Born in Beirut, Lebanon on August 31, 1950 (Son of Fawzi Francis Kobti and Verginie Elias El-Sharif). Studied at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem from 1963-1975. Worked as a teacher at Terra Santa College 1973-1974 (Franciscan Fathers of the Custody of the Holy...Read More
Seeking truth and justice
At five o’clock in the evening today – and every day – in Finland, church bells are ringing across the country, symbolizing people’s sadness and solidarity with the people of Aleppo, Syria.
The war-torn city of Aleppo has been embroiled in violence as air attacks continued this week. Scores of civilians have perished while marketplaces and medical facilities have been reduced to rubble.
Reacting to this situation, a member of the Kallio Parish in Helsinki had the idea to ring the church bells to commemorate the victims in Aleppo, explained Lari Lohikoski, director of digital communication in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. That parish asked others to join, setting a time of 5 p.m. every day through 24 October, United Nations Day.Read More
The Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan, October 4, 2016 – Franciscan Minister General Fr. Michael Perry, alongside the superior of the Franciscans based in Syria and Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Francesco Patton, on Tuesday, October 4, issued a statement calling on the international community to take the necessary measures to help bring relief to the people of Aleppo.Read More
Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance, writes:
It is Kafkaesque.
Five psychiatrists from the Gaza Community Mental Health Program were invited to attend the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry that starts this Monday in New York City. Their goal there, at UPenn Medical School in Philadelphia and at Sheppard-Pratt Hospital in Baltimore is to learn about breakthroughs in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They return home by November 10th.Read More
Patriarchal Residence – Atchaneh, Lebanon, October 1, 2016
At the invitation of His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and the Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, the Holy Syriac Orthodox Synod of Antioch convened from September 27 to October 1st, 2016.
The members of the Holy Synod, discussed the matters listed on the agenda. The most important matters discussed are:
1- The situation of Christians in the Middle East and the persecution which they face as well as forced migration due to the war in Syria and Iraq. The Fathers prayed for peace in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. They urged the International Community to seriously seek immediate peaceful solutions for the conflicts, and to work hard to liberate the two abducted Archbishops of Aleppo Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, who are forcefully kept away from us and from their Archdioceses. Moreover, the Fathers demanded the international organizations to help Christians remain in their homeland and live in dignity. They urged the Syriac faithful to remain in the Middle East and expressed their commitment to help their people in all possible ways to live in dignity, preserving their roots in the land of the forefathers. The Fathers affirmed the importance of the ecumenical relations among the churches and the Christian-Muslim dialogue that deepen the peaceful coexistence based on the principle of equal citizenship. Therefore, it was decided to convene a conference in which the Fathers of the Holy Synod will participate as well as selected specialists and experts in politics, economy, and social sciences who will be invited from the different Archdioceses of the Church throughout the world. The conference will study and discuss the current situation and the future of Christians in general and Syriacs in particular, in the Middle East.
2- The Fathers urged the politicians in Lebanon to elect a new president for Lebanon, after more than two years without a president. They also demanded the endorsement of a new electoral law that is fair and just to all components in Lebanon.
3- Concerning the injustice directed against our Syriac people in Iraq by not listing the Syriac name as a distinct ethnicity in the new Iraqi constitution and the new national card, the Fathers demanded the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Parliament to correct this injustice and list the name “Syriac” in the Iraqi constitution, not just as language, but as an ethnicity and essential component of the people of the Republic of Iraq.
4- The Fathers discussed matters related to the Syriac Orthodox Archdioceses and studied the reports of their Eminences the Archbishops concerning their Archdioceses and the challenges that they face in the homeland and in the diaspora. They also studied the situation of monastic life and its future in the Syriac Church. They listened to the reports submitted by the patriarchal departments and commended their work. The Fathers expressed their appreciation of the hard work that His Holiness is doing in helping the Syriac emigrants, as well as his visits to the refugees from Syria and Iraq and the faithful of the Church throughout the world. They valued his advocacy to support Christians in the Middle East and his efforts to release the two abducted Archbishops of Aleppo through attending conferences and meetings with presidents and world leaders from different countries as well as Christian religious leaders. In turn, His Holiness thanked all the Archbishops for their help to the persecuted Christians in the Middle East through their moral and financial support. He commended the efforts to help the Syriac families settle in the diaspora by welcoming the refugees and immigrants, offering them help and assistance when needed.
5- The Fathers congratulated His Holiness for being elected President of the Middle East Council of Churches during the recent XI General Assembly which took place in Amman from September 5 to 8, 2016.
The Fathers prayed for peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, asking the Lord to end the war in the Middle East and bless the efforts of all the peace makers:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are called sons of God” (Matthew 5: 9).Read More
By Elise Harris
Erbil, Iraq, Oct 17, 2016 / 11:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a ground offensive to retake Mosul from the clutches of Islamic State, a priest working in the thick of the country’s refugee crisis said people are happy with the advances, but unsure what the future will hold.
“We are so happy because yesterday the war began between the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga with ISIS,” Father Roni Momika told CNA Oct. 17.Read More
The Israeli Ministry of Health issued regulations on the 1st of August 2016, allowing Palestinians holding family unification permits to access health services with the condition of making a retroactive “initial payment”. If the person applying for family unification holds a “permanent residency”, i.e. Jerusalem ID, his/her partner need to be holding a family unification permit for 27 consecutive months and to pay an “initial payment” of 7,695 NIS to access health services. On the other hand if the applier holds an Israeli citizenship, his/her partner need to be holding a family unification permit for 6 months and pay 1,710 Nis, which constitutes a clear discrimination against the Palestinian residents living in East Jerusalem. Those new regulations are part of an ongoing Israeli policies against Palestinians aiming at denying them their basic rights, including right to health services.Read More
The Society of St. Yves, Catholic Center for Human Rights, held a film launching event for its short movie entitled “Right to exist?!” at Yabous Cultural Centre, in Jerusalem. The launching witnessed the participation of Patriarch Emeritus, his Beatitude Michel Sabah, in addition to a number of diplomatic missions and representatives, civil society and church organizations as well as UN organizations.Read More
by Beth Greenfield
Ani Apelian was living the good life with her husband and son in the small Syrian-Armenian resort town of Kessab — operating the family’s organic olive oil soap factory, managing various rental properties, and heading a local Christian school — until it all ended abruptly on a chilly March morning in 2014. That’s when al-Qaida rebels seized the town and her family fled for their lives. After a quick stay in Dubai with Ani’s daughter, they resettled with her brother in Corona, Calif., with nothing of their own. But when Ani’s husband stumbled upon an Avon employment ad when he was searching for work, she thought, “I can do that,” and she applied to be an independent sales representative. Now, she tells Yahoo Beauty, it’s her lifeblood. She’s part of the changing face of Avon’s sales force of 400,000 — along with one entire team made up mostly of Colombian immigrants. Looking to them and others, Ani, 59, says, “It gives me hope that I can be something again one day.” Here, in her own words, as told to Yahoo Beauty, is Ani’s story:Read More
On the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, all of Israel shuts down. A silence full of penitence and reflection.
October 12: a silence full of penance for all of Israel. A solemn day, the most important of the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur.Read More
The tenor is one of fatigue and cynicism, which does a disservice to readers and to the cause of honest journalism.
by Barbara Erickson, September 27, 2016
One month into his stint as New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, Peter Baker has struck a world-weary tone: In his telling, the turmoil of Palestine-Israel is nothing more than an ancient feud, and the United Nations has grown tired of hearing about it from two intransigent leaders.
The effect of this jaded stance is to leave readers with the impression that Palestinians and Israelis face off over a level playing field and they have been doing so for millennia, two notions that serve to benefit Israel above all.Read More
But unconditional U.S. support for Israel negatively affects the situation.
— Bishop William Shomali
by Tony Magliano*
(Catholic News Agency) September 29, 2016 – Recently I emailed questions to the auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bishop William Shomali, asking him to share his first-hand insights regarding the many injustices and violent environment in the land of the Prince of Peace. He graciously sent back a recorded audio response upon which this column is based.
Bishop Shomali said one of the most pressing problems facing Palestinians is Israeli imposed restrictions on movement. For example, he said Palestinians living in Bethlehem or Ramallah need to obtain a permit to go just six miles to Jerusalem. And permits are only given during principle feasts.
He said the ongoing illegal building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories is an extremely serious roadblock to a peaceful solution.Read More
Tina Basem, editor of This Week in Palestine, writes:
About half of our Palestinian brothers and sisters live outside of historical Palestine – and many of them not by their own choice. The plight of refugees is gaining in poignancy and we must remember that for them, we can make a difference through much-needed aid, support, and activism!
This issue, however, focuses on the diaspora outside of refugee camps. Many of its members left to escape hardship or against their free will as well. Most have adapted to their new surroundings in ways refugees never could, established successful businesses, built careers in a variety of fields, and reached high levels of education, wealth, and prestige. We in Palestine look to them for support under increasingly difficult economic and political conditions (although some are “fed up with requests for aid,” as one of our authors was told of a successful business empire). But to be fair, many members of the Palestinian diaspora are deeply committed and, or eager to help. Much gratitude goes to these businesswomen and –men, to the volunteers and activists for their support and engagement!Read More
At the Met, a captivating show displays the visual evidence of a time and place roiled by dozens of ethnic and religious constituencies.
By Peter Schjeldahl, staff writer at The New Yorker and the magazine’s art critic
“Jerusalem, 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven,” at the Metropolitan Museum, is a captivating show of some two hundred objects from the era of the Crusades. There are manuscripts, maps, paintings, sculptures, architectural fragments, reliquaries, ceramics, glass, fabrics, astrolabes, jewelry, weapons, and, especially, books—in nine alphabets and twelve languages. The works, from sixty lenders in more than a dozen countries, express the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian cultures of the time, the three great Abrahamic faiths sharing a city holy to them all, when they weren’t bloodily contesting it.Read More
On this day, all over the United States, a routine ceremony of colonization takes place. If we see today as a celebration of Christopher Columbus and his legacy and not of Standing Rock, then Palestine will have a long road to freedom.
At FOSNA, we see Christianity as a vehicle to liberate the oppressed, challenge modern empires the way Rome was once challenged, and construct justice for the present and the future. It is a theology in direct opposition to the church that accepted the Doctrine of Discovery—exploited by Columbus—and the Christian Zionism that is sustaining the Israeli state. We wrote this statement of solidarity with the indigenous protectors because we know that the destruction of Native American land and sacred sites goes hand in hand with the demolition of Palestinian homes and farms.Read More
“They can change facts on the ground with the building of settlements, expropriation of land, and expulsion of families from homes.”
by Justin Salhani, World Reporter at ThinkProgress focusing on human rights
Up until quite recently, colonialism was not seen as a bad thing. For at least a few hundred years, colonialism was assumed to benefit native and indigenous peoples. Predominately European colonizers viewed other people as “uncivilized,” and often rationalized colonialism with the idea that they were bestowing civilization upon savages.
It’s through this lens that Americans have celebrated Columbus Day since the 1930s. But with the realization that the Native American people may not have appreciated acts of genocide or ethnic cleansing, Columbus Day is now increasingly being shunned for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
But the struggle of indigenous activists isn’t limited to the Americas. Much as the Native Americans view Columbus Day, the Palestinian people view the creation of the state of Israel, a day they commemorate on May 15 each year as youm al-Nakba, which means “day of catastrophe” in Arabic.
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared Israel a state. “We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called Israel,” he said at a reception at the time.Read More
“His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” (Balfour Declaration – 1917);Read More
FOSNA is proud to launch the national tour No Child Behind Bars: Living Resistance from the US to Palestine. This January, we will have the honor of introducing Ahed Tamimi and Amanda Weatherspoon to congregations and communities around the United States.
Ahed Tamimi is a 15-year-old girl from Nabi Saleh, Palestine. She loves soccer and dance but, because of the Israeli occupation, she spends most of her Fridays participating in nonviolent resistance with her family, neighbors, and international allies. By the time Ahed was 8 years old, she was protesting attacks from settlers of the nearby Halamish settlement. The Israeli military fired tear gas and detained residents of the village, and even used live fire in her village. Ahed lives under this state violence every day, but she remains positively fearless!
Amanda Weatherspoon is a Unitarian Universalist minister in California. Her ministry is centered on collective liberation. Amanda is pursuing human rights work domestically and internationally, and is organizing toward black liberation.Read More
October 7, 2016 Burlingame, California – Nine Palestinian marathoners, who normally train in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will be running through the streets of Mountain View and Cupertino on Thursday Oct. 13th to convince Google and Apple to add hundreds of missing Palestinian villages to their maps.Read More
Documentary aims to show struggle for peace in West Bank town (scroll down for Sept. 26, 2016, message from Sr. Paulette)
by T.K.Barger | BLADE RELIGION EDITOR, Feb. 13, 2016
Sister Paulette Schroeder, a Tiffin Franciscan, was in Hebron in 2010 to monitor the interactions between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and residents of the Palestinian city in the West Bank.
The Israeli-controlled section of Hebron has security checkpoints. Soldiers also give protection to Israeli settlers.
Providing a nonviolent presence by being a monitor at the checkpoints was Sister Paulette’s job as a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team organization.Read More
Messina, Italy, October 6, 2016 – All 13 of the women on the Women’s Boat to Gaza are currently in the process of deportation after being captured by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and detained in a prison at Ashdod. Wendy Goldsmith, a member of the land team working to secure the release of the women stated that, “the deportation was much quicker than in prior flotillas. While we had a great legal team assisting the women, we suspect that the reason for the quick release was because of all the negative media attention Israel has been receiving for its illegal interception.”Read More
“Yet a new page was added today to the glorious heroic heritage of the IDF. A large and complex operation was implemented, deploying the most elite of combat troops, aimed at capturing on the high seas a small rickety boats, on board which were sailing thirteen unarmed women” says Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc. “The mission was successful. The IDF’s might was quite sufficient to stop women peace activists from all over the world and prevent them from realizing their plan to dock at the port of Gaza, get ashore and hold a friendly meeting with Gazan women. Well done, IDF! “Read More
Paul Hadweh, from a Palestinian Christian family in Beit Jala, is teaching a course he authored at UC Berkeley
byin Newsweek, Oct. 5, 2016
For a Palestinian insurgent supposedly determined to see Israel destroyed, Paul Hadweh looks remarkably like his fellow students at the University of California, Berkeley. I met the 22-year-old senior on the rooftop of a campus building, overlooking the expanse of San Francisco Bay, which glimmered in the pure light of late afternoon. He wore gray Converse sneakers, stylish jeans and a teal T-shirt. On the table beside him lay an iPhone, earbuds coiled, and a packet of loose tobacco. He could have been just another kid, except a nervous energy radiated from him like steam. This was understandable, for in the last month, Hadweh has been depicted as an enemy of Israel, one dangerous enough to allegedly warrant intervention from the country’s government.Read More
…We will resolve the problem of Jerusalem at a later date in two stages, rather than in one…. In the first stage, each religion will be responsible for its holy sites. The UN General Assembly will formulate and approve all the details. The agreement will be placed before it, as a kind of global statement, laying out the way forward. All the nations of the world will be partners in this agreement and act accordingly.
by Ben Caspit, columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse, also a senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers and host of a daily radio show and regular TV shows on politics and Israel
(Al Monitor) October 3, 2016 – If Shimon Peres had heard the definitive eulogy that US President Barack Obama delivered over his grave, he would have swooned. The president spent 25 precious hours, most of them in flight, after canceling all his Sept. 30 appointments to attend Peres’ funeral. As Obama stood before Peres’ coffin, he said, “In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I’ve had the honor to meet … leaders who … find no need to posture or traffic in what’s popular in the moment; people who speak with depth and knowledge, not in sound bites. They find no interest in polls or fads … [who] could be true to [their] convictions even if they cut against the grain of current opinion.” These remarks were directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was sitting beside him, in the front row. Peres himself could not have said it any better.Read More
[Obama’s] options are small in number. The Congress belongs to Israel. It is, as Pat Buchanan once said, “bought and paid for”. Mainstream TV and print media, likewise. Cable television, ditto.
American Christian churches? Also bought and paid for in guilt chits and free trips. What Obama gets from the churches are resolutions issued periodically.
On January 20, 2017, Barack Obama will give up his presidency, leaving him fifteen weeks to fuss and fume over his inability to dislodge the Israeli elephant which sits on his back.
For evidence of that elephant’s heavy and humiliating presence, start with Bibi Netanyahu’s latest in-your-face insult to the departing Obama.
