28 August 2015
In the video above, priests from Iraq and Syria describe what is happening in the Middle East
as genocide. (video: Rome Reports)
The lives of Syrian refugees who fled (BBC) Hundreds of thousands of people seeking to escape war, persecution and poverty have crossed into Europe this year. The vast majority are fleeing the conflict in Syria, and under international law are classed as refugees. Since the conflict began more than four years ago, about eight million people — or 40% of the population — have had to leave their homes...
Estonia plans Russian “border fence” (BBC) Estonia says it wants to build a fence along its eastern border with Russia to boost security and protect the EU's passport-free Schengen zone. Construction on the fence, planned to be about 110km (70 miles) long and 2.5m (8ft) high, is set to start in 2018. It is expected to cost about €71m (£52m; $80m), according to reports. The plans come amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict. Europe is also struggling with an influx of migrants...
Martyred Syrian bishop hailed as a model of holiness (Vatican Radio) On Saturday, 29 August, the venerable Servant of God, Flavyānus Mikhayil Melkī is to be beatified. Melkī was an Eastern Catholic prelate of the Brothers of Saint Ephrem, who became the Syrian Catholic eparch of Gazarta — or what is Cizre in modern-day Turkey, and was was killed in Gazarta during the sayfo or “putting to the sword” of Syrians in 1915, after he refused to convert to Islam. In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio, the Prefect of the Congregations for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, said that the soon-to-be Blessed Flavyā nus Mikhayil Melkī is a model of holiness for our time, in which once again the Christian communities of very ancient standing face the threat of extinction...
Gaza victims still displaced a year later (The Daily Telegraph) It is a year this week since the homes and lives of Beit Hanoun families were levelled in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that to this day sees more than 100,000 people in Gaza still displaced with no real homes or livelihood and many living in the rubble created during the intense seven-week war...
Coptic Christian jailed for handing out Bibles to Muslims (Christian Post) An Egyptian Christian who was arrested in early August for handing out Bibles to Muslims at a mall is likely to remain jailed indefinitely after a judge extended his sentence and charged him with blasphemy right before he was scheduled to be released...
27 August 2015
Oseni Khalajian, a pensioner living in Eshtia, belongs to a community of Armenian Catholics descended from Armenians who fled to Georgia to escape the Turkish mass murder. Learn more about the the efforts of Armenians Catholics to retain identity and faith in “Staying Power” from the Autumn 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
27 August 2015
Ukrainian scouts patrol a neutral zone to survey the position of pro-Russian rebels in the Lugansk region on 27 August. (photo: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)
Seven Ukrainian servicemen killed, 13 wounded (Reuters) Seven Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 13 wounded in fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the past 24 hours, military spokesman Oleksander Motuzyanyk said on Thursday. The casualties were the highest daily losses for the Ukrainian army since mid-July, as violence continues to test a six-month-old ceasefire deal.
Iraqi archbishop: Plights of Christians has challenged his faith (CNS) Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, placed his face in his hands when asked how his faith has been challenged and changed in the crisis he has helped manage over the past year. He said he has outwardly encouraged the Christians whom he welcomed to Irbil when they fled Islamic State, but within his heart he would frequently “quarrel with God.” “I don’t understand what he is doing when I look at what has happened in the region,” Archbishop Warda said. “I quarrel with him every day...”
UN: growing need for food aid in Ethiopia (The Guardian) The number of Ethiopians who will need food aid by the end of this year has surged by more than 1.5 million from earlier estimates, according to United Nations agencies. After failed rains, some 4.5m people are now projected to require assistance, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), the World Food Programme and the UN children’s agency, Unicef, said. This is an increase of 55% on initial projections of 2.9 million, and means donors must urgently provide an extra $230m to meet these needs...
Dozens of refugees found dead in truck in Austria (Reuters) As many as 50 refugees were found dead in a parked truck in Austria near the Hungarian border on Thursday, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the discovery had shaken European leaders discussing the migrant crisis at a Balkans summit. Police made the grisly discovery in the 7.5-tonne truck stopped on the A4 motorway near the town of Parndorf, apparently since Wednesday, Hans Peter Doskozil, police chief in the province of Burgenland, told a news conference...
A Jewish perspective on “Nostra Aetate” 50 years later (Vatican Radio) Susannah Heschel is an American author and professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College in the United States. She’s also the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who played an influential role in the drawing up of ‘Nostra Aetate.’ At a recent conference, organised by theEcclesiological Investigations network at Georgetown University, Philippa Hitchen talked to Susannah about her father’s role and about the importance of that document, half a century on...
