23 July 2014
Palestinians gather on 23 July in the courtyard of St. Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza City, where they are taking refuge from fighting in the area. Israeli forces pounded multiple sites across the Gaza Strip on 23 July, including the enclave’s sole power plant. (photo: CNS/Finbarr O’Reilly, Reuters)
Gazans find sanctuary in ancient church (Al Monitor) The more than 1,600-year-old Church of St. Porphyrius, Gaza’s only Greek Orthodox church, canceled its Sunday prayers to open its doors to roughly 400 internally displaced persons from Shajaia. Deacon Rami Ayad says they have also “opened shops and houses to accommodate another 600 people. The neighbors are donating to everyone and the church is providing the youth in the mosque nearby with money to get food and break the fast at sunset, since they are fasting [for Ramadan]…”
Darkness Falls on Gaza (New York Times) The long siege has bled the Gaza Strip dry. There is no money for public services; the majority of the population lives in abject poverty. And now at least 120,000 Gazans have been displaced by the fighting, thousands taking temporary shelter in United Nations schools. Many will return to homes damaged or destroyed, with little or no means to rebuild. Cement is especially severely rationed because Israel suspects it is diverted by Hamas to build tunnels for fighters…
Israel’s Iron Dome doesn’t cover Bedouins (Electronic Intifada) The Negev desert in the south of present-day Israel is home to 200,000 indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, known as Bedouins, most of whom are completely defenseless against falling rockets because the Israeli government refuses to protect their villages and denies them the right to build bomb shelters. One of two Israeli civilians killed since 8 July was 32-year-old Auda al Wadj, who died when a rocket fired from Gaza struck his home in Qasr al Ser, a Bedouin village near Dimona that lacks sirens, bomb shelters and cover from Israel’s missile defense system…
700 Syrians killed in two days of conflict (Al Jazeera) In the bloodiest two days of fighting in the Syrian civil war, more than 700 people were reported killed in fighting between government and rebel forces loyal to the radical Islamic State — more than have been killed during the 15-day-old Gaza conflict that has dominated media attention in recent days…
More Lebanese soldiers flee to join Syrian rebels (Daily Star Lebanon) At least 10 soldiers have defected from the Lebanese army to join the Syrian opposition, several lawmakers said Wednesday. The members of parliament accused authorities of imposing a news blackout on the “defection” until the army had conducted its own inquiry…
Fighter jets shot down in eastern Ukraine (Huffington Post) Two Ukrainian military fighter jets have been shot down in the east, according to the country’s Defense Ministry. The Sukhoi-25 fighters were shot down 1:30 p.m. local time Wednesday over an area called Savur Mogila…
Security Council denounces persecution of minorities in northern Iraq (U.N. News Center) The United Nations Security Council has denounced the persecution of Christians and other minority groups in northern Iraq, which used to be home to minority communities that had lived together for hundreds of years before coming under direct attack by the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its allies…
22 July 2014
Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict United Nations
Iraqi refugee children had found some stability in Syria before civil war erupted. Today, Foreign Policy in Focus writes: “Syria — a host country to 540,000 Palestinian refugees and, at its peak in 2007, 1.5 million Iraqi refugees — now faces its own refugee crisis.” With your help, CNEWA continues to work for, through and with the local churches and religious to help those enduring war in both Iraq and Syria. (photo: Spencer Osberg)
22 July 2014
Tags: Syria Refugees Children Syrian Civil War Iraqi Refugees
An Iraqi man carrying a cross and a Quran attends a liturgy at Mar Girgis Church in Baghdad on 20 July. Pope Francis called for prayers, dialogue, and peace, as the last Iraqi Christians flee the Iraqi city of Mosul. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Malik, Reuters)
Pope Francis calls Patriarch in solidarity with Iraqi Christians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reassured Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III that he is following news out of Iraq with concern, particularly the dramatic situation of Christians in Mosul who have been threatened with death and seizure of their homes by Islamic militants. Christians have lived in Iraq’s second largest city for nearly two thousand years; there are few, if any, left now in Mosul…
An update on the situation in Iraq from the Dominican Sisters (Order of Preachers) We would like to update you on the situation here in Iraq, especially in the province of Nineveh. The two Chaldean sisters, who belong to the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, and the three orphans were released on Monday, 14 July. The sisters told me that they were treated well. We thank God for their safety. However, their car was taken away with the valuable items they had with them, also the ISIS took the keys of their convent in Mosul. Moreover, the ISIS gave the sisters a message to inform the Patriarch and the bishops…
