6 April 2017
A volunteer works to clean the Chaldean Catholic church of Mar Addai in Iraq. Finally liberated from ISIS, the church will celebrate Palm Sunday for the first time in three years.
(photo: Paul Thabit Mekko/Facebook)
Some wonderful news from Iraq:
“We will celebrate Palm Sunday in Karamles, one of the towns in the Nineveh plain” occupied and devastated by the Islamic State (ISIS). The function will be held “in the church of Mar Addai, we’ve cleaned it up these days” (see photo) and “it will be broadcast live on Facebook,” says the Rev. Paul Thabit Mekko. The 41-year-old Chaldean priest from Mosul can barely hide his “enthusiasm, but also emotion” just days before the first celebration in the Christian town for three years now. “It will be a community celebration,” he adds, a community that meets again just at the eve of Passover. A real resurrection, but also the first Easter of liberation "from Daesh [Arabic acronym for the IS, or ISIS].
“I will concelebrate together with the Karamles,” says the Chaldean priest. He continues, “at least 10 buses are scheduled to leave from Erbil, for a total number of about 400 people.” These are people originally from “Karamles, who still live in shelters and rented homes” in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Added to these are “dozens people who come in private cars and means of transport.”
Father Paul is responsible for the refugee camp “Eyes of Erbil,” on the outskirts of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where hundreds of thousands of Christians (along with Muslims and Yazidis) in time have found shelter following the rise of the ISIS. There still 140 families, about 700 people in all, with 46 mini-apartments in the camp and an area for the collection and distribution of aid, a nursery for toddlers as well as a kindergarten and a secondary school. Many of these refugees are from Karamles.
“In the last few weeks,” says Father Paul, “many people come to the town every day to fix up their houses, trying to make the area new, although it is currently not possible to predict a date for for the return.” In Karamles, adds, “the situation is still difficult. We have about 800 homes, 200 of which are burned, then another 90 have been completely destroyed; hundreds more are damaged for various reasons. The destruction is everywhere.”
Also, to watch the Palm Sunday liturgy on Facebook, visit this link.
Meanwhile, for more on the plight of Christians in Iraq, read “God Wants Me Here,” a web exclusive story in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
6 April 2017
Students attend classes taught by the Daughters of Mary at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Pallanad, India. The church is working to help children victimized by alcoholism and abuse in their families. Read more about efforts at Breaking the Cycle in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Don Duncan)
6 April 2017
In the video above, Pope Francis meets at the Vatican with imams from Britain and tells them the most important thing is the capacity to listen. (video:Rome Reports/YouTube)
Pope meets with Catholic-Muslim delegation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Wednesday with English Cardinal Vincent Nichols and four Muslim leaders from Britain who came to highlight the deep-rooted interfaith relations among the different religious communities in the UK today...
ISIS executes 33 in Syria (CNN) ISIS killed 33 people execution-style in eastern Syria on Wednesday, according to a monitoring group. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the terror organization carried out the mass killing in the the al-Mayadin desert near the strategic city of Deir Ezzor on Wednesday morning, it said, adding that its activists were “able to monitor” the incident...
With healthcare faltering in Gaza, more seek care in Israel (Reuters) For many patients suffering from life-threatening diseases in the Gaza Strip, treatment in neighboring Israel or the occupied West Bank is a much sought-after option. But Israel tightly restricts Palestinian passage from the Gaza Strip, one of its bitterest enemies. Although it exempts from the ban Gazans seeking “life-saving or life-changing medical treatment” if it is unavailable in the territory, crossing the border isn’t easy...
The Paschal Letter of His Beatitude Gregorios III (ByzCath.org) “Children of the Resurrection” is a beautiful title first used by Our Lord Jesus Christ in his discussion with a group of Sadducean Jews, who denied the resurrection of the dead. Christ countered their argument by saying that human beings after death “are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:36) He added, “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.” (Luke 20: 37-38; cf. Matthew 22: 31-32) For each of you, this means that because you have been created in the image and likeness of God, you are a child of God, life and resurrection...
