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September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
11 December 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Nativity scene made of sand decorates St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Bethlehem church renovation hopes to bolster local Christian community (Christian Science Monitor) A historic renovation of the Church of the Nativity is lifting spirits in the biblical town of Bethlehem ahead of Christmas, offering visitors a look at ancient mosaics and columns that have been restored to their original glory for the first time in 600 years…

For Christmas, no exit permits for Christians in Gaza (Fides) This year Christians in Gaza will not have permission from the Israeli authorities to cross the border at Erez in order to visit relations and friends in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other towns in the Holy Land to celebrate Christmas together. According to the Middle East Concern organization, this year most of the travel permits requested have been refused…

No haven from hardship: Why some Syrians return from Europe (Christian Science Monitor) Since 2016, thousands of disappointed Syrian refugees have left Europe. No one has counted their exact numbers, but many of them are thought to have joined the 310,000 others who have returned home from Turkey and Lebanon this year to both government- and opposition-controlled areas…

Bid to raise $5.5 billion for millions of Syrians and their host communities (U.N. News) Since conflict erupted in Syria in 2011, host communities in neighboring countries have supported those who have fled, despite the significant impact on their own development, The UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Amin Awad, Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syria and Iraq, told journalists in Geneva…

Church offering job opportunities to youths in Ethiopia to prevent migration (Newsbook) The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is working on addressing the issue of migration by creating job opportunities for the youth so that they remain in the country and are not forced to leave to find a better future…

Catholics celebrate resignation of tainted Indian bishop (UCANews) Catholics in a southern Indian diocese let off firecrackers and exchanged sweets to express their joy over Pope Francis accepting the resignation of a bishop who has been facing allegations of stealing funds to maintain his “secret family”…

Bekaa river turns black, prompting action from politicians (Daily Star Lebanon) Both the Environment and Justice ministries have taken action to hold accountable those responsible for the waters of Zahleh’s Berdawni River turning black, statements from the ministries reported Tuesday…



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

31 October 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Hindus light candles in clay lamps in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights. Read more about this holiday here. (photo: Khokarahman via Wikimedia Commons)

Christians and Hindus to defend the vulnerable in society (AsiaNews) In a statement commemorating Diwali, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said: “Attentiveness and cooperation are needed, not only to defend the legitimate place and rights of the vulnerable in society, but also to cultivate a culture of care and concern in their regard…”

US-backed Syria force suspends anti-ISIS attacks after Turkey strikes (Al Monitor) A Kurdish-led force backed by a U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday it was suspending operations against the Islamic State group after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria…

Ancient Assyrian sculpture up for sale at Christie’s — but should it ever have left Iraq? (AINA) A 3,000-year-old Iraqi artifact goes on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York this week, where it is expected to fetch more than $10 million for its American owners. However, the Iraqi government has demanded a halt to the sale of the two-meter frieze taken from an ancient Assyrian palace…

Coptic Church gears up for a new fight at Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre (Haaretz) A dispute between the Coptic and Ethiopian churches reared its head last week. The incident involved the forcible dispersal by the Israel Police of a quiet protest by a few Coptic monks, who were objecting to renovations by the Israel Antiquities Authority at St. Michael’s, a chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre…



Tags: Syria Iraq Interreligious Ethiopian Orthodox Church Coptic Church

19 October 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Amir Maher, a Coptic Catholic seminarian studying in Cairo, greets Deacon Boutros Yousef Yacoub in his hometown of Al Wasta, outside of Assiut. You can read more about Mr. Maher and his journey into a life of service in the September 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)



Tags: Egypt Priests Seminarians

19 October 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from 2006, Palestinian mothers and their children await their turns at a clinic of the Near East Council of Churches in Gaza. (photo: Bernard Sabella)

U.N. envoy warns Gaza is imploding (Al Monitor) With its economy in a freefall and tensions rising with Israel, the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza is imploding, the UN envoy for the Middle East warned Thursday. Nickolay Mladenov delivered the warning to the Security Council a day after Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip in retaliation at rocket firings from the Palestinian territory. “Gaza is imploding. This is not hyperbole. This is not alarmism. It is a reality,” Mladenov told the council…

U.S. mission to Palestinians to be folded into U.S. embassy in Jerusalem (Los Angeles Times) The United States will fold the operations of the Consulate General in Jerusalem into the new American Embassy in Israel, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said on Thursday, effectively shuttering its diplomatic representation to the Palestinian Authority here. The move comes weeks after the United States ordered the office in Washington that served as the Palestinians’ de facto embassy there closed…

World Council of Churches reiterates call for release of Syrian archbishops (Christian Today) The World Council of Churches (W.C.C.) has repeated its call for the release of two archbishops abducted in Syria five years ago. Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi were kidnapped at gunpoint outside Aleppo in April 2013 and haven’t been seen since…

U.N.: Eradicating poverty not a question of charity but of justice and human rights (Vatican News) The United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was observed across the globe on Wednesday. In a message for the occasion, U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres urged the international community to uphold the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of leaving no one behind in its fight to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions…

Ending India’s gap between rich and poor Catholics (UCAN India) The growth of communities dedicated to responding to poverty across India — such as the Small Christian Community of Immaculate Conception Church in the Diocese of Poona — help narrow a rich-poor divide, and caste-based discrimination, in hundreds of village parishes…

Water pollution threatens Mandaean religious practices in Iraq (Christian Science Monitor) Mandaeans, a minority religious group following the teachings of John the Baptist, have worshipped at the banks of the Tigris River for hundreds of years. Today, industrial chemicals and untreated sewage make it difficult for the Mandaeans to practice religious rites…

Beit Jamal Catholic cemetery desecrated again (Fides) Twenty-eight graves of the cemetery attached to the Salesian convent of Beit Jamal, near the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, has one again been desecrated by unknown persons. This was discovered on Wednesday 17 October…

U.N. Official: Syria has withdrawn controversial property law (AINA) A U.N. humanitarian aid official said Thursday that Syria’s government has withdrawn a controversial law that allowed authorities to seize property left behind by civilians who fled the country’s civil war, calling it a good sign that “diplomacy can win”…

Tensions high in Kerala as Hindu temple opens gates to women (The Guardian) A standoff is under way in the south Indian state of Kerala, where mainly female protesters are attempting to stop other women from entering the Sabarimala temple. On Wednesday, the Hindu shrine opened its gates for the first time since 28 September, after the supreme court struck down an entry ban on women of menstruating age. The judges ruled the ban against girls and women aged between 10 and 50 as discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine

17 August 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man is rescued from drowning on 16 August after the opening of a dam following heavy rains on the outskirts of Cochin, India. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)

UCAN reports Indian bishops have appealed to Christians across the world to help those affected by the flooding in India:

Indian bishops have appealed to Christians across the country come together to help the millions of people stranded because of the unprecedented and devastating flood in Kerala.

“We are distressed by the extensive damage to the life and property through a disaster of this magnitude,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Bishops Conference of India said in a statement.

Cardinal Gracias termed the disaster as national calamity and said there was “a strong urgency to reach out to more communities who are stranded and isolated in the most remote and unreached villages.”

The uninterrupted rains and flood on 15 and 16 August alone claimed 106 lives and displaced at least a million people. Unofficial figures put the death toll at 116.

The monsoon season since June has already claimed more than 200 people, taking the total death toll to more than 300.

Cities and towns 12 of the 14 districts in the state are inundated and power lines in most part of Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur districts have been snapped to avoid electrocution as power transformers came under water.

The road, rail and air traffic into the state is paralyzed in the affected districts forcing the people to stay put in their homes if water does not enter or move to relief camps.

The government is also airdropping food and water in many affected areas as some 200,000 people are in 1,155 relief camps.

Cardinal Gracias bishops and all the leadership of churches “to come together in solidarity and encourage the community of faithful, institutions and people of goodwill to contribute generously to this humanitarian call and express our solidarity at this crucial moment.”

Read the full story here.

