26 November 2019
In this image from 2018, a man is rescued from drowning after the opening of a dam following heavy rains on the outskirts of Cochin, India. Climate change is having a profound effect on life in India. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
How climate change is radically affecting life in India (The New York Times) The monsoon is central to Indian life and lore.It turns up in ancient Sanskrit poetry and in Bollywood films. It shapes the fortunes of millions of farmers who rely on the rains to nourish their fields. It governs what you eat. It even has its own music. Climate change is now messing with the monsoon, making seasonal rains more intense and less predictable. Worse, decades of short-sighted government policies are leaving millions of Indians defenseless in the age of climate disruptions — especially the poor…
Second night of clashes in Lebanon amid anti-government protests (Al Jazeera) Clashes have erupted between protesters calling for an overhaul of the political system and supporters of the main Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal amid reports of gunfire in some parts of Lebanon, according to local media…
India proposes nationwide citizens list; Muslims fear persecution (DW.com) India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah, recently proposed creating a National Register of Citizens (NRC)for the entire country. Although Shah assured the Indian Parliament that no groups would face discrimination, resistance to the proposal has been mounting, with several Indian states describing it as a move to target and harass minorities…
Palestinians protest closure of institutions in East Jerusalem (Middle East Eye) Tens of Palestinians held a protest on Tuesday in the occupied city of East Jerusalem against Israel’s closure of several Palestinian institutions in the Old City. Israeli authorities closed down several institutions on 21 November, claiming that they are funded and belong to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA)…
25 November 2019
Tags: India Lebanon Palestine
Protests are continuing in Lebanon, including the one in the video above, marking Independence Day on Friday. (video: France24/YouTube)
Protestors, Hezbollah and Amal supporters clash in Beirut (Al Jazeera) Security forces fired tear gas early on Monday amid confrontations in central Beirut between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, and demonstrators protesting against Lebanon’s political elite. Lebanon has faced five weeks of anti-government protests, fuelled by anger at corruption among the sectarian politicians who have governed the country for decades. Demonstrators want all of them gone from power…
Concern over rise of dark tourism in Syria (The Guardian) As President Bashar al-Assad tightens his grip on the remains of the opposition in the north-west, a handful of tour companies and travel bloggers catering to English-language customers have started running bespoke trips to the country to “mingle with locals while also passing destroyed villages,” visit archeological sites “shrouded in a coat of destruction” and “experience the famous cosmopolitan nightlife that has returned to the centre of Damascus…”
Bishop voices concern over anti-conversion law in India (Crux) A local bishop in India has voiced his objection to a proposed new anti-conversion law in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission on Thursday submitted a report to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath suggesting a new law to check “forcible religious conversions…”
Egyptian Coptic rights activist faces terror charges (AFP) An Egyptian Coptic rights activist is facing charges of joining a “terror” group and spreading misinformation, his lawyer confirmed Monday, amid a renewed crackdown on dissidents in the country. Ramy Kamel was arrested from his Cairo home early Saturday by seven plainclothes police officers, a member of his defence team, Atef Nazmy, told AFP…
22 November 2019
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Coptic
Pope Francis greets religious leaders during a meeting with Christian leaders and the leaders of other religions at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, on 22 November 2019.
(photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope tells Thai religious leaders to work for peace (Crux) Speaking to people from 18 different religions on Friday, Pope Francis said that the complex challenges of the world today — including globalization, the rapid advances of technology and the persistence of civil conflicts resulting in migration, refugees, famine and war — makes the need for cooperation between religions all the more pressing. ”These challenges remind us that no region or sector of the human family can look to itself or its future in isolation from or immune to others,” Francis said. “All these situations require us to be bold in devising new ways of shaping the history of our time without denigrating or insulting anyone…”
Parallel rallies in Lebanon draw protesters, leaders (AP) Lebanon’s top politicians made their first joint appearance Friday since massive anti-government protests erupted last month, attending a military parade for the country’s 76th Independence Day. Protesters gathered for alternative independence celebrations, converging by early afternoon on Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut, which used to be the traditional location of the official parade. Protesters have occupied the area, closing it off to traffic since mid-October…
Tawadros II opens world’s largest Coptic library (Egypt Independent) Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria inaugurated on Tuesday the Central Papal Library in Wadi al-Natrun’s Saint Pishoy Monastery alongside other church officials. It is now considered to be the largest Coptic library in the world…
Ethiopia to launch first satellite next month (AP) Ethiopian officials say the country will launch its first ever satellite next month. It is the latest example of space ambitions by several African nations. The satellite was built in China and will be launched from a site there…
21 November 2019
Tags: Lebanon Coptic Christians Interfaith Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
Samia Sleman, 15, a Yazidi who was held hostage and raped by members of ISIS when she was 13, cries while speaking at a conference addressing the persecution of Christians and other minorities at the United Nations on 28 April. Also pictured is human-rights advocate Jacqueline Isaac.
(photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
People around the world were horrified when they read about the systematic rape of Yazidi woman after ISIS had taken control of Mt. Sinjar, the center of the Yazidi community in northern Iraq. It is a part of the world CNEWA knows well. CNEWA works in Iraq and continues to help both Christian and Yazidi women who were raped by ISIS and whose lives have been destroyed.
While that shock and outrage were justified, most people don’t realize how common and widespread violence against women is. Of course, when a sports or entertainment personality is accused of violence against a woman in the U.S., the coverage is often lurid. However, two things need to be noted: 1) most often the reporting is more about the abuser than the victim and 2) the reporting often gives at least the impression that such abuse is an uncommon event.
In the rest of the world, it is often a very different story.
Towards the end of the 20th century, it was noted that in the conflicts raging in the Great Lakes Region of Africa the number of military casualties was unexpectedly low. Further research indicated that the reason was that the fighting was not so much soldier against soldier as it was soldier against civilian and most often against women civilians. Although the reality is as old and vicious as war itself, it wasn’t until recently that rape as a weapon of war entered the area of international humanitarian law. On 19 June 2008 the UN Security Council condemned rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity in SC Res 1820.
It is a crime that can no longer be ignored or overlooked. And next week, attention will be paid.
On 25 November the UN observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For far too many of us in the west this is just another UN observance. Violence in our world is probably the strongest proof for the existence of evil. To see violence against women, however, as merely a subset of human violence in general overlooks characteristics of this crime that are uniquely vicious and evil. In the small space allotted to this piece, I would like to highlight two issues of importance regarding violence against women. They are by no means the only issues but they are, nevertheless, significant and also demonic in their efficiency.
They are: rape as a weapon of war and human trafficking.
Rape as a weapon of war became prominent as an issue not only in the context of conflicts in Africa but also in the atrocities regularly committed against women by ISIS in the Middle East. Similar atrocities have been committed against student girls by Boko Haram in West Africa. As a weapon of war, rape is horrifyingly efficient. It reduces the risk of injury to the military; it demoralizes the civilian population and—something which is often overlooked—it is also a method of genocide. In many cultures a woman who is raped becomes a social outcast and ineligible for marriage even though she is an innocent victim. She is doubly violated—by the rapist and by her own culture. In some cultures “unmarriable” women are outcasts, cut off from their parental families and from the overall culture. If the number of potential wives and mothers is radically reduced, the future of a people is threatened. Rape, therefore, can prevent a people from reproducing and can ultimately condemn them to extinction.
The pain that these innocent women suffer is simply unimaginable. In 2009 Jonathan Torgovnik, a professional photographer, published a book of interviews and photographs entitled “Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape” (Aperture, 2009). Torgovnic gives not only voices but faces to the women raped in the conflict. He takes statistics and with his camera and interviews produces a searing witness of the suffering these women continue to endure. It is a very important book and should be read with the realization that what happened to these women in Rwanda is happening throughout the world where rape is seen and used as a weapon of war.
