Globe Briefs August 4

Globe Briefs August 4

Abbas, Kerry discuss two-state solution in Paris meeting

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Paris and talked about ways to advance a two-state solution.

During Saturday afternoon’s meeting, the two leaders “discussed regional challenges and constructive ideas for the way forward to support our shared goal of a two-state solution,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

“Secretary Kerry stressed the United States’ commitment to this issue, and they agreed on the importance of continuing to work with key partners to advance the prospects for peace while opposing all efforts that would undermine that goal,” Kirby also said.

The Palestinian Authority news service Wafa, quoting Saeb Erekat, the former chief Palestinian peace negotiator and secretary of the Executive Committee of the PLO, reported that Abbas told Kerry that he fully supports the French peace initiative, which would convene the two sides under the auspices of the international community.

Abbas in a separate meeting also told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault of his support for the initiative.

The P.A. leader said that amending the Arab peace initiative was not acceptable to the Palestinians. The proposal calls for full peace with the Arab countries in the region if Israel grants the Palestinians a state on all pre-1967 lines with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. It also endorses the so-called Palestinian “right of return” to homes within Israel.

Muslim woman’s praise for kindness of Jewish man, 90, wins social media salute

A Facebook post by a Muslim-American woman about the kindness of a 90-year-old Jewish man has attracted the attention of thousands of social media users.

Leena Al-Arian wrote that she met a man on Thursday named Lenny at her Boston-area Barnes & Noble, where she took her two young daughters for a special children’s program.

Lenny approached the young family “and conveyed a heartfelt apology for the general anti-Muslim sentiment in our society today. He had tears in his eyes and told me that it must be so hard to turn on the news, that he feels awful about the bigotry my kids might one day experience, and that as a Jewish man whose parents didn’t speak any English growing up, he personally understands what it feels like to be rejected and discriminated against,” Al-Arian wrote in her Facebook post.

“I asked if I could give him a hug (he looked like he needed one more than me, but I guess I needed one too) and he wanted to reassure me that most Americans are decent people who don’t hate people like me or believe what they hear on the news,” she continued.

Lenny took a photo with the family and then bought the girls each a present at the store in honor of his 90th birthday on July 29.

Al-Arian said she decided to post it after a friend suggested she put it out there “to add to what I guess is our modern day chicken soup for the anti-racist soul.”

More than 7,400 people have liked the post, and 2,575 people have shared it as of Sunday afternoon.

Hours after historic Auschwitz visit, Pope Francis says ‘the same thing is happening’ today in many places

Human cruelty “did not end in Auschwitz,” Pope Francis said in Krakow after visiting the Nazi death camp in Poland.

Following his historic visit on Friday, the pope compared contemporary atrocities around the world to the atrocities at Auschwitz, the Associated Press reported. Some 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, died there between 1940 and 1945.

Citing torture and overcrowded prisons, the pope said, “We say, yes, there we saw the cruelty of 70 years ago, how people died being shot or hanged or with gas. Today in many parts of the world where there is war, the same thing is happening.”

In the past, Jewish leaders have sometimes bristled at comparisons between the Holocaust and other atrocities, particularly ones that have not involved genocide.

While at Auschwitz, Francis did not make any public statements but engaged in silent prayer. He wrote in a guest book there, “Lord, have mercy on your people! Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty!”

While at Auschwitz, the pope also met with 11 Auschwitz survivors and a group of Polish Catholics who rescued Jews during the Holocaust in a meeting arranged by Poland’s chief rabbi, the American-born Michael Schudrich.

In a telephone interview with the AP on Friday, Schudrich said the pope’s meeting with survivors was “something I have been thinking about for a while: what kind of non-material present, what kind of thank you, can we give to the Righteous?”

While the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous offers some financial help to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews, Schudrich told the AP he “wanted to come up with a spiritual gift, and I thought that a special blessing from the pope would make them feel honored because of their unbelievable morality and humanity.”

In a statement Friday issued in advance of Francis’ visit, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder praised the pontiff, who has forged ever-closer ties between the Catholic Church and Jews since his election in 2013.

“Pope Francis is one of the closest allies Jews have today in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred,” Lauder said. “He is a true friend of the Jewish people, a man who reaches out to others and embraces them. Never over the past 2,000 years have Catholic-Jewish relations been better.”

The pope’s visit “sends an important signal to the world that this dark chapter must never be forgotten and that the truth about what happened seven decades ago must not be obfuscated,” Lauder added.

The late Pope John Paul II, who was born in Poland, visited Auschwitz in 1979. His successor, the Germany native Pope Benedict XVI, visited in 2006.

“Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people,” Benedict said. “I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here.”