11 December 2014
Indian sex workers attend a rally for their rights in Kolkata, India, on 8 November. Pope Francis addresses the plight of victims of sex trafficking and modern-day slavery in his message for World Peace Day. (photo: CNS/Piyal Adhikary, EPA)
Shi’ite pilgrims flock to holy city in Iraq (Reuters) From across Iraq and neighboring states, millions of Shi’ite pilgrims are heading this week to the city of Kerbala for a religious ceremony that authorities say radical Sunni fighters are targeting for attack...
Report: Pakistani terrorists doing charity work in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) The Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is now reportedly engaged in charity work in Gaza. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor has found evidence that the Pakistani group’s charity arms — Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) — are active in the Gaza Strip. Tufail Ahmad, director of the South Asia Studies Project at MEMRI, told The Jerusalem Poston Wednesday that “the move by Lashkar-e-Taiba to establish a footprint in Gaza seems to be part of a well-thought-out jihadist strategy from Pakistan”...
Vatican releases pope’s message for World Day of Peace (CNS) When shopping and when interacting with people on city streets, everyone can help fight the evil of modern-day slavery, Pope Francis said in his annual message for the World Day of Peace on 1 January. “Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers,” the pope said. “Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply an economic — act.” But with the Global Slavery Index estimating there are nearly 30 million people worldwide living in slave-like conditions, Pope Francis said, “We are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself”...
Nuns face off against sex traffickers (CNS) Leaving their habits behind and disguised along with police in regular clothes, a small group of three or four nuns raid brothels in Kolkata, India, at night, snatching young women and girls as young as 12 from the clutches of their captors. In four years, “we have put 30 traffickers in jail,” Sister Sharmi D’Souza, a member of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, told journalists at a Vatican news conference 10 December. She and a number of other religious women attended the event that presented Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message, which urged everyone to fight modern forms of slavery...
Governor pays tribute to India’s Christians (The Free Press Journal) Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao paid glowing tributes to the Christian community in India saying that in spite of being numerically small the community has made significant contributions to the socio-economic progress of the nation. “We are proud of you (Christian community) for enriching India’s social, cultural, economic and political life. The idea of India is difficult to imagine without you,” said the Governor...
10 December 2014
Tags: India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim
In this image from 2008, Bishop Christo Proykov blesses marriage crowns during a wedding liturgy in Sofia, Bulgaria. To learn more about the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, check out the profile from our July 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
10 December 2014
In this November photo, residents walk past tents for displaced Syrians at Bab al Salam camp in Azaz, Syria, near the Turkish border. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)
U.N. resumes food aid for Syrian refugees after cash injection (Al Jazeera) The United Nations World Food Program is restarting its aid program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees scattered across the Middle East — days after shutting down the crucial service due to insufficient funds. On Tuesday, the agency said that a fundraising drive since 1 December had raised $80 million…
Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III: Let us help to grasp the ‘signs of the times’ (Fides) Syrian Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom “since ancient times.” And today, faced with the situation in the Middle East, the first task of the pastor is to spiritually contextualize this, said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III of Antioch…
Senior Palestinian official dies after clash with Israeli forces in West Bank (Washington Post) A Palestinian cabinet member in charge of opposing Jewish settlements died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli forces at a protest march in the West Bank, officials said, touching off outrage from the Palestinian leadership and an appeal by a U.N. envoy for a full Israeli probe. The death of Ziad Abu Ein sharpened tensions after a recent wave of terrorist attacks and clashes set in motion by showdowns over a contested holy site in Jerusalem. The full details of the incident were not immediately clear. Some witnesses said Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister. Other reports said he was struck by an Israeli soldier’s rifle butt…
Trapped Palestinian students demand Gaza crossings reopen (Al Monitor) Approximately 1,500 Palestinian students enrolled in foreign universities are stuck in Gaza, and are protesting for the reopening of the Rafah or Erez crossings…
9 December 2014
Tags: Syria Refugees Palestinians Hunger Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
Children in Gaza paint and draw in workshops to help them cope with the aftermath of last summer’s war. To learn more about their lives, read Shell-Shocked: Growing Up in Gaza in the Autumn edition of ONE. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)
9 December 2014
Pope Francis sent a video message expressing his support for Iraqi Christians driven from their homes. The complete text of this message can be found here. (video: CTV)
Francis sends message of support to Iraqi Christians (Catholic Herald) Pope Francis has sent a message of support to Christians displaced by violence in the Middle East, praising them for bearing witness to the love of Christ. To those Christians driven out of Iraq by ISIS, Pope Francis expressed hope that they will be able to return home…
