24 September 2018
There have been growing concerns about the horrendous humanitarian toll that might follow a Syrian offensive in Idlib. The video above chronicles a Syrian returning to his homeland and describing his concerns for the future. (video: BBC/YouTube)
Turkey announces plans for ’safe zones’ in northern Syria (AP) Turkey said Sunday it would take steps to create “safe zones” across northern Syria, including in areas held by Syrian Kurdish fighters who are allied with the United States but who Ankara views as terrorists. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, vowed to clear the region of the Kurdish fighters, who Turkey says are linked to the long-running insurgency in its restive southeast…
Boat carrying Syrian refugees sinks off Lebanon (Reuters) A boat with 39 Syrian refugees aboard sank off the coast of Lebanon as it sailed illegally for Cyprus on Saturday and most were rescued by the Lebanese army but a five-year-old boy drowned, security sources said. They said it appeared to be the first time in almost a year that a group of refugees had tried to get to Europe by boat from Lebanon, where Syrian refugees account for roughly a quarter of the population…
Kerala on alert for more heavy rains (Business Standard) Kerala, the state where the devastating rains, floods and landslides have taken a toll of thousands of people, is expected to receive heavy rainfalls on 25 September, said the state government. The State Disaster Management Authority has instructed district authorities to be on alert and directed them to take necessary precautions…
Mumbai pilgrimage to Marian shrine emphasizes importance of parents (Crux) Parents pass on their virtues, values, principles and understanding of life flow to their children, a bishop told pilgrims in India. Auxiliary Bishop John Rodrigues of the Archdiocese of Bombay was speaking at a students’ pilgrimage to Mount Mary’s Basilica in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai…
Nobel laureate dedicates U.N. World Peace Day to Eritrea and Ethiopia (AfricaNews.com) Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Peace laureate said on Friday that the 2018 edition of World Peace Day had to be dedicated to Ethiopia and Eritrea. She said in a tweet that the two countries deserved credit “for putting their political differences aside and daring to invite peace back into their midst…”
Thousands of Christians celebrate Sukkot in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) During Sukkot, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) hosts thousands of Christians from more than 100 countries. The holiday draws some 5,000 Christians to Jerusalem each year. Not only is the event a spiritual boost in which people come to express their love for Israel’s eternal capital, it also gives an economic boost, injecting $15-20 million into Israel’s economy each year…
21 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Jerusalem Jews
Pope Francis greets participants in a Vatican conference on battling xenophobia and racism.
(photo: Vatican Media)
Thursday, Pope Francis imparted a message of inclusion and tolerance for human rights, and warned against the rise of racism around the world:
Pope Francis warned that attitudes that many thought were a thing of the past — such as racism — are on the rise again and can lead to intolerant and discriminating behavior and policies and he urged politicians to avoid exploiting fear against those seeking refuge and better lives in our countries.
He was addressing participants at a just-ended Rome-based conference “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” at the Vatican on Thursday.
“We are living in times in which feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading,” Pope Francis said to the over 200 participants of an international conference on “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of World Migrations.”
In his message that marked the conclusion of the event promoted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, by the World Council of Churches and by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the Pope reflected on how, in our globalized world, there appears to be an upsurge of ”feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity and, as such, considered not sufficiently worthy of being fully part of society’s life.”
Such sentiments, he warned, “all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion.”
21 September 2018
Tags: Ecumenism Migrants Dialogue
Over the last several weeks, thousands of Ethiopians have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed by interethnic violence. CNEWA has rushed emergency aid to help them recover.
In August we reported on the crisis facing thousands of people in Ethiopia, who were forced to flee interethnic violence. Many found shelter and sanctuary in a Catholic parish. Yesterday, our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, sent us this update:
Last week, I met with Matewos Dangiso [the social development director of the Hawassa Vicariate, the Catholic jurisdiction where much of this violence in south central Ethiopia has taken place] to get an update on the current status of the displaced people in Gedeo and West Guji. He also gave me an overview of the Catholic Church’s efforts to help these people.
