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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
13 September 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrians celebrate Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) on 12 September 2016 in Aleppo. Syria is beginning its first full day of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States.
(photo: Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Calm in Syria as ceasefire begins (Al Jazeera) No deaths have been documented in Syria since a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US entered its first full day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). At least 14 violations were reported since the ceasefire took effect on Monday, but most parts of Syria remained relatively calm, the SOHR’s Rami Abdulrahman told Al Jazeera. “No one has died from gunfire over the past 15 hours,” he said on Tuesday at 12pm Damascus local time (09:00 GMT). “This is so far the most successful ceasefire to take place in the country...”

Thousands of Syrian refugees head to school in Jordan (Al-Monitor) To allow more Syrian refugee children access to education, the kingdom has taken several measures supported by international funding. One of them is that from now on, state schools are allowed to enroll Syrian children even if their paperwork is not in order, government spokesman Mohamed Momani told Agence France-Presse. Families can sort out their situations during the school year. Jordan has also created special classes for some 25,000 children ages 8-12 who had been deprived of schooling for the past three years or more. Falling behind has been one of the barriers that complicated many Syrian children’s education. These new “catch-up classes” will prepare children to join their age group in just one year...

Ukrainian rebel leader announces ceasefire (ABC News) Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday announced a unilateral cease-fire starting at midnight Wednesday, which could be a major step in solving the conflict that has raged for more than two years...

Syrian refugees living in fear as Lebanon tightens its laws (BBC) Faced with one of the most severe refugee crises in the world, Lebanon has been toughening up its policies towards Syrians who have fled there, leaving many in an increasingly vulnerable state. In one of the latest examples, authorities in the southern village of Kfarruman gave those who did not have a local sponsor 15 days to leave...

Hindu militants attack Christian church in India (Fides) For more than half an hour, a small Pentecostal Christian church packed with faithful was hit by a hail of stones organized by Hindu extremist militants who accused the Christians of proselytism, according to Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. The incident took place on Sunday, 11 September, in Siddharth Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India...



12 September 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2014, Jordan’s King Abdullah II meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Last week, the Muslim king called on Muslims to help Christians address challenges in the Middle East.
(photo: Paul Haring/CNS)


Jordan’s king: Muslims must help Christians address Mideast challenges (CNS) Jordan’s King Abdullah II told a visiting delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches that his country has become a model for coexistence, fraternity and moderation in the Middle East. “Christians in the Arab world are an integral part of the Arab social fabric, and protecting their rights is a duty of all,” the Muslim monarch told the delegation on 7 September. King Abdullah said Arabs, whether Muslims or Christians, face similar challenges in the Mideast, caught up in sectarian and other conflicts, adding that they also share a responsibility in addressing these challenges...

Syria ceasefire set to begin (CNN) When the sun sets Monday over Syria, the country’s war-weary residents will be watching to see if the fighting will stop for a full 48 hours, in line with a hard-fought ceasefire brokered Friday by the US and Russia...

A nation at war, Ukraine turns to the Lord (Catholic Register) With 10,000 dead in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, Russian tanks and missile systems massing on the eastern border, two million internally displaced Ukrainians, Crimea already under Russian rule and the Ukrainian Black Sea fleet sunk or stolen, the Rev. Peter Galadza is putting his trust in the politics of the beatitudes. Along with about 1.2 million other Ukrainian-Canadians, Father Galadza understands just how easily his country is sacrificed on the altar of power politics and strategic interests...

Christians and Muslims meet to discuss violence against religious minorities in India (Christian Today) Fifty Christian and Muslim religious leaders gathered in India’s capital New Delhi to discuss “challenges for the freedom of religion and belief in India” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and to tackle ways on how to address the increasing violence against religious minorities in the Hindu-dominated South Asian nation. Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference’s office for Dalit and indigenous people, lamented how both Christians and Muslims are currently “facing physical, symbolic and structural violence” from Hindu extremists across the country...

Rabbi, imam nurture interfaith relationships in the wake of 9/11 (RNS) Like many Americans, New York University chaplains Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna remember exactly where they were on 11 September 2001. Both men say that day and its aftermath were pivotal in defining what they now see as their lives’ mission: to promote a vision for interfaith engagement based on personal relationships...



9 September 2016
Greg Kandra




Patriarch Gregorios III addresses the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarchal Synod which opened yesterday in Liviv. (photo: ByzCath.org)

Kerry and Lavrov hold talks on Syria ceasefire (Al Jazeera) US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva to discuss a ceasefire deal for Syria. During the snap meeting, the two diplomats will hold talks on how to put an end to fighting in the wartorn country and further humanitarian aid for the Syrian people, according to the US State Department...

