Born in Beirut, Lebanon on August 31, 1950 (Son of Fawzi Francis Kobti and Verginie Elias El-Sharif). Studied at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Jerusalem from 1963-1975. Worked as a teacher at Terra Santa College 1973-1974 (Franciscan Fathers of the Custody of the Holy...Read More
Seeking truth and justice
By Ruth Eglash and William Booth*
JERUSALEM, July 12 — Internationally known human rights organizations in Israel reacted with indignation Tuesday to a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament that singles out groups receiving the majority of their funding from foreign governments.
Leaders of the groups, who make up the core of Israel’s “peace camp” and are part of the dwindling left wing in Israel, said the law was written by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to muzzle opposition to the almost 50-year military occupation of the West Bank.Read More
Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) – On July 11th, the Israeli parliament passed a controversial bill requiring non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that receive more than fifty per cent of their funding from foreign governments to declare so publicly.
In light of the ruling William Bell, Christian Aid’s Senior Advocacy Advisor for Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory expressed his criticism. “This bill”, said Bell “is a clear attempt to restrict or close down voices that speak out against injustice. The majority of the organisations that this law will apply to are human rights organisations, including Christian Aid’s Israeli partners B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence”.Read More
What is the bill? What does the bill say?
NOTE: This post was updated on January 21, 2016, to reflect changes introduced to the draft bill, as submitted by the cabinet to the Knesset on January 18, 2016. The language of the bill (Hebrew) can be found here.
The bill’s official title is “Amendment to Bill on disclosure regarding those supported by a foreign political entity (Increasing transparency for those supported mainly by foreign political entities).” It is also known by its backers as the “Transparency Bill.” The bill is an amendment to an existing 2011 law, which determines the disclosure requirements of Israeli non-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs or NPOs) that receive funding from “Foreign Political Entities” (foreign governments, the European Union or the United Nations).Read More
Vatican City, Jul 15, 2016 / 12:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- If peace is to be achieved in the Middle East, it will be a joint effort, requiring the cooperation of political authorizes, religious leaders and civilians, said the Holy See’s representative at the United Nations.Read More
Researchers from the University of Arkansas invite people working as peacemakers around the world to take part in a survey entitled “Successful peacemaking: Effective tactics, peacemaker motivations, and the influence of religion in conflict resolution.” The following is a summary of the key findings thus far that was published in the July-August issue of NewsNotes.
Researchers analyzed survey data from 95 international peacemakers considered “high priority” – defined as working in conflict zones or traveling there periodically – on their most effective strategies, greatest successes, motivations, commitment, and views on religion’s role in peacemaking. The most prevalent countries of peacemaking in the sample were: Columbia, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Israel, Iraq, Uganda, and Syria. Three key findings emerged:Read More
Vote on resolution that plays down Jewish connection to Jerusalem postponed until October due to failed coup in Turkey
By Times of Israel staff July 17, 2016, 9:04 pm
Jews, Muslims and Christians all have the right to claim historical ties to the Old City of Jerusalem, the head of the UN’s cultural body said Sunday, as the organization postponed until October a vote on a new resolution that seeks to downplay the Jewish connection to the ancient city.Read More
The Pope’s permanent observer at the UN told the Security Council that the creation of two states would help bring peace to the region
(Catholic News Service) July 18, 2016 – Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, told the UN Security Council in a July 12 debate that the time to make peace between Israel and Palestine was long overdue.Read More
A conference was held in Jerusalem to bring together young Catholics and Jews from around the world. Meetings, visits and dialogues were aimed at getting to know each other and discovering a possible friendship.
(Terra Santa News) Jerusalem, June 30, 2016 – “Religions and politics; addressing religious extremism.”
This is the title of a three-day event organized by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) which brought together fifty youngsters, of which 25 were Catholics and 25 were Jews.
This is now the fourth conference that is exclusively for young people since it began in 2008 in Budapest, Hungary, with just 10 people.
This year the conference was held in Jerusalem for the first time.Read More
If you’re living in America or Europe, the biggest story of this century is probably not what you think it is. Your global worldview forecast is next.
By: Eric MetaxasBreakpointPublished: June 30, 2016 6:00 AM in
We told you recently on BreakPoint that despite appearances in our corner of the world, religion is not going extinct. Quite the contrary. Predictions by the likes of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud that faith would vanish have turned out spectacularly wrong.
