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
Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh | Palestinian Christians
1) Conflict Transformation and the Palestinians: The Dynamics of Peace and Justice under Occupation
[I have a chapter in this book and my chapter is titled: Critical and Historical Assessment of BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions) Pp. 98-113]
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights staff spearheaded a letter to NFL players planning to attend an Israeli government-sponsored propaganda trip to Israel, urging the players to cancel. The next day, former Super Bowl star Michael Bennett boldly proclaimed “I’m not going to Israel” in a tweet along with a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr with Stokely Carmichael. Then, one by one, other players publicly cancelled with him. Of the 11 players initially slated to go, six athletes skipped the trip! This is a game changer.Read More
James Martin, S.J. | America the Jesuit Review | March 2, 2017
Ziad Hilal, S.J., the project consultant for Syria of the Aid to the Church in Need, has been stationed in Aleppo since Sept. 1, 2016. James Martin, S.J., recently asked him via email about his ministry there.
Can you describe the situation for the people in Aleppo at this moment?
From the time the armed conflict erupted in 2012 to this day, Aleppo has paid the greatest price on different levels: Socially, economically and environmentally, not to mention the humanitarian crisis.
Many people had to evacuate their houses and shops due to violence. So many lives were lost, leaving countless numbers of widows and orphans. Trees and park benches are chopped up by those seeking fuel for heat. Many homeless families are living in the streets, in deserted factories and semi-constructed buildings started before the war in the cold of winter. Most of the evacuated children have been without proper teaching or schooling for the last three years. This is a catastrophe for the upcoming generation.
The historic churches located in the old city area are destroyed beyond restoration. Aleppo was home to five million people before the war; now only 1.5 million remain. There were 120,000 Christians in the city six years ago; today, 30,000 Christians remain.Read More
On 26 February, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas formally received the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit for a meeting to discuss just peace in Palestine and Israel. Abbas is scheduled for a speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, in the beginning of the week.
The Palestinian president expressed to the WCC general secretary the importance of the activities of the WCC in the Holy Land in accompanying Christians and local churches. Abbas said he calls upon local and foreign churches to pay attention to the message of Palestinian Christians and to encourage all non violent acts to bring peace and justice to Palestine.Read More
My experience and abject ignorance were shared by generations of seminary graduates who entered parish ministries. Seminaries were no help in introducing us to this immoral, highly significant criminal social justice issue. What little we knew about “The Holy Land,” was shaped by a pro-Israel secular media and our devotion to the scriptures, a devotion Israel has always been eager to exploit. — James M. Wall
When I learned of the courageous decision made recently by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, I remembered my 1973 trip to Israel.
Bennett (right) made headlines when he pulled out of an Israeli government-sponsored trip to Israel designed for NFL players.
He refused to be a part of Israel’s hasbara campaign.Read More
On February 15, 2017, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and fourteen other members of the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy sent the following briefing paper entitled “Toward Peace, Justice, and Equality in Israel and Palestine” to all members of Congress and the Trump Administration calling for U.S. policies that promote peace, justice and equality for all Palestinians and Israelis. The following article was published in the March-April 2017 issue of NewsNotes.
As U.S.-based Christian churches, agencies, and organizations, we urge Congress and the Administration to take actions which will enhance the prospects for peace, justice, and equality in Israel and Palestine, and refrain from actions that would harm those prospects.
2017 marks 50 years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza and 24 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Over the last 50 years, but particularly since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, there have been significant changes on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories that have a negative impact on efforts to achieve peace with justice. Violations of human rights and international law have continued without consequence and are enabled further by Israeli legislative actions.Read More
by Saher Kawas | Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
ROME/BETHLEHEM – On Sunday February 26, 2017, Pope Francis visited All Saints Church to mark the 200th anniversary of the Anglican presence in Rome. The visit, which was a first for a pontiff to meet with the Anglican parish in his diocese, saw the blessing of an icon of Christ the Savior made by the Bethlehem Icon Centre (BIC).
Commissioned by All Saints Churchwarden Mr. James Hadley and made by Ian Knowles, the Director of the Bethlehem Icon Centre, the icon of Christ the Savior draws inspiration of a 6th century icon of Christ in Glory displayed at the Lateran Palace in Rome. Legend has it that the icon, which is referred to as “not made by human hand” or Acheropita, was written by St. Luke and the angels.
