12 February 2019
Dalit children often drop out of school to work menial jobs to help support their families. But a new resolution in the Andhra Pradesh state will help Dalits receive welfare benefits enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
CNEWA has long worked with the Dalits of India — many of them outcast, marginalized and poor. So we were heartened to read this news today, a hopeful milestone in the journey of the Dalits, who continue to seek justice and ways to retain their dignity:
India’s Andhra Pradesh state has passed a resolution which church leaders say will help socially poor Dalit Christians receive welfare benefits enjoyed by their counterparts in Hinduism.
The legislative house of the southern state passed the resolution on 7 February appealing to the federal government to make amendments to regulations to allow Christians from Dalit communities to enjoy benefits meant for the advancement of socially disadvantaged people.
The resolution proposed by chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu said that if Dalit people convert to Christianity it does not change their social and economic status.
“We appreciate the move. Naidu understood the plight of the poor Christians but that does not mean we achieved our target. There is still long way to go,” the Rev. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for Dalits, told ucanews.com.
The Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC), an ecumenical organization of heads of different churches, welcomed the resolution on behalf of the Christian community.
The APFC said it appreciated Naidu’s “consistent stand on this issue” that Dalit Christians should be treated on a par with Dalits who had adopted Sikhism and Buddhism.
The Christians’ struggle began in 1950 when a presidential order said only Dalit people following Hinduism could enjoy constitution-guaranteed concessions and seat reservations meant for the socioeconomic advancement of Dalit people.
The order effectively cut off benefits to Dalit people who converted to other religions. It was amended twice to include Dalits among Sikhs in 1956 and Buddhists in 1990.
Christians of Dalit origin are estimated to be make up 33 percent of India’s 28 million Christians.
Healing the Forgotten
India’s Christian Untouchables
12 February 2019
Tags: India Dalits
In this image from 2016, Pope Francis greets Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Iraq, during a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia. Cardinal Sako has expressed his hope that Pope Francis will visit Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Top Iraqi Catholic says country’s Christians ‘really need’ a papal visit (Crux) Though reaction to Pope Francis’s recent joint declaration with the leader of Al-Azhar, arguably the most important figure in the Sunni Muslim world, received a mixed verdict — from being hailed as historic, to being dismissed as another feel-good statement without teeth — few men have more reason for wanting it to be the former than Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako. The Patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, Sako is among those who openly described the 3-5 February papal visit to United Arab Emirates, the first ever to the Arabian peninsula, as “historic” and the declaration on “Human Fraternity for world peace and living together” signed by Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, as a “seed for a possible papal visit to Iraq…”
Forces strike Syria mosque being used as ISIS command center (Haaretz) The U.S.-led coalition says it has hit a mosque used by Islamic State as a command and control center in eastern Syria. The coalition said Tuesday it launched the strike in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to drive the extremists from their last tiny stronghold near the border with Iraq. It said the strike occurred Monday as Islamic State was using the mosque to direct attacks and employ suicide car bombs against the SDF…
Egyptian authorities arrest students for mocking Christianity online (AFP) Egyptian authorities have arrested four students for mocking Christian rituals in an online video and ordered them to be kept in custody for four days, a judicial source said Monday. The university students aged between 19 and 24 were accused of being in “contempt of the Christian religion”, the source said…
In Ethiopia, climate change leads herders to retrain as farmers (Reuters) With extreme droughts as much as five times more likely than 60 years ago in parts of the country, the estimated 12 million pastoralists in Ethiopia living off flocks of cows, goats and sheep have been hit hard in recent years. In the Hamar region, where Orgo lives, 1.5 million of the 3 million animals that herders owned perished during the particularly brutal 2015-2016 drought, when the region saw poor rainfall for 18 months, according to district authorities…
11 February 2019
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia ISIS
A man sits on his chair in a small village in the Toubkal region near Imlil, Morocco on 12 January 2019. Pope Francis plans to visit Morocco next month. (photo: CNS/Youssef Boudlal, Reuters)
Pope Francis’ trip to Morocco on 30-31 March will include a visit to a school training an international group of Muslim prayer leaders and preachers, including women.
He also will visit to a Caritas center assisting migrants, many of whom ended up in the North African country with hopes of eventually making it to Europe.
Returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates on 5 February, Pope Francis told journalists he had hoped to go to Marrakech, Morocco, in December for the signing of the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, but protocol dictated that he make a full visit to the country and there was not time in December.
The trip in March will include a full slate of formal events, including a meeting with King Mohammed VI and a visit to the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, who negotiated the country’s independence from France and ruled until his death in 1961.
The visit to Morocco, where more than 99 percent of the population is Muslim, will give Pope Francis an opportunity to continue the reflections on Christian-Muslim relations he began in Abu Dhabi in February. As he did in the United Arab Emirates, he is expected to highlight 2019 as the 800th anniversary of the encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt.
When the Vatican first announced the trip in November, it said the pope would visit both Rabat, the capital, and Casablanca. But the Vatican said on 9 February it had accepted “the proposal by Moroccan authorities to limit the trip to the city of Rabat to facilitate the visit of the Holy Father.”
View the full itinerary of the trip here.
11 February 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim
The staff and students of Bethlehem's Paul VI Ephpheta Institute. (photo: Ephpheta/CNEWA)
We recently received this report on the most recent semester at Bethlehem's Paul VI Ephpheta Institute for the Deaf, which CNEWA has supported for decades. As we described it in the pages of our magazine:
Ephpheta was founded at the Pope’s request after his visit to the Holy Land in 1964. Supported almost entirely by CNEWA, Ephpheta admits children on the basis of need, not their parents’ ability to pay. Ephpheta is run by the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, a largely Italian community dedicated to spreading the love of Christ through fostering human and Christian development. Although engaged in many types of educational and social work, the sisters have specialized in educating the deaf.
Currently, there are 182 students attending classes at Ephpheta Institute; at the beginning of the school year, the number of students fluctuated (more or less) according to various reasons: new students enrolled at the school while some students due to several factors such as difficult access issues; expensive transportation costs which parents cannot afford; change of residence; and other personal reasons/ decisions taken by parents. Currently, there are 14 or 15 students enrolled in the kindergarten and preschool; in the upper classes, the attendance tends to decrease.
Teacher training and activities (divided by class), were drawn up in accordance with the new academic programs offered by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The common goal agreed upon, is to deepen the value of respect and cooperation towards oneself and others. This value involves teachers and students and will be implemented within the year through various initiatives and activities.
During the past four months, several initiatives have been implemented to help develop the skills of the students and help them overcome, at least in part, the “barrier” which may affect them psychologically, and their ability to communicate. The initiative included various activities such as Arabic dance, art, music, cooking and student-to-student exchange with semester.
Students learn to express themselves through fingerpainting. (photo: Ephpheta/CNEWA)
Students also had the opportunity to get creative, participating in a course by “CheArte” an organization dedicated to children’s expression through art. During the course, both students and teachers learned how to express their emotions using art forms and color. They learned how emotions can deeply affect us and by using art, to express their inner feelings, helping them to improve their wellbeing.
The teachers also participated in a workshop and ‘formation courses’ in cooperation with the Ministry of Education which taught them how to present the new revised curriculum to students. Ephpheta Institute also continued to offer parents workshops that raised awareness and enhance understanding of the needs of deaf children and how to be an effective, supportive parent.
Finally, all operators, teachers, speech therapists, specialists, continue to demonstrate commitment in carrying out their role with the aim to accompany and help students towards a positive assimilation into Palestinian society.
You can read more about the institute below:
The Miracle of Ephpheta
A Milestone: Ephpheta’s First High School Graduation
11 February 2019
Tags: CNEWA Bethlehem
Cardinal Peter Turkson is in India to mark the 27th World Day of the Sick.
(video: Vatican Media/YouTube)
Cardinal visits India to promote World Day of the Sick (Vatican News) Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is in Calcutta to celebrate the 27th World Day of the Sick, held annually on 11 February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Speaking to Vatican News, the Cardinal says the Pope’s message to the faithful is that there can be no true care without sharing in the situation of those afflicted, by showing compassion and being willing to empathize with the sick…
U.S. general: ’Tens of thousands’ of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria (CNN) The top US commander in the war against ISIS aligned himself Sunday with the US intelligence community assessment that there are “tens of thousands” of ISIS fighters spread across Syria and Iraq. “They are dispersed and disaggregated, but there is leadership, there are fighters there, there are facilitators there,” Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters traveling with him to the Middle East for his farewell tour…
Former Muslim highlights plight of Christian converts in Iran (Catholic Register) An increase in Muslims converting to Christianity has prompted a crackdown by Iran’s theocratic government, says an Iranian convert to Christianity…
‘Prison of Christ’ reopens in Jerusalem (AFP/Premier.org) Visitors are being allowed back to a place in Jerusalem where some people believe Jesus was held captive prior to his crucifixion. The ‘Prison of Christ’ chapel had been closed to tourists for a number of years while repairs were carried out following a fire which caused significant damage…
African leaders unveil statue of Ethiopia’s last emperor (AP) A statue of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haileselassie has been unveiled at the headquarters of the African Union on Sunday. The statue is the second to be erected inside the continental body’s offices in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, after one of Ghana’s first leader, Kwame Nkrumah, who championed pan-Africanism…
8 February 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Jerusalem ISIS
A gift is pictured as Pope Francis leads an audience with members of the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa at the Vatican on 8 February 2019. The statue depicts a farmer carrying the Gospel to others as he works. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis met with missionaries from Africa on Friday, and offered a vision for how to bear witness to the Gospel.
From CNS’s Cindy Wooden:
Proclaiming the Gospel is not the same thing as proselytism and often means simply being a neighbor and friend to someone while living an authentically Christian life, Pope Francis said.
Mission “is that dynamic that leads you to be a neighbor to others to share the gift you have received: the encounter of love that changed your life and led you to consecrate your life to the Lord Jesus, good news for the life and salvation of the world,” the pope said on 8 February.
Pope Francis spoke about mission and witness during a meeting with the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa, men’s and women’s religious orders founded 150 years ago by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie of Algiers, Algeria.
Encouraging the missionaries to continue being “nomads for the Gospel,” the pope asked them to be “men and women who are not afraid to go into the deserts of this world and seek together the means for accompanying brothers and sisters to the oasis that is the Lord so that the living water of his love can quench their every thirst.”
To be a missionary, the pope said, a Christian first must be a disciple of Jesus.
And while the missionaries may be working in situations where an explicit invitation to follow Christ is not possible, he said, their own lives must be firmly rooted in “listening to his word, the celebration of the sacraments and service to your brothers and sisters so that your gestures manifest his presence, his merciful love and his compassion to those to whom the Spirit sends and leads you.”
Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit would continue to make the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa “builders of bridges” and promoters of a “culture of encounter” and dialogue where everyone involved “learns to draw riches from the diversity of the other.”
The missionaries’ dialogue with Muslims deserves particular recognition and the gratitude of the church, the pope said.
Our own Msgr. John E. Kozar expressed his thoughts about “accompanying our brothers and sisters” in the current edition of ONE. Check it out.
8 February 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Africa
Pope Francis has made the issue of human trafficking the subject of his prayer intentions for February, as he explains in the video above. Friday, he declared that it is the duty of Christians to raise awareness about this crisis. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Pope: Duty of Christians to raise awareness of human trafficking (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Friday received in audience members of the Galileo Foundation, telling them on the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron of victims of human trafficking, that Christians can follow her great example…
As ISIS shrinks, Syrians return home to discover a wasteland (CNN) As the war against ISIS wanes, civilians returning to their homes in Iraq and Syria are discovering wastelands where towns once stood — urban moonscapes of twisted metal, shattered concrete, unexploded bombs and mines…
Bishop: Abu Dhabi document is a roadmap for interreligious dialogue (Vatican News) Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told Vatican News that the Abu Dhabi document signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Ahzar, is a precious roadmap for peace, and contains indications that must be spread throughout the world…
Discovering the ‘second Jerusalem’ for Ethiopia’s Christians (Andalou Agency) The churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia are pieces of architecture that fascinate visitors with their underground constructions. The region is called the “Jerusalem of Ethiopia” as Ethiopian King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela wanted to build a second Jerusalem in the area as the roads leading to Jerusalem were not safe. Each of the structures, constructed underground so enemies could not recognize them, help to understand the strong religious life of Ethiopia during that time through the symbols they reflect…
7 February 2019
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Muslim Interreligious
Pope Francis meets Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb during his visit to the UAE earlier this week.
(photo: Vatican Media)
On Sunday 3 February Pope Francis made history, when he began a three-day visit to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and became the first pope to visit the overwhelmingly Muslim Arabian Peninsula. The visit coincided with an interfaith meeting of religious leaders and theologians which was taking place.
The pope was greeted by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The UAE are home to a large number of Christians from south Asia who are working there. For several years the government has had a Ministry of Tolerance; Christians for the most part are able to worship freely, although not publicly. The UAE is one of the more tolerant and open countries in the region.
While words like “unprecedented” are often used in the context of what Pope Francis does — and while such words tend to get overused and with inflation comes devaluation — one result of the visit, nevertheless, stands out in a special way. Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb, the head of al-Azhar University, arguably the premier Sunni Muslim university in the world, produced a common document entitled Human Fraternity. It is a landmark document in many ways. While popes and Muslim leaders have made similar calls for peace and justice, this is unique in that it is a joint call, signed by the two men.
People familiar with reading statements of religious leaders recognize a certain “style” of writing peculiar to different traditions. Human Fraternity, however, is unique in that it evidences not only a “Catholic” style of writing but also a “Muslim” style of writing. It was and is intended to be both a Muslim and Catholic statement.
