Posts tagged with: syria

PowerBlog readers will have noticed a strong, and from my point of view justified, negative reaction here to Elise Hilton’s Aug. 11 post titled, “The Lost Girls of Romania: A Nation of Sex Trafficking.” Commenters referred to the post as offensive and poorly researched. As editor with overall responsibility for the PowerBlog, I want to address the many comments we’ve received that take issue with Hilton’s characterization of Romania and Romanian women.

Before we go any further, I want to note that anyone who writes regularly for publication will invariably make errors of fact and error of analysis. In a long career in journalism and other editorial work, I certainly have made my share. The responsibility of the writer and editor is to be accountable to readers and correct the record when needed.

This post missed the mark. It should not have relied on a single Al Jazeera article to make assertions that in Romania “women and girls have virtually no rights.” What’s more, the sweeping generalization that in Romania if women “are not hidden, they are trafficked” is patently untrue. I’ve been to Bucharest, a beautiful European capital, and this statement does not describe what I saw there. I’ve also been blessed to get to know many Romanian families who worship at my Greek Orthodox parish and have found them to be unfailingly kind, hospitable and productive. Romania is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian culture, but has significant populations of Roman Catholics and Protestants and small numbers of Muslims. As for the Church, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel has been unequivocal in his condemnation of human trafficking. The following is from a statement he made in 2009: (more…)

I attended an informative — and very moving — presentation yesterday on the humanitarian relief effort underway in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The talk was given here in Grand Rapids by Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities (see my podcast with him here). What I learned was that despite the massive scale of human suffering, the crisis is likely to get much worse. Given the gains that the Islamic State is making in Iraq, that might be a safe prediction.

Ohanian said that the relief effort in Syria, where IOCC works alongside Red Crescent and other principal agencies, is made more difficult and expensive because of the breakdown in Syrian society and the need to import so much of the supplies. The video above shows how entrepreneurial Syrians are already starting businesses in the refugee camps to help themselves.

If you want to offer direct help the refugees, you can make a donation on the IOCC site here. IOCC, in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, serves all refugees regardless of religion or ethnicity. (more…)

As Syria enters the fifth year of civil war, one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history is unfolding with no end in sight. This bloody conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 220,000 Syrians and displaced more than 11 million people, driving almost 4 million people to neighboring countries. Fully one-third of refugees are now in substandard housing and the UN Refugee Agency says the situation is“deteriorating drastically.” An estimated 600,000 refugee children, many of whom have just spent a harsh winter in tents, are no long attending school.

Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities, speaks with Acton Institute Director of Communications John Couretas about the Syria relief effort, and the massive flow of refugees into neighboring countries such as Lebanon.

For those in the West Michigan area, Ohanian will be in Grand Rapids on Sunday, May 17, to give a talk on what’s happening in Syria and the Middle East at St. Nicholas Antiochian Church, 2250 E. Paris Avenue SE Grand Rapids MI 49546. IOCC is one of the few relief agencies doing work inside Syria today. It partners with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and acts as a lead agency for other church relief organizations and major governmental agencies such as USAID and the United Nations. For more information on the event, visit this link.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the humanitarian relief agency for Orthodox Churches in the United States, is working with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East to provide emergency medical assistance, hygiene kits, and personal care items to displaced Idlib families who have fled to the Syrian port city of Lattakia. Idlib, in northwestern Syria, was captured by Al-Qaida’s local branch of Islamist fighters in late March. Now there are reports of the Syrian government using chemical weapons on the Islamist rebels. The situation is grim for those fleeing the fighting.

According to [IOCC] staff on the ground, approximately 300 of the nearly 5,000 displaced people fleeing Idlib arrived in Lattakia with injuries, many related to flying shrapnel. Some of them arrived alone knowing nothing about the rest of their families, while others managed to get out with their families intact. “I escaped with all of my 14 family members,” said Fadi, a displaced Idlib resident. “We barely fit in the small car which was our only transportation. Many cars around us crashed as they tried to flee, because they were shot by a sniper while trying to escape the city.”

Rami, who also fled Idlib, said he and his 9-year-old daughter made it out through the city’s sewage channels to avoid snipers. They walked all night to reach safety, but he now faces new fears for his family. “My daughter is in complete shock from what she witnessed, and I can’t stop thinking about my parents who are still trapped in Idlib.” IOCC/GOPA is helping traumatized parents like Rami through counseling that will equip them and their children with the coping skills they need to deal with such difficult experiences. (more…)

A columnist for Al-Monitor who writes under the pseudonym Edward Dark visited Siryan Adeemeh, or Old Siryan, an elevated area in the regime-controlled west of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria. Dark wanted to “gauge the sentiment” of this area, which he describes as a working-class neighborhood home to Christian Arabs of several denominations and also inhabited by a sizable Muslim and Kurdish population. “It’s one of the few areas of Aleppo where churches outnumber mosques, and communal relations had always been jovial and friendly, as could be seen while strolling its maze-like narrow streets, lined with markets, cafes, sandwich shops, bars and liquor stores,” Dark, a resident of Aleppo, recalls.

