24 July 2014
Israeli soldiers stand atop tanks outside the northern Gaza Strip on 22 July. (photo: CNS/Baz Ratner, Reuters)
This week in Our Sunday Visitor, CNEWA’s Communications Director Michael J.L. La Civita offers some thoughts on the explosive crisis of the Middle East:
The artificial geopolitical construct that is the Middle East — with its national borders drawn arbitrarily by the Western Allied powers after World War I — is collapsing. In an article for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, a French seminarian working with the patriarchate writes that a number of factors have contributed to the latest conflicts.
“Recently we witnessed the end and the failure of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, in particular because of the refusal of Palestine to recognize Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ and the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements, which led to a new wave of pessimism and despair,” Pierre Loup de Raucourt wrote. “The discovery of the three dead Israeli teenagers and the revenge that followed, leading to the horrific death of a young Palestinian, were sufficient to ignite a wick. And one does not know how big the powder keg is to which this wick is attached.”
That powder keg is huge.
In Iraq and Syria — by far the largest states created from the smoldering remains of the Ottoman Turkish Empire — the powder kegs have exploded, unleashing violent forces so extreme even al Qaeda has repudiated the bloodletting.
Iraq, once awash in cash thanks to its oil reserves, has collapsed — its people exhausted by more than 30 years of constant war. Syria, once the bedrock of regional stability, has disintegrated — its people maimed and displaced. Meanwhile, extremist militias have overrun vast swaths of devastated territory and proclaimed an Islamist caliphate, an empire akin to those that dominated the region for centuries.
In Israel and Palestine, (as of this writing) leaders on both sides remain unyielding.
Read more in the current edition of Our Sunday Visitor.
24 July 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Middle East Israeli-Palestinian conflict Middle East Peace Process
Pope Francis blesses Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan during a private meeting at the Vatican on 24 July. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
In a dramatic encounter at the Vatican, an Ethiopian-born woman who faced a death sentence for refusing to renounce her Christian faith had a meeting this morning with Pope Francis:
Meeting a Sudanese woman who risked execution for not renouncing her Catholic faith, Pope Francis thanked Meriam Ibrahim for her steadfast witness to Christ.
The pope spent 30 minutes with Ibrahim, her husband and two small children on 24 July, just hours after she had arrived safely in Italy following a brutal ordeal of imprisonment and a death sentence for apostasy in Sudan.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told journalists that the encounter in the pope’s residence was marked by “affection” and “great serenity and joy.”
They had “a beautiful conversation,” during which the pope thanked Ibrahim for “her steadfast witness of faith,” the priest said.
Ibrahim thanked the pope for the church’s prayers and support during her plight, Father Lombardi said.
The Vatican spokesman said the meeting was a sign of the pope’s “closeness, solidarity and presence with all those who suffer for their faith,” adding that Ibrahim’s ordeal has come to represent the serious challenges many people face in living out their faith.
The informal conversation also touched upon the family’s plans now that Ibrahim is free, he said. The pope gave the family a few small gifts, including papal rosaries.
Ibrahim, a 26-year-old Catholic woman originally sentenced to death for marrying a Christian, had been released from prison in Sudan 23 June after intense international pressure. But she was apprehended again the next day at the Khartoum airport with her husband, who is a U.S. citizen, and their nearly 2-year-old son and 2-month-old daughter, who was born in prison just after Ibrahim’s death sentence.
Charged with possessing fake travel documents, Ibrahim was not allowed to leave Sudan, but she was released into the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where she then spent the following month.
Italy’s foreign ministry led negotiations with Khartoum for her to be allowed to leave Sudan for Italy.
Read more at the CNS link.
23 July 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Violence against Christians Sudan
A girl walks past the site of a bomb attack on 16 July at a market in Baghdad’s Sadr City. (photo: CNS/Wissm al Okili, Reuters)
Over at Patheos, blogger Elizabeth Scalia has a comprehensive roundup of what is happening in Iraq, beginning with a mention of CNEWA:
“Elizabeth, if I think too much about it I just break down. So many shrines I have visited destroyed. So many brethren I have known, battered, beaten or dead. Absolutely devastating.”
That’s a quick note from my friend, Michael LaCivita. Having worked for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for decades, he knows and loves these places, knows and loves the people who are looking into the face of evil — true evil, the all-too-familiar kind of evil that keeps resurfacing throughout world history. It is the evil that comes forward when some human beings cease to see other human beings, as creatures as equally beloved of God as they are themselves; they see them instead as something less than human; sub-creatures meant to be either subjugated or swept from the face of the earth. For them, there is no other, more reasonable and less extreme choice.
