30 January 2017
An elderly woman from Mosul, Iraq, sits at a refugee camp in Khazer, Iraq, on 29 January. Giving priority to Christian refugees for settlement programs would be “a trap” that discriminates and fuels religious tensions in the Middle East, said Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad.
(photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)
Giving priority to Christian refugees for settlement programs would be “a trap” that discriminates and fuels religious tensions in the Middle East, said Iraq's Chaldean Catholic patriarch.
“Every reception policy that discriminates (between) the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East” and would be “a trap for Christians in the Middle East,” said Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad.
The patriarch, speaking to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, commented on an executive action by U.S. President Donald Trump that temporarily stops from U.S. entry refugees from all over the world and migrants from seven countries in an attempt to review the screening process. The document asks that once the ban is lifted, refugee claims based on religious persecution be prioritized.
Patriarch Sako said any preferential treatment based on religion provides the kind of arguments used by those who propagate “propaganda and prejudice that attack native Christian communities of the Middle East as ‘foreign bodies’” or as groups that are “supported and defended by Western powers.”
“These discriminating choices,” he said, “create and feed tensions with our Muslim fellow citizens. Those who seek help do not need to be divided according to religious labels. And we do not want privileges. This is what the Gospel teaches, and what was pointed out by Pope Francis, who welcomed refugees in Rome who fled from the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims without distinction.”
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis, said any policy that gave priorities to Christians “might revive some of these animosities and might even pit Christians against Muslims, and that (also) might generate contrary action from the Muslims against Christians.”
“This is a time when we don’t want to add to the prejudice, the biases and even discriminatory attitudes evolving in the world,” he told Catholic News Service in Beirut 30 January at the Caritas Lebanon headquarters.
Emphasizing that he had not read the text of the executive action, but only news reports, the Philippine cardinal said announcing a ban being applied to specific countries was akin to “labeling them — and the migrants coming from those countries — as possible threats to a country. I think it is quite a generalization that needs to be justified.”
Cardinal Tagle, who has visited refugee settlements as part of his role as Caritas president, said he asks people who express reservations about receiving refugees and migrants, “Have you ever talked to a real refugee? Have you heard stories of real persons?”
“Very often, the refugee issue is reduced to statistics and an abstraction,” he said, and when people actually talk with refugees, “you realize that there is a human story, a global story (there) and if you just open your ears, your eyes, your heart then you could say, ‘This could be my mother. This could be my father. This could be my brother, my child.’
“These are human lives,” he said. “So, for people making decisions on the global level, please know that whatever you decide touches persons for better or for worse. And if our decisions are not based on the respect for human dignity and for what is good, then we will just be prolonging this problem — creating conflicts that drive people away.”
Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary for migrants and refugees at the Vatican’s new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told CNS in Rome that Christians are asked to reflect on the Good Samaritan and not to “react and act as if the plight of migrants and refugees is none of our business.”
People should focus on those seeking security and “take the trouble to find out the facts” — like how “migrants, far from being a drain, make a net contribution to the domestic economy — rather (than) swallow allegations which just trigger fear.”
Richer countries should not only welcome those who are fleeing, they “can do much more to help improve security and living, working, education and health opportunities in the refugee- and migrant-producing countries,” he said in a written statement.
More effort should be put into peacemaking and more resources dedicated to “helpful foreign aid.”
“The role of government is to enact its people’s values, keeping different factors in balance. National security is important, but always in balance with human security, which includes values like openness, solidarity, hope for the future,” the Jesuit priest said.
“The bottom line,” he said “is the centrality and dignity of the human person, where you cannot favor ‘us’ and ‘them,’ citizens over others.”
Contributing to this story was Doreen Abi Raad in Beirut.
30 January 2017
Pope Francis greets Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec after celebrating morning Mass in the chapel of his residence at the Vatican on 30 January. A Vatican statement said the pope assured Cardinal Lacroix of his prayers for the victims of a shooting in a mosque in Quebec City.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)
Pope prays for victims of Quebec mosque attack (Vatican Radio) On Monday morning, following the usual Mass at the Pope’s residence in the Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father met with Cardinal Gérald Cyprien LaCroix, assuring the Archbishop of Quebec City of his prayers for the victims of the attack on a mosque there on Sunday night...
