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
It is time to turn the tide of injustice and oppression into the peaceful waves of justice and peace so that the God of peace, love, and compassion can be glorified and all of our peoples can live in peace and security.
“Do not be afraid…to you is born…a Savior” (Luke 2:10-11)
“Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9)
When we look at the state of our world today and the messy situation we find ourselves in, it seems ludicrous at this Christmas season to talk about peace on earth, love of neighbor, compassion for others, and joy and goodwill to all.
Tragically, we have been witnessing on a daily basis terror vs. terror, military power vs. military power, revenge and counter revenge, a hundred eyes for one eye, and inhuman behavior among people. Jesus Christ seems to have no place in the raging conflicts, and justice does not seem to stand a chance.Read More
The resolutions endorse the return to peace talks, denouncing settlements in disputed East Jerusalem and in support of the work of the UN Committee fighting for the rights of the Palestinian people.
by IMEMC News
November 30, 2015 – The overwhelming majority of General Assembly of the United Nations, Wednesday, voted on five draft resolutions in favor of Palestine. The decision comes after the Assembly discussed the two articles, “the Palestinian Cause” and “the Conditions in the Middle East.”Read More
November 28, 2015 – There is no such thing as “international terrorism”.
To declare war on “international terrorism” is nonsense. Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and probably both.
Terrorism is a weapon. Like cannon. We would laugh at somebody who declares war on “international artillery”. A cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the other.
Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war on “international resistance”.Read More
Bethlehem, November 28, 2015 – This is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people as declared by the United Nations general assembly ! But locally people see so little solidarity and Israel continues to violate basic human rights with impunity. For the past week, we mourned ten more young Palestinians killed, and we saw home demolitions, we saw the continued horrific siege of Gaza, we saw health and religious rights violated daily, and we saw roads blocked to traffic (getting from one Palestinian area to another is becoming impossible).Read More
November 28, 2015
Please note: Opinions expressed in the following articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.
THANKSGIVING PEACE AND BLESSINGS TO ALL
This week’s featured articles and links to other articles focus on the Daesh (ISIS) attacks on Paris, responses to these attacks, the present Israeli government’s opposition to any two-state solution, President Obama’s de-facto acceptance of this status quo, the reality that the Israelis and Palestinians are already living in a single state with freedom and equality only extended to Israelis, the present need for either a real peace move by Israel or the full occupation of the West Bank, and other articles of interest.Read More
A letter from Samia Khoury
Dear Family and friends:
November 29 is the day that the UN has designated for the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people This date is actually the commemoration of the UN resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 to partition Palestine. A resolution that ended up with the establishment of the state of Israel and the creation of the Palestinian Nakba which saw the exodus of around 750,000 Palestinians ending up as refugees in Jordan, East Bank, and West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Egypt, and the diaspora, and who were never allowed to return home in accordance with the UN general assembly resolution 194 adopted on December 11, 1948.Read More
(Catholic News Agency/EWTN) November 26, 2015 – The construction of a new church building in a Baghdad refugee camp has encouraged the camp’s inhabitants, as they now have a place for worship and for activities during the week.
According to Amigos de Irak (Friends of Iraq), a project of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, the church, named for the Virgin Mary, was dedicated during a Nov. 13 Mass.Read More
(World Council of Churches) 26 November 2015 – Five religious leaders from Christian and Muslim communities in Cyprus have released a joint statement deploring all forms of attacks in the name of religion on their island, and in the whole world, saying they cannot be justified.
The five religious leaders of Cyprus actively engaged in dialogue and peacebuilding, called the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP), released their statement on 25 November.
In their statement, the second in the history of Cyprus, the religious leaders “categorically condemn all forms of violence against innocent civilians.Read More
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) Tabgha, November 22, 2015 – The Benedictine Sisters of the Eucharistic King celebrated their annual feast in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves.
The Solemnity of Christ the King is observed in the Universal Church and is an occasion for celebrations in parishes, religious congregations and associations in the Holy Land.
