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June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
22 June 2018
Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service




The life-size icon of St. Ephrem, the patron saint of the Syriac Catholic Church, is seen in this undated photo. The icon features stanzas from the liturgy and prayers in Syriac text and notes. (photo: CNS/courtesy of Mothana Butres)

When Islamic State fighters overran Qaraqosh, Iraq, in the summer of 2014, Mothana Butres was able to grab only a single volume from his father’s collection of thousands of Syriac books and manuscripts.

The handwritten, 600-year-old book of Syriac hymns now inspires much of Butres’ work as an iconographer.

From a modest walk-up apartment in Zahle, Lebanon, a city not far from the Syrian border, the Syriac Catholic iconographer and refugee creates his sacred art in a sparsely furnished living room. As he works, he sings the hymns he has committed to memory from the sole book he managed to save.

Butres is the creator of the Our Lady of Aradin icon, a centerpiece of the first Catholic shrine dedicated to persecuted Christians. The shrine is housed in St. Michael’s Church in New York City and was dedicated on 12 June.

“The inspiration when I was working on Our Lady of Aradin was that it was the Virgin Mary who was protecting the Christians,” Butres told Catholic News Service.

He chose to present Mary in the traditional wedding dress of the Aradin area of Iraq “to represent that the Virgin Mary will always be a part of the Christians in Iraq and that she is the protector of Christians in Iraq and all the Middle East,” Butres said.

He said that when faced with an ultimatum by Islamic State fighters, Iraq’s Christians gave up their land but refused to give up their faith.

“The people who were persecuted, their blood is a stronger message than anything I could ever convey,” he said. But the recent persecution and the oppression suffered by his ancestors led him “to the way I think and the way I do my work.”

Butres said he believes his icons can be an instrument for intercessory prayer. The prayers of the people who visit the shrine in New York and pray before the icon of Our Lady of Aradin are joined with those of the persecuted Christians.

“Based on what Jesus told us, that ‘if two people are gathered in my name, I will be among them,’“ he said.

The Syriac book Butres treasures from his father’s library collection also awakened him to the lost practice of writing books by hand, especially in the Syriac language, which is spoken by Christians in certain areas of Syria and Iraq, including Qaraqosh. Syriac also is used in the liturgy of some Eastern churches, including the Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox and Maronite Catholic churches. The language is related to Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

“I’m trying to revive the value of the handwritten texts. Books used to be handwritten,” Butres said.

As part of an ongoing personal project, Butres intends to write out the entire Bible in Syriac on a long scroll of leather just over a foot wide. In three months of work, the tiny, intricate text he has etched extends 16 feet in length and comprises the first five chapters of the Old Testament.

“I believe that in writing out the Bible, we can discover it in a new, deeper perspective, more than just reading it,” he said.

In his icons, Butres often incorporates streams of handwritten text related to the image, which contributes to preserving the Syriac language, heritage and spirituality. The icon of Our Lady of Aradin, for example, includes the Hail Mary in Syriac.

Butres’ introduction to iconography began at age 12; a deacon at his church in Qaraqosh taught him the ancient art as well as formulas for producing colors and varnishes from natural products, for example, using eggs and wine for shades of red, using beeswax for varnish and using deer musk to give the icon a scent.

Prayer and religious formation were part of Butres’ daily life growing up in a Syriac Catholic family as one of 16 children.

“We were very close to the church,” said. “Every day at dusk, we went to the church to pray,” he recalled, adding that for “anyone who didn’t participate, there was no dinner.” The same went for missing Sunday Mass: no lunch and dinner.

That pious upbringing fostered vocations, he said. One of Butres’ sisters became a Dominican nun. His brother, Nimatullah, is a priest serving the Syriac Catholic Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance, which is based in Bayonne, New Jersey. Father Butres attended the dedication ceremony for the Our Lady of Aradin shrine in New York.

The artistic Butres became a deacon at age 20 and studied theology at Holy Spirit University in Lebanon, earning a bachelor’s degree.

Butres intended to complete his master’s degree in theology, carrying out his research in Qaraqosh, but had to abandon all he had accomplished there when Islamic State attacked his childhood home.

That home, overtaken, gutted and ruined by Islamic State, is under repair now. From Lebanon, Butres created the Our Lady of Qaraqosh icon as a gift for his family, intending it as “a protector of the house where she was always present.”



