Current Issue
Autumn, 2016
Volume 42, Number 3
26 August 2016
Greg Kandra

Syrian army soldiers rest in a street in the government-controlled part of the besieged town of Daraya on 26 August 2016, as thousands of rebel fighters and civilians prepared to evacuate under an accord struck a day earlier. (photo: Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents plan to evacuate Syrian town (BBC) A deal has been reached to allow rebel fighters and civilians to leave the Syrian town of Daraya, which has been under government siege since 2012. The evacuation of the town, near the capital Damascus, is expected to begin on Friday. Syrian Red Crescent vehicles are poised to enter the town. Residents have faced near-constant bombardment and shortages of food, water and power...

Thousands of refugees trapped in Jordanian desert (The Telegraph) The Arab kingdom of fewer than seven million people has taken in around 700,000 Syrians since 2011 and earned the praise of Western countries whose own doors have been mainly shut. Britain has taken in around 5,000 Syrians and the US only slightly more. But this year Jordan’s fears of an Isil attack have risen sharply and, after a jihadist suicide bombing in June, it closed its borders entirely to new refugees. That decision has left around 75,000 Syrians stranded on a sand berm on the Jordanian border...

Shadowy group is assassinating ISIS members within its borders (Business Insider) With such an oppressive regime and a weakening infrastructure, the organization that touts itself as the caliphate is facing growing dissent within its civilian populace. And it looks like this gap is widening, especially after the efforts of a secret group called the Mosul Battalions...

Egypt accused of discriminating against Christian athletes (AINA) Non-profit organization Coptic Solidarity has filed formal complaints with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA alleging that Coptic Christian athletes in Egypt face “systematic religious discrimination...”

Orthodox cathedral named among top ten “most endangered historic properties” ( Historic Saint Michael the Archangel Cathedral in Sitka, AK, is one of two Diocese of Alaska churches on this year’s “Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties” list compiled by the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation [AAHP]. Also on this year’s list is the Ascension of Our Lord Church, Karluk, AK, which was built in 1888. Located on the far side of Kodiak Island, the Karluk church is considered the state’s oldest extant Orthodox sanctuary...

25 August 2016
Greg Kandra

Sister Nahla Francis serves as a nurse at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan.
(photo: Philip Toscano-Heighton)

Some of the heroes in CNEWA’s world have worked to help heal the world.

Sister Nahla Francis, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, served as a nurse in Mosul, treating the wounded of the Iraq war from 2002-2004. More recently, she served in Jordan, at Zerqa’s Mother of Mercy Clinic. Nicholas Seeley wrote about the clinic in ONE magazine in 2013 and interviewed Sister Nahla, who spoke about being a bridge between different faiths while also serving as a nurse:

ONE: What’s the most difficult thing about this kind of work?

SNF: When patients ask you to help them in certain things, and you cannot do it. Sometimes they have no money, but they need expensive medicine. We cannot always help them — this is the most difficult thing — or when the doctors tell an expectant mother to take a certain test, and she has no money to do it. It is so painful.

ONE: And what is the best part of a day? What gives you the most satisfaction?

SNF: The best thing? When you see a smile on a patient’s face — when she tells you, “I feel I’m at home here.” You know? So important! Or when women from far away come here, just to receive a shot, or something simple. I will ask them: “Why should you come here? Don’t you have a clinic there?” And they will say: “No, no. Here, I feel relaxed, I feel peaceful.” That is so important for us.

ONE: And you treat people of all different faiths?

SNF: We don’t ask them. Our mission here is for everyone. If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include “religion” in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here — just the name and the age and what we need to know.

ONE: What do you think people in America should know about the situation here?

SNF: I was in America and I know, as a people, they are very kind and sensitive to others. But maybe they need to know we have different cultures. Different thinking, we can say. We are here, living with different faiths, like Muslim, Christian, whatever. But we are here as one family.

ONE: If you could say something to people in America about the situation of refugees, what would you say to them?

SNF: It is a difficult question. I have something in my heart, but I don’t know how to say it, even in Arabic.

[Sister Nahla pauses, then adds:] Let us live in peace, please. Let us live in peace, because we need it.

Indeed, we do. And we are grateful for the heroic efforts of people such as Sister Nahla who are trying to bring healing and peace to a world wounded by war.

25 August 2016
Catholic News Service

A framed picture lies amid rubble in Damascus, Syria, on 27 July. Christian patriarchs residing in Damascus urged the international community to “stop the siege of the Syrian people” and to lift international sanctions, which they say are deepening the suffering.
(photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)

Christian patriarchs residing in Damascus urged the international community to “stop the siege of the Syrian people” and to lift international sanctions, which they say are deepening the suffering.

