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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
14 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Thousands have been forced into relief camps across Kerala as flood waters continue to devastate the region. (video: YouTube/Al Jazeera)

Kerala floods force thousands into relief camps (The Times of India) According to the latest official figures, more than 60,000 people have been lodged in various relief camps across 14 districts of Kerala following the unprecedented monsoon rains that triggered floods and landslides in several places…

Scores killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia (Reuters) At least 40 people were killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia over the weekend, a senior regional official said on Monday, in the latest spate of violence driven by ethnic divisions. Unrest first broke out along the border of the country’s Somali and Oromiya provinces in September, displacing nearly a million people, though the violence had subsided by April…

Indian bishops cry foul as police probe church agencies (UCANews.com) Catholic prelates in India’s Jharkhand state have asked the government to substantiate allegations of fund diversion for religious conversion as police continue to investigate nearly 90 Christian institutions. The joint move by the eastern state’s bishops came on 12 August, a day after the state’s Criminal Investigation Department and Anti-Terrorism Squad carried out searches at the offices of Christian-managed non-government organizations (NGOs)…

Israel may be about to relax sanctions against Gaza (The Los Angeles Times) After over a month of suffocating sanctions that left many Gazans on the brink of economic collapse, relief may be on its way. Israel’s Defense Ministry said Monday that two days of “complete quiet” on its border with Gaza have led Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to consider easing the closure it imposed on the sole commercial entryway into the Gaza Strip on 9 July…

Early marriages rising in Iraq (Global Post) In 1997, 15 percent of Iraqi women wed before 18, according to government statistics. That was six years prior to the US invasion that toppled its brutal but secular dictator, Saddam Hussein. By 2016, two years after the outbreak of a sectarian Sunni vs. Shiite civil war and the rise of ISIS, who by then had imposed a harsh version of Islam on around a third of the country under its control — Iraq’s early marriage figure jumped to 24 percent, including nearly 5 percent who married before age 15…

Economic turmoil leaves Turkey reeling (Vatican News) On Friday, Minister of Finance Berat Albayrak rolled-out his “new economic model” that was supposed to reassure markets and investors, however, his plan was vague and further accelerated the crash of the lira. In an attempt to calm the markets on Monday, the Turkish Central Bank said it would provide local banks with all the liquidity they needed, but fears remain that the crisis could spread to markets in Europe…



Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

10 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Massive flooding has had a devastating effect on Kerla over the last several days, with officials describing the situation as "very serious." (video: YouTube/The Times of India)

Kerala flood situation ’very serious’ (UCANews.com) Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday described the situation in the flood-affected areas of Kerala as “very serious” and assured the state of all possible help from the Centre. Rajnath Singh, who arrived here on Sunday afternoon, made the statement after an aerial survey of Idukki and Ernakulam districts. He was accompanied by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General Sanjay Kumar. ”The situation is very serious in Kerala. The Centre will extend all necessary support to the state in all respects,” Rajnath Singh told the inmates of a relief camp near Kochi…

Countries vow support to Jordan after terrorist attacks (The Jordan Times) Countries from across the Middle East and elsewhere continued to offer their condolences to Jordan on Sunday, after five security personnel were killed in a terrorist attack. The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemned the attack on the security personnel in Fuhais and Salt. ”The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemns the attack on Jordanian security personnel in Fuhais on 10 August and the ensuing terrorist actions in Salt on 11 August...

Egyptian monk charged in murder of Coptic Orthodox bishop (Vatican News) Prosecutors say Wael Saad, a former monk at the monastery — who was defrocked last week — confessed to using an iron bar to bludgeon the bishop; however, there is no known motive for the crime, but it is reported he was being investigated by the victim for violating some rules of monasticism. Saad has now been charged and remains in custody, as investigations continue. The Coptic Orthodox Church has frozen the recruitment of new monks for the next 12 months, banned the use of social media, and instructed monks that leaving monastery grounds requires official permission…

