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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
26 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from February, Ukrainian soldiers play football on the road leading to the embattled town of Debaltseve outside Artemivsk, Ukraine. The Holy See has urged the international community to work to ensure stability in Ukraine. (photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

U.S. strikes ISIS in Tikrit (The New York Times) American warplanes began airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit late Wednesday, finally joining a stalled offensive to retake the Iraqi city as American officials sought to seize the initiative from Iran, which had taken a major role in directing the operation. The decision to directly aid the offensive was made by President Obama on Wednesday, American officials said, and represented a significant shift in the Iraqi campaign. For more than three weeks, the Americans had stayed on the sideline of the battle for Tikrit, wary of being in the position of aiding an essentially Iranian-led operation. Senior Iranian officials had been on the scene, and allied Shiite militias had made up the bulk of the force...

Holy See: All parties need to work to implement Ukraine agreements (Vatican Radio) The Holy See reminded the international community of the need to “respect international legality regarding Ukraine’s territory and borders” as a “key element” for ensuring stability, both for Ukraine and the entire region. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, on Thursday addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council about the situation in Ukraine...

Police in India make arrests in gang rape of nun (AP) Police arrested two suspects Thursday in the gang rape of an elderly nun in a Catholic missionary school this month in a crime that focused attention on the scourge of sexual violence in India despite tough anti-rape laws introduced two years ago. The suspects were arrested after a nationwide hunt, one of them was found hiding in the western city of Mumbai and the second from West Bengal state, said a police officer said who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters...

Thousands of Copts to visit Jerusalem for Easter (The Cairo Post) About 5,000 Coptic Christians are planning to visit Jerusalem starting from April 2 to attend Easter celebrations, in violation of the Coptic Church’s policy, Youm7 reported. The church, under the late Pope Cyril VI, in 1968 established a policy of discouraging Copts from traveling to Palestine, after the 1967 annexation by Israel, as long as Egyptian Muslims would not be able to make the trip, Pastor Paulis Halim told Youm7...

Saving Gaza’s only grand piano (BBC) The only concert grand piano in war-ravaged Gaza has been rediscovered and brought back to life after years of neglect. It survived last year’s war with Israel — though only just — but was unplayable until a restorer arrived on a special mission from France, and paved the way for a rare concert...



Tags: Iraq Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Coptic

25 March 2015
Greg Kandra




A peshmerga checkpoint stands beside pools of oil with damaged oil pipeline infrastructure, as Iraqi Kurdish forces push the frontline forward against ISIS forces 20 miles southwest of Kirkuk, Iraq, on 13 March 2015.These peshmerga units of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) faction have made significant gains against villages held by ISIS, in concert with an Iraqi government and Shiite militia attack further south to free Tikrit from ISIS control.
(photo: Scott Peterson/Getty Images)


U.S., Iraq considering airstrikes to liberate Tikrit (Wall Street Journal) Iraqi officials are considering asking a U.S.-led coalition to launch airstrikes to liberate the Iraqi city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants, according to a spokesman for the president, after a more than three-week offensive in the city stalled without foreign assistance. Khalid Shwani, a spokesman for President Fouad Massoum, said Iraqi military leaders were meeting with U.S. military officials to study whether to request the airstrikes...

Syrian rebels capture Bosra from regime forces (AP) Syrian rebels on Wednesday seized an ancient town near the Jordan border that is a key government stronghold, ousting Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen from the region after four days of intense battles, opposition activists and rebels said. There was no immediate comment from the government on the fall of Busra Sham, a town in southern Syria classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic citadel, ruins and well-preserved Roman amphitheater. It was once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia and a stopover on caravan routes to Mecca, according to UNESCO...

A visit with the refugees of war-torn Syria (Archdiocese of Toronto) In part 1 of our interview with Carl Hétu, national director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), he described his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories with an international delegation of bishops. Following that visit, he traveled to neighboring Jordan and Lebanon to meet refugees from war-torn Syria. Hétu shared with us his first-hand account of their plight...

