Category : Syria

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

(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

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Syria’s tragedy could poison inter-faith relations

Rashad Ali is a British Sunni Muslim who devotes most of his life to combating extremism and urging young co-religionists to reject the siren voices of jihadism. At the risk of making himself unpopular with some members of his community, he actively assists the government’s efforts to counter hard-line Islamism. He works mostly in his own country but also follows the Muslim scene in many other places.

Like many others working in his field, he is convinced that recent events in Syria have made his life much, much harder. Whether in Britain or in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia or Morocco (all countries he has visited recently), he finds that ordinary Sunnis are appalled and angry over the suffering of civilians in east Aleppo before and during the collapse of the rebel stronghold.

The news has made them furious with Russia, which claims inter alia to be deploying its fighter-bombers in support of local Christians; angry with Iran and the Shia Muslim militias that it sponsors in Syria; and disappointed with Western countries for doing nothing to restrain the Russo-Iranian coalition. A common grievance, says Mr Ali, a fellow of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, is that Western consciences are moved by the plight of ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Kurds or Yazidis or small Christian sects, but indifferent to ordinary Sunni Arabs.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology

Aleppo: ”˜House-to-house murder’ of civilians under way as Syrian city falls to Assad

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband has warned “house-to-house murder” is being carried out in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

He also denounced the “appalling bombardment” of civilians and raised fears the fighting could spread to Idlib, the rebel-held province where people from Aleppo were being taken during the evacuation.

Some 8,000 civilians, including 2,700 children, have been allowed to leave besieged rebel-held areas in the city’s east, but the evacuation was halted on Friday after reports a ceasefire, negotiated by Turkey and Russia, had broken down.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Middle East, Syria, Theology, Violence

(Economist) The fall of Aleppo to Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers seems imminent

When rebel forces surged into the city of Aleppo, then Syria’s largest, in the summer of 2012, they hoped to establish an alternative seat of power that could rival the government’s in the capital, Damascus. But those hopes quickly faded as the operation to seize the city stalled. The rebels could only capture half of Aleppo, splitting the city in two. A lethal stalemate ensued.

The rebel’s hopes of ever breaking the deadlock are now dead. In July, forces loyal to the Syrian government cut the last remaining road into the east, imposing a siege that has slowly strangled life there. Russian and Syrian warplanes have relentlessly bombed hospitals, schools and marketplaces, crippling civilian infrastructure. With the east on its knees, the regime launched a devastating ground offensive on November 15th to drive rebel forces out of the city.

Since then, the rebels have lost about three-quarters of their enclave, their last big urban stronghold anywhere in the country. Their defence of the city has crumbled faster than many expected. The Old City, whose winding alleyways were supposed to be well defended, fell quickly this week as pro-Syrian forces, including Shia militias from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, crashed through rebel lines on December 7th. Cornered by pro-government forces, defeat is inevitable.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Middle East, Syria, Theology, Violence

(ACNS) Britain’s first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral consecrated

The Patriarch of Antioch was in London… [this past Thursday] for the consecration of Britain’s first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral. The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, was the guest of honour at the service, which was attended by a number of senior Anglicans from the Church of England, including the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres; the Bishop at Lambeth, Nigel Stock; and the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathan Goodall, the former ecumenical secretary at Lambeth Palace.

The new cathedral of St Thomas is the former Saint Saviour’s Church in Acton, west London ”“ formerly a chapel for deaf Christians operated by the Royal Association for the Deaf.

The joyous service was marked with sadness as the congregation and a succession of speakers reflected on life for Christians in the homelands of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Syria and Iraq.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Middle East, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Syria

(Wa Po) ISIS has been a catastrophe for Sunnis in Iraq and Syria

The Islamic State is being crushed, its fighters are in retreat and the caliphate it sought to build in the image of a bygone glory is crumbling.

The biggest losers, however, are not the militants, who will fulfill their dreams of death or slink into the desert to regroup, but the millions of ordinary Sunnis whose lives have been ravaged by their murderous rampage.

No religious or ethnic group was left unscathed by the Islamic State’s sweep through Iraq and Syria. Shiites, Kurds, Christians and the tiny Yazidi minority have all been victims of a campaign of atrocities, and they now are fighting and dying in the battles to defeat the militants.

But the vast majority of the territory overrun by the Islamic State was historically populated by Sunni Arabs, adherents of the branch of Islam that the group claims to champion and whose interests the militants profess to represent. The vast majority of the 4.2 million Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes by the Islamic State’s war are Sunnis. And as the offensives get underway to capture Mosul, Iraq’s biggest Sunni city, and Raqqa, the group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria, more Sunni towns and villages are being demolished, and more Sunni livelihoods are being destroyed.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(NR) A Little Perspective on 2016, from a Documentary on Christian Persecution

This year’s presidential election may well be the most divisive in U.S. history, pitting liberals and conservatives against one another perhaps more bitterly than ever before, and the two major-party candidates seem in many ways to reflect cultural ills and political corruption that have been brewing for decades. On both the right and the left, countless citizens appear to believe that one candidate or the other will bring about the “end of America.” Conservatives argue that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will, among other things, transform the Supreme Court into a progressive super-legislature to impose its anti-democratic will for a generation. Meanwhile, liberals maintain that Republican nominee Donald Trump will deport millions of minorities and exacerbate existing racial tension to the detriment of less-privileged Americans.

