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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
  
21 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

20 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

19 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




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

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

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

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

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



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

16 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

14 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




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

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

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

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

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



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Turkey Islam

13 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2008 photo, Jesuit Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, is pictured in Aleppo. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Jesuit Chaldean bishop discusses matters in Syria (Vatican Insider) “I was supposed to be going to the Rimini meeting, but it’s not the right time to be travelling.” Antoine Audo, Jesuit and Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, prefers to stay close to his people who are suffering. He thinks it is not the right time to be taking pointless risks in order to take part in conferences on the situation of Christians in Syria. While explaining the reasons behind this decision, he also told Vatican Insider about the conditions that people are experiencing in the martyred city, which, once one of the most flourishing parts of the Arab world, has had entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble. “Everybody tells me and the other bishops to move around discreetly without wearing bishops’ clothing in order to avoid being kidnapped,” he says. Bishop Antoine also expressed concerns about the missing Father Paolo Dall’Oglio…

Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church begins (RISU) “With this Divine Liturgy we, the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, begin our Synod,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said on 11 August during his homily in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv. The event will run until 18 August. The hierarch said that the central issue is the “new evangelization” — “to make a modern man see, how to share the faith, how we, the believers of the twenty-first century, can know the Word of God in today’s culture…”

Against growing turmoil, Coptic pope urges restraint (AllAfrica) Pope Tawadros II urged the Egyptian people on Tuesday to renounce violence and avoid bloodshed. “I call on everybody, with my utmost love, to protect the lives of Egyptians,” the pope posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday, adding, “I ask all Egyptians to use their heads wisely, practice self-restraint and avoid any violence, attacks or recklessness against humanity or property…”

Israel approves another 900 settler homes (Al Jazeera) Israel’s latest announcement of more than 900 new illegal settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem “threatens” talks with the Palestinians, a senior Palestinian official has said. The units in Gilo, near the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, are in addition to the 1,200 settlement homes approved by Israel on Sunday. “This settlement expansion is unprecedented,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said on Tuesday…



Tags: Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Chaldean Church Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II

12 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2008 photo, Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio laughs during a chat with Muslim shepherds in an ancient cave near the Mar Musa monastery in Syria. Father Dall’Oglio was reportedly captured by an Islamist group in Syria in late July. (photo: CNS/John Feister, St. Anthony Messenger)

Reports of missing Jesuit’s death unconfirmed (ANSAmed) The Vatican’s ambassador to Damascus on Monday said he could not confirm a report from Lama al Atassi, secretary general for the Syrian National Front, that the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio has been executed. “We are very worried about Father Dall’Oglio as for everyone here in Syria, where the situation is getting worse with every passing day and the picture is getting grimmer by the minute,” says Papal Nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari. Local news should be taken with a grain of salt, Archbishop Mario added. “You have to be careful because is also an information war, with reports constantly being retracted,” he said…

Syrian rebels destroy Orthodox church in Al Thawrah (AINA) The Antiochian Orthodox Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus was a landmark of Al Thawrah (also known as Al Tabqah). It was an impressive, modern structure with a large yard, surrounded by a high wall and well situated on a main street near the corniche — a well-landscaped area hugging the southern bank of Lake Assad which was popular with locals taking evening strolls. Its elegant dome and cross could be seen from a great distance. This church was under the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Aleppo, led by Metropolitan Boulos al Yazigi, who was kidnapped on 22 April of this year, along with the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of the same city, Metropolitan Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim…

Syriac Orthodox bishop: stop speculating about the kidnapped bishops (Fides) “Every week some politician or some journalist puts out some story on the two kidnapped metropolitan archbishops of Aleppo. But so far they have always been unverifiable deductions. The reality is that almost four months have gone by since their kidnapping and we do not who kidnapped them,” says Metropolitan Timotheus Matta Fadil Alkhouri, patriarchal assistant in the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. The latest unverified rumors even come from the United States, where Congressional Representative Charlie Dent has taken steps to gather information on the kidnapped bishops due to the insistence of the Syrian community in the city of Allentown. Anonymous sources close to the British diplomacy then attributed to the U.S. politician the claim that the two bishops are still alive and are hostages in Turkey, held by Islamist groups involved in a “plot” to move the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate from Damascus to Turkey, and influence the succession of the Syriac Orthodox patriarch, the 80-year-old Mar Ignatius Zakka I…

Syria refugees swell Christian community in Turkey (BBC) Syria’s Christians belong to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. However, chased away by the threat of violence, some are heading for neighboring Turkey, where they have been greeted with considerable enthusiasm. Driven by a deep and humble faith, Father Joaqim is a young man with a sense of destiny. He has returned from 11 years in Holland to revive his dying community in eastern Turkey. “Thank God our community is alive again,” he says, his face radiating out from the distinctive black cap of his Syriac Orthodox habit. “On Sundays our church is full with worshipers from the village.” Across the Tur Abdin, some of the long-abandoned villages are slowly coming back to life, not just with emigrant families from the Syriac disapora returning from Europe, but also with co-religionists from Syria, separated by an artificial border, returning to the bosom of their community in Turkey…

Bulgarian Orthodox metropolitan objects to Pope John XXIII monument (Sofia Globe) Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Yoanikii of Sliven has issued a statement objecting to reported plans for a monument to Pope John XXIII in the seaside town of Nessebur, saying that the move could create tensions between Orthodox and Catholics. John XXIII, pope from October 1958 to June 1963, was papal nuncio to Bulgaria from 1925 to 1935. The plan for a statue of him to be erected at the isthmus of the town was inspired, according to the municipality, by him having given the equivalent of half a million leva to feed Macedonian refugees. Pope John XXIII’s career also includes having acted to assist Jews seeking to escape the Holocaust, including Bulgarian Jews. Currently, he is on the path of beatification, reportedly expected to happen before the end of 2013, along with the late Pope John Paul II…

Lebanon grand mufti calls for release of all hostages (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanon Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani called Monday for the release of the recently kidnapped Turkish Airlines pilots in Beirut as well as the Lebanese who have been held hostage in Syria since May 2012. “The kidnapping of people, whoever the people might be, and regardless of the kidnappers, is an act that we denounce and reject, considering it the forced detention of innocents,” Qabbani said…



Tags: Refugees Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Turkey

9 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Coptic Orthodox delegation visits Al Azhar University to celebrate Eid ul Fitr, the conclusion of Ramadan. (photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church)

Impact of pope’s message to Muslims for end of Ramadan (Vatican Radio) To find out more about the impact of this papal message on Christian-Muslim dialogue, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Archbishop Kevin McDonald, head of the English and Welsh bishops’ office for interfaith relations, who says the pope’s in-person message “has been very well received…”

Growing concern that Pope Tawadros II may be targeted by Islamists (AsiaNews) “We fear that Pope Tawadros II might become a target of Islamist reprisal,” said the Rev. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The Coptic pope, Father Greiche said, “used to go to Cairo’s St Mark Cathedral every Wednesday to meet with the faithful and hold a series of weekly readings. Since President Morsi’s ouster more than a month ago, he has been forced to hold those meetings in a monastery outside the city…”

Egyptian churches to choose representatives for the new constitutional assembly (Egypt Independent) Coptic Pope Tawadros II has chosen Bishop Paula of Tanta to represent the Coptic Orthodox Church in the 50-person constitutional assembly formed to amend the constitution, said a source within the church. The three main Egyptian churches — the Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical churches — will collectively nominate three representatives to the assembly. Forthcoming meetings will determine whether each distinct church will nominate one candidate or if the three churches will reach a united vision of the figures to be chosen…

Cyprus police advise bolstering security after string of church thefts (InCyprus) Police are advising churches to bolster security measures after a string of ecclesiastical thefts in Paphos this week. Six burglaries have been reported so far. According to a spokesman, churches are generally targeted because they lack sophisticated security systems. Speaking to The Cyprus Daily, Paphos Bishop Georgios described the recent surge in thefts against churches as unacceptable. “We have taken on board the advice from the police and in some cases CCTV systems and alarms have been installed in churches.” He added that the church had noticed a distinct increase in thefts during the summer period. “Cyprus is a tourist destination and it is very busy during the summer. Because we receive many visitors during this time it makes it easy for thieves to come in and look around before they decide to steal something…”



Tags: Egypt Christian-Muslim relations Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Coptic Church Cyprus

8 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2011 photo, Palestinian Christians George Hamah, 65, left, and Yousef Lutfi, 73, walk near the Israeli-erected barrier that divides their olive groves near Bethlehem, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Israel okays more West Bank settlement homes (Al Jazeera) Israel has given preliminary approval for the construction of more than 800 new homes in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank, an Israeli official has said. Guy Inbar, the spokesman for Israel’s military-run Civil Administration in the West Bank, said on Thursday that initial plans to build 800 new settler homes were approved a day earlier. However, actual construction would require additional approval from the government. “This is a lengthy process,” said Inbar, who did not immediately provide further details on the plans. Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, put the number of new homes discussed by the Civil Administration on Wednesday at 1,096 and said they were earmarked for 11 illegal settlements, some located deep within the West Bank…

Maronite bishops urge Lebanon to remain neutral (Fides) Lebanon can avoid the many pitfalls that threaten its stability only if it remains out of the wars raging on its borders and maintains its “neutrality before the ongoing conflicts at a regional and international level.” This alarm for the fate of the country comes from the Council of Maronite Bishops, who met on Wednesday, 7 August, for their monthly meeting in Dimane, at the patriarchal summer seat. The bishops, under the leadership of Patriarch Bechara Peter, also addressed a direct criticism to the two opposing national political blocs held responsible for the institutional paralysis that prolongs the nation’s social and economic crises…

Syrian officials deny claimed rebel attack on Assad motorcade (Los Angeles Times) The Syrian government strenuously denied unsubstantiated reports Thursday that rebels had attacked a motorcade carrying President Bashar al Assad in Damascus, the capital. “The news is completely baseless and a mere reflection of the wishes and illusions of some media outlets and the governments standing behind them,” Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoubi said in a statement. Several Arab-language news services carried word of the alleged attack based on statements from opposition representatives. The Syrian president was pictured on state television Thursday getting into a car and attending services at a mosque in Damascus celebrating the Eid ul Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Ramadan fasting period. Assad appeared unruffled…

Syriacs continue battle over religious buildings (Hurriyet Daily News) The Syriac Christians of Mardin, in southeastern Turkey, will continue their legal battle after the Mor Gabriel Monastery, seeking to reclaim their rights to Syriac Catholic Patriarchate land. Despite a decree signed in 2011 to return property taken away from them, minorities have yet to take their lands back. Münir Üçkardes, a member of the Mardin Syriac Catholics Foundation, says they may take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights (E.C.H.R.). Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old monastery located in Mardin’s Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarli and Eglence sued the monastery for allegedly occupying their fields. The court recognized the monastery as an “occupier,” after which the case was brought to the E.C.H.R…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Maronite Church West Bank Syriac Christians

7 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Women labor in a farmer’s market in Addis Ababa. Unemployment and underemployment among Ethiopian youth is a major problem. Peter Lemieux discusses this in The High Stakes of Leaving, appearing in the May 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Seeking a better life, Ethiopian women turn to construction jobs (NPR) The 19-year-old Mekedes is one of six women working alongside 60 men at a construction site that will next year be a new wing of a city hospital. She wears a paint-spattered sweatshirt and a skirt over her jeans, a nod to her Orthodox Christian upbringing. While she typically does lighter jobs like cleaning and shoveling sand, roles on the site are always fluid. She’s tackled even the heaviest lifting jobs since she showed up to work as a day laborer at age 15…

Refugee children face abuse, forced marriages (Fides) Children who fled the war in Syria with their families continue to be exploited, abused and forced into early marriages. UNHCR has launched an initiative to seek the most effective security measures to prevent the young from working, dropping out of school or returning to Syria as child soldiers. According to the latest UNHCR estimates, 130,000 Syrian refugees live in the Zaatari camp in Jordan, where networks of organized crime are being built and scarce resources are constantly being looted and destroyed…

Exploited ‘child brides’ on the rise in Egypt (Washington Post) When young girls are sold into marriage, as 38,000 are every day, they can expect a life with no education and few opportunities, little public autonomy outside of their adult husband’s control and an increased risk of death from pregnancy or childbirth, which are the number one killer of girls aged 15 to 18 in the developing world. One in seven girls born in the developing world is married by age 15, usually sold by her family. But some girls who grow up in Egypt’s poor rural communities face an even scarier sort of child marriage: the temporary kind. Sex tourism to Egypt tends to spike in the summer, when wealthy men from Gulf countries flood into Egypt and thousands of underage girls are sold by their parents into temporary “marriages”…

No deal between army and Islamists in Egypt (New York Times) Egypt’s interim president said Wednesday that diplomats had failed to broker an agreement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-backed government to end the political crisis that has gripped the nation for the past five weeks. Today, Egypt’s prime minister said on state TV that the decision to clear the sit-ins was “irreversible.” Neither announcement said what the interim leadership’s next step would be, hinting that a forceful breakup of the sit-ins may be imminent…



Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Children Refugee Camps Women (rights/issues)





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