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Current Issue
June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
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

11 March 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Sunni woman weeps after fleeing her village near the city of Tikrit, Iraq, on 8 March. (photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqis in Tikrit feel trapped by war (USA Today) Omer al Juburi could have left Tikrit a few weeks ago, but he stayed because he didn’t want to abandon his home and grocery store or force his wife and three children to become refugees. He and many others have been trapped, as Iraqi Shiite militias and government forces wage a pitched battle to wrest back control of Saddam Hussein’s hometown from the radical Islamic State group…

Iraq: Islamic State ‘destroys historical church’ in Mosul (Anadolu Agency) An Iraqi government representative has accused the Islamic State of destroying a historical church early Monday in Mosul. Dureid Hikmat Tobia, a Nineveh province official, says the militant group blew up St. Markourkas Church — a tenth-century Chaldean Catholic building…

Syrian rebels’ march on Damascus becomes fight for their survival (Christian Science Monitor) With the Syrian crisis entering its fifth year, a months-long campaign by the largest antigovernment militia in the south to march on Damascus and turn the tide of the war has become a bitter fight for its very survival…

Pope to wash feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will visit inmates and staff of a Rome prison on Holy Thursday, 2 April. The Prefecture of the Papal Household reports that the pope will visit the new complex of the Casa Circondariale Rebibbia in the Rome suburbs, where he will wash the feet of a group of male prisoners and female inmates from the nearby women’s penitentiary…



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Refugees Iraqi Refugees

10 March 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country are seen at an urban renewal area where the buildings were demolished in the Sulaimaniyah neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, on 26 February. (photo: Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This week marks four year since start of uprising in Syria (Al Jazeera) This week marks four years since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. Though it began as an uprising connected to the larger Arab Spring movement, it spiraled into a war that has left more than 200,000 people dead and more than nine million others displaced…

Lenten call to Catholics to support church in the Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Parishes across the world year after year take up the traditional annual Good Friday collection for the church in the Holy Land. This year is no different and the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has written a letter to all pastors of the universal church in which he expresses the gratitude of Pope Francis, of his dicastery and of all the churches “in the land of Christ” for their attention and generous response to the collection…

Middle East peace needed to defeat extremists: Jordan king (Daily Star Lebanon) King Abdullah II of Jordan warned Tuesday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was essential for combating Islamic extremists, saying the conflict served as a rallying cry for jihadis. Abdullah told the European Parliament that the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was “first and foremost” a fight for Muslim nations to carry out…

Gaza’s female mediators stand up for women’s rights (Al Monitor) Women in Palestinian society are ashamed to discuss their problems with the male elders in charge of mediation committees. However, today, things have become easier for women, as the first female mediators have pushed forward social reform and now defend women’s rights in tribal councils headed by men. Gazans go to these councils to settle their family problems and avoid going to court, where the resolution process is much longer and complicated…

The isolation of Donetsk: A visit to Europe’s absurd new border (Der Spiegel) The heavy fighting may have stopped for the time being, but Donetsk is more isolated than ever. Those wishing to enter and leave the city need a difficult-to-obtain special ID. Meanwhile, food and other supplies are only trickling into the metropolis…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Middle East Peace Process

5 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Syrian and Iraqi church leaders discuss how the Islamic State has impacted their region. (video: Rome Reports)

Islamic State claims upper hand in fight for Iraq’s cities (CBS News) The front line in Iraq’s Kirkuk province was as close as CBS News correspondent Holly Williams and her team could get Thursday to the battle for Tikrit. The black flags of the Islamic State flew just 30 yards from Williams’ position with Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and beyond that, in Islamic State territory, was Iraq’s main north-south highway…

Dozens reported killed in mine blast in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Local officials say at least 24 people have been killed and 9 remain missing after a massive blast at a coal mine in war-torn eastern Ukraine. The announcement came while Kiev accused authorities in rebel-controlled Donetsk of not doing enough to save lives…

War threatens to fracture Russian Orthodox faithful (U.S. News & World Report) One year on, war is threatening to further fracture Orthodoxy in Ukraine. While Orthodoxy has played a role in Ukraine-Russia relations long before the 2013 to 2014 Euromaidan protests and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine, a decades-long divide has found renewed prominence in the past year. From churches being used to store weapons for the rebels to calls from pro-Ukrainian church leadership to send weapons to Kiev, it’s hard to deny that the war has come to the pews…