Currently, most of the displaced have returned to their home areas. The government and international humanitarian agencies have played the main role in this process. Since their displacement occurred at the beginning of the school year, officials urged families to return in order for their children to resume classes in their home areas — despite not having anything to return to.
The return of people to their homes has not been a smooth process. It was very difficult to distribute emergency food and non-food items. The area is poverty stricken, so those not displaced also tried to obtain emergency support — further complicating an already challenging process.
The returnees are now sheltered in seven districts in Gedeo and West Guji. They are without clothing, shelter, tools — in short, they are penniless — which is making serious demands on the church and aid agencies in their efforts to help. In addition to providing food and water, aid efforts include the provision of non-food essentials, such as cooking utensils, blankets, hygienic and medical items.
There is also reconstruction underway— building shelters, rebuilding schools, then furnishing them and providing basic farm needs so that people can try and make a living. At the same time, efforts are underway to support the peace-building process.
The government is developing a coordinated year-long plan that will require substantial funding. The Catholic Church is designated to serve in three shelter areas: Gedeb and Kochore in Gedeo for people displaced from West Guji and Garba, and in West Guji for people displaced from Gedeo area.These areas are where the church — with funding from CNEWA —previously served people through schools and health facilities. There are efforts underway to determine how many people are still in need, but the number is expected to total about 4,500 individuals.
CNEWA was among the first organizations to rush emergency aid, as well as Caritas Austria and Caritas Bolzana-Italy, which enabled the vicariate to purchase food items, medicines, hygienic supplies and household utensils to distribute to those affected.
Catholic Relief Services has also gotten involved and recently provided $25,000 for reconstruction work. Caritas Austria has also contributed additional €50,000.00 for the same purpose.
As we noted in our news roundup yesterday, this crisis is far from over. To help those in need in Ethiopia during this challenging and dangerous time, please visit this page. Thank you!
21 September 2018
The video above shows the devastation from Kerala's flooding, and the recovery efforts so far. (video: TNIE/YouTube)
Syria blames Israel for killing Russians (Newsweek) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said Israel was responsible for a recent incident in which his armed forces accidentally downed an allied Russian aircraft while defending against an Israeli aerial assault…
Study says rare confluence of events led to flooding in Kerala (The Hindu) A combination of four factors led to extreme flooding across Kerala in 2018, a study says. The four factors are: above normal seasonal (May-August) rainfall, extreme rainfall events occurring almost across the State during the season, over 90 percent reservoir storage even before the onset of extreme rainfall events, and finally, the unprecedented extreme rainfall in the catchment area of major reservoirs in the State…
Pope: those exploiting foreigners for profit will pay on Judgment Day (CNS) No one can remain indifferent to the way minority groups are increasingly the object of so much fear, scorn and hatred, Pope Francis said. And he warned those who profit from exploiting foreigners or people in precarious situations and those who contribute to today’s new forms of slavery that one day they will have to answer to God for the choices they have made, he said on 20 September…
UN observes Peace Day (NDTV) The global community is celebrating the International Day of Peace today. The day is observed on 21 September every year. The International Day of Peace was first celebrated in 1982. It is recognized by United Nations. It has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly a day “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples…”
20 September 2018
Tags: Syria India United Nations
In this image from August, a religious sister helps a man who has been displaced by interethnic violence in Ethiopia. Thousands have been impacted by the ongoing crisis in the country, and the church is responding. To lend your support, visit this page. (photo: CNEWA)
20 September 2018
Smoke rises from a government-held area of Aleppo, Syria, after an explosion in December 2016. (photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)
Every year on 21 September the United Nations observes International Peace Day. In 2001 the UN General Assembly called on the member states to observe the day through non-violence and ceasefires.
How well that has been observed is tragically clear for all to see.
There are many ways to calculate “armed conflict,” which can cover everything from a full-blown war to local terrorist attacks. Generally speaking, armed conflicts are registered in terms of casualties per year: over 10,000, 1,000-9,999, and 100-999 deaths. Using this metric, it is estimated that there are 38 armed conflicts raging in the world during 2018. These range from smaller local conflicts to larger ones involving massive loss of life in places like Syria, Yemen and Burma.
