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.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The American Middle East Christians: The Untold Story of Their Heritage, Their Aspirations, and Their Survival

The American Middle East Christians: The Untold Story of Their Heritage, Their Aspirations, and Their Survival, 3rd edition
Since the end of our American Middle East Christians Congress conference in September 2012, I have been re-writing, re-editing, and adding new chapters to this book that was first published in 2008 and re-edited in 2009. This unique book is a collection of articles, biographies, and the origins of Middle East Christianity. The book is very helpful as a quick reference to various denominations and cultures that collectively constitute the Middle East Christians. The book can be reviewed free on our web site at www.amecc.us or www.middleeastchristian.org. If you are interested in a hard copy, please email me so I can arrange a book for you. We are planning to translate this book into Arabic, French, and Italian.
This book is like an encyclopedia of information to understand their struggle and survival. After all, what is the Middle East without Christianity and the Holy Land without  Christians?
Ramsay F. Dass, M.D.
President, American Middle East Christians Congress
Cell: 248-763-6006

“Your Blessing, Father”--“Barokhmour, Abouna”

Despairing friends from Syria

by Rev. Fr. Imad Twal, Director General

Have you read in the newspapers about the mass exit of Syrian families fleeing or evicted from their homes, villages and cities? They are looking for a new country to take them in as guests and house them. Some are Aramaic speakers and hearing “Barokmour Abouna" “Bless us, Father” in the language of our Lord brings home to me and inspired His message of love and hope and how close it is to us. That is what we try to live at Our Lady of Peace Centre (OLOPC).

Starting in November 2012, OLOPC began to receive brothers and sisters in Christ coming from Hasakah, Lathakia, Aleppo and Damascus in Syria. Christians and Muslims, and looking for guest homes. They need shelter for usually a few weeks before being able to move on. Hotels are expensive for them. Winter is especially difficult in Jordan with the cold and even snow. We have so far welcomed more than 35 families, each one made up of individuals with the many problems that come from having to leave one’s home at short notice. Their needs are not only material and financial but also emotional and spiritual and they need us to show them God’s love at its fullest.
OLOPC is a bridge bringing God's mercy to those in need through human means. OLOPC was founded as a home for people with disabilities, each one also an individual with positive abilities, talents and gifts.  OLOPC is a school to educate people for life and communion. OLOPC is a Church of brotherhood and love between communities and faiths. OLOPC is a home open for all and that is why we are welcoming these guests from Syria.

Blessed John Paul II said "Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ.”  This message goes out to these Syrian families, to all the other Syrian refugees, and to ourselves:  “Open your heart to God's love; You will find a mystery of love in his regard.” "Love God, Serve God, everything is in that" (St. Claire of Assisi).
OLOPC gives thanks and gratitude to all our friends who have helped us to keep the centre open for our original humanitarian mission to our brothers and sisters with disabilities as well as now looking after our new friends from the Syrian families. "Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small for one who has nothing. Neither is it small for God, if we have given what we could" (St. Gregory Nazianzen).

Here we seek to show in witness and communion that WE ARE ONE CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH.

Rev. Fr. Imad Twal is director general of Our Lady of Peace Center in Amman, Jordan.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Syrian Christians Face Situation Going From Bad to Worse

"We cry loudly: Enough is enough; we are totally exhausted and cannot continue"

Aleppo, (Zenit.org)

Here is a statement released Wednesday by the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, regarding the continuing crisis in Syria.

* * *

The painfully unfolding events in Syria reflec badly on the deterioration in the security situation everywhere.

For us in Aleppo, security issues are steadily going from bad to worse in all areas, in addition to severe shortages of electricity, water, fuel and basic food materials such as bread.  If or when these essentials become available, their prices will rise alarmingly beyond the affordable range for a normal Syrian citizen.

This in addition to the fact that universities, schools, churches, mosques and most infrastructures have been paralyzed, deserted and lost function. Such a reduced state has become expected in Aleppo and most other Syrian cities.

