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
By MIRIAM BERGER
(AP) Jerusalem, August 27, 2015 – Ultra-nationalist Israelis took over a four-story building in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Thursday, raising fears of fresh violence in the tense area.
A small group of activists from the Ateret Cohanim settler organization moved into the rundown white stone building. It was the latest in a wave of settler advances since nationalist Jews began buying up properties in densely populated Palestinian areas two decades ago.
The building is located in Silwan, a rundown neighborhood that is home to several hundred Jewish residents and some 50,000 Palestinians. Israeli soldiers were guarding the latest wave of settlers.Read More
When Pope Francis speaks of the tragedy of the refugees, the media gives him ample space and this helps us to finally find solidarity, rather than fall into oblivion. –Father Samir Yousif, Iraqi Chaldean priest
(Zenit.org) Vatican City, August 27, 2015 – Immediately after Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis met an Iraqi priest committed to helping refugees.
After attending the audience in a front row space reserved for him, Father Samir Yousif, Iraqi Chaldean priest providing pastoral care in Kurdistan, approached the Pope to show him an album of photographs that document the “apocalyptic catastrophe” of his land, reported L’Osservatore Romano.
The priest serves the parish of Amadiyak, on the border with Turkey.
Refugees arrive in his community without clothes or documents, “fleeing from certain death,” the priest explained. Given this, he stressed that, “in an instant, roots that date back to the first Christian century are wiped away because in those areas we Christians are neither guests nor foreigners,” Father Samir said.Read More
The way the Vatican sees it, in the Holy Land, it is actions and acts of peace that count, not words and flag flying. And that goes for both sides
by Giorgio Bernardelli
(Vatican Insider) Rome, August 26, 2015 – The Vatican does not want to be involved in the battle of the flags at the UN. In a note circulated to the New York headquarters in New York, the Vatican asked the Palestinian mission to the UN to remove any reference to the ‘Holy See’ from a draft resolution Ramallah intends to present to the General Assembly. The text requests that the flags of the two states recognised as permanent observer members (the Vatican and Palestine), may fly alongside those of the 193 member nations, in front of the entrance to the UN headquarters.Read More
(Radio Vaticana) August 27, 2015 – The Irish Catholic development agency Trocaire was among a group of charities calling for world leaders to press Israel to end immediately its blockade on the Gaza strip. A total of 35 international aid agencies have signed the petition that was released on the anniversary of the ceasefire between the Israeli government and Palestinian armed groups that ended 50 days of conflict in 2014. The war in Gaza saw over 19,000 homes destroyed and left 100,000 people homeless. A year later, as a result of Israel’s severe restrictions on importing building materials into Gaza, not a single home has been fully rebuilt yet.Read More
(Office of Christian Schools) Jerusalem, August 27, 2015 – On Monday, August 24, 2015, in Jerusalem, the negotiating committee of the Christian Schools, chaired by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, met Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, with the Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, and a delegation from the Ministry, to discuss the crisis facing the Christian schools in Israel.Read More
(asianews.it and abouna.org) August 26, 2015 – Makassed, a Sunni philanthropic association close to Dar el-Fatwa, Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, has issued a statement, the ‘Beirut Declaration on Religious Freedom,’ dated June 20, 2015.
In its declaration, the Sunni association reiterates liberal Islam’s desire to live alongside Christians, noting that no one can be forced to convert or be persecuted for holding beliefs different from one’s own. Indeed, for the group, Islam bans war against those who are different, and forbids expelling them from their land or limiting their freedom in the name of religion.Read More
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) Gaza, August 27, 2015 – On Tuesday, August 25, 2015, the first two projects of the Gaza Masterplan were inaugurated at the El Zeitoun Latin compound in Gaza.
