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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
25 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, speaks on 25 February during a Rome news conference on the recent events in the Ukrainian capital. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Russia cries “mutiny” over change in Ukraine (The Washington Post) Russian leaders expressed their distrust and dislike of Ukraine’s new government on Monday, saying it came to power through “armed mutiny,” just hours after the authorities here announced a nationwide manhunt for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych on charges of “mass murder of peaceful civilians.” Russia questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine’s interim leadership, charging that it used a peace deal brokered by Europe to make a power grab and to suppress dissent in Russian-speaking regions through “terrorist methods...”

Ukrainian archbishop appeals for solidarity (Vatican Radio) The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has made a heartfelt appeal to European Nations for solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine. Speaking to a press conference held on Tuesday at Vatican Radio, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk denounced the fact that the cry of the Maidan protesters went largely unheard and ignored until the explosion of violence last week that left some 100 people dead, and thousands more injured...

Ukraine votes to send fugitive former president to be tried for “serious crimes” (Voice of America) Ukraine’s parliament voted on Tuesday to send fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych to be tried for ‘serious crimes’ by the International Criminal Court once he has been captured. A resolution, overwhelmingly supported by the assembly, linked Yanukovych, who was ousted on Saturday and is now on the run, to police violence against protesters which it said had led to the deaths of more than 100 citizens from Ukraine and other states. The resolution said former interior minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and former prosecutor-general Viktor Pshonka, who are also being sought by the authorities, should also be sent for trial at the ICC, which is based in The Hague...

Israel strikes near Lebanon-Syria border (Aljazeera) Israeli jets have bombarded an area on the Lebanon-Syria border, reportedly hitting a Hezbollah position, a Lebanese security source and a Syrian NGO said, “Two Israeli raids hit a Hezbollah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria,” the source told AFP news agency. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the target was a Hezbollah “missile base”. Lebanon’s state news agency also confirmed the airstrikes, however, there was no immediate confirmation from Lebanese security officials, and the Israeli military declined comment...

Pope Francis: Victims of war deserve mourning, not indifference (CNS) Pope Francis urged people to overcome indifference and to mourn for the innumerable victims of war and conflict around the world. He also condemned those who profit from the manufacturing of weapons and “live large,” lounging in their “parlors” while children in refugee camps starve.In a Mass homily on 25 February, the pope focused on the day’s first reading from St. James and the causes of divisions and conflict. “Where do wars and arguments among you come from,” he asked during his early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. “War, hatred and hard feelings, you don’t buy them at a store, they are here in the heart,” emerging out of people’s passions, he said...



24 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 22 February. Pope Benedict’s presence at the ceremony marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public liturgy. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope creates 19 new cardinals, with Pope Benedict present (CNS) On a feast day commemorating the authority Jesus gave to St. Peter and his successors — the popes — Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. To the great surprise of most people present, the retired pope entered St. Peter’s Basilica about 15 minutes before the new cardinals and Pope Francis. Wearing a long white coat and using a cane, he took a seat in the front row next to Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. Pope Benedict’s presence at the consistory 22 February, the feast of the Chair of Peter, marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public prayer service in the basilica. Pope Benedict resigned 28 February 2013, becoming the first pope in almost 600 years to do so...

Pope Francis: no divisions between Christians (Vatican Radio) Following the celebration of Mass on Sunday morning with the 19 new Cardinals, Pope Francis greeted the crowds in St. Peter’s Square gathered for the Angelus prayer. In his address to them he urged them to work for Christian unity avoiding all divisions, because he said: “a community does not belong to the preacher, but to Christ...”

Official in Ukraine accuses ex-president of mass murder (The New York Times) Ukraine’s acting interior minister said on Monday that authorities were in pursuit of the ousted president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was believed to be in Crimea in the south of the country, and that he would be arrested on charges of mass murder in the killings of dozens of antigovernment protesters last week. The minister, Arsen Avakov, who was appointed by Parliament on Saturday, wrote on his Facebook page that he was personally involved in the manhunt and had traveled to the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Sunday night hoping to intercept Mr. Yanukovych at the airport there, but that the deposed president had not turned up as expected...

