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
Statement made to members of Women Wage Peace
(AFP) Jerusalem, September 1, 2015 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he was willing to engage in immediate and direct peace talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, without preconditions.
“I am ready now to go to Ramallah or any other place in order to meet and hold direct negotiations,” Netanyahu told members of Women Wage Peace, established following last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.Read More
Israelis & Palestinians to hold a Grassroots Negotiations Congress on the streets of Tel-Aviv – Thur. September 3, 2015, 10AM – 6PM.
(Gush-Shalom.org) Tel-Aviv, September 2, 2015 – It will take place tomorrow, Thursday, September 3, 2015 – an Israeli delegation, a Palestinian delegation and as many members of the general public as want to participate, will hold street-level grassroots negotiations on a main Tel Aviv street. They will discuss and debate all contentious issues – even the most difficult and sensitive – and try to reach mutually satisfactory solutions. It will be held on the plaza at 48 King George St. opposite the Dizengoff Center Shopping Mall – a major Tel Aviv thoroughfare, frequented by people of varied ethnicities and walks of life at all hours of the day and for much of the night.
Each delegation will include 20 people, reflecting to a broad spectrum of backgrounds in both the Israeli and the Palestinian society: Israeli generals, Palestinian commanders, Israeli settlers, Palestinian ex-prisoners, academics, business people, and students. Members of the general public are most welcome to observe and also take an active part – both those who come especially and passers-by who happen on the grassroots negotiations completely by chance.
The grassroots congress is co-chaired by Dr. Sapir Handelman – an Israeli who received the Peter Becker Award in Peace & Conflict Studies; and Mr. Wisam Seder – a prominent Palestinian athlete and educator.Read More
By Louis Charbonneau
(Reuters) United Nations, September 1, 2015 – Israel complained to the United Nations on Tuesday about a Palestinian initiative to fly their flag alongside those of full member states at the world body’s headquarters, calling it “another cynical misuse of the U.N. by the Palestinian Authority.”
Currently, only member states’ flags fly at U.N. headquarters. While the 193-nation assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012, a Palestinian attempt to secure full U.N. membership failed. Palestine is considered a non-member state.
But the flags of the two non-member states – Palestine and the Vatican – could soon be flying at the United Nations.Read More
(Abouna.org) Bkirki, August 31, 2015 – Top Christian spiritual leaders on Monday, August 31, called for the election of a president as soon as possible, stressing that the government must remain active as long as there is still no head of state.
In a statement issued following a Christian summit in Bkirki, the conferees called for establishing a roadmap that begins with the election of a president as stipulated by the Constitution, demanding the international and Arab community put an end to violence and terrorism.Read More
Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh describes his experience in Aleppo at the Rimini Meeting in Italy. Small daily gestures that can change a person and the world
by Daniele Banfi
(Vatican Insider) Rimini, August 27, 2015 – If there is one image that captures the essence of the last edition of the Rimini Meeting which concluded yesterday, that is Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh, parish priest of the Latin Church of St. Francis in Aleppo. It is testimonies like his – which are inevitably shocking – that shows us that Jesus is with us “to the end of the world”. “I am here to share the joy of the faith,” he immediately points out on the stage. For someone who lives under the constant thunder of bombs and with ISIS practically in his back yard, to say this, he either has to be mad or God must be nearby.Read More
(Aid to the Church in Need) August 28, 2015 – HELP for suffering Christians in Iraq forms the lion’s share of aid announced this month by the UK section of a leading Catholic charity.
Aid to the Church in Need (UK) is providing £180,000 (EUR€250,000) for a new convent for the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Erbil, the Kurdish capital.
The Sisters distribute material help, provide counselling, and give Christian education as part of their ministry to more than 100,000 faithful who fled to Kurdistan a year ago.
Prompting their exodus was the summer 2014 invasion of Mosul and Nineveh by Islamist terror group Daesh (ISIS).Read More
Nearly 60 kilometers of the wall already cuts through the Bethlehem governorate and is built on Palestinian land, according to the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs
by Ann Farr and Dan Bergin and Abouna
(Abouna.Org) August 31, 2015 – The Patriarch Eemeritus of Jerusalem joined hundreds of Palestinians demanding a stop to the construction of the wall near Bethlehem. Fears over new illegal settlements of Jewish settlers. “This land belongs to us … and one day will be returned to us”. “You are stronger with your guns, but you are not the strongest when it comes to humanity.”
