14 January 2016
A refugee drinks tea in front of his tent in the refugee camp in the coastal town of Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk, France on 10 January. (photo: CNS/Stephanie Lecocq, EPA)
Care for refugees and displaced persons has been a consistent theme of Pope Francis, and CNS’s Cindy Wooden has some background:
“We are called to serve Christ the crucified through every marginalized person,” Pope Francis said in the new book, “The Name of God Is Mercy.”
“We touch the flesh of Christ in he who is outcast, hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, ill, unemployed, persecuted, in search of refuge,” the pope continued. “That is where we find our God, that is where we touch our Lord.”
The U.N. Refugee Agency reported last June that at the end of 2014, the number of people forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict and violence reached the highest number ever recorded; it had grown to “a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.” The U.N. estimated the number had surpassed 60 million by the end of 2015.
The chief cause of the increase was the conflict in Syria, a conflict that is ongoing and continues to send people fleeing.
In 2015, the U.N. reported, 244 million people, or 3.3 percent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of origin.
The plight of migrants and refugees has been at the heart of Pope Francis’ concern as pope. Soon after his election in 2013, he went to the Italian island of Lampedusa to pray for migrants who had drowned attempting to reach Europe and to meet those who made it safely and those who have welcomed them.
Meeting 11 January with ambassadors representing their nations at the Vatican, the pope made his concern for migrants and migration the key focus of his speech. While acknowledging the social and political challenges that come with welcoming migrants, Pope Francis insisted on the human and religious obligation to care for those forced to flee in search of safety or a dignified life.
The pope’s concern for refugees is not just talk.
In September, the Vatican’s St. Anne parish welcomed a family of four from Damascus, Syria, providing an apartment, food and other assistance because under Italian law, asylum seekers are not allowed to work for the first six months they are in the country. The parish of St. Peter’s Basilica is hosting Eritrean refugees. A woman, whose husband is missing, gave birth to her fifth child shortly after arriving in Rome. She, the newborn and two of her other children are living in a Vatican apartment; she hopes soon to embrace her other two children, who are now in a refugee camp in awaiting the completion of family reunification procedures. In the meantime, the woman is hosting another Eritrean woman and her child in the apartment.
13 January 2016
The Rev. Joaqim Unfal is the sole monk residing at Mar Evgin Monastery in Tur Abdin, Turkey. Learn more about Syriac Christians returning to their homeland in Coming Home in the
Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
12 January 2016
People pray during a Mass on 11 January concelebrated by bishops from North America, Europe and South Africa for Iraqi Christian refugees at Our Lady of Peace Center on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman. (photo: Dale Gavlak)
Bishops visiting the Holy Land this week prayed yesterday with and for Iraqi refugees in Jordan.
With crises in Syria and Iraq deepening, Catholic bishops on a solidarity visit with the “forgotten” Christians of the Middle East are urging stepped-up peace efforts to resolve conflicts tearing apart the troubled region.
Highlighting the ongoing plight of Iraqi Christian refugees who face another winter of displacement, 18 months after fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants, is also their top concern.
“They want a future which is full of peace,” Bishop Declan Lang of Bristol, England, said of the Iraqi Christians who attended a packed, solemn Mass at Our Lady of Peace Center on the hilly, tree-lined outskirts of the Jordanian capital.
“These people are of tremendous faith, and that’s where they find their identity. What we are trying to say to them is that you are not forgotten,” Bishop Lang told Catholic News Service.
Bishop Lang has been leading 12 bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America on the third and final leg of a pilgrimage to encourage Christians in the Holy Land. Known as the Holy Land Coordination, the annual event was set up at the invitation of the Holy See at the end of the last century to offer support to local Christian communities of the Holy Land.
The bishops earlier traveled to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to encourage a Palestinian Christian population increasingly dwindling in the land of Jesus’ birth.
But the bishops told Catholic News Service that it also was important to hear from Iraqi Christians and other refugees, so the wider Christian community can effectively help them.
