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Spring, 2017
Volume 43, Number 1
3 February 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from December, a Yazidi couple, who were forced to flee their home because of Islamic State’s advance, pose for a photograph in their temporary home at a refugee camp near Zakho in Duhok, Iraq. This week, Kurdish forces uncovered a mass grave of Yazidis slaughtered by ISIS. (photo: Matt Cardy/Getty)

Catholics fear wave of attacks in India (The New York Times) A series of episodes at churches over the last two months has prompted Roman Catholics here to worry about a deliberate campaign of violence, and to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out against religious intimidation. At least five Catholic churches in and around Delhi have reported various attacks, including suspected arson, burglary, vandalism and stone-throwing. The latest was discovered on Monday morning at St. Alphonsa’s Church in New Delhi, where a parish employee found the church’s front door broken open, ceremonial vessels missing, and communion wafers strewn about...

Mass grave of Yazidis uncovered in Iraq (Al-Arabiya) Iraqi Kurdish forces have uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of about 25 members of the Yazidi minority believed to have been killed by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), local officials have said. “Peshmerga forces discovered a mass grave yesterday (Sunday) containing the remains of about 25 people — men, children and women — from the Yazidi (sect) who were killed by” ISIS, Myaser Haji Saleh, a local official responsible for the Sinjar area, told AFP...

Civilians die as battles rage in Ukraine (BBC) Up to 16 civilians have been killed and dozens more injured in the space of 24 hours in fighting in eastern Ukraine. Government officials and representatives of the rebels reported deaths in locations across the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukraine’s army also said five soldiers had died during fierce clashes with the pro-Russian rebels near the strategic town of Debaltseve in eastern Donetsk. Civilian casualties have risen sharply in recent weeks amid a rebel offensive...

Pope Francis, Eritrean priest among nominees for Nobel Prize (Reuters) A Russian newspaper critical of President Vladimir Putin is among the nominations for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Edward Snowden, Pope Francis and a priest helping African migrants. Although the committee has marked the last four 10-year anniversaries of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima by honoring the fight against nuclear proliferation, there was little speculation among Nobel watchers that the trend would continue. Thousands of people, including all members of parliaments, can make nominations, which must be postmarked no later than Feb. 1. The $1.2 million award will be announced in October...

Tags: Iraq India Pope Francis Ukraine Eritrea

2 February 2015
Greg Kandra

Parishioners sing a hymn during evening Mass in the Church of Sts. Simeon and Anne in Jerusalem. The parish is comprised of Catholics who speak Hebrew. Read more about this distinct group in “Hebrew Spoken Here” from the Spring 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

2 February 2015
Greg Kandra

Egyptians who call themselves as ‘Anti-Coup demonstrators’, take part in a protest in Giza on 30 January 2015. (photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Human rights group accuses Egypt of cover-up (Vatican Radio) Rights group Amnesty International on Sunday accused Egyptian authorities of intimidating witnesses and whitewashing evidence to cover up the role of security forces in the killing of more than two dozen people during protests last week...

Clashes escalate between Armenia and Azerbaijan (The New York Times) Overshadowed by the fighting in Ukraine, another armed conflict in the former Soviet Union — between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh — has escalated with deadly ferocity in recent months, killing dozens of soldiers on each side and pushing the countries perilously close to open war...

India’s Christians encouraged by Obama’s talk on religious liberty (National Catholic Register) Christians took comfort this week from some unexpected “hard talk” in support of religious freedom delivered by visiting U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama’s remarks came two days after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s similar remarks, delivered to mark India’s 26 January Republic Day celebration, at which Obama was this year’s chief guest. And to many Christians, both speeches seemed to be directly addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling BJP party...

Gaza music school shines in “Arabs Got Talent” (Reuters) On the hugely popular “Arabs Got Talent” TV show in Beirut last month, five young musicians in chequered black-and-white scarves brought the house down with a traditional Arabic song that left the judges weeping and earned a ticket straight to the finals...

