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Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
  
14 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Thousands have been forced into relief camps across Kerala as flood waters continue to devastate the region. (video: YouTube/Al Jazeera)

Kerala floods force thousands into relief camps (The Times of India) According to the latest official figures, more than 60,000 people have been lodged in various relief camps across 14 districts of Kerala following the unprecedented monsoon rains that triggered floods and landslides in several places…

Scores killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia (Reuters) At least 40 people were killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia over the weekend, a senior regional official said on Monday, in the latest spate of violence driven by ethnic divisions. Unrest first broke out along the border of the country’s Somali and Oromiya provinces in September, displacing nearly a million people, though the violence had subsided by April…

Indian bishops cry foul as police probe church agencies (UCANews.com) Catholic prelates in India’s Jharkhand state have asked the government to substantiate allegations of fund diversion for religious conversion as police continue to investigate nearly 90 Christian institutions. The joint move by the eastern state’s bishops came on 12 August, a day after the state’s Criminal Investigation Department and Anti-Terrorism Squad carried out searches at the offices of Christian-managed non-government organizations (NGOs)…

Israel may be about to relax sanctions against Gaza (The Los Angeles Times) After over a month of suffocating sanctions that left many Gazans on the brink of economic collapse, relief may be on its way. Israel’s Defense Ministry said Monday that two days of “complete quiet” on its border with Gaza have led Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to consider easing the closure it imposed on the sole commercial entryway into the Gaza Strip on 9 July…

Early marriages rising in Iraq (Global Post) In 1997, 15 percent of Iraqi women wed before 18, according to government statistics. That was six years prior to the US invasion that toppled its brutal but secular dictator, Saddam Hussein. By 2016, two years after the outbreak of a sectarian Sunni vs. Shiite civil war and the rise of ISIS, who by then had imposed a harsh version of Islam on around a third of the country under its control — Iraq’s early marriage figure jumped to 24 percent, including nearly 5 percent who married before age 15…

Economic turmoil leaves Turkey reeling (Vatican News) On Friday, Minister of Finance Berat Albayrak rolled-out his “new economic model” that was supposed to reassure markets and investors, however, his plan was vague and further accelerated the crash of the lira. In an attempt to calm the markets on Monday, the Turkish Central Bank said it would provide local banks with all the liquidity they needed, but fears remain that the crisis could spread to markets in Europe…



Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

10 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Massive flooding has had a devastating effect on Kerla over the last several days, with officials describing the situation as "very serious." (video: YouTube/The Times of India)

Kerala flood situation ’very serious’ (UCANews.com) Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday described the situation in the flood-affected areas of Kerala as “very serious” and assured the state of all possible help from the Centre. Rajnath Singh, who arrived here on Sunday afternoon, made the statement after an aerial survey of Idukki and Ernakulam districts. He was accompanied by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General Sanjay Kumar. ”The situation is very serious in Kerala. The Centre will extend all necessary support to the state in all respects,” Rajnath Singh told the inmates of a relief camp near Kochi…

Countries vow support to Jordan after terrorist attacks (The Jordan Times) Countries from across the Middle East and elsewhere continued to offer their condolences to Jordan on Sunday, after five security personnel were killed in a terrorist attack. The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemned the attack on the security personnel in Fuhais and Salt. ”The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemns the attack on Jordanian security personnel in Fuhais on 10 August and the ensuing terrorist actions in Salt on 11 August...

Egyptian monk charged in murder of Coptic Orthodox bishop (Vatican News) Prosecutors say Wael Saad, a former monk at the monastery — who was defrocked last week — confessed to using an iron bar to bludgeon the bishop; however, there is no known motive for the crime, but it is reported he was being investigated by the victim for violating some rules of monasticism. Saad has now been charged and remains in custody, as investigations continue. The Coptic Orthodox Church has frozen the recruitment of new monks for the next 12 months, banned the use of social media, and instructed monks that leaving monastery grounds requires official permission…

Arms depot blast in Syria kills at least 67 (BBC) At least 67 people were killed and 33 injured by an explosion at an arms depot in rebel-held northern Syria on Sunday, rescuers and activists say. The blast in the village of Sarmada, in Idlib province, caused the collapse of two five-story buildings. More than 50 of the dead were civilians. The others were members of a jihadist alliance linked to al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)…

Ethiopian rebels declare ceasefire (Reuters) An Ethiopian rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire on Sunday, the latest dissident movement to aim for an end to hostilities in the wake of reforms…

2,200-year-old earring found in Jerusalem parking lot (Israel21c.org) The 2,200-year-old earring — a tiny gold filigree piece from Jerusalem’s Hellenistic era — was discovered during an archeological dig in the lot next to the City of David National Park. The hoop earring bears the head of a horned animal, possibly an antelope or deer. Excavators also found nearby a gold bead with intricate embroidered ornamentation resembling a thin rope pattern. While the earring’s owner and gender are a mystery, archaeologists are sure that it “definitely belonged to Jerusalem’s upper class. This can be determined by the proximity to the Temple Mount and the Temple, which was functional at the time, as well as the quality of the gold piece of jewelry…”



Tags: India Egypt Ethiopia Jerusalem

10 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, who is head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, concelebrates Mass on 8 August during the 136th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Baltimore. He called on Catholics to remember the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (photo: CNS /courtesy Knights of Columbus)

Syria’s war could be entering its last, most dangerous phase (The Washington Post) As Syria’s war enters what could be its last and most dangerous stretch, the Syrian government and its allies will have to contend for the first time with the presence of foreign troops in the quest to bring the rest of the country back under President Bashar al-Assad’s control…

Kerala flood claims dozens of lives; thousands evacuated (AP) Torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 26 people in flooding, landslides and house collapses in the southern Indian state of Kerala with more than 15,500 people taking shelter in state-run relief camps…

Archbishop makes plea to remember Ukraine’s ’silent’ war (Crux) Four years of fighting in eastern Ukraine have led to “the biggest humanitarian crisis on the European continent since the end of the Second World War,” according to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev called on the international community and the Catholic Church not to neglect the crisis in Ukraine. He made the plea during his keynote address at the Knights of Columbus convention in Baltimore on 7 August…

For Christians in Iraq, trust is the hardest thing to rebuild (Crux) Even in the context of the vast destruction left by ISIS everywhere across the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq, nothing compares to the staggering sight of Mosul’s Old City, where piles of rubble and overturned cars riddled with bullet holes make up half the landscape of the once-thriving city…

Eritrean officials in Ethiopia to discuss peace deal (AfricaNews.com) A senior Eritrean delegation is due in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss implementation of a historic peace deal between the two countries. The Eritrean Information Minister confirmed that the delegation comprised Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab. The “delegation will deliver a message from President Isaias Afwerki to Prime minister Abiy Ahmed and discuss progress of the implementation of the agreement,” Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet…

Syrian refugee women find their way to Jordanian economy (The Jordan Times) a vocational and soft skills training project was established by international NGO Oxfam in April 2017, helping Syrian refugee women enhance their employability and increase their self reliance…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Iraqi Christians Kerala

9 August 2018
Greg Kandra




In this file photo, Orthodox clergy celebrate the feast of Temqat – the Ethiopian commemoration of the baptism of Christ. In the aftermath of violence that has claimed the lives of at least six priests and numerous believers, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has announced a period of fasting and prayer for peace. (photo: CNEWA/Cody Christopulos)

Fasting for prayer and peace in Ethiopia (Vatican News) Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, has decided to go through 16 days of fasting and prayer in order to invoke peace and reconciliation in the country’s Jijiga and Somali regions. The violence that took off in those areas of Ethiopia last week caused around 30 deaths. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has suffered the aftermath of this violence as, according to local news agencies, at least seven churches have been burned down and six priests and numerous believers killed…

Israel launches airstrikes in response to rocket attacks from Gaza (Business Insider) Palestinian militants on the Gaza Strip launched at least 150 rockets at Israel overnight, and Israel retaliated by pounding the region with deadly airstrikes. The Israel Defense Forces said mounting violence began Wednesday after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel responded with tank fire…

Small Indian state of Goa has big impact (CNS) Goa, a former Portuguese colony that now ranks as having one of the most famous beaches in India, is continuing to promote Christianity in Asia as part of its colonial legacy, retired Archbishop Raul Gonsalves said…

Russian Orthodox fringe group hopes for return of the tsar (Reuters) The Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers is a small fringe group of Russian nationalists with no political power that stages processions, rallies and even burns books to promote their views. Clad in all-black and marching with their Orthodox banners, the group pairs a biker club’s aesthetic with the gold of religious icons. ”We are striving for the restoration of an autocratic monarchy. Like the one we had under our tsars,” Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich, the group’s white-bearded leader, said…

How robots are throwing a lifeline to Syrian refugees (The Guardian) Founded by Syrian neurosurgeon Dr Fadi al-Halabi, Maps is hugely innovative: it offers classes under the Lebanese curriculum, so that students can transfer into Lebanese schools if given the opportunity, and it also gives jobs to Syrian teachers — now refugees themselves — albeit on a volunteer basis. (Under Lebanese labour laws, Syrians are severely restricted in the work they are legally able to undertake.) Halabi has also founded three medical centers, which rely on unpaid Syrian doctors and nurses to provide care to 15,000 Lebanese and Syrians across the Bekaa valley. At a disused hospital that serves as Maps headquarters, former patient preparation and operation rooms have been turned into “innovation centers” where robotics, computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), and art and design are taught…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

8 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Hundreds of Iraqi Christians processed through Karamles in the Nineveh Plain Monday night to commemorate the invasion of ISIS exactly four years ago. (photo: Fides/Asia News)

Returning Christians hold procession on anniversary of exodus (Fides) Hundreds of Iraqi Christians in Karamles took part in a procession Monday night, to commemorate the night four years ago earlier, when ISIS drove many tens of thousands of Christians from the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain. Before the procession, there were prayers and a reflection on the pain and suffering caused by that dramatic mass exodus…

Lebanese town flooded with refugees hopes for return to normal (The New York Times) Seven years of war in Syria has displaced more than half the country’s population, leaving millions of refugees shipwrecked between the wasteland of home and the void of exile. Among the many Lebanese and Jordanian towns that received them was Arsal, where rented rooms and tent cities overflowed at one point with 120,000 Syrians — quadruple its Lebanese population…

In Jerusalem, concerns over crumbling Western Wall (The Sun) A massive survey of Jerusalem’ Western Wall is being planned, it emerged today, after a huge slab fell just feet away from a worshipper. Expert opinion is split on whether the collapse was a one-off, or if more stones are ready to fall…

India’s president praises contribution of Christian community (Crux) Noting that the Christian community in the state of Kerala is one of the oldest not only in India but anywhere in the world, the president of India said on Tuesday the Church’s heritage and history are a matter of immense pride for the entire country. President Ram Nath Kovind was speaking at the centenary celebrations of St. Thomas College in Thrissur, the city considered the cultural capital of Kerala…

Egypt’s Copts commemorate Virgin Mary amid tight security (Andalou Agency) Egyptian Coptic Christians on Tuesday began a 15-day fast to commemorate the Virgin Mary amid stepped-up security measures in and around the nation’s churches. The two-week religious holiday comes some 10 days after a prominent Coptic Bishop was found dead at the Anba Makar Monastery in Egypt’s northern Beheira province…

Magdala: first century synagogue unites Christians and Jews (Rome Reports) When the Legionaries of Christ acquired this land to build a church and pilgrim house, they never imagined they would discover a real treasure. Magdala, a town previously containing 4,000 inhabitants according to archaeologists was also Mary Magdalene’s hometown. The excavations have recovered 20 percent of the surface at the present moment. Among other things, they have unearthed the port, purification baths and the market where fish were sent to Rome, according to historian Flavius Josephus. However, the most important of all these discoveries is the synagogue from the first century…



Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Iraqi Christians ISIS

7 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees in Jordan are learning how to restore and rebuild architecture that was destroyed in their homeland. (photo: NBC News)

Lebanon sets guidelines for return of refugees (The Daily Star) General Security announced Monday it will create centers to register Syrian refugees looking to return to Syria after having earlier outlined conditions for returnees who are in violation of residency requirements, including lifetime bans on many refugees from returning to Lebanon. General Security published protocols on 1 August for the return of Syrians who had violated residency rules and now wished to return to their homeland. Approximately three-quarters of Syrians living in Lebanon do not have legal residency…

In Jordan, Syrian refugees learn how to rebuild damaged heritage sites (NBC News) A year-long training program launched by the U.S.-based World Monuments Fund and the Petra National Trust of Jordan is teaching Syrian refugees how to rebuild the heritage sites and decorative architecture that once made their cities the jewels of the archaeological world…

Thousands of Ethiopians displaced (AFP) Fighting in Ethiopia’s volatile eastern Somali region over the weekend has left an unknown number of civilians dead and thousands displaced, the patriarch of Ethiopia’s Orthodox church told state media on Monday. It was unclear what sparked the clashes in Ethiopia’s second-largest region, but it appeared to start after the arrival of troops in the regional capital Jijiga...

