syria

Image via RNS/Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

These new cardinals include prelates from 11 dioceses and six countries that have never before had a cardinal, and from places far outside the traditional European orbit of ecclesiastical influence: Albania, for example, plus the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.

But the real surprise in these picks, as in past appointments, is that they came as a complete surprise to many of the new cardinals themselves, and to the pope’s closest collaborators.

Image via RNS/World Relief/Amanda Wingers

World Relief, a Christian humanitarian group, resettled twice as many refugees to the U.S. in September as it had in August, an increase that foretells a more robust resettlement pace for the nation in general.

The evangelical nonprofit — one of the nine groups entrusted by the federal government to resettle refugees — found homes for approximately 1,400 people in September. That’s about 14 percent of the total refugees it resettled in the past year.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Remo Casilli

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.

the Web Editors 09-21-2016

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On Sept. 21, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement claiming that refugees “pose grave danger, like the Iraqi refugee with ties to ISIS who was arrested…after he plotted to set off bombs at two malls in Houston.”

This announcement comes months after Texas lost a court battle in June, in which the state attempted to keep Syrian refugees out entirely.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Max Rossi

Pope Francis met with refugees and leaders of religious faiths including Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus who joined him for a day of prayer for peace in Assisi, home of his namesake, the 12th-century friar St. Francis.

But it was the migrants he invited to join him for lunch on Sept. 20 who captured the headlines and illustrated the tangible impact of war and conflict.

the Web Editors 08-26-2016

3. Standing Rock Sioux Bring Pipeline Protest to D.C.

WATCH: Images from the protest and interview with speaker Mark Charles.

4. The Stanford Rape Case Judge Steps Aside

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.

5. Priests vs. Drug Lords in Argentina

“It’s part of a bigger problem,” Padre Isasmendi says. “It’s part of marginalization.”

Smoke from burning tires blankets Aleppo. Activists say tires are set alight to create cover from warplanes. August 1, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

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.”

the Web Editors 07-20-2016

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A strike by U.S. jets nearly 60civilians on July 19 after mistaking them for ISIS fighters, reports The Telegraph.

Before being killed, eight families were fleeing their village of Tokhar in order to escape fighting between ISIS and the U.S.-backed rebels known as the Syria Democratic Forces, according to the reports.

the Web Editors 06-01-2016

As of May 25, there had been 1,475 deaths since the beginning of the year. By May 30, that number climbed to 2,443 — 968 deaths in just 5 days.

Some officials are attributing this spike to smugglers taking risks with poorer boats as the weather gets nicer.

the Web Editors 04-28-2016

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. 

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A Roman Catholic bishop has challenged Austria’s plans to construct a fence to keep out refugees by refusing to allow the authorities to build on church land and arguing it runs contrary to the pope’s wishes. A fence “would contradict the spirit of the Gospel, Pope Francis’s clear message to Europe, and in particular for a diocese that was in the shadow of the Iron Curtain for decades,” Aegidius Zsifkokvics, the bishop of Eisenstadt, told the AFP news agency.

the Web Editors 04-21-2016

According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, up to 500 refugees may have drowned last week when an overcrowded ship sank, reports CNN. The 41 survivors of “one of the worst tragedies involving refugees and migrants in the last 12 months” are currently being housed at a stadium in Kalamata, Greece.

Riyad with mother Nour. Image via Rosie Scammell / RNS

Three Syrian families flown to Rome by Pope Francis are calling their trip from the battle lines of a five-year civil war to safety in the shadow of the Vatican a “miracle” journey.

The heart of Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, with its picturesque cobbled streets and vine-covered walls, could not be farther from the asylum-seeker camp the Muslim families were living in just three days ago.

the Web Editors 04-04-2016

Image via Anjo Kan / Shutterstock.com

In accordance with a new deal between the E.U. and Turkey, Greece has begun deporting refugees to Turkey, reports Al-Jazeera. Meanwhile, according to a report issued by Amnesty International, the Turkish government has been forcing Syrian refugees back to Syria. If this is true, Turkey would be violating international law.

