Articles related to Syria
The cost of rebuilding Christian villages destroyed by Daesh (ISIS) in northern Iraq could exceed £160 million (US$200 million), according to a survey carried out by a Catholic charity. But, with some Christians already going back to the Nineveh Plains, the report revealed a growing appetite among the displaced communities to go home.
Christian Aid has welcomed the Home Office announcement to grant Syrians resettling in the UK refugee status, saying Britain should be proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and conflict. Thousands of people who have fled Syria and resettled in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS) will now have access to rights, including higher education
With ongoing bombardment in and around Damascus and countless people trapped in besieged areas throughout Syria, Christian Aid asks world leaders to act now to end the horrors, and reaffirms its call for an immediate and lasting ceasefire. Frances Guy, Head of Middle East at Christian Aid, said: "Today, six years on we owe Syrians under siege and under fire, the respect of remembering their daily horrors and urging world leaders to put in that extra effort to bring
Franciscan Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh, pastor of the Latin rite St Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Aleppo, says a recent donation from Pope Francis and the Roman Curia of €100,000 will go to couples and young families in need. "When I heard about the Pope's donation I immediately thought about the hundreds of couples and young families who have decided to get married despite the crisis in Syria," Fr Ibrahim told the Italian Catholic radio station, InBlu.
The future of Christians in the Middle East was the subject of a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, held on 17-19 of February. Organised by the Hanns-Seidel Foundation, the panel was titled 'What future do Christians have in the Middle East?' and focused on the situation of the churches in Syria and Iraq. The panel was chaired by Professor Ursula Männle, Minister of State. Speakers included Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Syriac-Orthodox Church,
A Sister helping Christian families in war-torn Syria has revealed the severity of the on-going crisis across the country - despite the holding ceasefire. Speaking at Aid to the Church in Need's Area Secretary Conference 2017 at the Karios Centre, Roehampton yesterday (28 February) Sister Annie Demerjian of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary said: "No house in Syria has been unaffected by war.. In Aleppo there is a major shortage of electricity, sometimes we only have it on for one - two hours
In six years of war the face of Syria has changed quite a lot. It is a huge disaster zone of debris, carbonized buildings; burned down houses, ghost neighbourhoods and towns destroyed to the ground. More than twelve millions Syrians, 50% of the population, are lacking a roof. They form the largest mass of refugees since the Second World War. Several millions have left the country in search of more merciful skies. Many are waiting for mercy in camps of misery, some have drowned attempting
Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria is carrying out a national strategy to change the demographics of the country. This strategy includes besieging, starving, killing and transferring people in a number of cities and neighbourhoods associated with resistance to his government. The latest example of this strategy is Aleppo, but three years ago the same strategy was carried out in Homs.
Marine Le Pen, France's far-right National Front leader and presidential candidate is currently on a 48-hour visit to the Lebanon. She has already been received by President Michel Aoun in the Presidential Palace in Babda. The agenda for her short trip includes meetings with Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Rai, Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri and politician Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces. In her talk with President Aoun, Lebanese media report that Marine Le Pen said she saw the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism as a context for collaboration between Lebanon and France.
On Friday President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order addressing the US refugee admissions program and migration to the United States, generally. The order virtually shuts down the refugee admissions program for 120 days, reduces the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000 individuals, and indefinitely suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees. In addition, it prioritizes religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, thereby deprioritizing all other persons fleeing persecution;
On the eve of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Cardinal Nichols has renewed his call for refugees from the Middle East to be welcomed and accommodated in this country. In 2015 the Cardinal met with Christian and Yazidi refugees during a pastoral visit in Erbil, Iraq. Bishops from England and Wales also met with refugees from Syria and Iraq during the annual Holy Land Co-ordination visit, which went to Jordan last year. The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has been in regular contact with the government about developments in the region,
This Christmas Syria looks more like a manger: an open door-less stable, cold, bereft, so poor, and completely destroyed by violence. The Christ Child isn't alone in Syria. Millions of children that have lost their homes live without shelter and in tents that are as poor as the Manger in Bethlehem. Jesus isn't alone in his misery. Syrian childhood is abandoned and damaged by the scenes of violence. The children wish to be in Jesus' place. He always had his parents with him. That feeling of bitterness is evident in their eyes, their tears and their silence.
A priest who survived being kidnapped by IS/Daesh, has said that it is "inappropriate" to say that there is an ongoing genocide of Christians in the Middle East. While Christians have suffered terribly, so have Muslims, Father Jacques Murad a Syrian Catholic monk from the Deir Mar Musa Community, said. "The victims of violence in Syria are all Syrians, Muslims and Christians. And the poor are those who suffer most, those who have not had a chance to escape." he said.
A ceasefire deal to allow the evacuation of rebels and tens of thousands of civilians from eastern Aleppo up to areas located near the border with Turkey is back on. Syrian official sources claim that the evacuation yesterday allowed more than right thousand people to leave Aleppo, and the suspension occurred because today the rebels and the jihadist forces have not complied with the terms of the agreement, trying to bring some prisoners with them. Other pro-government Syrian sources say that the operation was suspended, in areas still in the hands of anti-Assad militias,
Aleppo's Jesuit monastery was hit during the battle for Aleppo - as the Sunday vigil Mass was moved to another church. A church worker who was in the monastery in the west of the city when it was shelled told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need what had happened.He said: "On Saturday 10, at 5.45pm, a missile hit the Jesuit monastery where our office is located. "We thank God that the daily Mass scheduled at that time was moved to a different location... and was held at the Franciscan church."
NGOs operating in the besieged city of Aleppo, including a partner organisation of Christian Aid, have released a 'message to the world' about the unfolding massacre taking place. It came on the same day that the UN has reported that civilians are being 'shot on the spot' by Syrian pro-government forces entering homes in eastern Aleppo. Yesterday a staff member working for Christian Aid's partner in Aleppo was killed during continuous shelling, which is taking place across previously rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
As a humanitarian catastrophe worsens by the day in East Aleppo with tens of thousands of people at risk of starvation in what the UN has described as a "kill zone", eight CEOs of leading humanitarian organisations have written to Theresa May to urge her to work with European partners and the G7 to take bold steps to protect Syria's civilians. The signatories, including Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE International, Christian Aid and Doctors of the World, said as a first step the Prime Minister should take immediate action to secure international agreement for air bridges to the million people living
Pope Francis welcomed the children of Rome for the traditional 'Bambinelli Blessing' in St Peter's Square on Sunday On this day, the Third Sunday of Advent, Roman boys and girls bring the Baby Jesus from their Nativity sets to Saint Peter's Square to be blessed by the Pope. Thousands of children, clutching their Bambinellis listened as the Holy Father thanked them for coming, and wished them a happy Christmas. He asked them to remember to pray for him when they said their prayers before their Christmas cribs, and assured them that he prayed for them, too.
Images of the war in Syria appear on out televisions screens every night, but few of us know the humanitarian situation on the ground in Aleppo better than Sister Annie Demerjian. Born in Damascus to a devout Armenian Christian family, this slight, softly spoken, 49 year-old nun, from the Order of Jesus and Mary, leads a team of lay volunteers who, at great risk to their own safety, go from house-to-house, providing basic help and support, especially for the sick and elderly, trapped in the bombed-out city. During a brief visit to London,
Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the international affairs department for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, has called for an end to the targeting of civilians in the conflict in Syria, particularly in East Aleppo. At least 141 civilians, including 18 children, have been killed in a week of renewed bombardment on the rebel-held eastern half of Aleppo which has devastated its hospitals, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday. The monitor said it had documented hundreds of injuries as a result of Russian and Syrian air strikes and shelling by government forces and its allies on the besieged eastern
Pope Francis spoke yesterday of the suffering of innocent victims caught up in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts, saying that nothing can justify such terrible violence. His words came as he met with the head of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Gewargis III, who was making his first visit to the Vatican since being elected as Catholicos-Patriarch in September last year. In his words to the new leader of this Church, which traces its roots back to the apostles Thomas and Bartholomew, the Pope appealed for an end to the conflicts in the Middle East which cause such great suffering to Christians and
Church communities and other faith groups are coming together in an act of solidarity with those around the world suffering persecution because of their faith next week. The Red Wednesday event co-ordinated by Aid to the Church in Need will involve lighting up Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in red. Also being floodlit in red on the day - Wednesday, 23rd November - are religious buildings around the country - including Brentwood Cathedral and St John's Wood Synagogue.
No civilians trapped in besieged areas in east Aleppo managed to escape in spite of a truce announced by the Syrian army and the Russian military forces on Friday, 4 November, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobij has told Fides news service. The head of the Maronite archieparchy said: "Some civilians wanted to leave, but this was not possible." The Archbishop said that the offensive launched last week by rebels and jihadist militias against the neighbourhoods controlled by the Syrian army killed about 90 people and injured many more.
As Iraqi forces enter the outskirts of Mosul, amid reports of ISIL using families as human shields, Christian Aid is calling for all sides to the fighting to respect international law and allow immediate safe passage for those trapped in the city and seeking to flee. More than 18,000 people have fled since the start of the offensive to retake Mosul two weeks ago from towns in the region, yet the 1.5 million people in the city are prevented from leaving. Iraqi coalition forces have recaptured nearby districts and villages on the march to the city, including the Christian town of Qaraqosh.
Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart of the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo will speak on the subject 'What hope for Syria?' in the Hall at Mount Street Jesuit Centre this Friday. All welcome. No charge. The talk, in cooperation with the Aid to the Church in Need UK and Aid to Eastern Christians (L'Oeuvre d'Orient), will address the real issues regarding the future of Syria's Christian community. With half of Syria's population displaced and more than 400,000 people killed due to ongoing civil war, Mgr Jeanbart is visiting London to convey a message of hope for the future of Syria
From Dublin to Damascus, London to Helsinki, in Mexico and Spain to Sri Lanka - prayer vigils for peace in Syria were held in more than 160 countries around the world. This prayer initiative was organised to coincide with the Holy Father's prayers with members of the Lutheran Church in Lund, Sweden. Bishop William Crean said: "Innocent men, women and children are paying the ultimate price in the continuing conflict raging in Syria, especially in Aleppo, where they are caught in the crossfire. I join with Pope Francis in urging governments to find a political solution to the war
The people of Syria are suffering. Countless thousands have been killed. Millions more have been forced to flee their homes. Across the world, Catholics and Christians from other traditions will hold vigils on 31 October as part of a global day of prayer for peace called by Pope Francis while he is visiting the Lutheran church in Sweden. London: join Pax Christi, CAFOD and the Council of Lutheran Churches in the UK for simultaneous prayer vigils for peace in Syria at the Foreign Office, (junction of Whitehall and King Charles Street) or the Russian Embassy,
Appalled by the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria, Quakers have joined other faith bodies in demanding an end to the bombardment of Aleppo. Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: "Quakers see the light of God in all people, wherever they live and whatever they believe. Every life lost through bombardment is a tragedy which can and must be avoided. Peace is built when people meet each other in love. Quakers call for an end to the bombardment and an investment in the processes which will be needed to bring peace to Syria."
In November Americans will head to the polls to vote for his or her preferred presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the persecuted Assyrian Christians and Yazidis both here and in Iraq will be trembling at the mere thought of another four years of a silent administration allowing a modern day holocaust to continue. This election will determine the fate of the Assyrians, who have lived in Iraq for 6766 years, and for the Yazidis, who have lived in Iraq for 1000 years. If the next president simply continues the current administration's foreign policy, these stateless people continue to suffer
Christian leaders serving in areas plagued by persecution, terrorist violence and war will speak at an event in Chester tomorrow. The Most Rev Sebastian Shaw, the Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, is coming to the North West to raise awareness of the persecution faced by the Christian minority of Pakistan. The archbishop will make his visit just months after 72 people were massacred on Easter Sunday by a suicide bomber who targeted a Lahore children's playground used by Christian families. He will be joined by Sister Annie Demerjian, who will give an eye-witness account of the plight of civilians caught in
More than one million children in Syria have been signing a petition calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the violence engulfing the country. At least 2,000 schools from many parts of Syria are taking part in the initiative in which youngsters have been drawing pictures and writing messages for the attention of the United Nations in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels. The Peace for Children scheme, organised with help from Aid to the Church in Need, involves children of all ages describing in words and pictures the impact of the five-year conflict
CAFOD's Director of Humanitarian and Emergency Response, Matthew Carter, met Pope Francis on 29 September at the Vatican, along with representatives of 40 other Catholic aid agencies and Churches, to discuss the devastating humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq.