“Reputedly, a miraculous icon! Whenever Rome was under threat, especially in the early centuries, the Pope would process round barefoot carrying this image” said Ian Knowles.Read More
From Taybeh, Dr. Maria Khoury writes:
Dear Friends of Taybeh,
I started my day by lighting a candle at the Byzantine ruins of Saint George Church asking the Lord to grant all of you a Blessed Holy Great Lenten journey.
May the Lord bless you with many fruits of the Holy Spirit. And, although I cleaned out my refrigerator of all the cheese and dairy in front of me, I hope to clean my heart during this very sacred time of year. Unfortunately eating all the cheese you can eat until midnight in order to have a “Clean Monday” is not the best habit in the world. May you Clean Monday be blessed, holy, healthy and a wonderful new chance for eternal life.Read More
by Elise Harris | CNA/EWTN News | Feb. 25, 2017
Beirut, Lebanon – Syriac-Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan has said that the number of youth wanting to leave the Middle East is a major concern, and stressed that if local Christians are going to stay, political agendas must be set aside.
“We hope that peace, reconciliation and stability will be realized as soon as possible,” the patriarch said Feb. 23. The problem is that there are geopolitical agendas that don’t involve us.”Read More
This special issue of Middle East Notes focuses responses to the content of the meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump met at the White House in Washington, D.C on February 15; efforts by Palestinian municipalities in the West Bank and human rights groups to oppose the highly controversial Settlement Regularization Law; and U.S.-based opposition to the appointment of David Friedman as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.Read More
Members of the Rana Choir write:
We would like to share with you Rana – Arab-Jewish women’s choir’s renewed version of the song “I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier” – the lyrics of which are based on a song that was written during World War I in the USA by Alfred Bryan and Al Piantadosi, with a new melody composed by Mika Danny. The song is sung in Hebrew, Arabic & English and has an option for subtitles in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese & Italian:Read More
Travel log of a trip to the Western part of the Syrian city, controlled by Assad’s regime, during the fight between government forces and rebelsGiacomo Gentile | Oasis Center | 09 February 2017
We wish to propose to you the travel log that a representative of the Association of Holy Land wrote for Oasis from Aleppo. He visited the Western part of the Syrian city in October, when the bloody conflict between the forces of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the rebel armed groups, controlling the east side of the city, was still ongoing. The city was fully reconquered by the government army in December, with the support of armed forces linked to Iran, Hezbollah’s Lebanese Shiite militias and the Russian military.Read More
by Rev. Fr. Imad Twal
“Administration Journey” is the personal account of an administrator’s job within Church institutions, especially for the priest or consecrated, in community work and daily life among believers (church, parish, parish activities, visit to the sick and youth programs). Such are grace-filled moments in a priest’s life, where he practices the three-fold ministry and mission of Christ: priest, king and prophet.
In the first Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:27-31), St. Paul writes about the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit as grace to the Church in her diversity: “ Brethren, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first “apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way”. They will be closer together as members of the same body, each holding special importance, each complementing the function of the other. This diversity serves both the Church’s structures and her members. It remains a concern of the priest, that as everyone with a particular “gift” works together, these gifts will build up the body of Christ.Read More
Christian Peacemaker Team, Hebron – After Friday prayers, Palestinians gathered outside the Ibrahimi Mosque to promote the campaign “Dismantle the Ghetto, Take Settlers Out of Hebron”, which calls for Right to Life and Freedom of Movement. This campaign commemorates the 23rd anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre and subsequent closure of Shuhada Street.Read More
Dr. Frank Romano, University of Paris, writes:
You are welcome to participate in The Interfaith Freedom March, on Friday, March 17th, 2017. The group will meet at 12:30 pm ———- in front of the Ramallah, Central Mosque, West Bank, Palestine, in downtown Ramallah, and then march toward “Al-Monara Square.”
My friends, it’s no longer possible to say, “Ah, that’s the other side of the World, what does this place have to do with me, my family, my world….”
