But Roberta was brave. She began to work helping elementary school students who are slow and challenged. She said, “I’d rather lose my leg than my life. I get too much enjoyment out of life to sit and gripe about it.
The most important things we need going through life, is the ability to re-negotiate life at every twist or turn, to accept losses and changes that come your way and not let it stop you.”
- fwd: reuben tellis
- fwd: vc mathews
Washington DC, November 30, 2013: The ancient Christian village of Maaloula has again become the site of fierce fighting in Syria. A coalition of rebel groups, including the extremist al-Nusra Front, which has ties to al-Qaeda, attacked forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After intense fighting over the weekend, they have taken control of the village. Twelve nuns and three other women from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Takla were taken by rebel forces from Maaloula towards the border town of Yabroud, an International Christian Concern (ICC) contact in the region reported on Tuesday.
The monastery, which had previously housed 40 nuns and orphans, and at least one other church, were severely damaged in the fighting. After the rebels drove out the forces of the Assad regime, they attacked a number of Christian buildings and three young Catholic men were also killed by the rebel fighters, Asia News reported.
Church leaders have expressed serious concerns for the safety of the women who were taken. Greek Orthodox Patriarch John Yazigi called for the release of the Maaloula nuns. “We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely,” Yazigi said in a statement issued Tuesday.
While twelve of the nuns were taken from the monastery, many of the other nuns remain trapped inside.
“We call upon the international community and world governments to help secure the release the nuns of Mar Takla Convent and the orphans who are being held since yesterday,” Yazigi added.
Fighting Returns to Ancient Maaloula
In September, Maaloula had been the scene of heavy fighting, but was ultimately held by the government forces, until Friday, November 29. “Rebel forces, including the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, swept into Maaloula from the surrounding hills after rolling explosive-laden tires onto regime troops below,” The Daily Star reported.
The government has been making advances in the strategic Qalamoun region in an attempt to contain the rebel forces. Maaloula sits on the edge of that region, near a highway that provides a transit route from the capital Damascus to the city of Homs. The region is likely to remain a hotspot in the coming weeks.
Before fighting came to the village in September, it had a population of nearly 5,000. Located in the mountains northeast of Damascus, Maaloula is a symbol of Christianity’s ancient presence in Syria and one of the last remaining places speaking Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
Many of the residents had already fled to Damascus, a resident told Fox News. He was afraid “rebels would punish them for supporting Assad and because they are Christians.”
Gregory III, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, honored the three men killed by rebels after they had taken control of the city. Speaking of the dangers to Christians who remain in hostile areas in Syria he said, “We are determined to remain in this blessed land even at the cost of martyrdom and martyrdom of blood.”
“This [martyrdom] has already happened to some of our faithful, such as the three men from Maalula, Michael Taalab, Antonios Taalab and Sarkis Zakhem. They are true martyrs killed for refusing to renounce their faith,” the Patriarch said in a statement to Fides.
Most of the Christian community had left, and the majority of those who had stayed in Maaloula were Muslims, with the exception of those who had sought refuge at the monastery.
The reason why some of the women were taken from the monastery remains unclear. There are fears that the women were kidnapped and taken to be abused or held hostage, but others have indicated that they were removed for protection.
Mario Zenari, a spokesman for the Vatican, said the rebels “forced the sisters to evacuate and to follow them towards Yabroud. At this moment we cannot say if this is a kidnapping or an evacuation,” he told Reuters by telephone from Damascus.
Based on abuses women have suffered throughout the conflict there are serious reasons for concern. Also, a number of church leaders, including both a Greek Orthodox and a Syriac Orthodox archbishop, have been kidnapped and in some cases killed.
Late Monday night, Pelagia Sayaf, the Mother Superior from Mar Takla and one of those taken, was able to contact the head of a nearby convent and said all twelve women who were taken were “fine and safe,” AP reported.
For those still in the monastery sources for Albawaba said, “The rebels were still in the convent with the nuns and that the shelling and sniping by government troops had prevented their attempts to evacuate them,” leaving a number of nuns and others trapped inside the monastery.
Islamic Extremists Taking “Syria out of Syria”
Many Syrian Christians have either attempted to remain neutral in the conflict or they have supported the government, fearing the Islamic state many of the rebel groups want to create in Syria.
