Article from the Russian Orthodox news outlet Pravmir
The Muslim Council in France, home to Europe's largest Islamic minority, denounced the persecution of Middle East Christians on Tuesday and said mosques across the country would pray for them this week.
In a joint statement with a Christian group, the Council (CFCM) said “barbarians are perpetrating crimes against humanity” in the region “exploiting Islam as their banner”.
Several French Muslim groups have already condemned the harsh tactics of self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIL), the radical movement that has declared a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, but this was the first time they got together with Christians to support the victims.
The Vatican and Christian leaders in Western countries have called on Muslims to speak out against the ISIL. Many have, but the decentralised nature of Islam means these individual declarations often carry less weight than a joint effort.
“The signatories reaffirm their support to their Middle Eastern Christian brothers, many of them Arabs, as well as for all other minorities in the region who are now victims of a destructive campaign by these terrorist groups that threaten their existence,” the joint declaration stated.
ISIL militants drove Christians from Iraq’s northern city of Mosul in July, ending a presence stretching back to the early years of Christianity. The Islamist group has also targeted Shi’ite Muslims and religious minorities, executing hundreds of captives in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
“The issue of Middle Eastern Christians is not only one for Christians,” said Patrick Karam, head of the group Endangered Middle East Christians that drew
Yahoo News reports: Islamic State fighters appear to be using captured US military issue arms and weapons supplied to moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia, according to a report published on Monday.
The study by the London-based small-arms research organisation Conflict Armament Research documented weapons seized by Kurdish forces from militants in Iraq and Syria over a 10-day period in
July. Read the full article here.
up the statement with the Muslim Council. “French Muslims are with us to support them.”
There are about five million Muslims in France, about eight percent of the population. Other large Muslim minorities live in Britain and Germany.
Council President Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and large Muslim organisations in Britain and the United States had clearly condemned ISIL.
If the militants succeeded in driving Christians out of the Middle East, he said, that could harm relations among religions elsewhere. “Muslims in Europe would be suspect,” he said.
Boubakeur, Karam and other speakers stressed that Muslim organisations had to work against radicalisation by explaining to young Muslims that Islam did not condone such killing.
Anouar Kbibech, head of an association of Moroccan mosques in France, said young Muslims must understand that ISIL was trying to carry out ethnic cleansing. “They must not be deceived,” he said.
Karam said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told him last week there were about 800 French citizens who were “candidates or on the ground” to work with ISIL militants. Twenty percent of them
were converts to Islam. Original article here.
Article from the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star
The conspiracy to divide the Middle East into sectarian states is still alive, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai warned Saturday, saying it was being used to justify Israel’s presence as a Jewish state.
“The project of the new Middle East is not dead, but it is in play in light of what we saw of the Arab Spring, which did away with popular movements and replaced them with radical organizations,” Rai said during his meeting with a Christian-Muslim delegation from the Bekaa Valley, Wadi Khaled and the Hermel-Baalbek district.
“The goal is to divide the Middle East and create sectarian states so that Israel can live in peace and give itself the justification to be a Jewish state.”
The delegation handed Rai a “national document to strengthen coexistence and civil peace,” covering 12 points to build a better country that embraces all of its citizens and to confront the takfiri movement and Israeli threats.
Rai said Lebanon was confronting the conspiracy to serve a blow to coexistence, saying Israel succeeded in inciting Sunni-Shiite strife “but we are still betting on the wisdom of many that promotes nationalism instead of sectarian thinking.”
The prelate also repeated his criticism of lawmakers for their inability to elect a new president to replace former President Michel Sleiman, whose term ended on May 25.
“A republic without a president is similar to a body without a head,” he said. “We will not allow [the lawmakers] to cut off Lebanon’s head and deny us the right to have a president.” Original article here.
The Times of Israel reported on 22/02/2014 that Turkish based Syrian opposition leader Muhammad Badie had praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for publicly voicing support for rebels wounded in the drawn-out conflict in Syria which is now entering its fourth year. The Image on the left shows Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting an army field hospital located in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights which is offering medical treatment to Syrian rebels.
Extract of an article from Al-Monitor media website. Al-Monitor’s content is regularly referenced in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Time, Reuters, Le Monde, The New York Times and many others.
Extract: The sources close to Hezbollah told Al-Monitor that nearly two years ago Hezbollah opened training camps in the area outside the city of Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border, to train youth from different denominations in preparation to face radicals, and although the highest percentage of the trainees in these camps are Shiites, the recent acts by IS against the Christians of Syria and Iraq have pushed dozens of young Christians hailing from the towns adjacent to the Syrian border to join them. Today, these Christian youth represent a form of "people’s protection committees" in their hometowns similar to those formed by Christian youth in Syrian towns.
The Hezbollah sources said, "There is a high level of coordination between these committees, which are expanding, and Hezbollah’s military apparatus, called the Lebanese Resistance Brigades, which is independent from the resistance body tasked with fighting Israel."
With the growing expectation that IS is coming to Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military preparations have evolved toward promoting a plan to establish the Lebanese Resistance Brigades, which gather all denominations, to face IS. Steadily, this plan has started to be accepted by youth from other denominations, particularly the Christians of the north and the Bekaa Valley.
A Christian youth explained why he joined the local protection committee: “What has happened in Mosul has been a message to all Christians of the East that the world will not protect them and
that they need to rely on themselves to defend their existence.” Full article here.
An article by Irish academic Dr. Declan Hayes who has recently visited the destroyed Syrian town of Kasab located on the Turkish border. Kasab a
Christian community of Armenian ethnicity was invaded by a cohort of terrorists facilitated by
Turkey a few weeks before the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
I recently toured the Armenian village of Kasab where the Free Syrian Army and their Al Nusra allies slaughtered 88 of the 2,000 inhabitants and publicly beheaded 13 of these defenceless civilians, deliberately destroying the fabric and harmony of Kasab in the process. Some of the residents I spoke to were inconsolable while others such as 86 year old Sougman Saghdhian and his 95 year old bed-ridden brother Joseph try to get on with life as best they can and to put the carnage and their cynical Turkish incarceration behind them as best they can.
Although media personality Kim Kurdashian, to her eternal credit, did send a single, solitary tweet about the rape of Kasab to her millions of online disciples, the horrors of Kasab, like those in the rest of Syria, largely passed the rest of the Western world by. To them, it was just another pointless day in Hades for the Syrians and Iraqis beyond the media’s celebrity-obsessed Pale.
To the children of Kasab, however, this barbarity is their present-day reality and, most likely, their future as well until the jihadists and their Turkish controllers force them to permanently evacuate their ancestral homes and scatter them, like Iraq’s Christians before them, to the four corners of the earth. Like the remaining Palestinian Christian children of the West Bank, they know that, when all is said and done, this is most likely the only viable future the West will allow them. Because of circumstances beyond the reasoning of children or, for that matter, of our own, the Middle East must be cleansed of Christians and other minorities so that an artificial narrative serving the “manifest destiny” interests of civilisation’s ruthless enemies can become facts on the ground, as the Israelis say.
Although the minds of the children of Syria are as sponge-like as those of children anywhere else in the world, what they have to absorb is not fit for adults, never mind children. Give me the child, the old maxim has it, and I will give you the fully-formed adult. Many of tomorrow’s Syrian adults will be as seriously flawed as the Free Syrian Army rebels who raped Kasab and who brought their little children along for the entertainment of watching innocent Christians being beheaded and for the excitement of watching stacks of burning tyres destroy the insides the churches “the cross worshippers” used to sing their hymns and practice their harmless rites in.
Not all of these invaders and looters are necessarily irredeemable monsters. Although, for example, most of those who crossed her path insulted and threatened 91 year old Dikranuhi Mangigian and even smashed up her prized piano in front of her, two young Al Nusra thugs did bring her bread and water and a female jihadist from Raqqa also showed her some of the kindnesses we, in our turn, might extend to a stray dog. Samuel Poladian, a colourful 75 year-old character and George Kortmosian, his 70 year old drinking buddy, also have some good things to say about their captors.
But against that, we should remember that even Hitler’s SS engaged in occasional acts of kindness as well and many of them apparently enjoyed happy family lives when not gassing their Jewish captives to death. None of this should surprise us as, when all and said is done, even psychopathic killers need a break and an excuse to believe they too, unlike their hapless victims, are human and have loving, caring families they dote on.
I spent quite a bit of time with those children. We toured the burnt-out churches together, we picked up the discarded British and German medical supplies the invaders left behind them, we collected their discarded Saudi propaganda tracts, we collected bullets and machine gun belts from the refugee-camp ambulances the jihadists left behind and we joked and laughed with the Syrian Arab Army soldiers at the checkpoints.
Though all of these things are not the standard or preferred fare for transforming the child into the fully-adjusted adult, they are what passes for normal life in Syria. True, in Kasab, as in Ma’lulah, we did run some impromptu karate classes for the local children but therein too hangs a tale. Although their sponge-like minds are absorbing the horrors of the Syrian crisis, these children still want to be children. They wear the football shirts of Barcelona and Germany, they text and Facebook as much as their circumstances allow and they crave for normality, attention and plain, innocent fun.
