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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
27 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees wait outside their shelters in late January at Zaatari camp near Mafraq, Jordan. Jordan said Tuesday it is sealing its border and will not receive any new refugees from Syria. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Jordan insists on sealing borders amid new wave of refugees (Albawaba.com) Jordan will not take in any more Syrian refugees and the border with Syria will not be reopened, officials reiterated Tuesday. ”The Kingdom will not receive any new refugees from Syria under any circumstances,” Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said Tuesday after a meeting with Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh and heads of the chamber’s committees…

UN: Torture is always unacceptable (Vatican News) The United Nations chief has called on the international community to end the “abominable and useless practice” of torture, saying it is “unacceptable and unjustified at all times, including during states of emergency, political instability, or even in a war…”

Syria’s Christians reckon with survival (Sojourners) Since 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on dissent combined with ISIS’s aggressive expansion has dispossessed nearly one million Syrian Christians from their ancestral homeland. While Assad portrays himself as the vanguard of the country’s religious minorities, Christians have suffered considerably during the ongoing civil war. Up to 60 percent of the country’s churches have fallen as a result of the war, and many Christians — including human rights lawyer Khalil Maatouk and activist Bassel Shehadeh — have been detained or killed by the regime…

Ethiopia prime minister ready to open new chapter in Eritrea ties (Al Jazeera) Ethiopia’s prime minister said his country was ready to open a new chapter in their relations with long-time foe Eritrea following a high-level meeting with a delegation from Asmara. Abiy Ahmed received on Tuesday a delegation led by Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and President Isaias Afwerki’s right-hand man, Yemane Gebreab…

War in eastern Ukraine seems a distant storm to Kiev (The Washington Post) The war between government forces and Kremlin-backed separatists — and, by all indications, actual Kremlin troops — in Eastern Ukraine is only a six-hour train ride from the country’s capital, but for some Ukrainians, it might as well be in another universe. Though it has entered its fifth year, with no end in sight, Europe’s only active conflict has dropped from the headlines, inside Ukraine and abroad. In Kiev, residents have other matters to occupy them, now that summer has finally arrived, the street cafes are overflowing, and life seems to become slower with each degree the temperature rises…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jordan United Nations Eritrea

26 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope makes changes within College of Cardinals (Vatican News) With a rescript dated 26 June 2018, Pope Francis has named four Cardinals to the Order of Bishops within the College of Cardinals. The rescript, signed by Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, says the new Cardinal Bishops will be equal “in all respects to the Cardinals holding the title of a suburbicarian Church…”

Syria assault intensifies as thousands flee (Al Jazeera) Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are intensifying their offensive over key rebel-held towns in the southern province of Deraa, as thousands of people continue to flee the area, witnesses tell Al Jazeera…

Is love a winning message in Ethiopia? (Christian Science Monitor) As Africa’s second most populous country and its fastest growing economy, Ethiopia is extraordinary in many ways. It weaves together 80 ethnic groups as well as Christians and Muslims. On a continent with the world’s youngest population, the median age of Ethiopia’s 102 million people is 18. Yet now add to this list a new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April as Africa’s youngest ruler with this extraordinary trait: He could be the only leader of any country who frequently tells people, “Love wins…”



Tags: India Ethiopia Vatican Indian Bishops

25 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis has just appointed Jesuit Bishop Felix Toppo of Jamshedpur to be the new archbishop of Ranchi in India. (photo: Diocese of Jamshedpur)

Pope appoints new archbishop in Ranchi, India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Sunday appointed a new archbishop in Ranchi in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. He transferred Jesuit Bishop Felix Toppo of Jamshedpur to Ranchi as its new Archbishop. Bishop Felix takes over from 78-year old Cardinal Telesphore Toppo whose resignation the Holy Father has accepted. The cardinal reached the retirement age of 75 in 2014 as stipulated by the Code of Canon Law…

Grenade blast kills one, injures dozens at rally in Ethiopia (Vatican News) The Ethiopian Prime Minister has condemned a grenade blast that killed at least one person and injured at least 154 others at a rally in Addis Ababa. The explosion struck a rally by supporters of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He had just wrapped up delivering a speech, when the blast — thought to have been caused by a hand grenade — went off…

Five women from Jesuit school gang-raped in India (UCANews.com) Five women were abducted from a Jesuit-managed school and gang-raped in a forest near the Khunti area of India’s Jharkhand state, police said. Unidentified men on six motorcycles took away the women on the afternoon of 20 June while they were performing a play about social awareness, said A.V. Homkar, the area’s senior police official…

Jordan says it can’t accept more Syrian refugees (The Jordan Times) Jordan warned on Sunday that it cannot receive more Syrian refugees, saying it was intensifying talks with the US and Russia following air strikes on rebel-held towns in southern Syria. ”We have received enough numbers of Syrian refugees; we already have a large number and we simply cannot receive more,” Minister of State for Media Affairs Jumana Ghunaimat told The Jordan Times over the phone on Sunday…