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Synod opens (ByzCath.org) The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarchal Synod opened today with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the historic St. George’s Sobor in Lviv. His Beatitude Sviatoslav, father and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was the main celebrant. Forty bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Ukraine, Western and Central Europe, North and South America and Australia were joined by His Beatitude Gregory III, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem...

Group looks for ways to protect Middle East Christians (CNS) It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Chicagoan Mary Jennett to see and hear daily about the hardship and persecution Christians face, especially in the Middle East. So Jennett decided to do something about it by attending a convention in Washington on 7-9 September organized by In Defense of Christians, a group trying to find solutions to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the preservation of Christianity in areas of conflict around the world...

Indian government to amend Christian divorce law (Indian Express) With most states on board, the Union law ministry has cleared a proposal to amend a 147-year-old legal provision that compels Christian couples to wait for at least two years for divorce. The period of separation is one year for other religions. The ministry has decided to reduce the waiting period from two years to one year in cases of divorce by mutual consent of Christian couples after taking note of a clutch of cases in the Supreme Court and high courts challenging the discriminatory provision in the Divorce Act, 1869...

World Vision lays off contractors in Gaza (Reuters) Christian aid group World Vision has laid off about 120 contractors in the Gaza Strip following allegations by Israel that the agency’s operations manager in the territory had diverted funds to the Islamist group Hamas...



8 September 2016
Greg Kandra




Children of migrants are cared for at the new Saint Rachel Center in Jerusalem, which opened Monday. (photo: Saint James Vicariate)

Saint Rachel Center opens in Jerusalem to serve migrants (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) On Monday 5 September 2016, activities were initiated at the Saint Rachel Center in Jerusalem, a new center for babies, children and youth in the Talbieh neighborhood in Jerusalem. The center is run by the Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics to respond to one of the most dramatic needs of the migrant population in Israel, which is for safe, healthy and nurturing day care for their small children...

Christians, Muslims discuss hate crimes in India (Vatican Radio) A consultation was organized by National Council of Churches, the umbrella organization of around 30 Protestant and Orthodox Churches in India, in New Delhi, India on 5-6 September, bringing Christians and Muslim leaders together seeking ways to check increasing violence against religious minorities in India...

Young Ethiopian chosen to head Christian movement (Vatican Radio) Berhanu Sinamo, is a 29-year-old teacher in Ethiopia. He is a Catholic. Berhanu has just been elected President of the International Coordinating Young Christian Workers (ICYCW) making him the first African to lead the movement. Berhanu was elected at the 9th ICYCW Congress that was held in Seoul, South Korea between 19 August — 1 September 2016...

Muslim leader in Egypt seeks to build a new church to honor late Coptic pope (Christian Today) A Muslim MP in Egypt has submitted the first request to build a new church under a controversial law passed last week by the country’s parliament. The law, aimed at liberalizing church building and renovation, was hotly debated and received Church support only at the last minute amid fears it conceded too much to local opposition forces. The independent MP for the Assiut region in Upper Egypt, El-Badri Ahmed Deif, said he wanted to build the church in the village of Salam, which translates as ‘Peace,’ the birthplace of the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III...



7 September 2016
Greg Kandra




A Syrian man suffering from breathing difficulties is treated at a make-shift hospital in Aleppo after regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on a rebel-held neighboorhod
on 6 September 2016. (photo: Thaer Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images)


Doctors in Syria tend to victims of suspected gas attack (The New York Times) As rebel negotiators unveiled a new plan on Wednesday for a political transition in Syria, doctors in the city of Aleppo were still treating people in intensive care after an attack believed to involve the use of chlorine gas sickened more than 120 people, including 10 women and 37 children...

Syrian refugees cling to survival in Jordan (The Los Angeles Times) Of the 670,000 Syrians registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jordan, the vast majority — around 85 percent — live outside the relative security of refugee camps, where they don’t have to worry about paying for rent or utilities. Instead, they’ve found assorted housing in cities and towns, often in squalid conditions...

Egypt’s Christians say they are at a ‘breaking point’ (The New York Times) Once again, Egyptian Christians are feeling under siege, at least in Minya, a city on the banks of the Nile where about 40 percent of the population is Christian. And once again, Christian leaders are divided over how to respond. At the highest levels of the Coptic Orthodox Church, there is an effort to not make waves and to work with the central government to present an image of unity and calm. After a series of attacks on Copts this summer, the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, pleaded with his followers in the United States not to go ahead with planned demonstrations outside the White House intended to bring international attention to the violence...

At summit of churches in Amman: ‘We struggle against the rulers of darkness’ (Fides) The struggle involving the Christians of the Middle East, in this tragic phase of their history, is “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly place,” said Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, who currently heads the Middle East Council of Churches...