Ukraine’s Roma live in fear (AP) After attackers charged into a Roma encampment on the outskirts of Kiev, beating the residents and chasing them away, a leader of an ultranationalist group posted photos of his colleagues clearing the site and burning tents left behind. The attacks and the prospect of more violence are terrifying to Ukraine’s estimated 100,000 Roma…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Ethiopia Jordan Roma

6 August 2018
Greg Kandra




A panel of clergy and lay people announced the launch of India's SAFBIN project, designed to improve food security in Asia. (photo: Vatican News)

Damascus creates body to repatriate Syrian refugees (AFP) Syria’s government is to set up a coordination committee to repatriate millions of its nationals who fled the country’s seven-year conflict, state media has said. The cabinet Sunday “agreed to create a coordination body for the return of those displaced abroad to their cities and villages,” state news agency SANA reported…

Over 400 people interrogated in connection with murder of Coptic bishop (Fides) Over 400 people were interrogated by the Egyptian judicial authorities of the Wadi Natrun region, as part of the investigation into the murder of Coptic Orthodox bishop Epiphanius, abbot of Saint Macarius monastery, who was killed on Sunday 29 July. In addition to the monks, police detectives will also interrogate workers, farmers and people who habitually frequented the monastery. But so far — specify the official sources of the Coptic Orthodox Church, consulted by Agenzia Fides — no person at the moment is believed to be responsible for the heinous murder of Anba Epiphanios…

Caritas India launches agricultural project to improve food security (Vatican News) Caritas India, the social arm of the Catholic Church in India has launched an agricultural project to help improve the food and nutritional security of small farmers across South Asia. Called the Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network or SAFBIN, the initiative is being backed by Caritas Austria and Caritas Switzerland…

Canadians open their arms to refugees (Vatican News) n the first half of 2018, nearly 26,000 migrants sought asylum in Canada. Nearly 11,000 of these were illegal or “irregular” border crossers, of which a vast majority entered Canada through Quebec. Elana Wright, Advocacy and Research Officer of Development and Peace at Caritas Canada, spoke to Vatican News’ Timothée Dhellammes about Canadians’ openness to welcoming asylum seekers…

UN scales up humanitarian efforts in Ethiopia (UN.org) To address the urgent needs of more than a million displaced by inter-communal violence in southwestern Ethiopia over the past four months, UN humanitarian agencies and their partners are ramping up their efforts, providing among other things shelter, household items, water and sanitation, and food to the most vulnerable…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Refugees

3 August 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from June, people walk toward the last Syrian government checkpoint while waiting for permission to leave the besieged section of Damascus. The Syrian ambassador to Lebanon has called for more refugees to return to their homeland. (photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)

Syrian ambassador calls for refugees to return (The National) Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon has called for Syrian refugees to return home and for the countries hosting them to ease the transition. Ali Abdul Karim told Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil during a meeting on Thursday that certain agreements were being followed up on to help Syrian refugees return, according to a statement released by the minister’s office…

Netanyahu cancels trip abroad as possible Hamas-Israel cease fire deal emerges (The Los Angeles Times) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday abruptly canceled an official visit to Central and South America as a possible agreement to halt the violence and ease tensions along its border with the Gaza Strip appeared to be emerging. In a statement, an Israeli government official said the trip, during which Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with the presidents of Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and Honduras, was being canceled “due to the situation in the south…”

Bishops’ event in India focuses on divisive politics (UCANews.com) A Catholic Church-organized program in New Delhi has called on Indian politicians to cease being divisive and using religion as a way of attracting votes. Prominent opposition leader Mamta Banerjee was among several speakers voicing concerns over the divisions in Indian society during an assembly organized by the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference on 31 July…