Yes, in the West (particularly Europe) religion is on the decline. But on a global scale, secularism is the worldview that’s losing steam. Giles Fraser wrote recently in The Guardian, “The secularization hypothesis is a European myth, a piece of myopic parochialism that shows how narrow our worldview [is]… Religion is the future.”
But which religion?Read More
by Saher Kawas, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM – Graffiti painted along the Separation wall, charged with political and social messages, have always been a form of protest against Israel’s unjust measures. Near the Emmanuel Monastery in Bethlehem, an icon of the Mother of God emerges on the 8-meter high concrete wall, revealing with its beauty the failure of communities to love one another.
Made at the request of the local faithful and some internationals, the icon of Our Lady who brings down walls was written on the Separation wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem in 2010. The purpose of their request was clear; an icon that could bring along hope that the wall would come down some day.Read More
In the wake of the highly-anticipated Chilcot report, the World Council of Churches (WCC) stands by its original position, first adopted in 2002 via a wide consultative process with its member churches, that all possible efforts should have been exhausted to prevent the war in Iraq.
In 2002, the WCC, as it strongly affirmed that the rule of law should prevail instead of military intervention, warned about the risks and consequences of an invasion of Iraq. At that time, the WCC began preparations to avert a post-conflict humanitarian catastrophe through preparedness to respond to the needs of innocent civilians.Read More
The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria has exposed a rift among the half-million Chaldeans in the U.S., igniting furious debate as to whether the religious minority — subjects of ongoing genocide at the hands of ISIS — should remain in their ancestral home or seek asylum abroad.
According to leaders within the Chaldean community, which is an Iraq branch of the Catholic Church, there are two opposing factions within the religious community. One is led by Baghdad-based Patriarch Sako, who closely aligns under the governance of Pope Francis and holds particular influence among the 250,000 Chaldeans located in the Detroit area. Sako urges Chaldeans to hold fast to their bloody homeland.
Then there is the other side helmed by Bishop Sarhad Jammo, who until last week presided over Southern California’s 150,000-plus Chaldean community. Jammo advocated for Chaldeans to flee the war zone for their own survival. The two metropolitan regions host roughly 80 percent of American Chaldeans.Read More
The Iraqi Patriarch, Louis Raphael I, stated this in an interview with Fides news agency, following the publication of the Chilcot Report
by Gianni Valente, Vatican Insider
The Western-led armed intervention against Saddam Hussein in 2003 “triggered the infernal spiral we are now living in”. This is why the recently published Chilcot Report – which aims to reconstruct the cause and the events surrounding the involvement of the British army in that war – “is a positive step, because it is important to acknowledge the errors of the past, to ensure they are not repeated in the future”. The Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Raphael I said this in an interview with Catholic news agency Fides, in reference to the document recently produced by the Inquiry Committee chaired by Sir John Chilcot, documenting the inappropriateness and illegality of the military action taken on that occasion by the British government led by Tony Blair, against the Iraqi regime.Read More
Muslim communities and the West need to be reminded that Christianity is a child of the Middle East and is therefore not alien to the region. There needs to be recognition that Arab Christians suffer along with all Arabs the effects of unstable or oppressive governments and hostile foreign policies. In short, there needs to be a return to a generous pan-Arabism which embraces pluralism in that each Arab minority group is protected and welcomed. –Reverend Andrew Thompson
by Joanna Andrews, Al Shindagah
#Christianity originated in the Middle East. It was one of the major religions of the region until the Arab Muslim conquest in the 7th century. Today Christians make up just five per cent of the population of the Middle East. Reverend Andrew Thompson, the Senior Chaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, says low birth rates and political turmoil are two of the contributing factors. As part of our inter-faith series Joanna Andrews caught up with Reverend Thompson and started by asking him about #Christianity in the UAE.Read More
Christian presence in the Palestinian center of Ramallah, 16 kilometers north of Jerusalem. A journey in one of the most multicultural and religious cities of the territory.
The city of Ramallah, 16 kilometers north of Jerusalem, owes its name to two words that mean “God wanted.” It is characterized by a growing rapidly population, due to an internal migration from rural areas and other cities. Thanks to the growing job opportunities, residents have already exceeded 200 thousand people, according to the Palestinian statistics office.