India dedicates ‘St. Mother Teresa Road’ (Fides) Eastern India’s Odisha state, that was the theatre of one of the most atrocious anti-Christian violence in the nation’s history, commemorated the sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Sunday by naming a new road after her in the state capital, Bhubaneshwar...



6 September 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from June, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople celebrates Vespers of Pentecost in the Church of St. Titus in Heraklion, Greece. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has branded as “false allegations” reports that the patriarch was involved in Turkey’s failed coup in July. (photo: CNS/Sean Hawkey, handout)

Patriarchate rejects ‘false allegations’ that Bartholomew was involved in attempted coup (Fides) The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople deplores the “false allegations” that have circulated in recent days in the Turkish press regarding the involvement of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in the failed coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July...

Russia launches military drills near Ukraine’s borders (Vatican Radio) Moscow has launched large-scale military drills on Ukraine’s eastern border and around Ukraine’s Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, despite international concerns it could lead to a further escalation of tensions between the two neighbors...

India, Pakistan mark Mother Teresa’s sainthood (Vatican Radio) Bells chimed, people cheered and nuns sang hymns at the mother house of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (MC) in eastern India’s Kolkata city, formerly Calcutta, as Pope Francis declared her a saint at a canonization Mass in the Vatican. They broke into an applause when they watched on big TV screens the live ceremony of the canonization. Hundreds of local people, including nuns, volunteers at the Missionaries of Charity houses from India and abroad had gathered at the motherhouse of the congregation where St. Teresa died and was buried 19 years ago...

Summit of church leaders to discuss fate of Middle East Christians (Fides) On Tuesday, 6 September, the XI General Assembly of the Council of Churches of the Middle East begins in Amman, with the participation of leaders and representatives from all ecclesial realities in the Middle East...

Syria tourism video spotlights sunny beaches (NPR) The aerial footage shows bright beach umbrella, palm trees, swimming families, jet skis. The sun is shining. The music is upbeat. The message? “Syria: Always Beautiful.” Over the last few weeks, the Syrian government’s Ministry of Tourism has released more than a dozen videos on Youtube, each promoting the charms of Syria as a travel destination. One video spotlights ancient ruins — with no acknowledgment that many cities in Syria are new ruins, destroyed by the brutal civil war raging there...



2 September 2016
Greg Kandra




Children are seen in Jarabulus, Syria, on 1 September, after part of the city
was liberated from ISIS terrorists during the ‘Operation Euphrates Shield.‘
(photo: Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Airstrikes kill 25 civilians in Syria (AP) Syria’s government secured a deal to restore its authority over another rebellious Damascus suburb on Thursday while Syrian rebels captured new ground in a lightning advance on the central city of Hama and suspected government airstrikes killed 25 civilians in the surrounding province...

The endless battle for Aleppo (Al Monitor) another battle is taking place that could significantly affect the fight for Aleppo. To the city’s north, in the border town of Jarablus, Turkey is fighting its first direct battle in Syria against the Islamic State — though the objective of this military campaign is not to defeat ISIS as much as it is to prevent Kurdish militias from creating an autonomous area in Syria that could foster Kurdish separatism within Turkey itself...

Palestinian journalist arrested in Gaza (AP) The wife of a prominent Palestinian journalist and critic of the Islamic militant group that rules the Gaza Strip says Hamas has arrested him. Mohammed Othman’s wife, Huda, says Hamas officers arrested him at this home on Thursday...

Patriarch Kirill thanks president of Uzebekistan for encouraging dialogue (Fides) While diplomatic sources cited by international agencies announced the death of the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill in a message sent to the same Karimov thanked him for the “care” with which he encouraged dialogue between the different religious components of the Uzbek nation, protecting the rights of those who are called “traditional communities...”

More court officials sacked in wake of Turkey coup (BBC) A further 543 judges and prosecutors have been sacked in Turkey, bringing the number of dismissals since July’s failed coup to at least 3,288. The new dismissals were reported as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrated the start of the new judicial year in Ankara...

Indian leaders head to Vatican for canonization of Mother Teresa (Time) As Pope Francis prepares to declare Mother Teresa a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 4 September, a string of top Indian politicians are heading to the Vatican to witness her canonization, underlining her popularity in her adopted home...



1 September 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from April, displaced Iraqis celebrate Mass in Inishke, Iraq. Pope Francis yesterday told Christians in the Middle East to keep the flame of faith alive. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Pope Francis urges Arab Christians to ‘keep the flame of their faith’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told Christians in the Arab-speaking world to “keep the flame of their faith,” despite the darkness of the trial.” The Holy Father was speaking during his General Audience to Arab-speaking pilgrims from Iraq, Jordan, and the Middle East...