The enemies of Syria are determined to destroy those innocent pursuits. They wish to take those young children and give us even more fatally-flawed adults. They do not want to build a caliph but rather they wish only to destroy. Their targets are not confined to the bricks and mortars of the towns, villages and communities they overrun but they extend to the local children and even to their dreams and simple comforts such as their teddy bears and the safety and normality of family life.
Despicable as these jihadists may be, we cannot say the West is much better. Our leaders’ occasional crocodile tears notwithstanding, we have very much placed our money on the rebel camp prevailing. We have armed the rebels and provided massive logistical help to the Turkish camps they operate from. We have allowed these mercenaries traumatize an entire generation of Syrian children so much so that, even though the most resilient will survive and even thrive, every psychological disorder imaginable is becoming manifest amongst the rest of them.
When you visit Kasab’s remotest homes at dusk and when elderly residents such as Samuel Poladian or the children accompanying us can differentiate between the different pieces of heavy artillery being fired a few kilometers away, you know this in not life as God intended it for children or for anyone else. Someone has caused all this carnage and visited it upon the innocents of Kasab and all of Syria.
Though we have not stolen their teddy bears, smashed up their playgrounds, murdered their neighbours or looted their homes, our indolence, ignorance and apathy have allowed the foot soldiers of Syria’s false revolution to do just that. Unless we make amends and work towards eliminating this takfiri cancer that warps all it touches, we are just as culpable as them.
Dr Declan Hayes is currently on his third trip to Syria this year. He is helping organize a conference in Damascus for April 24th 2015, tentatively called: Syria: Between Destruction and Reconstruction to mark the murder of all Syria’s innocents and to help plot a way forward out of the morass. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rome based American Catholic media outlet Zenit reports:
Pope Francis has again expressed his closeness to persecuted Christians in the Middle East, saying they are in the heart of the Church and a witness to her strength and message of salvation.
Addressing Arabic speakers at the end of his Sept. 3rd weekly general audience in which he taught on the motherhood of the Church, the Pope said: “The Church is a mother and like all mothers knows how to accompany the child in need, to raise the fallen son, to care for the sick, look for the lost, rouse the sleeping children and also defend the defenceless and persecuted.
“Today I want to assure, especially the latter, of this closeness,” he said, directing his comments especially to suffering Christians in Iraq. “You are in the heart of the Church; she suffers with you and is proud of you; you are her strength and the concrete and authentic witnesses to her message of salvation, forgiveness and love. The Lord bless you and protect you!”
Islamic State militants have forced thousands of Iraqi Christians from their homes over the past few weeks. Some have also been brutally attacked, murdered or enslaved. Full article here.
A young Yazidi lady from the village of Kojo near Sinjar in northern Iraq speaks about her experience when militants from the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIL (or ISIS), invaded her village
"What these peaceful Christians and loyal citizens experienced is a real genocide, a sad ending, and a proof of the privation of the religious, human, moral, and national values," he writes in his latest statement published on the patriarchate website. "Therefore, it is a shameful stain in history. Everybody should know is a threat for all!"
Article from the Vatican’s Pontifical Missions news agency Fides
Latin Patriarch delegation visits Gaza: “it is like the cities devastated by World War II”
Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - “We visited the district of Sajaya, where 80 per cent of homes and other buildings have been reduced to heaps of rubble. We saw things which can only be compared with the situation of cities raised to the ground during the Second World War”. With this image William Shomali, patriarchal Vicar of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the Latins, summarises impressions recorded in the brief visit on Monday 1st September to the city of Gaza, together with the Administrator general of the Patriarchate, Fr. Imad Twal, and the Chancellor of the Patriarchate, Fr. George Ayoub.
During the few hours spent in Gaza (the Israelis close Eretz check point at 3pm) the patriarchal delegation was able to meet members of the small Christian community there: besides the assistant parish priest and the sisters belonging to three congregations operating in Gaza (Institute of the Incarnate Word, Sisters of the Rosary and Sisters of Mother Teresa) the Catholic Bishop and the two accompanying priests visited Greek-Orthodox Bishop Alexios, who has also remained at his post all through the period of Israeli army incursions.
“The Orthodox Bishop - Bishop Shomali tells Fides – gave us a truly fraternal welcome and he praised the efficient work of Caritas,
"The truce which has begun is a good thing, but it will not help if the conditions in Gaza remain those of a desperate land under siege, where only fear and frustration that feed hatred can grow.
It almost seems that it points at making Gaza a factory of desperate people, designed to easily turn into extremists ready for anything". Full article here.
the Pontifical Mission and Catholic Relief Service for assisting the people during and after weeks of military operations”. The patriarchal delegation also went to see the Anglican Hospital which in the past two months has assisted more than 4,000 injured persons.