The major and most dangerous phenomenon which has greatly affected the Christian presence in the city of Aleppo is immigration of Christians and seeking refuge in safer cities of neighboring countries, especially Lebanon. Many families have managed to reach Europe, particularly Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. With the current deterioration of security and employment, no one can predict when these families will ever return  back to their homes and what we are experiencing is a one way exodus!
The emigration of Christians out of Syria is the most important issue that will affect Christian presence in the Middle East. We cannot confirm that what appears to be a systematic forced displacement, which is experienced by Christians in the region for years, is actually linked to any new geopolitical scheme for the region. Otherwise, Christians may have become a mere demographic surplus that had to be dealt with in such a ruthless manner. Palestine was the first to suffer from immigration of Christians, followed by Iran, then Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and now Syria.

Where can Christians go? Each country has a particular orientation. For Iraq, the United Nations and some churches have contributed to absorb the influx of Iraqi immigrants in North America and Europe, especially Sweden, then Germany, Holland, Austria and Belgium came second in welcoming Syrian families. However, the USA has imposed visa clearance on Syrian immigrants.

The Humanitarian  Crisis of Christians  in Al-THAwRA City:

The Recent development in our Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, is that, a few days ago, hundreds of Christian families, who lived for years in the tranquility Al-THAWRA  City on the bank of the Euphrates, suffered forced displacement under the fear and anxiety from the fierce fighting in this city. A few families are still trapped there as they could not leave their homes and manage to survive anywhere else for economic reasons.We have been informed by the priest in charge of al-Thawra city , that more than 80 families left the city overnight.

The Syrian Orthodox families have lived in al- Thawra  city since its foundation in the 1960s as a service town for the construction of a major dam on the Euphrates. The government helped in offering cheap housing to those families whose members became part of the work force of the dam. Owing to the low salaries given to employees of the dam and the lack of employment in other industries of that city, these families could not develop themselves economically. Depriving those workers and their families from their livelihood and compelling them to immigrate is a major dilemma for these families and for the church.

The human crisis in Al-Thawra is  heart breaking and causes us great anxiety and helplessness for two reasons: first, due to the hazardous situation on the road we cannot reach these destitute families, and due to battlefield conditions, sniping and kidnapping, it has become very difficult and dangerous to move within the same city let alone travel between cities. Adding to that, there are many difficulties in communication. As a result of the sporadic nature of communication by telephones, and internet, communication has become a time consuming, frustrating and futile task. Second: Most of these families are under great economic pressure because they lost everything they had: their humble houses, the schools they used to send their children to, the employment of their bread winner and their livelihood. Now, by no fault of their own, they have found themselves having to leave their houses overnight and became destitute, in need of food, clothing, medicine and shelter. There is a growing anxiety due to lack of security and the spiraling economic situation in the country which has never had a welfare system to cushion such calamities. Such burdens have all been left on the church’s shoulders. These are the escalating predicaments that we have found ourselves in because of this ruthless and seemingly endless conflict.

We are advocates of peace, and are working with all sides in order to keep this heinous war, that has flared uncontrollably in our homeland Syria, at bay. We cry loudly: "Enough is enough; we are totally exhausted and cannot continue." Tragic events have relegated us to the ambiguity of the unknown, we cannot see a glimpse of a solution on the horizon coming from inside or from outside. Who should we turn our heads to? Who is going to be instrumental in terminating this mayhem, who is capable of lifting this conspirator yoke which is strangling us?

We are gratefully indebted to all those who have extended their kind generous hands to us, enabling us to help and assist our people in their hours of genuine need and support through our assistance to others. We  appeal to you and hope that everybody, especially believers in God, will intensify their prayers to stop the war of attrition. We really are fatigued and all we wish for is to stop the bloodshed that is happening today in the streets of Syria, bring about security and peace, so that humanitarian aid can reach the population who is in desperate need for it all over Syria. Then we too can sincerely co-operate to reconstruct and restore our country in milieu of security, peace and stability.

Syria used to boast an exemplary co-existence between all religions and creeds, and we hope to keep this image in mind, and work to establish and regain that old order and re-usher Syria to its position among countries of the world where safety and stability is a common denominator.

Source:  http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/syrian-christians-face-situation-going-from-bad-to-worse?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Two Priests in Syria Kidnapped By Armed Rebels

Christian Community Attempting to Contact Abductors in Attempt to Negotiate

Aleppo, February 19, 2013 (Zenit.org). | 253 hits

Christians in the Syrian town of Aleppo are trying to contact the kidnappers responsible for the abduction of two priests: Fr. Michel Kayyal of the Armenian Catholic Church and Fr. Maher Mahfouz of the Greek Orthodox Church. Both were kidnapped on February 9th by a group of armed rebels patrolling the road that leads from Aleppo to Damascus. Attempts at contact with the abductors, however, have failed so far.

In an interview with Fides News Agency, Archbishop Bourtros Marayati, the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, has said that the kidnappers had contacted the brother of one of the abductees.

"The so-called kidnappers phoned the brother of one of the two priests and said only: 'They are with us'," Archbishop Marayati said. "But they did not explain what is behind the 'we', and have not asked for any demands. On our behalf, we have limited the area in which they are held hostage, and we are trying to open a channel of negotiation with the tribal leader of that area. So far our attempts have not had concrete effects.

"We do not know what the matrix [of the group] of kidnappers is," he continued, "if we are dealing with rebels, bandits. We wonder why this choice of kidnapping the two priests was made, among the many passengers of the bus attacked by the kidnappers. "

Father Kayyal and Father Mahfouz were traveling aboard a public bus, heading to the Salesian house in Kafrun. Thirty kilometers from Aleppo, the kidnappers stopped the vehicle, checked the passengers’ documents and only then did they ask the two priests to get off, taking them away immediately.

Archbishop Marayati did not confirm rumors that the priests are being held for a ransom of 160,000 euros. The Archbishop of Aleppo told Fides that since yesterday the area of Aleppo where he resides and the pastoral settlements of the Armenian Catholic community are at the heart of explosions and armed clashes between the loyalist army and rebels.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Egypt's Christians Still Suffering Attacks

Coptic Church in Sarsena Burned

Rome, February 18, 2013 (Zenit.org

Despite the so-called Arab Spring, Egypt's Christians are still hoping for safety in their homeland. Last Friday, St. Georgas Coptic Church in Sarsena was attacked and burned, nearly destroying it.Vatican Radio reported on the incident in Sarsena, some 60 miles southwest of Cairo.

A few parishioners and the pastor were slightly injured, before a local Muslim family helped them to escape the scene, the Radio reported.

Father Rafic Greiche, a spokesperson for the Greek Melkite Church in Egypt, told Vatican Radio that attacks against Christians in Egypt have become all too frequent – about one per week – since the country's 2012 revolution. He explained the fear Christians experience as they face persecution that is systematic.
Since the beginning of the revolution, he said, "the Christians don’t feel secure at all – especially now. We have a lack of security, and the people are demoralized."

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/egypt-s-christians-still-suffering-attacks?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Running Rings Around the World: Israel's Colonial Expansion in Occupied East Jerusalem

From: Xavier Abu Eid [mailto:xabueid@nad-nsu.ps]
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2013 7:36 PM
To: Xavier Abu Eid

Palestine Liberation Organization
Negotiations Affairs Department

Running rings around the world:
Israel's Colonial Expansion In Occupied East Jerusalem

February 2013

Since the Israeli occupation of 1967, the Israeli government, in cooperation with Israeli settler organizations, has actively intensified a process of colonization all over the Occupied West Bank, particularly in and around Occupied East Jerusalem. This process serves the overarching Israeli goal of annexing vast parts of the State of Palestine to the State of Israel. Although the international community considers Israel’s actions to be illegal and has strongly condemned them through several UN resolutions[1], Israel has been allowed to aggressively pursue its illegal colonization enterprise without any legal, diplomatic or political consequences.

Israeli settlement activity in and around Jerusalem has increased under recent Israeli governments, particularly under PM Netanyahu’s mandate. Israel has been creating three main rings of settlements:

1)      Ring of settlements set to fragment the Old City of Occupied East Jerusalem and its adjacent Palestinian neighborhoods. This is in order to expand the Jewish Quarter and includes several Palestinian houses taken by Israeli settlers in the Christian, Armenian and Muslim quarters as well as the demolition of the Magharbeh Quarter. Meanwhile, adjacent to the Old City, Israel’s colonial activity spreads throughout Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz, Ras Amoud, Silwan and the Mount of Olives.
2)      Ring of settlements set to isolate the surrounding neighborhoods of Occupied East Jerusalem from the Old City. These settlements include: Ramot Eshkol, French Hill, Kidmat Zion and East Talpiyot.
3)      Ring of settlements set to seal the whole of Occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied State of Palestine. These settlements include: Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Yaaqov, Giv’at Ze’ev, Ramot, Ma’ale Adumim, Har Homa, Giv’at Hamatos, Gilo and Har Gilo.

This fact sheet describes the first ring of colonial settlements. It focuses on the settlements built throughout the Palestinian neighborhoods surrounding the old city of Jerusalem and also highlights the new facts on the ground that settler organizations, along with Israeli Occupation Forces, are trying to establish in the occupied Palestinian capital. A newly planned Israeli military academy will also be considered in more detail, as a recent example of Israeli colonization policies in Occupied East Jerusalem.

To continue reading the fact sheet, please go to Running rings around the world

For more information please contact:

Xavier Abu Eid
Communications Advisor
Palestine Liberation Organization
Negotiations Affairs Department
Mobile No : +970 598 950 300
Office No: +970 2 296 37 45
Twitter: @Xavier_Abu_Eid

[1] For example, UNSC Res. 478 “Determines that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent "basic law" on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.” Available at http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/DDE590C6FF232007852560DF0065FDDB

Monday, February 11, 2013

Father Dave Smith of Australia writes: Our Mission to Syria Postponed

I was supposed to be in Damascus today and I had anticipated filling today's missive with pics of Damascus and Beirut. It was not to be! In case you missed my announcement on Friday, our Peace Mission to Syria was suddenly postponed that morning. We were due to fly out on Saturday!

This was an enormous disappointment for me and the other 15 delegates from around the world. Even so, I appreciate very much that the organisers were giving priority to our safety. Apparently you can't even reach Damascus from Beirut at the moment. The fighting is just too intense!

Dear Mother Agnes wrote to us: "You cannot imagine how difficult it was to make that decision!  It was your security and it alone that motivated us to postpone your visit to Syria - a visit which took weeks of painstaking preparation. As you all have said - it is just a postponement."

So I am hopeful that the trip will still happen - perhaps in the next few weeks or perhaps later this year? As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the importance of Mother Agnes' 'Mussalaha'
('reconciliation') Mission becomes increasingly obvious. Even so, we internationals will not be serving the interests of Mussalaha or the people of Syria if we get ourselves killed or (more likely) abducted.

One of the other delegates really brought this home to me. I won't mention the delegate's name but will say that English is not their first language: "We could damage Mussalaha, if anything happens to us....Personally I was as a peace activist in many war areas BUT in this case we would not risk personally, Mussalaha (idea and people) would risk and that, we cannot accept."

While I can't mention the names of the other enlisted delegates at this stage, I must say that the dialogue that has circulated between us since last Friday's announcement has left me deeply impressed with the calibre of the other team members! They are seasoned peace workers and human-rights activists from around the world. What a privilege it will be to meet them in person (if indeed the Mission goes ahead).

Anyway, I don't have any pics of Beirut or Damascus for you. The best I can offer you is this pic of me and two Syrian 'Abounas' (Arabic for 'Fathers'). As I was still in Sydney, I accepted an invitation to a fundraiser for Syria, hosted by the 'Australian Syrian Christian Association'. I met these two magnificent men at the function and many other wonderful people too.

At Geale-Mundine 2013

It was a wonderful afternoon of music, dancing and fundraising. Even so, the thing that stuck with me the most from the discussions I had with the other participants was the extent to which they all shared the same perspective regarding the plight of their home country - a perspective that runs completely contrary to what we are being fed by the mainline media.

These Christian Syrian people testified, one after another, that there had been no tensions between Christians and Muslims in Syria prior to these recent hostilities and that Bashar Al-Assad had been a very popular President. The agitation, they all believed, had come from outside their borders. It was their neighbours who wanted to destroy them, with the backing of ‘the West‘.

I won't rehash the political complexities as I understand them, except to say that almost everyone there agreed that the real target in all this violence, so far as Syria's Middle-Eastern neighbours and the rest of the world is concerned, is Iran.  Syria's enemies want to see regime change in Iran, and the suffering of the people of Syria is just an unfortunate by-product of their greater and more sinister project.

