14 September 2018
Pope Francis meets on 14 September with 150 participants at a Vatican meeting to coordinate Catholic humanitarian and reconstruction aid for the people of Syria and Iraq. The aid, Pope Francis said, is "a source of light in the present and a seed of hope that will bear fruit in the future." (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
The way Catholics and Catholic organizations listen and respond to pleas for help from people trapped in or forced to flee war zones “is a source of light in the present and a seed of hope that will bear fruit in the future,” Pope Francis said.
Meeting on 14 September with 150 representatives of Catholic agencies and others assisting victims of the wars in Syria and Iraq, Pope Francis said that each day he places before the Lord “the sufferings and the needs of the churches and people of those beloved lands as well as those who work to assist them. This is true. Every day.”
The pope repeated his plea to the international community to help find a way to restore peace throughout Syria and to guarantee the conditions that will allow the millions of people displaced by the fighting in Syria and Iraq to return home.
The September gathering at the Vatican was the sixth formal meeting designed to coordinate Catholic aid to the region.
In preparation for the meeting, a Vatican study estimated that in 2018 more than 3.9 million Syrians and Iraqis would benefit from more than $229 million of aid and reconstruction efforts funded by the Catholic Church and its members.
The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development surveyed 84 Catholic organizations, agencies, bishops’ conferences, dioceses and religious orders involved in providing assistance to Syrians and Iraqis in their homelands or in neighboring countries.
“Although in Syria the conflict is continuing in some areas of the country -- where basic needs still have to be met -- the survey shows how for the first time we are looking toward the future, including in crisis response activities, with the end of the acute phase of the emergency in most sectors of intervention and a transition to the early recovery phase,” the report said. In 2014, the largest sector of spending was on food aid, while for 2019 the priorities are education, livelihood and jobs, health and psycho-social support.
The Catholic aid comprises both humanitarian assistance -- offered to anyone in need -- and support for the local Christian communities and their return and rebuilding efforts, the dicastery said.
Because of “the real risk that the Christian presence may disappear” from the region, Pope Francis said all Catholics should be offering prayers for and concrete charity to support their brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, encouraging them “not to give in to the darkness of violence and to keep alive the light of hope.”
The Catholic response, he said, reminds him of passages from the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Where there is hatred, let me bring love. ... Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.”
14 September 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq
A displaced family is seen on 11 September at a camp in Idlib, Syria. Efforts are reportedly underway to negotiate a ceasefire in the region, to avert a humanitarian disaster.
(photo: CNS /Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Turkey says it is working on ceasefire in Syria (Reuters) Turkey is working to achieve a ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held northwest and is ready for cooperation to fight terrorist groups in the Idlib area, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday…
Jordan ambassador addresses plight of refugees (Vatican News) The refugee situation in Jordan was highlighted this week at the Festival of Mediterranean Journalists taking place in the Italian city of Otranto. Participating at the festival’s 10th edition was the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Jordan, to Italy, Fayiz Khouri, who explained that today the country, home to 21 percent of Syrian refugees, is experiencing a complicated situation…
Iraqi Christians having a hard time entering the U.S. (NBC News) Despite vowing to help vulnerable Christians around the world, the Trump administration is making it harder for Christian refugees to enter the U.S. The number of Christian refugees granted entry into the U.S. has dropped by more than 40 percent over the past year, a decline of almost 11,000 refugees. They have been caught in the wider net of President Donald Trump’s tough stance on immigration and refugees, which has lowered overall refugee admissions by the same percentage…
U.N. report links India’s ruling party with violence (UCANews.com) A new United Nations report has linked India’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with violence and inflammatory speeches against religious minorities. U.N. special rapporteur Tendayi Achiume, an independent human rights expert appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, on 12 September submitted a report on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance…
Ukraine’s president discusses Russian aggression, his wish for sanctions on Moscow (The Washington Post) When Ukrainians took to the streets in the 2014 Maidan revolution, they ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and selected Petro Poroshenko as his successor to begin a period of reform. Poroshenko is up for reelection next spring, and polls show that Ukrainians are disappointed with him, particularly for what they see as his failure to clean up corruption. In a rare interview, Poroshenko discussed persistent Russian aggression, his wish for more international sanctions on Moscow, and the Trump administration’s sale of weapons to his country, which the Obama administration had blocked. Edited excerpts follow…
13 September 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Refugees Jordan
In this image from August, Muslim pilgrims touch Kaaba's wall and pray at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
In countries where CNEWA serves, there are sizable—often majority—Muslim communities. And, of course, in the Holy Land, there is a majority Jewish community.
But in a rare coincidence, both Islam and Judaism are observing their respective New Years this week.
On 10 September, Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, literally “the head of the year,” and the following day Muslims observed the first of Muharram, the New Year in the Muslim calendar. Although Muslims and Jews (to some extent also Christians) follow a lunar calendar of twenty-nine days, Jews and Christians in different ways “correct” the lunar calendar to keep it in line with the 365-day solar calendar. Muslims, however, do not and the Muslim calendar year is 10-11 days shorter than the “corrected” calendar used by Jews and Christians. As a result, festivals like Ramadan, the Breaking of the Fast and New Year move “backwards” through the calendar commonly used. Thus 1 Muharram fell on 14 October in 2015 and will fall on 10 August in 2021. It is unusual, therefore, that 1 Muharram and Rosh Hashanah occur so close to each other.
There is some interesting history behind all this. The Islamic calendar — and hence, New Year — is calculated from the Hijra or emigration/flight of Muhammad and the Muslim community in 622 from a hostile Mecca to Medina where the community would thrive. After enduring more than a decade of often violent persecution in Mecca, Muhammad and his community were invited by the people of Medina, an oasis city over 200 miles north of Mecca, to move there and for Muhammad to govern the city. The story of the Hijra is tense and thrilling. As the Muslims were leaving the city, Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s son-in-law, disguised himself as Muhammad in the Prophet’s bed to throw off those who were trying to kill him. Muhammad and his faithful companion Abu Bakr hid from the pursuers in a cave for three days before finally beginning the trip and arriving safely in Medina.
It is important to understand the relationship between the Hijra and the Muslim New Year. It is estimated that the Hijra took place in June of 622. The 1 Muharram after the Hijra is the beginning of the Muslim calendar, which is abbreviated AH (anno hegira). One of the four “sacred months” in the Muslim calendar, Muharram is second in holiness only to the month of Ramadan. Muharram is traditionally a time of non-violence. War, fighting and even hunting is forbidden during the sacred month.
The 10th day of Muharram is Ashura, which for Shi’ite Muslims is a day of great mourning, recalling the murder of Hussein ibn Ali, the Prophet’s grandson, in 680. Ashura is extremely important for Shi’ites who observe the martyrdom of Hussein with re-enactments of his death and mourning rituals. Sunnis do not observe Ashura in this way and in some parts of the world this leads to conflict between the Shi’ite and Sunni communities.
Both Judaism and Islam observe their particular New Years in different ways, with different ceremonies, with rich and varied meanings for those communities. However, the New Year is always a time for looking back and looking forwards — the Roman god Janus, for whom January is named, is portrayed with two faces, one looking forward, the other backwards.
It is a time for remembering the past and correcting what needs to be corrected and a time for looking forward in faith and hope for the year to come.
13 September 2018
Tags: Muslim Islam Jews
Religious sisters, and the children in their care, greet Msgr. Kozar during a visit to India. (photo: John E. Kozar)
A few years ago, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar offered this heartfelt tribute to religious sisters:
Sometimes, they are the first evangelizers who share the Good News of Jesus; sometimes they are the mother figure a child has never known; sometimes they are a nurse at a clinic, not only dispensing medicine and bandages, but healthy measures of tender loving care; sometimes they offer a cup of rice to a starving mother and child; sometimes they welcome a refugee. And always, they are present. In the midst of war, famine, insurrection, terrorism, ignorance, abandonment or any form of persecution or oppression, the sisters offer their heroic witness. Make no mistake: They are heroes.
Read more about these heroes in the Spring 2013 edition of ONE.
13 September 2018
Tags: India Sisters
Syrians have begun to flee Idlib, fearing an anticipated attack, as the UN reports the country is facing unprecedented levels of displacement. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
UN: Syria facing unprecedented levels of displacement (Al Jazeera) Syria has witnessed unprecedented levels of internal displacement not seen throughout the seven-year conflict with more than one million forced to flee, a UN report said on Wednesday. The 24-page report by the UN Commission of Inquiry detailed the ordeal many Syrians have faced in the first six months of 2018…
Syrian refugees facing harsh winter (UNHCR) Overall, there are more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees registered across the region — 2.6 million of whom are children — driven from their homes by a conflict now in its eighth year. And the needs of families are great. Without support people resort to desperate measures such as going without adequate shelter, healthcare or education…
Violent protests hit Basra, Iraq (Reuters) Violent protests in the Iraqi city of Basra have all but ended U.S.-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s chances of winning a second term and shattered Washington’s hopes of shaping the next government. Fifteen people have been killed protesting against power cuts, polluted water, poor services and perceived corruption in Iraq’s second city, many of them in clashes with security forces…
Economic losses from Kerala floods top $4 billion (Asia Insurance Review) Total economic losses from floods in the southern state of Kerala have been tentatively estimated at upwards of INR300bn ($4.25bn), as direct damage and business interruption costs are still being assessed, according to an Aon catastrophe report..
As a new leader rises in Ethiopia, the diaspora dares to dream (The Washington Post) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has lifted a long-standing state of emergency, ended a decades-old conflict with neighboring Eritrea and called for Ethiopia to transition into a multiparty democracy. For the many Ethiopians who fled the country during the long years of autocracy, the reforms have revived a dream they once thought impossible: going home…
12 September 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Refugees
As a boy leans against an ancient khatchkar, or tablet, in an Armenian church as a choir rehearses. Learn more about the deep spiritual roots of Armenia in Where God Descended in the May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
12 September 2018
The situation in Syria could lead to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, with even more people being displaced. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
UN: Syria war displacement this year has been the worst ever (AP) U.N. investigators warned Wednesday that a war against some 10,000 extremists in northwestern Syria should not take 3 million people hostages. They added that the expected attack by Syrian troops on Idlib province would make other battles in the country look minor. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry said government forces carried out three chemical weapons attacks in Syria and that violence displaced the largest number of people the year, the largest since the conflict began in 2011…
Weeks after flood, Kerala now fights dry spell (Indian Express) An unusual dry spell coupled with the reported fall in the groundwater level in flood-hit areas of Kerala has emerged as a cause of concern…
Floods trigger influx of alien fish species (The Hindu) The catastrophic floods that caused widespread havoc throughout the State last month have also released several alien species of fish into waterbodies, raising a threat to the endemic aquatic ecosystem and biodiversity, scientists have reported…
Moscow warns of ’catastrophic’ consequences of Ukraine church independence (TASS) The chief of Moscow Patriarchate’s department for relations between the Church and society, Vladimir Legoida, warned that steps to authorize autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church may have catastrophic consequences, including violence and seizure of churches belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reporting to Moscow Patriarchate...
Pope to convene world meeting on abuse prevention with bishops’ leaders (CNS) Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops’ conference in the world to Rome on 21-24 February to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults…
11 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Ukraine
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, left, leads a procession on 9 September at the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Aleppo. During the inauguration and rededication of the cathedral, Patriarch Younan said, "We will always be people of hope and life." (CNS photo/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
In war-torn Aleppo, Syria, the Syriac Catholic patriarch proclaimed that “the will of life has overcome death; hope and security have overcome despair and chaos. Our people have overcome.”
Celebrating the liturgy on 9 September at the inauguration and rededication of the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral, Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, “We will always be people of hope and life.”
The cathedral’s inaugural liturgy, filled with worshippers, was attended by Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Vatican nuncio to Syria; bishops of other Christian churches; and representatives of Aleppo civil authorities.
The patriarch led a procession through the nearby streets to the restored cathedral, then cut a white ribbon fastened to the main door and entered.
In his homily, Patriarch Younan recalled his visit to Aleppo in 2017, when he celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in the damaged cathedral with the faithful assembled under umbrellas “because the rain was falling on us from all sides of this cathedral.”
“We are gathered today to sing thanks and praise to the Lord who gave us this wonderful gift to be able to repair this cathedral in order to recuperate its beauty of the past. We are so delighted to come once again and pray with you, in this cathedral so dear to you,” the patriarch said.
“For many years, this house of God suffered a lot of devastation, being at the demarcation line with terrorists. It is now restored for worship, a sign of hope and victory of the good over the evil that destroyed so many churches and mosques in this beloved city, Aleppo,” Patriarch Younan said. He noted that Aleppo was recognized for centuries as the most important center for many Christian communities.
“During the horrendous siege at the hands of criminals that lasted four years, this second-largest and prosperous city of Syria was deprived of basic necessities,” the patriarch said. “You lacked water, food, fuel and electricity. All this happened under the eyes of the ‘civilized’ world.’“
“You and hundreds of thousands of civilians under the ruling of the legitimate Syrian government were forgotten, abandoned even manipulated by those opportunistic geo-politicians of our present time,” he said.
In December 2016, the Syrian army retook control of almost the entire city of Aleppo. The city had been split between government and rebel control since 2012.
“Aleppo has returned, and Syria will return to its previous glory, and even more beautiful, because there are many civil and spiritual officials who felt the duty of their responsibilities to serve ... with integrity and honesty,” Patriarch Younan said.
“We should first thank God almighty that helped you, beloved brothers and sisters, under the leadership of our brother-Archbishop Antoine Chahda (of Aleppo), to undertake the hard and costly works of repairing this wonderful cathedral built in the 1970s,” the patriarch said.
He thanked the “generous benefactors” from the archdiocese, Catholic organizations and the government of Hungary.
“We owe to our Catholic brothers and sisters from around the world a lot of appreciation and gratitude for the charitable and unconditional solidarity toward us and all Christians of the Middle East, most particularly the two beleaguered countries of Syria and Iraq,” Patriarch Younan said.
The liturgy commemorated the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
“Our thanks go to our heavenly Virgin Mary, who protected the faithful of this cathedral, and protected the people of Aleppo,” the patriarch said. He stressed that Aleppo still needs her intercession after so much suffering and prayed that she would grant the Middle East “a true peace and unshakable security based on justice for all.”
He also prayed that she would hasten the return of Syrians who migrated to other countries.
The patriarch’s four-day visit to Syria from the patriarchate in Beirut included meetings with government officials and Muslim clerics. During the liturgy at the restored cathedral, the patriarch ordained six new deacons.
11 September 2018
Women religious and other residents walk in floodwaters in Kerala, in India. (photo: CNS/courtesy Father Jolly Vadakken via Global Sisters Report)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, just sent us this update on the aftermath of flooding in Kerala:
As a native of Kerala, it was terrible to see such devastating flooding. I thank God that my family somehow escaped.
It was really a catastrophic situation. This was the worst monsoon disaster in Kerala since 1924. More than 450 people died; many were missing for days.
Flood waters submerged houses, shops and destroyed crops. Tens of thousands of people had to be moved to relief camps. The situation was very scary in my own village, which was severely affected. Hundreds of families, including my own, had to take shelter in relief camps. More than 5,000 such camps were opened to accommodate flood victims.
There was no electricity in many villages for weeks; thousands of power connections were disrupted. Rivers changed course, dams overflowed and bridges collapsed.
Almost all the districts of Kerala were affected—more severely, in the districts of Idukki, Wayanad, Allepy, Trichur, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Kannur. Hundreds of landslides occurred in several parts of the state. People were trapped atop houses surrounded by water. They were not able to move due to flooding.
People were evacuated by military helicopters, assisted by the great work done by members of the fishing community. They came with their fishing boats, risking their lives and rescuing those who were trapped. Their experience in the violent sea helped them to face this challenge and save lives.
The flood swept through hundreds of villages, destroying about 6,200 miles of roads. In Kannur district alone, 48 landslides occurred and 2,000 houses were damaged; out of this, 196 houses were totally destroyed, 122 open wells were inundated with dirty flood water, 941 animals were killed, and 95 cattle sheds were washed away.
In Wayanad district, 3,747 families were affected and 14,134 people fled to relief camps; 226 houses were fully destroyed, 1,893 houses partially damaged, and 2,650 acres of agriculture were destroyed.
Idukki was one of the worst hit places, due to landslides and heavy rain. Some 325 landslides occurred in this district. More than 6,175 families were severely affected by the landslides; 60 people died and more than 50 were seriously injured. More than 1,200 houses were fully washed away by the flood, mudflow and landslides. About 6,000 people have become homeless; 2,266 houses were partially damaged, 180 shops totally damaged. Many livestock were lost.
In North Parur region and Aluva in Ernakulam, 117 schools were hit. In North Parur Taluk, almost all the villages were submerged and people were evacuated. Chalakudy in Trichur district was heavily affected, as the water level rose very high due to the Peringalkuthu dam overflowing.
In Kuttanad region, situated at the tail end of four major rivers, the area looked like a festering swamp after four days of torrential rain. Some 125,000 people from this region were in relief camps; about 50,000 chose to move to the houses of their relatives.
Hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, banks, government offices, shops, cattle, crops, food materials, household items — everything was destroyed and people had to depend on relief supplies.
For the first few days, there were no supplies coming in, as the flooding was so heavy that no one could move from one place to another; the people in relief camps had to struggle without food and water. Then, the helicopters dropped food materials and the military vehicles tried their best to bring necessary items to the people in camps.
All the belongings and household items — kitchen utensils, beds, furniture, chairs, tables, medicines, food items, dress materials — almost everything was lost. The most affected are the poor and the daily wage workers who now have to rebuild from almost nothing.
Please give what you can to help support our brothers and sisters in Kerala. Visit this page for more information.
11 September 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Families are struggling to salvage their homes and business after the massive flooding in Kerala last month. (video: TRTWorld/YouTube)
Disease and snakes await Kerala flood victims (UCANews.com) Sheela Joseph and her family spent a week in a relief camp before they were able to return to their flood-hit house on the banks of Periyar River in the southern Indian state of Kerala in late August. She was among 1.3 million people who found themselves displaced in the middle of last month when flash floods hit the state. Many have since gone back home as the waters have receded but many thousands still reside in temporary shelters as their abodes remain waterlogged and uninhabitable, if not completely destroyed…
Turkey warns attack on Idlib would cause humanitarian disaster (Reuters) A Syrian government offensive in the country’s northern region of Idlib would cause humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, Europe and beyond, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday in an article in the Wall Street Journal…
Ethiopia, Eritrea reopen border points for first time in 20 years (Reuters) The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea re-opened crossing points on their shared border for the first time in 20 years on Tuesday, cementing a stunning reconciliation and giving Addis Ababa a direct route to its former foe’s Red Sea ports…
Coptic abbot’s murder points to strains over ecumenism in Egypt (Religion News Service) The Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt is reeling from the recent murder of the abbot of St. Macarius Monastery, apparently by traditionalists of his own faith, in the fourth-century center of meditation and scholarship 60 miles northwest of Cairo…
Bishops from mission territory gather at Vatican (Vatican News) Bishops who have been ordained within the last two years in dioceses which are still considered mission territory have gathered in Rome to take part in a Seminar organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 3-15 September. There are 75 Bishops from 34 countries gathered for the Seminar hosted at Collegio San Paolo (Pontifical International Missionary College of St Paul the Apostle) in Rome…
Virtual reality allows visitors to walking through Jerusalem during the time of Jesus (Aleteia) Australian start-up Lithodomos VR will offer visitors the chance to actually see how ancient cities looked hundreds of years ago, thanks to virtual reality tours based on architectural reconstructions done by professional archaeologists. The Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City will launch a VR tour of the city for the holiday of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that celebrates the gathering of the harvest…
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Vatican