We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine. The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date the information was released by the source.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire says ‘NO to War in Syria’ and calls for all inclusive dialogue to solve the conflict.

A modern hero of peace, one whose name we do know and whose voice we have heard is Mother Agnes Mariam

Mairead Maguire said:

People around the world are deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Syria.
While we are being presented with some perspective of what is occurring on the ground to the people of Syria, the door seems closed to others. We search for voices we can trust, voices which point to a peaceful, lasting solution to the conflict. We search for truth because it is truth which will set the Syrian people free. Truth is difficult to find, so through the haze of conflicting narratives we must inevitably hear the voices and wisdom of men and women of peace in Syria.

Many may believe that there is a fight going on in Syria for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. We can be seduced into thinking there is a magic wand or instant formula to mix that will create a democratic country, but there are none. If it is a democracy a people want they must strive for it in their own way. It is said the Greek idea of democracy was that people would be equally valued. This is something every society has to strive for at every point in its history; it itself is a ‘revolutionary’ concept and a nonviolent revolutionary action. Strive to value everyone equally. It is an idea, a motivation for a better world that doesn’t require blood; it requires the hard work of people and the nurturing of a community spirit; a constant growing of peace and it starts within each human heart.

Who are the voices of peace in regard to the crisis in Syria? Many of them we cannot hear from where we are standing. They are the mothers and father and children who want to leave their homes to walk to market or to school without fear. They are the people, who have been working hard for Syria, for the idea of Syria as a secular and modern country.

There are some Syrian voices that have been heard consistently since the beginning of the crisis. Many of them are anonymous and they speak to us about injustices and atrocities. Numbers are given and fingers are pointed. The blame may be apportioned correctly or it may not. Everything is happening too quickly; commentators and politicians are making decisions with haste and looking only in one corner for support for their certainty. But in the heat of the madness of violent ethnic/political conflict we must listen and ask questions and hear and speak with some uncertainty because it is certainty that can take a people and a country in a rush to war.

The face of the Mufti of Syria is hardly known in the western world, but if we have learned anything from past conflict, it is the importance of all inclusive dialogue. He and many other Syrians who have peace in their hearts should be invited to sit with a council of elders from other countries, to tell of their stories and proposals for ways forward for the Syrian people. The United Nations was not set up to provide an arena for the voices and games of the powerful; rather it should be a forum for such Syrian voices to be heard. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the Syrian people and find peaceful ways forward in order to stop this mad rush towards a war the mothers and fathers and children of Syria do not want and do not deserve.
We all know there are Imams, priests and nuns, fathers, mother, young people all over
Syria crying out for peace and when the women in hijabs shout to the world after a bombing or a massacre in Syria ‘haram, haram’ let us hear and listen to them.

We are sure there are many heroes in Syria among them, Christian Patriarchs, Bishops, Priests, and religious. A modern hero of peace, one whose name we do know and whose voice we have heard is Mother Agnes Mariam*. In her community her voice has been clear, pure and loud. And it should be so in the West. Like many people in Syria she has been placed in life threatening situations, but for the sake of peace she has chosen to risk her own existence for the safety and security of others. She has spoken out against the lack of truth in our media regarding Syria and about the terror and chaos which a ‘third force’ seems to be spreading across the country. Her words confront and challenge us because they do not mirror the picture of events in Syria we have built up in our minds over many months of reading our newspapers and watching the news on our televisions. Much of the terror has been imported, we learn from her. She can tell us about the thousands of Christian refugees, forced to flee their homes by an imported Islamist extreme. But Mother Agnes Mariam’s concerns, irrespective of religion, are for all the victims of the terror and conflict, as ours must be.
In all our hearts we know War is not the answer for Syria (Nor for Iran). Intervention in Syria would only make things worse. I believe all sides are committing war crimes and the provision of arms will only results in further death. The US/UK/NATO and all foreign governments should stay out of Syria and keep their funding and troops out of Syria.

We should support those Syrians who work for peace in Syria and who seek a way of helping the 22 million or so people of Syria to resolve their own conflict without furthering the chaos or violence.

