19 August 2015
Palestinian Christian worshipers and priests take part in an open-air liturgy to protest the building of Israel’s controversial barrier in the Cremisan Valley.
(photo: Musa Al-Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)
“When you are besieging a city for a long time to capture it, you shall not destroy the trees by wielding the axe against them...” — Deuteronomy 20:19
The Cremisan Valley could be called the Valley of Broken Hopes. It lies between the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and the illegal settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo. It has been the center of controversy around Israeli plans to extend the “security barrier” through the valley. The barrier which has been planned for many years, would run down the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem, severing some 50 Palestinian farming families from their farms, and separating the community of Salesian priests and brothers from that of the Salesian sisters. In addition, the 30-foot-high wall would surround on three sides the school run by the sisters.
For a time, it seemed the barrier would not be built. In an apparent victory for the Christian community in the Palestinian West Bank, the Society of St. Yves, a legal aid group of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, announced on 2 April that the Israeli Supreme Court had accepted the many petitions of Christian groups and rejected the plans to build an extension of the Israeli separation wall in the Cremisan Valley.
Those hopes for justice were dashed earlier this month. On 5 August 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed the petitions to have the wall moved to another place in the valley. Construction of the wall was begun almost immediately. Protests from the largely Christian population in the Valley quickly followed.
Some were prayerful and peaceful (such as the one shown above). But others led to violent confrontations with Israeli soldiers.
According to Vatican Radio, while “Israel claims the construction of the barrier is necessary for security reasons, Palestinians say the move is aimed at confiscating fertile land for the expansion of two Israeli settlements.”
Israeli border guards arrest a Palestinian protestor who was trying to reach tractors working on the construction of Israel’s controversial barrier in the Cremisan Valley.
(photo: Musa Al-Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)
19 August 2015
In this image from 2004, the Rev. Varghese Palathingal holds a young H.I.V. patient named Christy, who never leaves the priest’s side. (photo: K.L. Simon)
Several years ago, ONE took readers to a hospice in India offering care to AIDS patients:
The hospice was established in 2000 for patients with H.I.V. or AIDS, who were untreated or had been turned away by other medical facilities.
“We have had some 300 patients pass through here since we opened,” said the Rev. Varghese Palathingal, who runs the hospice named after the former Syro-Malabar Catholic Archbishop of Trichur, Mar Joseph Kundukulam. “We are the only facility of this kind in Kerala, perhaps in all of southern India.”
The AIDS epidemic in India is well-documented. The country has the second largest infected population in the world after South Africa. But for all practical purposes the country acts as if AIDS is not a serious social problem. Ignorance remains common among the public and even some supposed experts.
Hospitals and medical staff still routinely turn away patients. When their infection becomes known, people are pushed out of their homes by their communities, sometimes even by their own families.
Fear of dismissal or reprisal has forced most to keep their H.I.V. status secret at work and school. In addition, drugs that are immediately available in the West are out of reach due to cost. With nowhere to go, many of the infected take their own lives.
At the facility, the patients are glad to see Father Palathingal. His speech, touch and manner reveal real affection and concern. The children often swarm around him like some kind of off-season Santa Claus.
One child, Christy, grew so close to the priest that he now lives with him and the sisters at Pope Paul Mercy Home, a nearby facility for the mentally handicapped, also run by Father Palathingal.
Christy, an active 2-year-old who insists on going everywhere with the priest, was also at the center of a recent medical controversy. The boy was born H.I.V. positive and was abandoned by his parents. When his status turned negative at around 18 months, his health became the subject of public speculation.
Father Palathingal, the sisters and even some doctors credited the Ayurvedic treatment the boy received at the hospice for his negative status. Other medical professionals disagreed, saying such cases are rare but natural occurrences.
“During the first 18 months, a mother’s antibodies can remain in the child, without infecting him,” said Dr. Gopal Sankar, a young physician volunteering at Mar Kundukulam. “This may lead to H.I.V. tests coming back positive at first. Later, when the mother’s antibodies finally disappear from the child, the same tests will come out negative.”
Read more in “Hoping Against Hope” from the July-August 2004 edition of ONE.
19 August 2015
Sources say Khaled Asaad, the 82-year-old archaeologist who supervised the ancient ruins of Palmyria in Syria, was beheaded by ISIS militants. (photo: Vatican Radio/AP)
ISIS militants reportedly behead archeologist in Syria (Vatican Radio) The archaeologist who looked after ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria is reported to have been killed by Islamic State (ISIS) militants. Khaled Asaad was taken hostage by the group after it seized the Unesco World Heritage site earlier this year. The family of the 82-year-old scholar said he had been beheaded by ISIS fighters, according to Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim...
Iraq’s economy battered by war (AP) Since early 2014, Iraq has suffered a serious economic decline after the Shiite-led government in Baghdad started losing territory to the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group. Low oil prices exacerbated the decline, wreaking havoc on Iraq’s national budget, of which oil revenue makes nearly 95 percent...
Israel turns focus to anti-tunnel technology (Reuters) A year after Hamas used cross-border tunnels to launch deadly attacks during the Gaza war, Israel is testing new techniques to detect the hidden passages as a “top priority,” sources say, but has yet to announce the system fully operational. Beyond standard military secrecy, the reticence to trumpet the measures may be to mask lingering short-falls in the system and avoid giving Israelis a false sense of security as they return to homes near the Gaza Strip abandoned during the war...
Why Israel and Armenia should adopt the Yazidis (Huffington Post) The recent horrifying New York Times exposé on the Islamic State’s sex slavery system targeting Yazidi women was one of the most-read articles on the paper’s website in the last days. And yes, in a doubly perverse sense it feels good to be morally outraged at ISIS for a few minutes. But let us not get all too comfortable with our outrage over what the Times titled “Theology of Rape,” because we like to forget just how easily we forget. The history of mass media and atrocities in the modern world has taught us that the hurdle for us to really care — to the point where something is done about atrocities in progress — is just astoundingly high...
Russian cultural institutions urged to hold courses in self-defense (The Art Newspaper) After an attack last week by Russian Orthodox fundamentalists who damaged works of art in a Moscow exhibition, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the general director of St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum has urged the country’s cultural institutions to hold self-defence courses. In an open letter published on the museum’s website on Monday, 17 August, Piotrovsky proposed that Russia’s museums “immediately organise in-house training on protecting the state of their exhibitions, taking into account that as of November of this year, police will stop physically guarding museums,” due to budget cuts. He added that the Russian Museums Union, of which he is president, is looking to take legal measures against vandals...
18 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel ISIS
Young people are active in the faith, according to members of the congregation at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Tbilisi, Georgia. In addition taking part in weekly liturgy (as shown above), they attend formation classes supported by CNEWA to learn more about their
Armenian heritage. (photo: Molly Corso)
The last century or so has not been kind to Armenia or its Catholic minority, who form the Armenian Catholic Church. Sharing the distinct rites and traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church — while maintaining full communion with the bishop of Rome — this community of faith has contributed considerably to the vitality of the Armenian nation, invigorating monasticism, scholarship and social service even as terror has nearly destroyed it.
2015 marks the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. Although large numbers of Assyro-Chaldean and Greek Christians also suffered deportation or death at the hands of agents of the crumbling Ottoman Turkish Empire, the sheer number of Armenians affected astounds. By 1923, as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished.
The perpetrators did not make distinctions between Apostolic and Catholic Armenians. Their actions, however, decimated the tiny Armenian Catholic Church. In all, 7 bishops, 130 priests, 47 women religious and up to a 100,000 faithful died. Churches and schools were leveled. And while the post-Ottoman Turkish government distanced itself from the atrocities, the state appropriated abandoned properties and redistributed them to Muslim Turks.
Some of those who survived fled to Russian-dominated Armenia. Most survivors, perhaps a quarter of a million people, fled to Lebanon and Syria. There, from their place of exile, they re-established their communities and prospered, that is until war in Syria revisited them.
Sister Arousiag Sajonian leads catechesis programs at summer camps for youth in Tzakhkatzor, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 1928, surviving Armenian Catholic bishops gathered in Rome, where they agreed to transfer the patriarchate to Beirut. While historically the largest concentration of Armenian Catholics lived in Lebanon and in the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Damascus and Kamichlié, recent statistics provided by the church indicate upward of 400,000 Armenian Catholics living in Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.
