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Pope appeals for Middle East peace in Christmas message | News

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Pope Francis has called for peace in conflict zones such as Syria and Yemen, as millions across the world celebrated Christmas on Tuesday.

The head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholic Christians said in his Christmas message that he hoped Yemen’s recent truce would end a war that has killed about 10,000 people since 2015 and pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.

“My wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity,” he told pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square on Tuesday, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

“Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas… Fraternity among persons of different religions.”

“My thoughts turn to Yemen, in the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine,” he said.






Will the ceasefire in Yemen hold?

The pope also spoke of the war in Syria, which has forced millions from their homes and reduced swathes of the country to rubble.

He called for a “political solution” to the conflict “so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country”.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Francis also said he hoped for renewed peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians “that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love”.

Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, located near Jerusalem but cut off from the city by Israel’s separation barrier, has seen an increase in visitors this season after several down years because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Bethlehem’s mayor Anton Salman, said that “the message of Palestinians on Christmas is that we are staying in the holy land and will maintain it and resist the occupation until our national goals are achieved, specifically independence and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital”, Ma’an news reported.

Visitors from across the world gathered in the “little town” on Christmas Eve for midnight mass, queueing to see the grotto where Jesus is believed to have been born and taking in a festive parade.

They were able to view the Church of the Nativity’s newly restored mosaics dating to the Crusader era after a major renovation.






The Holy Land – Al Jazeera’s news special

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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