The Pope has appealed once more for peace in Syria, in the wake of airstrikes on rebel-held areas in East Aleppo, home to some 250,000 trapped civilians. "Dramatic news continues to reach me concerning the fate of the people of Aleppo, with whom, through prayer and spiritual closeness, I feel united in suffering," Pope Francis said today (Wednesday, September 28) at his General Audience.
Hundreds of Muslim and Christian schoolchildren are to meet in Aleppo next week to pray for an end to the death of children through bombing and war in Syria. On Thursday, October 6, they will sign and or place their fingerprints on a written appeal begging the worlds' leaders to put an end to the violence. "But above all, they will pray. They will pray for all of their peers. And we trust in the fact that children's prayer is more powerful than ours", said Archbishop Boutros Marayati, the head of the Armenian Catholic archeparchy in Aleppo.
More than one million Syrians remain under siege. The recent cease-fire agreement between the United States and Russia can contribute to relief for civilians in Syria, but lifting the sieges and ending the illegal strategy of starvation of one million Syrians should be top priority of the accord. In addition to those still under siege, more than 1.4 million were under threat to become fully besieged, including over 200,000 residents of eastern Aleppo. The Siege Watch: Third Quarterly Report on Besieged Areas in Syria, a joint effort by The Syria Institute
A hundred organisations including CAFOD and Christian Aid, have jointly welcomed the cessation of hostilities negotiated by the US and Russia this week, and have demanded that the US and Russia use their influence to ensure full and unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syria. In a joint statement, they say: say: This week's cessation of hostilities agreement negotiated by Russia and the US could be an important and welcome step forward for the future of Syria. Countless lives are saved each day this cessation holds.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has welcomed a new initiative launched by the Syrian opposition's High Negotiation Commission during the Friends of Syria meeting in London on 7 September, outlining a political solution to the current conflict. The "Executive Framework for a Political Solution Based on the Geneva Communique" arose from diplomatic efforts in which the United Kingdom is playing a key role. It presents a comprehensive three-phase political solution that includes an overview of the negotiation process, the transitional period, and the
Pax Christi International has welcomed the recent agreement between Russian and US government on the cessation of hostilities in Syria. The organisation says: "Achieving a durable cessation of hostilities must have absolute priority. The cessation of hostilities could be a first and essential step towards an end to the violent conflict. "The longer the conflict continues, the higher the cost will be for Syrians, but also for the international community. We urge the Russian Federation and the United States, as well as the rest of the international community,
The Church is continuing to provide help for those remaining in Aleppo - despite rebel forces pushing forward to seize the city - including feeding thousands every day. Jesuit priest Fr Ziad Hilal told Aid to the Church in Need: "It is a sad situation for everybody because of the fighting. I couldn't sleep well there because all the night we heard the bombardment and the fighting between the groups." In many cases people are relying on charity for their food, and the Church has stepped in to help feed those left in Aleppo
CAFOD is urging all parties to the Syria conflict to allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians trapped in east Aleppo, and for the international community to do more to put in place a ceasefire. "The international community cannot remain paralysed by the horrors of the Syria conflict, we must take urgent steps to restore a ceasefire, end attacks on civilians and resume peace talks. If we act now we can keep hope alive for the Syrian people," said Alan Thomlinson, CAFOD's Syria Crisis Programme Manager. Humanitarian access
We are extremely alarmed at Russia and Syria's joint proposal to set up so-called "humanitarian corridors" out of eastern Aleppo. We consider the proposal deeply flawed on humanitarian grounds and consider it warning for the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to urgently step up efforts to end the use of brutal siege tactics and illegal attacks on civilians. A true humanitarian operation would not force the people of Aleppo to choose between fleeing into the arms of their attackers or remaining in a besieged area under continued
Pope Francis renewed his condemnation of violence again called for peace in Syria today during his address to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square after the Angelus, He said: "Dear brothers and sisters - sadly, news continues to reach us from Syria, of civilian victims of the war there, in particular from the city of Aleppo." The Holy Father went on to say, "It is unacceptable that so many defenseless persons - among them many small children - must pay the price for conflict - for the closure of the hearts and the want of a will for peace
A Carmelite nun in Aleppo, Syria has described how, despite their convent being at the centre of an ongoing bombardment, they are determined to stay and help those affected by the war. "Please help us - the bombs are falling all around us, but we are not going to leave the people in their suffering," said Sister Anne-Françoise of Aleppo's Discalced Carmelite Sisters... The Carmelite convent is situated in the university quarter on the outskirts of Aleppo, which is still seriously affected by the fighting.
The broken Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and ongoing Syrian crisis were among topics touched on by the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in statement on Tuesday. In his statement to the UN Security Council during an open debate on 'The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question' Archbishop Bernardito Auza reiterated Pope Francis' denouncement of those responsible for the Syrian crisis, especially those who provide weapons to fighters.
We are a Christian Peacemaker Team of three persons. We are walking along the city walls of the Greek island of Chios, with the border-polluted sea stretching before us. The refugees reside in tents, organised in two lines. Kids are playing. Nothing can make children stop playing. Even under the midday sun; even though the great powers of the world, through their agreements, prevent these families from moving on. But they play. They run up to the top of garbage hills and then run down, laughing and shouting. "Kids!" my friend says, to show
The Archbishop of Canterbury will house a family of Syrian refugees in a cottage at his official London residence, Lambeth Palace, from next month, a local councillor said on Wednesday. Archbishop Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world's 85 million-strong Anglican communion, pledged last September to personally take in refugees from Syria, with the gesture following a similar move by Pope Francis in the Vatican. More than 250,000 people have been killed in Syria's five-year war, with half of the population
"The international community must support peace talks towards the building of a national unity government" ..... "I invite you to ask those who are involved in peace talks to take these agreements seriously and to commit to facilitating access to humanitarian aid. While the people suffer, an incredible amount of money is being spent on giving fighters weapons. Some of the countries providing these arms are also those talking of peace. How can one believe in those who caress you with the right hand while hitting you with the left?" the Pope said.
After returning safely to the Patriarchate in Damascus following his pastoral visit to the city of Qamishly, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, offered prayers of thanksgiving and condemned the suicide bombing which took place during His Holiness' visit. On Sunday June 19, 2016 following the celebration of the feast of the Pentecost and after the inauguration of a monument for the Syriac Genocide Sayfo which His Holiness presided over,
Three people were killed by a suicide attack yesterday during a religious meeting organized in Qamishli in northern Syria, to commemorate the 'Assyrian genocide' of 1915, by the Ottoman army. No organisation has claimed responsibility yet. According to local sources the suicide bomber tried to enter the hall where people were gathered but was stopped by security forces, and he detonated himself among them. The meeting had been called to commemorate the massacre of 1915, also known as the 'Sayfo massacre',
In spite of the relentless shelling and aerial attacks, the Christian communities in Aleppo are continuing to do all they can to reach out and support people in need. Last weekend the Marist Brothers built a playground inside their property, with swings, slides and open spaces for local children whose neighbourhoods have once again been bombed and shelled. It was officially opened on Sunday, the feast of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Congregation of the Marist Brothers
A bishop in Syria has described desperate efforts to tend to the injured and the dying following multiple Daesh (ISIS) attacks in Tartous and Jableh, which left more than 200 dead and nearly 650 injured. Bishop Antioine Chbeir stressed that Monday's attacks in his diocese were the first of their kind in an area where displaced Syrians had gathered in their hundreds of thousands, believing it to be one of the last remaining safe areas of the country.
Three Christians were killed and many more were injured in an attack on Saturday night in 'Miami Street' - in the center of Qamishli, Syria's second largest city in the northeastern province of Hassaké. Abuna Hanna, from the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese of Hassaké-Nisibi said the victims were " three Syriac Christians: Abdulmehis Lahdo, Karam Sacid Samcun and Tuma Yusuf Eliyo." Survivors report that at least three terrorists came into the street shooting and throwing grenades. There may have also been a suicide bomber.
Two Armenian Christian leaders from Syria have been in the UK to speak about the realities facing their country where half the population are either refugees or have been internally displaced. Bishop Armash Nalbandian, the Armenian Orthodox Bishop of Damascus, and Reverend Harout Selimian, a pastor of the Armenian Armenian Evangelical Church in Aleppo met with Church leaders in England, Scotland and Wales - including the Chair of the International Affairs department Bishop Declan Lang.
A Franciscan priest in bomb-stricken Aleppo has called for the prayers of Christians worldwide, describing what he calls the worst violence since the Syrian conflict began more than five years ago. Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh told Aid to the Church in Need: "Never, since the beginning of this terrible war, were things as bad as they are now. I have no words to describe all the suffering I see on a daily basis." He described seeing rockets and bombs falling on churches, mosques, schools and hospitals. "So many houses have been
Ninety seven faith groups and NGOs from around the world, including CAFOD, Christian Aid and Pax Christi, have written a letter to Presidents Obama and Putin urging them to use all influence they have to save the ceasefire in Syria. They write: "Violence across Syria has escalated alarmingly, reportedly claiming a life on average every 25 minutes in the past 48 hours. We cannot stand by in the face of this catastrophe". Global NGOs and faith groups demand that President Obama and President Putin immediately use their
The programme announced by the Government to resettle 3,000 refugee children in the UK over the next four years has been welcomed by Christian Aid, but the agency stresses the plans are too slow and ignore the thousands of vulnerable unaccompanied minors already in Europe who need assistance. The scheme will include the resettlement of children from North Africa and the Middle East who are at risk of forced labour, child marriage and other forms of exploitation, as well as unaccompanied minors in the region. It will be implemented
On the eve of fresh peace negotiations in Geneva, the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church has expressed fears that opposition groups taking part include extremists - and have virtually no backing among the people. Talking to Aid to the Church in Need from Al Qaryatayn, which was liberated from Daesh (ISIS) on 3rd April, Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said that some of the Syrian opposition at Geneva III lacked popular support in the country. The Patriarch added: "Of course, I hope that the talks will be successful.
Representatives of organisations working with or for Syrian refugees, have said a meeting in Geneva on Monday was a missed opportunity to commit to resettling Syrian refugees, by failing to pledge to meet the minimal target of providing places for 10% of Syrian refugees. In a statement Christian Aid said: "The UN Secretary General is right to say that the $11 billion generously pledged at the International Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region in February must now be honoured.
Innocent people caught up in the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris are suffering the consequences of western policies in Syria and Iraq over the last few years - that is the view of Syrian Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo. According to Mgr Hindo, who heads the Syrian Catholic Archeparchy of Hassaké-Nisibis, the serious responsibility of European and Western leadership, has often been influenced by short-sighted selfish interests.
Archbishop Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus has written the following Lenten Letter, reflecting on: Mercy that Gives Life - 'Violence Generatrice de misericorde'. The violence that has torn Syria and spilled blood for five years is also a source of Mercy. 1) The Family: There are already twelve million Syrian refugees and still more arrive for refuge. Charitable organizations have stretched their resources and are overwhelmed. The family, bulwark of Middle Eastern society, absorbs the trauma as it assumes the role of giving
As the conflict in Syria enters its sixth year, Pax Christi International has issued the following statement calling for negotiations to end the conflict and bring political transition in Syria. In March 2016 we mark the fifth anniversary of the popular uprising in Syria. The first cessation of hostilities after five years of war in Syria began on 27 February 2016. Although there have been dozens of violations of the ceasefire daily, many communities have for the first time in years witnessed a period of calm and respite from bombardments.
Christian Aid has warned that unless the European Union takes greater action in response to the scale of the refugee crisis more people will risk their lives in order to leave Greece, where some 40,000 people are currently stranded. The warning comes just days before an EU meeting with Turkey, which is set to finalise a series of proposals including the resettlement of one Syrian refugee in Europe for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands.
