Born in Beirut, Lebanon on August 31, 1950 (Son of Fawzi Francis Kobti and Verginie Elias El-Sharif). Studied at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem from 1963-1975. Worked as a teacher at Terra Santa College 1973-1974 (Franciscan Fathers of the Custody of the Holy...Read More
Seeking truth and justice
You can’t export Western democracy into countries where you don’t have separation of Church and State, where you have what we call the hegemony of religion… –Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Yonan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians for the Syriac Catholic Church
(ChurchMilitant.com) October 4, 2015 – Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Yonan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians for the Syriac Catholic Church, is decrying persecution of Christians in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq.
As Christians flee the area, in what the patriarch says is possibly “the largest human exodus since the Second World War,” the ones who stay are being targeted. Russian intervention may help the situation (with some reports saying President Vladimir Putin wants to wipe out the terrorist Islamic State altogether), the Christian population in Syria has already been reduced to less than half of what it was prior to the civil war. Patriarch Yonan blames much of the problem on Western powers, such as the United States, which has backed and given aid to the Free Syrian Army, rebels who oppose the current government of Bashar al-Assad. The rebellion has largely contributed to violent instability in the nation.Read More
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) October 5, 2015 – It is normal for the Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Mgr Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, and the Director General of the Patriarchate, Fr. Faysal Hijazin, to visit Latin Patriarchal schools in Israel, as well as to other Christian schools, at the beginning of the new school year.
This year’s visit had a special taste and significance. All Christian schools went on a 27 day strike to get equal treatment with other private schools. A strike where many were involved – students, families, directors, civilian and administrative authorities, trade unions.Read More
See also http://al-bushra.org/?p=2389
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) October 5, 2015 – USA – University of Notre Dame – On 29 September 2015, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem, Msgr Fouad Twal, delivered a lecture in the framework of Forum Notre Dame 2015-2016 “Faith, Freedom and Modern World, 50 years after Vatican II”. In his intervention entitled “In whose hands lie the future of Christians of the Middle East?” the Patriarch touched mainly on the hardships Christians of the Middle East go through, facing the uprising politico-religious tensions, and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Read More
As pro-Israel extremism reaches new depths with the notorious Canary Mission project, the FBI investigates growing threats against BDS activists.
by Max Blumenthal, Julia Carmel / AlterNet
This article is part one of a four-part investigation. Read part two here.
(alternet.org) September 30, 2015 – The Israel lobby is redirecting resources to a new project after its failure to stop the Iran nuclear deal despite spending an estimated $30 million to halt it. Following the defeat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a campaign against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement that is spreading on American college campuses. The funding is flowing from donors closely linked to Netanyahu’s government. But the effort has almost instantly run into trouble. It is inspiring an atmosphere of incitement and intimidation, and the FBI is now investigating violent threats made against BDS activists.Read More
A ray of sunlight is enough to wipe away many shadows. –St. Francis
(custodia.org) Jerusalem, October 4, 2015 – Throughout the world, the Franciscan family celebrated their Seraphic Father. This Feast is dear to every Christian.
Here in Jerusalem, the celebrations began on October 3, in the Church of St. Saviour, with Solemn First Vespers, presided by the Custos, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
A number of friars, from different countries, renewed their Vows, into the hands of the Custos, expressing their desire to live the Gospel, following the example of St. Francis.Read More
…this political mobilization of the Evangelical Palestinians has the potential to spill over to other areas of injustice within our context. Perhaps this is the time to more deeply examine our role as believers in politics and to choose to maintain momentum by turning our attention to ways we can further our struggle for justice and peace.
by Shadia Qubti
(comeandsee.com) October 1, 2015 – For the past month, Israel’s Christian schools were on strike to protest governmental budget restrictions leading to unprecedented support and mobilization of Palestinian Christians. For five years, the Israeli government has reduced funding to Christian schools, and as a result schools have increasingly raised tuition fees. The last budget cut made it impossible for the schools to continue; consequently, they decided to strike until their needs were addressed .
