Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
13 September 2017
Greg Kandra

Immediately after Wednesday’s general audience, Pope Francis met the Rev.Thomas Uzhunnalil, freed yesterday after 18 months in captivity in Yemen. Before offering him a blessing, the pope kissed his hand. (photo: ANS/Salesian News Agency)

13 September 2017
Greg Kandra

The Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil exits an airplane in Muscat, Oman after his release yesterday.
(photo: Vatican Radio/AFP)

Holy See expresses gratitude for rescue of abducted Indian priest (Vatican Radio) The Vatican has received with deep gratitude the news of the release of an Indian Catholic priest Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, after 18 months of captivity following his abduction by unknown gunmen in March last year in Yemen. The Salesian of Don Bosco priest arrived in the Omani capital Muscat in an air force plane soon after his release on Tuesday, 12 September...

Pope grants assent to erecting new eparchy (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has granted his assent to the decision of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to erect the Eparchy of Chernivtsi, with its seat in the same city and with territory taken from the Eparchy of Kolomyia- Chernivtsi, making it a suffragan of the Metropolitan see of Ivano-Frankivsk...

Aleppo archbishop: ‘War is fought through forgiveness’ (Fides) “War is not fought with war, but through dialogue, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the will to start a new life and follow new paths of peace,” said Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Butros Marayati, at the international meeting “Paths of Peace" organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio in Munster, Germany...

India’s Catholic bishops to release guidelines on sexual harassment (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic bishops are releasing a document this week that proves guidelines to prevent and deal with sexual harassment, especially of women, in Church-run institutions. “CBCI Guidelines to Deal with Sexual Harassment at Workplace” is the title of the document that will be released on Thursday at a press conference at the CBCI Centre in New Delhi...

Iran strikes deal with Syria to repair power grid (Reuters) Iran signed deals with Damascus on Tuesday to repair Syria’s power grid, state media said, a potentially lucrative move for Tehran that points to a deepening economic role after years of fighting in the Syrian conflict...

Ethiopia now threatened by locusts (The African Independent) Swarms of locusts have invaded north-west Ethiopia, posing a serious threat to crops there and putting the region, as well as the entire Horn of Africa, at risk of further food insecurity, officials said on Monday. Just over a week since the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned of new locust hordes descending on Eritrea and Sudan after devastating swarms hit west and northern Africa last year, Ethiopian authorities said the pests had already been spotted in Tigray and Amhara districts...

12 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Fadia Shamieh, from the Palestinian Christian town of Beit Jala, plays with children inside the St. Rachel Center in Jerusalem. To learn more about this institution founded by the St. James Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to care for the children of migrant workers, read Found in Translation, in the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

Tags: Children Israel Jerusalem Migrants

12 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Abducted priest Tom Uzhunnalil rescued from Yemen (The Hindu) The Rev. Tom Uzhannalil from Kottayam, Kerala, who was kidnapped from Aden and kept in captivity by Yemeni militants for 18 months, has been released, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced on Tuesday. “I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” Ms. Swaraj posted on her Twitter account. Since his abduction, Ms. Swaraj has made several statements on the government’s efforts to secure his release, as they have been able to do in other such cases, including the release of an aid worker from Afghanistan…

Orthodox patriarch targeted in Jerusalem protests against church land sales (Christian Today) Palestinians have rallied in Jerusalem against the selling of church property to Jewish settlers. The protesters demanded the removal of Patriarch Theophilos III over his role in selling the land. The rally was sparked by a court ruling over the selling of three major compounds near the Jaffa Gate in the Old City to an Israeli Jewish settler group, Ateret Cohanim…

Christian activists to church leaders: Speak out against growth of Hindu extremism (Fides) “We, as Indian Christians, are concerned about the change that we see in our country that, from a pluralist democracy, is almost turning into a sort of reign dominated by a Hindu ideology,” says an open letter addressed to the leaders of Indian churches, signed by 101 well-known Christian activists and intellectuals, including educators, activists, lawyers, journalists, theologians, philosophers, academics and pastors. “Churches must act before it is too late…”

Pope Tawadros launches Coptic Orthodox church in Australia (Daily News Egypt) Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria launched on Sunday the St. Verena and St. Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church in Melbourne. Some representatives of the Christian communities in Melbourne attended the opening of the church…

Tags: India Palestine Violence against Christians Coptic

11 September 2017
Greg Kandra

Mekhitarist Father Hovsep spends a moment with a camper after liturgy. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Several years ago, we paid a visit to summer camps for kids in Armenia and Georgia — camps that are offering young people fresh air and fresh hope:

Religious devotions and catechism constitute a significant portion of the day at Diramayr. Days begin and end with prayer, while catechism class is a daily feature. Sunday mornings are reserved for the celebration of the Soorp Badarak, the Divine Liturgy.