Patriarch Michel Sabbah, former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, made a desperate appeal to the Christian world after Sunday Mass, On August 30, at Cremisan, near Bethlehem. Sabbah said: “The message to the Christian world, the international community and the Arab world is that this Holy Land is burning, dying, and being destroyed, and if you really care about justice and equality, you have the obligation to stop this war, killing, and destruction.”Read More
Religious leaders finally called to place national interest above all considerations and to cling to the principles of Christianity, to prevent Lebanon’s plunging into the unknown.
(Lebanese Republic Ministry of Information) August 31, 2015 – Religious leaders gathered at the Christian Summit in Bkirki under the chairmanship of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rahi, and called upon the various political components to urgently adopt a roadmap that begins with the immediate election of a President of the Republic.
Religious leaders urged Deputies to go to the Parliament to elect a head of state, and then form a new government capable of managing the political, social, economic, and vital dossiers.Read More
(Agenzia Fides) Beirut, August 31, 2015 – The Islamic-Christian summit scheduled for today, Monday, August 31, to be held at the Maronite patriarchal see in Bkerké, has been postponed until a later date. This was reported by Lebanese official agencies, adding that, however, even today meetings continued with political representatives and Christian members at the patriarchal see in Bkerké. We currently have not been officially communicated the reasons that led to the postponement of the Islamic-Christian summit, but according to Lebanese media the meeting has been postponed for lack of participation of some Muslim leaders.Read More
In the dossier, in addition to cases involving illegal property expropriations, the names of Christians seized and made victims of extortion are also mentioned.
(Agenzia Fides) Baghdad, August 31, 2015 – There are 14 cases of illegal expropriations of real estate of Christians in Baghdad documented in the first dossier that the Chaldean Patriarchate delivered yesterday to the leaders of the committee, recently set up by the Iraqi political authorities, with the specific task of collecting information and arranging concrete measures regarding the violence suffered by Christians in the Iraqi capital. The delivery of the dossier, which took place on Sunday, August 30, is the first, diligent response of the Chaldean Patriarchate to the demands of the committee, that had urged on behalf of the church, assistance in gathering information on cases of expropriation, abduction, extortion and harassment which in recent months have mainly targeted Christians in Baghdad. In the dossier, in addition to cases involving illegal property expropriations, the names of Christians seized and made victims of extortion are also mentioned.Read More
We trust that our parents will understand the steps we are taking and will stand, with God’s assistance, beside their schools and institutions.
(The Office of Catholic Schools in Israel) August 31, 2015 – Christian Schools have been offering their educational services to the children of the Holy Land, from all faiths and denominations, for hundreds of years. The churches and monasteries that own these schools have developed the school buildings and facilities and strengthened the educational and moral message based on the love of God and man. We have been categorized for decades as “Recognized and Unofficial” schools and have been partially funded by the Ministry of Education. However, the policies of the Ministry of Education in the last few years have been drying up these educational institutions. The Ministry started a systematic campaign against our schools by unilaterally cutting its support from about 45%, compared to what was before, to 29% of the total cost of a primary school. The Ministry of Education also closed the door for advancement by not allowing our primary school teachers to participate in training courses designed for teachers. They even prevented Ministry instructors from working with our teachers and thus our teachers are prevented from developing in their academic fields. Recently they have even tightened the noose around our necks with regulations limiting the percentage of tuition we can charge – this is a death strike that will prevent our schools from being able to work!Read More
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) August 31, 2015 – In the light of the appeal to offer hospitality to the asylum seekers released from Holot in the Negev, the religious communities of the Church of Jerusalem responded with heart warming generosity. (See Appeal for Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers)Read More
Building the annexation wall in their lands might lead the landowners to emmigrate from their homeland and contribute to the ethnic cleansing of Christian from the region.
(Society of St. Yves) August 28, 2015 – An EU diplomatic delegation visited Beir Ona in Beit-Jala, on Tuesday the 25th of August 2015, to assess the situation of the area after the Israeli army started working on the agricultural lands in preparation for constructing the annexation wall in Cremisan.
The Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights in its capacity as representative of the Salesian Convent briefed the visiting delegation on the latest developments of the Cremisan case, including its most recent petition submitted on July 30th and the Israeli army’s response to it, which rejected the content of the petition and claimed it was an attempt to re-open already closed files, meaning the petitions submitted earlier in July by the Municipality of Beit-Jala and the landowners.Read More
The uprooting of 2000+ year old olive trees to build an apartheid wall and confiscate 3000 dunams of land in Beit Jala is a crime against humanity.
by Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.