Israel’s Christian schools, consisting of 33,000 students, serve both the Israeli-Palestinian Christian community, and the Israeli-Palestinian Muslim community. This includes Palestinian Evangelicals, many of whom are enrolled as students, and others as staff members. This also includes the Baptist School in Nazareth.Read More
On October 24, 2015, the Hebron-France Association for Cultural Exchange (AECHF) will host a festival to introduce people to the site.
(ThisWeekInPalestine.org) September 9, 2015 – Mamre is located on a hill on the ancient route between Hebron and Jerusalem. According to the Biblical account, Abraham pitched his tent there, under an oak tree (Gen. 13:18). There also God spoke to the Patriarch (Gen. 18:1).
Encircling the site is an impressive Herodian-style wall of well-fitted stone blocks that probably dates to the time of Herod the Great. Some of the blocks were re-used in building a temple for Hermes around 130 AD, during the Roman rule in Palestine.
In the fourth century, the pagan cult on the site was terminated and a Christian sanctuary with three naves was constructed in its place. The Byzantine church of Mamre is represented on the famous mosaic map of Madaba in Jordan that dates to the sixth century. The monastery was probably destroyed in 614, during the Persian invasion.Read More
…religious language must be put at the service of peace –The New Assyrian Patriarch during the inauguration ceremony
(Vatican News) October 3, 2015 – Erbil – Political and religious speeches should serve to instill the spirit of love and service in the hearts, and not the contrary, fomenting conflict and division. This is the key concept expressed by Mar Gewargis III, new Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, at the liturgy for his inauguration, which marked the beginning of his patriarchal ministry. The ceremony, broadcast live on local media, was held at the church of Saint John the Baptist in Ankawa, a suburb of Erbil inhabited mostly by Christians, and where now a large part of the Christians in the Nineveh Plain forced to abandon their homes ahead of the offensive jihadist Islamic State are concentrated.Read More
(abouna.org) Bethany Beyond the Jordan, October 4, 2015 – Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta and an accompanying delegation, on Saturday October 3, visited the Baptism Site on the Jordan River, where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist.Read More
As Israel passes laws meting out 20-year sentences to stone throwers, an American visits its West Bank military prison.
by Jennifer Bing, Director of American Friends Service Committee (Chicago) Middle East Program and coordinator of the advocacy campaign, “Israeli Military Detention: No Way to Treat a Child”
(alternet.org) October 1, 2015 – I have often felt that the worst aspect of Israel’s prolonged military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip is how official procedures strip people of their dignity. Oppressive processes have become so routine that people just expect them. People tell me “This is our life” when I express outrage at the system of Israeli military checkpoints, permit and military courts lacking fundamental due process protections. Israel’s Ofer military court provides a singular vantage point from which to observe the human impact of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.Read More
(Vatican Insider) October 1, 2015 – The newsletter of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem is out. It includes a reflection by the Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, on the issue of the refugees arriving from the Middle East.
Also in this issue:
– A reflection by the Order’s Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, on the question of the Middle East and a letter he addresses to European Lieutenants, inviting the Order’s members to come up with concrete initiatives to welcome their brothers and sisters from the biblical territories.
Our people need genuine hope and need to see credible efforts for ending this conflict, ending their misery, and achieving their rights. –Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)
by Adam Keller
(Crazy Country) October 3, 2015 – Sometimes, on the battlefield, a soldier takes a hand grenade and pulls out the pin but does not yet toss it. It is possible. As long as a finger is kept on the spot, the grenade will not explode – but this is a dangerous expedient, which is very inadvisable to continue with for long. If the finger slips, or somebody jogs the soldier’s hand and the grenade falls, it can explode at an unexpected place and time and with unpredictable results. And once the pin is pulled from the grenade, it is not so easy to put it back.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) went to the UN Assembly General a much-troubled man. Ten years have passed since he was elected to replace Yasser Arafat, and not much to show.Read More
by Fr. Rif’at Bader/ abouna.org editor-in-chief
(abouna.org) October 3, 2015 – Pope Francis’ address at the United Nations was not the first that a Pontiff makes from the United Nations rostrum. Other Popes had delivered speeches at the United Nation, namely Pope Paul VI (1965), John Pope II (1979 and 1995) and Benedict XVI (2008). Yet, it is the first time that a Pontiff from the Americas opens the sessions of the UN General Assembly, the first to deliver a speech before heads of state, the first Pontiff to address the US Congress or rather the first clergyman to receive a tumultuous welcome at the “Capitol” though he proceeded riding a small car.Read More
I had warned many times in the past that if we destroy Nasser and Arab nationalism, religious forces would come to the fore. Instead of a fight between rational enemies which can end in a rational peace, it will be the beginning of a religious war, which will by definition be irrational and allow for no compromise. That’s where we are now. Instead of Nasser, we have Daesh. Instead of the Arab world led by a charismatic leader, who gave the Arab masses everywhere a sense of dignity and renewal, we are now facing an enemy which glorifies public beheading and wants to bring back the seventh century. –Uri Avnery
(Gush Shalom) October 3, 2015 – FORTY-FIVE YEARS ago Gamal Abd-al-Nasser died at the early age of 52. It is not an event of the past. It continues to have a huge influence on the present, and probably will on the future.
My meetings with him go back to 1948. I used to joke that “we were very close to each other, but we were never properly introduced!”
It happened like this: in July we were desperately trying to stop the advance of the Egyptian army towards Tel Aviv. The cornerstone of our front was a village called Negba. One evening we were told that an Egyptian unit had cut the only road to this kibbutz and dug in across it.Read More
He stressed that Christianity is original to the Middle East rather than a Western import and that it has made important contributions to Arab Islamic culture.
by Rula Samain
(abouna.org) October 2, 2015 – HRH Prince Hassan attended the launch of a book by Archimandrite George Agapios Abu Saada, a priest in the Greek Melkite Catholic Archeparchy of Akko, which discusses the history of Arab Christians in the Middle East and the dangers they face today.Read More
The Syrian refugee crisis is a true humanitarian catastrophe. –Queen Rania of Jordan
by KATIE KINDELAN
(Good Morning America) October 2, 2015 – With the world facing a refugee crisis as millions of people flee war-torn Syria, the Queen of Jordan, on Syria’s border, says people have to do more than just “click ‘like’” on social media if they want to help — or they risk seeing their values “start to erode.”Read More
Says Attempt at Removal of President Assad Will Only Worsen Situation
(Agenzia Fides) October 2, 2015 – “US Senator John McCain protested saying that the Russians are not bombing the positions of the Islamic State, but rather the anti-Assad rebels trained by the CIA. I find these words are disturbing. They represent a blatant admission that behind the war against Assad there is also the CIA”. This is what Syrian Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo said to Agenzia Fides with regard to recent developments in the Syrian conflict, marked by the direct intervention of Russian military forces against the positions of the jihadi militias.Read More
[The responsibility to protect] is not customary international law and remains a propaganda phrase, not a legal concept.
by Craig Murray
(www.craigmurray.org.uk) September 30, 2015 – The legal position is perfectly clear. Syria has a recognised government, that of President Assad, represented at the United Nations. That government is legally entitled to call on Russian military assistance. Russian military action against ISIL is therefore legal.Read More
The Quartet reaffirmed its steadfast commitment to achieving a two-state outcome that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict.