Despite the changes, Ramallah continues to attract the Christian immigrants from the northern areas of the West Bank. Since the ancient times, Christians have found here a suitable place to settle. There are five churches of different denominations documenting their presence and various schools enrolling Christians and Muslims students.Read More
Al-Bushra posts the perspective of leaders and experts in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities, and they also provide narratives of people and observers in the Middle East. Articles are posted for information purposes; they do not necessarily reflect the perspective of Al-Bushra.Read More
Samia Khoury writes from Jerusalem
The Palestine Youth Orchestra is already in Glasgow.
Half of the young musicians left Saturday through Amman as the residents of Ramallah and Bethlehem are not allowed to fly out of Tel Aviv. It was quite an ordeal on the bridge especially on a Saturday which is a short day. As they were waiting on the Palestinian side and more people were filling up the area called istiraha (which literally means a break or a place to rest, but in fact it ends up being an ordeal) the young musicians got out their instruments and started playing and entertaining the crowds which helped ease the tension.
They finally made it, spent the night in Amman, and they are already in Glasgow, the first stop is where they will be rehearsing for a few days before they start their tour.
The group from Jerusalem left on Sunday at noon. We saw them off as the bus pulled out in front of our house. The plane was late, and they hardly made it in time to make the Glasgow connection. What a relief it was to get word from them that they had all arrived safely in Glasgow and had started their rehearsals. As you can see from the program below, they have quite a tour.
Music continues to lift up our spirits and give those young people a sense of hope and joy.Read More
Soprano Mariam Tamari writes from Jerusalem:
This is a video of the aria “E Strano~ Sempre Libera” from la Traviata, from our Palestine Youth Orchestra concert in Paris last year.Read More
by Sima Kadmon
This last Sunday, Tair Kaminer, aged 19, stood before the commander of the Induction Center, Col. Aran Shani and was sentenced for the sixth time for her refusal to join the IDF for reasons of conscience. She was sentenced to an additional 45 days in prison and reached an accumulated period of imprisonment of 170 days.
Col. Shani told Kaminer that she is indeed brave and intelligent, but she was being tried for her refusing induction and not because of her opinions and it will cost her dearly. He also emphasized that, if it was not clear to her, that the army was stronger than she.
It should be stressed that the IDF allows most of those required to enlist, more than 50% of each yearly call up, to evade induction or to receive early release. The reasons are numerous and varied. Health causes, marriage or pregnancy, economic problems at home, psychological stress. Another reason is exemption for religious or conscientious causes.
There is no doubt the commander of the Induction Center, Col. Aran Shani, knows what religion is` but it is not certain that he knows what conscience means.
This is what Kaminer wrote to the Conscience Committee, which is to meet by the end of the month to discuss her case.Read More
Friends of Sabeel North America lost a very good friend this week.
The Most Reverend Edmund Browning, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church from 1986 to 1998 and president of Friends of Sabeel from 1996 to 2013, died at his home in Hood River, Oregon. He was a giant among Christian leaders for his stand on justice issues, especially those in Palestine and Israel. He was a moving force for justice in South Africa and helped involve the Episcopal Church in confronting the evil of apartheid in that country.Read More
By Cristina Uguccioni, Vatican Insider, Damascus, June 22, 2016
Accounts of peaceful co-existence between Christ’s followers and Muslims. Visit to the Syrian capital where the future is paved with gestures of openness and solidarity among people of different faiths. The story of Salesian nun Carol Tahhan.
Five years of war, have brought Syria to its knees. In the capital Damascus, amidst mounds of rubble and fearful souls that have been prostrated by violence, there are those who have been holding on with tenacity and patience, trying in every way possible to honour and strengthen the bonds of affection, closeness and care, which make life “human”, even under difficult circumstances.Read More
by Rachelle Friesen*
The BDS Movement celebrated a victory at the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly this weekend in Saskatoon, with an overwhelming majority of delegates supporting a resolution on that encourages BDS. With 350 delegates in attendance only one person opposed the resolution.