As the Syria conflict enters its sixth year and peace talks resumed today in Geneva, Christian Aid implores the international community to keep on working for peace. The conflict has devastated millions of lives; more than a quarter of a million people have been killed and over one million injured. Half the population is displaced. With more than 4.6 million Syrians having fled the country and 6.6 million internally displaced Syria is the largest displacement crisis globally. Within the country 13.5 million remain in need of humanitarian
Pax Christi UK is supporting the International movement in calling for a special time for prayer and action for Syria between 15-20 March 2016 . Organising an action of solidarity or day of fasting or prayer is also an occasion to meet with refugees in your own community. Pax Christi has provided web-links to organisations monitoring airstrikes on Syria and cities under seige in Syria. Such information, said Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi, is rarely offered by the mainstream press yet is essential in trying to get a full picture of the on-going violence and
The war in Syria reaches its fifth year next Tuesday. More than a quarter of a million people have been killed and ten million have been driven from their homes. As a shaky ceasefire continues to hold, CAFOD is calling for members of non-armed groups and local faith leaders to be part of an inclusive peace process. Alan Thomlinson, CAFOD's Syria Crisis Manager said the pause in fighting should bring an end to the sieges, and make it easier to get aid to people in the hardest to reach parts of the country.
Leaders meeting today in Brussels were considering closing the Balkan route being used by refugees to enter and travel through the EU, in a move Christian Aid warns could be inhumane.
"We fear that this step will worsen still further the suffering of many thousands of people who are already desperate." said Jenny Brown, Christian Aid's Senior EU Relations Advisor. More than 30,000 refugee men, women and children are already trapped in Greece - at least 14,000 at the border with Macedonia - and thousands more arrive every
Jihadists may be to blame for cutting off essential water and electricity supplies in Aleppo, according to a bishop in the city, who fears for the lives of those affected. Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, told Aid to the Church in Need that most of the city - which is undergoing persistent bombardment - have had no electricity for five months and at present have no water too. The bishop said these shortages were the result of targeted attacks and not just collateral damage as a result of the conflict.
It was Tuesday March 26, 2013, at 11am when killed Deacon Camille on road to the Church. Following his death parents of the Priests were eager for me to leave, to leave Damascus. They were afraid for safety of their children. I proposed that the priests leave if they wanted to. The diocese does not have the right to keep them here under these conditions. They have all answered: "YOU REMAIN, WE REMAIN". Providence has since protected us. Our deacon martyr had the role of distributing bread to the poor.
Pax Christi International is calling on all people of good will to organise acts of solidarity and days of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria between 15 and 20 March 2016. The organisation says: "We call on individuals and organisations to show solidarity with refugees and victims of war and violence and create signs of hope that peace can come again in Syria. In March 2011, Syrian civilians started non-violent demonstrations to demand basic freedoms and rights. The regime's extreme repression led to the militarisation of the protests, evolving to a
Horrific photographs of starving children from the besieged Syrian town of Madaya are the latest defining images from the tormented country. Conflict there has claimed the lives of over 260,000 people - 55,000 in 2015 alone. However, peace in Syria is unlikely in the near future. The deluge of people flowing out of that country - and many other troubled regions - will not abate soon. As the refugee crisis intensifies, Europe will have to consider ambitious, comprehensive solutions.
A few days before Christmas, we published an urgent appeal by Della Shenton from Parishes for Peace who was leaving for Jordan, to spend Christmas with Christian refugee families, living in cramped conditions in the grounds of a Catholic church. Della asked us for cards with messages, or donations to buy small gifts for them. The response was very generous and Della has sent a message of thanks to ICN readers. THINKING OF YOU - PRAYING FOR YOU - WE LOVE YOU - These are the messages Della Shenton took with her in over 1,000
Christian Aid has welcomed the latest commitments made by the UK, Germany, France and others to increase humanitarian support for Syrians and the region. However the charity added that real relief will only happen when the bombs stop. Frances Guy, Christian Aid's Head of Middle East Region said: "For Syrian refugees who rely on food baskets and vouchers from the World Food Programme it will be a relief to know that Germany has already pledged to fund half of the money that is needed for these distributions for this year.
The Commission of Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has welcomed last week's European Parliament's resolution to recognise the tragic fate of Christians and other minorities as genocide. COMECE sees this as a significant step forward in facilitating measures to prevent the on-going incipient genocide against Christians and other minorities.
At least three people were killed and 10 others wounded last night in a bomb attack in Syria's northeastern Kurdish city of Qamishli. The attack took place in the mostly Christian neighbourhood and was carried out with a motorcycle bomb. The blast hit a restaurant in 'Miami Street'. "All three of the victims are Christians: a Chaldean and two Syrian Orthodox" Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, head of the Syrian Catholic archdiocese in Hassakè-Nisibis said in a statement.
Bishop Patrick Lynch today met with Richard Harrington MP, the Minister responsible for Syrian refugees, to reaffirm the Church's support for efforts to accommodate people fleeing the conflict and discuss the next stages of the Government's resettlement scheme. Following the meeting Bishop Lynch stated: "The UK has rightly taken responsibility for resettling some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in addition to its significant support for those sheltering in neighbouring countries. The one thousand people who have already arrived now have an opportunity to rebuild
Food has become "the most deadly weapon of war" in Syria, according to a leading Catholic charity's Middle East projects coordinator, who says both government and rebel forces are blocking humanitarian aid to force entire communities on the brink of starvation to submit to their rule. Father Andrzej Halemba, from Aid to the Church in Need, says that many groups are preventing food aid from getting through in an attempt to weaken the resistance of opposition groups.
Tensions between Kurds and Christians have increased in the Syrian region of northeastern Jiazira, and the cities of Qamishli and Hassaké, where large areas of land are in the hands of IS, local church leaders report. On 20 December 20 two restaurants in Qamishli belonging to Christian owners were attacked. Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, head of the Syrian Catholic Archdiocese of Hassaké-Nisibis said: "13 Christians and six Muslims died. No one knows who is behind this attack, but it is believed that it was the Kurds."
In one bomb-struck church a manger and Christmas tree are dug out from the rubble. In another, where only the walls remain standing, weddings and communion are being held under an open sky. A SAT-7 Christmas broadcast from the battered Christian quarter of Old Homs in Syria has shown revealed a community starting to get back on its feet after a two-year siege. In Al-Hamidiya, small sprouts shoots of faith among weary but hopeful clergy and local and returning Christians are shooting pushing up through the ruins.
The Franciscan parish priest who was abducted in Syria on 23 December, has now been freed. The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land have just released a short statement today confirming that Fr Dhiya Azziz is safe and doing well. No further details have been given given "due to confidentiality reasons." The Franciscans thanks "all those who helped us to liberate him." The 41-year-old friar, who is now in Damascus, is the parish priest in the town of Yacoubieh, in Idlib province,
At least two civilians were killed and another twenty injured by grenades on Monday, December 21 by anti-regime jihadist fighters against the villages of Maharda and Sqelbyia, in the province of Hama. The two towns, which are currently controlled by the government army, are inhabited by Orthodox Christians. According to reports from local sources to Kurdish Ara News Agency, the bombings hit residential neighbourhoods spreading panic among the local population, that was preparing for Christmas.
Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria, calling on the international community to realize in concrete action and genuine fact the endorsement of a UN-sponsored roadmap toward peace in the war-torn nation. Addressing pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis said: "It is important to me that we turn our thoughts once again today to our beloved Syria, to express deep appreciation for the agreement just reached by the international community... I encourage everyone to continue, with a
Aid to the Church in Need has announced a series of extra emergency aid packages for people in Syria and Iraq escaping persecution and grappling with the onset of winter. The charity is rolling out 19 relief programmes in Syria and a further 11 in Iraq - providing food, medicine, shelter and pastoral support. The projects include extra support for families who fled ISIS in northern Iraq: For Christians who took refuge in Baghdad, Iraq, ACN is helping to provide a nursery school for 125 toddlers.
We are very distressed at the decision to expand airstrikes in Syria as we consider that military options are not the best way to solve violent conflicts and nor have the criteria of a Just War been fulfilled.
Peace campaigners across the UK have expressed their grave concern over last night's vote in the House of Commons to extend air strikes to ISIS targets in Syria. The vote was 397 for and 223 votes against taking action in Syria. Quakers in Britain opposed the vote.
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: "Bombing is no solution. Quakers work faithfully for peace, not war, respecting the value of all human life and we deplore a decision which will lead to lives being lost. "Quakers call for a creative nonviolent response, respecting
Islamic State can be defeated without resorting to bullets, argues Iraqi priest Fr Nadim Nassar. Just stop the flow of resources and publicity - Dave Gaskill writes in today's Church Times. "Vatican endorses military force against IS", the headlines shouted, after Archbishop Silvano Tomasi (the Vatican's Permanent Observer to the UN) spoke to the United Nations in Geneva. His statement, widely reported, was interpreted by some as not only endorsing the use of military force to protect Christians and other minorities from the violence and oppression of the
"Last night's vote offers no solution whatever - in fact it makes the present crisis worse. To isolate ISIS we need to cut off their sources of supply not to give them more recruits which is all bombing will achieve - apart of course from killing yet more innocent people. We have already killed, or helped to kill, thousands of those already in Iraq. Who advises our Bishops? That is really a question that needs answering. The Government will be delighted to have what will be seen as their support.
As I email you I am listening to the discussions in our Parliament concerning whether Military action might be initiated in Syria. O God help us. Antonia Moffat writes. Where is the voice from our Spiritual leaders of a deep commitment to prayer, repentance, reparation, fasting and intercession concerning this? We need a SPIRITUAL RESPONSE! Only our Spiritual leaders can initiate this response. I have thought to send you these thoughts and a Prayer of National Reparation and Repentance based on the Prophet Daniel. We stand on the brink of a terrible mistake
"Effective action is necessary to stop the grave harm being inflicted by ISIS on civilians. While indiscriminate violence is never justifiable, specific use of force to protect the vulnerable is defensible, if it is combined with sustained diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. As Pope Francis has said: 'where there is unjust aggression, it is licit to stop the aggressor'. "Earlier this year in April during a visit to Iraq, I met with a number of Iraqi refugees and those who are generously sheltering them, led by the Local Church.
Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader who speaks the truth without a hidden agenda, and I hope very much that he will be able to persuade his MP's to vote against the bombing of ISIL in Syria. He is the one hope in a fearfully dangerous scenario. I hope he will not be brow-beaten by his opponents who have the hidden agenda of using the present crisis to try and unseat him. Obama, Cameron and Hollande know that it is not true to say that this bombing will keep the terrorists from the streets of Europe.
On the eve of the debate in the UK Parliament about whether or not Britain should extend its existing military action against Daesh in Iraq to include Syrian-based targets, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, argues that there is no moral case for doing so. Over recent days and weeks, the question of whether the UK should bomb Syria has been widely debated. It is not just a matter for politicians because over the centuries, Christians and theologians have discussed the theory of the just war. One thing is certain - it can never be argued, from a Christian
Thousands of peace campaigners, including members of Pax Christi and J&P groups, gathered opposite the Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square on Tuesday evening, to call on MPs to vote against bombing Syria. Holding placards with the message: 'Don't Bomb Syria' , they chanted slogans such as: "When they say 'Warfare!' we say 'Welfare!" and: " No to killing. No to war!" A number of speakers addressed the crowd.
As Parliament prepares to debate next steps in Syria, Quakers in Britain have made this statement. The attacks in Paris on 13 November were deeply shocking and our hearts continue to go out to those killed, injured, bereaved and traumatised. It is human nature that the closer suffering comes to us, the more acutely we feel the pain and grief. But that experience should sensitise us to the suffering caused repeatedly by acts of war and violent crime in more distant places, including Beirut, Sinai, Bamako and Aleppo. It should strengthen our
Following the debate in Parliament on 26 November 2015, it is likely that there will be a vote very soon, proposing military action in Syria, Pat Gaffney, general secretary of Pax Christi UK writes. Many Pax Christi members contacted their MPs in 2013 when a similar vote took place. We urge you to do the same again. Try to ensure that prayers are said in your parish community that nonviolent responses be pursued in facing crimes of terrorism and extremism.
In 1977, as a schoolboy, I had the opportunity to visit the Soviet Union. I had little appreciation of faith in those days but did attempt to attend Mass on Sunday. Arriving at the one church that was still open we met with the news, from a few grandmothers, that there would be no Mass as the priest was ill. Sixty years after the revolution the youngest priest must have been in his mid-eighties. The lights must have almost gone out on the church in Russia in those days
A Lebanese Archbishop has called on Europe to rethink the conflict in Syria following the attacks in Paris. Speaking to ACN, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwish of Zahle and Furzol said he believes the attacks in France were inevitable: "We have always known that ISIS is a danger to the whole world. But Europe hasn't taken it seriously." Archbishop Darwish called for greater action, adding: "It's time to fight Daesh (ISIS) together with the Syrian government.
