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 31, 2014

The Filipino Community of Haifa observes its Patron Saint Day


HAIFA – The Filippino community of Haifa observed its Patron Saint Day St Lorenzo Ruiz on 11 October 2014.  Observed usually on 28 September, the celebration, chaired by Mgr Marcuzzo, Patriarcal Vicar in Galilea, was put forward for calendar reasons.

The Latin Church of Haifa, which is wide enough, could hardly absorb all the Filippinos present – estimated at around 400 – coming from all neighbourhoods of Haifa. Fr. Abdo Abdo, OCD,  is in charge of the parish, assisted by Sr. Michael Banquil, Filipino, of the Sisters of the Holy Family in Nazareth. Mass gathered as well Catholics  from India or Sri Lanka. Filipinos have a deep-rooted  veneration for this frist Filippino saint, who fell martyr in Japan  in 1637, beatified in 1981, canonized in 1987 by John Paul II.

The Bishop expressed his joy to stand among this community of immigrants who, as all other similar communities, do not lead  easy life. He was commenting on the Sunday Gospel :  “ guests at the banquet and the marital gown”, with reference to martyr St. Lorenzo and to the situation of immigrants.  The Bishop drew attention, during his homily, on the communiquĂ© issued of CELRA (Conference of Latin Bishops in Arab Countries) meetings, just terminated at the United Arab Emirates, during which one point was stressed, namely on immigrants, a large number living in these oil rich countries.

New Filippino group in Nazareth and religious vocations

Following Mass, news about communities were exchanged during meals.  Mgr Marcuzzo announced the creation of a new Filipino community in Nazareth, gathering immigrants of the area, of Afula more particularly.  It is a tiny community – usually they are about 25 and on special occasions they come up to 50 – who meet every Saturday at  the Franciscan Church of “Mensa Christi” in Nazareth, accompanied by Filipino Sr. Elena Balsomo, SMC, and for  Mass celebration, by Frs. Marco Cosini, pfjc, Jean Marie Boucary, mc, and Jordan Sesar, OFM.

No fewer than  40 000 Filipinos live in Israel, mostly in the  centre of the country, in the area  of Tel Aviv and around Haifa. Their situation, more or less normal, is perhaps easier than  that of other groups of immigrants, but however remains hard. Church strives  to take best care of them. Results – praise the Lord – are too obvious, for there are as well religious vocations, even contemplative, originating  from this Filipino community.  We know that Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ, episcopal delegate for pastoring immigrants, exerts lots of efforts from his side to coordinate pastoral work among the different groups in Israel.

Text : our Haifa correspondent
Photos : M.T.

Source: http://en.lpj.org/2014/10/30/the-filippino-community-of-haifa-observes-its-patron-saint-day/


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Patriarch Sako: Pope Francis is Ready to Go to Iraq

Warns "Priests who do not return will be suspended"


Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, Louis Raphael Sako  
Fatih Erel - Anadolu Agency

At the consistory that Pope Francis wished to dedicate to the tragic situation in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, Aleteia had the opportunity to interview the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Raphael I Sako. His Beatitude took part in the meeting together with 86 other representatives from the Eastern Catholic Churches.

During the Consistory, what requests did you make for support for your community?

First I addressed Pope Francis: he is the father of all Christians. The ones who need him most are the “little flock” in Iraq and Syria. Our people need his word and consolation and encouragement. I asked him to write a personal message, a brief pastoral letter, as Paul had done for the first Christian communities, exhorting the Christians to persevere.

And you didn’t ask him to come in person?

Of course. Even for a day, for a brief visit. His presence will support us in facing the government, in facing the Muslim authorities. The people will also say: VoilĂ , the Christians are not forgotten or isolated.”

How did the Pope respond?

He said: “I’m ready.” In any case, he will write a letter in the coming days.

At the Consistory, how did you describe the situation of Christians in Iraq and the Middle East?

The Christian presence is under threat: we are in danger of disappearing. We are being oppressed and forced into exodus. This form of ISIS terrorism eliminates everyone, especially Christians. It is a closed ideology that expresses itself through violence. The people live in panic. Therefore the Church, but also the international community—I asked the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world to intervene with their own governments in this regard—must protect minorities and a historical Christian presence which plays a role in dialogue and mediation between the various communities.

In today’s meeting, there was talk about the difficulty bishops are having in such a difficult and even life-threatening situation, in advising Christians to emigrate or to stay: What do you say?

