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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Says Christians Are Exploited in Syrian Conflict

DAMASCUS, Syria, OCT. 24, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On Monday, two Christians were kidnapped and killed when a car bomb exploded in Damascus, reports the Fides news agency. While travelling south from Qusair to Damascus, the two faithful were stopped by an armed group, seized and a ransom of $30,000 was asked of their family. Two hours later, the kidnappers announced their killing. They were the brother and cousin of a local pastor of a Greek-Catholic Church in Damascus.

Later on in the evening, Jaramana, a south-eastern suburb of Damascus, was the scene of rebel bombings again this year. A source close to Fides News Agency reported a violent explosion occurred near the Greek-Catholic church of St. Abraham, damaging the surrounding buildings. It is unclear if there were any casualties and whether the two events were connected.

Jaramana, a prevalently Christian and Druze neighborhood, has doubled its population in recent years due to the many Iraqi refugees fleeing the war of 2003. Since the beginning of the rebellion in March of last year, it has remained loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. In the last week of August, two explosions killed more than 27 people in this neighborhood. It is believed that rebels have regrouped in the area after they were scattered by July’s military offensive.

"Christians are used as objects in a challenge to the government. There is no persecution, they are not killed for their faith, but they are vulnerable and are manipulated in order to achieve other goals," said Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham in an interview with Fides. The prelate is currently in Rome for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

Patriarch Laham recalled as well the kidnapping of the brother of the Rector of his seminary in Lebanon, who has not been seen or heard of since his abduction in July.
"These events create great anxiety among the faithful," he said.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Latin Patriarch: The New Evangelization Must Start from Jerusalem

"The New Evangelization Must Start from Jerusalem"

 VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The following is the text of the intervention of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem of Latins and President of the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arabic regionsat the Synod of Bishops on Saturday.

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The pilgrimage to the Holy Places and to the “living stones” is an excellent method of reviving our faith and that of the Pilgrim, and knowing better the cultural, historic and geographic context in which the mysteries in which we believe were born, an occasion for a personal and incarnate encounter with the person of Jesus.
The Christians of the Holy Land are the direct descendants of the very first Christian community and “the collective living memory of the history of Jesus”. The visit to the Holy Places, duly prepared and guided by reading the Word of God, and the encounter with the community can strengthen believers of little faith and enable the rebirth of the faith in those in whom it has died.

In this time, in which the Holy Places are at times offended and assaulted, the presence of pilgrims is a true testimony to faith and communion with our Church of the Calvary. We need you, your prayers and your solidarity! There, where the Apostles called to Jesus, “Increase our faith” (Lk 17:5), come, you too, dear brother Bishops, with your priests, seminarians and communities, and ask the Lord for the faith and the peace that is missing.I consider it an urgent necessity that our faith be a lifestyle that brings us closer to others. We must change a certain negative mentality that regards faith as belonging to a sociological faction leading to militance and violence. True faith helps us to feel more like the sons of God and therefore to be brothers to others, even at the cost of the cross and of bloodshed.

The new evangelization, in order to be modern and effective, must start from Jerusalem: it must begin from the first Christian community anchored to the person of Christ, having a cause for which it is willing to face any sacrifice and to give the gift of life itself.

Our community lives as a minority among believers of other faiths. Circumstances have pushed these to close in on themselves, to defend themselves, sensitive to their own rights and attentive to their locations and their rites. Introverted and fearful communities. For many the faith is a hereditary and social fact, when instead it should be more personal and committed. It is not about survival, but about breaking through and communicating.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Addresses Synod of Bishops

Arab Prelate Says It's Time to Break Through and Communicate

By Pietro Gennarini

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).-"The new evangelization, in order to be modern and effective, must start from Jerusalem,” stated his His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and President of the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arabic Regions (CELRA) as he addressed the Synod of Bishops on Saturday at the Vatican.

Patriarch Twal, who was ordained in Rome, was the first Arab to serve as bishop of an African country, Tunisia. He was named Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
In his intervention, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem stated that it is through reviving the faith that the place which has been the cauldron of so many wars may turn into a melting pot. While faith has erected the wall separating people for so long, it must now become the channel through which they may meet.

Given the recent hardships, where the holy sites have been desecrated or assaulted, the Patriarch stressed the need for the local faithful to put aside the “negative mentality that regards faith as belonging to a sociological faction leading to militancy and violence”. He also stressed visits to holy sites on the trail of the Bible by pilgrims, allows them to become a “true testimony of faith and communion with our Church of the Calvary”.  By encountering the person of Jesus Christ, the believers of weak faith may be strengthened and those in whom faith has died may experience its rebirth.

The Arab prelate stated that such pilgrimages will be an enormous help to the community of the Holy Land, who has closed in on itself in fear so as to defend its rights and reduced faith to a “hereditary fact”, instead of a personal and committed one.

“It is not about survival, but about breaking through and communicating” said the bishop.
The Latin Patriarch strongly invited his brothers in the episcopate along with their flocks to visit the Holy Land and asked for their prayers and solidarity.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pope Benedict and Patriarch Twal on Justice and Peace

by Father Rick Van De Water

After the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, H.B. Fouad Twal, visited the Archdiocese of L.A. on September 22-26, he continued on his way to speak at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Lieutenancy [of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher] in Indianapolis.

His talk in Indianapolis included an important message of peace. In particular, Patriarch Twal encouraged the knights and ladies to be advocates for peace in the Holy Land because, he said, America “has the key to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“You have a great responsibility toward the implementation of peace,” he said. “It is important, though, to realize that working hard for true peace is to everyone’s advantage. In our region, peace is either for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land or for no one.”

Patriarch Twal also asked his listeners to pray for peace in Syria, still engulfed in a bloody civil war. He also expressed concern that various countries, including the United States, have been involved in fomenting that war with the goal of regime change in Syria.

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has accused the U.S. of fueling the violence there by financing the supply of weapons to the militants of the opposition. Arab allies of the U.S. have also been accused of sending mercenaries to fight against the Syrian government.

On July 17, Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus echoed that charge that there has been "interference from foreign elements -- Arab and Western -- who bring weapons, money and one-sided information" into the country, inflaming passions on all sides and "weakening the voice of moderation.”

The mainstream media in the U.S. have been criticized for portraying the conflict as an attempt by the Syrian people to oust an oppressive regime. According to Father Andrew Halemba, the Middle East projects coordinator for Aid to the Church in Need, news agencies have misrepresented the situation, and their reports about the country should be treated critically and with great caution.“The situation is much more complex and difficult to assess than the media in the West make it out to be,” he said. “They seem to be ignoring that there are also internal power struggles and religious tensions between the different Muslim groups. Tribal feuds and acts of vengeance are a daily occurrence, and crime is rising in the country due to the unstable situation.”

“Syria needs reforms, I am sure,” Patriarch Twal said in Indianapolis, “but I’m asking if this violence is the way to have reform in Syria. We don’t want to have Syria as another Iraq. We wait. We pray. We are against any kind of violence.” Patriarch Twal also voiced the fear of the Christian community there that new rulers might not be so favorable to them as the current government headed by Bashar al-Assad. For years, Christians, who make up around 20% of Syria’s population, have fared well under the Assad government.

During his flight en route to Lebanon in September, Pope Benedict asserted that those countries who are supplying arms to fuel the conflict in Syria are committing a “grave sin.”

"[T]here must be an end to the import of arms: without weapons, war could not continue. Instead of importing weapons, which is a grave sin, we should import ideas, peace and creativity. We should accept others in their diversity and make visible the mutual respect of religions, the respect for man as God’s creation and love of neighbor as a fundamental element of all religions. We must promote all possible actions, including material ones, to support the end of war and violence so that all can contribute to the rebuilding of the country,” he said.

Following the lead of Pope Benedict and Patriarch Twal, members of the Order can do a great service to our country by voicing support for a foreign policy that promotes justice and peace in the Middle East, rather than weapons and war.