This resolution is in part a response to the 2009 Kairos Document that was prepared by Palestinian Christians in Palestine asking their global Christian brothers and sisters to show their solidarity with them through Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. The Mennonite resolution laments the violence in Israel and Palestine and repents its complicity in anti-Semitism and structures of colonialism that oppress Indigenous people in Canada. The resolution commits the Mennonite Church to further education on what is happening in Israel and Palestine, in addition its concluding demands are:Read More
By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
13 July 16 – There are countless ways to see that the rhetorical monuments of magnanimity, humanitarianism and equality which Democratic Party leaders and their loyal followers love to erect in honor of themselves are nothing more than manipulative, self-glorifying dreck. But few pathologies illustrate that deceit more potently than their utter indifference, and now – in the Hillary Clinton era – outright contempt for the plight of Palestinians and their steadfast subservience to right-wing Israeli nationalism. As Demos’ Sean McElwee put it: “The Democratic platform is now officially to the right of George W. Bush on Palestine.”Read More
Commentary: The killings of black young men and of police officers continues to shock and mobilize the people of the United States. Elie Wiesel was able to do the same for Holocaust victims. However, the decades-long repression and oppression of Palestinians with its continuing killing and maiming of predominantly young Palestinian men still gets less attention in Israel and the U.S. than the far less numerous “terrorist” killings of Israelis. All agree that no man or woman should be killed or be asked to kill and maim. The IDF is seen by Palestinians to be an “occupying army”; young Israelis are being asked to control another population as a means of defending their country. The future of Israel and a longed-for Palestinian state lies in the hands of these young men and women who are being challenged to see and treat each other as brothers and sisters rather than demonized as “occupiers” or “terrorists.” Only a just and viable “two state solution” or a just and viable “bi-national state” will eliminate this challenge. The choice is in the hands of the government and people of Israel alone, since the Palestinians, although generally open to either alternative, have not the unity and nor the power to make either a reality. The status quo only insures that the killing and maiming continue.Read More
On Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders delivered his long-delayed Clinton endorsement in New Hampshire. It may be presumed Sanders got as much as he could from Clinton in the party platform on matters related to his domestic views on college tuition and minimum wage. Clinton, however, held on tightly to her woefully outdated stubborn obeisance to the Jewish Lobby on both Israeli occupation and settlements. Which raises the question: How can a nation, no matter how advanced and strong, even possibly consider itself “great” when its foreign policy is run by a lobby for a foreign power?Read More
The Palestinians completed a two-year state-building program in 2011, winning the approval of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others who said the Palestinians were ready for statehood. But the U.S. did not pressure Israel into helping the state materialize, angering the Palestinians.
(Associated Press) JERUSALEM – After 11 years of helping oversee the U.S. government’s aid efforts to lay the foundations for a future Palestinian state, the outgoing chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is unsure whether that vision has inched any closer to reality.
“It’s frustrating. It’s definitely frustrating,” said Dave Harden, who is leaving his post on Friday and returning to Washington to become an assistant administrator of USAID.Read More
by Thomas L. Are, Retired Presbyterian Minister*
Well, Israel, you have finally done it. You have not only turned the world against you, you have brought the US down with you. I hate that, but you are not totally to blame. You had a lot of help from our misguided politicians, the media and millions of right wing fundamentalist who call themselves Christian Zionists.
When I think of our invasion of Iraq, sanctions against Iran causing the death of half a million children, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding and the indifference to Palestinian suffering, I ask myself, what happened to the America in which I grew up?Read More
(Vatican Radio) The Permanent Observer to United Nations Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič has offered an intervention at the United Nations International Conference in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
“The Holy See believes that the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians can move forward only if it is directly negotiated between the Parties,” Archbishop Jurkovič said, with the strong support of the international community, as this international conference is meant to catalyze.”
He re-affirmed the Holy See’s support for a “two-state solution,” citing affirmations of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.Read More
On Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Nice, France, a truck mowed down a crowd assembled for the traditional fireworks display on the National Holiday, resulting in numerous victims including many children. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem expresses its solidarity to the people of France on this bloody day.
The Latin Patriarchate firmly condemns this blind, senseless act striking France once again.
Pope Francis was the first benefactor of a campaign called “Be God’s Mercy,” launched on Friday by the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need. His donation will go to St. Joseph’s Clinic in Erbil, part of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which is currently home for hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees who have had to flee their homes running from the terrorist Islamic group ISIS.Read More