We have been there for two thousand years. We have a mission and a role, and if a future exists for the Chaldean Church it is not in the diaspora but in Iraq. If all the families leave, and even the priests, the entire history and Chaldean Christian patrimony will vanish. There will be a break with two thousand years of history. There is a future; there is a future for Christians if they remain united. They must have the courage to say things clearly and to reclaim their rights. Not all Muslims are ISIS! I continually meet religious leaders and civilians and they want to help us. It’s a very bad situation, but it will not last. You have to have patience and persevere. What does Christian hope mean concretely if we do not see it? We must help Christians to remain. This “Passion” will pass.

Is that why you have sent a letter of reprimand to the priests and religious who left Iraq without having asked the consent of their superiors, ordering them to return by 22 October?

The priests who escaped without any canonical documents encourage others to leave, including their own families. They have asked for exile in Western countries, while others have remained in fidelity to their people. There is no justice in this. If we do not put a limit on this, others will also leave and the Church and the country will be without Christians. We have a vocation. A priest has given himself to the Lord and to service: he shouldn’t seek his freedom, his security. His future is found in fidelity to Christ and his people, not in America or Australia. One might say that he has citizenship in these countries, but what does that have to do with the priesthood? There are also six monks: a monk has chosen community life. How can he leave and go establish a parish in the United States without the permission of his Superior?  

What will happen at the deadline if they have not returned?

They will be suspended. We are pastors and we have to give a good example to our people. We have to serve the flock.

Today, Turkey decided to intervene more directly by authorizing the passage of peshmerga Kurds, and an international coalition is on the field: Do you believe this is the way to resolve the problem with ISIS?

I don’t think so. Bombing doesn’t resolve the problem. There are somewhat discouraging talks going on about the continuation of military operations: It’s said that they will last two to five years. It means saying to the refugee families that they won’t be able to return to their homes and that they have to leave. And it’s like saying to ISIS: You still have time. Ground operations are needed. But what is also needed is a strategy to dismantle this ideology and change educational programs in religion and history, to speak more openly and moderately about Islam. This is up to Muslims: to arrive at a new reading of Islam and to look for a message for people today and meaning for their lives. However, we need to work together on a project for citizenship that lets religion be a personal choice. Why put religion on an identity card? Today we are valued according to religion, and some people are first class and others are second class. It’s not right. We have already begun to discuss this with the Muslim authorities. Fundamentalism is a danger for Muslims just as much as for Christians. It is a challenge for everyone.

Chiara Santomiero is an editor at Aleteia. This article first appeared in Aleteia’s Italian edition. It was translated by Diane Montagna.

Muslim leaders from around the world issue ISIS rebuke

By on Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A young Kurdish refugee from Kobane, the Syrian town attacked by ISIS (CNS)
A young Kurdish refugee from Kobane, the Syrian town attacked by ISIS (CNS)

More than 100 Muslim leaders — clerics and laypeople alike — have signed an open letter criticising terrorist group ISIS.

In the 17-page letter, the leaders quote extensively from the Quran to rebuke ISIS’s tactics and actions.

Since the letter was issued last month more than 125 Muslim leaders around the world have signed the letter. Twenty of them come from the United States, where the Council on American-Islamic Relations circulated the letter.

More signatories hailed from Egypt than anywhere else, although signers also came from Jerusalem and Palestine, as well as nations where Muslims constitute vast majorities or tiny minorities of the population: Abu Dhabi, Afghanistan, Argentina, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chad, France, Gambia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Yemen, as well as the regions of Kosovo and Kurdistan.

Among the letter’s many condemnations of ISIS is its treatment of Christians. “Regarding Arab Christians, you gave them three choices: jizya — poll tax — the sword or conversion to Islam. You painted their homes red, destroyed their churches, and in some cases looted their homes and property. You killed some of them and caused many others to flee their homes with nothing but their lives and the clothes on their backs,” the letter said.

“These Christians are not combatants against Islam or transgressors against it, indeed they are friends, neighbours and co-citizens. From the legal perspective of Sharia (Islamic law) they all fall under ancient agreements that are around 1,400 years old, and the rulings of jihad do not apply to them.”

The letter’s rebukes did not stop at Christians. “You have killed many innocents who were neither combatants nor armed, just because they disagree with your opinions,” it said.