How tragic! How demonic! Let us pray!

Source: Father Dave's Monday Missive, 11 February 2013

Bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination: Final Communiqué 2013

Since the Bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination
gathered in January 2012, the people in this region
have lived through dark and dramatic events: conflict
in Gaza and southern Israel; civil war in Syria, which
has resulted in huge numbers of refugees pouring
into other countries and putting an enormous strain
on their resources; and increasing polarisation
within Israel and Palestine. These developments
have caused profound anxiety for all in this region,
for the Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and
particularly for the dwindling Christian population.
This year we met Christian communities in Gaza,
Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Madaba and Zarqa. In the
Cremisan Valley we heard about legal struggles
to protect local people’s lands and religious
institutions from the encroachment of the Security
Barrier (“the wall”). We promise to continue urging
our respective governments to act to prevent this
injustice. We heard moving testimony from religious
women involved in the care of migrant workers,
trafficked persons and prisoners.

Our faith was enriched by the strength and
fortitude of the people we met: those with whom
we shared in a vibrant celebration of Mass in Zarqa
in Jordan; those who care for the vulnerable, like
the refugees from Syria and Iraq fleeing terror and
violence; those struggling in the face of oppression
and insecurity across the countries that make up the
Holy Land. We are inspired to promote a just peace
and call upon Christian communities in our home
countries and people of goodwill everywhere to
support the work undertaken in this region to build
a better future. Good examples are two agencies
we visited: Catholic Relief Services in Gaza and the
Caritas refugee programme in Jordan.

We are also called to recognise and tell others
how faith in God brings light into the lives of people
in the Holy Land. One of the ways in which this happens
is the Church’s commitment to education, a
tangible investment in the future. Nowhere is this
more evident than in the University of Bethlehem,
where we were struck by the stories from students,
and the American University of Madaba in Jordan.
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI called upon staff and
students in the region to be builders of a just
and peaceful society composed of peoples of
various religious and ethnic backgrounds.

With the local Bishops, we encourage practical
support for the vulnerable, the formation of young
people and every effort for the promotion of peace.
We encourage Christians to come on pilgrimage to
the Holy Land where they will experience the same
warm hospitality we received. We shall work hard to
persuade our respective governments to recognise
the root causes of suffering in this land and to step
up their efforts for a just peace. We echo the call
Pope Benedict made recently in his speech to the
Holy See’s diplomatic corps: “Following Palestine’s
recognition as a non-member observer state of the
United Nations, I again express the hope that, with
the support of the international community, Israelis
and Palestinians will commit themselves to peaceful
co-existence within the framework of two sovereign
states, where respect for justice and the legitimate
aspirations of the two peoples will be preserved
and guaranteed. Jerusalem, become what your
name signifies! A city of peace, not one of division”.
In the words of one of the Psalms, which we
prayed together each day: “for the peace of
Jerusalem pray” (Psalm 122, v.6).

Signatories to the Final communiqué:
Archbishop Richard Smith – Edmonton, Canada
Archbishop Joan-Enric Vives – Urgell and Andorra,
Bishop Gerald Kicanas – Tucson, USA
Bishop Stephan Ackermann – Trier, Germany
Bishop Michel Dubost – Evry, France
Bishop William Kenney – ComECE Representative
Bishop Peter Bürcher – Reykjavik,Nordic Bishops’

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New Book: Christians and Christianity in the Jewish State by Dr. Amnon Ramon

Christians and Christianity in the Jewish State
by Dr. Amnon Ramon 2012
A new book by JIIS [Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies] researcher Dr. Amnon Ramon offers an in-depth look at Israel’s relationship with Christianity and the Christian world. It examines that connection over time and presents recommendations for the future. Ramon opens Christians and Christianity in the Jewish State by underscoring the unique relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and between Jews and Christians.

The recent shift in the state of affairs, and the intricate and complicated relations that have prevailed between the Christian world and the State of Israel, are the principal focus of this book. 

Relations between Israel and the churches have sometimes flowed quite smoothly, at other times resembled a quiet rollercoaster – but inconsistent Israeli policy toward them has been the one consistent feature. The book includes the many aspects of the ties that make this a truly good story – in addition to religion(s) and sensitivities you can find politics, real estate (the churches hold extensive property, especially in Jerusalem), power and an innate determination – on both sides – to have attitudes and demands validated. 

Christians and Christianity in the Jewish State is a joint project between JIIS and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, and is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Rossing, founder and Executive Director of the Center until his untimely death in 2010. The book is published in Hebrew, with a summary in English. 

Download executive summary 
Source: http://www.jiis.org/?cmd=publication.7&act=read&id=632

Friday, February 8, 2013

Church Official Blames Morsi For Deaths and Disorder

Disorder spread throughout Egypt’s urban centers as the second anniversary of the beginning of a popular uprising and overthrow of the Mubarak regime on Jan. 25 became an opportunity for women, secularists and Christian Egyptians to protest the nation’s increasing tilt toward Islamist rule. Protestors demanding the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and parallel protests led to violence in other metropolitan areas. The chaos accelerated when clashes flared after a Cairo court handed down death sentences for 21 supporters of Port Said’s Al-Masry soccer club for their part in a 2012  riot that left 74 people dead. Scores have been killed and wounded in street violence. Egypt’s army chief, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, even warned on Jan. 29 that the political crisis could lead to the collapse of the state.

In the two years since the Arab Spring reached Egypt, the nation’s Christians have faced growing uncertainty and intimidation. Thousands have joined an exodus out of Egypt into the United States, where as many as 100,000 refugees have swelled a pre-revolution population of 350,000. With the continuing disorder in the streets and the damaged economy, which relies on a tourist trade that has collapsed, and amid new threats against Christians emerging from among Islamist groups, that emigration is likely to continue.

This existential threat has not gone unnoticed by Christian leadership. In January the Catholic Church in Egypt issued a stinging critique of President Morsi, accusing him of manipulating public opinion and acts of gross incompetence that led to the deaths of protestors. The Rev. Antoine Rafic Greiche, spokesperson for the Catholic bishops’ conference of Egypt, accused Morsi of failing to adequately ready security forces for the clear likelihood of street violence. President Morsi “must take responsibility for the deaths of those who were killed in the recent unrest,” he said. “The security forces were unprepared for these protests, even though they were predictable. This is the government’s failure.” By Feb. 1, 57 people had died in clashes with police and security forces.

“The people are dissatisfied with the Islamist regime,” Father Greiche said. “Divisions are increasing. The bloody protests in the Suez region and in Cairo show how the country is falling apart. But perhaps this will also lead to new reflection and to a new unity about the future of Egypt. At any rate, it cannot go on like this.” Father Greiche also condemned Morsi’s initiatives at dialogue as insincere. The president, he said, “must finally start a national dialogue that is worthy of the name. We had plenty of staged events that were designed to produce nice pictures, but were otherwise a waste of time.”

Of key concern to Egyptian Christians, according to Father Greiche, is the constitution that Morsi signed into law in December in the face of bitter opposition, not least from the Catholic Church, which withdrew from the negotiations to draft the document. Bishop Kyrillos William, administrator of the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, warned that the “religious orientation of this constitution prepares the way for an Islamic caliphate.”

Among other incidents that have concerned both secularists and Christians since the constitution was approved, an Egyptian woman and her seven children were sentenced to 15 years in prison for converting to Christianity. Reports in January describe how thousands of people emerging from a mosque destroyed a Sunday school under construction in Fayoum. In a separate incident, on Jan. 18 thousands of Muslim protestors in Qena reportedly attacked eight Coptic Christian homes and businesses, torching Coptic-owned pharmacies and vehicles.

Source: http://americamagazine.org/issue/signs/church-official-blames-morsi-deaths-and-disorder

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Who are the Arab Christians?

                                                          Source: HCEF video

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

'Exponential Increase' in Kidnappings of Christians Occurring in Syria

Christian Pharmacist Abducted and Held For Ransom Last Sunday


Jazira, February 06, 2013 (Zenit.org). 

Christians in the province of Jazira, located in Mesopotamia, Syria are protesting the exponential increase in kidnappings in the region. The abductions have occurred even in areas that are not affected by the fighting between rebels and government troops.

According to Fides News Agency, the latest person to be kidnapped was a Christian pharmacist last Sunday. The kidnappers are holding him for a ransom of a million Syrian pounds, or the 11,000 euros.
"For the bandits of all this is a good time to make money," said Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy of Hassaké-Nisibis.

On Friday, dozens of Christians improvised a roadblock burning tires at an intersection in the city of Hassaké to protest against the kidnapping of the rector of the State University of Al-Furat.  Jack Mardini, also a Christian, was kidnapped in broad daylight by gunmen and released after two hours. The abductors did not ask for ransom, rather it was an act related to functioning of the University. A warning that now one resorts to criminal practice of kidnapping to resolve conflicts with the abuse of personal and social interest.

In the city of Hassaké, there were fifty kidnappings in recent. Almost half of the abductions were against Christians. "Many of them are doctors, lawyers and professionals but now the poor are beginning to be kidnapped," Archbishop Hindo told Fides.

Nevertheless, the Syrian Catholic Archbishop denies that the practice of kidnapping has Christians as a privileged target. "In recent days some kidnapped Muslims tried to draw the kidnappers to a sense of pity, by talking about the pilgrimage made to Mecca," the archbishop explained."
"The bandits, in response, began to blaspheme the name of Allah and cursing the Prophet Mohammad, saying that their only interest is money," Archbishop Hindo said.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Syrian Orthodox Church and Christian School Destroyed in Mesopotamia

Metropolitan Archbishop Eustathius Matta Roham Says Country Will Be Left in Ruins
DEIR EZZOR, February 01, 2013 (Zenit.org) - A Syrian Orthodox Church located in a town in Mesopotamia was destroyed several days ago. St. Mary's Church and the Christian school of Al-Wahda in Deir Ezzor was located in the center of fighting that has caused the mass exodus of the civilian population.

In a report by Fides News Agency, Metropolitan Archbishop Eustathius Matta Roham of Jazirah and Euphrates stated that "it is a very sad day for me and for the whole community."

The two buildings were hit and destroyed in the crossfire between the army and rebel groups. Local sources have reported to Fides that Mesopotamia is experiencing a "slow death" and that the entire civilian populations, which include Arabs, Christians, Kurds are paying a very high price.

"This fierce war is above all a war against our civilization. It is a conflict where everyone loses, in the destruction of our beloved country. If the rebels or the regime think they can win, in the end, I think we will only have a country in ruins, with thousands of orphans, widows, poor people and especially destabilized by enmity in society," Archbishop Matta Roham said.

The Metropolitan Archbishop also addressed those fighting in the conflict. "Who will rebuild all that we have built over decades of hard work? And how long will it take? Who will build deteriorated social relations? We ask for the prayers of all Christians in the world, in order to regain peace in Syria," the Archbishop said.

Two Religious Communities Forced to Leave Libyan Town of Cyrenaica

Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli Describes Atmosphere as 'Very Tense'

 TRIPOLI, February 01, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli reported to Fides news agency that two religious communities have left the town of Cyrenaica after facing pressure from local fundamentalists.  Bishop Martinelli stated that according to reports in east Libya the "situation is critical."

"On February 20, large-scale demonstrations throughout Cyrenaica are expected so the Apostolic Vicar of Benghazi has been warned to leave the church from February 13thto take shelter" Bishop Martinelli told Fides.

"In past days, the Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto who had been there for nearly 100 years were forced to abandon Derna, [along with] a Polish Salesian priest, who was abused by some fundamentalists. In Beida, another women's religious community was forced to escape even if in this case, for internal reasons. In Barce, the Franciscan Sisters of the Child Jesus will leave their home in [the] coming days."

Bishop Martinelli also said that while the situation in Tripoli has been relatively calm, the atmosphere in Cyrenaica has been extremely tense. "We regret having to reduce our activities in that area because we have built a very strong and beautiful relationship, made of testimony and friendship with the Libyan people, which unfortunately in recent times has been affected by the presence of fundamentalists," Bishop Martinelli said.
"These do not represent the identity of the Libyan people but an expression of Libyan society today."

The Libyan prelate stated that although the Church will take precautions, they will not abandon the Christians that remain in Libya. Bishop Martinelli said that two religious communities will remain in Benghazi, a small community in Tobruk, and a small community of Indian sisters will remain in Beida.
We remain impoverished, but full of hope that one day our communities will resume force," Bishop Martinelli said.