* Mother Agnes Miriam of the Cross is a Greek-Catholic (Melkite) nun of Lebanese / Palestinian descent and has lived and worked in Syria for 18 years. She restored the ancient ruined monastery of St. James the Mutilated at Qara, in Homs province where she founded an order which serves the local and wider community. In 2010 the monastery welcomed 25,000 visitors both Syrian and international.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Egyptian Prelate Optimistic About New President

Coptic Catholic Bishop Expresses Hope of Christian-Muslim Peace

LUXOR, Egypt, JUNE 25, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Coptic Catholic Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt, said he and fellow Copts were optimistic after Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Mursi’s post-election victory speech Sunday, when he said he wanted to reach out to Christians as well as Muslims.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Zakaria said the Muslim Brotherhood candidate’s success was a cause for hope in spite of many Christians’ concerns that the party’s apparent openness masks an Islamist and intolerant policy agenda. The bishop said that many people in Luxor had voted for opposition candidate Ahmed Shafiq in the June run-off elections but were reassured by Mursi’s speech Sunday, which suggested a positive approach to tourism, to the local economy. “The people of Luxor are so afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will stop tourism but they are now hoping that what Mr. Mursi said in his speech will be true,” he said.

Bishop Zakaria highlighted reports that Mursi was considering choosing a Copt for the post of vice president and had spoken in support of tourism and women’s rights. Saying he was “optimistic," Bishop Zakaria added: “We hope he will honour his promises made in his speech after he was announced as President.”
The bishop referred to an extract in Mursi’s speech where he said: “Egypt is for all Egyptians; all of us are equals in terms of rights. All of us also have duties towards this homeland. As for myself, I don't have rights. I only have duties… We Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, are advocates of civilization and construction.”

Commenting on the speech, Bishop Zakaria said: “It is true that in the past the Muslim Brotherhood have not lived up to their promises. When you are not in power, you can say what you want but they now have the big responsibility of government, it is very different.”

“Once people listened to Mr. Mursi’s speech, they were not worried. Things are calmer. The people are waiting to see what he can do in the future.”


Turning to other key factors, Bishop Zakaria said tackling Egypt’s huge economic problems was a top priority for the new president. He said that political turmoil had devastated Luxor’s local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism, and that unemployment was now at almost 50 percent.

The bishop said the new president needed to build a political consensus in order to tackle economic problems. “We hope he will create a new government involving all the parties, not just the Muslim Brotherhood. We are praying for this,” he said. After careful and comprehensive monitoring of election news reports, he was hopeful that the Muslim Brotherhood would not pursue an Islamist agenda.

He argued that the Mursi’s very narrow majority of 51.73 percent meant he would not wish to alienate the many who voted for Shafiq, the one-time prime Minister under Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president whose 30-year presidency ended after mass protests in Egypt.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35076?l=english

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Vatican City, 12 June 2012 (VIS) - Given below are extracts from an interview given to Vatican Radio by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, under secretary for Relations with States, concerning the conclusion of the plenary meeting of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel.

Question: Over recent days there have been persistent rumours in some circles that the Agreement, which has been in preparation for thirteen years, would finally be signed. Yet it was not signed. What has happened?

Answer: Nothing in particular. It is true that in some circles there was talk of signing the Agreement, but that was not in fact scheduled. As I have said before, progress has been made, but questions still remain to be resolved.

Q: There has been concern among Palestinians that, by signing this Agreement, the Holy See would indirectly recognise Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem and other territory occupied in the war of 1967.

A: The Agreement in question concerns the life, activity and tax status of the Catholic Church in Israel. It does not enter into territorial disputes. There will be no mention of East Jerusalem or of anywhere in the West Bank.

Q: But there has been talk of a draft agreement in which certain places in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are mentioned.

A: Since the beginning of the negotiations we have worked on a plan for a Comprehensive Agreement which also included the so-called 'Schedule One'; that is, a list of individual properties belonging to the Holy See and to certain institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land which, over the years, have been subjected to onerous provisions by Israel. And it is true that some of those properties are in East Jerusalem or in areas occupied in 1967. The aim was to resolve concrete problems. However, for some time now, it has been decided that the Agreement to be signed will only deal with certain properties which are not in East Jerusalem or the West Bank. Therefore it is incorrect to say that, by this Agreement, the Holy See would be violating the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war. The confusion and concern were due to the undue use of a working instrument, which has long since been superseded and which, in any case, is still being elaborated.

Q: Has the position of the Holy See on East Jerusalem changed?

A: The Holy See's position has not changed. It was affirmed in the 'Basic Agreement' between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), it has been reiterated on various occasions, and will be mentioned again in the 'Global Agreement' with the PLO, currently being prepared.

Q: A final question. It has been written that this Agreement which the Holy See is preparing with Israel will damage agreements that France, Italy and other countries have with Israel.

A: That is untrue, The Agreement concerns the Holy See and the State of Israel, and has no effect on agreements Israel has made with other States. The validity of those agreements depends first and foremost on the will of the parities involved and not on the existence of an agreement those parties have with a third party, in this case the Holy See. This is, moreover, a commonly accepted principle of international law.

Source: http://www.news.va/en/news/the-holy-see-has-not-changed-its-position-on-east

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mother Agnes Miriam reports from Syria

On June 8, 2012, Irish Radio interviewed a Melkite Catholic nun, Mother Agnes Miriam of the Cross, live from the Monastery of St. James at Qara in the Diocese of Homs, Syria.

Click here to listen to Mother Agnes Miriam's account of the current situation in Syria. The introduction is by Alan Lonergan who writes, "Please note that Mother warns of another possible expulsion of Christians from the neighbouring town and rebel stronghold of al Qusair. The Christians had been given six days by the rebels to leave the village. This amounts to the mass expulsion of thousands of residents; day 6 was today! ...[The] word needs to spread in order to help bring a stop to these actions."

You might find it preferable to download the MP3 file and save it to your computer first rather than listening to audio over the internet.


For more information about Mother Agnes Miriam, see: http://maryakub.org/NotreMere_en.html

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vatican: Christians expelled from war-torn Syrian town

Christians flee Syrian city
Photo: New recruits to the Free Syrian Army participate in a parade last week in Qusair, Syria, near the city of Homs. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

BEIRUT -- Much of the Christian population of the besieged Syrian city of Qusair has abandoned the town after an “ultimatum” from the rebel military chief there, reports Agenzia Fides, the official Vatican news agency.

The ultimatum expired Thursday, the agency reported, adding that most of the city’s 10,000 Christians have fled the city, situated in the battleground province of Homs.
"Some mosques in the city have relaunched the message, announcing from the minarets: 'Christians must leave Quasir,' " read the report from the Vatican agency, which has sought to document the parlous plight of Syria’s ancient Christian community.

Qusair has been the site of intense clashes for months between armed rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. The strategic city is close to the Lebanese border and has been a smuggling hub for arms and medicines destined for rebel forces in the embattled city of Homs, about 15 miles to the northeast, which has already seen its large Christian population flee, the Vatican agency reported.

A Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, had recently remained in Qusair for a week, “praying and fasting for peace in the midst of the conflict,” the Vatican report said.

The reasons for the ultimatum ordering Christians to leave Qusair “remain unclear,” the Vatican agency said. “According to some, it serves to avoid more suffering to the faithful; other sources reveal ‘a continuity focused on discrimination and repression.’ Still others argue that Christians have openly expressed their loyalty to the state and for this reason the opposition army drives them away.”

Christians represent about 10% of Syria’s population, but their status in Syrian conflict zones has become more and more tenuous. Many Christians remain loyal to Assad because his government has been tolerant of religious minorities. Many fear an Islamist takeover could result in the kind of repression that occurred in neighboring Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein — who, like Assad, was a secular autocrat. Militants in post-Hussein Iraq bombed churches, torched Christian shops and forced hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee to Syria, long regarded as safe for Christians.

Syrian opposition spokesmen have repeatedly said that Syrian rebels do not target Christians or other minorities and believe in creating a democratic society once Assad is ousted. Leading the rebellion are members of Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, who have long chaffed under the rule of the Assad clan, members of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Assad leadership has maintained power for more than four decades in part by forging alliances with minorities, as well as with important Sunni sectors.

The Vatican agency cited “sources” who said that extremist Islamist groups in the ranks of the Qusair rebels “consider Christians 'infidels,' confiscate goods, commit brief executions and are ready to start a 'sectarian war.' "

Families fleeing Qusair have gone to nearby villages and to Damascus, the capital, the agency report said. “Some families, very few, sought valiantly to stay in their home town,” reported Agenzia Fides, “but no one knows what fate they will suffer.”

Source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/06/vatican-christians-expelled-syria.html

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--Patrick J. McDonnell