Updates April 2011



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  We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine.  The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date of publication.  

Comments made over the years by Israeli leaders


31 July 2011 15:46:34 -0700


Apr. 25, 2011

Zenit | Outcome of "Arab Spring" Uncertain, Says Patriarch

Hopes Efforts of Protestors Will Bring a Better Future

JERUSALEM, APRIL 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- While the political protests sweeping through the Middle East and Northern Africa to bring an end to oppressive regimes is a positive development, there is a concern regarding the final outcome, according to Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem.

In an interview posted earlier this month on the Web site of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the patricarch expressed his hope that the result will be "for the better and the common good."

...Patriarch Twal spoke clearly about the relationship between the churches in the East and the West, affirming that "it's the same church, confronted with the same challenges for the youth, family, vocations, etc."

The patriarch suggested than an infusion of Christians from the West would not only "give 'vitamins'" to the Church in the Holy Land, but that it would be "mutually beneficial."

"Christians who come from the West must not simply help our Church," he asserted. "They should consider themselves a part of this Church, which is their Mother Church. They should feel responsible for the future of Christians living in the Holy Land."

Read entire article


Apr. 24, 2011

America Magazine | Of Many Things [Holy Week in Jerusalem] by Editor Drew Christensen, SJ


In Holy Week my mind turns to Jerusalem, as I recall my participation in the liturgies and pilgrim devotions there. It is also a time for remembering the Church of Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is a special day for Holy Land Christians as they turn out for the procession from Bethpage down the Mount of Olives, past the graves of those buried facing west toward the Golden Gate, where by Jewish tradition the Messiah is expected to appear to establish the kingdom, to St. Anne’s in the Old City. During the last two decades, the Palm Sunday procession has become a festival of Palestinian Christian identity, with the faithful pouring in from all over the region, from Galilee and, if possible, the West Bank as well as Jerusalem.

The route is so crowded the best word to describe it is “thronged” with people. Boy scouts in uniform, some quite beyond adolescence, provide crowd control along the margins of the road. Religious in a great variety of habits are strung throughout the crowd, and prelates of the different Catholic churches in their distinctive robes come toward the end, with the canons of the Holy Sepulchre and the Latin Patriarch at the very end. When the procession ends at St. Anne’s, those privileged to squeeze into the monastery garden hear an exhortation from the patriarch followed by blessing with a relic of the true cross.

The Palm Sunday procession, a walk of a few kilometers under the hot sun, pressed around with sunburned, dusty pilgrims from many lands, may be as close as today’s Christians will ever get to feeling what it was like to celebrate a holy day in St. Helena’s Jerusalem.

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Apr. 22, 2011

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land | Easter Message 2011

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the ELCJHL

"I am the Resurrection and the Life"

In a world of suffering and death, these words of resurrection and life transcend us. Jesus first addressed these words to Martha of Bethany when Jesus stood at the tomb of his good friend Lazarus (John 11:25). This occasion is one that has profound meaning because Jesus shows clearly his emotions in the face of death, weeping openly over the death of his friend.

Martha understood fully that God always stands on the side of life. “Lord, if you had been here our brother would not have died,” she said pleading to Jesus. The whole Bible reveals this theology of life as God meant it to be. God chooses wholeness for us. God chooses life with dignity. God chooses life abundant. As Jesus proclaimed in the previous chapter of John, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

This is the whole reason for Jesus’ life and ministry. This is the whole reason that John has recorded these stories, including the story of Lazarus called forth from the tomb. “These signs have been written,” says John in his summary conclusion, “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life” (John 20:31). This is why every child in Sunday School is taught, “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not die, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

...People ask me about the Christians in the Middle East amidst all that is going on. What I say is this: Arab Christianity is an integral part of Arab society. And, as such, we are a part of the struggle for life abundant for all. Fundamentally, the Middle East conflict is about life. It is unacceptable for some to have life at the expense of others. The situation requires a political will that will assure both Palestinians and Israelis that peace based on justice is possible—a peace that will allow all of us to have life and to have it abundantly.

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Apr. 22, 2011

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Newsletter | Editorial: In One Heart and Voice

Like last year, Christians in the world will once again celebrate Easter together in 2011. This coincidence is a source of great joy for many Orthodox, Protestants

and Catholics. His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem welcomed this happy coincidence last year: “Our joy is twofold”, he declared, “we, pastors and faithful of the various churches, will be celebrating Easter on the same day and in the same place. It is the same voice”.