Almost every religious tradition speaks of peace, although some would limit that peace to fellow believers. Christians speak of pax and eirene, Jews speak of shalom and Muslims of salaam. The religions of the Indian subcontinent speak of shanti and ahimsa (non-violence). Leaders from every world religion speak with some frequency about the importance of peace. International groups and movements such as Religions for Peace and the Parliament of the World’s Religions work tirelessly to promote peace and understanding.
Yet for all this talk and all these efforts, there is still tremendous violence in the world. If we are honest, all too often the conflicts have religious components. It is common for religious people to claim that this or that conflict is political and not religious. In some cases that might be true. However, denying religious components to many conflicts is built on the naïve and faulty assumption that religion cannot be politicized. It can and it is. While religion may not be the only factor in some major conflicts, it definitely plays a role: Buddhists vs. Rohingya Muslims in Burma; Sunni vs. Shi’ite Muslims in Yemen and, to some extent in Syria; Muslims against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq; Hindus against Christians in part of India; and majority Christians against minority Christian groups in places like Russia. One is reminded of the verse in the book of the prophet Jeremiah: “Peace, peace, they say, but there is no peace” (Jer 6:14; 8:10).
If almost all religions speak of peace, if so many religious leaders around the world speak of the importance of peace, why is there so much conflict and not just conflict but conflict involving religion? Perhaps a partial answer can be found in the UN International Peace Day. It is a day not when governments and religious leaders speak of global peace and peace on the much touted macro-scale; it is, rather, a call for not just religions but individual believers to practice peace and non-violence. As long as religious people do not see themselves obliged by their faith to be active agents of peace and reconciliation — but rather allow and even promote conflict in their families, workplace and neighborhoods — conflicts will continue to rage in our world.
CNEWA, of course, is no stranger to conflict. We work in war-torn areas such as the Middle East and the Horn of Africa; we also work with refugees, those quintessential victims of violence, in refugee camps and displacement centers throughout the world. We serve in areas where there are intra-religious conflicts like Ukraine. The words of Jeremiah ring often in our ears.
International Peace Day provides us with an opportunity and a challenge: an opportunity to evaluate our role as believers who work actively to promote peace and reconciliation, and a challenge to bring that peace and reconciliation into our daily lives and local communities.
20 September 2018
Tags: Middle East United Nations
The above video, from last month, shows some of the Ethiopians who have been internally displaced by ethnic violence in their homeland. A new report says Ethiopia has the largest number of internally displaced persons in the world. (video: AfricaNews/YouTube)
Report: Ethiopia has most internally displaced people in the world (AfricaNews.com) Ethiopia’s internal security lapses coupled with floods in parts of the country have earned them the unenviable record of global leader in internally displaced persons. According to the Geneva-based group, Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, IDMC, Ethiopia currently had about 1.4 million internally displaced persons for the first half of this year (January — June 2018.) ”The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia deteriorated significantly in the first half of 2018,” IDMC said in its current report. The country has 200,000 more internally displaced than Syria in second place…
Government team to visit Kerala and assess damage (The Indian Express) An inter-ministerial team, headed by a special secretary of the Home Ministry, will visit Kerala for five days beginning Thursday to assess the damage caused by the recent devastating floods, officials said…
Jerusalem police thwart attempted attack on Yom Kippur (The Jerusalem Post) Police thwarted an attempted stabbing attack around 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Jerusalem, shortly after Yom Kippur had begun. The incident occurred on HaNeviim Street, near the Old City, according to Police Foreign Press Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. The attacker was shot and killed by police…
Are Muslims observing a Jewish holiday? (Al Jazeera) Given the way in which the Christian calendar has been imperially universalised, the other two may look erratic and confusing, but Jewish and Islamic high holy days are perfectly logical, routine, and regular. Both Jewish and Muslim observers have noticed this proximity between Yom Kippur and Ashoura. On the occasion of the two holidays coinciding in 2016, Rabbi Allen S Maller noted how “both holy days occur on the 10th day of the month, Muharram for Muslims and Tishri for Jews…”
19 September 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Jerusalem Kerala Islam
CNEWA's external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., speaks at Holy Family Parish in Lawton, OK, during a parish visit in 2015. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)
We were heartened to see this recent report in The Sooner Catholic about a parish in Oklahoma that has been supporting CNEWA’s work:
There has been a war in Syria since 2011, and half the country has been displaced, meaning families are no longer living in their hometowns, cities or villages. Thousands are victims of the war and are in dire need of help.