Report: Syrian group recruiting children from camps (Human Rights Watch) The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the largest member of the Syrian Democratic Forces military alliance in northeast Syria, has been recruiting children, including girls, and using some in hostilities despite pledges to stop the practice, Human Rights Watch said today…

Has peace finally arrived for Ethiopia and Eritrea? (The New Yorker) The timing of the peace deal was sudden: within a matter of weeks, and after two decades of hostility, the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed an agreement, on 9 July to restore diplomatic relations, reopen embassies in Addis Ababa and Asmara, and resume flights between the two countries. The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and the Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki, both said they hoped for an end to a state of war that has dragged on between the two nations since Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia, after a thirty-year struggle, in 1993. More than 80,000 people have died in the conflict, and the United Nations has imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea, citing its border disputes with neighboring countries…



Tags: Syria India Israel

2 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Men in India gathered recently to protest the draft list which has rendered some four million people without citizenship in northern India. (photo: Vatican News/AFP)

Israel claims Syrian civil war is effectively over (CNBC) Israel claimed Syria’s long-running civil war had effectively come to an end Thursday and predicted the Golan Heights frontier between the two countries would be much quieter over the coming months. Syrian President Bashar Assad has sought to restore central rule in several southwestern areas of the country in recent weeks, with a particular focus on reclaiming Golan Heights — an area of strategic and political significance for both Damascus and Jerusalem…

Israel halts fuel supplies to Gaza (AP) Despite renewed cease-fire efforts, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that, starting Thursday, he is halting shipments of fuel and natural gas to Gaza in response to incendiary balloons that have targeted southern Israel. Israel also suspended fuel shipments to Gaza temporarily in July for similar reasons…

India renders four million people without citizenship (Vatican News) In a bid to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the Indian government released a draft list on Monday which has rendered about four million people without citizenship in the north-eastern state of Assam. Hundreds of thousands of people fled to India from Muslim-majority Bangladesh during its 1971 war of independence, settling down mostly in Assam and West Bengal…

Bishop Olmsted named apostolic administrator of Byzantine eparchy (CNS) Latin-rite Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix has been appointed apostolic administrator of a Byzantine Ruthenian eparchy also based in Phoenix, the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy. The appointment by Pope Francis was announced on 1 August in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Vatican nuncio to the United States…

Pope revises catechism to say death penalty ’inadmissible’ (CNS) Building on the development of Catholic Church teaching against capital punishment, Pope Francis has ordered a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to assert “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and to commit the church to working toward its abolition worldwide…



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank

1 August 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien expresses his concern over a new law he says limits the rights of non Jews. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Cardinal expresses concerns over new law that grants exclusive rights to Jews in Israel (Rome Reports) Israel has passed a law that affords exclusive rights to Jewish people and removes Arabic as an official language. There are 1.8 million Arabs in Israel, which account for 20% of the total population. Israel’s new law has led to further fears of discrimination towards Arab minorities, with many Israeli neighborhoods and towns already effectively being segregated making it tough for an Arab to move in. According to Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, this new law has taken away full equality for non Jews…

Syria says road to Jordan crossing is ready (Reuters) The road to Syria’s border crossing with Jordan, closed by conflict in 2011, is ready for use and Damascus is looking at prospects of reopening it after recovering the border from rebels, the Syrian transport minister said…

Palestinian muftis bar participation in Jerusalem elections (Haaretz) The council of Palestinian muftis has issued a religious ruling barring Muslim residents of Jerusalem from participating in the city’s municipal elections this fall, either by running for office or by voting. In a statement issued on Monday, the council accused Israel of never ceasing its attempts to subdue the city’s Palestinian residents in various ways ever since it gained control of East Jerusalem in 1967…

Starvation deaths haunt India (UCANews.com) Increasing starvation deaths in India show the failure of state and federal governments to implement welfare measures and enforce a law that ensures the right to food, say church leaders and activists. The recent deaths of three children, all aged below nine, in New Delhi have brought to the fore the plight of nearly 191 million Indians who go to sleep on empty stomachs despite economic growth…

Indian tourism department to launch microsite on Christianity (Times of India) State tourism department, in a couple of weeks, will launch a microsite on Christianity in Kerala to lure more international travelers, especially religious scholars, historians and pilgrims…



Tags: Syria India Jerusalem





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