For historical reasons, it is rare for Easter to be celebrated by Christians on the same day. The difference in dates is a result of the calculations made by the

Christian churches of setting the date for Easter. On one side is the Gregorian calendar, which dates back to the 16th century is mainly used by Western Churches and on the other hand, the older Julian calendar is used by the Orthodox Church.

For John Paul II, the celebration of redemption

is linked to ecumenism.

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Apr. 22, 2011

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem | Passion, death and resurrection in Jerusalem

“Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified”

Born to die, humiliated to reign, died to resurrect!

“Each day is Good Friday”, particularly it is so in Jerusalem and in the rest of the Lord’s homeland. However, the suffering of Jesus is not one of a pathological passion for pain nor is it a morbid pleasure in death. Jesus “the Life” enjoyed living. In Gethsemane, the oil press, an epitome for His blood squeezed out “for the multitudes”, even for those who slept, he expresses his apprehension and his dread.

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Apr. 19, 2011

Zenit | Holy Land Churches: Sadness Competes With Easter Joy

Lament the Violence Plaguing Protests in Arab World

JERUSALEM, APRIL 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Though the cross is empty and new life has come, heads of Churches in the Holy Land say that sadness is competing with Easter joy.In an annual Easter message, 13 heads of Churches in the Holy Land commented on the wave of protests in the Arab world.

"Christians find their joy is secure in the hope of the promise of eternal life which our Lord has won for all who believe," they affirmed. "However, when we in Jerusalem, the city of redemption, see the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in our region our joy becomes more solemn.

"We find sadness competes with the joy of Easter as we witness the violence which has erupted in the face of peaceful demonstrations by people throughout the Arab world these past months."


The Christian leaders called for reforms leading to "modern civil society where freedom of expression, freedom of religion, human rights – including the rights of those who are considered being a minority in numbers – are respected."

Read more


Apr. 16, 2011

SFGate | Israel unveils hiking trail for Christian pilgrims

By DANIEL ESTRIN, Associated Press Friday, April 15, 2011

(04-15) 09:35 PDT NAZARETH, Israel (AP) --

Israel hopes to attract Christian tourists with a new pilgrimage route unveiled this week in the Galilee, a network of footpaths, roads and bicycle paths linking sites central to the lives of Jesus and his disciples.

Developing sites linked to Jewish history has long been a priority for the Jewish state. But the Gospel Trail, inaugurated Thursday by Israeli tourism officials, is a nod to the growing number of Christians traveling to the country in recent years, outnumbering Jewish visitors.

More than two-thirds of the 3.45 million tourists in Israel last year were Christian, double the amount of the previous year, and about 40 percent of them defined themselves as religious pilgrims, according to Israel's Tourism Ministry.

The 40-mile (60-kilometer) trail in northern Israel passes sites including Tabgha, the traditional site of Jesus' miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the Mount of Beatitudes, where he delivered his Sermon on the Mount. It ends at Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus espoused his teachings.

Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, a Catholic bishop, led Bible students and reporters on an inaugural hike Thursday on the first section of the trail — a footpath setting out from a hilltop lookout point on the outskirts of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown.

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Apr. 16, 2011

Zenit | Understanding Church-Muslim Relations (Part 1)

Egypt's Ali Al-Samman on Freezing Relations With Holy See

By Emil Amin

CAIRO, Egypt, APRIL 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The president of Egypt's Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs is noting that a decision to freeze dialogue with the Holy See from Sunni Islam's highest authority may have been hasty.

In 1998, Ali Al-Samman was the architect of the joint committee that brings together the Cairo-based Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

In Part 1 of a two-part interview with ZENIT, Al-Samman offered his perspective on the Jan. 20 announcement of a dialogue-freeze from the Cairo-based Islamic Research Council of the University of Al-Azhar, which came in protest of Benedict XVI's statements on religious freedom following a Jan. 1 attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria.

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Apr. 16, 2011

Zenit | Maronite Patriarch Stresses Unity in Diversity

Faithful Affirm Holy Spirit's Action in Leader's Election

ROME, APRIL 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The new patriarch of the Maronite Church was in Rome this week, affirming a vision of unity and diversity.

Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, who last month was chosen to succeed Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, had a private audience with Benedict XVI on Thursday to officially receive the "Ecclesia Communio," already extended by a letter from the Pope on March 24. After a Maronite patriarch is elected, the Bishop of Rome extends his official expression of communion.

The patriarchate is based in Lebanon, though the faithful of that Church are present in Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, and in countries of the diaspora, such as Argentina and Australia.