Israel moves to alleviate water shortage in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Israel plans to double the amount of water it sells to the Gaza Strip to help relieve the water crisis there and ease the burden on the overtaxed coastal aquifer. It is the latest in a series of gestures Israel has made recently to the Palestinians there and in the West Bank…

Rebels attack Syrian intelligence office (Associated Press) Rebels of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and other radical Islamic factions carried out an assault on Wednesday on a government intelligence building in the northern city of Aleppo, blowing up part of it, two activist groups said…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel

3 March 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from December, an Iraqi soldier prays along a dirt road en route to the front lines to battle the Islamic State. The Iraqi military has launched a massive offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State militants. (photo: Scott Person/Getty Images)

Iraqi forces launch offensive to retake Tikrit (Vatican Radio) Iraqi troops and militia fighters have launched an offensive to recapture the city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants. The military offensive is the largest since the militants took control of the city last year. The offensive is the first in a series of campaigns to try to reclaim large parts of northern Iraq from the Sunni extremists. Tikrit, the provincial capital of the Saladin province north of Baghdad, fell to the Islamic State last summer, along with Mosul and other areas in the country’s Sunni heartland…

Former general urges Lebanon to welcome refugees (Fides) Former general Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, has launched an appeal to the Lebanese authorities to welcome the entry of new refugees in Lebanon of Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syrians fleeing areas of the Syrian province of Jazira, under attack by the Islamic State…

Patriarch Tawadros to meet with families of slain Coptic Christians (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II will meet today, Tuesday, 3 March, with the families of 21 Coptic Christians killed in Libya by terrorists linked to the Islamic State, according to official sources of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. The meeting will be held in the village of Samalot, in the province where most of the victims came from. Yesterday, during a homily, the patriarch said that the martyrs of Libya “have enriched the church with their blood,” and with their martyrdom have confessed and testified faith in Christ before the world…

Famed graffiti artist Bansky leaves his mark in Gaza (Salon) Whenever a new piece by graffiti artist Banksy shows up in the world, people take notice. Now, thanks to Banksy, the world is once again looking squarely at Gaza after what feels like the first time since the Gaza war last summer…



Tags: Iraq Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Art Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II

2 March 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A displaced Assyrian man, who had fled his hometown due to Islamic State attacks against Assyrian communities, takes part in a prayer at the Ibrahim al Khalil Melkite Greek Catholic church in the Jaramana district on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on 1 March. (photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Islamic State releases 19 Assyrian Christian hostages (Catholic Herald) Christians in the Middle East have welcomed the release of nearly 20 Assyrian Christians abducted by Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria, but expressed concern that more than 200 others remained in captivity. “I can confirm the release of 19 persons (17 men and 2 women) who were captured by the Islamic State in the Khabur region,” said the Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who heads the Christian Aid Program, Northern Iraq (CAPNI). “We pray and hope for the others to be released,” he added…

Syrian, Kurdish forces battle Islamic State in key border area (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian regime forces and Kurdish militia fought separate battles with Islamic State forces Monday in a strategic area near the Iraqi and Turkish borders, an activist group said. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, after three days of clashes, regime forces bolstered by fighters from Arab tribes had secured control over 23 villages in the center of the province from the Islamic State. Syrian state news agency SANA put the number at 31…

Despite threats, Iraqi Christians vow to remain in home country (Jerusalem Post) Praying for peace at a Baghdad church and the release of fellow Christians taken by Islamic State, Iraqi Christians said that despite their fear for future, they do not have the intention to leave their ancient home of Mesopotamia, Iraq. “We are staying here. A number of people and relatives have immigrated recently, but others are still holding on. This is our country and these are our churches and we are clinging to them, but there are people who left out of fear for the future,” said Hani, the deacon of Mar Georgis Chaldean Church in Baghdad…

Jordan’s illegal labor puzzle: Let Syrian refugees work or just survive? (Al Jazeera) As Syria slogs into its fifth year of war, 3.8 million external refugees are running out of ways to survive outside their war-torn homeland. UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Maha Homsi said that Syrian refugees in Jordan are being pushed toward “negative coping mechanisms,” a euphemism for drug trafficking, prostitution, child labor and crime. Under Jordanian law, Syrian refugees are in the same category as other foreigners: they can work, but only if a Jordanian employer applies and pays the fee for a work permit on their behalf. In practice, only about 6,000 out of more than 620,000 registered refugees and 1.4 million total Syrians in Jordan hold legal permits, according to the Ministry of Labor. The rest work illegally…

