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, September 27, 2012

Secretary for the Holy Sees Relations with States Helps Combat Crimes against Diplomats

Holy See Joins United Nation in Efforts to Combat Global Violence

NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 27, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See declared its intention on Wednesday to contribute further to global efforts to prevent and combat crimes against diplomats, in an act which comes just weeks after United States Ambassador to Libya was killed by protestors during a raid on the US consulate in Benghazi.

This news was announced in a communiqué released by the Holy See, which stated: "On the afternoon of 26 September 2012, H.E. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, deposited the instrument of accession to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, to the Secretary of the United Nations."

"In taking this step," the communiqué continues, "both in its own name and on behalf of Vatican City State, the Holy See has declared that it intends to contribute further to the global efforts to prevent and combat crimes against diplomats."

Established in 1973, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents requires that State parties make it illegal to attack foreign diplomats, obliging them to extradite or prosecute offenders.

"The instrument of accession," the communiqué goes on to say, "also recalls that the promotion of brotherhood, justice and peace among individuals and peoples is particularly dear to the heart of the Holy See, and that such promotion requires the observance of the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights."
With this act, the Holy See demonstrates not only its "desire to cooperate in protecting adequately the diplomatic personnel (in primis its own and that accredited to it), but it also contributes to the international community’s efforts to protect itself against the risks of terrorism."

"Finally, this initiative is in line with the well-known process, that began some time ago, which aims at adapting the Vatican legal system to the highest international standards related to the fight against this serious scourge."

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35617?l=english

Muslims and Christians Are Committed in Spreading Pope's Fraternal Message in Lebanon

Inter-Religious Meeting Held to Gather First Fruits of Historic Visit

By Robert Cheaib

BKERKE, Lebanon, SEPT. 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- An inter-religious meeting was held on Monday at the patriarchal headquarters of the Maronite Church in Lebanon. The gathering gathered various religious realities of the country to discuss the effect, fruits and challenges stemming from Benedict XVI’s visit, which took place earlier this month.

Attending the meeting organized by the Maronite Patriarch, Mar Bechara Boutros El-Rai, were the heads of the major religious communities, Muslim and Christian, present in Lebanon.

Participating on the Muslim side were: the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Muhammad Rachid Qabbani as representative of the Sunnis; the vice-president of the Supreme Shiite Islamic Council Imam Abd el-Amir Qabalan, as representative of the Shiites; Sheikh Naim Hassan, spiritual head of the Druses, and the president of the Alawita Islamic Council, Sheikh Assad Assi.

Participating on the Catholic side were The Catholicos of the Armenian Orthodox, His Beatitude Aram I Chechechyan; the Patriarch of the Syro-Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Youseff III Younan; the president of the Evangelical community in Lebanon and Syria, the pastor Dr. Salim Sahyouny, as well as other bishops representing the various Christian communities of Lebanon.

The participants focused their attention at the meeting on the “historic visit” of Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon. Those present agreed on the opportuneness of the visit which brought immediate positive fruits to the Lebanese scene and highlighted the quality of the Lebanese nation as a country “secure and open to all cultures and religions, and as the best place to sign the Apostolic Exhortation “The Church in the Middle East.”

In the final communique, the Christian and Muslim participants expressed their approval of the contents of the Exhortation, given that the Holy Father’s insistence on the necessary coexistence between cultures and religions is “an expression of renewed confidence in Lebanon’s mission, already confirmed by Blessed John Paul II” in his apostolic visit to the country in 1997.

According to Lebanon’s various religious representatives, the principal message that the Pope wished to give was to confirm Lebanon as a land of dialogue and peaceful interaction among the different cultures that live “the richness of diversity.”

The communique confirmed the willingness of the various religious heads to commit themselves to “spread the fraternal message” of the Holy Father and to “reflect further on its content in families, in schools and in society” and to transmit the message to religious heads in the other Arab countries.

In tune with the Pope’s appeal to young people not to yield to the temptation to taste “the bitter honey of emigration,” the prelates exhorted the Lebanese to stay in their land and not allow themselves to be drawn by the “wave of emigration that impoverishes the East and deprives it of its best children and dynamic forces and weakens the Lebanese national fabric, putting at risk the Republic’s identity.”

Condemnation of the “Innocence of Islam”

The participants condemned unanimously the controversial film shown on the Internet, which “offends Islam and its prophet and messenger Muhammad,” and stated that “any offense to any religion is a sacrilege against all religions.”