Arms depot blast in Syria kills at least 67 (BBC) At least 67 people were killed and 33 injured by an explosion at an arms depot in rebel-held northern Syria on Sunday, rescuers and activists say. The blast in the village of Sarmada, in Idlib province, caused the collapse of two five-story buildings. More than 50 of the dead were civilians. The others were members of a jihadist alliance linked to al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)…

Ethiopian rebels declare ceasefire (Reuters) An Ethiopian rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire on Sunday, the latest dissident movement to aim for an end to hostilities in the wake of reforms…

2,200-year-old earring found in Jerusalem parking lot (Israel21c.org) The 2,200-year-old earring — a tiny gold filigree piece from Jerusalem’s Hellenistic era — was discovered during an archeological dig in the lot next to the City of David National Park. The hoop earring bears the head of a horned animal, possibly an antelope or deer. Excavators also found nearby a gold bead with intricate embroidered ornamentation resembling a thin rope pattern. While the earring’s owner and gender are a mystery, archaeologists are sure that it “definitely belonged to Jerusalem’s upper class. This can be determined by the proximity to the Temple Mount and the Temple, which was functional at the time, as well as the quality of the gold piece of jewelry…”



Tags: India Egypt Ethiopia Jerusalem

10 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Sister Odile, 84, helps young residents of the orphanage study in the basement of the church in Egypt. (photo: David Degner)

Sunday, the United Nations marks International Youth Day:

There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labor market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.

12 August was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999, and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.

From the very beginning, CNEWA has been at the forefront of efforts to help uplift, inspire and educate the world’s youth — and that mission continues every day around the parts of the world we serve.

We are working to give disabled children a brighter future in Armenia; we are helping displaced families from Syria start over in Lebanon; we’re helping young Ethiopians learn new skills.

And, as the image above shows, we’re also supporting sisters seeking to pass on the faith in corners of our world, such as Egypt, facing violence and persecution.

All these efforts and more are bringing hope and help to the next generation. You can be a part of that mission, too! Check out this page to learn how.



Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Children Armenia

10 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, who is head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, concelebrates Mass on 8 August during the 136th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Baltimore. He called on Catholics to remember the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (photo: CNS /courtesy Knights of Columbus)

Syria’s war could be entering its last, most dangerous phase (The Washington Post) As Syria’s war enters what could be its last and most dangerous stretch, the Syrian government and its allies will have to contend for the first time with the presence of foreign troops in the quest to bring the rest of the country back under President Bashar al-Assad’s control…

Kerala flood claims dozens of lives; thousands evacuated (AP) Torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 26 people in flooding, landslides and house collapses in the southern Indian state of Kerala with more than 15,500 people taking shelter in state-run relief camps…

Archbishop makes plea to remember Ukraine’s ’silent’ war (Crux) Four years of fighting in eastern Ukraine have led to “the biggest humanitarian crisis on the European continent since the end of the Second World War,” according to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev called on the international community and the Catholic Church not to neglect the crisis in Ukraine. He made the plea during his keynote address at the Knights of Columbus convention in Baltimore on 7 August…

For Christians in Iraq, trust is the hardest thing to rebuild (Crux) Even in the context of the vast destruction left by ISIS everywhere across the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq, nothing compares to the staggering sight of Mosul’s Old City, where piles of rubble and overturned cars riddled with bullet holes make up half the landscape of the once-thriving city…

Eritrean officials in Ethiopia to discuss peace deal (AfricaNews.com) A senior Eritrean delegation is due in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss implementation of a historic peace deal between the two countries. The Eritrean Information Minister confirmed that the delegation comprised Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab. The “delegation will deliver a message from President Isaias Afwerki to Prime minister Abiy Ahmed and discuss progress of the implementation of the agreement,” Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet…

Syrian refugee women find their way to Jordanian economy (The Jordan Times) a vocational and soft skills training project was established by international NGO Oxfam in April 2017, helping Syrian refugee women enhance their employability and increase their self reliance…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Iraqi Christians Kerala

9 August 2018
Greg Kandra




A child goes for a checkup at the Martha Schmouny Clinic in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)

In the June 2018 edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on how CNEWA is able to evangelize through good works, often in surprising ways:

We exercise our baptismal mandate to live the Gospel of Jesus and to share his Good News with everyone. To be more concrete: CNEWA supports, through your generous contributions, many clinics and dispensaries, which serve everyone in need. Oftentimes these people are welcomed, embraced and tended to by the loving care of religious sisters and devoted lay associates.

