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WCC renews call for release of archbishops of Aleppo

World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca reiterated calls for the release of two Syrian archbishops, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi, who were kidnapped near Aleppo, Syria in April 2013.

Yet another sad anniversary for Christians in war-torn Syria

Last week the 2,000-day mark since the abduction of two Syrian archbishops was passed. Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi haven’t been heard from since gunmen kidnapped them outside Aleppo in April 2013, almost five and a half years ago.

WCC decries escalation of Syria conflict

Responding to overnight missile attacks on a Syrian air force base by U.S. forces, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit on 7 April urged all parties in the conflict to cease hostilities and commit to peaceful negotiations toward a transitional governance within the framework of international law.

‘No Christmas bells in Mosul’ for a third year, says Assyrian priest

Father Emanuel Youkhana rues that, for the third Christmas in a row, the church bells will not ring in Mosul. He recounts that, around June 2014, the numerical religious minorities such as Yazidis and Christians around Iraq’s second biggest city began to face a horrific onslaught by the group calling itself IS (Islamic State), or Daesh in Arabic.

Study shows religious and ethnic diversity vital for peace in Iraq and Syria

Analyzing efforts to protect religious communities and groups and build peace in Syria and Iraq, the WCC and Norwegian Church Aid presented a joint study on protection needs of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq. The findings were announced on 12 December to the media and public at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Syria and Iraq, minorities must come out of the darkness

If we do not adjust aid better to the needs of the minorities in Syria and northern Iraq, we run the risk of building walls instead of bridges. As the populations of Syria and Iraq feel the toll of armed conflicts in their countries, the World Council of Churches and Norwegian Church Aid are now releasing a unique joint study, “Protection needs of minorities from Syria and Iraq,” today, 28 November, in Oslo, Norway.

Out of the darkness

Women walk slowly around in their sanctuary at Lalesh. Some have their children with them. They have been collected from the refugee camp to go to the Yazidis’ holy place, in the mountains of northern Iraq, some distance from Dohuk. All are quiet to begin with, and everyone makes sure not to tread on the doorstep to the temple.

Paralyzed by shock

Madeline, 14, and sister Sabrine, 16, are both paralyzed in their legs. “They were paralyzed by shock. Something happened to their nervous system”, says father Mohammad. The family was caught in the crossfire in Daraa, in southern Syria. Son Louay, 3, was killed by a bomb. That’s when they decided to flee. Bombs were constantly falling during their flight.

Driven out

IS attacked at four in the morning. In the small village of Tel Hermes, only men stayed behind to try to defend it. The elderly had also stayed behind. Now IS dragged everyone out in their pyjamas. Of around 30 men, half were killed. One of them was electrician Fouad Younan.

Fleeing from – rather than to – a place

“The way we handle the refugee crisis, not least the settling in and integration process, will be of utmost significance, both for the attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers in the future, and for the long-term stability and sustainability of our own societies”, said Knut Vollebaek, ambassador and former Norwegian foreign minister, in his speech at the recent WCC/UN conference on Europe’s refugee crisis.