The communique also condemned the violent reactions that caused the death of innocent victims and desecrated places of Christian worship far from being responsible for the film.

A Successful Visit

Benedict XVI’s visit to the Lebanon was long prepared by the country’s Christians. A few days before the visit, the Maronite bishops hoped that the visit would be “a real and proper Arab Spring” marked by peace and peaceful coexistence and respectful of otherness.

Numerically, participation in the visit was powerful, involving several components of the Lebanese society, including representatives of the Muslim communities. And the subsequent echoes on the visit were highly positive both in the secular press as well as in the interventions of several Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim religious heads.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35603?l=english

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Journey to Lebanon

"Concord and reconciliation must be stronger than the forces of death"

On Pope Benedict XVI’S Apostolic Journey to Lebanon

“Concord and reconciliation must be stronger than the forces of death”

VATICAN, SEPTEMBER 19, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in the Paul VI Hall. The Holy Father dedicated today’s audience to reflecting on his recent Apostolic Journey to Lebanon.

* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like briefly to return in mind and heart to the extraordinary days of my recent Apostolic Journey to Lebanon. It was a visit I greatly desired to make despite the difficult circumstances, seeing that a father should always be close to his children when they are facing serious problems. I was moved by the sincere desire to announce the peace that the Risen Lord left to his disciples, with the words: “My peace I give you - سلامي أعطيكم” (John 14:27). The principle purpose of my visit was the signing and consigning of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to representatives of the Catholic Communities of the Middle East as well as the other Churches and ecclesial communities, and also to Muslim leaders.

It was a moving ecclesial event and, at the same time, a provident occasion for dialogue in a country that is complex but emblematic for the entire region, thanks to its tradition of coexistence and of fruitful cooperation between the different religious and social elements present. Confronted by the sufferings and tragedies that continue in that area of the Middle East, I expressed my heartfelt closeness to the legitimate aspirations of those dear people, bringing them a message of encouragement and peace. I am thinking particularly of the terrible conflict plaguing Syria, which in addition to thousands of deaths, is causing a stream of refugees to pour out of the region in a desperate search for security and for a future; nor can I forget the plight in Iraq.
During my visit, the people of Lebanon and the Middle East -- Catholics, representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities and of the various Muslim communities -- lived with enthusiasm an important moment of mutual respect, understanding and brotherhood in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere, which constitutes a powerful sign of hope for all mankind. But above all, it was the encounter with the Catholic faithful of Lebanon and the Middle East, who were present in the thousands, which aroused sentiments of deep gratitude in my soul for the zeal of their faith and their witness.

I thank the Lord for this precious gift, which offers hope for the future of the Church in those areas: young people, adults and families motivated by the tenacious desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain anchored to the Gospel and to walk together in the Church. I renew my gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly for my visit: the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon with their staff, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, consecrated persons and lay faithful, who have a precious and meaningful presence in Lebanese society. I was able to see firsthand that the Lebanese Catholic communities, through their two thousand year presence and their hopeful commitment, offer a significant and valued contribution to the daily lives of all of the country’s inhabitants.

A grateful and respectful thought goes to the Lebanese authorities, institutions and associations, to the volunteers and to all those who offered their prayerful support. I cannot forget the cordial welcome I received from the President of the Republic, Mr. Michael Sleiman, as well as from the various sectors of the country and from the people: it was a warm welcome, in accord with famous Lebanese hospitality. Muslims welcomed me with great respect and sincere regard: their constant and engaging presence gave me the opportunity to propose a message of dialogue and of collaboration between Christianity and Islam: it seems to me that the moment has come to join in giving a sincere and decisive testimony against divisions, against violence and against wars. The Catholics who came from neighboring countries fervently expressed their deep affection for the Successor of Peter.

After the beautiful ceremony upon my arrival at Beirut airport, the first meeting was particularly solemn: the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostlic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, in the Greek-Melkite Basilica of St. Paul at Harissa. On that occasion, I invited Middle Eastern Catholics to fix their gaze on Christ Crucified in order to find the strength -- even in difficult and painful contexts -- to celebrate the victory of love over hate, of forgiveness over revenge and of unity over division. I assured everyone that the universal Church is closer than ever, through the affection of prayer, to the Churches in the Middle East: though they are a “little flock” they should not fear, in the certainty that the Lord is always with them. The Pope does not forget them.
On the second day of my Apostolic Journey I met with representatives of the Institutions of the Republic and of the world of culture, the diplomatic Corps and religious leaders.  To them, among other things, I indicated a way forward to promote a future of peace and solidarity: by working to ensure that cultural, social and religious differences arrive through sincere dialogue at a new fraternity, where what unites [them] is the shared sense of the greatness and dignity of every person, whose life must always be defended and protected. On the same day, I had a meeting with the leaders of the Muslim religious communities, which took place in a spirit of dialogue and mutual goodwill. I thank God for this meeting. The world today needs clear and powerful signs of dialogue and collaboration, and in this regard Lebanon was and must continue to be an example for Arab nations and for the rest of the world.