5 April 2017
In the video above, a woman records her maid dangling from a window, crying for help, then falling to a rooftop seven stories below. The maid survived, but her employer has been arrested on a charge of failing to help her. (video: The Washington Post)
The Washington Post this morning reported on a story that is causing a sensation on social media:
The floor looks clean in this high-rise apartment, seven stories above Kuwait City traffic. Not a smudge in sight on the picture window. On the other side of the glass, the maid is hanging on by one knuckle, screaming.
“Oh crazy, come here,” a woman says casually in Arabic, holding a camera up to the maid.
“Hold on to me! Hold on to me!” the maid yells.
Instead, the woman steps back. The maid’s grip finally slips, and she lands in a cloud of dust, many stories below.
The maid — an Ethiopian who had been working in the country for several years, according to the Kuwait Times — survived the fall. The videographer, her employer, was arrested last week on a charge of failing to help the worker.
It’s still unclear what led to the fall. But it was not the first time a domestic servant had fallen off of a building in Kuwait, an oil-rich country where foreign workers are cheap, plentiful and live largely at the mercy of their employers.
You can read more at the link.
Over the years, we’ve reported on the difficulties many migrant workers face — most notably in The High Stakes of Leaving from the May 2012 edition of ONE. That report by Peter Lemieux examined Ethiopian migrants struggling to make a new start in the Middle East:
It is difficult to determine the total number of Ethiopian migrant workers in the Middle East. From 2008 to 2010, the Ethiopian government recorded some 37,000 Ethiopian women who left the country to work in the region — namely in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. All these women secured work visas through regular channels — government-licensed employment agencies or other recruitment processes approved by the Ethiopian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
However, an untold number of Ethiopian migrants find work in the Middle East via “irregular” channels, unlicensed recruiters who often charge job seekers anywhere from $230 to $460 for their services, an exorbitant amount in a country where the annual average per capita income hovers around $180. Many require the entire fee upfront; others accept a debt bondage agreement by which the job seeker surrenders the first two or three months of his or her earnings on the job.
The majority of job seekers who use these channels come from Ethiopia’s impoverished countryside. Possessing little education and often living in desperate circumstances, rural Ethiopians are especially vulnerable to illegal brokers, who offer them a wealth of misleading information and empty promises. Observers believe the number of migrants who pass through irregular channels increases each year.
The profile of a typical Ethiopian migrant worker in the Middle East reflects the harsh realities they face back home.
A migrant is generally young — between the ages of 21 and 26. This should come as little surprise to Ethiopians and those familiar with today’s Ethiopian society. Half of Ethiopia’s 85 million people are under the age of 20. Most work on their families’ small farms. In urban areas, youth employment is high.
A migrant is probably single, has little education and comes from a poor family in which few members are educated. The average migrant’s family earns less than $17 a month. With few other prospects, a family may pull together to send a daughter to the Middle East.
Read more in The High Stakes of Leaving.
5 April 2017
The Rev. Serhiy Kulbaka nearly died during 12 days of captivity. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
In the March 2017 edition of ONE, writer Mark Raczkiewycz reports on Ukrainians who have been displaced since the recent war. Below, he offers some additional reflections.
On this reporting trip for CNEWA, two observations left a deep impression on me.
One is the power of the human spirit. It was clear that the violence people saw before having to flee their homes indelibly stays in their memory and the daily stress they face complicates their lives. Yet, they persevere. It’s inspiring to see them fight for their survival without succumbing to self-pity or letting themselves fall into despair. They unite into outreach groups, form communities, and establish support networks. They’re not afraid to ask for help when they need it and try to move on with their lives not knowing what the future has in store for them.
It’s inspiring because it’s easy to get discouraged living in war-ravaged Ukraine, knowing that the country can do little to stop the fighting almost three years into the conflict. I think it’s abundantly clear who can stop the fighting at a moment’s notice.
The Rev. Andriy Nahirnyak, Caritas Ukraine vice president, told me, “people are fatigued, including priests — these are the negative consequences” of the protracted war.
