Seehofer turns in late (neue-deutschland.de)

Photo: dpa / Jens Kalaene

Seven months after the Federal Administrative Court had actually forced him to do so, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) gave in to the dispute over church asylum. It’s about so-called Dublin cases. These are refugees who are threatened with deportation to the European country where they were first registered during their flight. In order to be protected from repatriation, they should in future have to spend less time in church asylum.

Dublin cases make up the lion’s share of church asylums. In December there were 282 such cases out of 295 church asylums, according to the nationwide working group “Asylum in the Church”. The Dublin Regulation states that you should complete your asylum procedure in the EU state you enter first. Other European countries can take over the asylum procedure in humanitarian emergencies. They have to take it over if they fail to send the refugee to the other EU country for six months. Only in cases when the refugees go into hiding in Germany do German authorities have 18 instead of six months to send the refugees to other EU countries.

Many refugees resist being returned to other EU countries because they had traumatic experiences there. They were abandoned homeless in Italy, tortured in Croatia or had to endure in Greek slum camps. Other refugees have relatives in Germany who look after them and therefore want to stay here. If parishes recognize a humanitarian hardship, they grant sanctuary. Most of the refugees in church asylum are also sick. When so-called Dublin cases go to church asylum, all they have to do is wait until the six or 18 months are up. Then you can stay here until your asylum procedure has been completed.

In the summer of 2018, the federal and state interior ministers decided to treat all refugees in sanctuary as if they had gone into hiding. In other words, parishes did not have to host them for six months, but rather 18 months to give them temporary protection. Unless the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees recognized a case of hardship. According to “Asylum in the Church” from 2018 onwards, this was increasingly rare. For the refugees this meant: They were excluded from all integration measures for 18 months. The parishes, monasteries and religious orders had to provide for the livelihood of their guests for 18 months. Because anyone who is in church asylum is excluded from state benefits. The churches also have to pay for medical services for their guests during this time. This is where denominational hospitals often step in by providing free treatment.

In June 2018 the Federal Administrative Court ruled that it is unlawful to consider refugees in church asylum as hiding. Numerous administrative courts had previously seen it that way. The authorities know where they are and could theoretically deport them. Simply out of respect for the church as an institution, they do not do this. The judges ruled that the deadline to send people to southern Europe must end after six months, not 18. Nevertheless, it took Seehofer’s authority seven months to implement the highest court ruling.

The ecumenical working group “Asylum in the Church” welcomed the late decision. “We now hope that this will initiate a return to a solution-oriented understanding on humanitarian hardship cases,” says spokeswoman Dietlind Jochims. For the people in sanctuary there is hope that their reasons for fleeing could be examined more quickly.

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at Gandzasar monastery, first Christmas mass after the defeat

At Gandzasar monastery

Perched on a mountain over 1,300 meters above sea level, set with sheer cliffs and wooded slopes, the Gandzasar monastery sits majestically above the Khatchen valley. At its feet, the small village of Vank, about forty kilometers from Stepanakert. Gandzasar. Literally, “mountain of treasures” in Armenian, refuge of the Catholicosate of the XVe in the XIXe century; a masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture and spirituality where, according to a local tradition, the head of John the Baptist would rest.

In the garden of the monastery, two soldiers blow their hands while waiting for the door to open. The older one tells the other how, at the beginning of 1993, the building was destroyed by Azeri rockets. “They damaged it badly; a bit like Chouchi today ”. Gandzasar has since been restored and reopened; it comes back to life, the beating heart of its history, its community and its library of a thousand manuscripts – one of the main centers

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Death of thousands of children in Irish homes causes horror – Politics –


Micheal Martin deeply shaken
© APA (AFP)

The investigation report into the deaths of thousands of babies and children in mother and child homes is causing a stir and outrage in Ireland. Prime Minister Michael Martin apologized publicly for the suffering on Wednesday. Responsible is the church, which has monitored the “perverse moral code”. But the state has also failed. About 9,000 children died in homes controlled by the government and run by religious organizations, according to the report.

“I would like to emphasize that each of you was in a facility because of the injustice of others,” said Martin on Wednesday in Parliament in Dublin addressing the victims. “The state has let you, mothers and children in these homes, down.” The victims should now receive compensation – the Catholic Church must also participate, said Martin.

For tens of thousands of women and their children in Ireland, it must have been sheer horror. Abuse, cold, numbness: for decades, unmarried, often young women were subject to a rigid regime in mother-child homes. The independent report found that between 1922 and 1998 around 9,000 babies and children died in the facilities examined – “around 15 percent of all children who were in the homes”. Respiratory diseases and gastrointestinal inflammation were found to be the main causes of death.

Unmarried women lived in the homes with their children who had been despised by society at that time. The case throws a spotlight on Ireland’s conservative society, which has long been strongly religious.

“It is a crucial moment,” the now 70-year-old Anne Harris was quoted in the media. She gave birth to her son in a home in 1970. “Irish society has been pretty rigid and disparaging to children out of wedlock. In these huge institutions, women were simply taken out of sight.” Extramarital relationships were frowned upon and women were rejected by their own families, even if they were victims of rape. “The state and church have supported, contributed to and tolerated this tough attitude,” the report noted.

It is estimated that around 56,000 unmarried women with 57,000 children lived in mother and child homes. The majority of the women affected were destitute, and for many the institutions remained their last refuge. But the tone there was rough, the treatment was rough, the conditions were unsanitary. Dormitories were overcrowded, the catering was poor, there were hardly any medical or school facilities, and the guards, often nuns, were untrained. The main causes of infant deaths were respiratory diseases and gastrointestinal inflammation.

“Before 1960, mother-and-child homes did not save the lives of illegitimate children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their chances of survival,” the authors write. Even more: the high death rate was known to the authorities. There are specific allegations in old reports from the health authorities. “The responsible nun is stupid and ignorant (…) She has to be removed from her post immediately,” wrote a doctor decades ago. However, the authorities did not end the ordeal.

The fall is another blow to the image of the Catholic Church. It is also heavily criticized in other countries because of the serious abuse in homes that has been concealed for decades. Irish church officials were remorseful. The archbishop of the western Irish city of Tuam, where a home had existed, called the report “a cause for shame”. “The Church of Jesus Christ was supposed to bring hope and healing, but it brought harm and pain to many of these women and children,” said Michael Neary. The church has failed. Two orders of nuns who had run the facilities also apologized.

The processing of one of the blackest chapters in the history of the country, as Martin called the scandal, is another indication of the change in Ireland. Abortions and homosexual marriages are now allowed in the EU country, and the blasphemy clause has been removed from the constitution – steps that were considered unimaginable just a few years ago due to the deep roots of the Catholic Church in society.

Nevertheless, victims and relatives were dissatisfied. “The report does not confirm that there was abuse and does not recognize that there were forced adoptions,” criticized Niall Boylan, who was born in a Dublin home. “That’s ridiculous.” Paul Redmond, who grew up in a home in Castlepollard, called on the government to take action. The survivors would get older and die, he told RTÉ. The graves of many children remain unknown, with the deaths of thousands of children in Irish homes causing outrage

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Persecution of Christians Around the World Worsens

According to a report, the number of people killed because of their faith increased by 60% in 2020.

Year after year, the statistics published by the Protestant Evangelical Association Doors Open, a member of the Protestant Federation of France and present for 66 years in 70 countries to help persecuted Christians, leave a bitter taste. Its “World Index of Persecution of Christians”, covering the figures for 2020 and published on January 12, shows that the number of Christians killed because of their faith has increased from 2,983 to 4,761, an increase of 60%. “On a global level, that makes 13 Christians killed per day for their faith”, comments one of the managers of the association.

With a terrible record, in Nigeria, where 3,520 Christians were murdered in one year. This country is plagued by the Islamists of Boko Haram and the radicalization of the Fulanis, a mostly Muslim nomadic shepherd people, nicknamed the Fulani. “91% of Christians killed were on the African continent in 2020”, underlines the association. It is “The rise of jihadist groups in sub-Saharan Africa” which explains this sharp increase in Christians killed in 2020, because these movements “Took advantage of the measures taken to fight the Covid epidemic to expand their fields of operation”.

If the churches, another statistical element, were less targeted in 2020, going from 9,488 to 4,488, this is due to the fact that the year 2019 had reached a peak in the matter, by outright destruction, by administrative closure or by elimination. crosses. The prize for attacks on churches goes to China this year. The index lists 3,088 churches targeted in this country in 2020, compared to 5,576 in 2019. “Many closed churches have not reopened this year, specifies Open Doors, there are therefore fewer “targets”. ” As for these “Attacks”, they go “Of the obligation to remove the crosses, underlines the report, to complete destruction. Nearly 18,000 churches have been targeted over the past seven years in China “.

Finally, the third annual index, that of Christians imprisoned “arbitrarily” for their faith: they went from 4,811 in 2019 to 4,277 in 2020, a slight decrease. The association concludes: “More than 340 million Christians have been severely persecuted or discriminated against for their faith in the 50 countries listed.” She adds – based on very precise criteria that have now been used for more than a decade – that “Anti-Christian violence has increased by 10% compared to 2019”.

A sophisticated tool

This organization has in fact developed a statistical tool based on the effective accounting of known persecutions. It supplements these figures with a system of analytical criteria which identify, depending on the country, the infringements of the freedom of Christians in their private, family, social, civil and ecclesial life. Once identified, these facts are then meticulously classified over the months into two main categories: “hammer-hammer persecution”, physical or material, often “brutal”, notes the report. Less visible, but “insidious” persecution, with rejection, discreet oppressions, denials of rights, exclusions.

The association thus denounces “The use of blasphemy law in Pakistan for personal gain of which Christians are disproportionately victimized.” Or, in Somalia, Christians, nicknamed “the Crusaders” who are notably accused of “Spread the virus” of the pandemic.

For the presentation of the 2021 index, Iran was highlighted, with special guest Dabrina Bet Tamra. Refugee in Europe, this committed evangelical Christian is harassed by the Iranian authorities, just like her family. She has been arrested several times. She suffered two strange car accidents. She was imprisoned. «In Iran, she explains, which nevertheless displays religious freedom, evangelical Christians are considered a threat against the regime. With the converts from Islam to Christianity, they suffer a lot: they have no freedom of religion, no right to assemble or to possess religious material. They do not have the right to bring up their children according to their religious convictions. They cannot be civil servants. Access to higher education is prohibited. They do not have the right to inherit, nor the right to adopt. And in prison they are deprived of a lawyer. “

Globally, that’s 13 Christians killed per day for their faith.

The Protestant Evangelical Association Doors Open

The strong point of this “world index of persecution of Christians”, which has become a reference, is to be nourished by a network and information from the field in sometimes opaque countries. Evangelical Churches are often small, discreet structures, very active for evangelization but independent therefore very free vis-à-vis institutions. Doors Open has thus played a leading role over the past two years in improving the situation of Christians in Algeria, for which it had denounced to international bodies, especially European bodies, the policy of closing places of evangelical worship. “This closure policy has come to an end, this is one of the good news of the year, notes a manager, even though these churches are still closed. ”

SEE ALSO – Jean-Christophe Buisson: “Armenia, the first Christian state in history, is sacrificed”

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Five things I learned from a telephone counselor


Was Jesus a Working Child? How do you react if your son wants to become a bus driver or an acquaintance cheats on his wife? And what do you say to people who cannot find a partner? An old deacon in Brandenburg, who runs the pastoral helpline at Radio Horeb, has advice – and only goes no further if there is one question. .

Virginity: The Holy Virgin (neue-deutschland.de)

Actress of the Virgin Mary before a Stations of the Cross procession in Haiti. Many women have to hide sexual experiences. Others should prove their “innocence”.

Photo: dpa / Dieu Nalio Chery

“Do not be afraid, Maria! You have found grace with God. See, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You are to name him Jesus. ”This is what the angel Gabriel is said to have said to Mary when he surprised her in Nazareth. It is understandable that she asked in astonishment how that was supposed to work because she did not know “about any man”. Pregnancy without prior sexual intercourse? Unthinkable, even for Maria. More than 2000 years later, Christians continue to profess their faith with the words: I believe … in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

The virginity of Mary is by no means to be understood literally, emphasizes Martin Germer, pastor of the Berlin Memorial Church, in an interview with “nd”. “In antiquity, the son of a deity was also used in other constellations when it was a question of a person of special importance.” Such stories are primarily to be understood symbolically; Mary’s virginity in the creed is more of a statement about the meaning of Jesus and his unique relationship with God and not belief in the actual birth of a virgin.

Above all, however, the texts in the New Testament would be misunderstood if they were read as historical texts, says Germer. “People in antiquity dealt with such statements differently than we do today, where we are very trained in scientific thinking.” That things can move on several levels of meaning is evident in poetry, “but it works in historical texts today not «, says Germer.

And yet, for many believers, a woman’s virginity is still very important. Stories of young women can be read online, who are taught one thing above all by Christian and Muslim families and religious communities: just not have sex before marriage.

This is what happened to Clara in a Protestant free church in North Rhine-Westphalia, as the online magazine “Jetzt.de” reports, but also to the Muslim Leyla, whose story was published in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. “For the majority of parents, their daughter’s hymen is more important than her job – even in supposedly progressive academic families,” explains family counselor and psychologist Kazım Erdoğan in the same article. In his Berlin counseling center, he mainly receives Turkish families.

In Protestant circles today, no one would formulate the expectation that a woman would not be allowed to have sexual intercourse before marriage, emphasized Pastor Germer. “Those are moral concepts that were a long time ago.” Nevertheless, even he cannot rule out the possibility that this still occurs in certain piety traditions – Protestant as well as Catholic.

The myth of the hymen

A look at the anatomy of the female body shows that virginity is actually a social construct. Because there is no hymen that would show whether a woman has already had penetrative sex or not. In order not to solidify this idea, many also speak of »vaginal corona«, »vaginal wreath« or, more often, »hymen«.

This is a fold of the mucous membrane that is attached to the vaginal wall like a wreath. The size and shape of the hymen are different and changeable. The most noticeable change takes place during puberty, when hormones work their way all over the body – and not after the first sexual intercourse. On the contrary: hymen are very elastic. Whether it actually tears – and bleeds – during the first penetration sex depends on the shape of the hymen and its elasticity. In purely anatomical terms, many cannot meet the cultural and social expectations of women. In fact, only about half of all women bleed during their first vaginal sex. However, the blood can also come from the vaginal wall.

“With some, a narrow part of the hymen extends across the vaginal opening so that it looks more like an ‘Ø’ and not an ‘O’. In others, the hymen resembles a sieve with lots of small holes instead of a large one in the middle. Still other hymen look as if they have small fringes on the vaginal wall, and only very few girls have a hymen that covers the entire vaginal entrance, ”explain doctors Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl in their book“ Viva la Vagina ”. So a hymen that corresponds to the idea of ​​a hymen to be pierced. This is not only rare, but also extremely problematic. The blood must be able to flow out of the vagina at the latest during the first menstruation. The “hymena atresia”, as this variant is called, must then be surgically opened.

So there is no hymen variant for women who have had sex and another for virgins, sum up Brochmann and Støkken Dahl. “Like other parts of the body, the hymen has individual variations in appearance. Sorry, chastity tests don’t work. ”All the more frightening that in many parts of the world an“ intact ”hymen is still considered evidence of virginity.

Tool of oppression

A “long religious-patriarchal tradition” to “control female sexuality”, criticizes Verena Brown. The pediatrician cares for victims of sexual abuse in the USA and caused a sensation in 2019 with a Facebook post about the hymen. The hymen is surrounded by »antiquated traditions and misinformation« which women all over the world »cost their lives or their lives«, also write Brochmann and Støkken Dahl.