The psychological situation described by Bishop Shomali reveals much shadow and little light: “On the one hand – the Patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem explains to Fides – the people are relieved that the ceasefire still holds. Fishermen, with permits to fish inside six miles from the coast, come in every morning laden with catch, and by eight o’clock have sold everything. The possibility to provide food with the work of their own hands, and the prospect of finding more work in the task of rebuilding, help kindle a little hope. Besides - the Palestinian Bishop adds – even the young people there have already seen 3 military campaigns against Gaza and each time the destruction is greater then the time before. It will be years before the city can return to its previous situation. This feeds discouragement, dries up hope for the future. Even in the small Christian community, many dream of moving away”.
The members of the patriarchal delegation did not meet political representatives, but in conversation with Christians and Muslims they sensed growing hostility towards Israel, because- Bishop
Shomali remarks– “war can never sow love”. At the same time
Pope Francis received in private audience on Friday Gaza parish priest Father Jorge Hernandez, during which he expressed his closeness to those who have suffered in the war-ravaged territory.
In the 45 minute meeting, the fellow Argentine told the Holy Father that the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, of which he is a part, opened its parishes and schools in Gaza to receive refugees
whose houses had been destroyed in the recent conflict. Full article here.
consensus regarding Hamas – criticised for its strategy even by the President of the Palestinian National Authorities, Abu Mazen – appears by no means unanimous. The Patriarchal Vicar of
Jerusalem concludes : “there were even some, who with bitter irony, remarked: now Gaza is destroyed, and all we have gained is the chance to eat a little fish”. Original article here.
Within a matter of weeks following Israel's disproportionate attack on Gaza and the outright condemnation of
Church Patriarchs in the region regarding Israel's attack on Gaza H.H. Pope Francis has again received ex Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Vatican. The estimated cost of repairing Israeli
destruction in Gaza is set at $7.8 billion.
Shimon Peres and the Qana Massacre: "On 18 April 1996, when Israel still occupied southern Lebanon, Shimon Peres was Prime Minister. He was in the midst of an election campaign, so he took a decision to do something to change his “dovish” image because doves are not respected in Israel. He launched “Operation Grapes of Wrath” causing 400,000 Lebanese to flee their homes, with almost 800 of them fleeing to a UN base in Qana, South Lebanon.
On 18 April the Israeli army shelled the UN shelter in Qana, killing 102 civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly. Many more were injured." Source.
Dr. Maria Khoury is an Orthodox Christian of Greek - American descent and Palestinian by marriage. Maria lives in the Palestinian West Bank Christian village of Taybeh.
Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,
As I wish you a blessed peaceful holy new ecclesiastical year, I remain stunned at the silence my church has towards the horrific and unspeakable evil Israel continues to carry out. May our Lord have mercy upon those who ignore this injustice. I am just shocked that after Israel attacked schools, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, media offices, the power plant, UN buildings and staff that Israel continues to enjoy blind support from America. I guess it is pretty much like the late Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon once said: "...I want to tell you something very clear. Don't worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it." So I assume everyone will break out their checkbooks since this last war on Gaza cost Israel over 2 billion dollars.
How sad, today, Israel also announced the biggest land grab in twenty years; 1,000 acres of land will be confiscated in the Bethlehem area for more illegal Israeli settlements.
May we continue to pray for peace and justice. May we forgive the barbaric and uncivilized killings of Christians in the region which all the latest news point the finger at
the United Stated and Israel for funding. I guess the more fanatic Muslims the Middle East has makes some people happy. It just simply scares me...As we have gone way back before the
times of Constantine the Great, I do pray for steadfast witness to the True Light of Christ. May Love always conquer hate. May inner peace exist in our heart as the new Church
year reminds us to focus on saving our soul.
With sincere good wishes on this holy day,
Original text here.
Article from the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star
Lebanese Army swiftly responds to Tripoli threats
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army deployed heavily in the northern city of Tripoli Tuesday morning to ease fears over a threat against Christians that appeared to be posed by ISIS
“We came to slaughter you, you worshipers of the cross," read graffiti on the wall of Mar Elias Church in the Mina neighborhood.
The Lebanese Army quickly responded, beefing up measures in Tripoli, in the vicinity of Abu Ali Bridge and the inner souks.
Tensions have risen in Tripoli, with several incident of intimidation against the city's Christian community. Crosses were allegedly burned over the weekend and several churches were defaced with the message "The Islamic State is coming," thought to be in retaliation for the burning of Islamist flags by several youths in Beirut's Sassine Square.
The incidents have been widely condemned by officials, with Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi promising a full investigation into any attempts to incite sectarian strife.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam warned Monday against allowing the Lebanese to be divided by sect, suggesting that the Nusra Front and ISIS, which are holding at least 23 soldiers and policemen captive, sought to sow this strife to further their plot against Lebanon. Original article here.