In Ukraine, the bitterness behind an upheaval (The Washington Post) Anatoliy Zhalobaha didn’t pay much attention to politics, but he was angry, and growing angrier. That’s what drew him to Kiev on Wednesday, and into the path of a sniper’s bullet on Thursday. The uprising convulsing Ukraine gets much of its strength from places such as Dubliany, a village of 8,000 in the westernmost part of the country. But the driving force behind it is not so much about geography, or differences in language, or ideology, though those are significant factors. For Zhalobaha, it was the raw deal he felt he had gotten in a country where those in power were brazenly helping themselves to as much as they could get their hands on...

Senior al-Qaeda commander killed in Syria (Aljazeera) A Syrian rebel commander, who fought alongside al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack in Aleppo, intensifying in-fighting between rival armed groups. The killing of Abu Khaled al-Suri on Sunday in a suicide bombing in the al-Halq area of Aleppo was confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights...

Kerala group launches website for cancer survivors (India Today) For the first time in India, a youth movement in Kerala is launching a matrimonial website to find life partners for cancer survivors, bringing solace and hope to those who have successfully battled the disease. The initiative by the St George Orthodox Youth Movement, under the St Mary’s Orthodox Parish church at Kumbanad in Pathanamthitta district, is first of its kind in the country, the sources claimed...



21 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Yesterday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke out against the violence and division in Ukraine. The patriarch also expressed recently his “expectant joy” for his meeting with Pope Francis, planned for May. (photo: Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constinople)

Ecumenical patriarch discusses tragic situation in Ukraine (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “In the wake of the anniversary last year, celebrating 1025 years since Christian faith and civilization was conveyed to the Kievan Rus by our own predecessors in the Church of Constantinople, we are compelled, in the name of the ethos and culture of the freedom granted by God to all people as a divine gift, to condemn the present relentless brutality and insist on a peaceful and reasonable solution to the internal problems of Ukraine…”

Accord signed in Ukraine, amid hopes to end bloodshed (New York Times) Opposition leaders signed an agreement with President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday to try to defuse a deadly political crisis that has left scores of protesters and security officers dead and hundreds injured in Kiev, the capital. The German Foreign Ministry announced in a Twitter message that the leadership council of the Ukrainian protest movement had authorized the signing of the deal, which calls for early presidential elections, a coalition government and the reduction of presidential power through constitutional changes. A spokeswoman for the protest movement told the Associated Press that opposition leaders were headed for the president’s office to discuss the agreement…

Gaza left out of Middle East peace talks (Washington Post) This crowded bit of Mediterranean shore is a long way from the closed-door rooms where Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are holding the first real peace talks in years. But as Secretary of State John F. Kerry prepares to publicly present outlines of a proposed peace deal, the isolated and besieged Palestinian territory called the Gaza Strip is the rarely mentioned elephant in the bargaining room — a huge obstacle to a permanent settlement of the decades-old conflict…

Greek and Turkish Cypriots unite to restore a church and a bond (New York Times) In the days before this island was cleft between Greek and Turkish control, the church of St. Charalambos in this tiny village was a gathering place for all. But after decades of division, and fruitless talks between political leaders, local people grew tired of watching its paint peel and its altar decay. They took matters into their own hands. Like the church, relations between the two communities had crumbled after the island was partitioned after the Turkish military invasion of 1974. But this month, Turkish artisans’ drills buzzed. Greek woodworkers carved flourishes into the altar. After two years of work, craftsmen from both communities hurriedly polished the church in time for a grand rechristening that united nearly 500 Greek and Turkish Cypriots in a celebration under its lofty vaults — the first time the church had been used in 40 years. “After all this time, the people are ready to reconcile,” said Xenios Konteatis, 79, a retired Greek Cypriot who lived in Kontea before the Turkish invasion forced his family into a tearful flight to what is now the Greek-controlled south…