The second issue is the trafficking of persons — or “contemporary forms of slavery,” as it is sometimes called. This is a world-wide issue. There is a tendency to think that trafficking is limited to underdeveloped countries. That is absolutely untrue. Several years ago law enforcement uncovered a large trafficking business that literally shuttled slave labor daily between New York City and Philadelphia. Developed countries in western Europe, the United States and Canada all have serious problems with trafficking.
Documentation on human trafficking indicates the following:
1) studies show that, due to increased police work against trafficking, statistics are getting more accurate. It is estimated that in 2018 the average number of detected victims of trafficking per country was 25,400;
2) the sex trade is the major outlet for trafficking in the world;
3) of the victims of trafficking 21 percent are men, 49 percent are women, 23 percent are girls and 7 percent are boys.
With 72 percent of the victims being adult or under aged females, the problem of trafficking is clearly an issue of violence against women.
Pope Francis has frequently been outspoken against violence towards women. In an interview on 28 May 2019, he condemned such violence; as recently as 11 October 2019, the Permanent Observer Representative of the Holy See to the UN addressed the body on the importance of combatting this scourge.
CNEWA has worked for generations to support and empower women in countries where we serve — through education, catechesis, skills training and health care. Significantly, much of that work is being carried out by other women, frequently women religious, who are helping restore dignity and witnessing the Gospel to those who have been abused, victimized or treated merely as commodities.
But there is still so much to do, by all of us.
Slightly more than half the human race is female. How can it be that half of humanity is so invisible? One day a year the UN observes an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. However, that one day should remind all of us that violence against women is not just a woman’s problem. It is a problem for all of us.
We must be aware of it in our own society and country and in the world at large. We must be aware that there will never be peace and justice worthy of the name while women are singled out as targets of violence.
21 November 2019
Tags: ISIS Women
Pope Francis visits with Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, supreme patriarch of Buddhists, at the Wat Ratchabophit temple in Bangkok on 21 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope meets with Buddhist patriarch in Thailand (Vatican News) The first signs of dialogue between the Buddhist and Catholic traditions appeared half a century ago when the 17th Supreme Buddhist Patriarch visited Pope Paul VI in the Vatican. Pope Francis recalled that visit when he met with the present Supreme Buddhist Patriarch at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple in Bangkok, on Thursday morning…
Pope: Mission is seeking family we don’t know yet (CNS) Missionaries are not mercenaries, but beggars who recognize that some brothers and sisters are missing from the community and long to hear the good news of salvation, Pope Francis told the Catholics of Thailand. Celebrating Mass on 21 November, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Bangkok’s National Stadium, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of what he calls “missionary discipleship…”
Fear, turmoil in Lebanon as financial crisis worsens (AP) On one of Beirut’s main commercial streets, store owners are cutting salaries by half or considering shutting down. Shops advertise sales, but still can’t draw in customers. The only place doing a thriving business: the store that sells safes, as Lebanese increasingly stash their cash at home. It’s a sign Lebanese fear their country’s financial crisis, which has been worsening for months, could tip over into disaster…
Vatican reiterates: two states needed in Holy Land (CNS)The Vatican reiterated its call for a two-state solution in the Holy Land after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States would no longer recognize the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank…
In secular India, it’s getting tougher to be a Muslim (CNN) India has a long history of sectarian violence, but over the past few years, there has been a rise in suspected hate crimes against Muslims, who make up roughly 200 million of the country’s 1.3 billion population…
Putin thanks Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for maintaining peace (TASS) Russian President Vladimir Putin has wished a happy birthday to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and thanked him for his assistance to the government in maintaining interfaith peace. A meeting of the president and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church took place in the Patriarchal Chambers of the Moscow Kremlin on Wednesday…
19 November 2019
Tags: India Pope Francis Lebanon Interreligious
As Lebanon is engulfed in a massive protest movement, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon gathered for its annual meeting 11-15 November 2019, at Bkerke, the Maronite Catholic patriarchate north of Beirut. The meeting was led by Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, second from left, and included other heads of religious orders. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for the Maronite patriarchate)
Lebanon Catholic leaders urge protestors to remain peaceful (CNS) While Lebanon continues to be engulfed in a massive protest movement, the country’s Catholic leaders called on demonstrators to be peaceful and civilized. In a 15 November statement at the end of its annual meeting, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon hailed the “historic uprising” that has shaken the country since 17 October…
U.S. embassy in Jerusalem warns of Palestinian unrest (The Times of Israel) The US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday issued a travel warning for Americans planning to visit Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, warning of Palestinian unrest in light of Washington’s settlement policy shift announced earlier in the day. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and repudiating a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that they were “inconsistent with international law…”
After massacre, Ethiopia’s leader faces anger, and a challenger (The New York Times) Not long after security forces tried to arrest him in the middle of the night, Jawar Mohammed, a media baron and one of Ethiopia’s most prominent political activists, found himself face to face with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the man whose government ordered his arrest…
Pope meets Indian nun bringing hope to the destitute (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday received Indian nun Sister Lucy Kurien who has worked tirelessly for over 20 years giving shelter to destitute women, men and children in her country. Pope Francis knows Sister Lucy; they have met before in the Vatican because of her work to provide love, care and shelter to battered, exploited women, destitute men and street children. Sister Lucy is the Director and founder of Maher which she set up in Pune, the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra in 1997…
18 November 2019
Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia
Pope Francis greets a woman as he arrives to eat lunch with the poor in the Paul VI hall as he marks World Day of the Poor at the Vatican on 17 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor.
“The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love.”
Thousands of poor people and volunteers who assist them joined Pope Francis for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. After the liturgy and the recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis hosted a luncheon for 1,500 of them while thousands more throughout the city enjoyed a festive meal at soup kitchens, parish halls and seminaries.
Served by 50 volunteer waiters in white jackets, the pope and his guests in the Vatican audience hall enjoyed a three-course meal of lasagna, chicken in a mushroom cream sauce with potatoes, followed by dessert, fruit and coffee.
To speak Jesus’ language, the pope had said in his homily, one must not speak of oneself or follow one’s own interests but put the needs of others first.
“How many times, even when doing good, the hypocrisy of ‘I’ reigns: I do good, but so people will think I’m good; I help, but to attract the attention of someone important,” Pope Francis said.
Instead, he said, the Gospel encourages charity, not hypocrisy; “giving to someone who cannot pay you back, serving without seeking a reward or something in exchange.”
In order to excel at that, the pope said, each Christian must have at least one friend who is poor.
“The poor are precious in the eyes of God,” he said, because they know they are not self-sufficient and know they need help. “They remind us that that’s how you live the Gospel, like beggars before God.”
“So,” the pope said, “instead of being annoyed when they knock on our doors, we can welcome their cry for help as a call to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with the same loving gaze God has for them.”
“How beautiful it would be if the poor occupied the same place in our hearts that they have in God’s heart,” Pope Francis said.
In the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, the crowds ask Jesus when the world will end and how they will know. They want immediate answers, but Jesus tells them to persevere in faith.
Wanting to know or to have everything right now “is not of God,” the pope said. Breathlessly seeking things that will pass takes one’s mind off the things that last; “we follow the clouds that pass and lose sight of the sky.”
Worse, he said, “attracted by the latest ruckus, we no longer find time for God and for our brother or sister living alongside us.”
“This is so true today!” the pope said. “In yearning to run, to conquer everything and do it immediately, those who lag behind annoy us. And they are judged as disposable. How many elderly people, how many unborn babies, how many persons with disabilities and poor people are judged useless. One rushes ahead without worrying that the distances are increasing, that the lust of a few increases the poverty of many.”
The pope’s celebration of the World Day of the Poor concluded a week of special events and services for the homeless, the poor and immigrants in Rome.
The poor served by the city’s Catholic soup kitchens and Vatican charities were invited Nov. 9 to a free concert in the Vatican audience hall featuring Nicola Piovani, the Oscar-winning composer, and the Italian Cinema Orchestra.
From 10-17 November dozens of physicians, nurses and other volunteers staffed a large medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square. The clinic offered flu shots, physical exams, routine lab tests and many specialty services often needed by people who live and sleep on the streets, including podiatry, diabetes and cardiology.
As rain beat down on the square on 15 November, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to the clinic and spent about an hour visiting with the clients and volunteers.
Afterward, the pope went across the street to inaugurate a new shelter, day center and soup kitchen for the poor in the Palazzo Migliori, a four-story, Vatican-owned building that had housed a community of women religious. When the community moved out, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, began renovating it.
The building now can accommodate 50 overnight guests as well as offering a drop-in center for the poor and housing a large commercial kitchen. Meals will be served at the building, but also will be cooked there for distribution to the homeless who live around two Rome train stations.
The Community of Sant’Edigio, a Rome-based lay movement that already runs soup kitchens and a variety of programs for the city’s poor, will manage and staff the shelter.
Watch a video about the lunch below:
18 November 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty
In this undated photo, Pope Francis meets with Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, whom he named Saturday as the new Permanent Observer to the United Nations. (photo: Vatican Media)
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines to be Permanent Observer to the UN (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Saturday appointed Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia as the new Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. He succeeds Philippine Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who on 1 October 2019 was named by Pope Francis as Apostolic Nuncio to Spain and Andorra. Since 12 September 2017, Archbishop Caccia has been serving as Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon…
UNICEF: Many children remain left behind (Vatican News) Although the world has made historic gains over the past three decades in improving children’s lives, urgent action is required if the poorest children are to feel the impact, says a new UN report published on 18 November…
Pope: Having a friend who is poor will help you get to heaven (CNS) The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor. ”The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love..”
Ethiopian human rights leader battles scant resources (Reuters) When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a former political prisoner in July as head of the state-funded human rights commission, supporters hailed it as a sign the country might finally tackle abuses by security forces and move to break a cycle of bloody ethnic feuds. Now reality has hit…
India may attempt to land on the moon in 2020 (Space.com) Just months after a landing anomaly, India is hard at work pursuing another try at touching down on the moon, according to a news report…
15 November 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Poor/Poverty United Nations
Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque and university, during a private audience at the Vatican on 15 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
15 November 2019
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis
A demonstrator walks near burning tires barricading a road during ongoing anti-government protests in Khaldeh, Lebanon, on 13 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
U.S. church leaders pray for peace as religious leaders meet in Lebanon (CNS) The U.S. bishops and the Knights of Columbus offered their “prayerful solidarity” to the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon as Iraq and Lebanon experience protests against political corruption and foreign interference. The support came in a 13 November letter from Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus…
Egyptian woman fights unfair Islamic inheritance laws (AP) One Egyptian woman is taking on the country’s inheritance laws that mean female heirs inherit half that of men. Since her father’s death last year, Huda Nasrallah, a Christian, has stood before three different judges to demand an equal share of the property left to her two brothers by their father. Yet courts have twice issued rulings against her, basing them on Islamic inheritance laws that favor male heirs…
Israel-Gaza ceasefire strained by rockets, air strikes (BBC) Israel has launched fresh air strikes on militant targets after renewed rocket-fire from Gaza, as a day-old ceasefire is put under strain. Palestinian media said missiles hit sites belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group early on Friday, injuring two people. It comes after five rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday following the ceasefire declaration by the PIJ…
Politics blocks Armenian hopes for genocide recognition (LA Times) On 29 October, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405 to 11 in favor of a resolution to recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians more than a century ago as a genocide. Quick approval by the Senate appeared possible. But the 80-year-old Jamushian, whose parents survived the slaughter by Ottoman Turks, will have to keep waiting…
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Israeli-Palestinian conflict