24 May 2018
In the video above, Iraqis describe challenges in observing Ramadan in the post-ISIS era. (video: Al Jazeera English/Youtube)
Syrian state media says U.S. hit army posts, U.S. denies (Reuters) Syrian state media reported that the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State struck Syrian army positions in eastern Syria early on Thursday, but the U.S. military denied knowledge of it…
Ramadan in post-ISIS Iraq (Al Jazeera) More than a billion Muslims around the world are observing the month of Ramadan, a time for reflection, worshipping and self-restraint. And it has a special meaning for more than two million Iraqis displaced by the conflict ISIS…
Violence in Gaza prompts calls for prayer, dialogue, investigation (The Catholic Register) With at least 60 killed and over 2,700 injured, Canadian Catholics can’t just shrug and say the violence on the Israel-Gaza border is not their problem…
Controversy surrounds Indian archbishop’s call for prayer ahead of elections (UCANews.com) Archbishop Anil Couto of New Delhi has sparked a political controversy after Hindu groups accused him of undermining Indian interests and working with the Vatican to tarnish the government’s image. The prelate launched a year-long prayer campaign 13 May, saying India faces a “turbulent political future” that threatens the country’s democracy. He asked Catholics in the capital to have special prayers and fast on all Fridays until national elections due in April next year. Hindu groups reacted angrily and said the archbishop’s statement was politically motivated…
Turkey hands out money and flags in east Jerusalem (Israel Hayom) he Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency has handed out about $420,000 in $500 checks to eastern Jerusalem merchants and residents as a gift for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, Israel Hayom discovered. The move exacerbates already tense relations between Israel and Turkey, which called for Israel to be tried at the International Criminal Court for its use of force to deter violent weekly demonstrations along the Gaza border…
23 May 2018
Tags: Syria India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Ramadan
People fish in Topapoli, India, on 10 April. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan has inspired thousands of young Indians to join a water conservation movement using methods originally advocated by Swiss Jesuit Father Hermann Bacher. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)
Thousands of young Indians have joined a water conservation movement led by popular Bollywood actor-producer Aamir Khan to fight drought using methods originally advocated by a Swiss-born Jesuit.
Ucanews.com reported more than 150,000 college students from drought-prone western Indian cities joined Khan in early May to dig trenches ahead of monsoon rains in more than 100 villages across 24 drought-prone districts of western Maharashtra state.
Saurabh Vishal, a student from Symbiosis International University in Pune, said he was proud to be helping.
“It was like doing something for the nation, for the village and our people,” said Vishal, who assisted digging of trenches in Savargaon.
“I felt honored to join villagers in their hard work to make their village drought-free,” the 25-year-old told ucanews.com.
Khan, 53, said his movement originally planned to enroll 100,000 university students to offer free physical labor to help remote drought-prone villages. It’s all a part of the actor’s nonprofit Paani [water] Foundation, which he established in 2016.
Khan said it takes about 45 days to prepare a drought-prone village for water conservation. The method requires digging trenches to allow rainwater to collect and seep into the earth, where it will help replenish over-exploited ground water sources.
The work was to be completed in May, ahead of the June-September monsoon season. The water percolation and collection will make the village self-sufficient in water for the following summer.
The Paani Foundation works with the Watershed Organization Trust as its “knowledge partner.” The trust provides both technical support and training to the foundation, Khan said.
The actor-producer said he appreciated the pioneering water conservation work carried out by Swiss Jesuit Father Hermann Bacher who founded Watershed Organization Trust with Crispino Lobo, a former Jesuit priest, in 1993.
The trust was established to help villagers fight drought in arid regions and is now active in eight Indian states.
The idea of seeking free physical labor for water conservation “was conceived and implemented by Father Bacher in [the] 1980’s, which inspired the other volunteer groups to follow suit,” Lobo said.
Jesuit Father Joe D’Souza, director at Jesuit-run Social Center at Ahmednagar, which helps empower marginalized farmers, said Father Bacher “foresaw water crisis 50 years ago when he launched a drilling team in 1966 to dig wells” in Ahmednagar district to collect water.
In Maharashtra, more than half of its 43,665 villages were declared drought-stricken in 2016, reported ucanews.com.
“Our dream is to make Maharashtra drought-free in five years,” Khan said.
“We found that wherever the water issue had been solved,” he said, “the solution lay in people’s collective efforts and labor.”