The war in Syria has almost completed its fifth year. The cost in terms of human life, the environment and infrastructure is immense - more than 250.000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced. The cycle of extreme violence on the whole Syrian population is unacceptable and should come to an end as soon as possible. A new round of international talks aimed at resolving the Syria crisis took place on 14 November 2015 in Vienna, immediately after the awful and gruesome attacks in Paris and Beirut.
Thousands of Christians are fleeing the Syrian town of Sadad, according to a leading bishop, who has warned of advancing Daesh (ISIS) forces. Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh told Aid to the Church in Need that 15,000 people had already fled Sadad and nearby Al-Hafar since last Saturday when the Islamists begun assaults on nearby towns. With the jihadists seizing Maheen, a town less than five miles from Sadad, a vast exodus was underway to towns and cities including Homs, nearly 40 miles south, Zaidal and Fairouzeh.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch is giving a short, passionate speech each night at the curtain call after his performance in Hamlet at the Barbican, appealing for support for Syrian refugees. There are over 11 million of them, he says, More than 200,000 have died making the perilious journey to Europe. Cumberbatch speaks of a friend who has just come back from the island of Lesbos where she saw: "'Everywhere on the horizon there was nothing but boats and on the shoreline nothing but lifejackets' .. God knows the weather is getting worse what will come next".
A Syrian priest who was kidnapped by IS earlier this year, and managed to escape, has spoken of his spoken of his time in captivity. Fr Jacques Murad, Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian said: "Even while being deported, with my hands tied behind my back, I surprisingly found myself repeating again and again: I am going towards freedom. My captivity was like being born again". Fr Jacques' ordeal began on 21 May, when he and a co-worker were abducted by a group of armed men from the monastery in the outskirts of Qaryatayn.
Father Jacques Mourad has told how he escaped Daesh (ISIS) in Syria with the help of a friend whose family had been helped by the priest's programme of aid to the poor and disadvantaged. Speaking out after nearly six months in the hands of the Islamist terror group, Fr Mourad said that with the help of the friend he had escaped Daesh-held Qaratayn on the back of a motorbike disguised as an Islamist fighter. The friend, who had links with Daesh, had told Fr Mourad he was impressed by the priest's humanitarian relief work in Qaratayn - supplying food, shelter and medicine - funded
...Masking itself in the cover of conflict, and no doubt fortified by the world's silence, in Syria and Iraq a genocide of Christians is underway. With its echoes of the genocide launched against Armenian Christians one hundred years ago, in 1915, other defenceless ethnic-religious minorities, such as the Yazidis, are also victims of this Islamist genocide. Deep rooted religious hatred, a hatred of difference, is driving on a systematic campaign of deportation and exodus, degrading treatment, including sexual violence, enslavement, barbaric executions, and attempts to
Fr Jacques Murad, the Syrian priest abducted by ISIS in central Syria five months ago, has been set free, Fides reported this morning. Fr Murad was kidnapped at the same time as around 200 other Christians, in May, two months before jihadists captured Qaryatayn, the Christian-Sunni town where Fr Murad lived and served as prior of the ancient monastery of Mar Elian. Syrian Fr Jihad Youssef from the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa said: "We are grateful to the Lord and give praise to the merciful God for this gift. And we thank all the friends in the world who prayed
"One of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades are the terrible consequences that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have on civilian populations as well as on cultural heritage. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need. They are forced to leave their native lands. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey today carry the weight of millions of refugees, which they have generously received. Faced with such a situation and conflicts that are expanding and disturbing in an alarming way the internal and regional equilibrium, the international community
I am writing these thoughts under the impact of the news concerning the reception of displaced Syrians in the European Union (September 2015). Both Syrian Christians and Muslims are being displaced. Muslims constitute the majority of them, but even though the number of displaced Christians is smaller, yet these relatively large numbers of Christians migrating and being displaced represent red lines for the Christian presence and role in the Middle East, cradle of Christianity. I am addressing the West in particular about the risk of migration of Syrians, especially Christian
CAFOD has welcomed the UK government's pledge to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Syrians who have fled to neighbouring countries, but has called for this to happen more quickly and for more action to support refugees already in Europe. Neil Thorns, CAFOD's Director of Advocacy and Education, said: "While the Prime Minister's offer to accept 20,000 refugees from countries neighbouring Syria is welcome, it doesn't go far enough. For a start, the government is proposing to take in these refugees over five years, when the most vulnerable people need support
The Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' has organised a meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq to be held on 17 September, which will be attended by the Catholic charitable organisations active in the Middle East and the bishops of the region. The meeting, supported by more than 30 organisations, will be divided into two parts. During the morning, after the introduction by Mgr Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council, there will be addresses from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and the United Nations
Over recent days we have watched with great distress the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in the Middle East and in Europe. Once again the ugly consequences of war have caused multitudes of good people to take great risks as they seek refuge in foreign lands. Like the Holy Family who were refugees in Egypt from the murderous Herod, like our own legions of destitute Irish families aboard dreadful coffin ships of pestilence and famine, the parents of Syria rightly seek safety and security for their families.
Having seen heartbreaking images of the lifeless and abandoned body of young Aylan Kurdi lying alone on a beach in Turkey puts an all too gruesome optic to a matter either in the forefront or background of every mind over the past months. The images we have now become too accustomed to seeing may have desensitised some, but the horrific reality of the situation remains; thousands of people continue to risk all, even their lives, to seek the safety that we are thankfully free to live on a daily basis.
Christian Aid yesterday welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge that the UK will increase the number of Syrian refugees it allows in, but said the numbers must be ambitious. It also added its voice to a call for all EU states to put in place a fair and mandatory sharing of responsibility for refugees arriving in Europe, and an increase in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Mr Cameron announced in Lisbon that the UK had already taken some 5,000 Syrians and would now accept 'thousands more' of those regarded 'at particular risk'
Britain's reaction to the migrant crisis must be more "generous", Cardinal Vincent Nichols has told ITV News. Speaking after images of a dead Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach emerged, Cardinal Nichols said the British public had told him it was "a disgrace that we were letting people die and seeing bodies on the beaches when together Europe is such a wealthy place"... "If we take 10,000, it's a fraction of the problem," he told Chris Ship.
Dear Friends, Words cannot express the horror of what we are all seeing unfold before our eyes and hundreds of thousands flee a living Hell on earth which
is now the lot of large swathes of both Syria, Iraq and beyond. No wonder they flee. So would I if I was stuck in such a desperate situation.
I have just written to my Member of Parliament on behalf of the voiceless of both Syria and Iraq. I have copied it below for you to see.
One of Syria's most senior Catholic leaders has issued an impassioned plea to young people, describing a "tsunami" of youth emigration and begging them to stay. Referring to "an almost communal wave of youth emigration", Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III said the exodus was so severe it begged serious questions about the future of the Church in Syria. In an open letter to youth, the Damascus-based prelate said emigration of Christian youth was especially severe in Syria but was also of grave concern elsewhere in the Middle East.
Over the summer many of us have been able to get away to warmer climes. Some of you went to places like Italy and Greece. I went to Malta. The sun was shining, the sea was warm and inviting, the food was good and the people were hospitable. But all the time I was in Malta I was very aware of others who had made their way to that place too. The emigrants who had crossed over from Libya in small boats and dinghies. Hey were the lucky ones. Hundreds died in the attempt and were drowned in that same sea where I was enjoying swimming.
Help from the West for so-called moderate opposition groups in Syria is ending up in the hands of Daesh (ISIS) and other extremists, according to a Catholic Patriarch from Damascus, who says the crisis in the country is deepening. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III, head of the largest Catholic community in Syria, said money and weapons given to moderate groups were being repeatedly used by ISIS in the struggle against President Bashar al-Assad.
A Franciscan priest serving in northern Syria has been released after almost a week in the hands of allegedly jihadist kidnappers. The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, announced that Father Dhiya Aziz, a parish priest at Yacoubieh, in the north-western province of Idlib, was apparently "treated well" during his ordeal. The Custody had had no news of the Fr Dihya since Saturday, July 4, in the late afternoon.
Conflicting news had nevertheless led people to believe that he had been taken by jihadists affiliated to Al-Nusra Jabhat, which administers the emirate in the sector.
With the United Nations confirming that a staggering four million people have fled Syria since fighting began, the aid agency CAFOD is urging world leaders to commit to finding a political end to the conflict. Anthony Neal, Humanitarian Policy Analyst for CAFOD, said: "While the UK has led the world in its humanitarian aid contribution to the Syria crisis, our help cannot end with money. Without a political solution, the number of Syrians trying to flee the country will continue to rise.
Concerns are growing for the safety of a Franciscan Iraqi priest, Fr Dhiya Azziz, parish priest of the Syrian village of Yacoubieh, who was taken away on Saturday, 4 July, by men from a jihadist organization that control the region. Father Dhiya was picked up by a brigade who said they had to take him to a short meeting with the Emir who exercises authority in the region which is currently under the rule of the Al-Nusra Front - the Syrian arm of al-Qaida. Later, two militants were sent to the parish to get the friar's medication. He has diabetes and other health problems.
The Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Archbishop Samir Nassar, has written a letter describing the deteriorating situation in Syria, entitled: 'From Anxiety to Hope'. He writes: It seems that the Syrian crisis is the cruelest human drama since the Second World War. Here are the dramatic figures: Four out of five Syrians live below the poverty line. The number of refugees inside and outside Syria is 12 million.
You are invited to pray this Renewal of the Act of Consecration of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq & all the Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with the Maronite Bishops meeting in Lebanon, following the arrival of Our Lady of Fatima to the Synod of Maronite Bishops at 6pm on Friday June 12th 2015 eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Synod of Maronite Bishops June 10th to 18th 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin met Pope Francis last night in a private audience in the Vatican. This was the second time they have met. President Putin first visited Pope Francis in November 2013. A statement issued by the Head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi said the meeting held between the Holy Father and Russian President Vladimir Putin took place in the Library of the Apostolic Palace. During the 50 minute discussion, both the Pope and the President focused on the conflict in Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East.
Full-scale intervention by the West is urgently needed "to halt these monstrosities" being perpetrated in Syria and Iraq, according to the bishop whose diocese is at the epicentre of the conflict. In an impassioned plea sent to Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart described how his archbishopric in Aleppo - already hit more than 20 times by mortar shells - had once again come under fire.
Another priest has been kidnapped in Syria. Local Christians fear Islamic extremists have seized him. Father Jacques Mourad was travelling in Qaryatayn with a co-worker on Thursday, when two motorcycles drew up alongside their car. The kidnappers seized the vehicle and abducted the priest. Qaryatayn is a small town around 65 miles (100 km) southwest of Palmyra, which was seized by IS/Daish on Wednesday, 20th May. For the past 12 years Fr Mourad had been ministering to Qaryatayn's Syriac Catholic community.
In 1922 Christians made up 51% of the population of Jerusalem. Now, only 2% of Palestinians are Christian. In "The Spirit of Peace" the theologian Mary Grey explores the decimation of this ancient community, linking it with the recent sectarian cleansing of Christians from Syria, Iraq and Egypt. "They discovered they were invisible," she concludes, "unacknowledged, dismissed, denounced or forgotten by fellow Christians throughout the world, especially in the United States." Yet, Grey also puts their suffering in the wider context of the Palestinian people, whom, she believes, have endured a terrible
A Religious Sister in Syria helping people under bombardment has described how one family discovered their 18-year-old son hanging dead from a power cable, after he was flung from their house by a bomb which landed on their home. As well as losing their son Michel in the explosion, the Christian family from Aleppo are grieving his brother, Annor, who was in his early 20s, and their mother.
The civil war in Syria, which has gone on for more than four years, could come to an end much more quickly if the United States would pressure its allies to stop aiding extremist groups, says a bishop from one of the most besieged cities of the country. Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archdiocese of Aleppo, is touring Boston, New York and Washington, DC, appealing for American's help in stopping the war - and in helping beleaguered Christians remain in their ancestral homeland.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has just returned from a two-day visit to northern Iraq, where he visited many Christians forced to flee ISIS/Daish.. The refugees are now living precariously between two major major conflicts: the war in Syria between rebel groups and President Al-Assad's regime, and the advance into Iraq of ISIS/Daish militia. Reflecting on his visit Cardinal Nichols said the families "were driven out of their homes with little more than three hours notice. Then, at check points, they were robbed of anything of value.
The Greek Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory III has strongly rejected military intervention as a solution to the crisis in the region. He called for foreign agencies to stop supplying weapons that are fuelling the conflict, and appealed for prayers. The Patriarch said: "One is inconsiderate to invoke external military interventions to defend Christians in Syria and the Middle East. We are a sovereign country with a legitimate government, which is responsible for protecting its citizens. If one really wants to put an end to the tragedy of the Syrian people, there is only one way:
Syria's popular uprising started in the city of Dara in March 2011. The merciless actions of the Syrian Government - whose campaign of violent repression against what were originally peaceful protesters began four long years ago - have now morphed into wave upon wave of pitiless assaults by all sides. The Syrian conflict has killed well in excess of 200.000 people, and continues to kill more every day. It has involved the torture and ill-treatment of countless others; forced millions to flee; and deprived even more of the basic conditions for a decent life, including the rights to education, food, healthcare and housing.
I am sharing different Lenten insights with you from our Eastern sisters and brothers, but one thing strikes me as essential, that no matter what church we belong to, we see Lent as a journey together in prayers and faith, where all our differences cease to matter because we all belong to the Christian family. Whilst we have the luxury to live out our observance in relative comfort, many of my own Church as well as so many Eastern Christians are not only observing a harsh Lent but a daily Via Dolorosa, a real Way of the Cross!
The Syrian refugee crisis - now totaling nearly four million refugees- has reached a "tipping point," in which countries in the region are no longer able to handle the flow of refugees across their borders, warns US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) officials who recently traveled to the Middle East. "Without more international support, we will find Syrians fleeing extremists being turned away and forced back to danger," said Anastasia Brown, interim executive director for USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). "The global community, led by Europe and the United States, needs to increase its support in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis."
Four years on from the outbreak of war, the Syrian crisis continues to deepen, and the human suffering is greater than ever before. CAFOD partner, Bishop Antoine Audo, Director of Caritas Syria, is based in Aleppo. He said: "This war has destroyed whole neighbourhoods, not forgetting the booming industries that were in Syria and the farming. Half of Syrians are either homeless or living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Eighty per cent of the workforce in Aleppo have no work. The rich have left, the middle class have become poor and the poor have become destitute."
Four Assyrian Christians, including a six year-old girl, who were among a group of at least 220 Christians abducted by Daesh (Islamic State) from their villages in north east Syria on 24 February, were released on 3 March. Their release follows that of 19 other Christians last week following a ruling by a shari'a court. Over 200 Christians are still in captivity. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Daesh religious court ruled on 28 February for the release the 19 hostages in exchange for a sum of money
The extremist group Islamic State has now released some of the Christian hostages it seized in north-east Syria last week. According to London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, today, 19 captives have been released – 18 were from the village of Tel Goran, one of the Assyrian Christian villages in Hassake governorate captured on 23 February, The other captive is not thought to have been seized during these attacks. All 19 were reported to have arrived safely at St Mary’s Church in the town of Hassake.
Syrian university students in Homs were the target of a terror attack that left 15 people dead and at least 50 injured, according to a priest based in the city when the blast took place The car bomb exploded in a busy street in the centre of Homs – the third largest city in Syria – on Wednesday, 21 January around midday. Jesuit priest Father Ziad Hilal, who runs aid centres supported by Aid to the Church in Need, told the Catholic charity that Christians were among the victims even though al-Hadara Street, where the attack took place,
The most violent winter storm for two decades swept across conflict-affected areas of the Middle East last week bringing heavy snow, rainfall, high winds and freezing temperatures. Syrians, Gazans, and Iraqis struggling to cope with war in their own countries or as refugees far from home are facing freezing weather conditions. “War has left us without any way to defend ourselves against the cold. We have no electricity most of the time, no fuel and no gas. We have no way to stay warm apart from putting on many layers of clothes,
Storms, snow and freezing cold are threatening lives among exhausted Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Norwegian Refugee Council fears that the insufficient assistance may have fatal consequences for refugees and internally displaced from Lebanon to Northern Iraq. “Similar weather conditions two years ago led to unnecessary deaths in the war-torn region. Now there are millions more Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced in dire need of help.
I will do my best to spread hope in Aleppo this Christmas, but it is hard to celebrate when your city is in ruins. Four years ago, Aleppo was a thriving, cosmopolitan place, but everybody has suffered in this terrible war. The rich have left, the middle-classes have become poor, and the poor have become miserable. 80 per cent of people in Aleppo don’t have a job. When I walk the streets, I feel attacked by the poverty – by the sight of sick, tired, desperate people with no hope for the future.
Some of the parishioners who were kidnapped with their parish priest by Jihadists last Sunday are still being held, local church sources report. Father Hanna Jallouf OFM, parish priest in the Syrian village of Knayeh, was released on Friday together with about 15 people. Fides reports that five men have not been released. Father Hanna’s uncle is among the five men still detained. The others are the cook of the convent of St Joseph in Knayeh and the factotum worker of the convent of Our Lady of Fatima in Yacoubieh, together with their brothers.
A Franciscan priest and 20 other Christians have been seized by Al-Qaeda linked rebels in a village in northwestern Syria, the Franciscan mission to the Holy Land said yesterday. "On the night of 5 October, Father Hanna Jallouf of the Custody of the Holy Land, parish priest at Qunyeh, Syria, was taken by some brigades linked to Jabhat Al-Nusra," a statement from the Custody of the Holy Land said. Following their capture, an unspecified number of Franciscan nuns had taken refuge with the villagers,
Pax Christi members held a day-long vigil outside Downing Street in London to pray and fast for peace in the Middle East. Pax Christi members undertook the fast to offer prayerful encouragement to the many peace talks and negotiations that are taking place at this time and as a small act of solidarity with those whose lives are destroyed by war. In a letter sent to David Cameron prior to the day Pax Christi's message was clear: That the government should: - Invest resources and personnel in peacebuilding and diplomatic work
At least 41 children were killed in a double attack carried out yesterday that devastated the area surrounding a school in Homs, in the urban area controlled by government forces. The massacre was one of the most severe in terms of children who died since the beginning of the conflict in Syria. According to official Syrian sources, a car bomb and a suicide bomber caused two explosions, as children were coming out school in the suburb of Akrameh.
We need to do something! With the barbaric Islamic State now controlling large portions of Iraq and Syria, and inflicting rape, torture and even beheading on those who do not conform to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, it is imperative that they must be stopped. So yes, we need to do something. But that “something” is not more violence and war. Answering violence and war, with more violence and war, is always part of the problem, not part of the solution.
In light of recent expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Dutch Pax Christi section – PAX – issued a new Syria & Iraq Alert, highlighting the need for a comprehensive political strategy to counter ISIS. The sudden and unforeseen expansion of ISIS in Iraq and Syria over the summer has led to a dramatic shift on the ground in the Middle East, in Western public opinion, and subsequently in the involvement of the international community. Although ISIS had been a threat to civilians in northern Syria and Iraq over the past year,
Jihadists of the Islamic State have destroyed an Armenian church in Deir el Zor in Syria - a city with a Kurdish majority, which they conquered recently. The remains of thousands of victims of the Armenian Genocide, which took place a century ago, are buried at the church. Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, condemned the destruction of the church as a "horrific barbarity". The church was consecrated in 1991 as a memorial of the genocide. The building also included a museum
Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom issued the following statement on 10 September regarding the need for collaboration to address violations of international religious freedom in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East. The widespread brutality facing Christians and minorities in the Middle East is intensifying, and gross violations of the God-given right and freedom to practice Faith and belief, as protected by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is increasingly experienced by them in their homelands.
A Catholic charity is sending out nearly £300,000 in emergency aid to Syria to help persecuted Christians and other suffering communities amid stark warnings about the survival of the Church in key regions of the Middle East. Sister Annie Demerjian of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary told charity Aid to the Church in Need: “If we want the Christians to remain in the Middle East, then we must help them with what they need in order to survive.” In response to urgent appeals from those working in Syria,
As the number of disasters around the world rises, the lack of funds for humanitarian aid is exacerbating an already serious situation. Millions of people in Syria, Gaza, South Sudan and other conflict regions are waiting for help. The United Nations, the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières are sounding the alarm about the lack of resources, Jos de Voogd from Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands) writes. Humanitarian funds are drying up when the need for aid has never been greater. In this 'summer of disasters',
The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Syria, Antoine Audo has appealed for an international peace force to hold back the onslaught of the Islamic State militants advancing in Syria and Iraq. In an interview with the Vatican Radio Italian Service, Bishop Audo said: “We are a bit confused; no one knows exactly what is happening. As Christians, as Syrians, we hope to have a solution of reconciliation, of peace, with the help of the United Nations. An international peace force is needed. The situation in Aleppo is rather difficult, with problems of electricity, water; there is no security.
Pope Francis has made a private phone call to the parents of journalist James Foley, who was killed this week by the Islamic State group in Syria. The Vatican said the Holy Father consoled them for their loss and assured them of his prayers... The 40 year old journalist was working in Syria when he was abducted two years ago. James said he wanted to “expose the untold stories” in areas of conflict. In 2011 he worked in Libya, where he was also kidnapped and imprisoned. Writing in the magazine of his old Alma Mater, the Jesuit Marquette University,
Why, despite personal risk, do Jesuits continue to lead and serve in war-torn areas, and what can we learn from their approach?
In the past year, two Jesuits were kidnapped and one was killed while living and working in the Middle East. Fr Alexis Prem Kumar, Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio, and Fr Frans van der Lugt were outsiders missioned to this particular type of 'frontier' and, like many, suffered because of their work as leaders.
In this segment, Syrian Jesuit Tony Homsy, SJ - who knew the late Fr Frans
Up to a quarter of Iraq's Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority's biggest town in the country - the BBC reports today. The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces. Meanwhile, the UN says some of the 50,000 members of the Yazidi religious minority trapped by IS on Mount Sinjar have been rescued. IS controls parts of Iraq and Syria and says it has created an Islamic state. Nineveh, located 400km north-west of Baghdad, is home to a large number of religious minorities.
On Sunday evening ISIS seized more towns in the north west of Iraq. Following prolonged fighting between ISIS and Peshmerga – Kurdish soldiers – ISIS fighters took control of Sinjar, Zummar and Ayn Zalah to the north west of Mosul towards the border with Syria. Reports received by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need indicate that ISIS's seizure of the region has caused thousands of Yezidi families to flee. The region is mixture of Arab Sunnis and Yezidis.
Yesterday afternoon a missile launched from areas of Aleppo controlled by the rebels, fell into the grounds of the Armenian Catholic parish of the Holy Trinity, in the district of al-Meydan, causing the death of three Armenian adults, two sisters and a man. The missile damaged a wall, a terrace of the rectory and broke the windows of the church also causing damage to an altar where there is a statue of the Virgin Mary from Marash, symbol city of the Armenian Genocide.