The people in the Holy Land, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike, are enshrouded by deep suffering, terrible restrictions on freedoms, limitation of circulation, restricted access, unfair confiscation of land, water, etc.Read More
The past cannot be changed. But perhaps, perhaps, we can learn from it and draw some conclusions.
SO HOW THE HELL did it all start?
Last week I tried to describe the 1948 war, starting from the shooting at a Jewish bus on the morrow of the UN partition resolution. Some readers dispute the timing. They insist that the war started on May 15, on the morrow of the founding of the State of Israel, when the armies of the neighboring Arab states entered the country.
I have seen this many times. Every serious debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raises the question: “When did it start?” Each side has its own date, proving that the other side started it.Read More
World Council of Churches | February 16, 2017
Intended for an international audience of young people (ages 20-35) interested and engaged in interreligious dialogue, religious leaders, students, lay persons and professionals with a suitable level of religious literacy and/or experience in the field of interreligious dialogue and engagement, especially among the three Abrahamic religions, the Ecumenical Institute’s Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies is accredited by the University of Geneva under the Swiss Higher Education Programme for Continuing Education.
The course encompasses a study period of 6 weeks (3 weeks distance learning, 3 weeks residential). The residential period includes lectures, courses, workshops and study visits to places of interreligious interest.Read More
Deborah Castellano Lubov | Zenit | 15 February, 2017
“I give a warm welcome to the Arabic-speaking pilgrims, in particular those from the Middle East!”, said Pope Francis during the General Audience of Feb. 15, 2017.
This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:30 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.Read More
AMMAN – In celebration of years of cooperation and dialogue already nurtured in the Holy Land, church leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (LPJ) made a visual commitment to unity and shared service to its community in the Middle East. The service was co-hosted at The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, Jordan on Sunday, February 12, 2017 and another service is scheduled at St. Catherine Church in Bethlehem on Saturday.
Dr. Frank Romano, University of Paris, writes:
FREEDOM MARCH, “LAND DAY”, PALESTINE – 2017
You are invited to participate in the Freedom March on Thursday, March 30, 2017. It is to commemorate the “Land Day”, 2017. The group will meet at 12:30 pm ——— – At the Qalandia Mosque, in the West Bank, in Palestine, then walk towards the Qalandia checkpoint.
This is the Palestinian land, they will not leave, they will remain attached to this sacred land of Palestine. We will continue our resistance to the occupation! We will continue Palestinian existence until freedom and independence, until the end of the Israeli occupation, until the establishment of a just and lasting peace …Read More
ISRAEL – Fr. David Neuhaus SJ, Patriarchal Vicar for the Hebrew Speaking Catholics and Coordinator for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, sent an appeal to the Minister of Interior on behalf of 14 eleven-year old Filipino children. These children were born in Israel to migrant workers are deemed ineligible for residency and are facing immediate deportation together with their families. The appeal recalls how the Philippines welcomed and saved over 1,300 Jews who fled from Europe in the 1930s to this small Asian country.
Dear Mr. Aryeh Deri,
It is not my habit to introduce politicians to one another. However, in this case, I believe it is essential that you, the Honorable Interior Minister of the State of Israel, get to know the late President of the Philippines, Mr. Manuel Quezon. To be perfectly honest, I had hardly heard of Quezon before I was invited to the premier screening of a new, full-length documentary, detailing the involvement of Quezon in the saving of 1302 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany before and during the Shoah.Read More
A new film, “Open Door,” was shown for the first time in Israel on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, at the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv. Father David Neuhaus, Latin Patriarchal Vicar attended the event.
The Philippine Embassy in Israel and the American Jewish Committee hosted together the premier of the new film, entitled “An Open Door, Holocaust Haven the Philippines”. The film, directed by Filipino award winning director, Noel Izon, tells the untold story of how Filipino President Quezon and Jewish organizations created a haven in the Philippines for over 1300 Jewish refugees, fleeing the Shoah, during the Second World War.
