Connect with us

News

Pope will pay a visit to an Iraqi church that has been destroyed by IS militants.

Published

on

Pope will pay a visit to an Iraqi church that has been destroyed by IS militants.

 

The Rev. Ammar Altony Yako remembers the scenes vividly: a church that had been the pride of the town of Qaraqosh, a hub for Christian life in Iraq, for decades stood badly scarred.

When Qaraqosh was freed from the Islamic State group after more than two years of rule, Yako witnessed it. The proclamation that the “Islamic State would remain” was scrawled on a wall. Bullet-riddled mannequins and other telltale signs of a militants’ improvised firing range for target practice were strewn among the rubble in a courtyard.

On Sunday, the world will see a new scene at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and new memories will be made. Pope Francis will now pray where extremists once wreaked havoc.

“I never could have expected, except in my dreams, that his holiness, the Pope, would visit this church,” said Yako, who has been overseeing the church’s reconstruction. “It’s a completely unexpected and very happy event.”

It’s also one with a lot of symbolism.

The pope’s historic journey, which comes amid a pandemic and security threats, will take him to Christian communities like Yako’s, which were devastated by the IS onslaught in 2014. As militants swept through northern Iraq, Christians in the region were forced to flee their ancestral towns and villages. Many have since left Iraq, sparking existential fears about the country’s already declining Christian population.

Many Christians hope that the pope’s visit will bring attention to their plight and send a message of hope, but they also point to protection, economic, and social issues that are preventing many Christians from returning.

Even now, some returnees are torn between two options: stay and help keep ancient cultures alive, or go abroad for a better life if they can?

IS wreaked havoc on religious and historic sites of all sorts, including mosques, tombs, shrines, and churches. The militant group vandalized or demolished everything it deemed to be in violation of its understanding of Islam.

For Christians, the Islamic State’s reign has dealt a blow to a population that has been dwindling since the security collapse and rise of militancy that followed the US-led war in Iraq in 2003 prompted many to flee. Iraqi Christians belong to a variety of denominations, including Chaldean, Syriac, Assyrian, and others, and their faith dates back almost to the beginning of the religion itself.

The Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh — “al-Tahira al-Kubra” in Arabic — has become a symbol of the community’s setbacks and, more recently, of its attempts to recover.

Walls in the church were found charred, crosses were destroyed, prayer books were burned, and the tower was damaged after the area was taken back from IS, according to Yako.

“Seeing the church where we worshipped and that we saw as part of our past look like that was so painful,” he said. “At the same time, we were relieved that we would be able to return and see it again.”

According to Yako, scars were removed as reconstruction took place with the support of foreign Christian organizations. Some, such as the pockmarked walls in the courtyard, were held to bear witness to the IS period.

Between 1932 and 1948, the church was built. Farmers in the area set aside money from their harvest, and women donated gold jewelry to help fund it, according to Yako.

“Its creation was entirely dependent on volunteers and donations. They were constructing the house of God in the same way as people build their own homes,” he explained. “We refer to it as the’mother church.’ This church is like a mother to everyone.”

Local artists and others have recently helped to spruce up the church.

One artist painted scenes from the Way of the Cross on 14 church windows, evoking Jesus’ agony on his way to be crucified.

Sculptor Thabet Mekhael produced a statue of Virgin Mary with her palms open and a crown on her head. The statue, which stands about 4 meters (13 feet) tall and is flanked by four crosses, now stands atop the church’s tower, looking out over Qaraqosh.

“The statue is a sign of our existence as Christians and a symbol of our return,” Mekhael said. “We reconstructed the tower and made it much more beautiful than before.”

Sister Hayat Alkasmosa of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Iraq, was one of a group of volunteers sweeping and mopping the church floor on a recent day.

“This church is like the beating heart of the community,” she said over the phone. “It’s our mother, our heritage, and our life.”

Alkasmosa’s voice broke up with tears when she remembered weeping as she found out the pope would be visiting Qaraqosh, also known as Bakhdida or Baghdeda.

She said, “There is a need for this kind of peace and consolation.” “It is healing to be in his presence.”

She believes Francis’ visit to the church would send a powerful message:

She said, “Darkness cannot prevail, and evil cannot win.” “The last word does not refer to death; it refers to life.”

News

Biden says recession not inevitable as he readies trade pact

Published

on

Biden says recession not inevitable as he readies trade pact

By JOSH BOAK and AAMER MADHANI

TOKYO (AP) — President Joe Biden promised “concrete benefits” would emerge from a new Indo-Pacific trade framework he’s launching Monday even as he warned Americans worried about high inflation that it was “going to be a haul” before they feel relief. He said he does not believe an economic recession is inevitable in the U.S.

Biden, speaking at a news conference after holding talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, acknowledged the U.S. economy has “problems” but said they were “less consequential than the rest of the world has.”

He added: “This is going to be a haul. This is going to take some time,” even as he rejected the idea a recession in the U.S. was inevitable.

The comments came just before Biden’s planned launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a new trade deal his administration designed to signal U.S. dedication to the contested economic sphere and to address the need for stability in commerce after disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meeting with Kishida, Biden said the new framework would also increase U.S. cooperation with other nations in the region.

The White House said the framework will help the United States and Asian economies work more closely on issues including supply chains, digital trade, clean energy, worker protections and anticorruption efforts. The details still need to be negotiated among the member countries, making it difficult for the administration to say how this agreement would fulfill the promise of helping U.S. workers and businesses while also meeting global needs.

Critics say the framework has gaping shortcomings. It doesn’t offer incentives to prospective partners by lowering tariffs or provide signatories with greater access to U.S. markets. Those limitations may not make the U.S. framework an attractive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which still moved forward after the U.S. bailed out. China, the largest trading partner for many in the region, is also seeking to join TPP.

“I think a lot of partners are going to look at that list and say: ‘That’s a good list of issues. I’m happy to be involved,’” said Matthew Goodman, a former director for international economics on the National Security Council during President Barack Obama’s administration. But he said they also may ask, “Are we going to get any tangible benefits out of participating in this framework?”

Countries signing on to the framework were to be announced Monday during Biden’s visit to Tokyo. It’s the latest step by the Biden administration to try to preserve and broaden U.S. influence in a region that until recently looked to be under the growing sway of China.

Kishida hosted a formal state welcome for Biden at Akasaka Palace, including a white-clad military honor guard and band in the front plaza. Reviewing the assembled troops, Biden placed his hand over his heart as he passed the American flag and bowed slightly as he passed the Japanese standard.

Kishida said at their meeting that he was “absolutely delighted” to welcome Biden to Tokyo on the first Asia trip of his presidency. Along with Biden, he drove a tough line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying it “undermines the foundation of global order.”

Biden, who is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, called the U.S.-Japanese alliance a “cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific” and thanked Japan for its “strong leadership” in standing up to Russia.

The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October as a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. dropped out of in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump.

The new pact comes at a moment when the administration believes it has the edge in its competition with Beijing. Bloomberg Economics published a report last week projecting U.S. GDP growth at about 2.8% in 2022 compared to 2% for China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict lockdowns while also dealing with a property bust. The slowdown has undermined assumptions that China would automatically supplant the U.S. as the world’s leading economy.

“The fact that the United States will grow faster than China this year, for the first time since 1976, is a quite striking example of how countries in this region should be looking at the question of trends and trajectories,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Biden’s first stop Monday was a private meeting with Emperor Naruhito of Japan at Naruhito’s residence on the lush grounds of the Imperial Palace before the talks with Kishida.

The two leaders were also set to meet with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago. The Japanese premier took office last fall and is looking to strengthen ties with the U.S. and build a personal relationship with Biden. He’ll host the president at a restaurant for dinner.

The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, has been billed by the White House as one of the bigger moments of Biden’s Asia trip and of his ongoing effort to bolster ties with Pacific allies. Through it all, administration officials have kept a close eye on China’s growing economic and military might in the region.

In September the U.S. announced a new partnership with Australia and Britain called AUKUS that is aimed and deepening security, diplomatic and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Through that AUKUS partnership, Australia will purchase nuclear-powered submarines, and the U.S. is to increase rotational force deployments to Australia.

The U.S. president has also devoted great attention to the informal alliance known as the Quad, formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Biden and fellow leaders from the alliance, which also includes Australia, India and Japan, are set to gather in Tokyo for their second in-person meeting in less than a year. The leaders have also held two video calls since Biden took office.

And earlier this month, Biden gathered representatives from nine of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington for a summit, the first ever by the organization in the U.S. capital. Biden announced at the summit the U.S. would invest some $150 million in clean energy and infrastructure initiatives in ASEAN nations.

Sullivan confirmed on Sunday that Taiwan — which had sought membership in the IPEF framework— isn’t among the governments that will be included. Participation of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, would have irked Beijing.

Sullivan said the U.S. wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high technology issues and semiconductor supply on a one-to-one basis.

Biden will wrap up his five days in Asia on Tuesday with the Quad meeting and one-on-one talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

The center-left leader of the Australian Labor Party this weekend defeated incumbent Scott Morrison and ended nine years of conservative rule.

Modi, leader of the world’s biggest democracy, has declined to join the U.S. and other allies in levying sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. In a video call last month, Biden asked Modi not to accelerate its purchase of Russian oil.

—-

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Continue Reading

News

Biden: US would intervene militarily if China invades Taiwan

Published

on

Biden: US would intervene militarily if China invades Taiwan

By JOSH BOAK and AAMER MADHANI

TOKYO (AP) — President Joe Biden said Monday that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan, in one of the most forceful and overt statements in support of Taiwan in decades.

Biden said the burden to protect the self-ruled island was “even stronger” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Biden said, “That’s the commitment we made.” He said an effort by China to use force against Taiwan would “just not be appropriate,” saying it “will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

Under the “One China” policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as the government of China and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, it maintains unofficial contacts with Taiwan, including a de facto embassy in Taipei, the capital. The U.S. also supplies military equipment for the island’s defense.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

TOKYO (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday promised “concrete benefits” for the people of the Indo-Pacific region from a new trade pact he was set to launch, designed to signal U.S. dedication to the contested economic sphere and address the need for stability in commerce after disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework would also increase U.S. cooperation with other nations in the region.

The White House said the framework will help the United States and Asian economies work more closely on issues including supply chains, digital trade, clean energy, worker protections and anticorruption efforts. The details still need to be negotiated among the member countries, making it difficult for the administration to say how this agreement would fulfill the promise of helping U.S. workers and businesses while also meeting global needs.

Countries signing on to the framework were to be announced Monday during Biden’s visit to Tokyo for talks with Kishida. It’s the latest step by the Biden administration to try to preserve and broaden U.S. influence in a region that until recently looked to be under the growing sway of China.

Kishida hosted a formal state welcome for Biden at Akasaka Palace, including a white-clad military honor guard and band in the front plaza. Reviewing the assembled troops, Biden placed his hand over his heart as he passed the American flag and bowed slightly as he passed the Japanese standard.

Kishida, in brief remarks, said he was “absolutely delighted” to welcome Biden to Tokyo on the first Asia trip of his presidency. Along with Biden, he drove a tough line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying it “undermines the foundation of global order.”

Biden, who is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, called the U.S.-Japanese alliance a “cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific” and thanked Japan for its “strong leadership” in standing up to Russia.

The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October as a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. dropped out of in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump.

The new pact comes at a moment when the administration believes it has the edge in its competition with Beijing. Bloomberg Economics published a report last week projecting U.S. GDP growth at about 2.8% in 2022 compared to 2% for China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict lockdowns while also dealing with a property bust. The slowdown has undermined assumptions that China would automatically supplant the U.S. as the world’s leading economy.

“The fact that the United States will grow faster than China this year, for the first time since 1976, is a quite striking example of how countries in this region should be looking at the question of trends and trajectories,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Critics say the framework has gaping shortcomings. It doesn’t offer incentives to prospective partners by lowering tariffs or provide signatories with greater access to U.S. markets. Those limitations may not make the U.S. framework an attractive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which still moved forward after the U.S. bailed out. China, the largest trading partner for many in the region, is also seeking to join TPP.

“I think a lot of partners are going to look at that list and say: ‘That’s a good list of issues. I’m happy to be involved,’” said Matthew Goodman, a former director for international economics on the National Security Council during President Barack Obama’s administration. But he said they also may ask, “Are we going to get any tangible benefits out of participating in this framework?”

It is possible for countries to be part of both trade deals.

Biden’s first stop Monday was a private meeting with Emperor Naruhito of Japan at Naruhito’s residence on the lush grounds of the Imperial Palace before the talks with Kishida.

The two leaders were also set to meet with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago. The Japanese premier took office last fall and is looking to strengthen ties with the U.S. and build a personal relationship with Biden. He’ll host the president at a restaurant for dinner.

The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, has been billed by the White House as one of the bigger moments of Biden’s Asia trip and of his ongoing effort to bolster ties with Pacific allies. Through it all, administration officials have kept a close eye on China’s growing economic and military might in the region.

In September the U.S. announced a new partnership with Australia and Britain called AUKUS that is aimed and deepening security, diplomatic and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Through that AUKUS partnership, Australia will purchase nuclear-powered submarines, and the U.S. is to increase rotational force deployments to Australia.

The U.S. president has also devoted great attention to the informal alliance known as the Quad, formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Biden and fellow leaders from the alliance, which also includes Australia, India and Japan, are set to gather in Tokyo for their second in-person meeting in less than a year. The leaders have also held two video calls since Biden took office.

And earlier this month, Biden gathered representatives from nine of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington for a summit, the first ever by the organization in the U.S. capital. Biden announced at the summit the U.S. would invest some $150 million in clean energy and infrastructure initiatives in ASEAN nations.

Sullivan confirmed on Sunday that Taiwan — which had sought membership in the IPEF framework— isn’t among the governments that will be included. Participation of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, would have irked Beijing.

Sullivan said the U.S. wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high technology issues and semiconductor supply on a one-to-one basis.

Biden will wrap up his five days in Asia on Tuesday with the Quad meeting and one-on-one talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

The center-left leader of the Australian Labor Party this weekend defeated incumbent Scott Morrison and ended nine years of conservative rule.

Modi, leader of the world’s biggest democracy, has declined to join the U.S. and other allies in levying sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. In a video call last month, Biden asked Modi not to accelerate its purchase of Russian oil.

—-

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Continue Reading

News

Biden: Recession not inevitable, pain to last ‘some time’

Published

on

Biden: Recession not inevitable, pain to last ‘some time’

By JOSH BOAK and AAMER MADHANI

TOKYO (AP) — President Joe Biden says he does not believe an economic recession in the U.S. is inevitable despite record high inflation and supply shortages partly caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference Monday in Tokyo, Biden acknowledged that the American economy has “problems,” but said it was better positioned than other countries.

“We have problems that the rest of the world has,” Biden said, “but less consequential than the rest of the world has.”

Biden acknowledged the impact that severe supply shortages and high energy prices are having on U.S. families. He said his administration was working to ease the pain for U.S. consumers, but said there were unlikely to be immediate solutions.

“This is going to be a haul,” Biden said. “This is going to take some time.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

TOKYO (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday promised “concrete benefits” for the people of the Indo-Pacific region from a new trade pact he was set to launch, designed to signal U.S. dedication to the contested economic sphere and address the need for stability in commerce after disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework would also increase U.S. cooperation with other nations in the region.

The White House said the framework will help the United States and Asian economies work more closely on issues including supply chains, digital trade, clean energy, worker protections and anticorruption efforts. The details still need to be negotiated among the member countries, making it difficult for the administration to say how this agreement would fulfill the promise of helping U.S. workers and businesses while also meeting global needs.