In a dramatic appeal to the international community the Archbishops of Mosul, Iraq have asked for more outside help for minorities in Iraq. Their declaration calls for pressure to be put on the militants to end the destruction of Church buildings – including historic churches. With violence still ongoing in parts of the country, they said: "We, the Archbishops of Mosul, coming from all the denominations gathered in Erbil, Ankawah, headed by His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael Louis I Sako,
I met Saad on a sweltering hot day, 90 degrees in September no less, just as we were both leaving Pope Benedict XVI’s Papal Mass in Beirut in 2012. I had spotted him amid the tens of thousands in attendance that day because he had an Iraqi flag draped across his shoulder. Saad told me he was one of a group of 21 Chaldean Catholics who had travelled from Kirkuk in Iraq to attend the Mass. Chaldeans are one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and along with other Iraqi Christians and Muslims were suffering persecution
Pax Christi USA is saddened by the violence which has gripped Iraq in recent days and which has led to further suffering for the people of that nation. The people of Iraq have borne the brunt of violence for far too long and our hearts are broken over the killing and displacement now taking place. We join Pope Francis – and people all over the world – in praying for an end to the violence and for “security and peace and a future of reconciliation and justice where all Iraqis, whatever their religious affiliation, will be able together to build up their country, making a model of coexistence.” (Pope Francis, June 16, 2014)
The current conflict in Iraq demands humanitarian assistance from the United States in addition to diplomatic measures, said the chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace in a June 19 letter to Ambassador Susan E Rice, National Security Advisor. The letter was delivered just before President Obama held a press conference on Iraq. “Our nation bears a special responsibility toward the people of Iraq. The US-led invasion and occupation unleashed both sectarian conflicts and extremism in Iraq,
On Saturday afternoon Pope Francis expressed his concern at the growing indifference of the world to suffering in Syria in a message to a meeting of Catholic charities working in Syria, organised by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. “We meet again to evaluate the work carried out so far and to renew our will to follow this path”, he wrote. “But we must accept with great sorrow that the Syrian crisis has not been resolved, but instead continues, and there is the risk of growing accustomed to it: of forgetting the victims claimed on a daily basis, the
A friend and colleague of murdered Jesuit priest Father Frans van der Lugt is helping disabled children and destitute families in Syria. Aid to the Church in Need is supporting a pastoral centre in the city of Homs headed by Fr Ziad Hilal SJ which is providing medical assistance for those with physical disabilities and education for youngsters with learning difficulties - as well as humanitarian aid. Fr Hilal started the centre's work in 2012 at the request of Fr Frans van der Lugt, who was killed last month while looking after Christian families trapped
The leader of Catholics in Syria has issued a desperate plea for international help, describing how one child was killed and 60 others were injured when a bomb landed on a school playground during a spate of attacks in Damascus. Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III reported that several children received "life-changing" injuries in the blast that took place while they were singing the Syrian National Anthem during early morning assembly at the Armenian Catholic School in Damascus' Old City.
Syria's state news agency has said forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad captured Maaloula on Monday. Sana reported that army units had to dismantle explosive devices planted in Maaloula by the rebels after recapturing areas they had occupied. The town is located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, and built into the rugged mountainside. Maaloula has changed hands at least four times since December as government forces and rebels have launched attacks and counter-attacks, according to the Reuters news agency.
One child died and 61 children, parents and teachers were injured when a missile hit the Armenian Catholic school in Damascus on Tuesday morning. The school is in the historic district of Bab Tuma, in the old town, where there are many churches and Christian schools. Father George Bahi, a priest of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Damascus said: "This morning, around 7.30am, a missile fell on the crowd of children, parents and teachers who were waiting for the school to open.
Tributes have been pouring in to Dutch Jesuit Fr Francs van der Lugt who was killed yesterday in the besieged city of Homs. Fr Francs was shot twice in the head by an unknown sniper while he tended his small garden. Speaking from Syria, fellow Jesuit Fr Ziad Hillal explained that Fr Francs had been looking after a group of Christians trapped in the Old City who were sheltering in an old monastery. Several had managed to leave during a truce but 20 or more were still left and he had remained to take care of those who could not leave.
As the crisis in Syria continues, the United Nations has officially registered one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a country with a normal population of just over four million. With many families unable or unwilling to register, the true figure is likely to be even higher. Although the people of Lebanon are showing enormous compassion towards the Syrians who have crossed the border, the sheer number of refugees is having a devastating impact. Najla Chahda, Director of CAFOD’s partner Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre,
Farm Street Jesuit Church in central London is hosting a new Syria Shrine at its Seven Dolours Altar to pray for peace in Syria, for its many refugees, and for Italian Jesuit Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio SJ. Fr Dall’Oglio, who has been involved in reconciliation ministry in Syria for more than three decades, has been missing since July 2013. On Tuesday 8 April Farm Street is hosting a Lenten Evening of Reflection and Witness to raise awareness and funds for the Syrian refugee relief project through Aid to the Church in Need.
As the first Syrian refugees arrive in the UK, CAFOD is calling for the government to offer a place of safety to more of those who are most in need. The first ten to twenty Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in Britain this week as part of the government’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. But, with the crisis in Syria growing worse by the day, CAFOD argues that the UK should be prepared to accept more of the most vulnerable people fleeing the violence.
In the run-up to the third anniversary of the war in Syria (15 March), Catholics around the world held candlelit vigils and prayed for peace as part of a global campaign to end the bloodshed. The #WithSyria campaign saw prominent landmarks around the world lit up in solidarity with the people of Syria. Nelson’s Column and the Eiffel Tower were both illuminated with an image by the artist Banksy entitled 'There is always hope', which featured a young Syrian girl reaching for a red balloon. In London, Cardiff, Paris, Moscow, Melbourne, New York, Jordan
Hundreds of Christian families determined to stay in Syria have moved to Homs, close to where some of the conflict’s worst violence has taken place. Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean Abdon Arbach of Homs said that significant parts of the city and the surrounding area are now “calm” but went on to warn of oppression of Christians in the rebel-held north of the country. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, which has prioritised emergency help for Syria’s faithful, the archbishop said 20,000 Christians now live in Homs
Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Bishops Conference International Affairs Department, has appealed for prayers for Syria. In a statement he said: " As we complete the third year of the uprisings in Syria that started on 15 March 2011, the levels of human loss and suffering are staggering. Figures such as 140,000 dead, 6.5 million internally displaced, 2.5 million refugees in neighbouring countries like Lebanon or Jordan, and the hundreds of thousands injured, kidnapped, imprisoned or disappeared have together numbed our senses.
Lord Alton gave the following lecture in Brentwood on 12 March 2014. Barely a day passes without reports of some new atrocity being committed against Christians. These are four stories from the last few days from just one country – Egypt: 1. Arabic media has reported the murder of a Syrian Christian family who had been living in Alexandria. A 44-year-old man, his 35-year-old wife, their six-year-old son and the wife’s brother were stabbed to death at their home on 17 February. The attackers set the house on fire.
Archbishop Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus writes: A chaotic situation. A fourth Lent spent in war will mean pain and violence. The Geneva II peace conference hasn’t change anything at the moment. New streams of refugees come to our parishes exceeding our resources. Our social and pastoral action is primarily focused on support of the affected families. Here are some highlights of our weaknesses, limits and many challenges:
Syrian Christians are rejoicing today in the news that 13 Greek Orthodox nuns and their three attendants were released overnight and returned to Damascus this morning (10 March) in a prisoner exchange deal. The nuns and attendants are understood to be tired but otherwise well, and report that they were generally treated well by their captors. These nuns and their attendants were abducted on 2 December 2013 after Jabhat al-Nusra and four other armed groups attacked Ma'aloula, a historic Christian town north of Damascus.
As part of the #WithSyria coalition, CAFOD joins more than 90 organisations around the world calling on political leaders to push for a peaceful end to the war in Syria. Anne Street, CAFOD’s Head of Humanitarian Policy, said: “When protests against the Syrian government began on 15 March 2011, few would have predicted that three years later the country would be engulfed in the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st Century. Today it is ordinary Syrians who are paying the heaviest price.
Christians and other minorities in Syria are being systematically targeted in the ongoing civil war, Lord Alton said in a debate on Syria and the Middle East in the House of Lords on Thursday, 27 February. He questioned what the British government is doing to stop the flow of arms and fighters to the region. He said: "Forty-seven churches have been closed; two priests and a nun have been murdered; two bishops, three priests and 12 nuns have been abducted.... A new video of the nuns has just appeared with their traditional cross removed from their habit.
The Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land, in collaboration with the pro Terra Sancta Association have launched a series of new initiatives of solidarity in Syria, Gaza and Egypt. In Syria, the Custodians have opened four new aid centres offering shelter to some 200 people and caring for about 4,000 people daily. Every month they help some 50 displaced families to find shelter. The 11 friars still in Syria are working in Aleppo, Damascus, Lattakiah and Knayeh.
As the world comes together in Sochi to open the Olympic Games, Syrians are living under siege. In the spirit of the ancient tradition of an Olympic truce, echoed by the United Nations Secretary General in January, we call on the United Nations Security Council to put an end to these inhumane and illegal methods of war by supporting a Resolution demanding full and unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas of Syria. As the Winter Olympics open, Syria must be opened to life-saving humanitarian aid.
Bringing refugees from Syria to the West is not the answer to the crisis, according to the leader of Catholics in the disaster-stricken country, who says more can be done to help displaced people both there and elsewhere in the Middle East. While sympathising with refugees who seek a new life in the West, Damascus-based Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch urged that aid programmes be boosted both within Syria and in neighbouring countries to enable them to stay in the region.
Two days ahead of the scheduled Geneva II peace talks, the Syrian INGO Regional Forum (SIRF), a coalition of leading global aid agencies responding to the Syria crisis, calls on all parties to the conflict to double their efforts to reach a negotiated settlement. “The crisis in Syria will soon be entering its fourth year, and the plight of millions of Syrians must be seen as a catalyst to secure peace. Every day that passes, without a resolution to the conflict, more vulnerable people are pushed deeper into hunger and poverty.
The leader of Catholics in Syria has issued an urgent appeal to the faithful in Syria – and people throughout the world – to pray for the success of next week's all-important Geneva II peace conference. Damascus-based Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III has called on every Syrian Catholic whatever their circumstances to pray for an end to the hostilities that have prompted almost nine million Syrians to flee their homes since the conflict began nearly three years ago.
In a homily to mark the World Day for Migrants and Refugees which coincides with the Feast of Santo Niño (19 January), the Bishop for Migrants, Bishop Patrick Lynch will call on the UK Government, in conjunction with other European Governments to ‘find a way in which countries within the EU can receive at least some of the refugees’ from the civil war in Syria. He will pray especially for ‘parents and children in Syria, Southern Sudan and throughout the world who are forced to leave their homes and their country because of violence, war or persecution’
British aid agencies are warning that governments must urgently scale up their response to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, ahead of the second Kuwait Donor Conference on Wednesday. CAFOD, Christian Aid, International Rescue Committee UK, War Child, Handicap International UK, Mercycorps and Refugees International have commended the British government for committing more than £500 million to respond to the crisis – its largest ever humanitarian response, making it the second biggest donor to the crisis.
Bishop Richard E Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the US bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, will visit the Middle East January 6-17 in support of the local Church and peace talks in the region. Expressing solidarity with those countries seeking peace in many areas of the world, Bishop Pates echoed the words of Pope Francis in his Urbi et Orbi message, particularly addressing the violence faced in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Holy Land.
“Too many lives have been shattered
"Participants at the Geneva 2 Conference will have to start respecting the characteristics of the country of Syria". The Bishop of Aleppo of the Chaldeans, Antoine Audo said this is the only approach that can ensure concrete results at the next International Conference of Peace on Syria scheduled in Montreux, Switzerland, on 22 January. "We believe that we must respect the country with its problems, support it in its progressive journey towards justice and freedom", said Bishop Audo, "rather than taking advantage of its weakness simply to destroy it."
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, has emphasized the urgency of bringing help to Syrian refugees. He also calls for the generosity of all to support the refugees, victims of a conflict which has exceeded 1000 days, and of the material hardships affecting their lives. Following a period of drought and the month of November, the hottest in 60 years, the region had an exceptionally heavy rainfall, followed by icy winter storms.
A severe winter storm is making living conditions for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees "unbearable", aid workers report. Wael Suleiman, Director of Caritas Jordan, said that in the massive Zaatari refugee camp many tents have been destroyed. He said: "Everybody is suffering. We have intensified the distribution of blankets and stoves. Since the beginning of the refugee emergency, we have assisted 200 thousand people. But they keep coming, even with the snow and the cold,
In an impassioned appeal, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus has called on Christians around the world to show solidarity with the Christian faithful in Syria – as the civil war shows no sign of ending. During a visit to the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need in Königstein, Germany, Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus described how the ongoing fighting has brought death and devastation to Syria's families.