“It’s important that we remind our governments and the general population of the situation of Iraqi Christians,” Bishop Lang said of the some 8,000 Iraqi Christians currently sheltering in neighboring Jordan.
They fled their ancient homeland of more than 14 centuries after Islamic State militants told them to convert to Islam, be killed or leave. Tens of thousands are internally displaced in northern Iraq.
“So one of the responsibilities and obligations that we have is to keep reminding people of the stress and distress of the Iraqi refugees,” Bishop Lang said.
One Iraqi Christian, identified only as Bashar, said after the Mass, “My family and I sadly feel that we can never go back to our home in Mosul.” A mechanical engineer, the man had once owned his own telecom company in Iraq’s second-biggest city, which is currently in the hands of Islamic State.
“The military didn’t protect us, and our Muslim neighbors betrayed us, even robbing us of our personal possessions. So we believe that the only future for us is somewhere in the West,” said the man, who now shelters with his family of four at the center’s compound because he has lost his savings.
Read the full report.
11 January 2016
An Israeli soldier stops a group of bishops from visiting land owned by Palestinian farmers in the Cremisan Valley, not far from Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA)
Note: Last summer, we reported on the controversy surrounding the building of a separation wall in the Cremisan Valley. Yesterday, a group of bishops visiting the region attempted to visit the area. Carl Hétu, National Director CNEWA Canada, is accompanying Bishop Lionel Gendron of St-Jean Longoueil, Québec, vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops — and he describes below what happened.
On our way to visit the Christian community of Beit Jala on Sunday, property owners invited the Holy Land Coordination bishops delegation to visit their land. As the bishops were about to enter the first property, an Israeli jeep came to block access. The delegation was told that they couldn’t go further.
“This isn’t Israel property,” the bishops replied. “These farmers are inviting us to visit their land.”
The response from the soldier in the jeep was short: “You can’t go further.”
The bishops prayed and then left to join the parishioners for Mass nearby.
The bishops had come to show their solidarity with the 55 local Christians families who are about to lose their land and their livelihoods. The farmers harvest olives, apricots, nuts, figs and much more. This will be a substantial loss of revenue for them and another loss of high quality land for agriculture.
Last April, the farmers were rejoicing over an Israel court ruling which had rejected the building of the wall. But in a surprising and unusual decision, the court reversed its judgment in July and ruled in favor of starting the wall. Since August, the Israel Army has been uprooting ancient olive trees, some hundreds of years old, and preparing the land for construction.
As the bishops left the area to celebrate Mass with the Beit Jala local parish, they could hear the echoes of earth-moving machinery echoing through the valley.
You can read more about the troubled history of the Cremisan Valley here. And there’s more about the bishops’ visit to the region here.
8 January 2016
P.S. Limsana, a primary-school student at Ashabhavan, takes in the scenic vistas surrounding her school in India, which serves children with special needs. To discover why things are looking up for the students there, read Kerala’s House of Hope in the Winter edition of ONE.
(photo: Jose Jacob)
7 January 2016
Today marks the date when Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas. In the image above, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians attend the Orthodox Christmas liturgy at Medhane Alem Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
6 January 2016
Visually impaired students help each other walk around the grounds during recess breaks at the Shashemene School in Ethiopia. To learn more about this remarkable place, read The Future at Their Fingertips in the Winter edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
5 January 2016
Newly ordained, the Rev. David Stephan receives a kiss from his aunt during a reception at St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon, California. A Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena, she traveled from Iraq to be with the family for his ordination. Read more about Chaldeans who have settled in the American southwest in Nineveh, U.S.A., in the Winter 2015 edition ONE.
(photo: Nancy Wiechec)
4 January 2016
Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus as he arrives to celebrate Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican 1 January 2016.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
30 December 2015
The Rev. Androwas Bahus, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest working in Galilee, shares the view from the roof of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Akko, Israel. To learn about Father Bahus and the Israeli Catholic communities he serves, read A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest, the cover story of the new Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Tags: Israel Holy Land Cultural Identity Melkite Galilee