Syria’s Greek Orthodox patriarch and the head of a convent have confirmed recent reports that Syrian rebels have abducted 12 nuns from Maaloula, a Christian village near Damascus. With violence against believers on the rise in Syria, church leaders are increasingly concerned about the future.
Reverend Nadim Nassar is an Anglican priest from Syria. He says that Christians and Muslims were living peacefully together before the conflict began. “Of course,” he adds, “the whole country was suffering under corruption, economic pressure and international pressure; we are not saying that the country was in an ideal situation.”
But today he says that Christians are suffering horribly – abused by both the regime and extremist rebel forces. “This is another blow to the Christian community in Syria,” he says, speaking of the kidnapping. “Hundreds of thousands of Christians were displaced from their homes, a lot of Christians were killed. We still have two bishops missing from Aleppo, we don’t know anything about them. Now there is another attack on the Christian community in Syria, and the world is watching. This is shocking for us.”
Reverend Nassar says that many Christians and Muslims share a vision for a secular government that promotes freedom and respect for all religions. “The question for us Christians and other minorities, as well as for Muslims in general, we all want to see a new Syria emerging as a secular country that can respect the fabric of the society and the Syrian society is in its essence diverse,” he says.
According to a recent article in Charisma News by Tiffany Brannon, Hollywood icon Angelina Jolie (Kung Fu Panda 2, Salt) will be directing a new movie about the life of a Christian POW. Taken from Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Olympic track athlete Louis Zamperini, Unbroken will star Jack O’Connell, Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), and Alex Russell (The Host). Born the son of Italian immigrants, Louis Zamperini grew to become a talented runner on his high school track team and even participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. With the outbreak of WWII, Zamperini became a bombardier in the United States Air force. In was during one of his missions in the Pacific Ocean that Zamperini’s aircraft was shot down, resulting in the capture of him and a fellow survivor by Japanese forces.
Zamperini would go on to survive the horrors of Japanese imprisonment, and later give his life to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade. Charisma News states,
“Jolie, who recently started filming the project in Australia, has said she’s inspired by Zamperini and that the two have grown to be close friends. While Hillenbrand’s biography touched on Zamperini’s incredible faith, it did not emphasize it—something that will hopefully be rectified through Jolie’s personal relationship with Zamperini and first-person witness to his Christian testimony.”
Unbroken is set to release on Christmas of 2014. To learn more about the life of Louis Zamperini, check out the review of Laura Hillenbrand’s biography by clicking here.
CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Two of the world’s great libraries — the Vatican Library in Rome and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University — have scanned and loaded the first of 1.5 million pages of ancient Hebrew, Greek and early Christian manuscripts online Tuesday (Dec. 3).
The project brings rare and priceless religious and cultural collections to a global audience for the first time in history.
The website is the first step in a four-year project and it includes the Bodleian’s 1455 Gutenberg Bible — one of only 50 surviving copies.
The $3.3 million project is funded by the Polonsky Foundation, which aims to democratize access to information. Leonard S. Polonsky is chairman of Hansard Global PLC, an international financial services company.
“We want everyone who can to see these manuscripts, these great works of humanity,” Monsignor Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Library, told The Associated Press.
Apart from the two-volume Gutenberg Bible there is also an illustrated 11th-century Greek Bible and a 15th-century German Bible, hand-painted and illustrated by woodcuts.
The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 and it has 180,000 manuscripts; 1.6 million books; and 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings.
The Bodleian is the largest university library in England and contains more than 11 million printed works.
Pasini said the Vatican was embarking on similar digitization projects with libraries in Azerbaijan and China.
Polonsky has been involved in a broad range of charitable activities for a long time. He is an honorary fellow and governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
About 70 Christians were murdered in Nigeria in November, according to Release International.
The organization says the attacks stem from Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, a group the U.S. government has labeled a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The name of the group, Boko Haram, means “Western education is forbidden.”
This weekend, Boko Haram also launched a raid on a Nigerian air force base.
“It is a big deal, it shows the capability of Boko Haram is growing,” Murtala Touray, senior Africa analyst at IHS Country Risk in London, said today by phone. “For Boko Haram to plan this attack, it shows they are a force to be reckoned with, they can take on the Nigerian army.”
In light of the attacks, Release International is campaigning for more protection for Nigerian citizens. The group is also asking for donations for emergency medical treatment and trauma workshops. They are also asking for prayer for Christians in Nigera that “will stand firm, know God’s presence and his peace, and forgive those who are trying to kill them.”
The Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom estimates that Boko Haram has killed about 900 Christians in the past year.
"We are appealing, we are pleading with you people, please help us...We are appealing to you come to our aid,” a Nigerian woman, Florence, told Christian Today. “Pray for us. All we need is prayer.”