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri to meet patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox (Vatican Radio) Over the weekend, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches began a visit to Ethiopia until 11 December. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches is the dicastery of the Roman Curia responsible for contact with the Eastern Catholic churches. Toward the end of his visit in Ethiopia, the cardinal will meet with the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to confirm the love and the openness of Pope Francis towards the Orthodox Church…
Palestinians become observers at I.C.C. (Al Jazeera) The Palestinians on Monday officially became observers at the summit meeting of the 122 countries that are members of the International Criminal Court, a move they say is a step toward joining the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to seek membership in the ICC in order to press charges against Israel for alleged war crimes…
Ukraine launches new ceasefire but peace talks uncertain (Vatican Radio) A ceasefire called by President Petro Poroshenko has begun in eastern Ukraine as part of efforts to revive a violated truce with pro-Russian separatists, but it remained unclear whether a peace meeting would go ahead as planned on Tuesday…
5 December 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Ethiopian Orthodox Church
This January 2013 photo shows Maysoon Esso and her daughter Rana living in their apartment in Amman, Jordan. Five members of the Esso family had taken refuge in Jordan from northern Iraq about a year before. The father was still waiting to leave Iraq and join them. To support to those who have been displaced by violence in Iraq, click here. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
5 December 2014
Tags: Refugees Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees
In this 2013 photo, a Salesian sister in the Cremisan Valley indicates the projected path of the separation barrier through the convent's property. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic bishops in the Holy Land urge action on Cremisan (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land calls on the international community to take immediate action to protect the Cremisan Valley’s integrity within the Palestinian side, hoping the Israeli High Court changes the route of the separation barrier…
Jordan’s prince on third Catholic-Muslim summit (Vatican Radio) Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal says he is one of the Muslim world’s leaders who has responded to Pope Francis’ call for universal condemnation of violent extremism in the name of religion. This, as Christians in the Middle East feel increasing pressure — if not persecution — from Islamic extremists determined to cleanse the region of its Christian presence…
Latin Church leader: Support Syrian/Iraqi refugees in Jordan (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Maroun Lahham, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s patriarchal vicar in Jordan, says Caritas Jordan and Christian parishes across the country are struggling to help tens of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many outside the protective umbrella of the United Nations Refugee agency, UNHCR. The situation is becoming even more urgent with the arrival in Jordan of more than 100 Iraqi Christian refugees almost every day, he says…
ISIS, Al Nusra clash near Lebanon border (Daily Star Lebanon) Clashes erupted between ISIS and Al Nusra Front fighters near the border with Lebanon Friday, after gunmen rejected an attempt by the latter to unite the opposition in Syria’s Qalamoun region under a single leader. The clashes were concentrated on the outskirts of the Syrian village of Ras al Maara, a few miles from Lebanon’s northeastern town of Arsal…
Crimea is a ‘sacred’ land... but for whom? (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) Russian President Vladimir Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Crimea on 4 December by invoking Kievan Rus leader Vladimir the Great, who is said to have been baptized on the peninsula in the tenth century and converted the medieval Slavic state to Orthodox Christianity. Ukrainians, however, could deploy the same logic to justify Crimea’s inclusion in the modern Ukrainian state, historians and religious experts say…
4 December 2014
Tags: Refugees Palestine Jordan Crimea Catholic-Muslim relations
Members of the Rifo family gather in their temporary dwelling in Sulimaniyeh, Iraqi Kurdistan.
(photo: Don Duncan)
The Autumn edition of ONE features as its cover story a dramatic glimpse into the lives of Iraqis who have fled from ISIS and settled in Kurdistan. It includes profiles of four different families, including the Rifos:
The Rifos are one of a dozen or so Chaldean families that have found shelter at the center in Sulimaniyeh. During the day, they sit in the common area, watching news on TV or discussing events back home, notably the ongoing war between ISIS and the Kurdish defense forces, known as the Peshmerga. For meals and at night, each family retires to its own room and lays out foam mattresses. There, they bed down for the night. In the Rifos’ area, there are six people, including the grandmother, sharing one room.
“The moment we crossed the checkpoint into Iraqi Kurdistan, I didn’t know if I should cry or if I should laugh,” recalls Ibtihaj Rifo of their nocturnal exodus. “The first thing I said to my family is: ‘We have become displaced people. Now we will be receiving food and aid from people. We will have to queue for the shower and the bathroom.’ ”
While this is true, the queues are shorter in Sulimaniyeh than in Erbil, the Kurdish city closest to the occupied Christian areas. For this reason, Erbil is currently the most overburdened and chaotic emergency response zone. Many families arriving to Erbil, like the Rifos, found no space to stay comfortably there and so they moved deeper into Iraqi Kurdistan, to Sulimaniyeh.
It’s been over two months since the Rifo family fled home and, like many others, they are still coming to terms with the trauma.
Continue reading their story at this link. Be sure to explore other profiles and features in the Autumn edition, as well.
And to help support families like the Rifos, please visit our giving page.
