Category : Middle East

(NYT) “The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters”–Samuel Tadros-Coptic Christians: ISIS’ ‘Favorite Prey’

“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive. Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.

The terrorists chose today’s target well. The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, which I visited a decade ago, is very hard to reach. One hundred and ten miles on the Cairo Luxor desert road, you make a right-hand turn and for the next 17 miles drive on an unpaved road. The single lane forces cars to drive slowly, and, as the only route leading to the monastery, the victims were guaranteed to be Copts. Friday is a day off in Egypt, and church groups regularly take trips there. Outside of a few policemen stationed out front, there is little security presence.

The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters. Coming their way were three buses, one with Sunday school children. Only three of them survived. Their victims were asked to recite the Islamic declaration of faith before being shot.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(BBC) Egypt Coptic Christians killed in bus attack

At least 23 people have been killed and 25 wounded after gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, state media report.

The incident occurred in Minya province, 250km (155 miles) south of Cairo, as the bus headed to a church.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(FT) Sunni clerics in Sisi sights after Isis targets Christians

Days after twin suicide blasts at Christian churches rocked Egypt, the country’s media launched a wave of highly unusual attacks on al-Azhar, the institution that has for centuries provided religious guidance to Sunni Muslims around the world.

“If you are incapable, too tired or fed up, leave the job to someone else. Your passivity is killing us,” Amr Adib, a television presenter, yelled as he called on Azhar’s Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb to resign.

Such fiery criticism appears to reflect tensions between Egypt’s political and religious leaders, with pro-regime media alleging that Azhar’s leaders are failing to combat extremism and maybe even fuelling it. Pressure on Azhar — which Pope Francis visited last month — soared in the wake of April’s church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria, which were claimed by Isis and killed dozens of Christians.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Politics in General, Terrorism

(JE) Jeffrey Walton on the witness of Egyptian Christians–“How on Earth do you forgive like this?”

Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a December 2016 bombing at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Cairo, which killed 29 people and injured 47 others.

“They were Coptic Orthodox, but we are one Christian family,” the Anglican Archbishop declared. “One of the amazing things that happened is the forgiveness within the church – forgiveness towards the people who exploded themselves – was a great witness.”

Anis recalled one witness pondering aloud “from what substance are these Christians made? How on Earth do you forgive like this?”

“It was moving to many people,” Anis reported. During the funeral for Christians who died in the Palm Sunday attacks, the Coptic bishop who led the service prayed for the assailants.

“This was in all the newspapers, that the bishop prayed for the terrorists, that is amazing,” Anis noted, contrasting with a presumed response of revenge.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Egypt, Jerusalem & the Middle East, Middle East

The Archbishop of Canterbury concludes a visit to the Holy Land

The Archbishop of Canterbury has completed a 10-day official visit to the Holy Land.

Archbishop Justin Welby and Mrs Caroline Welby travelled to the Holy Land at the invitation of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Archbishop Suheil Dawani.

The Archbishop made the long visit, from 2–11 May, to spend time with Anglicans in Jordan, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel – to encourage them, to pray with them, and to learn from them.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Syria, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Violence

(GNS) Region’s largest Anglican church being built in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi: In a testament to the UAE’s multicultural tolerance, the region’s largest Anglican church is currently being built in Abu Dhabi, with the land for the church donated by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Currently under construction in Musaffah, the All Saints Anglican Church will be able to accommodate over 4,000 worshippers when complete. The church is currently looking to raise Dh8 million to reach its target of Dh20 million, which is the total cost of the church, and it expects to receive its final funding by December.

“At a time when walls are being erected between different faith communities in the world, the UAE continues their tradition of welcoming people of different faiths as a genuine and mature expression of their Islamic hospitality,” said Reverend Andy Thompson, senior chaplain in charge of Anglican churches in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, UAE (United Arab Emirates)

(BBC) Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet Palestinian and Israeli political leaders as part of a 12-day tour of the Holy Land.
His visit comes two weeks before US President Donald Trump is due to arrive in Jerusalem to try to revive the moribund peace process.
However, the Most Reverend Justin Welby indicated there should not be too much significance read into the timing.
“I come to pray, to share, to listen, to encourage,” he told the BBC.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Violence

(Telegraph) Lord George Carey–Christians face extinction in the Middle East – the next Government must prevent it

I recently saw images of the hauntingly empty Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, which was taken by ISIS in 2014. It had a population of 50,000 mostly Assyrian Christians, but is now totally abandoned.

The militants have used every means to erase the town of its Christian identity defiling and destroying its beautiful church buildings.

In August 2014, the militants swept through towns around Mosul and forced thousands to flee. Qaraqosh’s Christians abandoned their homes and have still not returned, even though the town has now been liberated from IS.