We had been discussing the awful news and images out of Mosul and elsewhere, and I had confessed my heartbreak, the difficulty I was having with the reality that our ancient Christian roots — our ancestral places, so to speak, many founded well before the advent of Islam — have been so quickly overtaken, so thoughtlessly and eagerly eaten up by such a conflagration of hate.
That is when I heard his own pain, and worse. Our encounter occurred just as he’d finished communicating with sources on the ground, people who are seeing much more than we’re being told. Michael dared not say much, but he related this from the Syrian Maronite Bishop Sleiman, a sense of things as they are: “Flattened. Everything is just flattened. Destroyed.” People’s spirits are crushed; they have nothing, and are wholly dependent on aid; they are displaced, and in shock, and without the will to engage in the difficult work of surviving.
Read more over at The Anchoress.
23 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees
Father Paul Achandy offers the Eucharist to patients at the Amala Hospital in Trichur, India. To read more about the health care ministry in Kerala, check out Healing Kerala’s Health Care from the September 2011 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
18 July 2014
Tags: India Kerala Health Care
A senior chef and his students at the Naipunya Institute proudly exhibit their entrees. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Several years ago, we took readers on a culinary adventure to discover the cuisine of Kerala enjoyed by Christians, Hindus and Muslims:
“If you enjoy food, you should come to Kerala!” said Father Sebastian Kalapurackal, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest and director of Naipunya Institute of Management and Information Technology, which boasts one of the state’s top hotel management programs. Each year, the program graduates some 100 students, many of whom land jobs with five-star hotels, major cruise lines and airline companies.
Keralites unquestionably take great pride in their local cuisine — and for good reason. Its diversity and sophistication have earned the state worldwide fame.
What is more, it is unique. A narrow strip of coastland bounded to the east by the Western Ghats (mountains) and to the west by the Arabian Sea, Kerala has been largely disconnected from the rest of India for much of its history. Isolated from the prevailing trends of Indian cooking, Keralites developed a distinct culinary tradition unlike any other on the subcontinent.
Read more about What’s Cooking in Kerala — and discover some recipes — in the November 2008 issue of ONE.
17 July 2014
Tags: India Cultural Identity Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Cuisine
In this image from 2003, Anduamlak Getnet and his older brother, Melesa, prepare food for their blind grandmother. The boys lost both of their parents to AIDS. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Several years ago, we visited a bleak corner of Ethiopia, and found a flicker of light in the darkness:
Anduamlak Getnet was too young to remember the night six years ago when he was gently pulled away from his dead mother’s breast. Nor does he remember the moment when his father died — both parents succumbing to AIDS. According to the Ministry of Health, Anduamlak is one of the one million AIDS orphans living in Ethiopia right now. With no social welfare system in place, their childhood memories will be short and not always sweet.
Yet 7-year-old Anduamlak and his brother, Melesa, 10, are more fortunate than many orphans. They moved in with their blind grandmother — their lone relative. She tries her best to help them, but at age 80, disabilities limit her. So rather than care for them, Anduamlak and Melesa care for her. They wash the clothes, prepare the food, scavenge for firewood, water the chat plants and, when they find time, study their textbooks.
In spite of having no parents and no income, and living in a country that the World Food Program claims has the lowest primary education enrollment rate in the world, the brothers actually do study. Anduamlak and Melesa have this opportunity thanks largely to CNEWA’s needy child program. This program, which assists just over 29,000 children in 10 countries, provides assistance — in the form of school tuition, uniforms, materials, food, medical care, counseling and even shelter — to almost 5,000 of the neediest children in Ethiopia.
Read more about A Flicker of Candlelight Amid the Darkness from the September 2003 edition of the magazine. And to learn how you can help the children of Ethiopia today, visit this page.
16 July 2014
Tags: Ethiopia Children
A worker at the Olive Branch Foundation puts the finishing touches on dove peace lamps.
(photo: Miriam Sushman)
Three years ago, we profiled a village in Palestine, where there was an unsual effort underway to promote peace:
Father Ra’ed’s greatest contribution has been the Olive Branch Foundation, a nonprofit he founded and runs. The business includes a small ceramics factory and most recently an olive press and machinery to make and package olive oil and olive–based soap and cosmetic products from locally grown olives.
The priest’s business endeavors began five years ago, when one day at church he displayed some of his handmade white ceramic lamps in the shape of doves. He filled them with locally produced olive oil, placed them near the altar and encouraged parishioners to light them and pray for peace. Delighted by the “peace” lamps, parishioners quickly spread the word to neighbors from other congregations, and in no time, residents inundated Father Ra’ed with requests for lamps of their own.