A British MP has told a parliamentary debate that the persecution of Christians today should be compared to the Kristallnacht attack on Jews instigated by the Nazis. Listing "a preponderance" of anti-Christian violence, including forced conversions on pain of death, kidnappings and attacks in Christian homes, churches and businesses, Fiona Bruce MP highlighted increasing reports of "extreme persecution", especially in the Middle East. Fiona Bruce said: "We should be crying out with the same abhorrence and horror
Mortar shells damaged the Primary Christian School of St John Damascene yesterday in the district of Al-Qassaa in Damascus, killing five children and wounding 27 others. Another rocket hit a school bus in Bab Touma, a suburb in Damascus predominantly Christian, injuring five students. In the same area, a mortar shell hit St Cross Church, already hit in past days and another damaged the St Cyril Church. Three other people were killed by a rocket in the centre of the capital. In past days, a rocket had also hit the Apostolic Nunciature,
CAFOD is warning that millions of Syrians who have been forced from their homes will face a devastating combination of freezing weather, food shortages and the near-total collapse of healthcare services this winter. As temperatures plummet, people living in tents, makeshift shelters and damaged or derelict buildings urgently need improved access to medical support – as well as blankets, warm clothes and heaters. Children and older people with existing health conditions are particularly at risk.
We the Jesuit Provincials, as major superiors of the Society of Jesus in the Middle East and in Europe, warmly welcome the Holy Father's recent statement on Syria. With all his strength, he alerted international opinion to the Syrian tragedy and asked "all the parties in conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience and not close themselves in solely on their own interests" (Pope Francis - Angelus prayer - 1st September 2013). With him, we also declare that "never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake",
Bombs, kidnapping and financial extortion are among the problems facing Syria's Christians, the leader of the country's Catholics told a meeting in Westminster Cathedral Hall. Speaking to more than 300 benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregorios III, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, said: "Syria is experiencing a lengthy, bloody way of the cross, stretching along all the country's roads."... "You may think it is safe here or unsafe there, but at any moment you may be killed by bomb, missile or bullet, not to mention being kidnapped
A Jesuit priest and peace activist who was kidnapped by rebels on 28 July this year, is alive and well, according to the Aki-Adnkronos International news agency. “Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio is alive and being treated well by his kidnappers, who are members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) extremist group,” a source said. The Italian Jesuit was reportedly seen last Saturday, in an area in northern Syria where ISIS is active.
The bishops who chair three committees of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have urged Congress to fulfill the basic role of government and meet the challenges facing the United States at home and abroad. In 30 September letters to the House and Senate, Archbishop José H Gomez of Los Angeles, Bishop Stephen E Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard E Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, cited issues including rampant domestic unemployment and the millions of people displaced by the conflict in Syria.
A silent vigil, for peace in Syria, took place in Coventry on Saturday. Organised by Pax Christi and CAFOD, participants from Coventry, Kenilworth and Stratford were joined by Bishop of Coventry, Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth and Cllr Ram Lakha, former Mayor. Sitting on the steps of the old Cathedral, the ruins were reflected in the West Window of the new Cathedral with its etchings of angels and saints, reminding us of the tragedy of war and importance of reconciliation. Behind us, the cross on the altar in the ruins bears the inscription, ‘Father Forgive’.
Pope Francis has urged everyone to keep praying for peace in the Middle East, saying the search for peace is a long one that requires patience and perseverance. Speaking during his Angelus address today (Sunday), the Pope also condemned the proliferation of wars and conflicts and questioned whether they were wars about problems or commercial wars to sell arms on the black market. His remarks came just hours after thousands of people attended a prayer vigil in St Peter’s Square on Saturday evening as part of the events for
Yesterday Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, met with ambassadors to the Holy See to express the concerns of the Holy Father and the Vatican regarding the unstable situation of peace throughout the world, with special attention to the Middle East and Syria in particular. The prelate remarked that the Holy Father has on various occasions publicly denounced the conflict in Syria which has so far claimed the lives of over 110,000 civilians, caused innumerable casualties, created four million refugees
Long-term, chronic crises of global unemployment, unsustainable levels of inequality, economic instability and persisting poverty must not be sidelined by the G20, says Catholic development agency CAFOD. As world leaders arrive in St Petersburg, Russia, this year's summit is set to be dominated by debate on Syria. While concerted action to bring about peace is vital, it must not be forgotten that for millions of the world's poorest communities the global economic downturn is increasing their vulnerability.
On the same day that Pope Francis asked the G20 nations to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution" in Syria, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Richard E Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote to every member of Congress, urging them not to resort to military intervention, but instead work to end the violence in Syria through a political solution.
Pope Francis has sent a message to the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, who will preside over the forthcoming meeting of the G20 group representing the world's largest economies. “In today’s highly interdependent context, a global financial framework with its own just and clear rules is required in order to achieve a more equitable and fraternal world, in which it is possible to overcome hunger, ensure decent employment and housing for all, as well as essential healthcare.
The Jesuit General has accused the United States and France of an "abuse of power", in considering military action in Syria and says the Jesuits fully support Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting in support of peace this Saturday. While he says he would not normally comment on international or political situations, Father General Adolfo Nicolás SJ says the current circumstances mean he cannot keep silent, stating: "I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase
The leader of Catholics in Syria has hit out at countries which send in arms, saying that the impact of military shipments is "far more dangerous" than the use of chemical weapons. While issuing an unequivocal condemnation of the "destructive" use of chemical weapons, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch said that armed military support – including intelligence – coming from outside the country remained the most serious threat. In a statement issued to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregorios,
Caritas Internationalis says that the ongoing civil war in Syria can only be resolved through inclusive peace talks. In a statement the international Catholic agency says: 'The alleged use of chemical weapons in Damascus has highlighted how catastrophic the humanitarian situation has become for millions of people in Syria. The use of chemical weapons is an horrific crime. 'Caritas condemns all attacks against civilians. The combatants have a duty under international law to protect civilian lives.
As the United States and France threaten a strike against Syria, who they accuse of using chemical weapons, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Mgr Fouad Twal has issued an appeal urging for caution for the sake of stability of the entire region. The Patriarch says he is “raising his prayer to the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts of those who have in their hands the fate of the people.” Addressing these leaders, he reminds them, “not to forget the human element in their decisions.” Noting that “Israelis are flocking to gas mask distribution centres
"While we unequivocally condemn the use of chemical weapons, regardless of who perpetrated the attack, Pax Christi pleads with the nations of the world to recognize the responsibility and authority of the UN Security Council to address this egregious violation of international law and morality and to work with the United Nations to protect - without escalating the violence - the Syrian people. This should be done through urgent diplomatic efforts to stop immediately the flow of arms to both sides and to all militant groups
Military intervention by the West against the Assad regime in Syria would be disastrous, according to the head of the country's Melkite Greek Catholic Church, who says nobody can be sure who was responsible for last week's chemical weapons attack.
Speaking from Lebanon following a pastoral mission to the conflict-ridden Syrian capital, Damascus, Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Catholic Church Patriarch of Antioch, stressed that in spite of the ongoing conflict, reconciliation initiatives
As the international community considers its response to the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria, Christian Aid is warning of the humanitarian consequences of escalating military action in Syria. The charity continues to call for a political solution. Janet Symes, Head of Middle East at Christian Aid, said: "We believe that a political solution is the only way to achieve lasting peace for the Syrian people. We urge the UK Government, and the international community to work through the UN to bring all parties to the table at the Syria peace talks in Geneva
“We had a lovely life,” said Gharam, an 11-year-old Syrian refugee now in Lebanon. “I went to school. I had friends. I was happy.” That way of life has been torn apart in Syria’s brutal civil war. Gharam lived Hassakeh in the north-east of Syria. “The most frightening thing was the bombing,” she said. Now her school has been destroyed and she has seen the homes of her friends flattened. What began with kids writing anti-regime graffiti on a wall in the Syrian town of Deraa in March 2011
On World Refugee Day today, church leaders around the world appealed for governments to put the interests of children and vulnerable refugees fleeing war and persecution before immigration control. In the UK, the Catholic Bishop for Migrants, Bishop Patrick Lynch said: “The UK as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child should uphold the rights of unaccompanied migrant children and always provide the protection and support that they need."
A graphic account of the deepening human suffering and violence in Syria has come from a priest ministering to people in one of the areas worst affected by the conflict. In a report describing the devastated city of Homs and the surrounding area, the priest details his desperate struggle to provide basic food, shelter and medicine to more than 30,000 people fleeing violence amid ongoing bomb blasts and other violence. The priest, who cannot be named for security reasons, explains how the people are being helped at a centre funded by Aid to the Church in Need,
Pope Francis met with humanitarian groups dealing with the Syrian crisis this morning. The event was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. "In the face of ongoing and overwhelming violence, I strongly renew my appeal for peace," said the Holy Father. He encouraged the inititatives of the international community to bring an end to the conflict. He also spoke about the Christian communities of the country. The Church supports the members of these communities who today find themselves in special difficulty," said Pope Francis.
rare chance to hear the renowned vocal ensemble Lyra, from St Petersburg, when they give a special performance of Russian Orthodox sacred chants, folk and classical music at St Thomas More's Church in Manor House, north London, on 9 June, to raise funds for Aid to the Church in Need's work in Syria. Aid to the Church in Need has strong historical links to the Church in Russia and Eastern Europe. The concert promises to be a privileged glimpse into Russian culture, as well as a wonderful gesture of solidarity with the Church in Syria.
News that both the EU and Russia are now officially supplying weapons to both sides in Syria, has been met with great concern by church leaders, peace campaigners and humanitarian organisations working in the region. Yesterday the European Union agreed to lift its voluntary arms embargo for Syrian rebels. Today Russia confirmed that it is looking into giving the Syrian government more high-powered missiles. This development raises the prospect of a new foreign-fed arms race in the Middle East, which could spill into neighbouring countries.
A Syrian Archbishop said yesterday that that rebel groups have begun demanding high road tolls in Damascus and Aleppo to fund their military activities. Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, from the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis, said: "The militias of the Free Syrian Army and jahidist groups make all vehicles coming from the areas of Damascus and Aleppo carrying goods pay heavy tolls. They say that the money is used to buy weapons, they are like 'bribes for the revolution'. This is why now the prices of food in our cities and villages are almost tenfold."
The Orthodox Churches in Syria celebrated Easter on Sunday - but the Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo said: " while they sang 'Christ is risen', and while repeating those words of joy and victory - all their prayers mingled with their tears. "
Not only is the Christian community suffering grave shortages of food and medical supplies, and violence of the civil war, but they are also desperately concerned about the safely of their priests and bishops who have been kidnapped.
Scotland's Catholics are showing their support for the suffering people of Syria with two key events organised by a Catholic charity helping the Middle East's oppressed Christians. Aid to the Church in Need will be holding a Mass for the country's beleaguered faithful and putting on a concert by Christian singer Marilla Ness to raise money for Church help for displaced people and refugees from Syria who have had to flee their homes because of the conflict. Support from the charity
An urgent appeal for the release of two archbishops kidnapped in Syria is being announced today (Tuesday) by a leading charity for persecuted Christians. Syrian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi were seized yesterday (Monday, 22 April), while driving back to the city from the Turkish border. The prelates were kidnapped after trying to negotiate the release of abducted priests. Fathers Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox)
A violent explosion destroyed the church and convent of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Deir Ezzor, in Mesopotamia on 15 April, Fides reports. Fr Tony Haddad, Vice-Provincial of the Friars for the Near East, who oversees the Capuchin presence in Lebanon and Syria said: "It was the only church in Deir Ezzor still remained almost untouched so far." It is not clear how the church was destroyed. According to some reports, the church had been breached and some opposition fighters were stationed there. The regular army then hit the church, destroying it.
The head of an ancient Middle Eastern Church has described how "the whole of Syria has become a battlefield" and has appealed to world leaders to intervene in a bid to stop the fighting. In a statement, Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham says that the country's "suffering has gone beyond all bounds" and that the conflict "has mown down thousands and thousands" of people – both civilians and military. The Damascus-based patriarch estimates that, since the conflict broke out two years ago, up to 400,000 Syrian Christians
Life in Syria has become so dangerous for Christians in Syria, that they are faced with the choice of trying to leave - in itself a very difficult course of action, or being killed. That's the view of the Maronite archbishop of Damascus, Samir Nassar. The Archbishop said defenceless civilians, both Christians and Muslims, are being killed each day by bombs, car bombs, snipers, lack of medical care (223 hospitals were closed and all doctors are fleeing, explains Mgr Nassar), malnutrition, and lack of adequate food for diabetics, heart patients and nursing staff.
