1 July 2014
The parents of Naftali Frankel attend his funeral service in Nof Ayalon, Israel, on 1 July. Ayalon was one of three Israeli teens found dead in a West Bank field 18 days after they disappeared trying to hitchhike home. Israel blamed the Islamist movement Hamas and launched targeted airstrikes into the Gaza Strip. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza, forces kill teen in West Bank (Al Jazeera) Israeli aircraft bombed dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank, and violent settler attacks against Palestinians were reported overnight. The violence came after Israel found the bodies of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank after they went missing on 12 June. Israel has blamed Hamas for the teens’ abduction near a Jewish settlement, though it has not provided evidence to support that allegation…
Chaldean patriarch appeals for the release of the abductees (Fides) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has made a public appeal to “those who are holding the nuns and orphans kidnapped in Mosul three days ago” to release their captives…
Iraqi archbishop: Christians ‘fed up’ with situation in the country (Vatican Radio) The new Iraqi parliament has convened amid international pressure on lawmakers to quickly choose a new prime minster who can confront the ISIS offensive that threatens to rip the country apart. The conflict left 2,400 civilians dead in June, many of them women and children, and the Islamists are threatening the capital. According to Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, many members of the Christian community are thinking seriously about leaving the country…
Eastern patriarchs deplore regional violence (Daily Star Lebanon) The patriarchs of Eastern churches Tuesday deplored raging violence in Iraq and Syria that has caused massive displacement of people, calling to maintain the Christian presence in region’s war-torn countries and preserve their lands. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X attended the conference…
Ukrainian forces attack separatists in east as cease-fire ends (Christian Science Monitor) Ukrainian government forces attacked pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine Tuesday, shortly after President Petro Poroshenko ended a ten-day cease-fire that failed to calm violence in the restive region. The resumption of what the government calls an antiterrorism operation will intensify fighting in the east. It also raises uncertainty over how Moscow — which officially supported the cease-fire, while also massing troops along the Ukrainian border — will respond. Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to make a foreign policy speech later Tuesday…
Female prisoners in Egypt suffer rampant abuse (Al Monitor) At a time when the Egyptian government has recognized the need to stop physical and sexual violence against women, human rights organizations have registered dozens of cases of physical abuse against women in Egyptian prisons pending trial for political issues. On 23 June, ten Egyptian human rights organizations filed a joint complaint — of which Al Monitor obtained a copy — with the Egyptian general prosecutor. They requested that the latter quickly investigate the complaints of female prisoners being subject to torture and physical and sexual abuse, and demanded that protection be speedily provided if the complaints are shown to be valid…
30 June 2014
Tags: Middle East Christians Iraqi Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Eastern Churches Patriarchs
Ramiz Toma, an Iraqi Christian living in Sweden, attends the Divine Liturgy at least once a week. To learn more about the community of Iraqi Christian expatriates in Sweden, read A Nordic Refuge No More, from the May 2011 issue of ONE. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
30 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Emigration Sweden
Rana, a 31-year-old a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, adjusts her 8-year-old daughter’s hair at their home at a refugee camp in Amman on 2 May. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Syrian women refugees suffer in Jordan (Al Monitor) Most Syrian refugees in Jordan live in cities, outside of the camps set up to accommodate them. The suffering of refugee women adds a new chapter to the suffering of women in general in Jordan. Women are subjected to various forms of violence, among them domestic violence, which includes beatings at the hands of their husbands, sexual abuse of female children and violence related to forced marriage. This is in addition to pre-existing societal violence — rape, sexual abuse, harassment at the workplace and in education institutions and more. Moreover, this violence includes the trafficking of women, forced prostitution and forced labor…
Israeli police forcibly end African migrant protest (Christian Science Monitor) Israeli police today forcibly broke up a three-day desert sit-in by hundreds of African migrants who bolted a detention center to march toward the Egyptian border, where they were rebuffed by Egyptian soldiers. The march and sit-in marked a new defiance of Israeli government policy, which recently began ordering African migrants who entered the country illegally years ago to leave work and homes in Israeli cities and report to the Holot desert detention camp. Photographs uploaded to Twitter by human rights activists showed police dragging migrants to buses…
For Iraqi Christians, return to captured city is fraught mandate (NPR) Mosul is northern Iraq’s largest city and the takeover by ISIS has prompted an exodus of the last remaining Iraqi Christians there. The seizure raised fears that a thousand years of Christian culture would vanish. But in recent days, some Christian families have returned to Mosul and surrounding villages. And soon the archbishop of the Chaldean Church will join them. NPR’s Deborah Amos caught up with him in nearby Erbil…
Ecumenical patriarch sends greetings to pope on Sts. Peter and Paul feast (Vatican Radio) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has expressed his “sincere gratitude” for the series of encounters this year with Pope Francis in a letter marking the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. The patriarch was represented by a special delegation at the Mass marking the feast in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pallium was given to new archbishops…
Egyptian law seeks to control political speech at mosques (Al Monitor) Enforcement of Egypt’s new Law of Oration, which regulates Friday sermons in mosques, shut down hundreds of small mosques with unlicensed imams in Egypt. Moreover, dozens of citations were issued against imams who took the pulpit in mosques without a permit. The law stipulates that religious oration and lessons may only be conducted by Al Azhar graduates who hold a permit from the Ministry of Endowments…
27 June 2014
Tags: Syria Refugees Iraqi Christians Migrants Women
Last year’s participants in the pilgrimage to the Holy Land gather in the Shepherds’ Fields near Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
On 29 June 2014, I will be blessed to travel for the second time to the Holy Land with members of the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.). We are visiting Israel and Palestine for nine days on a spiritual pilgrimage and to learn about local Christians and Christian organizations.
The Catholic Women’s League of Canada has about 90,000 members in parishes all across Canada. Through the initiative called Velma’s Dream, they are currently supporting two projects in the Holy Land: the Infant Welfare Centre in Jerusalem and Shepherd’s Field Hospital near Bethlehem, both of which we will be visiting.
Velma Harasen, former national president of the C.W.L. and namesake of “Velma’s Dream,” will be accompanying us. Ms. Harasen also came with us last year. Her vision is to encourage the Catholic Women’s League to continue to support the poor in the Holy Land.
Our group also includes Betty Anne Brown Davidson, the current C.W.L. national president; Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada’s national director; the Rev. Vincent Pereira of the Archdiocese of Ottawa; and participants from as far west as British Columbia and as far east as Quebec.
I look forward to this exciting trip, as we walk in the footsteps of Pope Francis, who made a recent pastoral visit to the Holy Land in May. The Holy Father encountered local Christians, prayed with them and lovingly listened to their stories.
Two of last year’s participants shared some reflections on the trip:
“I am so grateful for this trip on so many levels — to experience the land where Jesus chose to minister, to deepen my faith in God by reflecting on his presence in me … to see what life is like as a Christian in an area of struggle.” – Angela Pomeroy, Kelowna, BC
“Wherever we went, we were continually reminded of the life of Christ in the sacred stones of the buildings we entered, but also in the “living stones,” the Christians we were so fortunate to meet. These people, living in Israel and Palestine, are desperately trying to maintain and preserve the Christian presence in the Holy Land.” – Chantal Devine, Caronport, SK
We will post an update on the blog during our trip, so stay tuned!
Learn more about Velma’s Dream on our website.
27 June 2014
Tags: Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians Canada CNEWA Canada Women
An Argentina fan wears a mask of Pope Francis as he attends the 2014 World Cup Group Final on 25 June between Argentina and Nigeria at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Argentina defeated Nigeria, 3-2. (photo: CNS/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)
27 June 2014
A girl kisses her wounded father in a hospital on 5 June after a car bomb attack the previous day in Hilla, Iraq. The bomb killed at least 14 people, police and medical sources said. (photo: CNS/Alaa al Marjani, Reuters)
Iraqi Christians live in fear of ISIS (Der Spiegel) Iraq is a culturally divided country, and in cities like Qaraqosh this division is most evident. There are few places in the Middle East that are home to as many Christians as the population of 40,000 residing here, with 12 churches rising above the city like stone sentinels. Two weeks ago, radical Islamist ISIS militants seized control of Mosul and then proceeded to advance to within seven kilometers of the Christians. The people of Qaraqosh have been living in a state of fear ever since…
Even in Iraq’s refugee camps, sectarian divide is apparent (Al Jazeera) Many of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who used to live in Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, are filling up refugee camps in the Kurdish region that — like the fighting — is itself divided along ethnic and religious lines…