Pope names new members of Congregation for Eastern Churches (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis confirmed the top leadership of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and named among its new members Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Byzantine Archbishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh. The Vatican announced Wednesday that the pope confirmed Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as prefect and Archbishop Cyril Vasil as secretary of the congregation, which assists the Eastern Catholic churches throughout the world and the Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of the Middle East. The new members also include: Coptic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak of Alexandria, Egypt; Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad; Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England; and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Cyprus Congregation for Eastern Churches

20 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Riot police stand near a crucifix as smoke rises above Independence Square, where anti-government protesters are holding a rally in central Kiev, Ukraine, on 19 February. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Truce crumbles amid gunfire in Ukraine, protesters claim 100 dead (CNN) A short-lived truce crumbled Thursday as gunfire erupted at Independence Square, the center of anti-government protests and an increasingly violent crisis that threatens catastrophe for this divided nation. The head of the protesters’ medical service said 100 people died and 500 were injured in clashes on Thursday, just hours after the government declared a truce in fighting that had shocked world leaders with the deaths of 28 people two days before. The Ukrainian government has not released its own casualty figures, but Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko said 25 police officers had been wounded and an unspecified number of them had died. Some others had been taken hostage, he said. If Thursday’s death toll is confirmed, it would make it the deadliest day in Ukraine since protests began…

Priests on front line in battle for Ukraine (NBC News) Carrying a cross, and at times a shield, Orthodox priests have placed themselves in the line of fire amid the turmoil of Ukraine’s bloody uprising. On Thursday, several priests stood alongside protesters in central Kiev, performing blessings and delivering the last rites to those who were killed…

Israel begins sending African migrants to Uganda (ABC News) Israel has begun sending dozens of African migrants — mostly from Eritrea and Sudan — to Uganda, an Israeli official said Wednesday, a move that has sparked concerns that they are being coerced into going to a country that may not keep them safe. The resettlement of people in Uganda, and perhaps other countries, marks a new phase in Israel’s campaign to rid itself of thousands of Africans who have poured into the country in recent years. Migrants and activists said the arrangement, which includes a one-way ticket and a stipend, is questionable because it is unclear if there is an official agreement with Uganda that would secure the migrants’ status. They said the new arrivals risk deportation to their home countries, where they may face conflict or persecution. Uganda, for its part, denied any deal…

Iraq moves to preserve Christian heritage, Syriac language (Al Monitor) Over the past 11 years, the Christian population in Iraq has decreased by more than 75 percent. It started to decline gradually after 2003, following the overall rise in violence and attacks targeting Christians. Before 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, and according to recent church figures, only 300,000 remain. Perhaps this drastic difference pushed administrators in charge of education to find ways to preserve Christianity’s cultural and religious heritage in Iraq…

Aid workers deliver food to Damascus district: U.N. (Daily Star Lebanon) According to a statement by UNRWA, the relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees resumed food distribution inside the rebel-held district of the Syrian capital, which has been suffering from crippling shortages of food and medicine for months…

India’s government approves new 29th state (Washington Post) India’s Parliament has approved a plan to create a 29th state following days of political mayhem, including a melee in which a lawmaker unleashed pepper spray on his colleagues. The president is now expected to sign the bill to create the new state, called Telangana, from mostly poor, inland districts of Andhra Pradesh. Opponents had objected to including wealthy tech and industrial hub Hyderabad in Telangana…



Tags: India Ukraine Iraqi Christians Relief Migrants

19 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Anti-government protesters walk amid debris and flames near the perimeter of Kiev’s Independence Square on 19 February 2014. (photo: Brendan Hoffman/Euromaiden via Twitter)

Clashes leave 25 dead in Kiev (The New York Times) Ukraine’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 25 people, including police officers, protesters and a journalist found dead on a side street near the square, had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on the anti-government demonstrators Tuesday and in subsequent fighting on streets in the government district of the Ukrainian capital. The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been injured and that nine of the dead were police officers...

