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Syrian war turns 10 as pandemic turns 1

A new report shows 12,000 children have died in a decade of conflict

A Syrian child in a refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley Associated Press/Photo by Hussein Malla

Syrian war turns 10 as pandemic turns 1

SYRIA: This week marks the 10th anniversary of the war in Syria, which erupted out of Arab Spring protests that President Bashar Assad responded to with bloody military assaults. Children are the biggest casualties in a war that sparked the rise of terror groups like Islamic State (ISIS): A UNICEF study finds more than 12,000 children have been killed in the decade of conflict, and more than 2.5 million are out of school, many of them for years. Half of Syrians ages 18-25 say they have lost a close relative or friend, and the fighting has displaced 12 million Syrians out of a pre-war population of 19.5 million. Syria’s Christians, once making up 10 percent of that population, also are casualties as targeted attacks by ISIS and other militants emptied villages, halving their numbers overall.

IRAQ: The historic visit of Pope Francis—the first of any pope to the ancient Chaldean church—buoyed a Christian population desperate to hold on to its heritage. The four-day trip was highlighted by Mass celebrations in Mosul and Qaraqosh in churches undergoing restoration after ISIS destruction and takeover. It included a poignant visit with the father of Alan Kurdi—the young boy whose washed-up body captured the 2015 refugee crisis—and a trip to the Shia seat in Najaf, with a never-before meeting lasting 45 minutes with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

CHINA: Human rights lawyer Wang Yu failed to appear for an online ceremony held by the State Department marking International Women’s Day, raising concerns she has been forcibly detained. A growing number of lawmakers want to strip China of the 2022 Winter Olympics over its human rights record.

ERITREA: A group of 21 Christian women was released from captivity after being held prisoner for four years. Since August, a total of 171 Eritrean Christians have been freed from prison.

ETHIOPIA: Investigators say Eritrean forces are responsible for the massacre of 800 people in the Tigray region’s Axum Church of St. Mary of Zion.

PORTUGAL could become just the fifth country in the world to legalize euthanasia nationwide if the bill passes review by the Constitutional Court. But the measure is a misplaced response to the country’s shabby healthcare system. “People die badly in Portugal, so in some cases they die in a lot of pain, in a lot of suffering and so on, and so in the minds of people, giving them an injection is a kind of treatment,” said Antonio Torres, the vice president of the Portuguese Federation for Life.

COVID-19: Afghanistan has received its first shipment of vaccines via the COVAX global distribution program, but poorer countries continue to complain about “vaccine apartheid” under the scheme.

Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute will mark National COVID-19 Day on March 11—the day one year ago that the World Health Organization declared a pandemic—with a remembrance of lives lost and an online platform of caregiving resources. Here are the moments when experts realized we were in trouble as the COVID-19 pandemic launched.

UKRAINE: A borscht war is the newest flare-up between Ukraine and Russia.

FRANCE: Tree surgeons have found and felled centuries-old oaks large enough to reconstruct the oak-beamed roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, once known as “la foret” before it was destroyed in the 2019 fire.

I’M READING Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund.

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine’s first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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