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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
11 September 2017
Greg Kandra




Mekhitarist Father Hovsep spends a moment with a camper after liturgy. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Several years ago, we paid a visit to summer camps for kids in Armenia and Georgia — camps that are offering young people fresh air and fresh hope:

Religious devotions and catechism constitute a significant portion of the day at Diramayr. Days begin and end with prayer, while catechism class is a daily feature. Sunday mornings are reserved for the celebration of the Soorp Badarak, the Divine Liturgy.

Because few Armenians belong to the Armenian Catholic Church (just 220,000 of its 2.9 million citizens), most of those who attend the camp nominally belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the historic faith community of the Armenian people. The two churches share the same culture, liturgy and traditions (only full communion with the Church of Rome distinguishes Catholic from Armenian Apostolic Christians), thus sparing the camp from religious discord.

Summer camp would not be summer camp if the campers had their heads stuck in their Bibles or catechisms all day. Children study languages (French or English), art and computers and also have plenty of time for sports and outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing. They also take day trips to nearby Lake Sevan and visit the ancient historical monuments that dot Armenia’s countryside.

While most of the day is scheduled, the campers also have free time to horse around in the playground or chat with their friends.

Read more about Kids’ Camps in the Caucasus in the November 2007 edition of ONE.



11 September 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Cartagena, Colombia, to Rome on 10 September. Earlier, the pope cut and bruised his face on the popemobile window when he was greeting people. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Turkey halts migrants in Black Sea (Vatican Radio) Turkish authorities say they have stopped 313 migrants on the Black Sea attempting to reach Balkan countries in the last two days, suggesting the emergence of an alternative route to Europe...

Report: Iraq holding hundreds of wives, children of ISIS suspects (BBC) The Iraqi authorities are holding more than 1,300 foreign family members of suspected Islamic State militants at a displaced people’s camp south of Mosul, officials and aid workers say. The women and children, from at least 13 countries, mostly fled Tal Afar as troops recaptured the city last month. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which is providing assistance at the camp, said they were in “de-facto detention”...

Pope injured during visit to Colombia (CNS) Driving through the streets of the Caribbean coastal city of Cartegena, the popemobile braked suddenly, and Pope Francis hit his head. A big bump appeared quickly on his left cheekbone and a few specks of blood from his scratched eyebrow stained his white soutane. After a quick treatment with ice, according to the Vatican, the pope was back in the popemobile making his way to the Church of St. Peter Claver, the Jesuit who devoted the last 40 years of his life to caring for and ministering to African slaves...

Gaza poverty rate reaches 80 percent (Middle East Media Center) Chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege on Gaza said, on Friday, that poverty rate among Palestinians in the territory has reached 80 per cent. “This has had disastrous effects on all aspects of life,” explained Jamal Al-Khodari in a press statement...

Ethiopia marks new year (The Herald) Ethiopia, with its own calendar, will be starting its New Year 2010 today, and citizens were busy preparing for celebrations...



Tags: Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey Immigration

8 September 2017
Greg Kandra




The haunting melodies of the Armenian liturgy are chanted by a choir in the Beirut suburb of Bourj Hammoud. Learn more about life in Lebanon’s Little Armenia in the July 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)



8 September 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, children return to school in Mosul, many for the first time in three years.
(video: TRT World/YouTube)


Mosul reveals the future of high-tech warfare (Wired) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the city on 10 July after almost nine months of devastating fighting, but ISIS remains dangerous even in defeat. Every door, window, side street and vehicle will have to be checked and cleared. Meanwhile, the jihadists still cling on elsewhere in the country, where they are expected to employ the same tactics...

Severe drought adds to number of displaced in Ethiopia (Fides) As a result of the dramatic drought, the phenomenon of the displaced people of the southeast villages of Ethiopia, bordering Somalia, continues...

Refugees from conflict zones opt for war-torn Syria (The Jordan Times) Millions of Syrians have fled their country’s war as refugees, but for tens of thousands of people escaping conflict elsewhere, Syria is also a place of refuge...