Tags: India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia

30 January 2015
Greg Kandra

Catholic and Orthodox priests join other ministers for an inaugural ceremony for a church made entirely from ice at Balea Lac resort in the Fagaras mountains of Romania on 29 January.
(photo: CNS/Radu Sigheti, Reuters)

30 January 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis poses with members of the Oriental Orthodox dialogue commission.
(photo: L’Osseervatore Romano/Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis meets with Oriental Orthodox (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday received the participants in a meeting — this week — of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Oriental Orthodox Churches those Orthodox Eastern Christian churches which recognize only the first three ecumenical councils, and rejected the formulae of the Council of Chalcedon, at which certain central Christological doctrines were dogmatically defined, most especially the dual nature — fully divine and fully human, perfectly united though without mixing, blending or alteration — of Christ...

Dozens killed in wave of bombings in Iraq (Daily Mail) The Islamic State jihadist group killed a senior Kurdish commander and five fighters major attack in Iraq’s Kirkuk province today, while bombings elsewhere left a further 27 dead. The assault on areas south and west of the northern city of Kirkuk began at around midnight, sparking fighting with medium and heavy weapons that was still ongoing this morning. Brigadier General Shirko Rauf and five other members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces were killed in clashes and 46 more were wounded, a police officer and a doctor said...

Ukraine battle raging (BBC) Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels are exchanging heavy tank and artillery fire in and around Debaltseve, a strategic town in eastern Ukraine. There are reports — not independently confirmed — that the rebels have seized the nearby town of Vuhlehirsk. Many civilians remain trapped in Debaltseve, while others — including people with shrapnel wounds — have managed to reach the town of Artemivsk. Russian media say shellfire has killed seven people in the city of Donetsk...

India investigating reports of mass “reconversion” of Christians (The Guardian) Reports of a new mass conversion of Christians in India have raised concerns over freedom of worship, days after Barack Obama challenged the country’s record on religious tolerance. Details of the incident are unclear but it was reported that between 50 and 100 Christians from some of the poorest communities in India were “welcomed back” to Hinduism in a “homecoming ceremony” in a remote area in the eastern state of West Bengal on Wednesday...

Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic studies marks 50th anniversary (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, known by its Latin or Italian acronym PISAI, is marking 50 years of its presence in Rome. Originally started in Tunisia by the Society of Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr), or the White Fathers after their white habit, the training centre prepared missionaries with a background of Arabic and Muslim culture. Today, PISAI is a study and research centre whose teaching and scientific activities provide the necessary preparation for an informed theological dialogue with Muslims...

Why Kerala drinks most among Indian states (Business Insider) India is surely living up in since the last couple of years. Increased alcohol consumption is the biggest indicator of this. No prizes for guessing the heaviest of drinkers. Among Indian states, the trend of bottom’s up is the highest in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Overall statistics is a bit alarming too. According to a survey that was compiled and presented recently, Indian population was studied between 2008 and 2012. The World Health Organization warned showing a startling 11% of the people starting from 15 years of age were among moderate to heavy drinkers...

Tags: Iraq India Ukraine Kerala Orthodox

29 January 2015
Greg Kandra

Zabbaleen workers bundle cardboard waste for resale in Egypt. To read more about how the Zabbaleen, or “garbage people” are making a living in Cairo, read “Salvaging Dignity” from the September 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Dana Smillie)

29 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs meet in Bkerke, Lebanon, on 27 January, to address the crises in the Middle East. Pictured from left to right are Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III; Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch; Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Peter; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Catholic patriarchate)

Christian leaders meet in Lebanon, call for end to financing terrorists (CNS) Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs called for an end to financing terrorists and suggested that borders be closed when necessary to prevent their movement. The leaders also appealed for the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, based on a long-standing proposal for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and pleaded for the return of Palestinian refugees to their native lands. Their calls came in a statement released after a meeting on 27 January in Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Church north of Beirut, to address the situation of Christians in the Middle East, especially those displaced from Iraq and Syria. A representative of the Protestant churches of Syria and Lebanon as well as international aid officials also attended…

Oriental Orthodox and Catholics work to conclude joint document (Vatican Radio) Representatives of all the Oriental Orthodox churches are in Rome this week for a meeting of their International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue with the Catholic Church. During the five-day encounter, which began on Monday, participants hope to finalize a joint document on communion and communication in the first five centuries of Christianity…

Islamic State bombed historic walls of Nineveh in Iraq (AINA) Jihadists resumed bombings against historic sites in Nineveh and destroyed remains of the ancient wall of Mosul, specialized sources reported today. A historian living in Mosul, the second largest in Iraq, told the publication Shafaq News that militants of the Islamic State destroyed on Tuesday night much of the historic city wall located on Tahrir neighborhood on the left coast of Mosul…

Double suicide attack kills 6, wounds 28 in Baghdad (Al Akhbar) A double suicide attack on a base housing militia groups fighting alongside the government north of Baghdad killed at least six people on Thursday, medical sources said. “The car rammed an army checkpoint protecting access to the base” in Mishahada, a Baghdad hospital official said. The first blast killed at least three people, including a civilian…

Yazidis ask Israel for help (Al Monitor) Desperate Yazidis are reaching out to Israel, asking for understanding and assistance, especially in the military domain for their fight against the Islamic State…

Hezbollah-Israel: No war for now (Al Jazeera) Neither Hezbollah nor Israel are interested in engaging in a full scale war, analysts say. Hezbollah’s attack on Wednesday, the strongest since 2006, was meant to restore the balance of deterrence between the two sides, following Israel’s game-changing move last week when it targeted and killed six Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian commander in Quneitra in Syria’s Golan Heights…

Living among the dead in Gaza (Al Monitor) “We smell the stench of death everywhere and all we see is the burial of the dead. We no longer know the meaning of leisure, as we have abandoned the hope of living.” This is how Abu Raed al Qahwaji described the life of his family, which now lives in a cemetery in central Gaza. Qahwaji, 39, who lives with his wife and four children, said, “We used to live in a small flat in an apartment building in the Shajaia neighborhood in central Gaza City. … However, the building was destroyed in the war and we were left with no other choice but this small hut I set up in the cemetery.” He explained that he could not find any other shelter given his dire situation, poverty and unemployment, while the demand on apartments was increasing following the war that destroyed tens of thousands of houses and apartment buildings…

Jordan demands proof captured pilot is alive as deadline passes (Washington Post) Jordan demanded proof Thursday from the Islamic State that a captured Jordanian pilot is still alive, as a deadline set by the militant group for the kingdom to release a convicted terrorist passed without word on the fate of both sides’ prisoners or any sign of an imminent exchange…

Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Jordan Ecumenism

28 January 2015
Greg Kandra

A nun at the hospital run by the Sisters of the Cross in Deir el Kamar, Lebanon, interacts with a child on 23 January. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, spent some time recently in Lebanon and Jordan and spoke with CNS about what he saw:

Economically strapped Lebanon is now hosting more than 1.5 million refugees — mostly Syrians — putting a strain on the country’s infrastructure and resources for its existing population of around 4 million people.

“So much of our energy is a crisis intervention status, keeping people from starving, from freezing to death with these cold spells, keeping people from getting very sick and even dying from simple maladies and physical problems that can develop into something serious,” said Msgr. John Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“But because of the uncertainty of the (refugee) crises, we have to look at what will be the next level of assistance .... There’s housing issues, educational issues, longer-term health issues, post-traumatic issues,” he said, adding that counseling is needed for children that have been through “horrible” circumstances.

Msgr. Kozar — joined by Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, and Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, co-treasurer of the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops — spoke with Catholic News Service at CNEWA's Beirut office about their 19-23 January visit to Lebanon. Before arriving in Lebanon, they visited Jordan; in both countries, they are helping Syrian and Iraqi refugees and the communities that support them.

...The delegation’s itinerary in Lebanon included visiting a school run by the Good Shepherd Sisters for refugee children in Deir al-Ahmar in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border, and meeting refugees in a nearby tent settlement camp. There they experienced firsthand the sisters” witness of God’s love to the mostly Muslim refugee population.

“They just have this radiance of love that’s infectious,” Msgr. Kozar said of the sisters.

Bishop Gendron credited the sisters for the welcoming way the refugees accepted the delegation and invited them into their tents.

“They realized that they are being loved,” he said of the refugees. “And so it opens up all doors.”

Read more.

And to support our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East, please visit this link.

28 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

A Palestinian boy looks down at tents erected next to homes destroyed during last year's 50-day war between Israel and Hamas-led militants in a neighborhood east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 28 January. (photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

People dying in Gaza, unable to pay for home repairs (Vatican Radio) The United Nations says that Palestinian refugees in Gaza are being forced to sleep in the rubble of their homes, which were destroyed during a 50-day conflict last year, and children are dying of hypothermia…

Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah trade fire across border (Washington Post) Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia exchanged deadly barrages Wednesday across a fractious border region monitored by U.N. peacekeepers in fighting that killed at least two Israeli soldiers and one U.N. observer…

Patriarchs of Antioch: To stop the conflict, stop arms trafficking (Fides) The wars that devastate the Middle East will end only when the flow of arms and money to armed factions and terrorist groups by allies and sponsors stops, say the leaders of Eastern churches during a 27 January meeting in Bkerké…

Turkey becomes springboard for Syrians heading to Europe (Der Spiegel) Turkey has become a hub for human traffickers, with freighters picking up Syrians in the port city and smuggling them on to Europe. It’s a lucrative business built on the hardships of others. This network consists of both Syrians and Turks, and person has different responsibilities, serving as only a tiny link at the end of a long chain…

Egypt: Protests marking uprising leave 18 dead (BBC) At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters across Egypt, officials said. Three police cadets were among the dead, and dozens of protesters were also injured, the officials said. The clashes follow the death of an activist in a march in the capital Cairo on Saturday…

Tags: Egypt Lebanon Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel

26 January 2015
CNEWA staff

An Iraqi refugee family poses for a portrait in their camp in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: Don Duncan)

Jordan and Lebanon have become a temporary refuge for millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees seeking shelter after being forced to flee their homelands. But despite the time that has passed, things are not improving, says Carl Hétu, Canada National Director of Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

After a sobering two weeks in the Middle East, including time spent in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine (Gaza), it is clear to Hétu that the status quo is no longer viable. “There needs to be a new approach to help the millions of innocent lives caught in the middle,” he says. “We need to show more courage and resolve, diplomatically, and more generosity in our efforts.”

The Canadian government recently announced an increase in the number of Syrian refugees it will accept — 10,000 to be exact — and its level of humanitarian assistance for persons affected by the conflict in the region.

“The government has a responsibility to respond in such a way on behalf of Canadians,” adds Hétu. “Of course, 10,000 pales in comparison to the three million or so refugees who have spread throughout the region. Neighboring countries are doing more than their share. For example, Lebanon, a country of 4.4 million has received some 1.8 million refugees and Jordan, a country of 6.4 million people, has received more than one million refugees from Syria and Iraq.”

Hétu is back in Canada to shine light on the struggle those affected are forced to contend with on a daily basis. “One thing is clear,” he says. “Everything has changed for the worse. There’s more human suffering, more despair, more refugees, more killings, more social problems, more economic depression. But despite everything, people still have a sense of hope.”

“In Syria, the ongoing war is starving millions who are fleeing to find a better place. For those who have already fled, the unbearable present and unknown future is almost too much to bear.”

For Iraqi Christians and Yazidis who were pushed out of their ancestral villages under threat of death by radical group ISIS, they escaped with only the shirt on their backs. “They’re happy for the aid they have received so far, but how long can people live in crowded church halls divided only by curtains?”

But despite the devastation, the region is filled with stories of solidarity and hope for the future. In Gaza, for example, a Catholic school and parish took in hundreds of displaced people during the Israel-Gaza conflict — which helped to forge new relationships between the Christians and Muslims of Gaza.

As refugees and displaced wait for diplomatic solutions, their needs for basic supplies remain great. CNEWA appeals to Canadians to continue its generous support so that it can provide churches, religious communities and other groups in and around the region — on the field — in their direct assistance to those afflicted by the conflicts in the region. Canadian visitors can donate to CNEWA by visiting; U.S. visitors can visit

Tags: Middle East Christians

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