ISTANBUL — For Sarmad, translating e-mails from English to Arabic for fellow Iraqis is a welcome change from the incessant fear of murder he lived with in Iraq. In his hometown, Mosul, attacks on Christians have been an almost-daily reality since the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003. “I was stopped at the university,” Sarmad recalls. People he describes as “terrorists” told the 18-year-old mechanical engineering student, “If you come here again, we will kill you.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq has targeted the country’s fast-disappearing Christian population, describing them as “legitimate targets” and forcing unknown hundreds of thousands to flee in recent years. Out of an estimated 800,000 to 1.3 million Christians during the Hussein era, now less than half are thought to remain in the country.
JUBA — Apologising for delaying the liturgy, U.S. Senator John Kerry paid tribute to the people of southern Sudan while addressing a congregation at St.Teresa’s Cathedral in Juba, the region’s capital. Sen. Kerry is Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and has visited Sudan three times times in recent years on behalf of the Obama Administration. He sat next to Salva Kiir, President of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) – as the regional authorities here are known. A U.S-backed 2005 peace deal, which ranked as President George W. Bush’s main foreign policy successes, gave the mainly Christian south a degree of self-Government after 22 years of war, causing 2 million deaths, with the Islamist-leaning Government in Khartoum. Kiir attends Mass here any Sunday he is in town – so his presence is no big deal to locals. However Sunday January 9 saw the start of a decisive and historic week-long referendum, with southern Sudanese voting whether to remain part of Sudan, or secede and form their own country
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Screaming as the doctor cleaned and dressed her leg, Lenas then lay back on the bed, drawing breath and, after a couple of minutes, regaining her composure. “The ground shook for at least thirty seconds, I never knew anything like it,” she said, speaking in Haitian Creole. “When it was over I was buried. The house was down around me, dust everywhere. I thought I was dead for sure.” Lenas, 25, spent five hours under the rubble, her leg crushed.
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Four days after the Jan. 12 earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti’s capital, surprising news made its way to Jean-Claude Jérémie, making him jump from his spot at a camp close to the port. Like hundreds of thousands of his compatriots, he now sleeps outdoors, his home destroyed. It was news of a phone call. “The call was from Father Benoit, he was missing since the earthquake, everyone thought he was dead”. “So where was he calling from?” “He said ‘I am under the concrete, buried here.”
KNOCK — 2009 saw the publication of two reports that have shocked Irish people, led to the resignation of four bishops, and prompted speculation that Pope Benedict XVI will instigate a reorganization of the Irish Church in a pastoral letter scheduled for early 2010. The 2,600-page “Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse” — the Ryan Report — was an investigation into the treatment of thousands of children, over many decades, in institutions and schools run by religious orders and congregations. It concluded that “physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions. Sexual abuse occurred in many of them, particularly boys’ institutions.” The report is not for the squeamish. For example, one case study tells how an abuser blared out music on a stereo system loud enough to cover the victim’s cries.