"Al-Bushra"

Seeking truth and justice

Is This the Oldest Image of the Virgin Mary?

Posted on Feb 14, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Syria, World

Identifying the oldest image of Mary isn’t an end in itself. Reidentifying this woman helps us to ponder anew the distinctive emphases of early Christians in Syria, who in this baptistery celebrated salvation through images of marriage, pregnancy and birth — as much or more than through participation in a ritualized death. This is not to undermine the power of Jesus’ passion and resurrection accounts, but rather to rebalance the perspective of modern Western viewers, looking back after centuries of art focused on the cross. In the extant art from Dura-Europos, we see the hope of new spiritual birth, but the death of Christ is not pictured once.

A detail of the baptistery painting from Deir ez-Zor, Syria, that may portray the Virgin Mary. Credit Tony De Camillo/Yale University Art Gallery

A detail of the baptistery painting from Deir ez-Zor, Syria, that may portray the Virgin Mary. Credit Tony De Camillo/Yale University Art Gallery

by Michael Peppard

(New York Times) January 30, 2016 – THE Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most revered woman in the Christian tradition. In the history of art, she appears almost as frequently as Jesus himself. But for the past 80 years, one of the oldest paintings of her may have been hiding in plain sight.

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Short-circuited lives: Why my family is facing eviction from our home in the Old City of Jerusalem

Posted on Feb 13, 2016 in Human rights, Israel, Justice, Middle East, Narrative, Palestine

We have been good tenants. But “goodness” means nothing when anti-Palestinian discrimination is the law of the land

Short-circuited lives: Why my family is facing eviction from our home in the Old City of Jerusalem

by Rafat Sub Laban

(Salon) January 24, 2016 –

For my entire life, 27 years, I have lived with the threat that I will be permanently evicted from my home in the Old City of Jerusalem.  It’s a beautiful location, just 200 yards from the Dome of the Rock and offering an absolutely stunning view of the Old City’s holy sites.

We have paid our rent. We have been good tenants. We have tried all legal means, including a Dec. 3 protest march, to stay in our home.   Yet our “goodness” matters not at all when anti-Palestinian discrimination is the law of the land. We fear the Israeli government will turn over our home permanently to Israeli settlers.

Beyond eviction, we could eventually lose our residency rights in the city as has occurred to more than 14,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites since 1967.  Many of our Palestinian neighbors have already been dispossessed in an ongoing Israeli effort to “Judaize” the Old City and strip it of its longtime Muslim and Christian Palestinian population.

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World Day of the Sick in Bethlehem

Posted on Feb 13, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Holy Land, Human rights, Interreligious dialogue, Palestine, Vatican, World

Every hospital and nursing home can be a visible sign and setting in which to promote the culture of encounter and peace, where the experience of illness and suffering, along with professional and fraternal assistance, helps to overcome every limitation and division. For this we are set an example by the two Religious Sisters who were canonized last May: Saint Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas and Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, both daughters of the Holy Land. The first was a witness to meekness and unity, who bore clear witness to the importance of being responsible for one another other, living in service to one another. The second, a humble and illiterate woman, was docile to the Holy Spirit and became an instrument of encounter with the Muslim world. –Pope Francis 15 September 2015

The Anointing of the Sick was administered to about 150 people, including 20 patients and 30 companions of “Hospitalidad Jesùs de Nazareth” from Spain accompanied by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimoski, Special Envoy of the Pope for the World Day of the Sick. (Photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

The Anointing of the Sick was administered to about 150 people, including 20 patients and 30 companions of “Hospitalidad Jesùs de Nazareth” from Spain accompanied by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimoski, Special Envoy of the Pope for the World Day of the Sick. (Photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

by Thomas Charrière

(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) February 11, 2016 – On Monday, February 8, 2016, in preparation for the World Day of the Sick, Bishop William Shomali presided over a Mass at St. Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem.

In preparation for the XXIV World Day of the Sick (JMM) in Nazareth, part of the celebration was a Mass held in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem in the presence of Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers; Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio; Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe, Syrian Archbishop of Mossul; Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel and Bishop Thomas Williams, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool.