23 May 2018
Tags: India Water
Archbishop Bernadito Auza meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The archbishop, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N., on Tuesday denounced atrocities against civilians during war. (photo: Vatican Media)
Patriarch calls for peace in Malankara Church (The Hindu) Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Aphrem II has called for peace between the two factions of the Malankara Church based on dignity and respect for each other. On his second apostolic visit to India, the Patriarch told a press conference here on Tuesday: “I will do all I can to achieve peace based on respect, dignity and mutual acceptance…”
Iraq works to form new government (NPR) Former U.S. foe Muqtada al Sadr appears to be the new face of reform in Iraq. The Shia cleric’s bloc won the most votes in this month’s parliamentary election…
Holy See calls for protection of civilians during war (Vatican News) The Holy See on Tuesday denounced atrocities against civilians in armed conflicts and attacks against hospitals, schools and medical and humanitarian personnel that provide them essential services, saying, “the culture of impunity for such crimes must end.” Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. in New York made the remark at a Security Council debate on the protections of civilians in armed conflict…
Egypt opens a door, and Gaza residents run for the exit (The Wall Street Journal) A taxi driver who hopes to move to Turkey. An aspiring law student. A father seeking opportunities for his children. They are among the hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who have rushed for the exit since Egypt opened its border last week. It is a rare opportunity to leave a territory that has been largely sealed off from the outside world since Israel and Egypt tightened border controls after the Islamist group Hamas was elected in 2007…
Russian Orthodox Church wants to ’form Christians worthy of the name’ (Herald Malaysia) On 14 May, the Synod of Russian Orthodox bishops approved an important document, titled “Principles of the activity of the diocesan missionary office.” It is a vast project of evangelization, aimed mainly at the formation of lay faithful and their insertion into the life of the church. In this way, the patriarchate wants to free itself from the identification of religion with the “national sentiment” that has characterized these decades of post-Soviet religious renaissance, and find ways to form Christians worthy of the name…
22 May 2018
Tags: Iraq Egypt Russian Orthodox Church Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II
A French pilgrim prays during a special service for peace in the Holy Land on 19 May at the Church of St. Stephen in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Even in times of violence and despair, the power of joint prayer for peace can be felt, said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Local Palestinians, religious and foreign worshippers gathered at the Dominican Church of St. Stephen on 19 May, answering the archbishop’s call for a joint peace prayer in the face of 16 May violence along the Gaza-Israeli border, in which 62 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.
“We feel helpless for the killing of innocent people and the obstinate refusal to find alternative solutions,” said Archbishop Pizzaballa. “We must go through the strength of prayer to still believe we can change [the situation] and our land will one day be with peace and justice. We want fear and suspicion to give way to knowledge, where differences are opportunities.”
Though it may not be possible to change things as one would like in the wider world, the faithful must continue to try to change things in their own smaller communities, he said.
Their faith, he said, will give “courage to defend justice.”
Palestinian demonstrations along the border began 31 March, protesting the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and marking the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call Al Naqba, or catastrophe — the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel says it has been using live ammunition to prevent Palestinian protesters — whom they say are being incited by Hamas — from breaking through the Gaza border fence, raising fears that they would carry out terrorist attacks on neighboring Jewish villages.
Rosary Sister Virginia Habib, director of the Catechetical Center of the Latin Patriarchate, said during difficult circumstances such as these, she urges the young people “not to forgo hope.”
“We are surrounded by lots of violence in all the Middle East, not just here; we as Christians should not feel frustrated — our Christian faith tells us that the Lord will help us defeat death,” said Habib.
At Pentecost, the faithful are still in the spirit of the Resurrection, she said, and there is hope that evil will not have the final word in their daily life.
“We live our lives, and we continue to come here to pray and keep praying to offer all our mortifications so that peace will take place,” Sister Habib said. “Peace will not happen in our land until peace has taken place in our own heart.”
She said she tells young people that, as Christians, they are called upon to react to the injustices they see following the teachings of Jesus. She said they listen to her because she is living the same experiences as they are.
LaSallian Christian Brother Peter Iorlano said Christians must be witnesses to peace, especially those living and working among Jews and Muslims, to speak out about injustices but in a “level-headed” way.
“You don’t want to fuel the fire,” he said. “You have to be aware of your [surroundings] and how we can be seduced into being violent. We need to be really self-critical and conscientious and say: This is not just. In a way everyone is suffering but … people with power are the ones who can make a difference.”
Archbishop Pizzaballa told Catholic News Service the Christian community draws strength from supporting one another and not allowing the conflict to enter in their hearts. The strength of their daily life, taking care of their children and family, is what frees them to have hope and be positive, he said.
