29 December 2014
People gather in Manger Square and the Church of Nativity on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Muslims join Christians for Christmas celebrations in Gaza (Al Monitor) “We have a Christmas tree that I bought years back. We are buying new ornaments. All I wish for is to raise my daughter to be loving and tolerant. This is why we are celebrating the occasion with Christians,” Bissan al Qishawi, a Muslim, told Al Monitor on Christmas Eve. Her two daughters, Ilaa and Salma, wake up the following morning to their gifts under the tree. “I want them to forget the gloominess of war and its traumatic memory,” she said. The Qishawis are not an exception; many Muslim families in Gaza celebrate Christmas…
Palestine pushes for U.N. resolution to end Israeli occupation (Christian Science Monitor) The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote this week on a resolution that would end Israel’s 47-year occupation of Palestine within three years. The current draft of the resolution, which the United States has the power to veto, is not expected to pass…
Ukraine: Hundreds released in massive prisoner exchange (Vatican Radio) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has met some of hundreds of freed prisoners, who were exchanged with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country. Buses hoisting Ukrainian flags drove them home in time for the New Year. At least 145 captured Ukrainian government soldiers and 222 detained pro-Russian rebels have been exchanged between the warring factions in eastern Ukraine…
Security measures strengthened for Coptic Christmas celebrations (Fides) Egypt’s security forces developed strategies to ensure security for the upcoming Christmas celebrations for Copts at a meeting on Sunday, 28 December. Egyptian Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim praised the efforts to ensure tranquility to the Christian communities and thwart aggression and intimidation against Coptic Christians who celebrate Christmas on 7 January…
Peshmerga regains control in parts of Nineveh (Fars News) Iraqi Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces regained control over two new areas in western Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province. “The Peshmerga, supported by protection force of Sinjar city, regained control over Sarray and Suq areas in Sinjar district of Western Mosul,” said Esmat Rajab, a member of the Democratic Kurdistani Party, on Sunday…
23 December 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Holy Land Christians
On 26 December 2004, tens of thousands of lives in India were changed forever by one of the deadliest earthquakes and tsunamis in history. More than 200,000 people lost their lives throughout Indonesia.
CNEWA’s program director Thomas Varghese, now based in New York, was working in India at the time. In the video below, he describes what he experienced and saw — and how CNEWA responded to this humanitarian disaster.
23 December 2014
Tags: India Tsunami
Fadi Hazboun, 20, takes a selfie of with his Catholic family from Nazareth in front of the Christmas tree in Manger Square outside the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 21 December. Pictured with him are his father, Afif; mother, Nardin; and his 8-year-old brother, Jowan. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
23 December 2014
Tags: Holy Land Bethlehem Palestinians West Bank
Syrian refugees walk at the Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on 7 December. Pope Francis Tuesday wrote a pre-Christmas letter to the suffering Christians of the Middle East. (photo: CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Pope Francis writes letter to Christians in the Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a pre-Christmas letter to the Christians of the Middle East to express his closeness to them at a time of “afflictions and tribulations” due to “the continuing hostilities in the region, but especially because of the work of a newer and disturbing terrorist organization.” Though the Pope does not refer to the organization by name, Islamic State militants in recent months have forced hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities from their homes and villages in Iraq. The Pope, who says he follows daily reports of the “enormous suffering endured by many people in the Middle East,” describes the organization “of previously unimaginable dimensions,” responsible for “all kinds of abuses and inhuman acts.” Christians were “brutally driven out of their native lands,” he observes, where they “have been present since apostolic times…”
Israeli who joined ISIS may have citizenship revoked (The Jerusalem Post) Interior Minister Gilad Erdan is considering if he will revoke the citizenship of an Israeli minor who joined joined Islamic State in Syria or Iraq and is now trying to come back home for medical treatment. Erdan said, in an interview with Channel 2 on Monday, that he is waiting for Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s recommendation in order to decide how to proceed in revoking the citizenship of Marwan Haldi, a Nazareth resident, before he can return to Israel. “This is someone who was most likely trained to kill as part of the most brutal terror organizations in the world,” Erdan said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post. “It’s up to me to seriously reconsider his return to Israel as well as his continuing to be a citizen…”
Churches burned in Egypt last year are still in ruins (Global Post) Exactly 16 months ago here, as news flowed in of the bloody dispersal of sit-ins in Cairo that left more than 800 supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi dead, angry mobs in this Upper Egyptian city took to the street and attacked churches, shops and other Christian-run establishments. The churches, which the army promised to fix more than a year ago, still stand half-built as Minya’s Copts prepare for another drafty Christmas…
Winter could be a weapon of war in Ukraine (USA Today) A deteriorating humanitarian situation amid the hardship of an approaching winter in east Ukraine is giving the Ukrainian national government an opening to turn the local population against Russian-backed separatists…
Churches in India increase security for Christmas (Times of India) At 178 years, St James Church is Delhi’s oldest. Yet, this Christmas, it will be chary of welcoming visitors after morning service on Thursday due to security concerns and might even not allow anyone in after the ceremony. Other churches in the city are, meanwhile, making arrangements for additional security alongside Christmas preparations…
South African mosque hosts Christmas dinner for Christians (IOL News) The Open Mosque in Wynberg has not suffered a backlash after hosting a Christmas dinner for about 100 Christian guests, says its founder, Dr. Taj Hargey. Dr. Hargey described the dinner on Sunday as a “historic occasion that has never been [seen] anywhere in the world before…”
22 December 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Israel Copts
Several weeks ago, CNEWA visited a school in Gaza to hear how young people were coping after the war.
The haunting video below captures some of what was seen and heard.
To support the people of Gaza, visit this page. And please keep them in your prayers.
22 December 2014
CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar and Norma Intriago, director of development, collect a tray of handwritten special intentions, all mailed in by donors during CNEWA’s 2014 Christmas fundraising campaign. Msgr. Kozar will celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and will include the special intentions in his prayers. To contribute to the campaign, click here. (photo: CNEWA)
22 December 2014
The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony on 19 December. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
22 December 2014
Girls at Good Shepherd Social Center in Deir al-Ahmar, Lebanon, make Christmas drawings and decorations for their parents during class on 17 December. More than 300 Syrian refugees ages 5 to 14 attend school at the center. (photo: CNS/Brooke Anderson)
Pope creates new diocese in India (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday created a new diocese in southern India’s Tamil state. He erected the Latin rite Diocese of Kuzhithurai in Kanyakumari district, appointing 63-year old Salesian priest, Fr. P. Jerome Dhas Varuvel as its first bishop. The new diocese has been created with territories taken from Diocese of Kottar, making it a suffragan of Madurai Archdiocese. Kuzhithurai Diocese has over 264,000 Catholics in 100 parishes and 123 mission stations spread across an area of 915 sqkm. They are served by 131 priests and 269 religious men and women. The cathedral of the new diocese will be the Church of the Most Holy Trinity at Thirithuvapuram, in Kuzhithurai city...
India’s Christians decry increase in anti-Christian violence (Vatican Radio) The Christian community in India has been feeling a sense of apprehension and fear at the incidents of violence against Churches and their personnel in various parts of the country...
Syrian refugee children get taste of normalcy (CNS) It could be the scene of an ordinary school day anywhere. Just a few days before Christmas, the younger students were making decorations and singing carols downstairs, while the older ones were taking their final exams upstairs. But for the Syrian refugee children at the Good Shepherd Social Center in Deir al-Ahmar, getting an education is something many of their young compatriots are missing...
Hamas conducts rocket tests in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) The IDF said it detected rocket experiments in the Gaza Strip on Monday. During the experiments, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas fires rockets into the sea every few days, as part of its weapons program. The launches are used by Hamas arms designers to experiment with various projectile models...
Christmas in Ethiopia (The Guardian) Before dawn, our guide Sefiwe was waiting for our little group to gather. In the darkness, we joined the flocks of white-robed pilgrims and made our way towards the rock-hewn church of Bet Maryam (House of Mary). It was very early morning on 7 January: Christmas Day for the Ethiopian Orthodox church. We were in Lalibela, the town in the northern highlands that Ethiopian Christians consider their Jerusalem...
19 December 2014
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank
In this image from 2013, a man lights a candle in a temporary Ukrainian Greek Catholic tent church during anti-government protests in Kiev. (photo: CNS/Tatyana Zenkovich, EPA)
Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, according to CNS:
“In Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we’ve already effectively returned to the catacombs,” said Father Ihor Yatsiv, the church’s Kiev-based spokesman.
“It’s a sad paradox that history is being repeated just as we commemorate our liberation. But after a couple of decades of freedom, we again look set to lose our freedom,” he told Catholic News Service on 18 December.
The priest spoke as Ukrainian Catholic communities in Russian-occupied Crimea approached a 1 January deadline for re-registering under Russian law. He said the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church had no legal status in Russia and would therefore be unable, in practice, to register.
Father Yatsiv said Russian and separatist forces had not officially refused to register Ukrainian Catholic parishes, but had ensured it was impossible because of the lack of legal provisions. He added that there was no effective government in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, where rebel groups did not recognize Ukrainian Catholics and were “imposing whatever rules and regulations they choose.”
Earlier in December, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych told Austria’s Kathpress news agency that Crimea’s five Ukrainian Catholic parishes would find themselves “outside the law,” along with the territory’s Latin Catholic, Muslim and breakaway Orthodox communities.
“It’s ironic we’ve just been celebrating the 25th anniversary of our legalization in the former Soviet Union — but our right to legal activity will soon be withdrawn in various parts of our country,” Archbishop Shevchuk told Kathpress Dec. 12.
“There’s clearly no religious liberty already in Crimea and the occupied territories of the east, and I hope the international community will deploy its resources to restoring freedoms in the affected areas,” he said.
Ukrainian Catholics fled Crimea to escape arrests and property seizures after Russia annexed the region in March. Most church parishes have closed in Ukraine’s war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where separatists declared an independent “New Russia” after staging local referendums last spring.
Ukraine’s Catholic Caritas charity warned on 11 December of a “humanitarian catastrophe” this winter, with 490,000 people now registered as refugees, and 545,000 displaced abroad, mostly in Russia.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church makes up around a tenth of Ukraine’s 46 million inhabitants. It was outlawed under Soviet rule from 1946 to 1989, when many clergy were imprisoned and most church properties seized by the state or transferred to Russian Orthodox possession.
19 December 2014
Peshmerga fighters deployed in the Nineveh region of northern Iraq flash the victory sign at sunset while shipping ammunition in order to fight against Islamic State in Sinjar. (photo: Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi Kurds capture besieged Sinjar mountain, freeing hundreds (Al Jazeera) Kurdish peshmerga fighters have fought their way to Iraq’s Mount Sinjar and freed hundreds of people trapped there by Islamic State fighters, a Kurdish leader said on Thursday…
Chaldean bishop of Beirut appeals on behalf of displaced Iraqi Christians (Fides) More than 800 Christian families have fled Mosul and Nineveh Plain and have found refuge in Iraq. Their condition is that of the “newcomers” in a Country already destabilized by the arrival of more than a million Syrian refugees. Most of them are in Beirut and have found support only from the local Chaldean Eparchy. Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut has issued a statement to solicit aid…
One million people wounded, diseases spreading in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) One million people have been wounded during Syria’s civil war and diseases are spreading as regular supplies of medicine fail to reach patients, the World Health Organization’s Syria representative said. A plunge in vaccination rates from 90 percent before the war to 52 percent this year and contaminated water have added to the woes, allowing typhoid and hepatitis to advance, Elizabeth Hoff said in an interview late Thursday…
U.N. launches aid appeal for Syrians and their host communities (U.N. News Center) As Syria’s war rages on into its fifth year, the needs for food, shelter and medicine are astronomical, several United Nations agencies said today as they launched a major appeal, requesting over $8.4 billion to help nearly 18 million people in Syria and throughout the region. Presented to donors at a meeting in Berlin, the 2015 appeal incorporates, for the first time, development aspects in addition to the life-saving humanitarian needs of over 12 million displaced people inside Syria, and the millions of Syrian refugees scattered throughout the region and the countries that host them…
Muslim leaders: We defend the churches together with Christians (Fides) Threats against Christian sites have prompted authoritative and recognized Muslim academics to denounce and condemn anti-Christian threats and rhetoric. Among others, Amna Nosseir, professor of religion and philosophy and dean of the Islamic Studies department at Al Azhar University, has condemned such acts as a betrayal of authentic Islam, and called on “Christians and Muslims” to protect the churches together from any threat, so that Egyptian Christians can celebrate their liturgical solemnities in peace…
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Refugees United Nations