“Emissaries have a special inviolability,” the letter noted, adding journalists are “emissaries of truth, because their job is to expose the truth to people in general. You have mercilessly killed the journalists James Foley (a Catholic) and Steven Sotloff (who was Jewish), even after Sotloff’s mother pleaded with you and begged for mercy. Aid workers are also emissaries of mercy and kindness, yet you killed the aid worker David Haines. What you have done is unquestionably forbidden.”

The letter said, “As for killing prisoners, it is forbidden in Islamic law. Yet you have killed many prisoners including the 1,700 captives at Camp Speicher in Tikrit in June 2014; the 200 captives at the Shaer gas field in July 2014; the 700 captives of the Sha’etat tribe in Deir el-Zour — 600 of whom were unarmed civilians; the 250 captives at the Tabqah air base in al-Raqqah in August 2014; Kurdish and Lebanese soldiers; and many untold others whom God knows.”

By the same token, the letter noted, Mohammed, Islam’s founder, “over a span of 10 years and 29 battles … did not execute a single regular soldier; rather, he entrusted that they be treated with kindness.”

Another religious minority in Iraq subject to ISIS’s persecution are the Yazidis. “They neither fought you nor Muslims. You considered them Satanists and gave them the choice to either be killed or be forced into Islam. You killed hundreds of them and buried them in mass graves. You caused the death and suffering of hundreds of others. Had it not been for American and Kurdish intervention, tens of thousands of their men, women, children and elderly would have been killed. These are all abominable crimes,” the letter said.

“You have coerced people to convert to Islam just as you have coerced Muslims to accept your views. You also coerce everyone living under your control in every matter, great or small, even in matters which are between the individual and God.”

It added: “In simple terms, you treat women like detainees and prisoners; they dress according to your whims; they are not allowed to leave their homes and they are not allowed to go to school.”
The letter also took ISIS to task for making children “engage in war and killing”.

“Some are taking up arms and others are playing with the severed heads of your victims,” it continued. “Some children have been thrown into the fray of combat and are killing and being killed. In your schools some children are tortured and coerced into doing your bidding and others are being executed. These are crimes against innocents who are so young they are not even morally accountable.”

The letter also condemned the ISIS militants for not only having “mutilated corpses” but also for putting the “the decapitated heads of your victims on spikes and rods and kicked their severed heads around like balls and broadcast it to the world. … You jeered at corpses and severed heads and broadcast these acts from the military bases you overran in Syria.”

The militants “have provided ample ammunition for all those who want to call Islam barbaric” by broadcasting their “barbaric acts, which you pretend are for the sake of Islam,” it said. “You have given the world a stick with which to beat Islam, whereas in reality Islam is completely innocent of these acts and prohibits them.”

The letter also accused ISIS of engaging in what could be described as “cafeteria Islam”. “It is not permissible to constantly speak of ‘simplifying matters,’ or to cherry-pick an extract from the Quran, without understanding it within its full context,” it said.

Source: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/10/28/muslim-leaders-from-around-the-world-issue-isis-rebuke/

Iraqi priests sanctioned for seeking asylum without superiors' consent

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Twelve Chaldean religious men and priests living in the United States, Canada, Australia and Sweden have been suspended from exercising their priestly ministry for not receiving permission from their superiors before emigrating from Iraq.

At least three of those suspended had been serving the Chaldean diaspora in the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego since leaving Iraq.

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Iraq, arrives for a session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican in this Oct. 16 file photo. (CNS/Paul Haring)
The sanctions went into effect Oct. 22 following repeated, but "unfortunately unfruitful ultimatums" from the men's religious orders or bishops, said a written decree signed by Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. The decree was translated into English from Arabic and is published on the patriarchate's official web site, saint-adday.com.

The decree thanked Father Paulus Khuzeran, a religious who had been living in the United States, and Father Yousif Lazghin, a priest who had been living in Australia, for deciding to obey their superiors and return to their assigned place of ministry.

After informing the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, and consulting with the permanent Synod of the Chaldean Church and the men's superiors, Patriarch Sako had announced last month that there would be canonical penalties for those who did not speak with their bishop or the superior of their religious community about either returning to their community or working out a potential transfer.

Those who failed to take those steps before Oct. 22 were to be suspended from the priesthood.

Before a priest is ordained, the decree said, he "announces the offering of his whole life to God and the church."

Among their vows and duties is the promise to obey their superior, "serving where the church sends the priest, not where he wishes to serve." The values of unity and communion should be held high above personal self-interest, the decree said.

