The patriarchs of the Orient on Wednesday strongly deplored the Arab countries and the international community's “silence” over attacks against Christians in the Middle East, calling for issuing fatwas against takfirism and for stopping any support for terrorist groups.
“It has become known that attacks against Christians are taking a dangerous turn that threatens them, especially in Egypt, Syria and Iraq where they are victims of crimes and are forced to leave (their towns),” Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's envoy Bishop Boulos Sayyah said after a meeting of Christian clerics of the Orient in Bkirki.
A few steps from Brisk Cafe on Beirut’s Hamra Street, a teenage Syrian squats with her three children and cups her hand appealing for loose change. Along the road, a Syrian shoeshine boy urinates against a poster.
“This is not the Hamra Street we used to know,” said Mustapha Broush, the cafe’s supervisor. “We feel for the Syrian refugees, sympathize with them, but they have changed the character of this street.”
Figures released by the Order of Engineers of Beirut and Tripoli show that the number of construction permits reached 10,091 in the first seven months of 2014, constituting a marginal decrease of 0.2 percent from 10,115 for the same period last year.
However, the surface area of construction permits issued in the first seven months reached 8.3 million square meters, which constitutes an increase of 9 percent from the same period last year. Mount Lebanon accounted for 43.1 percent of the number of construction permits in the period, followed by South Lebanon with 16.8 percent, Nabatieh with 12.7 percent, the North with 12.5 percent, the Bekaa Valley with 9.8 percent, and Beirut with 5.1 percent. [Link]
Britain is at risk of being “sanitised” of faith because an “aggressive form of secularism” in workplaces and public bodies is forcing Christians to hide their beliefs, a former attorney general has warned. Dominic Grieve said he found it “quite extraordinary” that people were being sacked or disciplined for expressing their beliefs at work.
He described Christianity as a “powerful force for good” in modern Britain and warned that Christians should not be “intimidated” and “excluded” for their beliefs.
He said that politicians and public figures should not be afraid of “doing God” and that they have a duty to explain how their beliefs inform their decisions.
The “appalling” scenes in Iraq, which have seen Islamic extremists behead and crucify religious minorities including Christians, showed that it was “more important than ever” for people to express their religious beliefs, he said. [Link]
Islamic militant terrorists ISIS is giving non-muslims in Iraq three options: leave, convert or die. A WorldWatch Monitor report tells the personal account of Iraqi Christian Mikha Qasha. In August, WWM reported that Qasha, an elderly paralytic, was moved from his home in Qaraqosh after ISIS members threatened him with weapons giving him one week to leave, convert to Islam or "face the sword." Qasha eventually found his grandson and was taken to Ankawa, Iraq, the predominantly Christian suburb in the province of Erbil. ISIS has reportedly been giving the ultimatum since the group took over Mosul, the capital of the Nineveh providence in northern Iraq, in June.
The group also threatened to impose a "special tax" on Iraqi Christians. Thousands of Christians left Mosul in July after the group gave the ultimatum saying that if they did comply there would be 'nothing for them but the sword." Of the 3,500 Christians living in Mosul, WWM reports that about 25 of them decided to remain in Mosul. Since then, nine have converted to Islam and the others are paying an Islamic tax for non-muslims called jizya. Later on, ISIS demanded an immediate decision by the small group of Iraqi Christians, and they are now giving all non-muslims one week to decide. The United Nations launched a major aid operation Aug. 20 providing tents and other goods to Erbil via land, air and sea. [Link]
Some 2,200 years ago, Carthaginian military commander Hannibal – who some maintain is of Phoenician descent – set out to defeat the Romans by attacking from the north, through the chilly and hostile Alps. During this journey, on which he was followed by 60,000 troops, horses and three-dozen war elephants, Hannibal, as legend has it, issued his famous war cry in Latin: “Viam inveniam aut faciam” – I shall find a way or make one.
A couple of millennia later, and a group of Lebanese extreme sports enthusiasts are echoing the great warrior’s call as they organize the country’s first mud and obstacle run, the Hannibal Race 2014, scheduled for Sept. 7 in Zaarour, Mount Lebanon. The more-than 1,500 participants certainly won’t be risking their lives as Hannibal did – the Lebanese Navy Seals will be stationed around the race making sure of that – but they will have to crawl hand-and-knee through mud fields, scale walls and flip truck tires on a 7 km course through the mountains to the north of Beirut. [Link]
The summer of violence in Gaza and Israel on Tuesday entered its fifth week after rockets, fired from inside Gaza, broke the latest ceasefire. After the attack, Israel recalled its negotiators from peace talks in Cairo, and Israeli forces launched new airstrikes.
Since the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the IDF has completed 1,300 air strikes, and ground troops have destroyed more than 30 cross-border tunnels. Since January, combatants inside Gaza have fired about 3,000 rockets into Israel. It is the deadliest conflict between Palestinians and Israelis since the Second Intifada, which ended in 2005. As of mid-August, more than 2,000 have died in the current conflict, including 1,975 Gazans (combatants included), 64 Israeli soldiers, and two Israeli civilians.
The Christian minority inside Gaza has not been spared fatalities. But it has also offered shelter, food, education, and medical care to hundreds of Gazans. Hanna Massad, former pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church, has been coordinating Christian aid efforts from his current pastorate in Amman, Jordan. Massad is a graduate of Bethlehem Bible College and earned a doctorate in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. There have been Christians in Gaza since the third century. [Link]