Tags: Syria Iraq Icons

22 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis speaks about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, in an audience with members of ROACO. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope: Middle East is a ‘crossroads of suffering’ (Vatican News) ”The Middle East today is a crossroads of difficult situations, suffering,” Pope Francis said on Friday, in unscripted remarks to representatives of ROACO, the Reunion of Aid Agencies to the Oriental Churches (Italian: “Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali”). ROACO coordinates assistance and provides funding for initiatives that aid Eastern Catholic churches. In his extemporaneous comments, Pope Francis warned that there is the risk of “eliminating Christians” from the Middle East although he was careful to say that this did not mean this was anyone’s intention…

Report: Only ten Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria resettled in U.S. In 2018 (Christian Post) As the Trump administration has promised to help Christians and other religious minorities who faced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State, the U.S. government has resettled only ten Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria since the beginning of 2018…

Gaza border communities economically battered by kite fires (The Jerusalem Post) Gaza border communities are facing a new type of attack unlike rocket salvos from Hamas. Today, flaming kites and explosive condoms have scorched farmlands in nearby areas, backed-up highways as police sappers close roads to defuse incendiary devices, and led to a wave of canceled guests at local hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. While the burning kites have yet to kill or maim any Israeli civilians, they are increasingly inflicting an economic toll...

Syrian refugees creating items for IKEA (Mental Floss) After debuting the Tilltalande Collection at its Amman, Jordan location last year, IKEA is finally bringing it to the U.S. As Curbed reports, every item in the collection was created by women from Jordan and refugees from Syria. The new line is a collaboration between IKEA and the Jordan River Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Jordanians, especially women and children…

Meet Maxim, the champion powerlifting Russian Orthodox priest (Metro.co.uk) This is Maxim Pastuhov. He’s a Russian Orthodox priest… and also a champion powerlifter. When he’s not tending to his flock in Belgorod Oblast, Russia, the 41-year-old is down the gym getting busy with dumbells and barbells. Despite only having started weight training seven years ago, he’s already gained the title of “master of sport” — a prestigious title across Russia and former Soviet countries. ‘Weightlifting is a sport and is just my way of life,’ Maxim says…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Vatican Russian Orthodox

21 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis attends an encounter at the World Council of Churches' ecumenical center in Geneva on 21 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope in Geneva: ‘Our differences must not be excuses’ (CNS) Not only God, but today’s broken, divided world is begging for unity among Christians, Pope Francis said on an ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva. ”Our differences must not be excuses,” he said, because as Christ’s disciples, Christians can still pray together, evangelize and serve others…

Pope Francis flies to Geneva on ‘ecumenical pilgrimage’ (Vatican News) Pope Francis Thursday morning flew to Geneva to join the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a 350 member-group that is present in more than 110 countries and territories, making it the largest umbrella group of Christian denominations in the world. The WCC represents over 500 million Christians and includes most of world’s Orthodox Churches, a large number of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed Churches, as well as many United and Independent Churches…

Horrific details of chemical attack left out from U.N. report (The New York Times) At least twice this year, the Syrian military fired Iranian-made artillery shells filled with a chlorine-like substance that oozed poison slowly, giving victims just a few minutes to escape. In another attack, Syrian forces dropped a chemical bomb on the top-floor balcony of an apartment building, killing 49 people, including 11 children. Their skin turned blue. These details and others blaming Syria for atrocities in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, were uncovered by a United Nations commission investigating and documenting possible war crimes in the seven-year-old conflict. But when the commission issued a report on Wednesday, the details were omitted…

Holy See: human trafficking is the ’largest manifestation of modern slavery (Vatican News) The Holy See says that human trafficking, the “largest manifestation of modern slavery”, can be defeated by “eliminating the culture of consumerism” and fostering a culture of encounter centered on respect for human dignity. Even as Pope Francis was visiting Geneva on Thursday, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva made the statement at a Human Rights Council in the Swiss city during a session on trafficking in persons…

On the trail of the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia (The Independent) I arrived in Ethiopia as an unlikely Indiana Jones figure. My brother and I were tracing the watery route of the Ark of the Covenant, which was allegedly brought to Ethiopia in 400 BC and then proceeded to take a tour of the lakes for the next 800 years…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Ecumenism

20 June 2018
Greg Kandra




The video above, produced by the Vatican, recently won an international prize for its treatment of issues affecting migrants and refugees. (video: Vatican News/YouTube)

