4 October 2019
Children participate in a group activity at the St. Paul Center for Church Services in Iraq.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the current edition of ONE, journalist Raed Rafei writes about visiting Iraq two years after the defeat of ISIS. He reports on how Iraqi Christians are facing the future — and notes that many are encouraged to stay because of the church’s commitment to education:
In the lively St. Paul Center for Church Services, hundreds of children come every day to take summer lessons in catechetics and Christian values, learn hymns and watch animated films about Jesus and the saints. The center, run by priests and young volunteers, also offers classes in music, computer literacy and English, as well as counseling and courses for young couples preparing for marriage.
“We focus on entertaining methods that foster cooperation among children,” says Father Ignatius, who manages Christian teaching for children, stressing the importance of such a program in encouraging the return of families, despite difficult economic conditions. Nearby, children participate in a group activity that tests their knowledge of the Bible in a playful environment.
“We need to plant the seeds of endurance and of Christian values in the hearts of our kids,” the priest explains. “They are the future.”
Educators are routinely trained to help tackle social issues that might affect youth, such as drinking and excessive online gaming.
Teaching is also the priority for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who reside in Qaraqosh at the Immaculate Conception Convent, a building from the 1960’s restored a year and half ago after sustaining heavy damage during the years of occupation and war.
“The psychological situation of our students is difficult,” says Sister Muntaha Hadaya, who teaches math at the Dominican Sisters’ school. She says instability and the lack of jobs affect the children’s morale.
“They need a lot of motivation, because the atmosphere in most households is depressing,” she explains. “Parents are constantly preoccupied with life’s many needs.”
The high rate of success of their students in official exams and the increasing demand for education have prompted the sisters to build a larger secondary school that will accommodate around 350 students. The new school will be equipped with laboratories and computer rooms.
Read more about the Resolve of Iraqi Christians in the September 2019 edition of the magazine. And discover more about the St. Paul Center in the video below.
4 October 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians
This aerial image from 2018 shows downtown Idlib, Syria. Shells hit a hospital in Idlib, wounding at least seven people. (photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
Syria: artillery shells hit hospital in Idlib (Al Jazeera) An artillery attack has hit a hospital in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, wounding seven people with one in a critical condition, according to a UK-based charity. Save the Children said artillery shells struck the southern wing of a health centre it supports on Thursday in the town of Maarat al-Numan in northwestern Syria…
Report: India witnessed worst rains, flooding in 25 years (Financial Express) Monsoon rains in the country stood at 10 percent above average this year and recorded the highest numbers in 25 years, the weather department said on Monday, adding that as seasonal rainfall went on longer than it was expected. In a country where the monsoon brings nearly 70 per cent of annual rainfall, the longer monsoon has wreaked havoc in several states killing hundreds of people due to flood…
Lebanon’s labor minister asks Syrian refugees to register newborns (Xinhua) Lebanese Labor Minister Camille Abousleiman called upon Syrian refugees on Friday to register their children who were born in Lebanon, a statement by his ministry said. ”Not registering children of Syrian refugees born in Lebanon will have negative effects on Syrians and the Lebanese,” he said…
Pope dedicates upcoming synod to Francis of Assisi (Vatican News) During a highly symbolic tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Friday, Pope Francis places the upcoming Synod for the Amazon under the protection of Saint Francis of Assisi…
3 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis
Brother Peter Bray chats with students on the grounds of Bethlehem University.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
In the September 2019 edition of ONE, Brother Peter Bray, vice chancellor of Bethlehem University, writes about the challenges and opportunities facing students at the school:
We are seeking to create an environment, develop an atmosphere, provide opportunities for our students to acquire the knowledge, gain the skills and develop the attitudes and values that are going to enable them to do what Jesus wanted — that is, to live life as fully as they possibly can, despite the military occupation with its various restrictions and confinement within the concrete wall and other barriers surrounding the West Bank.
One of the opportunities offered by the university is a place for Christians and Muslims to come together. For a significant number of the Muslim students, coming to Bethlehem University is the first time they have met a Christian. Many speak about it as an enlightening experience for them.
There are many challenges facing us as we seek to provide quality higher education for our students. The most obvious are the restrictions on movement. At present, 46 percent of our students come from East Jerusalem. To attend class they must pass through a military checkpoint at the wall each day — an unpredictable and humiliating experience. What these students face on their way to and from the university is the possibility that their bus may be stopped once or twice or even three times by different groups of Israeli soldiers. They can be questioned, interrogated, arrested; they could have a gun held to their face without any warning. You can imagine how they might feel by the time they arrive at school.
I am deeply concerned about our undergraduates and the potentially disheartening lives they face. We need to keep them aware of and committed to their dreams. Yet every day, they live with the possibility of their homes being raided in the middle of the night and some member of their family being taken away. The question that arises: What can we do to help them deal with this unpredictability, this injustice?
Read more of his thoughts here.
3 October 2019
Tags: Bethlehem University
In this image from 2014, Pope Francis kisses a cross during his weekly audience at the Vatican. The cross is made from wooden boards recovered from the wreckage of boats carrying migrants from northern Africa to Lampedusa, Italy. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Remembering Lampedusa (Vatican News) On 3 October 2013 a migrant boat sank while sailing towards the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. The final death toll is never to be known, but 194 bodies were recovered and 363 people were declared missing. “Never Again” said Europe, as leaders and institutions released a series of well-intentioned statements. Thus, 3 October was established as the National Day in Remembrance of the Victims of Immigration…
Lebanon slammed for deporting undocumented refugees (Al Jazeera) Lebanon is being criticized for its decision to send back Syrian refugees who arrived after April without proper documentation as another way of pressuring Syrians to return home. Human rights groups are accusing Lebanon of putting the lives of refugees in danger. Nearly 3,000 of them have been sent back in the past four months…
Syrian war refugees in Turkey face hardships reaching Europe (The Washington Post) Fleeing Syria’s eight-year civil war has always been a trial, full of risk and toil, but it has never felt as dangerous, as impossible, as it does these days. The shifting fortunes of the Syrian conflict pose new peril, while hostility to refugees is on the rise in neighboring states. Some Western countries have adopted immigration policies criticized as incoherent or simply cruel, as refugees, struggling to enter Europe, languish in teeming camps on the continent’s edge…
Christians pray for Gandhi on birth anniversary (UCANews.com) Hundreds of Christians from various denominations prayed together for India on 2 October, marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation. Delhi Archdiocese organized an ecumenical program, Prayer for India, in New Delhi, recalling Gandhi’s ideals of peace and non-violence…
Looted Ethiopian crown resurfaces in Netherlands (The New York Times) In 1998, Sirak Asfaw, a Dutch civil servant who was born in Ethiopia, noticed something shiny in the suitcase of a guest who was staying at his house. Curious, he opened the case to find a glittering gilded crown inside. ”I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Mr. Sirak, who moved to the Netherlands a political refugee in the 1970s, said in a recent interview in Amsterdam…
2 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Refugees Migrants Immigration
The future is brighter for students at the Rosary Sisters School in Gaza, where renovated classrooms provide a comfortable and well-equipped learning environment. (photo: Ali Hassan)
The July 2019 edition of ONE included a compelling first-person account of life in Gaza from Sister Nabila Saleh, principal of the Rosary Sisters School:
Being the principal of the school is a tough row to hoe; it’s not an easy task to deal with life in Gaza, where teachers, parents and students are living with the aftermath of war or are threatened by its renewal. Anxious and unnerved, tempers flared. I understood the burdens and fears of a people under siege and living in poverty with little hope in the future.
Most people in Gaza suffered from posttraumatic disorders in one manner or another — especially the children, who endured three bloody conflicts in only five years. I could hardly hold back my tears when I came to realize how much they were deeply and forever scarred. Some of the children had seen mutilated bodies or experienced the daily artillery shelling and heard the continuing roar of warplanes overhead.
“No place in Gaza was safe,” some would tell me, adding, that they experienced panic attacks whenever there was a bombing. So often when I heard these stories, I wasn’t able to contain myself and I cried.
In a tenth-grade class, a student named Salma told me, with tears running down her cheeks: “I will never get married because I can’t bear losing one of my beloved in war. I can’t bear seeing them mutilated; I don’t want to be responsible for the misery of my children by letting them live in Gaza to suffer as I do. I have lost hope in life.
“I’m expecting another war any time,” she said. “I struggle daily with the fear that next time will be my turn to die, or my father’s, or my mother’s, or my little brother’s.”
I am deeply concerned by what happens in Gaza. Siege, war, internal dislocation, pay cuts and long-lasting electricity outages impact every aspect of Gazans’ lives — particularly the children. Living in these circumstances has forced them to experience poverty, hunger and a daily struggle to exist. This situation has left most of the people dependent on humanitarian aid.
Whenever I have to face hardships and feel vulnerable, I remind myself of the words of St. Paul: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’
Read more in ONE magazine.
And check out the video below, which gives an intimate look at the work of the Rosary Sisters.
2 October 2019
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank
Severe flooding has hit northern India, killing at least 100 people. (video: The Guardian/YouTube)
Severe flooding kills at least 100 in northern India (UCANews.com) Church people and institutions have been severely affected by floods in northern India that have killed some 100 people and displaced millions. At least 73 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh state and 29 in Bihar state in the rains and flooding that hit the region in the last week of September. Warnings of further rain and flooding have forced the Bihar government to order closure of schools and other education institutions until 3 October...
