Four apparent suicide bombs in Aleppo today have killed at least 40 and reduced to rubble large swaths of the ancient city. The area bombed included public gardens and hotels, and the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Aziziyeh.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew by helicopter on Tuesday from Damascus to Aleppo to get a first-hand look at fighting between rebels and government forces, as he ordered 30,000 more troops into the battle.
One of my contacts in Aleppo reported in by email this week. I had not heard from him in weeks. “As you know that for the last eight weeks we did not have any access to our emails since there was no net connection, or functioning mobiles or even land lines,” he said. “A bomb dropped and exploded in a heavily crowded Christian area near to my mother's house, resulting in six deaths (a mother with her little child and four adult males) and 14 severely wounded, and many are in serious unconscious status.” He and others are trying to support the many in desperate need: “Widows, families with children, handicapped ones, sick ones, husbands in prison, poor families, IDPs [internally displaced persons] inside Aleppo, people who have lost their houses and had some damages and so on.” He sent me a map showing the affected areas near his home. I can only think of Luke 6:21: “Blessed are you who weep now,” said Jesus, “for you shall laugh.”
Iraq is now playing a frontline role in the Syrian conflict, complying with a U.S. and NATO request that it halt aircraft from Iran and elsewhere suspected of carrying arms to the Syrian government.
Persecution of Christians in India at the hands of Hindu nationalists is unrelenting. Mob activities include 12 extremists disrupting a prayer meeting in Orissa on Sept. 24, chasing the worshipers away.
In the Sinai Peninsula, Coptic Christians are being chased from their homes. The area’s governor is Egypt’s newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi. When Christians met with him a week ago, to their shock he promised “to facilitate the Copts' move to the nearby city of el-Arish but did not offer to protect the community to ensure that it stayed in Rafah.” Local priest Father Youssef Sobhi said, "I was shocked at the governor's response. This is simply displacement by the government's consent."
A great resource on persecution is the International Religious Freedom Advocacy, a book celebrating its third anniversary and co-written by Knox Thames, director of policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Knox is an expert’s expert, and this is a comprehensive look at organizations and laws affecting religious persecution around the world. Someone send Morsi a copy.
Ever heard of a solar still? It's the latest, cheapest way to desalinate water, providing new drinking sources in the developing world.
Travel advisory: Today I set out on an overseas journey, hitting among other spots India, and particularly New Delhi in the north and Bangalore in the south. If you have contacts or story ideas that could be useful to me along that route, please send my way (email@example.com). Meantime, Globe Trot will not appear Friday and may be on a time-adjusted schedule next week.