23 December 2014
Syrian refugees walk at the Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on 7 December. Pope Francis Tuesday wrote a pre-Christmas letter to the suffering Christians of the Middle East. (photo: CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Pope Francis writes letter to Christians in the Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a pre-Christmas letter to the Christians of the Middle East to express his closeness to them at a time of “afflictions and tribulations” due to “the continuing hostilities in the region, but especially because of the work of a newer and disturbing terrorist organization.” Though the Pope does not refer to the organization by name, Islamic State militants in recent months have forced hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities from their homes and villages in Iraq. The Pope, who says he follows daily reports of the “enormous suffering endured by many people in the Middle East,” describes the organization “of previously unimaginable dimensions,” responsible for “all kinds of abuses and inhuman acts.” Christians were “brutally driven out of their native lands,” he observes, where they “have been present since apostolic times…”
Israeli who joined ISIS may have citizenship revoked (The Jerusalem Post) Interior Minister Gilad Erdan is considering if he will revoke the citizenship of an Israeli minor who joined joined Islamic State in Syria or Iraq and is now trying to come back home for medical treatment. Erdan said, in an interview with Channel 2 on Monday, that he is waiting for Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s recommendation in order to decide how to proceed in revoking the citizenship of Marwan Haldi, a Nazareth resident, before he can return to Israel. “This is someone who was most likely trained to kill as part of the most brutal terror organizations in the world,” Erdan said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post. “It’s up to me to seriously reconsider his return to Israel as well as his continuing to be a citizen…”
Churches burned in Egypt last year are still in ruins (Global Post) Exactly 16 months ago here, as news flowed in of the bloody dispersal of sit-ins in Cairo that left more than 800 supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi dead, angry mobs in this Upper Egyptian city took to the street and attacked churches, shops and other Christian-run establishments. The churches, which the army promised to fix more than a year ago, still stand half-built as Minya’s Copts prepare for another drafty Christmas…
Winter could be a weapon of war in Ukraine (USA Today) A deteriorating humanitarian situation amid the hardship of an approaching winter in east Ukraine is giving the Ukrainian national government an opening to turn the local population against Russian-backed separatists…
Churches in India increase security for Christmas (Times of India) At 178 years, St James Church is Delhi’s oldest. Yet, this Christmas, it will be chary of welcoming visitors after morning service on Thursday due to security concerns and might even not allow anyone in after the ceremony. Other churches in the city are, meanwhile, making arrangements for additional security alongside Christmas preparations…
South African mosque hosts Christmas dinner for Christians (IOL News) The Open Mosque in Wynberg has not suffered a backlash after hosting a Christmas dinner for about 100 Christian guests, says its founder, Dr. Taj Hargey. Dr. Hargey described the dinner on Sunday as a “historic occasion that has never been [seen] anywhere in the world before…”
22 December 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Israel Copts
Several weeks ago, CNEWA visited a school in Gaza to hear how young people were coping after the war.
The haunting video below captures some of what was seen and heard.
To support the people of Gaza, visit this page. And please keep them in your prayers.
22 December 2014
CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar and Norma Intriago, director of development, collect a tray of handwritten special intentions, all mailed in by donors during CNEWA’s 2014 Christmas fundraising campaign. Msgr. Kozar will celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and will include the special intentions in his prayers. To contribute to the campaign, click here. (photo: CNEWA)
22 December 2014
The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony on 19 December. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
22 December 2014
Girls at Good Shepherd Social Center in Deir al-Ahmar, Lebanon, make Christmas drawings and decorations for their parents during class on 17 December. More than 300 Syrian refugees ages 5 to 14 attend school at the center. (photo: CNS/Brooke Anderson)
Pope creates new diocese in India (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday created a new diocese in southern India’s Tamil state. He erected the Latin rite Diocese of Kuzhithurai in Kanyakumari district, appointing 63-year old Salesian priest, Fr. P. Jerome Dhas Varuvel as its first bishop. The new diocese has been created with territories taken from Diocese of Kottar, making it a suffragan of Madurai Archdiocese. Kuzhithurai Diocese has over 264,000 Catholics in 100 parishes and 123 mission stations spread across an area of 915 sqkm. They are served by 131 priests and 269 religious men and women. The cathedral of the new diocese will be the Church of the Most Holy Trinity at Thirithuvapuram, in Kuzhithurai city...
India’s Christians decry increase in anti-Christian violence (Vatican Radio) The Christian community in India has been feeling a sense of apprehension and fear at the incidents of violence against Churches and their personnel in various parts of the country...
Syrian refugee children get taste of normalcy (CNS) It could be the scene of an ordinary school day anywhere. Just a few days before Christmas, the younger students were making decorations and singing carols downstairs, while the older ones were taking their final exams upstairs. But for the Syrian refugee children at the Good Shepherd Social Center in Deir al-Ahmar, getting an education is something many of their young compatriots are missing...
Hamas conducts rocket tests in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) The IDF said it detected rocket experiments in the Gaza Strip on Monday. During the experiments, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas fires rockets into the sea every few days, as part of its weapons program. The launches are used by Hamas arms designers to experiment with various projectile models...
Christmas in Ethiopia (The Guardian) Before dawn, our guide Sefiwe was waiting for our little group to gather. In the darkness, we joined the flocks of white-robed pilgrims and made our way towards the rock-hewn church of Bet Maryam (House of Mary). It was very early morning on 7 January: Christmas Day for the Ethiopian Orthodox church. We were in Lalibela, the town in the northern highlands that Ethiopian Christians consider their Jerusalem...
19 December 2014
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank
In this image from 2013, a man lights a candle in a temporary Ukrainian Greek Catholic tent church during anti-government protests in Kiev. (photo: CNS/Tatyana Zenkovich, EPA)
Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, according to CNS:
“In Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we’ve already effectively returned to the catacombs,” said Father Ihor Yatsiv, the church’s Kiev-based spokesman.
“It’s a sad paradox that history is being repeated just as we commemorate our liberation. But after a couple of decades of freedom, we again look set to lose our freedom,” he told Catholic News Service on 18 December.
The priest spoke as Ukrainian Catholic communities in Russian-occupied Crimea approached a 1 January deadline for re-registering under Russian law. He said the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church had no legal status in Russia and would therefore be unable, in practice, to register.
Father Yatsiv said Russian and separatist forces had not officially refused to register Ukrainian Catholic parishes, but had ensured it was impossible because of the lack of legal provisions. He added that there was no effective government in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, where rebel groups did not recognize Ukrainian Catholics and were “imposing whatever rules and regulations they choose.”
Earlier in December, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych told Austria’s Kathpress news agency that Crimea’s five Ukrainian Catholic parishes would find themselves “outside the law,” along with the territory’s Latin Catholic, Muslim and breakaway Orthodox communities.
“It’s ironic we’ve just been celebrating the 25th anniversary of our legalization in the former Soviet Union — but our right to legal activity will soon be withdrawn in various parts of our country,” Archbishop Shevchuk told Kathpress Dec. 12.
“There’s clearly no religious liberty already in Crimea and the occupied territories of the east, and I hope the international community will deploy its resources to restoring freedoms in the affected areas,” he said.
Ukrainian Catholics fled Crimea to escape arrests and property seizures after Russia annexed the region in March. Most church parishes have closed in Ukraine’s war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where separatists declared an independent “New Russia” after staging local referendums last spring.
Ukraine’s Catholic Caritas charity warned on 11 December of a “humanitarian catastrophe” this winter, with 490,000 people now registered as refugees, and 545,000 displaced abroad, mostly in Russia.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church makes up around a tenth of Ukraine’s 46 million inhabitants. It was outlawed under Soviet rule from 1946 to 1989, when many clergy were imprisoned and most church properties seized by the state or transferred to Russian Orthodox possession.
19 December 2014
Peshmerga fighters deployed in the Nineveh region of northern Iraq flash the victory sign at sunset while shipping ammunition in order to fight against Islamic State in Sinjar. (photo: Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi Kurds capture besieged Sinjar mountain, freeing hundreds (Al Jazeera) Kurdish peshmerga fighters have fought their way to Iraq’s Mount Sinjar and freed hundreds of people trapped there by Islamic State fighters, a Kurdish leader said on Thursday…
Chaldean bishop of Beirut appeals on behalf of displaced Iraqi Christians (Fides) More than 800 Christian families have fled Mosul and Nineveh Plain and have found refuge in Iraq. Their condition is that of the “newcomers” in a Country already destabilized by the arrival of more than a million Syrian refugees. Most of them are in Beirut and have found support only from the local Chaldean Eparchy. Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut has issued a statement to solicit aid…
One million people wounded, diseases spreading in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) One million people have been wounded during Syria’s civil war and diseases are spreading as regular supplies of medicine fail to reach patients, the World Health Organization’s Syria representative said. A plunge in vaccination rates from 90 percent before the war to 52 percent this year and contaminated water have added to the woes, allowing typhoid and hepatitis to advance, Elizabeth Hoff said in an interview late Thursday…
U.N. launches aid appeal for Syrians and their host communities (U.N. News Center) As Syria’s war rages on into its fifth year, the needs for food, shelter and medicine are astronomical, several United Nations agencies said today as they launched a major appeal, requesting over $8.4 billion to help nearly 18 million people in Syria and throughout the region. Presented to donors at a meeting in Berlin, the 2015 appeal incorporates, for the first time, development aspects in addition to the life-saving humanitarian needs of over 12 million displaced people inside Syria, and the millions of Syrian refugees scattered throughout the region and the countries that host them…
Muslim leaders: We defend the churches together with Christians (Fides) Threats against Christian sites have prompted authoritative and recognized Muslim academics to denounce and condemn anti-Christian threats and rhetoric. Among others, Amna Nosseir, professor of religion and philosophy and dean of the Islamic Studies department at Al Azhar University, has condemned such acts as a betrayal of authentic Islam, and called on “Christians and Muslims” to protect the churches together from any threat, so that Egyptian Christians can celebrate their liturgical solemnities in peace…
18 December 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Refugees United Nations
Syrian refugees warm themselves around a fire on 3 December in Ankara, Turkey.
(photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
18 December 2014
Indian Christians hold candles during a demonstration against a suspected attack on a church in Amritsar on 2 December. (photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian enclave in India fears violence as Hindus press for conversions (Washington Post) A few months ago, Hindu nationalists swept into a small village where several families had converted to Christianity more than a decade earlier. They held a fire purification ceremony with the villagers, tore a cross off the local church and put up a poster of the god Shiva. The space was now a temple, they declared. Then right-wing Hindu groups announced a Christmas Day ceremony where they planned to welcome hundreds of Christians and Muslims back to Hinduism. After a nationwide furor, organizers postponed the ceremony on Tuesday. But one of them, Rajeshwar Singh Solanki, said in an interview Thursday they will demonstrate against any church baptisms performed on the holiday. He said his group’s ultimate aim is to ensure that Islam and Christianity “cease to exist” in India. Christians in Aligarh say they are afraid of what might happen on their holiest of days…
Islamic State turns monastery into a prison (Fides) In the city of Mosul, captured by jihadist militants of the Islamic State in June, Christian churches continue to be turned into prisons. Last weekend, fighters transferred at least 150 prisoners, blindfolded and handcuffed, to the ancient Monastery of St. George, which belonged to the Order of St. Anthony Sant’Ormisda of the Chaldeans. The prisoners, previously held in the prison in Badush, were evacuated in anticipation of a possible attack by the anti-Caliphate coalition…
Latin patriarch of Jerusalem issues Christmas message (Fides) Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has taken the opportunity of the traditional Christmas message to reconsider with eyes of faith the events that recently marked the lives of the peoples in Holy Land — an account in which pain and hope, despair and consolation intertwine, in a time marked by the visit of Pope Francis, the new Gaza war and the attacks against places of worship…
Jordan struggles to house refugees as Islamic State fears grow (Vatican Radio) The United Nations has launched an appeal to raise $8.4 billion for the coming year, to help nearly 18 million people affected by the war in Syria. On Thursday, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, said that people who have been displaced within Syria “have exhausted their savings and resources.” He added that neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis and “are at breaking point…”
Jordan submits Palestine U.N. resolution draft (Al Akhbar) Palestinian leaders on Wednesday sought Arab backing for a draft U.N. resolution that would set a two-year deadline for reaching a final settlement with Israel and pave the way for a two-state solution. The draft resolution calls for a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation” of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and “fulfills the vision” of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the shared capital. Meanwhile, in Washington, the State Department declined to say whether the United States would use its veto power…
Egypt court jails 40 Morsi supporters convicted of torching churches (Al Akhbar) An Egyptian court sentenced 40 backers of President Muhammad Morsi to up to 15 years in jail Thursday for violence including torching churches, a judicial source said. Followers of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement have been the target of a relentless crackdown by the authorities since he was deposed in July 2013 by ex-army chief and current President Abdel Fattah al Sisi…
17 December 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq India Egypt Jordan
Salt + Light Catholic TV in Canada produced a documentary “The Francis Effect,” featuring CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar. Visit this link to learn how you can view the video or purchase a copy. (photo: Salt + Light)
A blessed Advent to you! I am happy to share with you about CNEWA’s recent collaboration with Salt + Light Catholic Television in Canada. CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, was interviewed and featured in “The Francis Effect,” Salt + Light’s latest documentary.
As Salt + Light described it: “‘The Francis Effect’ takes a critical and in-depth look at how an ancient institution (the Catholic Church) is rapidly changing under the leadership and vision of Pope Francis...exclusive interviews with prominent Catholics and non-Catholics reveal that Francis is having a profound effect on the world as well.”
You can learn more about CNEWA’s work with Pope Francis and how the Holy Father’s leadership has an effect on the Middle East and the whole world. I invite you to view this special clip of Msgr. Kozar from the documentary:
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA (The Francis Effect) from saltandlighttv on Vimeo.
To watch the full documentary or to purchase a copy, visit “The Francis Effect” webpage. If you would like to support Christians in the Middle East through CNEWA, please give online.
And we invite you to remember, in a special way, our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq.
Thank you for the generosity and your prayers!