Aleppo’s Christians see regime as last hope (Al-Monitor) The conflict in Syria entered its fifth year this month, and many parts of the country and their inhabitants are hardly recognizable. This is true of the war-torn city of Aleppo, my hometown, with its mosaic of religious, social and ethnic groups who have all had to deal with the harsh realities and horrors of war on a daily basis...

Christians in India rally to protest nun’s rape (Indian Express) The Christian community on Tuesday took out a mammoth rally in protest against the rape of a 71-year-old nun in West Bengal and attacks on the Christian community and churches. According to estimates, 30,000-35,000 people, including sportspersons Dhanraj Pillay and Anjali Vedpathak, took part in the rally. A lot of people from as far as Talegaon and Lonavala were also among the crowd...

Armenian parliament endorses statement condemning genocides (Fides) On Tuesday, 24 March the Armenian Parliament voted a resolution condemning the massacres against the Assyrians and Greeks carried out in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. The resolution was supported by all political forces in Parliament , and won the unanimous favor of 117 MPs...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Armenia

24 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a coalition of nations — led by the Holy See — released a statement calling to support the human rights of Christians in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)

Syrian Christians feel fortunate to have escaped ISIS (The Los Angeles Times) As Islamic State militants closed in on her village, Asmar Jumaa, an Assyrian Christian, couldn’t shake a terrifying thought. “I remembered what they did to the Yazidi women,” said Jumaa, 22, recalling the fate of thousands of female adherents of the ancient sect kidnapped last summer when the Sunni Muslim extremists swept through northern Iraq. “I didn’t want that to happen to us.” She and eight family members, mostly women, were among several thousand Assyrian Christians who fled in late February as the militants advanced into dozens of largely Christian villages along the Khabur River in eastern Syria...

NATO commander: West should consider arming Ukraine (Voice of America) NATO’s military commander is again calling on the West to consider sending defensive weapons to Ukraine, to help it offset Russia’s continued support for the pro-Russian rebellion in Ukraine’s east. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, speaking Sunday, told a Brussels conference that he does not think “any tool of (the) United States or any other nation’s power should necessarily be off the table...”

Family in Gaza lived for months with unexploded bomb in their home (The Independent) When the Nassir family were finally rid of an unwanted household item they had been stuck with for more than seven months, there were huge cheers and bursts of music. The unexploded bomb, 10ft long, weighing more than a ton, and delivered by an Israeli warplane, had been the talk of Gaza’s Beit Hanoun neighborhood. The family was one of 40 households in Gaza sharing their residence with explosive devices because they had nowhere else to live...

India’s oldest woman dies at 112 (NDTV) Kunjannam Antony, the oldest woman in the country, died at the age 112 in Thrissur today, her family said. She was admitted to the hospital last night and died of old age related ailment this morning, they said. In 2014, the Limca Book of Records had recognised Kunjannam Antony, a spinster, as the oldest woman in the country. Relatives of Kunjannam also have with them the Baptism certificate issued by the Vicar of Our Lady Rosary (Catholic) Church at a nearby church, recording that she was baptised on May 20, 1903...



Tags: Syria India Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank

23 March 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugee children at the Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan form the word “Syria” during an event to commemorate four years of the Syrian conflict, on 15 March.
(photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)


Flow of refugees into northern Iraq continues (NRTTV) Four years after the conflict in Syria started, the flow of refugees continues into northern Iraq. Up to 100 people cross the Tigris River per day aiming to reach the official border crossing at Peshkhabour. The pain they have had to endure is etched on their faces and some have traveled for weeks to get here...

U.K. reportedly to train Syrian opposition to ISIS (Wall Street Journal) Britain plans to participate in a U.S.-led effort to train Syrian opposition troops, according to people familiar with the matter, but it will stop short of joining its closest ally in conducting airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. The U.K. government will announce in the coming days its role in training moderate Syrian opposition forces in neighboring countries with the aim of bolstering their ability to fight the extremist group, the people said. Turkey and Jordan will be involved in the plan, one of the people said...