Jihadists seize ancient Iraqi monastery and expel monks (The Telegraph) Islamist militants have taken over a monastery in northern Iraq, one of the country’s best-known Christian landmarks, and expelled its resident monks, a cleric and residents said on Monday. Islamic State fighters stormed St. Behnam, a fourth-century monastery run by the Syriac Catholic Church near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, on Sunday, the sources said…
Patriarch emeritus: There is no war in Gaza, but a useless massacre (Fides) In the night between Monday and Tuesday, the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip caused further destruction and casualties among the civilian population. More than 580 Palestinians have been killed, while among the Israeli soldiers there have been 27 deaths so far. In the latest round of Israeli raids even four mosques and several health centers have been affected…
In Gaza, burying those killed by Israeli airstrikes is getting more dangerous (Washington Post) For Palestinians, burying bodies has become more difficult and dangerous with each passing day. Movement can be a risky sprint not only for ambulances but also for the beat-up vans that ferry the dead to cemeteries. The central morgue in Gaza City is overflowing, its wheezing refrigerators losing the struggle against the smell. The graveyards are filling, and mourners dig their own holes…
Georgian Orthodox Church condemns attack on Armenian church in Tbilisi (ArmenPress) On 22 July, Georgian Orthodox Metropolitan Gerasim of Zugdidi and Tsaishi met with the prelate of the Georgian-Armenian diocese, Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanyan and discussed the attack on the Armenian Church of St. Etchmiadzin in Tbilisi. “The attack on the Armenian Church of St. Etchmiadzin is unacceptable and the Georgian Orthodox Church condemns that incident and calls on the parties for peace and tranquility…”
East Damascus hit by fiercest clashes in months (Daily Star Lebanon) Eastern Damascus was hit Tuesday by its fiercest fighting in months between rebels and pro-regime forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The air force meanwhile pounded rebel areas of the eastern neighborhood of Jobar, as opposition fighters launched mortars into army-held parts of Damascus, wounding 18 people…
21 July 2014
Tags: Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Georgian Orthodox Church
Palestinians flee following an Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza City on 9 July. (photo: CNS/Majdi Fathi, Reuters)
This morning, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, wrote an email to Msgr. John E. Kozar, president, about recent developments in Gaza. Mr. El-Yousef recently visited Gaza and shared a report on the status of Christians in the region.
Dear Msgr. Kozar,
The situation on the ground is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday was very ugly, leaving 50 people dead — including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens — as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. You will recall that Shajaia is home to one of the three Near East Council of Churches clinics that we support in Gaza, as well as home to the largest N.E.C.C. Vocational Training Center operating there. Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets.
This morning I spoke to Dr. Issa Tarazi, Director of N.E.C.C., and he said that the clinic was broken into, but given the intensity of the fighting, no one could get close to inspect the damage. They will not be able to get there until a formal ceasefire is reached.
I also spoke to contacts in both the Latin Church and the Greek Orthodox Church and they both opened facilities to receive those displaced, mostly from Shajaia. Luckily, so far, there has not been any human loss affecting Christians and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.
We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness. I will keep you posted with developments.
To learn more about some of the N.E.C.C. institutions that CNEWA supports, read Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. To help Gaza’s suffering families, click here.
21 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Holy Land Christians Palestinians
Velma Harasen, left, and Betty Anne Brown Davidson of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada meet with the mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
We had an amazing visit to the Holy Land recently, joined by members of the Catholic Women’s League. I’d like to share with you some stories of our visit.
On 3 July 2014, our group was privileged to visit and speak with current mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. She is the first female mayor of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Our group was mainly composed of women leaders from the Catholic Women’s League in Canada, so it was a unique experience to visit the mayor, herself a Catholic woman and a leader.
Ms. Baboun is a passionate woman of faith. She shared with us a quote from a homily by the former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, James Beltritti, that touched her personally during a tough time in her life and resonated with all of us: “Blessings and grace only reside in the womb of suffering. Learn how to give it birth.”
As a widow and mother of five children, Ms. Baboun has experienced great hardship in her own life. But this perspective helped her to focus on the blessings that come from and with such difficulties.
She discussed with us Bethlehem’s unfortunate status as a gated city. As part of the West Bank, it is under occupation by Israel and surrounded by a separation wall. And, metaphorically speaking, she shared that the faith is now walled as well:
“The wall breaches the path of faith between the moment of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the moment of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. We have a young generation in Bethlehem now who do not know the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, [which is] ten minutes away by car. …
“It is not only Bethlehem that is walled, but the message of our faith, our Lord, and love and peace is walled as well. I’m terrified for this fact. It’s a walling of the message, not only the walling of a city.”
She also spoke about different injustices that the Palestinian people face due to the conflict with Israel — for example, water shortages, ongoing confiscation of property and limits on people’s movement. As a minority group, Palestinian Christians are also often caught in the middle of conflicts between Jewish and Muslim populations.
We can keep the Star of Bethlehem burning by sharing the story of the “living stones” — the Christians of the Holy Land. They keep the faith alive and bear their cross every day. She urged us to please carry the cross of Bethlehem with us wherever we go. We left inspired and touched by her words.
21 July 2014
Tags: Holy Land Christians Bethlehem CNEWA Canada West Bank Women
Marcie Alter pets Dennis, a therapy dog that visits patients at the St. Louis Hospital in Jerusalem once a week. To learn more about this institution’s good work, read An Oasis of Compassion, from the September 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Debbie Hill)
21 July 2014
Tags: Jerusalem Sisters Health Care
The Palestinian death toll has passed 500, with reports of more than 3,100 people wounded since air strikes began on 8 July. (video: Al Jazeera)
Israeli ground offensive in Gaza triggers shelter crisis for fleeing civilians (Christian Science Monitor) Overnight fighting killed at least 60 Palestinians in a Gaza neighborhood, while Israel’s army reported its deadliest day in a 13-day offensive. Aid agencies are struggling with more evacuees than during the 2008-2009 war…
Security Council holds emergency meeting on Gaza (U.N. News Center) The Security Council on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, the first leg of a Middle East tour which aims to end the conflict…
Cardinal Sandri appeals for end to violence in Middle East (Vatican Radio) The head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has made an appeal for reconciliation and an end to conflict in countries across the Middle East. Speaking at Mass in Los Angeles to mark the feast day of the two Lebanese Sts. Sharbel and Elias, Cardinal Sandri said: “Our hearts go out to the Christians in the Holy Land, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt and all the innocent victims of violence in the Middle East…”
In Iraq, rise of Islamic State deals blow to Christian population (Los Angeles Times) The ascendance of the Islamic State — a Sunni Muslim faction that embraces an intolerant strain of fundamentalist Islam — has generated alarm among the region’s diverse minority populations, including those here in the sprawling flatlands known as the Nineveh plains…
Iraqi patriarch laments status of Iraqi Christians (Vatican Radio) The last Christian families still present in Mosul are leaving the city and are heading towards Iraqi Kurdistan. The exodus was caused by the proclamation on Thursday by the self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate that Christians must pay a special tax or be killed. Islamists have for the past two days been marking the doors of homes belonging to Christians and Shiite Muslims living in the city. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael in an interview with the AFP news agency…
18 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict United Nations
A senior chef and his students at the Naipunya Institute proudly exhibit their entrees. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Several years ago, we took readers on a culinary adventure to discover the cuisine of Kerala enjoyed by Christians, Hindus and Muslims:
“If you enjoy food, you should come to Kerala!” said Father Sebastian Kalapurackal, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest and director of Naipunya Institute of Management and Information Technology, which boasts one of the state’s top hotel management programs. Each year, the program graduates some 100 students, many of whom land jobs with five-star hotels, major cruise lines and airline companies.
Keralites unquestionably take great pride in their local cuisine — and for good reason. Its diversity and sophistication have earned the state worldwide fame.