The escalating turmoil and violence in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 have triggered hundreds of thousands of Iraq's Christian minorities to flee their nation.

Religious men and women and priests have often stood out as prime targets of kidnappers and killings, while churches and other religious places of worship have been singled out for bombings and attacks for years.

The decree, in fact, highlighted the "eloquent faith lessons" recent religious have given when they "shed their blood for the sake of the flock;" stayed on in their country after being abducted and then released; and "journeyed with their flock" as entire villages and communities were expelled by extremists or violence.

"I remind you, brothers, of Jesus' saying, 'Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life,'" the patriarch wrote, citing the Gospel of John (12:25).

Now that the sanctions have been imposed, if any of the diocesan priests "return, their status will be reviewed. For the monks, there is no other option but to return to their monastery and canonically correct their status," the statement said.

Patriarch Sako urged all bishops to "adhere to canon law and enforce order" by helping the men comply.

The decree is meant "to end the illegal exit of the priests from their eparchies," he said, not try to hurt or oppose the eparchies where the priests were currently residing: in the United States, Canada, Australia and Sweden.

The church, as mother and teacher, the patriarch said in the decree, "loves her children, but does not spoil them," guiding and correcting "the path of her children with responsibility."

Patriarch Sako said it was his hope the decree, which included the names of the twelve priests suspended from ministry, would be published where the priests reside, "revealing the truth to all."

He said some documents being published online, presumably authorizing the priest's ministry outside his eparchy, were not the same official documents they have from the men's bishops.

"I personally forgive all the insulting words that have been directed to myself from some of them. May the merciful God forgive them. Right at the end will prevail," he wrote.

The decree listed the following six monks and six priests as being "suspended from practicing priestly ministry: Father Noel Gorgis; Father Andraws Gorgis Toma; Father Awraha Mansoor; Father Patros Solaqa; Father Fadi Isho Hanna; Father Ayob Shawkat Adwar; Father Fareed Kena; Father Faris Yaqo Maroghi; Father Peter Lawrence; Father Remon Hameed; Father Hurmiz Petros Haddad; and Father Yousif Lazgeen Abdulahad.

Source: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1404373.htm

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Musicians of Jerusalem Kehilla hold a concert

22102014-DSC02304-300x168JERUSALEM – On Wednesday 22 October 2014, the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Community of Jerusalem, gave a concert in order to familiarize audience with  liturgical hymns.  Many guests  attended, including Bishop Msgr Shomali.

The speciality and unison of the Church of Jerusalem consist in a variety of  rites, liturgies, languages and traditions in which they are expressed.  An important place is reserved to the Catholic Hebrew-speaking community which since its establishment (in the years 50s) and until this day composes its own hymns,  the texts being inspired from the Holy Scripture.
During the concert given on Wednesday at  St Simon & St Anne’s Chapel in  Jerusalem, the skilled musicians (Fr. Rafiq, Benedetto, Tiago, Martine, Eliane and Samia) played different songs for each liturgical time stretching from Advent through to  Pentecost.  They started with Psalm 1, sung in memory of Brother Yaacov, who died on the same day of the concert given in Summer 1995, ending with  Psalm 150, interpreted  with joy and thanksgiving to John Paul II, whose  first memory was honoured.

Among the guests of honour were the Greek Catholic Archbishop, Yusuf Jules Zerey ;  Mgr Matteo de Mori, Advisor at the Holy See Nunciate, Sr Frida Nasser, head of the Fraternity of Religious of  the Holy Land ;  Fr. Paraic Reamonn, Minister at the Scottish  Church.  Before leaving the chapel for a  glass of friendship, all guests, some one hundred persons, sung together Our father in Arabic and in Hebrew.

At the end of the concert, Mgr Shomali, Latin Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, in charge of the liturgical commission of the diocese, strongly recommended  : “Musicians of Hebrew language and Arabic language, representing the two lungs of the local Church, gather to prepare together a directory of songs in the two languages,  as a sign of unity of the Church of the Holy Land”
Artic, video, photos : Andres Bergamini

Source: http://en.lpj.org/2014/10/28/musicians-of-jerusalem-kehilla-hold-a-concert/


How Palestine plans to overcome Israel and the US

by Drew Christiansen, SJ, and Ra'fat Aldajani

Negotiation sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? Negotiations brought an end to civil war in Northern Ireland, achieved peace in Angola, attained a kind of peace between the government and guerrillas in Colombia, and pacified a decadeslong Muslim insurgency in the southern Philippines. But negotiations have failed to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine. After nine months, the most recent round of negotiations, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, never got beyond "Go."

