"Al-Bushra"

Seeking truth and justice

Forbidden Pilgrimage

Posted on Feb 8, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Palestine

(Al Jazeera) Pilgrimage to sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus has been a significant aspect of Christian faith since the earliest centuries AD. Group tours to the ‘Holy Land’ are still very much part of the culture of practising Christians but are primarily organised by Israeli travel agents.

This film hears passionate views from Palestinian priests, a Christian tour operator and a British writer as they speak out against the obstacles facing pilgrims visiting sacred sites today, particularly Bethlehem and Nazareth. It also covers the recent history of discrimination against Palestinian Christians generally – and the wider problems threatening their survival.

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An ayatollah to walk the corridors of the Pope’s university

Posted on Feb 7, 2016 in Christians, Interreligious dialogue, Iran, Middle East, Muslims, Vatican, World

The Pontifical Lateran University opens its doors to its first ever visiting professor, the director of the Institute of Shiite Studies in Qom. The visit is a result of an agreement that was signed in the sacred Persian city.

The Pontifical Lateran University (Vatican Insider)

The Pontifical Lateran University (Vatican Insider)

by Paolo Affatato

(Vatican Insider) Rome, January 27, 2016 – The studious, turban-clad, serious yet tranquil-looking man with the grizzly beard and glasses is soon to walk the lecture theatres and corridors of the papal university par excellence. The Ayatollah Mahmood Taghizadeh Davari will be the first visiting professor to tread the grounds of the Pontifical Lateran University, where he will be working on a comparative research project on social Shiite and Catholic theology.

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President Obama at Israeli Embassy: Religious leaders must speak out against distortion of religion

Posted on Feb 7, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Interreligious dialogue, Jews, Middle East, Muslims, Vatican, World

All are brothers and all children of God. –Pope Francis

President Barack Obama hosted Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at the White House in November 2013 for strategic talks on furthering democracy, human security, other related issues.

President Barack Obama hosted Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at the White House in November 2013 for strategic talks on furthering democracy, human security, other related issues. In January President Obama praised King Mohammed VI for his leadership in protecting religious minorities.

 

(Standard Newswire) ROCKVILLE, Maryland, Jan. 28, 2016 – On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Washington to mark the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland where more than one million people were murdered.

Speaking to honor non-Jews who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust, the President declared ”Every faith community has a responsibility. Just as all religions speak out against those who try to twist their faith to justify terrorism and violence, just as all faiths need to speak out when interpretations of their religion veer in an ugly direction, so, too, must they speak out against those who use their faith to justify bias against Jews, or people of any faith.”

His Holiness Pope Francis has spoken forcefully against anti-Semitism, saying, “Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, regardless of his origins or religious beliefs,” recalled the President.

President Obama also underscored that ”We know that there were Muslims – from Albanians to Arabs -who protected Jews from Nazis.”

“In Morocco, leaders from Muslim-majority countries around the world just held a summit on protecting religious minorities, including Jews and Christians,” said President Obama

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Patriarch Twal: Church in the Holy Land faces different challenges

Posted on Feb 6, 2016 in Christians, Cyprus, Holy Land, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, NGO, Palestine, Syria, World

The Patriarchate covers four states: Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal  - REUTERS

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal – REUTERS

(Vatican Radio) January 12, 2016 – “The Patriarchate covers four states: Cyprus Israel Palestine and Jordan,” explained the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal to bishops visiting the Holy Land.

“Each country is different from the other. We have different challenges,” he continued.

“In Cyprus we are a minority. The big number is workers from the Philippines, and some English people coming to spend their final days in Cyprus,” Patriarch Twal told Vatican Radio.

“In Israel, the big problem is the occupation…with the consequence of the emigration of our Christians. That is a drama for us.”

He said that Jordan provides stability for the Church, which is able to function freely.

“We can meet gather, we can meet, we can move,” Patriarch Twal said. “We are happy to give good witness welcoming all the refugees from Syria, from Iraq.”

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Patriarch Twal meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah in Ramallah

Posted on Feb 6, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Interreligious dialogue, Israel, Palestine

During the meeting, the Palestinian prime minister “asserted that Palestine is a model to be emulated with regards to tolerance and coexistence among followers of various religions.