Ha’aretz announced the news Wednesday under the headline: “U.S. Blasts Israel’s Plan for New West Bank Settlement, Says Netanyahu Broke His Word”.Read More
September 26, 2016
Dr. Maria Khoury writes from Taybeh:
We were very blessed to have passed a peaceful and successful Taybeh Oktoberfest this past weekend. I am extremely grateful for your prayers.
We had thousands of people attend the two day event and honored by the presence of the American Consul General to Jerusalem at the opening celebration along with many other dignitaries.
Glory be to God that it was another amazing festival in the village. We pray and hope all of you are well and experiencing all of God’s blessings.Read More
Letters from Donna Baranski-Walker, Rebuilding Alliance, and Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Director, Haqel
To all who are celebrating the Jewish New Year, I send wishes of Shana Tova, a good year. In this time of reflection, I am forwarding an important message from Rabbi Arik Ascherman, now director of a new Non-Governmental Organization called Haqel — Jews and Arabs In the Defense of Human Rights. I join Rabbi Arik in asking everyone, of all faiths and backgrounds, to click here, now, to send a letter to the leaders of the Jewish National Fund to urge them to stop planting trees to remove the villagers of the Bedouin village of Al Araqib from their homes and their land in the Negev in Israel. Their homes have been demolished 103 times so far. They need all of our help.Read More
Highest participation ever by diaspora and Israeli representatives
by Lisa Palmieri-Billig, Representative in Italy and Liaison to the Holy See, American Jewish Committee (AJC)
(Vatican Insider) Assisi, September 24, 2016 – Jewish religious leaders from all over the world gathered in Assisi last week on a sunny day, thirty years after the historic multi-religious summit for peace called by John Paul II. In 1986 there was only a small delegation of Roman Jews led by Rome’s former Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff intent on a “Limud” study-prayer session during the various separate but simultaneous prayers of delegates of the world’s major religions. I was privileged to be with the Jewish group and remember having offered my coat to cover the back of the other Jewish delegate, Dr. Joseph Lichten, an elderly Polish diplomat in exile. It was bitter cold, with a biting “tramontana” wind blowing. We marveled at the steadfastness of the bare-chested American Indian who unflinchingly withstood the harsh weather. At the time, we felt an initial, timid and partially diffident hope, that has since evolved into major commitments.
Today, more and more Jews, along with followers of other faiths, recognize that inter-religious diplomacy or “the spirit of Assisi” — religion used as a force for good and as an ally for peacemakers — is a major and powerful antidote against religious extremism and terrorism. Its special political and spiritual symbolism at last week’s three-day St. Egidio commemoration entitled “Thirst for Peace” was expressed by the presence of Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella at the opening and Pope Francis’ personal participation on the final day.Read More
(Wikipedia) The Assisi Underground: The Priests Who Rescued Jews is a 1978 novel written by Alexander Ramati based on a true-life account, told by Father Rufino Niccacci, of events surrounding the Assisi Network, an effort to hide 300 Jews in the town of Assisi, Italy during World War II.
In the Italian town of Assisi during World War II, 300 Jews were sheltered and protected by a peasant turned priest, Father Rufino Niccacci. He dressed many of them as monks and nuns, taught them Catholic ritual, and hid them in the monasteries. Others lived in parishioners’ homes and, with fake identity cards, found jobs and blended into the community. The town’s printing press, which during the day printed posters and greeting cards, at night clandestinely printed false documents that were sent by courier to Jews all over Italy.
Not a single refugee was captured in Assisi. No one who participated in the rescue operation ever betrayed it.Read More
The director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan shares his reflections on this year’s peace meeting in Assisi
by Fr.Rif’at Bader, Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan
Assisi, September 29, 2016 – The world marks this week the 30th anniversary of the first “universal” prayers held in the city of Assisi, south of the Italian peninsula, which Pope John Paul II had called for, and which witnessed the participation of a large number of representatives of different religions and Churches.
Today, the leaders of religions ride the “train of peace” heading from Rome to Assisi for the first ever reason, namely the prayer for peace under the title, “Thirst for Peace.”Read More
“Torrents of blood and tears have been shed here as Georgia was constantly the arena of invasion; however, this small oasis of Christianity has survived having maintained its identity, but at the cost of the heaviest sacrifice”
Below is the text of the address given by Patriarch IliaII at the visit of Pope Francis this evening to the Svietyskhoveli Patriarchal Cathedral in Mskheta.Read More