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Volume 44, Number 1
25 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2012 photo, Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of Brooklyn, N.Y., celebrates the Divine Liturgy with U.S. bishops from the Eastern Catholic churches at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

‘Orientalium Ecclesiarum’ at 50 (National Catholic Register) In the 50 years since the promulgation of “Orientalium Ecclesiarum,” the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the Eastern Catholic churches, this document has made noteworthy progress toward its goals, yet much waits to be done, according to church observers and specialists on the council. Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour, who heads the Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn, N.Y., said these 50 years have been “graced years, and Eastern Catholic churches are closer than ever before in a good union with the Latin Church…”

Pope Francis meets with Egyptian President (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday received in audience Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi. Following this encounter, the President met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The pope expressed his hope that the peaceful coexistence among all components of society may be strengthened and the path to inter-religious dialogue may continue to be pursued.…

Islamic State militants blow up convent in city of Mosul (Vatican Radio) Islamic State militants blew up with explosives the Sacred Heart convent in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday, according to local Chaldean Christian sources consulted by Fides news agency. The explosions badly damaged the convent, especially its church…

Iraq’s Anbar grapples with devastation (Al Jazeera) A 10-month siege of the Anbar province has sparked one of the worst humanitarian crises to hit Iraq. The province, which borders Syria, has seen fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State, which has controlled most of Iraq’s western province for the past two months…

Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Ecumenism Chaldean Church

24 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

A girl collects water outside of the 300-square-foot open shed serving as St. Alphonsa Church, the newest parish in the Eparchy of Bijnor, in northern India. To learn more about the Dalit Christians of this region, read Cast Aside, in the Summer 2014 issue of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)

Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Indian Catholics Dalits

24 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

A poster displayed outside of a Catholic church in Istanbul welcomes Pope Francis, scheduled to visit Turkey 28-30 November. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is pictured with Pope Francis. (photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)

Catholic and Orthodox churches move closer in Istanbul (La Prensa) After centuries, the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches are enjoying an unusual period of harmony in Istanbul, in the hope of overcoming the millenary schism in Christianity. A placard with the images of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew decorates the entrance to Istanbul’s St. Anthony Church with the inscription “Welcome” in Turkish and English on it. The Catholic community in the city on the Bosphorus is completing preparations for a meeting between the bishops of Rome and ancient Constantinople, an event the Orthodox are also awaiting with anticipation…

Israeli cabinet approves ‘Jewish state’ bill (Al Jazeera) The Israeli cabinet has approved a bill declaring Israel a Jewish state in a controversial move seen as intensifying discrimination against Arabs residing in occupied territories. Ministers voted 14-6 in favor of the bill, threatening the unity of the governing coalition. The bill will now be referred to the Knesset, or parliament, where legislators will see it for the first time on Wednesday. The Times of Israel, which described the bill as “controversial,” said cabinet members debated it behind closed doors but their screams were “loud enough for reporters in the hallway to hear much of the discussion…”

Church is a mother without borders, welcoming migrants, pope says (CNS) The Catholic Church “is a mother without limits and without borders,” welcoming and assisting all of God’s children, particularly those fleeing violence, oppression and poverty, Pope Francis said. Addressing the 300 participants in the Vatican-sponsored World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, the pope said the church’s concern for the whole person motivates its material aid to immigrants and refugees, its offer of legal assistance and, especially, its pastoral outreach and offer of the sacraments…

The people of Donetsk trudge along warily under the rebel government (Al Jazeera) A year has passed since the Maidan protests began in Kiev on 21 November and sparked Ukraine’s worst political crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union. Within six months of the demonstrations’ start, Ukraine’s eastern industrialized heartland was transformed into a brutal battleground between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels declaring independence. Donetsk, a rebel stronghold, has been the center of what Kiev, the United States and the European Union say is a Russian-supported rebellion. Pundits say the conflict threatens to create a new cold war between the West and Russia…

Pope: Syro-Malabar Sts. Kuriakose Elias and Euphrasia are examples (VIS) This morning Pope Francis met with a group of faithful of Syro-Malabar Catholics, gathered in Rome for the canonization on Sunday of Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family, and Euphrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart. The Holy Father took the opportunity to thank the church in India, and specifically in Kerala, for “all its apostolic strength and for the witness of faith you have,” he said…

Tags: Ukraine Israel Ecumenism Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

21 November 2014
CNEWA staff

CNEWA’s Ra’ed Bahou meets with refugees at a temporary shelter in northern Iraq.
(photo: CNEWA)

Thursday, Canadian government officials got a powerful glimpse into the ongoing crisis in Iraq and Syria.