Fighting in Ukraine has killed over 840 since mid-January (New York Times) The United Nations said on Monday that a sharp escalation in the fighting in eastern Ukraine from mid-January to the middle of last month had left at least 842 people dead and over 3,400 wounded, with hundreds missing and many buried without their deaths being recorded. Ivan Simonovic, the United Nations assistant secretary general, told reporters here that more than 6,000 people had been killed since the fighting started in April…

Jews, Christians and Muslims unite to repair Mount Zion cemeteries (Christian Today) Christians and Muslims living on Mount Zion have been the target of numerous hate crimes in recent years, but representatives from all three religions are taking a stand against the intolerance by repairing the mount’s graveyards. Last week a Greek Orthodox Seminary on the mount was the site of an arson attack in which one of the church’s bathrooms was set on fire. A wall was also sprayed with anti-Jesus graffiti, but no one was injured in the attack. Other incidents have seen gravestones smashed and people spitting at priests, and there has been little police intervention…

Can music help to de-stigmatize disability in Gaza? (BBC) Despite the high prevalence of people with disabilities in Gaza, disabled children are still shrouded in social stigma, and many parents choose to hide their offspring from the prying public eye. But music therapy specialists at the National Center for Community Rehabilitation in Gaza City are using the unconventional, modern technique to treat the children who attend. Their aim is to help integrate them into a society where disabilities are still very much taboo…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Violence against Christians Jordan

27 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Assyrian Christian women and their daughters pray for the hundreds of Assyrian Christians abducted by the Islamic State from villages in northeastern Syria, in a church in Jdeideh, Lebanon, on 26 February. (photo: Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. report: Islamic State acts may be officially classifiable as ‘genocide’ (Jerusalem Post) According to a new United Nations report released Monday, atrocities committed by the Islamic State are liable to be officially classified as genocide. A joint effort issued by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the report details the abuses against Turkmen, Shabaks, Christians, Yazidi, Sabaeans, Kaka’i, Faili Kurds, Arab Shiite communities and posits that at least 165 executions were carried out by the Islamic State group’s ’courts’ in the areas it controls…

Amid hostage crisis, Assyrians and Kurds join forces (Christian Science Monitor) Syrian Assyrian Christians and Kurds have joined forces in a bid to regain territory from the Islamic State group, which seized dozens of Assyrian villages and scores of hostages in northern Syria this week…

New episodes of violence against Christian churches (Fides) New episodes of violence against Christian communities and buildings in India have been reported in various parts of India…

Ruble ripple: New Russian laws make life difficult for migrant workers (Al Jazeera) The rapid slide in the value of Russia’s currency since December has driven up inflation, placing immense pressure on the millions of migrant workers hard pressed to make ends meet on already meager salaries. Certainly it is no longer easy to pick up a job. Work permits now cost 22,000 rubles and carry a 4,000 ruble monthly fee. Before obtaining one, each applicant must purchase health insurance, supply proof of medical tests for HIV, tuberculosis, drug addiction and skin disease and pass a test on Russian language, history and law. All of which must be done within a month of arrival…

As Kiev pulls back in east, Ukraine struggles with what went wrong (Christian Science Monitor) Haggard Ukrainian Army soldiers withdrew 15 heavy artillery guns today, their armored convoy part of a delayed cease-fire agreement with Russian-backed separatists to ease a conflict that has taken nearly 6,000 lives. The fact that these first steps are being taken 12 days later than agreed — with rebel forces in the meantime capturing the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve — illustrates how separatist units that faced losses last summer have been transformed into a more capable force now making battlefield advances…



Tags: Syria India Ukraine Violence against Christians Russia

26 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




An officer inspects damages at the crime scene after unidentified attackers set fire to a Greek Orthodox seminary in West Jerusalem, on 26 February. (photo: Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Suspected Israeli nationalists torch Christian seminary in Jerusalem (Al Jazeera) Suspected Israeli nationalists set fire to a Christian seminary in Jerusalem and vandalized an elementary school in Nablus on Thursday, officials said. The attacks, which came a day after a similar group burned a mosque near Bethlehem, have been characterized as hate crimes by Israeli officials and “terrorism” by Palestinians…