Patriarch Twal meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah in Ramallah   (Photo: abouna.org)

Patriarch Twal meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah in Ramallah (Photo: abouna.org)

(abouna.org) Ramallah, February 4, 2016 – Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal met on Thursday, September 4, with Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah in his office in Ramallah.

An official source reported that the meeting was designed “to provide a briefing on the needs of the Church, to consolidate the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites, to provide support for Jerusalem institutions, and to discuss the situation of areas in Bethlehem surrounded by the separation wall.

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Marrakesh Declaration calls for protection of rights of minorities in Muslim countries

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Jews, Middle East, Muslims

It is a document that our world has been waiting for and a tribute to the Muslim scholars who prepared it. As one of the People of the Book, I thank you for this document and I thank the Lord God who has provided his followers the courage to prepare this document. –Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington

(abouna.org and catholicculture.org) January 28, 2016 – At the invitation of Morocco’s government, hundreds of Sunni and Shiite scholars from 120 countries gathered in Marrakesh to consider the plight of non-Muslim minorities in largely Muslim nations.

“We in the Kingdom of Morocco will not tolerate the violation of the rights of religious minorities in the name of Islam,” King Mohammed VI stated as the January 25-27 conference began. “I am enabling Christians and Jews to practice their faith and not just as minorities. They even serve in the government.”

Participants in the conference issued the Marrakesh Declaration, which called for “full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.”

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Mourning the loss of Dr. Jeries Saed Khoury: Engaged in interreligious and ecumenical dialogue throughout his life

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Holy Land, Interreligious dialogue, Israel, Middle East, Muslims, Palestine, Vatican

His lectures and seminars aimed to increase global awareness about the plight and suffering of people of the Holy Land.

The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries mourns the loss of Dr. Jeries Khoury

(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) February 4, 2016 – The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries mourns the passing of Dr. Jeries Saed Khoury, the director of Bethlehem-based Al-Liqa’ Centre and the former president of the Local Council in Fassouta. Dr. Khoury passed away last Wednesday while he was in Rome, accompanied by a delegation from Al-Liqa Centre, before a planned meeting with Pope Francis.

The deceased was an important figure in the Church of the Holy Land. He was involved in the Muslim-Christian dialogue as well as in the ecumenical dialogue. He dedicated his life for the service of his fellow brothers and sisters despite their religious and ethnic backgrounds.

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A Syrian man in exile finds the strength to forgive

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Interreligious dialogue, Iraq, Islamic State, Middle East, Muslims, Narrative, NGO, Syria, World

He would have preferred not to speak about politics, but he inevitably does: “What needs to be done? Put an end to the war. All it would take is an honest international community with a conscience. And yet today, Christians of the East are worth less than a barrel of oil…” he says with a tone of bitterness. “Bashar al Assad is no angel and Putin has his own interests to look after too,” Claude Zermez says. “But the East is different from the West. The concept of citizenship does not exist. Here it’s first and foremost about ethnicity, then religion and only after this nationality. What Syrians want today, is a State that protects them and makes the law count. Otherwise we will end up like Libya.”

Claude Zerez  (Photo: Vatican Insider)

Claude Zerez (Photo: Vatican Insider)

by Giorgio Bernardelli

(Vatican Insider) January 26, 2016 – “When I accompanied the pilgrims it was Pascale who taught them the Our Father in Aramaic.” The little girl in the image projected on the screen is Claude Zerez’s whole life. A reflection of the deep love he feels for his roots, of the pain he felt at the loss of that child whose life was so brutally wrenched away from her, but also the look of someone who, even in his via crucis, is not prisoner of hatred.