Ukraine cease fire holding (BBC) Ukraine’s defence minister says a new ceasefire has been holding in eastern Ukraine since midnight, despite a recent intensification of shelling. “This morning I’m pleasantly surprised that at 09:00 (06:00 GMT), since midnight, we haven’t had a single shot fired,” Stepan Poltorak said. It is the first time there has been a true halt to fighting in 11 months, says BBC correspondent Tom Burridge...

UN: situation in blockaded Gaza ‘grim’ (Andalou Agency) Robert Piper, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, has described current living conditions in the Gaza Strip — which continues to groan under a decade-long Israeli/Egyptian blockade — as “grim.” “Gaza continues to face difficult conditions even though the Palestinian people have great potential,” Piper said during a Wednesday visit to Gaza City’s Islamic University, according to a statement issued by the university...

Lebanon’s trash crisis threatens to return (Voice of America) Rubbish is again accumulating on some Beirut streets after protesters blocked access to a dump, raising fears that last summer’s garbage crisis, which provoked unprecedented street protests, could return...

Ecumenical autumn: Pope’s calendar filled with opportunities for dialogue (CNS) Pope Francis will open his season of ecumenical engagements on 20 September when he joins other Christian leaders and representatives of other religions in Assisi to commemorate the 30th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s interreligious peace gathering. Ten days later, Pope Francis flies to Georgia, a predominantly Orthodox nation. In October, he will meet and pray with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and, at the end of the month, he will fly to Sweden to take part in ecumenical events launching commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation...



31 August 2016
Greg Kandra




In this photo from June, Pope Francis poses for a photo with refugees during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The pope invited more than a dozen refugees to sit near him on stage during his catechesis. Wednesday, the pope created a new dicastery to focus on needs of migrants and refugees. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope creates new dicastery for for migrants and refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has created a new dicastery to better minister to the needs of the men and women the Church is called to serve. The new “Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development” was instituted in a Motu Proprio published on Wednesday in the Osservatore Romano...

Leading ISIS figure reported killed in Syria (Al jazeera) The main spokesman for ISIS, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, has been killed in the Syrian province of Aleppo, according to an ISIS-linked website. Amaq, the ISIS-affiliated media, said on Tuesday Adnani was killed while monitoring military operations in Aleppo...

Meet Gaza’s only fisherwoman (Forbes) What’s the hardest part of being the only fisherwoman in Gaza? I ask Madeleine Kulab. “Starting the engine is hard and it takes a lot of strength,” she says. Then she shows me how to yank the cord and grab the tiller to steer, and we go spinning over the water, her wooden boat tilting into the small waves. A decade ago Kulab took over her father’s fishing boat as a 13-year-old, after he became disabled. She was the only girl working the waterfront, defying cultural norms to feed her family...

Marking Buhe in Ethiopia (Africannews.com) For weeks in August, Ethiopian boys dress up and perform songs from door to door in neighborhoods across the country. In return, the boys get ‘Mulmul’ — bread freshly baked for the occasion in each house. Known as Buhe, the festival — like most cultural celebrations here has its origins in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It marks the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor...



30 August 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Muslim leaders speak out to condemn Islamic radicals, in a chorus of public criticism that is growing louder. (video: Rome Reports)

Human rights group: Iraq recruiting displaced children to fight ISIS (Human Rights Watch) Iraqi government-backed militias have recruited children from at least one displaced persons camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to fight against Islamic State forces. All security forces and armed groups should abide by international law and demobilize any fighters under age 18...

U.S. welcomes 10,000th Syrian refugee (CNN) he Obama administration will reach its target Monday of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by 1 October, National Security Adviser Susan Rice announced in a statement. Rice said that the final Syrian refugee to hit this target would be arriving Monday afternoon, more than a month ahead of schedule...

Turkey detains more journalists (Indian Express) Turkish authorities detained an editor at the prominent Hurriyet newspaper in the latest round-up of journalists and others accused of links to last month’s failed coup, Hurriyet’s English-language publication said on Tuesday...

Russian Orthodox cathedral nears completion in Paris (The Tablet) A huge Russian Orthodox cathedral complex is to be dedicated in October in central Paris, according to a senior official, at a ceremony attended by Patriarch Kirill and President Vladimir Putin. “This center will provide a great educational environment, with training and formation programmes in Russian,” premier Dmitri Medvedev told a World Forum of Compatriots in Moscow. “Its main pearl will, of course, be the Holy Trinity cathedral, which will conform with the traditional canons of Russian Orthodoxy...”







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