He interviews Abu Fadi, “a middle-aged man, tanned with silver hair and sharp dark eyes — a striking appearance to match his striking personality. He was the de facto mayor of his neighborhood, the go-to guy for news, stories and gossip, a figure much liked and respected by his Christian community and beyond.”

I asked him how he felt about the warring camps in Syria, whom he supports and why. He answered, “There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.” (more…)

Assyrians in Iran

Assyrians in Iran

In both Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is literally hunting and killing Assyrian Christians. Just this week, dozens of these Christians in Syria were captured by the Islamic State; their fate remains unknown. Who are these people facing persecution?

Michael Holtz, at The Christian Science Monitor, examines the long history of these Christians.

Alternatively known as Syriac, Nestorian, or Chaldean Christians, they trace their roots back more than 6,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia, predating the Abrahamic religions. For 1,800 years the Assyrian empire dominated the region, establishing one of most advanced civilizations in the ancient world. (more…)

slavery-handsThousands of girls and women in Iraq and Syria have been captured by the Islamic State and sold into sex slavery. But one Iraqi man is trying to save them by buying sex slaves in order to free and reunite them with their families.

As the Christian Post reports, “an Iraqi man, who remains nameless, disguises himself as a human trafficking dealer in order to ‘infiltrate’ the Islamic State and get the militants to sell him sex slaves. But in purchasing sex slaves, the man finds a way to reunite them with their fathers, husbands, and the rest of their family.”

It’s hard to criticize a man for using his resources and risking his life in order to free these women. But while the individual effects—women and girls being freed—are laudatory, the long term effect of implementing the policy on a large scale could be disastrous.

In the 1990s, humanitarian groups traveled to Sudan to redeem slaves by buying them out of slavery. The result of the program, as economist Tyler Cowen explains, was likely an increase in the number of people enslaved.

Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, January 8, 2015
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A Syrian refugee tries to keep her newborn infants warm

A Syrian refugee tries to keep her newborn infants warm

It is currently 3 degrees where I am. That is without the wind chill. (If you do not know what “wind chill” is, consider yourself blessed.) It is literally too cold to be outside for any length of time without danger of frostbite.

And yet, I’m not complaining. Syrian refugees in the Middle East have it much worse. Some three million Syrians are trying to cope with life in Lebanon refugee camps: tents with no heat, no wood to burn, little or no food, all in the midst of cold and snow. They have fled civil war in Syria, which began with the Arab Spring of 2011 and continues with military sieges and rebellion. (more…)

Os Guinness

Os Guinness

As we head into the fall of 2014, the world seems to be a very dark and uncertain place for those who practice the Christian faith. Between the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria (and the resulting slaughter and displacement of Christians in the middle east) and the seemingly relentless advance of secularism and rejection of traditional Christian values in the West, many Christians are wondering how Christianity can survive and advance in our modern world. In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Acton Institute Co-Founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico talks on this topic with Os Guinness, public intellectual and author most recently of Reniassance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times. Guinness reminds us that our generation is not the first generation of Christians to face a world in flux, and gives advice on how Christians should face the uncertain future.

Syrian Christians rally in Qamishli, in northeastern Syria

Syrian Christians rally in Qamishli, in northeastern Syria

Just as armed citizens have been protecting themselves and their property in Ferguson, Mo., small groups of Christians are forming in militia-style units in areas of Syria and Iraq. While most Christians believe they are allowed to protect themselves and others using force if necessary, it is a religion of peace. Christ himself urges us to “turn the other cheek.” Yet the outrageous and barbaric violence against Christians is moving some to call for a more aggressive stance against ISIS.

Edward Pentin reports that these Christian militia groups have some strong backing:

One senior official [in Rome], speaking to me on condition of anonymity, believes that if the Islamic State begins making serious inroads into Lebanon — a country that’s no stranger to sectarian armed groups — Christian militias will become an everyday reality.

Small numbers of armed Christians are already established in Iraq and Syria. A group which calls itself “The Lions of the Canyon” reportedly has been protecting several Syrian villages while other Christian militias took up arms in Aleppo for the first time in 2012.

Evangelical pastor Michel Youssef, an advocate of armed Christian civilians in Iraq, recently told the website Act for America that the idea to form militias in Iraq was the “only way to protect our families and friends from attacks because we are tired of awaiting an action from the government which is preoccupied with politics and never looks after us.”

(more…)