For some patients, of whatever religious background or faith, this might be the only expression of love and human dignity they experience. And whether spoken or unspoken, it is done in the name of Jesus.

In hundreds of schools supported by CNEWA, the church — through priests, sisters, brothers and lay staff — offers a refuge from the realities of hatred, bigotry and disrespect. For a few hours each day, youngsters learn that God loves all of us and wants us to be at peace with each other. And oftentimes the lessons learned at these schools are long lasting, even life changing.

This is part of the future for many areas of CNEWA’s world. These are the fruits of this form of evangelization.

Read more. Want to know how you can support this wonderful work? Check out this link.



Tags: Iraq CNEWA

9 August 2018
Greg Kandra




In this file photo, Orthodox clergy celebrate the feast of Temqat – the Ethiopian commemoration of the baptism of Christ. In the aftermath of violence that has claimed the lives of at least six priests and numerous believers, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has announced a period of fasting and prayer for peace. (photo: CNEWA/Cody Christopulos)

Fasting for prayer and peace in Ethiopia (Vatican News) Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, has decided to go through 16 days of fasting and prayer in order to invoke peace and reconciliation in the country’s Jijiga and Somali regions. The violence that took off in those areas of Ethiopia last week caused around 30 deaths. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has suffered the aftermath of this violence as, according to local news agencies, at least seven churches have been burned down and six priests and numerous believers killed…

Israel launches airstrikes in response to rocket attacks from Gaza (Business Insider) Palestinian militants on the Gaza Strip launched at least 150 rockets at Israel overnight, and Israel retaliated by pounding the region with deadly airstrikes. The Israel Defense Forces said mounting violence began Wednesday after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel responded with tank fire…

Small Indian state of Goa has big impact (CNS) Goa, a former Portuguese colony that now ranks as having one of the most famous beaches in India, is continuing to promote Christianity in Asia as part of its colonial legacy, retired Archbishop Raul Gonsalves said…

Russian Orthodox fringe group hopes for return of the tsar (Reuters) The Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers is a small fringe group of Russian nationalists with no political power that stages processions, rallies and even burns books to promote their views. Clad in all-black and marching with their Orthodox banners, the group pairs a biker club’s aesthetic with the gold of religious icons. ”We are striving for the restoration of an autocratic monarchy. Like the one we had under our tsars,” Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich, the group’s white-bearded leader, said…

How robots are throwing a lifeline to Syrian refugees (The Guardian) Founded by Syrian neurosurgeon Dr Fadi al-Halabi, Maps is hugely innovative: it offers classes under the Lebanese curriculum, so that students can transfer into Lebanese schools if given the opportunity, and it also gives jobs to Syrian teachers — now refugees themselves — albeit on a volunteer basis. (Under Lebanese labour laws, Syrians are severely restricted in the work they are legally able to undertake.) Halabi has also founded three medical centers, which rely on unpaid Syrian doctors and nurses to provide care to 15,000 Lebanese and Syrians across the Bekaa valley. At a disused hospital that serves as Maps headquarters, former patient preparation and operation rooms have been turned into “innovation centers” where robotics, computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), and art and design are taught…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

8 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Hundreds of Iraqi Christians processed through Karamles in the Nineveh Plain Monday night to commemorate the invasion of ISIS exactly four years ago. (photo: Fides/Asia News)

Returning Christians hold procession on anniversary of exodus (Fides) Hundreds of Iraqi Christians in Karamles took part in a procession Monday night, to commemorate the night four years ago earlier, when ISIS drove many tens of thousands of Christians from the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain. Before the procession, there were prayers and a reflection on the pain and suffering caused by that dramatic mass exodus…

Lebanese town flooded with refugees hopes for return to normal (The New York Times) Seven years of war in Syria has displaced more than half the country’s population, leaving millions of refugees shipwrecked between the wasteland of home and the void of exile. Among the many Lebanese and Jordanian towns that received them was Arsal, where rented rooms and tent cities overflowed at one point with 120,000 Syrians — quadruple its Lebanese population…