In fact, many women undergo tests to check their virginity or even to “restore” them with “hymenal reconstructions”. The hymen or vaginal tissue is narrowed so that it would certainly be injured during sex. Some women also resort to artificial hymen: membranes with fake blood that dissolve through body temperature and fluid and cost around 50 euros. Others have their virginity certified by doctors. However, the investigations are not always voluntary and are often criticized by human rights organizations. Forced virginity tests “violate the rights of women and girls to physical integrity, dignity and privacy, and the right not to be subjected to torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment,” Amnesty International declared in 2016.

In the end, only one thing can really be attested: that virginity is not an anatomical condition, but a mental, possibly also an emotional decision. For women and men.

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Corona, die Heilige (neues-deutschland.de)

Holy Corona, the »crowned«, is one of the early martyrs of the Christian church. We don’t know much about her. She is said to have been executed at the age of 16 by being torn between two stretched palm trees. In Austria and Bavaria she is actually the patron saint against epidemics and diseases. In view of the high incidence in Bavaria, doubts arise: Do Bavarians lack sincere faith, or has political unreason prevailed over the unreasonable superstitions of Catholics?

Holy Corona was killed because she looked after prisoners, including her husband or father (that remains uncertain in the fog of legends), who as a Roman soldier did not want to give up his faith. If this was during the time of Emperor Diocletian, then he was not allowed to publicly profess Christianity as a professional soldier. The Roman Empire had enough to do with keeping its own shop together to ensure the harvest of dates, figs and citrus fruits in the east around Damascus, where the martyrdom could have taken place. Because, like the wine produced there, they were urgently needed for consumption in the Italian core kingdom.

And something else will have led to the young girl’s martyrdom. The following sentences have come down to us from the Greek philosopher Kelsos, which agree with the general assessment of Christians of this time: “’No one can serve two masters,’ say the Christians. But this is a voice of revolt from those who shut themselves off from others and want to break away from the community. «The fact that Christians stayed away from the society of that time and denied its values ​​and customs Riot designed. The Christian enemy Kelsos sensed that in the Christian congregations the little people would get together to discuss their lives and their hopes. Social distancing and self-segregation were attempts to survive in imperial society.

It didn’t help Corona, at some point her belief could no longer be hidden, her death was sealed. Corona, the patron saint against epidemics, cannot be used for the purpose of quarantine and social distancing. But it was not self-isolation, but the refusal of the imperial cult that brought death to the Christians of this time. And even today we know that social distancing and quarantine should not only be a means against death, but above all are also invoked against the virus so that the “system-relevant” areas such as the economy and especially the money economy can continue to run.

That brings us to the next point: »Corona«, the crown, is also a means of payment. The poor Corona, who had started to hold on to her conviction of the coming of an empire in which she and her kind can lead a life in dignity in open conflict with the rulers and in solidarity with her fellow believer, Victor von Siena, is also the patron saint in money matters , the lottery and the treasure trove. Which should be plausible to all the crisis profiteers of the past year. But we remind you that the name »Corona«, the crowned one, refers to the term martyr: to a consistent life in the fight against the empire.

And the fact that Holy Corona ultimately became the patron saint of butchers must make you think. As we know, industrial meat food production, including the destruction of nature that is necessary in order to be able to provide feed or grazing land, is a not inconsiderable reason why Covid will probably not be the last virus we will have to deal with. We would need more from the Christians of that time, from Corona, the 16-year-old girl, and their courage to revolt, in order to be able to counter our problems.

Michael Ramminger from the Institute for Theology and Politics in Münster gave this year with Philipp Geitzhaus »Event, Freedom, Transcendence. Confrontations with Alain Badiou «(Edition ITP, € 14.80); In 2018 he published (with Michael Segbers) »› To overturn all conditions … and to overthrow the mighty from the throne. ‹The common legacy of Christians and Marxists« (VSA, 16.80 €).

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No future without electricity, heating oil and work (neue-deutschland.de)

This church in the city of Qaryatain was destroyed by IS in 2015.

»Do you actually know what it is like to live without electricity in Europe? Without heating oil in winter, without gas for cooking? When bread becomes more expensive, fruit and vegetables, but people have less and less money? ”Father Zehri Ghazal has become furious. He is a priest at the Umm Al-Zinar Church in the old town of Homs. What he says and how he speaks is completely in contrast to his appearance and his otherwise calm, humorous manner. “Before the war and the economic crisis, some people here earned the equivalent of $ 1,500, today they have $ 35 or the equivalent around 90,000 Syrian pounds, ”he says.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is catastrophic. Father Ghazal knows this only too well. “If someone wants to support a family of five, what can they buy to eat? The simplest meal, falafel with vegetables and bread, costs 500 Syrian pounds. If the family eats that for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that’s 2500 pounds per meal, 7500 pounds per day, ”he calculates. A month that would add up to £ 225,000 – for falafel alone, “without a drink, without soap or washing powder, without oil or anything else. And they certainly have children who go to school or study who need books, internet access and so on, ”he continues. “What if someone in the family gets sick and needs expensive medication that may not even be available!”

Father Zehri Ghazal reflects the desperation of the people in Syria. The conversation between him and the author revolves around the miserable economic situation in Syria and the question of how the people could survive. What can the Church do, how could Europe help? Finally, what about Christmas this year? How will the Syrian Christians celebrate?

Since the beginning of the EU sanctions in 2011, the money from the Syrian churches has been in Lebanese banks, from where it was then brought to Syria. Since Lebanon was stuck in an economic crisis and the Lebanese banks blocked all payments from accounts in foreign currency, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, which is also responsible for the Umm Al-Zinar Church in Homs, can only pay salaries in Syrian pounds pay. Since the beginning of the US sanctions, however, this has been falling ever deeper against the dollar, and the money is flowing between people’s fingers.

The humanitarian aid, which is distributed to the needy in Syria through international and UN organizations, should prevent people from fleeing to Europe, says Ghazal. The cleric is certain that the only thing that is interested is that not more refugees from Syria come to Europe: “But in view of the hopeless situation in our country and the economic blockade with which Europe and the USA are cutting off our air, many see each other Families are no longer able to continue living here and are doing everything to get to Belgium, Germany or Sweden. They take all their money, sell what they can sell, and use the money to send their children abroad to study and build a better future for themselves. Will these young people return later? “Asks Father Ghazal and immediately gives the answer himself:” Why should they return to a country without electricity, without heating oil, without gasoline and to a country where they cannot find work because theirs too Parents no longer have a job. “

Silence fills the room until someone carefully interjects that it is about home, about one’s own roots, about the origins of the Christians who shaped Bilad al-Sham, the Promised Land, long before the Muslims. The Christians are disappearing from Iraq, from Palestine, they cannot leave Syria too.

“We Christians were once five percent of the Syrian population, which before the war numbered 23 million,” says Father Zehri. “But what do we see when we look at Aleppo, the Jazeera, where there are almost no Christians left. Idlib as well, and here, in the old town of Homs, we counted 75,000 Christians before the war, today we are maybe 5,000! ”If it continues like this, if parents send their children abroad and they don’t return, there won’t be any It will take 30 years for there to be no more Christians in Syria.

The situation of Christians in Syria is not good. Like all Syrians, they suffer from a lack of essential living goods and immense increases in prices. In addition, they have to watch their presence in Syria melt almost like the ice in the sun. The Christians have no weapons to defend their existence in Syria. Christians only have the word, the writing and a pen, says Father Taher Jussif, who heads the congregation of St. George in Maalula. In view of the hatred that Christians, monasteries, churches and almost every place that the “Islamic State” attacked, it is unlikely that Christians in Syria would have a future. Add to this the silence in the world that accompanied this devastation.