Vatican council for interfaith dialogue condemns Canada attack (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue has strongly condemned the shooting at a mosque in Canada in which six people were killed and another dozen wounded. More than 50 people were gathered for evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City on Sunday night when the attack took place. Police have arrested two suspects in connection with the shooting, which Canadian authorities have described as a terror attack...
Chaldean patriarch: selection reception of migrants based on religion is ‘a trap for Christians’ (Fides) The option foreshadowed by U.S. President Donald Trump to maintain a “fast track” open for Christian refugees to enter the US, while the doors are closed to citizens of seven countries with a Muslim majority, is “a trap for Christians in the Middle East.” This was underlined by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Primate of the Eastern Catholic Church...
Syria warns setting up safe zones would be dangerous (AP) Syria warned Monday of safe zones for civilians that U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed interest in creating, saying it would have to come in coordination with the Syrian government, otherwise it would be unsafe and violate the Arab nation’s sovereignty. The announcement was made in Damascus by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem during a meeting with the head of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, who began an official visit to Syria on Monday...
Hundreds in St. Petersburg protest plan to give cathedral back to church (AP) Protesters rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday against plans by city authorities to give a landmark cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church amid an increasingly passionate debate over the relationship between the church and the Russian state...
Gaza water shortage worsening (Reuters) Gaza has long suffered severe water problems, with its aquifer contaminated by sewage, chemicals and seawater and the territory’s three desalination plants unable to meet demand. To drink, most citizens depend on imported, bottled water. But locals and development specialists say the situation is getting beyond dire, with more than 90 percent of the water in the aquifer unfit for domestic use, according to Rebhy Al-Sheikh, the deputy chairman of the Palestinian Water Authority...
27 January 2017
Sister Antoinette helps an Iraqi refugee study at her convent in Amman. Read more about how these religious sisters are Welcoming the Stranger in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
27 January 2017
Tags: Iraqi Christians Sisters Jordan Iraqi Refugees
“Today we brought back part of our dignity,” said Sophian, a parishioner in the town of Tel Kaif in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, who helped raise the cross on the roof of his reopened church. (video: Rudaw)
Chaldean patriarch visits recovering community in Nineveh Plain (Fides) On Thursday, 26 January, a delegation of the Chaldean Church led by Patriarch Raphael Louis I visited the area of the Nineveh Plain recently retaken by the Iraqi army and met with local officials and community members. In Tel Kaif, in the Church of the Sacred Heart, the patriarch led a moment of prayer to invoke the gift of peace in the entire region and the prompt return of refugees to their homes…
Pope calls Catholics and Oriental Orthodox to work for peace (Vatican Radio) Wherever there is violence and conflict, Christians are called to work patiently to restore concord and hope. That was Pope Francis’ message on Friday to members of the Joint International Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches. The group, which is meeting in the Vatican this week, includes representatives of six ancient churches of the East that have been separated from the rest of the Christian world since the middle of the fifth century…
The desperate conditions inside a Serbian migrant camp (New York Times) Migrants are stuck in freezing conditions behind the central train station in Belgrade, Serbia, where they survive on one meal a day. Many of the estimated 1,000 migrants are escaping instability in Afghanistan, where a worsening war with the Taliban has sent record numbers of people fleeing their homes. They have lingered for weeks in legal limbo, unable to move north after European countries along the Balkans shut their borders last year…
Sisi’s church donation stirs religious controversy (Al Monitor) When Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al Sisi donated 100,000 Egyptian pounds to build a mosque and a church in the new administrative capital, he stirred a wave of criticism and a religious controversy…
Pope Francis: ‘Remember Holocaust so never repeated’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with a delegation from the European Jewish Congress on Friday on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs annually on 27 January…
26 January 2017
Tags: Iraq Egypt Ecumenism Interreligious Serbia
A visitor enjoys a hot meal at the Harmony Center of Caritas Georgia. For two decades, Caritas Georgia has provided a wide range of services — including classes and health care — to the most vulnerable populations of the Caucasus. Learn more about their work in A Letter from Georgia in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Antonio di Vico)
26 January 2017
Pope Francis delivers a joint blessing with Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, the archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Vatican, during an ecumenical prayer service to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on 25 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope: Christian unity requires learning from each other (CNS) Divided Christians need to recognize the gifts God has given to other communities and learn from them “without waiting for the others to learn first,” Pope Francis said. Leading an ecumenical evening prayer service 25 January for the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis said Christians must overcome the “temptations of self-absorption that prevent us from perceiving how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings,” including in the lives of other Christian communities...