Because few Armenians belong to the Armenian Catholic Church (just 220,000 of its 2.9 million citizens), most of those who attend the camp nominally belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the historic faith community of the Armenian people. The two churches share the same culture, liturgy and traditions (only full communion with the Church of Rome distinguishes Catholic from Armenian Apostolic Christians), thus sparing the camp from religious discord.

Summer camp would not be summer camp if the campers had their heads stuck in their Bibles or catechisms all day. Children study languages (French or English), art and computers and also have plenty of time for sports and outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing. They also take day trips to nearby Lake Sevan and visit the ancient historical monuments that dot Armenia’s countryside.

While most of the day is scheduled, the campers also have free time to horse around in the playground or chat with their friends.

Read more about Kids’ Camps in the Caucasus in the November 2007 edition of ONE.

11 September 2017
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Cartagena, Colombia, to Rome on 10 September. Earlier, the pope cut and bruised his face on the popemobile window when he was greeting people. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Turkey halts migrants in Black Sea (Vatican Radio) Turkish authorities say they have stopped 313 migrants on the Black Sea attempting to reach Balkan countries in the last two days, suggesting the emergence of an alternative route to Europe...

Report: Iraq holding hundreds of wives, children of ISIS suspects (BBC) The Iraqi authorities are holding more than 1,300 foreign family members of suspected Islamic State militants at a displaced people’s camp south of Mosul, officials and aid workers say. The women and children, from at least 13 countries, mostly fled Tal Afar as troops recaptured the city last month. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which is providing assistance at the camp, said they were in “de-facto detention”...

Pope injured during visit to Colombia (CNS) Driving through the streets of the Caribbean coastal city of Cartegena, the popemobile braked suddenly, and Pope Francis hit his head. A big bump appeared quickly on his left cheekbone and a few specks of blood from his scratched eyebrow stained his white soutane. After a quick treatment with ice, according to the Vatican, the pope was back in the popemobile making his way to the Church of St. Peter Claver, the Jesuit who devoted the last 40 years of his life to caring for and ministering to African slaves...

Gaza poverty rate reaches 80 percent (Middle East Media Center) Chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege on Gaza said, on Friday, that poverty rate among Palestinians in the territory has reached 80 per cent. “This has had disastrous effects on all aspects of life,” explained Jamal Al-Khodari in a press statement...

Ethiopia marks new year (The Herald) Ethiopia, with its own calendar, will be starting its New Year 2010 today, and citizens were busy preparing for celebrations...

Tags: Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey Immigration

8 September 2017
Greg Kandra

The haunting melodies of the Armenian liturgy are chanted by a choir in the Beirut suburb of Bourj Hammoud. Learn more about life in Lebanon’s Little Armenia in the July 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

8 September 2017
Greg Kandra

In the video above, children return to school in Mosul, many for the first time in three years.
(video: TRT World/YouTube)

Mosul reveals the future of high-tech warfare (Wired) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the city on 10 July after almost nine months of devastating fighting, but ISIS remains dangerous even in defeat. Every door, window, side street and vehicle will have to be checked and cleared. Meanwhile, the jihadists still cling on elsewhere in the country, where they are expected to employ the same tactics...

Severe drought adds to number of displaced in Ethiopia (Fides) As a result of the dramatic drought, the phenomenon of the displaced people of the southeast villages of Ethiopia, bordering Somalia, continues...

Refugees from conflict zones opt for war-torn Syria (The Jordan Times) Millions of Syrians have fled their country’s war as refugees, but for tens of thousands of people escaping conflict elsewhere, Syria is also a place of refuge...

Ukraine fears Russia will use exercises to invade (BBC) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he fears that Russia could use massive military manoeuvres next week as a cover for invasion. In a major speech, Mr. Poroshenko said Russia’s Zapad-2017 exercises with Belarus might be “a smokescreen to create new Russian army assault groups to invade Ukrainian territory.” Russia says 13,000 troops will take part in Zapad, on 14-20 September...

Catholic priest in India advocates for cremation ( An acute lack of space has forced Christian cemeteries in New Delhi to reuse graves after five years, with a Catholic priest advocating that Christians opt for cremation...