It was 9 October 2012 when she was kidnapped on bus from Homs, bound for Aleppo. The men who took her were militias with ties to the Free Syrian Army, Bashar al Assad’s opponents. She was 20 years old when her lifeless body was discovered. That was when this Christian Melkite man from Aleppo – who is very knowledgeable about sacred Eastern art and has taken many pilgrims round on their visits to Syria – wrote an open letter to François Hollande, strongly condemning the political support France has lent to rebel groups, are increasingly infiltrated by Salafists. “Have you seen how Aleppo, the oldest city here has turned into a ghost town?” he wrote in October 2012. “Can you imagine Paris turning into a ghost town and hundreds of thousands of French families wandering round seeking shelter from the bullets, bombs and acts of wanton discrimination, fanaticism and brutality?”

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WCC urges support for social media campaign to end Syria crisis

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Human rights, Middle East, Peace, Syria

Now more than ever, the world needs to hear a public outcry to end the Syria crisis.   © UNICEF/Sanadiki

Now more than ever, the world needs to hear a public outcry to end the Syria crisis. © UNICEF/Sanadiki

(World Council of Churches) January 25, 2016 – The #SyriaCrisis has raged for five brutal years and another round of talks involving the world’s powerful nations and those involved in the conflict to push for peace could be starting to finally end the warring.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is joining UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, with which it works in promoting the interests of children, to share its support in a social media campaign.

It is urging its member churches to join in taking 60 seconds to watch, share and show their support to help end the suffering by joining UNICEF in watching a video and speaking out to help end #SyriaCrisis. “UN estimates say around 220,000 people have been killed in this senseless war with many millions displaced,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary of the WCC. “With the prospect that serious talks may begin to end this conflict we urge all parties to seize the chance to finally end it.”

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Denominational Divestment Countdown

Posted on Feb 4, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Justice, NGO, Palestine, Peace, World

A Voice of the Palestinian Christians

A Voice of the Palestinian Christians

(FOSNA) February 3, 2016 – Three Big Divestment Summits Are on Their Way: United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, The Unitarian Universalists

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Amnesty International: Demand justice for Palestinian circus performer held in Israel

Posted on Feb 4, 2016 in Human rights, Israel, Justice, Middle East, NGO, Palestine

(Amnesty International UK) January 29, 2016 – On 14 December, Mohammad set out from his parents’ home to the Palestinian Circus School where he works. But he never made it. Israeli soldiers stopped him at a checkpoint and took him to a nearby detention centre. He has been held ever since, and is now thought to be in Megiddo prison, in northern Israel.

He has never been charged with a crime and his family have not been allowed to visit him.

The Israeli military handed him a six-month administrative detention order — so they can continue to hold him with no charge, indefinitely.

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Rabbis advocate on behalf of Bedouins in the Negev

Posted on Feb 4, 2016 in Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Jews, Justice, Middle East, Muslims, NGO, Palestine

While the world focuses on the Occupied Territories, the plight of Israel’s Bedouin citizens goes unnoticed, or is deemed an “internal matter.” For people of conscience, there can be no “internal matter,” and these approximately 250,000 Israeli citizens are also created in God’s Image.

54_percent_of_all_home_demolitions_in_negev_in_towns_recognized_by_govt_-_dukium

January 26, 2016 – Rabbi Arik Ascherman is one of our great contemporary heroes. His work to save the Israeli Bedouins from being obliterated by the Israeil government deserves your full support. Please read his call to you below! Standing up for the humanity of everyone on the planet is part of the goal of Tikkun magazine and our interfaith and secular-humanist welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives. To keep up with developments in the US and around the world, you are invited to receive (for FREE) updates through our Tikkun Daily Blog at

www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/join-tikkun-daily/— Rabbi Michael Lerner

Please Take action to Save the Bedouins 

by Rabbi Arik Ascherman

As you read this, JNF bulldozers are preparing the first stage of building the Jewish community of “Hiran” on the rubble of the Israeli Negev Bedouin community of “Umm Al-Hiran.”  The government plans to expand the Yatir forest to overrun Atir.  A week ago, the Israeli High Court removed the last legal hurdle preventing the immediate expulsion of over 1,000 men, women and children from their homes. The mayor of the artificial Bedouin township of Hura, where the Israeli government wishes to move them, says he has that Hura’s inadequate zoning plan leaves no place to put them.

