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Charlie Hebdo Reactions in Lebanon's ...
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Cherine Yazbeck
16 Jan 2015

Tripoli, Lebanon

January 16, 2015

Residents of the Muslim-majority city of Tripoli in north Lebanon denounced the caricature that portrays Prohpet Mohammad, published in the first issue of Charlie Hebdo after the attack that killed several of the weekly’s staff members.

This video shows interviews with Muslim men who participated in Friday prayer at Al-Tqwa Mosque in Tripoli, including Salafist Sheikh Salem Al Rifaei, member of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon.

Heavy presence of Lebanese Army and security forces was seen in the main streets of Tripoli during and after the Friday prayer.

Muslims around the world denounced the new Charlie Hebdo published after the deadly shooting. The shooting was carried out on January 7 at the newspaper's offices in Paris by two French Islamist militants and killed 12 persons, including caricaturists and a security officer. The latest issue of the newspaper was published on Wednesday January 14 and featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the front page.

Shot List

  1. Wide of Allah Square in Tripoli
  2. Wide of Lebanese Army vehicles in Allah Square
  3. Wide of police vehicles parked in main square
  4. Wide of shoe shiner polishing Lebanese soldier’s boots
  5. Wide of taxi driving of
  6. Wide of Taqwa mosque. NAT SOUND (Arabic): call to prayer
  7. Wide of Lebanese Army armored personnel carrier near Taqwa mosque
  8. Wide of screen featuring CCTV footage from inside mosque of cleric Sheikh Salem Rafei
  9. Wide of teenage boys praying outside mosque
  10. Wide of Sheikh Salem Rafei coming down the stairs

  11. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Mahmoud el-Rassif

1:07 We did not see them [the cartoons that portray Prophet Mohammad] we only had a glimpse. However, in general, this harms Muslims. Muslims feel this in their heart. This harms us. This is an insult to our prophet Mohammad, whose teachings and ethics guide us. For us, this is definitely unacceptable.
They should practice freedom of expression regarding their leaders; as our revered sheikh Salem said, they should do this with their kings, not prophets and God’s messengers. As I said, this harms us and Muslims. We do not accept this.
This is justice. They doomed themselves. We do not like aggression. No one should attack others’ religion.
Prophet Issa [Jesus] peace be upon Him whom Christians consider their prophet, or even their God – it is their own religion -- is also our prophet and a messenger of God whom we do wish to be harmed. We did not attack you, therefore do not attack us.

02:25 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Bahaa' Abass
Yes, I saw them [the cartoons]
Interviewer: What did you think of them?
This is blasphemy against Islam and Muslims. They are describing Prophet Mohammad in ways that God Almighty does approve. And Muslins also do not approve this. God’s enemies want to insult God’s religion. They are insulting our prophet. May God avenge whoever did this.
Those who insulted our Prophet deserve more than this. If they were still here… may God avenge them! God is greatest! May God avenge every person who described the Prophet in ways that do not befit him. This is the West! They claim to support democracy and freedom of media. God is greatest! May God avenge them.
Any Muslim needs to defend the Prophet peace be upon him.
They insulted the prophet peace be upon him. They are doing things that God almighty does not accept. They are doing this to say that Muslims have revolted and practiced terrorism. None of this is permissible. This is a conspiracy against Islam. This a conspiracy against Islam, Muslims and the Prophet peace be upon Him. This is a conspiracy! All of this is blasphemy.
Anyone who does not denounce what the newspaper has issued is considered a Muslim.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Men) Sheikh Salem el-Rafei, Imam of Takwa Mosque, member of Association of Muslim Scholars

04:41
Today, France in which the French Revolution took place and the scientific renaissance, and where a renaissance started which claims to defend the human rights to choose one’s religion, there is a newspaper that is insulting the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon Him. It would have been better for the French government and the Western governments to condemn this issue. They should not leave the condemnation to us; they should condemn it. This is an insult to all religions, an insult for one and a half billion Muslims around the world. They should have condemned this, but unfortunately, we see that the West is silent. They justified that by saying it is freedom of speech. Is it a freedom of expression in mocking Muslims and their religion?
We say that we feel sorry that the West reaches this level of intellect, at which it insults Muslim symbols, or the greatest symbol for Muslims and say it is freedom of expression.
We feel sorry that decadence in the West reaches this level. This is all staged. Germans doubted the images that they showed us and said that there were plans according to which the men who carried out the attacks were following. It was set up.
Germany believes that this has been set up by the French government and accused Muslim youth of doing it to justify it war on Libya. I think that first of all the French government should investigate this issue, before we say ‘terrorist attack’ or anything else. Investigate the issue. Maybe the men were killed without being interrogated. Without being given the chance to be detained and clear that [bad] image, which shows that Muslims are terrorists and extremists.
I wish that France conducts an investigation, and that media demands the French government to investigate what happened.
How could they jusyify this, it [French government] will say that terrorists came, therefore we can go into Libya and take oil. They do not care about principles or values. They drool when they see oil, the same way the US drooled over Iraqi oil. They said there were weapons of mass destruction but it was all a lie.
I say if France is Christian, it should emulate its pope. If France is Christian, then let it emulate the pope. If it is atheist and does not believe in any religion, then it should not insult any religion. The West cannot say “we are tolerant and accept the other” then insult the other’s religion and prophet. This is not fair and not an example of tolerance. This is intellectual terrorism. What can we call this? Intellectual terrorism. As they denounced [the killing] they should denounce [the cartoons]. This is more deserving of being denounced.
Interviewer: Are you preparing for any demonstrations in Tripoli?
Sheikh Rafei: We did not prepare anything, because everyone is conspiring against Muslims. If we demonstrate they will call us terrorists. What good will it do? If we go to the street, the [military] intelligence will

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Paris: Femen Activists Protest Lashin...
Saudi Embassy in Paris
By Steven Wassenaar
16 Jan 2015

Six FEMEN activists rally in front of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia embassy in Paris, France and stage a protest against the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. Badawi has been recently sentenced to ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes. He received 50 last Friday and was supposed to receive 50 more today but the punishment of this Friday was cancelled due to "medical reasons" according to his family.

