AFGHANISTAN: Major Gen. Harold Greene became the first two-star U.S. general killed in action since the Vietnam War yesterday. He is also the first U.S. general killed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Green and other military personnel came under attack by a militant dressed in an Afghan Army uniform while visiting a military training facility on the outskirts of Kabul (more on the program and the facility in this 2010 WORLD cover story). Greene was widely known as a family man. His wife is a retired Army colonel, and one of his two adult children is a West Point graduate.
IRAQ: Church leaders working with thousands of Christians displaced from the Mosul area today report the front line has not changed but fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces “has escalated.”
Beginning Aug. 2, ISIS fighters fired mortars on Christian villages in the Nineveh Plain area that have been safe havens since the militants took over Mosul in June.
The area of Sinjar just south of the northern border city of Duhok has fallen into ISIS hands, with thousands of Yezidis and other minorities who live there forced to flee.
Iraqi air forces have launched attacks on ISIS in these areas, and one church leader told me Sunni militants in Mosul, led by former Baath officers ousted along with Saddam Hussein, are now leading skirmishes in the city against ISIS.
The situation for displaced Christians in the north, Canon Andrew White of Baghdad’s St. George’s Church told me by phone today, remains “desperate” and “the fact is nobody knows how many Christians have been killed.”
Louis Sako, patriarch of the Chaldean Church, in an Aug. 5 letter to Pope Francis, writes of “seventy persons” massacred in Sinjar and Christians killed in bombardments in Nineveh Plain area:
“This having been said it is evident that there is practically no collaboration between the central government and that of the Kurdish Region and in addition that the new government is not yet formed!
As to our political parties, they have failed in every tangible manner, and this for reasons well known to everyone as well as to each of these parties themselves.
As for the Church, she finds herself completely alone.”
MORE: At the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, it’s Fortress America meets Alice in Wonderland. The fortified facility could serve as a metaphor for misplaced efforts by the United States to create a reality in Iraq distinct from the reality on the ground. Security protocol keeps employees from meaningful, everyday contact with Iraqis, and Iraqis view the compound with suspicion.
ISRAEL: A 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is holding for now, as talks mediated by Egypt continue. The strain in the U.S.-Israeli relationship over the latest conflict is well noted, but note also:
“With public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill, President Obama has had few obvious levers to force Mr. Netanyahu to stop pounding targets in Gaza until he was ready to do it.” [italics mine]
Thanks to Netivah Center, a Tel Aviv-based ministry, and my friend Joel Goldberg who runs it, Israeli and Palestinian youth together have had some fun this summer despite rockets and warfare. Goldberg, a Messianic Jew who has spread this program to more than 150 Messianic congregations in Israel, has been drafted into the Israeli Army. His reconciliation efforts among Messianic Israelis and Palestinian Christian youth include hosting retreats outside their own contested country, as he once told me: “To someone from Bethlehem, Cyprus is closer than Jerusalem.”
SYRIA’s “Monuments Men,” armed with a plan and “a pen set worthy of James Bond,” are on a potentially deadly mission to document and save the country’s ancient churches, mosques, and Crusader castles, as well as other treasure troves dating back to the Byzantine and Roman empires.
CHINA: Chinese authorities say tomorrow they will release jailed Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose 8-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” is almost up. A Chinese website has a countdown clock until his release, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide has a signup sheet for a 24-hour prayer vigil on his behalf. More on Gao’s work can also be found in WORLD’s 2012 Daniel of the Year cover story.
GERMANY: Photographs on exhibit in New York’s Chelsea district show how bomb craters from World War II have become a part of the natural landscape in Germany.