Following a series of lethal explosions Damascus last week, the Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham has issued a statement urging the world to stop sending weapons to Syria. "We appeal to the whole world to stop arms from being sent to Syria. We ask the international community and the most important countries in the world, to support Syrian efforts to promote dialogue, in order to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis " said the Patriarch.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' and Mgr Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of that dicastery, are in Jordan from today until Thursday, 21 February, to participate in the regional conference of Caritas in the Middle East, North Africa, and Horn of Africa, which is taking place in that country. The forum is a very important opportunity to take stock of the humanitarian aid provided by Catholic charities, including Caritas, to refugees and victims of violent conflict in Syria
Pax Christi International is launching a 'bread is life' campaign during Lent 2013 to raise awareness about the suffering of civilian communities in Syria and to express solidarity with those who are trying to survive in Syria and as refugees in surrounding countries. The Bread is Life campaign will take place from 13 February to 31 March 2013, to coincide with the Christian observance of Lent. The acute suffering of civilian communities has been made immeasurably worse by a shortage of bread, Syrian’s staple food, caused in part by the deliberate bombing of bakeries.
People escaping violence and oppression in Syria are to receive urgent help from a leading Catholic charity which is making a series of grants across a region now gripped by a bitter winter. Aid to the Church in Need has approved an initial aid package of £130,500 (€155,000) to provide food, blankets and medicine for people struggling in below-freezing temperatures. The aid, bound for refugees and displaced people in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, will be distributed through parishes and dioceses, with the expectation of more help to come from the charity.
About a thousand Christians, both Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic are trapped in the small village of Yaakoubieh in the north of Aleppo a Franciscan Friar reports. Fr Francois Kouseiffi OFM Cap, Parish Priest of the church of San Francesco in Hamra, Beirut, in Lebanon, said: "They are completely worn out, with no food, no electricity, lack of basic necessities, and find themselves in the midst of heavy fighting between loyalist forces and opposition groups.
Pope Benedict XVI has made an urgent appeal to civil and political authorities to work for peace. The Pope’s heartfelt cry came on Monday during his annual address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. Speaking to representatives of the 179 States that currently have full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, as well as members of numerous international organizations such as the EU, the Order of Malta and the PLO, Pope Benedict emphasized that world leaders have a grave responsibility to work for peace.
Caritas is launching a programme in the New Year to help Syrian refugees who have fled over the border to Turkey. Official figures show there are over 120,000 Syrians in refugee camps in south and southeastern Turkey, but tens of thousands more have not been registered yet. Camps are filled to capacity and the number of people living outside them is increasing. Thousands of people are waiting every day to cross over the border from Syria. “People need humanitarian support and solidarity. They need medicine, they need blankets, they need food, and mostly they need
A young UK-based mother has given a powerful testimony of the suffering of close family and friends in Syria reeling from the savage murder of their parish priest. The young married woman with two daughters described how Christians and others in her native city of Qatana, south-west of the Syrian capital, Damascus, were being terrorised by extremists demanding they leave the country or risk being killed. Reporting on telephone conversations and other contact
At the end of his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Benedict launched the following appeal for peace in Syria. "I continue to follow with great concern the tragic situation of violent conflict in Syria, where the fighting has not ceased and each day the toll of victims rises, accompanied by the untold suffering of many civilians, especially those who have been forced to abandon their homes. "As a sign of my own solidarity and that of the whole Church for the Syrian people,
During yesterday afternoon's session of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone announced that the Holy Father will shortly be sending a delegation to Damascus, Syria, to express, in the name of the Pope and the entire Church, "fraternal solidarity with the entire population, with a personal offering from the Synod Fathers as well as from the Holy See".
The delegation will also express "spiritual closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters" and encourage "all those involved in seeking an agreement respectful of the rights and duties of all,
The Christian communities in Aleppo are doing all they can to shelter people fleeing the fighting. Franciscan Fr Georges Abou Khazen, Vicar Delegate for Latin Rite Catholics said: "There are tens of thousands of displaced families in the metropolitan area of Aleppo, who have fled from the neighbourhoods where the fighting is taking place. They find shelter in schools, churches, mosques, public buildings. They must eat, drink, sleep, dress, look after themselves. Many volunteers in our communities are taking care of them, along with other Syrian volunteer groups."
The head of the Maronite Church has expressed his fears that the war in Syria will spread to neighbouring Lebanon. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai of the Maronite Church warned that the civil war in Syria could trigger a full-scale conflict between Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Patriarch Rai said: “The civil war in Syria between the Sunni majority and the Alawite minority has already begun to have an impact on the Sunnis and Alawites in north Lebanon, in Tripoli and Akkar.”
The head of the Maronite Church has expressed his fears that the war in Syria will spread to neighbouring Lebanon. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai of the Maronite Church warned that the civil war in Syria could trigger a full-scale conflict between Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Patriarch Rai said: “The civil war in Syria between the Sunni majority and the Alawite minority has already begun to have an impact on the Sunnis and Alawites in north Lebanon, in Tripoli and Akkar.”
Bishop Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and Chairman of the International Affairs Dept of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued the following statement today on the violence in Syria. “Over the past sixteen months, the people of Syria - whether in Aleppo or in many other parts of this historical country - are suffering from the awful violence that is being inflicted upon them on a daily basis. My thoughts are with each and every one of them as they struggle with great courage and fortitude
Bread is being smuggled into Damascus as part of an emergency aid package from Aid to the Church in Need. In response to an urgent request, the charity is giving more than £15,600 in help for families who have fled their homes and priests ministering to them in Damascus. Father Andrzej Halemba, Aid to the Church in Need’s Middle East expert, said that the grant will provide basic foodstuffs such as bread, vegetables and baby milk. According to the priest, the fighting means that these foods are in short supply.
A priest from Damascus has described his efforts to minister to people suffering “the depths of fear” amid gunfire and bombs in a city running short of bread, gas and electricity. Speaking by telephone in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the priest told how he celebrated Mass on Sunday (22 July) to the sound of shooting and explosives and how afterwards people rushed forward to “embrace me with emotion”. Describing daily life as “very difficult”, the priest, who asked not to be named for safety reasons,
The Council of European Episcopal Conferences have issued a statement on Syria in which they urge an end to the violence. The document, signed by Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary; Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Italy, and Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl of the Latins, Poland, respectively president and vice presidents of the CCEE said: "For many months now the Church and the entire international community have been looking with great apprehension and profound sadness
An urgent prayer appeal for the people of Syria is being made by senior figures from a leading Catholic charity amid reports that the crisis has dramatically worsened. Johannes Freiherr Heereman, Aid to the Church in Need's International Executive President and the organisation’s UK Director, Neville Kyrke-Smith, are calling on the charity’s supporters to pray for people of all faiths at a time of desperate need. T e messages of support come after news from Syria showed that the conflict had suddenly deepened, with reports of more than 300 people
The Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Mgr Samir Nassar, has described the crisis in Syria as "an apocalypse" He told Fides today: "One lives an apocalypse in Damascus, and we hope with all our heart, mind and strength, that resurrection may soon arrive": The Archbishop said: "Since Tuesday fighting has been raging in Damascus with heavy weapons, tanks and helicopters, in a city full of civilians. The destruction is enormous. What an ordeal! The clashes are taking place in the streets and moving from one district to another.
News agencies have misrepresented the conflict in Syria – according to a Catholic charity’s Middle East expert. Fr Andrew Halemba, Aid to the Church in Need’s Middle East projects coordinator, said that media reports about the country should be treated critically and with great caution. He said: “The situation in Syria is much more complex and difficult to assess than the media in the West make it out to be. Many media outlets are simply turning in sloppy reporting.
'I write to you about our present situation in Homs and what we are going through these days. These last few days, fierce battles have begun between the two sides at war with each other in Homs, and this time it was at its fiercest in our neighbourhood... The situation is very delicate, and each attempt to enter the old part of the city means suicide. Bombing has gone on uninterrupted since Thursday and gives no respite, and the widespread
About 800 civilians are trapped in Homs, local churches have told Fides. Many of them are now being used as human shields. Orthodox priest Fr Boutros Al Zein, said that about 400 Christian civilians, mostly elderly and women, have been kidnapped and put in the streets of Al Bustan Diwan and Hamidiyyeh. He said the civilians were collected by a faction of the rebel army and directed towards the border of these two streets,
The Christian population of Qusayr, a town near Homs, have fled, following an ultimatum from the military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba. Fides reports that out of the ten thousand faithful who lived in the town, only a thousand remained at the start of the conflict. These have now been forced to flee after receiving threats. Some mosques in the city announced from the minarets last week:
Pope Benedict has expressed his deep sorrow at the massacre in Houla and called for politicians, faith leaders and the international community to redouble their efforts to bring peace to Syria. The Holy Father said in a statement: "The recent massacre in the Syrian town of Houla in which around one hundred people, including numerous children, lost their lives,
The Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land have published extracts from a first-hand account of the difficult situation in Syria. They write: “We have lived in Syria for more than seven years and love this country and its people. We are angry and feel impotent at seeing the type of news that is circulating in Europe and influencing opinion, calling for international sanctions,
The Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land has spoken about his opposition to international military action in Syria – saying the country’s Christians are afraid of a repeat of the violence that led to an exodus of believers in Iraq. Francisan Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa said: “I am against foreign intervention. We’ve seen what that led to in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Almost the entire Christian population of the Syrian city of Homs has fled violence and persecution – and Aid to the Church in Need is providing emergency aid to help them. The mass exodus of 50,000 or more people to villages and towns around the city comes amid reports that the homes of Christians in Homs have been attacked and seized by 'fanatics'.
While the Syrian opposition forces have been guilty of violence, abuse and torture - as stated in a report released yesterday by the NGO Human Rights Watch - in Homs, Church leaders say there is "an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians", carried out by members of the Brigade Faruq, close to Al Qaeda.
German charity Caritas International is appealing for £300,000 (€350,000) to fund their emergency work in Syria. The charity, which is part of the Caritas Europa network, has already given food, blankets and heaters to 5,000 refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. And local Caritas partners have been providing medical care for
The UK director of Aid to the Church in Need has warned Scottish parliamentarians that the Arab Spring is threatening to turn into a disaster for Christians in the Middle East – and Western indifference is making the problem worse. Neville Kyrke-Smith highlighted the plight of Christian communities especially in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt,
More than 2,000 new Christian refugees have fled from Syria to the Lebanon in the past two days, the UN reports. They are being welcomed and supported by the local Christian community. Fr Paul Karam, Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon said: "We know a number of Christian families who have fled to Syria from the violence or the
Since the UN Security council vote on a resolution in support of the Arab League initiative for Syria violence has increased. The Syrian government interpreted the Russian and Chinese veto as a carte blanche to repress the uprising with violence. Since then, hundreds of civilians have been killed on top of the thousands of earlier killings. In this Syria Alert policy brief, The Dutch
A senior Middle East archbishop has appealed for all sides in Syria to put down their arms and negotiate, saying he fears a descent into full-scale civil war. Describing the situation in Syria as “desperate”, Archbishop Paul El-Sayeh said action was needed to prevent violence from potentially spreading to his country of Lebanon, which has close links with neighbouring
Christians in Syria have not been taking part in the fighting, but they are very afraid of the future. A Christian priest told MISNA: “Most Christians have left Homs because they are afraid of the bombs and rocket fire." He added that western media has given the impression that "suddenly the Syrian government has gone crazy and started to attack its people simply
As the government bombarded of Homs entered its fifth day today, the Missionary New Service report that most Christian families have now left the city. This is not because they have received threats - so most churches and places of worship has escaped attack - but because the situation generally is "becoming more dangerous by the hour."
As the season of Advent begins, the ever-evolving political, social and economic realities of the MENA region once again come into sharp focus for today's Middle East Analysis. In a two-part podcast, Dr Harry Hagopian, the Bishops' Consultant on the Middle East, offers his unique, thought-provoking insight into the current regional power struggles and political manoeuvring with Syria and Egypt taking centre stage.
Syria, the cradle of religions and cultures, is going through tragic events and unprecedented cycle of violence, which is affecting the whole population. We, as Jerusalem interchurch Committee JIC, lift our prayers and ask all believers in the world to pray for all citizens of Syria, for their safety, for the end of violence, and for a quiet, speedy, and peaceful resumption of reforms.
The Syrian government must resist the uprising – and has the people's backing in quelling forces seeking "destabilisation and Islamisation" – according to one of the country's most respected Catholic bishops. In a strongly worded defence of President Bashar al-Assad's response to the protests and instability, Bishop Antoine Audo accused the media