26 August 2015
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Refugees Ethiopia
On 20 August, Israeli heavy equipment loads an olive tree after it was uprooted to make way for the controversial separation barrier in the Cremisan Valley in Beit Jala, West Bank.
(photo: CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
The latest developments in the Cremisan Valley — with Israel moving forward with construction of a controversial barrier that will divide the region — has prompted a response from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (U.S.C.C.B.).
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces this week sent the following letter to Secretary of State John Kerry:
Dear Secretary Kerry:
As Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write regarding the injustice being perpetrated in the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. My predecessor as Chairman called this situation to your attention earlier. A recent statement of the Latin Patriarchate encapsulates our concerns:
“On Monday morning, 17 August, Israeli bulldozers arrived unannounced on private properties in Beir Ona, near the Cremisan Valley, to resume construction of the Separation Wall. The residents of the area were surprised and felt the pain of the loss of about 50 of their centuries-old olive trees that were uprooted.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem strongly condemns this Israeli conducted operation, which is without regard to the rights of the families of the valley; the rights that these same families have bravely tried to defend before the law over the past decade. We join with the sorrow and frustration of these oppressed families, and we strongly condemn the injustice done to them.
The construction of the Separation Wall and the confiscation of lands of the local families are threats and insults to peace. We call on the Israeli authorities to await the decision on the petition submitted by the families of the Valley to the Supreme Court of Israel a few days ago and to stop the work that has been started.
We urge you to press Israeli authorities to stop the work on the Separation Wall whose route is confiscating the private lands of Palestinian families in the West Bank. Such actions undermine the cause of peace and impair the possibility of a two-state solution.
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú
Bishop of Las Cruces
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
26 August 2015
Tags: Palestine Israel Holy Land
A bougainvillea grows through the open window of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ convent in Suez, burned by rioters in 2013. To learn more about efforts to rebuild in Egypt, read Out of the Ashes in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
26 August 2015
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Sisters
In the video above, a Vatican official says that charitable Christian organizations have been invited to Rome on 17 September to discuss what can be done to improve aid to refugees from Iraq and Syria. (video: Rome Reports)
Kurds launch new assault on ISIS (Reuters) Kurdish forces attacked ISIS insurgents in a cluster of villages in Iraq’s northern province of Kirkuk on Wednesday, bent on securing territory they have gained in the course of rolling back the jihadists since last summer. The assault began overnight south of Daquq, a town about 108 miles north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad…
Pope extends boundaries of Syro-Malabar eparchy (Vatican Radio) The pope has extended the boundaries of the Syro-Balabar Eparchy of Mandya and included six neighboring civil districts. At the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishops at Mount St. Thomas in Kerala, the Rev. Dr. P. Antony Kariyil, C.M.I., was canonically elected bishop of the Eparchy of Mandya…
Russia inadvertently publishes death toll in eastern Ukraine (NBC News) Russia’s military death toll in eastern Ukraine may be officially classified — but it appears to have inadvertently slipped out. A Russian financial news website published a report — which has now been censored — saying that Moscow has paid compensation to around 2,000 families of troops slain in the conflict. Russia has steadfastly denied allegations its troops have been sent to assist pro-Moscow rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. However, the Kremlin said in May that army deaths in peacetime were classified information…
Vatican sends letter to mark 60th anniversary of Hebrew Catholic Vicariate (Vatican Radio) Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has sent a letter on behalf of Pope Francis for the 60th anniversary of the Apostolate of St. James. The Apostolate is the Hebrew Catholic Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem…
Mortar attacks on churches in Damascus (Fides) On Sunday, 23 August, a rain of mortars fell on the neighborhood, including two shells on the roof of the Maronite church. This was reported by Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar, in an statement specifying that 9 people were killed and about 50 were wounded…
Census on religions in India shows increase in Muslims (Fides) The Muslims have increased by 0.8 percent and now represent 14.2 percent of the Indian population, while Hindus have fallen by 0.7 percent and represent 79.8 percent. These are the data just released by the Indian authorities, emerged from the 2011 Census on the population of the religious communities in the country…
25 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Pope ISIS
Children in in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, participate in a psychosocial program run by the Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees of the Near East Council of Churches, funded in part by CNEWA. The program is designed to help the children cope better with stress caused by the 2014 war with Israel and the continuing hardship provoked by the Israeli siege of the Palestinian territory. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
A year after war tore apart Gaza, efforts are still underway to help heal the often invisible wounds, especially among children. CNS’s Dale Gavlak reports on one prime example, supported by CNEWA:
Catholic aid agencies having been using various counseling techniques, even a live clown and puppets, to help the Gaza Strip’s children overcome the trauma of lost loved ones and homes in the year since the cease-fire ended the conflict. But they warn that only a political solution can hope to remedy the increasingly desperate situation there.