“They are trying to take the Syria out of Syria,” a 23-year-old whose family fled Syria after his father was killed by rebels told ICC. “These are games to destroy the people and culture. It is a war, but they are attacking us as Christians,” he continued.
Another Christian refugee described how the rebel groups in his village were “very angry towards the cross and the church.” After they had removed Assad’s forces, they kidnapped and beheaded Christians, he told ICC. “My daughters could never go outside. We were scared and stayed at home.” They were only able to escape out of Syria with an escort from government troops.
The growing strength of radical Islamic groups has most Syrians, including Christians, afraid of what would happen if Assad were to fall. While early on some of the opposition was fighting for greater rights and freedoms, the movement was hijacked by those pushing an extremist agenda.
Mousab Alhamadee is a Syrian journalist and activist who just recently decided to leave Syria. During the spring of 2013 he traveled to the United States for a few months and in June returned to continue working in the rebellion against the Assad dictatorship. “I knew the moment I arrived back in Syria, however, that things had changed – even though I had been gone just three months,” he wrote in McClatchy.
“The rising prominence of religious radicals augured poorly for a diverse and open society, and the prospects for women were deteriorating. Radicals even had invaded schools, forcing their type of dress and ways of thinking on teachers and pupils alike. No way would we allow our daughter to grow up in such an unhealthy environment,” Alhamadee continued.
Despite his desire to stay and work for a better Syria, the rise of al-Qaeda and other extremists groups forced him to choose exile. Many other Syrians have awoken to the same reality about many of the groups fighting against Assad.
War Crimes from Both Sides
Throughout the conflict, the rebel groups have repeatedly targeted civilians, and in many cases, specifically Christians and churches. Human Rights Watch has released a detailed report chronicling what amounts to war crimes during their October offensive in the Christian village of Sadad. They have called for the international community to become more directly engaged in finding a solution to the war in Syria and seeking justice for the victims of so many atrocities.
The United Nations Human Rights office has implicated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the commission of war crimes during the 33-month-old conflict. Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights said an investigation of “human rights offenses in Syria has produced “massive evidence” of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the New York Times reported.
The twelve nuns taken from the Mar Takla monastery are the latest victims of the horrific violence that has engulfed Syria. ICC echoes the call of many church leaders for their release.
While neither side in the conflict appears to offer a bright future, we pray for an end to the violence that has already destroyed so much in Syria, and a negotiated political solution that will restore order to Syria.
Mgr Gervas Rozario, bishop of the Diocese of Rajshahi, told AsiaNews that “the killing of innocent civilians is intolerable” and that “people want peace.” For this reason, he has called on the government and the opposition to find ways to communicate. Since January this year, 347 people have died in political unrest.
Bangladesh, December 12, 2013: “We cannot tolerate the killing of innocent people. People want peace. Politicians must be patriotic, responsible, and sit down to talk,” said Mgr Gervas Rozario, bishop of the Diocese of Rajshahi. Speaking to AsiaNews, he addressed Bangladesh’s political leaders in order to ask them to solve the country’s crisis and stop the violence that has raged for months.
In the past few weeks, 40 people have died in unrest triggered by general strikes (hartal). So far this year, 347 people have been killed, 95 per cent of whom civilians not directly involved in politics.
Led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the opposition is set on demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, head of the secular and socialist Awami League, and her government to allow the creation of a non-partisan caretaker government that would organise the general elections for 5 January 2014.
The prime minister has rejected that option, and in response, the BNP has called on its supporters and allies to take to the streets and continue the protests.
According to Mgr Rozario, the deadlock must end as soon as possible. “The people are not involved in the power struggle between the government and the opposition. They want peace at all costs, and the dialogue between the parties is the best way to achieve it.”
Eighteen years after Samunder Singh stabbed and murdered a Catholic nun in northern India, the former prisoner has been invited to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for Family, invited Singh after the pope expressed his desire to meet him. Accompanying him will be a Catholic priest and a nun, the younger sister of the slain Rani Maria.
“I am excited after getting the news,” 40-year old Singh told ucanews.com.
Singh, who with the guidance of the Catholic priest became a Christian while serving a 12-year jail term, is busy preparing his travel documents.
The priest, popularly known as Swami Sadanand, was instrumental in counseling Singh after the killing. The Carmelite of Mary Immaculate regularly met him in jail.