Pope supports bishops’ criticism of ‘immoral’ immigration policy (CNS) Pope Francis said he stands with the U.S. bishops who recently condemned the Trump administration’s policy on immigration that has led to children being held in government shelters while their parents are sent to federal prisons. ”I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” Pope Francis said in an interview with the Reuters news agency, published online 20 June. “Let it be clear that in these things, I respect (the position of) the bishops’ conference…”

Report on war crimes in eastern Ghouta (Euronews.com) United Nations investigators have accused both government and rebel forces of committing war crimes in the clashes around eastern Ghouta…

Vatican awarded international prize for video on migrants, refugees (Vatican News) A Vatican video campaign on migrants and refugees has become an internationally-recognized best practice in promoting positive change in society through social advertising. The International Social Advertising Festival or Publifestival awarded its “Best Strategy in Social Action” prize to a video made by the Section for Migrants and Refugees of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Promotion. The video was produced by the agency La Machi Communication for Good Causes…

Church agencies rushing to help victims of monsoon in India (UCANews.com) Church agencies are rushing aid to thousands of people in northeast India after floods and landslides claimed at least 23 lives in the past week. The worst-hit villages are in the states of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, where floodwater caused by monsoon rains inundated homes and farmland in low-lying areas. Landslides have cut off roads in hilly areas while rivers are rising to dangerous levels, leaving hundreds of villages marooned…

Filmmaker looks at hidden Jews of Ethiopia (Canadian Jewish News) For hundreds of years, perhaps longer, Ethiopian Jews were known by their neighbors as Falashas, a pejorative term meaning “landless” or “wanderer” that made them out to be perpetual outsiders in the east African country, even though Jews have resided there for millennia. Facing discrimination, some converted to Christianity. Others did not and from the late 1970s through to the ‘90s, the community was brought to Israel in several airlifts, including Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. The Christian converts, known as Falash Mura, were brought to Israel later, although several thousand still remain in the capital, Addis Ababa, waiting to join their relatives in the Promised Land…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Vatican

19 June 2018
CNEWA staff




The cover of the March 2017 issue of the magazine was honored for Best Cover at the 2018 Catholic Press Association awards.

CNEWA’s magazine, ONE, won again.

The flagship quarterly publication took top honors, including Best Magazine (in the mission magazine category) at the 2018 Catholic Press Association awards last week in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The magazine won a total of 28 awards in categories that included writing, photography, editing and online newsletter. The magazine was cited for General Excellence in categories including Communications Director of the Year (3rd Place), Social Media Director of the Year (2nd Place), Best Electronic Newsletter (2nd Place) and Editor of the Year (Honorable Mention).

Citing the overall excellence of the publication, the award judges wrote:

“Year in, year out, this is an appealing magazine that features breath-taking photography, innovative design, and (above all) textbook storytelling. Excellent content and presentation. Clean, crisp, clear, illuminating and inspiring content with exceptional complements via pull quotes and photography. ”

The panel of judges included journalism professors from Marquette University, Loyola University, the University of Southern California and Spring Hill College, along with media professionals from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, among other places.

A complete list of the awards can be found below, with links to the winning stories:

First Place:

Best Magazine /Newsletter of the Year (Mission Magazine)

Best Cover (Color, Large): “March 2017 edition” by Staff

Best Single Photo (Color): “Priest vesting in Tarashcha, Ukraine” by Ivan Chernichkin

Best Multiple Picture Package (Share the Journey): Hard Choices by Raed Rafei

Best Coverage of Share the Journey: Hard Choices by Raed Rafei; When Iraqis Come Home by Raed Rafei; No Place Like Home by Emeline Wuilbercq

Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues (Life and Dignity of the Human Person): ‘This Is the Only Light’ by Gayane Abrahamyan

Best Web and Print Combination Package: Hard Choices; When Iraqis Come Home; Healing Wounds In Iraq by Raed Rafei

Second Place:

Social Media Director of the Year: Deacon Greg Kandra

Best Electronic Newsletter: “Discover ONE Online” by Paul Grillo and Gabriela Gaibor

Best Single Photo (Color): “Young parishioner at Holy Savior Catholic Cathedral in Adigrat, Ethiopia” by Petterik Wiggers

Best Multiple Picture Package (Feature Package) Head of the Class by Petterik Wiggers

Best Web and Print Combination Package: Hardship and Hospitality; Love Against All Odds in Zahleh; Life and Love in Lebanon by Raed Rafei

Best Coverage of Religious Liberty Issues Hard Choicesby Raed Rafei; Planting Seeds, Nurturing Faith by Mark Raczkiewycz; Anxiety in Cairo by Magdy Samaan and David Degner

Best Reporting of Immigration: No Place Like Home by Emeline Wuilbercq; Found in Translation by Michele Chabin; Hardship and Hospitality by Raed Rafei

Best Coverage of Share the Journey: Hardship and Hospitality by Raed Rafei; Love Against All Odds in Zahleh by Raed Rafei; The Displaced by Mark Raczkiewycz

Best Freestanding Presentation of Online Video (Feature): Relief United Fundraiser by Daniel Moreno

Third Place:

Communications Director of the Year: Michael J.L. La Civita

Best In-Depth/Analysis Writing (Best In-Depth Writing): Anxiety in Cairo by Magdy Samaan

Best Coverage of Share the Journey: Middle East Christians on the Move by ONE editorial staff; Escaping Syria by Gayane Abrahamyan, Found in Translation by Michele Chabin

Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues (Option for the Poor and Vulnerable): Where Hope is Kindled by Hazem Balousha

Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues (Solidarity): Charity’s Daughters by Magdy Samaan

Honorable Mention:

Editor of the Year: J.D. Conor Mauro

Best Cover (Color, Large): “December 2017 edition” by Staff

Best Single Photo (Color): “Students and priest under a tree in Ethiopia” by Petterik Wiggers

Best Photo Story (Feature Photo Story): Focus (June 2017) by John E. Kozar

Best In-Depth/Analysis Writing (In-Depth): Hard Choices by Raed Rafei

Best Story and Photo Package: No Place Like Home by Emeline Wuilbercq, Petterik Wiggers

Best Reporting on Social Justice Issues: (Option for the Poor and Vulnerable) Reaching the Margins by Don Duncan



Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine Catholic Press

19 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis meets a group of refugees in St. Peter's Square. (photo: Vatican News/Caritas Internationalis)

Pope sends message to migrants, refugees (Vatican News) In a message to participants at a lunch organized by Caritas Rome in the city’s main soup kitchen that caters for tens of thousands of poor people, many of them migrants and refugees, Pope Francis on Tuesday highlighted the importance and the value of “sharing” spaces, events and simple things like a meal, in order to overcome barriers and nurture feelings of brotherhood…

Caritas Europa advocates for ’safe and legal pathways’ for refugees (Vatican News) Pope Francis said on Sunday that World Refugee Day, promoted by the UN is meant “to call attention to the anxiety and suffering lived by those who are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution”. ”We stand for a Europe that provides durable solutions for people in need of protection”, Caritas Europa wrote in a statement released for World Refugee Day (20 June). They also call for “global responsibility” in reaching this goal so the burden on the shoulders of “countries already hosting the majority of refugees worldwide” can be shared…

UN: One in every 110 people in the world is forcibly displaced (The Telegraph) A record 68.5 million people have been forced flee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, notably in places like Myanmar and Syria, the UN said on Tuesday. By the end of 2017, the number was nearly three million higher than the previous year and showed a 50-percent increase from the 42.7 million uprooted from their homes a decade ago, according to a report by the UN refugee agency…

Indians fleeing persecution among those being detained in U.S. (The Oregonian) Of the 123 people now in Sheridan, the most populous nationality is not Honduran or Guatemalan, it is East Indian. Fifty-two listed India as their home country. Several identified themselves as Sikhs or Christians fleeing religious persecution from the Hindu majority. The East Indians told the delegation that their Hindi and Punjabi translators were the first outsiders they’ve been able to talk to since they were imprisoned weeks ago..

Rare 1,000-year-old amulet with Arabic blessing found in Jerusalem (LiveScience.com) Archaeologists discovered a 1,000-year-old clay amulet about the size of a dime at one of the oldest historical sites in Jerusalem. The tiny amulet belonged to a man named Kareem and is inscribed with a personal prayer, “Kareem trusts in Allah. Lord of the Worlds is Allah.” Teams from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University unearthed the rare ornamental piece beneath the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David, in Jerusalem Walls National Park. In the past decade, archaeologists have uncovered numerous artifacts, including precious stones and gold coins, beneath the Givati Parking Lot — the largest excavation site in Jerusalem…



Tags: India Jerusalem Immigration

15 June 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




In this 2012 photo, a young Ethiopian woman plans to be smuggled to Israel — an elaborate process that would require dressing in a veil; crossing into Sudan, then Egypt, likely being arrested; claiming to be Eritrean as a cover story to prevent being sent home; and linking up with another smuggler and finding her way to Israel, where she has friends currently working as domestic servants. For more details, read The High Cost of Leaving, from the May 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

In a world in which it seems there are ultimately no secrets, we tend to believe that if we haven’t seen it blaring on the news, it just does not exist or at least does not exist near me.