“Almost everything we do as an international nongovernmental organization — and most peers would say the same — is like putting a Band-Aid on a pretty serious injury,” said Matthew McGarry, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative for Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.
McGarry and other aid officials told Catholic News Service that the long-festering conflict between Israel and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has created a man-made humanitarian and psychosocial crisis that politics alone must solve.
“It’s cumulative. Children as young as 7 have lived through three wars in the past 7 years — that’s your lifetime,” McGarry told CNS of the psychological toll Gaza’s multiple wars have taken on its youngest residents.
The U.N. estimates that at least 370,000 children in Gaza need psychosocial support following last summer’s war, which cost the lives of more than 2,250 Palestinians, 65 percent of whom were civilians. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers were killed, along with six civilians, it said, before the 26 August 2014, cease-fire was reached.
But Catholic aid officials who regularly assess assistance on the ground called the U.N. estimate “low.” McGarry and Sami El-Yousef, regional director for Palestine and Israel for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said everyone in the war-torn strip is traumatized and needs psychosocial support.
Still, Gaza’s youngest appear to bear the hardest and most-lasting consequences of the seven-week conflict, according to findings by Save the Children, based in the United Kingdom.
Three-quarters of Gaza’s children experience unusual bed-wetting regularly, while 89 percent of parents said that their children suffer constant feelings of fear, reported a study issued by the group in July.
More than 70 percent of children worry that another war will break out. Seven out of 10 children interviewed now suffer regular nightmares.
For the past year, CRS, CNEWA and Caritas have worked with local partners to tackle these problems.
“The program we designed was to reach mainly children, but not exclusively,” El-Yousef told CNS. CNEWA’s psychosocial support became its biggest program to aid post-conflict Gaza, helping more than 20,000 at some 30 schools and other community spaces.
“Some recreational activities were involved, but others needed deep psychological follow-up with specialized counselors, including the transfer to institutions qualified to handle severe cases on a one-on-one basis which were detected during the intervention,” El Yousef said.
A combination of group and individual counseling, puppets, play and art therapy has begun to show some signs of lessening the trauma.
“I was talking with a mother the other day about her 10-year-old daughter, who had been wetting the bed every night and had to be put on anti-anxiety medication by her doctor,” McGarry said.
The girl was enrolled into one of 17 child-friendly spaces CRS has set up in Gaza’s towns hardest hit by the bombardment. There, children draw and paint, play games and talk about their feelings.
Although she still wets her bed from time to time, it’s no longer a nightly occurrence, the mother told McGarry. The doctor has also lowered the medication dosage because he said “she is clearly making some progress.”
The CRS country representative recounted another case of a 12-year-old boy who was acting out violently and being overly aggressive at home.
“He had to be coaxed a bit to come to the child-friendly space and didn’t participate at first. But in time he became more active,” McGarry said. “His mother says he is now gentler and less antagonistic with his siblings. This is what we are looking for.”
CRS introduced puppets for the first time in Gaza as a way to encourage children to express their feelings, work through the trauma and adopt nonviolent conflict resolution practices. So far, 3,000 children have participated in such programs, and more opportunities are planned for them next year.
Caritas Jerusalem has expanded its help beyond psychological staff visits to families and schools. From July until October, Marco Rodari, an Italian clown therapist, is helping healing hearts in Gaza.
Experienced in working with traumatized and sick children, Rodari has created a special program for Gaza’s children.
First, he develops a relationship with children through a comedy and magic show. Next, they become the clowns or magicians performing the tricks. The third aspect of the program will be the start of a “real school of magic” for the children.
Clown therapy enables the traumatized child to forget for a while the horrors experienced, to feel happy emotions and smile again, Rodari told Caritas.
Making theater brings out children’s emotions. While performing simple magic tricks, the child uses different parts of the body at the same time, thus activating several parts of the brain. Rodari said this promotes psychological healing and helps to replace “bad emotions and memories with happy, positive feelings and thoughts.”
