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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
30 October 2017
Greg Kandra




The tomb of the Jewish prophet Nahum in northern Iraq, shown above, is threatened by tensions in the region. (photo: Wikipedia)

Ancient tomb of Jewish prophet in danger (The Jerusalem Post) The tomb of the Prophet Nahum, which overlooks the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, is now near the forefront of tensions between the Iraqi federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government. Since last week Iraqi forces, including Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, have been fighting with Peshmerga in an attempt by Baghdad to push Kurdish forces out of disputed areas and take oil fields and strategic border areas from the Kurds. Although a cease-fire took effect on Friday, tensions remain high...

‘October Light’ spirituality energizes Mumbai children (Vatican Radio) St. Anthony’s Church, Vakola, Mumbai holds a week-long event ‘October Light’ for Sunday School children and enhances the significance of light during Diwali vacation...

Three Coptic Christian churches closed in Egypt (AP) Egyptian religious officials say authorities have shuttered three Coptic Christian churches over fears of attacks by Islamic militants. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by fundamentalists. A third was closed due to fears of attacks. The statement was issued late on Saturday, 28 October...

Pope urges U.S. to welcome migrants (CNS) Pope Francis called on the people of the United States to welcome migrants and urged those who are welcomed to respect the laws of the country. “To all people (of the U.S.) I ask: take care of the migrant who is a promise of life for the future. To migrants: take care of the country that welcomes you; accept and respect its laws and walk together along that path of love,” the pope said 26 October during a live video conversation with teenagers from around the world...



25 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken on 23 October 2017, in the southern Gaza Strip, shows diggers searching for tunnels on the Egyptian side of the border with the Palestinian enclave. Reports indicate they were looking for three Palestinians who went missing. (photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Mideast church leaders look to U.S. to help obtain peace (CNS) Two prominent Mideast church leaders told a U.S. audience that they were looking to the United States for leadership to obtain peace in the Middle East. “We look to America to lead the international community in so many ways,” said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch...

Thousands of ISIS supporters return home (Al Jazeera) Thousands of foreign ISIS supporters have returned to their home countries after leaving Syria and Iraq over the past two years, a US-based security analysis group has said. At least 5,600 people from 33 countries left ISIS-held areas in that period, with numbers increasing as the group began to suffer territorial losses, the Soufan Center said in a report published on Tuesday...

Israeli bulldozers raze land along Gaza border (Ma’an News Agency) Several Israeli bulldozers entered into the “buffer zone” in the central Gaza Strip, along the border with Israel, and leveled lands in the area on Tuesday morning. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that four Israeli bulldozers entered dozens of meters into the Juhr al-Dik area and razed lands as drones flew overhead...

New Quebec law deemed ‘discriminatory’ against Muslims (Catholic Register) The new Quebec law on state neutrality on religion is under fire, as many deem it “discriminatory” against some Muslim women. Bill 62, officially “Act to foster adherence to state religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies,” was adopted 18 October. This legislative text requires that, from now on, all public services be given and received without anything covering a person’s face...

Sharing cultures and religions at Sunday dinner (Huntington Herald-Dispatch) For more than 40 years, parishioners at Holy Spirit Antiochian Orthodox Church have treated the Tri-State to taste of their heritage at its annual Middle Eastern dinner, hosted Sunday, 22 October at the church in Huntington. From the heart of the Bible Belt to the Mediterranean coast and beyond, Sunday dinner holds a special place in the hearts of Christians worldwide — a time for family and friends to enjoy the Sabbath’s rest over a plate of home cooking from wherever home may be...



24 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Seniors play chess and backgammon in a Yerevan, Armenia park. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

ONE magazine has been chronicling the struggles of Armenia’s elderly for many years. In 2008, for example, we took a look at Pensioners in Crisis:

Most senior citizens depend on pensions to survive. And though the average pension has increased by $10 over the last five years, the cost of living has risen, mitigating the effectiveness of any increase. Today a typical pension pays a third of what is considered necessary for the average person to maintain the minimum standard of living in Armenia.