Patriarch Raï said he arrived in Rome "bringing with him the image of a Lebanon that lives unity in diversity."

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Apr. 15, 2011

America, the Catholic Weekly | U.K. Quakers Boycott Israeli Settler Exports

Quakers in Britain have agreed to boycott products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Quakers consider the boycott a nonviolent move for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Half a million Israeli settlers live illegally in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The settlements on Palestinian land are protected by the Israeli government and military, and they prevent or restrict access by Palestinians to their land, water supplies, education, health services and more. Extensive settlement infrastructure divides up Palestinian land, creating obstacles to peace. Palestinian Quakers are calling for Quakers around the world to consider boycott, divestment and sanctions because of the worsening situation caused by Israel’s occupation. “People matter more than territory,” said a statement from the Quakers. “We pray fervently for both Israelis and Palestinians…. We hope they will find an end to their fears and the beginning of their mutual co-existence based on a just peace.”



Apr. 15, 2011

America, the Catholic Weekly | Goldstone Reports Again

Depending on one’s view, the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone has either once more demonstrated the honesty of his thinking or has cravenly capitulated to Israeli pressure. In an op-ed article in The Washington Post on April 1, he admitted that if he had known what has recently been revealed by internal Israeli investigations, the U.N. report he chaired on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, a 2008 military campaign against Gaza, would have been different. Israeli officials, who have heretofore reviled Goldstone, praised him and played his statement as if it were a renunciation of the report’s conclusions. The former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, went so far as to contend that “if in the future we have to defend ourselves against terror...there will be no way to deal with this terror other than the way we did in Cast Lead.”

But Goldstone later told the press that, with one exception, “as presently advised I have no reason to believe that any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.” According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, the internal Israeli inquiry cited by Goldstone “by no means absolves Israel of all grave allegations regarding its conduct.” Among the issues still deserving scrutiny, the group said, “are the levels of force authorized; the use of white phosphorous and inherently inaccurate mortar shells in densely populated areas; the determination that government office buildings were legitimate targets; and the obstruction of and harm to ambulances.” In addition, because of lack of Israeli cooperation, the Goldstone team was never able to look into Israeli policymaking. For these and other reasons the U.N. process ought to continue.

At the same time, Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, needs to be held responsible for its use of rockets against Israeli civilians and for failing to conduct investigations of alleged war crimes on its side.



Apr. 13, 2011

Zenit | The Role of Scripture in Interreligious Dialogue

Anglican Theologian Addresses John Paul II Dialogue Center

By Andrea Kirk Assaf

ROME, APRIL 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The imperative of interreligious dialogue in modern, multicultural societies was a recurring theme during the pontificate of John Paul II. The crucial role of dialogue in civil society may be taken for granted now, but how that dialogue takes place is still a matter under debate.

Scriptural Reasoning is a method of interreligious dialogue that is growing in popularity and spreading beyond academic institutions.

Scriptural Reasoning gathers people of different religious traditions to read and discuss sections of their sacred texts. The intended outcome is not consensus, but deeper understanding.

One of the founders of this method, Professor David Ford, an Anglican theologian and Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, recently presented the approach in a lecture at the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

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Apr. 10, 2011

Yahoo Groups | Christian High Holy Days by Sami El-Yousef

Sami El-Yousef shares his bittersweet Easter in Jerusalem

Childhood dreams. I was 14 years old when my father decided I was ready to participate in the Holy Fire celebration on Holy Saturday, according to the Greek Orthodox tradition.

I belong to one of the 13 oldest Christian families in Jerusalem. Hundreds of years ago, locals commemorated these early Christians by placing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre 13 banners, each named after one of these families. The only privilege the families' descendants enjoy is that once a year, on Holy Saturday, a representative from each family carries the banner in a procession that marches around Christ's tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre three times.

After the procession, the Greek Orthodox patriarch enters the sealed tomb where the Miracle of the Holy Fire occurs, symbolizing the flame of the Resurrection. The fire is then passed out to the waiting crowds through a small window in the outer chamber of the edicule, which enshrines the tomb. Within seconds, the whole church lights up. This must be the most amazing surge of faith I experience throughout year. At that precise moment, I feel renewed as a Christian and prepared to face the many challenges we Arab Christians confront daily in the Holy Land. Since my first experience, I have never missed this amazing celebration except when I was out of the country.