Trump expected to order Syria ‘safe zones’ for refugees (Reuters) President Donald Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan in coming days for setting up “safe zones” for refugees in Syria and neighboring countries, according to a document seen by Reuters, a move that could risk escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war. The draft executive order awaiting Trump’s signature signaled the new administration was preparing a step that Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama long resisted, fearing the potential for being pulled deeper into the conflict and the threat of clashes between U.S. and Russian warplanes over Syria...
Iraqi children returning to school in Mosul (AsiaOne.com) They have been waiting for two and half years and the children of Iraq’s east Mosul are flocking to enrol in their reopened schools, eager not to waste another day. “It’s a great day, today we are giving our children their right to receive an education,” said Ghassan Ahmed, queueing with his seven-year-old in the yard of Farahedi primary school...
New report highlights plight of displaced Palestinians (Vatican Radio) A new report released this week says the forced internal displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is making them poorer and keeping them in misery and despair...
Debate on Christians in the Middle East (Fides) In an extensive interview recently published by the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour, former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, an “independent” candidate in the next presidential election of France, rejected the argument that the permanence in power of Syrian President Bashar Assad would represent a “guarantee” for the survival of Christian communities in Syria...
Pope blesses sculpture dedicated to migrants (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has again expressed his closeness and concern for migrants and refugees by blessing a sculpture to be placed in the port of the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa, the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands fleeing poverty and violence...
25 January 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Palestine Ecumenism
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, left, greets children at a school run by the Sisters of Destitute in the Ghaziabad Slums project at Deendayalpuri. (photo: CNEWA)
The current edition of ONE features some beautiful photographs of India, and this reflection by CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar:
Despite horrible conditions of poverty, neglect and abuse, the children there manage to smile. When I try to bring smiles on their faces, I am rewarded with the gentle and reassuring messages that they reflect back to me: Life is very difficult, but there is always reason to be joyful. That joy and those beaming faces seem to radiate in the programs that CNEWA is so privileged to support.
Being a priest who loves to engage — some would say “entertain” — the children, I find myself always more the beneficiary of loving joy, rather than the benefactor of good will. And the joy of these beautiful children is infectious, especially for their priests, sisters and other caregivers. Even the sisters who insist on discipline and good order cannot resist the power of those grinning little ones. And that only brings out the best in me — as I, too, am captivated by their joy-filled smiles and laughter.
Below, you can see more images from a recent trip to India, narrated by Msgr. Kozar.
25 January 2017
In the video above, a Lebanese Christian now studying in Rome describes the significance of Lebanon as a place of refuge for so many. Many Syrian refugees now in Lebanon are struggling simply to survive. (video: Rome Reports)
At Mosul’s front lines, perils abound (The New York Times) After three months of fighting, the battle to retake Mosul has entered a new chapter, but the Islamic State’s vast arsenal of car bombs and suicide vests is far from spent and most of the civilian population is still trapped...
Syrian refugee children reduced to selling on Beirut’s streets (The Guardian) As the crisis in Syria approaches its sixth anniversary, the UN says 93 percent of refugee households in Lebanon don’t have enough food. When families can’t afford the basics, sending children out to work is one potentially dangerous way they try to cope. They also exhaust savings, sell any land or property they might own in Syria, and fall into debt...
Dispute over St. Petersburg cathedral sparks charges of anti-Semitism (The Washington Post) Recently announced plans to transfer the ownership of St. Isaac’s Cathedral from the state to the Russian Orthodox Church have sparked protests in the city, and on Tuesday that dispute turned uglier, with comments from a prominent politician leading to allegations of anti-Semitism in Orthodox-majority Russia. Those comments were made by Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy chairman of Russia’s State Duma, during a news conference on Monday...
U.N.: New drought puts recovery of Ethiopia at risk (AfricaNews.com) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that new drought across parts of southern Ethiopia may put recovery efforts at risk, unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas. In a statement released on Tuesday, the U.N. Said pastoral communities in these regions could suffer consequences of last year’s El Niño climate phenomenon, already witnessing forage shortfalls and water scarcity...
Coptic bishop makes donation for restoration of mosque (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Bishop Takla, at the head of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Dishna, in the governorate of Qena, has offered a donation to finance the restoration of the historic mosque dedicated to Abd al-Rahīm al-Qenāwī. The symbolic gesture of the donation took place recently during a public meeting in the presence of some local sheikhs, some Coptic priests and many residents of the area surrounding the mosque, in a festive atmosphere and marked by the desire to show the harmony between the Muslim and the Christian component of the Egyptian people...
24 January 2017
Born without arms, Jilumol Thomas grew up cared for by the Sisters of the Destitute in a home supported by CNEWA. She now works as a graphic designer. (photo: CNEWA)
Jilumol Thomas has done more — and with far less — than most of us can imagine. This 23-year-old young woman has defied the odds again and again, and is continuing to show others a quiet heroism that comes from trust in God.
CNEWA’s regional director for India, M.L. Thomas, wrote to tell us about her recently:
Jilumol Mariott Thomas — “Jilu” to her friends — was born the second of three children of Thomas Nellanikkattu and Annakkutty of Karimannoor near Thodupuzha in Kerala, the southern state of India. Tragically, she was born without arms. When Jilu was just four years-old, her mother died. Jilu was taken to the Mercy Home run by Sisters of the Destitute at Changanassery, a small town in Kerala, India supported by CNEWA in its childcare program.
At the Mercy Home, Jilu got support in abundance from the sisters. They set up a canvas for Jilu and gave her color pencils. In time, she learned how to battle her physical shortcomings. She started practicing graphics on a computer. Earning high marks in school, she eventually graduated and secured a degree in Animation and Graphic Design from Media Village in Changanassery.
After earning her degree, she started working on some computer-related jobs for private organizations. She later served as an office assistant at a church-run hospital at Paimkulam.
But her dream was to make a career in graphic design. Bishop Mar Sebastian Adayanthrath, Bishop Auxiliary of the Syro Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamali, invited Jilu to join Viani Printing Press, run by the Archdiocese in Kochi city. A work space was specially created for Jilu at Viani by rearranging the computer table, mouse and keyboard; it was set up in such a way that she could work with her feet.
The little girl born without arms or hands is now reaching and touching many with her talent — and her spirit.
Someone once asked her, “When you cry, how do you wipe your tears?,” and she replied: “I have no hands to erase my tears. Let me meet everyone with laughter and a smile so that I never need to cry.”
Jilu credits her faith, her family, and the sisters who raised her for teaching her what is possible.
“There are people who discourage me,” she says, “but I learned many lessons from them regarding life. A bird sits on the branch of a tree with a firm belief that the branch will not break away from the stem. Similarly, the journey of my life is with full trust in my merciful God.”
24 January 2017
Boys carry sandwiches on 20 January in Aleppo, Syria. Conveying Pope Francis’ closeness to the Syrian people, a Vatican delegation visited Aleppo 18-23 January, following the end of the hostilities that left thousands dead and the city in ruins. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Conveying Pope Francis’ closeness to the Syrian people, a Vatican delegation visited Aleppo following the end of the hostilities that left thousands dead and the city in ruins.
Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary-delegate of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, visited the city 18-23 January, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, and Msgr. Thomas Habib, an official at the nunciature, the Vatican said 24 January.
The delegation met with “Christian communities and their pastors, who expressed gratitude to the pope for his constant concern for beloved Syria,” the statement said.
They also visited several refugee camps and Catholic institutions assisting in relief efforts, including a humanitarian assistance center run by Caritas Aleppo.
According to the Vatican, during a meeting with the church’s charitable institutions, Msgr. Dal Toso and the delegation emphasized the importance of providing relief assistance to the Syrian people.
“With the support of the universal church and thanks to the generous contribution of the international community, such help may be intensified in the future to meet the growing needs of the people,” the Vatican said.
Members of the delegation also took part in an ecumenical prayer service that coincided with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as well as several meetings with Islamic representatives.
The “responsibilities of religions in educating for peace and reconciliation” was among the issues discussed during the meetings, the Vatican noted.