“The problem with raising pensions is quite difficult,” said Anahit Gevorgian, who heads the Elderly Issues Division in the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues. “Paying higher pensions is impossible in a country with widespread unemployment.

“Today there is just 0.9 worker for every pensioner, when there should be at least two workers to pay for one person’s pension.” About 11 percent of Armenia’s citizens are 65 or older.

In addition to the high unemployment rate, many Armenians work in the country’s substantial but informal economy. These “black market” jobs undermine the national pension system since neither the employee nor the employer pays taxes on salaries. Tax evasion of this kind plagues Armenia’s economy; the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recently urged Yerevan to address the problem swiftly, which poses a principal hurdle to the country’s economic health.

Though pensions continue to fall short, the government is taking measures to make primary medical care freely available to pensioners in need; but those requiring specialized care must register in the hospital system. Generally, patients in Armenia pay for at least a portion of their medical costs. Under a special state-issued order, however, hospitals are required to waive their fees for pensioners, including those associated with specialized examinations and procedures.

Unfortunately, the order, signed into effect by the health minister, has had little success in compelling profit-driven hospitals to waive fees for pensioners.

“Each time we take an elderly person to the hospital using the state-issued order, they simply refuse the patient. In cases where we manage to have them admitted, we are forced to pay for everything,” said Karine Hayrapetian, a social worker with Mission Armenia, a social service agency serving the needs of elderly Armenians.

All too aware of these and other gaps in the health care system, Ms. Gevorgian says the breadth of the problem reaches farther than anything the Elderly Issues Division can tackle alone. A solution demands an overhaul of the entire national health care system.

For generations, Armenia’s seniors lived out their golden years in the company and loving care of their children. Their plight today comes as an alarming wake-up call to many in a society deeply rooted in traditional family values. A crisis that cannot be chalked up to inadequate pensions alone, it reveals a fundamental change of the family’s role in contemporary Armenian society.

Read more.



24 October 2017
Greg Kandra




A displaced Iraqi Christian family is seen in 2014 at a camp in Erbil. Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl has issued a letter calling for Catholics to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jalill, EPA)

Pope meets delegation from Tel Aviv University (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday with a delegation from Tel Aviv University, stressing the need to develop a culture of wisdom that can form future leaders who are sensitive to the profound ethical issues facing our societies...

Cardinal Wuerl urges solidarity with persecuted Christians (Catholic Standard) Reliable reports indicate that some 200 million Christians worldwide, simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ, are still enduring or are at risk of physical violence, arrest, torture and death. Christians, in greater number, also face varying levels of oppression and restrictions on fully living their faith. Ironically — and tragically — the place where persecution of Christians is being most severely experienced is in that region of the world that is the birthplace of Christianity. Last July, His Eminence Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the designation of Sunday, 26 November 2017 as a day of prayer for persecuted Christians which also initiates “Solidarity in Suffering,” a week of awareness and education. The Solemnity of Christ the King is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and persecution...

Migration causing drop in Christian population in Kerala (Times of India) Migration is leading to a significant dip in Christian population in Kerala, and studies have indicated their share may come down from the current level of 17 to 10% by 2030, according to writer and former DGP Alexander Jacob...

Humanitarian aid convoy headed to Gaza (Petra News Agency) The Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO), in cooperation with the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army, on Tuesday dispatched a humanitarian aid convoy to the Gaza Strip...

Syrian refugee with love for icons knows God is guiding his life (The Catholic Leader) Murhaf Obeid, packing his bag to fly from Lebanon to Australia, had first thoughts, not for toothbrush, clothes or shoes, but for his art. It was about a year ago, and the Syrian refugee was preparing to fly out with his wife Rim and their sons Michel, now four, and Marc, one. Among thousands of people forced to flee the region in the wake of ISIS’ brutal takeover of large parts of Syria and Iraq, the Obeids were desperate for a new life in Australia. And life, for Murhaf, has to include art and especially his love of creating icons...



23 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Sisters at St. Mary Monastery in Bediani, Georgia tend the community’s vineyards. Learn more about Georgian women choosing Alternative Lifestyles of prayer and service in the September 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)



23 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III at the Vatican. (photo: Vatican Radio)

Pope meets Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, calling for an end to violence and discrimination against people of different faiths in the Holy Land...

Calls to set up ‘safe zones’ for Christians in Iraq (Middle East Monitor) Researchers at the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies have called for a “safe zone” to be set up for Christians in Iraq, Arab48 has reported. Speaking at a conference on Christian Arabs in the Greater Arab Mashreq, Yahya Al-Kubaisi said that the number of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, in particular the Christians, have become the subject of a political dispute...

Dozens of bodies found at site of Syrian ‘massacre’ (USA Today) The bodies of at least 67 Syrian civilians have been found in a central Syrian town in the aftermath of the government reclaiming control from the Islamic State, according to The Associated Press. The bodies were found in Qaryatayn, a strategic town the Islamic State had seized in August 2015 to defend the historic city of Palmyra...

Pope sends letter for World Mission Sunday (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, on occasion of the 2017 iteration of World Mission Sunday. In the letter, the Holy Father reflects on the upcoming centenary of the great missionary charter of the 20th century, the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, promulgated on 30 November 1919...

Coptic group seeks funds for persecution data base (ConatusNews.com) A Coptic human rights organization seeks funding to build a database on incidents of persecution against Copts in Egypt. Coptic Solidarity (CS) is an organisation dedicated to the rights of Egyptian Coptic Christians. CS are aiming to raise $12,000 to build a database documenting incidents against Copts...

Palestinian girl wins Arab reading challenge (Middle East Monitor) A Palestinian student was crowned champion of the Arab Reading Challenge. Now in its second year, the competition saw seven million entrants vie for the awards in Dubai, UAE, which saw Palestinian Afaf Sharif from Al-Bireh Secondary School for Girls come top. Palestinian Minister of Education Sabri Saydam stressed that this victory will illuminate the path for other Palestinian children during “their hard work and perseverance to be at the forefront of children of the world...”



19 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
In this image from January, the pope’s envoy to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari, shakes hands with Muslim religious leaders during a visit to the Great Mosque of Aleppo.
(photo: AFP/George Ourfalian/Getty Images)


Fleeing Raqqa, ISIS left behind boob-trapped toys, corpses (The Washington Post) Islamic State fighters fleeing their self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, have left behind an unprecedented array of deadly improvised explosive devices, U.S. officials say, forecasting what’s expected to be a years-long effort to purge them. Only about 100 militants remain in the city, but the sophisticated explosives they've rigged are slowing efforts to declare a full victory there and could pose grave challenges for Raqqa’s residents as they begin to rebuild after the months-long battle to expel the Islamic State...

Envoy: everyone suffers in Syria, but Christians are ‘weakest link’ (Crux) Italian Cardinal Mario Zenari, the pope’s ambassador in Syria, avoids interviews: “Because of the work I do,” he says, and not without his reasons. Syria is in the midst of a civil war that began seven years ago, a conflict that’s been described as the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II...

Jordan lab developing solutions to refugee crisis (The Jordan Times) The Mahali Lab has been recently inaugurated in Jordan, aiming to offer an innovative platform for identifying and solving challenges caused by long-term displacement of people due to regional crises...

Pope addresses ‘Religions for Peace’ delegation (Vatican Radio) “Religions, with their spiritual and moral resources, have a specific and unique role to play in building peace,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday. “They cannot be neutral, much less ambiguous, where peace is concerned,” he told a delegation of 80 members of “Religions for Peace,” who met him in the Vatican...