In the meantime, Palestinians remain, as they have been for nearly 70 years, stateless and under Israeli occupation. The world is growing impatient. In the last month, there has been a flurry of activity across Europe in favor of the Palestinian cause. The British Parliament took a nonbinding vote in favor of recognizing Palestinian statehood, and the Irish senate urged its government to do the same. Likewise, Sweden announced it plans to formally recognize the state of Palestine and seems likely to be the first European country to take official action.

"By joining Sweden and other EU states in recognizing Palestine, we will make it clear that statehood is a right of the Palestinian people," said Irish Senator Averil Power, who introduced the motion in the Irish senate, according to a report in The Times of Israel. "It is not an Israeli bargaining chip for them to play in their sham negotiations."

"Colleagues," Power told the Seanad, "20 years on from the Oslo Accords, the prospects of achieving a two-state solution seem more remote than ever. And the reason for this is that Israel has done everything it can to undermine the chances of such an outcome. While pretending to talk peace, it has continuously intensified its illegal occupation of Palestine."

The European announcements are either promissory (Sweden) or symbolic. But already, 134 governments formally recognize the state of Palestine. Two years ago, the U.N. General Assembly upgraded Palestine's status to that of a "non-member observer state." With that status, Palestine has been able to sign on as a party to various international agreements and to join international agencies.

Palestinians are not idle while their friends advocate for their state's full diplomatic recognition. President Mahmoud Abbas says his government will table a resolution before the Security Council requiring an end to Israeli occupation in 2016. To avert distracting controversy during the U.S. midterm elections, the resolution will not be presented until early in 2015. Nonetheless, the U.S. will oppose it.

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If the U.S. vetoes the proposal or waters it down, the Palestinians have made known their readiness to resort to alternative measures made available by U.N. recognition of their statehood status. At the 16th annual conference of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Association on Oct. 18 in Washington, Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi told the audience that Palestine would seek to isolate the U.S. by joining international agencies and acceding to international covenants. "We'll tie them up," she said.

Ashrawi referred to Palestinian membership in UNESCO in 2011. That development prompted the organization to suspend the U.S. and Israel for nonpayment of dues. Anti-Palestinian U.S. laws would deny American funding to any body Palestine joins. So if Palestine were to utilize its right to participate in other international bodies, U.S. influence on a multitude of issues would vanish. Its soft power would become exceedingly weak. Suspension from UNESCO has already denied it important educational and cultural tools for countering extremism

The heaviest blow, however, would be made against Israel. In the event Palestine signs the convention on the International Criminal Court, Israel could be charged with crimes of war, most likely for noncombatant deaths in its recent invasions of Gaza. Abbas raised this specter in his General Assembly address.

"We have decided to move to the Security Council to see if we can open a new door to peace," said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinians' U.N. ambassador, in an interview with Foreign Policy. "If that option is to be blocked before us, let's say by the United States, then you know we have ... options." With defiance, he added, "We will not relent."

The diminishment of U.S. soft power by this strategy will be more than a diplomatic inconvenience. In time, it would isolate the U.S. from the world community at a time when globalization demands its participation in international fora. It would be in the United States' interest to support rather than veto the Palestinian resolution for an end to Israeli occupation.

[Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen is former editor of America magazine and a professor of ethics at Georgetown University. Ra'fat Aldajani is a Palestinian-American writer and commentator.]

Source:  http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/how-palestine-plans-overcome-israel-and-us

Saturday, October 25, 2014

U.S. Muslim and Christian Coalition Formed to Protect Religious Minorities in Arab Countries and Promote Peaceful Coexistence

Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:31

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/23/14) – A group of American Muslim and Christian organizations today announced the formation of an interfaith coalition to protect Christians and other religious minorities in Arab countries and to promote peaceful coexistence.

Leaders of major Muslim and Christian organizations, religious leaders and activists met earlier this week in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation whose mission is to maintain and support the presence of Christians in the Holy Land.

Discussions at that meeting resulted in the creation of the coalition to achieve the long-term goal of defending and protecting indigenous Christians and other religious minorities in Arab countries by restoring the historical coexistence of Muslim and Christians and preserving the presence of Christians and other religious groups as part of the fabric of Arab and Muslim civilization.