Pope appeals for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis called for peace in the Ukraine, saying “With a worried soul I have been following what is happening in Kyiv in these days.” The Holy Father assured the Ukrainian people of his closeness to them, and prayed for the victims of violence, for their families, and for the injured. The Pope called “on all parties to cease all violence and to seek harmony and peace in the country...”

Ukrainian Orthodox Church calls for halt to bloodshed (InterFax) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has called for a halt of the bloodshed in Kiev and prevention of a civil war. “Since the beginning of the political crisis and in the course of the entire period of this conflict, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than once called for a halt of violence and a peaceful solution to the conflict. To our great regret, the voice of the Church has not been heard,” the property management of Metropolitan of Borispol and Brovar Antony said in a statement...

Patriarch calls for “Chaldean League” in Iraq (ByzCath.org) The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, has called for the formation of a “Chaldean League” to unite Catholic laity in a fragmented Iraqi society. “Our presence in society is weak, fragmented in the field of politics, culture, social action,” Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako told the Fides news agency. “A ‘Chaldean League’ can help us give a more concrete and effective contribution to the civic life of our country...”

Lebanon feels impact of Syrian conflict (BBC) For the first two years of the Arab uprisings, Lebanon seemed a haven of calm. But no-one expected the uprising and the war in Syria to last this long. The spillover became inevitable and the more it drags on the harder it will become for Lebanon to withstand the shockwaves, and resist the descent into chaos...

Pope names members for the Congregation of the Oriental Churches (VIS) Pope Francis nominated and confirmed several members of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches, including numberous consultors from around the world. View the complete list here.



18 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from last October, Pope Francis poses with cardinal advisers during a meeting at the Vatican. The cardinals are meeting with him this week to discuss possible reforms. Pictured from left are: Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary to the Council of Cardinals, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Pope Francis, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Australian Cardinal George Pell and Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope, cardinal advisers study Vatican financial, administrative reform (CNS) Pope Francis met for the third time in late February with his international Council of Cardinals, an eight-member group advising him on the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and other issues. The meetings focused on financial and bureaucratic matters even as the council was rumored to be working on a draft of an apostolic constitution that would reorganize the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia...

Syria talks stall (The Wall Street Journal) The Obama administration, exasperated by stalled talks over Syria and seeking ways to pressure the regime and its Russian allies, plans to revisit options ranging from expanding efforts to train and equip moderate rebels to setting up no-fly zones, according to officials briefed on the deliberations. The move means the administration again will consider military, diplomatic and intelligence options that previously were presented to the White House but set aside in favor of pursuing international talks...

Mayhem grips Kiev (The New York Times) Mayhem gripped the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday as riot police broke through barricades on the outer rim of a protest encampment and, pelted with rocks and fireworks, massed on the edge of Independence Square, the focal point of more than two months of protests against President Viktor F. Yanukovych. There were unconfirmed reports that three protesters had been killed...

Archbishop Chullikatt speaks of widespread persecution of Christians (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, last week spoke to a United States Congressional hearing on largely underreported assaults on the religious freedoms of Christians around the globe. “Flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet,” the Archbishop said. “No Christian is exempt, whether or not he or she is Arab. Arab Christians, a small but significant community, find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith. This tragedy is all the more egregious when one pauses to consider that these men and women of faith are loyal sons and daughters of the countries in which they are full citizens and in which they have been living at peace with their neighbors and fellow citizens for untold generations...”

Suicide bomber attacks pilgrims in Egypt (Reuters) The Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said on Tuesday the bombing of a tourist bus in Egypt’s Sinai that killed two South Koreans and the Egyptian driver on Sunday was a suicide attack carried out by one of its fighters, and threatened more strikes against economic targets. The attack on the bus, which was travelling to Israel from St. Catherine’s Monastery, a popular tourist destination in the south Sinai, was the first assault on tourists since President Mohamed Mursi's ouster spurred an Islamist insurgency...

A visit to “Ethiopia’s Lourdes" (CNN) rance has Lourdes, India has the Ganges. Ethiopia, meanwhile, has Gondar. Situated about 450 miles north of Addis Ababa, encapsulated by hills and tall trees, and dotted with 17th-century relics from the city’s glory days (when it was the country’s capital), Gondar today can seem somewhat remote. During the religious festival of “Timket,” however, the city is inundated with pilgrims who come to re-enact the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, and take a dip in the holy waters at the historical Fasilides Bath...



14 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Committee, during a meeting at the Vatican on 13 February. The pope said the modern relationship between Jews and Catholics has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Maronite patriarch: negotiations for release of nuns have “stumbled” (ByzCath.org) The patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church said that the release of a dozen kidnapped Syrian nuns appeared imminent until recently. In December, Syrian rebel forces abducted the nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Taqla in the historic Christian village of Ma’loula, whose residents still speak Aramaic...

UN urged to act on humanitarian aid to Syria (New York Times) The hard-won humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs — the sole success that occurred during the peace talks in Geneva — cannot be considered “progress,” the United Nations’ top official for emergency operations said Thursday evening as she urged the Security Council to ensure that aid reach those who need it and aid workers can do their work without getting shot...

Peace talks continue in Geneva over Syria (Reuters) Warning that “failure” was staring him in the face, the Syria peace talks mediator said on Thursday that the United States and Russia had promised renewed support to keep their rival Syrian allies talking. U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi met senior diplomats from Washington and Moscow in Geneva, hoping the co-sponsors of the three-week-old negotiating process could bury their own deep differences over Syria and prevail respectively on the opposition and government to move ahead and compromise...

Pope Francis meets with American Jewish leaders, asks for prayers ahead of trip to Holy Land (CNS) Pope Francis asked leaders of the American Jewish Committee to pray for his May trip to Jerusalem, “so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace.” The modern relationship between Jews and Catholics, he said on 13 February, has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” Pope Francis noted that in 2015, the Catholic Church will mark the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with other religions. The document, the pope said, is “the sure point of reference for relations with our ‘elder brothers.’”...

Alcoholism, crime on the rise in Kerala (ABC.net) The southern Indian state of Kerala, often referred to as God’s own country, has the best socio-economic indicators in the country. But its alarming alcohol addiction is earning the state a name for all the wrong reasons as the crime rate there also increases. The god of choice here is Bacchus, the Roman deity of wine. Alcoholism, among all age groups, is on the rise and it’s taking a toll on the state’s 33 million-strong population. In fact, Kerala has earned the tag of India’s “booziest state”, with the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country...

Ethiopia’s church forests threatened (California Academy of Sciences) Northern Ethiopia is hardly known for its forests. Less than 5 percent of what once stood here remains, and what’s left is under constant threat. As in so many developing countries, much of Ethiopia’s natural landscape has been cleared for agriculture, and for harvesting timber and firewood. Fortunately, there are still hundreds of notable exceptions: bright green patches of forest surrounding the country’s churches. Protected as sacred sanctuaries, some of these forests are over fifteen hundred years old. They range in size from just five acres to more than 1,000. A direct result of the Orthodox Church’s mission to retain a green necklace around the place of worship — a veritable “home for all God’s creatures” — these forests have become the centerpiece in the struggle to conserve what remains of northern Ethiopia’s biodiversity...