In Lviv, auxiliary bishop for Philadelphia ordained ( In St. Yura Cathedral, on 3 September 2017 during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy led by the Father and Head of the UGCC His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Bishop Andriy (Rabiy) was ordained...

7 September 2017
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Displaced Iraqis flee their homes in January as Iraqi forces battle with ISIS militants near Mosul, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Khalid al Mousily, Reuters)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS; or dā’iš from its Arabic name) came forcefully to the attention of the world on 29 June 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi introduced himself as the new caliph of Islam. This followed a series of military victories which gave ISIS control over several Iraqi cities; on 10 June 2014, it seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. It was not long before ISIS controlled much of northern Syria and large sections of Iraq.

Where did ISIS originate? How did it begin? There are many differing theories. While some consider it a purely political movement with a religious veneer, others see it as a purely religious movement with political goals. While I personally believe the neither position is correct, I think it is helpful to look at some of the ideologies and theological underpinnings which helped bring it about, since it casts such a long shadow over so much of the world CNEWA serves.

Two concepts are crucial to understand ISIS: jihād and takfīr. Jihād is a complex concept but involves the struggle (Arabic jahada) to bring the entire world to submission to God and to God’s rule. Those parts of the world that have submitted form the dār ul-salām, “the House/Realm of Peace” and those which have not form the dār ul-ḥarb, “the House/Realm of war.” Classical Islam saw itself at least potentially in a state of permanent conflict with the Realm of War. Although distinctions were drawn between the “greater jihād,” which was similar to asceticism in Christianity, i.e. the struggle to overcome one’s baser tendencies, and the “lesser jihād,” it was clearly the lesser or military jihād that has continued to be of concern to the non-Muslim world.

Takfīr, on the other hand, is the declaration that someone is a kāfir, “an infidel, non-believer, apostate” and, hence, deserving of death and damnation. Very soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, Muslims struggled with what rendered someone a non-believer. This question became acute when it dealt with declaring other Muslims to be infidels/apostates. The question arose over whether Ali, the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of the prophet, was responsible for the assassination of Uthman, the third Caliph, and hence and infidel/apostate, or whether Uthman was deserving of death and hence an apostate.

One group, the Kharijites, was very clear on this: everyone who didn’t agree with them was an infidel and apostate. Being an infidel made one the object of jihād, while being an apostate made one worthy of death. The Murji’ites (from Arabic ’irjā’ “to put off {judgement}”), on the other hand, held that judgment should be left to God. Although this was in the context of very specific historical circumstances, the question remained as to what, if anything (other than outright rejection of Islam) could render a Muslim an infidel. With a great deal of oversimplification, the question was: could an external act alone render a Muslim an infidel and apostate or did there have to be a concomitant internal intention?

Taqī al-Dīn ibn Taymīya (1263-1393), a major Muslim thinker, held the opinion that an external act can render a Muslim an apostate. But this was not the predominant Muslim opinion at the time.

With the emergence in the 18th century of what is called the Wahhabi movement (in in what would become Saudi Arabia), ibn Taymīya’s thought took on a new prominence. In the 20th century Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), after studying and traveling developed an extremely negative stance towards the West. This resulted in him judging very harshly those Muslim societies which he saw as abandoning Islam for Western values. He deemed these Muslim countries to be in a state of jāhilīyya, which means “foolishness” but is also used to refer to the time before the arrival of Muhammad. Relying on an idiosyncratic interpretation of Qur’an 5:44, Qutb came to the conclusion that all Muslim nations which do not “govern by what has been revealed by God” are infidels/apostates.

Although Qutb was not well received in Saudi Arabia — because he did not use classical, Islamic sources — some of his ideas found a home in the kingdom. Muslim thinkers over the centuries were extremely reticent to apply the concept of takfīr — fully aware of the forces it could unleash. But ISIS has not shown any reticence at all: it has been unusually careful to provide religious justification for its atrocities, which are more often directed against Muslims than non-Muslims.

While there are indications ISIS has been at least driven from the areas of Syria and Iraq it conquered, it is important to realize that its roots run very deep. It did not begin overnight — and it will not end overnight, either.

Military solutions are not enough. The ultimate solution must be religious.

7 September 2017
Greg Kandra

Brooklyn’s Coptic Catholic community includes parishioners from New York and New Jersey — but it traces its history to first century Egypt and the apostle Mark. Learn more about the Coptic Catholic Church in this profile from 2007. (photo: Maria Bastone)

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