Carl Hétu, the head of CNEWA’s Canada office, and Rev. Elias D. Mallon, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, were invited by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian House of Commons to give testimony on the situation in Iraq and Syria. The testimony was part of a study “on the response of the Canadian government to the horrific violence, religious persecution and dislocation perpetrated in Iraq, Syria and the region by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”

Father Elias began by underlining the historical instability of the region and the artificial nature of many of the countries which were created by the French and British after World War I. As Father Elias explained, the authoritarian regimes which have held these countries together were, for any number of reasons, incapable of doing that any longer. He said that situation has created a vacuum in which the most violent elements can find space todevelop and further destabilize society.

Mr. Hétu spoke of the immense humanitarian crisis in the area. He outlined how CNEWA has been providing emergency relief to the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, as well as to others who are suffering from the incredible violence in the region. Mr. Hétu explained where CNEWA raises its funds and how these funds are used for humanitarian relief in the region. Both men stressed that while the immediate needs were overwhelming, it would be a mistake to overlook the long term needs. All the aid in the world, they emphasized, cannot return the region to the status quo ante, the way things used to be. As Father Elias noted, a new, participatory and pluralistic society in the region must be encouraged and supported. The concepts of civil society, citizenship and participatory democracy have not developed in most places in the Middle East, he said, and this must occur if there is ever to be a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Middle East.

“Only a society build on these principles,” Mr. Hétu added, “can guarantee full participation and protection of the small and vulnerable Chrisitan communities and others like the Yezidi.” This is the only place in our world, he noted, that has Suni, Shiite, Chrisitans, Druze, Jewish and many other groups in living close to one another. This diversity needs to be preserved, he said, if there is going to be peace.

CNEWA staff from the Middle East recently completed a visit to Iraqi refugees. You can read a full report of the situation on the ground at this link.

The needs remain great and urgent. To learn how you can help, please visit this giving page.

21 November 2014
Greg Kandra

A little boy and his family in Gaza live with the aftermath of last summer’s war. A story in the Autumn edition of ONE explores the impact of that war on the children, with scars that are often invisible. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)

21 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

A boy carries belongings on 17 November as he walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in Aleppo. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

‘Conflict freeze’ desperately needed in Aleppo (Al Monitor) The long stalemated northern front, which has seen little change since a rebel offensive took over half the city of Aleppo and almost the entirety of its countryside over two years ago, seems now to be entering a new phase, one which may either solidify the status quo via a U.N.-proposed “conflict freeze” or see the regime push on with its increasingly successful campaign to take Aleppo back from the rebels. Although opinion in the city is divided over the ambiguous “freeze” proposal, there is overwhelming support for a respite — brief or permanent — from the real hardships and dangers of war…

Pilgrims to defy Jerusalem tension on Via Crucis (ANSAmed) A prayer will be held in St Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem and the Stations of the Cross visited in the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday morning to call for peace in the region…

Conference reopens question of Palestinian children without citizenship (Fides) Many Palestinian children in East Jerusalem continue not to have an ID card or proof of permanent residency. Their condition was analyzed during a 19 November conference at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem. Children of Palestinians in prison, and those who belong to families separated — for example, they have a parent residing in the West Bank — are those who suffer most…

Pope Francis: Christian unity remains a priority for Catholics (Vatican Radio) The search for full Christian unity remains a priority for the Catholic Church and it is one of the pope’s principal daily concerns. That was the message that Pope Francis shared on Thursday with members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity who are taking part in a plenary session in the Vatican this week…

Ban urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to stand up to extremism (U.N. News Center) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he “extremely alarmed by the upsurge of violence in recent weeks,” and said both leaders must show the courage to do everything necessary to root out extremism…