The community of Benedictine Sisters of the Eucharistic King was no exception, as they celebrated their annual feast in Tabgha. For this occasion, Sister Leah and the five sisters of the Tabgha Convent invited Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel as the main celebrant of the Solemn Mass with Benedictine and Filipino priests. The German volunteers of Beit Noah assisted during Mass, and music was animated by the choir of the Divine Mercy Filipino Community at Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center in south Tel Aviv. Filipino religious Sisters from different congregations were present for this occasion along with over 150 Filipino migrants from Tel Aviv, Nazareth and Afula, Qiryat Shemona, Tiberias and Rosh Pina.Read More
The Iraqi parliament begins process to change the controversial bill, accepting the objections of Christians and other minorities. An act of “justice” and “equality” that equates all citizens. Mar Sako: This is an “important message” and a “test of our democracy”.
by Joseph Mahmoud
(AsiaNews) Baghdad, November 18, 2015 – “I am deeply satisfied with the Iraqi parliament’s decision to change” the controversial article 26 of the Constitution on the Islamization of children. “This decision shows support and is an important message for the minorities [Christian] in Iraq. It is also a clear demonstration of democracy” the Chaldean Patriarch caldeo Mar Louis Raphael I Sako tells AsiaNews. The religious leader is overjoyed by the Parliamentary Assembly decision to revise the norm under which children of a couple where one parent converts to Islam would automatically be considered Muslim. Yesterday, MEPs voted a resolution amending the norm, in response to requests made by the representatives of minorities, led by the Christian community.Read More
Western nations wanted to establish democracy in the Middle East after the 2003 occupation of Iraq, but Christians in Syria “understood the horror of the situation,” Younan said. “Since, there’s no real separation of religion from the state, our nations do not easily accept democracy,” he pointed out.
By Mairead McArdle
(CNSNews.com) November 24, 2015 – Western media have been “silent, cowardly and complicit” with the persecution of Christians by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the head of the Syrian Catholic Church, in a recent interview.
“This is not defending truth and justice, this is bowing down to those who pay and remaining silent,” Younan told Le Messager, an online Egyptian Catholic magazine, on Nov. 18.
“Innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us.”
The Syriac patriarch said that American, British, French and other Western politicians seem to want “an endless conflict in Iraq and Syria.”Read More
(Latin Patriarchate of Jersualem) November 24, 2015 – On Sunday November 22nd, 2015, a Mass took place in St. Catherine Church in Bethlehem in remembrance of victims who had fallen as a result of terrorist attacks in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, France, Russia, Mali and other countries. The Mass was organized at the request of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas by the municipality of Bethlehem, the Higher Committee for Churches’ Affairs in Palestine and the Latin Parish in Bethlehem.Read More
…it seems that instead of beginning with theology, a “practical ecumenism” that forces faith communities to confront shared problems in the world together is the best way forward.
by Christopher Hale
(Crux) November 20, 2015 – Last week I was in northern Iraq studying the work of World Vision and other Christian aid organizations in response to the refugee crisis in the Middle East. While there I spent time with a young priest who opened my eyes to the reality that when it comes to terrorism, not only do denominational lines not matter much, they might very well fade away when dealing with the realities of life inside a war zone.Read More
(abouna.org) Baghdad, November 20, 2015 – Iraqi President Muhammad Fuad Masum stressed, on November 19, that “the presence of Christians in Iraq is historical since they are an inherent component of the country.”
He added, while receiving the credentials of new Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin who conveyed the greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis, that “strengthening relations with the Vatican is a prime Iraqi concern.” He also reiterated “the importance of the presence of Christians in the country, of their positive role in the construction of Iraq, and of the preservation of religious and sectarian diversity.”Read More
Asks for More Help in Keeping Christians in Their Homeland
This report is contributed by Oliver Maksan and Clare Creegan of Aid to the Church in Need.
(Zenit) November 24, 2015 – A Lebanese archbishop has called on Europe to rethink the conflict in Syria following the attacks in Paris.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwish of Zahle and Furzol in Lebanon said he believed the attacks in France were inevitable.
“We have always known that ISIS is a danger to the whole world. But Europe hasn’t taken it seriously,” he said.
The archbishop said that the attacks by the Islamist terrorist organisation Daesh (ISIS) should cause Europe to rethink its policy with regards to the Syrian conflict.
Archbishop Darwish called for greater action, adding: “It’s time to fight ISIS together with the Syrian government: “Only then will we be able to see how to move on in Syria.”Read More
The 2016 United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week is coming and you can be one of the winners of the annual prizes and awards that are worth over $50,000. A prize will be given to each of the three best events or texts organized during the UN WIHW (first week of February) which best promote the goals of the WIHW. Start organizing and promoting your event(s) now to get a head start on the competition.Read More
Madani [Director of the Baptism Site Commission] noted that tourism in Jordan witnessed a decline with the unrest in the region, but the way forward is to promote Jordan as a safe zone that holds religious and historical significance.
by Suzanna Goussous
(The Jordan Times) November 21, 2015 – At a time when heritage is being destroyed in some countries around the world, local authorities are working to preserve historical sites in several areas of the Kingdom, officials said on Saturday.Read More
(abouna.org) November 22, 2015 – Hundreds of Christian youth in Jordan have explicitly announced their faith in the God of Life, the Living God, the God of Love and Peace, as well as their “disbelief” and renunciation of acts that tarnish the image of God by killing, destruction, and labeling others as infidels. They also expressed their rejection of all forms of terrorism.Read More
The church fully supports the Kremlin’s decision to intervene in Syria, both as a ‘war on terrorism’ and to protect Middle Eastern Christians it sees as its responsibility.
by Fred Weir
(Christian Science Monitor) November 23, 2015 – For many in the West, the idea that a church would take an overtly hawkish stance in the conflict in Syria is an utterly foreign concept.
But then, the Russian Orthodox Church is not of the West, says Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the church’s most recognizable spokesperson, in his spartan downtown Moscow office.
“The idea that church and state should be alienated from each other is not a characteristic of Orthodox civilization,” insists the wispy-bearded senior cleric, whose eyes almost seem to burn. “It’s a characteristic of the West.”Read More
No one usually bothers to link any of [the atrocious acts committed by Christians] to the belief system of the rank-and-file Christian faithful. No one thinks the little old lady sitting her pew reading Corinthians is responsible for any of that. No one thinks they need to answer for it, or justify it. Nor should we feel those who pray fives times a day in the direction of Mecca are somehow responsible for the acts of madmen, either.
By Frank Vyan Walton
(ailykos.com) November 22, 2015 – In the wake of attacks by the outlaw death cult Da’esh against a Russian airplane, in Beirut, and in Paris in recent days, a firestorm of debate has erupted over how to handle Syrian refugees as well as other Muslims. Suggestions run the gamut from multiple claims that only Christian Syrians should be allowed into the U.S., to arguments that mosques should be closed. Others have said Muslims should be marked and registered and that Islam is a philosophy of violence and murder.
The base argument has been that Da’esh and other terrorist death cults have all been Islamic and that this kind of barbarism is a unique and inherent portion of Islam, as one recent comment noted to me here:
Violent jihad was baked right into Islam by Muhammad himself, who used militancy to spread Islam.
Some argue this same militant streak is a base feature of Islam because of passages such as this:
Quran, 048:29: Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are firm of heart against the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves;
Yet the truth—which is often forgotten—is that the origins of Islam stem directly from both Christianity and Judaism, and that you can find similar passages in both the Old Testament and Talmud. You can also find more than a few Christian death cults not only in history, but in the present.
Buckle in, because listing just the highlights of radical extremist Christianity is gonna take some time.
Caritas Jerusalem denounces “the violations of the basic human rights and calls upon the international community to intervene and end the ongoing worsening situation that is taking lives day in and day out”.
(Agenzia Fides) Jerusalem, November 21, 2015 – With each passing day the people of the Holy Land “are losing any sense of empathy, any sense of mutual understanding of our common humanity and common future”. This is how the message released by Caritas Jerusalem begins in view of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, sent to Agenzia Fides. The text, signed by Fr. Raed Abusahlia, director general of Caritas Jerusalem, reaffirms that “peace must be built on rights for all and protection for all” because “the collective punishment of the Palestinians must cease immediately. Detention without charge or trial, home demolitions, closures at checkpoints and other methods that punish indiscriminately have devastating effects on the daily life of Palestinians and only increase animosity and intolerance”.Read More
Interview conducted by Manuella Affejee
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) November 23, 2015 – Some 240 000 dead – of whom 12 000 children – 12 million people need emergency relief, millions of refugees and displaced: that’s according to the latest statistics the record of the armed conflict which has hit Syria for the past four years.
Many Christian opted to flee away in huge numbers; many chose to stay, namely in Aleppo, in the North of the country, taken between two fires, namely that of Bachar Al Assad’s army and that of the rebels. Two priests and three nuns from the Institute of the Incarnate Word are there for the moment. It was for the purpose of visiting them that Fr Marcelo, Provincial of this Argentine Congregation, went to Aleppo.
How do you describe the situation over there?
There are many damaged neighborhoods round Aleppo. Rebels called “moderate” and fundamentalist surround the city. Sounds of shooting is heard regularly, exchange of fires, raids.Read More
It is the policy of Al-Bushra to include posts in which the language is civil and respectful; occasionally, however, exceptions are made. The following letter, written by a justifiably angry Antiochian Orthodox Christian priest, is his unedited response to Dr. Ben Carson’s reference to Syrians as rabid dogs. Please see below for a brief biography of Father Theodorus Daoud.
