Updates February 2011



Click for Catholic Media Watch


Click for index of updates

  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 15:47:17 -0700


Feb. 25, 2011

Catholic News Service | US cardinal keeps watchful eye on situation unfolding in Middle East

By Christie L. Chicoine

Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Cardinal John P. Foley is keeping a watchful eye on the revolution in Egypt and other nations in the Middle East, despite his recent retirement and resignation as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

The organization helps to raise funds for the works of the church in that region.

"I can understand the current unrest -- it's an expression of desire for democracy, but I hope it doesn't become a situation in which Christians are further discriminated against in any of these countries," Cardinal Foley said. "The situation is so unstable there, and of course Christians are such a minority there."

In Egypt, about 10 percent of the population is Christian, primarily Coptic Orthodox, he explained.

"We had just been asked by the Holy Father to help especially the Latin-rite Christians in Egypt and Lebanon in addition to Israel, Palestine and Jordan," Cardinal Foley said.

Read more


Feb. 24, 2011

Catholic News Service | Gaza church nurtures hope despite Israeli blockade and Hamas control

By Paul Jeffrey

Catholic News Service

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (CNS) -- The only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip is alive and well, despite an Israeli blockade of the besieged Palestinian enclave and the tight cultural and political control exercised by Gaza's Islamist government.

"Despite all the bad things you hear about Gaza, there is life here," said Father Jorge Hernandez of Holy Family Catholic Church. "People here pray and lead virtuous lives. They are happy, even living in Gaza with all its problems.

"This is their homeland. Their loved ones are buried here. God is here, and it's a fruit of the Holy Spirit that people here embrace and celebrate the life they have," Father Hernandez said.

Read more


Feb. 18, 2011

America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Lost Youth in Egypt?

From CNS, staff and other sources

Two priests with strong ties to Egypt said they feared young Egyptian Catholics will turn away from the church because it did not back protests that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. The Rev. Makarios Isaac, an Egyptian-born priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto and an associate of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, said the main Muslim and Orthodox leaders forbade participation in the protests and the Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, Cardinal Antonios Naguib, told protesters to go home. He feared Egyptian young people will now “turn their backs on the church” and say, “You never stood with us...you never taught us to stand up for our rights.” The Rev. Douglas May of Maryknoll, who worked in Egypt for 18 years of Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule, said Christian leaders in Egypt played it safe. “I’m afraid that the church leadership has lost its credibility with the Christian youth over this,” he said.



Feb. 18, 2011

Zenit | Christians in Iraq: The Future and the Hope

Address of the Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See

ROME, FEB. 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address given by Habeeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr, ambassador of Iraq to the Holy See, at the meeting entitled "Christianity in Iraq," held in Velletri, Italy, on Jan. 29. The talk addresses the present situation of Christians in the country.

* * *

Christians in Iraq have been witnesses of a bitter period, that of Saddam, which resulted in wars, embargoes and disasters. Throughout this period, Christians had no voice, for years their will was paralyzed, given that the regime prohibited them from expressing their opinions, from forming parties or nongovernmental associations, which could have taken care of their problems and ensured their continuity, given that their respective leaders reside abroad. As a consequence, in the 90s of the past century, waves of emigrants left the country, fleeing from the inferno of the Iraqi regime. Coming to April 2003, with the fall of that odious "statue," Christians hoped to return to the flourishing garden of a free Iraq. A real paradise in which all hopes could flourish, which up to then had been suffocated, and where their true love for the country could be planted, which even now is full of the most beautiful Iraqi sentiments.

However, the enemies of today's Iraq are the associations of Saddam infidels who, after the capitulation of the regime, took advantage of the vacuum of power created as a consequence of the American decision to dissolve all the structures of the security services. In this way, they were able to sow death and ruin throughout the country. They have done everything to destroy from the beginning the project of the new democratic Iraq. In all this, it is clear that Christians together with their Muslim brothers drink the bitterness of this new war, because the country is stubbornly in a new war: the war against fundamentalists and terrorists. It is the most ferocious war of all the ones engaged in by the old regime. In fact, it is a war against ghosts, shadows, which act against the people taking on different appearances that enable them to be present at pre-established times and places and commit their odious crimes without being bothered.

Read more


Feb. 16, 2011

Episcopal Peace Fellowship | Welcome to the Palestine Israel Network » Invitation


We met as concerned Episcopalians in Chicago the weekend of October 15, 2010 to establish a network dedicated to a more robust Episcopal Church witness for justice and peace for our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters .

We are responding to:

  • the promise made in our baptismal covenant to “ … strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being”;

  • the call of Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights (July, 2005);

  • and the prayerful call of Palestinian Christians expressed in the Kairos Palestine Document (December, 2009).

  • We believe the Episcopal Church can and should play a vital role in seeking justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis. We believe that without justice, there will be no lasting peace which both people deserve.

    Read more


    Feb. 15, 2011

    Zenit | Patriarch Looks for Better, Brighter Egypt

    Expresses Thanks for "Patriotic Youth"

    CAIRO, Egypt, FEB. 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria says the Church in Egypt is joining with all of the nation's "loyal citizens" to thank God for the "wonderful success" of the youth movement that began last month and led to the resignation of the president.

    Cardinal Antonios Naguib said in a statement Sunday, "We are sure that all expectations will be met, God willing."

    Since Jan. 25, Egypt has been the site of massive protests and demonstrations urging the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. The president finally stepped down Friday. A military council is now ruling the nation.

    The cardinal spoke of forces "that refuse[d] the wrong situation controlling the country for so long." He said there is hope for a "better and brighter future for the Egyptian civilization" and noted the "love of Egypt and the dignity of its citizens."

    "Egypt has been making its history for 7,000 years with letters of light and fire," Cardinal Naguib said. "And it is now shining with a new radiance."

    Read more


    Feb. 12, 2011

    Zenit | Nuncio in Egypt: Nation's Future in Hands of the People

    Says Governments Should Act for "Common Good"

    ROME, FEB. 11, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The future of Egypt is now in the hands of its people, says the apostolic nuncio in the country.

    Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, who has held the post of nuncio in Egypt since 2006, told ZENIT that "it is for Egyptians to find the right solution to the present crisis."

    After 18 days of protests that left some 300 dead, President Hosni Mubarak stepped down earlier today. Mubarak, 82, had ruled the country for 30 years.

    The archbishop recalled that last Sunday, Benedict XVI "prayed that Egypt and the people of Egypt may find once more harmony and peace," and added that "apart from that, there has been no specific statement from the Holy See."

    "Yet," he continued, "the teaching of the social doctrine of the Church is clear. Every human community needs an authority to govern it, but the authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself. It must act for the common good, using morally licit means to attain this good, and not acting in a despotic manner."

    Read more


    Feb. 11, 2011

    America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Through Arab Eyes

    [scroll down for article]

    The world has turned upside down again. U.S. policy had imagined that “stability” in the Middle East and Mediterranean Africa came from support for Arab dictators—and unquestioning defense of Israel. Dictators might squelch democracy, but they would “keep the lid on.” Unexpectedly, in Tunisia and Egypt the lid is now off.

    Why are we surprised? Because the corporate media—cable and satellite companies, like Comcast and DirecTV—fearing pressure from the Bush administration during the Iraq war and from the Israel lobby at all times, have frozen out Arab voices.

    Suddenly our media have discovered that Al Jazeera, the Arab television channel based in Qatar, has beaten them to the punch in Egypt with round-the-clock coverage in Cairo, Suez and elsewhere. Traffic to its English-language Web site increased by 2,500 percent in a single week.

    Read more


    Feb. 11, 2011

    America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Waking Up in Jerusalem by Alicia von Stamwitz

    In my files I have a yellowed letter dated Sept. 10, 1978, from the office of the sixth prime minister of the State of Israel. An embossed seal, with olive branches cupping an ivory menorah, crowns the elegant letterhead.

    “Dear Ms. Arellano” (my maiden name), Menachem Begin’s secretary had typed. “Before leaving for Camp David, the Prime Minister asked me to thank you for your letter of August 6 and for your sentiments and good wishes.” I blush to remember those sentiments.

    I was a born-again Christian at Tufts University in Massachusetts that year, and many of us Christians were friends with the Jewish students. More than a third of the student population was Jewish, so we were naturally paired in dorm rooms, dining halls and college classes. We also felt a kind of spiritual kinship. “Remember, Jesus was not a Christian,” the evangelical minister on campus said. “He was Jewish.”

    Newly enthralled by everything religious, I peppered my Jewish friends with questions about their traditions and history. I signed up for a Hebrew language class and pored over books and articles on the Holocaust, Zionism and the State of Israel. It was a compelling narrative: God was rescuing his chosen people, just as my highlighted and underlined Bible verses said he would.