“Life is difficult, but we must always pray for peace,” said Faiyad Elias, 55, of Jerusalem.
Christy Bandak, 43, of Bethlehem, said the only hope people have is in their faith.
“Negotiations have failed, human means have failed. … Peace is a gift from God. That is the only way out,” said Bandak. “Christians, if they are really Christians, are peacemakers. When you hear [about] the bombings and the shootings, one can be afraid. It is a reason to pray to strengthen your faith. We can’t fall into the abyss of desperation.”
Souad Handal, 49, of Bethlehem, West Bank, said as Palestinian Christians, they experience the same injustices as Muslim Palestinians, said but though the situation is getting harder, they do not believe in violence.
“Palestinians want our freedom [but] we [Christians] believe in Jesus as a peacemaker,” Handal said. “We ask for the peace of the land. We can ask only God to help us.”
Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, who also attended the prayer service, said Christians must raise their voices in the call for justice and be ready to offer themselves as bridges of peace.
22 May 2018
Tags: Jerusalem Palestinians
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, speaks during a special prayer service for peace in the Holy Land on 19 May at the Church of St. Stephen in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Syrian military retakes control of Damascus (NPR) Syria’s military announced Monday that it cleared Damascus and its suburbs of the last elements of the Islamic state militant group, ISIS. According to government reports, the Syrian army had driven ISIS out of the rebel group’s last remaining strongholds in southern Damascus; this marks the first time that President Bashar al Assad’s government has total control of the capital since the rebellion began in 2011…
Archbishop to Mideast Christians: turn to prayer in times of despair (CNS) Even in times of violence and despair, the power of joint prayer for peace can be felt, said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Local Palestinians, religious and foreign worshippers gathered at the Dominican Church of St. Stephen May 19, answering the archbishop’s call for a joint peace prayer in the face of 16 May violence along the Gaza-Israeli border, in which 62 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,000 were injured…
New Chaldean cardinal praised as a ‘courageous voice’ (CNS) Pope Francis’ naming of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako as cardinal is a gift to the Chaldean Catholic church, which has been struggling in the face of terrorism, said an Iraqi archbishop. Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah called Cardinal-designate Sako a “courageous voice…”
India’s Christian leaders pledge to support parties that promise to protect them from discrimination (UCANews.com) Six months ahead of elections in three northern Indian states, Christian leaders have pledged to vote for political parties assuring protection of their communities from discrimination and abuse. Ecumenical Christian group Sarva Isai Mahasangh (All Christian Forum) has resolved not to support parties in upcoming federal and state elections that work against religious minorities…
Coptic Christian family feeding hundreds during Ramadan (The New Arab) A Christian Egyptian family is organising daily feasts for hundreds of people marking the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The Agaybi family, from the southern city of Luxor, have set up two large communal tables in the street for the observant to break their fast, local news website al-Masry al-Youm reported on Saturday…
Muslims in parts of Ethiopia fast, pray for rain (Andalou Agency) People in northeastern Ethiopia’s Afar region are currently facing the hottest season in years due to severe drought-like conditions, but still Muslims like Mohammed Utban are continuing to fast in the holy month of Ramadan. Utban, who lives in a small tent-like house with his family in a drought-affected area, says his prayers these days are mostly for rains in the area, which would help his family and the people of his community from the drought. ”I beg Allah for his paradise in Ramadan. I pray to almighty to send us rain,” he said…
Teaching refugees how to map their world could have huge benefits (Smithsonian) Like many other refugee camps, Zaatari developed quickly in response to a humanitarian emergency. In rapid onset emergencies, mapping often isn’t as high of a priority as basic necessities like food, water and shelter. However, my research shows that maps can be an invaluable tool in a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis. Modern digital mapping tools have been essential for locating resources and making decisions in a number of crises, from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the refugee influx in Rwanda…
21 May 2018
Tags: Syria India Egypt Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
A Franciscan Missionary of Mary listens to a lay person share his insights during one of their regular catechetical meetings in Amman. (photo: Nader Daoud)
In the current edition of ONE, writer Dale Gavlak offers an inspiring glimpse at how the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary are helping spread the faith in Jordan, particularly among refugees:
In myriad ways, large and small, through spiritual formation and fostering a sense of companionship, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have provided displaced Iraqis — and many others still — with a measure of healing.
The Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for the Middle East, called by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, declared that “catechesis is meant to make the faith known and lived. Young people and adults, each individual and entire communities of believers, should be properly catechized.”