The moving documentary is based upon the testimonies of the last remaining Jewish survivors, members of the Quezon family and others, who recount the generosity of President Manuel L. Quezon, who sought to welcome many more Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Europe. The event of the premier also marked sixty years of Israel-Filipino diplomatic relations.Read More
by Saher Kawas | Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
In his homily, Cardinal Woelki affirmed that “in a time of growing nationalism, we need reconciliation and a life derived from the Gospel”. He added “powerful people all over the world today fuel nationalist ideas more than ever before, giving them a religious framework. In this way, they foster demarcation and, in particular, lead young people to hatred and violence.”Read More
AFTER MY last article, in which I mentioned that the Arabs started the 1948 war after the partition resolution of the UN, I received several furious messages.
The writers, who (I suppose) were born after the events, accuse the Zionists of starting the war in order to expel the Arab population.
Since I took part in the events – I was 24 years old at the time – I feel that it is my duty to describe what really happened, as truthfully as possible. (I have written two books about it, one during the war and one immediately after.)
TO DESCRIBE the atmosphere in the country just before the war, let me recount one of the great moments of my life.Read More
‘I reaffirm that the Catholic Church feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies’ (Full Text)
by Deborah Castellano Lubov | Zenit | February 9, 2017
The Church denounces Anti-Semitism in all its forms, noting it is “completely contrary to Christian principles and every vision worthy of the human person.”
Pope Francis stressed this to a delegation from the Anti-Defamation League, an organization which has maintained relations with the Holy See since the Second Vatican Council, which he received this morning in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.Read More
Tonight, we have been reminded that hope is and must be a defiant triumph over pessimism and fear. From our liberation from bondage, we have spent much of our time wandering from country to country. We wandered because people didn’t accept us, we wandered because we were different…and because they just didn’t like us because we were Jews. Substitute Jews with ‘refugee,’ with ‘immigrant,’ with ‘Muslim.’ Our Judaism didn’t only get us chased…Our Judaism got us rejected on our very shores. But the Prophet Isaiah insisted that in times of crisis we must cry aloud, we shall not be silent. We shall make ourselves into a shofar and be the clarion call for every value that we uphold…We the people must form the more perfect union…May our actions tonight make a difference, may they inspire us to further become the clarion call to welcome the stranger, protect the refugee and to never stand idly by in the face of injustice.Read More
Pray with me for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities. Pope Francis
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Feb. 6, 2017 – The 120-second video features Pope Francis’ narration as scenes of society ignoring people in need are displayed.Read More
by Akiva Eldar | Ruti Sinai, Translator | Al Monitor | February 7, 2017
The White House’s recent contention that the existing Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are not an impediment to peace should, it would seem, allay the concerns of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he licks his wounds after the forcible evacuation of Israeli settlers Feb. 1-2 from the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona. After all, that is exactly what Netanyahu has been insisting for years about the settlements. Now, finally, there is a White House occupant after his own heart — a real estate mogul who doesn’t understand how a construction project can be a bad thing.
Like Netanyahu, President Donald Trump is apparently not bothered by the reality that some 2.5 million Muslims have been living for 50 years under a discriminatory occupation.Read More
Local media praised the king’s diplomatic breakthrough and one commentator, Fahd al-Khitan, wrote Feb. 2 in al-Ghad that Abdullah had fought a diplomatic battle in the US capital on behalf of all Arabs. He also noted that the Jordanian monarch had met the US president even before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had done so. A number of Amman dailies pointed to a Feb. 2 New York Times article in which the authors credited Abdullah for a shift in Trump’s policy on the construction of new Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.Read More
By Andrea Avveduto | terrasanta.net
“Syria has always been a mosaic of cultures and we will not allow war to destroy that,” affirmed the Franciscans of the Custody in Damascus who help the poorest people any way that they can.
In the Franciscan church near Bab Touma (The Door of Thomas) in Damascus, the dome still bears the signs of recent bombings. Br. Bahjat Karakach, the superior of the convent, miraculously escaped the explosion that damaged the sanctuary. The parish center where Br. Antoine Louxa lives along with him is the first stop on our trip to Syria.Read More
Jerusalem – The law the Israeli Parliament passed yesterday which “regulates” even retroactively houses and Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian territory illegally occupied by the army of Israel, “makes the solution two peoples-two states almost impossible. It offends justice, the virtue which comes from God and consists in giving God and neighbor what they are due”.Read More