For the past three years, Holy Family in Lawton has made it their mission to help those war-stricken families by giving Lenten offerings to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
“Every Lent, we have a special Lenten Project. The past three years it has been Syrian refugees, the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, and refugees,” said the Rev. Phil Seeton, pastor of Holy Family.
“People are invited to drop an envelope into a basket that we have marked with CNEWA information. As they come up, they are bringing their gifts to the altar. I know from letters that the money has gone to medical clinics, and to some refugee camps. The refugees served in the camps are mainly members of the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches, the Assyrian Church of the East as well as Yzdidis and Muslims.”
Father Phil expressed the need to do more.
“These folks are brothers and sisters in the faith, and they are not getting much help from governments. It comes through the generosity of the different Christian churches in Europe and the United States. These people are modern day confessors to the faith. Maybe they have not been martyred, but there are thousands who have been martyred for Christ over there. They are confessing their faith with their lives.”
Luscia Hankins is the co-chairman of Holy Family’s Spiritual Life Committee, along with Mary Beth Mullins. The committee helps organize the Lenten fundraiser for CNEWA. In 2017, they raised $6,200.
“This year, we raised $10,200. It was for the displaced Syrians who were placed in camps. The donation was to build camps of their own. They are being persecuted for the religion we share. It is an obligation to our fellow Christians,” Hankins said.
Since 2013, they have given $38,000 to CNEWA.
We remain deeply grateful to Father Phil and the people of Holy Family for their generous and prayerful support, helping so many of our brothers and sisters in need. Thank you!
19 September 2018
Tags: Syria CNEWA
Pope Francis greets a St. Bernard and dog owners during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
19 September 2018
Tags: Pope Francis
In this image from 2017, Pope Francis greets Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, during a meeting with representatives of the Conference of European Rabbis. The pope sent greetings to the Jewish community of Rome to mark this month's holy days. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope sends greetings to Jewish community of Rome (Vatican News) ”I am pleased to extend my sincere best wishes to you and to the Jewish Community of Rome”, Pope Francis said in a letter addressed to Rome’s Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Shemuel Di Segni. The occasion for the Pope’s greeting is three-fold: Rosh Hashanah celebrated from 9-11 September, Yom Kippur celebrated on 18-19 September, and Sukkot which begins on 23 September and ends on 30 September…
A month after the flood, 2,500 still in relief camps (NDTV.com) Even a month after Kerala witnessed an unprecedented deluge, said to be the worst in the last 100 years, at least 2,500 persons are still in relief camps in the state. Presently, there are 80 relief camps in the state, in which 787 families, comprising 2,457 people, have taken shelter…
Ethiopia’s reforms now challenged by unrest (AP) Ethiopia’s stunning political reforms are now threatened by long-standing ethnic tensions that have roared back to life since a young prime minister took power just five months ago and promised greater freedoms. While exiled groups once banned as terror organizations are welcomed home to join political dialogue, deadly violence erupts on the fringes of celebrations…
Jordan takes steps to support Jerusalem’s Palestinians (Al-Monitor) The Jordanian government’s decision to reduce fees on passports for Palestinians in Jerusalem has revived hopes of a larger role for the kingdom in defending the rights of Jerusalemites…
India’s religious minorities struggle to get scholarships (UCANews.com) The scholarships, started by the Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2006, offer financial grants from grade one to postgraduate and doctorate levels to encourage poor parents from minority communities to educate their children. The grants are available to deserving families from Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jain and Parsi families. Most grants go to Muslim students, as their community is the largest and poorest minority…
Thousands in Syria return home after Russia-Turkey deal (AP) Thousands of people who were recently displaced by violence in northwest Syria have returned home following a Russia-Turkey deal that averted a government offensive on the last major rebel stronghold, Syrian opposition activists said Wednesday…
Tags: India Pope Francis Ethiopia Jews