It further said that, “since young people live in places characterized by all kinds of conflicts, they are to be catechized, strengthened in their faith and enlightened by the commandment of love, so that they can make a positive contribution.”
“Catechesis in our life is not solely for teaching or knowing faith, but also a call to live what one knows,” says Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman, of the sisters’ vital ministry.
“It aims to enrich one’s life to live as Christ did, promote moral formation, teach how to pray with Christ, and prepare Christians to live in a community and participate actively in the life and mission of the church,” he says.
“For me, the basis of my spirituality was formed in Iraq,” says Rami Wa’ed, a 25-year-old Syriac Catholic from Mosul and one of the youth group’s leaders.
“I have always loved being in the church: listening to the sermons, being part of the youth meetings, participating in many ways — first in Mosul, then in other places in Iraq and now here,” he says.
“No matter how much we partake of the spiritual experiences, we feel we need more,” he adds, his eyes alight with excitement. “Spiritual expertise is what we and others need to develop in our lives.”
Read more about Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan in the March 2018 edition of ONE. And check out the video below for another glimpse at the sisters’ ministry.
21 May 2018
Tags: Jordan Sisters Iraqi Refugees Amman
Pope Francis greets Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael of Baghdad during a meeting with Chaldean Catholics at the Church of St. Simon the Tanner in Tbilisi, Georgia, in this 2016 file photo. Patriarch Louis Raphael was one of 14 new cardinals named by the pope 20 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope to create 14 new cardinals; list includes the Chaldean patriarch in Iraq (CNS) Pope Francis announced he would make 14 new cardinals 29 June, giving the red cardinal’s hat to the papal almoner, the Iraq-based patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan, among others. Announcing his choices 20 May, the pope said that coming from 11 nations, the new cardinals “express the universality of the church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people of the earth…”
Report: explosions near Iranian facility south of Damascus (Haaretz) Heavy explosions were heard Sunday overnight south of Damascus in Syria in an area which holds a security facility used by Iranian forces, Sky News in Arabic reported. There is no confirmation from other sources. The alleged blasts came days after explosions were heard near Hama airport in Syria last week. The U.K-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said the series of explosions were near Hama’s military airport and had been heard in Hama city, killing at least 11 government soldiers and allied fighters…
Patriarch invites Catholicos for talks in India (The Hindu) In what appears to be a dramatic turn of events in the more-than-a-century-old fratricidal war in the Malankara Church, Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II has invited Catholicos of the East Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, for peace talks during his five-day visit to India which begins next week…
Palestinian sets himself on fire to protest dire living conditions in Gaza (The Independent) A 20-year-old Palestinian is in a critical condition after setting himself on fire in what is believed to have been a protest over the horrific living conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip. Fathi Herb reportedly shouted “damn Hamas” before dousing himself in petrol and setting it alight in Sheikh Radwan on Saturday night…
Gunmen attack church in Chechnya (The New York Times) Four gunmen stormed a church in Russia’s predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya on Saturday, killing at least one churchgoer and two police officers, according to authorities. All the attackers were killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police at the Archangel Michael Church in the center of Grozny, the capital, according to the Investigative Committee of Russia, an internal security agency…
Caritas provides help for survivors of 2001 earthquake (UCANews.com) Bena Ben survived one of the most devastating earthquakes in India by grabbing her kids and fleeing her traditional mud house seconds before it collapsed. Lives were saved but the disaster left her family homeless. That was 17 years ago. She now lives in a concrete home like many others in Nadapa village in Gujarat state’s Bhuj region, helped by a Catholic Church agency that continues to do charitable work in the area…
How a Coptic Christian is battling prejudice in sports (AFP) Mina Bendary dreamed of becoming a professional footballer in Egypt, but found his Coptic Christian name was an insurmountable barrier in the Muslim-majority country. Such discrimination prompted him to hang up his boots and instead establish an academy to protect the rights of Christian footballers…
Pope to canonize Paul VI, Oscar Romero on 14 October (CNS) Pope Francis will declare Blesseds Oscar Romero, Paul VI and four others saints Oct. 14 at the Vatican during the meeting of the world Synod of Bishops, an institution Blessed Paul revived. The date was announced 19 May during an “ordinary public consistory,” a meeting of the pope, cardinals and promoters of sainthood causes that formally ends the sainthood process...
18 May 2018
Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
This week, we revisit Izbet Chokor, a village of Christians and Muslims about 60 miles southwest of Cairo. The village, with about 1,500 people, is home to two mosques and three Coptic churches. And, as journalist and videographer Don Duncan put it in his story from 2016, “Its residents coexist in peace, living and working closely together.”
