Rebuilding Aleppo means rebuilding links between Christians and Muslims

AbpShahanSarkissian

The Archbishop of Armenians in Syria’s second-largest city concluded a week-long European tour with a visit to Paris on Wednesday, in which he argued that moving on from a fierce conflict meant fostering ties between communities and faiths.

Monsignor Chahane Sarkissian witnessed first-hand the Battle of Aleppo from its beginning in July 2012 to the intense fighting under siege of Syrian and Russian forces that led to its end on 22 December 2016.

Only about a third of the 45,000 Armenian Christians lived in the city before the conflict began remain today, and Sarkissian described how those who stayed are rebuilding their lives and encouraging others to return.

“We are trying our best to open the schools and then the small and medium businesses to give the Armenian community the possibility to continue there, instead of leaving as refugees to other places, including other parts of the world,” he said.

“We are the people of this country, not just as Christian communities at an ecumenical level, but also with the Muslims. The majority of the population of Syria is Muslim, but we live with them, and we hope to continue our life inside the city and the country.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RFI

Among Allentown’s Syrians, mostly shock over Trump missile strike

MarkMakela22

Four years ago, much of Allentown’s largely Christian Syrian community opposed President Barack Obama’s threatened missile attack to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons on its own people.

They feel the same way about the attack Donald Trump launched Thursday night, people interviewed Friday suggest.

The U.S. is not the world’s policeman and has no right to insert itself, uninvited, into Syria’s internal affairs, said the Very Rev. Anthony Sabbagh, pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Allentown, which is the cultural center of Allentown’s Syrian Christian community.

“His action is not going to strengthen the Syrian government, which is protecting the Christians,” Sabbagh said. “It will strengthen ISIS, which is killing the Christians.” And not just Christians, Sabbagh added, but nonradicalized Muslims in Syria.

Sabbagh said he believes the Assad government’s explanation that the poisonous gas that killed at least 86 men, women and children in rebel-controlled Idlib Province was released when its jets’ conventional missiles hit a terrorist chemical weapons stockpile.

“Syria is fighting ISIS on its own to the end,” Sabbagh said. “Russia is in Syria. Russia isn’t stupid either. They know they have the upper hand now. They would not use chemical weapons.”

Sabbagh said he voted for Trump thinking he would let the Syrian people determine their own fate, but he’s now regrets casting that ballot. In his mind, Assad is the only leader standing in the way of Islamic terror-fueled chaos in the Middle East.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MORNING CALL 

Worst of the Trumps (on Syrian Refugees)

24cohen-nyt-master768When a presidential campaign often inhabits the gutter it’s not easy to establish its low point.

We’ve seen Donald Trump vilify Muslims, Mexicans and women. We’ve seen him indulge airy suggestions that rifle-bearing Americans might like to shoot Hillary Clinton. We’ve seen him belabor the lie that President Obama was not born in the United States — until he recanted. For Trump, the low road to the White House is paved with boorishness. But perhaps his son Donald Trump Jr. set the nadir this week when he compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles.

A caption accompanying a photograph of the candy said: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Trump Jr. tweeted, “This image says it all.”

Where to begin? With the fact that human beings are not Skittles? With the fact that after more than five years of war 4.8 million Syrians are refugees and 6.1 million are internally displaced and Trump Jr., even with his coddled New York existence, can surely make the calculation that this amounts to almost 2.5 million more human beings than live in the five boroughs?

With the fact that you do not flee your home because you have a choice (like choosing between Skittles and M&Ms after a Manhattan dinner party) but because you no longer have one? With the fact that, according to a Cato Institute study of refugees admitted to the United States between 1975 and 2015, the chance of an American being killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion? With the fact that Syrians want to work, make a living, put their kids in decent schools, and recover their dignity, just like the rest of us?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Evangelicals Ignore G.O.P. by Embracing Syrian Refugees

05syrians1-master768MARIETTA, Ga. — 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.”

But politics and faith have always had the potential to conflict in the questions about resettling Syrian refugees in the United States.

And at a time when conservative politicians, many with ties to Christian religious groups, have aggressively sought to keep the Syrian newcomers out of their states, it is conservative people of faith who, in many cases, are serving as their indispensable support system.

Here in Marietta, the English lesson began around the donated kitchen table of Anwar and Daleen, two of the 10,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in the United States in the past year only to grapple with that political reality, one as confusing as any new language.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

US Christian groups plead for compassion for Muslim refugees

jesus-paintingSince the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13, governors of more than half of the US’s 50 states have said they will not welcome Syrian refugees—defying President Barack Obama’s September announcement that the US would take 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. While many arecalling their remarks Islamophobic and politically motivated, Christian church groups have been particularly outspoken about the governors’ lack of compassion.

A number of these church groups and church-affiliated missions have a long tradition of working with the federal government to place refugees in local communities; some have been resettling refugees in the US since World War II.

The governors’ statements don’t necessarily carry legal weight—the Federal government has the power to decide where refugees resettle in the US—but their remarks still seem to be having an impact. Twenty Syrian refugees were supposed to arrive in the “Quad cities,” four adjoining counties in Iowa and Illinois, via World Relief, a non-profit started by a national coalition of evangelical churches during WWII. But after Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said they would block any efforts to resettle Syrians in their states, those plans are on hold, World Relief said.

This isn’t exactly Christian, said World Relief. “Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors,” Amy Rowell, director of the Moline, Illinois officetold local news. “The parable of the good Samaritan comes to mind, making it absolutely clear that our neighbors cannot be limited to those of our same ethnicity or religious traditions.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM QUARTZ

Christians and Muslims fight to protect ancient Christian town against ISIS

sadadAs ISIS advances on Sadad, a strategic Syrian town near Homs, hundreds of Christian and Muslim fighters are battling to defend it.

Islamic State militants began an offensive in the ancient Assyrian heartlands on October 31, capturing Maheen, a town just four miles from Sadad.

Sadad is considered strategic because it lies between Homs and Damascus, the capital of Syria, and two years ago was overrun by ISIS. It was recaptured by the Syrian army, but not before almost 50 Christians were massacred, and believers are once again fleeing the town in fear of the militants. The population of the town has dropped from 15,000 to just 2,000 in the past few months.

In an interview with Newsweek, Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II, the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, confirmed that Sadad is under siege. But as the militants attack, at least 200 Syriac Christian fighters have been joined by Muslims from across Syria in an attempt to push them back.

“IS advanced toward Sadad but they were not able to enter,” Karim said. “The young people in Sadad, with the help of some armed groups, were able to fight back and push IS back to where they started. They are helped by some groups coming from different parts of Syria also.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY