Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
16 October 2014
Greg Kandra

A Kurdish refugee woman from the Syrian town of Kobani cooks on a fire as her children accompany her in a camp in the Sanliurfa, Turkey. (photo: CNS photo/Umit Bektas, Reuters)

16 October 2014
Greg Kandra

In the video above, two patriarchs from the Middle East say they believe ISIS has no future
in their region. (video: Rome Reports)

Report: Catholic church in Qaraqosh bombed (Fides) The bombings carried out iby the U.S.-led coalition against posts of the Islamic State have hit and devastated the Church of the Resurrection, near the town of Qaraqosh, inhabited mainly by Christian Syriac Catholics before falling under the control of the jihadists of the IS. The news, reported by Arab sites such as, has been confirmed by local sources to Fides Agency...

Patriarchs call for recognition of Armenian genocide (Fides) The leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church are turning to the whole Christian world and the international community, seeking recognition and condemnation of the crimes committed against Armenians and Syriac Christians in 1915...

Gaza rebuilding faces obstacles (BBC) Winter is coming in Gaza, and the long nights and heavy rains will deepen the misery of thousands of families whose homes were destroyed in the fighting of summer. Newly homeless in a place already peopled with the descendants of refugees from the war that followed Israel’s creation in 1948, their plight is desperate...

Putin set for talks on Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor) With a temporary cease-fire barely holding in eastern Ukraine and winter approaching, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have agreed to hold talks in Italy this week...

Priest charges Christian minorities in India are under serious threat (CNA) With the election of Narendra Modi of the Hindu “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) as prime minister of India the country’s secular constitution has come under threat, a Catholic priest in India has charged. Father Ajay Kumar Singh, a human rights activist in Kandhamal District in the East Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), warned of the growing influence of radical Hindu forces on the Indian subcontinent...

Boom times for Ethiopian coffee shops (BBC) As Ethiopia’s economy continues to expand strongly, more people — led by young professionals in the capital Addis Ababa — are buying pre-roasted beans, or visiting coffee shops to have their favourite drink made for them. It means boom times for the country’s independent coffee roasters and cafes, who have seen their numbers rise and some are even looking to expand overseas...

Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia

15 October 2014
CNEWA staff

To help Ukraine deal with enormous challenges it is facing, Canada’s Office for Religious Freedom has awarded grants for CNEWA Canada’s projects in the country. The project will involve youth interaction from eastern and western Ukraine. (photo: CNEWA)

Canada’s Office for Religious Freedom has announced funds in the amount of $226,630 for CNEWA Canada’s projects in Ukraine that promote interreligious dialogue and build bridges among youth from various regions and religions of the country. The program will run from November 2014 through November 2015, benefitting more than a thousand Ukrainians.

According to CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, “the program will help enhance the culture of dialogue among the future Ukrainian leaders of the western and eastern regions who are of different cultural and religious backgrounds. One of the goals is to help establish a truly democratic and inclusive society in this Eastern European country that, right now, has to deal with so many enormous challenges.”

Since the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the subsequent outbreak of violence in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, there has been a significant increase of discrimination and violence perpetrated against religious minorities in those areas. Among those targeted are Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Jews, Crimean Tatar Muslims and many others who want to live according to their religious traditions but do not support the separatists. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, Ukrainians of different cultural and religious backgrounds have lived with one another in relative peace and harmony.

Designed by CNEWA in close cooperation with its Ukrainian partners, the program will help develop youth leaders and enhance relations between eastern and western Ukrainians through the promotion of religious freedom and other democratic values. Among the program’s planned activities are short-term student exchanges, summer schools, public panel discussions, and lectures for university students at public universities in four Ukrainian regions, west, south, center and east.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support established in 1926 with a special mission to work for, through and with the Eastern churches and peoples in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Over these years, CNEWA has assisted communities afflicted by poverty and conflict and has promoted sustainable peacebuilding and dialogue.

To support CNEWA’s work in Ukraine, please visit this page, or check out the series of programs supported by our office in Canada.

Tags: Ukraine CNEWA Canada

15 October 2014
Greg Kandra

Strong coffee sweetened to taste is served in the traditional manner in Lebanon.
(photo: Marilyn Raschka)

In 2002, we took a look at the customs and cuisine of Lebanon — including some traditions surrounding coffee:

Coffee is a household essential. It is served if a visitor has stopped by just to say hello and it is also served following a meal. The serving of coffee signals “time to leave” so gracious hosts delay serving it. And no guest would leave before receiving it.

At weddings, coffee is served sweet, but it is also served unsweetened at funerals to show grief.