45,000 Egyptians flee Libya over fears of ISIS (International Business Times) More than 45,000 Egyptians living in Libya have fled the North African country since the Islamic State group posted a video last month purporting to show the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, many of whom were Egyptian, according to Agence France-Presse. Egyptian Copts have been increasingly subject to attacks by militants from the Islamic State group, leading Cairo to urge Egyptians to return home from Libya, which is plagued by political turmoil and a growing threat of extremism...

Seven months after war, scars remain in Gaza (The Los Angeles Times) most seven months after the cease-fire that ended a devastating war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the militant group Hamas, the fighting's ruinous effects are visible everywhere in this ragged coastal enclave. Reconstruction efforts have barely gotten off the rubble-strewn ground. Electricity flickers feebly through just six to eight hours each day. The economy, never robust, is in tatters. Government salaries mainly go unpaid. The infighting between Hamas, still the dominant power in Gaza, and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has grown even more bitter after a stillborn unity accord...

Report: Hindu group vandalizes cathedral in India (The Sun Daily) Indian police said on Monday they have arrested six people after Hindu fundamentalists were shown vandalising a cathedral in central India, the latest attack on Christian establishments in the Hindu-majority country. CCTV footage showed a group of men smashing plant pots, breaking down doors and shattering windows in the grounds of the cathedral in Madhya Pradesh state late Friday. The right-wing Hindu Dharma Sena group had accused the church of converting around 200 people from local tribal groups to Christianity, although it denies causing any damage to church property...

“Destruction, fear and mistrust” in the Holy Land (Archdiocese of Toronto) Every day in the news, we learn about the growing challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East. How can Canadians help support these vulnerable populations in the very lands where our faith originated? One way to help is through the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support. We interviewed CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, following his recent visit to the region...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank

20 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2013, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham is pictured visiting a church in Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)

Patriarch rejects calls for outside military intervention in Syria (CNS) The head of the Melkite Catholic Church rejected outright all calls for an international military intervention in Syria and urged Pope Francis and all Christian churches to “promote a concrete and realistic road map” to peace in the beleaguered nation. “It is reckless to think of military interventions, conducted from the outside, to defend Christians in Syria and the Middle East,” said Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria...

Pope reorganizes Hungarian Greek Catholic Church (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reorganized the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, and has elevated it to a Metropolitan Church “sui iuris”...

Skirmishes continue along Ukraine’s front line, despite cease fire (NPR) Fighting in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists has died down after a cease-fire agreement last month, but there are stretches of the front line where shooting has never really stopped. Near the village of Pisky, for instance, you can hear the dull thud of incoming mortar rounds, coming in sporadic waves...

Indian cardinal: protect “not only cows, but human beings” (The Australian) India’s most senior Catholic has appealed to the government to protect “not only cows, but human beings” following the rape of an elderly nun. The call from Cardinal Beselios Cleemis came as a Hindu Right leader claimed the exploitation of nuns was part of “Christian culture”. He flew to West Bengal yesterday for a bedside meeting with the 71-year-old nun attacked on Saturday at the Convent of Jesus and Mary school...

Syrian refugees seek new lives in U.S. (Indiana Public Media) The Brookings Institution says the influx of refugees into Jordan would be comparable to the United States taking in more than 23 million refugees in just two years. As a result of the high demand, other countries, including Germany, Sweden and the U.S., are starting to take in refugees. The U.S. began bringing in Syrian refugees in October and expects to allow in a total of 2,000 by the end of the fiscal year...



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ukraine

19 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from January, displaced Iraqi Yazidi children greet Catholic Relief Service workers and a delegation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during a visit to
Shariah Collective, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)


UN: ISIS may have committed genocide against Yazidis in Iraq (The Guardian) The United Nations human rights office has said that Islamic State fighters may have committed genocide against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilians including children. In a report based on interviews with more than 100 alleged victims and witnesses, published on Thursday, it urged the UN security council to refer the situation to the international criminal court for prosecution of the perpetrators. The report also said Iraqi government forces and affiliated militias “may have committed some war crimes” while battling the insurgency...