While the tsars impeded the development of all Eastern Catholic communities in Imperial Russian lands, the Soviets were more brutal. In the 1920’s and 30’s, Stalin suppressed all Eastern Catholic churches. In Armenia and Georgia, party members shuttered Armenian Catholic village churches, arrested and shot parish priests and deported religious sisters. The Soviets wiped out all traces of Armenian Catholicism — or so they thought.
Catholic Armenians began to surface after a devastating earthquake in December 1988 flattened northern Armenia. And as the Soviet Union dissolved, these Catholics boldly petitioned for their churches to be reopened and for personnel to staff them.
The Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception were among the first to respond, sending a team of sisters to work with families and village communities in northern Armenia and southern Georgia. And in 1991, the Holy See created a bishopric for Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe, but the church is hampered by a lack of priestly vocations. Despite considerable resource shortages, however, the Armenian Catholic Church administers schools, camps and social service centers that offer help to all.
Read a full account of the Armenian Catholic Church from ONE magazine here.
18 August 2015
Israeli authorities uproot olive trees to build the separation wall near Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank on 17 August 2015. To learn more about the controversy surrounding the wall — and the people whose lives will be impacted by it — check out this post.
(photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
18 August 2015
CNEWA staffers Chris Kennedy and Norma Intriago, with the Rev. Phil Latronico, during CNEWA’s visit to the New Jersey Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference on 15 August. (photo: CNEWA)
Last weekend, CNEWA attended the New Jersey Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference in Washington Township, at the gracious invitation of the Rev. Phil Latronico, the conference chair. We were there to spread awareness about the work we do on behalf of Christians throughout the Middle East.
Our presence there was especially significant as it was the one-year anniversary of the escape of 120,000 Christians from the Nineveh Plain, as they fled the violence and terror of ISIS.
My colleague, Norma Intriago, had the chance to address the conference during Saturday’s liturgy. She spoke movingly about those who are caring for the displaced Christians — people like Sr. Maria Hanna, OP, the Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. She — along with 72 of her sisters — also fled the Nineveh Plain last August to the safety of Erbil, in Northern Iraq. There, with CNEWA’s help, the sisters immediately began ministering to their fellow displaced, providing emergency aid, healthcare and education.
As our visit was on the Feast of the Assumption, Norma also spoke of a story she heard from one of CNEWA’s church partners, of a mother and her four children, who fled ISIS in Syria for the safety of Lebanon. Unable to continue, she made an impossible choice — to leave her two youngest behind in the mountains so she could carry the rest of her family away from harm. Who else could comfort her and so many other mothers but Our Lady of Sorrows, who hears the prayers of so many who are desperate for help?
Norma concluded by asking for support and prayers for all those suffering in the Middle East, and especially for the caregivers like Sr. Maria Hanna, who face their own adversity and struggles while ministering to children and families in need.
The response by those at the conference was incredibly uplifting, and we’re so thankful for the new friends we made. In just a few hours, we were able to raise over $1,000 for those caring for people in some of the most troubled parts of the world. We’re especially grateful to Father Latronico, for his wonderful welcome and continuing support.
If you would like us to visit your parish or prayer group, please contact Norma Intriago, our development director, at email@example.com.
18 August 2015
Bodies of Syrians are seen after Assad regime forces bombed a marketplace inside residential areas in Douma Town of East Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 16 August 2015.
(photo: Motasem Rashed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians killed in fierce clashes in Ukraine (ABC — Australia) Ten people have reportedly been killed in eastern Ukraine in a flare-up in violence between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. Military and separatist sources said at least two Ukrainian soldiers and eight civilians were killed over the past day in several locations in the east of the country. It is thought to be the highest single day death toll in more than a month...
In Syria, UN “horrified” by attacks on civilians (BBC) The UN’s humanitarian chief has said he is “horrified” by the attacks on civilians taking place in Syria. Stephen O'Brien told reporters during a visit to Damascus that the targeting of non-combatants in the country’s war was “unlawful, unacceptable and must stop.” He was “particularly appalled” by government air strikes on a rebel-held suburb of the capital on Sunday...
Iraq’s summer of protest (Al Jazeera) For the past six weeks, thousands of Iraqis across the streets of Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and other cities have been protesting electricity cuts amid soaring temperatures, rampant corruption and the government’s mismanagement of basic services. They protestors, many of them young secular Iraqis, want government officials to be held accountable...
