13 August 2018
In this image from 2017, worshippers pray during Mass at St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Esqof, Iraq, which was damaged by ISIS militants. The Chaldean Catholic Church has concluded a synod in Baghdad offering thanks to God for those who have returned to Iraq after being displaced. (photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)
The Chaldean Catholic Church concluded a weeklong synod in Baghdad offering thanks to God for the return of numerous displaced Christians to their hometowns in the Ninevah Plain and for pastoral achievements in their dioceses.
The synod, held 7-13 August at the invitation of Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, brought together church leaders and participants from Iraq, the United States, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Canada, Australia and Europe to discuss issues vital for the church’s future both in Iraq and among its diaspora.
Patriarchs and other leaders proposed potential candidates for election as new bishops because several Iraqi clergy are nearing retirement age. Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service that no names would be made public until approved by the Holy See.
The final statement said a key discussion point focused on the need for “a larger number of well-qualified priests, monks and nuns” to work in Chaldean Catholic churches to “preserve the Eastern identity and culture of each country and its traditions.”
Synod participants decried the suffering experienced by Christians and other Iraqis over the past four years following the Islamic State takeover of Mosul and towns in the Ninevah Plain as well as the deterioration of Iraq’s political, economic and social institutions. They also praised the humanitarian efforts by the churches and Christian organizations to help those displaced to return home and re-establish their lives.
The synod expressed “sincere thanks to all the ecclesiastical institutions and international civil organizations that supported them during their long ordeal.”
Church officials and the international community have expressed growing concern that unless Iraq’s ancient religious minorities are supported in their rebuilding, many will seek a new life elsewhere.
Observers believe that 400,000 to 500,000 Christians now live in Iraq, compared to 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Iraq, whose roots trace back thousands of years.
The synod said that Iraqi Christians still aspire to see the government establish “a strong national civil state that provides them and other citizens equality and a decent living, as well as preserves them in an atmosphere of freedom, democracy and respect for pluralism.”
The religious leaders also expressed support for Cardinal Sako’s multiple efforts to encourage and build national unity in Iraq.
In addition, they urged Iraqi government officials to help the displaced to “rebuild their homes, rehabilitate the infrastructure of their towns and maintain their property” as most of the reconstruction efforts have been at the initiation of the church, international donors and foreign governments. They appealed to the international community to assist them in “a dignified and safe return.”
The synod called for an end to the war and Syria and in other Middle East countries. It also called on the U.S. and Iran to engage in diplomacy to resolve their differences and to avoid punitive measures, saying that “wars and sanctions only result in negative consequences.”
The church leaders offered Muslims warm wishes for the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday, 21-25 August, and expressed a sincere desire for them both to seek a “common life in peace, stability and love.”
10 August 2018
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Massive flooding has had a devastating effect on Kerla over the last several days, with officials describing the situation as "very serious." (video: YouTube/The Times of India)
Kerala flood situation ’very serious’ (UCANews.com) Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday described the situation in the flood-affected areas of Kerala as “very serious” and assured the state of all possible help from the Centre. Rajnath Singh, who arrived here on Sunday afternoon, made the statement after an aerial survey of Idukki and Ernakulam districts. He was accompanied by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General Sanjay Kumar. ”The situation is very serious in Kerala. The Centre will extend all necessary support to the state in all respects,” Rajnath Singh told the inmates of a relief camp near Kochi…
Countries vow support to Jordan after terrorist attacks (The Jordan Times) Countries from across the Middle East and elsewhere continued to offer their condolences to Jordan on Sunday, after five security personnel were killed in a terrorist attack. The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemned the attack on the security personnel in Fuhais and Salt. ”The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemns the attack on Jordanian security personnel in Fuhais on 10 August and the ensuing terrorist actions in Salt on 11 August...
Egyptian monk charged in murder of Coptic Orthodox bishop (Vatican News) Prosecutors say Wael Saad, a former monk at the monastery — who was defrocked last week — confessed to using an iron bar to bludgeon the bishop; however, there is no known motive for the crime, but it is reported he was being investigated by the victim for violating some rules of monasticism. Saad has now been charged and remains in custody, as investigations continue. The Coptic Orthodox Church has frozen the recruitment of new monks for the next 12 months, banned the use of social media, and instructed monks that leaving monastery grounds requires official permission…
Arms depot blast in Syria kills at least 67 (BBC) At least 67 people were killed and 33 injured by an explosion at an arms depot in rebel-held northern Syria on Sunday, rescuers and activists say. The blast in the village of Sarmada, in Idlib province, caused the collapse of two five-story buildings. More than 50 of the dead were civilians. The others were members of a jihadist alliance linked to al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)…
Ethiopian rebels declare ceasefire (Reuters) An Ethiopian rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire on Sunday, the latest dissident movement to aim for an end to hostilities in the wake of reforms…
2,200-year-old earring found in Jerusalem parking lot (Israel21c.org) The 2,200-year-old earring — a tiny gold filigree piece from Jerusalem’s Hellenistic era — was discovered during an archeological dig in the lot next to the City of David National Park. The hoop earring bears the head of a horned animal, possibly an antelope or deer. Excavators also found nearby a gold bead with intricate embroidered ornamentation resembling a thin rope pattern. While the earring’s owner and gender are a mystery, archaeologists are sure that it “definitely belonged to Jerusalem’s upper class. This can be determined by the proximity to the Temple Mount and the Temple, which was functional at the time, as well as the quality of the gold piece of jewelry…”
10 August 2018
Tags: India Egypt Ethiopia Jerusalem
Sister Odile, 84, helps young residents of the orphanage study in the basement of the church in Egypt. (photo: David Degner)
Sunday, the United Nations marks International Youth Day:
There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labor market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.
12 August was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999, and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.
From the very beginning, CNEWA has been at the forefront of efforts to help uplift, inspire and educate the world’s youth — and that mission continues every day around the parts of the world we serve.
We are working to give disabled children a brighter future in Armenia; we are helping displaced families from Syria start over in Lebanon; we’re helping young Ethiopians learn new skills.
And, as the image above shows, we’re also supporting sisters seeking to pass on the faith in corners of our world, such as Egypt, facing violence and persecution.
All these efforts and more are bringing hope and help to the next generation. You can be a part of that mission, too! Check out this page to learn how.
10 August 2018
Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Children Armenia
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, who is head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, concelebrates Mass on 8 August during the 136th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Baltimore. He called on Catholics to remember the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (photo: CNS /courtesy Knights of Columbus)
Syria’s war could be entering its last, most dangerous phase (The Washington Post) As Syria’s war enters what could be its last and most dangerous stretch, the Syrian government and its allies will have to contend for the first time with the presence of foreign troops in the quest to bring the rest of the country back under President Bashar al-Assad’s control…
Kerala flood claims dozens of lives; thousands evacuated (AP) Torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 26 people in flooding, landslides and house collapses in the southern Indian state of Kerala with more than 15,500 people taking shelter in state-run relief camps…
Archbishop makes plea to remember Ukraine’s ’silent’ war (Crux) Four years of fighting in eastern Ukraine have led to “the biggest humanitarian crisis on the European continent since the end of the Second World War,” according to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev called on the international community and the Catholic Church not to neglect the crisis in Ukraine. He made the plea during his keynote address at the Knights of Columbus convention in Baltimore on 7 August…
For Christians in Iraq, trust is the hardest thing to rebuild (Crux) Even in the context of the vast destruction left by ISIS everywhere across the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq, nothing compares to the staggering sight of Mosul’s Old City, where piles of rubble and overturned cars riddled with bullet holes make up half the landscape of the once-thriving city…
Eritrean officials in Ethiopia to discuss peace deal (AfricaNews.com) A senior Eritrean delegation is due in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss implementation of a historic peace deal between the two countries. The Eritrean Information Minister confirmed that the delegation comprised Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab. The “delegation will deliver a message from President Isaias Afwerki to Prime minister Abiy Ahmed and discuss progress of the implementation of the agreement,” Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet…
Syrian refugee women find their way to Jordanian economy (The Jordan Times) a vocational and soft skills training project was established by international NGO Oxfam in April 2017, helping Syrian refugee women enhance their employability and increase their self reliance…
9 August 2018
Tags: Syria Ukraine Iraqi Christians Kerala
A child goes for a checkup at the Martha Schmouny Clinic in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the June 2018 edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on how CNEWA is able to evangelize through good works, often in surprising ways:
We exercise our baptismal mandate to live the Gospel of Jesus and to share his Good News with everyone. To be more concrete: CNEWA supports, through your generous contributions, many clinics and dispensaries, which serve everyone in need. Oftentimes these people are welcomed, embraced and tended to by the loving care of religious sisters and devoted lay associates.