Catholic leader in Israel hopes Netanyahu victory gives impetus to pursue lasting peace (Vatican Radio) As right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu celebrates his latest election victory, analysts are asking what hopes remain for any peace negotiations with the Palestinians. In the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, the Likud party leader ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state in what he called the current context of rising Islamic extremism and instability in the Middle East. Jesuit Father David Neuhaus is in charge of the small Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel. He wasn’t surprised by Netanyahu’s win in the polls, but he says this election victory may also provide new impetus for the international community to step up its pressure on the Israeli government and provide an alternative vision for lasting peace in the region...

U.S. Allies may send troops to Syria (Reuters) Some U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS militants in Syria may be willing to send troops to accompany and support the Syrian opposition force the coalition is planning to train and send back to Syria, Army General Ray Odierno said Wednesday. Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee the military was aware the Syrian opposition force would need help and support once it returned home and was studying how best to provide that assistance...

Poland welcomes Ukrainian refugees (BBC) Almost 200 Ukrainians from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, carrying just one suitcase each, were bussed from the warzone to Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine before being flown to a military airfield in northern Poland. To qualify for evacuation they had to have at least one Polish ancestor in the family. Now they are living together in a centre run by Catholic charity Caritas. It sits in a beautiful location on a wooded hillside above a large lake a few kilometres south of the town of Stawiguda...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Refugees Israel

18 March 2015
Greg Kandra




A Syrian girl looks out from a UNICEF tent in an informal settlement near Amman, Jordan,
on 14 March (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)


Netanyahu claims victory in election (CNN) Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to keep his job as Israel’s Prime Minister, declaring victory Wednesday following a bitter campaign punctuated by his last-minute appeals to right-wing voters...

Vatican: Syrian children risk becoming “lost generation” (CNS) Without family, a legal identity and adequate education, children uprooted by the ongoing violence in Syria and the Middle East “are at risk of becoming a lost generation,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva. The archbishop noted that “children suffer the brutal consequences” of war and called for a “comprehensive system of protection for children” in these conflict zones...

United States returns looted artifacts to Iraq (NPR) The U.S. returned dozens of artifacts to the Iraqi government Monday. The cultural treasures, some dating back more than 4,000 years, were looted from Iraq and smuggled into the United States...

Egypt announces plans to build a new capital city (The Washington Post) Over the weekend, Egypt unveiled plans to build a wholly new capital. The new city would lie somewhere to Cairo’s east, closer to the Red Sea. It would sprawl across some 150 square miles and potentially be home to as many as 7 million people. Projected to cost $45 billion, it was announced at a summit in the seaside resort of Sharm El-Sheikh aimed at boosting the country’s flagging economy...



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Israel

16 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from October, refugees sit with their belongings after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey near Suruc, Turkey. (photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Syria’s military on offensive as conflict enters fifth year (Reuters) Syria’s air force carried out air strikes on Sunday on Douma city, an insurgent stronghold northeast of Damascus, with 18 people killed and at least 100 wounded including children and other civilians, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Overnight, Syria’s military killed dozens of combatants in southern Syria linked to al Qaeda’s Nusra Front including three senior members, state media reported. Four years into the conflict, the military has concentrated its forces in the south, the capital Damascus and areas along the country’s western coast...

Saddam Hussein’s tomb heavily damaged during fighting (Al Jazeera) The tomb of Iraq’s late ruler Saddam Hussein has suffered extensive damage in clashes between fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) and Iraqi security forces in a fight for control of the city of Tikrit. Fighting intensified to the north and south of Hussein’s hometown on Sunday as Iraqi security forces vowed to reach the centre of Tikrit within 48 hours. Video from the Associated Press news agency from the village of Ouja, just south of Tikrit, shows all that remains of Hussein’s once-lavish tomb are the support columns that held up the roof...