Pope names U.N. representative as nuncio to Spain (CNS) Pope Francis named Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who has represented the Vatican at the United Nations since 2014, to be nuncio to Spain and Andorra. The Vatican made the announcement on 1 October. It did not name a replacement as permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations…
Netanyahu’s corruption hearing opens in Jerusalem (The Telegraph) Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers began a last-ditch effort today to convince prosecutors not to bring criminal charges against the prime minister as his long-awaited corruption hearing opened in Jerusalem…
Ahead of Yom Kippur, remembering Mosul’s rich past (The Times of Israel) The newer, but still ancient, city of Mosul is located next to Nineveh in northern Iraq. ISIS, during its occupation of Mosul, deliberately destroyed many of the excavated remains of Nineveh. As a scholar of Islamic art, I know that such acts of deliberate, ideologically based destruction are unusual in Islamic history. Although today Mosul is famous outside of Iraq primarily as a site of conflict, its rich and diverse history forms an important legacy…
1 October 2019
Tags: India Iraq Israel United Nations
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri paid a visit to the Jerusalem office of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission this morning to meet the staff and hear about challenges facing Christians in Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)
This morning, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches, and Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the Holy See’s representative in Jerusalem, visited CNEWA-Pontifical Mission’s Jerusalem office. During an hour-long visit, we were privileged to describe our work and our mission and discuss issues of concern to the people we serve.
Among other things, we explained to the cardinal how the local community looks to CNEWA-Pontifical Mission as a sign of the pope’s interest, closeness and support toward those in need in the Palestine and Israel — and how we seek to express that through the programs and projects we support.
We also discussed challenges facing local Christians — including their lack of identity, and how many don’t feel a sense of belonging to the land of Jesus. We talked, as well, about the effects of emigration on the local population. We shared with the cardinal how we approach these and other issues in close partnership with the local church.
At the end of the visit, we gave Cardinal Sandri a small reminder of this historic visit: a ceramic pomegranate decorated with the walls of Jerusalem and the most important Christian monuments in the holy city.
CNEWA's regional director in Jerusalem presented Cardinal Sandri with a gift: a ceramic pomegranate made by local artisans. (photo: CNEWA)
1 October 2019
Tags: Jerusalem CNEWA Pontifical Mission
Pope Francis is marking the beginning of Extraordinary Mission Month, and the Vatican has just released the video above to underscore and illustrate the themes of the month.
(video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Pope to begin Extraordinary Mission Month (Vatican News) Tuesday 1 October marks the beginning of the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019 inaugurated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica with the celebration of Evening Vespers Prayers. The Extraordinary Missionary Month was called for by Pope Francis two years ago on World Mission Sunday…
Syria and Iraq open border crossing closed since 2012 (The Washington Post) Syria and Iraq announced the reopening of a border crossing between the two countries Monday, a step toward the normalization of Iraq’s relationship with its western neighbor and a boost to Iran, which will now have an open corridor into Syria…
Israel quietly lets in Gaza workers (AP) Israel is quietly allowing thousands of Palestinians to enter from the Gaza Strip to conduct business and work menial jobs, apparently as part of understandings with the ruling Hamas militant group aimed at preventing a fourth war in the blockaded territory…
Indian ambassador to Holy See: Gandhi still relevant (Vatican News) The world marks Mahatma’s Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on 2 October. On its eve, the Ambassador of India to the Holy See, Mr. Sibi George, participated in a day-long inter-faith event in the Vatican…
30 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Evangelization
Pope Francis attends the unveiling of a large bronze statue titled, “Angels Unawares,” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on 29 September 2019. The statue depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Christians have a moral obligation to show God’s care for all those who are marginalized, especially migrants and refugees, Pope Francis said.
“This loving care for the less privileged is presented as a characteristic trait of the God of Israel and is likewise required, as a moral duty, of all those who would belong to his people,” the pope said in his homily on 29 September during an outdoor Mass for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Some 40,000 men, women and children packed St. Peter’s Square as the sounds of upbeat hymns filled the air. According to the Vatican, the members of the choir singing at the Mass hailed from Romania, Congo, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Peru and Italy.
The choir wasn’t the only aspect of the liturgy that celebrated migrants and refugees. According to the Vatican Section for Migrants and Refugees, the incense used at the Mass came from the Bokolmanyo refugee camp in southern Ethiopia, where refugees are restarting the 600-year old tradition of collecting high-quality incense.
After the Mass, Pope Francis unveiled a large bronze statue, “Angels Unawares,” in St. Peter’s Square.
Designed and sculpted by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, the sculpture depicts a group of migrants and refugees on a boat. Within the group, a pair of angel wings can be seen, which suggests “that within the migrant and refugee is the sacred,” the artist’s website said.
Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny, a fellow Canadian and co-head of the Migrants and Refugees Section, had a very personal connection to the sculpture. His parents, who immigrated to Canada from
Czechoslovakia, are depicted among the people on the boat.
“It’s really amazing,” the cardinal told Catholic News Service, adding that when his brother and sister-in-law arrive in Rome to see him become a cardinal on 5 October, he expects they will pose for many photos in front of the artwork.
Before praying the Angelus prayer at the end of Mass, the pope said he wanted the statue in St. Peter’s Square “to remind everyone of the evangelical challenge to welcome.”
The 20-foot tall sculpture is inspired by Hebrews 13:2, which in the King James translation says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The sculpture will be displayed in St. Peter’s Square for an undetermined time while a smaller replica will be permanently displayed in the Rome Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
In his homily, the pope began by reflecting on the world day’s theme — “It’s not just about migrants” — and emphasized that God calls on Christians to care for all “victims of the throwaway culture.”
“The Lord calls us to practice charity toward them. He calls us to restore their humanity, as well as our own, and to leave no one behind,” he said.
However, he continued, caring for migrants and refugees is also an invitation to reflect on the injustices that occur in the world where those “who pay the price are always the little ones, the poor, the most vulnerable.”
“Wars only affect some regions of the world, yet weapons of war are produced and sold in other regions which are then unwilling to take in the refugees generated by these conflicts,” he said.
Recalling the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the pope said that men and women today also can be tempted to turn a blind eye “to our brothers and sisters in difficulty.”
As Christians, he said, “we cannot be indifferent to the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty, to the bleak isolation, contempt and discrimination experienced by those who do not belong to ‘our’ group.”
Pope Francis said the commandment to love God and neighbor is part of “building a more just world” where all people have access to the “goods of the earth” and where “fundamental rights and dignity are guaranteed to all.”
“Loving our neighbor means feeling compassion for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, drawing close to them, touching their sores and sharing their stories, and thus manifesting concretely God’s tender love for them,” the pope said.
30 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Migrants
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, speaks at the United Nations on 27 September 2019, during a high-level panel discussion on the future of persecuted Christians. Also pictured are Ambassador Katalin Annamaria Bogyay, Hungary’s permanent representative to the U.N., and Teodoro Lopez Locsin Jr., the Philippines’ secretary of foreign affairs.
(photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
At United Nations: Concern that world is ‘ignoring’ persecuted Christians (CNS) Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide, but hypocrisy, political correctness and ignorance prevent the international community from implementing a comprehensive response to pervasive violence against them, said speakers at a U.N. event on 27 September. The participants in a high-level panel discussion said 80 percent of people killed because of their religious beliefs are Christian and the number of Christians hurt or displaced is on the rise…
Church celebrates Extraordinary Missionary Month in October (Vatican News) The Extraordinary Missionary Month was announced by Pope Francis to mark the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud. The theme chosen is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”…
U.S. sees rising threat from Qaeda branch in Syria (The New York Times) American counterterrorism officials are voicing increased alarm about a Qaeda affiliate in Syria that they say is plotting attacks against the West by exploiting the chaotic security situation in the country’s northwest and the protection inadvertently afforded by Russian air defenses shielding Syrian government forces allied with Moscow…
Israel, Hamas working together on development projects for Gaza (Al-Monitor) Representatives of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for economic aid to the Palestinians convened in New York on 26 September for another round of talks on raising funds for the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip. Prior to the conference, the United Nations issued an emergency report on the state of the PA and demanded immediate action on Gaza’s health system, on the verge of collapse. Its top priority is infrastructure development plans for Gaza, most of which Israel has authorized. Some are already being implemented but require additional funding to be completed…
Ethiopian Jews: next year in Jerusalem! (The Jerusalem Post) The remaining community of Ethiopian Jews sent a clear message to Israel in their Rosh Hashanah wish saying “Next Year in Jerusalem.” There are still Some 7,500 Ethiopian Jews living in Gondar and Addis Ababa…
Pope establishes ’Sunday of the Word of God’ each year (Vatican News) Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio “Aperuit illis,” published on 30 September, establishes that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God”…
Indian pilgrimage operator wins tourism award (Vatican News) At a ceremony marking World Tourism Day in New Delhi on 27 September, the International Pilgrimage Revolution (IPR) was honored in the Best Inbound Tour Operators category for 2017-2018…
Tags: Syria India Gaza Strip/West Bank Persecution