And this is especially significant: there is something new happening in the ecumenical and interreligious movements that can be seen at work in Human Fraternity. The Ecumenical and interreligious movements have been part of the central mission of the Catholic Church since Vatican II (1962-1965). In the decades following the council, there was tremendous progress made in the official dialogues between the Catholic Church and other churches and religions. Several “convergence” documents have been agreed upon, and in 1999 the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church published A Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.The Doctrine of Justification was the primary theological point of difference between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Reformers in the 16th century.
Yet for all the tremendous progress made on the theological level, by the 1990s one began to hear of an “ecumenical winter” — or at the very least, ecumenical doldrums. It seemed to many that the incredible progress made through dialogue had not been translated into a change of attitudes. To many, it seemed that something was missing; on so many levels, it appeared that little had really changed.
But Pope Francis, merely by his presence and his approach, appears to be causing a noticeable shift.
One of the outstanding things about Francis’ various encounters is that there is—though it may be overlooked—a genuine sense of friendship and affection between the pope and his dialogue partners. This is most evident in the relationship between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It is very obvious that they like and trust each other; they are friends. This has led to extraordinary cooperation between the two leaders and their churches in areas of ecology, human rights, refugees and immigration. Both are very smart men. They realize that friendship and trust alone will not overcome the divisions between the churches.
They also realize, however, that all the convergence statements and joint declarations remain merely pieces of paper if trust and affection are lacking between the churches and their leaders.
This brings us to this week’s historic meeting. One can see a similar phenomenon between Pope Francis and Sheikh al-Tayyeb. Al-Azhar University broke off relations with the Holy See in 2011 after Pope Benedict XVI’s statement on the situation of Coptic Christians. Relations between the Holy See and al-Azhar were resumed under Pope Francis. The pope and the sheikh have met several times and it is clear that a warm and cordial relationship has developed between them.
Neither man, of course, is naïve about issues dividing Catholics and Muslims. However, both have achieved a level of trust that allows them to cooperate on a document which is at once truly Catholic — and truly Muslim.
Much of CNEWA’s work, of course, involves work among Muslims, especially in the Middle East. Witnessing this historic moment, with its spirit of cooperation and collaboration, is both an inspiration and a beacon of hope.
And it should serve as a sign to us all. Pope Francis has shown that theological ecumenism is not dead, but that it needs the human components of trust and friendship to transform theological papers into living documents that can change lives and help make our world a better, safer place.
7 February 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Muslim Abu Dhabi
M.L. Thomas, CNEWA’s regional director in India, pays a visit to Home of Faith, an orphanage in Kerala, one of the many institutions CNEWA is privileged to support. Read more about how CNEWA practices ”accompaniment” on behalf of the Holy Father and in the name of the church in the December 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
7 February 2019
ISIS holdouts are continuing to fight, but many are fleeing the last villages they control in Syria. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
Families and fighters flee ISIS’ last village (BBC) Men, women and children, some with serious injuries, others describing running out of food, have been leaving the group’s rapidly shrinking enclave, which the US military on Tuesday said amounted to about 50 sq km (20 sq miles). They have been arriving at the village of Baghuz to surrender to the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)…
Indian court rules change of religion doesn’t alter tribal status (UCANews.com) The high court in India’s Chhattisgarh state has ruled that the tribal status of a person will not alter if they change their religion to Christianity, stressing they can still enjoy state concessions aimed at improving the life of indigenous people…
New hopes for reopening Greek Orthodox seminary on Turkish island (The Washington Post) American presidents, religious freedom advocates, the European Union and Orthodox Christian leaders have for years issued desperate appeals to Turkey’s government to reopen a shuttered Greek Orthodox seminary on an island off Istanbul, but to no avail. Before it was closed in 1971, the Theological School of Halki stood for more than a century as the primary center of scholarship and clerical training for generations of Greek Orthodox leaders. Now, stripped of its educational role, its classrooms — emptied by arguments over politics, nationalism and minority rights — are kept pristine in the stubborn hope the students will someday return…
Does God want religious diversity? Abu Dhabi text raises questions (CNS) That many religions exist in the world is a fact, but what that plurality communicates to believers about God is a question that theologians are still discussing. Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, a leading authority for many Sunni Muslims, stepped into the debate on 4 February when they signed a document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations…
Orthodox Church changes jurisdictions (AsiaNews) The Russian Orthodox parish of San Remo, whose priest Dionisij Bajkov had been suspended in recent days by the Greek metropolitan of Italy Ghennadios (Zervos), has left the jurisdiction of Constantinople to join the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, the so-called Zarubežnaja. The parish priest with the community members also invited the other parishes of the former Russian archdiocese of Europe to join the new destination…
Tags: Syria India Turkey ISIS