Ukraine fears Russia will use exercises to invade (BBC) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he fears that Russia could use massive military manoeuvres next week as a cover for invasion. In a major speech, Mr. Poroshenko said Russia’s Zapad-2017 exercises with Belarus might be “a smokescreen to create new Russian army assault groups to invade Ukrainian territory.” Russia says 13,000 troops will take part in Zapad, on 14-20 September...

Catholic priest in India advocates for cremation (UCANews.com) An acute lack of space has forced Christian cemeteries in New Delhi to reuse graves after five years, with a Catholic priest advocating that Christians opt for cremation...

In Lviv, auxiliary bishop for Philadelphia ordained (ByzCath.org) In St. Yura Cathedral, on 3 September 2017 during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy led by the Father and Head of the UGCC His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Bishop Andriy (Rabiy) was ordained...



7 September 2017
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




Displaced Iraqis flee their homes in January as Iraqi forces battle with ISIS militants near Mosul, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Khalid al Mousily, Reuters)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS; or dā’iš from its Arabic name) came forcefully to the attention of the world on 29 June 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi introduced himself as the new caliph of Islam. This followed a series of military victories which gave ISIS control over several Iraqi cities; on 10 June 2014, it seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. It was not long before ISIS controlled much of northern Syria and large sections of Iraq.

Where did ISIS originate? How did it begin? There are many differing theories. While some consider it a purely political movement with a religious veneer, others see it as a purely religious movement with political goals. While I personally believe the neither position is correct, I think it is helpful to look at some of the ideologies and theological underpinnings which helped bring it about, since it casts such a long shadow over so much of the world CNEWA serves.

Two concepts are crucial to understand ISIS: jihād and takfīr. Jihād is a complex concept but involves the struggle (Arabic jahada) to bring the entire world to submission to God and to God’s rule. Those parts of the world that have submitted form the dār ul-salām, “the House/Realm of Peace” and those which have not form the dār ul-ḥarb, “the House/Realm of war.” Classical Islam saw itself at least potentially in a state of permanent conflict with the Realm of War. Although distinctions were drawn between the “greater jihād,” which was similar to asceticism in Christianity, i.e. the struggle to overcome one’s baser tendencies, and the “lesser jihād,” it was clearly the lesser or military jihād that has continued to be of concern to the non-Muslim world.

Takfīr, on the other hand, is the declaration that someone is a kāfir, “an infidel, non-believer, apostate” and, hence, deserving of death and damnation. Very soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, Muslims struggled with what rendered someone a non-believer. This question became acute when it dealt with declaring other Muslims to be infidels/apostates. The question arose over whether Ali, the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of the prophet, was responsible for the assassination of Uthman, the third Caliph, and hence and infidel/apostate, or whether Uthman was deserving of death and hence an apostate.

One group, the Kharijites, was very clear on this: everyone who didn’t agree with them was an infidel and apostate. Being an infidel made one the object of jihād, while being an apostate made one worthy of death. The Murji’ites (from Arabic ’irjā’ “to put off {judgement}”), on the other hand, held that judgment should be left to God. Although this was in the context of very specific historical circumstances, the question remained as to what, if anything (other than outright rejection of Islam) could render a Muslim an infidel. With a great deal of oversimplification, the question was: could an external act alone render a Muslim an infidel and apostate or did there have to be a concomitant internal intention?

Taqī al-Dīn ibn Taymīya (1263-1393), a major Muslim thinker, held the opinion that an external act can render a Muslim an apostate. But this was not the predominant Muslim opinion at the time.