The coalition will work with all concerned organizations and individuals around the world to challenge stereotypes of Arabs of all backgrounds and to show that Christians and Muslims are united in working toward the common goals of peace and justice.

Coalition members say they will hold two conferences; one in early 2015 in Washington, D.C., followed by a second conference in an Arab country. 

The coalition’s leadership committee includes the Very Reverend Joseph Rahal, pastor of the St. George Orthodox Church, the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese; Syed Moktadir, president, All Dulles Area Muslim Society; Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the Office of Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Nihad Awad, national executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Bassel Korkor, Esq., legal officer, Syrian Christians for Peace; Haris Tarin, director  of the Washington, D.C., office, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Salam Al Marayati, president, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); and Kamal Nawash, Esq., president, Free Muslims Coalition.

The committee elected Sir Rateb Y. Rabie, president/CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, as chair.

The coalition is open to any organizations, leaders and religious institutions committed to its mission.

Also in attendance at the formation of the coalition were His Excellency Archbishop Atallah Hanna, Archbishop of Sebastia, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Legate of the Eastern Diocese, the Armenian Church of America (Eastern); Aram Suren Hamparian, executive director, the Armenian National Committee of America; Majd Akkawi, Youth Director, Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church; Khaled Elgindy; and Samer Anabtawi.

The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation is very excited to be given the honor of leading the effort to have Christians and Muslims work for peace, justice and the common good.

For more information please contact Sir Rateb Rabie at rrabie@hcef.org or by phone at 301-951-9400 extension 212.

Cardinal Parolin on ME: rights threatened, risk of genocide

Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of saints – including that of Goa native and evangelizer of Sri Lanka, Blessed Joseph Vaz, CO, for whose canonization the Cardinals voted this morning, establishing the date of his canonization Mass for January 14th, 2015, during the Holy Father’s visit to Sri Lanka – the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

At a briefing following the morning session, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explained that the participants, among whom were counted the Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches present and based in the region, used the occasion to speak broadly of the challenges facing Christians throughout the entire Middle East, to express gratitude for the spiritual closeness of the Universal Church to their sorely tried communities, and to reiterate the need to foster dialogue, protect the rights of all people regardless of religious affiliation, and search for solutions that respect and further the common good.

In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the opening of the session, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.” He concluded his remarks, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

The centerpiece of the discussion that followed was an address by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in which he presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.”

Cardinal Parolin’s address went on to describe the general political situation throughout the region as an extremely complex and multifaceted one, with specific references to the urgent need to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, to the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria (and to the roles of other regional powers in those conflicts, specifically Iran). It was in this context that Cardinal Parolin turned to the question of the use of force to halt aggression and to protect Christians and other groups who are victims of persecution. “In this regard,” said Cardinal Parolin, “It was stressed repeatedly that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor – always, however, in a manner consistent with international law [It. nel rispetto del diritto internazionale], as the Holy Father has also affirmed.” Cardinal Parolin went on to say, “In any case, we have seen clearly that the resolution of the problem cannot be entrusted only to a military response.” Speaking specifically of the threat posed by the self-styled Islamic State, Cardinal Parolin said, “Attention must be paid to the sources that sustain [the organization’s] terrorist activities through  more-or-less clear political support, as well as through illegal commerce in oil and the supply of weapons and technology.” Cardinal Parolin then repeated the Holy Father’s denunciation of the arms trade, saying, “In a moment of particular gravity, given the growing number of victims caused by the conflicts raging in the Middle East, the international community cannot close its eyes before this question, which has profound ethical relevance.”

The flight of Christians from the region was another major focus of Cardinal Parolin’s remarks, recalling the fundamental role that Christians in the region play as, “artificers of peace, reconciliation, and development,” especially through their schools, orphanages, hospitals and other works of mercy, which serve anyone and everyone, regardless of race or creed.

The role of the Church – of Christians and of Christianity – in the complex social and cultural milieu of the Middle East, and especially in majority-Muslim nations, was the next major focal point. Cardinal Parolin reported that the participants in the meeting of Nuncios observed a basic problem. “[There is a] lack of separation between religion and State,” he said, “between the religious sphere and the civil sphere – a tie that makes life difficult for non-Muslim minorities and in particular for the Christian minority. It would be important, therefore, to contribute to efforts to nurture the notion of the distinction of these two spheres in the Muslim world.”