The three Christian leaders — Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X — directed their 23 August appeal to “the international conscience and the concerned countries.”

Although “the main goals of imposing these sanctions are political,” the patriarchs said, they have affected all Syrian people, “especially the poor and working class, whose ability to provide their basic daily needs such as food and medical care are greatly affected.”

“Despite the resolution of the Syrian people in the face of the crisis, the social situation is getting worse and the poverty and suffering of the Syrian people are constantly increasing,” the patriarchs said.

In their statement, the patriarchs pointed to specific consequences that are crippling the country and isolating it from the rest of the world. Those include the absence of new investments, a ban on international flights to Syria, reduced exports to the country and the placing of some Syrian companies on the blacklist for international trade, all of which the patriarchs said “are considered to be economic measures toward the isolation of Syria from the international community.”

They criticized most Western countries for closing their embassies and said a ban on international banking transactions with Syria “puts the people in a financial difficulty.”

The patriarchs said that in addition to helping to improve the dire living conditions in Syria, lifting the sanctions would facilitate efforts of church and humanitarian groups in providing aid, thus reducing exploitation of the suffering Syrian people.

“We hope that the international community responds to the humanitarian appeal of the Syrians: ‘Stop the siege on the Syrian people! Lift the international sanctions on Syria and allow this people to live in dignity, which is a basic right to all the peoples of the world.’”

A day earlier, in a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak, Patriarch Aphrem requested Russia’s help for the release of two kidnapped archbishops of Aleppo. Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul, brother of Patriarch John, were kidnapped in April 2013 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission.

25 August 2016
Greg Kandra

Members of Free Syrian Army (FSA) patrol part of Aleppo, Syria, after taking control from ISIS terrorists during ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ on 24 August 2016.
(photo: Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Why Turkey sending tanks into Syria is significant (CNN) More than 80 ISIS targets were attacked in the first hours of “Operation Euphrates Shield” early Wednesday, officials say, as Turkish armor and warplanes targeted a key ISIS-held town across its border with Syria. Jarablus is one of the few towns in northern Syria that ISIS still controls and is a critical location for supplies, money and fighters coming into ISIS-held areas...

Attacker killed in assault on Coptic church (AP) Egypt’s state news agency says a knife-wielding attacker has been shot and killed after he stabbed a guard at a Coptic church...

Russia orders military drills amid tensions with Ukraine (The Wall Street Journal) Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered snap military drills Thursday to test the combat-readiness of troops on the country’s western flank. The exercises, announced by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, come amid heightened tensions with Ukraine. Russia, which is covertly supporting separatists in its neighbor’s east, blamed Ukraine for the deaths of two service members earlier this month in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014...

India seeks to ban ‘commercial surrogacy’ (Vatican Radio) It will no longer be possible to exploit the female body for commercial purposes. This was decided yesterday the Government of India, presenting the new bill that regulates the practice of surrogacy to the public...

In Gaza, animal rescue complete as ‘world’s worst zoo’ closes (The Times of Israel) Rescued by an international animal welfare nonprofit from horrific conditions in a Gaza Strip zoo, 15 surviving animals were brought across the Israeli border on Wednesday morning. They represent the last survivors of a zoo described as “the world’s worst,” many of whose “inhabitants” were crudely taxidermied carcasses on display alongside their living neighbors...

24 August 2016
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Morocco’s King Mohammad VI, shown in this image from 2011, last weekend condemned terrorism in the name of Islam. (photo: Azzouz Boukallouch/AFP/Getty Images)

On Saturday 20 August 2016 King Mohammad VI of Morocco joined a growing list of Muslim leaders to condemn what is often referred to as Islamic terrorism or extremism. The speech was delivered on the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of the Revolution of 20 August, in which Morocco gained its independence.

The King, a descendant of Muhammad, condemns those “who call for murder and aggression, those who excommunicated people without a legitimate reason” and accuses them of “lying to Allah and His messenger,” thereby earning a place in hell. The king also makes oblique reference to the 26 July murder of the Rev. Jacques Hamel in Rouen, France, stating “Killing a priest is forbidden by religion; murdering him inside a church is unforgivable madness.” Finally the king states, “As ignorance spreads in the name of religion, Muslims, Christians and Jews have to close ranks in order to tackle all forms of extremism, hatred and reclusiveness (sic).”