Kerala budget proposes panel for Dalit Christians (The Indian Express) Stung by the recent trend of converted Christians returning to Hinduism, the Kerala budget has made a proposal to set up a new commission to study how Dalit Christians could be brought to mainstream society...

Nun raped in West Bengal, India (Vatican Radio) A 72-year-old Catholic nun was allegedly gang-raped by around eight dacoits at a school-cum-convent in Eastern India’s State of West Bengal, late Friday night. The nun is undergoing surgery; her condition is said to be critical. According to authorities of the Convent of Jesus and Mary, at Ranagath, the accused broke into the convent after 1 am and allegedly raped the ailing nun. After tying three of the five sisters, they entered the principal’s room and ransacked it, destroying property and taking money, a laptop and a mobile phone, Fr. Dominic Gomes, Vicar General of Kolkata Archdiocese, said in a statement...

UN alarmed over plight of children in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The United Nations has expressed alarm over the impact of Ukraine’s ongoing conflict on children, amid ongoing concerns over a fragile ceasefire and fresh revelations about the downing of a passenger plane last year...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Kerala ISIS

13 March 2015
Greg Kandra




Iraqi Christians attend Mass at a church in Baghdad on 1 March.
(photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)


Holy See draws up declaration supporting Christians in Middle East (Vatican Radio) The Holy See, together with the Russian Federation and Lebanon, has drawn up a declaration in support of Christians and members of other communities in the Middle East who continue to suffer from serious human rights violations. The statement from the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva will be presented on Friday, 13 March, during the assembly of the 28th Session of the UN’s Human Rights Council in the Palais des Nations...

After four years, Syria’s humanitarian crisis deepens (Vatican Radio) This week will mark the fourth year since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, and a political solution to the crisis continues to be nowhere in sight. The humanitarian situation is growing worse, and fewer and fewer people have adequate access to health care. Before the conflict began, Syria possessed an advanced health care system, but now more than half of all hospitals have been destroyed or severely damaged due to the war...

Iraq’s first Christian brigade set to battle ISIS (Al Arabiya) Iraq’s first Christian-only brigade of regular forces graduated Thursday to help retake the community’s towns and villages from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. The new brigade will answer to the government of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, whose pesh merga fighters are playing a leading role in the war against the militants...

Gaza exports first produce to Israel since 2007 (AP) Israeli authorities allowed the import of Gaza produce on Thursday for the first time since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, a move that will aid Gaza’s battered economy and help pious Jews observe a biblical farming sabbatical. Some 27 tons of tomatoes and five tons of eggplants were cleared to leave Gaza for Israel, Palestinian officials and Gaza merchants said...



12 March 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Displaced Assyrians, who had fled their hometowns due to Islamic State attacks against their communities, take part in a prayer at the Ibrahim al Khalil Melkite Greek Catholic Church on the outskirts of Damascus on 1 March. (photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

15 March 2015: A day of fasting, prayer for war-torn Syria (Catholic News Agency) As the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian civil war approaches, the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has called for a world day of prayer and fasting for peace in his country. “Lent is a way of the cross, and we are in the fifth year of the way of the cross of our Arab countries, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine, but also in Lebanon, which is influenced in a dramatic way by the wars that have flared up around it,” wrote Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch…

U.N. urges support to pull Syrians out of ‘nightmare of suffering’ (U.N. News Center) As the Syria conflict enters its fifth year, the United Nations is urging for greater support to help the millions of refugees, including millions of children, across the region caught up in alarmingly deteriorating conditions and facing an even bleaker future than initially thought…

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits refugee camp (Serbian Orthodox Church) Last week, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited refugees from Iraq on the northeast Turkish border of Yalova, near the east coast of the Sea of Marmara…

Lebanon struggles to aid Iraqi refugees (AINA) Iraqis have been leaving their country following the expansion of the Islamic State into their areas. Approximately 30,000 Iraqis, of all Christian and Muslim denominations, have arrived in Lebanon since July, according to Chaldean Archbishop in Lebanon Michel Kassarji. Of this number, 7,000 are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Iraqi Refugees Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I





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