To help support the work of the church among those most in need in India, click here.



Tags: India

17 August 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Palestinian woman hangs laundry at a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip 20 June. World Refugee Day is 20 June. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)

Egypt finalizing details of five-year Hamas-Israel truce (Daily Star Lebanon) Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security source said Thursday, amid easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some 2 million Palestinians live. Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid al Adha feast, which starts next week…

Christians, Muslims in Israeli village feel ‘second class’ after new law passed (Crux) In Deir Hanna, a small hillside village in the Lower Galilee, a church steeple and a minaret pierce the sky above its winding streets — neighboring dual structures that are symbolic of life on the ground where the town’s Muslim and Christian inhabitants live peacefully alongside one another. For the ancient town of Deir Hanna — which consists of fewer than 10,000 residents, approximately 20 percent of whom are Christians and 80 percent Muslims — the two faith communities have coexisted for centuries surrounded by their nearby Jewish neighbors, despite longstanding regional conflict being a way of life. Yet, as of last month when the Israeli government passed legislation to define itself as “the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” a new source of tension has emerged, where Christians and Muslims alike are charging that the new bill is not only not necessary, but also discriminatory against minority populations — and in this town, their Jewish neighbors agree…

Church ‘out in the field’ in flood-hit Kerala (UCAN India) The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India’s Kerala state, killing 75 people within a week. All 41 Catholic dioceses in the southern state have opened schools and other institutions to accommodate flood victims and are cooperating to send food, clothes and other relief materials to affected areas…

Caritas Syria: Ghouta refugees starving for food and love (AsiaNews) Displaced people speak of their condition in eastern Ghouta, an area on the outskirts of Damascus that was controlled for a long time by rebel forces. These people who, despite hardship and deprivation, are often without food to give to their children, claim they have “more need for love than for food.” And they reject the association with extremist and rebel groups who have long controlled the area and who today “have fled to Turkey and live happily. We, on the other hand, have not hurt anyone, we are suffering…”



Tags: Syria India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Galilee

16 August 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




The ancient Christian town of Maaloula, pictured in October 2007, is one of the oldest communities in the world, where Aramaic is still spoken in everyday life. (photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)

In a heartening piece of news, Fides reported this week that the Monastery of St. Thecla, in the ancient town of Maaloula in western Syria, has reopened to the public:

The Orthodox monastery of St. Thecla, in the Syrian town of Maaloula, will soon be open again to the visits of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, reconstruction work on the monastery is nearing completion. Maaloula was freed from militants in 2014, after which the restoration of the town and monastery began.

As reported by Fides (see Fides 9/6/2018) an important contribution to the reconstruction of St. Thecla came from the Russian veterans organizations “Boevoe Bratstvo” (Brothers in Arms). Russian media report that the nuns have already returned to the monastery, 90 percent of the reconstruction is already done, and that the reconstruction will be completed in the coming weeks.

Maalula, [35 miles] northeast of Damascus, known throughout the world as one of the places where Aramaic — the language spoken of Jesus — is still spoken, houses both the monastery of St. Thecla and the sanctuary dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus, which belongs to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. On 3 December 2013, 13 Greek Orthodox sisters from St. Thecla were kidnapped from the monastery, along with three of their collaborators. The kidnapping ended happily on Sunday, 9 March 2014, when the sisters and the three collaborators were freed in Lebanese territory. The liberation also occurred thanks to the mediation of the Lebanese and Qatar intelligence apparatus.

To learn more, check the pages of ONE magazine, which has featured several pre-war profiles of this remarkable town — including Mitchell Prothero’s Echoes of Jesus From Syria’s Mountains in 2008, and Michael La Civita’s 1989 Maaloula: An Oasis of Faith.



