21 February 2014
Yesterday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke out against the violence and division in Ukraine. The patriarch also expressed recently his “expectant joy” for his meeting with Pope Francis, planned for May. (photo: Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constinople)
Ecumenical patriarch discusses tragic situation in Ukraine (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “In the wake of the anniversary last year, celebrating 1025 years since Christian faith and civilization was conveyed to the Kievan Rus by our own predecessors in the Church of Constantinople, we are compelled, in the name of the ethos and culture of the freedom granted by God to all people as a divine gift, to condemn the present relentless brutality and insist on a peaceful and reasonable solution to the internal problems of Ukraine…”
Accord signed in Ukraine, amid hopes to end bloodshed (New York Times) Opposition leaders signed an agreement with President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday to try to defuse a deadly political crisis that has left scores of protesters and security officers dead and hundreds injured in Kiev, the capital. The German Foreign Ministry announced in a Twitter message that the leadership council of the Ukrainian protest movement had authorized the signing of the deal, which calls for early presidential elections, a coalition government and the reduction of presidential power through constitutional changes. A spokeswoman for the protest movement told the Associated Press that opposition leaders were headed for the president’s office to discuss the agreement…
Gaza left out of Middle East peace talks (Washington Post) This crowded bit of Mediterranean shore is a long way from the closed-door rooms where Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are holding the first real peace talks in years. But as Secretary of State John F. Kerry prepares to publicly present outlines of a proposed peace deal, the isolated and besieged Palestinian territory called the Gaza Strip is the rarely mentioned elephant in the bargaining room — a huge obstacle to a permanent settlement of the decades-old conflict…
Greek and Turkish Cypriots unite to restore a church and a bond (New York Times) In the days before this island was cleft between Greek and Turkish control, the church of St. Charalambos in this tiny village was a gathering place for all. But after decades of division, and fruitless talks between political leaders, local people grew tired of watching its paint peel and its altar decay. They took matters into their own hands. Like the church, relations between the two communities had crumbled after the island was partitioned after the Turkish military invasion of 1974. But this month, Turkish artisans’ drills buzzed. Greek woodworkers carved flourishes into the altar. After two years of work, craftsmen from both communities hurriedly polished the church in time for a grand rechristening that united nearly 500 Greek and Turkish Cypriots in a celebration under its lofty vaults — the first time the church had been used in 40 years. “After all this time, the people are ready to reconcile,” said Xenios Konteatis, 79, a retired Greek Cypriot who lived in Kontea before the Turkish invasion forced his family into a tearful flight to what is now the Greek-controlled south…
Pope names new members of Congregation for Eastern Churches (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis confirmed the top leadership of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and named among its new members Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Byzantine Archbishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh. The Vatican announced Wednesday that the pope confirmed Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as prefect and Archbishop Cyril Vasil as secretary of the congregation, which assists the Eastern Catholic churches throughout the world and the Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of the Middle East. The new members also include: Coptic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak of Alexandria, Egypt; Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad; Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England; and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia…
20 February 2014
Tags: Ukraine Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Cyprus Congregation for Eastern Churches
Mira Kaldany has been working as a volunteer in our New York headquarters for several weeks. (photo: CNEWA)
Mira Kaldany, a 25-year-old woman from Lebanon, has been volunteering at CNEWA’s New York offices while visiting the United States. As she prepares to return to her homeland, we invited her to write about her background and her experience.
Lebanon was always a country of emigrants, where young people leave in order to find better job opportunities in Europe and in North America. Growing up in Lebanon, you learn to adapt to difficult circumstances and instabilities. You live your day-to-day life without much hope for the future or any long term plans.
Lebanon has always been a host country for large proportions of refugees — from Palestinians to Iraqis, and now Syrians. The Syrian crisis has affected the country socially, economically and politically. Today over one million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. The support of the international community is absolutely critical for the vitality of this small country.
A little about my background: I was raised Maronite Catholic and have always been committed to my Maronite identity. The Maronites are considered the second-largest Christian community in the Middle East — after the Copts of Egypt — and are the biggest Christian community in Lebanon. In my college years, I studied political science and public administration at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. During my undergraduate studies I was fortunate to work as an intern in several U.N. agencies and international nongovernmental organizations.
After my studies, I worked as a caseworker in Beirut for almost two years with International Catholic Migration Commission, where I used to counsel refugees in order to resettle them to the United States. Case working demands a great deal of patience, tolerance, and compassion. You interact daily with people who have lost everything, from their family to their home to their country. I used to work directly with refugees coming from Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria. Despite the gratitude of helping the refuges, hearing stories about rape, torture, kidnapping and mass murder also took an emotional toll.
Last summer, I had an opportunity to visit the United States for several months. In January 2014, I was introduced to CNEWA by the chairperson of Education and Opportunities for Lebanon — an organization that sponsors students and school projects in Lebanon, through CNEWA. Shortly after that, I started volunteering at CNEWA’s New York headquarters, working with the fundraising team.
I was particularly interested in volunteering because it is committed to reaching out to those who suffer all over the world. By volunteering with CNEWA, I hope I can make a positive contribution with my humanitarian background and my commitment to helping underserved populations.
My experience with those populations and with refugees has transformed my life. I remember the words of an Iraqi refugee I interviewed many months ago in Lebanon. She said: “Yes, I hope to God I will start a new life. I will never forget my past, or my husband, but I will try to start a new life, without looking back too much.” This woman who lost her husband and home in Iraq still has the strength to keep moving forward.
I am blessed to volunteer for an organization that strives to help people like this every day.
Mira Kaldany holds 3-year-old Fatima, an Iraqi refugee, in the offices of the International Catholic Migration Commission in Beirut. (photo: Mira Kaldany)
20 February 2014
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Maronite Catholic
An anesthesiologist waits for his patient in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Baghdad. To learn more about ways CNEWA has assisted Iraqi institutions like this hospital, read After the Storm, from the May-June 2003 issue of our magazine. To get involved, click the image! (photo: Sherrlyn Borkgren)
20 February 2014
Tags: Iraq CNEWA Health Care
Riot police stand near a crucifix as smoke rises above Independence Square, where anti-government protesters are holding a rally in central Kiev, Ukraine, on 19 February. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Truce crumbles amid gunfire in Ukraine, protesters claim 100 dead (CNN) A short-lived truce crumbled Thursday as gunfire erupted at Independence Square, the center of anti-government protests and an increasingly violent crisis that threatens catastrophe for this divided nation. The head of the protesters’ medical service said 100 people died and 500 were injured in clashes on Thursday, just hours after the government declared a truce in fighting that had shocked world leaders with the deaths of 28 people two days before. The Ukrainian government has not released its own casualty figures, but Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko said 25 police officers had been wounded and an unspecified number of them had died. Some others had been taken hostage, he said. If Thursday’s death toll is confirmed, it would make it the deadliest day in Ukraine since protests began…
Priests on front line in battle for Ukraine (NBC News) Carrying a cross, and at times a shield, Orthodox priests have placed themselves in the line of fire amid the turmoil of Ukraine’s bloody uprising. On Thursday, several priests stood alongside protesters in central Kiev, performing blessings and delivering the last rites to those who were killed…
Israel begins sending African migrants to Uganda (ABC News) Israel has begun sending dozens of African migrants — mostly from Eritrea and Sudan — to Uganda, an Israeli official said Wednesday, a move that has sparked concerns that they are being coerced into going to a country that may not keep them safe. The resettlement of people in Uganda, and perhaps other countries, marks a new phase in Israel’s campaign to rid itself of thousands of Africans who have poured into the country in recent years. Migrants and activists said the arrangement, which includes a one-way ticket and a stipend, is questionable because it is unclear if there is an official agreement with Uganda that would secure the migrants’ status. They said the new arrivals risk deportation to their home countries, where they may face conflict or persecution. Uganda, for its part, denied any deal…
Iraq moves to preserve Christian heritage, Syriac language (Al Monitor) Over the past 11 years, the Christian population in Iraq has decreased by more than 75 percent. It started to decline gradually after 2003, following the overall rise in violence and attacks targeting Christians. Before 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, and according to recent church figures, only 300,000 remain. Perhaps this drastic difference pushed administrators in charge of education to find ways to preserve Christianity’s cultural and religious heritage in Iraq…
Aid workers deliver food to Damascus district: U.N. (Daily Star Lebanon) According to a statement by UNRWA, the relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees resumed food distribution inside the rebel-held district of the Syrian capital, which has been suffering from crippling shortages of food and medicine for months…
India’s government approves new 29th state (Washington Post) India’s Parliament has approved a plan to create a 29th state following days of political mayhem, including a melee in which a lawmaker unleashed pepper spray on his colleagues. The president is now expected to sign the bill to create the new state, called Telangana, from mostly poor, inland districts of Andhra Pradesh. Opponents had objected to including wealthy tech and industrial hub Hyderabad in Telangana…
19 February 2014
Tags: India Ukraine Iraqi Christians Relief Migrants
A man who was injured during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police receives medical treatment inside St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, on 19 February. Ukraine’s political crisis escalated sharply, with more than two dozen people killed and scores injured in violent, often fiery battles between demonstrators and police in Kiev.
(photo: CNS/Maks Levin, Reuters)
19 February 2014
Anti-government protesters walk amid debris and flames near the perimeter of Kiev’s Independence Square on 19 February 2014. (photo: Brendan Hoffman/Euromaiden via Twitter)
Clashes leave 25 dead in Kiev (The New York Times) Ukraine’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 25 people, including police officers, protesters and a journalist found dead on a side street near the square, had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on the anti-government demonstrators Tuesday and in subsequent fighting on streets in the government district of the Ukrainian capital. The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been injured and that nine of the dead were police officers...
Pope appeals for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis called for peace in the Ukraine, saying “With a worried soul I have been following what is happening in Kyiv in these days.” The Holy Father assured the Ukrainian people of his closeness to them, and prayed for the victims of violence, for their families, and for the injured. The Pope called “on all parties to cease all violence and to seek harmony and peace in the country...”
Ukrainian Orthodox Church calls for halt to bloodshed (InterFax) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has called for a halt of the bloodshed in Kiev and prevention of a civil war. “Since the beginning of the political crisis and in the course of the entire period of this conflict, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than once called for a halt of violence and a peaceful solution to the conflict. To our great regret, the voice of the Church has not been heard,” the property management of Metropolitan of Borispol and Brovar Antony said in a statement...
Patriarch calls for “Chaldean League” in Iraq (ByzCath.org) The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, has called for the formation of a “Chaldean League” to unite Catholic laity in a fragmented Iraqi society. “Our presence in society is weak, fragmented in the field of politics, culture, social action,” Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako told the Fides news agency. “A ‘Chaldean League’ can help us give a more concrete and effective contribution to the civic life of our country...”
Lebanon feels impact of Syrian conflict (BBC) For the first two years of the Arab uprisings, Lebanon seemed a haven of calm. But no-one expected the uprising and the war in Syria to last this long. The spillover became inevitable and the more it drags on the harder it will become for Lebanon to withstand the shockwaves, and resist the descent into chaos...
Pope names members for the Congregation of the Oriental Churches (VIS) Pope Francis nominated and confirmed several members of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches, including numberous consultors from around the world. View the complete list here.
18 February 2014
Syrian Armenian Tamar Yeranossian, 26, and her brother Hagop, 15, sit in one of the rooms of their apartment in Bourj Hammoud. Fearing for the safety of their family back in Syria, they turned from the camera to hide their faces (photo: Dalia Khamissy)
Don Duncan visited Lebanon last year to report on the plight of Syrian Armenian refugees for the current issue of ONE. Here, he adds more context.
Eight months had passed since I had last been in Lebanon, in January 2013, to report a story for ONE about the fate of Christian Syrians fleeing Syria to Lebanon in search of refuge. Back then, the flow of refugees across the border was certainly an issue but on returning in August, it was clear that the situation had gotten much, much worse.
The burgeoning fears I heard among the Lebanese in January — that the Syrian conflict would trigger sectarian tensions and conflict in volatile Lebanon — was beginning to prove true by summer. On 9 July, 53 people were wounded in a busy shopping street in Dahiya, the southern suburb of Beirut, which is dominated by the pro-Assad Hezbollah Shia militia. Then, a few days after my arrival, another explosion in Dahiya, this time killing 21 people, and thought to be a reprisal for Hezbollah’s military support of the Assad regime in Syria. Next, on 23 August, two Sunni mosques were targeted in the northern city of Tripoli, killing 47 people — the deadliest bombing in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1991.
I lived in Lebanon for three years and I’m accustomed to ebbs and flows in the country’s security situation. I’ve also grown used to ignoring the Western media’s tendency to whip up panic or make a situation look more widespread than it is. But this time was different. It was different because of my Lebanese friends’ reactions. They were nervous. They spoke less. People were going out less. The streets, usually at their busiest in the high summer season, when Arab tourists flock to Beirut and much of Lebanon’s extensive diaspora return home on holiday, were very quiet. Lebanese people are used to handling insecurity and I have always been amazed by their ability to continue as normal when the security situation around them is not great. But this time was different. Some friends were already whispering about plans to leave the country, while others expressed approval that I was leaving the back to Europe. “It’s only going to get worse around here,” they said.
Sure enough, on the last two days of my trip, the Syrian and Lebanese crisis was raised a notch with moves by Western leaders to gain governmental approval for direct strikes on Syria. The announcement sent tremors across Lebanon — people feared not just national instability but indeed a regional war involving foes such as Israel, Iran and Syria, as well as Western superpowers.
While all this was going on, I couldn’t help but notice all the children: the masses of Syrian children who had arrived to Hamra street in West Beirut since my last visit in January. Most of them sold roses or a shoeshine along the street’s many café terraces. They were young, between the ages of six and ten, and were shadowed by their mothers, who sat at the street’s corners, often begging. Such scenes were unthinkable just a few years ago in Lebanon. But during my most recent visit, Hamra street was punctuated by the odd male Syrian who had bedded down for the evening in the doorway of a closed shop.
They made me sad, for both the Lebanese and the Syrians. These are people who are often quite different, who have a fraught political and military history with one another. Yet, as one of the Syrians I talked to said: “When it comes to war and conflict, it is always the people who suffer. War doesn’t step around religious or political conviction. It is the people who always suffer.”
18 February 2014
Father ‘Adil Mdanat lights a candle before an icon at the Orthodox church in Ader, a Christian village in Jordan. Read more about these Christians trying to preserve the faith in A Bridge to Modern Life in the May 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
18 February 2014
In this image from last October, Pope Francis poses with cardinal advisers during a meeting at the Vatican. The cardinals are meeting with him this week to discuss possible reforms. Pictured from left are: Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary to the Council of Cardinals, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Pope Francis, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Australian Cardinal George Pell and Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope, cardinal advisers study Vatican financial, administrative reform (CNS) Pope Francis met for the third time in late February with his international Council of Cardinals, an eight-member group advising him on the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and other issues. The meetings focused on financial and bureaucratic matters even as the council was rumored to be working on a draft of an apostolic constitution that would reorganize the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia...
Syria talks stall (The Wall Street Journal) The Obama administration, exasperated by stalled talks over Syria and seeking ways to pressure the regime and its Russian allies, plans to revisit options ranging from expanding efforts to train and equip moderate rebels to setting up no-fly zones, according to officials briefed on the deliberations. The move means the administration again will consider military, diplomatic and intelligence options that previously were presented to the White House but set aside in favor of pursuing international talks...
Mayhem grips Kiev (The New York Times) Mayhem gripped the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday as riot police broke through barricades on the outer rim of a protest encampment and, pelted with rocks and fireworks, massed on the edge of Independence Square, the focal point of more than two months of protests against President Viktor F. Yanukovych. There were unconfirmed reports that three protesters had been killed...
Archbishop Chullikatt speaks of widespread persecution of Christians (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, last week spoke to a United States Congressional hearing on largely underreported assaults on the religious freedoms of Christians around the globe. “Flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet,” the Archbishop said. “No Christian is exempt, whether or not he or she is Arab. Arab Christians, a small but significant community, find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith. This tragedy is all the more egregious when one pauses to consider that these men and women of faith are loyal sons and daughters of the countries in which they are full citizens and in which they have been living at peace with their neighbors and fellow citizens for untold generations...”
Suicide bomber attacks pilgrims in Egypt (Reuters) The Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said on Tuesday the bombing of a tourist bus in Egypt’s Sinai that killed two South Koreans and the Egyptian driver on Sunday was a suicide attack carried out by one of its fighters, and threatened more strikes against economic targets. The attack on the bus, which was travelling to Israel from St. Catherine’s Monastery, a popular tourist destination in the south Sinai, was the first assault on tourists since President Mohamed Mursi's ouster spurred an Islamist insurgency...
A visit to “Ethiopia’s Lourdes" (CNN) rance has Lourdes, India has the Ganges. Ethiopia, meanwhile, has Gondar. Situated about 450 miles north of Addis Ababa, encapsulated by hills and tall trees, and dotted with 17th-century relics from the city’s glory days (when it was the country’s capital), Gondar today can seem somewhat remote. During the religious festival of “Timket,” however, the city is inundated with pilgrims who come to re-enact the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, and take a dip in the holy waters at the historical Fasilides Bath...
14 February 2014
Pope Francis holds a rose and chocolates thrown by a person in the crowd as he arrives for an audience for engaged couples in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis offered some words of advice to engaged couples today to mark Valentine’s Day:
Greeting thousands of engaged couples on the feast of St. Valentine, Pope Francis told them not to be afraid of building a permanent and loving relationship in a culture where everything is disposable and fleeting.
The secrets to a loving and lasting union, he said, include treating each other with respect, kindness and gratitude, and never letting daily struggles and squabbles sabotage making peace and saying, “I’m sorry.”
“The perfect family doesn’t exist, nor is there a perfect husband or a perfect wife, and let’s not talk about the perfect mother-in-law!” he said to laughter and applause.
“It’s just us sinners,” he said. But “if we learn to say we’re sorry and ask forgiveness, the marriage will last.”