Church in Ethiopia works to promote family values (Vatican Radio) Series of workshops are being conducted for Pastoral Coordinators, Catechists, couples, laity councils, youth, Catholic students of Universitites, Catholic Life Community Movements and Young Catholic Workers on “Vocation and Mission of Families in the Church and in the Contemporary World.” According to the Rev. Hailegabriel Meleku, National Pastoral Coordinator, ‘Family’ is given great attention as the current situation of families is precarious in Ethiopia and the world. “All families have a mission to announce the Gospel of the family, the National plan of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat’s summer program is focused around the theme of the family, its vocation and their mission in the Church and the contemporary world,” he said...
Church leaders in India accuse authorities of tolerating crimes against Christians (UCANews.com) A parish church in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has been robbed, prompting Church leaders to accuse state authorities of allowing criminals to commit crimes against Christians with impunity. Thieves used the cover of darkness to break into St. Joseph Church in Ganj Basoda in Sagar diocese on 13 August and steal an unspecified amount of cash from the collection box, parish officials said. “This is the third theft or attempted theft from this church” in less than a year, parish priest Nitish Jacob told ucanews.com...
17 August 2015
This image from April shows a general view of the Crimesan landscape around the Christian village of the same name, near Bethlehem. (photo: Musa Al-Shaer, AFP/Getty Images)
After years of debate and dispute, the Israeli Supreme Court last month ruled to allow the building of a separation barrier through the historic Cremisan Valley.
From Vatican Radio:
Following a series of international appeals, the court in April blocked plans by the Israeli military to extend the wall through the valley which is home to two Salesian monasteries and a convent school. Under the latest court ruling, those religious buildings will remain on the Palestinian side of the wall, accessible from the town of Beit Jala, while land belonging to 58 Palestinian families will be cut off on the Israeli side of the wall. While Israel claims the construction of the barrier is necessary for security reasons, Palestinians say the move is aimed at confiscating fertile land for the expansion of two Israeli settlements.
Last week, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement condemning the move. The statement says in part:
We believe that peace can only be achieved by seeking justice for all. The separation of peoples through walls and barriers can only further divide and anger people and will not contribute to peace. We call on all leaders in the Holy Land to work for peace by seeking justice, and to show mercy and compassion to one another. We express our solidarity and support for the Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Faoud Twal, his auxiliary bishops, and all the suffering peoples of the Holy Land.
Furthermore, we hold all people of the Middle East in our hearts and prayers. We continue to pray for them.
Just this morning, CNEWA received word that the Israeli Defense Force arrived in the valley and, in preparation for the construction, began destroying olive trees belonging to five Palestinian families from Beit Jala.
Meantime, The Society of St. Yves has submitted a new petition to Israel’s High Court, seeking to have the whole planned route of the Separation Wall revealed before construction begins.
You can read more history and background on the wall here and here.
17 August 2015
Children attend a class in traditional Arab dance at the Centro Social Hondureño árabe.
(photo: Carina Wint)
Some might be surprised to learn there’s a thriving Arab population in the heart of Central America. We explored some of that phenomenon in 2006:
The Centro Social Hondureño árabe is Honduras’s largest and most opulent country club, boasting tennis courts, a fitness center, sushi bar, disco and other luxuries rare in this country that is one of the poorest in the hemisphere. But for all its glitter, the club’s chief distinction, suggested by its name, is that it was founded by and primarily for the country’s small but prosperous Arab-Honduran community.
“The community has always looked for forums to socialize, to maintain our bond, and this club is a consummation of that feeling,” said Lidia Abouid, the club’s supervisor.
On a recent summer day, only a couple of miles from the urban din of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s city of industry, scores of children could be found paddling in an Olympic-sized pool, cooling off after a morning of tennis and racquetball. The voice of the Lebanese chanteuse Fayrouz wafted over the grounds as the staff tidied the club’s three banquet halls: the Palestine, the Jerusalem and the Bethlehem.
Today, there are as many as 220,000 Arab-Hondurans. While they represent only 3 percent of the total population of 7.3 million people, they have had an outsized influence on the nation. They are most visible in business and only slightly less so in politics. Centro Social’s president, Juan Canahuati, a textile magnate with numerous other entrepreneurial activities, is considered the country’s top businessman. Coffee exporter and former Industry and Commerce Minister Oscar Kafati’s ancestors immigrated to Honduras in the late 19th century from Beit Jala, a Christian town adjacent to Bethlehem. Former President Carlos Flores Facusse’s mother came from Bethlehem.