With the emergence in the 18th century of what is called the Wahhabi movement (in in what would become Saudi Arabia), ibn Taymīya’s thought took on a new prominence. In the 20th century Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), after studying and traveling developed an extremely negative stance towards the West. This resulted in him judging very harshly those Muslim societies which he saw as abandoning Islam for Western values. He deemed these Muslim countries to be in a state of jāhilīyya, which means “foolishness” but is also used to refer to the time before the arrival of Muhammad. Relying on an idiosyncratic interpretation of Qur’an 5:44, Qutb came to the conclusion that all Muslim nations which do not “govern by what has been revealed by God” are infidels/apostates.

Although Qutb was not well received in Saudi Arabia — because he did not use classical, Islamic sources — some of his ideas found a home in the kingdom. Muslim thinkers over the centuries were extremely reticent to apply the concept of takfīr — fully aware of the forces it could unleash. But ISIS has not shown any reticence at all: it has been unusually careful to provide religious justification for its atrocities, which are more often directed against Muslims than non-Muslims.

While there are indications ISIS has been at least driven from the areas of Syria and Iraq it conquered, it is important to realize that its roots run very deep. It did not begin overnight — and it will not end overnight, either.

Military solutions are not enough. The ultimate solution must be religious.



7 September 2017
Greg Kandra




Brooklyn’s Coptic Catholic community includes parishioners from New York and New Jersey — but it traces its history to first century Egypt and the apostle Mark. Learn more about the Coptic Catholic Church in this profile from 2007. (photo: Maria Bastone)



7 September 2017
Greg Kandra




People hold placards and candles during a vigil for Gauri Lankesh in Ahmedabad, India on 6 September. The previous day, the Indian journalist was shot dead outside her home. The Catholic Church in India Wednesday strongly condemned the murder. (photo: CNS/Amit Dave, Reuters)

Syria says Israel bombed military base (The New York Times) Syria accused Israel on Thursday of conducting an overnight strike on a military base said by analysts to house chemical weapons and advanced missiles. The Syrian military reported the attack, saying it had left two people dead near the town of Masyaf in western Syria and had caused unspecified material damage...

Indian Catholic Church condemns death of journalist (Vatican Radio) The Catholic Church of India on Wednesday strongly condemned the murder of a noted Kannada journalist, on Tuesday in Bengaluru who fought the forces of evil, hatred and corruption...

Syrian refugees trade violence for thirst (Al jazeera) Currently, 1.4 million Syrians live in Jordan, while another 1.5 million have resettled in Lebanon. Both countries have historically struggled with seasonal water shortages, low investment in infrastructure, and poor management of water resources. The dramatic population increases have added another layer of stress, with demand for water rising by 22 and 28 percent respectively in Jordan and Lebanon since the Syrian crisis started...

Mosul students volunteer to restore library (Rudaw.net) Citing inaction by the Iraqi government and politicians, a group of student volunteers came together this weekend to clean the debris from the University of Mosul’s Ibn Khaldun Center Library. “We are young, we saw our city destroyed and the government is unable to help,” the organizer of the volunteer group, Mustafa Khaled, told Rudaw English of their work on Saturday and Sunday...

Pope Tawadros visits Canberra congregation (The Canberra Times) Canberra’s Coptic community hopes the Coptic Orthodox pope’s visit to the region will shine a light on the plight of Copts across the Middle East. Pope Tawadros II visited Canberra for the first time yesterday meeting Kaleen’s St Mark Coptic Orthodox congregation after earlier meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull...

From one refugee generation to another (Catholic Register) Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies will never forget the January day she saw the Alshablis, a family fleeing war in Syria, walk through the doors of Edmonton International Airport...



6 September 2017
Greg Kandra




Children gather for prayer at the start of morning assembly at St. Antony's English Medium School in Karottukara, India. Many around the world are now returning to school after summer break. To learn how this school in India is changing lives, and giving villagers their first taste of a secondary education, check out Education as a Common Goal in the September-October 2003 edition of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)



6 September 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
In this image from July, Syrians gather with pictures of victims during a memorial in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syria, 100 days after a toxic gas attack that was reported to have killed 88 people, including 31 children. (photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

Report: Syria used chemical weapons 27 times (The Guardian) Syrian forces have used chemical weapons more than two-dozen times during the country’s civil war, including in the deadly attack that led to US airstrikes, UN war crimes investigators said on Wednesday. In the most conclusive findings to date from investigations into chemical weapons attacks during the conflict, the UN commission of inquiry on Syria said a government warplane dropped sarin on Khan Sheikhun in April, killing more than 80 civilians...