Mass was the Christmas liturgy animated by the parish choir, allowing participants to relive the Christmas Mass in Bethlehem. The Anointing of the Sick was administered to about 150 people, including 20 patients and 30 companions of “Hospitalidad Jesùs de Nazareth” from Spain accompanied by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimoski, Special Envoy of the Pope for the World Day of the Sick. Representatives of health care institutions and centers in Bethlehem were also present. The Gospel was chanted in soureth (Oriental Syriac Aramaic) by Archbishop Moshe.

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The hospital, where heaven meets earth

Posted on Feb 13, 2016 in Christians, Cyprus, Human rights, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Palestine, Syria, World

The week for the World Day of the Sick in the Holy Land continues. The delegation of the Holy See visited the cities of Bethlehem, Ein Karen and Jerusalem on Sunday and Monday.

 

(Christian Media Center) February 10, 2016 – “I was sick and you visited me.” It is inevitable to think of these words of the Gospel, during the week dedicated to the World Day of the Sick. After the inaugural Mass in Ramallah and the tour of Bethlehem on Sunday, Monday began with a Eucharistic celebration in the large gymnasium of the school near the Basilica of the Nativity, presided by Mons. William Shomali (Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine). Many local and foreign patients, mostly Spaniards, who were also able to receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, were present.

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Israeli land grab threatens Palestinian church

Posted on Feb 12, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Jews, Justice, Middle East, NGO, Palestine, World

Israel is continuing to annex Christian church endowments in Palestine, both covertly and blatantly.

Palestinian, Israeli and Christian foreign activists confront Israeli soldiers as they walk toward Beit al-Baraka, a church compound, situated between the Al-Arub refugee camp and the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank during a demonstration condemning the Israeli occupation, Aug. 15, 2015.  (photo by Getty Images/Hazem Bader)

Palestinian, Israeli and Christian foreign activists confront Israeli soldiers as they walk toward Beit al-Baraka, a church compound, situated between the Al-Arub refugee camp and the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank during a demonstration condemning the Israeli occupation, Aug. 15, 2015. (photo by Getty Images/Hazem Bader)

(Al-Monitor) Ramallah, West Bank, date? – Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently approved the annexation of the Beit al-Baraka church compound to the Gush Etzion settlements established on Palestinian territories south of the West Bank, according to a Jan. 6 Haaretz report.

Reportedly, Ya’alon was responding to pressure by Israeli settlers who are constantly breaking into the church compound under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces. These settlers claim that they bought the compound, where a fence and security cameras have been installed and the IDF prohibits anyone from entering. Meanwhile, Palestinians are organizing marches in Beit al-Baraka to protest the settlers’ control over the church.

According to Palestinian officials and Christian citizens who spoke to Al-Monitor, there are eight buildings on the 10-acre church grounds, including a hospital providing medical care and services to Palestinians. The compound is owned and supervised by the Presbyterian Church in Palestine, which in turn is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States, they said.

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Seven Weeks for Water

Posted on Feb 12, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Holy Land, Human rights, Justice, Middle East, Palestine

…a pilgrimage of water justice in the Middle East, with specific reference to Palestine

Children in Gaza fetching water. © EWN, 2014.

Children in Gaza fetching water. © EWN, 2014.

(World Council of Churches) February, 2016 – The World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) is inviting its member churches and supporters to reflect on water during Lent. For many in the world, water is either taken for granted or in desperately short supply.

Seven Weeks for Water 2016 will take us on a pilgrimage of water justice in the Middle East, with specific reference to Palestine.

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Pope goes to Cuba to embrace his brother Kirill not to forge a “holy alliance” against common enemies

Posted on Feb 12, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Middle East, Peace, Vatican, World

The preparations ahead of the meeting between the Bishop of Rome and Patriarch Kirill are laden with telling signs. These signs veer away from the clichés about supposed “holy alliances” which distort the real meaning of the event, limiting its significance to ecclesiastical “high strategy”.

Patriarch Kirill is to meet Pope Francis in Cuba today.