The invitation to the Vatican is to attend a special screening of a documentary on the killing, called The Heart of a Murderer, by award winning Australian-Italian director Catherine McGilvray.
The documentary depicts the murder, Singh’s conversion and his acceptance by the murdered nun’s family. McGilvray, in an interview, said when she first heard the story, she was moved by the images of “the mother kissing her daughter’s murderer and of the assassin becoming like a real brother to the sister of his victim.”
Pope Francis was reportedly moved by the film.
The family of the slain nun had publically forgiven him and accepted him as one of their family members. Every year on the Hindu festival of siblings, the sister of Rani Maria ties a rakhi, or ceremonial thread, onto Singh. The ritual is a common practice among siblings.
The murdered nun was declared a Servant of God, the first major step toward canonization, in 2007.
New Delhi, December 02, 2013: Relying on the power of prayer to cure the country of its social and political ills, all the Churches came under one umbrella and stormed the heavens with praise and worship.
The first-ever ecumenical ‘United Christian Prayer for India’ witnessed simultaneous mass prayers held at over 1,000 venues, including all state capitals, important districts of the country.
More than 10,000 faithful from Delhi and neighboring states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, assembled at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi for the historic occasion.
Welcoming the gathering, Archbishop Emeritus Vincent Michael Concessao, president of the National Organizing Committee, said that “our nation is passing through a crucial juncture and in desperate need of our prayers”.
With the country battling social, political, economic and moral crisis, it was incumbent upon the community to indulge in a sustained effort of prayer to tide over the problems, he said.
During the five–hour program, 10 different Churches prayed for 30 minutes apiece. Each prayer capsule comprised thematic prayers, scripture reading, hymns and skits highlighting social evils.
Reverend Samson Nath of the Methodist Church, said, “We need to learn how to become a people of prayer. Only then will God hear us and heal our land.”
Quoting The Holy Bible, he said it is written, “If we would humble ourselves, pray … seek God’s grace and turn from our wicked ways, then He would hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7)”
Prayers were offered for the Constitution of India, its three pillars – legislature, executive, judiciary, including the president, prime minister, various political parties, the media and the Church in India.
Prayers were also offered for various issues, including social and economic, for national reconciliation, for youth, women and children and the poor and destitute.
Young Advocate Febin Mathew, who belongs to The St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India and a Christian legal organization, was impressed by the prayers for the judiciary.
He said “justice is a casualty in Indian courts. Only the rich who can afford senior lawyers get justice while the poor find it difficult toget justice.”
The Catholic Church set the ball rolling with the first prayer capsule which included prayers for national reconciliation, the Constitution and Constitutional heads, scripture reading and a cultural dance.
The historic Ramlila Maidan reverberated to the strains of hymns like “Mukti Dilaye Yeshu Naam, Shanti dilaye Yeshu Nam (Let Jesus’s name bring salvation, Let Jesus’s name bring peace); “Pray for India, pray for India,” “Tera India, Mera India, Apna India (your India, my India, our India), by a 100-strong inter-denominational choir.
The Methodist Church, Syro Malabar Church, Church of North India, the North-East Churches and Protestant were some of the other Churches that took part.
After the prayers by the different churches, Archbishop Concessao gave blessed the gathering.
The whole program was designed in keeping with Jesus’ teaching that “where two or three are gathered in my name I am there,” said Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, a Catholic priest and spokesperson of the Delhi Archdiocese.
Prayers for the nation are said every Sunday in particular but this is for the first time that all Churches have come out in a public place for the purpose, he added.
“We choose to stop putting the blame on others, and examine our own hearts and lives. We choose to acknowledge our own sin, neglect, defiance and even rejection of God. This day we choose to repent,” he said.
Commenting on this massive show of unity, an elated octogenarian Lucy John exclaimed, “This is unprecedented. Never did I imagine I would ever get to see the Churches unite like this on one platform in my lifetime.”
Nisha Samuel, a member of CNI Church and member Public Grievances Commission of Delhi Government, said “This is a good message we are sending down to the next generation. We should not remain in isolation, united we can weather many a storm.”Summing up the proceedings, Dr Hepesh Shepherd, Secretary and Treasurer of Baptist Church Trust Association, said that the program materialized after a year of planning. All the Churches were happy with the concept.“We have collaborated to take the mission of service forward – On one platform with one voice to the One God whom we serve,” he added.
- matters india
Assam, December 04, 2013: Assam’s main opposition party All Indian United Democratic Front (AIUDF) which is all set to spread its wing in West Bengal for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls is not going to have an alliance with Congress at any cost. Party chief Badruddin Ajmal said that it will be like committing suicide if they join hands with Congress. He, however, said that door is open for any secular party for partnership.
He also slammed the ruling party of not having a holistic approach towards the minority communities in the state. “We have taken an anti-Congress stand since the beginning and we will never compromise with our ideologies at any cost. Joining hands with Congress means killing ourselves with our own hands. Even if Sonia Gandhi approaches us, we will not change our stand,” Ajmal said.
On the possible alliance with other parties, Ajmal said that his party is ready for any such development provided if the party believes in secularism. “Our door is open for any secular party—be it AGP, CPI (M), Samajwadi or anybody but never for BJP and Congress,” he added.
On the alliance with United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre and opposing Congress here in the state, Ajmal said that between UPA and National Democratic Alliance (NDA), they had to choose for UPA. “UPA does not mean Congress. There are other parties as well and comparatively they are more secular than NDA,” Ajmal said.
Development of various minority communities will be main agenda of the party for the elections both in Assam and in West Bengal. AIUDF will contest from at least 14 seats from the neighbouring state besides 10 seats in Assam this time.
“For the last 10 years or so the status of not just Muslims but all people belonging to the minority communities has been extremely pathetic both in Assam and Bengal. There is no any holistic approach from the government to work towards the uplift of the community. The huge amount of fund either goes back to centre or is misused by the ministers,” he said.
The perfume baron also said of giving opportunity to the people of all communities to contest in the election for the party to bring a change in the image as many tagged the party as for Muslims only. “We will give minimum tickets to Muslims and majority will be given to the people of other backward classes who really deserves. Though some try to say that we are a Muslim based party but we are not. We have given opportunities to all the communities and this time we will do it more,” he said.
The Dhubri MP further said that there will be no effect of Narendra Modi in Assam and criticized the Gujrat chief minister and BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Modi for spending huge sum of money in the name of publicity and to try to win people with such means.
In Assam the party is expected to contest Dhubri, Barpeta, Mangaldoi, Tezpur, Nagaon, Guwahati, Lakhimpur, Koliabor, Silchar, Karimganj, Dibrugarh and Kokrajhar seats while in West Bengal it will contest in Cooch Behar, Raiganj, Malda (North), Malda (South), Jangipur, Murshidabad, Burdwan, Krishnanagar, Basirhat, Joynagar, Uluberia, Srerampur, Diamond Harbour, and Balurghat constituencies.
In the last assembly polls, it managed to win 18 seats and emerged as the largest opposition party in the state Assembly. Since its formation in 2006, AIUDF has not tied up with any political party but has been gaining strength with each election.
Russia, December 04, 2013: Political and spiritual leaders concerned about rising fundamentalism in the Russian autonomous republic with a Muslim majority. Spiritual leaders invite people not to give in to provocations. Local priest: ” The Wahhabis are the culprits.”
Churches burned, attacks foiled and increased pressure on Christians to convert to Islam. In Tatarstan – autonomous republic of the Russian Federation, with a Muslim majority – the extremism alarm is increasing. So much so that the President Rustam Minnikhanov has expressed concern and promised to personally follow the investigations.
As for the fires, and in various parts of the region, the charges have been formalized as vandalism , and arson, in violation of freedom of conscience and religion. Investigators insist, however , that they be considered as “acts of terrorism” .
The last year saw Christian seven parishes torched. The last two episodes occurred on 28 and 29 November, as reported by the Regnum.ru news agency. In 2012 there was a similar case. The attorney general pointed the finger at “unidentified extremists” and the culprits risk up to 20 years in prison .
According to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, investigators are following the trail of Wahhabi groups That those responsible for the attacks are Muslims adherents to radical Islam with the support of the local clergy. In an interview with Interfax , Father Dmitri Sizov , pastor of Pestrechinsky, said that ” the whole community knows that it is the work of the Wahhabis .” According to the priest, in some predominantly Christian villages of Tatarstan “fundamentalist agitators roam, inviting the faithful to convert to Islam”. “The priests remain silent because they are afraid of being accused of incitement to religious hatred”, added Fr . Sizov .
President Minnikhanov has offered a reward of one million rubles for those who provide useful information to identify those responsible for the attacks, and a criminal investigation for terrorist attacks was opened, after the discovery of unexploded ordnance in the districts of Alexeyevsky and Nizhnekamsk , at the end of November .
For their part, the local religious leaders – Muslims and Orthodox – have appealed to their communities not to give in to what they call “provocations” aimed at “destroying the good interfaith relations developed over the centuries in the Volga region”. “The vandalism against objects and places of worship is a direct insult to the sentiments of the faithful and those responsible for these acts deserve wide public condemnation ,” the Metropolitan Anastasius and the mufti of Tatarstan Kamil Samigullin, wrote in a joint statement.
Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan Saturday urged the Muslim community to draw up its own roadmap for the future and define its own priorities, adding that a Rs.50,000 crore educational fund should also be created.
Khan was inaugurating a national seminar on “Professionalisation of Education: Problems and Opportunities for Indian Muslims,” organised by the Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
He said India had achieved a lot of progress through the planning process and such type of “planning is needed for the Muslim community by its own intelligentsia”.
Paying rich tributes to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the AMU for his vision and mission, he suggested Muslims should make an effort to mobilise their own resources and establish educational institutions on their own.
Khan lamented that Muslims were equally responsible for their backwardness.
He said in south India, Muslims have established 16 medical colleges and more than 100 engineering colleges to provide professional education to the community. He said lack of awareness is a major cause of backwardness of Muslims.
Delivering the keynote address, Syed Zafar Mahmood, IRS (retd) said Muslims are the most backward community in education and their share in job market is the lowest.
He pointed that the National Minority Scholarship Scheme was not implemented in Gujarat while it was implemented by other BJP-ruled states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
He suggested ITI courses should be extended to the Muslim-dominated areas and these professional courses should be extended to Madrassa-educated children.
Khan said Muslims should adopt a positive attitude. He said that since Muslims form the second largest majority, the country cannot progress without their active participation.
Brigadier (Retd.) S. Ahmad Ali, Pro-Vice Chancellor, AMU, in his presidential address, said we live in an age of competition and in job market the demand of professionally and educationally competent and skilled persons is more as compared to merely skilled workers.
Professional education seems a better option especially for Muslims who are blessed with multi-faceted skills yet lag behind in getting coveted jobs due to lack of formal education, he added.
Brig. Ali urged the Muslim community to provide quality education. He suggested the government should fix accountability from Delhi, establish community targeted centres, provide girls hostels in Muslim-centric areas and demanded secularisation of education at the school level.
Earlier, Shamim A. Ansari, Director of the Centre, said this centre is one of the most important centres of the university working for the promotion of Muslims. He said knowledge without use is worthless with regard to professionalisation of education. He said educational institutions must have their fingers on the nerve of market where most demanded jobs are available.
Ansari observed that Muslim institutions fail to visualise the changing scenario of the world with regard to conditions and nature of job opportunities attracting people. As a result, Muslims students are generally compelled to pursue traditional education.
Ankara has sent a report to Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, the countries from where the fighters mainly came from, Xinhua reported quoting Haberturk daily.
Turkey arrested these European citizens with the help of the National Intelligence Organisation, Gendarmerie forces and police units in 41 operations in 2013, the report said, adding there are still around 1,500 European citizens who want to go to Syria and fight on the front lines along with Al Qaeda.
Turkey is on alert about suspected jihadists and has been sharing intelligence with European countries in this regard through Interpol, the report said.
The country carried out 141 operations against Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-linked groups in the last three years, detaining 518 suspects and imprisoning 217 of them.
The temple has been built during past two month’s time. because during my last visit to Phulbani, there was no temple. How could a temple be built on govt land in a town which is headquarters of the district?
Is it possible without support of district administration? A temple built on govt land opposite to church is surely with malafide intentions.
According to Fr Angelo, the Asst parish priest of Phulbani, he had met the collector to discuss the matter. He told the collector that it is possible that both christians and Hindus may have a feast on same day and crowds may on both sides to the road, some persons in the crowd may be intoxicated too. Hence there is every possibility of breach of peace. According to Fr Angelo, response of the collector was not satisfactory.
- bro. markose