Maalula is hidden between high rocks at an altitude of 1500 meters between Damascus and Homs. Between 2013 and 2015 it was repeatedly attacked, occupied and looted by armed Islamists, and the churches were set on fire. The faces were cut, smashed or otherwise made unrecognizable in pictures and icons. The dogmatic Islamic ban on images was the reason for the destruction. The people and saints venerated by Christians in Syria are demons of evil to jihadists.

Jussif, whom the people of Maalula simply call Abuna Taher, Our Father Taher, is a man of action and does not wait long to start something. With volunteers and restoration painters from Maalula, the last renovation work will be completed before Christmas, the church is like a studio. The colorful murals were freshened up, old icons restored and hung. The priest wants to keep the icons destroyed by the jihadists during the occupation of Maalula in a museum. Nobody should forget what happened.

The priest only interrupts his work in the church to have lunch with guests or to rehearse songs and chorales for the Christmas service with Maalula’s children, which he accompanies on the flute. Despite all the difficulties, Christmas gives him hope, he says. “Christmas means life and light, then we are really close to Jesus Christ.” He is convinced that the Christmas light, life can change the way people think. For Abuna Taher, Christians in Europe are very far from their, Christian reality in Syria, he says. The only message he wants to send them is very simple: “Don’t help us. Point.”

The “Christians of the desert” are considered particularly deeply rooted, but the war has scattered them to the winds too. Only a few hundred Christians lived in Tadmur, the small town next to Palmyra. In 2015, with the advance of IS, they fled to Homs, nobody has returned to this day. The little church is destroyed. In the dry, stony soil of Qaryatain, the “Christians of the desert” planted vines and fruit trees for decades. Sheep and goat herds moved across the plains, which in the winter months become green pastures due to the rain. 1500 Christians lived in the place Qaryatain, which is about 100 kilometers east of Homs. In 2015, IS took over the site with the support of Muslims living there. They destroyed the Deir Mar Elian monastery, which is located in the west of the village. They kidnapped 260 Christian men, women and children. Some young women dragged them off to Raqqa. The houses of the Christians in Qaryatain had previously been marked by Muslim neighbors with an “N”, the first letter of Naseri, which means Christian.

“We were one with the Muslims,” ​​says a woman who does not want to read her name in the newspaper. She and her two sisters were born in Qaryatain. All three had worked as teachers in the local elementary schools all their lives. In 2015 you were one of the 260 Christians who were abducted, and the “N” with which the house was marked can still be seen on the wall that surrounds your house. The hostages were released six months later through negotiations. In 2019 the sisters returned to Qaryatain. Only six of the once 1,500 Christians returned to Qaryatain. Most of them are afraid, say the sisters. People sold their houses, many left Syria to find a better future in another country. That would be out of the question for them, the women laugh, because they are at home in Qaryatain.

They’ll spend Christmas in front of the television. They would see the colorful decorations in Damascus, could hear the service and celebrate together that they were still alive. And next year, hopefully and God willing, they could celebrate Christmas together again in Qaryatain.

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“Fly window” is allowed in the church (neue-deutschland.de)

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder must have expected critical voices about the stained glass window that he had given to the Marktkirche in Hanover as a gift. Modern art, such as the depiction of a Martin Luther intended for the house of God, circling a fat black fly as a sign of evil, along with other symbolism, is not something everyone and not everyone likes. However, the fact that the work of his friend Markus Lüpertz developed into a bohei, which led to proceedings before the regional court, may also have surprised the ex-head of government.

Georg Bissen had exhausted the process. He is the stepson of the architect Dieter Oesterlen, who died in 1994. He was responsible for the reconstruction of the Marktkirche in Hanover, which was badly damaged by bombing in 1943.

The Protestant church is something like the “central church” of the Lower Saxony state capital, is the preaching office of the regional bishop. At the time, architect Oesterlen aimed to reduce the brick building, consecrated around 1360 and taken over by the Lutherans after the Reformation in 1536, to its Gothic origins. The “unadorned force” of the church, as he put it, was pleased with the architect.

He probably would not have liked at all the “Reformation window” with which Gerhard Schröder, as an honorary citizen of the city of Hanover, wanted to please the visitors of the market church. The work costs around 150,000 euros, and Schröder uses lecture fees for his gift, they say. As early as 2018, Georg Bissen, aware of his stepfather’s intention when planning the reconstruction, intervened against the installation of the 13-meter-high window. It would destroy the simplicity of the sacred building that Oesterlen wanted, argued the lawyer who lives and works in Japan.

The official market parish, on the other hand, was receptive to the Schröder gift and approved of the design by star painter Markus Lüpertz. Georg Bissen, however, did not allow himself to be softened and stuck to his strict rejection of the work, which is often called “fly window”. Finally, he insisted on Oesterlen’s copyright on the church design, which had shaped the reconstruction from 1946 to 1952. He also inherited this right, emphasized the stepson of the architect and moved in front of the Kadi.

The matter ended up at the 18th civil chamber of the Hanover Regional Court, which in October made an on-site visit to find out more about the interior of the Marktkirche. A little later there was a hearing in which Bissen and the church presented their views without coming closer.

On Monday, the Hanover regional court dismissed Georg Bissen’s lawsuit. If he does not appeal the judgment, the Reformation window can soon be installed, possibly at the beginning of next year.

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The dead guinea pig in class (neue-deutschland.de)

More and more parents in Berlin are registering their primary school children for the subject of humanistic life studies. “In the meantime, almost 70,000 schoolchildren are attending life science lessons, around 3,000 more than in the previous school year,” says David Driese from the Berlin-Brandenburg Humanist Association, the provider of the subject. Even if official figures from the Senate Education Administration can only be expected in January, it is already clear that “the number of participants in life studies, at least in public elementary schools, has surpassed those of Protestant and Catholic religious instruction,” said Driese about “nd” .

In fact, registrations for Christian religious education in the capital have been falling for years – slowly, but steadily. According to a recently published analysis by the Weltanschauungen research group in Germany, over 34 percent of all primary school students in Berlin took part in life science lessons in the past school year. This was followed by Protestant religious education with 26 percent and, far behind, Catholic classes with eight and Islamic classes with less than three percent. Slightly less than 30 percent of all children did not take part in either religion or ideology classes. Unlike the compulsory state subject ethics for grades 7 to 10, the corresponding elementary school subjects are voluntary additional offers. So the kids could do blue.

That they don’t do that, or better: that parents register their children for two hours of life lessons per week, is not surprising to the association board member Driese. “Many parents feel the need that their children get an ethically sound, value-based knowledge about the world.” And this need is even stronger “especially in view of the trumps of this world”, said Driese about the increasing number of participants.

The fact that the subject of humanistic life studies is now the first choice in public elementary schools is also due to the fact that everyday things that concern the children are dealt with in lessons, says Driese. How do you argue properly with parents? How do you deal with the subject of death? “It’s also very lively there. For example after a child said that his guinea pig died yesterday. And then there is a discussion: Is there life in heaven for guinea pigs after death? Is it just gone? Or does it live on in us because we remember it? «That pleases the children and then gets around to the parents too.

However, there is a noticeable east-west divide in the number of registrants. Significantly more children in the eastern part of the city take the subject than in the western part. While the numbers in Pankow or Treptow-Köpenick are around 60 percent, the proportion in Spandau, Neukölln or Reinickendorf is just around 25 percent. Nonetheless, registrations are also continuously increasing, reports Driese.

With the growing popularity of the subject goes hand in hand with the problem that the humanists are increasingly running out of teachers. Around 400 pedagogues are employed by the association, 90 percent of the positions are financed by funds from the Senate Culture Administration, the rest is done through donations. There is currently not much room for improvement, says Driese. “Although 42 trainee lawyers have currently started, we are lacking staff, as our registrations are even above the trend of the already increasing development in student numbers in Berlin.”

This is one of the reasons why the association, which has 15,000 members, is currently promoting the establishment of a humanistic university in the capital. Admittedly, the start-up is still a long way off. Driese estimates that the later recognition process alone should take a good two years.

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