Patriarch Kirill is to meet Pope Francis in Cuba today.

by Gianni Valente

(Vatican Insider) February 12, 2016 – Not a church, not a monastery, not an apostolic palace or a patriarchal curia. Pope Francis and Russia’s Patriarch Kirill are to meet in a room at Havana’s international airport. But, as Alexander Shchipkov, one of Kirill’s closest collaborators pointed out, “the airport is a symbolic crossroads. And when people meet at a crossroads, their encounters are brief, yet sincere and profound”. At a crossroads, people tend to speak “frankly” about “the things of greatest importance”.

Christian unity – and not only – finds itself at a unique and promising crossroads with the meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow in Cuba. Already, the preparations ahead of the meeting are laden with signs and implications that are truly telling. These signs disprove the conjectures being made about the meeting being merely a question of ecclesiastical “high politics”.

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A Palestinian pastor and an Israeli journalist – discerning the way ahead

Posted on Feb 11, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Islamic State, Israel, Jews, Middle East, Muslims, NGO, Palestine, Peace

Mitri Raheb (centre) and Gideon Levy (right) at the award ceremony. © WCC/Albin Hillert

Mitri Raheb (centre) and Gideon Levy (right) at the award ceremony. © WCC/Albin Hillert

(World Council of Churches) February 4, 2016 – How do we approach a conflict that has been causing pain for decades, where hatred and terror surface far too often, and where the international community seems inept at addressing the core issues at hand? Where are the signs of hope, and how do we find ways to move forward?

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There’s no alternative: help Israel and Palestine seek peace, archbishop tells UN

Posted on Feb 11, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Muslims, NGO, Palestine, Peace, Syria, Vatican, World

The archbishop noted that the conflict in Syria had attracted violent actors from abroad.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Credit: Cycling Man via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Credit: Cycling Man via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

(Catholic News Agency) New York, February 2, 2016 – Peace was the focus of the Holy See’s representative in a recent speech to the United Nations, where he renewed calls to support negotiations between Israel and Palestine and between the warring factions in Syria.

“Certain elements among both peoples have suffered too long from the misguided view that force will resolve their differences. Only sustained negotiations, entered into in good faith, will resolve their differences and bring peace to the peoples of Israel and Palestine,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic nuncio heading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the U.N., said Jan. 26.

Speaking on behalf of the Holy See, he addressed the Security Council’s open debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying it has stalled.

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Peace Prize 2016: Rabbi Michael Melchior and Dr Sarah Ahmed

Posted on Feb 11, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Interreligious dialogue, Iraq, Jews, Middle East, NGO, Peace

Canon Andrew White with FRRME Peace Prize recipients Dr Sarah Ahmed (left) and Rabbi Michael Melchior (right)

Canon Andrew White with FRRME Peace Prize recipients Dr Sarah Ahmed (left) and Rabbi Michael Melchior (right)

(The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East) January 28, 2016 – Rabbi Micahel Melchior’s achievements in the world of reconciliation are significant. The Alexandria Process, of which I was a participant, is still considered a milestone in the Middle East peace process. Despite the recent violence in Israel / Palestine, Rabbi Melchior continues to work with all sides in the hope that interfaith dialogue will help bring about lasting peace in the Holy Land.

Dr Sarah Ahmed is an extraordinary woman. Her commitment to helping the most vulnerable, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or religion, embodies the very principles of reconciliation. According to a UN report published last week there are now 3.2 million Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq. It is a blessing that people like Dr Sarah Ahmed are prepared to work at the front line of this terrible humanitarian crisis.

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Marie Dennis: Laureate of the 2016 Public Peace Prize as GLOBAL PEACE and RECONCILIATION INTERNATIONALLY-REPUTED PEACEMAKER

Posted on Feb 11, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Interreligious dialogue, NGO, Palestine, Peace, World

In 2015, Marie Dennis guided the general assembly of Pax Christi International held in Bethlehem “to be in solidarity with the people of Bethlehem”.

ppp-2016-0004

(http://publicpeaceprize.org) Marie DENNIS, of the United States, is a respected icon of peace and reconciliation movements on an international scale. Her implication in a number of endeavours reuniting a compassionate vision, the art of negotiation and spiritual wisdom and her contribution to intercultural and interreligious dialogues are indispensable to world peace. A large number of her project partners and people who have witnessed her work from several countries have expressed their support and admiration to this laureate of the 2016 Public Peace Prize as GLOBAL PEACE and RECONCILIATION INTERNATIONALLY-REPUTED PEACEMAKER.

