10 July 2015
The Rev. Dhiya Azziz, abducted on 4 July, has been freed.
(file photo: The Custody of the Holy Land)
You may recall the news that broke last weekend, about the abduction of the Rev. Dhiya Azziz, a Franciscan priest serving in Syria. Today, the Custody of the Holy Land published a statement on its website with this good news:
The Custody of the Holy Land announced that the Father Dhiya Azziz has been liberated.
The Custody had had no news of the Father Dhiya since Saturday, 4 July, in the late afternoon.
Conflicting news had nevertheless led people to believe that he had been taken by jihadists affiliated to Al-Nusra Jabhat, which administers the emirate in the sector.
This group has denied any involvement in his kidnapping and allegedly led the police investigation in neighboring villages which led to his liberation.
Father Dhiya was allegedly abducted by another group jihadists eager to profit on his release. In the region, there are a plethora of groups that operate with varied interests.
He was allegedly treated well during his kidnapping.
The Custody of the Holy Land thanks those around the world who prayed for a successful outcome to this trial that Father Dhiya endured, as well as the faithful of Yacoubieh, of which he is the pastor, his religious family and his family in Iraq.
The Custody concluded its statement by noting it “does not forget that other religious are still missing in Syria and it invites everyone to continue praying for peace in this country.”
10 July 2015
In Tbilisi, Georgia, parishioners sing Armenian hymns during the Divine Liturgy at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, which they share with the local Roman Catholic community. To learn more about Armenian Catholics in Georgia, read “A Firm Faith” in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE.
(photo: Molly Corso)
10 July 2015
A picture taken by Turkish villagers shows migrants trying to voyage to Greece over Aegean Sea on 8 July. (photo: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency)
U.N. urges Europe to act on migrant crisis in Greece (New York Times) The United Nations warned on Friday that Greece and its Balkan neighbors were being overwhelmed by the flood of migrants arriving from Syria and other areas of conflict, and it urged European countries to step forward with aid to avert a looming humanitarian crisis…
Pope Francis demands end to ‘genocide’ of Middle East Christians (Jerusalem Post) Pope Francis decried what he called a genocide against Christians in the Middle East while speaking in Bolivia on Thursday. “Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus,” he said. “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end…”
Armenian Christians still suffer consequences of genocide (Aid to the Church in Need) Archbishop Raphael Fran?ois Minassian, the ordinary of Eastern Europe for Armenian Catholics, belongs to the first Armenian generation that was born after the genocide; he said, however, that even those Armenians who did not directly witness the horrors of 1915 nevertheless still suffer the consequences. “Some psychological attitudes, such as the instinctive fear at the sight of an armed guard, have been passed down even to the second and third generations,” he said…
In Baghdad, Christians kidnapped and killed despite ransom payment (Fides) In two weeks, four Iraqi Christians have been kidnapped in Baghdad, and two of them unfortunately were killed; after the payment of the ransom, they were found dead by the police…
9 July 2015
Tags: Middle East Christians Iraqi Christians Migrants Greece
Youth relax outside at the San Joe Puram Children’s Village in India. San Joe Puram enables children with special needs to learn and grow together with other children. To find out more, read “A Place of Promise — and Providence” in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
9 July 2015
A Syrian refugee child is seen at a refugee camp in Adana, Turkey, on 6 July. (photo: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency)
Syrian refugee count over four million (U.N. News Center) The exodus spawned by the four-year long Syrian conflict has now become the United Nations refugee agency’s largest crisis in almost a quarter of a century and risks deteriorating even further as fighting in the country shows no sign of abating. In a news release issued earlier today, UNHCR confirmed the latest figures received from the field indicating that more than four million Syrian refugees have fled the Middle Eastern nation since hostilities began there in March 2011. “This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “It is a population that deserves the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into abject poverty…”
Over 200 Christians in Syria rescued by Belgium in secret operation (Christian Post) Nearly 240 people, mostly Christians but also Yazidis, have been taken out of the Syrian city of Aleppo and transported to Belgium, where they are expected to be granted asylum, a report has said. The BBC reported that a Brussels government spokesman, who wasn’t named, revealed that the operation took place over two months amid great secrecy…
Syria army battles ISIS outside Palmyra (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian army troops backed by war planes advanced to within several miles of Palmyra Thursday, battling ISIS fighters outside the famed ancient city, activists said…
ISIS loses last headquarters in Iraq’s Diyala (FARS News) The Iraqi security forces captured the main ISIS base in the eastern Diyala province and purged the terrorists from the region…
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem schools earn high marks (Fides) In the eight schools of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem scattered in the Palestinian territories, the final exams this year showed outstanding results, which confirm the excellence of the work carried out by teachers and students, in a difficult and uncertain period...