On the other hand, we also have the expression “hidden in plain sight.”

Human trafficking is one of those things “hidden in plain sight” — an injustice against human life and dignity that afflicts far too many in our world, and in the world CNEWA serves.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines trafficking as “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a person of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person for the purpose of exploitation” — such as prostitution or involuntary labor. Human trafficking is also commonly referred to as “contemporary forms of slavery.”

Although human trafficking is relatively unknown to many people in Western Europe and North America, it is a huge problem. DoSomething, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) created to educate about human trafficking and to end it, estimates that:

  • There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world

    • 80% for sexual exploitation

    • 19% for forced labor

  • 600,000 to 800,000 people — 80% of whom are woman and 50% children are trafficked across international borders annually

  • Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking)

Even the United States is not immune to this scourge. In 2017, 8,524 cases of human trafficking were reported across the U.S. Of this, more than 6,000 were for sex trafficking and more than 1,200 for forced labor. It is certain the number of cases reported is a small percentage of the actual trafficking going on. In addition, although there are some who dispute the statistics, it is estimated that cities where the annual Super Bowl is held often experience a spike in prostitution, a large part of which is carried on by girls and women in sexual slavery.

If this is the case in the developed world — where there are laws forbidding trafficking and law enforcement agencies to enforce those laws — one can only imagine the situation in countries where the rule of law has broken down and the fabric of society is badly rent.

One of the major works of CNEWA is to help and support refugees in the Middle East. While there is a difference in international law between smuggling people (of their own free will) into target countries and trafficking people (against their will), the distinction often blurs in regions where there are large populations of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. In some places, the situation is so bad that people in order to survive sell themselves or their children into what is, for all practical purposes, slavery. Very often people who believe they are being smuggled end up being trafficked.

In CNEWA’s world and elsewhere, it’s important to note that women religious have been at the forefront in the battle against human trafficking and sexual slavery. Both at the United Nations and on the ground, women’s religious communities have not only pressed for laws and international conventions against trafficking, they have also put their lives on the line in preventing it, rescuing those who have been trapped in all forms of slavery and trying to eliminate the causes which would bring people to sell themselves or their children into slavery.

Sister Winifred Doherty, RGS, a Good Shepherd sister, has worked with people at risk of becoming victims of trafficking in Ethiopia. She was interviewed by CNEWA for our magazine, ONE, in 2012. Sister Winifred summed up the situation in Ethiopia and the challenges so many women are facing:

“I think in Ethiopia, particularly in the rural areas, the situation of young girls is still critical,” she said. “Lack of education, lack of opportunities for childhood, then being forced to deal with many negative cultural practices like female genital mutilation, kidnapping and forced marriage. These practices don’t help to empower and promote women. This cycle must be broken. The poverty, lack of education, lack of good economic environment — this still has deep influences on women and continues to keep them in poverty.

Having said that, I think we have to look at the more positive things that have happened, through our own services, through the help of CNEWA, and through NGOs and other religious organizations that continue to empower women. So I prefer to look at it from the positive aspect. Changes are happening and are continuing to happen.”



Tags: Migrants human trafficking

15 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In recent message, Pope Francis urges justice, solidarity and compassion regardless of migration status. (video: Rome Reports)

What is the current state of the migration crisis in Europe? (The Guardian) Three years after Europe’s biggest influx of migrants and refugees since the Second World War, tensions between E.U. member states over how to handle irregular immigration from outside the bloc — mainly from the Middle East and Africa — are rising again…

Trauma forms the invisible ruins ISIS left behind on the Nineveh Plain (Crux) After the Islamic State was driven out of the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq in 2017, the scale of destruction left behind in a chain of historically Christian villages was staggering…