Yazidi families reclaim girls seized by Islamic State — for a price (Christian Science Monitor) In interviews, girls who escaped or were bought back by their families tell of their brutal treatment at the hands of ISIS militants. Almost 150 girls have returned to Kurdish-controlled areas in recent weeks, according to activists, with families paying as much as a year’s income to get them back…

Sufis look for a political role in Egypt (Al Monitor) Following the car bombing of the Ahmad al Badawi Mosque — a Sufi mosque that contains the shrine of Al Sayyid al Badawi, founder of the Badawiyyah Sufi order — on 14 October, sheikhs of the Sufi order issued statements accusing the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist movements of carrying out the operation. They vowed that they would even the scores in the next parliamentary elections, as the Sufi orders, for the first time, would toss their hat in the ring, in coordination with other political forces…

Tags: Jerusalem Pilgrimage/pilgrims United Nations Christian Unity Aleppo

20 November 2014
CNEWA staff

A mother and child are shown in the cramped makeshift housing being used by refugees in northern Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)

Staff members from CNEWA visited refugees in northern Iraq last week, and on their return offered an exhaustive and detailed analysis of the situation on the ground:

After 100 days away from their homes, churches, and lands, more than 20,000 Christian families find themselves in dire situations where they have to fight everyday to cover their basic needs.

In our second visit to northern Iraq, the CNEWA delegation — comprised of Michel Constantin and Imad Abou Jaoude, from the Beirut office, and Ra’ed Bahou from the Amman office — was not able to meet with the local bishops as they were all outside the country.

Consequently, we focused on the Iraqi displaced families in their settlements; the local religious congregations, who are deeply involved with the displaced population in different centers; the parish priests from different churches, who are actively working to help these families; and finally a number of Catholic local and international NGO’s that are also providing aid and responding to the needs of struggling families.

The first observation following our visit was that it is true that theoretically the Christian families and others displaced from their hometowns and villages can find refuge in other parts of Iraq, and they are considered by the international organizations as internally displaced people and are supported on this basis. Yet in reality those displaced families have very little rights and access to public services within Kurdistan. Many families informed us they feel they would have more rights and it would be easier for them to cope in a strange country, such as Jordan or Lebanon, rather than in Kurdistan.

The second important observation is related to the hope of getting back to their villages and homes in case of liberation. Many families and religious sisters informed us that the experience of liberating Tel Eskof village following the air raids of the coalition against ISIS was a real disappointment; the few families who decided to return back to that village found that their homes were seriously destroyed by the raids and the houses that escaped destruction were mined by the fanatic militants before their withdrawal. A week ago, a 16-year-old boy died when he tried to enter his house, which had been mined. This situation made the return to their homes almost impossible for the foreseeable future.

It is estimated that today more than 1.8 million people are displaced in the country, mostly in Kurdistan and Anbar provinces, where about 390,000 are estimated to be in need of shelter and currently living in schools, under bridges or out in the open, in very bad conditions. Over 860,000 internally displaced persons have arrived from Anbar, Mosul and Sinjar in the last several months as the situation has deteriorated in all those regions. In August alone, 650,000 people arrived in Kurdistan seeking shelter, security and safety. Many of them have been staying with friends and relatives. About 400,000 displaced now live in Anbar Province, which is not controlled by Iraqi Government forces.

Presently, there are 120,000 Christian refugees in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil and other parts of Kurdistan.

As the needs continue to rise, the humanitarian conditions of the displaced are deteriorating. Children, being fragile, are the most affected in this crisis.

And that’s just the beginning.

The needs are great — and growing. Read the full report to learn what those needs are and what CNEWA is doing to help those displaced Christians affected by this crisis. And visit this link to find out how you can assist those most in need.

20 November 2014
Greg Kandra

A boy looks through a hole in a tent at Syria’s Bab Al-Salam camp for displaced in Azaz, near the Turkish border, on 19 November. To help Syrian refugees fleeing war, visit this giving page.
(photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

20 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis meets with José Graziano da Silva, director of the F.A.O., on 20 November in Rome. (photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis addresses F.A.O. nutrition conference (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis travelled to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome on Thursday to give a speech to the Second International Conference on Nutrition, taking place this week. In his address to participants, the pope spoke of waste and excessive consumption of food, as well as the rights of those who go hungry…