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Bethlehem Icon Centre offers seven-day courses in iconography: Stay, Paint, Pray!

Posted on Feb 10, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Middle East, Palestine, World

People come from different parts of the world to participate in the Centre’s seven-day course: A time to paint, pray and drink deeply from the Presence of the Lord, alongside local Christians from the Holy Land.

Some of the Bethlehem Icon Centre Professional Training Course students with the new icon of Our Lady of Bethlehem ready for the move to the new Centre in Star Street. With us is the donor of the new premises. Like all our icons, this one is made using the finest natural pigments and gold leaf.

Some of the Bethlehem Icon Centre Professional Training Course students with the new icon of Our Lady of Bethlehem ready for the move to the new Centre in Star Street. With us is the donor of the new premises. Like all our icons, this one is made using the finest natural pigments and gold leaf.

Bethlehem, February 2016 – Founded 2012, the Bethlehem Icon Centre and its Icon School are based in Bethlehem, the city of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is dedicated to the renewal of iconography as a living part of the spiritual landscape of the Holy Land.

It is a small and humble attempt to serve Christ in the Church of his birth through commitment to the the highest standards of sacred liturgical art.

It also seeks to renew the dwindling Christian population by restoring an essential element of their ancient culture, and is the only project of its kind in the Middle East.

The courses introduce participants to everything from drawing and geometry, to painting in egg tempera and water gilding. The April course also includes preparing a board with gesso. All levels of experience are very welcome. Two seven-day courses will be offered this year:

  • April 7-14: Face of Jesus
  • October 6-13: St. Francis of Assisi
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Bethlehem University Professor Denounces Hypocrisy, Urges Action

Posted on Feb 10, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Middle East, Narrative, NGO, Palestine, World

Invites visitors and volunteers to Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH)

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh with students  (Photo: palestinenature.org)

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh with students (Photo: palestinenature.org)

 

by Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor, Bethlehem University

(Palestinian Christians Newsletter) February 7, 2016 – The Israeli Knesset rejected a bill that calls for equality (after all all this must remain a state by and for Jews). And a video emerged of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu praising Israeli Fascist Group Im Tirtzu which believes in “Jewishness” of Palestine and acts and supports to effect ethnic cleansing of native Palestinians in favor of European and other Jewish colonization. The Zionist leaders attacked Ban Ki Moon for mildly speaking about the need to end the occupation and let Palestinians live free. The heads of the EU misssions in Jerusalem issued a report saying that Israel must respect human rights. They explained that 660 Palestinians are being held without charge or trial. They also mention Mohammad AlQeeq, a Palestinian Journalist on hunger strike for 70 days since his illegal detention. The tragedies around us continue and we sympathize with suffering people seeking freedom from tyranny and from terrorism (much of it emanating from the USA through its its “protectorates” like Israel and Saudi Arabia).

My students struggle to come to class through tear gas and other challenges of Israeli repression. This past week I gave courses on research, critical reading, and writing for master students in tourism and also for diploma students in drug education and prevention at Bethlehem University. In good news, more and more people are acting on their convictions to challenge oppression and/or build a better future.

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A mosaic of Churches united in prayer for unity

Posted on Feb 9, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Holy Land, Israel, Middle East, World

In Jerusalem, a real mosaic of churches made of different denominations gathers in prayer for Christian unity.

(Christian Media Center) Jerusalem, January 28, 2016 – In Jerusalem, you can see a real mosaic of churches with different denominations inside and outside the city walls. During the last week of January, Christians have gathered in each one of these churches to pray for the unity of the churches in the Holy Land.

In the same city or in a small town, families with different faiths live next to each other, each with its own name and celebrations, its own spiritual, theological, cultural, artistic and historical heritage that expresses a specific way of living the faith.

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Professor Who Said Christians, Muslims Share A God Is Leaving Christian College

Posted on Feb 9, 2016 in Christians, Interreligious dialogue, Jews, Muslims

  Former Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins (right) is greeted by supporter Donna Demir after a news conference on Jan. 6 in Chicago. Hawkins, who's Christian, was suspended by Wheaton, an evangelical Christian school, after she said Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Administrators initiated steps to fire her. On Saturday the professor and school announced they'd parted ways. M. Spencer Green/AP conference on Jan. 6 in Chicago. Hawkins, who's Christian, was suspended by Wheaton, an evangelical Christian school, after she said Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Administrators initiated steps to fire her. On Saturday the professor and school announced they'd parted ways.

Former Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins (right) is greeted by supporter Donna Demir after a news conference on Jan. 6 in Chicago. Hawkins, who’s Christian, was suspended by Wheaton, an evangelical Christian school, after she said Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Administrators initiated steps to fire her. On Saturday the professor and school announced they’d parted ways. M. Spencer Green/AP

See Al-Bushra post for reference.

(npr.org) February 7, 2016 – A professor at an evangelical Christian college who was suspended for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God will no longer be teaching at the school.

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Forbidden Pilgrimage

Posted on Feb 8, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Palestine

(Al Jazeera) Pilgrimage to sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus has been a significant aspect of Christian faith since the earliest centuries AD. Group tours to the ‘Holy Land’ are still very much part of the culture of practising Christians but are primarily organised by Israeli travel agents.

This film hears passionate views from Palestinian priests, a Christian tour operator and a British writer as they speak out against the obstacles facing pilgrims visiting sacred sites today, particularly Bethlehem and Nazareth. It also covers the recent history of discrimination against Palestinian Christians generally – and the wider problems threatening their survival.

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An ayatollah to walk the corridors of the Pope’s university

Posted on Feb 7, 2016 in Christians, Interreligious dialogue, Iran, Middle East, Muslims, Vatican, World

The Pontifical Lateran University opens its doors to its first ever visiting professor, the director of the Institute of Shiite Studies in Qom. The visit is a result of an agreement that was signed in the sacred Persian city.

The Pontifical Lateran University (Vatican Insider)

The Pontifical Lateran University (Vatican Insider)

by Paolo Affatato

(Vatican Insider) Rome, January 27, 2016 – The studious, turban-clad, serious yet tranquil-looking man with the grizzly beard and glasses is soon to walk the lecture theatres and corridors of the papal university par excellence. The Ayatollah Mahmood Taghizadeh Davari will be the first visiting professor to tread the grounds of the Pontifical Lateran University, where he will be working on a comparative research project on social Shiite and Catholic theology.

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President Obama at Israeli Embassy: Religious leaders must speak out against distortion of religion

Posted on Feb 7, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Interreligious dialogue, Jews, Middle East, Muslims, Vatican, World

All are brothers and all children of God. –Pope Francis

President Barack Obama hosted Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at the White House in November 2013 for strategic talks on furthering democracy, human security, other related issues.

President Barack Obama hosted Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at the White House in November 2013 for strategic talks on furthering democracy, human security, other related issues. In January President Obama praised King Mohammed VI for his leadership in protecting religious minorities.

 

(Standard Newswire) ROCKVILLE, Maryland, Jan. 28, 2016 – On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Washington to mark the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland where more than one million people were murdered.

Speaking to honor non-Jews who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust, the President declared ”Every faith community has a responsibility. Just as all religions speak out against those who try to twist their faith to justify terrorism and violence, just as all faiths need to speak out when interpretations of their religion veer in an ugly direction, so, too, must they speak out against those who use their faith to justify bias against Jews, or people of any faith.”

His Holiness Pope Francis has spoken forcefully against anti-Semitism, saying, “Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, regardless of his origins or religious beliefs,” recalled the President.

President Obama also underscored that ”We know that there were Muslims – from Albanians to Arabs -who protected Jews from Nazis.”

“In Morocco, leaders from Muslim-majority countries around the world just held a summit on protecting religious minorities, including Jews and Christians,” said President Obama

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Patriarch Twal: Church in the Holy Land faces different challenges

Posted on Feb 6, 2016 in Christians, Cyprus, Holy Land, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, NGO, Palestine, Syria, World

The Patriarchate covers four states: Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal  - REUTERS

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal – REUTERS

(Vatican Radio) January 12, 2016 – “The Patriarchate covers four states: Cyprus Israel Palestine and Jordan,” explained the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal to bishops visiting the Holy Land.

“Each country is different from the other. We have different challenges,” he continued.

“In Cyprus we are a minority. The big number is workers from the Philippines, and some English people coming to spend their final days in Cyprus,” Patriarch Twal told Vatican Radio.

“In Israel, the big problem is the occupation…with the consequence of the emigration of our Christians. That is a drama for us.”

He said that Jordan provides stability for the Church, which is able to function freely.

“We can meet gather, we can meet, we can move,” Patriarch Twal said. “We are happy to give good witness welcoming all the refugees from Syria, from Iraq.”

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Patriarch Twal meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah in Ramallah

Posted on Feb 6, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Interreligious dialogue, Israel, Palestine

During the meeting, the Palestinian prime minister “asserted that Palestine is a model to be emulated with regards to tolerance and coexistence among followers of various religions.

Patriarch Twal meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah in Ramallah   (Photo: abouna.org)

Patriarch Twal meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah in Ramallah (Photo: abouna.org)

(abouna.org) Ramallah, February 4, 2016 – Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal met on Thursday, September 4, with Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah in his office in Ramallah.

An official source reported that the meeting was designed “to provide a briefing on the needs of the Church, to consolidate the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites, to provide support for Jerusalem institutions, and to discuss the situation of areas in Bethlehem surrounded by the separation wall.

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Marrakesh Declaration calls for protection of rights of minorities in Muslim countries

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Jews, Middle East, Muslims

It is a document that our world has been waiting for and a tribute to the Muslim scholars who prepared it. As one of the People of the Book, I thank you for this document and I thank the Lord God who has provided his followers the courage to prepare this document. –Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington

(abouna.org and catholicculture.org) January 28, 2016 – At the invitation of Morocco’s government, hundreds of Sunni and Shiite scholars from 120 countries gathered in Marrakesh to consider the plight of non-Muslim minorities in largely Muslim nations.

“We in the Kingdom of Morocco will not tolerate the violation of the rights of religious minorities in the name of Islam,” King Mohammed VI stated as the January 25-27 conference began. “I am enabling Christians and Jews to practice their faith and not just as minorities. They even serve in the government.”

Participants in the conference issued the Marrakesh Declaration, which called for “full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.”

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Mourning the loss of Dr. Jeries Saed Khoury: Engaged in interreligious and ecumenical dialogue throughout his life

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Holy Land, Interreligious dialogue, Israel, Middle East, Muslims, Palestine, Vatican

His lectures and seminars aimed to increase global awareness about the plight and suffering of people of the Holy Land.

The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries mourns the loss of Dr. Jeries Khoury

(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) February 4, 2016 – The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries mourns the passing of Dr. Jeries Saed Khoury, the director of Bethlehem-based Al-Liqa’ Centre and the former president of the Local Council in Fassouta. Dr. Khoury passed away last Wednesday while he was in Rome, accompanied by a delegation from Al-Liqa Centre, before a planned meeting with Pope Francis.

The deceased was an important figure in the Church of the Holy Land. He was involved in the Muslim-Christian dialogue as well as in the ecumenical dialogue. He dedicated his life for the service of his fellow brothers and sisters despite their religious and ethnic backgrounds.

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A Syrian man in exile finds the strength to forgive

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Interreligious dialogue, Iraq, Islamic State, Middle East, Muslims, Narrative, NGO, Syria, World

He would have preferred not to speak about politics, but he inevitably does: “What needs to be done? Put an end to the war. All it would take is an honest international community with a conscience. And yet today, Christians of the East are worth less than a barrel of oil…” he says with a tone of bitterness. “Bashar al Assad is no angel and Putin has his own interests to look after too,” Claude Zermez says. “But the East is different from the West. The concept of citizenship does not exist. Here it’s first and foremost about ethnicity, then religion and only after this nationality. What Syrians want today, is a State that protects them and makes the law count. Otherwise we will end up like Libya.”

Claude Zerez  (Photo: Vatican Insider)

Claude Zerez (Photo: Vatican Insider)

by Giorgio Bernardelli

(Vatican Insider) January 26, 2016 – “When I accompanied the pilgrims it was Pascale who taught them the Our Father in Aramaic.” The little girl in the image projected on the screen is Claude Zerez’s whole life. A reflection of the deep love he feels for his roots, of the pain he felt at the loss of that child whose life was so brutally wrenched away from her, but also the look of someone who, even in his via crucis, is not prisoner of hatred.

It was 9 October 2012 when she was kidnapped on bus from Homs, bound for Aleppo. The men who took her were militias with ties to the Free Syrian Army, Bashar al Assad’s opponents. She was 20 years old when her lifeless body was discovered. That was when this Christian Melkite man from Aleppo – who is very knowledgeable about sacred Eastern art and has taken many pilgrims round on their visits to Syria – wrote an open letter to François Hollande, strongly condemning the political support France has lent to rebel groups, are increasingly infiltrated by Salafists. “Have you seen how Aleppo, the oldest city here has turned into a ghost town?” he wrote in October 2012. “Can you imagine Paris turning into a ghost town and hundreds of thousands of French families wandering round seeking shelter from the bullets, bombs and acts of wanton discrimination, fanaticism and brutality?”

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WCC urges support for social media campaign to end Syria crisis

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Human rights, Middle East, Peace, Syria

Now more than ever, the world needs to hear a public outcry to end the Syria crisis.   © UNICEF/Sanadiki

Now more than ever, the world needs to hear a public outcry to end the Syria crisis. © UNICEF/Sanadiki

(World Council of Churches) January 25, 2016 – The #SyriaCrisis has raged for five brutal years and another round of talks involving the world’s powerful nations and those involved in the conflict to push for peace could be starting to finally end the warring.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is joining UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, with which it works in promoting the interests of children, to share its support in a social media campaign.

It is urging its member churches to join in taking 60 seconds to watch, share and show their support to help end the suffering by joining UNICEF in watching a video and speaking out to help end #SyriaCrisis. “UN estimates say around 220,000 people have been killed in this senseless war with many millions displaced,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary of the WCC. “With the prospect that serious talks may begin to end this conflict we urge all parties to seize the chance to finally end it.”

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Denominational Divestment Countdown

Posted on Feb 4, 2016 in Christians, Ecumenism, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Justice, NGO, Palestine, Peace, World

A Voice of the Palestinian Christians

A Voice of the Palestinian Christians

(FOSNA) February 3, 2016 – Three Big Divestment Summits Are on Their Way: United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, The Unitarian Universalists

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Amnesty International: Demand justice for Palestinian circus performer held in Israel

Posted on Feb 4, 2016 in Human rights, Israel, Justice, Middle East, NGO, Palestine

(Amnesty International UK) January 29, 2016 – On 14 December, Mohammad set out from his parents’ home to the Palestinian Circus School where he works. But he never made it. Israeli soldiers stopped him at a checkpoint and took him to a nearby detention centre. He has been held ever since, and is now thought to be in Megiddo prison, in northern Israel.

He has never been charged with a crime and his family have not been allowed to visit him.

The Israeli military handed him a six-month administrative detention order — so they can continue to hold him with no charge, indefinitely.

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Rabbis advocate on behalf of Bedouins in the Negev

Posted on Feb 4, 2016 in Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Jews, Justice, Middle East, Muslims, NGO, Palestine

While the world focuses on the Occupied Territories, the plight of Israel’s Bedouin citizens goes unnoticed, or is deemed an “internal matter.” For people of conscience, there can be no “internal matter,” and these approximately 250,000 Israeli citizens are also created in God’s Image.

54_percent_of_all_home_demolitions_in_negev_in_towns_recognized_by_govt_-_dukium

January 26, 2016 – Rabbi Arik Ascherman is one of our great contemporary heroes. His work to save the Israeli Bedouins from being obliterated by the Israeil government deserves your full support. Please read his call to you below! Standing up for the humanity of everyone on the planet is part of the goal of Tikkun magazine and our interfaith and secular-humanist welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives. To keep up with developments in the US and around the world, you are invited to receive (for FREE) updates through our Tikkun Daily Blog at

www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/join-tikkun-daily/— Rabbi Michael Lerner

Please Take action to Save the Bedouins 

by Rabbi Arik Ascherman

As you read this, JNF bulldozers are preparing the first stage of building the Jewish community of “Hiran” on the rubble of the Israeli Negev Bedouin community of “Umm Al-Hiran.”  The government plans to expand the Yatir forest to overrun Atir.  A week ago, the Israeli High Court removed the last legal hurdle preventing the immediate expulsion of over 1,000 men, women and children from their homes. The mayor of the artificial Bedouin township of Hura, where the Israeli government wishes to move them, says he has that Hura’s inadequate zoning plan leaves no place to put them.

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Israeli High Court Dismisses Latest Petitions in the Cremisan Case

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Justice, NGO, Palestine

Israeli High Court Dismisses Latest Petitions in the Cremisan Case (Photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

Israeli High Court Dismisses Latest Petitions in the Cremisan Case (Photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

(Society of St. Yves) Jerusalem, January 30, 2016 – The Israeli High Court dismissed the latest petitions in the Cremisan case, submitted by the Salesian Sisters Convent, represented by the Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights, and the Beit Jala Municipality and landowners, represented by advocate Ghayyath Nasser.

The Court held in its decision that although it approves the construction of the annexation wall and admits that it is based on “security needs”, the landowners have the right to object to any route of the wall that does not maintain their right to access their lands freely. Moreover, the Salesian Sisters were granted the right to object to the final route of the annexation wall in the future upon its presentation. In case the army plans to impose facts on the ground upon the construction of the annexation wall, the Court, in this decision, has granted both parties the right to object to the presented route or any future one, regardless of the current construction of the wall that is going on in Beir Onah – Beit Jala.

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Pax Christi works for peace and reconciliation in Israel, Palestine

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Christians, Holy Land, Human rights, Israel, Justice, Middle East, NGO, Palestine, Peace, World

Here in the region of Israel-Palestine, in what we call the Holy Land, I believe that after 70 years it is high time that politicians take leadership in a real peace process that leads to the acceptance by both peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians. –Father Paul Lansu, Pax Christi International

Protestors call for recognition of the State of Palestine as a means to peace and reconciliation in the region - AFP

Protesters call for recognition of the State of Palestine as a means to peace and reconciliation in the region – AFP

(Vatican Radio) January 12, 2016 – Fr. Paul Lansu from Pax Christi International was a participant in the Holy Land Coordination pilgrimage that took place in Israel and Jordan in January.

The pilgrimage was an opportunity for Catholic Church leaders from Europe, North America, and South Africa to visit parishes, schools, and development organizations in Israel and Jordan to show the support of the worldwide Christian community and gain insights into the complex political and religious problems underlying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns: Middle East Notes

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Christians, Human rights, Jews, Justice, Middle East, Muslims, NGO, Palestine, Peace, World

151210 Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

January 28, 2016

Please note: Opinions expressed in the following articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

The six featured articles and the many related links in this issue of the Middle East Notes focus on the growing involvement of the European Union in resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the execution of teenagers with knives or scissors without trial or discussion, unchecked Israeli vigilantism on the West Bank, the silence of U.S. Jewish organizations on Israeli “il-liberalism,” the growing de-legitimization of Israel due to the occupation and apartheid policies, and Israeli government attempts to silence internal and external opposition to the occupation.

Commentary: Israel’s opposition to a “two state solution,” expansion of settlement activity, and the continuing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and blockade of Gaza, are fueling criticism by the nations of the European Union, the U.S. State Department, and within Israel itself. The negative response to these criticisms by Israel, especially among its own citizens, Jewish and Arab, is only exacerbating and publicizing these criticisms. The de-legitimization of which Israel accuses its critics seems to be promoted by its own policies towards the Palestinian people. Israeli leadership continues to rely on unquestioned support of the U.S. Congress in the face of growing justice concerns of the EU. These concerns are being met in Israel with fear, insecurity, denial, and increasing political opposition to internal critics.

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