It is easy to allow the evident failures of our political system ”” culminating in the simultaneous nomination of perhaps the two most dishonest, corrupt presidential nominees in U.S. history ”” to consume our focus and destroy our confidence in the future of our country. But as these seemingly endless debates absorb our attention and ongoing rancor pollutes our national dialogue, millions of people around the world face genocide, and they fear for their lives and those of their children.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(CEN) [Former Rochester] Bishop Nazir-Ali defends meeting with Assad

The former Bishop of Rochester has rejected claims put forward by some Members of Parliament that a visit by a British delegation to Syria was ill-advised.

In a statement submitted to The Church of England Newspaper, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali said, he, Baroness Cox, Lord Hylton, the Rev Andrew Ashdown and other members of the unofficial delegation had challenged the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad over his indiscriminate use of force in that country’s civil war, which has led to tens of thousands of civilian casualties.

The group’s visit had been attacked in the press for “giving a ”˜war criminal’, that is President Assad, a photo opportunity and a tool for propaganda. In fact, it was a pastoral visit to the people of Syria, especially Christians, who have suffered so much at the hands of jihadist extremists,” he wrote.

“Britain maintains relations with and encourages visits to countries like the Sudan, Iran and Zimbabwe. Why is Assad being demonised to this extent? In the Middle East, the choice is not between angels and monsters but between one kind of monster and another,” Bishop Nazir-Ali said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology, Violence

(Independent) Record number of refugees would make 21st biggest country in the world

The number of people driven from their homes by war and persecution has now surpassed the UK’s population to equal the 21st largest country in the world.

More than 65.3 million people are currently refugees or are displaced in their own countries according to the United Nations ”“ the highest figure since records began before the Second World War.

Humanitarian organisations warn that those forced to flee face an uncertain future with difficulties in education, employment, health and security.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Anthropology, Asia, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Middle East, Politics in General, Syria, Theology

Michael Nazir-Ali–We must engage with Bashar al-Assad if there is to be regime change in Syria

Our visit to Syria has been attacked in the Press for giving a “war criminal” (that is, Bashar al-Assad) a photo opportunity and a tool for propaganda. In fact, it was a pastoral visit to the people of Syria, especially Christians, who have suffered so much at the hands of jihadist extremists.

Their ancient churches have been destroyed, they have been killed in their own homes and driven out of their ancient communities. Anna (not her real name), who still speaks the Aramaic of Jesus as her native language, told us of how the rebels (some belonging to the so- called “moderate opposition”) dragged out her brother and cousin and shot them dead before her eyes for refusing to convert to Islam. They then shot and wounded her, leaving her for dead.

This is why the leadership of all the churches in Syria, including Syrian Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Armenian and Evangelical is unanimous in its opposition to the extremists and in its advocacy of peaceful change in the land.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology, Violence

(NYT) Resettled Syrians Find Solace With U.S. Christians

William Stocks, a white, Alabama-born, Republican-leaning member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, arrived at the tiny apartment of a Syrian refugee family on a Wednesday night after work. He was wearing a green-striped golf shirt and a gentle smile, and he was eager to teach yet another improvised session of English 101.

Mr. Stocks, 23, had recently moved to Georgia from Alabama, states where the governors are, like him, Southern Baptists. They are also among the more than 30 Republican governors who have publicly resisted the federal government’s plan to resettle refugees from war-ravaged Syria, fearing that the refugees might bring terrorism to their states.

To Mr. Stocks, such questions belonged in the realm of politics ”” and he had not come that evening for political reasons. Rather, he said, he had come as a follower of Christ. “My job is to serve these people,” he said, “because they need to be served.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Middle East, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology

NYT–How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers

A long but important article if you haven’t seen it–read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, France, Globalization, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Syria, Terrorism

(NYT) Washington DC Area Transit Officer Is Charged With Helping ISIS

A police officer with the Washington transit system has become the first American law enforcement officer to be charged with supporting the Islamic State, accused of trying to send financial help to the group after advising a friend on how to travel to Syria to join it.

In court papers filed on Tuesday and made public on Wednesday, federal law enforcement officials charged the officer, Nicholas Young, with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

The charge is based on the allegation that Mr. Young bought gift cards worth $245 and sent their code numbers to someone he believed had joined ISIS in Syria, to help the group pay for mobile phone messaging with its supporters in the West.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Faiths, Police/Fire, Syria, Terrorism, Theology

What sitting, sipping with Syrian refugees taught two Lowcountry South Carolina missionaries

The Syrian woman wore a floral-patterned, full-length dress and head scarf. She ducked inside her tarp-house. Moments later she emerged with a rug.

She placed it and a cushion on the ground, and motioned for Tullie to sit.

[Ann] Tullie, whose white blouse matched her curly hair, sat.

The refugee offered her tea.

“I guess she could tell I was tired and thirsty,” Tullie said Monday as she and her husband, Dick, sat on the sofa in their living room. Dick Tullie made the short-term mission trip with her, like he has about a dozen times before. The couple, members of The Parish Church of St. Helena, have performed mission work since 2004 in the United States, Central America and Africa.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Middle East, Missions, Syria