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Israeli High Court Dismisses Latest Petitions in the Cremisan Case

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Justice, NGO, Palestine

Israeli High Court Dismisses Latest Petitions in the Cremisan Case (Photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

Israeli High Court Dismisses Latest Petitions in the Cremisan Case (Photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

(Society of St. Yves) Jerusalem, January 30, 2016 – The Israeli High Court dismissed the latest petitions in the Cremisan case, submitted by the Salesian Sisters Convent, represented by the Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights, and the Beit Jala Municipality and landowners, represented by advocate Ghayyath Nasser.

The Court held in its decision that although it approves the construction of the annexation wall and admits that it is based on “security needs”, the landowners have the right to object to any route of the wall that does not maintain their right to access their lands freely. Moreover, the Salesian Sisters were granted the right to object to the final route of the annexation wall in the future upon its presentation. In case the army plans to impose facts on the ground upon the construction of the annexation wall, the Court, in this decision, has granted both parties the right to object to the presented route or any future one, regardless of the current construction of the wall that is going on in Beir Onah – Beit Jala.

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Pax Christi works for peace and reconciliation in Israel, Palestine

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Justice, Middle East, NGO, Palestine, Peace, World

Here in the region of Israel-Palestine, in what we call the Holy Land, I believe that after 70 years it is high time that politicians take leadership in a real peace process that leads to the acceptance by both peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians. –Father Paul Lansu, Pax Christi International

Protestors call for recognition of the State of Palestine as a means to peace and reconciliation in the region - AFP

Protesters call for recognition of the State of Palestine as a means to peace and reconciliation in the region – AFP

(Vatican Radio) January 12, 2016 – Fr. Paul Lansu from Pax Christi International was a participant in the Holy Land Coordination pilgrimage that took place in Israel and Jordan in January.

The pilgrimage was an opportunity for Catholic Church leaders from Europe, North America, and South Africa to visit parishes, schools, and development organizations in Israel and Jordan to show the support of the worldwide Christian community and gain insights into the complex political and religious problems underlying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns: Middle East Notes

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Jews, Justice, Middle East, Muslims, NGO, Palestine, Peace, World

151210 Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

January 28, 2016

Please note: Opinions expressed in the following articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

The six featured articles and the many related links in this issue of the Middle East Notes focus on the growing involvement of the European Union in resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the execution of teenagers with knives or scissors without trial or discussion, unchecked Israeli vigilantism on the West Bank, the silence of U.S. Jewish organizations on Israeli “il-liberalism,” the growing de-legitimization of Israel due to the occupation and apartheid policies, and Israeli government attempts to silence internal and external opposition to the occupation.

Commentary: Israel’s opposition to a “two state solution,” expansion of settlement activity, and the continuing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and blockade of Gaza, are fueling criticism by the nations of the European Union, the U.S. State Department, and within Israel itself. The negative response to these criticisms by Israel, especially among its own citizens, Jewish and Arab, is only exacerbating and publicizing these criticisms. The de-legitimization of which Israel accuses its critics seems to be promoted by its own policies towards the Palestinian people. Israeli leadership continues to rely on unquestioned support of the U.S. Congress in the face of growing justice concerns of the EU. These concerns are being met in Israel with fear, insecurity, denial, and increasing political opposition to internal critics.

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Palestinians losing hope under ‘stifling’ Israeli occupation – UN chief

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Human rights, Israel, Middle East, NGO, Palestine, World

The people of Palestine have lived through half a century of occupation, and they have heard half a century of statements condemning it. But life hasn’t meaningfully changed. Children have become grandparents. But life hasn’t changed. We issue statements. We express concern. We voice solidarity. But life hasn’t changed. And some Palestinians wonder: Is this all meant to simply run out the clock? They ask: Are we meant to watch as the world endlessly debates how to divide land while it disappears before our very eyes?   –United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Israeli authorities demolished Bedouin homes in the vulnerable community of Abu Nwar, Area C, near East Jerusalem in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA

Israeli authorities demolished Bedouin homes in the vulnerable community of Abu Nwar, Area C, near East Jerusalem in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA

(United Nations) January 27, 2016 – Amid ongoing violence in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated today that he can understand why Palestinians are losing hope in the face of nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation, a statement that has provoked criticism that he was “giving terror a tailwind.”

“Young people especially are losing hope,” he told the opening today of the 2016 Session of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a day after going before the Security Council to condemn Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, highlight growing Palestinian frustration, and call on Israel to change its settlement and other policies.

“They are angered by the stifling policies of the occupation. They are frustrated by the strictures on their daily lives. They watch as Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, expand and expand. They are losing faith in their own leadership to deliver genuine national reconciliation and see the dream of a sovereign, contiguous and independent Palestinian state slip away.

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BDS is not anti-Semitic

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Human rights, Israel, Jews, NGO, Palestine, Peace

Karen Ackerman, Board Member, JVP

Karen Ackerman, Board Member, JVP

I’m Jewish. I support BDS.

by Karen Ackerman, Jewish Voice for Peace

(Jewish Voice for Peace) January 28, 2016 – I was the Political Director of the AFL-CIO (the largest federation of unions in the U.S.) for 8 years. But long-before I worked for the AFL-CIO, one of my first jobs in the labor movement was with the United Auto Workers, one of America’s biggest and best unions. I’m so proud of the work we did at the UAW, fighting for better pay and conditions for workers. But today, I’m incredibly disappointed in the leadership of the UAW.

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Uri Avnery: The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Human rights, Israel, Middle East, Palestine

Uri Avnery explains the Weakness of the Israeli Peace Movement

Uri Avnery is the leader of the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom and an astute analyst of the dynamics in Israel.

Uri Avnery is the leader of the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom and an astute analyst of the dynamics in Israel.

(Gush Shalom) January 20, 2016 – HAMELIN, a small town in Germany (not so far from where I was born), was infested with rats. In their despair, the burghers called upon a rat-catcher and promised him a thousand guilders for liberating them from this plague.

The rat-catcher took his pipe and played such a sweet melody that all the rats came out of their holes and joined him. He marched them to the Weser river, where they all drowned.

Once freed from this plague, the burghers saw no reason to pay. So the piper took out his pipe again and produced an even sweeter melody. The enchanted children of the town gathered around him and he marched them straight down to the river, where they all drowned.

Binyamin Netanyahu is our pied piper. Enchanted by his melodies, the people of Israel are marching behind him towards the river.

Those burghers who are aware of what is happening are looking on. They don’t know what to do. How to save the children?

THE ISRAELI Peace Camp is in despair. No savior is in sight. Many just sit in front of their TV set and wring their hands.

Among the rest a debate is going on. Will redemption come from within Israel or from outside?

The latest contributor to this debate is Amos Schocken, the owner of the “Haaretz” newspaper. He has written one of his rare articles, arguing that only outside forces can save us now.

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Only International Pressure Will End Israeli Apartheid

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Human rights, Israel, Jews, Justice, Middle East, Palestine

The nearly 50 years of Israeli apartheid are not based on security considerations. Zionism, which was always prepared to divide the land of Israel with its Arab inhabitants, was replaced by the godly promise of the Land of Israel for the Jewish people. This promise is being fulfilled by constant, methodical settlement in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) along with the pushing of Palestinians into defined enclaves and small, crowded population areas.

 Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank Photo: AP Photo/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank Photo: AP Photo/Osservatore Romano

By Amos Schoken, editor and owner of HAARETZ

January 23, 2016

The growing delegitimization of Israel is this country’s own handiwork. Should Israel decide to end apartheid, it will return to being legitimate in every respect.

There are many differences between conditions in South Africa during the apartheid era and those current in the land from the Jordan River to the sea, especially in the territories that Israel controls beyond its internationally recognized borders. However, there is one important feature they share: two peoples living on one piece of land.

One people has all the rights and protections, while the other is deprived of numerous rights and lives under the former’s control. Israel determines the fate and day-to-day life of millions of people who have no influence over its decisions. The government of Israel is the party that will debate whether or not to accept the Israel Defense Forces’ recommendation to ease policies toward the Palestinian Authority and its people. In South Africa, there were similar discussions about easing apartheid for blacks.