Countries signing on to the framework were to be announced Monday during Biden’s visit to Tokyo for talks with Kishida. It’s the latest step by the Biden administration to try to preserve and broaden U.S. influence in a region that until recently looked to be under the growing sway of China.

Kishida hosted a formal state welcome for Biden at Akasaka Palace, including a white-clad military honor guard and band in the front plaza. Reviewing the assembled troops, Biden placed his hand over his heart as he passed the American flag and bowed slightly as he passed the Japanese standard.

Kishida, in brief remarks, said he was “absolutely delighted” to welcome Biden to Tokyo on the first Asia trip of his presidency. Along with Biden, he drove a tough line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying it “undermines the foundation of global order.”

Biden, who is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, called the U.S.-Japanese alliance a “cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific” and thanked Japan for its “strong leadership” in standing up to Russia.

The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October as a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. dropped out of in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump.

The new pact comes at a moment when the administration believes it has the edge in its competition with Beijing. Bloomberg Economics published a report last week projecting U.S. GDP growth at about 2.8% in 2022 compared to 2% for China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict lockdowns while also dealing with a property bust. The slowdown has undermined assumptions that China would automatically supplant the U.S. as the world’s leading economy.

“The fact that the United States will grow faster than China this year, for the first time since 1976, is a quite striking example of how countries in this region should be looking at the question of trends and trajectories,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Critics say the framework has gaping shortcomings. It doesn’t offer incentives to prospective partners by lowering tariffs or provide signatories with greater access to U.S. markets. Those limitations may not make the U.S. framework an attractive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which still moved forward after the U.S. bailed out. China, the largest trading partner for many in the region, is also seeking to join TPP.

“I think a lot of partners are going to look at that list and say: ‘That’s a good list of issues. I’m happy to be involved,’” said Matthew Goodman, a former director for international economics on the National Security Council during President Barack Obama’s administration. But he said they also may ask, “Are we going to get any tangible benefits out of participating in this framework?”

It is possible for countries to be part of both trade deals.

Biden’s first stop Monday was a private meeting with Emperor Naruhito of Japan at Naruhito’s residence on the lush grounds of the Imperial Palace before the talks with Kishida.

The two leaders were also set to meet with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago. The Japanese premier took office last fall and is looking to strengthen ties with the U.S. and build a personal relationship with Biden. He’ll host the president at a restaurant for dinner.

The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, has been billed by the White House as one of the bigger moments of Biden’s Asia trip and of his ongoing effort to bolster ties with Pacific allies. Through it all, administration officials have kept a close eye on China’s growing economic and military might in the region.

In September the U.S. announced a new partnership with Australia and Britain called AUKUS that is aimed and deepening security, diplomatic and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Through that AUKUS partnership, Australia will purchase nuclear-powered submarines, and the U.S. is to increase rotational force deployments to Australia.

The U.S. president has also devoted great attention to the informal alliance known as the Quad, formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Biden and fellow leaders from the alliance, which also includes Australia, India and Japan, are set to gather in Tokyo for their second in-person meeting in less than a year. The leaders have also held two video calls since Biden took office.

And earlier this month, Biden gathered representatives from nine of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington for a summit, the first ever by the organization in the U.S. capital. Biden announced at the summit the U.S. would invest some $150 million in clean energy and infrastructure initiatives in ASEAN nations.

Sullivan confirmed on Sunday that Taiwan — which had sought membership in the IPEF framework— isn’t among the governments that will be included. Participation of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, would have irked Beijing.

Sullivan said the U.S. wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high technology issues and semiconductor supply on a one-to-one basis.

Biden will wrap up his five days in Asia on Tuesday with the Quad meeting and one-on-one talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

The center-left leader of the Australian Labor Party this weekend defeated incumbent Scott Morrison and ended nine years of conservative rule.

Modi, leader of the world’s biggest democracy, has declined to join the U.S. and other allies in levying sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. In a video call last month, Biden asked Modi not to accelerate its purchase of Russian oil.

—-

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Continue Reading

Trending