When at home, guests are asked how they prefer their coffee — the answers reflect the amount of sugar to be added. For the sake of ease, the Lebanese will often serve a pot of unsweetened coffee and include a tiny sugar bowl on the tray as cups are passed around to the guests. With the last sip, guests will put down their cups and say, which is a very short version of the above proverb.

Excavations in Beirut have unearthed coffee cups that date to the 16th century. The Arabic has been westernized to coffee and the word comes from the Red Sea port of Mocka, in Yemen.

Coffee still plays an important role in trade and business in Lebanon. There is no such thing as a business meeting without coffee being served. The big brew in the little cup accompanies the exchange of pleasantries that kick off the meeting.

In times past, it was considered disrespectful to refuse a cup of coffee. It was like refusing a handshake. There are Lebanese who do not drink coffee, but it is still considered good manners to give an explanation for one’s refusal. There is no decaffeinated Lebanese coffee, so refusing coffee in the evening is acceptable.

Also accompanying coffee drinking is the custom of reading the coffee cup. Turned upside down, the sediment slowly runs down the inside of the cup leaving expressive patterns. Valleys and peaks suggest travel or trouble, other patterns promise money or romance. Readers speak with confidence about these possible events and even the most doubting of Thomases will listen.

Read more about coffee customs in Food for Thought from the September-October 2002 issue of the magazine.

15 October 2014
Greg Kandra

In the video above, Christians take up arms to protect villages in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley that could come under attack from ISIS or Wahhabi militants. (video: Eretz Zen)

Patriarch: help Iraqi Christians, stop violent rhetoric (Vatican Radio) While issues of everyday concern to families are on the agenda at the extraordinary Synod on the Family, one participant has come to Rome with a very sinister tale to tell. It’s the plight of tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian families who fled for their lives to escape from Islamic State militants. Few think they will ever return home. That’s according to Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syriac Catholic Church who was eager to speak to Vatican Radio outside the Synod hall....

ISIS continues to advance in Iraq, Syria (AFP) Jihadists pushed to seize Syria’s Kobani and an Iraqi town close to Baghdad Wednesday as Washington warned of a long fight against the steadily advancing ISIS. In the town of Kobani on the Turkish border, the jihadists have been holding out in fighting with Kurdish militia despite stepped-up U.S.-led air strikes, and calls have been growing for Turkey to take action. In Iraq, ISIS militants were closing on the town of Amriyat al-Fallujah, one of the last still controlled by the government in the troubled Anbar province and only 35 kilometers (20 miles) from Baghdad...

Dozens injured in protests in Kiev (Vatican Radio) More than a dozen police have been injured and dozens of protesters detained in massive clashes between nationalists and security forces near Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev where deputies voted down proposals to recognize a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian partisan group as national heroes...

Egypt, Israel allow aid supplies into Gaza (Egypt Daily News) Egypt and Israel allowed the transfer of hundreds of tons of supplies to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, at the height of concerted international efforts to rebuild the strip...

Anger as minister says Christian, Muslim dalits should be denied jobs ( Christian and Muslim leaders lashed out Monday after India’s minister for social justice said the government would not be granting job reservation rights to “untouchables” who converted...

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank

14 October 2014
Greg Kandra

In this image from last month, a displaced Iraqi child, who fled from violence by Islamic State militants in Mosul, sits with her family outside their tent at a camp in Erbil. Gathered with Pope Francis, members of the Synod of Bishops on the family issued a message of solidarity, support and prayers for all families suffering from the impact of war and violence, especially
in Iraq and Syria. (photo: CNS Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)

14 October 2014
Greg Kandra

With the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops underway in the Vatican, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, discusses major challenges the family faces today.
(video: CNS)

Vatican to UN: Middle East minorities need our protection (Vatican Radio) “The alarming, escalating phenomenon of international terrorism, new in some of its expressions and utterly ruthless in its barbarity” demands “a deeper and more urgent study on how to re-enforce the international juridical framework of a multilateral application of our common responsibility to protect people from all forms of unjust aggression.” This is according to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nation’s in New York. Abp. Auza’s comments were part of an address delivered to the 69th Session on the Rule of Law on Monday...

UN chief: Gaza destruction “beyond description” (Reuters) Israel opened the border to the first postwar truckloads of rebuilding material for Gaza on Tuesday and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lamented what he called destruction “beyond description” in the Palestinian enclave...

ISIS captures Iraqi army camp as bombs hit Baghdad (AP) Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Monday captured a military training camp in western Iraq, inching closer to full control of the restive Anbar province, as a spate of deadly bombings shook Baghdad, hitting mostly Shiite neighborhoods and leaving at least 30 dead. The attacks, which came as Iraqi Shiites marked a major holiday for their sect with families crowding the streets in celebration, raised new concerns that the Sunni militant group is making gains despite U.S.-led coalition airstrikes...

Clashes outside parliament in Kiev (BBC) Ukrainian nationalists have hurled smoke canisters and stones at riot police during clashes outside the parliament in Kiev. Violence erupted when the protesters demanded that MPs pass a law to recognise a World War II nationalist group which opposed Soviet forces. Fifteen policemen were injured and at least 50 protesters had been arrested, the Ukrainian interior ministry said...

India marks centenary of National Council of Churches (South Asia Mail) As part of Centenary celebration programs of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) in various regions around the country, Kerala Council of Churches (KCC) hosted a three-day long program in Kottayam and Tiruvalla in late September...

Tags: Syria India Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank

10 October 2014
Don Duncan

Displaced Christian refugee Ghanem Yadago rests in the room he now occupies in a church social hall in Erbil, Iraq (photo: Don Duncan)

Editor’s note: Photojournalist Don Duncan just returned from Erbil, Iraq, where he is reporting on refugees there for ONE magazine. Among those he met: the Yadago family. He profiles them below. We will have much more in the Autumn edition of the magazine, coming soon.

While Ghanem Yadago, his wife Waheeda and his two sons Wissam and Fadi were fleeing their home in northern Iraq under ISIS gunfire, Ghanem found he had a steady calm and was able to support and encourage hiswife to continue the passage out of danger. This is in part because Ghanem could not see the danger and chaos that his family could see around them as they fled: He is blind.

He lost his sight due to shrapnel in a battle during the Iran-Iraq war and since then he has been completely dependent on his wife and children. Their displacement from their hometown of Tel Usquf in the plain of Niniveh in northern Iraq occurred on 5 August. While the experience of displacement has turned the entire family’s life upside-down, Ghanem was hit especially hard.

“Back in our home, I could manage by myself because I knew the house intimately,” he says. “I didn’t need anyone to help me go to the bathroom, to shave, to get around. However, on moving to the tent [in the yard of St. Joseph’s Church, Erbil], it was very difficult for me. It was a new place for me, unfamiliar. I had to ask people’s help for everything.”

After a number of weeks living in the tent, Ghanem and his family were offered living space in a new facility for the sick and elderly that was set up by the Assyrian Church in Ananas Hall, normally a social function room in Erbil that has been re-purposed as a refuge for the sick and disabled. The hall has dozens of living quarters attended to by medical personnel. CNEWA donated wheelchairs, along with three showers adapted to the disabled.

Ghanem moved, but his family remained in the camp to benefit from the food and medical aid they needed there. For now, the family lives apart from him. Waheeda, his wife, makes the trip from the camp to Ananas Hall three times a day and stays with Ghanem there at night.

“I came here to the camp this morning, because I had slept at the hall last night,” Waheeda explains in her tent in Martha Schmouny camp. “I then cooked and fed my sons and then I went to check on Ghanem. I then came back to help my sons and later, I will return to the hall to spend the night with Ghanem.”

“I get physically tired from coming and going so much, and I myself have developed health problems,” she adds with a sigh.

Waheeda draws some paper slips from her bag: ECG scans she has had done in Erbil since her arrival. Her doctor believes she has developed heart problems from the shock and trauma of displacement. Worried about a possible heart attack, the doctor has put her on heart medication.

With the ECG scans, several flattened medicine packets fall from her bag: they are medicine for both her heart and Ghanem’s. He also has a pre-existing heart condition, one that is acute and needs to be managed.

“In the beginning, when we arrived, we used to buy all of the medicine he needed until some organizations came and decided to help us and to provide medicines to us,” Waheeda explains, “but not all the medicines are provided so we still have to buy some and some of the medicines are so expensive, we can’t afford to buy them.”

While the family is temporarily separated again and Waheeda does her back-and-forth journeys between the camp and Ananas Hall, Ghanem busies himself with getting the new family living space ready for his family to move into.

The walls have been made from carpeting nailed to wooden frames and the hall is divided into numerous sections, each of which will serve as a living space for each sick or old person and their family. In his family’s assigned living space, Ghanem has arranged two beds and has stacked foam mattresses. On the carpeted “wall” hang a few towels. There is a folded pile of clothes on the floor.

Sitting on one of the beds, Ghanem takes out a mobile phone and carefully fingers in each digit of his wife’s number. He checks in on her this way, throughout the day, but, he says, he does feel bad about the extra pressure his disability has put on her during their displacement.

