12/19/2014 LEBANON - SYRIA
Syrian refugees in Lebanon face new challenge, children "without citizenship or rights"
UN agencies and NGOs warn that more and more children born in families fleeing the war are likely to remain stateless. Some 70 per cent of the 42,000 children born in Lebanon to Syrian parents since the outbreak of the conflict have not been registered. However, the figure could be far higher. Poverty and lack of identity papers aggravate the problem.
With empty cradles, Japan needs to boost birth rate, govt says
Shinzo Abe's government released a draft plan to halt the decline of the Japanese population. Without a higher birth rate, health care and retirement systems are no longer viable. The draft plan includes two parts, a long-term vision and a comprehensive strategy to boost births.
Christmas in Malaysia, a moment of "celebration and sharing" for Christians and Muslims
The archbishop of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah recited the inaugural prayer. The event provided an opportunity for people to come together in unity, harmony and prosperity. For the tenth anniversary, organisers chose as motto 'The Star of Great Joy,' Jesus who brings peace. For a State minister, the festivity shows "good relations between people of different faith and ethnicity".
12/19/2014 SOUTH KOREA
Seoul, the Constitutional Court bans a Political Party: "Dictatorship is back"
Chief judges have accepted the Government's demands and imposed the dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party, accused of carrying out "pro-North Korea" policies. The Party's five elected MPs have been forced to resign: they will be banned from political life "for at least five years." The Party leader speaks of a "return of dictatorship", concern among international observers.
12/19/2014 MACAU - HONG KONG - CHINA
Occupy effect: umbrellas banned during Xi Jinping's visit to Macau (despite the rain)
by Paul Wang
Hong Kong activists were expelled from the former Portuguese colony. At the Macau Ferry Pier, people opened their umbrellas to demand freedom for all Chinese political prisoners. Opponents to Occupy are up (plus 9 per cent, to 38). Some 43.1 per cent are opposed to China's electoral reform. At least 1.2 million people took part in the Occupy protest.
12/19/2014 IRAQ - SYRIA
Mount Sinjar, the peshmerga break siege of Islamic State militias
The Kurds' most important military victory against the Islamists since the beginning of the war. The fighters have opened a humanitarian corridor to allow the escape of 1,200 families trapped since summer. However Yazidi sources have not confirmed the end of the siege or the positioning of Peshmerga troops. December US airstrikes killed high-ranking military leaders of IS.
Clergy tunes "in to God's message" to mark Christmas in Vijayawada
by Benigna Menezes*
Priests and nuns from the diocese gathered for their annual Christmas meeting, which this time also included the inauguration of the Year of Consecrated Life. The variety of orders and congregations is "a gift from God that enriches the Church."
12/18/2014 PALESTINE - ISRAEL
Palestine presents peace plan to the UN Council, Israel calls it an act of aggression
by Joshua Lapide
The resolution calls for a peace treaty within a year and Israel's withdrawal from the Occupied Territories by 2017. The peace plan also provides for two states within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as a shared capital, plus bilateral security guarantees. US-led talks in the last 20 years have proven useless. For Avigdor Lieberman, the UN should deal with more serious things, and not go for Palestinians' "gimmicks". Without a solution, despair could engulf Palestinians.
Radical Hindus' Christmas reconversions postponed, not cancelled
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) takes a step back to let parliament's winter session to end. It pledges however to reconvert 5,000 Christian and Muslim families "before the end of the year". Opposition call on the prime minister to speak on the matter, but the ruling party says no.
Karachi archbishop calls for prayer and silence in Catholic schools for Peshawar massacre victims
by Shafique Khokhar
As Mgr Coutts remembered the "innocent victims of senseless violence," he called on the faithful to be a source of "peace and reconciliation". Intra-Taliban divisions exacerbate the violence. A power struggle between Pakistan's civilian and military leaders favours Islamist terrorism. For a Muslim activist, the attack is Pakistan's 9/11. Christian priest says it threatens the enlightened future of the country.
Pope: God walks with us in history, and when we go wrong he correct history and brings it forward
"Making history with his people means for God to walk with us and to test the ones he has chosen". But in the end He saves them: "Let us always remember, with confidence, even in the worst moments, even in times of illness, when we realize we have to ask for the Last Rites because there is no way out, to say: 'Lord, history did not start with me and will not end with me! You go ahead, I am willing to come with you'. And to put ourselves in the hands of the Lord".
Japan's Communist Party celebrates winning 21 seats in recent elections
For the first time in 14 years, the party wins double-digit representation. Analysts and experts agree that its staunch and consistent opposition to the Abe government has paid off. For party leader Kazuo Shii, "Together with the people, we will further push this administration to the edge."
12/18/2014 PHILIPPINES - VATICAN
Filipino priest: Pope Francis' visit strengthens the fight against corruption
Father Atilano "Nonong" Fajardo re-launches the "Huwag Kang Magnakaw" campaign in line with the dictates of the seventh commandment: "do not steal". He spares no criticism for a nation "of thieves" at every level. But he does not lose optimism: "With good examples, like the Pope, it will be possible to be redeemed."
Syria, over 230 bodies in a mass grave: massacred by Islamic State
The carnage took place in August in the village of Kashkiya, in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour. The bodies belong to members of the Sheitat tribe and are the vast majority are not fighters. The tribe leaders did not want to ally with jihadi militias; the revenge of the terrorists caused the death of at least 900 people.