Photo essay: the Syrian women and children waiting in the shadows of Lebanon’s camps (The Independent) There is real compassion and sympathy from landlords, employers and neighbors to what is perhaps the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis. Lebanese families have been known to take in refugees, also help set them up with furniture for their homes…



Tags: India Ethiopia Jordan

22 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis speaks about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, in an audience with members of ROACO. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope: Middle East is a ‘crossroads of suffering’ (Vatican News) ”The Middle East today is a crossroads of difficult situations, suffering,” Pope Francis said on Friday, in unscripted remarks to representatives of ROACO, the Reunion of Aid Agencies to the Oriental Churches (Italian: “Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali”). ROACO coordinates assistance and provides funding for initiatives that aid Eastern Catholic churches. In his extemporaneous comments, Pope Francis warned that there is the risk of “eliminating Christians” from the Middle East although he was careful to say that this did not mean this was anyone’s intention…

Report: Only ten Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria resettled in U.S. In 2018 (Christian Post) As the Trump administration has promised to help Christians and other religious minorities who faced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State, the U.S. government has resettled only ten Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria since the beginning of 2018…

Gaza border communities economically battered by kite fires (The Jerusalem Post) Gaza border communities are facing a new type of attack unlike rocket salvos from Hamas. Today, flaming kites and explosive condoms have scorched farmlands in nearby areas, backed-up highways as police sappers close roads to defuse incendiary devices, and led to a wave of canceled guests at local hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. While the burning kites have yet to kill or maim any Israeli civilians, they are increasingly inflicting an economic toll...

Syrian refugees creating items for IKEA (Mental Floss) After debuting the Tilltalande Collection at its Amman, Jordan location last year, IKEA is finally bringing it to the U.S. As Curbed reports, every item in the collection was created by women from Jordan and refugees from Syria. The new line is a collaboration between IKEA and the Jordan River Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Jordanians, especially women and children…

Meet Maxim, the champion powerlifting Russian Orthodox priest (Metro.co.uk) This is Maxim Pastuhov. He’s a Russian Orthodox priest… and also a champion powerlifter. When he’s not tending to his flock in Belgorod Oblast, Russia, the 41-year-old is down the gym getting busy with dumbells and barbells. Despite only having started weight training seven years ago, he’s already gained the title of “master of sport” — a prestigious title across Russia and former Soviet countries. ‘Weightlifting is a sport and is just my way of life,’ Maxim says…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Vatican Russian Orthodox

21 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis attends an encounter at the World Council of Churches' ecumenical center in Geneva on 21 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope in Geneva: ‘Our differences must not be excuses’ (CNS) Not only God, but today’s broken, divided world is begging for unity among Christians, Pope Francis said on an ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva. ”Our differences must not be excuses,” he said, because as Christ’s disciples, Christians can still pray together, evangelize and serve others…

Pope Francis flies to Geneva on ‘ecumenical pilgrimage’ (Vatican News) Pope Francis Thursday morning flew to Geneva to join the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a 350 member-group that is present in more than 110 countries and territories, making it the largest umbrella group of Christian denominations in the world. The WCC represents over 500 million Christians and includes most of world’s Orthodox Churches, a large number of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed Churches, as well as many United and Independent Churches…

Horrific details of chemical attack left out from U.N. report (The New York Times) At least twice this year, the Syrian military fired Iranian-made artillery shells filled with a chlorine-like substance that oozed poison slowly, giving victims just a few minutes to escape. In another attack, Syrian forces dropped a chemical bomb on the top-floor balcony of an apartment building, killing 49 people, including 11 children. Their skin turned blue. These details and others blaming Syria for atrocities in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, were uncovered by a United Nations commission investigating and documenting possible war crimes in the seven-year-old conflict. But when the commission issued a report on Wednesday, the details were omitted…

Holy See: human trafficking is the ’largest manifestation of modern slavery (Vatican News) The Holy See says that human trafficking, the “largest manifestation of modern slavery”, can be defeated by “eliminating the culture of consumerism” and fostering a culture of encounter centered on respect for human dignity. Even as Pope Francis was visiting Geneva on Thursday, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva made the statement at a Human Rights Council in the Swiss city during a session on trafficking in persons…

On the trail of the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia (The Independent) I arrived in Ethiopia as an unlikely Indiana Jones figure. My brother and I were tracing the watery route of the Ark of the Covenant, which was allegedly brought to Ethiopia in 400 BC and then proceeded to take a tour of the lakes for the next 800 years…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Ecumenism

20 June 2018
Greg Kandra




The video above, produced by the Vatican, recently won an international prize for its treatment of issues affecting migrants and refugees. (video: Vatican News/YouTube)

