13 April 2016
A woman displaced by terrorism listens as a delegation of Catholic leaders talks with residents of a camp for internally displaced families in Ainkawa, Iraq, on 9 April. To read accounts of the journey to Iraq of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and representatives from CNEWA, visit this link.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
13 April 2016
The damaged St. Sarkis Church in Sadad, Syria, is seen in 2013. Hundreds of Christian families are returning to Sadad, more than two years after their city was overrun by terrorists, a local official said. (photo:CNS/EPA)
Christians returning to Syria (CNS) Hundreds of Christian families are returning to Sadad, Syria, more than two years after their city was overrun by terrorists, a local official has said. Suleiman al Khalil, the mayor of Sadad, told Russian media on April 6 of the influx of Christians returning to the city after Russian forces defeated the al Nusra Front, reported Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples...
Assad invites delegation from Russian Orthodox Church to visit Syria (Fides) Syrian President Bashar al Assad has invited a “high-level delegation” of the Russian Orthodox Church to visit Syria, at a time when the Syrian government army seems to have reversed the destiny of the conflict with militias jihadist rebels, returning to recover large areas of the country thanks to military support received from Moscow...
Syria holds parliamentary elections (The Washington Post) Even as Syrian peace talks were scheduled to resume Wednesday in Geneva, President Bashar al-Assad took a major jab at the process: voting in parliamentary elections denounced as a farce by the opposition...
Pope’s visit to Lesbos comes at time of fear for refugees (CNS) Pope Francis’ trip to Lesbos, Greece, on 16 April comes at a frightening and critical time for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants waiting and wondering where they will end up, said members of Catholic aid agencies. Maristella Tsamatropoulou, spokeswoman for Caritas Hellas, the Catholic charity in Greece, said when rumors started swirling that Pope Francis would join Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on a visit to refugees, “we believed it immediately because our Pope is spontaneous; he’s a force of nature...”
Indian leader calls for equal Dalit rights (UCANews.com) Christians and Muslims in India have welcomed comments by the head of an eastern state favoring quotas for Dalit religious minorities in government jobs and educational institutions, a right enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts. “The time has come to give quotas to low-caste Muslims and Christians who have long been deprived of this right because of their religious affiliations,” Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said...
Saddam Hussein’s palace to become a museum (The Telegraph) The large mansion in Basra, southern Iraq, will become the first museum to open in the war-torn country in several years after serving as a mess hall for the British army during the war, according to National Geographic. The British pulled out from Basra in September 2007...
12 April 2016
Sister Maria Hanna serves as the mother superior of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in northern Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena who serve the displaced people of Iraq are among the most selfless women we’ve encountered — and also, among the most heroic.
Their mother superior is Sister Maria Hanna, who fled with dozens of her sisters from their convent in Quaraqosh when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in August of 2014. They settled in Erbil, some 50 miles away, to begin serving others in the same boat:
Throughout this trauma, a backbone of support for the displaced Christians has been the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, some 73 of whom were also exiled from their convents across the plain. Led by Sister Maria Hanna, mother superior, the community initially administered to the displaced from their convent in Ainkawa. As families were moved from Ainkawa to Kasnazan, it became clear a second, satellite convent was required.
“We want to be with the people — to serve the people in the moment,” says Sister Maria. “If they move someplace else, we move with them.”
...The leitmotif evident across all the communities of displaced Christians living in towns across Iraqi Kurdistan is resilience. From the seemingly hopeless ashes of shock and despair of last autumn, green shoots of hope sprout. From Erbil to Dohuk to Suleimaniyah, the Christians, frequently marginalized from public services by the Kurdish authorities, are building their own structures of support and care. The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have been crucial to the slow but steady emergence of this infrastructure from the chaos of displacement.
Within weeks of their exile, Sister Maria Hanna and her community realized children needed special help in this crucial time.
“Children in the displaced families are the real victims,” she says. “They are really crushed by the situation. Entire families had to suddenly all live together in one room or tent and the children were not allowed to speak, to express fear or frustration. They couldn’t play. They couldn’t shout. Often they had to bear witness to domestic problems caused by the displacement.”
Responding to this need, the Dominican Sisters established a kindergarten and an orphanage in Ainkawa, filling in for institutions abandoned back home. These efforts have eased the burden on families — especially the children themselves, starving to learn and play.
“One of the boys was so excited to be going to kindergarten that, the night before the first day back, he slept the whole night with his backpack on,” Sister Maria Hanna says. “He did not want anything to come between him and his learning!”
In 2014, CNEWA’s Michael La Civita hailed her as one of the Catholics of the Year in Our Sunday Visitor:
Sister Maria Hanna has served during a tumultuous moment in Iraqi history. Her term has coincided with a decade-long ordeal that has included invasion, war, sectarian strife and persecution. Sister Maria Hanna has made a difference. She has mobilized her own exiled community, organizing volunteer relief committees and working with partners, such as Catholic Near East Welfare Association, to assess the needs of the displaced, assist those with special needs, counsel those in shock and treat those who are ill.
Read more about Sister Maria Hanna and her order in Grace, from the Summer 2015 edition of ONE.
12 April 2016
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York blesses a child in the Mar Narsai Clinic in Dahuk, Iraq, on 10 April. Cardinal Dolan is making a pastoral visit to Iraq this week in his role as Chair of CNEWA. To follow his journey, visit this link. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
12 April 2016
In Ethiopia’s Afar region, girls wait to fill containers at the local water pump. The UN says the humanitarian emergency in Ethiopia has worsened along with the drought. Read more on the crisis here. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
UN: Food emergency spreads as Ethiopian drought worsens (Bloomberg) The number of Ethiopian districts identified as suffering a humanitarian emergency increased 18 percent to 219 from December to March as the impact of drought worsened, the United Nations said...
Concern over safety of Syrian refugees (The Guardian) Setting up refugee “safe zones” on the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border and refusing to allow those fleeing the conflict to seek international protection could be a violation of international law and put vulnerable people at risk, human rights groups and aid workers have warned...
Alexandria court bans demolition of churches in Egypt (Albawaba.com) The Administrative Court of Alexandria has blocked the demolition of a church belonging to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, in the process issuing a ruling that prohibits the demolition of any church in Egypt. The move has been welcomed by members of the Coptic Christian community, who claim that Egyptian churches have been subject to “violations” for many years...
The fading of Gaza’s architectural heritage (AFP) A surprise awaits beyond a black door adorned with a silver lotus flower at the end of a tangle of alleyways in Gaza’s chaotic Old City. Through it and behind imposing stone walls sits a small, Levantine-style palace, some 430 years old and recently painstakingly restored. It is among the rare vestiges of Gaza City’s architectural heritage, battered by war, time, population pressure and simple indifference...
11 April 2016
A Greek priest walks past the Tomb of Christ inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Jerusalem’s Old City, on 23 March 2016. (photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
Concerns about a possible collapse of the structure surrounding the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem have prompted a generous response from Jordan’s King Abdullah II:
“His Majesty King Abdullah II has issued a Royal Benefaction (makruma) to provide for the restoration of Jesus’ Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, at His Majesty’s personal expense.” The news was announced by Jordanian press agency Petra, which says that the Hashemite Court sent an official letter to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III. It will therefore be a Muslim sovereign and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad who will foot part of the bill for the restoration of the niche in the Holy Sepulchre, the place of Jesus’ burial and resurrection in Jerusalem, which has, for centuries, been the most venerated Christian shrine in the world.
From Petra in Jordan:
His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III commended the generosity of His Majesty King Abdullah II. The Patriarch said that His Majesty has always been, and shall remain, the faithful Guardian and Custodian of the Christian and Muslim Holy Sites in Jerusalem. His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III also said that His Majesty King Abdullah embodies in deed, and not only in word, the shared living of Muslims and Christians all over the world and particularly in the Holy Land.
His Beatitude emphasized that the Royal Hashemite Family has always had a unique historic role in the preservation of both Christian and Muslim Holy Sites in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories. Patriarch Theophilos also said that this continuing Jordanian Hashemite patronage has been an indelible source of support for all the churches in the Holy Land, and all the Christians in the East.
His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III further added that Jordan’s role in protecting Christian existence in the Holy Land is clear and undeniable. King Abdullah spearheads the efforts of all Jordanians to sow the seeds of love and brotherhood between Muslims and Christians, the Patriarch said. We are reaping the fruits of these efforts in this age when sectarian wars are burning entire countries as can plainly be seen, the Patriarch added.
His Beatitude stressed that King Abdullah presents the Palestinian cause as a top priority in all the international forums that His Majesty attends. He added that His Majesty constantly reiterates that Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian Holy Sites are a red line, which Jordan will not permit to be crossed. Also, that Jordan continues to uphold its religious and historic responsibilities toward the entirety of Al-Haram Al-Sharif with the utmost commitment and seriousness. His Beatitude said that this Royal Benefaction (makruma) is just more proof of His Majesty King Abdullah’s commitment, in word and in deed, to the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, as has always been the case with the Hashemites and the Jordanian people.
Patriarch Theophilos III said: Our churches will continue to pray for the peace and security of Jordan, its army, its security agencies, its people, and its leader who justly and honestly continues the Pact of Omar. The Pact of Omar was instituted by the second successor of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab. Through this pact, the Christians of the Holy Land lived without fear for their lives, the lives of their families and their property.
It is to be noted that His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III signed an historic agreement with the President of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) in March 2016. The agreement was for the project to restore Jesus’ Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in cooperation with the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Franciscan Missionaries Serving the Holy Land. The agreement followed a study that was undertaken by specialists at NTUA and presented to a number of Christian religious leaders, the Jordanian Ambassador to Athens, and Palestinian and Greek officials.
11 April 2016
CNEWA’s Chair, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, visits students displaced by war at the Al Bishara School run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ankawa, Iraq, on 9 April. The cardinal got one little boy to try on his zucchetto for size. Read full reports of the cardinal’s trip at this link. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
11 April 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis calls for the release of all hostages in war zones, in particular the Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, a missionary priest from India kidnapped in Yemen.
(video: Rome Reports)
Vatican announces papal visits to Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office has announced that Pope Francis will visit Armenia in June of 2016, accepting the invitation of His Holiness, Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenia; of the civil authorities; and of the Catholic Church in Armenia. The visit is scheduled for 24-26 of June...
Pope Francis appeals for release all people held captive (CNS) Pope Francis appealed for the release of all people being held captive in the world’s battle zones, including Salesian Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Yemen. “I renew my appeal for the liberation of all people kidnapped in areas of armed conflict,” the pope said after praying the “Regina Coeli” with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square 10 April. “In particular, I want to remember Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, abducted in Aden in Yemen,” the pope said...
Ukraine’s Prime Minister resigns (Vatican Radio) Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has announced his resignation on Sunday saying he would support the country’s parliamentary speaker to replace him after a public outcry over perceived slow reforms and rampant corruption. Speaking on national television, a visibly upset Yatsenyuk said he would step down for several reasons including what he called “the political crisis in the country...”
Cardinal Dolan to displaced Iraqis: you are not forgotten (CNA) On his second full day in Iraq, Cardinal Timothy Dolan traveled three hours to Dohuk, the city where the majority of those who fled Mosul, including the members of the minority Yazidi population, escaped to when ISIS overran the city. After the lengthy ride, Cardinal Dolan briefly visited a medical dispensary set up by CNEWA, where he greeted the staff and some refugees, most of whom come from Mosul...
Construction of wall in Cremisan valley continues (Fides) The construction of the separation wall in the Cremisan area at the beginning of the month of April 2016 has entered its operational phase. Teams have entered the area with bulldozers and cranes and are working to build, one after another, the eight-meter high concrete panels where once century-old olive trees were firmly planted...
Police hunt for suspects in India temple fire (AP) Medical teams on Monday tended to hundreds of people injured in a massive fire that killed at least 110 people, while authorities searched for those responsible for illegally putting on the fireworks display that caused the weekend blaze at a Hindu temple in southern India...
Pope sends condolences after deadly fire in India (CNA) Pope Francis has sent his condolences to the victims and relatives of a fireworks accident on Sunday that killed at least 100 people and injured hundreds of others in India’s Kerala state during celebrations of the local Hindu new year...
8 April 2016
In the picture above, from 2004, Ethiopian children gather on a rural hillside. Despite the hardships facing the country — including, today, a devastating drought — the people have managed to maintain their spirit and their traditions. Read more about that in Behold the Ethiopian in the July-August 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
8 April 2016
In this image from October, an internally displaced Ukrainian family stands in line as they wait for humanitarian aid at a distribution center in Kiev, Ukraine. The pope has called for aid to help the victims of war in Ukraine. (photo: CNS/Roman Pilipey, EPA)
Cor Unum releases statement on collection for Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has released a press statement concerning the collection for Ukraine announced by Pope Francis: “During the Regina Coeli of Sunday, 3 April, the Holy Father announced an extraordinary initiative in favor of those who are suffering the consequences of violence in Ukraine. To this end it, a collection is expected to be taken in churches in Europe on Sunday, 24 April...”
Vatican publishes pope’s exhortation on “The Joy of Love” (Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday published Pope Francis’ eagerly-awaited Apostolic Exhoratation on the family, drawing together almost three years of consultations with Catholics in countries around the world. The lengthy document, entitled ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ or The Joy of Love, affirms the Church’s teaching that stable families are the building blocks of a healthy society and a place where children learn to love, respect and interact with others...
Syrian refugees boost Turkish economy (Al-Monitor) The Turkish economy grew an average of 3% in the past four years, a rate that trails behind the country’s 50-year average of 4.5%. The slowdown is the result of both the weakening global economy and adverse political and economic conditions at home. Yet a much-needed booster has come from an unlikely quarter — the Syrian refugees...
In India, Jesuits set up a meeting of NGOs to be “closer to the poor” (Fides) To set up a national network of non-governmental agencies to improve and better coordinate the work of support and development among the poorest of society, the Indian Jesuits created the “Lok Manch,” after a meeting which brought together over 120 delegates in Delhi of 100 Indian organizations. As reported in a note sent to Fides, the forum intends to promote laws and policies in favor of the marginalized and vulnerable groups, encouraging the growth of a secular and democratic nation, which can promote the development, well-being and equality among all citizens...
Bamboo could be “green gold” for Ethiopia (CNN) Money really could grow on trees for a new industry in Ethiopia. Two-thirds of the bamboo in Africa is situated in the upwardly-mobile state, and it is hoped that “green gold” can power growth. “The farmer who has bamboo is rich, but he doesn’t know it,” says Adane Berhe, CEO Adal Industrial PLC, which is helping to build the new industry...
Gaza becomes perfect stage for parkour (CBS News) A war blasted hulk of an apartment building in Gaza becomes a perfect stage for parkour. It’s an extreme sport blending gymnastics with agility training developed for a military obstacle course. How many wars have these men seen? They all raise their hands to show three fingers. So the men on this parkour team call themselves “Three-Run Gaza,” for surviving three wars. And they cannot leave because Gaza is under a blockade. “Parkour makes us feel free,” said one of them men named Uday. “Nothing is holding you back...”