Seeing an opportunity to promote peace and generate income for the local community, Father Ra’ed intensified production, hiring a small team of local craftsmen, and began selling the lamps to faithful throughout the region and beyond.
“I use the lamp to put pressure on the heavens to make peace in the Holy Land,” says the priest.
So far, the foundation has produced and sold more than 80,000 lamps, “flying them,” as he says, “around the world like little birds until peace comes.”
Read more about Taybeh, “A Town Named ‘Good’,” in the July 2011 issue of ONE.
15 July 2014
Tags: Palestine Christianity Emigration
Elderly parents in India are increasingly left behind and alone when their
children emigrate overseas. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Yesterday, our daily news summary noted the phenomenon of nurses leaving Kerala for better salaries abroad. It’s an issue we explored in ONE in 2008:
According to the Centre for Development Studies, women now make up 15 percent of all Keralite emigrants and about 28 percent of those emigrants are Christian — a significant increase from 25 years ago.
Nurses in Kerala generally earn less than $1,000 per month. In Delhi, salaries are double and in the Gulf states as much as 10 times that amount. Attracted by these salaries, tens of thousands of Keralite nurses have accepted employment elsewhere in India or overseas. Currently, about 40,000 Keralite nurses work in the Gulf and another 25,000 in Europe and North America.
And emigration, we found, is taking a toll:
Many economists have hailed the Kerala Phenomenon — the common term referring to Kerala’s unique development model that sacrifices industrial production and job growth for a generous social welfare system — for achieving near universal literacy, providing quality health care and promoting greater gender equality. However, if the troubling social trends that have manifested in recent years accurately reflect life in Kerala, it may not be long before experts coin another term: “Kerala Paradox.”
Current statistics indicate that among Keralites rates of alcoholism, depression, suicide, domestic violence and divorce have been spiraling upward. Today, Kerala boasts the highest per capita liquor consumption in India, a suicide rate three times the national average and, in the most recent study, a level of domestic violence that far eclipses the national average. And Kerala’s divorce rate has increased some 350 percent over the last decade. While tough to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between migration and these social ills, surmising one is not difficult.
Read more about Kerala’s Bittersweet Phenomenon in the September 2008 edition of ONE.
14 July 2014
Tags: India Kerala Emigration
Palestinians surround the body of a 10-year-old girl, whom hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli airstrike, during her funeral at a mosque in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip on 11 July.
(photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)
Some thoughts on the escalating crisis in the Holy Land and its impact on young people, from the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem:
What is the origin of the current conflict? It is difficult to say precisely. We agree on several factors: the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the endless conflict in Syria, and instability in Egypt. Recently we witnessed the end and the failure of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, in particular because of the refusal of Palestine to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” and the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements, which led to a new wave of pessimism and despair. The attempted reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas has not convinced the State of Israel which refuses to talk to Hamas, considered a terrorist organization.
The discovery of the three dead Israeli teenagers and the revenge that followed, leading to the horrific death of a young Palestinian, were sufficient to ignite a wick. And one does not know how big the powder keg is to which this wick is attached. “We do not know when and how it will end,” says Father David Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar for the Hebrew-speaking Catholics to Vatican Radio. This recent expression is very sad because once again the victims are young adults and the responsible elders are not ready to shift their policy positions that deny the rights of others.“
Also on Vatican Radio, Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem appeals to parents, governors and the Ministry of Education: “What kind of education are we giving to these young people? That is the question. From where does this education come? No one is happy. No one. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians.”
In fact, often it is young people between 15 and 30 years who are at the forefront of these conflicts, encouraged or brainwashed by their elders, or they are discouraged by the lives they lead, without work and without a clear future. “You meet youth who are also against all this violence, says Fr. David Neuhaus. There have been demonstrations against the violence that brought Arabs and Jews together. To tell you the truth, I do not blame the youth, but I blame our political leaders who are not able to develop a language that will prepare a different future without the cycle of violence.“
...Father Neuhaus concludes by wishing “to take a stand with those values that are dear to the Church. It does not means looking at the Jewish or Palestinian part, the Israeli or Arab side. We look at the people, Jews and Arabs, who want something different from our current reality. I think that the Church seeks to contribute to change and must be courageous, generous and creative,” concludes Fr. Neuhaus. “The thing to do is look at who stands before us and call him ‘my brother’ because we are all children of God.”
Read more at the Latrin Patriarchate website.
14 July 2014
An Israeli takes pictures with his mobile phone as a missile launched from the Gaza Strip is intercepted by an Israeli defense system on 10 July. (photo: CNS/Atef Safadi, EPA)