For some patients, of whatever religious background or faith, this might be the only expression of love and human dignity they experience. And whether spoken or unspoken, it is done in the name of Jesus.
In hundreds of schools supported by CNEWA, the church — through priests, sisters, brothers and lay staff — offers a refuge from the realities of hatred, bigotry and disrespect. For a few hours each day, youngsters learn that God loves all of us and wants us to be at peace with each other. And oftentimes the lessons learned at these schools are long lasting, even life changing.
This is part of the future for many areas of CNEWA’s world. These are the fruits of this form of evangelization.
Read more. Want to know how you can support this wonderful work? Check out this link.
9 August 2018
Tags: Iraq CNEWA
Residents gather for prayer and group discussion in the outdoor spaces of the Trippadam Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center run by the Bethany Sisters in Kerala. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
In the current edition of ONE, writer Anubha George takes us to A Refuge to Mend and Grow, where the Bethany Sisters are helping forgotten and abandoned women. She offers some additional impressions below.
After an eight-hour journey from Kochi, we begin our climb into the mountains of Wayanad in north Kerala.
Fourteen hairpin turns later, where we see monkeys snatching food off people, the air turns cold. Gone is the humidity of Kerala. This feels a bit like the Indian version of the prairie —it’s spacious and very breezy. The air is clean and there are tall coconut trees all around. It is indeed a very picturesque part of the place known as “God’s Own Country,” Kerala.
There are two friendly faces waiting for us at the Trippadam Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center in Sultan Bathery run by the Bethany Sisters. We meet Sister Tabitha and Sister Darsana. Along with three other sisters, they look after 50 women who stay here. These women have been abandoned by their families because they suffer from mental health problems. Some of them will be here until their dying day. There’s medical help available here from the local government-run hospital; women can receive an assessment and monthly follow-ups with a psychiatrist, along with free medication and regular counseling sessions.
There are many challenges. The building is old; it was once a convent before it became an orphanage. It needs repairs. But in the middle of all this, the sisters offer a place of welcome and peace.
The sisters have created a sense of community and well-being for those who are with them; they give the women a feeling of security and of being loved. There’s a purpose to their lives— a life of routine. The day here starts at 5.30 am when the women are given coffee in bed. Then there’s prayer and meditation, followed by Mass. After breakfast, it’s on to chores around the center, such as cleaning and cooking. There’s also the garden to take care of, and chickens and cattle that need looking after. After lunch, it’s nap time. In the evening, there’s prayer outdoors in the garden (where there’s a little chapel) and then it’s lights out at 9 pm.
Throughout the day, there’s significant focus on prayer, alongside medical help and emotional support. The sisters believe it helps calm down the women. It gives them a sense of well-being and makes them feel that they’re not alone but that Christ is with them at all times.
We are reminded of that as we leave. As we walk out, a woman named Usha says goodbye. ”Christ looks after me,” she says. ”And he loves me.”
Read more from Anubha George in the June 2018 edition of ONE.
9 August 2018
In this file photo, Orthodox clergy celebrate the feast of Temqat – the Ethiopian commemoration of the baptism of Christ. In the aftermath of violence that has claimed the lives of at least six priests and numerous believers, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has announced a period of fasting and prayer for peace. (photo: CNEWA/Cody Christopulos)
Fasting for prayer and peace in Ethiopia (Vatican News) Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, has decided to go through 16 days of fasting and prayer in order to invoke peace and reconciliation in the country’s Jijiga and Somali regions. The violence that took off in those areas of Ethiopia last week caused around 30 deaths. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has suffered the aftermath of this violence as, according to local news agencies, at least seven churches have been burned down and six priests and numerous believers killed…
Israel launches airstrikes in response to rocket attacks from Gaza (Business Insider) Palestinian militants on the Gaza Strip launched at least 150 rockets at Israel overnight, and Israel retaliated by pounding the region with deadly airstrikes. The Israel Defense Forces said mounting violence began Wednesday after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel responded with tank fire…
Small Indian state of Goa has big impact (CNS) Goa, a former Portuguese colony that now ranks as having one of the most famous beaches in India, is continuing to promote Christianity in Asia as part of its colonial legacy, retired Archbishop Raul Gonsalves said…
Russian Orthodox fringe group hopes for return of the tsar (Reuters) The Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers is a small fringe group of Russian nationalists with no political power that stages processions, rallies and even burns books to promote their views. Clad in all-black and marching with their Orthodox banners, the group pairs a biker club’s aesthetic with the gold of religious icons. ”We are striving for the restoration of an autocratic monarchy. Like the one we had under our tsars,” Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich, the group’s white-bearded leader, said…
How robots are throwing a lifeline to Syrian refugees (The Guardian) Founded by Syrian neurosurgeon Dr Fadi al-Halabi, Maps is hugely innovative: it offers classes under the Lebanese curriculum, so that students can transfer into Lebanese schools if given the opportunity, and it also gives jobs to Syrian teachers — now refugees themselves — albeit on a volunteer basis. (Under Lebanese labour laws, Syrians are severely restricted in the work they are legally able to undertake.) Halabi has also founded three medical centers, which rely on unpaid Syrian doctors and nurses to provide care to 15,000 Lebanese and Syrians across the Bekaa valley. At a disused hospital that serves as Maps headquarters, former patient preparation and operation rooms have been turned into “innovation centers” where robotics, computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), and art and design are taught…
8 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank
Children engage in a finger painting activity at a summer day camp run by the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation in the Bourj Hammoud section of Beirut. The camp is funded in part by CNEWA. (photo: CNS/Krikor Aynilian, courtesy Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation)
In the sweltering, crowded Bourj Hammoud district of Beirut, a group of children from poor Christian families have discovered a summertime oasis of joy.
The 390 children, ages 3 to 13, are participants in the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation’s day camp, funded in part by CNEWA .
Held in a school, the seven-week day camp combines sports, games, art and activities such as cooking, music and dance with a mix of instruction in nutrition, hygiene, math, English and Bible study. The children also go on weekly outings to places their families normally are not able to afford.
The camp gives children an opportunity “to have new friends, to enjoy their childhood, to have these moments of fun and lovely memories within their miseries,” Serop Ohanian, the corporation’s Lebanon field director, told Catholic News Service.
There are no playgrounds or green spaces in densely populated Bourj Hammoud, often referred to as Little Armenia. Settled by Armenians who had fled the early 20th-century genocide, the area has grown into a vibrant community. However, Lebanon’s economic crisis has caused more families to slip into poverty. The district also has seen Syrian refugees resettling there.
Half of the camp participants are Lebanese Armenians and half are Syrian Armenian refugees from Aleppo, Syria. All are Christian. Armenian is the principal language spoken.
The children are nurtured and guided by 34 volunteers, most of whom are university students majoring in education, psychology and special education, specially trained by the corporation.
Volunteer Nver Bodozian, who works with 3-year-old children, is a refugee from Aleppo herself. She and her family came to Lebanon six years ago, early in Syria’s civil war. Her great-grandparents -- who fled the Armenian genocide -- originally settled in Aleppo.
Bodozian and her family are hoping to obtain visas to be resettled in a Western country. Meanwhile, she is studying to become a teacher at Kinder Mesrobian College in Beirut.
“We show the children love and care,” Bodozian said. “Even though I feel they have so much stress and sadness in their lives, they are so happy here.”
Bodozian and another volunteer have just completed an art activity with the preschoolers. Brilliant finger-painted butterflies, still drying, are hung across the classroom.
Next on their program is short play, retelling “The Three Little Pigs” story.
Young Migel, in the role of the wolf, “taps” on an imaginary door, making threatening “woo” sounds. His classmates, portraying little pigs, gleefully scoot around the room in feigned fright.
Later, seated at colorful child-sized tables and chairs, the youngsters prepare to eat sandwiches before recess. Bodozian leads them in a short prayer: “Thank you, God, for this day. Thank you for our food. Please help the poor.”
“If they can have faith in God beginning at a young age, it’s everything,” Bodozian said.
“Although not a faith-based organization, we do encourage the children and their families to trust in God and live by faith,” Ohanian explained.
“We want to spread a beacon of hope within the community, within these neighborhoods and tell the children to dream big dreams, to get out from their difficulties and give them the opportunity to be a productive member within this community,” he said.
Downstairs, recess is already underway for the 7- and 8-year-olds. Balls zigzag across the outdoor courtyard, following the rhythm of the children’s joy. Some kids stroll together, chatting with arms joined. A group of girls practice dance moves.
Taking a break from shuffling a soccer ball, Kevin, 8, a refugee from Aleppo, said, “my best friends are here,” pointing to Sevag and Garbis, both of Lebanon.
Their teacher, Alice Majarian, 26, told CNS that she calls the trio the Three Musketeers.
Majarian recounted the camp’s first day when Kevin told his campmates that they should play nicely together. Kevin is “really organized and friendly,” Majarian said.
Sevag likewise promotes good manners to his campmates. Majarian said he frequently tells the class, “we should respect the teachers” and reminds them to say “please” and “thank you.”
Garbis, still eating his sandwich, hugs Majarian.
“When you see the children growing and blossoming before you, it’s a great satisfaction,” she said as the trio resumes playing.
The children come from “complicated” backgrounds, whether because of financial struggles in their family or from the hollowed-out existence as refugees, Majarian said.
“These children are not refugees voluntarily. It’s really difficult to be pulled away from your house, surroundings and friends, to see how your parents and neighbors suffered. Digesting all those traumas is too much for children to handle,” she said.
The corporation is a program of the Karagheusian Foundation, which was established in New York City in 1918 after the death of 14-year-old Howard Karagheusian from pneumonia. His parents resolved to establish a humanitarian mission in his memory, focusing at first on sheltering, feeding and educating orphaned children who had survived the Armenian genocide. The corporation has operated in Lebanon, Syria and Armenia for more than 95 years.
The program’s clinic in Bourj Hammoud sees 2,500 patients a month; 70 percent are Syrian refugees and 30 percent are Lebanese. Of the refugees, 60 percent are Muslim and 40 percent are Christian.
Children enrolled in the camp also receive a free medical checkup and dental care.
For another example of the generous work of the Karagheusian Corporation, read A Letter from Lebanon in the current edition of ONE.
8 August 2018
Tags: Lebanon Armenia Beirut
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians processed through Karamles in the Nineveh Plain Monday night to commemorate the invasion of ISIS exactly four years ago. (photo: Fides/Asia News)
Returning Christians hold procession on anniversary of exodus (Fides) Hundreds of Iraqi Christians in Karamles took part in a procession Monday night, to commemorate the night four years ago earlier, when ISIS drove many tens of thousands of Christians from the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain. Before the procession, there were prayers and a reflection on the pain and suffering caused by that dramatic mass exodus…
Lebanese town flooded with refugees hopes for return to normal (The New York Times) Seven years of war in Syria has displaced more than half the country’s population, leaving millions of refugees shipwrecked between the wasteland of home and the void of exile. Among the many Lebanese and Jordanian towns that received them was Arsal, where rented rooms and tent cities overflowed at one point with 120,000 Syrians — quadruple its Lebanese population…
In Jerusalem, concerns over crumbling Western Wall (The Sun) A massive survey of Jerusalem’ Western Wall is being planned, it emerged today, after a huge slab fell just feet away from a worshipper. Expert opinion is split on whether the collapse was a one-off, or if more stones are ready to fall…
India’s president praises contribution of Christian community (Crux) Noting that the Christian community in the state of Kerala is one of the oldest not only in India but anywhere in the world, the president of India said on Tuesday the Church’s heritage and history are a matter of immense pride for the entire country. President Ram Nath Kovind was speaking at the centenary celebrations of St. Thomas College in Thrissur, the city considered the cultural capital of Kerala…
Egypt’s Copts commemorate Virgin Mary amid tight security (Andalou Agency) Egyptian Coptic Christians on Tuesday began a 15-day fast to commemorate the Virgin Mary amid stepped-up security measures in and around the nation’s churches. The two-week religious holiday comes some 10 days after a prominent Coptic Bishop was found dead at the Anba Makar Monastery in Egypt’s northern Beheira province…
Magdala: first century synagogue unites Christians and Jews (Rome Reports) When the Legionaries of Christ acquired this land to build a church and pilgrim house, they never imagined they would discover a real treasure. Magdala, a town previously containing 4,000 inhabitants according to archaeologists was also Mary Magdalene’s hometown. The excavations have recovered 20 percent of the surface at the present moment. Among other things, they have unearthed the port, purification baths and the market where fish were sent to Rome, according to historian Flavius Josephus. However, the most important of all these discoveries is the synagogue from the first century…
7 August 2018
Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Iraqi Christians ISIS
A volunteer assists a young visitor at the Emili Aregak Center in Gyumri, Armenia. Learn more about how this center has become A Source of Light for so many children in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)