In the afternoon, at the residence of the Maronite Patriarch, I was greeted with uncontainable enthusiasm by thousands of young people from Lebanon and the surrounding countries. This gave rise to a joyful and prayerful moment that will remain indelibly impressed in so many hearts. I emphasized their good fortune in living in that part of the world where Jesus died and rose for our salvation, and where Christianity developed, and I exhorted them to be faithful to and to love for their native land, despite the difficulties caused by the lack of stability and security. In addition, I encouraged them to be steadfast in the faith, by trusting in Christ, the source of our joy, and to deepen their personal relationship with Him in prayer, and also to be open to the great ideals of life, of family, of friendship and of solidarity. As I looked upon young Christians and Muslims celebrating in great harmony, I encouraged them to build the future of Lebanon and the Middle East together, and together to oppose violence and war. Concord and reconciliation must be stronger than the forces of death.

On Sunday morning, there was the very intense and well-attended moment of the Holy Mass at Beirut’s City Center Waterfront, accompanied by the evocative songs that characterized the other celebrations as well. In the presence of numerous bishops and a great crowd of the faithful from every part of the Middle East, I wished to exhort everyone to live the faith and to bear witness to it without fear, in the knowledge that the vocation of the Christian and of the Church is to carry the Gospel to everyone without distinction, after the example of Jesus.  In a context marked by bitter conflicts, I drew attention to the necessity of serving peace and justice, by becoming instruments of reconciliation and builders of communion. At the conclusion of the Eucharistic celebration, I had the joy of consigning the Apostolic Exhortation, which gathers together the conclusions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Middle East. Through the Eastern and Latin Patriarchs and Bishops, the priests, consecrated and lay faithful, this document is intended to reach all the faithful of that dear region, in order to support them in the faith and in communion, and to spur them on to the greatly anticipated new evangelization.

In the afternoon, at the See of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate, I then had the joy of a fraternal ecumenical meeting with the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and representatives of those Churches, as well as the ecclesial communities.

Dear friends, the days spent in Lebanon were a splendid manifestation of faith and religious feeling and a prophetic sign of peace. The multitude of believers from all over the Middle East had the opportunity to reflect, to converse and above all to pray together, and to renew their commitment to root their lives in Christ. I am certain that the people of Lebanon, in its varied but well amalgamated religious and social makeup, will know how to bear witness with new momentum to true peace, which comes from trust in God. I hope that the various messages of peace and esteem that I wished to give may help governments of the region to take decisive steps forward toward peace and toward a better understanding of Christian-Muslim relations. For my part, I continue to accompany those beloved peoples in prayer that they may remain faithful to the commitments they have assumed. To the maternal intercession of Mary, who is venerated at so many and such ancient Lebanese shrines, I entrust the fruits of this pastoral visit, as well as the good intentions and just aspirations of the entire Middle East. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today I would like to reflect on my recent Apostolic Journey to Lebanon. It had as its first priority the consigning of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to the representatives of the Catholic Church from Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. I also had occasion to meet representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities from the region, as well as Muslim leaders. I was able to speak from the heart, to stand before the sufferings and the dramatic events in the Middle East, and to express my prayerful encouragement for the legitimate aspirations for peace there. I was deeply moved by the faith of the local Church, and I asked the faithful to keep their gaze fixed on Christ crucified, therein finding the strength amid trying circumstances to celebrate the victory of love over hate, of forgiveness over revenge, and of unity over division. I wish also to express my gratitude to the Muslim community, whose leaders welcomed me warmly, and to whom I proposed a message of dialogue and of collaboration. Finally, my thanks go once more to all who worked to make my Visit to Lebanon so memorable, and I assure all the dear people of the Middle East of my prayers and affection.

* * *

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35570?l=english

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Caritas Lebanon President Speaks on Plight of Syrians

Vatican Aid Agency Has Helped Over 20,000 Refugees Escaping Conflict

ROME, SEPT. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A major theme of Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic journey to Lebanon was the plight of people whose lives are disrupted by conflict and violence. Throughout his visit, the Holy Father reiterated his closeness to the people of Syria, many tens of thousands of whom are crossing the border in search of refuge.

Caritas Lebanon, founded 36 years ago, is part of the far reaching family of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican aid agency whose mission is to bring help and support to millions of people in need across the world.

In an interview with Vatican Radio's Tracey McClure, Father Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon, spoke on the impact the papal visit had on the country. From the very first moment, even when the Papal plane landed, Fr. Faddoul says, "we felt like the climate had changed, the climate among the people of this land: we felt more united, much closer".

I think, he continues, "that with this visit the Pope is able to unite the whole country." Fr. Faddoul points out that throughout the visit, people from all religions and from every walk of life were present. In itself, he says, "this is a great accomplishment".

He says that with his words, the Pope has planted even stronger hope in our hearts and minds. Especially in the hearts and minds of the young people. Regarding the meeting of young people at Bkerké, the Lebanese priest said that "heaven was open - I personally felt so". "There were Christians and Muslims alike, and people from all over. I felt it was like Pentecost", he said.

As President of Caritas Lebanon, Fr. Faddoul spoke of the difficulties faced over the past 16 months as floods of refugees have been coming into the country from Syria. He says initially they were mostly in the North, but as of now have spread throughout the country. "They come and they have to find a shelter for themselves", Fr. Faddoul said.

Most refugees have gone in search of relatives or acquaintances in the country due to an absence of a main camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The building of a tent city for Syrian refugees requires a political decision by the Lebanese government. Fr. Faddoul stated that hesitation in building a main camp “derives from the fact that in 1948 Palestinian camps were set up and they are still here now.”

“They are afraid to give the people the idea that the camps will be around for longer than they are supposed to - or even become permanent,” he said.

According to Fr. Faddoul, Caritas has aided over 20,000 refugees, providing them with food parcels, hygiene products, mattresses. Although there have been some American and European partners who have helped, the president of Caritas Lebanon expressed his hope that his message will reach out and the response for Caritas' second appeal will be much greater.

"We are studying possibility of creating the basic infrastructures for them so that they can hopefully have a bit of a normal life," he said.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35562?l=english

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pope lifts up the other face of the Middle East in Lebanon

(CNS/ Paul Haring)

Sep. 17, 2012

Beirut, Lebanon — Some papal trips are important for their substance, while others matter more for their symbolism. Benedict XVI’s Sept. 14-16 outing to Lebanon fell into that second category, showing the world a different face of the Middle East in a moment of mounting violence and deep doubts about the future of the Arab Spring.

As Lebanon’s Daily Star put it, the trip came off as a “symbol of tolerance” in a region whose profile is more often that of fundamentalism, terrorism, and sectarian strife.

Benedict arrived on the very day that the recent bout of anti-American and anti-Western violence reached its peak, and while a bloody civil war in neighboring Syria continued to rage — neither of which were on the horizon when plans for the trip were originally crafted.

In that context, the focus shifted. Originally, the trip seemed calculated to deliver a shot in the arm to the Christian minority of the Middle East, in decline and full of anxiety about its future. As events unfolded, however, both the pope and his Lebanese hosts seemed determined to use the outing to accomplish something more pressing — to illustrate that the Middle East is not exclusively defined by radicalism and the “clash of civilizations.”

NCR senior correspondent John L. Allen Jr. traveled with Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon. Here is a list of stories Allen covered during the pope’s visit.

Papal charge to Middle East Christians: 'Be peacemakers!' , Sep. 16, 2012

On trip about unity, Catholic division a striking omission , Sep. 16, 2012

Strong words but no shift in substance on Syria , Sep. 16, 2012

Archbishop (gently) corrects pope on Arab Spring , Sep. 15, 2012

Pope tackles elephant in room of Christian exodus , Sep. 15, 2012

Muslims want Christians in Middle East, mufti tells pope , Sep. 15, 2012

New papal bumper sticker: If we want peace, defend life! , Sep. 15, 2012

Transcript of pope en route to Lebanon , Sep. 14, 2012

Pope's trip showcases another face of the Middle East , Sep. 14, 2012

In Lebanon, pope mixes bitter and sweet, Sep. 14, 2012

'Statehood for Palestine now', patriarch tells pope, Sep. 14, 2012

Getting Lebanon's Catholics to work and play well together, Sep. 13, 2012

With world on the brink, can Benedict be a firebreak? , Sep. 13, 2012

Source: http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-lifts-other-face-middle-east-lebanon