As one continues to hear “why don’t Muslims speak out against terrorism?,” King Mohammad VI adds his voice to a long list of Muslim leaders — many unheard in the West — who have condemned extremism and religious terrorism in the strongest terms. He joins the ranks of those courageous Muslims who have condemned what is being done in the name of God and Islam. Muhammad Haniff Hassan and Mustaza Bahari, two Muslim scholars, have published a list of 86 organization and individuals who have spoken out against ISIS, containing statements made by the Grand Muftis of Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the political leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Iran together with numerous Islamic universities, societies and individual scholars.

But perhaps the strongest reaction can be found in the form of an open letter to “Dr. Ibrahim Awwad Al-Badri, alias ‘Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’ and to the fighters and followers of the self-declared ‘Islamic State.’” Published on 19 September 2014, the letter uses the method of traditional Islamic jurisprudence to condemn ISIS. Meanwhile, setting a more constructive tone, the Declarations of Marrakesh (25-27 January 2016) and Erbil (2-4 June 2016) outline in detail how Muslims can and should live in a pluralistic world.

24 August 2016
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2001, Mar Varkey Vithayathil ordains Mar Jacob Angadiath as bishop of the Eparchy of St. Thomas. To learn more about the rich history of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, check out our profile of this Eastern church in the January 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

24 August 2016
Greg Kandra

In this image from 1 August, a woman in Donetsk, Ukraine, is seen in her apartment damaged by a shelling attack. Pope Francis on Wednesday issued an appeal for peace in Ukraine.
(photo: Mikhail Sokolov/TASS via Getty Images)

Pope appeals for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday once again appealed for peace in Ukraine, urging all parties in the conflict, as well as international bodies, to “strengthen the initiatives to resolve the conflict, release the hostages, and respond to the humanitarian emergency...”

After failed coup, Turkey enjoys rare moment of unity (The New York Times) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey an Islamist who has run the country for more than a decade, has unabashedly used the aftermath of the mid-July coup to focus the country on a common enemy. His approval rating has shot up to 68 percent, from 47 percent before the failed coup. He has not only toned down his divisive language but also said he would rescind the numerous criminal cases he has pursued against Turks for insulting him, a crime under Turkish law...

U.S. Calls on Americans to leave Gaza ‘as soon as possible’ (Newsweek) The United States on Tuesday called on Americans in the Gaza Strip to leave the coastal enclave “as soon as possible...”

Aleppo faces humanitarian crisis (Al Jazeera) The humanitarian situation has gravely deteriorated in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo where Syrian government forces and Russian warplanes continue to attack civilian neighborhoods, according to activists and residents. “In the last four days, food supplies have close to disappeared from the markets, and prices have skyrocketed,” Salem al-Atrash, a resident in the city, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday...

Vatican calls for wider definition of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (Vatican Radio) The Vatican has called on the international community to expand the definition of a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ to include “devastatingly powerful conventional weapons used to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity...”

India conference hears message that ‘mercy goes beyond borders’ (Fides) To be merciful means going beyond borders and barriers: this is the meaning of the interfaith meeting organized in recent days in Wadala, one of the main areas in Mumbai, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. In the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows, speakers, intellectuals, experts, theologians of different religions gathered to reflect on “the wonderful theme of mercy that embraces the heart of every man and woman without distinction of any kind, religious, ethical, cultural,” said Sr. Teresa Joseph FMA, Secretary of the Office for dialogue and ecumenism within the Bishops’ Conference of India...

23 August 2016
Greg Kandra

In this image from the late 1920’s, the Rev. Edmund A. Walsh, center, checks the mail at CNEWA's New York offices. (photo: CNEWA archives)

One of CNEWA’s earliest heroes was a man with a remarkable portfolio, the Rev. Edmund A. Walsh., S.J.:

The life of Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., makes great material for a Jesuit recruiter: founder of the Foreign Service School of Georgetown University; head of the Papal Relief Mission to Russia; first president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association; papal negotiator with the Mexican Government; liaison between the Holy See and the Iraqi Government for the foundation of the Jesuit College in Baghdad; and consultant to Chief Justice Jackson at the Nuremberg Trials.

As the first papal-appointed president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Edmund Walsh would secure the new organization’s existence and expand the work of Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle, the founder of the Association’s prototype.

To help launch the new organization, Father Walsh oversaw a one-time nationwide collection in the United States:

The purpose of this collection was emergency relief. “The wish of the Holy Father,” Walsh stated, “is rather to form a permanent society somewhat like the International Red Cross or the American Near East Relief.”

“It will be a centralized Catholic distributing agency,” Walsh continued, “which can materially assist the Holy See to meet the daily increasing demands made on the Holy Father for assistance in humanitarian works … education … social welfare work … as well as distinctly religious and missionary activities.”

In January 1927, Walsh’s drive tallied more than $1 million. “I had no idea myself,” Cardinal Hayes wrote to a colleague, “that we could get such a response.”

Father Walsh also helped secure CNEWA’s financial future, appealing for donations through the Papal Annual — a publication that only appeared once but which helped explain and dramatize the plight of the poor around the world. “Under God,” he concluded his appeal, “the future lies in your hands.”

Over the years, he gained a reputation as a savvy diplomat, a champion of the Russian people, an advocate for the causes of the Near East, and dedicated Jesuit. In 1931, Father Walsh transferred his presidency to New York’s Cardinal Patrick Hayes, who wrote to him, “I wish to thank you with my whole heart for what you have done for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and what you have done for the Church of God.”

Edmund A. Walsh died in 1956, but will long be remembered for his tenacity and vision — and for being a hero of CNEWA.

Tags: CNEWA Eastern Churches Priests

23 August 2016
Catholic News Service

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter greets faithful at the Korean Martyrs Shrine in Seoul, South Korea on 22 August. (photo: CNS/courtesy Mychel Akl for Bkerke)

Lebanese Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, visiting the South Korean capital of Seoul, urged the international community to end the wars raging in the Middle East “fueled by foreign countries.”

The church leader also said that terrorist organizations “working for the destruction of the Middle East do not represent Islam or Muslim.”

Such groups, he said in an address during the Forum for Peace on the Korean Peninsula that met 18-21 August, work to destroy “a moderate and open Islam, resulting from coexistence with Christians.

Patriarch Bechara Peter addressed the forum under an invitation of Seoul Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung.

He implored the international community “to speed up the solutions and impose a halt to the wars, fueled by foreign countries, raging in the Middle East.”

Stressing the need for a “series of reforms” in the Arab states, the patriarch called for the separation of state and religion, the development of democracy and “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

He also called on the international community to “help the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia” which he said would reduce sectarian tension in the region.

Lebanon, the patriarch lamented, is “paying the price of all these political-religious conflicts to the point that it is without a president for more than two years.” According to the Lebanese system, the presidential office is reserved for a Maronite Catholic.

Yet, the Maronite leader stressed, “the Lebanese formula still remains unique, and our constitution is a model to be imitated by other states on the basis of civic equality and cultural community” within the same country.

The cardinal also called for world leaders to work toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, which would facilitate the return of all Palestinians expelled from their land, and for the enforcement of all resolutions of the Security Council.

In addition to some 2 million Syrian refugees that have swelled Lebanon’s existing population of about 4 million, Lebanon also is home to more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Patriarch Bechara Peter celebrated the Divine Liturgy on 22 August at the Korean Martyrs’ Shrine in Seoul. In his homily, he prayed that “peace would reign in countries that are torn by wars, including Korea and the Middle East.”

Tags: War Middle East Peace Process Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Maronite Church

23 August 2016
Greg Kandra

A photo taken from Turkey shows smoke rising over Syria after the Turkish army shelled ISIS positions on 23 August 2016. (photo: Ensar Ozdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkey launches new artillery strike across Syrian border (The New York Times) Turkey’s artillery shelled ISIS targets across the border in Syria for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, a senior Turkish official said, amid reports that Turkey-backed Syrian rebels were preparing an offensive against an ISIS-held border town in northern Syria. The latest developments have thrust the town of Jarablus into center stage in the ongoing war…

Iranian religious leader thanks Pope Francis for comments on Islam (Vatican Radio) A senior Iranian religious scholar has written to Pope Francis, thanking him for his recent remarks that Islam is not equal to terrorism. In his letter, posted on his official website on Sunday, Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi of Qom also stressed that it is necessary for religious leaders to adopt clear stances when it comes to accusing religions of violence…

ISIS using child bombers (Reuters) Saturday’s attack at the wedding in Gaziantep marked not only Turkey’s deadliest this year, but also the first time in Turkey that militants may have deployed a child bomber in a way already used to deadly effect in wars from Africa to Syria…

Lebanon church leader decries terrorism in visit to South Korea (CNS) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, visiting the South Korean capital of Seoul, urged the international community to end the wars raging in the Middle East “fueled by foreign countries…”

Church building law sparks disputes in Egypt (Egypt Streets) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement objecting to the “complexities and obstacles” in the governmental amendments to a long-awaited bill on church building in the country, privately-owned Al Shorouk reported…

Data shows reconversion of Dalit Christians in Kerala (The New Indian Express) If statistics are any indication, Kerala is witnessing an upward curve in ‘Ghar Wapsi’ — the controversial reconversion drive launched by some Hindutva groups — resulting in the dwindling Dalit Christian population in the state...

Tags: Syria Egypt Pope Francis Turkey

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