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Posted in Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

Archbishop Justin Welby preaches at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem

The words he uses will lead us straight back to Jesus in John 10, our gospel reading. More than that they will have brought to mind all sorts of powerful images of suffering and salvation, of God’s love experienced, and of the struggle to stay faithful, which run right through the scriptures.

What a hard saying this is! You know the fury of being treated wrongly. Even on a brief visit here, with very little understanding of probably the most complicated region of conflicts in the world, one sees the passions raised by suffering and injustice. Whether it is the utterly disrupted lives of the refugees in Zatari refugee camp last week, or the tears of the Iraqi Christians seemingly forgotten, one sees endless heart break.

In Gaza there is heroism from the doctors at the hospitals, from patients and above all groups of women, but also the very looming fears. In Nazareth, across Galilee you hear the voices of anger, or of fear and insecurity, of division and of the impact of almost a century of struggle of conflict, impacts that affect every inhabitant of the region, all of who tell their stories of fear, of struggle.

We must not take Peter’s words out of context. We see in many places in the New Testament that the church resists injustice yet abundant life can never be built adequately except on the foundation of Christ.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Israel, Preaching / Homiletics

Archbishop of Canterbury visits Gaza amidst his ongoing trip to the Holy Land

Archbishop Justin Welby, accompanied by Archbishop Suheil Dawani, visited two hospitals in Gaza City, led worship in the chapel of the city’s Anglican hospital, and met members of Gaza’s Christian community.

He also visited Gaza War Cemetery, where British and imperial troops who fought in Gaza in 1917 are buried.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Jerusalem & the Middle East, Middle East

(Christian Today) 1.5 million Christians have fled Iraq in an exodus that could lead to the extinction of the faith in the land

As many as 1.5 million Christians have fled Iraq since the rise of Islamic State, according to an Iraqi MP.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Christian lawyer Josef Sleve said that just 14 years ago, there had been nearly two milliion Christians in Iraq.

There are now between 500,000 and 850,000.

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Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Guardian) Archbp Justin Welby: Christians must unite with Jews to halt rise of antisemitism

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called for bridges to be built between Jewish people and others to prevent antisemitism taking hold. Speaking at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, Welby said the museum’s art revealed “the depths of human evil”.

He said: “Within European culture, the root of all racism, I think, is found in antisemitism. It goes back more than 1,000 years in Europe. Within our Christian tradition, there has been century upon century of these terrible, terrible hatreds in which one people … [are] hated more specifically, more violently, more determinedly, more systematically than any other people.”

The Jewish people had advanced science, art, music and had founded economies. “You would have thought we would rise up together in gratitude,” he said. Now, with antisemitism on the rise, he added: “We must dedicate ourselves afresh … to building and maintaining bridges and friendships, understanding, tolerance, unity and peace.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Inter-Faith Relations, Israel, Judaism

Archbishop Welby reflects on meeting Iraqi Christians in Jordan

Yesterday we visited St Paul’s Anglican Church in Amman, Jordan. It is an extraordinary place – a congregation made up of Jordanians, a few Egyptians, some Syrians (though many of these have been resettled) and Iraqi refugees.

It was their stories which I found especially moving. The intense suffering of Iraqi Christians does not end when they leave Iraq. As I listened, there was this awful sense of lives torn apart.
People are divided from their children and families and have no idea what will happen. One woman has children in both Germany and the Netherlands, but has been refused entry to both so she doesn’t know when or if they will ever be reunited.

Young men are vulnerable to being recruited to extremist causes because their community and networks have been stripped away.
One man told me he has no hope at all. He said he is caught between Islamic State, the government and NGOs who further discriminate against him because he is a Christian.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Jordan

(NYT) April Nerve Gas Attack in Syria Appears to Be One in a Series

Last month’s chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held Syrian town may have caught the world’s — and President Trump’s — attention, but it was not the only recent suspected use of a nerve agent by Syrian government forces.

On three other occasions in the months leading up to the attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, witnesses, doctors and human rights investigators say, government attacks left scores of people sickened with similar symptoms, like foaming at the mouth, shaking and paralysis — including two attacks in December, little noticed at the time, that killed at least 64 people.

New information about the additional attacks appears in a Human Rights Watch report released Monday, bolstering New York Times reporting on those episodes and placing Khan Sheikhoun in the context of wider evidence that the Syrian government continues to use chemical weapons despite its 2013 agreement to give them up.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Syria, Violence

(BBC) Egyptian Christians living in fear for the future

At the ancient Monastery of St Mina in the desert sands of Egypt, a low concrete tomb holds the remains of Christians slaughtered for their faith – not in Roman times, but earlier this month.
They were among almost 50 people killed in co-ordinated attacks at two churches. The bombings – on Palm Sunday – were claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS).
Priests at the monastery say persecution is as old as the faith.

“The history of the Christians is like this,” said Father Elijah Ava Mina, his flowing white beard contrasting with his black robes. “Jesus told us ‘narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way’.”

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence