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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Syrian Orthodox Leader Makes Appeal for Christians Under Attack

Notes Worry Over Uncertain Future

ALEPPO, Syria, AUG. 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Last week the Metropolitan of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Yohanna Abraham, of the Syrian Orthodox Church, issued a statement on the problems Christians are facing in the midst of the current conflicts.

“We no longer can enjoy our peaceful co-existence the once we use to be proud of,” he commented.
“A this juncture, we cannot see the light at the end of our predicament tunnel, after all this detraction and mayhem we still hear that ‘The Battle for Aleppo’ with untold consequences is yet to start,” he noted.

He explained that problems began dating back to the 1980s with corruption and bad behavior by government officials. “The yoke of persistent corruption generated discreet popular foment which eventually triggered the protest movement,” he said.

People thought that with the popular uprisings in other Middle Eastern countries that that the “Arab Spring” could be a way to eradicate corruption. What has occurred, however, is civil war and chaos.

There is the danger, he said, of a “nightmarish scenario which threatens the existence of the state by fragmenting it into many tiny entities.”

It is important, he urged, to maintain a united Syria, but one with more justice, the rule of law, and freedom of belief.

The Church leader pleaded for a cease fire between the warring parties and for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the country. Furthermore, he called for negotiations between all the parties and for an eventual reconciliation between those in conflict.

“I would invite you to share with me fervent prayers for a peaceful out come to the Syrian crisis, for security, safety and stability,” he added.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35404?l=english

Friday, August 17, 2012

Archbishop Jeanbart: Fratricidal War in Syria Must End

Syrian Archbishop of Aleppo Calls For Peace

ROME, AUG. 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo says fighting was continuing Thursday in several districts of Syria’s biggest commercial city. Metropolitan Archbishop Jean Clement Jeanbart says the areas under siege in the northern city are mostly in the outskirts which were built up over recent decades as rural families transferred to the urban center for jobs.

In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure, the Syrian prelate said that the communities under attack are not necessarily sympathisers with the Assad regime. “Some of them are sympathising but the problem is that many fighters came from outside and settled in the midst of them. Some of [the fighters] are from these parts but many, many others came from outside Aleppo and perhaps far from Aleppo – from the north, the Turkish borders,” he said.

When asked if Syria has become the site of a proxy war fought by outside powers, Archbishop Jeanbart expresses concern that there are “organizations to find fighters, jihadists, people who want to fight for God and the Islamic cause and that’s why we have fundamentalists coming from Libya, from Jordan, from Egypt, from several other countries, from Afghanistan, even from Turkey. There are plenty of people coming from all these parts of the world. Of course there are [also] fighters from the city, from [Syria]…the Free Syrian Army.”

The Metropolitan Archbishop says for the most part, the Christian community of Aleppo has “thank God, been preserved until now. Our people are not militarized and we have forbidden and asked our people not to take up arms…we made it clear to everybody that we are not part of this fighting.”

Archbishop Jeanbart affirmed that Christians have lived alongside Muslims in Syria for thousands of years. “We remind everybody that we’ve been living with Muslims since hundreds of years…and we have always been good with them and they [have been] good with us.” But, he implied,foreign fighters not familiar with the history of friendly relations between Christians and Muslims in Syria are suspicious of these ties. “They think [this] is not good and they are doing mistakes, yes, in this regard. They may be killing sometime. But thank God, we must say that we have not many casualties.”

Some Christians, he admits, have been threatened with kidnapping or with having their homes or property confiscated. He is quick to add that so far, no churches have been targeted in such threats. “We can say our people are safe and we hope it can continue to be like that.”

The Aleppo Archbishop makes an appeal to the international community to step up efforts in dialogue, to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

“We’d like to see European countries, the West, do something in this regard,” he says, “to try not to send arms and [to] push people to fight but to send encouragement to sit down at a table and to talk and to find a solution by dialogue. That’s what the Holy Father has called [for] several times and we are happy and yes, proud to know that our Pope Benedictus has called for that and this is very important.”

Archbishop Jeanbart insists “the Western countries must understand that [arms are] not the way to get what [they] want.” Dialogue, he maintains, is the only way to end “this fratricidal war where people die for nothing [except] realizing some objectives I do not understand.”

Archbishop Jeanbart dismissed any implication that the neutrality of Syria’s Christians can be seen as indication of their support of the Assad regime. He suggests that the same neutrality could be seen as supportive of the opposition. “we do not take up arms neither for the one nor for the other.”

“We…as communities, as churches, we do not want that and we ask our people not to go ahead in this way.” He says he and other church leaders prefer to trust in “the providence of the Lord” and “in dialogue and understanding with everyone that we do not want to hurt anyone and we do not want anyone to hurt us. We do not get into political discussions or political choices.”

Referring to the concern of the Middle East’s bishops about the exodus of Christians from the region, the Syrian prelate described migration as “our biggest problem,” and one of his own greatest worries. “many people want to leave – mostly the youth – and this is a big preoccupation for us.”

He indicates that many Christians with the financial resources to do so, have left for neighbouring countries like Lebanon to wait out the crisis. But his real concern is for others who have left for more distant places like Canada, the U.S. or Europe . He says he tries to tell those who remain in Syria “it is not the moment to decide to go away… try to stay these few months and I’m sure that things will go well.”

Christians have been in Syria for two thousand years, he reminds them. “We have the duty but also the chance to live in this country. We mustn’t lose this chance and lose this possibility to be full citizens in this country and to bear witness to the Lord in this country where Christians [took] their first steps in the world.”
Speaking on the hope that the security situation will permit him to go to Beirut for Pope Benedict’s September visit to Lebanon, Archbishop Jeanbart said he hopes the Holy Father will make “a very strong call to the world, the West, to see the human cost [of this conflict]” and to invigorate efforts at dialogue to bring the violence to a swift end.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35384?l=english

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bishop Warduni: Iraqi Christians Eager for Papal Visit to Lebanon

Baghdad Auxiliary Speaks on Importance of Benedict's Trip to the Middle East

ROME, AUG. 8, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In just over a month, Benedict XVI will embark on his apostolic visit to Lebanon, scheduled for Sept. 14-16. The primary purpose of the visit is the signing of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, fruit of the 2010 synod on the Middle East.

The papal visit has been greatly anticipated not only in Lebanon but in the whole Christian community of the region. In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti, Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad spoke on how the Church in Iraq views this trip.

Despite difficulties and troublesome circumstances in the Middle East, Bishop Warduni said that the Church in Iraq is awaiting the papal visit to Lebanon with “great hope."

“It is the visit of a father who loves his children, who feel his concern for them, wherever and whatever the circumstance," he said. "We in Iraq also await this apostolic exhortation with love and great hope. There are still so many difficulties, especially in regard to security. We hope that this visit will bring much consolation, much courage and much support."

The Iraqi prelate said that a fundamental aspect of the Holy Father's visit is the importance of dialogue between Christians and Muslims in the region. Benedict XVI is expected to meet not only Christians, but with members of the Muslim community. As witnesses of the Gospel, Bishop Warduni said, Christians must always seek “to be close to our brothers, seeking to have it understood that religion should bring souls closer, to make it understood that God’s Spirit is present everywhere.”

“If we don’t respect one another, if we don’t try to help one another, being reconciled all together, it will be very difficult to go forward in these circumstances – with the war – because the love of God and love of brothers is not understood,” he reflected.

When asked if the Iraqi Christian community felt a closeness to the Pope, amidst the difficulties that have forced many to flee, the auxiliary bishop of Iraq reiterated the Holy Father’s message of loving their land and attaching themselves to the faith.

“This is the hour of hope, great and strong," Bishop Warduni said, "so that all will return to their homes: there they will really find their happiness. We hope that all will be able to live in peace and security!”

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35337?l=english

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Syria's Christians can be the catalysts for peace

by Nadim Nassar 

Christians have no ambition to rule Syria but they can encourage the warring parties to negotiate a peace deal

syrian christians
Syrian Christians attend Sunday Mass in Damascus last year. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

What if the regime fell today? This is the question that occupies all Syrians, especially Syrians who are in one of the minorities.

In Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, western allies admitted that they had no postwar plan and many have paid the price for this – especially the Iraqi minorities; since Saddam fell, hundreds of thousands of Christians as well as Muslims have fled Iraq in the face of sectarian violence and terrorism. Now, people are calling for a regime change in Syria without a clear plan for what should happen next. Should the minorities pay the same price in Syria?