From the desk of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
(United Nations) New York, September 30, 2015 – Representatives of the Quartet – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini – met in New York on 30 September.Read More
(Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns) October 1, 2015 – The six featured articles of this issue of Middle East Notes cover a number of concerns: President Obama and the leaders of the European Union, with the Iran Nuclear deal now a fact, possibly refocusing on the Israel/Palestine conflict; Israel’s persistent assaults and escalating incursions and violence on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound; the challenges posed by the continuing decrease of secular Jews in Israel; the weakening of AIPAC; and the unrealism of a “One State Solution.”
Commentary: The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns supports Pope Francis’ call to collaboration and peacemaking in his recent addresses to the U.N. and the U.S. Congress. Pope Francis and Prime Minister Netanyahu have been the most recent speakers to the U.S. Congress. Both were well received by Congress. Both spoke of peace; the former for the world; the latter for Israel and the Middle East. One reminded us of the poor and forgotten; the other of power and enemies. Their messages were dialectically different: one calling for dialog and diplomacy and the other promoting confrontation and continuing sanctions. Francis was as a brother and bridge-builder both by U.S. Catholics and the general population. Netanyahu left U.S. Jews and Israel supporters divided and confused.Read More
by Stephanie Pappas
(Live Science) October 1, 2015 – A mosaic map of an ancient Egyptian settlement is going on display where it was found — in an industrial-park parking lot in Israel.
The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today (Sept. 29) the first public display of the elaborate mosaic, which was discovered two years ago. Dating back to the Byzantine period, the mosaic shows streets and buildings arranged like a map. A Greek inscription reveals that the map shows Chortaso, Egypt, the site of the burial of Habakkuk, a prophet in the Hebrew Bible.
This mosaic graced a church floor some 1,500 years ago, archaeologists said in a statement. Today, it sits in the midst of an industrial park in the city of Kiryat Gat (also spelled Qiryat Gat) in Israel.Read More
(Christian Peacemaker Team) Hebron, September 29, 2015 – A Palestinian boy and his father cover their mouths as a response to the clouds of teargas that were billowing through the busy market place on the day before Eid al-Adha.Read More
The Pope’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees which is to be celebrated on 17 January 2016, has been published. In it, Francis reminds the world that by welcoming the stranger we open our doors to God himself. He highlights the importance of seeing migrants above all as people “who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare”. The right conditions need to be created in order to stop people from having to flee as a result of poverty, violence and persecution.
by Andrea Tornielli
(Vatican Insider) Vatican City, October 1, 2015 – “Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck. Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost.” The Pope wrote this in his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, titled “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy”, which is to be celebrated on 17 January 2016.Read More
(World Council of Churches) October 1, 2015 – An ecumenical delegation organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) was received by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), on 28 September 2015 in Erbil. The ecumenical delegation had spent six days visiting the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – including the Duhok area, part of the Nineveh Plain, and Erbil – and represented the WCC at the 27 September enthronement of the new Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Gewargis III, in Erbil.
The meeting with the KRG prime minister focussed on the situation of forcibly displaced ethnic and religious minority communities – Christians, Yazidis and others – following the capture by extremist fighters of significant parts of northern Iraq in mid-2014.Read More
(Christian Peacemaker Team) Hebron, September 29, 2015 – Hadil (18) was shot dead by Israeli forces at Shuhada checkpoint in occupied Hebron on Tuesday morning (22.09.15). Hadil was a member of a Palestinian family from the H1 region of Hebron, and was in her first year as a student at Hebron University.
It was as she was passing through one of the many checkpoints of occupation in H2 Hebron – checkpoints that divide one Palestinian neighborhood from another – that Hadil was so brutally killed.
Fawaz abu Aisheh (34), a resident of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood reached via the checkpoint, was present, attempting to usher children from the scene, while translating the orders shouted in Hebrew by the Israeli soldiers at Hadil.
He explained “They were screaming at her, ´Move back! Move Back!´ I knew she couldn´t understand so I intervened in Arabic […]She was terrified […]She listened to me immediately when first I spoke with her, but they moved me away and continued to scream at her in Hebrew which she obviously didn´t understand.”Read More
And just like Jesus on the Mount of Olives, we pray, we weep, we suffer, and we wait. –Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal speaking for Christians in the Middle East
(catholicsun.org and abouna.org) September 30, 2015 – Despite the desire for peace in Palestine, neither peace nor security has been won by the myriad of negotiations and wars of the past 70 years, Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal said.
Twal delivered a lecture on Tuesday, September 29 titled, “Middle East Christians’ Future: In Whose Hands” at Hesburgh Center Auditorium as part of the 2015-2016 Notre Dame Forum “Faith, Freedom and the Modern World: 50 Years After Vatican II.” The talk was hosted by the Center For Civil and Human Rights, and Twal was introduced by University President Fr. John Jenkins.
Twal, trained as a Christian diplomat, ministers in a part of the world where Christians feel oppressed, Jenkins said. Twal brings a message of peace, reconciliation and charity.Read More
Other forms of anti-Christian violence are especially feared by the Christian community of Bethlehem, which is experiencing a progressive Islamization of the city.
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) September 30, 2015 – On September 26th, 2015, the monastery of Mar Charbel in Bethlehem has been ablaze, resulting in the burning of many rooms and damaging various parts of the building.
In the aftermath of the fire, the governor and the mayor of Bethlehem, the chief of police, the national security director and the head of Intelligence, went and inspect the monastery accompanied by Mgr William Shomali, and a number of priests from Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour.Read More
We will need to stop the flow of our charitable dollars to the settlements. We will need to speak up when we hear Islamophobic rhetoric in our own communities. We will need to invest in organizations that promote sustainable democracy within Israel’s 1967 borders, not violence outside them.
by Maddie Ulanow
(Washington Jewish Week) September 25, 2015 – I write to you this high holiday season from Amman, Jordan, where I’m working at a UN school for Palestinian refugee girls as a Fulbright teacher. Living 45 miles from Jerusalem has never felt farther. These high holidays I’ve been enjoying apples and honey on my own, hiding my religion not to deceive the Jordanians who have so warmly welcomed me into their country, but for my safety from those who may not be as kind.
As such, I’ve been thinking a lot about exile and Jerusalem. The haftarah for the first day of Rosh Hashanah offers some words of comfort: in it, Jeremiah predicts the return of the Israelites from exile, and that they will be rewarded for their perseverance.Read More
Nothing can be more important and can have more impact in framing this respect and coexistence than Jerusalem.
(The Jordan Times, abouna.org) September 29, 2015 – King Abdullah on Monday, September 28, proposed seven steps to promote values of tolerance and coexistence in the face of extremism.
Meanwhile, he said nothing can be more important and can have more impact in regarding coexistence than Jerusalem.
In an address at the UN General Assembly’s 70th session, the King said these efforts must be implemented universally on all fronts, warning that hopes for a compassionate and peaceful world are threatened by “khawarej”, the outlaws of Islam that now “operate globally”.Read More
I am not alone in suggesting that the churches in the United States represent the last major organized support for Palestinian rights. This imperative is due in part to our historic links to the Land of Christ and in part to the moral issues involved with having our tax dollars fund Israeli-government-approved violations of human rights.
By Grace Halsell
(INSTITUTE FOR HISTORICAL REVIEW) November 2008 – American Jews sympathetic to Israel dominate key positions in all areas of our government where decisions are made regarding the Middle East. This being the case, is there any hope of ever changing U.S. policy? American Presidents as well as most members of Congress support Israel — and they know why. U.S. Jews sympathetic to Israel donate lavishly to their campaign coffers.
The answer to achieving an even-handed Middle East policy might lie elsewhere — among those who support Israel but don’t really know why. This group is the vast majority of Americans. They are well-meaning, fair-minded Christians who feel bonded to Israel — and Zionism — often from atavistic feelings, in some cases dating from childhood.Read More