Israel as an apartheid state is not a viable situation, not only because of the corruption of values but also because this predicament is liable to lead Israel, like South Africa in its time, to banishment from the family of nations. It is not for nothing that Israel insists on defining itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, although in fact it is only a democracy for part of its residents, and therefore is not a democracy. (South Africa was a democracy for white people only, and therefore not a democracy). It is not for nothing that Israel insists on stressing the “common values” it shares with democratic countries, firstly the United States. Indeed, there are such common values, and they certainly speak well of Israel relative to other countries in the Middle East. However, the most basic democratic values of equality before the law for all people under Israel’s control, and equal rights to vote and be elected, do not exist.

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Giving a voice to Christians in the Holy Land

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Iraq, Israel, Jews, Jordan, Justice, Middle East, Muslims, Palestine, Syria, Vatican, World

Interview with Msgr. Michel Dubost, Bishop of Evry Corbeil-Essonnes, member of the Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, President of the Council for Interreligious Relations of the French Bishops’ Conference and member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Christians in the Holy Land    (Photo:  Vatican Insider)

Christians in the Holy Land (Photo: Vatican Insider)

by François Vayne

(Vatican Insider) January 21, 2016

Msgr. Michel Dubost, you recently visited Gaza, Bethlehem, the Cremisan Valley and Jordan on behalf of the “Holy Land Coordination”. How and why was this Coordination established?

The Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination was established by the Holy See and brings bishops together who, representing the bishops’ conferences, have the Holy Land at heart for historical and pastoral reasons. Over time, this coordination has been enriched by people who know the Holy Land well and who represent large organizations, such as the members of the Holy Sepulchre. We are also accompanied by some journalists. We must pay respect to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which is the real driving force behind our work. We usually use four “P’s” to describe our mission: “P” for a presence for Christians in the Holy Land; “P” for praying with and for them; “P” for pilgrimage, as we believe that the work of Christians in the Holy Land depends largely on pilgrimages and that the future of pilgrimages depends largely on these living stones which are the local Christians; “P” for pleading: we assume, therefore, the mission of defending the cause of these Christians publicly and with those who govern.

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Yes, ISIS is guilty of genocide, says European human rights group

Posted on Feb 2, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Iraq, Islamic State, Justice, Lebanon, Middle East, Muslims, Syria, Turkey, World

Credit: Oleg Zabielin via www.shutterstock.com.

Credit: Oleg Zabielin via www.shutterstock.com.

(Catholic News Service) Strasbourg, France, January 28, 2016 – By Matt Hadro

Europe’s leading human rights body passed a resolution on Wednesday calling ISIS atrocities a “genocide,” a week before the European Parliament will vote on a similar resolution.

“States should act on the presumption that Da’ish commits genocide,” read a statement passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “Da’ish” is another name for the Islamic State (ISIS).

The resolution passed overwhelmingly, with 117 votes for and only one against.

The council is a regional group of 47 member states encompassing a population of 820 million. It is Europe’s leading promoter of human rights and democracy, as well as an important partner with the European Union. The resolution’s passage is therefore significant, as the European Parliament will vote on a similar resolution next week on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS.

“It is very important to see that an international institution representing an even larger and more diverse group of countries than the EU has recognized the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East as genocide,” Sophia Kuby, director of European Union advocacy for ADF International, stated after the resolution’s passage.

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On the Run from the Islamic State, Iraqi Christians Are Trying to Save Their Heritage

Posted on Feb 2, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Iraq, Islamic State, NGO, World

If Daesh burns down a church we can rebuild it, but the manuscripts are our history. They trace back our roots, they are part of our civilization. If they get destroyed, then we are lost, and our culture will be forgotten. –Father Gabriel Tooma, SJ

One of the manuscripts saved by Friar Najeeb Michaeel. Photo by Benedetta Argentieri / VICE News

One of the manuscripts saved by Friar Najeeb Michaeel. Photo by Benedetta Argentieri / VICE News

 

by Benedetta Argentieri

(VICE News) January 21, 2016 – The international community is struggling to come up with a strategy to defeat the Islamic State (IS) — but on the ground in northern Iraq, a Roman Catholic priest has found his own way to fight the jihadists.

Father Gabriel Tooma is not going after them with weapons.

He is not involved with any of the several Christian militias that have taken it upon themselves, in Iraq and neighboring Syria, to defend their villages against IS onslaught.

What he is doing, he says, is even more important to the Christian minority’s fate in northern Iraq: He is rounding up ancient manuscripts and relics and hiding them in secure locations around Kurdistan, hoping to save them from the iconoclastic fury of the terror insurgency.

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Vandalism of Christian site in Jerusalem: Two suspects arrested

Posted on Feb 2, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Justice

“Death to the heathen Christians, the enemies of Israel”, “Let his (Jesus’) name and memory be obliterated” and “Christians to Hell”. These are some of the slogans that were found on the doors and walls of the Dormition Abbey.

Vandalism at the Dormition: two suspects under arrest

by Manuella Affejee

(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) January 21, 2016 – The Dormition Abbey, Bet Gemal, Dair Rafat, Tabgha and Latroun are the holy Christian places that were targeted in the last few years. These attacks generally bear the hallmark of the Jewish extremist movement known as “price tag”.

Two days after the vandalism of the Dormition Abbey in Mount Zion, the police arrested two Jewish youths, aged 15 and 16, suspected in carrying out the attack. The two suspects were interrogated Wednesday morning and are expected to appear in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Their detention might be prolonged.

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Patriarch Sako: Iraqi monastery destruction “a disaster”

Posted on Feb 2, 2016 in Christians, Iraq, Islamic State, Syria

File picture of St Elijah's monastery in Iraq whose destruction by IS militants has been called "a disaster" by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako. - AP

File picture of St Elijah’s monastery in Iraq whose destruction by IS militants has been called “a disaster” by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako. – AP

(Vatican Radio) January 21, 2016 – The head of the Chaldean Church and Archbishop of Baghdad, Patriarch Louis Sako has described the destruction by jihadists of the ancient monastery of St Elijah near the city of Mosul as an attempt to wipe out the history and heritage of Christianity in Iraq. New satellite images confirmed that St Elijah’s monastery which dated back to the 6th century has been razed to the ground. Patriarch Sako was asked by Susy Hodges for his reaction to the news.

St Elijah’s monastery belonged to the Chaldean Church and was one of Iraq’s most ancient Christian monasteries and Patriarch Sako described its destruction as “a disaster.” He said that through this action against ancient Christian sites, the jihadists are seeking to “cancel the memory” of the Church’s history and heritage in Iraq.

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When Peace Seemed Plausible

Posted on Feb 1, 2016 in Holy Land, Israel, Jews, Muslims, Palestine, Peace, Syria, World

The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel

W. W. Norton & Company. 304p $27.95 Dan Ephron

W. W. Norton & Company. 304p $27.95 Dan Ephron

Reviewed by Mark J. Davis

(America Magazine, the National Catholic Review) February 1, 2016 – Two decades ago Israel stood on the verge of completing a peace process that promised to end years of fighting with its neighbors and the Palestinians. But the prospect of exchanging land for peace deeply divided Israel into two roughly equal camps pulling in opposite directions—one secular, the other religious. As Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who commanded the army that brought Gaza and the West Bank under Israel’s control in the 1967 Six Day War, had the prestige and the commitment in 1993 to implement the Oslo Accords, which promised the Palestinians a measure of self-rule in these occupied territories. But Rabin was killed by an assassin’s bullet two years later, the right-wing Likud party won a close election to choose his successor and the peace process never recovered.

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Coptic bishop from Middle East diaspora reflects on how churches can help refugees

Posted on Jan 31, 2016 in Christians, Egypt, Jordan, Middle East, NGO, World

Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos    (Photo © Peter Williams/WCC)

Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos (Photo © Peter Williams/WCC)

(World Council of Churches) January 25, 2016 – Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos has a ring of authority when he talks about refugees and Middle East Christians.

Born in Cairo, he is part of the Middle East and African diaspora and now serves as General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.