12 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from September 2013, children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

Witnessing Syria’s war through the eyes of its children (PBS) Nearly three years into the fighting, more than 10,000 children have been killed, 3 million have been displaced from their homes, and another 1.1 million now live as refugees, according to a recent United Nations report. Amid such turmoil, the notion of a normal childhood has all but disappeared for the young bystanders of war featured in last night’s FRONTLINE investigation, Children of Aleppo

Patriach headed to Vatican for talks (iloubnan.info) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter left Beirut on Tuesday morning, bound for the Vatican, where he will be staying for two weeks for talks with the Supreme Pontiff and to take part in the papal committees’ meetings. “I have one wish which I insist to express: If a cabinet were to be formed, it should not pave the way for a new crisis,” he said in a statement he had delivered prior to his departure…

Islamic extremists slaughter 15 soldiers in Northern Iraq (New York Times) Fighters from a Sunni extremist group attacked an army unit in a northern Iraqi city on Tuesday, killing 15 soldiers in a rampage of beheadings, shootings and a hanging, security officials said. The strike on the army unit in Mosul by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, showed how the group has moved beyond Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where it controls Falluja and parts of Ramadi, and extended its reach into territory throughout the country…

Governor of Basra vows to help Iraqi Christians return home (AsiaNews) Shiite leader Majid al Nasrawi, governor of Basra met with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I and vowed: “We will help Christians to return to the province, giving them a piece of land to cultivate and creating job opportunities and development for those who have fled in the past because of violence and insecurity…”

Russian church to be consecrated in Antarctica (Interfax) An expedition is traveling from Moscow to Antarctica to conduct a consecration of the southernmost Russian Orthodox church on earth…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Children Russian Orthodox Church Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

11 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti says he is inspired by the acts of Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Nick Schifrin reports. (video: Al Jazeera)

In West Bank settlements, Israeli jobs are double-edged sword (New York Times) The personal conflict that thousands of Palestinians face working for Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank is particularly stark for Hassan Jalaita, who for 18 years has repaired Israeli Army jeeps at the Zarfati garage here. Those are the very same jeeps that confront Mr. Jalaita at the checkpoint he crosses each morning — the same ones that sweep through villages where his friends and relatives live. But those jeeps also help pay his $1,471 monthly salary at Zarfati, more than triple the minimum wage in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, where a 19 percent unemployment rate and lack of labor laws make finding a decent job difficult. “I feel like I’m not a human being — we are serving the occupation,” said Mr. Jalaita…

Russian wives in Gaza long for home (Al Monitor) “I miss the scent of the forest. Sometimes, I feel that I can smell it.” This is what Svetlana Birova misses most from “Mother Russia” after 20 years in the Gaza Strip. “Although I miss my country, I consider my homeland to be where my husband, my son and my daughter Miriam are. I remember the difficulties I faced in the first years here because of the difference in cultures, but, with the help of my husband, I resisted homesickness,” Birova said. Birova isn’t the only Russian here in Gaza: There are more than 80 Russian women married to Gazan men living in the Strip. This is in addition to hundreds of other women from former Soviet states, according to the Compassionate Hearts Association, which is concerned with the affairs of these women…

Syria and rebels agree to extend rescue effort in city of Homs (Los Angeles Times) A plan to provide humanitarian aid to besieged residents in the Syrian city of Homs was extended Monday for three days, the United Nations announced, as a new round of Syrian peace talks began. The U.N. said the fresh cease-fire was reached to allow for the delivery of aid and the rescue of more civilians from Homs’ Old City, which is under rebel control and has been cut off from the rest of the city for almost two years. It came on the heels of a three-day effort that began Friday…

To protect Shiites, Hezbollah imposes its own checkpoints in Lebanon (Christian Science Monitor) The unusual sight of armed and uniformed Hezbollah men checking passing traffic underlines the fear and anger that has gripped Shiite areas of Lebanon amid an unprecedented spate of suicide bomb attacks that have left at least 40 people dead and nearly 300 wounded. It also raises the possibility of reciprocal checkpoints in Sunni areas, undermining the Lebanese army’s role as guarantor of internal stability. “The army said that if they allowed us to have checkpoints in Hermel they would have to allow the Sunnis to have checkpoints in Arsal,” a source close to Hezbollah says, referring to a Sunni town in the northeast Bekaa Valley that is a bedrock of support for the Syrian opposition…

