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Understanding persecution of Christians in the Middle East

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Recent atrocities committed in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State have drawn attention to the plight of Christians in the Middle East. But the issue, with deep historical roots and myriad foreign policy implications, predates the incursions of the Islamic State. Who are these Christians? What is life like for them? And what should Americans committed to cause of assisting them keep in mind while attempting to raise awareness of the issue? NCR asked James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, for his thoughts.

Cardinal Brady, retiring from Northern Ireland, says Pope Francis 'inspires me'

The 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis was "the highlight of my life," said Cardinal Sean Brady, the day the pope accepted his resignation as archbishop of Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Pope Francis "challenges and inspires me" with the "message of God having mercy and at the same time choosing us, despite our sinfulness," the cardinal told people gathered in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh. "It reminds me that I, too, need to say sorry and to ask forgiveness. And I do so again, now."

Church cracks down on Catholics ensnared in murderous code of revenge

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Hidden beneath Albania's long legacy of interreligious harmony and peace lie the turmoil and bloodshed of an ancient vigilante code that affects thousands of families, many of them Catholic.

Called "blood feuds," they stem from a traditional Albanian code or "kanun" that sanctions murder to restore a family's honor after a member experiences an affront, injustice or killing.

The feud can start with a quarrel or offense, which then triggers the murder of any male member, even teenagers, in the perpetrator's family.

Preview: Theologian returns from missionary work in Africa with new perspectives

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Returning from five years of teaching in Africa, theologian Ann Riggs says that missionary work is "an opportunity and location for us to become what we were created to be."

Riggs, who returned to the U.S. in July after teaching college students in Kenya, is a new professor of pastoral studies at Loyola University Chicago.

During her missionary work as the principal, or president, at Friends Theological College, she learned more about the importance of cultural dimensions and perceptions, and plans on bringing her new perspective to her students at Loyola.

Pope Francis' one-day trip expected to give Albanians hope, healing

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Pope Francis' choice of Albania as the destination of his first international trip in Europe reflects his trademark pastoral approach: Head to the peripheries, bring healing to the suffering.

But his Sept. 21 visit to the poor, Muslim-majority nation also will highlight, to a world increasingly torn apart by sectarian strife, a hopeful example of Muslims and Christians living in harmony.

After kidnapping schoolgirls, Boko Haram takes aim at churches in northeast Nigeria

Five months after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls in Nigeria's Borno State, the Islamic extremist group has begun occupying churches in the country's northeastern region, church officials there said.

The militant group, which church leaders and analysts view as an African variation of the Islamic State, is also beheading men, forcing Christian women to convert to Islam and taking them as wives, officials said.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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