In Jerusalem, concerns over crumbling Western Wall (The Sun) A massive survey of Jerusalem’ Western Wall is being planned, it emerged today, after a huge slab fell just feet away from a worshipper. Expert opinion is split on whether the collapse was a one-off, or if more stones are ready to fall…

India’s president praises contribution of Christian community (Crux) Noting that the Christian community in the state of Kerala is one of the oldest not only in India but anywhere in the world, the president of India said on Tuesday the Church’s heritage and history are a matter of immense pride for the entire country. President Ram Nath Kovind was speaking at the centenary celebrations of St. Thomas College in Thrissur, the city considered the cultural capital of Kerala…

Egypt’s Copts commemorate Virgin Mary amid tight security (Andalou Agency) Egyptian Coptic Christians on Tuesday began a 15-day fast to commemorate the Virgin Mary amid stepped-up security measures in and around the nation’s churches. The two-week religious holiday comes some 10 days after a prominent Coptic Bishop was found dead at the Anba Makar Monastery in Egypt’s northern Beheira province…

Magdala: first century synagogue unites Christians and Jews (Rome Reports) When the Legionaries of Christ acquired this land to build a church and pilgrim house, they never imagined they would discover a real treasure. Magdala, a town previously containing 4,000 inhabitants according to archaeologists was also Mary Magdalene’s hometown. The excavations have recovered 20 percent of the surface at the present moment. Among other things, they have unearthed the port, purification baths and the market where fish were sent to Rome, according to historian Flavius Josephus. However, the most important of all these discoveries is the synagogue from the first century…



Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Iraqi Christians ISIS

7 August 2018
Greg Kandra




A volunteer assists a young visitor at the Emili Aregak Center in Gyumri, Armenia. Learn more about how this center has become A Source of Light for so many children in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)



Tags: Armenia

7 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees in Jordan are learning how to restore and rebuild architecture that was destroyed in their homeland. (photo: NBC News)

Lebanon sets guidelines for return of refugees (The Daily Star) General Security announced Monday it will create centers to register Syrian refugees looking to return to Syria after having earlier outlined conditions for returnees who are in violation of residency requirements, including lifetime bans on many refugees from returning to Lebanon. General Security published protocols on 1 August for the return of Syrians who had violated residency rules and now wished to return to their homeland. Approximately three-quarters of Syrians living in Lebanon do not have legal residency…

In Jordan, Syrian refugees learn how to rebuild damaged heritage sites (NBC News) A year-long training program launched by the U.S.-based World Monuments Fund and the Petra National Trust of Jordan is teaching Syrian refugees how to rebuild the heritage sites and decorative architecture that once made their cities the jewels of the archaeological world…

Thousands of Ethiopians displaced (AFP) Fighting in Ethiopia’s volatile eastern Somali region over the weekend has left an unknown number of civilians dead and thousands displaced, the patriarch of Ethiopia’s Orthodox church told state media on Monday. It was unclear what sparked the clashes in Ethiopia’s second-largest region, but it appeared to start after the arrival of troops in the regional capital Jijiga...

Ukraine’s Roma live in fear (AP) After attackers charged into a Roma encampment on the outskirts of Kiev, beating the residents and chasing them away, a leader of an ultranationalist group posted photos of his colleagues clearing the site and burning tents left behind. The attacks and the prospect of more violence are terrifying to Ukraine’s estimated 100,000 Roma…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Ethiopia Jordan Roma

6 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Displaced Iraqi Christians are struggling to rebuild, exactly four years after ISIS first swept through their country. This video, from last fall, shows some of what they are facing as they return home. (video: Raed Rafei/CNEWA)

Exactly four years ago — 6 August 2014 — ISIS began its assault on the Nineveh Plain, and thousands of Iraqi Christians began to run for their lives.

Al Jazeera takes note:

Displaced by the expansion of Islamic State (ISIS) — which rapidly overran vast territories in Iraq, eventually seizing one-third of the country in 2014—Christian families left their homes in the ancient Assyrian towns of Nineveh province to resettle in Erbil and the capital, Baghdad.