Femen is a group from Ukraine, used to topless demonstrations against religions and dictatorships.

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Residents of Lebanon's Tripoli Denoun...
Tripoli, Lebanon
By wissam fanash
14 Jan 2015

Tripoli, Lebanon

January 16, 2015

Residents of the Muslim-majority city of Tripoli in north Lebanon denounced the caricature that portrays Prohpet Mohammad, published in the first issue of Charlie Hebdo after the attack that killed several of the weekly’s staff members.

This video shows interviews with Muslim men who participated in Friday prayer at Al-Tqwa Mosque in Tripoli, including Salafist Sheikh Salem Al Rifaei, member of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon.

Heavy presence of Lebanese Army and security forces was seen in the main streets of Tripoli during and after the Friday prayer.

Muslims around the world denounced the new Charlie Hebdo published after the deadly shooting. The shooting was carried out on January 7 at the newspaper's offices in Paris by two French Islamist militants and killed 12 persons, including caricaturists and a security officer. The latest issue of the newspaper was published on Wednesday January 14 and featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the front page.

Shot List

  1. Various of Allah Square in Tripoli
  2. Wide of Lebanese Army vehicles in Allah Square
  3. Medium of Salafist flag in Allah Square
  4. Various of Allah Square
  5. Various of streets
  6. Various of main square
  7. Various of street
  8. Various of Taqwa Mosque
  9. Wide of soldiers outside Taqwa Mosque
  10. Various of street outside Taqwa Mosque
  11. Various of men inside Taqwa Mosque while Sheikh Salem Rafei preaches
  12. Various of street
  13. Various of Taqwa Mosque
  14. Various of men praying
  15. Wide of Sheikh Salem Rafei walking down the stairs surrounded by bodyguards

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Unnamed
I am against these drawings. We are against anything that insults Prophet Mohammad Peace be upon him. We support all religions. We do not accept to say anything about others’ religion and we do not accept that others say anything about our religion. We are Muslims and Christians are our brothers, but we are against any drawing of Prophet Mohammad Peace be Upon him.
This is regretful because we respect the French people. We respect our Christian brothers. We respect all religions. They should also respect us because we form a people. We are not few. There are many of us [who love] Prophet Mohammad. This is unacceptable. There should be uproar in France and other countries. The French authorities should prevent them drawing Prophet Mohammad. That is all what I have to say.
Interviewer: If they did drew the Prophet again
Man: This is will violence from our side. The nation of Mohammad will hate them more because nobody accepts this – neither Jews nor [anyone else].
Lebanon should protest against this. Our muftis who are sleeping should mobilize. My voice will not be heard, but they are important and their voices will be heard.

SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Unnamed
02: 16
What drawings? They drew our Prophet Mohammad. Do these drawings represent Prophet Mohammad?! We as Muslims… When I came to this world I found that parents believe in God, the Prophets and the angels. We do not know the Prophet. Do they know the Prophet? How could they draw him? Do they know him? Do they Jesus, whom they draw? They do not know anything. They are only inciting the crowds against us. They are talking about terrorism, they are terrorists. What they are doing is terrorism. This will start terrorism against them. If there was no terrorism, this will cause terrorism.
(5:21 – 5:36) NAT SOUND, Arabic, Sermon of sheikh Salem Rafei; “… should this be criminalized or considered freedom of expression. This is an insult to religions and hatred of Islam. This is injustice.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Mahmoud al-Rassif
As I said, this harms us and Muslims. We do not accept this.
Interviewer: But 17 people also died because of this. Do you think this is justice?
Mahmoud al-Rassif: This is justice. They doomed themselves.
Interviewer: Do you accept what happened in France? You are also against killing people.
Mahmoud al-Rassif: We are against this. We do not like aggression. No one should attack others’ religion. We have never harmed Prophet Issa [Jesus] peace be upon Him, whom Christians consider their prophet, or even their God – it is their own religion -- is also our prophet and a messenger of God whom we do wish to be harmed. We did not attack you, therefore do not attack us.
SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Abed Abou Arida
We are definitely against [these drawings.] [others standing next to him: “We are all against this”]
Interviewer: Why?
Man: Because God sent the Prophet for the entire world, not only Muslims. Had they known the Prophet, they would never have talked about him like this. They do not know him and have not read about him.
We are not terrorists. This is freedom. We are free just as they are. They should not consider this terrorism. What the men [attackers of Charlie Hebdo office] have done is nothing. This is nothing at all. They should have done more.
Interviewer: What should they have done in your opinion?
Man next standing to bearded man’s left: They should have blown the newspaper up. We consider the [assailants] martyrs, God willing.

SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Abdel Karim Saada
07:42
Every person should know that if he assaults the Prophet this way, this is what will happen to him. He will die. God almighty said: “Verily We will suffice unto thee against the mockers.” Even if we did not do anything, God will avenge them. In another verse God says: “Verily We have bestowed on thee Kawthar [a river in Paradise] So pray thou to thy Lord and sacrifice. Truly it is thy traducer who shall be childless.” God shall avenge, if we did not.
SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Mohammad Khalid Fatima, Resident of Tripoli
08:02
What do they want? They say that we are terrorists and that we are so and so… They are generating this terrorism. They are manufacturing terrorism it. They are saying to terrorists: “Come and do this.” If someone said: “Peace be upon the prophet Mohammad” and preserved the Prophet, should he then be considered a terrorist?

SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Unnamed, resident of Tripoli
08:20
This is not terrorism. This terrorism with kebab… it is not a big deal. Any Muslim is considered a terrorist, no matter what he did. This has been done for the sake of religion. If it was wrong, then may God bless him.
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Bahaa Abs Abu Baker, Resident of Tripoli
08:32
“Those who insulted our Prophet deserve more than this. If they were still here… may God avenge them! God is greatest! May God avenge every person who described the Prophet in ways that do not befit him. This is the West! They claim to support democracy and freedom of media. God is greatest! May God avenge them.

“They insulted the prophet peace be upon him. They are doing things that God almighty does not accept. They are doing this to say that Muslims have revolted and practiced terrorism. None of this is permissible.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Men) Sheikh Salem el-Rafei, Imam of Takwa Mosque, member of Association of Muslim Scholars
09:29

In France in which the French Revolution took place and the scientific renaissance, and where a renaissance started which claims to defend human rights – the human right to choose one’s religion – there is a newspaper that is insulting the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon Him. It would have been better for the French government and the Western governments to condemn this issue. They should not leave the condemnation to us; they should condemn it. This is an insult to all religions, an insult for one and a half billion Muslims around the world.
We say that we feel sorry that the West reaches this level of intellect, at which it insults Muslim symbols, or the greatest symbol for Muslims, and say it is freedom of expression.
We feel sorry that decadence in the West reaches this level.

I think that first of all the French government should investigate this issue, before we say ‘terrorist attack’, a crime or anything else. Investigate the issue. Maybe the men were killed without being interrogated. Without being given the chance to be detained and clear that [bad] image, which shows that Muslims are terrorists and extremists.
I wish that France conducts an investigation, and that media demands the French government to investigate what happened.
France wants Libya’s oil. How could they justify this, it [French government] will say that terrorists came, therefore we can go into Libya and take oil. They do not care about principles or values. They drool when they see oil, the same way the US drooled over Iraqi oil. They said there were weapons of mass destruction but it was all a lie.
I say if France is Christian, it should emulate its pope. If France is Christian, then let it emulate the pope. If it is atheist and does not believe in any religion, then it should not insult any religion. The West cannot say “we are tolerant and accept the other” then insult the other’s religion and prophet. This is not fair and not an example of tolerance. This is intellectual terrorism. What can we call this? Intellectual terrorism.

SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Kamal Rafei, Resident of Tripoli
12:01
If they want the newspaper to be sold, then they should improve its level. It is better than sinking to that level just to sell the newspaper. This is proof that your people are superficial. Fifty thousand copies were sold; now, five million copies were sold. This is proof that these people are superficial and not educated.
It is not right to consider that European blood should be preserved while Muslims’ blood is worthless. I lived in Europe, in Germany. These things… you, the people, the intellectuals, journalists and leaders of opinion, you should know the facts and say the truth and stand by the truth. People are not stupid. Otherwise, let be separated. You live in your countries and we will live in ours. Take the seculars and the people with no religion to your country. Whoever admires France’s freedom and debauchery may go and live there.

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Paris's 'Banlieus' 23
Paris, France
By Steven Wassenaar
14 Jan 2015

10 years ago, on 27 October 2005, riots broke out in the French suburbs. The neigborhood "La Grand Borne" in Grigny is one of the most infamous around Paris. January 14, 2015, Grigny, France.

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Peshawar Demonstrators in Solidarity ...
Peshawar, Pakistan
By Malik Ayub Sumbal
13 Jan 2015

A group of Sunni clerics protested today in Peshawar, Pakistan against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and praised the two brothers who killed 11 of its employees and a police officer on 7 January in Paris. They also held a prayer ceremony for the killers and praised the attackers' actions, saying Said and Cherif Kouachi delivered justice against the cartoonists who disrespected the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The clerics made a clear distinction between the recent Taliban attack on the Peshawar Army School, which they wholly condemned, and this latest attack saying that the gunmen in Paris were justified in their killings because of the blasphemy committed by Charlie Hebdo.

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Charlie hebdo 32
Paris
By Steven Wassenaar
08 Jan 2015

An editoral meeting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France in 2012. Four of the artists present, Charb, Wolinski, Cabu et Tignous were killed in the terrorist attack on the satirical newspaper's offices in Paris that took twelve lives.

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Activist Receives A Thousand Lashes i...
Jeddah
By Mona Hamdan
08 Jan 2015

Saudi Arabian activist Raef Badawi receives a thousand lashes in public. He was charged for "the establishment of a website and the ridicule of religious symbols". This media obtained by Transterra Media from eye witnesses, are supporting an Arabic article on the subject.

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Leaked Footage from ISIS Defector (Hi...
Deir-ez-Zur, Syria
By ttm contributor 31
06 Jan 2015

NOTE: The video clips in this collection were obtained by Transterra Media from a source who received it from a member of ISIS who defected from the group. According to the source the videos were recorded in the town of Zir and other locations in Syria between January and June, 2014.

Transterra Media cannot independently verify the accuracy of this content. The appearance of this video on the Transterra Media (TTM) website does not in any way constitute endorsement by TTM of any claims or statements made in the video.

00:00
This video shows part of a meeting between a Saudi ISIS leader known as sheikh Abu Abdulla Daigham and tribal leaders and residents from the village of Zir, Deir al-Zor province.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Sheikh Daigham, a Saudi ISIS leader
“You see, if every bandit was killed, by God, this will set an example for the people. ‘[In Raqqa] all punishments are applied, by God almighty’s grace.
“A drunken man would be flogged, as well as an adulterer... and the sorcerer would be killed. All punishments are applied. “Thanks be to God, we have two courts of law; one is dedicated to resolving issues among the people. It includes four judges and deals with issues of inheritance, divorce and similar issues, as well as land ownership – it deals with matters among the people. “We have another court that arbitrates between the people and the [Islamic] State. Whoever has a complaint against the State could present it before this court.”

00:37
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Sheikh Daigham, a Saudi ISIS leader
“A civil state, in people from different affiliations could live together…. Christians, Jews, Druze… all people could coexist and be equal in the homeland. God forbid! This is the apogee of unbelief! This means that the entire country would be for everyone. No! The Prophet peace be upon said: He who changes his religion, kill him. “A Druze should say ‘I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammad is the Allah’s messenger” and pray and fast, otherwise we kill him. “A Christian should either embrace Islam or pay the jizya [tax imposed on non-Muslims]. Otherwise, I would battle him.”

01:18
This is part of a video that features a group of ISIS fighters in an unnamed location believed to be on Euphrates river in Deir ez-Zur Province. The group is led by a young commander from the village of Zir in Deir ez-Zur province, known by the alias Abu Dujana.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu Dujana, ISIS military commander
“God is greatest! The crocodiles are here.” Unseen fighter: “Come! Come! Abu Dujana!
“This is the crocodile group. They shall break the Alawites’ shield in Hawiqa [where regime-held air base is located], their last bastion. They have nothing left. They are under siege. Our brothers have laid siege on them. We will help our Muslim brothers. We all are all brothers. All believers are brothers! God is greatest!”

02:02
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man), Sheikh Daigham, ISIS official
“I have seen young men in Syria, in Sham… I asked them, saying: what do you think of Christians, he they said: I do not know. “You do not know?! You do not know?! Christians say that Issa [Jesus] is the son of God.” 02:19
Various shots of ISIS fighters believed to be Saudi firing sniper shots
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, conversation between fighters)

  • Did you see him? Fire at him

  • No, I did not see him.

  • I am relieved

  • Are you sure?

  • I saw the flag.

  • The flag? How did you see the flag?

02:43
Part of a video that shows a group of fighters, most of whom say they are from Saudi Arabia, inviting others to go to Syria and join them in jihad. This video was stored on a memory card that belonged to a Saudi ISIS fighter in Syria known as Abu Saadiya. It was obtained by Transterra Media through a third party without the fighter’s consent.
The exact location and date where the video was shot are unknown.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu Thabet
“I call on all of my brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join jihad come to Sham [Syria].”

Unseen man: “Tell them that jihad is a duty and not optional.”
Abu Thabet: “Jihad is a duty not optional.”
Unseen man: “…and that our brothers in Syria need us to come here... something like that”

Fighter wearing black bonnet: “Takbir” [Invitation to say “God is greatest”]

-God is greatest!

-Takbir!

-God is greatest!

-Jihad!

-Jihad!

-Pride!

-Pride!

-Power!

-Power!

03:13
This is part of a video that features ISIS fighters rigging a vehicle with large improvised explosive devices. The main speaker in the video is believed to be Abu Dujana, a young ISIS military commander from the village of Zir in Deir ez-Zur province, believed to be appointed by the group as an emir, or ruler, of his village.
This explosive-rigged vehicle is believed to have been used in June 2014 in a suicide attack against leaders of Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, two Islamist groups that are against ISIS. The speaker says that the vehicle will be used to avenge two commanders in Raqqa who were reportedly killed in January 2014.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Fighter believed to be Abu Dujana, an ISIS military commander
“Go slowly, brother. God is greatest! The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the Province of the Good [name given to Deir ez-Zur] is preparing the ‘Land Mig’ to attack [Ahrar?] al-Sham. They aggressors who killed our brothers. This ‘Land Mig’ will avenge [the death of] our brother Abu Baker al-Tounisi and Abu Rayyan al-Jazrawi, God willing. Your blood will not go to waste, with God almighty’s will.” “God is greatest!”

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Leaked Footage from ISIS Defector
Deir Ez Zour
By Transterra Editor
06 Jan 2015

This video collection offers a unique and unauthorized glimpse into the activities of ISIS in Syria. It features meetings led by a high-ranking official of ISIS who attempts to convince clan leaders in a Syrian village to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. The video also includes scenes of ISIS fighters in military situations and relaxing.

NOTE: The video clips in this collection were obtained by Transterra Media from a source who received it from a member of ISIS who defected from the group. According to the source the videos were recorded in the town of Zir and other locations in Syria between January and June, 2014. Transterra Media cannot independently verify the accuracy of this content. The appearance of this video on the Transterra Media (TTM) website does not in any way constitute endorsement by TTM of any claims or statements made in the video.

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Bishwa Ijtema: South Asia's Largest M...
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
30 Dec 2014

Bishwa Ijtema (pronounced biz-wah ist-emah), meaning “global congregation,” is an annual spiritual gathering held near the river Turag in Tongi, Bangladesh, a suburb of the capital city of Dhaka. The event focuses on prayers and meditation, and the organisers from the Tablighi Jamaat Islamic Movement forbid political discussions. The congregation is officially open to people from all faiths, though it is attended predominantly by Muslims from all over South Asia. It is one of the world’s largest annual congregations of Muslims after the Arbaeen gathering in Karbala in Iraq and the Hajj to Mecca that constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam.

More than five million Muslims, many from other countries, gather for the Bishwa Ijtema. Despite the large number of devotees living within a confined space, generally there are very few problems of sanitation, cooking, and internal movement. It is believed to be possible because of the minimalist approach adopted by the devotees.

Mohammad Mojammel Hoque, a seventy-year-old farmer from from the Vola district of Bangladesh comes every year to what now amounts to a pilgrimage.

“I come here every year to purify my soul and commune with Allah,” he said. “From the scholars, I get to know the true teachings of Islam, so I can follow Islam properly and preach to others how to live the Islamic way.”

One of the congregation’s foundational traditions, mass dowry-free wedding ceremonies are held on the second day of Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtema began very humbly in 1946, when an Indian scholar met with a few people at a local mosque . Muslim followers come to the gathering, located on the Turag River near Dakar, to receive blessings and interact with the throng of followers that descend on the Ijtema grounds. It provides many with the opportunity to study the Qur’an and listen to various sermons.

Attendees use the three days of the Bishwa Ijtema to concentrate on their religion and explore aspects of it that they are not familiar with. It is a mix of religious education, spiritual adulation, meditation, blessings and exaltation. Although political views, beliefs and negotiations are not permitted to be discussed or explored, many have questioned the attendance of high ranking officials and delegates to the gathering, who are known to be inactive in their religion and whose political decisions and way of rule does not always agree with Islamic teaching. However, their presence does not concern devotees, who attend Bishwa Ijtema for their own personal enrichment. They hardly notice the difference between those who are there to worship and those who are there with ulterior motives.

Bishwa Ijtema ends with Akheri Munajat (final prayer) seeking spiritual well-being and welfare of the Muslim Ummah.

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Ground Zero: The Tug of War over Jeru...
Jerusalem, Israel
By Jonathan Giesen
28 Dec 2014

As tensions in Jerusalem boil over into open conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the issue of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex remains one of the key issues in the conflict. This story explores the cultural and religious significance of the complex to the two sides and illustrates how the area has yet again become a catalyst for violence. Some fear this newest round of violence may lead to a third Palestinian Intifada.

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Bishwa Ijtema 09
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
26 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

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Bishwa Ijtema 10
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
24 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

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Bishwa Ijtema 08
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

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Bishwa Ijtema 06
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Pilgrims cook their evening meals on the grounds where the Ijtema is held. Thousands have come from all over Bangladesh to observe three days of religious teaching, prayer and meditation.

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Bishwa Ijtema 07
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Night falls in Tongi as Ijtema pilgrims meet one another after evening prayers.

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Bishwa Ijtema 02
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims entered the Ijtema grounds from different in Bangladesh on the first day of Bishwa Ijtema.

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Bishwa Ijtema 03
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Rapid Action Batallion (RAB) forces of Bangladesh monitor the scene of Ijtema from above to make sure everything goes smoothly.

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Bishwa Ijtema 04
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims perform their ablutions before the Ijtema prayers begin.

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Bishwa Ijtema 05
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims gather to attend Bishwa Ijtema in Dhaka on the first day of the congress.

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Bishwa Ijtema 01
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
16 Dec 2014

Mohammad Mojammel Hoque, 70, is a farmer from the Vola district of Bangladesh. "I come here every year to purify my soul and commune with Allah," he said. "From the scholars, I get to know the true teachings of Islam, so I can follow Islam properly and preach to others how to live the Islamic way.''

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Mortars Fired at Shiite Pilgrims
Karbala
By mushtaq mohammed
12 Dec 2014

December 12, 2014
Karbala, Iraq

Approximately 20 mortars were dropped on the night of Thursday, December 11, 2014, in inhabited areas in the west neighborhoods of Karbala.
According to eye witnesses, the mortars were fired from the border of al-Hizam al-Akhdar area, using a mobile platform placed in the back of a pickup truck, and landed two kilometers from the holy shrines in the center of Karbala.
The same local source claimed that the shelling caused at least one death and 20 injuries, including children, and damaged some homes.

The attack comes as millions of Shiites from all over the world head to holy shrines in Karbala to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. This is a religious tradition Shiite Muslims have been observing for over 1300 years.

Trancription:

Um Nour (Woman, Arabic):

"His brother is in the hospital, and their younger son is in the hospital. He is the only one who died. Nobody else died."

Interviewer: What happened yesterday?

"A mortar hit, it was dropped in their backyard, go check it out. It was big to the extent that our stuff fell on the ground."

Um Hussein (Woman, Arabic):

"Yesterday at 11:30pm, a missile was dropped on their house. They have five children and they are all young. The youngest is one year and a half old. They were great people, we have been their neighbors for 20 years."

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Captive ISIS Member: "I was Forced to...
Rojava
By Andrea Milluzzi
11 Dec 2014

Fighting between ISIS militants and Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria has left a large number of killed or injured fighters as well as many prisoners of war on both sides.

When ISIS took control over rebel-held cities in Syria, many men joined ISIS, either by choice or by force.

This is a video of interviews with two ISIS militants captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the province of Hasakah. They both claim that they were coerced into joining the militia group and were given “hallucinogenic pills” before fighting. One of the prisoners was preparing for a suicide bomb.

The captive fighters talk about their experience before joining ISIS, while they fought with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the reasons why they joined ISIS and their future plans if they were freed by the YPG.

ABBAS HUSSEIN AL ASSI

(00:03) Tell me your name, your age, where do you come from and why did you join ISIS

(00:12) My name is Abbas Hussein Al Assi, I am 25 years old, and I come from Tal Hamis in Al Hasaka Governorate. I started fighting with the FSA and I joined the Islamic State by force.

(00:34) What year did you join ISIS and for how long? And how long did you stay with the FSA?

(00:47) I stayed for almost a year with ISIS. I also fought with the FSA for a year, too.

(00:58) Where and when did they capture you?

(01:02) They captured me while I was preparing myself for a suicide attack, nearly a month ago.

(01:15) Why did you join the FSA?

(01:21) The main reason I joined the FSA is the salary they gave me. I was paid 25,000 Syrian pounds (around $142) [a month].