On a bright sunny day, Rev. Father Imad Twal, General Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem inaugurated two of the first projects in the parish and school within the El Zeitoun Latin [Roman Catholic] compound in Gaza. He was joined by the Latin Patriarchate staff involved in these two projects: Henrique Abreu, head of the Project Development Office; Chief Engineer Habib Sleibeh and his engineering team; Father Mario da Silva, parish priest; contractors; and several parishioners of the Holy Family Church.Read More
Sayfo: A Forgotten Genocide. Interview with film maker Joris Postema
(Agenzia Fides) Damascus, August 27, 2015 – A documentary prepared by the Syrian state television on “Sayfo”, the so-called “Assyrian Genocide”, was projected and attended by Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II. The reportage on the massacres suffered a hundred years ago by the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac communities in the Ottoman Empire at the instigation of the Young Turks, also contains the testimonies of survivors of the massacres.Read More
(Agenzia Fides) August 26, 2015 – Damascus (Agenzia Fides) – On Sunday 23 August, a rain of mortars fell on the neighbourhood including two shells on the roof of the Maronite church. This was reported by Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar, in an appeal-statement sent to Agenzia Fides, specifying that nine people were killed and about fifty people were wounded, as well as damaging his church and a nearby Catholic parish. “Part of the war in Syria”, added Archbishop Nassar in his appeal “is to live under indiscriminate bombing, a kind of Russian roulette which is always unpredictable…”.Read More
The U.S. bishops, through their Committee on International Justice and Peace, had for years opposed construction in the Cremisan Valley because it would have separated Christian communities there from their agricultural lands.
“This threatens the livelihoods of the remaining Christian community of Bethlehem, pressuring even more to leave the Holy Land,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, in a letter to members of Congress in February. “The barrier would also negatively impact the work of the Catholic Church in the Valley by separating a Salesian monastery from a nearby convent, isolating both their ministries from critical resources and contacts with the local population. In one case, the proposed route would surround a Salesian school for 450 students on three sides with a militarized barrier.”
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) August 27, 2015 – Find below the link to the letter written on August 24, 2015, by His Excellency Bishop Oscar Cantù, from the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), to the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, about the Cremisan Valley.Read More
A Review of: Ronald Kronish (ed.), Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel: Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (NY: Paulist Press, 2015)
by Rabbi Amy Eilberg
(Huffington Post) August 26, 2015 – In my work as a religious peace activist, I am often asked how I can possibly continue to hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Over the years, I have often returned to the answer that my colleague Rabbi Ron Kronish gives to this question. On the level of diplomatic efforts, things seem quite hopeless. However, hope — and a vision for the future — is to be found in the work of grassroots peacebuilders who labor every day on the ground in Israel and in Palestine to build more peaceful, just and democratic societies, and especially, to build a web of relationship between religious and political “others.”Read More
…focusing on the youth of the Middle East — many of whom are unemployed or forced to flee their countries — is a necessity. — Queen Raina of Jordan
(AFP) Jouy-en-Josas, France – Queen Rania of Jordan said Wednesday that moderate Muslims were not doing enough to fight against IS jihadists and their “diabolical ideology.”
Speaking at a major French business gathering in Jouy-en-Josas near Paris, the 44-year-old said helping the Middle East’s youth was crucial in the fight against the extremist group, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria on Jordan’s doorstep.
“We are facing a time of great peril. Daesh, or the so-called Islamic State, continues to spread its diabolical ideology,” she said.
“Moderate Muslims the world over are not doing enough to win the ideological struggle at the heart of this battle.Read More
Palestinian children should be treated exactly the same as Israeli or American children, without the fear that one day soldiers will arrest them, beat them, and lock them away in prison. — Rep. Betty McCollum
By Josh Ruebner, contributor
(The Hill) August 26, 2015 – “I usually wear a suit, but I wanted to represent my son today,” Siam Nawarah explained after walking the halls of Congress and meeting with the State Department earlier this month.
The 43-year-old Palestinian father and successful salon owner from the West Bank city of Ramallah, with a youthful face that breaks into a sly grin in lighter moments, sported a black T-shirt with a picture of his 17-year-old son Nadeem wearing a baseball cap backwards, a keffiyeh — a Palestinian scarf — wrapped around his neck, and an ear-to-ear smile.Read More
Christian communities of the Middle East that find themselves in a truly dramatic situation and of continual suffering. –Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi
by Luca Marcolivio
(Zenit.org) Italy, August 25, 2015 – If international organizations are to be effective, there needs to be an understanding of the human person that is more realistic than the current one.
This was suggested by Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN in Geneva, in this interview with ZENIT, given in Rimini, Italy. Archbishop Tomasi has been a guest at the Rimini Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples, where he intervened in the debate “Emergencies in the World: The Role of International Organizations.”Read More
(Agenzia Fides) Beirut, August 26, 2015 – Syriac Catholic Bishop Flavianus Michael Melki, martyred during the “Assyrian Genocide”, will be beatified on the evening of Saturday, August 29, during a solemn liturgy to be held at the Patriarchal convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Harissa (Lebanon), which will be attended by numerous Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches of the East from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The beatification ceremony will be presided by Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III. The decree of beatification will be read at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.Read More
As they repeatedly made clear, residents of the village of Um al-Hiran do not oppose the establishment of the Jewish Hiran, provided that it is not carried out at their expense.
(Gush-Shalom.org) August 26, 2015 – Tomorrow, Thur. Aug. 27 at 11:00 am, residents of the Bedouin village of Um al-Hiran jointly with the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev will hold a demonstration and procession in the village, to protest the start of construction of the Jewish community of Hiran which is due to be built on the ruins of their village after its destruction.Read More
Considering the calls of Pope Francis, in the perspective of the coming Year of Mercy, it would be very meaningful if the Church of Jerusalem would be able to give witness in this context, opening our doors to a few of these people.
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) August 26, 2015 – On Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 500 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers were released from confinement in Holot, confined in contravention of their fundamental rights. Now they need to be reinserted into society, finding work and lodging.Read More
I have no place to go. I don’t know anyone. I have no money. I don’t know what to do. –Faysal Hussein, African migrant in Israel
By MIRIAM BERGER
(AP) HOLOT DETENTION FACILITY, Israel, August 25, 2015 — Faysal Hussein from Sudan walked out of Israel’s desert detention center Tuesday already sweating with just a backpack, barely enough cash for bus fare and lunch, and after 19 months in custody, no idea where to go.
Hussein was among hundreds of African migrants Israel began freeing from this remote detention facility after a court ruling this month ordered their release. The release reflected Israel’s ongoing struggles in coping with an influx of African migrants that it does not want in the country, but is unable to forcibly send anywhere else.
Tuesday’s release came with an added twist: The migrants not only are legally barred from working, they also cannot go to the cities of Tel Aviv or Eilat, where the largest communities of Africans are located and most work opportunities are.Read More
(United Nations) August 26, 2015 – Amid the unremitting brutality of the war in Syria and a scorching summer heat wave, there is increasing evidence that parties to the conflict are using water to achieve military and political gains, warned the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“Clean water is both a basic need and a fundamental right, in Syria as it is anywhere else,” reminded Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa in a press release. “Denying civilians access to water is a flagrant violation of the laws of war and must end.”Read More
by Cara Anna
(AP) United Nations, August 25, 2015 – In a move likely to upset Israel’s government, the Palestinians and the Vatican are seeking to raise their flags at U.N. headquarters — just in time for Pope Francis’ visit next month.Read More
How do you explain to the Israeli Authorities the ancient, unbroken Christian traditions that should be carried out for pure witness and faith? We pray for freedom and peace in the very precious land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.
by Maria Khoury, Ed.D.