Recent trends. Every year, as Easter approaches, we begin discussing who will represent our family on Holy Saturday. Though I must admit that, in recent years, with so many of us emigrating from the Holy Land, selecting our representative has become less of a problem. The number of adults still around who can carry the heavy banner has dwindled to a handful. As a matter of fact, about half of those 13 families have no one left in the Holy Land. For the last few years, three of my relatives have joined me in carrying the banners representing these families — an honor we deeply cherish.

These days, the discussion has shifted in my family from "who will carry the banner" to "who can even access the Church of the Holy Sepulchre." For the past few years, Israeli authorities have closed the Old City and the area around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Holy Week, preventing local Christian and pilgrims from attending the Holy Fire celebration.

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Apr. 8, 2011

A Texas Lutheran | Ann Hafften introduces David Housholder of the Robinwood Church

Ann writes: I sometimes read Pastor David Housholder's blog. I knew his dad and mom, Tom and Delphine, back in the 1970s when I first worked at the former American Lutheran Church. Dave was an earnest high school kid who sometimes came along with his dad on dark winter nights to pick up Delphine at the Lutheran Vespers office.

Someone recently forwarded this blog post, "Being Pro-Israel?" - which has some interesting points. Here's a link to the post: http://robinwoodchurch.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/being-pro-israel/


Being Pro-Israel? by Pastor David Housholder

If you are a conservative or a Christian (I am both), one of the boxes you seem to have to “tick” is “pro-Israel.”

This also seems to imply, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.

I am a great admirer of Israel. They have the best democracy and the most vital and diversified economy (from electronics to agriculture) in the Middle East.

The Israeli national anthem “Ha-Tikvah” stirs me emotionally.

The Hebrew Bible is one of my happy places. Our congregation, Robinwood Church, is preaching through the Psalms (have been at it for a year and a half).

One of my mentors, Prof. Dr. Ralph Gehrke, read Isaiah in Hebrew with me every Saturday for ages.

However, I find that some of the black-and-white pro-Israel sentiment in the circles in which I run is often un-reflected at best. Ignorant at worst.

Here are some random thoughts:

  • We don’t need to “defend Israel.” They have a formidable military and a credible nuclear deterrent. We have never fired a shot in defense of Israel and have never needed to intervene to help them. They buy our arms. Fine. So do many Arab states.

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Apr. 8, 2011

America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Diplomacy as Exit Strategy

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi hangs on, even as his foreign minister and others in his inner circle are heading for the exits. If only he would take the hint. The Libyan leader’s “show no mercy” order toward his opposition has led to a virtually universal call for his ouster. Discredited regime change redux? The United Kingdom and the United States are again cooperating, as in Iraq; both urge Mr. Qaddafi to go. Curiously, however, only Britain seems serious about exploring a negotiated end to the military action. While the British foreign secretary, William Hague, has renounced the idea of arming the rebel forces, President Obama has left that option open and is under pressure to oust Colonel Qaddafi by force. He should resist, consistent with his astute transfer of the leadership of the intervention to NATO.

Can the U.N.-authorized military action be deemed a success? Yes, as long as its essential purpose of protecting civilian populations through the no-fly zone and other appropriate means is not transformed into an all-out campaign to defeat Mr. Qaddafi.

Tomahawks and the air sorties have loosened Colonel Qaddafi’s grip, but they are too indirect to dislodge “the leader.” Given his advantages in troop numbers, heavy weapons and long-range artillery, he has the means to retake rebel outposts. Nonetheless, the answer cannot be to arm the rebels, which is one step from training and then assisting them, which would in turn be a step toward “boots on the ground,” the trap of Iraq.

Read more


Apr. 8, 2011

America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Libya: Proceed With Caution

Current Comment

The Editors | APRIL 18, 2011

Libya: Proceed With Caution

As many as 40 Libyan civilians may have been killed in Tripoli in late March by coalition air strikes meant to weaken forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. This is not good news for the U.N.-sanctioned air campaign intended to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo against Libya. Nor is it good news for the emerging doctrine of the responsibility to protect. More verifiable unintended deaths among noncombatants on the Qaddafi side should rightly compel the end of this large-scale intervention. There is more at stake in the intervention now than the ousting of a despot.

It has taken almost a century for the international community to come to terms with the problems of genocide and crimes against humanity. As an international doctrine, responsibility to protect is still in its youth, emerging out of failures to intervene in Congo, Rwanda and the Sudan. It will likely take a long time before the idea hardens into a widely accepted protocol that would trigger multilateral intervention to forestall a country’s criminal use of force against its own people. There will surely be missteps as this doctrine evolves. The multilateral campaign in Libya should not be one of them.

The coalition has already begun what appears to be a dangerous if predictable expansion of the aims of the campaign from protecting civilians to ensuring the survival of the Libyan revolution. More civilian deaths or the failure to achieve the coalition’s changing goals could set back the responsibility to protect just as this important doctrine is beginning to find its place in the diplomatic world. It could be years before confidence in the responsibility to protect is restored, while in the meantime any number of people may perish as new crimes against humanity go unaddressed. The West needs to proceed with more caution than it has so far demonstrated.



Apr. 7, 2011

Zenit | Pope "Deeply Moved" by Death of Migrants Fleeing Libyas

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The tragic death of some 250 migrants fleeing Libya has deeply moved Benedict XVI, a Vatican spokesman said today.

Early Wednesday morning, a boat capsized with as many as 300 migrants trying to escape the conflict in Libya and reach Italy. Only about 50 of the people survived; some of those lost at sea were children.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, told journalists that the tragedy has "deeply moved the Holy Father." He said the Pope actively follows the "vicissitudes of immigrants in these dramatic times."

Father Lombardi noted that some of the victims of the Mediterranean tragedy were Eritrean Catholics who had participated in the activities of the Catholic community in Libya.

He assured that the Pontiff and the whole Church "remember in prayer all the victims -- of every nationality and condition, including women and children -- who lose their lives in the terrible journey to flee situations of poverty or injustice or violence that afflicts them, in search of protection, welcome and conditions of life that are more human."

In the last week, some 22,000 immigrants of various nationalities have arrived to Italian shores, fleeing the war in Libya.



Apr. 7, 2011

Zenit | European Bishops Discuss Aid for Arab Countries

Prelate Says Secular Freedom Is the Goal

BRUSSELS, Belgium, APRIL 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) is currently meeting to discuss means of aiding the Arab countries in political unrest, and the Christians who live there.

The commission began its three-day spring plenary assembly, which is focusing on the theme "Christian Churches in Maghreb and Mashriq," on Wednesday in Brussels.

In the opening address, Bishop Adrianus van Luyn, retired bishop of Rotterdam, Netherlands, acknowledged that "very few of us anticipated the revolutions and regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya."

"The unrest and protests in other countries like Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, and also -- if somewhat more cautiously -- in Morocco and Algeria -- make it clear that the Arab world is in a state of turmoil," he noted.

The prelate observed that "the campaigners for the 'turning point of 2011' are young -- 60% of the people in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa are under 30 in age."

He added that they are "comparatively well educated, highly familiar with the Internet and the possibilities it offers -- and yet have no real future prospects."

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Apr. 6, 2011

Pax Christi USA | STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement on change and conflict in North Africa and the Middle East

Just before Lent began, we heard Jesus bless peacemakers and urge us to make nonviolence and reconciliation our own. As Lent began, protesters demanded change in Libya but the country slid into civil war very quickly; now the opposition forces are relying on a no fly zone and multilateral military assistance which escalates the violence there even further. Pax Christi USA is saddened by the fighting in Libya, and regrets that the U.S. and other Western governments intervened militarily, adding to the violence. We take hope from the successful nonviolent movements in Libya’s neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia. Whatever the eventual outcomes of the movements for change across these three North African states, Pax Christi notes the growing desire for representative government and guaranteed human rights across North Africa and the Middle East and urges all national governments and multinational actors to support nonviolent action in preference to military options.

Egyptians and Tunisians studied nonviolent action and engaged in years-long efforts to train themselves and others with international support. This did not happen in Libya, where initially peaceful protests quickly devolved into armed conflict. Long-term preparation for nonviolent action has powered nonviolent change in many circumstances, but leaders conditioned to view military intervention as the best way to defend human rights and spread democracy do not understand nonviolence easily, nor does nonviolent action lend itself to sensationalist news coverage. Outcomes in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Syria remain unclear, although the steadfast nonviolence of demonstrators in Bahrain and Yemen witnesses to the viability of nonviolent training and action as a means to redress injustice.

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Apr. 6, 2011

Episcopal News Service | Presiding bishop, House of Bishops issue letters requesting support for Bishop Dawani of Jerusalem

[Episcopal News Service] Following the March 25 - 30 meeting of the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the house have written letters requesting support for Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani, who has been denied the customary residency permit allowing him to live in Jerusalem.

