mohammed Morsi holds the Quran, a cross and the Egyptian national flag on top of a wall in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on 11 December. At least nine people were hurt when gunmen fired at protesters camping in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, according to witnesses and the Egyptian media. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

Coptic pope declines invitation of Egyptian president to dialogue (Vatican Insider) Egyptian authorities strongly urged the Coptic Church to take part in the “national dialogue” which President Mohammed Morsi called for last Saturday. But the Coptic Pope Tawadros II declined the invitation, replying that the Church sees itself as a religious institution whose role it is to pray for Egypt. He added that political dialogue is up to parties and public officials…

US designates Syria rebel group a terrorist organization (Los Angeles Times) The Obama administration has formally designated one rebel group fighting in Syria as a terrorist organization in an effort to marginalize the Al Qaeda affiliate and reduce its chances of gaining power should the Syrian government fall. Blacklisting Al Nusra Front is one of several diplomatic moves planned by the administration to try to maneuver moderate opposition groups into position to shape a pro-Western government if President Bashar al Assad is ousted…

Armenians fleeing Syria (New York Times) At the newly opened Cilician School in Armenia, the textbooks are in Arabic, photocopied from a single set flown out of war-torn Syria. The curriculum is Syrian, the flag on the principal’s desk is Syrian, and the teachers and students are all Syrians. They are also ethnic Armenians, driven by Syria’s civil war to a notional motherland most barely know. “Those who are coming here clearly want to go back,” said the school’s principal, Noura Pilibosyan, who came from Aleppo, Syria, in the summer. “Armenian is our language, but our culture is Syrian. It is hard to come here”…

The church and the ‘untouchables’ of India (Fides) In the 250 million untouchables, the Dalits, who in India are considered “human waste,” there is “the moaning of the Spirit of God” that declares the dignity of every human being. Of the Dalits, 20 million are Christian, abused and doubly discriminated. In the Year of Faith, the church in India, on celebrating the “Day for the Liberation of the Dalits” (December 9), renewed its commitment to aid the poor, marginalized and those discriminated against…

Russia’s Hermitage Museum under investigation for blasphemy (Reuters) The head of Russia’s renowned Hermitage Museum accused Russian authorities on Monday of fostering “mob rule” in taking up complaints by Russian Orthodox Christians over a British exhibit they said injured religious feelings. The row coincides with a surge in religious, nationalist sentiment in Russia, with President Vladimir Putin moving closer to the Orthodox Church to consolidate his support after facing the biggest protests since he rose to power nearly 13 years ago…

Ecumenism is at heart of New Evangelization (Vatican Radio) “Christian Unity: illusion or promise? Ecumenical aspects of the Year of Faith”: That was the title of a lecture given at the Lateran University on Monday by Swiss theologian Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity…



Tags: India Egypt Syrian Civil War Russia Armenia

11 December 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Raghad Al-Hussein, a 30-year-old refugee from Syria, holds her newborn child inside their makeshift shelter in the village of Jeb Jennine, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, on 22 November. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

UNHCR: Syria Refugees number ‘more than 500,000’ (BBC) The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) says it has accounted for 509,559 refugees so far, primarily in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and that many more have yet to come forward. More than two million people are also thought to be internally displaced within Syria. Lebanon is playing host to most refugees, with 154,387 Syrian refugees either registered or in the process of being registered there. Jordan has received 142,664, while there are in 136,319 in Turkey, 64,449 in Iraq and 11,740 in North Africa, the agency says. “Syrian refugees arriving during recent bad weather reached Jordan with soaked clothing and mud-covered shoes due to heavy rainfall,” U.N.H.C.R. chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. Since the beginning of November, 3,200 new Syrian refugees have been registered every day in the region, although some of these are thought to be people who had been in the host countries for some time but had not sought help…

Egypt opposition groups reject Morsi’s overture (Los Angeles Times) Egypt’s main opposition groups rejected President Mohammed Morsi’s weekend move to ease political tensions as the country braced for fresh protests and the military was given authority to arrest civilians ahead of this week’s referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution. On Sunday, President Morsi rescinded most of the decree he issued last month that gave him near absolute authority by declaring his office free from judicial oversight. At the same time, he rebuffed key opposition demands to delay a constitutional referendum set for Saturday and to order the writing of a new charter that protects civil rights against the influence of Shari’a, or Islamic law. Holding a referendum now “risks pushing the country toward violent confrontation,” said a statement from the main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, which is led by Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed al Baradei and senior politicians. “We are against this process from start to finish”…

Syria rebels press forward in Aleppo (Al Jazeera) Syrian rebels have taken full control of a sprawling military base that they stormed two days ago in the country’s north, killing at least 35 government troops in the fighting, anti-government activists say. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the battle for Sheik Suleiman base, near the city of Aleppo, ended on Tuesday after rebels took over the main compound and warehouses at the site. The rebels first entered the base on Sunday afternoon, after weeks of fighting with soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. SOHR said that 64 government troops were also injured in the assault…

Opponents describe abuse by Morsi’s supporters (New York Times) Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi captured, detained and beat dozens of his political opponents last week, holding them for hours with their hands bound on the pavement outside the presidential palace while pressuring them to confess that they had accepted money to use violence in protests against him. “It was torment for us,” said Yehia Negm, 42, a former diplomat with a badly bruised face and rope marks on his wrists. He said he was among a group of about 50, including four minors, who were held on the pavement overnight. “I thought I would die.” To critics of Islamists, the episode on Wednesday recalled the tactics of the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, who often saw a conspiracy of “hidden hands” behind his domestic opposition and deployed plainclothes thugs acting outside the law to punish those who challenged him. The difference is that the current enforcers are driven by the self-righteousness of their religious ideology, rather than money…

Iraq urges release of Palestinians in Israel jails (Daily Star Lebanon) Iraq’s prime minister has called on the international community to demand an immediate release of Palestinian and Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails. Nouri al Maliki’s statement on Tuesday came at the start of a two-day conference in Baghdad dedicated to the fate of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Iraq agreed to host the event after holding an Arab League summit in March. Al-Maliki assailed what he called the international community’s double standards as it backed the region’s Arab Spring uprisings against “autocrats and tyrants” but ignored the issue of jailed Palestinians…

Russian government continues restoration of Kosovo holy sites (Russian Orthodox Church) In 2010-2011, the Russian government contributed $2 million U.S. dollars to UNESCO to finance the restoration of Orthodox holy sites in Kosovo, in compliance with the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo and within the UNESCO international action on humanitarian aid to the Republic of Serbia. Restoration efforts began in 2012 at four monuments of Orthodox architecture included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites — the Decani Monastery, the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery, the Gracanica Monastery and the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš in Prizren. The work is carried out according to operating schedule and should be completed in the first half of 2013…



Tags: Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Russia Kosovo

10 December 2012
Greg Kandra




Syrian priest welcomed into monastic community in Iraq (Fides) Following his expulsion from Syria, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio SJ, founder of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, was welcomed into the newly founded monastery of Deir Maryam el Adhra, which began a few months ago in Sulaymanya in Kurdistan Iraq...

Gaza residents in no mood to celebrate (Los Angeles Times) As tens of thousands of Gazans celebrated Hamas’ 25th anniversary Saturday, Mohamed Mustafa Abdallah huddled by a small fire in a cinder-block shed, assembled from scraps of wreckage from his bombed-out wholesale food business a few feet away. He said he was in no mood to party. His business, near the restive Jabaliya refugee camp where many Gaza Strip militants live, was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike Nov. 17, leaving nothing but broken concrete atop crates of crushed onions, garlic cloves and other goods. It was only a year ago that he finished repairing the damage caused to the building during Israel’s Gaza Strip offensive in 2009. “No one cares about us but God,” the father of eight said...

Former hostage Terry Waite returns to Lebanon to highlight the plight of Christians (The Telegraph) Terry Waite is convinced his meeting with the leadership of Hizbollah, the militant group accused of kidnapping and holding him for five years, will lead to “something positive”. The former hostage spoke for two hours to one of its most senior figures at their stronghold in Beirut, his first encounter with the organisation held responsible for masterminding his kidnapping 25 years ago. Accompanied by The Telegraph, he travelled to Lebanon to highlight the plight of Christians who have fled the Syrian civil war. Now on his return to Britain he denied “political naivety” and said that he was sure his trip achieved something.

Copts in US fear for the faith (Fox) It seems like every Sunday, there’s a new face sitting in the pews of the Church of Saint Verena and the Three Holy Youth in Orange, California. Most are young professionals or families with small children and some have been living in the United States for a just few weeks. “The first waves of immigration,” said Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii...Since the Arab Spring began in early 2011, Department of Homeland Security figures show the number of Egyptians seeking asylum has doubled. Unofficial estimates are that 100,000 Egyptians have so far sought refuge in the U.S. Many of them are believed to be Copts but there are no official statistics on their numbers...

