Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
5 November 2018
Greg Kandra

The video above offers details of the deadly attack on Coptic Christians near a monastery in Minya, Egypt. (video: France 24/YouTube)

Pope Francis: ’A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite’ (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday held a meeting with representatives of the World Congress of Mountain Jews. It is the first time that a delegation from this community, which dates back to the 5th Century, has travelled to meet a Pope…

Egypt police kill 19 suspected in Coptic Christian attack (BBC) Nineteen Islamist militants accused of carrying out a deadly attack on Christians in Egypt have been killed by police, the interior ministry says. They died in a shoot-out after police pursued “fugitive terrorist elements” into the desert area west of Minya province, the statement said. Seven Coptic Christians were killed in an attack on two buses near a monastery in Minya on Friday…

Bishops in Holy Land speak out on Israel’s Nation State Law (Vatican News) It is out of a “spirit of dialogue” that the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land speak out in a statement responding to the “issue of the Nation State Law passed by the Israeli Knesset on 19 July 2018. The legislation at issue limits the promotion and protection offered by the State of Israel to “Jewish citizens of the State of Israel”…

Missionaries of Charity agree to resume adoption service in India ( The Missionaries of Charity (MC) congregation has agreed to resume its service of giving children for adoption. The congregation founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata, commonly known as Mother Teresa, discontinued giving babies from their orphanages for adoption in October 2015 after disagreeing with a new federal law that allowed single and divorced woman to adopt children…

Luxury city could show future of Syria (AP) Marota City, as Syria’s largest investment project is known, is seen as setting the blueprint for how the government will undertake the ambitious rebuilding of areas devastated in the nearly eight-year civil war. The government is using controversial new property laws to create zones where partnerships of the government and businessmen take ownership of neighborhoods and redevelop them. Officials say the projects aim at re-planning slums and destroyed areas and attracting private investors to join the massively expensive task of reconstruction…

The soul of Russian Orthodox church bells (Al Jazeera) An automated future where the robots have stolen human jobs is a widespread modern concern. Even the most traditional of professions can be vulnerable, for example, church bell ringing in Russia…

Tags: Syria Egypt Israel Russian Orthodox Church Jews

2 November 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014. Looking on is Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina. CNEWA works on behalf of the Holy Father to help build bridges and heal wounds of division.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

You don’t need a post-graduate degree to notice our world right now is torn apart — and hatred and division are a big part of it.

Whether it’s violence in Pittsburgh or vandalism in the Holy Land or threats of military action against migrants, we find ourselves living in a world increasingly on edge — wary, angry, suspicious of anyone considered to be “The Other.” Whether they are Muslims fleeing war or Jews trying to worship in peace, they too often find themselves to be targets of brutality and hate.

And in this troubled world stands CNEWA.

One of the things that has struck me during my time with CNEWA is how faithfully, even courageously, this association has worked not only to build bridges with those of other faiths and traditions, but to try and heal the wounds brought about by hate, war and persecution.

It is intrinsic to who we are.

From our earliest days, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has worked to “create and sustain a friendly interest in the religious and moral life” of those we serve — and to promote unity. It is written into the name of our magazine, ONE, seeking to create a sense of unity with those who also dwell in our broken world.

More than that, we have also enthusiastically engaged in dialogue with “The Other” — whoever that may be. While we always work through the local church, the local church reaches out to the many, Christian or not.

But this is who we are.

We see in the faces of those who are poor, abandoned, hungry and rejected the face of Christ.

We see in them fellow children of Abraham, our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.

We see in those who are forgotten the people we need to remember — the battered person left by the side of the road, the wounded neighbor we can’t ignore. We can’t forget the words Jesus spoke when he told the lesson of the Good Samaritan, the foreigner who treated a stranger with love: “Now go and do likewise.”

When I visit parishes around the country to talk about CNEWA, I often tell the story of the Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq. During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, her convent offered shelter to her terrified Muslim neighbors in Mosul. She summed up her work plainly but powerfully. “We don’t help them because they’re Christian,” she said. “We help them because we are.”

This is who we are. This is part of our mandate and mission.

We are the ones who journey with those who have been brutalized, victimized, neglected, persecuted.

As I read the stories of all the troubles afflicting our world right now — and they fill the headlines again and again and again — I take solace and hope from the work CNEWA is doing. Work of healing. Work of hope.

It is work that sees beyond barriers and boundaries, beyond even personal beliefs and creeds. It is work that proclaims the Gospel and that lives it by remembering Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”

It is a commandment that is so often lost in our world right now.

It shouldn’t be. We need to reclaim it, and proclaim it. It is so essential to the times in which we live.

And CNEWA is a vital part of that. This is a subtle but enduring part of who we are and how we work — an urgent reminder to a dispirited, broken and downcast world that dialogue is possible, that hope endures, that love can transcend hate.