Erin Wilson 03-17-2016
Sinjar, Iraq

Sinjar, Iraq. Photo by Matthew Willingham, Preemptive Love Coalition

Chlorine gas has been used in Syria's civil war for years, but reports of chemical weapons used inside Iraq have been growing in recent weeks. Chlorine gas, mustard gas, and yellow phosphorous have all been discharged—sometimes against military targets, sometimes against civilians. In each case, the attacks leave telltale patterns of burns and physical damage.

Image via Reuters/Denis Balibouse/RNS

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky famously said that President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 “Evil Empire” speech was a turning point for him and other prisoners in the Soviet gulag.

“For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us,” recalled Sharansky in a 2004 interview.

He and fellow prisoners communicated the news between cells with taps on walls and toilets. They understood immediately that the truth about the Soviet Union would resound around the world: Reagan’s moral condemnation made indifference toward Soviet oppression unthinkable.

Bob Smietana 01-04-2016
Greg Henry / Shutterstock

Greg Henry / Shutterstock

LAST FALL, MAYORS of 18 U.S. cities sent a letter to President Obama, promising to welcome Syrian refugees with open arms. Atop the list was Ed Pawlowski, the mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania’s third largest city.

Pawlowski said his evangelical Christian faith—and America’s founding ideals—shaped his decision. “We like to say that America was built on Judeo-Christian principles,” he told Sojourners. “Then let’s follow our Judeo-Christian principles, which tell us to welcome the stranger because we were once strangers ourselves.” So far, about 10 Syrian refugee families have come to Allentown in the past year. More are expected.

There’s been some pushback from older Syrian immigrants in the community. Allentown is home to about 5,000 Syrians, many of them Christians who fled persecution in the past. Most of the new arrivals are Muslim.

Aziz Wehbey, head of the local American Amarian Syrian Charity Society, told CBS News he had concerns about the background checks on the new arrivals. “We need to know who we are welcoming in our society,” said Wehbey.

Another local Syrian charity, the Syrian Arab American Charity Association, has collected donations of food, furniture, and clothing for the refugees. So has St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, where many Syrian immigrants worship.

Pawlowksi has spent a great deal of time talking to residents about their fears, such as concerns that the area will become “overrun” with refugees. He stressed that only a few families are coming to Allentown. They’ve lost everything, the mayor said, and need help: “We can handle this.”

Hagia Irene church. Image via  / Shutterstock.com

A religious summit last held more than 1,200 years ago suddenly risks being downgraded or postponed because of Syria’s four-year civil war. This unexpected twist has come as the world’s Orthodox churches, the second-largest ecclesial family in Christianity, were supposed to be only months away from their first major council since 787.

Now it is no longer clear when or where the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, a summit first proposed at least as far back as 1961 and provisionally scheduled for May in Istanbul, will be held.

With its traditional icons and complex liturgies, Orthodox Christianity can seem like an unchanging remnant of a long-lost era. But it lives very much in today’s world and its 14 autocephalous (independent) member churches can be wrapped up in its politics and subject to its pressures.

Ryan Hammill 12-11-2015

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So what do we do about ISIS? The U.S. and the U.K. have decided that the answer is to bomb them. And it’s looking more and more like the answer will become to send troops.

But what do we do about ISIS? Does it make a difference whether I respond as an American or as a Christian? These days it’s hard to tell a distinction between the two. And that’s the question, and the answer, that scares me most. 

 

The Rev. Jacques Mourad. Image via RNS

A Syrian priest held hostage for months by the ISIS terrorist group is certain his life was saved due to his interfaith work, despite being threatened with beheading by jihadists if he did not renounce Christianity.

The Rev. Jacques Mourad, a Syriac Catholic priest, was taken hostage in May from the Mar Moussa monastery, situated between the capital Damascus and the city of Homs. He and a volunteer from the monastery were forced into a car and driven for four days, during which time Mourad said he thought he would be killed.

“We could only perceive the sense of the desert. In that moment … I thought it was over,” he told members of Rome’s Foreign Press Association on Dec. 10, the first time he has spoken in detail about his odyssey since he escaped.

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