Iraq to rebuild Yazidi shrines in Sinjar (AINA) Iraq’s Ministry of Construction and Housing is rebuilding Yazidi shrines, administrative headquarters, and roads in Nineveh Province’s city of Sinjar, in what the ministry called a ‘major campaign,’ on Thursday…

Syria’s not waiting for peace to rebuild, and Iran wants to help (Al Monitor) Taking full control of the capital city of Damascus and the surrounding area for the first time since the civil war broke out in 2011 has given the Syrian government new impetus. That success also allows it to approach reconstruction of infrastructure and cities…

Church in Orissa prepares to commemorate anti-Christian massacres (Fides) The Catholic Church in the Indian state of Orissa, in eastern India, is preparing to celebrate the solemn commemoration of the victims of the anti-Christian massacres of 2008…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Migrants Yazidi

14 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2017 photo, Syrian refugee children play on the grounds of the Fratelli Association in Rmeileh village, which provides refugees with educational services. (photo: Philip Eubanks)

Lebanon witnesses rise in Syrian refugee child labor over past year (Daily Star Lebanon) Aid groups say more and more Syrian children are joining the workforce as poverty intensifies among about a million refugees living in Lebanon — roughly a quarter of the country’s population…

In Iraqi Christian village, ‘In God we trust’ isn’t just a slogan (Crux) Once a thriving Chaldean Catholic community, Qaramlesh today is the shadow of what it used to be, but many are working against the clock to make it what it was before summer ends…

Egypt sees rise in disappearances of Coptic Christian women (Christian Today) The disappearance of a number of Coptic Christian women in Egypt in recent months has sparked fears that they are being targeted for human trafficking…

U.N. slams ‘excessive’ Israeli force against Palestinians in Gaza (Al Jazeera) The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a resolution adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries. The 193-member world body rejected the United States’ efforts to blame Gaza’s Hamas rulers for the violence that has killed more than 120 Palestinians in the past two and half months…

U.N. condemns European countries’ refusal to take in migrants (Vatican News) The chief of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says a bitter dispute over which European country should take in a rescue boat carrying hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean “profoundly shameful” for the European Union…

Christians in the Nineveh Plain host evening meal with Muslim neighbors (Fides) On Tuesday, a community iftar was hosted in the city of Bartella, about ten miles from Mosul, at the local community center of the Syriac Orthodox Church. This evening meal interrupts the daily fasting Muslims undertake during Ramadan…

Ukraine’s Greek Catholic chief sees ‘no choice’ but dialogue with Russia (Crux) “For us, for the simple people, for the Christians, reconciliation means not only prayer for reconciliation, but also effective acts of reconciliation, because that is how we construct a peace for the next generation,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, in an interview with a small group of reporters…



Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Refugees Iraqi Christians Palestinians

13 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this August 2017 photo, a man shovels the road in Qaraqosh’s main commercial street, heavily destroyed by fighting between Islamic State militants and Iraqi coalition forces. (photo: Raed Rafei)

In post-ISIS Christian town, heroism and paradox both abound (Crux) Over the centuries, the Middle East has always been a land where expectations tend to experience especially tough collisions with reality, so it probably should be no surprise that a massive effort to rebuild the Christian village which was the epicenter of a brutal ISIS onslaught in 2014 has, at its heart, three grand paradoxes. Qaraqosh — or “Baghdeda” to Christians, who make up 96 percent of the population and prefer to use the city’s Aramaic name to reclaim their Christian identity — was the largest Christian community on the Nineveh Plains, a swath of land that overlaps the border between Iraq and Kurdish-controlled territory…

Georgian Prime Minister Kvirikashvili resigns (The Daily Star) Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday amid a disagreement with the leader of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is a former prime minister and the ex-Soviet country’s richest man. “We’ve had some disagreements with the leader of the ruling party,” Kvirikashvili said in a televised statement. “I think there is a moment now when the leader of the (ruling) party should be given an opportunity to staff a new cabinet.” Kvirikashvili, 50, has been prime minister since 2015…

U.N. votes on condemning Israel over Gaza violence (Al Monitor) The United Nations General Assembly will vote Wednesday on condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza in a resolution fiercely opposed by the United States. At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March…

Can Jordan’s new prime minister reform the government? (Washington Post) Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II appointed former education minister Omar Razzaz as the new prime minister after protests rocked the country. And Razzaz has already made several concessions to the protesters over taxes. But more interesting is that Razzaz said a “new social contract” will be a top item on his government’s agenda…



Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Georgia





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