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pope to Mideast Youth: Don't Taste 'Bitter Sweetness' of Emigration

Asks Them to Show That Islam and Christianity Can Live Side by Side Without Hatred

By Kathleen Naab

BEIRUT, Lebanon, SEPT. 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Before a vast and enthusiastic crowd of young people this evening in Lebanon, Benedict XVI voiced a strong appeal to end the emigration of Christians from the Holy Land, opposing the trend that has decimated the native Christian population of the region and that is expected to continue to diminish it.

The Pope concluded his second day in Beirut with the youth encounter, offering his own reflections after listening attentively to presentations given by a young woman and a young man.

The Holy Father began by telling the Lebanese youth -- and their guests from Syria, the Holy Land, and other places of the region -- that it is a "great honor" to live in the part of the world that "witnessed the birth of Jesus and the growth of Christianity."

"It is also a summons to fidelity, to love of this region and, above all, to your calling to be witnesses and messengers of the joy of Christ."

The Bishop of Rome acknowledged the many difficulties that plague the region, such that young people face instability and lack of security, as well as unemployment.

"But not even unemployment and uncertainty should lead you to taste the bitter sweetness of emigration, which involves an uprooting and a separation for the sake of an uncertain future," the Pope said. "You are meant to be protagonists of your country’s future and to take your place in society and in the Church."

Parallel worlds

The Holy Father went on to offer some more practical tips, so that the "frustrations of the present moment" do not lead the youth to "take refuge in parallel worlds like those, for example, of the various narcotics or the bleak world of pornography."

Regarding social networks, he said, "they are interesting but they can quite easily lead to addiction and confusion between the real and the virtual. Look for relationships of genuine, uplifting friendship. Find ways to give meaning and depth to your lives; fight superficiality and mindless consumption!"

The Pontiff also warned of the "tyrannical idol" of money, "which blinds to the point of stifling the person at the heart." And he lamented that the "examples being held up all around you are not always the best."


Benedict XVI's address affirmed his hope for the future reflected in the youth, as he asked them to bring Christ's love to everyone.

"Christ asks you, then, to do as he did: to be completely open to others, even if they belong to a different cultural, religious or national group," the Pontiff said. "[...] Experiencing together moments of friendship and joy enables us to resist the onset of division, which must always be rejected! Brotherhood is a foretaste of heaven! [...] Young people of Lebanon, you are the hope and the future of your country."

Along these lines, the Pontiff offered a special greeting to the young Muslims in the crowd: "Together with the young Christians, you are the future of this fine country and of the Middle East in general. Seek to build it up together! And when you are older, continue to live in unity and harmony with Christians."

The Pope noted the weighty responsibility resting on the youth: "It is vital that the Middle East in general, looking at you, should understand that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society."

The Holy Father concluded with a special message of consolation for Syria, assuring that the country and its violent conflict are among his prayers and concerns. And he entrusted the youth to Mary, and to Blessed John Paul II.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-35540?l=english

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Holy See Gives 'Firmest Possible Condemnation' to Slaying of US Ambassador

Says Nothing Justifies Terrorist Activity

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 13, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican today expressly condemned the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador and three other officials.
In a follow-up to a declaration Wednesday from the Vatican press office, today's statement took a harsher tone in regard to the violence. The initial statement focused mainly on the need to respect religious sensitivities.

"The very serious attack organised against the United States diplomatic mission in Libya, which led to the death of the ambassador and of other functionaries, calls for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See. Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organisations and homicidal violence. Along with our sadness, mourning and prayers for the victims, we again express the hope that, despite this latest tragedy, the international community may discover the most favourable ways to continue its commitment in favour of peace in Libya and the entire Middle East," read today's statement.

The Vatican press office message from Wednesday alluded to the fact that the Benghazi attack is believed to be in response to a US-produced amateur film that ridicules Mohammed.

"The serious consequences of unjustified offense and provocations against the sensibilities of Muslim believers are once again evident in these days, as we see the reactions they arouse, sometimes with tragic results, which in their turn nourish tension and hatred, unleashing unacceptable violence," the statement noted.
It also asserted that "profound respect for the beliefs, texts, outstanding figures and symbols of the various religions" is essential if people hope to coexist peacefully.

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Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-35527?l=english