4 December 2014
This 20 November photo shows smoke rising from a neighborhood in Kobane, Syria, damaged by fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish forces. (photo: CNS/Osman Orsal, Reuters)
UNESCO chief calls for ‘protected cultural zones’ in war-torn Iraq, Syria (U.N. News Center) Denouncing the persecution of minorities, attacks on cultural heritage and illicit trafficking in cultural properties in Iraq and Syria as “part of a strategy of deliberate cultural cleansing of exceptional violence,” the head of the United Nations cultural agency today urged the creation of “protected cultural zones” around heritage sites in the two crisis-riven countries…
Israel’s unexploded ordnance endangers Jordan Valley residents (Al Monitor) On 23 November Ahmed al Sheikh from the village of Bardala in the occupied Jordan Valley, near the Jordan River, was killed by an exploding mine left behind by the Israeli army following military maneuvers in the region. Sheikh was the head a family of five, his youngest son being only 5 years old. The Israeli army holds periodic military exercises in the Jordan Valley involving the use of warplanes and live ammunition. With the death of Sheikh, the number of those killed by Israel’s unexploded ordnance in the Jordan Valley has reached three since the beginning of 2014…
Chechen gun battle leaves at least 19 dead (Christian Science Monitor) Security forces in the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya stormed two buildings, including a school, in fierce gun battles with militants early Thursday that left at least 19 dead, authorities said. The fighting, which punctured the patina of stability ensured by years of heavy-handed rule by the Kremlin-appointed leader, erupted just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was to give his annual state of the nation address in Moscow…
Ukraine’s new government faces tough challenges (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s re-elected Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has warned of an even more difficult year ahead after parliament voted in his government. The prime minister made clear to legislators that his new cabinet faces major challenges in a nation still facing fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists that killed more than 4,300 people…
Gaza war leaves students with ruined classrooms (Al Monitor) Israel shelled dozens of schools during the recent Gaza war, destroying and damaging classrooms and leaving many students to study in impossible conditions…
3 December 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Palestine United Nations
People become emotional as more than 100,000 devotees fill the Chavara shrine on a hilltop at Mannanam, India, on 23 November, as Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara was canonized at the Vatican, along with Saint Euphrasia Eluvathingal, who also was from Kerala.
(photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
India is celebrating the canonization of two new saints:
More than 100,000 pilgrims thronged the Chavara shrine in southern Kerala state as Kuriakose Elias Chavara was canonized by Pope Francis on 23 November at the Vatican along with Euphrasia Eluvathingal, a member of the religious order founded by St. Chavara.
Thousands of people patiently waited in line for hours ahead of the live telecast of the canonization, which began at mid-afternoon local time, to pray at the tomb of St. Chavara, founder of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, a Syro-Malabar Catholic order.
“I wanted to celebrate this great day here,” Joseph Parayil, who had traveled more than 60 miles to be at the shrine to watch the ceremony, told Catholic News Service.
As Pope Francis pronounced the canonization of the two saints, even elderly women applauded as they watched the telecast on one of the dozen giant screens placed around the premises of the hilltop shrine.
St. Chavara lived at the shrine for 33 years until 1866.
Soon after the Vatican ceremony more than 100 priests concelebrated a Mass of thanksgiving for the pilgrims.
“Today the spirituality of India has reached the heavens. Father Chavara founded the first Indian religious congregation,” said Bishop Thomas Koorilos Chakkalapadickal of the Syro-Malankara Diocese of Tiruvalla during his homily.
Born in 1805, Chavara was ordained a priest in 1829. Two years later, he co-founded the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate, the first indigenous congregation. It now more than 3,000 professed members.
In 1866, Father Chavara also founded the Congregation of Mount Carmel, a women’s congregation with 6,500 members.
Oommen Chandy, Kerala’s chief minister and an Orthodox Christian, and Hindu ministers in his cabinet stood around St. Chavara’s tomb in front of the altar before the final blessing.
“With Father Chavara and Sister Euphrasia becoming saints, the entire Kerala society is being blessed today,” he told the pilgrims after the two-hour Mass.
Besides “setting off a spiritual renewal” among the Christians, Chandy reiterated that St. Chavara paved way for many social changes in Kerala.
By insisting that churches open “pallikoodam” (a school attached to church) to educate the low castes who were not allowed to enter schools at the time, the chief minister pointed out that “Father Chavara laid the foundation for the educational revolution of our state.”
Kerala is the most literate and educationally advanced state in India because of the work of the Catholic Church, which runs nearly half of the 15,000 private primary schools in the state. Catholics comprise less than 12 percent of Kerala’s population of 35 million.
Those attending the ceremonies were pleased by the canonizations.
“I am blessed and happy,” said Beeyar Prasad, a Hindu TV programmer. He delivered the concluding speech, describing St. Chavara’s legacy at Mannanam, during a rally concluding the celebrations that began with a rosary procession on the eve of the canonization.
“I am a lover of poetry and it is the beautiful poems and writings of Father Chavara that has made me his fan,” Prasad said.
“His writing on family life is relevant for every family whether Christian or Hindu,” he added.