Jefferts Schori's letter is addressed to the Episcopal Church; the letter from the House of Bishops is written to Israel's ambassadors serving in nations where the Episcopal Church has dioceses or presence.

"Change is likeliest when the leaders of our governments know of our urgent concern," wrote Jefferts Schori to members of the church, asking them to contact government officials on Dawani's behalf. "In every part of The Episcopal Church, your response is most likely to be effective when directed to Israel's ambassador to your nation, to your national leader – President and/or Prime Minister, and/or to your legislative representatives in your national government."

The letter from the House of Bishops outlines the difficulties faced by Dawani and the charges levied against him by the Israeli government -- charges that Dawani has vehemently denied -- and asks Israeli ambassadors for their help in resolving the matter as soon as possible.

"Because of the current situation the bishop is unable to conduct any legal business on behalf of the diocese, and is crippled in his ability to run the day to day affairs of his diocese, which comprises schools, churches, and hospitals in Israel, the West Bank and occupied territories, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon," the bishops wrote.

"We seek your assistance in resolving this situation as rapidly and completely as possible. The ability of our brother, Bishop Dawani, to lead his diocese is severely compromised. We ask your urgent attention to this matter."

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Apr. 6, 2011

Zenit | Bishop Praises Turkey's Peace Efforts in Libya

Urges Consideration of Both Sides

TRIPOLI, Libya, APRIL 5, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The apostolic vicar of Tripoli is lauding the recent mediation efforts of Turkey in the attempt to achieve a ceasefire in Libya.

Libya is currently engaged in a civil war between supporters of Moammar Gadhafi, the country's ruler for 41 years, and those calling for new leadership, organized in a coalition called the Transitional National Council.

As of Monday, 11 of the country's 22 districts were under government control, and six under rebel control. The other five were contested.

Tripoli remains the center of Gadhafi's government, while Benghazi is the headquarters of the rebel forces.

The casualty reports have been difficult to corroborate, and the estimated total death count ranges from 2,500 to 10,500.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey's minister of foreign affairs, met with Abdelati Laabidi, Libya's deputy foreign minister, on Monday in Ankara, Turkey, to discuss a ceasefire.

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Apr. 4, 2011

Zenit | Living in Secret in Saudi Arabia

Interview With Scholar on Churches in the Middle East

ROME, APRIL 4, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Saudi Arabia is considered holy ground by the Muslim majority who live there. Hence, Christians and even Muslims of other sects, face severe restrictions.

Christians make up only about 3% of the population, but they have no churches and never display their faith in public.

Professor Camille Eid, a journalist, author, professor at the University of Milan and expert on the Churches of the Middle East, spoke about the Saudi Arabia situation with the television program "Where God Weeps" of the Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need.

Q: Saudi Arabia is a hereditary monarchy based on the foundation of Wahhabi Islam. What is this branch of Islam?

Eid: Wahhabism is a new doctrine of Islam. Its founder is Abd-al Wahhab, who was a religious scholar of Hanafi Islam, which is the strictest doctrine of Islam. He decided that all innovations -- "Bida" is the term in Arabic -- in Islam should be eliminated. A visit to a cemetery for instance is considered a bida-innovation and is prohibited. You cannot do anything that the Prophet Mohammed and his companions did not do. So the alliance between the followers of Wahhabi and the prince of Najd in central Arabia created the birth of this Saudi Arabian kingdom. Saudi Arabia takes its name from the Saud family. This house of Saud alliance with the Wahhabi sect is still true today and the successors of the kingdom follow this strict instruction and doctrine of Wahhabism; the laws of the kingdom follow the strict guidelines of Wahhabism.

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Apr. 1, 2011

Zenit | Catholic, Jewish Leaders Stress Need for Prayer

Highlight Religious Leadership in Modern World

JERUSALEM, APRIL 1, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Catholic and Jewish leaders are together underlining the importance of prayer so as to give witness to the presence of God in the world.

This was one of the conclusions of a three-day meeting in Jerusalem of the Bilateral Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

The meeting was co-chaired by Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen of the Jewish delegation and Cardinal Jorge Mejía of the Catholic delegation.

The concluding statement was publicized Thursday, the last day of the meeting, which centered on the theme "Challenges of Faith and Religious Leadership in Secular Society."

The commission noted that "our modern world is substantially bereft of a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose."

It affirmed, "Faith and religious leadership have a critical role in responding to these realities, in providing both hope and moral guidance derived from the awareness of the Divine presence and the Divine image in all human beings."

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