Samir Petrus, 50, who left Hamdaniya [also known as Qaraqosh], a district located on the outskirts of Mosul, where the majority of the Iraqi Christian community are Chaldo-Assyrians, says he will never return to Nineveh.

“There’s nothing for me to go back to. No jobs, no home, let alone safety and security,” says Petrus, who now lives at an IDP camp in Baghdad. “I’m here now with my girls and I have to look ahead.”

ISIS targeted minorities of the Nineveh plains when it stormed northern Iraq, taking over Mosul in 2014. Although other communities in Mosul hope to go home again, Christian and Yazidi minorities say they’ve endured enough persecution and refuse to return, even if ISIS has been defeated.

CNEWA has been on the ground and on the front lines of helping displaced Iraqi Christians since Day One — and we have been chronicling their story in our magazine, along with the story of the long road back to a life resembling normal. Last fall, in the pages of ONE magazine we described the Hard Choices many are facing:

A recent comprehensive survey carried out by church authorities indicates that of the 6,826 housing units in Qaraqosh, about a third are severely damaged or burned, with some two-thirds sustaining partial damage. Almost 100 homes are completely destroyed and beyond repair.

Despite some shy rebuilding efforts by churches and homeowners, the estimated $70 million needed for the overall reconstruction of Qaraqosh still looms large. According to Father Jahola, several organizations have pledged to help with large finances, but substantial aid has not materialized yet.

The condition of Qaraqosh is not very different from that of most Christian towns in the Nineveh Plain, which typically report damage to 30 to 40 percent of structures — houses, schools, public institutions, churches, monasteries and hospitals alike.

But some towns, such as Batnaya, have been rendered completely uninhabitable, reporting 85 percent of buildings demolished under heavy aerial bombardment.

The total cost for the reconstruction of the Nineveh Plain, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars — if not billions — will require a significant mobilization of aid by foreign governments and international charities.

This past spring, the new superior general of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Sister Clara Nancy, wrote to us a Letter from Iraq, describing how the people — and the sisters serving them — are surviving on a resolute mixture of fortitude and faith:

We want and need to be with our people. We want to return with them to serve them.

And so we visit families in their homes. We lead youth groups and offer activities and lectures to help them understand themselves and their faith, sharing Bible stories when possible and catechesis for children. We understand these activities are modest — and that they are unable to heal them as a whole — but our efforts may be a balm to sooth their pain.

Life is so hectic in our area; our challenges look overwhelming. Therefore, we encourage people to go beyond their difficulties, and place them in a different context. We try to help them look into things through the eyes of faith. It is easy for people to feel depressed and live as passive victims. So, our aim is to help them live their faith as people who trust God and his providence. We are not the only ones who have lived this reality: The Bible tells us about those who had very similar experiences and yet they knew how to overcome their situation with hearts full of faith in the Lord.

It is hard to know what the future holds for our community. Displacement and immigration left young women unable to form a clear vision about their future. So, fostering vocations has been difficult when life is so unsettled. However, there are a few girls who are considering joining with us in serving the Lord as sisters. We are thinking of organizing a program for them to prepare them and introduce them to religious life.

We sisters have our own struggles, of course. We have asked different speakers to help us cope with the situation, spiritually and psychologically. We are grateful to all those who have risked their lives and have come to show solidarity and offer their knowledge.

Deep down, we believe our main help is the Risen Lord around whom we gather in every Eucharist. This unites us with the Christ and enables us to endure. Sharing with one another our difficulties gives us the opportunity to reflect and support one another. We have lost much, but we still have each other. And that is of great help.

Read more of Sister Clara’s letter here.

This day, in particular, please keep all our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East in your prayers. Their struggle is far from over — and they need your help, now more than ever. CNEWA continues to accompany them, support them, encourage them and stand with them during this difficult time. We invite you to stand with us—and with them. If you’d like to do more for those trying to rebuild in Iraq, visit this page to learn how you can help.



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS Dominican Sisters





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