What a privilege to know that, to speak that, to believe that, and to be a part of that.

This is who we are.

We are CNEWA.


2 November 2018
Greg Kandra

Indian homeless children watch a movie on a cellphone on the roadside in Mumbai, India. The final document from the recent Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment called for the church to meet young people in the digital sphere.
(photo: CNS/Divyakant Solanki, EPA)

Tags: India

2 November 2018
Greg Kandra

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas spoke to an interfaith gathering in New Delhi last week and called for unity as a way to end religious violence in India (photo: AsiaNews).

U.S. Accuses Russia of blocking aid to Syrian refugee camp (CNN) The US military accused Russia on Thursday of blocking the delivery of critical aid to the Rukban refugee camp in Syria, a desert camp that the United Nations has described for months as in a “desperate” situation. ”Russia has again refused to support a UN delivery of humanitarian assistance from Damascus to the Rukban internally displaced persons camp despite US security guarantees,” US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, told CNN in a statement…

Indian bishop calls for unity to end religious violence ( An Indian bishop has asked religious leaders to come together to foster peace amid increasing religion-based violence, especially against religious minorities and weaker groups. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, was speaking at a 27 October interreligious gathering in New Delhi marking the 300th anniversary of the death of Sikh religious leader and social worker Bhai Kanhaiya (1648-1718)…

Lebanon’s forgotten refugee camp (The World) The Dbayeh refugee camp in Dbayeh town is a Palestinian Christian camp established in 1951, when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rented the area prior to Lebanese government restrictions on Palestinian land rights. Currently, the camp is home to around 520 families. Fifty of those families are Syrians who came to Lebanon after the civil war broke out in their country in 2012…

Untold story of Kerala flood: a deluge of digital volunteers ( While rains were lashing Kerala in August, submerging many parts of the state in the worst such incident in nearly a century, a largely untapped trait of Keralites was surging above the waters — an outpouring of voluntarism in the digital domain…

Ethiopia swears in first woman Supreme Court chief (NPR) Ethiopia swore in its first female Supreme Court chief on Thursday, part of a wave of appointments of women to top government positions backed by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed…

Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia Palestine

30 October 2018
Greg Kandra

A group of Sikhs gathers for a candlelight vigil in the Queens borough of New York on 29 October to pray for the victims of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
(photo: CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters)

Tags: India Jews

30 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Holy Land church leaders have raised concerns about recent incidents of vandalism in a cemetery adjacent to a Salesian monastery west of Jerusalem. (photo: Crux/Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

Holy land cemetery vandalism concerns church leaders (CNS) Holy Land church leaders expressed concern in the wake of two separate incidents involving the Christian community that occurred over a one-week span. Monks of the Salesian Monastery at Beit Jamal west of Jerusalem discovered the evening of 16 October that their cemetery had been vandalized, including broken crosses and damage to tombs…

Thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in desert near Jordan risk starvation (Haaretz) Tens of thousands of Syrians stranded in a desert camp near the Jordanian border are at risk of starvation amid dwindling supplies and the approach of winter, while regional powers trade blame over who is responsible for this latest humanitarian catastrophe in Syria’s civil war. Desperately needed aid deliveries to the besieged Rukban camp have repeatedly failed or been postponed, including a UN convoy which was supposed to go in on Thursday but has now been indefinitely delayed…

How caste discrimination during and after Kerala flooding affected dalits (The News Minute) One would expect that in the face of such a huge disaster, people would come together across communities to fight the forces of nature. However, during the rescue operations itself, there were reported cases of caste discrimination…

Russia vows ’to act’ if Georgia and Ukraine join NATO (The Express) In a clear sign of the country’s unease in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu voiced concern at what he described as the “militarization of the European continent”…

Pope Francis emphasizes importance of truth in journalism (Vatican Media) Pope Francis has sent a message to the Italian news agency SIR (Servizio Informazione Relgiosa/Religious Information Service) in time for the thirtieth anniversary of its publication. The agency was founded in order to help better communicate information relating to both religious and world affairs to the Italian Catholic Church…

Tags: Syria Jerusalem Kerala Refugee Camps

29 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis accepts letters of credential from Seyed Taha Hashemi, Iran's ambassador to the Holy See, during a private audience at the Vatican on 29 October. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Tags: Iran

29 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, left, and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman stand for a moment of silence to honor the victims of a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on 28 October. Pope Francis at his Sunday Angelus prayed for those affected by the attack inside the Pittsburgh synagogue. (photo: CNS/Oded Balilty, pool via Reuters)

Pope prays for victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting (Vatican News) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and especially to the Jewish community there. Eleven people were killed, and several others were wounded, on in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. A suspect was taken into custody after the attack…

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv stand with Pittsburgh (The Jerusalem Post) ome 500 Americans and Israelis gathered Sunday night to sing somber songs in Hebrew and English at Jerusalem’s Zion Square in a candle-lit vigil in memory of the 11 victims of Saturday’s massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh organized by The Meeting Place Dialogue Group, The Jerusalem Movement and the Hartman Institute Hevruta program…

Anti-Christian violence reaches record highs in parts of India (AsiaNews) Anti-Christian violence is reaching record levels in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, a study by Violence Monitor reveals. According to the monthly survey of anti-minority incidents in India, 25 cases of religious intolerance were reported in September, 20 of which in Jaunpur, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, near the sacred city of Varanasi. The high number of cases is worrying, activists say, noting that with more than 200 million inhabitants, Uttar Pradesh is the country’s most populous state…

Synod document: listen to, support, guide young people (CNS) The Catholic Church and all its members must get better at listening to young people, taking their questions seriously, recognizing them as full members of the church, patiently walking with them and offering guidance as they discern the best way to live their faith, the Synod of Bishops said. While the synod’s final document spoke of friendship, affection, sexuality and “sexual inclinations,” those issues were not the center of concern in the lengthy final document, which was released on 27 October...

Amnesty India bank accounts frozen (Vatican News) The bank accounts of human rights watchdog Amnesty International in India have been frozen, effectively stopping its work, after the government’s financial crime investigating agency carried out a 10-hour raid at the group’s Bengaluru office on Thursday…

The revolutionary history of Ethiopia’s Jews (Haaretz) The Jewish community in Ethiopia, labeled in the past as Falasha or Beta Israel, is perceived in Israel as a traditional-religious community which, while in Ethiopia, conducted its life in isolation from its inimical neighbors and from the processes unfolding around it, with all its aspirations focused on immigrating to Israel. A new study, which I conducted, reveals that men and women in this community were political activists and members of Marxist underground movements during the revolutionary years and civil war in that country (from the 1970s until 1991)…

Tags: India Ethiopia Israel Jews

26 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Members of CNEWA’s staff in Jerusalem paid a visit to leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church to show solidarity and support after yesterday’s clash at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
(photo: CNEWA)

We first reported on this story Thursday, via the Associated Press:

A scuffle between Israeli police and Coptic priests at a major Christian holy site in Jerusalem on Wednesday drew condemnation from Egypt and churches in the Holy Land.

Police and Coptic priests wrangled outside a contested chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The Copts were protesting the start of restoration work by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, which both the Ethiopian and Egyptian Orthodox churches claim.

Friday morning, our Jerusalem office sent us the photo above with a note:

[CNEWA’s] director and staff, along with the Rev. Ibrahim Faltas and the staff from the Custody of the Holy Land, visited the Coptic Orthodox Church and His Excellency Anba Antonius, to show solidarity with him and his clergy.

26 October 2018
Greg Kandra

A report from the UN says it will cost more than $4 billion to help Kerala recover from the devastating floods of August. The video above chronicles the extent of the damage.
(video: Chavara Media/YouTube)

UN: Kerala will need billions to recover from floods (Business Standard) Kerala will need about Rs 310 billion (about $4 billion) for recovery and reconstruction following the century’s worst floods, according to a UN report presented to the Chief Minister by UN Resident Coordinator in India Yuri Afanasiev…

Heavy rains bring flooding, death to refugee camps (Middle East Monitor) Flooding in Lebanon and Turkey has left refugees dead after heavy rains hit the region and swamped refugee camps. Videos shared by member of the Syrian Negotiations Committee Hadi Albahra, reportedly from refugee camps near the Lebanese border town of Arsal, show the ground completely flooded, with tents and belongings destroyed…

Russian Orthodox leaders concerned about ’provocations’ (The Catholic Herald) Turmoil in the Orthodox world continues with interesting news from Moldova, where, it is reported, Patriarch Kirill is cutting short a planned visit, in case there are ‘provocations’…

Catholic youth in Arabia attend youth congress (Vatican News) As the Synod of Bishops on Young People draws to a close on Sunday, 1,500 Catholic young people living on the Arabian Peninsula are attending the Arab Catholic Youth Congress (ACYC) in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 25-27 October. They have responded to the invitation to ”Stand up, reignite your faith, hope and love and experience Jesus deeper”…

Exhibitions celebrate Syria before the war (The New York Times) A thousand miles southeast of what remains of Syria’s civil war, “Syria Matters,” a major exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art here, is focused on the history and the soul of the country rather than the images of conflict that have been reflected in headlines and splashed across television screens for the past seven years…

Tags: Syria India Lebanon Refugee Camps

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