Tags: Syria Monastery Aramaic

16 August 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A makeshift shelter is seen 13 August on the edge of Athirapally Falls in the Indian state of Kerala. The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in the southeastern state, killing at least 75 people within a week. (photo: CNS/Prakash Elamakkara, EPA)

Indian church joins relief efforts as floods wreak havoc in Kerala (CNS) The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India’s Kerala state, killing 75 people within a week. Ucanews.com reported that all 41 Catholic dioceses in the southern state have opened schools and other institutions to accommodate flood victims and are cooperating to send food, clothes and other relief materials to affected areas…

UNRWA: Palestinian refugee schools to open (Daily Star Lebanon) Hundreds of U.N.-run schools for Palestinian refugees will open on time after fresh funding temporarily staved off a financial crisis triggered by a U.S. contributions freeze, the United Nations said on Thursday. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said all 711 schools it runs for 526,000 pupils in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would open for the coming school year…

‘There are no girls left’: Syria’s Christian villages hollowed out by ISIS (New York Times) The memories of the retired oilman dot the village in Syria where he grew up. The mud chapel he got married in. The concrete church he helped build that would overflow with worshipers on holidays. The tight community of Assyrian Christian families who had lived together in this area for generations. Now it’s a village of ghosts. The church is a pile of rubble, its bell tower and its cross toppled over like a felled tree. The dirt paths are overgrown, walked by stray dogs. Most homes are empty, their owners in Germany, Australia, the United States and elsewhere…

The Monastery of St. Thecla in Maaloula reopen (Fides) The Antiochene Orthodox Monastery of St. Thecla, in the Syrian town of Maaloula, will soon be open again to the visits of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, reconstruction work on the monastery is nearing completion. Maaloula was freed from militants in 2014, after which the restoration of the town and monastery began…

Kurds meet with Syrian government to discuss self-rule (AINA) Representatives from Syria’s Kurdish-run northeastern region met with the government in Damascus last week to discuss self-administration in a postwar Syria, a leading Kurdish official said Tuesday. It was the second meeting between the two sides, and they agreed to continue their discussions, said Ilham Ahmed, the co-president of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council…

Economic turmoil leaves Turkey reeling (Vatican News) Last week, the Turkish lira lost 20% of its value against the U.S. Dollar. Today it remains under pressure as it continued its descent on world currency markets. The leading Turkish Sabah newspaper cited the head of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and Indus try as saying the government needed to take urgent action, as the financial stability of the country was in doubt…

As Ethiopia embraces forgiveness, government victims call for justice (Christian Science Monitor) Ethiopia has released thousands of prisoners as a new prime minister reverses decades of security abuses. No one knows how many were tortured. But some of those torture victims are now talking openly — to the media, to their relatives, and to their friends — about what happened to them after they were jailed, in many cases for protesting against the government…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey

25 July 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A woman participates in an outdoor prayer session at the Trippadam Center for Women. To learn more about this institution and the women it benefits, read A Refuge to Mend and Grow, from the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)



Tags: India Sisters Health Care Women

25 July 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Musa family fled Bashiqa, Iraq, in 2014 in the face of ISIS attacks. The family lived in Dohuk, Iraq, for three years. (photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Relief Services)

In Iraq, the threat to Assyrians remains (AINA) Thanks to the generosity of donors around the world, Christians are returning from internal exile, determined to keep their faith alive, despite extraordinary challenges. But we must not be complacent about the fundamental political problems threatening the existence of a religiously, racially and culturally diverse Iraq…

Priest in Gaza: ‘people living in fear of a new war’ (Vatican News) As tension continues to erupt in violent clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza, the living conditions in the Gaza Strip continue to deteriorate. A Catholic Parish Priest speaks of the desperation of the people, of the dwindling Christian community, and of the widespread fear of a possible new war…

Deadly attacks hit Syrian villages, city of Suweida (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS militants killed about 100 people in a series of attacks on government-held parts of southwestern Syria Wednesday, official sources said…

Award given to priest and builder of bridges between Islam and Christianity (AsiaNews) The Rev. Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and internationally renowned scholar, is this year’s recipient of the special award of the Stephanus Foundation for Persecuted Christians. The Foundation, through its chairperson Michaela Koller, decided to honor Father Samir because of his service to the spiritual heritage of Arab Christians…



Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Interreligious





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