Jerusalem churches warn of ‘systematic’ erosion of Christian presence in Holy Land (Haaretz) Church leaders in Jerusalem took the unusual step of issuing a statement protesting a recent ruling by a court in the capital instructing the Greek Orthodox Church to sell three buildings in the Old City to a Jewish settler organization. The statement also expressed opposition to an Israeli bill that would transfer ownership of church land sold to private citizens to the state...

Ethiopia faces worsening drought (AP) More than eight million people in drought-hit southeastern and southern Ethiopia are in need of emergency food assistance, officials said as the heads of the World Food Program, Food and Agriculture Organization and International Fund for Agricultural Development made a rare joint visit over the weekend. Despite economic growth in the past decade that has made Ethiopia one of Africa’s fastest-developing countries, rural areas are suffering as the nation faces its worst drought in years...

Latin Patriarchate names new coordinator for pastoral care of migrants (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) On 2 September 2017, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, appointed the Rev. Rafiq Nahra new coordinator for Coordination of the Pastoral Among Migrants...

Climate change threatens survival of Jordan River (Climate Change News) Hydrologists and climate scientists have just calculated the future of one of the world’s most celebrated waterways, the River Jordan. Their conclusion is that the outlook is poor — and getting poorer...



5 September 2017
Catholic News Service




A displaced Iraqi man is seen through a car window near Mosul, Iraq, 9 August. The Rev. Michael Czerny, S.J., undersecretary of the migrant and refugee section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said 4 September the Vatican believes countries must guarantee “adequate legal frameworks and reliable pathways to prevent migrants from becoming victims of human trafficking.” (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters)

Many people become more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation when safe, legal and affordable opportunities for immigration or asylum are lacking, a Vatican official told global leaders.

Since human traffickers “can easily take advantage of the desperation of migrants and asylum seekers,” such people on the move can end up “in an irregular or undocumented status,” which puts them “at a very high risk of abuse and exploitation, including trafficking and enslavement,” said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the migrant and refugee section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

That is why the Vatican believes it is very important countries guarantee “adequate legal frameworks and reliable pathways to prevent migrants from becoming victims of human trafficking,” he said 4 September.

The priest spoke at a meeting in Vienna 4-5 September that was part of the U.N. process for developing and adopting a Global Compact for Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees. The U.N. hopes to have a draft of the compacts ready by February and to present them to the general assembly in September 2018.

Father Czerny led the Vatican delegation at the meeting where other Catholic organizations also have been participating in discussions and hearings to formulate the compacts.

He told the assembly that “despite the great achievements of international agreements, asylum seekers and migrants, who risk their lives in search of safety and a new home, are still and ever more vulnerable, especially to criminal organizations.”

“Since safe, regular and affordable routes are generally not available, many migrants employ smugglers,” he said. Since smugglers are sometimes involved or connected with human trafficking, migrating to start a new life “can go disastrously wrong.”

While victims and potential victims need more protections, he said, receiving communities need to recognize the role they play as part of fueling the demand for forced and slave labor, particularly in prostitution and work that does not meet legal standards in terms of pay or safety.

With human trafficking now being a multibillion-dollar industry, “slavery must not be an unavoidable aspect of economies. Instead, business should be in the vanguard in combating and preventing this travesty,” Father Czerny said.

A measure of the Global Compact for Migration’s success “will be if tomorrow’s migratory movements are no longer inevitably marked by human smuggling as today’s clearly are,” he said. “For irregular migration is not freely chosen but rather forced on people because legal and secure channels are simply not accessible.”







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