(Human Rights) Beit Jala, August 30, 2015 – Today (Sunday) we were protesting in Beit Jala when occupation soldiers used violence and arrested three people who were peacefully protesting. The uprooting of 2000+ year old olive trees to build an apartheid wall and confiscate 3000 dunams of land in Beit Jala is a crime against humanity.Read More
August 30, 2015 – For the past three years residents of Nabi Saleh, a small Palestinian village near Ramallah, have held weekkly demonstrations to protest the confiscation of the village’s lands and the takeover of their spring by the nearby Jewish settlement, Halamish. The protest on Friday, August 28, saw peaceful marchers chanting as well as youths hurling rocks. When the forces sought to arrest protesters for hurling rocks in their direction, a solider (rumored to be a Zionist with French nationality) went after an 11-year-old boy, whose arm was in a cast. He had the screaming child in a choke hold. The youngster’s sister, mother, and others came to his aid beating the soldier and even, in the case of the boy’s sister, biting the soldier in an attempt to gain his release. Eventually the commanding Israeli officer gave the order to halt the arrest.Read More
by Ra’fat Aldajani
(National Catholic Reporter) August 25, 2015 – Movies have always played an important role not only in breaking through cultural taboos but also in helping shape the identity of a people to themselves and to the world at large. The film “Exodus” starring Paul Newman and based on the 1958 book by Leon Uris, had profound and lasting effects on American Jewry, and American public opinion.
According to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, the book and movie succeeded in “tailoring, altering and radically sanitizing the history of the founding of the State of Israel to flatter the fantasies and prejudices of American Jews.” Israel’s founding Prime Minister David Ben Gurion admitted as much. “As a literary work it isn’t much. But as a piece of propaganda, it’s the best thing ever written about Israel.” “Exodus” validated Jewish peoplehood, swelled American Jewish pride in Israel and “Americanized” the causes of Zionism and Israel.
On the other hand, according to prominent Jewish-American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, “it created the impression that all Arabs are savages. This was most unhelpful, and the lingering effects of [the book’s] sometimes-cartoonish portrayal of Israel’s founding can still be seen in the opinions of the more unthinking among Israel’s supporters.”Read More
I don’t understand what [God] is doing when I look at what has happened in the region. I quarrel with him every day. –Archbishop Bashar Warda
by Sean Gallagher , Mark Zimmermann, Catholic News Service
(Catholic News Service) Indianapolis, August 27, 2015 – Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, placed his face in his hands when asked how his faith has been challenged and changed in the crisis he has helped manage over the past year.
He said he has outwardly encouraged the Christians whom he welcomed to Irbil when they fled Islamic State, but within his heart he would frequently “quarrel with God.”
“I don’t understand what he is doing when I look at what has happened in the region,” Archbishop Warda said. “I quarrel with him every day.”Read More
The idea of making Christian schools public schools is seen as the end of Christian education, a serious blow to Christian communities of the Holy Land
(Agenzia Fides) Jerusalem, August 27, 2015 – The Secretary General of Christian schools in Israel interprets his meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to discuss the crisis facing Christian schools in Israel as “a positive step”. Nevertheless, according to the co-ordinating body the solution of the crisis “requires further negotiations” and therefore “schools will remain closed until further notice”. The declaration of suspension of school activities is confirmed in the press release of the Secretariat also widespread in the media of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.Read More
These stories take me on a pilgrimage that helps me draw nearer to my faith and my understanding of Jesus, both historical and living.
by Elena Habersky
(America Magazine, the National Catholic Review) Amman, August 31-September 7, 2015 – I never realized the power of stories until I began working with refugees in East Amman. The stories I hear vary. Some are extremely happy, filled with vivid memories of times that were present with love and laughter, enough to fill a large Middle Eastern sitting room. These are the stories where you see people’s faces light up, their bright brown eyes becoming as large as a full moon hanging in the desert sky to light the secrets of the mysterious terrain that would otherwise be clothed in darkness. When people tell these stories, their whole bodies move, contouring to the universe in a way that almost transports them back in time. It is a place they desperately want to go back to—and they want to take you, too. Yet it will always be secret, always be special to them. These are the things they can carry when everything else they carry will be a burden.Read More
…the new figures reveal that the settlement enterprise in the West Bank is not only an internal issue but “an international problem –Peace Now
by Jack Moore
(Newsweek) August 28, 2015 – New research has revealed that 15 percent of the total Jewish settler population in the occupied West Bank are American nationals.