Jerusalem, August 25, 2015 – It is four in the morning and while everyone else is trying to get a good night sleep, Orthodox Christians from all corners of the Holy Land collected themselves to march in a beautiful procession in honor of the Virgin Mary. Every year, based on the Old Julian Calendar, the faithful gather to walk the icon of the Theotokos, the Holy Mother of God, from the monastery next to the Holy Sepulchre all the way down the via Dolorosa exiting the Old City from the Lion’s Gate to reach the empty tomb of the Virgin Mary at the bottom of the hill below the Russian Orthodox Convent at the Garden of Gethsemane. This traditional march is done three days before the actual feast day. We were not going to miss this solemn celebration since my daughter was lucky to have a permit to enter Jerusalem. Now, I am sure you have no idea of the great need for freedom of movement and free access to our precious holy sites because military occupation is becoming harder than ever for me to explain. A different story by itself.Read More
Ann Schneible reports:
(Vatican Radio) August 25, 2015 – As floods of refugees continue to flee violent conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, the UN’s refugee agency is involved in a call center for displaced Iraqis in need of humanitarian support.
The call-center aims at connecting displaced persons with the various aid agencies on the ground and receive information on the humanitarian care they need.Read More
(Agenzia Fides) Baghdad, August 25, 2015 – A committee of security forces has been set up with the aim to collect information and provide practical measures regarding the violence and abuse suffered by Christians in Iraq and in particular in the capital. This is what Iraqi sources told Agenzia Fides. The committee was set up on the orders of Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, and aims to counter in particular the escalation of kidnappings and illegal expropriation of homes and land which in recent months Iraqi Christians have suffered.Read More
Do not forget the people who live in tents
(abouna.org) August 24, 2015 – We are a happy family. We live in a small tent. We came from Syria to Jordan seeking safety and a happy life. We thank the Lord all the time for what He has offered us. We watch television programs including the “The Neighborhood Door” serial, Turkish films… as well as newscasts so as to know what is going on around us…
Our mother cooks our meals outside the tent. Do not ask us about the menu. It is quite normal. Our father works day and night. He entertains us before going to bed.
In the outside world, parents imagine flocks of sheep and start counting them to their children before bedtime.Read More
(Abouna.org) Ramallah, August 24, 2015 – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received at his headquarters in Ramallah on Monday, August 24, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah and Bishop Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.Read More
“Don’t forget us, pray for us, and come back!”
(Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem) August 24, 2015 – Pilgrimages to the Holy Land recorded a sharp decline this year; the instability prevailing in the Middle East and the many wars that are raging discourage the Western pilgrims, and cause despair to the local Christian communities. Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel makes an appeal.
“Do not abandon the Holy Land”, in essence, is the strong appeal that resounds through Israel and Palestine, since the beginning of the summer, and was echoed in late July by the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, in turn joins his voice to this call and urges the European pilgrims to “be free from fear” and to visit the Holy Places.Read More
Days after the army uprooted Palestinian-owned olive trees to pave the route of the separation barrier in Beit Jala, Christians and Muslims from the town hold a joint protest to try and put a stop to the plan.
By Oren Ziv
(972.org) August 23, 2015 – Hundreds of Muslim and Christian Palestinians protested Sunday morning in the West Bank town of Beit Jala against the future establishment of the separation wall that would cut them off from Jerusalem.Read More
It is a conflict over land. It is a political conflict over resources. It is a political conflict over principles of self-determination and decolonization. –Reverend Robert O. Smith
by Drew Parker
(News Fulton County) JOHANNESBURG, August 21, 2015 – A delegation of Palestinian Christians visiting South Africa has complained about Israeli discrimination that restricts them from accessing holy sites in Jerusalem during Christian holidays.
“From 2005, Israel has been denying us access to the holy city of Jerusalem to practice traditions that are 2,000 years old,” former Palestinian minister Hind Khoury told a gathering in Johannesburg Thursday night.
She said that Israel puts up check points every few meters during Easter week.
“Instead of spending Easter week praying, we fight with Israeli soldiers,” she said.
Khoury said that Israel has a policy of not allowing Palestinians to return to their cities once they have lived abroad for a long time.Read More
by Vincent Funaro , Christian Post Reporter
(Christian Post) August 23, 2015 – There are Christian churches throughout the Middle East that trace their roots back to the time of the apostles that could cease to exist if Islamic State and other radical Muslim groups continue to gain control of more territory in the region.Read More