25 August 2015
Tags: Children Gaza Strip/West Bank Relief
This image from 2011 shows ultra-Orthodox Jews praying at Joseph’s Tomb, in the northern Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus. (Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)
Israelis thwart plot to attack Jews at Joseph’s Tomb (The Jerusalem Post) The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Tuesday that it had busted a terror cell, thwarting a planned attack with improvised explosives and guns on Jews praying at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. Many Jews visit Joseph’s Tomb, surrounded by Palestinian Authority controlled areas, without coordinating with the IDF, and the cell planned to take advantage of that extra vulnerability…
ISIS speeds up destruction of antiquities in Syria (The New York Times) Islamic State militants have razed a fifth-century Roman Catholic monastery and blown up one of the best-preserved first-century temples in Palmyra, the ancient Syrian city that is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, according to government officials and local activists. And that was just this past week — in one Syrian province. The cumulative destruction of antiquities has reached staggering levels that represent an irreversible loss to world heritage and future scholarship, archaeological experts and antiquities officials say…
Ukraine vows to increase troops (AP) Ukraine’s president vowed to increase troop numbers to fend off attacks by Russia-backed separatist rebels and warned his countrymen that there is still the threat of a “large-scale invasion,” in an impassioned speech to mark Independence Day on Monday. Russia’s foreign minister said Poroshenko’s statements about Russian troops were “unsubstantiated and unscrupulous…”
Poverty-stricken Ethiopia launches its own space program (The Daily Mail) For Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, the program is aimed to give it a technological boost to aid the country’s already rapid development. “Science is part of any development cycle — without science and technology nothing can be achieved,” said Abinet Ezra, communications director for the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS). “Our main priority is to inspire the young generation to be involved in science and technology…”
24 August 2015
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Historical site/city
The Temple of Baal Shamin in Palmyra, Syria, a cultural landmark that has stood for nearly 2,000 years, was reportedly destroyed by ISIS. (photo: Wikipedia)
Reports this weekend indicate that the ruthless destruction of priceless antiquities by ISIS is continuing:
ISIS has reportedly destroyed another significant landmark in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria.
The Temple of Baal Shamin stood for nearly two millennia, honoring the Phoenician god of storms and rain, as the BBC reported. Destruction of the site would be directly in line with ISIS’s campaign not just against people of other faiths, but against their culture. “Oh Muslims, these artifacts that are behind me were idols and gods worshipped by people who lived centuries ago instead of Allah,” one militant said of antiquities in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this year.
After the ISIS captured Palmyra in May, Baal Shamin seems to have fallen to the group’s philosophy.
“[ISIS] placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin today and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple,” Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s antiquities chief, told Agence France-Presse. “The [temple’s inner area] was destroyed and the columns around collapsed.”
24 August 2015
Tags: Syria ISIS Historical site/city
A serviceman stands watch with a grenade launcher in a position of Ukrainian forces near Avdiivka on 23 August 2015. Sunday, Pope Francis renewed his appeals for peace in Ukraine. (photo: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope appeals for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis made a new appeal for peace in Ukraine. “With deep concern, I am following the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has accelerated anew in these last weeks,” the pope said. “I renew my appeal that the commitments undertaken to achieve peace might be respected; and that, with the help of organizations and persons of good will, there might be a response to the humanitarian emergency in the country…”
Thousands of migrants from Syria, Iraq rushing to Hungary (Vatican Radio) Thousands of desperate migrants — many of them Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing bloody conflicts — have spent the night in overcrowded refugee camps in Serbia after they crammed into trains and buses in neighboring Macedonia following clashes with police. That they are trying to enter Hungary where even the capital claims to be overwhelmed by the influx of refugees…
Committee against abuse against Christians set up in Iraq (Fides) A committee of the security forces has been set up with the aim to collect information and provide practical measures regarding the violence and abuse suffered by Christians in Iraq and in particular in the capital. Iraqi sources say the committee was set up on the orders of Prime Minister Haydar al Abadi, and aims to counter in particular the escalation of kidnappings and illegal expropriation of homes and land which in recent months Iraqi Christians have suffered…
Israeli villages near Gaza rebound warily (The New York Times) The border communities are still dotted with fortified bomb shelters, and because the war ended inconclusively, many residents say they can never quite escape the thought that the rockets and mortar rounds will start flying out of Gaza again or that Hamas militants will burst out of surreptitious tunnels right into their midst. Still, life is returning, though more quickly in some places than in others…
Greek Catholic army chaplain ministers in Ukraine (Ukraine Today) Back in June, Father Andriy Zelinskiy came to the Ukraine Today newsroom for an interview. He had just returned from the warzone in eastern Ukraine and recalled his service on the front line. During our last trip to the eastern Ukraine, we decided to visit Father Andriy to see with our own eyes the life of a military chaplain in the combat zone. Father Andriy shows us his Spartan living conditions — his body armor right beside him…
Ethiopian Catholics ask African Union to invite Pope Francis (Vatican Radio) A high-powered Ethiopian Catholic Church delegation met with the African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Dlamini Nkozasana Zuma to discuss the strengthening of bilateral relationships. During the meeting with Dr. Nkozasana Zuma, Cardinal Berhaneyesus suggested to her that it would be a great opportunity if the African Union would invite the Holy Father to speak during its one of its plenary sessions…
Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Migrants Hungary