How do they do it? The video below offers one explanation. And as one resident said, “The sense of community here is very good. The relationship between Christians and Muslims has been excellent for many decades here, even after the revolution.”
This week, Egypt marked a sad homecoming, as the remains of Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya three years ago were finally returned to Cairo for a proper burial. This video about the village of Izbet Chokor reminds us that peace and harmony are not impossible to achieve in that troubled part of the world — but there is still much work to do.
18 May 2018
Tags: Egypt Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations
Palestinians pray at Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem's Old City on 18 May. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that a competitive attitude between Christians and Muslims fosters the belief that religions are a source of tension and violence, not peace. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
A competitive attitude between Christians and Muslims fosters the belief that religions are a source of tension and violence, not peace, said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
“It is important that we Christians and Muslims recall the religious and moral values that we share, while acknowledging our differences,” said the cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
“By recognizing what we hold in common and by showing respect for our legitimate differences, we can more firmly establish a solid foundation for peaceful relations, moving from competition and confrontation to an effective cooperation for the common good,” he said in a message to Muslims.
The annual message was for Ramadan, which began 16 May, and Eid ul Fitr, the feast marking the end of the monthlong fast, which will be on or around 15 June this year. The Vatican published the message 18 May.
Titled, “Christians and Muslims: From Competition to Collaboration,” the message expressed appreciation for “the great effort by the Muslims throughout the world to fast, pray and share the Almighty’s gifts with the poor.”
The importance of the month was an opportunity to share some thoughts about relations between Christians and Muslims and the need to move from competition to collaboration, the cardinal wrote.
“A spirit of competition has too often marked past relations between Christians and Muslims,” he said, adding that “the negative consequences of which are evident: jealousy, recriminations and tensions.”
“In some cases, these have led to violent confrontations, especially where religion has been instrumentalized, above all due to self-interest and political motives,” the message said.
This kind of “interreligious competition” hurts the image of religions and their followers, “and it fosters the view that religions are not sources of peace, but of tension and violence,” it said.
To prevent and overcome such negative consequences, the cardinal wrote, it is key for Christians and Muslims to recognize what values they share and show respect concerning legitimate differences.
Working together for the common good should include assisting those most in need, allowing both sides “to offer a credible witness to the Almighty’s love for the whole of humanity,” the message said.
“So that we may further peaceful and fraternal relations, let us work together and honor each another,” Cardinal Tauran wrote. “In this way we will give glory to the Almighty and promote harmony in society, which is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, multireligious and multicultural.”
18 May 2018
Tags: Interreligious Middle East Peace Process Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. in Geneva, has called for dialogue and encounter to bring peace to the Middle East. (photo: Vatican Media)
Holy See urges dialogue, encounter to bring peace in Holy Land (Vatican News) Amidst worsening violence in the Holy Land and the Middle East, the Holy See on Friday urged the use of dialogue and encounter to bring peace, and called for the recognition of Jerusalem as the city sacred to Christians and Muslims. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva made the call on Friday at a special session of the Human Rights Council on the deteriorating rights situation in the region…
Putin tells Assad all ‘foreign forces’ to leave Syria (CNN) Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar al Assad Thursday that “foreign armed forces” would leave Syria, according to Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA. He and his counterpart hailed the beginning of the “political process” in Syria amid an ongoing “fight against terrorism”…
More countries plan to move embassies to Jerusalem (CNBC) On Wednesday, Guatemala joined the U.S. in moving its embassy to Jerusalem. More countries are preparing to make the leap. Paraguay’s Foreign Ministry announced that its embassy will also relocate to Jerusalem, while the Czech Republic, Romania and Honduras reportedly considering the move…
Vatican message for Ramadan: ’Move from competition to collaboration’ (Vatican News) The Vatican is urging Christians and Muslims to “move from competition to collaboration,” saying rivalry between them has had negative consequences. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue made the exhortation in a message released on Friday on the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and its conclusion, Eid ul Fitr…
Wealthy Indian Christian donates mosque to his workers for Ramadan (Daily Sabah) A wealthy Christian Indian businessman gave his workers in the United Arab Emirates a generous gift for Ramadan: a mosque. When Saji Cheriyan, an Indian expat, said he decided to build a mosque for the Muslim workers to whom he rents accommodation after noticing that they had to take a taxi to a nearby mosque to worship…
Tags: Syria India Holy Land Holy See