Arab immigration to Latin America is not unique to Honduras nor are such success stories. To take just two prominent examples: former Argentine President Carlos Ménem (1989-1999) traces his roots to Syria; Mexico’s telecommunications titan, Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s third richest man, is of Lebanese descent.
Nearly all Arab-Hondurans claim Christian Palestinian origins, making the Arab-Honduran experience unique. Proportionally, there are more people of Palestinian descent in Honduras than any other Latin American country.
Arab Palestinians first came to Honduras in the 19th century, but the largest waves arrived after 1896, the year the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which then controlled
Palestine, first allowed emigration. Numerous factors motivated the early emigrants. In 1909, the Ottomans included in the military draft Christians and Jews, who were once forbidden to serve, but required to pay tribute instead. Economic incentives also drove Arabs abroad. Tourism and commerce, areas in which many Christians worked, declined during World War I. And increasingly Palestine’s Arab Christians found themselves competing with the growing Jewish population, largely secular Zionist immigrants from Europe, in their entrepreneurial activities. Just as today, there seemed to be more opportunities for enterprising Arabs abroad.
Read more about “Middle Eastern, Central American Style” in the September 2006 edition of ONE.
17 August 2015
Recruits of the Azov far-right Ukrainian volunteer battalion take their oaths during a ceremony in Kiev, on 14 August 2015. Two people were killed in another round of intense shelling between Western-backed Ukrainian government’s forces and pro-Russian fighters in the separatist east. Ukraine’s military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said one soldier was killed and six wounded in the past 24 hours of fighting across the mostly Russian-speaking war zone.
(photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)
Germany warns of new military escalation in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Germany’s foreign minister has warned that urgent Western-backed peace talks must be held to prevent “a new military escalation spiral” in Ukraine. Frank-Walter Steinmeier made the comments after reported intensified clashes in eastern Ukraine and renewed attempts by Kiev to show Russia’s military involvement in the conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists...
Airstrikes rain death on Syrian town (CNN) Airstrikes from Syrian government forces hit the rebel-held town of Douma on Sunday, killing as many as 82 people and wounding hundreds, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and aid groups. Graphic video purporting to show the immediate aftermath of the blast depicted massive plumes of smoke, bodies strewn on the street, and people frantically running for their lives...
Concerns raised over reports of ISIS using chemical weapons in Iraq (AFP) The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Monday voiced “serious concern” over reports that the Islamic State group has used chemical weapons in Iraq. “Recent reports of possible use of chemical weapons in Iraq by non-State actors are a matter of serious concern,” The Hague-based OPCW said in a statement...
ISIS enshrines a “theology of rape” (The New York Times) The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets...
Port project divides Christians in India (UCANews.com) A massive port project has divided Christians in southern India, with a Catholic archbishop opposing it and a Protestant Church of South India bishop backing it. Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum led a protest march 13 August against the proposed Vizhinjam port. If implemented, he believes the project will destroy the livelihoods of 50,000 fishermen and displace thousands of families covering 12 parishes in his coastal archdiocese. “We are not against development. But we want the rights of the poor fishermen to be protected,” the archbishop said while addressing some 3,000 protesters, mostly Catholics, in front of the Kerala state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram...
Ethiopian cardinal: Synod will be flexible with regional family situations (CNS) One of the leading voices among Africa’s bishops predicts a new flexibility in Catholic teaching at this October’s Synod of Bishops on the family, which he predicts will allow bishops in different parts of the world to adapt church teaching on the family to the region’s culture, political landscape and economic situation. “The Catholic Church is a universal institution, both human and divine,” said Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa. “It is not a European church, it is not a Canadian church or a U.S. church. It’s different. The issues families are facing in some parts of the world would be different than in other parts of the world...”
The secret Jews of Ethiopia (The Jerusalem Post) The first historical account of Jewish presence in Ethiopia came from a 10th-century Jewish merchant and traveler Eldad Ha-Dani. He recounts that when the Northern Kingdom tribes of Israel went to war against the Southern Kingdom tribe of Judah, the Danites, who were renowned as skilled warriors, refused to fight against their kinsmen and left Israel for Egypt. They continued their journey until they reached the land of Cush where they finally settled...