SYRIA: Seven Islamist rebel groups are merging into a new group called the Islamic Front aiming to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and build an Islamic state in its place.
We are following the battle for Qalamoun Mountains, a strategic area north of Damascus linking the capital to the coast. A long-standing home to many Christians, it is worth monitoring for the ongoing decimation of the church in the Middle East. It could provoke wider involvement of Lebanon in the war.
Mother Agnes-Mariam is an outspoken Catholic nun from the Qalamoun area on a speaking tour in the United Kingdom. “It will be the end of the civilized world today in Syria,” she said, for rebel jihadists to replace al-Assad. The nun drew controversy for statements that videos showing August's chemical weapons attacks were staged. “I am sure 100 percent,” she said.
ANNIVERSARY: Much attention today has focused on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, but two other international figures also died that day—with Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and C.S. Lewis taking “different paths to the grave.” Author Kathy Keller, wife of pastor-author Tim Keller, talks about her pen-pal relationship with C.S. Lewis and how it led her to Christian faith.
PHILIPPINES: Kim Kardashian is selling her old clothes on eBay to benefit typhoon victims in the Philippines—but giving only 10 percent of the proceeds to the cause.
ALGERIA: The clementine, now crated and sold in bulk, has a storied past, grafted in the groves of a missionary Catholic priest in Algeria to feed an orphanage.
READING: It’s time to plow the 2013 “must-read” stack, and for me that includes Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed, Melanie Kirkpatrick's Escape from North Korea (WORLD's 2013 book of the year), and The Miracle of Father Kapaun by Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying. Other book recommendations?