Kerala prepares for Christmas (IBN) The first sign that Christmas is around the corner in Kerala comes in early December, when the mercury dips slightly. That’s when the morning stroll becomes a pleasant experience. Churches and Christian homes begin to put up the traditional Christmas stars, in varying sizes and shapes. Cribs are put up in the second week of December. Now-a-days, these are often ready-made. Nearly 22 percent of the state’s population is Christian, an estimated 32 million people. “Times have changed, so have customs. Gone are the days when the entire family used to get together to make wine, pickles and other food items. These days, who has the time; and then, where are the people to do those things,” asks 75-year-old Santhamma Joseph, a grandmother in Kottayam.



Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine

7 December 2012
Greg Kandra




Children run along a street with rubble from buildings damaged by what activists said was a government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 5 December. Middle East bishops and patriarchs say the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is key to peace throughout region.
(photo: CNS/Aref Hretani, Reuters)


Christian opposition group in Syria appeals for help (Fides) It is urgent to stop the “Jubhat Al Nosra” Salafist group that is spreading terror in Mesopotamia: that is the appeal launched by the new “National Coalition of the Revolution and Opposition” (CNS) from the “Assyrian Democratic Organization” (ADO), a Christian group that is part of the Syrian opposition. In a statement sent to Fides, the ADO said it is “outraged because armed elements of the ‘Jubhat Al Nosra’ Salafist group—that fights alongside the Free Syrian Army— terrorize civilians and confiscate with impunity Christian properties in the region of Hassaké,” in eastern Syria on the border with Turkey...

Patriarchs and Catholic bishops of Middle East issue documents after assembly (Fides) The second Assembly of Patriarchs and Catholic Bishops of the Middle East came to an end on 5 December, in Harissa, with the approval of two documents...The first document, long and complex, offers tips and practical strategies to put into practice the teachings in Ecclesia in the Middle East, the apostolic exhortation that Benedict XVI gave the bishops of the region during his recent visit to Lebanon. According to information collected by Fides Agency, the second document signed by the participants at the assembly in Harissa is an appeal to the international community and all people of good will concentrated on three key points...

Pope sends letter of condolence on death of patriarch (VIS) Benedict XVI has today sent a letter of condolence to the Metropolitan Spyridon of Heliopolis for the death of His Beatitude Archbishop Ignatius Hazim IV, Greek Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and all the East, who died on 5 December at the age of 92. In the text, the Holy Father observes that “during his long life of service to the Gospel, the deceased patriarch offered luminous testimony to faith and charity, working with dedication for the spiritual elevation of the flock entrusted to him and for the noble cause of reconciliation and peace among men...”

Negotiating the price of holy water (NPR) One of the holiest sites in Christendom has also been one of the most contested. The Church of the Holy Sepculchre in Jerusalem lies on the site where Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified and buried. Multiple Christian denominations share the church uneasily, and clerics sometimes come to blows over the most minor of disputes. The Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox all have a presence in the church. But the most recent conflict at the 4th century church was over something entirely different: an unpaid water bill...



Tags: Syria Lebanon Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Jerusalem

6 December 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




A refugee child's drawing depicts the violence from which hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled. The drawing was made in a psycho-social support group in Kamid al lawz, a town in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Clashes over Syrian war continue in northern Lebanon (Lebanon Daily Star) Fighting intensified Thursday between opponents and supporters of President Bashar Assad in northern Lebanon, as sniper shots left people ducking for cover in downtown Tripoli, raising concern that the fighting might take over the whole city. Fighters exchanged rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire in the city for a third day while rockets fired from Syria landed in nearby Lebanese border towns. Security sources told The Daily Star on Thursday that the death toll rose to eight from the fighting between the neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen, whose residents largely support Assad, and Bab al Tabbaneh, where residents oppose the embattled Syrian leader…

Opposing camps clash in Cairo (Der Spiegel) Late into Wednesday night, followers of President Mohammed Morsi battled on the streets of Cairo with opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood leader. For hours, the two camps fought in front of the presidential palace, with both sides throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. People were savagely beaten and several cars were set on fire. At least five were killed in the overnight clashes and some 450 were injured. On Thursday morning, the Egyptian army was deployed in front of the presidential palace, including several tanks and other military vehicles, to protect the compound…

King of Jordan visits West Bank in support of Palestinian statehood (Washington Post) Jordan’s King Abdullah II paid a rare visit to the West Bank on Thursday in a show of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s successful bid for the United Nations’ recognition of a Palestinian state. The Jordanians spoke out sharply against Israel’s latest plans to build thousands of new settler homes in response to the Palestinian move, including initial plans to revive a contentious project east of Jerusalem. The project, known as E1, would separate the West Bank from east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital, and drive a big wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank. “The settlement policy is not only rejected from our side as Arabs and Palestinians, but also by the whole world,” said the king’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh…

Ethiopian prime minister willing to reopen dialogue with Eritrea (Al Jazeera) Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s prime minister, has said that he is willing to hold talks with neighboring Eritrea, with whom Addis Ababa fought a border war that ended in 2000. If Desalgen follows through with Wednesday’s statement, it will be the first time a leader in Addis Ababa has held talks with Issaias Afeworki, the Eritrean president, since the end of the conflict which left at least 70,000 people dead. The two countries remain at odds over the flashpoint town of Badme, awarded to Eritrea by a U.N.-backed boundary commission, but still controlled by Ethiopia. “The most important thing for us is to fight poverty ... to have regional integration. If we two do that, it will be much more productive,” Hailemariam added. Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year struggle, that is considered among the continent’s longest and most bitter…

Bishop Zaki cautions church leaders on referendum boycott (Fides) The new Constitution, for which President Morsi seeks a popular referendum on 15 December, “divides the country” and fails to properly represent the diverse interests of the nation, says Bishop Adel Zaki, O.F.M., apostolic vicar of Alexandria in Egypt. Nevertheless, the bishop adds that it is not appropriate that church leaders give direct indication to boycott the referendum. “Churches must enlighten consciences and encourage discernment based on principles of justice and safeguard the common good,” warns Bishop Zaki, “but then everyone has to choose according to their conscience, in full freedom. Churches cannot ask Christians to boycott the referendum”…

The precarious state of religious freedom in Ethiopia (Nazret) A statement issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last month expressed “deep concern about the increasing deterioration of religious freedoms for Muslims in Ethiopia.” According to the USCIRF Statement, “since July 2011, the Ethiopian government has sought to impose the al Ahbash Islamic sect on the country’s Muslim community, a community that traditionally has practiced the Sufi form of Islam. The government also has manipulated the election of the new leaders of the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC). Previously viewed as an independent body, EIASC is now viewed as a government-controlled institution. The arrests, terrorism charges and takeover of EIASC signify a troubling escalation in the government’s attempts to control Ethiopia’s Muslim community and provide further evidence of a decline in religious freedom in Ethiopia.” The ruling regime has produced no evidence to support its claims of subversion, terrorism and other allegations of criminality by those protesting official interference…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Ethiopia Syrian Civil War Palestine

5 December 2012
Greg Kandra




A Syrian man carries a child as displaced people cross the border from the Syrian town of Ras al Ain to the town of Ceylanpinar, Turkey, on 4 December. (photo: CNS/Laszlo Balogh, Reuters)

Syria’s civil war spills into Lebanon (Vatican Radio) Gunmen loyal to opposite sides in neighboring Syria’s civil war battled in the streets of northern Lebanon on Wednesday. At least 5 people have been killed and 45 wounded from two days of fighting. The conflict, which has spilled out into Lebanon, brought Lebanese troops out in force to the streets of the city of Tripoli to calm the fighting…

New call issued for aid to help Syrian children (Vatican Radio) More than 200,000 Syrian children — many with little more than the clothes they fled the fighting in — are at risk from cold and disease, according to Save The Children. The charity is calling for urgent funding to be made available to prepare refugees for winter and ensure that children and their families have proper shelter and enough warm clothing, warm food, hot and clean water, blankets and heating fuel to survive the cold months…

Clashes in Egypt with anti-Morsi protestors (Vatican Radio) More than 100,000 Egyptians protested outside the presidential palace in Cairo yesterday, fueling tensions over Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi’s seizure of nearly unrestricted powers and the adoption by his allies of a controversial draft constitution. Egyptian police fired tear gas at protestors gathered outside the presidential palace in Cairo…

New film about Jesus in Hindi to debut in India (Fides) It is an initiative that “will help to communicate the Christian faith, to spread the real face of Christ and the Church to the people of India.” This is what Father Dominic D’Abreo, spokesman of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, told Fides about the new film on Jesus in the Hindi language, which has just been released to the Indian public in honor of the Year of Faith…

Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch dies at 91 (OCA.org) Two days after he was admitted to Saint George Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East fell asleep in the Lord on Wednesday, 5 December 2012. Patriarch Ignatius IV had suffered a severe stroke on Monday, December 3, and had been under the care of physicians in the hospital’s intensive care unit. He was 91 years old. Upon learning of the patriarch's repose, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon called upon the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America to remember him in prayer, that our Lord will grant him rest “where there is neither sickness, sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting”...



Tags: Syria India Egypt Lebanon Refugees





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