Syrians are a demographic mosaic that includes the Sunni majority plus Christians, Druze, Alawites and Kurds. Just like every other group in Syrian society, the Christians have a range of attitudes to what is happening: some support the regime, many have refused to be drawn into the conflict, and others are active members of the opposition.

I think that perhaps 95% of Syrians – especially the Christians – believe violence is not the way to bring change to Syria.

It is vital to remember, though, that no Christian religious leader, in Syria or outside, has the power to talk "in the name of Christians". When we hear a bishop or a patriarch speaking, they do not represent Christians as a whole. It is very dangerous to build a picture of "Christians in Syria" through some religious figure, including me: I cannot speak in the name of all Christians in Syria any more than an English priest can be said to represent the views of every Christian in Britain.

Most Syrians fear what will happen after the regime has fallen. Religious fanaticism is growing across the Middle East and Syrians of every religion dread the establishment of a radical Muslim Syria.

Despite what you might read in much of the western media, Syria is an enlightened, secular society with a deeply spiritual core and the common belief is that Syria is for everybody. A fundamentalist state would destroy the traditions of co-existence and religious harmony that have existed here since the fall of the Ottoman Empire nearly 100 years ago. Syrian independence was won with the blood of all Syrians – Muslim, Christian, Druze, Alawite and Kurdish.

Although most Syrians fear radical Islam taking power, our greatest worry is that we have no alternative political system to replace the regime when it does fall. We know from our neighbours in Lebanon, Libya and Iraq that countries can descend into chaos and sectarianism when one government goes and there are no institutions to replace it.

Sadly, the whole infrastructure in Syria – political, economic and social – is rotten to the core and its institutions need to be renewed and replaced. For instance, we have two huge organisations dominating the life of children and youth but both are inextricably linked to the Ba'ath party. Civil society in Syria is totally suspended: everything has to go through the ruling party.

Because Christians are a minority, the general view is that they are sympathisers of the regime because they have been "protected" by it. In fact, under the present regime, Christians have never been given special treatment or protection in any way. Although Christians have not been persecuted in Syria, and we have been free to practise our faith and go to church, we have not been exempt from suffering under the corruption that engulfed the regime and infected much of Syrian society.

Christians were not persecuted even before the Assad family came to power – in the 1940s, Syria had a Christian prime minister. As a Syrian priest, I deeply believe that Christians do not need to hide behind any regime to be protected; we are protected by being Syrians, an original part of the fabric of our society – do not forget that Syria was one of the earliest centres of Christianity 600 years before the birth of Islam.

Violence breeds only violence and revenge. At the moment, both sides are determined to destroy the other; inevitably this will lead to the destruction of the entire country, as we have seen elsewhere. I believe more than ever that the only way to resolve this conflict is for Syrians to meet at the table of dialogue and negotiation, and for regional and international powers to facilitate and encourage this dialogue without actually taking part.

In Geneva, the international conference on Syria included all international powers, except the Syrians. What we need for peace is the exact opposite of the Geneva conference.

Christians have no ambition to rule Syria – the idea would be ridiculous. Because of this, we can be catalysts for peacemaking, and encourage all sides, for the sake of Syria, to come together and leave their big egos and their even bigger foreign allies behind them.

Peacemaking must be without preconditions; the time for negotiation is now, even in the midst of the conflict. To negotiate after tens of thousands have died is better than negotiating once hundreds of thousands have perished.

Nadim Nassar is an Anglican priest and the director of the Awareness Foundation. He was born and raised in Lattakia, Syria to a Christian family. He studied in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war and was senior chaplain to the universities and colleges in London

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/nadim-nassar

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vatican Message for End of Ramadan

"Educating young Christians and Muslims for justice and peace"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 3, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for the end of Ramadan.
* * *
Dear Muslim friends,

1. The celebration of ‘Id al-Fitr,which concludes the month of Ramadan, accords us at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue the joy of presenting to you warm greetings.

We rejoice with you for this privileged time which gives you the opportunity to deepen obedience to God, by fasting and other pious practices, a value equally dear to us.