In a presentation to promote a forthcoming book, Oxford University scholar Sara Yael Hirschhorn revealed that approximately 60,000 Americans Jews live in Jewish outposts out of a total population of approximately 400,000 settlers in occupied territory, excluding East Jerusalem. The figure for the number of American nationals living in the West Bank was previously unknown.
“This provides hard evidence that this constituency is strikingly over-represented, both within the settler population itself and within the total population of Jewish American immigrants in Israel,” she said at the Limmud conference in Jerusalem, reported Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.Read More
We need to be reminded that hatred exists at all times and reminds us to be empathetic to other people that have experienced hatred also. –Natalie Portman
by Antonia Blumberg, Associate Religion Editor, The Huffington Post
(Huffington Post) August 27, 2015 – Natalie Portman revealed in a recent interview that she believes her childhood Jewish education placed too much emphasis on the Holocaust, arguing that the Jewish community must focus more on other injustices being perpetrated around the globe.
“I think a really big question the Jewish community needs to ask itself, is how much at the forefront we put Holocaust education. Which is, of course, an important question to remember and to respect, but not over other things,” Portman told The Independent.Read More
by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
Executive Editor Of Global Spirituality and Religion, The Huffington Post
(Huffington Post) August 28, 2015 – Before Shanjida and Gavriella came to New York University they had never met someone like each other. That’s because Shanjida is a Muslim and Gavriella is a Jew — and they came to college from two religious communities that can, and often do, find themselves in conflict.
But what these two young women chose to do instead is beautiful.
On this week’s ALL TOGETHER, host Paul Raushenbush goes back to college to talk to students about the rewards of deep interfaith engagement, even when it is difficult. Shanjida and Gavriella are part of a group at NYU called Bridges dedicated to interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims. We will hear how it changed their lives.Read More
With the settlements, Israel has its own anti-democratic monster –Headline in a Dutch newspaper
by Adam Keller, spokesperson for Gush Shalom
(Crazy Country) Tel Aviv, August 22, 2015 – We spent the last few weeks at a picturesque Dutch town, where on the way to shopping in the local supermarket we often had to wait for the bridge over the canal to come down after the boats have passed. Even that quiet and peaceful region had once been the scene of wars and bloody conflicts. During a cruise on a canal which had once been part of the fortifications, the guide told us: “Following the massacre which the Spanish army perpetrated here in 1572, in which most of the town’s inhabitants perished, it was rebuilt as a fortress town. Mighty fortifications were erected, a double system walls and ramparts and moats. Everywhere, artillery pieces were placed, ready to pour a deadly hail of fire in every direction and at every angle from which an enemy army might arrive. For hundreds of years, almost half of the city’s inhabitants were soldiers.” All this is, of course, ancient history. As we could see, nowadays the town’s boys climb the ancient cannons and on hot days they jump the ramparts for a long refreshing swim along the moats.Read More
Palestine Presents Draft Resolution Before Papal Visit
By Zenit Staff Reporter
(ZENIT.org) Vatican City, August 28, 2015 – The Holy See released a statement this afternoon regarding the controversy surrounding the Palestinian flag at the United Nations.
The statement says:
In accordance with the rules governing the General Assembly no Member or Observer State is entitled to oppose the tabling of a draft resolution by a Member State. In light of this, the Holy See does not object to the tabling of a draft resolution concerning the raising of the flags of Observer States at the UN headquarters and offices.
The Holy See, however, notes the long established praxis and tradition of the UN, since 1945, whereby only flags of member States are displayed at the UN headquarters and offices, and will accept whatever decision that the UN may wish to take in this regard in the future.
From the Vatican, 28 August 2015
Palestine presented a draft resolution Thursday to raise the flags of non-member observer states at the United Nations.
Initial reports of the resolution noted that in first drafts, Palestine had included a proposal that the flag of the Holy See also be raised. The Holy See, as well as Palestine, has the status of non-member observer state at the UN.
The initiative comes as Pope Francis prepares to address a high-level gathering of the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25.
The Holy See already had taken a distance from the resolution, before today’s statement. “The Holy See does not intend to co-sponsor a draft resolution that the State of Palestine may eventually present on the matter,” a note circulated earlier this week said.