It’s also easy to get discouraged when you see how the government implements evolutionary, and at times, incremental reforms designed to improve the lives of ordinary Ukrainians. For example, only in late January did the relatively new ministry of occupied territories and internally placed persons publish an action plan to more formulate policies in this crucial area to assist 1.7 million refugees.
The fact that average people haven’t benefited from what reforms have been made since February 2014 makes it frustrating. Widespread, top-down corruption is still the nation’s top internal national security threat. It foments cynicism and distrust of government. It erodes the tax base. It diminishes the quality and impact of government services and policies. It essentially is a form of enforced poverty because a few insiders — let’s call them oligarchs — have captured law and policy making through their proxies in parliament and government.
This is what makes Ukrainians stronger in a sense by becoming more self-reliant. Despite all the challenges and obstacles, they trudge forward, not asking much in return.
Another observation was the fallibility of the human spirit. In particular, among priests.
I have seen priests who, like all of us, are vulnerable to feelings of hate and a desire to kill. I’m referring to the Rev. Serhiy Kulbaka, who nearly died during 12 days of captivity and who wanted to shoot his captors upon being released. I’ve spoken to military chaplains who suffer from post-traumatic stress. I heard Father Andriy Naihrnayak say that men of the cloth are being constantly tested by people who turn to the church but who harbor pro-Russian (anti-Ukrainian) views who are also hostile towards the church. Psychologically, priests hear the troubles of refugees during retreats, confession, and during one-on-one meetings. That takes a toll on them.
Priests are the same as anybody else and they also fight temptations of giving up, of losing hope or faith, or in Father Kulbaka’s case, temporarily losing their humanity.
But one of the lessons of the displaced in Ukraine is that humanity often prevails, and the human spirit can and does triumph.
As I noted in my story:
At first [Father Kulbaka] couldn’t find the strength to even pray, let alone “love or bless” someone. He realized his emotions were eating away at him.
“It was a different form of imprisonment,” he says. “So I forced myself to pray.”
“...It was a miracle in a sense. My health started to vastly improve. When I reached this feeling of deliverance, of being in total serenity, my blood pressure and sugar level normalized.”
After recovering at a monastery for three weeks, he traveled to Lviv. Last year, he suffered a stroke, which further debilitated him. Now, having regained much of his strength, he serves a new flock, focusing on displaced families.
“I now harbor no negative emotions towards my captors — I would embrace them if I saw them. I pity them because I understand that their state of being wasn’t normal. I absolutely forgave them. God freed me from all this so I want to give back,” Father Kulbaka explains.
Read more about The Displaced from Ukraine in the current edition of ONE.
5 April 2017
New construction accommodates the growing parish in Izbet al Nakhl, Egypt. Read about why some Christians are experiencing Anxiety in Cairo in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: David Degner)
5 April 2017
In the video above, Pope Francis condemns chemical bombing in Syria and the terror attack in Russia during his weekly General Audience on 5 April. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope decries horror of Syria attacks (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to the consciences of local and international leaders to bring an end to the Syrian tragedy. Speaking during the weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that it is “with horror” that we witness the events that have taken place in Syria...
Pope prays for victims and families of Russia bomb attack (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is praying for the victims of a bomb attack in Russia and for all those affected by the tragedy. Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope turned his attention to the “serious attack of the past days in the St. Petersburg subway,” which he said, caused victims and a sense of loss and confusion in the Russian population...
Franciscans launch initiative to combat violence against women in India (Fides) The Franciscans in India have launched a special nationwide campaign with this goal: to end violence against women through measures to prevent, stop and find remedies regarding its effects...
World’s first crowdfunded hospital to open in Aleppo (The London Economic) The World’s first crowdfunded hospital will open tomorrow in Aleppo. Hope Hospital, which was funded by 4,800 single donations from people all over the world, will open to treat the children of Aleppo sending a strong message of solidarity to the Syrian doctors (the Independent Doctors Association) who were rebuilding this children’s hospital for the seventh time after the six previous buildings had been bombed out of action...
4 April 2017
Youth pray at Holy Savior Cathedral in Adigrat, Ethiopia. The bishop of the Eparchy, Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin, shares some personal reflections on life in his country in A Letter from Ethiopia in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
4 April 2017
A Russian woman weeps as she lays flowers at a memorial 4 April in Moscow in memory of victims of a bomb blast the previous day in St. Petersburg. The metro attack, which killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens more, was carried out by a suicide bomber, said Russian officials.
(photo: CNS/Maxim Shipenkov, EPA)
Gas attack said to kill dozens in Syria (The New York Times) A toxic gas attack killed dozens of people in northern Syria on Tuesday morning, including women and children, and sickened scores more, according to medics, rescuers and witnesses in the rebel-held province of Idlib, who said the gas had been delivered by a government airstrike...
Russian Orthodox leader asks for prayers after St. Petersburg bombing (Premier.org) The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has asked for prayers for those impacted by a bombing at a metro station in St Petersburg on Monday. Patriarch Kirill said in a statement that there was never any justification for such an “impudent” crime...>
Moscow archbishop laments ‘curse of terrorism’ after St. Petersburg bombing (CNA) Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow offered his prayers and condolences following a deadly explosion in the St. Petersburg metro on Monday afternoon. “With deep sorrow, I learned about the villainous terrorist act in St. Petersburg, which killed nine people and caused suffering and grief to many people,” the archbishop said in a 3 April statement. “Together with all faithful Catholics and believers of other faiths and religions, I turn to God with a burning prayer for deliverance of Russia and the world from the curse of terrorism,” he continued. At least 11 people were killed, according to 4 April estimates, and dozens more injured in an explosion on the St. Petersburg metro Monday afternoon...
Report: Israel blocking access to Gaza (AP) An international human rights group on Monday accused Israel of barring foreign researchers from entering the Gaza Strip to document abuses, saying the restrictions call into question Israel’s stated commitment to investigating possible rights violations. In a 47-page report, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “systematically” preventing its researchers from visiting Gaza since 2008, only granting them one exceptional permit last year. The group also said that Egypt has prevented it and London-based Amnesty International from entering Gaza from its territory since 2012...
3 April 2017
Syrian refugees Ramy and Suhila and their children, Khodus, Rashid and Abdul Mejid, relax in Rome in 2016 after Pope Francis brought them with him from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. The original three families that came with Pope Francis have moved to housing outside the Vatican, and three new Syrian refugee families have taken their place. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The first three refugee families from Syria welcomed by the Vatican left their temporary homes to start their new lives in Italy, and three new families took their places in Vatican apartments.
The papal Almoner’s Office, which helps coordinate Pope Francis’ acts of charity, announced on 2 April that two Christian families and one Muslim family moved the apartments that housed the first refugee families welcomed by the Vatican in late 2015 and early 2016.
The two Christian families, the papal almoner’s office said, arrived in March after “suffering kidnapping and discrimination” because of their faith.
“The first family is composed of a mother with two adolescent children, a grandmother, an aunt and another Syrian woman who lives with them,” the office said.
The second family is a young couple, who had their first child — a daughter named Stella — shortly after moving into the Vatican apartment, the Almoner’s Office said.
“The mother had been kidnapped for several months by ISIS and now, in Italy, has regained serenity.”
The third family — a mother, father and two children — arrived in Italy in February 2016, the office said. The children have been attending elementary school in Italy while the mother has been attending graduate courses and currently has an internship.
The Vatican welcomed the refugee families after an appeal made by Pope Francis on 6 September 2015, in which he called on every parish, religious community, monastery and shrine in Europe to take in a family of refugees, given the ongoing crisis of people fleeing from war and poverty.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, said that aside from providing a home for the three families, the office also continues to provide financial support to the three Syrian families whom Pope Francis brought to Italy after his visit last year to the Greek island of Lesbos and for the nine additional refugees who arrived later.