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.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Syria: Christians Can Be a Witness For Peace as Conflict Continues

Kevin Clarke

Their City in Ruins: Children sit among rubble in a besieged neighborhood in Homs, Syria, on Sept. 19

As the death toll mounts and the bombs and mortar shells continue to fall, “it’s a vocation now to stay in Syria and to be a Christian and try to be a witness of the Gospel principle of nonviolence,” said Nawras Sammour, S.J., the director of Jesuit Refugee Service Middle East and North Africa told America. The Jesuit agency is serving thousands of internally displaced Syrians in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and other sites, Father Sammour reports. Father Sammour was visiting the United States to discuss the ongoing J.R.S. response to the crisis with Jesuit colleagues and specialists from the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations.

Speaking with America from Washington, Father Sammour welcomed news of renewed talks scheduled for late November in Geneva aimed at ending the conflict. A peaceful and united Syria at the end of such talks is “difficult to imagine now, but still possible,” he said. There is no solution to the conflict except through inclusive dialogue, Father Sammour said, urging Americans to resist the temptation of sending more weapons into the fray.

“If you try to do something as a country, support all processes of peace,” he said. He was leery of a more aggressive U.S. intervention on behalf of opposition forces. “Fighting and giving arms and weapons—it’s much easier to give people hope. Hope is not going to come from arms; there is no solution by doing war.”

Father Sammour added, “If we are going in the end to have one winner and one loser, it’s not going to solve anything.”

Outside Syria, J.R.S. is working with an already vast and still growing population of refugees in the bordering states of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The number of Syrians displaced by the war is now estimated at more than 6.3 million—4.25 million struggle within Syria’s borders and 2.1 million more are refugees. More than 115,000 have been killed in the two-year-old conflict.

J.R.S. within Syria is providing monthly emergency food rations to 35,000 families, and its field kitchens serve 22,000 people each day. In Father Sammour’s hometown of Aleppo, the J.R.S. field kitchen makes up to 16,000 hot meals a day that are distributed to mosques, school-shelters and public buildings. The agency also cares for Syrians cut off from normal health care services or unable to afford medicine after months of disruption caused by the civil war. J.R.S. also offers educational and psychosocial support to nearly 10,000 children and women with a long-term eye on reconciliation in Syria.

“We have people coming from everywhere in Syria” looking for a secure, safe place to be, he said. “Although there is no more secure place for 100 percent right now in Syria,” he added. “Outside it’s random death. A blast could happen everywhere; mortars could fall everywhere; fighting could happen everywhere and that’s it.

“If there’s something that unifies all Syrians today, it’s uncertainty and fear—for everybody. Nobody has today in Syria the monopoly of suffering. All Syrians suffer. It’s not only about bad guys on one hand and on the other hand you have good guys. No, it’s not like that.”

Christian anxiety and vulnerability remain uniquely acute in Syria, he said, noting that in other recent regional conflicts—Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt—Christians have fared poorly. The Christian community is scattered throughout Syria; “the Christians don’t have their own political party; they don’t have their own region.”

But, he adds, “that could be a grace for us because [it is] the vocation of Christians to be with everybody and for everybody.” Staying in Syria, Father Sammour said, is “an adventure without any warranties or guarantees for the future, but that is the Gospel somehow.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pope Meets With Simon Wiesenthal Center Delegation

Highlights Importance of Educating Youth on Progress of Jewish-Catholic Dialogue


Vatican City, (Zenit.org) Junno Arocho Esteves

Early this afternoon, Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish organization that promotes human rights. The meeting was scheduled previously by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who, the Holy Father said, “remains in our affectionate thoughts and prayers.

The Holy Father began his address expressing his gratitude for the center’s respect and esteem for him and his predecessors. Their meetings, he said, “are likewise an expression of the appreciation of the Pope for the task to which you have dedicated yourselves: to combat every form of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism, to keep alive the memory of the Shoah, and to promote mutual understanding through education and commitment to the good of society.”

Emphasizing the Church’s condemnation on all forms of anti-Semitism, Pope Francis called for the confrontation against intolerance. Minorities persecute because of their faith or ethnicity, he stressed, endangers the well-being of society.

“With particular sadness I think of the sufferings, the marginalization and the very real persecutions which not a few Christians are undergoing in various countries,” the Pope said. “Let us combine our efforts in promoting a culture of encounter, respect, understanding and mutual forgiveness.”

Highlighting the importance of education as a means to transmit a living witness, Pope Francis told the delegation conveyed the importance of educating youth of not only the past difficulties in the history of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, “but also an awareness of the progress made in recent decades.”

Concluding his address, the Holy Father encouraged the Simon Wiesenthal Center to continue their work in passing onto youth ” the importance of working together to reject walls and build bridges between our cultures and our faith traditions.”

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-meets-with-simon-wiesenthal-center-delegation

Monday, October 21, 2013

Syrian Church Leader Details Horrors for Christian Population

Also Notes Muslim Suffering at Hands of Jihadists


London, (Zenit.org)

Bombs, kidnapping and financial extortion are among the problems facing Syria’s Christians, the leader of the country’s Catholics told a meeting in Westminster Cathedral Hall.

Speaking to more than 300 benefactors of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregorios III – the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church – said: “Syria is experiencing a lengthy, bloody Way of the Cross, stretching along all the country’s roads.”

The patriarch, who is president of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria, added: “You may think that it is safe here or unsafe there, but at any moment you may be killed by bomb, missile or bullet, not to mention being kidnapped or taken hostage for ransom, or murdered.”

Christians have been targeted because they are seen as “a weak element” and a source of ransom, according to the head of the Melkite Church.

Patriarch Gregorios III said: “A lot of our priests, our people, our relatives and friends have been kidnapped.”

Recalling events at Maaloula last month, where jihadists tried to force Christians to convert to Islam, the patriarch reported that a number of villagers were still missing – and all the residents had fled.

The Melkite leader said: “Six have been kidnapped since 4th September, we don’t know where they are.”
According to the patriarch 450,000 Christians have left Syria or are internally displaced, including all of his father’s family.

Patriarch Gregorios described how in some places Islamist extremists were making life difficult for civilians.
He said: “Yabroud is controlled not only by opposition troops but also by some jihadists – not only by the opposition, the opposition is OK, but jihadists are something else.

“They have to pay their share as Christians, monthly since the beginning of 2012, $35,000 a month – the share of the Muslim is also maybe more.

“But now in spite of paying this monthly amount, on the 27th September and now on the 16th October, the old church of Yabroud, of Constantine and Helena, was shelled by bombs – it was a church before Christianity, it was a temple of Jupiter and converted, an old beautiful church – they put bombs in the church and they discovered two bombs but they dismantled them.” One was planted in the confessional.

He stressed that many ordinary Muslims had suffered as well as Christians, and described the country’s history of religious harmony between the faiths – according to the patriarch most jihadists came from outside Syria to join the fighting.

Also speaking were Sister Hanan of the Good Shepherd Sisters, who described the congregation’s work with refugees in Lebanon, and John Pontifex, who talked on ACN’s new report about the oppression of Christians, Persecuted and Forgotten?

Highlighting the situation in the Middle East and Nigeria, Pontifex paid tribute to the courage and determination of Christians to witness to their Faith despite the hardships and persecution which they have endured.

Sister Hanan described help being given to “women and children who have been wounded by life’s circumstance” at the medical centre they run in Beirut.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/syrian-church-leader-details-horrors-for-christian-population

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' visit to Pope Francis

Pope meets Palestinian leader, pushes for new Israeli-Palestinian talks

 CWN - October 17, 2013

Pope Francis met on October 17 with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and called for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

A brief Vatican statement released after the “cordial” meeting expressed the hope that “the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions to promote peace.”

The statement went on to say that both the Holy See and the Palestinian Authority had grave concerns about the situation in Syria, and hoped for negotiations to end that conflict as well.

The Vatican expressed satisfaction with negotiations that are designed to produce a diplomatic agreement on the legal rights of the Church in Palestinian territory. In his discussion with Abbas (who is familiarly known as Abu Mazen), the Pope highlighted the difficulties facing Christians in the Middle East generally, and the Palestinian territories particularly.

Source: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=19394

Palestinian president hopes to use pen from pope to sign peace treaty

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a fancy pen as a gift, and Abbas told the pope, "I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen."

Pope Francis responded with his hope that the agreement would be reached "soon, soon."

The exchange took place Oct. 17 in the papal library after the pope and Palestinian president had spent almost half an hour meeting privately.

Abbas had given the pope a Bible and a framed scene of Bethlehem, West Bank. The pope gave Abbas a framed scene of the Vatican along with the pen, "because you obviously have many things to sign," which is when Abbas spoke about his hopes to sign a peace treaty.

A Vatican statement about Abbas' meeting with the pope and a later meeting with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said, "The reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians" was a topic in both conversations.

"The parties expressed their hope that this process may bear fruit and enable a just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict," it said. "Hope was expressed that the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace" and that the international community would support their efforts. The U.S.-mediated talks began in July.

The Vatican statement did not mention Pope Francis' possible trip to the Holy Land, although when Abbas greeted Archbishop Mamberti he told him that he had invited the pope to visit. Abbas' delegation also included the mayor of Bethlehem, which likely would be on the itinerary of a papal trip.

In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited the pope, and Israeli media have been reporting that a papal visit is expected in the spring. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Oct. 16 that the prime minister would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome Oct. 23 and meet the pope during the same trip.

The Vatican statement on Abbas' meetings said the pope and Palestinian leader also discussed the ongoing war in Syria and expressed their hopes that "dialogue and reconciliation may supplant the logic of violence as soon as possible."

The two also discussed the work underway on a Vatican-Palestinian agreement regulating "several essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine," as well as the situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian territories and the contributions Christians make to society throughout the Middle East.

Source: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1304368.htm 


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ecumenical Patriarch decries persecution of Christians in Middle East

CWN - September 16, 2013

Speaking at an ecumenical gathering during a pastoral visit to Finland, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople decried the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

“One of these crucial challenges is undoubtedly the rise of so-called religious fundamentalism, culminating in unjustifiable acts of violence and destruction as a result of religious hatred,” said Patriarch Bartholomew, who holds a primacy of honor among the Eastern Orthodox churches.

“The image that is particularly critical and lasting in our minds is the example of persecution endured today by Christians, irrespective of confession, in the wider region of the Middle East, where even the simple admission of Christian identity places the very existence of our faithful in daily threat,” he added. “These exceptionally extreme and expansive occurrences of violence and persecution against Christians cannot leave the rest of us – who are blessed to leave peacefully and in some sense of security – indifferent and inactive.”

Source: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=19056