He spoke at the World Council of Churches/United Nations (UN) high level conference on the refugee crisis in Europe on 18 January.

“We are not speaking of people leaving one less-than-affluent suburb to go to a more affluent one because they seek a better quality of life; these are people leaving war-torn, poverty-stricken and conflict-filled near-anarchic states to find protection and safety for themselves and for their families.”

Bishop Angaelos noted, “This is a problem that is broader and more complex than any single individual, church, nation or organization, and so the least we can and should do is work to collaborate.”

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First Arab Thinkers Forum: “Interreligious Dialogue and Extremism: reasons and remedies”

Posted on Jan 31, 2016 in Christians, Egypt, Interreligious dialogue, Lebanon, Middle East, Muslims, Vatican, World

As believers we pray. We must pray. Prayer is our treasure, which we draw from according to our respective traditions, to request the gifts for which humanity longs. –Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

First Arab Thinkers Forum, held in Abu Dhabi from 17 to 18 January at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research  (Photo: news.va)

First Arab Thinkers Forum, held in Abu Dhabi from 17 to 18 January at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (Photo: news.va)

(VIS) Vatican City, 19 January 2016 – “Interreligious Dialogue and Extremism: reasons and remedies” was the title of the First Arab Thinkers Forum, held in Abu Dhabi from 17 to 18 January at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. The only non-Muslim speaker was Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who intervened during the first session during which the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, also gave an address. In the other sessions there were contributions from various figures from the Arab Emirates, Egypt and Morocco.

Fr. Ayuso Guixot structured his discourse around five key points: extremism, the culture of encounter, the key role of religious leaders, the need for sincere dialogue and the importance of prayer. He emphasised that it was not his intention to pursue considerations on the economic, political, social and cultural reasons for extremism, well known to those present, preferring to focus instead on Pope Francis’ recommendations to the international community on how to construct peace which can serve to counter extremism.

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Pope receives Rouhani: Iran has important role to play in Middle East and in fight against terrorism

Posted on Jan 30, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Iran, Middle East, Vatican, World

“Political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East” must be sought “together with other countries in the region”. The private meeting between the Pope and Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, lasted 40 minutes. “I am hopeful for peace,” the Pope said

Pope Francis and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, share a laugh during their private audience at the Vatican,Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Iran’s president has paid a call on Pope Francis at the Vatican during a European visit aimed at positioning Tehran as a potential top player in efforts to resolve Middle East conflicts, including Syria’s civil war. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, Pool)

Pope Francis and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, share a laugh during their private audience at the Vatican,Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Iran’s president has paid a call on Pope Francis at the Vatican during a European visit aimed at positioning Tehran as a potential top player in efforts to resolve Middle East conflicts, including Syria’s civil war. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, Pool)

by Iacopo Scaramuzzi

(Vatican Insider) Vatican City, January 26, 2016 – The Pope and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran recalled “the conclusion and implementation of the Iran Nuclear Agreement” and “highlighted the important role Iran is called to play along with other countries in the Region, in promoting adequate political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, preventing the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking”.

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The Saudis’ Little Cold War

Posted on Jan 30, 2016 in Iran, Muslims, Peace, Syria, World

by the Editors, America Magazine

(America Magazine, the National Catholic Review) February 1, 2016 issue – On Jan. 2 the government of Saudi Arabia executed the prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. The cleric, along with 46 other individuals, was accused of inciting terrorism within the kingdom. Following the execution, protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. In the aftermath, Saudi Arabia—as well as Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates—cut off diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran. In a statement released on Jan. 10, the Arab League also expressed support for the Saudis and condemned the Iranian government for not doing more to protect the embassy in Tehran.

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Brighten the Future for Gaza’s Children

Posted on Jan 29, 2016 in Holy Land, Human rights, Middle East, NGO, Palestine, World

160129 brighten gaza children

Please help us send solar lights to the children of Gaza as a sign of our love for children and families.  –Father Labib Kobti

You don’t lose anything when you love.

Love is a win-win.

It lightens your heart, mind, and soul.

And through you it lightens others.

You bring a smile to a child’s face.

A smile is light and love.

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