    In this state of spiritual exaltation, I wrote Mr. Begin. I told him about my studies and the Zion tree my roommate arranged to have planted “in the fallow hills of Jerusalem” on my 20th birthday. I thanked him for his leadership and concluded by saying that I hoped to visit the Holy Land someday.

    A Journey Beyond Bias

    All that passed, as youthful obsessions often do. After college, I returned to my comfortable Catholic faith and gradually forgot about my Zionist leanings—until this summer, when I received an invitation to visit the Holy Land. It did not come from Israel, though. I was invited by Palestinian officials to join a faith-based tour for Christian journalists.

    Read more


    Feb. 9, 2011

    Zenit | What Lies Ahead for Egypt?

    Interview With Editor of "Democracy Review"

    By Emile Ameen

    CAIRO, Egypt, FEB. 9, 2011 (Zenit.org).- As the future of Egypt hangs in the balance, the nation's Christians might be worried that things can only get worse for them.

    But according to one political scientist, fears of a future Islamist Egyptian state are undermined with a simple look at the protestors: their trendy clothing and the faces of "emancipated young women."

    ZENIT met in Cairo with Hala Mustafa, editor-in-chief of "Democracy Review," a magazine published by the Al-Ahram Foundation. An expert in political and strategic affairs, she gave us a quick analysis of the situation.

    ZENIT: How do you describe the current situation in Egypt from Jan. 25 to now?

    Mustafa: Generally, whether we are with the Egyptian regime or against it, I think that the old regime's period is really over. In fact, what is happening now is that some powerful people who prevailed in the regime and controlled the events during the last 10 years are attempting to stay put. Focusing now on whether the president is staying in power or leaving does not change much in the events because whether the president leaves now or after a few months, new things are revealed, and a new Egypt is rebirthing from the womb of the liberation square.

    Read more


    Feb. 9, 2011

    Zenit | Christians and Muslims Seen More United Than Divided

    Patriarch Notes Promise in Damascus Event

    DAMASCUS, Syria, FEB. 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Last December, Christians and Muslims gathered in Damascus for the 1st International Congress of Muslim-Christian Brotherhood.

    The Dec. 15 conference was sponsored by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of the Greek Catholic Melkite Church. The conference was a follow-up to the synod on the Middle East held last October at the Vatican, and view as one of the first "visible fruits" of it.

    Some 1,000 people participated -- Christians and Muslims, representatives from Eastern Churches, and participants from Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab nations.

    Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan of Antioch explained that the conference was a "positive realization of what the holy synod in Rome called for, especially for Islam and Christianity and the issues of sharing land and country, and some ethics related to daily life."

    Read more


    Feb. 6, 2011

    Catholic San Francisco | Marin woman’s work to remove land mines expands to Holy Land

    Marin woman’s work to remove land mines expands to Holy Land

    February 2nd, 2011

    By George Raine

    Heidi Kuhn’s world view from her office in San Rafael includes her beloved St. Raphael Church and Mt. Tamalpais and, far over the horizon, 70 nations in which more than an estimated 70 million land mines are buried.

    Some 26,000 people are killed and maimed by the explosions every year, nearly half of them children, making off-limits fertile land that could otherwise be planted. Thirteen years ago, Kuhn became an advocate for land mine victims and people whose land is held hostage – by transforming “mines to vines.”

    Her humanitarian, interfaith, non-political nonprofit organization, Roots of Peace, yanks land mines out of the ground and replaces them with bountiful vineyards and orchards. Roots of Peace is currently managing a major land mine-removal effort in 28 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan, having generated $60 million in funding, and this month it reaches into the Middle East, the land mine heartland of the world.

    The effort begins with demining two sacred sites: Qasr el Yahud, the baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan River, and the Fields of Bethlehem at the ancient Palestinian village of Husan. With final approval anticipated this month from the Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government, the broader effort in the area is the estimated one million land mines and unexploded ordnance believed hidden over more than 50,000 acres of land in Israel and the West Bank, where the Palestinians are supportive of Roots of Peace.

    “The Holy Lands are not holy when there are land mines in the ground,” said Kuhn. “What we are doing by removing a land mine is literally removing a seed of hatred from the ground and the heart as well,” she said. “Whether stepped on by the boot of a soldier or the sandal of a child, it is a weapon that doesn’t differentiate.”