Dear rabid dog Dr. Ben Carson,
I hope this word will not offend you, doctor. If it does, I don’t care because you have offended each one of the 9 million Syrian refugees by calling them rabid dogs. You, along with every politician who caused Syria—the land of Saint Peter and Paul, the Apostles and the saints—to bleed to death, are evil rabid dogs.Read More
Christopher Hale summarizes his trip to Europe and the Middle East.
* * *
To the poor, he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; and to those in sorrow, joy.”
This is the way the Church describes Jesus’s ministry, and this is the reality of faith that I’ve experienced the past two weeks from both the Church’s peripheries and from its heart.
From war-torn Iraq to Rome, I’ve seen the missionary Church that Jesus longs for us to be: a Church on the margins, a Church that is poor for the poor, a Church that heals wounds and warm hearts, a Church that is always a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved, and forgiven.
In Iraq, the Christians I met weren’t concerned about the appropriate design of their Starbucks cup. They were concerned about their survival as a community. They were concerned about finding refuge for their children and their neighbors. And they sought not only our prayers, but our tangible support.Read More
Church leaders are trying to counter this “can’t be too careful” approach with the Bible, which repeatedly exhorts: “Do not be afraid.”
by Lauren Markoe / Religion News Service
(National Catholic Reporter) November 21, 2015 – Religious groups are pushing back against a wave of opposition toward Syrian refugees and working to preserve the U.S. as a haven for them.
“We’re really in emergency mode,” said Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy for the Immigration and Refugee Program at Church World Service, one of the nine U.S. nonprofits that work with the federal government to resettle refugees.
“We’re talking to the media nonstop. We are sending letters and petitions and making phone calls to all the governors as well as to members of Congress right now,” she said. “Every voice is needed to make sure they understand just how important the resettlement program is.”Read More
About 70 percent of all refugees admitted to the U.S. are resettled by faith groups, according to the U.S. State Department office for refugees.
(Associated Press) November 21, 2015 – In rare agreement across faith and ideological lines, leaders of major American religious groups have condemned proposed bans on Syrian refugees, contending a legitimate debate over security has been overtaken by irrational fear and prejudice.Read More
A new NBC News/SurveyMonkey online poll shows that 56 percent of Americans want to ban these refugees from the U.S. Here is the response of several faith based organizations:Read More
(tikkun) November 22, 2015 – Please call your Senators to tell them you Welcome Syrian Refugees and urge them to vote “NO” if a bill comes to the Senate for a vote to make it more stringent to accept refugees from Syria and Iraq to the US. You can call the Capitol Switchboard on Monday or Tuesday at 202 224-3121. If you do not know the names of your two senators, just give the Capitol operator your state and you will be connected. You can also call their state offices by googling them to get the phone number.
Refugees coming to the US are already subject to lengthy, stringent clearance requirements. In the busyness of preparing for the holidays, let us not forget these are people who have lost everything. Imagine being bombed and having no place to go, and one after another country saying “we do not want you.” It is winter, it is cold, and many are sleeping outside, waiting at the borders of several European countries. The countries that are doing the bombing – US, Russia, France, including the coalition of the willing who started it all with the Iraq war – have a responsibility to take in the refugees. We broke it, we own it, now we need to take care of the people whose lives have been destroyed by the wars we helped start (no, not just us, but also us–and we live in the wealthiest country in the world and can afford to take in a significant number of the homeless). And “no,” these refugees do not present a danger to the general public–we already have careful policies in place to ensure that we would not be accepting people who are ISIS operatives intent on hurting us.Read More
Following the attacks in Paris on November 13 and the authorization of security measures including the prohibition of the travel of children, the Little Singers of the Wooden Cross regret to inform you that their November 2015 concert tour has been cancelled.
The Little Singers of Paris [of the wooden cross] ask, “Why all these wars?”
To all the World, we say,
There’s no religion, that preaches
hatred, death and blood.
Why kill the innocent?
Why destroy, hurt us
We want to live, and not to die!
…terrorist groups such as the Islamic State are financed, armed, and trained by the great powers, for purely economic and political interests. –Bishop George Abou Khazen, OFM
(Vatican Radio) November 14, 2015 – A Church leader in Syria is calling for the international community to stop the funding of terrorist groups, after the attacks in Paris which killed over 120 people.
“We are deeply saddened and sorry. We express our condolences and solidarity with the victims of the massacre in Paris and throughout Europe,” said Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, O.F.M., the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo.
“Terrorism is an ideology that does not spare anyone,” he told the Fides news agency. “The Syrian people understand this very well… For years, we have suffered massacres and we live in fear.”Read More