Pope supports bishops’ criticism of ‘immoral’ immigration policy (CNS) Pope Francis said he stands with the U.S. bishops who recently condemned the Trump administration’s policy on immigration that has led to children being held in government shelters while their parents are sent to federal prisons. ”I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” Pope Francis said in an interview with the Reuters news agency, published online 20 June. “Let it be clear that in these things, I respect (the position of) the bishops’ conference…”

Report on war crimes in eastern Ghouta (Euronews.com) United Nations investigators have accused both government and rebel forces of committing war crimes in the clashes around eastern Ghouta…

Vatican awarded international prize for video on migrants, refugees (Vatican News) A Vatican video campaign on migrants and refugees has become an internationally-recognized best practice in promoting positive change in society through social advertising. The International Social Advertising Festival or Publifestival awarded its “Best Strategy in Social Action” prize to a video made by the Section for Migrants and Refugees of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Promotion. The video was produced by the agency La Machi Communication for Good Causes…

Church agencies rushing to help victims of monsoon in India (UCANews.com) Church agencies are rushing aid to thousands of people in northeast India after floods and landslides claimed at least 23 lives in the past week. The worst-hit villages are in the states of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, where floodwater caused by monsoon rains inundated homes and farmland in low-lying areas. Landslides have cut off roads in hilly areas while rivers are rising to dangerous levels, leaving hundreds of villages marooned…

Filmmaker looks at hidden Jews of Ethiopia (Canadian Jewish News) For hundreds of years, perhaps longer, Ethiopian Jews were known by their neighbors as Falashas, a pejorative term meaning “landless” or “wanderer” that made them out to be perpetual outsiders in the east African country, even though Jews have resided there for millennia. Facing discrimination, some converted to Christianity. Others did not and from the late 1970s through to the ‘90s, the community was brought to Israel in several airlifts, including Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. The Christian converts, known as Falash Mura, were brought to Israel later, although several thousand still remain in the capital, Addis Ababa, waiting to join their relatives in the Promised Land…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Vatican

19 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis meets a group of refugees in St. Peter's Square. (photo: Vatican News/Caritas Internationalis)

Pope sends message to migrants, refugees (Vatican News) In a message to participants at a lunch organized by Caritas Rome in the city’s main soup kitchen that caters for tens of thousands of poor people, many of them migrants and refugees, Pope Francis on Tuesday highlighted the importance and the value of “sharing” spaces, events and simple things like a meal, in order to overcome barriers and nurture feelings of brotherhood…

Caritas Europa advocates for ’safe and legal pathways’ for refugees (Vatican News) Pope Francis said on Sunday that World Refugee Day, promoted by the UN is meant “to call attention to the anxiety and suffering lived by those who are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution”. ”We stand for a Europe that provides durable solutions for people in need of protection”, Caritas Europa wrote in a statement released for World Refugee Day (20 June). They also call for “global responsibility” in reaching this goal so the burden on the shoulders of “countries already hosting the majority of refugees worldwide” can be shared…

UN: One in every 110 people in the world is forcibly displaced (The Telegraph) A record 68.5 million people have been forced flee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, notably in places like Myanmar and Syria, the UN said on Tuesday. By the end of 2017, the number was nearly three million higher than the previous year and showed a 50-percent increase from the 42.7 million uprooted from their homes a decade ago, according to a report by the UN refugee agency…

Indians fleeing persecution among those being detained in U.S. (The Oregonian) Of the 123 people now in Sheridan, the most populous nationality is not Honduran or Guatemalan, it is East Indian. Fifty-two listed India as their home country. Several identified themselves as Sikhs or Christians fleeing religious persecution from the Hindu majority. The East Indians told the delegation that their Hindi and Punjabi translators were the first outsiders they’ve been able to talk to since they were imprisoned weeks ago..

Rare 1,000-year-old amulet with Arabic blessing found in Jerusalem (LiveScience.com) Archaeologists discovered a 1,000-year-old clay amulet about the size of a dime at one of the oldest historical sites in Jerusalem. The tiny amulet belonged to a man named Kareem and is inscribed with a personal prayer, “Kareem trusts in Allah. Lord of the Worlds is Allah.” Teams from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University unearthed the rare ornamental piece beneath the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David, in Jerusalem Walls National Park. In the past decade, archaeologists have uncovered numerous artifacts, including precious stones and gold coins, beneath the Givati Parking Lot — the largest excavation site in Jerusalem…



Tags: India Jerusalem Immigration

15 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In recent message, Pope Francis urges justice, solidarity and compassion regardless of migration status. (video: Rome Reports)

What is the current state of the migration crisis in Europe? (The Guardian) Three years after Europe’s biggest influx of migrants and refugees since the Second World War, tensions between E.U. member states over how to handle irregular immigration from outside the bloc — mainly from the Middle East and Africa — are rising again…

