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Current Issue
June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
1 August 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a priest from Mosul explains how families have been keeping the faith during the long siege by ISIS and the battle to liberate the city. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

In Mosul, revealing the last ISIS stronghold (The New York Times) Days after the Iraqi government officially declared victory over the Islamic State in Mosul in July, the fighting was far from over. Roughly the size of a block in Manhattan, the last ISIS holdout of the Old City did not seem like the kind of place where anyone could still be alive after weeks of brutal combat. But a few such areas kept up the fight for days. And — horribly, amazingly — civilians were still being pulled out. What we saw as we went step by step with the Iraqi forces here made their survival seem even more miraculous...

Report: U.S. proposes arming Ukraine (The New York Times) The Pentagon and State Department have proposed to the White House a plan to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other arms, according to Defense Department officials. The proposed transfer — which also would include antiaircraft arms that would be defined as defensive weaponry — comes as fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists has increased in recent days, and the United States is taking steps to deter aggressive military actions by Moscow...

After 150 years, a baptism takes place in Turkish province (DailySabah.com) Baptism ceremony has taken place at a chapel located near the ancient Temple of Apollo in Turkey’s southwestern Aydin province for the first time after 150 years. According to reports, the son of Assyrian businessman Enlil Simon Afram was baptized at the 300-year-old chapel, located in Aydin’s Didim district. The Metropolitan Bishop of Mardin and Diyarbakir Saliba Özmen performed the baptism...

Mosul musicians emerge from the shadows (Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces continue to root out the last remaining pockets of ISIL fighters in Mosul. But rebuilding the city and allowing people to return to their old lives is now the main priority. Musicians who lived under ISIL rule had to keep their profession a secret or face severe punishment...



31 July 2017
Greg Kandra




As the fighting is coming to an end, West Mosul is slowly coming back to life and students, such as those shown here, are returning to schools that are slowly reopening. Iraq reports
250,000 people have returned to the Nineveh Plain in recent weeks.
(photo: Noe Falk Nielsen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Iraq: 250,000 have returned to homes in Nineveh (Fides) The Iraqi Ministry for Migration and Internal Mobility reported that more than 250,000 people have returned to their respective areas of origin in the Nineveh Province, who had to leave when those regions had been occupied or threatened by jihadist militias of the Islamic State...

Russia stages military parade in Syria (The New York Times) Russia’s global military ambition was on display Sunday when the country celebrated Navy Day with large military parades not only in St. Petersburg, but also off the coast of Syria. The parades of ships, submarines and aircraft were held at Russian naval bases in Sevastopol, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and at Tartus in Syria, where Russia is expanding its military presence...

Cardinal Parolin to visit Moscow (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has confirmed that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, will travel to Moscow in September. Parolin’s journey to Russia comes in the wake of his visits to Belarus and to Ukraine in the past two years signaling the Vatican’s continuing engagement with eastern Europe and its desire to continue supporting the Christians in the region...

Thousands poised to leave Lebanon-Syria border zone (Times of Oman) Convoys of buses arrived on Monday to transfer thousands of Syrian militants and refugees from Lebanon’s border region into rebel territory in Syria in exchange for Hezbollah prisoners. Under a local ceasefire between the militants and the Hezbollah, about 9,000 fighters and their relatives were to leave on Monday, a Hezbollah media unit said earlier...

Children continue to swim as raw sewage floods Gaza beach (The Guardian) While pollution of Gaza’s 25 miles of beaches is not new, what is different is the degree. These days, according to the last environmental survey, 73 percent of Gaza’s coastline is dangerously polluted with sewage amid an energy crisis that is now also affecting Israel across the border wall, sharply up from 40-50 percent a year ago...

Four years later, still no word of priest kidnapped in Syria (Crux) In late July 2013, when Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio entered a “rebel” territory of Syria, at the time under siege by the Islamic State, he knew something could happen. He want to Raqqa anyway, in hopes of brokering a deal for the release of kidnap victims. As it turns out, he himself was kidnapped on the 29th. No one has heard of him since...



28 July 2017
Greg Kandra




Workers unload supplies of medicine from trucks of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent near Damascus. The United Nations has delivered aid to only a few areas in Syria this month.
(photo: Samer Bouidani/NurPhoto/Getty Images)


UN struggles to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria (Al Jazeera) The United Nations has delivered aid to only a few hard-to-reach areas in Syria and not a single besieged location this month, a senior UN humanitarian official said on Thursday. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller told the UN Security Council in a video briefing from Amman, Jordan, that there have been no UN aid convoys to besieged areas in July and just one a week to hard-to-reach areas, meaning just over 120,000 people got help this month...

