Pope Francis used his traditional Easter Sunday message to call the bombing of a refugee convoy near Aleppo, Syria, a “despicable attack”, and urged world leaders to “prevent the spread of conflicts” despite mounting tensions in Syria and North Korea.
In his Easter blessing, known as “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”), the pope urged the faithful to remember “all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine, and oppressive regimes.”
On Jan. 11 the Senate confirmation hearing for former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, for the office of Secretary of State, began, reports NPR. In his hearing Tillerson admitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he has yet to discuss with President-Elect Trump U.S. foreign policy as it regards to Russia.
He also made a statement that seemed in partial opposition to the use of sanctions against Russia and other countries, stating that they “are going to harm American businesses.” However, he relented to the idea that sanctions have the ability to be a “powerful and important tool.”
Withstanding some unforeseen breakthrough, Power will not succeed in persuading Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime in Syria. Her plea is passionate, but likely not a winning argument. The best arguments don’t always win. But I believe I know why she still fights so hard, and it’s a lesson for all of us who care.
On Dec. 14, Syrian pro-government forces breached the fragile ceasefire agreement, shelling besieged neighborhoods of Aleppo and banning civilians from fleeing. Addressing Syria, Iran, and Russia, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, asked, “Are you incapable of shame? … Is there no execution of a child that gets under your skin? Is there literally nothing that shames you?”
“This is one of the most difficult days in Aleppo’s history,” Ibrahim Abdul Laith told Sojourners over a series of WhatsApp voice notes. “We endured difficulties under the shelling, and under the siege, but even though the situation was difficult, we were fighting for our city.”
Later in the messages, his voice took on a somber tone.
“Now we are being asked to leave.”
On Dec. 19 the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Ankara, Turkey, reports Reuters. The ambassador was giving a speech at an art gallery when a gunman fatally shot him. Three other people were also wounded and the gunman appears to have been killed.
“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” the gunman shouted after the shooting.
On Dec. 19 the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to send UN observers to Aleppo to oversee the evacuation of civilians, reports Al Jazeera. UN observers will travel soon to Aleppo as will personnel who can administer aid.
“For the first time in numerous attempts to get unanimity on the situation on Aleppo, all of the 15 UN Security Council members have supported this resolution to send UN monitors in Aleppo,” said journalist Mike Hanna.
Many people are still reeling from the election results and become more appalled every day with the appointments and behavior of the President -elect Donald Trump.
And many of our Sojourners readers are asking themselves and us: What can I do?
The politics going on now are indeed beyond our control — but we can control what we do with our own faith and with our own actions.
On Dec. 14 buses that were meant to evacuate citizens and rebel fighters out of Aleppo, Syria, after a raid and massacre by the Syrian government, left — empty, reports the New York Times. Gunfire has been heard by people who are still in the city, and it is believed that a ceasefire established on Dec. 13 — between the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters — has dissolved.
Pope Francis said those bombing civilians in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo will be “accountable to God” for their actions as he renewed his appeals for peace amid an intensifying civil war in that country.
It also emerged on Sept. 28 that the pontiff has asked a Catholic charity to auction the cars used on a recent trip to Poland and use the proceeds to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The pope’s emotional appeal for peace in Syria came during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square in which he voiced his heartfelt support and prayers for the people of Aleppo.
WATCH: Images from the protest and interview with speaker Mark Charles.
The California judge who sentenced Brock Turner to only six months after a three-count sexual assault conviction has voluntarily stepped aside and is transferring to the civil division.
“It’s part of a bigger problem,” Padre Isasmendi says. “It’s part of marginalization.”
Images trigger empathy; to perceive tragedy, we need to see the victim. The effect is curiously more profound when we see the image of a single victim: While one death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic. The photo that emerged overnight of a bloodied 5-year-old boy, wounded in an air strike in Aleppo and rescued by the White Helmets, feels hauntingly familiar. It seems to be having the same effect as the first picture to break the heart of the world: that of Aylan Kurdi, a drowned 3-year-old boy lying face-down with his soaked red shirt and blue bottoms. That image, like that of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, lies imprinted on our minds. It was a simple photograph with an absolute truth: A kid died and his lifeless body washed up on the shore like a piece of wood or a discarded plastic bottle; at the moment nothing seemed more savage.
Despite intense bombing and severe food shortages, several Carmelite nuns are refusing to abandon the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo and have appealed for urgent aid.
“The bombs are falling all around us, but we are not going to leave the people in their suffering,” said Sister Anne-Francoise, a French nun from a community of Discalced Carmelites in Aleppo. “The people here are suffering and dying.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Obama administration’s decision to seek the death penalty for the Charleston shooter: “The hammer of criminal justice is the preferred tool of a society that has run out of ideas.”
“... this is a story much larger than Ken Starr and Baylor. This story is about power, and money, and institutions that claim to be faith-based but refuse to stand for victims and against violence.”
Lives in the hands of algorithms—
An airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, has killed at least fourteen patients and staff at a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders. Among the dead is one of the last pediatricians in the city.
Neither the Syrian air force nor Russian military are currently taking responsibility for the attack. The United States and Russia agreed to support a truce between warring parties earlier this year, but those talks have largely broken down in recent months, according to The Washington Post.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” wrote the ancient prophet Isaiah (58:6). As Christians around the world enter the season of Lent, the challenge of the prophets is to not enter into empty rituals, but to recommit ourselves to fearless acts of justice.
This Lent Christians are standing in solidarity with Syrians by joining a rolling fast launched by Pax Christi International. The acute suffering of civilian communities in Syria has been made immeasurably worse by a shortage of bread, Syrian’s staple food, caused in part by the deliberate bombing of bakeries.
Open to anyone concerned about the anguish of local communities caught in Syria’s civil war, the campaign, called “Bread is Life – Fast for a Just Peace in Syria,” is a direct response to the fact that many Syrians feel abandoned by the rest of the world.