Every second Saturday of the month, Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ.
3pm Great Vespers, 4pm Divine Liturgy for Sunday. Next: 12th December 2020

Every Sunday - 9am Divine Liturgy in English (fully or mostly) at the Holy Family Cathedral

Owing to public health regulations, services will be sung only by one reader or cantor. There is no singing by the people for the moment. If you wish to attend on Sunday, booking is essential on this phone line: 07956 066727. Masks must be worn and distance maintained.

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email for details.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Syria’s Christian Sheep Among the Wolves | National Review Online

A ragtag militia defends the community against Islamists and the Assad government.

By Andrew Doran

The Christian soldier extends his hand and greets me in Syriac with “shlomo” (peace) as he clutches the strap of the Kalashnikov draped over his shoulder with his other hand. His diplomatic bearing is in sharp contrast with both his combat fatigues and the austere headquarters of the Syriac Military Council, a Christian militia formed in 2013 that fights alongside the Kurds in northeastern Syria. David, a man in his early 30s, has been summoned to translate for the local military commander, to whom he defers with the humility of a natural soldier. That he is more than a mere soldier or translator is self-evident. Here is a man who has sacrificed much to stand with his fellow Christians in their hour of need — he is their khoura, or brother, as the soldiers call one another in Syriac. “We are not afraid,” he says.

Of the millions of diaspora Middle Eastern Christians in Europe, Australia, and the Americas, few have followed in David’s footsteps back to their ancestral homeland. However, in the two years since he returned to Syria, thousands of Sunni Muslim youths from across Europe have flocked there to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad, many of them joining the ranks of Islamist extremist groups. “We defend ourselves against Islamists and Assad,” David says. “Here we are like sheep among the wolves.”

David explains the military situation and its broader implications as we sip Turkish coffee, its cardamom particularly acerbic. The fighting against al-Qaeda and its affiliates has been tense in recent days, especially in Tal Hamis, Qamishli, and the city of Hasakah. David translates for the commander, a grim but gregarious fellow, whose youthful countenance is contrasted by graying hair — not the only soldier whose hair has grayed prematurely. He pulls out his iPhone to show me photos of a church destroyed by al-Nusra and uses Google Earth to show me detailed mapping of battlefields — somewhat ironic in the midst of the routine power outages that last for hours at a time. “We are fighting to protect our people,” says the commander. “We survived the Ottomans. We will survive Qaeda, ISIS, and Nusra.”

The commander speaks of the battle of Tal Hamis, where he says ISIS ambushed a truck full of soldiers en route from Al Hasakah. “Some escaped. Some exploded themselves rather than be captured,” he explains, adding that they took many ISIS with them. “The regime says that they are retaking Tal Hamis, but these are lies. The regime is letting others do the fighting — the Kurds and the Syriac Military Council.” Attitudes toward the regime, while officially hostile, are in reality more complicated. In our quarters, once a hotel, there hangs a photograph of Bashar al-Assad with his wife and infant daughter. Yet among many “Syriani,” as the Christians are known in Syriac, the Assad government is regarded as oppressive. “The regime uses Christians as a card in his hand,” says one man, who likens the war to a film that the regime is watching from afar.

In early 2013, government forces largely withdrew from the area, giving the predominantly Kurdish Al Hasakah region quasi-autonomy. The principal enemy of late has been less the regime than the foreign extremists — al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and ISIS, a faction too extreme even for al-Qaeda. While these terrorist organizations have a seemingly endless supply of men and weapons and funds from the Arab Gulf states — a problem that antedated the Arab Spring — there is no such support for the Christians.

“People are dying from not getting enough medicine,” says Paul, a Christian who is affiliated with an international organization committed to nonviolence. “There are no doctors left. They all went to the U.S. and Europe,” he adds. “The hospitals are closed. The only border option is controlled by ISIS, who are targeting Christians.” Humanitarian shipments are often intercepted by Islamists at the Turkish border, where al-Nusra and others come and go freely. Even the military commander, who desperately needs weapons, says that humanitarian concerns are paramount for the people here. “We need medical supplies,” he says. Voicing frustration with aid from the U.S. and Europe in particular, he adds, “It doesn’t find its way to those who need it.”

Paul’s views toward nonviolence are representative of those of millions of Christians in the region. In Iraq some days before, a Christian had explained that it was not for prudential reasons that the Christians had refused to take up arms. “It is for their faith, I think,” he said. But some Christians have come to believe that only by taking up arms can they protect their people, now targeted by the Islamists. Yet even the Islamists are seen to have served Assad’s purposes.

The military commander claims that the government has maneuvered to assist the Islamists in Hasakah recently so as to maintain the precarious balance of enemies slaughtering one another, a rumor that has gained traction in recent weeks — and one consistent with the Byzantine machinations of the region. “Assad is afraid that united Kurds and Christians would mean a loss of control over this part of Syria,” he says. The alliance between Kurd and Christian is rooted not only in shared interest but also in common values.

Read the article in full on National Review Online here:
Syria’s Christian Sheep Among the Wolves | National Review Online

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