Catholic charities wants migrant stories to be heard (Vatican Radio) No matter the position one takes on national migration policy, Pope Francis, Caritas Internationalis and national Catholic charities across the globe want Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story...

Cardinal: Russia and West must settle differences for peace (CNS) Peace and an end to violent conflicts around the world should be placed above any national interests when it comes to the relationship between Western countries and Russia, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said...

Egypt sets up national council to combat terror (AFP) Egypt has created a “national council” to combat the rise of Islamist “terrorism” which has targeted its security forces and Coptic Christian minority, in a presidential decree issued on Wednesday. The decree, published in Egypt’s official gazette, sets up a “national council to combat terrorism and extremism” by adopting a “global national strategy”...

Zaatari: the ‘temporary’ shelter that has become Jordan’s fourth largest city (ABC.net.au) About 80,000 Syrians live here, and as far as refugee camps go, aid groups say Zaatari is the gold standard. There’s a bustling main market that smells strongly like the flat bread baking in wood ovens inside shops. Gold traders jostle for business with bridal wear shops and fresh fruit and vegetables are laid out for the choosing. Zaatari isn’t like the other camps though — many don’t allow commerce or small businesses, and don’t have as many aid programs offering such comprehensive support...

Iraq’s unsung culinary queen (Al Jazeera) Her previously out-of-print cookbook, which found its way into the nation’s heart 52 years ago, went back into circulation this year for the 18th time, with just 400 copies printed and distributed. The first edition has been upgraded with glossy pages showcasing Iraq’s time-tested recipes and dishes from the wider region. Adib and coauthor Firdous al-Mukhtar have been described as the first women to grant Iraqi cuisine its rightful place in history...



27 July 2017
Greg Kandra




A destroyed building is seen in Mosul, Iraq, on 24 July. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)

The hunt for the missing in Mosul (AFP) In Mosul, the missing are everywhere, their families hunting through the ruined Iraqi city for traces of lost husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters...

Gaza power-sharing deal moves ahead (AP) Lawmakers from Hamas and those affiliated with a former Gaza strongman have met for the first time in a decade in Gaza’s parliament building...

Ethiopia’s model drought defenses are put to the test (Christian Science Monitor) If Ethiopia was once the world’s poster child for drought mismanagement, it is now the regional model for early warning and nimble response. As two of the worst droughts in recorded history have swept across the country, a muscular, government-led reaction has driven back the crisis to mostly manageable levels — even as in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia, the same weather conditions have brought populations to the edge of famine...

India’s first Dalit president given a second Christian burial (OutlookIndia.com) A part of the ashes of India’s first Dalit President KR Narayanan, who was cremated on the banks Yamuna following Hindu rituals, was given a second Christian burial, admits his daughter Chitra Narayanan. There was kerfuffle over the discovery of a tomb in cemetery exclusively for Christians in the name of former president KR Narayanan, who was born into a Hindu Dalit family in Uzhavoor village in Kerala and remained so officially until he died on 9 November 2005...

Pushing the boundaries with icons (KALW) In the Russian Orthodox Church, art is much more than just decoration. Small, elaborate paintings known as icons portray Christianity’s most famous persons, and are used as tools for prayer. Today, a number of artists who are neither Russian nor Russian Orthodox are nonetheless pushing the boundaries of this religious art form...



26 July 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a religious sister from Syria describes how Christians there have continued to cling to their faith. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Pressure continues to involve Christians in Kurdistan referendum (Fides) Political leaders of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan continue to try and involve Christians in support of the referendum convened for next 25 September, seeking to proclaim full independence from Baghdad...

Security forces sent to Lebanese Christian town near Syria (Al-Arabiya.net) Security reinforcements were sent to the Lebanese Christian town of Al-Qaa after reports that gunmen may have entered. A number of suicide bombers attacked the Lebanese Christian village last year killing a number of people and wounding dozens more. ISIS was responsible for the bombings in the village of Qaa on Lebanon’s border with Syria...

Syrians rebuild a mosque in Aleppo — and rebuild their community (The Independent) The crumpled heap of stones, all that is left of the minaret of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, asks questions of us all. How do we “restore” or “repair” or “rebuild” a jewel of Seljuk civilization from which millions of Muslims — perhaps even Saladin himself — were called to prayer five times each day for 900 years in one of the oldest cities of the world?...

Coptic Church launches campaign against female genital mutilation (Fides) The Orthodox Coptic Church is about to launch an intense awareness campaign among its faithful against the practice of female genital mutilation, which continues to be widespread among Coptic Christians in different areas of Upper Egypt...

Ethiopian Rosh Hashanah blends unique customs (Jewish News Service) Despite relative isolation from their Jewish brethren around the world for millennia, Ethiopian Jews have coveted the same dream of celebrating Rosh Hashanah “next year in Jerusalem.” Though unique, the Jewish New Year festivities in Ethiopia bear many similarities to the holiday’s observance in the broader diaspora...



Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Ethiopia Copts

25 July 2017
Greg Kandra




A migrant child sits on the deck of rescue ship as it arrives on 19 April in Augusta, Italy. A Vatican representative told the U.N. Monday that the integration of migrants and refugees in host nations must become an opportunity for new understanding.
(photo: CNS/Darrin Zammit Lupi, pool via Reuters)


Vatican on migration: an opportunity for development, fraternity (Vatican Radio) The integration of migrants and refugees in host nations can and must become an opportunity for new understanding, broader horizons and greater development for everyone. This message was at the heart of a statement released on Monday by Father Michael Czerny at the UN in New York during an Informal Thematic Session in New York to gather substantive input and recommendations to inform the Global Compact on Migration...

Tensions continue in Jerusalem (Fides) The Israeli government has ordered the removal of installed metal detectors to control the entry at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. But it is too soon to tell whether this measure will have an impact on the tension and violence unleashed around the Holy City where the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated...

A new life in strangers’ clothes for refugees in Canada (Racked.com) Like most refugees, the Syrians arriving in Canada come with very little literal baggage. They leave behind wedding presents and photo albums, family heirlooms and art collections. A threat to physical safety, the need to flee from civil conflict, might seem like it renders material objects irrelevant. But we carry a powerful attachment to tangible things. The things we collect keep us rooted in the earth; our homes, our beds, our bookshelves and frying pans, the sneakers with the shoelaces that always come undone, and the letters collected in a box tell the story of who we are and where we have been...

How Gaza became unlivable (Al Jazeera) The United Nations Country Team in the occupied Palestinian territory recently released an incisive report on Gaza (PDF), focusing on the humanitarian impact of Israel’s 10-year blockade and the internal political divisions among the Palestinians. Its findings are bleak: Gaza’s impoverishment is entirely the product of human decisions, and not the fate of nature...

Indian Christians observe ‘Martyrdom Day’ (Vatican Radio) A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe Martyrdom Day on 22 July in memory of Christians who are persecuted and killed for their faith. It was the initiative of Shibu Thomas who through his ecumenical movement, “Persecution Relief” said special prayers were offered in Churches across the country. The observance is “part of a concerted effort to encourage those who continue to struggle to cope with persecution and challenge to live a true Christian life,” Thomas told UCANEWS...

Vatican turns off fountains to save water (Vatican Radio) The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water...



24 July 2017
Greg Kandra




Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man following clashes outside Jerusalem’s Old City on 21 July. Pope Francis has appealed for dialogue after a surge of violence in the area.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)


Pope appeals for dialogue after Jerusalem violence (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for moderation and dialogue after a surge of violence and killings over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, the Pope said he is following “with trepidation the grave tensions and violence of the last days in Jerusalem...”

Syria truce crumbles (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces have carried out several air attacks in the Eastern Ghouta area outside of Damascus, a day after the Syrian military declared a cessation of hostilities in the area, according to a UK-based monitor. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Saturday had been relatively calm after the ceasefire took effect with isolated incidents of shellfire...

Christians welcome India’s new president with caution (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic bishops have welcomed India’s new president, hoping he will be able to foster peace, development and justice for all...

Report: Young Syrian refugees being forced into child labor in Lebanon (Vox) About 280,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon have been forced into child labor, according to UNICEF. Many of these kids lost their loved ones and homes in their country’s brutal civil war. They fled to Lebanon for safety — only to find it comes at a very high price...

Catholic charity sends statues of Mary to Iraq to replace those destroyed by ISIS (Catholic Herald) A Catholic charity has sent 15 statues of the Virgin Mary to the Middle East to replace ones destroyed by ISIS. The group Œuvre d’Orient, a French association dedicated to helping persecuted Christians, has sent the statues from Lourdes to Ain Kawa, a suburb of the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has a majority Catholic population...



21 July 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Cardinal Luis Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, speaks of the church’s concern for refugees and the dignity of the human person. Rising anti-refugee sentiment is causing concern in Lebanon. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Israeli aid gives ‘glimmer of hope’ for Syrians (The New York Times) Quietly, over the last year, hundreds of sick Syrian children and their chaperones have been whisked across enemy lines at dawn for treatment at clinics in Israel, slipping back home after dark...

Rising anti-refugee sentiment stirs concern in Lebanon (AFP) An attack on Lebanese troops raiding a Syrian refugee camp has stirred violent debate and polarized opinions, with rising calls to repatriate refugees but also warnings against racist rhetoric. The uptick in pressure comes after Lebanese soldiers were attacked as they stormed two refugee camps near the eastern border with Syria last month...

Power-sharing deal takes shape in Gaza (AP) A power-sharing deal between two former arch foes is slowly taking shape in Gaza and could lead to big changes in the Hamas-ruled territory, including an easing of a decade-long border blockade...

Report: Babies most affected by malnutrition around Mosul (Doctors Without Borders) The malnutrition we see here is primarily due to the scarcity of infant formula. Obviously, adults and children in the besieged part of Mosul suffer from lack of food and, indeed, we see a lot of extremely underweight people arriving in the camps. But once they’re out of the city, the adults soon gain weight, but not the babies. Many Iraqi mothers don’t breastfeed and the ones who do usually stop after two to three months. Conditions in the camps combined with stress and exhaustion make breastfeeding even harder...

A year later, families of those who resisted Turkey coup count cost (The Guardian) A year later, the country remains polarized, and has yet to come to terms with the traumatic putsch that is widely believed to have been orchestrated by followers of Fethullah Gülen, an ally-turned-rival of the president who leads a vast grassroots network from exile in the United States. For the families of the sehitler — the Turkish word for martyrs — the trauma remains close at hand...



20 July 2017
Greg Kandra




India’s President-elect Ram Nath Kovind greets people during a ceremony in New Delhi after his election on 20 July 2017. (photo: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

Citizens of Iraqi Christian village protest mayor’s removal (Fides) Hundreds of citizens in Alqosh, a Christian majority city of the Nineveh Plain, participated in the protest march on Thursday that crossed the central streets of the town center. They wanted to show their dissent regarding the sudden removal from office of the local mayor, ordered in recent days by the Council of the Nineveh Province...

‘Untouchable’ elected president of India (Bloomberg) Ram Nath Kovind was elected as president of India, the world’s most populous democracy, becoming the second leader from country’s ‘untouchable’ community to occupy the highest post...

Sunday in an Indian jail (National Catholic Register) Whenever I go to Kandhamal — the ground zero of one of the worst persecutions of Christians in Indian history — unexpected things unfold. The primary objective of my visit mid-June to the remote jungle district in Odisha state on the east coast, where Christian targets had gone up in flames since August 2008, was to confirm couple of important stories, including elephants saving a Catholic youth from being burnt alive by a mob...

Drought worsens in Ethiopia (IPS) Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert...

Flow of tourists into Armenia (Public Radio of Armenia) 1,350,791 people have visited Armenia over the first half of this year — 24.3 percent more than at the same period a year before, Zarmine Zeytuntsyan, head of the Economic development and investments ministry’s tourism committee, told journalists on Wednesday referring to the figures received from border checkpoints, reports ARKA News Agency...



19 July 2017
Greg Kandra




Iraqis celebrate in Baghdad on 10 July as Prime Minister Haider al Abadi announces victory over the Islamic State in Mosul. Iraq has announced a 10-year plan to rebuild Mosul. (photo: CNS/Khalid al Mousily, Reuters)

With ISIS gone, Iraq shapes plan for rebuilding Mosul (Voice of America) Just days after Iraqi forces evicted ISIS militants from the last parcel of land that they controlled in Mosul, Iraqi government officials say they are ready to rebuild the war-torn city and return an estimated million displaced civilians to their homes. Officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Planning told VOA that they had drawn up a 10-year plan to reconstruct the city, which came under full control of U.S.-backed Iraqi forces last week…

Christian mayor in Iraq dismissed (Fides) With an unusual emergency procedure, the Council of the Iraqi Province of Nineveh dismissed the mayor of Alqosh, a town of the Nineveh Plain historically inhabited by Christians, and replaced him with a local political leader close to the Democratic Kurdistan Party…

Chicago center hopes to train Syrians how to launch startups (The Chicago Tribune) Chicagoan Steve Lehmann has taken his expertise in early business development nearly 6,000 miles away to the Turkish border town of Reyhanli. His mission: to teach Syrian teens how to launch startups of their own. Even as war rages in the nation, there are still students learning business and plenty of people who can’t find work…

Indian Catholics prepare for Asian Youth Day (Vatican Radio) Asian Youth Day, a major event of the Catholic Church in the continent, is taking center stage in two weeks’ time in Yogyakarta in the Archdiocese of Semarang, Indonesia. Over 2,000 young people from 21 Asian countries are gathering in the central Javanese city, from 2 to 6 August, for the seventh Asian Youth Day…

Last Russian Tsar and family remembered (Radio Free Europe) Large numbers of people marched near the Russian city of Yekaterinburg before dawn on 17 July to mark the 99th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Marchers carried Russian Orthodox icons and crosses in the procession from the site where Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Aleksandra, and their five children were killed in 1918 — months after the Bolsheviks seized power — to the spot where their bodies were buried...







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