Cardinal Parolin went on to call on the international community not to remain inert or indifferent before the present situation. “In the specific case of violations and abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State, the international community, through the United Nations and the structures that exist for [addressing] similar emergencies, must act to prevent possible new genocides and to assist the numerous refugees.” Cardinal Parolin continued to explain, “The defense of Christians and of all the other religious or ethnic minorities is to be situated in the context of the defense of the person and of the respect for human rights, in particular for those of religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. In any case, the need to promote and develop the concept of citizenship, as a reference point for social life, guaranteeing the rights of minorities through adequate juridical instruments, has become evident.”

Cardinal Parolin’s address concluded with a reminder and an appeal: the Church throughout the world, and all Christians everywhere, have the duty to sustain our brothers and sisters in Christ with prayer and with every possible means, and to encourage them to continue to be a meaningful presence for the good of the whole society in the Middle East. “We must not forget,” he concluded, “that everything depends upon God and His Grace – but we need to act as though everything depends on us, upon our prayer and upon our solidarity. We are all called, therefore, to work for peace in the world, for the continuity and development of the presence of the Christian communities in the Middle East and for the common good of humanity.”

Source: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/20/card_parolin_on_me_rights_threatened,_risk_of_genocide_/1109019

Vatican Radio: Syrian war spillover hits Lebanon

Smoke on the Syria-Turkey border - AP
(Vatican Radio) A senior Syrian Kurdish official has rejected a report from Turkey's president that Syrian Kurds had agreed to let Free Syrian Army fighters enter the border town of Kobani to help them push back besieging Islamic State insurgents.

The Free Syrian Army is a term used to describe dozens of armed groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but with little or no central command. They have been widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents such as Islamic State.

Meanwhile,  Lebanon's army clashed with Sunni Islamist gunmen in the northern city of Tripoli yesterday, killing at least two of the militants, security sources said.

Tripoli has seen some of the worst spillover from Syria's 3-1/2 year conflict, which has strained sectarian relations in Lebanon and triggered periodic gun battles, bombings and kidnappings across the country.

Source: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/25/syrian_war_spillover_hits_lebanon/1109408

ELCA presiding bishop says land occupation is counter-productive to peace, two-state solution

10/24/2014 1:00:00 PM
CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), commended the Obama administration for urging the Israeli government to "reverse its recent declaration as 'state land' the estimated 988 acres in the Gush Etzion Jewish settlement bloc in the occupied West Bank."
 As a denomination that "calls for a cessation of all settlement activities and withdrawal from settlements on Palestinian territory to the 1967 boundaries," Eaton expressed hope that the administration "will continue to pursue this reversal."
 In her Oct. 22 letter to the U.S. president, Eaton noted that she shares the administration's concern regarding the Israeli government's "reportedly recent move to advance the settlement planning process in the sensitive area of Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem." She said the plan for the new neighborhood "would cut the territorial continuity between the Palestinian neighborhoods in South Jerusalem and the future Palestinian state."
Eaton also mentioned the recent occupation of six residential buildings in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. This occupation "is a provocative act that only serves to escalate tensions at a moment when those tensions have been high," Eaton wrote. "This new occupation, the largest since 1991, could expand the settler presence by about 35 percent from the number of settlers currently in the area."
"It is deeply distressing to us that these kinds of action, which seek to create new 'facts on the ground,' continue unabated," Eaton wrote. "Along with Jewish organizations like Peace Now and B'Tselem, we fully agree with your administration that such actions are counter-productive to achieving a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, where international human rights and humanitarian law are respected and upheld. … such actions reinforce despondency among the Palestinian people, limiting optimism that a political solution will be found."
Eaton urged Obama to call all involved in the conflict to refrain from violent or provocative actions that "could lead to more casualties and further exacerbate the existing barriers toward a return to negotiations and a just final status agreement that results in two viable, secure states living side-by-side in peace."
Grounded in hope, "we pray that the current truce, following the recent war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, will hold so that hope might begin to be restored," the ELCA presiding bishop wrote, adding that it is imperative that, with the help of the international community, both Palestinians and Israeli leaders return to negotiations to "identify and constructively address the underlying causes of continued tension, so that God's peace and justice will prevail."
The full text of Eaton's letter is available on the ELCA website at http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/ELCA_Letter_to_President_Obama_on_Israel_and_Palestine.pdf. The ELCA Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine is available at http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Engagement_Israel_PalestineSPR09.pdf.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

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