Trauma forms the invisible ruins ISIS left behind on the Nineveh Plain (Crux) After the Islamic State was driven out of the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq in 2017, the scale of destruction left behind in a chain of historically Christian villages was staggering…

Iraq to rebuild Yazidi shrines in Sinjar (AINA) Iraq’s Ministry of Construction and Housing is rebuilding Yazidi shrines, administrative headquarters, and roads in Nineveh Province’s city of Sinjar, in what the ministry called a ‘major campaign,’ on Thursday…

Syria’s not waiting for peace to rebuild, and Iran wants to help (Al Monitor) Taking full control of the capital city of Damascus and the surrounding area for the first time since the civil war broke out in 2011 has given the Syrian government new impetus. That success also allows it to approach reconstruction of infrastructure and cities…

Church in Orissa prepares to commemorate anti-Christian massacres (Fides) The Catholic Church in the Indian state of Orissa, in eastern India, is preparing to celebrate the solemn commemoration of the victims of the anti-Christian massacres of 2008…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Migrants Yazidi

14 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2017 photo, Syrian refugee children play on the grounds of the Fratelli Association in Rmeileh village, which provides refugees with educational services. (photo: Philip Eubanks)

Lebanon witnesses rise in Syrian refugee child labor over past year (Daily Star Lebanon) Aid groups say more and more Syrian children are joining the workforce as poverty intensifies among about a million refugees living in Lebanon — roughly a quarter of the country’s population…

In Iraqi Christian village, ‘In God we trust’ isn’t just a slogan (Crux) Once a thriving Chaldean Catholic community, Qaramlesh today is the shadow of what it used to be, but many are working against the clock to make it what it was before summer ends…

Egypt sees rise in disappearances of Coptic Christian women (Christian Today) The disappearance of a number of Coptic Christian women in Egypt in recent months has sparked fears that they are being targeted for human trafficking…

U.N. slams ‘excessive’ Israeli force against Palestinians in Gaza (Al Jazeera) The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a resolution adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries. The 193-member world body rejected the United States’ efforts to blame Gaza’s Hamas rulers for the violence that has killed more than 120 Palestinians in the past two and half months…

U.N. condemns European countries’ refusal to take in migrants (Vatican News) The chief of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says a bitter dispute over which European country should take in a rescue boat carrying hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean “profoundly shameful” for the European Union…

Christians in the Nineveh Plain host evening meal with Muslim neighbors (Fides) On Tuesday, a community iftar was hosted in the city of Bartella, about ten miles from Mosul, at the local community center of the Syriac Orthodox Church. This evening meal interrupts the daily fasting Muslims undertake during Ramadan…

Ukraine’s Greek Catholic chief sees ‘no choice’ but dialogue with Russia (Crux) “For us, for the simple people, for the Christians, reconciliation means not only prayer for reconciliation, but also effective acts of reconciliation, because that is how we construct a peace for the next generation,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, in an interview with a small group of reporters…



Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Refugees Iraqi Christians Palestinians

13 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this August 2017 photo, a man shovels the road in Qaraqosh’s main commercial street, heavily destroyed by fighting between Islamic State militants and Iraqi coalition forces. (photo: Raed Rafei)

In post-ISIS Christian town, heroism and paradox both abound (Crux) Over the centuries, the Middle East has always been a land where expectations tend to experience especially tough collisions with reality, so it probably should be no surprise that a massive effort to rebuild the Christian village which was the epicenter of a brutal ISIS onslaught in 2014 has, at its heart, three grand paradoxes. Qaraqosh — or “Baghdeda” to Christians, who make up 96 percent of the population and prefer to use the city’s Aramaic name to reclaim their Christian identity — was the largest Christian community on the Nineveh Plains, a swath of land that overlaps the border between Iraq and Kurdish-controlled territory…

Georgian Prime Minister Kvirikashvili resigns (The Daily Star) Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday amid a disagreement with the leader of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is a former prime minister and the ex-Soviet country’s richest man. “We’ve had some disagreements with the leader of the ruling party,” Kvirikashvili said in a televised statement. “I think there is a moment now when the leader of the (ruling) party should be given an opportunity to staff a new cabinet.” Kvirikashvili, 50, has been prime minister since 2015…

U.N. votes on condemning Israel over Gaza violence (Al Monitor) The United Nations General Assembly will vote Wednesday on condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza in a resolution fiercely opposed by the United States. At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March…

Can Jordan’s new prime minister reform the government? (Washington Post) Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II appointed former education minister Omar Razzaz as the new prime minister after protests rocked the country. And Razzaz has already made several concessions to the protesters over taxes. But more interesting is that Razzaz said a “new social contract” will be a top item on his government’s agenda…



Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Georgia





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