Ukraine signs landmark accord with E.U. (Washington Post) Ukraine on Friday signed a landmark trade deal to bind itself to the European Union, a monumental step that came in defiance of months of Russian efforts to block the country from turning westward. The agreement will have “serious consequences” for Ukraine’s relationship with Russia, a top Russian diplomat said immediately after the signing ceremony in Brussels. The decision was also sure to complicate efforts to end more than two months of separatist violence in eastern Ukraine…
Aleppo’s water crisis adds to local suffering (Al Monitor) Aside from the horrors of indiscriminate targeting and bombing of civilians, the people of Aleppo have had to endure orchestrated campaigns of sieges and deliberate starvation. A crumbling infrastructure and collapsed public services mean that for many, what once were basics were now luxury items, well out of reach. With lack of access to utilities and basic health care, new forms of death threaten the inhabitants of this unfortunate land. Now, rebel attempts to cut the water supply to regime-held areas have backfired, disrupting drinking water supplies to the entire city…
Priest in Ethiopia decries poverty stemming from unjust economic system (Fides) Poverty in Africa is the result of a global economy based on injustice. Chronic hunger seems a completely normal phenomenon. “No one can imagine the horror of the consequences of poverty,” says Father Ángel Olaran of the White Fathers, who has been in Tanzania for twenty years and for the same number of years in one of the poorest regions of Ethiopia where people die of hunger…
Pope to ROACO: Continue work, pray for families (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches — ROACO — on Thursday. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered during the audience, Pope Francis confirmed his closeness to all the churches of the East…
26 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Aleppo Water ROACO
In this image from last fall, a woman in Lebanon clutching a rosary prays for peace.
(photo: CNS/Hasan Shaaban, Reuters)
Elizabeth Scalia, the managing editor of the Catholic portal at the spiritual website Patheos, asked me to share some thoughts with her readers about the worsening crisis among Christians in the Middle East.
The picture is grim:
Today’s headlines are dramatic; the emotion raw: “Middle East Christians Feel Abandoned.” “Beleaguered Christians Make Final Stand.” “Christians Wonder if it is Time to Leave.” “Christians Last Journey.”
As the artificial geopolitical construct that is the Middle East collapses, millions of lives are altered irrevocably and indiscriminately each day: young and old, male and female, city sophisticate and nomadic shepherd, Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Armenian, rich and poor. In Iraq and Syria — by far the largest states in the region created by the Western Allied powers after their victory in World War I — the pressure cookers once controlled by strongmen have exploded, unleashing violent forces so extreme even Al Qaeda has repudiated the bloodletting.
Iraq — once awash in cash thanks to its oil reserves — has disintegrated, its people exhausted by more than 25 years of constant war. Syria — once the bedrock of regional stability — has crumbled, its people displaced and maimed. Meanwhile, extremist militias overrun vast swaths of devastated territory to restore an Islamist empire akin to those that dominated the region for centuries.
Middle East Christians bear the brunt of these brutalities. Though descendants of those who first received the Gospel almost 600 years before the advent of Islam, Christians are perceived by the extremists as imports from the West and, therefore, as enemies of Islam. Spread from Egypt to Iraq, and numbering no more than 15 million, Middle East Christians possess neither powerful allies supplying arms, nor an exclusivist ideology capable of rallying and uniting a diverse community with distinct traditions, rites and histories. And so to survive, Middle East Christians do what they have always done during similar waves of violence in their long history: they head for the hills.
Observers describe the current wave of violence in the Middle East, and the flight of its minorities — especially its Christians — as an existential threat. Can the Middle East survive without its Christians and other minorities? Sure, but can a region thrive though overwhelmed by extremist ideologies at odds with mainstream Muslims?
Check out Elizabeth Scalia’s blog, The Anchoress, for more.
To help Iraq’s besieged Christians, visit this page. And remember them, please, in your prayers.
26 June 2014
In this image from 2011, A 53-year-old Christian mother in northern Iraq displays a photo of her son, who was killed in sectarian violence. (photo: Safin Hamed)
CNEWA has just learned that the situation in Qaraqosh, Iraq, is critical, that all 50,000 people have been evacuated and that the Syriac bishop there is negotiating between two sides for his people.
The Globe and Mail has the background:
Thousands of Iraqi Christians arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas on Thursday after Islamist militants attacked one of the last Christian enclaves in country.
A staff member from the International Organization for Migration said that between 2,000 and 3,000 people arrived Wednesday night and Thursday morning at a converted youth centre in Ain Kawa, a Christian town on the outskirts of the Kurdish capital of Erbil, that was serving as a temporary refugee-processing hub. Thousands of other Christians were reported to have sought protection with local families in Erbil and other Kurdish cities.
The refugees were fleeing an attack by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on Qaraqosh, an historic Christian town outside the city of Mosul. In recent weeks, The Sunni extremist ISIL has made stunning advances in Iraq, seizing the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, as well as border crossings to neighbouring Jordan and Syria, as it pushes towards Baghdad.
ISIL is supported by remnants of the Baath Party of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as many local Sunni Muslim tribes opposed to the Shia-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Qaraqosh residents and Kurdish officials say ISIL attacked Qaraqosh — which had been under the joint protection of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and local Christian militiamen — late Wednesday night. Although the attack was apparently repulsed, several mortar rounds landed in Qaraqosh, a town of 50,000, provoking a mass exodus.
Until Wednesday, Qaraqosh had been seen as a safe haven for Christians fleeing violence and persecution in Mosul and other cities. Many residents had moved there following a wave of murders and threats targeting Mosul’s Christians in 2008.
We reported extensively on the plight of Christian refugees in northern Iraq in ONE in 2011, in our story A New Genesis in Nineveh.
Please keep the suffering people of Iraq in your thoughts and prayers. You can also help them with a tangible gift that can help bring medicine and equipment to those in need. Visit this page to learn how you can make a difference today.
26 June 2014
In this image from 2006, Metropolitan Nicholas presides at a liturgy in honor of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Camp Nazareth, Mercer, Pennsylvania. To learn about the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, read our profile in the July 2006
issue of ONE. (photo: Lisa Kyle)
26 June 2014
Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces take their positions during clashes with the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the city of Ramadi on 19 June. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Clashes between Kurds and Islamists, Christians fleeing Qaraqosh (Fides) On 25 June, Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked the city of Qaraqosh, situated in the Nineveh Plain, about 17 miles from Mosul, home to many Chaldean Christians. The Kurdish militia repelled the attack thanks to the intervention of contingent reinforcement from Iraqi Kurdistan. Local sources consulted by Fides Agency confirm that the clashes have caused many deaths on both sides, and that since Wednesday evening, the civilian population has begun to flee en masse from Qaraqosh and other predominantly Christian villages in the region, heading towards Erbil and safer areas of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan…
Vatican embassy official talks about Syrian and Iraqi situation (Vatican Radio) Lebanon is hosting more than a million refugees from the civil war in neighboring Syria, a greater number than any other nation. More recently, the insurgency in Iraq by the ISIS Islamic militants is causing concern among many Lebanese people about the risk of further destabilization in the Middle East. Monsignor Jain Mendez, a councilor at the Apostolic Nunciature in Lebanon, spoke to Susy Hodges about those fears…
Hundreds flee Sunni advances in Iraq (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of Iraqi villagers fleeing advances by Sunni militants crowded at a checkpoint on the edge of the country’s Kurdish-controlled territory Thursday to seek shelter in the relative safety of the self-ruled region, as Britain’s top diplomat arrived in Baghdad to urge the country’s leaders to unite against the insurgent threat…
Shiite violence traps Baghdad’s Sunnis, haunted by a grim past (New York Times) For now, sectarian assassinations do not nearly approach the wholesale slaughter of the years 2005 to 2007, when as many as 100 bodies a day sometimes showed up at the morgue, some of them Shiites killed in suicide bombings but many Sunnis who had been executed by Shiite militias. Still, the specter of that grim past preys on the thoughts of Baghdad’s Sunnis, who suddenly find themselves in a Shiite-dominated city threatened by extremist Sunnis, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its allies, who want to kill all the Shiites…
Ukrainian rebels scheduled to meet with government Friday (Christian Science Monitor) Ukrainian separatist rebels have agreed to take part in further peace talks on Friday to end the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern regions, Interfax news agency said on Thursday…
Jordan shaken by threats from ISIS, Iraq, Syria (Al Monitor) Jordan has reacted swiftly to reports that the border crossing point of Treibel, on the Iraqi side, had fallen into rebel hands, including possibly fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), by beefing up military presence on the eastern front and heightening the state of alert. The Jordanian armed forces confirmed on 24 June that it has reinforced its units along the 112-mile border with Iraq. It said the action was taken after the Iraqi army withdrew from the border crossing, and that the army and security personnel were ready to deal with any contingency…
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees