5 August 2015
Children relax during a break at the kindergarten run by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena in Ain Kawa, Erbil. (photo: Don Duncan)
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the invasion of northern Iraq by ISIS — an event that displaced tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them children. The aftershocks are still being felt.
The Summer 2015 edition of ONE has an extensive, in-depth look at what has happened to many of those displaced. An online exclusive profiles sisters caring for children:
At 8:30 a.m., a new facility for the children of displaced Iraqi families is abuzz with the sound of young voices and teachers.
From one classroom comes a singsong drone wishing the children a good morning in Arabic. “Sabah al kheir” comes the greeting, lilted at the end to suggest a question. “Sabah al noor,” the children reply, wishing their teachers a good morning in return.
In all five classrooms of the kindergarten, the day begins with the “first circle,” where teachers welcome the children, prayers are said and songs are sung. Prayers often include requests God return them to their former houses and villages, or that clothes and food be sent to those displaced Christians still living in precarious shelter.
From another classroom, melodies of Arabic nursery rhymes interspersed with ones in English can be heard. A slow, accented rendition of “One Potato, Two Potato” floats through the air at one point.
In the middle of this cacophony, Sister Ban Saeed is busy at a desk in the administrative office — a room with a curtain dividing it in two. The other half serves as the staff kitchen.
A Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena who trained as a Montessori teacher in Adrian, Michigan, and followed that with a master’s degree in early childhood education, Sister Ban is the engine behind the new kindergarten that this community of Iraqi Christians has so sorely needed since ISIS expelled them from their homes in August 2014.
“The kindergarten is a big help to families here,” she says of the school that opened on 17 March. “We are getting children out of their homes for a few hours a day. Since the displacement, most homes in fact contain two or three families, so it has been a very difficult situation. This kindergarten helps bring happiness to the children and to the parents as well.”
As with many other services, kindergarten was something most Christians had access to in their hometowns and villages across the Nineveh Plain. But since their abrupt expulsion, that entire infrastructure has disappeared. In the initial months of the crisis, the need for essentials such as shelter and health care was the central focus; now, secondary services such as education and child care are slowly beginning to return to the picture, doing much to ease the suffering and anxiety of the displaced families.
Read it all.
To support the ongoing work of the sisters helping these children, please visit our giving page. And remember to keep these people in your prayers!
5 August 2015
In Baghdad last week, an Iraqi man shows a thermometer reading more than 50 degrees Celsius, or over 120 degree Farenheit. (photo: AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
Iraqis suffer through heat wave (The New York Times) Even after sunset, as the temperature coasts down from 122 degrees Fahrenheit, or 50 degrees Celsius, to perhaps 108, Baghdad’s heat can seem like a living thing. It clings to every contour of the body, squeezing tight. Iraq has been hot even by its own standards. Taking all conditions into account, the Weather Channel calculated that the peak day in Baghdad this summer felt like 159 degrees. It was a data point most likely of little use to outsiders unable to imagine even 122 degrees, and of little comfort to Iraqis living in it...
Refugees flood Greek island of Lesbos (The New York Times) Since the beginning of the year, the number of refugees and migrants arriving here and on other Greek islands has surged to full-scale humanitarian-crisis levels. Arrivals by sea have surpassed 107,000 through July, according to United Nations figures, eclipsing even the numbers of people reaching Italy. Most of those who arrive on the shores of Lesbos, a popular tourist destination just off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea, are fleeing the wars in Syria and Afghanistan and hoping to head deeper into Western Europe. In June, 15,254 migrants and refugees arrived on Lesbos, according to the Greek Coast Guard, compared with 921 the same month last year...
“Water project” for Aleppo concludes (Fides) Aleppo has again been without water since 31 July. A heat wave is expected for this week that will bring the temperature up to 45 degrees,” said a statement sent to Agenzia Fides by the NGO “Let us help Syria,” which along with the Marist Brothers and the Diocesan Missionary Centre of Rome have launched a project for the distribution of water in the martyred Syrian city. The extraordinary project “Water for Aleppo!” concluded two weeks after the launch, the statement said and “the collection of funds exceeded the budget initially planned for its realization, allowing its expansion.The purpose of the initiative was to allow Aleppo to cope with the terrible crisis caused by the interruption of the water supply that periodically prostrates residents of the second city of Syria...
Cardinal Sandri dedicates new cathedrals in California (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, on Saturday elevated the Church of Saint Anne in Los Angeles to the level of Co-cathedral of the Catholic Eparchy of Newton of the Greek Melkites. Bishop Nicholas Samra, the Eparch of Newton, was present at the celebration, as well as the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez... On Sunday, he presided over the Divine Armenian Liturgy celebrated at the new Cathedral of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in Glendale, California. It was during this liturgy that the seat of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy was transferred from New York to Glendale and the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator was raised to the level of Cathedral...
Ukraine army gets help from classic car restorers (BBC) The war in eastern Ukraine has prompted a group of classic car restorers to put their hobby aside and help the army instead. They are now busy fixing military kit — some of which is vintage, like the cars they usually repair. The enthusiasts work at the privately-run Phaeton museum in the city of Zaporizhya. It is just a few hours’ drive from the front line, where Ukrainian troops are battling Russian-backed separatists...
4 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Greece Melkite
According to tradition, the sacramental bread made for the eucharistic liturgy in the Church of the East is made and consumed the same day. The leaven used in the bread, called malka, is derived from the bread that Christ shared with his disciples at the Last Supper. A portion of the sacramental bread is reserved and added to subsequent loaves each time the liturgy
is to be celebrated. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Barbaric describes best the ferocity unleashed in Iraq and Syria. Ironically, these “nation states” largely correspond to the lands of ancient Mesopotamia — the cradle of civilization. There, thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the world’s first complex human societies emerged between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
It is less commonly known that Mesopotamia is also the cradle of the Christian faith. In its fertile soil, the seeds of Christianity took root quickly and eventually spread like wildflowers throughout Asia, reaching Afghanistan, China, India and Mongolia. But the Church of the East, the driving force behind the missionaries took the Gospel east via the Silk Road, has all but vanished. While a handful of the church’s members — who identify as Assyrians — remain in Mesopotamia, more than a third live in North America. The headquarters for the church of 400,000 people has been moved to a Chicago suburb, but increasingly its members are settling in Oceania and Scandinavia.
The origins of the Christian faith in Mesopotamia are obscure. An ancient legend connects a sickly king of Edessa to Jesus. Others credit St. Thomas the Apostle with evangelizing the region’s Jewish merchants as he traveled to India. That Edessa is the likely source of the faith in Mesopotamia is supported by linguistic evidence: The Aramaic dialect of Edessa, commonly called Syriac, became the literary language of the non-Greek-speaking Christian community in the Middle East.
Syriac Christianity flourished in a divided Mesopotamia. While Syriac Christians living in Byzantine-occupied territories participated in the great debates of the early church, Syriac Christians living in Persian areas developed independently. By the year 410, the Syriac bishop of the Persian capital (near modern Baghdad) emerged as the senior hierarch of the Persian church.
Pope John Paul II and Church of the East Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV exchange gifts after signing a historic Christological agreement in November 1994. The declaration, which acknowledged that the two churches share a common understanding of Jesus, ended nearly 1,600 years of isolation between the two churches. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano)
Commonly referred to as the Church of the East, this community retained its ties to the churches of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Yet, it grew under the suspicious eyes of the Persians — followers of the prophet Zoroaster — who suspected Christians of harboring loyalties to Christian Byzantium. By the end of the fifth century, as war raged between Byzantium and Persia, the Church of the East severed union with its sister churches in the Christian West.
Nevertheless, the Church of the East became renowned throughout the Christian world for its scholarship, especially in grammar, history, logic, mathematics, philosophy and theology. Arab Muslims, who conquered the Persian Empire in 634, turned to its scholars, who are largely responsible for the Arab world’s familiarity with ancient Greek astronomy, chemistry, mathematics and philosophy — disciplines that eventually reached Europe via Arab Sicily and Spain.
At its height in the 14th century, the Church of the East spanned most of Asia and included some 30 metropolitan sees and more than 200 eparchies. But the church’s successes were nearly destroyed overnight. Although the Crusades upset the Middle East’s carefully balanced Middle East societies, the near deathblow came from the east. At the end of the 14th century, Timur the Lame and his army invaded the Middle East, sacked its cities, massacred the inhabitants and leveled what remained. Those Christians who escaped death or enslavement retreated into the mountains, hunkering down in remote monasteries and mountainside villages. Isolation intensified, poverty set in and generation after generation either abjured their Christian faith and embraced Islam or became Catholics as contact with Latin missionaries increased.
During World War I, up to a third of those who belonged to the Church of the East were murdered by agents of the Ottoman Turkish sultan, which governed most of Mesopotamia. Survivors fled to the British-held cities of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra — and points farther west.
War and emigration have nearly decimated the presence of the church in the cradle of civilization. Yet, the sufferings of the Church of the East have brought to light not just the existence of this ancient community, but the richness of a tradition that unknowingly influenced the cultures and churches of the West.
Read here a full account of the Church of the East from the pages of ONE magazine.
4 August 2015
Hamaspyur Nazaretian greets visitors at her shelter in Gyumri. The Summer 2015 edition of ONE includes a personal and poignant “Letter from Armenia.” Read about life among the elderly there at this link. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
4 August 2015
In this image from March, Mustafa Abdülcemil Kirimoğlu, leader of Crimean Tatars, speaks at the U.N. in New York. According to reports, he’s announced the creation of a special military unit of Muslim soldiers to protect Crimea. (photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Ukraine to create Muslim military unit (International Business Times) Ukraine will create a unit of Muslim soldiers to protect the Crimean border and monitor imports and exports amid an increasingly violent battle with pro-Russian rebels, a Ukraine leader said Monday. The Muslim battalion will be formed of Crimean Tatars, Kazan Tatars, Uzbeks, Chechens, Azeris, Meskhetian Turks and other Muslim groups, said Mustafa Abdülcemil Kirimoğlu, leader of Crimean Tatars, according to local media reports. The Muslim battalion is part of growing relations between Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians and will report to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said Kirimoğlu. Crimean Tatars are an ethnically Turkic and religiously Sunni Islam minority group that has faced decades of religious and political persecution under Russian rule...
Pentagon ramps up airstrikes in Syria (Los Angeles Times) U.S. officials Monday confirmed an expanded bombing campaign in Syria that increases the risk of confrontation with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, possibly drawing Washington more deeply into that country’s punishing four-year war. The Obama administration authorized the Pentagon to use force to help defend a small, U.S.-trained Syrian rebel unit against other insurgent factions — or against fighters allied with the Syrian government, officials said...
Facing threat from ISIS, Iraq digitizes its national library (AP) The dimly lit, dust-caked stacks of the Baghdad National Library hide a treasure of the ages: crinkled, yellowing papers holding the true stories of sultans and kings; imperialists and socialists; occupation and liberation; war and peace. These are the original chronicles of Iraq’s rich and tumultuous history — and now librarians and academics in Baghdad are working feverishly to preserve what’s left after thousands of documents were lost or damaged at the height of the U.S.-led invasion...
More children doing dangerous work in cotton fields in India (Fides) The number of children working in cotton fields continues to rise. According to a survey by the Indo-Dutch Committee and the private body Stop Child Labour Coalition, in India this activity involves some 200,000 minors age 14, minimum legal age for labour in the country. This year India is expected to become the world’s largest cotton producing country. It is to be noted that the number of children working in the cotton industry in India today is 100,000 higher than in 2010, the survey said, adding that working conditions in the fields are still dangerous and the children are exploited...
Ethiopia jails Muslim activists (Reuters) An Ethiopian court sentenced 17 Muslim activists on Monday to prison sentences ranging from seven to 22 years on charges they plotted to create an Islamic state in the majority Christian country. A journalist for a Muslim newspaper was also sentenced for conspiring with the activists, the court in Addis Ababa said. The defendants, who all denied the charges, were arrested in 2012 on charges of plotting to stage attacks to create an Islamic state in Ethiopia, which has a sizable Muslim minority...
3 August 2015
The Summer edition of ONE is now available online. You can check it out at this link.
And Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s President, has a special preview below.
3 August 2015
Girls practice English at a Caritas day care center in Tbilisi. Learn more about efforts to help children in Georgia by reading “A Child’s Rights Restored” from the March 2012 edition of ONE.
(photo: Molly Corso)
3 August 2015
The Vladimir Cathedral stands near the ruins of Chersonesus, which Vladimir Putin has said is as sacred to the Orthodox as the Temple Mount is to Muslims and Jews.
(photo: Vatican Radio/Reuters)
Russia fights Islamic militants (Vatican Radio) Russia’s counterterrorism agency says its forces in North Caucasus have killed eight militants who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, including a local leader...
Putin puts “Temple Mount of Orthodox Christians” under federal control (Vatican Radio) Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed a major archaeological site in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine, under federal control. The move comes amid turmoil over the appointment of a director over what Putin views as the Temple Mount of Orthodox Christians. The Kremlin said the president ordered the area in the ancient Greek city of Chersonesus to be placed under federal oversight. The site is located just outside Sevastopol, the main port city in Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine last year...
Hotels in Greece filling with Syrian refugees (Greek Reporter) Syrian refugees have flooded numerous hotels in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, according to Greek newspaper “Ethnos.” Refugees that can afford to stay at hotels, book one or two nights as a layover in their trip to central or northern Europe. The long-suffering Middle Eastern country quickly rose to 5th place in the ranking of customers arriving at Thessaloniki hotels in the first half of 2015, from the 30th place they occupied during the same period last year, noted the newspaper, based on data released by the city’s hoteliers association...
Report: U.S.-led airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Iraq, Syria (AP) U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria likely have killed hundreds of civilians, a report by an independent monitoring group said Monday. The coalition had no immediate comment. The report by Airwars, a project aimed at tracking the international airstrikes targeting the extremists, said it believed 57 specific strikes killed at least 459 civilians and caused 48 suspected “friendly fire” deaths. While Airwars noted the difficulty of verifying information in territory held by the Islamic State group, which has beheaded journalists and shot dead activists, other groups have reported similar casualties from the U.S.-led airstrikes...
Finding Ethiopian cuisine in Jerusalem (Roads & Kingdoms) There are now an estimated 130,000 Ethiopians living in Israel, a majority of them Jewish and Israeli citizens. Most of them or their families immigrated over the past three decades as part of Israel’s push to bring in Ethiopia’s Jews living in hardship. Their status as citizens is different from the smaller number of Israel’s Ethiopian Christians, many who made the journey, sometimes via smuggling routes through Sudan and Egypt’s Sinai, to find work and opportunities, or to seek refugee and asylum status. Ethiopians are now a very visible part of the fabric of Jerusalem. But the cuisine, as food trends go, has remained largely off the map...
31 July 2015
Displaced Iraqis celebrate the liturgy in a tent church in Kasnazan, in northern Iraq. It’s been almost exactly one year since ISIS drove many of them from their homes. Read what has happened since in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE. And to support them, and CNEWA’s work in this part of the world, visit this giving page. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
31 July 2015
Sisters, along with Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, attend a Divine Liturgy celebrating the coronation of the Virgin Mary, on 31 May in Erbil. (photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
After one year stranded in Kurdistan, women religious speak (Aid to the Church in Need) The date of 6 August will mark the one-year anniversary of the expulsion of a group of Dominican sisters from their convent in Iraq’s Nineveh Plane to Erbil, capital of Kurdistan. Discovering that Kurdish militia had fled the ISIS assault, the sisters decided to leave their convent in Qaraqosh and march to safety along with thousands of refugees; they had just 30 minutes to pack their things. “We were panicked when they told us ISIS had gotten into the roads, so many people left with even just their nightgowns on,” recalls Sister Lyca…
Melkite patriarch criticizes West’s Middle East policies (Aid to the Church in Need) The worldwide head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has charged that support from the West earmarked for moderate opposition groups in Syria is ending up in the hands of ISIS and other Islamic extremists. In an interview, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, head of the largest Catholic community in Syria, said money and weapons given to allegedly moderate groups are being repeatedly seized by ISIS…
Christian population in the Middle East is dropping rapidly (AINA) Christians now face the worst religious persecution in over a thousand years in the Middle East, reports Christianity Today, based on a study conducted by the Pew Research Center…
Assyrian Christian woman shares story of captivity by Islamic State (Al Monitor) An Assyrian Christian woman released recently agreed to meet with Al Monitor at her daughter’s home in the outskirts of Beirut and tell her story of those months living as an ISIS hostage, and what she could learn about her captors and their identities. For security reasons, her name will not be disclosed. Sitting on her mattress on the floor, she says she is safe now, but the rest of her family is still held by ISIS in Syria’s Shaddadeh. As far as she knows her family is still there, where they had all been kept since February, when the villages were attacked…
Will Indian court ruling help ‘reconversions’ of Dalit Christians? (UCANews) A Hindu leader who promotes religious conversions in a southern Indian state says plans to convert some 100,000 Christians this year to Hinduism will be easier because of a recent court verdict. Radical Hindu groups have been conducting public “reconversion” ceremonies. The movement, known as Ghar Vapasi, or homecoming, claims to bring Christians “back” to Hinduism. Church leaders have pointed out that Hindu groups call it “conversion” when people convert to Christianity, but when Christians convert to Hinduism they call it “homecoming…”
Testing the limits: How many refugees can Germany handle? (Der Spiegel) More Germans than ever before are positively disposed toward asylum-seekers. This year, Germany is expecting to receive around 400,000 new refugees, a figure that may test the country’s new welcoming culture…
Tags: Syria India Iraq Middle East Christians Indian Christians