QAA, Lebanon – When a series of bombs exploded in a Lebanese Christian village near the Syrian border in June, it not only changed the lives of the victims and their families, but also the lives of Syrian refugees living nearby.

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AMMAN, Jordan – Iraqi Christians are cautiously welcoming the start of the battle for Mosul and the Ninevah Plain, their ancestral homeland of the past 14 centuries from which they were brutally driven out by the Islamic State group more than two years ago.

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TBILISI, Georgia – At a brief prayer service with Chaldean Catholics in Georgia, Pope Francis pleaded with God to grant peace to persecuted Christians and the victims of war, especially in Syria and Iraq.

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IRBIL, Iraq – Chaldean Catholic bishops, meeting for their annual synod, pleaded for peace in the Middle East and for the liberation of areas seized by the Islamic State group so that the displaced can return to their homes.

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said he will never give up calling for stronger efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and for people to stop being indifferent to the fate of the region's people.

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JERUSALEM – One of the last ceremonies in which former Israeli President Shimon Peres participated as a public figure took place in the Vatican Gardens in June 2014, the last month of his presidency. Along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he planted an olive tree at the invitation of Pope Francis.

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TORONTO – In just 100 days beginning last Sept. 8, the Archdiocese of Toronto raised $3.7 million and formed 105 volunteer groups in the hope of sponsoring at least 100 refugee families from the Middle East. Those sponsorship committees actually launched 154 applications to bring refugee families to Canada. A year later most of those refugee families are still living in limbo in Lebanon and Jordan while their paperwork piles up in Winnipeg.

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TORONTO – For those looking to understand the situation in Syria as war continues to ravage the country, Fr. Henri Boulad suggests turning to the final book of the Bible.

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AMMAN, Jordan – Jordan's King Abdullah II told a visiting delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches that his country has become a model for coexistence, fraternity and moderation in the Middle East.

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SEOUL, South Korea – Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, visiting the South Korean capital of Seoul, urged the international community to end the wars raging in the Middle East "fueled by foreign countries."

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Middle Eastern Christians have suffered soft, state-sponsored discrimination since the Ottomans ruled and that discrimination has been reinforced over generations by poor, underfunded education systems throughout the region. More recently this evil brew has been stirred into feverish, bigoted campaigns of hate spread by Saudi-funded Wahhabi preachers.

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AINKAWA, Iraq – Iraqi Christians appear divided about whether they will be able to return home after Islamic State militants are flushed out of the battle-scarred Ninevah Plains region. They say their safety must be guaranteed at all costs.

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AINKAWA, Iraq – Abu and Um Sabah had to trade a tent anchored in a soft, grassy patch in a park for a roughly hewn, five-story unfinished cement building as they sat out their forced displacement by Islamic State militants for a second year.

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As Armenian Catholics, the Moubayed’s don’t want to disagree with the Pope. But as Syrians who fled their home in Aleppo last year while the bombs came closer and closer, the married couple are not so sure peace is possible.

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TORONTO – Most Western humanitarian aid is failing to reach the thousands of Christians who have fled their homes as Daesh (or Islamic State) fighters have swept through Iraq and Syria, three Middle Eastern bishops charged at the 134th Knights of Columbus convention in Toronto.

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