    Read more


    Feb. 5, 2011

    Zenit | [Orthodox] Patriarch to Egyptians: It's Time to Go Home

    Catholics Wave Banner of "Non-Destruction"

    ROME, FEB. 4, 2011 (Zenit.org).- As Egypt endures its 10th day of protests attempting to oust President Hosni Mubarak, the Catholic Coptic patriarch of Alexandria is urging people to return to their homes and jobs.

    Cardinal Antonios Naguib told his countrymen that the hour has come "to return to your homes and your jobs in peace, following the invitation extended by the authorities to be able to recover what the country has lost."

    Cardinal Naguib said the Church "carries in its heart" this "precarious moment of [the nation's] history."

    Read more


    Feb. 4, 2011

    National Catholic Reporter | Egyptian demonstrators say they 'will not be silenced'  by Claire Schaeffer-Duffy

    Even with the recent outbreak of violence on the streets of Cairo, demonstrators calling for the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will “not be silenced,” says Philip Rizk, a filmmaker and blogger who has been assisting foreign journalists in their coverage of the unrest.

    Rizk, who has been working with a Swiss TV crew, spoke to NCR today after he had been holed up in an office for fear of his safety.

    Following is NCR's interview with Rizk, which caught him recovering from the events of the day and looking ahead to tomorrow, which protesters have set as the deadline for Mubarak to step down.

    The conversation has been edited for clarity.


    NCR: Can you tell me what’s happening to you? Why do you think protestors came to your door?

    Rizk: As I am half German, half Egyptian, Egyptians don’t always recognize me as Egyptian and are skeptical about my identity. Since yesterday, there have been masses on the street targeting foreigners because of state propaganda. On the TV and radio, they have been saying that foreign journalists are spreading false information about Egypt, that many of the foreigners are spies, working for Israel or Iran. So there is this massive hysteria around people who look foreign.

    I had a very hard time getting to the building where I needed to go. When I got upstairs, [colleagues] told me that pro-government supporters were coming up, targeting the office. I was there locked inside for about an hour and a half with the thugs at the door. The staff inside were ready for full out battle. We heard that other places -- offices, apartments -- had been stormed by thugs.

    I was in the building until the army intervened. As far as I know, the army intervened and forced these thugs to move on.

    I was just on the phone with a friend of mine in Tahrir Square -- Freedom Square, as it is called. There is gunfire coming from all directions and my friend was just hit in the head by a stone. Since yesterday, pro-Mubarak supporters are throwing stones, throwing Molotov cocktails at these anti-government demonstrators. The situation on the street is very volatile.

    Read more


    Feb. 4, 2011

    America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Faith and Freedom by Maryann Cusimano Love

    Why does Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 2011 World Day of Peace focus on “religious freedom as the path to peace”? The connection might not seem immediately obvious. Religious liberty is often thought of as a human rights concern, not a security issue.

    It is both. There are currently major armed conflicts in 16 locations in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Major armed conflicts are the world’s worst wars, those in which over 1,000 people were directly killed by combatants in the preceding year.

    Religious freedom is a security issue, and peace depends on it.

    Nine of those 16 places where the world’s worst wars rage are countries that are among the world’s worst violators of religious freedom: Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Myanmar (Burma), Afghanistan, Somalia, India, Turkey and Sri Lanka. Each year the U.S. Commission on International Reli-gious Freedom reports on the countries where religious freedom is either violated or not adequately protected by the state.

    Two more of those major armed conflicts have major religious dimensions, in the Philippines and Israel. Even though the state does not officially persecute in these cases (and these countries are not on any of the commission’s watch lists), religious minorities often describe themselves as feeling persecuted. They are allowed to worship, but they feel their religious affiliation is part of the cause of their second-class citizenship.

    Read more


    Feb. 4, 2011

    America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Current Comment: The Arab Revolt [scroll down]

    The popular uprising begun in Tunisia has raced across North Africa and the Arab world, especially Egypt. Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has announced he will not run for re-election; so has Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh; Jordan’s King Abdullah II has appointed a new cabinet; and the Palestinian Authority has announced local elections. The whole region is in upheaval. The movement arose not from militant Islam but from popular discontent over political repression and deteriorating economic conditions, and is led by largely secular forces.

    Read more [scroll down]


    Feb. 4, 2011

    America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Jordan's Sisterhood

    Three communities of sisters offer solace and support in troubled times.

    Kevin Clarke | FEBRUARY 14, 2011

    The Italian Hospital is nestled at the crest of a steep rise overlooking the city of Al-Karak, Jordan, surrounded by the remnants of a crusader castle, its crumbling walls a reminder in sandstone of the region’s many conflicts. From this vantage point raids were once launched on passing Muslim caravans. On the roof of the hospital’s adjoining convent at dusk, Alessandra Fumagalli, C.M.S., leans along the parapet. Before her a purple and rust sunset breaks the line of a mountain in the near distance; the fading light falls across the small houses and scrub desert below. Far to the west, the sunset sparkles across the surface of the Dead Sea. Sister Alessandra surveys the sleepy valley a moment. “At night all the homes on the hillside light up,” she says. “It’s so beautiful, it looks like Christmas. You can see why Jesus wanted to be born here.”

    Sister Alessandra’s perspective is indeed beautiful, but the view is hardly the only compensation she derives from her work among the poor in Karak and its surrounding villages, so far from her native Italy. She describes her mission as a satisfying, silent evangelization of doing, for and among her Muslim neighbors. Like the crusaders before them, this handful of Comboni sisters keeps watch over the people of Karak, but they offer an altogether different Christian presence among their Muslim neighbors.

    Read more


    Feb. 4, 2011

    America Magazine, the Catholic Weekly | Egypt: Church Follows Unrest With Concern

    Church leaders watched the unfolding political drama in Egypt with a mixture of hope for reform and concern over potential violence, said the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., said on Jan. 30 that the unrest that has weakened the 30-year rule of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak came as a surprise to Catholics in the region.

    “We all sense that these are epochal changes. None of us would have imagined these kinds of developments a few months ago,” Father Pizzaballa said. “This means that there are currents, especially in the Arab world, that now have found visible expression. This is certainly a positive sign, but it’s also worrying because we don’t know how all this will end,” he said. Mubarak’s opponents include both radical and moderate Muslim groups, and it is unclear who might assume power if the president resigns. Father Pizzaballa said he hoped that “respect for religious minorities will be preserved” in Egypt.

    Read more


    Feb. 2, 2011

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land | Bishop Younan preaches on Christian unity

    We are happy that we Palestinian Christians were asked by the World Council of

    Churches and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to

    prepare this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to come out from Jerusalem, from

    the local Christian Churches. We as a committee thought it appropriate to focus on

    the life of the apostles in the early church: “and they continued in the apostles’

    teaching, in the breaking of bread, in fellowship, and in prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

    What started on that day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, was a spirit of unity and



    As I often say, to work for unity in Jerusalem is an art. We are in need of capable

    artists to produce something so beautiful. We all know the work required and the

    careful planning to design a Middle Eastern Carpet. It is as if each of our churches is

    a different color of thread (or yarn), yet woven together the carpet becomes so

    much more beautiful than each strand of yarn by itself. The individual threads do

    not loose their identity or individual character. The beauty of their particular color

    remains intact. Yet coming together under the direction of an artist, the finished

    carpet is more beautiful than all of the individual strands. And it is none other than

    the Holy Spirit that guides this process of coming together to produce this beautiful

    ecumenical carpet. Picture with me such a beautiful carpet hanging here on the

    wall—a beautiful carpet, perhaps with an image of the Lord’s Supper with Jesus

    sitting in the middle—Imagine how beautiful this carpet would be.


    If ecumenism succeeds in Jerusalem, it can succeed in the whole world.

    Read more


    Feb. 1, 2011

    Zenit | Iraqi Diocese to Build Hospital, University

    Seeks to Employ Skilled Christian Refugees

    ANKAWA, Iraq, JAN. 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Iraqi Archdiocese of Arbil is moving forward with plans to construct a hospital and a university, providing services and jobs for thousands of Christian fleeing violence in the south.

    Today the regional government gave the archdiocese a guarantee that it will gift two pieces of land in Ankawa, a suburb of Arbil in northern Iraq, for the building of these institutions, Aid to the Church in Need reported.

    Archbishop Bashar Warda of Arbil told the aid agency that the initiatives are expected to provide employment, training, and other opportunities for the thousands fleeing anti-Christian violence in the Baghdad and Mosul regions.

    In particular, he noted that the projects respond to the fact that many highly-skilled professionals with expertise in education and medicine have relocated to the north.

    Read more




    Disclaimer: The views expressed in the Al-Bushra articles and posts are not necessarily those of Al-Bushra or its owners or volunteers, but are solely those of the individual authors. Al-Bushra does not compensate the authors for their contributions and takes no responsibility for the articles and their contents.

    Close this window

    Launch website introduction

    31 Jul 2011