The Holy See does recognize the State of Palestine and earlier this year, the two parties signed a comprehensive agreement.
The UN General Assembly granted Palestine non-member observer state status in November 2012.Read More
…all the statements that were released from the various Bishops’ Conferences had a “persuasive authority, just like the International Courts of Justice did years ago, in order to mobilize public opinion to the fact there is something radically wrong. –Dr Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer and Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales
(Vatican Radio) August 28, 2015 – Concern and dismay continues to be voiced over the construction of a separation barrier in the Cremisan Valley which is underway and has already uprooted trees in an ancient olive grove.
The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and a number of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, including the Bishops of Germany, the US, South Africa and England and Wales have stressed that the wall will severely restrict access of 58 Palestinian families to their agricultural land and profoundly affect their livelihoods.Read More
(Agenzia Fides) August 28, 2015 – Iraq needs a “national salvation government” where the various components of the Country are represented by wise politicians, able to carry out the reforms needed to emerge from the state of emergency and counter the centrifugal forces that threaten the very existence of the nation. Among the urgent needs to be addressed, there is also the need to integrate militias in the army, on ethnic and religious basis, in all areas of the Country.Read More
A highly symbolic meeting on Thursday morning, August 27, in Galilee: that of Patriarch Fouad Twal with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, at the Monastery of Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha, targeted last June by a criminal arson.
by Manuella Affejee
(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) Tabgha, August 30, 2015 – This visit by Israeli President was meant first and foremost, to serve as a strong sign of solidarity with the Christian community of Tabgha, still under the effect of the brutal arson which hit the Monastery last June 14. On that same day, President Rivlin had spoken by telephone with Dom Gregory Collins, Abbott of the Benedictine Dormition Abbey (motherhouse of the Monastery of Tabgha), to express his support.Read More
Monday, August 24th marked the first day of school throughout Palestine, and CPT resumed their work accompanying school children and monitoring human rights violations at military checkpoints near the Old City of Hebron. The team was delighted to see the beaming faces of the children, and is happy to report that no major incidents occurred during the first week of the Fall term.
by CPT Reservist Rosie Williamson
(Christian Peace Team) Palestine, August 28, 2015 – Back to school for most children is an exciting time when they meet new and old friends and share stories about their summer vacation. In Hebron, the soldiers and checkpoints of the occupation impose a very different reality on the return to school. To reach their schools the children here must pass through checkpoints with metal turnstiles where armed soldiers frequently search their backpacks. Older siblings firmly hold the hands of the younger ones. School teachers and other adults also face this daily humiliation. On their return home, after the school day is over, the whole experience is repeated.Read More
…nothing will change here, in a fundamental or structural sense, until a radical shift occurs in the US –Christian Peacemaker Team Member
An essay by CPT reservist Chris Moore-Backman
(Christian Peace Team) Palestine, August 28, 2015 – Language has a potent knack for steering public perception, and, if we’re not careful, certain words can become surprisingly effective tools of oppression. Before I came to Palestine, from my vantage point on the sidelines in the US, the word “occupation” definitely conjured a thoroughly negative picture of entrenched power-over oppression. But the picture I had was one of a more or less static system of oppression. Sure, I knew that Israel’s “occupation” of Gaza and the West Bank was punctuated by intense flare-ups. I had come to believe, as is common among folks in the US, that these flare-ups were often, if not usually, sparked by not-so-random acts of violence on the part of Palestinians, which were then answered with swift and grossly disproportionate vengeance by Israel. The US-backed Israeli Defense Force’s military onslaught on Gaza one year ago provided a horrifyingly stark illustration of this pattern. But, again like many of my US contemporaries, I assumed that such brutal outbursts, and the steady stream of much smaller-scale clashes here, were predictable side effects of the grinding, but mostly stationary reality known as “occupation.”Read More
By MIRIAM BERGER
(AP) Jerusalem, August 27, 2015 – Ultra-nationalist Israelis took over a four-story building in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Thursday, raising fears of fresh violence in the tense area.
A small group of activists from the Ateret Cohanim settler organization moved into the rundown white stone building. It was the latest in a wave of settler advances since nationalist Jews began buying up properties in densely populated Palestinian areas two decades ago.
The building is located in Silwan, a rundown neighborhood that is home to several hundred Jewish residents and some 50,000 Palestinians. Israeli soldiers were guarding the latest wave of settlers.Read More