Israeli mayor imposes partial ban on Arab workers (Daily Star Lebanon) An Israeli mayor has imposed a partial ban on employing Arab workers in his city in a sign of mounting security concerns after a surge in deadly Palestinian attacks. Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni announced on Facebook that he was stopping “until further notice” the work of Arab laborers building bomb shelters in nursery schools in the city of 113,000, which is close to the Gaza Strip…

3,500 Palestinians stuck outside Gaza (Al Monitor) I had planned to travel with my son for two weeks, and got permission to take him out of school. I thought that this trip would make us forget about the last war on Gaza. But we are now facing an even harder reality. Since 5 November, we have been stuck in a Cairo hotel room. We found ourselves unable to board the plane in Paris, as airlines flying to Egypt were instructed not to allow Gazans aboard. When we landed in Istanbul to take the flight to Cairo, we were mistreated…

Suicide attempt highlights plight of Lebanese migrant workers (Al Monitor) The video of an Ethiopian domestic worker attempting suicide on 10 November by jumping off the fourth floor of her building in Beirut shocked the country. It once again brought Lebanon’s much-criticized sponsorship system (kafala, in Arabic), which controls the way domestic workers live, into the spotlight…

Almost 1,000 dead since east Ukraine truce (BBC) An average of 13 people have been killed daily in eastern Ukraine since a 5 September ceasefire came into place, the United Nations’ human rights office says. In the eight weeks since the truce came into force, the U.N. says 957 people have been killed, amid continuing violations on both sides…

Tags: Lebanon Pope Francis Ukraine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Migrants

19 November 2014
Amal Morcos

Sister Wardeh Kayrouz, right, returned to Lebanon after two decades in Jordan to give emotional support to refugees. (photo: Amal Morcos)

The Autumn edition of ONE turns a spotlight on Lebanon and Sister Wardeh’s World, where refugees from Syria are seeking a safe haven. Writer Amal Morcos here offers some additional context:

Muslims of the Middle East have a saying: “If there are no Nazarenes [Christians], it is a pity.” The saying is better in Arabic because it rhymes, but the gist is that Muslims recognize the value of having Christians in their society. Muslims aspire to send their children to Christian schools, to live in Christian neighborhoods, and to be helped by Christian organizations. But in Lebanon, a place where Christians were once powerful, wealthy and numerous, I discovered that there is an entire sea change taking place. Large numbers of Christian middle class families, affected by the country’s soaring prices and scarcity of jobs, have dropped into poverty. This has left Christian institutions — schools, hospitals, orphanages — underfunded and struggling to help the growing numbers of needy Christians.

First, there are the elderly. While Lebanon is typical of traditional Arab culture where the elderly are primarily cared for by family, growing numbers are being placed in nursing homes. Sunnis and Shi’as (who outnumber Lebanon’s fragmented Christians — the country has seven different patriarchates) have several well-financed charitable institutions. But for elderly Christians who have no family and no money, the Daughters of Charity run one of the very few nursing homes in Lebanon that will take care of Christians for free.

Christians have also been affected by the Lebanese government’s almost legendary corruption. Corruption deprives the country of resources — resources that could go into funding the nation’s crumbling public schools. Ten years ago, the overwhelming majority of Christian Lebanese school children attended parochial or private schools.

These days, growing numbers of financially burdened Christian parents are sending their children to public schools.

Sister Ann Sauve, a nurse and Daughter of Charity who runs a medicine dispensary in Beirut’s working class Karm al Zatoun neighborhood, finds herself serving more and more Christian families. She believes that Christians are especially vulnerable in Lebanon because of the lack of safety nets. “Lebanon is not like Egypt or Syria where the government will provide you with social services such as free medical care,” says Sister Ann.

Christians may also not get as much help as Muslims from international aid organizations who are more accustomed to aiding Muslims. Sister Wardeh Keiruz of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary — who works with Syrian Christian refugees — says she plans to ask for more funding in 2015 to help Lebanese Christians cope with the psychological stress of the refugees crisis, the economic crisis, and the country’s political turmoil. She’s clear though that she wants to help Christians because they are poor, not because they are Christian.

“I just want to help those not getting help,” she says, “and that is the Christians.”

Check out the Autumn edition of ONE for more on Sister Wardeh’s World.

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