What is more, it is unique. A narrow strip of coastland bounded to the east by the Western Ghats (mountains) and to the west by the Arabian Sea, Kerala has been largely disconnected from the rest of India for much of its history. Isolated from the prevailing trends of Indian cooking, Keralites developed a distinct culinary tradition unlike any other on the subcontinent.
Read more about What’s Cooking in Kerala — and discover some recipes — in the November 2008 issue of ONE.
18 July 2014
Tags: India Cultural Identity Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Cuisine
The Rev. Jorge Hernandez celebrates Mass in Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza. Father Hernandez is a missionary of the Argentina-based Institute of the Incarnate Word. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Gaza’s Christians gather in prayer for peace in midst of war (Vatican Radio) As fighting intensifies in the Gaza Strip, faithful are gathering in the parish church of the Holy Family to pray for forgiveness, justice and peace for all. In the early hours of Friday, Israel launched a Gaza ground campaign after 10 days of bombardments from the air and sea failed to stop militants’ rocket attacks, stepping up an offensive that already has taken a heavy toll in civilian lives…
Pope urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to end Holy Land hostilities (CNS) Expressing his serious concerns over the escalating violence in the Holy Land, Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace…
Gaza faces imminent water crisis (Al Jazeera) According to International Committee of the Red Cross, hundreds of thousands of people are now without running water, and within days, the entire Gaza population “will desperately run short of water resources…”
The near enemy: Why the real threat to Israel isn’t in Gaza (Foreign Affairs) With Hamas busy firing rockets at Israeli cities, it’s only natural that the Israeli public’s primary concern in recent days has been physical security. But it should also be attuned to other, equally dangerous, problems posed by the current crisis. Once more, conflict has distracted Israelis from the fact that radical, messianic, and xenophobic forces have gained significant ground in the battle for the soul of their state…
‘Ripped our guts again’: Families mourn MH17 victims (News Herald) International passengers from all walks of life, from a prominent AIDS researcher and soccer fans to a nun and a florist, were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The Boeing 777 was carrying 298 people when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday in eastern Ukraine, sending shockwaves around the world from Malaysia to the Netherlands…
The last Christian families leave Mosul (Fides) The last Christian families still present in Mosul are leaving the city and are heading towards Erbil, Dohuk and other areas of Iraqi Kurdistan that are considered safer…
Syrian businesses in Bekaa Valley shut down (Daily Star Lebanon) Security forces shut down shops and small trades ran by Syrians in several areas of the Bekaa Valley Friday, the National News Agency reported. “All shops managed by Syrians in Chtaura, Bar Elias and Masnaa were sealed off,” the agency said. The move comes as Lebanon is reeling under tremendous economic stress, largely caused by the impact of the Syrian conflict and the influx of over 1.1 million Syrian refugees fleeing violence at home…
17 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Ukraine War Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Sister Mariam Almiron of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word spins a small child around following Sunday Mass at the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza. There are only about 3,000 Christians in Gaza, of which a little more than 200 are Catholic. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Vatican Radio reports that amid the ongoing airstrikes in Gaza, a group of Catholic sisters is making preparations to depart:
Three nuns of the Institute of the Word Incarnate working with the Catholic Holy Family parish in Gaza are preparing to leave the Gaza Strip following multiple Israeli air strikes Wednesday evening that destroyed a neighbor’s home.
According to the Catholic news agency Fides, the sisters, all foreigners, received a telephone call from the Israelis advising them to leave.
Meanwhile, for several days now, the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the 28 disabled children and 9 elderly people in their care have taken refuge in the parish. It is expected that they will remain in Gaza together with the parish priest Father Jorge Hernandez.
Father Jorge reports that the “crimes are multiplying. The smaller children are beginning to get sick from fear, stress, the blasts, the continuous din. The parents are going to incredible lengths to distract them so that the violence does not overwhelm them, like playing and jumping every time they hear an explosion, dancing or simply hugging them and holding their hands over their ears.”
The warning calls came just ahead of Israel’s ground invasion, which began today.
According to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, members of this order have been working through the Holy Family parish since 2009.
Please say a prayer for the safety of the sisters, the communities they serve and the people of Gaza, who continue to endure terrible hardship.
To learn what you can do to help Gaza’s suffering families, click here.
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Sisters War Israeli-Palestinian conflict