Hundreds of Eritreans enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt (The Guardian) Hundreds of Eritrean refugees have been enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt in the past ten years, enduring weeks or months of violence and rape and extorted by traffickers often in collusion with state security forces. Some of the refugees have died, and many have been scarred for life — both physically and psychologically — as a result of mutilation, burning, beatings and sexual assault, according to dozens of testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch in a report published on Tuesday…

Ukrainian Catholic leader warns Ukraine could kick off new Cold War (RISU) If the United States and Europe abandon Ukraine or if they do not adopt a proactive policy, humanity may well be on the verge of a new Cold War, said Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on Chas Time, a U.S. news program broadcast by satellite to Ukraine…



Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict Eritrea

10 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees living in Jordan wait to receive humanitarian supplies in Amman on 5 February. Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan from the besieged central city of Homs said some people there are starving to death for lack of food. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Break in siege is little relief to Syrian city (New York Times) A three-day humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs was supposed to be a small breakthrough, a moment of relief for civilians trapped in a grim civil war. But mortar rounds and gunfire struck near aid convoys, damaging vehicles and leaving victims lying in the streets. Snipers fired on civilians as they fled their besieged neighborhood. Others refused to leave, fearing a massacre of those left behind. Limited food made it in, and some of the nearly 700 people who reached safety said they had been surviving on one meal a day and that some of their neighbors had resorted to eating grass…

Syrian town of Sednaya battles armed groups (Al Monitor) The damage caused by the battles on the way leading to the Sednaya monastery is not major: some crumbled rocks or burnt grass. However, inside the monastery, the magnitude of damage is striking — whether it is the broken glass or the multiple blows inflicted to the roof. The destruction was caused by missiles used by gunmen to try to bring down the bronze sculpture of Christ. It is not the first time that the monastery has been attacked. A year ago, mortar shells fell on it and there were attempts to infiltrate it. The latest attack was the fourth…

Gunman kills two at Orthodox cathedral in Russian far east (Los Angeles Times) A gunman opened fire on worshipers at a Russian Orthodox cathedral on Sakhalin Island off Russia’s Pacific coast, killing a nun and a parishioner in an attack that rattled nerves across the nation. The gunman’s motives were unknown, and investigators at the scene said the suspect, who was in custody, would be subjected to a mental health evaluation. Sakhalin Island is more than 4,000 miles from the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Russia is hosting the Winter Olympic Games amid intense security fears…

Pro-government protesters clash with opponents in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) A tense calm has returned to the streets of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, following clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators. It comes at a time when protesters are remembering those who died in more than two months of unrest. Amid tensions, some 90 wooden crosses can now be seen on the barricades in central Kiev, were anti-government protesters have demanded the resignation of the president…

Bosnia: ‘It’s just like Ukraine’ (Deutsche Welle) Anti-government protests in Bosnia died down (BBC) over the weekend. However, former German envoy to Bosnia Christian Schwarz-Schilling tells D.W. that the problems there won’t go away for some time. “Once the poverty level reaches a certain barrier, once pensioners no longer receive their pensions, when teachers no longer receive their salaries and policemen aren’t paid — which is on the horizon — then a violent movement is more than likely to emerge. … It’s just like with Ukraine. There, the international community woke up only after a critical situation arose. The same thing will happen in Bosnia…”

Ecumenical patriarch delivers speech on dialogue and peace (Hurriyet Daily News) “Human conflict may well be inevitable in our world; but war and violence are certainly not,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. “The pursuit, however, of dialogue and peace calls for a radical reversal of what has become the normative way of survival in our world. It demands a transformation of values that are deeply seeded in our hearts and societies, hitherto determining our relationship with those who challenge our worldview or threaten our lifestyle. Transformation in the spiritual sense is our only hope of breaking the cycle of violence and injustice…”



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russia Bosnia and Herzegovina





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