Israeli president: Church arson ‘inconceivable’ (Arutz Sheva) President Reuven Rivlin spoke by phone Thursday with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, and expressed his sadness and shock at the arson and graffiti attack on a building within the Greek Orthodox compound on Mt. Zion…

More Assyrian Christians captured by Islamic State (New York Times) Continuing its assaults on a string of Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State militant group has seized scores more residents over the past two days, bringing the number of captives to as many as several hundred, Assyrian organizations inside and outside Syria said on Thursday…

The plight of Syria’s vulnerable Christian minority (Washington Post) Before a brutal civil war engulfed Syria, the country was testament to the religious and ethnic diversity of the Middle East. Arabs of different faiths, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrian Christians and others lived side by side, embracing a rather durable Syrian nationalism. But the increasingly sectarian character of the Syrian conflict and the rise of the Islamic State threaten to unravel the rich tapestry of Syrian society…

Patriarchs’ Lenten messages focus on struggles of Middle East Christians (Catholic Sentinel) The Middle East is suffering a “Way of the Cross” that is the greatest tragedy since World War II, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III said in a Lenten message about suffering. He said the church, despite its efforts, is having difficulty meeting the growing needs it faces in the region. In a separate Lenten message, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter called for greater efforts to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East…

Coptic monks lie down in front of bulldozers (Fides) A new road running from the city of Fayoum threatens an archaeological area that stretches around a church dating to the fourth century. The project also threatens the water supply of the monastery and some cultivated areas belonging to it. In recent days, the monks launched an initiative of non-violent resistance, lying in the path of bulldozers…



Tags: Syria Egypt Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Jerusalem

25 February 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Group of Syrian Kurds return from Turkey to their hometown of Kobane, guided by Turkish officials on 25 February. (photo: Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

For Syria, an infusion of hope for desperate Christian community (Aleteia) The apparent kidnapping of some 90 Christians in the northeast of Syria is another reminder — if any is needed — that Christians and other religious groups continue to be at grave risk as Islamic jihadi groups gather steam in the Middle East. And that merely serves to put greater pressure on people of means to pick up their belongings and seek greener pastures in the West. But that option is one that many Christian leaders in the Middle East are fighting hard to counter. Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria, a couple hundred miles west of where the 90 Christians were captured Monday, knows that he must counter the temptation not only with material aid but with a real sense of hope that the current long lent Christians are suffering will indeed come to an end…

Islamic State selling looted Syrian art in London to fund its war (Washington Post) Almost 100 items of Syrian art and antiquities looted by the extremist Islamic State group have been smuggled into Britain and sold for money to fund the group’s activities, art crime experts and archeologists have warned. The items, allegedly being sold in London, range from looted gold and silver Byzantine coins to Roman pottery and glass together worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The London paper compared the phenomenon to Africa’s “blood diamond” industry, in which the money raised by the sale of precious African diamonds financed wars and conflicts across the continent…

Coptic Church forms committee to evacuate Egyptians from Libya (Fides) A “crisis unit” has been instituted at the request of the Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church to collect data and information regarding all Egyptians still present in Libya, in order to facilitate rapid evacuation and repatriation…

Strangers in their own land: Displaced Ukrainians face uncertain future (Al Jazeera) More than one million registered internally displaced people have been uprooted by the violent conflict in Ukraine’s east. In the ten months since refugees started flowing out of the rebel-held territories, the number of displaced in Ukraine has risen to the most in Europe since the Balkan wars…

The war in Ukraine: A failure to evangelize? (Catholic News Agency) Conflict in eastern Ukraine has pitted the country’s government against separatists widely believed to be backed by Russia, and some are attributing the chaos to a failed evangelization in the country. According to the Rev. Wojciech Surówka, a Dominican priest who directs the St. Thomas Aquinas Institute of Religious Sciences in Kiev, “a dialogue of reconciliation between Ukrainians and Russians should begin from the church. If we do not start it, politicians will never do it. It would be nice if the formula of ‘forgive and ask forgiveness’ were delivered simultaneously by the Ukrainian and Russian bishops…”

Mosque torched near Bethlehem in a suspected ‘price tag’ act (i24 News) Palestinians near the Palestinian West Bank town of Bethlehem said a mosque in the village of Jab’awas was set on fire before dawn on Wednesday, arousing suspicions that the vandalism was carried out by right-wing extremists as part of the “price tag” campaign. Nationalist graffiti were sprayed on the mosque’s walls…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine West Bank Libya





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