18 October 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, U.S.-backed forces in Syria celebrate the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa, the militant group’s self-proclaimed capital. (video: CBS News/YouTube)

Syrian fighters capture Raqqa (Al Jazeera) The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces backed by the US, have announced the capture of Raqqa city after a four-month operation to drive out ISIS fighters. SDF spokesmen announced the takeover of the strategic Syrian city on Tuesday after a final battle at a sports stadium where ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) made its last stand...

Iraq declares mission accomplished in Kirkuk (Al Jazeera) Iraq’s military says it achieved its objectives in a lightning-quick operation that saw troops sweep through disputed Kurdish-held territory in a punishing riposte to an independence vote last month...

ISIS militants stage attack outside Coptic church (AP) The militants drove into the city center of el-Arish in the morning, then split into two groups. One group traded gunfire with the guards outside the Church of Saint George, security and military officials said. Services at the church were suspended months ago, following a wave of attacks on Christians in Sinai.In a brazen daytime attack, about a dozen Islamic militants robbed a local bank, lobbed grenades and traded gunfire with security forces guarding an unused church in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Monday, killing seven people, including three civilians, officials said...

Vatican sends Diwali message to Hindus (CNA) With tensions between Christians and Hindu nationalists in India increasingly on the rise, the Vatican sent a message marking the Hindu feast of Diwali, urging members of both religions to go beyond mere tolerance of one another, and to foster a genuine mutual respect. Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights, and is being celebrated this year on 19 October...

American woman becomes Ethiopian princess in Orthodox wedding (The Independent) Fairytales are not known for beginning in a Washington DC nightclub, but for one American woman it was where she met the Ethiopian prince who would go on to become her husband...



16 October 2017
Greg Kandra




The Rev. Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas is a priest of the Chaldean Church. For the past 16 years he has been patriarchal vicar for northeastern Syria. Read his account of what it is like to lead his flock in A Letter from Syria in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas)



16 October 2017
Greg Kandra




The Rev. Samaan Shehata, shown above in an undated photo, was killed in a knife attack in Cairo, Thursday. (photo: Twitter)

Coptic Orthodox priest killed in street attack in Cairo (The Catholic Herald) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church says a priest has been killed in a knife attack in a poor Cairo district, the latest deadly assault on members of the country’s Christian minority. The church says the attack took place on Thursday. The priest was identified in the media as the Rev. Samaan Shehata...

Iraqi forces capture installations outside Kirkuk (BBC) Iraqi government forces have captured key installations outside the disputed city of Kirkuk from Kurdish fighters. A military statement said units had taken control of the K1 military base, the Baba Gurgur oil and gas field, and a state-owned oil company’s offices. Baghdad said the Peshmerga had withdrawn “without fighting,” but clashes were reported south of Kirkuk. The operation was launched a month after the Kurdistan Region held a controversial independence referendum...

Lebanese president says country ‘can no longer cope’ with refugees (AP) Lebanon’s president says his country “can no longer cope” with the presence of Syrian refugees and appealed to the international community for help to organize their return. Michel Aoun says the refugees’ return to safe areas in Syria will put an end to their suffering and save Lebanon from negative repercussions...

U.S.-backed forces in Syria begin assault on Raqqah (The Los Angeles Times) Syrian forces backed by the United States said Sunday that they have launched a final push to drive Islamic State from its last footholds in Raqqah, after tribal leaders and a provincial council negotiated the safe exit of civilians along with the surrender of local militants and family members...

How art is blooming amid the Gaza wasteland (The Guardian) It might seem incongruous to find an event commemorating the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death in an isolated enclave corralled by electronically monitored fences, ruled by an armed and proscribed Islamic faction, and succinctly dismissed by Condoleezza Rice as a “terrorist wasteland.” But it was part of a long history of cultural life and heritage, easily overlooked amid a decade-long economic siege and three devastating wars...







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