8 July 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Holy Land United Nations
The Rev. Mikael Khachkalian, the only Armenian Catholic priest in Tbilisi, Georgia, chats with a member of his congregation at the Armenian Catholic Center. Read more about his life and ministry in this profile from the Spring edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
8 July 2015
On the anniversary of last year’s 50-day war on Gaza, over 100,000 residents are still displaced and suffering. (video: Al Jazeera)
Gaza: How it looks one year after the conflict — then and now (The Guardian) Today marks the first anniversary the devastating war in Gaza. The 50-day conflict began when Israel launched an intense air and ground assault aiming to end persistent rocket fire from Gaza. It was the third major conflict since 2007. Last year’s fighting killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, as well as 73 Israelis, most of them soldiers. More than 100,000 buildings in Gaza were left damaged or destroyed and have not been rebuilt…
Israeli Supreme Court reverses April decision, approves Cremisan wall (Fides) On Monday, the Supreme Court of Israel gave the green light to the construction of the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine in the stretch that crosses the Cremisan Valley. This new provision contradicts the previous pronouncement, which in early April had ruled against the wall route proposed by the army. Under the new provisions, the school and the two Salesian convents in the area will find themselves still in Palestinian territory, accessible from the town of Beit Jala, while the wall will incorporate, on the Israeli side, the agricultural land valley belonging to 58 Palestinian families in the area…
Iraqi Christians who fled ISIS detained in California (Business Insider) A group of 20 Iraqi Christians seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing ISIS have been held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for over four months now. The imprisoned Chaldeans are being detained for an unusually long time with no explanation, even though they have family members willing to sponsor them in San Diego County…
Syrian army, Hezbollah advance into heart of Zabadani (PressTV) Syrian troops and fighters of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah have made fresh advances in their offensive into the border town of Zabadani, encircling the militants deep into the city. Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV reported Monday that fighters of the group, backed by Syrian troops, are advancing into central parts of Zabadani to purge the militants from the last positions they held inside the city…
Greek crisis: A new approach (Vatican Radio) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the European Parliament on Wednesday that he would deliver sweeping reform proposals this week to secure a bailout funding deal that can keep Greece in the euro zone. Mr Tsipras said he was determined to fix years of bad government as well as reverse the increasing inequalities caused by five years of creditor-imposed austerity…
7 July 2015
Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Greece
A Franciscan priest, the Rev. Dhiya Azziz, was kidnapped from Syria over the weekend.
(photo: Vatican Radio)
This morning, two Catholic priests from Homs told me of the abduction of the Rev. Dhiya Azziz. He is a member of the Custody of the Holy Land, an apostolate of the Franciscans charged with the care of Catholics in the Holy Land since the visit of St. Francis to the region in the Middle Ages. The kidnapping took place on Saturday 4 July, while he was in his parish of Yacubiyeh, a village in Syria’s Idlib province, more than 56 miles northeast of Latakia.
The Franciscans are asking for prayers, and released this communique yesterday:
“Some militants of an unknown armed brigade, perhaps connected with Jahbat al-Nusra, came to take him away for a brief interview with the Emir of the place. From that moment we do not have any more news and we are unable to trace his where abouts at the present moment...We are doing everything possible to locate the place of his detention and secure his release. We entrust him to the prayers of all.”
The whole area is under the control of different Islamic armed brigades, including Jabhat al-Nusra — which is affiliated with al Qaeda and is considered the most powerful and predominant force. They also mentioned that another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Francois Murad, was abducted and killed in the same region in June 2013.
Father Dhiya’s kidnapping is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian religious since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
In 2013, militants kidnapped the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, S.J., in Raqqa, a group of Greek Orthodox nuns in Qalamoun to the west of Homs, and the Greek and Syriac Orthodox bishops of Aleppo. The nuns were eventually returned to their convent unharmed, but Father Paolo and the bishops remain missing.
In 2014, a Dutch priest the Rev. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., was murdered in Homs. The priest served in Syria for more than four decades. He was involved in interreligious dialogue and had built a spirituality center that housed children with mental disabilities.
The same year, another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Hanna Jallouf, was kidnapped together with as many as 20 people from his parish in Qunaya, a neighboring village of Yacubiyeh — the two are less than a mile apart.
In February, the Islamic State kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria.
And in May, the Rev. Jacques Mourad was kidnapped at gunpoint from a monastery southeast of Homs.
7 July 2015
Iraqi refugees line up to receive food and supplies in Beirut. (photo: CNEWA)
Iraqi refugees came to Lebanon because they had no other choice. They were uprooted from what was normal and familiar — from schools, homes and lands. More importantly, they have all witnessed the horror of war. They fled in large numbers from the bombing and destruction that ravaged their homeland, seeking refuge in Lebanon and neighboring countries. So far, an estimated 1.8 million Iraqis, fleeing ISIS, have been forced to leave their homes in fear for their lives.
As a result, a new wave of around 1,500 Iraqi Christian refugee families — including about 500 children who were pulled up from their schools and were at risk of being a lost generation — entered Lebanon in 2014, settling in densely populated areas of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
From their first day in Lebanon, the Syriac Catholic Church has mobilized resources and staff to offer emergency assistance to these refugee families. So far, 1,080 Christian Iraqi refugee families have been screened, identified and supported through different local and international donors. They are provided with food and non food items, shelter, and other basic needs.
Iraqi children are able continue their education in a school run by the Syriac Catholic Church
in Lebanon. (photo: CNEWA)
To rescue the lost generation who already have lost one year of their school life, the Rev. Firas Dardar, from the Syriac Catholic Church, opened a school to educate the Iraqi children. He hired two floors in an old private five-story building school which provides education to Lebanese students in Nabaa, a densely populated Beirut suburb. Monday through Thursday, they are taught the Iraqi curriculum which Father Dardar brought from Iraq. It includes classes in English, Arabic, science, mathematics, civic education, sports and drawing activities. Fridays are specialized for catechetical studies.
CNEWA’s Beirut office, thanks to its donors, is supporting the local church with emergency aid: mattresses, blankets, food and non-food packages to these Iraqi families. In an attempt to save the future of these children and preserve their Christian faith and hope, CNEWA will support their catechetical studies and education.
Despite the huge efforts exerted by the Syriac Catholic church to support these needy families, much is still needed. Many times, they still fall short of funds. To support CNEWA’s important work in Lebanon, and to aid these families, visit this giving page.
And please keep all our brothers and sisters in the Middle East in your prayers.
7 July 2015
In this image from 2011, Father Roman Prokopets hears confessions at the Druzhba Camp for orphaned children and youth in the village of Svirzh, Ukraine. To learn more about the life of a priest in Ukraine, read about men “Answering the Call” in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
(photo: Petro Didula)