(01:31)What was that monthly salary that ISIS paid you?

(01:33) ISIS did not give me any salary.

(01:37) Do you have any news from your relatives?

(01:40) No.

(01:42) What was the purpose of your suicide attack?

(01:48) My purpose was to go to heaven.

(01:56) Are you 100% sure that after a suicide attack you will go to heaven?

(02:02) Yes.

(02:08) When you took the decision of doing a suicide attack, did you not think that you will leave your family and friends and die?

(02:25) They [ISIS] were brainwashing us.

(02:29) What do you think now of the Islamic State?

(02:33) I regret [joining] it.

(02:36) If they [YPG] set you free, will you still think of carrying out a suicide attack?

(02:44) No. I want to join them [YPG] against ISIS.

(02:48) So, do you hate the Islamic State now?

(02:50) Yes.

(02:52) Do you think ISIS does it work by brainwashing people?

(02:58) Yes. They use drugs to brainwash us.

(03:03) Are you religious?

(03:11) Yes, I am very religious.

(03:13) But using drugs is against Islam, right?

(03:20) It is, but they issue a fatwa to make it religiously lawful.

HUSSEIN AL ABDUL

(03:22) Tell me about yourself

(03:26) My name is Hussein Al Abdul, and I am 23 years old. I come from Tal Hamis in Al Hasakah Governorate. I started as a Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighter before I joined the Islamic State.

(03:44) Why did you join?

(03:46) I joined by force.

(03:53) I was fighting with the FSA for almost eight months before ISIS took control over the city and I was obliged to join them. I fought with them for almost a year and four months.

(04:03) When and why were you captured?

(04:06) It has been almost 13 days that the [Kurdish] People’s Protection Units [YPG] captured me; I was ambushed during the fighting.

(04:14) Do you believe in the idea of an Islamic State and the Caliphate and why?

(04:23) At first I never accepted the idea of an Islamic State, but once I joined, I started to support it. We were taught lessons about [fighting] in the field and Sharia.

(04:45) Do you think the Islamic State is right? What are the goals you wish to achieve with the Islamic State?

(05:01) The path of the Islamic State is the right path. I wish that an Islamic State will be established.

(05:05) In which areas have you fought since you joined the Islamic State?

(05:13) I fought in Iraq, mostly in Mosul.

(05:36) When ISIS first invaded Mosul, were you one of the fighters?

(05:38) Yes.

(05:40) In your opinion, is life in Mosul now better than it was before ISIS?

(05:55) No. We thought that when we occupied Mosul life would be better, but when we took over from the Iraqi government, things did not go as expected.

(06:05) This means life in the areas under ISIS control is not better now

(06:12) We always thought we could make things better in the cities we occupy. But then insecurity and instability spread in these areas.

(06:20) Do you think the Islamic State will win this war?

(06:27) At first, I thought ISIS will win, but considering the number of killed and injured ISIS fighters I don’t think the group will win.

(06:42) Do you have Christian friends?

(06:44) No, I do not.

(06:47) Have you never had any encounter with a Christian person?

(06:55) When I was fighting with the FSA I had relationships with people from all sects. But when I joined ISIS, we had to kill them.

(07:08) You say you never had any problem with being in contact with a person from another sect. Why, after you joined the Islamic State, did you start to think that these people should be killed?

(07:28) After we took lessons in Sharia, we realized that Christians should either be killed or convert to Islam.

(07:34) Don’t you think that what you learned from the Islamic State is wrong and inhumane?

(07:44) At first, we thought it was right. But when they [YPG members] captured us and treated us in a good way, we realized that what we learned from ISIS is wrong.

(07:54) Are you married? Do you have children?

(07:56) Yes I am married but I do not have children.

(08:00) What does your wife think about you?

(08:02)) She does not know about all this.

(08:03) Does your family have the same ideology as ISIS?

(08:05) No.

(08:08) How could you be with your wife if she does not like the Islamic State?

(08:12) I left her.

(08:15) When did you leave her and why?

(08:18) I left her almost a month before I joined ISIS. We faced some problems in our relationship.

(08:24) If they [YPG] set you free, what will you do?

(08:33) At first I thought I will join the Islamic State again. But now, after they treated me in a good way and after I realized I was wrong; I will not join ISIS again.

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Christian Roots: Turkey's Dwindling C...
Izmir
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

Izmir, Turkey

The largest community of the smallest Christian minority in Turkey has felt neglected for decades and is now facing an uncertain future. The recent visit of Pope Francis to Turkey reinforced anxieties within Izmir's catholic community as he was the first Pope not to visit the tiny but important diocese. Although he had announced his wish to visit the House of Mary in Ephesus, like his predecessors, security problems at the remote shrine made it impossible. Catholics in Izmir are well aware of security problems, but nonetheless they bitterly feel that they are the collateral victims of sectarian tensions in the region.

The history of Christianity in Turkey is almost as old as the Church itself. St. Paul was a native of Anatolia and preached in Ephesus and Miletus. Jesus’ favorite apostle, St. John, the Evangelist who wrote the Apocalypse, is said to have moved to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary. The Apostle’s tomb is near the Ephesus archaeological site and an enormous basilica was built on it. It is ironic that the most vocal opponents of Turkey’s accession to European Union used the “Christian roots” of Europe as an argument against it; the roots of christianity are all in Turkey. It was in Ephesus that the Third Ecumenical Council, the famous “Theotokos Council”, confirmed the Nicene Creed on which the Roman Catholic doctrine is still based, and which declared the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”. Despite this rich history, it is ironic that such Christian roots are usually overlooked in Turkey.

It is commonly said that Turks are 99% Sunni Muslim, and it is true that Turkey’s religious policy take it as a fact. While Orthodox, Armenian and Chaldean Christians are recognized as indigenous religious minorities, the Latin Catholic Christians are not. There are about 35,000 Catholics in Turkey. Most of them are so-called “Levantines”, or descendants of French or Italian expatriates who settled in Ottoman Empire. Izmir, the ancient Smyrna, was their most important city, and it was the most cosmopolitan city in Turkey.

Izmir’s most popular Catholic Church is the Dominican Church of the Holy Rosary, in the traditionally Levantine district of Alsancak. Every Thursday Father Stefano Negro, the parish priest, holds mass for a meager audience of elders.

“It was very different, when the Church was built in 1904,” tells the Dominican friar, a keen historian of his adopted city. “The Church was crowded and rich, because the parishioners considered it a symbol of their identity.

The Great Fire of Smyrna, in 1922, changed everything, along with the birth of the Turkish Republic. However, the turning point was in 1934, when foreigners were not allowed to work anymore in Turkey.” The skilled workers and entrepreneurs who had helped to make Izmir the economic capital of the Ottoman Empire emigrated, and the Catholic flock of Izmir began to dwindle.

The remaining Levantines are descendants of Italian or French families, and all of them feel uncomfortable in the “New Turkey” of President Erdogan. In the traditionally secular republic there was room for many minorities, but the Islamist rhetoric of the current ruling party is underscoring more and more the Sunni Muslim character of the Turkish State.

“This is not my church,” a lady in her 60's whispers before Father Stefano’s mass. “I was born in Karsiyaka, and I went to St. Helen’s Church. It was always open, and on St. Helen’s Day we could bring our cross in procession in the streets and everybody in the neighborhood celebrated with us. Now it’s impossible [and] we keep a low profile, should we irk religious zealots that are increasingly sensitive...”

Another lady, also in her 60s, comments bitterly that “Turkey is going back in time”. However, the others disagree staunchly. “It’s not true, it was never like this! This is something new, especially in Izmir, and it’s not, like some say, because of immigration from the East”.”Truth is,” the first woman comments “that Turks are angry at Europe. They are angry because they feel rejected. They see Islamophobia rising in the same Europe that keeps closing its doors as a Christian club. So they [Turks[] turn to their religious identity and don’t like us anymore.” The lady, who asks not to be mentioned by name, was born in Izmir, in the elegant Karsiyaka district. When she got married she move to Italy, where she lives with her children and grandchildren. Despite this, she keeps coming to her “hometown”, as she calls it, for several months a year. “But every time it’s more difficult” she laments.

Father Stefano, who came to Turkey in 1976, mostly agrees with the lady. When the military junta ruling the country after the 1980 coup started a fiercely nationalistic policy, the Catholic clergy was seriously worried they would be expelled. To be able to stay, Father Stefano managed to acquire the Turkish citizenship. “But I often have problems," he explains. "Now, every time the police check my ID, they argue about my religion indicated on it. ‘If you are really a Turk, how come that you are not a Sunni Muslim?’”

Things have worsened under Erdogan, with his religious and nationalist rhetoric centered on the Sunni identity of the country. Father Stefano, a witty friar with a sharp humor, turns sad when he talks about the size of his flock. “I can see them dwindle from the number of funerals I celebrate. It’s clear in the mass, where worshipers are all with white hair. There are weddings, sure, but most of them are mixed ones, and children have to be educated in public schools, where religion classes are mandatory, and of course we talk of Sunni religion [in the religious classes].” There are some newcomers to the church, most of whom are Catholic families of NATO military base personnel or technicians working in Izmir.

If the mass is attended by white haired, depressed worshipers, the atmosphere is completely different at the Italian school of Alsancak. Alsancak is an international elementary school and Turkish private kindergarten, managed by Italian nuns and secular teachers, both Italian and Turkish. Sister Roberta also has grey hair, well visible since religious dress is banned in schools, but she has the energy and high spirit of an elite soldier. “We don’t care of habits, we don’t need habits. We are the habits, we are nuns, even when we don’t dress as such” she proudly declares.

The kindergarten children are a merry mixed bunch, from Turkish, Italian, Spanish or American families. They are taught Italian language, but the education is strictly secular. However, Turkish citizens, even those with dual citizenship, cannot attend the elementary school. Only foreign children can continue their education in the nuns’ school and many families resent this. Sister Roberta shows a gift from a local tycoon, a container shipping business magnate, who says to own his success to the education he got at the Catholic nuns’ school.

Sister Roberta cameto Turkey in 1976, like Father Stefano, and she has seen hard times too. Despite various hardships she claims that nuns are highly respected for the education they give in the school, which in better times also hosted orphans and poor children. “We have always been here, since 1887, and we will stay.” After the 1922 fire, when all the foreign nationals had been evacuated on western warships, the youngest nun of the school volunteered to go back, soon followed by others, who kept the catholic presence in Izmir alive. However, Sister Roberta is bitterly disappointed that the Pope didn't come. “Of course we understand the security reasons, and God knows these are hard times. But it’s a bad omen, when it is too dangerous for the Catholic Pope to visit Izmir and the House of Mary in Ephesus.”

Many share her disappointment, and some are in disbelief. On the hill near Ephesus, where the House of Mary attracts pilgrims and tourists, a little crowd are waiting, in vain, for a surprise. “We hoped to see Pope Francis. He’s famous to change program at the last moment, maybe he will come here too. Why he didn't come? We don’t understand!” says the mother of a young boy who is busy lighting candles for the Virgin. They are from Izmir, but they are not Catholic: “We are Turks, we are Muslims and we are proud to be both.” she smiles “But of course we love Meryem Ana, Mother Mary!”

Maybe the dwindling Catholic community in Izmir and the cherished “Christian roots” of Europe could be the key to unlock both Turkey’s accession to Europe and the future of all its minorities.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 16 of 21
Efes Harabeleri, 35920 İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

Religious tourists among the ruins of the Saint Mary Church, in the archaeological site of Ephesus. This church was the place where the Third Ecumenical Council proclaimed the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”, in AD 431. The Virgin Mary is said to have moved to Ephesus with John the Evangelist, after her son’s crucifixion.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 17 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

The “Meryem Ana Evi”, “House of Mother Mary”, on a hill near the ancient city of Ephesus. The place was visited by Pope Paul VI in 1967, by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and by Pope Benedict XVI, but security concerns forced Pope Francis to break the tradition, for the Izmir Catholics’ dismay.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 18 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A silver statuette of the Virgin near the “Meryem Ana Evi”, the “House of Mother Mary”, with the prayer to the Virgin by Saint Francis of Assisi. Respected in all theIslamic world for being the mother of Prophet Isa (known as Jesus to Christians), “Mother Mary” is especially revered in Turkey, where motherhood is highly respected.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 19 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A Turkish Muslim family lights candles outside of the “Meryem Ana Evi”, the “House of the Virgin Mary” in Ephesus. Like many others, they had come to the holy site hoping to see the Pope, despite the fact he had cancelled his trip to Izmir. Pope Francis is known to randomly change plans and this family was hoping for a surprise change of program.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 20 of 21
İsa Bey Mh., 2013. Sokak No:1, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A pilgrim prays on the tomb of the Apostle John, the Evangelist who wrote the Book of Revelation, also known as Apocalypse. The tomb was at the center of the enormous basilica dedicated to St. John. The Church of Ephesus was one of the “Seven Churches of Asia” mentioned in the Apocalypse. However, after the city was destroyed by an earthquake, it declined in favor of the Church of Izmir, the last survivor of the Seven.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 21 of 21
İsa Bey Mh., 2013. Sokak No:1, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A group of religious tourists observes an inscription in memory of the visit of Pope Paul VI, in 1967, among the ruins of St. John’s Basilica in Ephesus, about 100 km from Izmir. Though Izmir Catholics are well aware of security problems, especially with the current turmoil on Turkish borders, they show bitter disappointment for the cancellation of the Papal visit, feeling once more neglected by the rest of the Christian world.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 11 of 21
Donanmacı Mh., 1728. Sokak 55-67, 35480 İzmir/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

The Saint Helen Church lies in the Karsiyaka neighborhood of Izmir.

A Levantine lady, who moved to Italy, but spends several months every year in her father's house in Karsiyaka, remembers that when she was a kid, the cross was carried in a public procession in the neighborhood and it was celebrated and respected by everybody, regardless of their religion. "But today it would be impossible," she laments. "Turks are angry at Europe, because they feel rejected and betrayed. And we, as Levantine citizens of European countries, do not feel supported by our governments."

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 12 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

A flight of starlings over the St. John’s Cathedral in Izmir. The Church was built in 1863, thanks to a donation of 11,000 gold Turkish lira by then Sultan Abdulaziz. However, nowadays’s Turkish politicians have sent contradictory signals: while the government has promised that Christian students would have their own religion classes, a Minister claimed that “Christianity is no longer a religion, but a culture.”

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 13 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

Two Catholic women pray at the Virgin Mary altar in Izmir’s St. John’s Cathedral. The women have their head covered while in the Church, as per the Levantine tradition. Though the Cathedral is dedicated to the Apostle St. John the Evangelist, buried in nearby Ephesus, devotion for the Virgin Mary is very popular, even among Muslims.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 14 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

The words “God loved the World so much to give his only son so that none who believes in him would come to any harm” are inscribed, in Turkish, on the left side in the interior of the Izmir Cathedral.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 15 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

Dedication of a stained glass window in Izmir Cathedral, offered by a French parishioner. Izmir Catholic community is the largest in Turkey, and the Cathedral is the seat of the only archdiocese of Turkey, covering all the south western Anatolian provinces. The current Archbishop, Ruggero Franceschini, was previously Vicar in Antakya. His successor, Msgr. Luigi Padovese, was slain and beheaded by his Turkish driver, apparently a deranged man, who some said was a religious fanatic.

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Sample media
Rohingya #19
Sittwe
By Lauren DeCicca
28 Nov 2014

A young Rohingya boy stands next to his family's home in an IDP camp in Sittwe, Myanmar on November 28, 2014.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 01 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

The Holy Rosary Church in Alsancak was built in 1904 and was the only church that survived the Great Fire of 1922. After the fire, the church became a main communal center for Levantine Christians in Izmir.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 02 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Miss Caterina Ventura, the oldest member of Izmir's Catholic community, lights a candle at the Holy Lance altar, in the Church of Holy Rosary. Miss Ventura, born in 1921, was nine months old when her family fled to Italy, after the town was destroyed by the Great Fire at the end of Turkish War of Independence. Her family, of Italian and Greek ancestry, returned to Izmir after the new Turkish Republic was established.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 03 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Prayers for the deceased can be read in Italian, French and Turkish, the languages spoken by Catholic worshipers in Izmir. In the second half of 19th century, foreign entrepreneurs and skilled workers formed a community of western citizens who made Izmir the gate to Anatolia. The Aegean city soon became soon the economic capital of the Ottoman Empire and foreigners born there, calling themselves Levantines, were able to build churches and practice their religion.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 04 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

A small number of worshipers attend a mass at the Holy Rosary Chruch in Izmir. Father Stefano Negro, the parish priest and keen historian of Izmir, says that he mostly holds funerals at the church. The few weddings he celebrates are almost always mixed, involving a non-Christian bride or groom.