“It is difficult for my wife,” he says. “She is the one who has to get the food supplements, the ice, and everything that might be distributed. She has to take care of all that I would normally do, herself.”

Ghanem’s wife, Waheeda, washes pots and pans from an outdoor tap to prepare dinner for her family at a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq (photo: Don Duncan)

Back at Martha Schmouny camp in Erbil, Waheeda and her eldest son, Wissam, are preparing for dinner. She washes some pots and pans under a tap not far from the tent and he heads off to the camp’s food distribution area to see what he can find. With Ghanem’s heart condition, the family has had to pass up on much of the food that has been cooked and distributed to the displaced Christians of the camp by charities and NGOs.

“Ghanem has a special diet. He can’t eat meat, only chicken. He can’t eat fat,” Waheeda explains. “So, often, we cannot eat what is provided for us.”

The family’s youngest, Fadi, 15, is one of the many Christian teenagers whose studies have been put on hold by the ISIS violence and their subsequent displacement from Tel Usquf.

The Yadagos also have three daughters but they are all married and living abroad, one in Australia and two in the US.

While many displaced families are now beginning to seriously consider emigration as the only real solution moving forward, the Yadago family is keen on staying put.

“Given the fact that Ghanem is sick and I have a son who is 15 and is still at school, we are not so interested in going back to Tel Usquf and staying there,” Waheeda says. “We might return for a while but we have realized that we would prefer to stay in Erbil. We’d like to stay close to doctors so that if anything happens to Ghanem, we can find doctors easily and quickly.”

A sister leads Ghanem, who is blind, down a hall toward his room in the facility for the sick and disabled in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: Don Duncan)

Please keep the Yadagos and families like them in your prayers. And to help families like them, please visit our Iraq giving page. Thank you!

10 October 2014
Greg Kandra

Internally displaced children eat inside a tent in Aleppo, Syria, on 8 October. Christians cannot follow Jesus while turning away from people who are hungry, Pope Francis said. To help the suffering people of Syria, please visit this link. (photo: CNS /Jalal Al-Mamo, Reuters)

10 October 2014
Greg Kandra

In the video above, Pope Francis calls on Catholics to join him in his “Week of Action” to
end world hunger. (video: Caritas Internationalis)

Priest kidnapped in Syria released (Catholic Herald) A Catholic priest kidnapped by Islamists in Syria has been released, according to the Custody of the Holy Land. Fr Hanna Jallouf, a Syrian, was taken captive in Tuesday by the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra front, along with 20 parishioners. In a statement the Custody of the Holy Land, the head of the Franciscan in the region, said that “Father Hanna Jallouf has been released this morning. He is under House Arrest at the Convent of Knayeh (Qunayeh).” His current whereabouts is unknown...

Palestinian government convenes in Gaza (The Los Angeles Times) For the first time since 2007, Palestinian Authority officials traveled Thursday from the West Bank to Gaza. Describing the day as “historic,” Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was set to hold a first meeting of the new unity government that was sworn in in June after a reconciliation accord was signed between the rival Palestinian political factions of Fatah and Hamas...

Pope urges support in fight against world hunger (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling an all Catholics around the globe to join him in his “Week of Action” (12-18 October) to end world hunger. The “Week of Action” is part of Pope Francis’ One Human Family, Food for All campaign with Caritas Internationalis. Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation, is also supporting this mission by collecting donations for food...

Canada votes to join air strikes against ISIS (The Guardian) Canada’s parliament has voted to authorize air strikes against Isis in Iraq, joining the US-led bombing campaign. The Conservative party of Stephen Harper, the prime minister, introduced the motion last week and it was debated this week. Harper has a majority of seats in parliament so the vote was all but assured. The motion passed on Tuesday by 157 votes to 134. The motion authorizes air strikes in Iraq for up to six months and explicitly states that no ground troops be used in combat operations...

Nuncio in Lebanon shares concerns for region (Vatican Radio) “No more war, no more violations of human rights!” That’s what the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon says the international community needs to hear and act on as conflict rages across Syria and Iraq...

Synod releases statement on families affected by war (Fides) The full text of the message of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for families who suffer as a result of conflicts is published here: “Gathered around the Successor of the Apostle Peter, we the Synod Fathers of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, along with all participants, share the paternal concern of the Holy Father, expressing our profound closeness to all the families who suffer as a consequence of the many conflicts in progress. In particular, we raise to the Lord our prayers for Iraqi and Syrian families, forced on account of their profession of the Christian faith or their belonging to other ethnic or religious communities, to abandon everything and flee towards a future without any form of certainty...”

Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |