World View: Abbas Rescinds on 'Right of Return'

This morning's key headlines from

  • After being called 'traitor', Abbas rescinds on 'right of return'
  • Russia's nationalists turn against Putin
  • Egypt's Coptic Christians select a new Pope at time of anxiety

After being called 'traitor', Abbas rescinds on 'right of return'

Hamas supporters carry signs calling Abbas a 'traitor'
Hamas supporters carry signs calling Abbas a 'traitor'

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas appeared to concede the "right of return" on Friday, as we reported. The remark was a shock to Palestinians, for whom the demand that they be able to return to their ancestral homes in Israel has been a foundational demand for the two-state negotiations, and many called him a "traitor." However, on Sunday Abbas reversed himself, saying that his previous remarks were only "personal," not applicable to all Palestinians:

"Talking about Safad is a personal position and does not mean giving up the right of return.

No one can give up the right of return as all international texts and Arab and Islamic decisions refer to a just and agreed solution to the refugee issue, according to U.N. Resolution 194, with the term ‘agreed on’ meaning agreed with the Israeli side.

I do not change my position – what I say to the Palestinians is no different from what I say to the Israelis or the Americans or anyone."

Daily Star (Beirut) / AFP

Russia's nationalists turn against Putin

In recent years, Russia's president Vladimir Putin has courted ethnic Russian nationalists to be allies in his ongoing effort to restore the might of the Russian empire, bringing the North Caucasus under control and even adding to Russia's territory the two breakaway provinces that Russia "liberated" from Georgia during the 2008 war. Russia's nationalists used to agree with Putin's agenda, but recently their agenda has transformed significantly. According to an analyst, "They don’t want to expand Russia, they don’t want to hear about its greater Eurasian status -- Putin’s favorite game. They want to get rid of the troublesome North Caucasus and its inhabitants they refuse to acknowledge as Russian citizens." 5,000 young nationalist protesters took to the streets on Sunday, Russia's annual Day of National Unity, and mixed numerous chants filled with ethnic hatred with bitter denunciations of Putin, some comparing him to Hitler. LA Times

Egypt's Coptic Christians select a new Pope at time of anxiety

The young blindfolded altar boy hands over the name of the new Pope of Alexandria on Sunday.  His choice is thought to have been guided by God. (BBC)
The young blindfolded altar boy hands over the name of the new Pope of Alexandria on Sunday. His choice is thought to have been guided by God. (BBC)

On Sunday, in St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo's Abbasiya district, an Egyptian Coptic cleric named Wagih Sobhy Bakky Suleiman was chosen to become the "Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa in the Holy See of St Mark the Apostle," under the name Pope Tawadros II.

He was one of three finalists chosen by vote. The three finalist names were put into a glass bowl. A young altar boy was selected to make the final choice. The child was blindfolded, and then he reached into the bowl with a hand that believers say was guided by God, and withdrew the name of Tawadros. (Why can't we choose our President this way?)

The Coptic Christian Church was founded by Saint Mark the Evangelist, who was one of the "Seventy Disciples" who were sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel. He lost faith for a while, but later was restored to faith and was the author of the New Testament's gospel according to Mark. He became the Bishop of Alexandria for what has since become the Coptic Church. The Church flourished, and at one time was prominent not only in Egypt but throughout all of western Africa. Today, there are dioceses in Ethiopia, in Europe, Armenia and the United States. Pastoral responsibility falls to the Priests, who must be married.

The Prophet Mohammed is said to have given special dispensation to the Coptic Christians in Egypt, and they have gone through centuries of great freedom, alternating with centuries of great persecution. Today, Egypt's ten million Coptic Christians are still nominally free to worship as they choose, but they're still in shock over last year's "Maspero Massacre." (See "11-Oct-11 World View -- Egypt in shock over bloody massacre of Coptic Christians")

The death last Spring of Pope Shenouda III, the 117'th Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, left Egypt's Copts anxious and frightened about their future, at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining political power. But it also represented an opportunity for greater freedom: Over 2,000 Coptic Christians from Egypt visited the Holy Land for Easter, defying a ban imposed on visiting Jerusalem and Israeli-controlled areas. The ban has been in effect for three decades, imposed by the Coptic leader Shenouda to protest Egypt's 1979 peace agreement with Israel.

Tawadros is the 118'th Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, that began with St. Mark, and Egypt's Copts see him as the "light at the end of the tunnel" after the strict rule of Shenouda, and occasional violent incidents since the Maspero massacre. In particular, since last year's revolution in Egypt, young Copts have begun engaging in politics, which was strongly discouraged by Shenouda. Copts expect the new pope to guarantee their rights and make them feel safe in the post-revolution Egypt. Tawadros will be the Copts' main contact with Egypt's first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and Copts will expect him to make sure that Morsi keeps to his promise of freedom of religion for all of Egypt's citizens. Egypt Independent and Al-Ahram (Cairo) and New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

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