This is why, this year, it seemed opportune to us to focus our common reflection on the education of young Christians and Muslims for justice and peace, that are inseparable from truth and freedom.

2. If the task of education is entrusted to the whole of society, as you know, it is first and foremost, and in a particular way, the work of parents and, with them, of families, schools and universities, not forgetting about those responsible for religious, cultural, social, and economic life, and the world of communication.
It is an enterprise which is both beautiful and difficult: to help children and young people to discover and to develop the resources with which the Creator has endowed them with and to build responsible human relationships. Referring to the task of educators, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI recently affirmed: "For this reason, today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts… A witness is someone who first lives the life that he proposes to others." ("Message for World Day of Peace" 2012) Besides, let us also remember that the young themselves are responsible as well for their own education and fortheir formation for justice and peace.

3. Justice is determined first of allby the identity of the human person, considered in his or her entirety; it cannot be reduced to its commutative and distributive dimension. We must not forget that the common good cannot be achieved without solidarity and fraternal love! For believers, genuine justice, lived in the friendship with God, deepens all other relationships: with oneself, with others and with the whole of creation. Furthermore, they profess that justice has its origin in the fact that all men are created by God and are called to become one, single family. Such a vision of things, with full respect for reason and openness to transcendence, urges all men and women of good will, inviting them to harmonize rights and duties.

4. In the tormented world of ours, educating the young for peace becomes increasingly urgent. To engage ourselves in an adequate manner, the true nature of peace must be understood: that it is not limited to the mere absence of war, or to a balance between opposing forces, but is at one and the same time a gift from God and a human endeavour to be pursued without ceasing. It isa fruit of justice and an effect of charity. It is important that believers are always active in the communities they belong to: by practising compassion, solidarity, collaboration and fraternity, they can effectively contribute towards addressing the great challenges of today: harmonious growth, integral development, prevention and resolution of conflicts, to name just a few.

5. To conclude, we wish to encourage young Muslim and Christian readers of this Message to cultivate truth and freedom, in order to be genuine heralds of justice and peace and builders of a culture which respects the dignity and the rights of every citizen. We invite them to have patience and tenacity necessary for realizing these ideals, never resorting to doubtful compromises, deceptive short-cuts or to means which show little respect for the human person. Only men and women sincerely convinced of these exigencies will be able to build societies where justice and peace will become realities.

May God fill with serenity and hope, the hearts, families and communities of those who nurture the desire of being ‘instruments of peace’!

Happy Feast to you all!
From the Vatican, 3 August 2012
Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran
Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Syria Nuncio Appeals for End of Bloodshed

Archbishop Zenari Expresses Gratitude for Pope's Solidarity With Syrian People

By Junno Arocho

DAMASCUS, Syria, AUG. 1, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The apostolic nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, is thanking Benedict XVI for papal words of support and solidarity with the suffering Syrian people.

The archbishop commented to Vatican Radio about the Pope's appeal, made after the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday. He called on the international community assist in humanitarian efforts and appealed for an end to the bloodshed.

"The appeal of the Holy Father for the cessation of the violence in Syria, and his solidarity with the sufferings of the people, was of great consolation," said Archbishop Zenari, who was appointed to Syria at the end of 2008.

The nuncio went on to describe the situation in the region as "very, very grave".

"At this moment," he said, "the feeling among the people is of a great [uncertainty]. Let me say in these days, the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games was a joyful celebration of the universal brotherhood. What contrasts our brothers and sisters are living this moment in Syria!"

"Nevertheless the celebration remains a sign of hope. The flame of universal brotherhood will never be extinguished by the fratricidal winds that are blowing in some parts of the world. It will be lighted here again with international solidarity," the 66-year-old archbishop affirmed.

The Italian prelate made an appeal to religious leaders in the country to use their "moral authority" to plead with those involved in the conflict to end the bloodshed and violence against the Syrian people. "Come together all of you and with all the strength of your moral authority," Archbishop Zenari said.

"Launch a joint and severe warning to the parties [involved in] the conflict, to stop in the name of God the violence and repression that is taking the country to destruction, terrible sufferings and death. Ask them to have the courage to undertake, immediately and in all sincerity with the assistance of the international community, the path to a just solution to the crisis."

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35296?l=english