1 May 2015
In this image from February, U.S. European Commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove conducts a news briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Gen. Breedlove said yesterday Russian-backed forces appear to be preparing for a new offensive in Ukraine.
(photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
NATO commander sees threat of offensive in Ukraine (The Wall Street Journal) NATO’s military chief said that Russia-backed forces appear to be “preparing, training and equipping” for a potential new offensive in eastern Ukraine, even as European leaders said the conflict there was entering a “political phase.” U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s top commander, said Thursday that the separatist forces have been using the relative lull in fighting since a cease-fire was signed in February to regroup. “These preparations are consistent with the possibility of an offensive,” Gen. Breedlove said at a Pentagon news conference. “And that is what we have seen through several of the previous pauses in eastern Ukraine...”
Cardinal: world community must not resign itself to the tragedy of the Middle East (VIS) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, spoke at the opening of the Symposium “Christians in the Middle East: what future?,” organised by the Sant’Egidio Community and the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, Italy. In his address, the cardinal remarked that many Christians in the East, hearing just a few days ago the story of Pilate’s famous gesture of washing his hands, “may have thought of the indifference and inaction to which the international community appears to have resigned itself before the tragedies that have for some years now been wearing away at Syria and Iraq.” He added, “it is also saddening to see the incapacity of leaders in Lebanon, even those who are Christians, to arrive at consensus on the new president on the basis of a line of conduct due less to conscience than to the weighty influences of the forces that compete for supremacy in the area...”
“Freedom Flotilla” reportedly set to sail for Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Three ships are expected to set sail for Gaza this summer as part of a humanitarian mission to Gaza, Ma’an News Agency reported Friday. Details of the mission, coined “Freedom Flotilla III,” remain under the radar. Berawi Zaher, coordinator of the international mission, told Ma’an that its details, including the ships’ departure time and fleet location, will not be released in an effort to hamper Israeli authorities from intervening and exerting international pressure to halt the execution of the mission...
Religious leaders call for calm during elections in Ethiopia (The Turkish Weekly) Leaders of seven Ethiopian religious institutions on Wednesday issued joint calls for peace and calm during parliamentary polls slated for 24 May. “The age-old culture of understanding, tolerance and peaceful co-existence in the face of diversity should be maintained in the political competition,” Zerihun Degu, secretary-general of the Ethiopian Interfaith Council, said at a meeting in Addis Ababa...
30 April 2015
Tags: Ukraine Ethiopia Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank
Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, a leading Catholic authority on Islam, is now teaching a course on the Quran in Ohio. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press)
One of the leading Catholic authorities on Islam — someone, in fact, who may be familiar to readers of ONE — is now teaching a course about the religion. NPR has the story:
As a 12-year-old Catholic boy growing up in England, Michael Fitzgerald decided he wanted to be a missionary in Africa. Eight years later, he was studying theology and learning Arabic in Tunisia.
He went on to devote his priestly ministry to the promotion of interfaith understanding between Muslims and Christians, and became one of the top Roman Catholic experts on Islam. He has served as the archbishop of Tunisia, the papal nuncio — effectively a Vatican ambassador — in Cairo, and the Vatican’s delegate to the Arab League.
For years, Fitzgerald has been urging his fellow Christians to acquaint themselves with Islam and its holy book, the Quran. It has been a challenging mission at a time when many non-Muslims associate Islam with violence and when many Muslims think the West has declared war on their faith.
As a priest serving in Africa, Fitzgerald often was responsible for representing the interests of Christians in majority-Muslim states, but at the same time he demonstrated enough knowledge and appreciation of Islam that Muslims occasionally turned to him for insights into their own faith. “The more you understand a religion, the better it is,” Fitzgerald says, “whether it’s Christians studying Islam or Christians studying Christianity or Muslims studying Christianity. I think this helps in your relations.”
As a university professor in Uganda, his classes on Islam included some Muslim students.
“I said to the students ‘I’m not here to teach you anything — I’m here to help you to learn, and to understand your own religion better,’” Fitzgerald says. “‘I said ‘You don’t have to agree with me, but if you contest what I’m saying to you, then you have to have good arguments, not just, “Oh, our parents have always said this” — that’s not enough.’”
Now retired, the archbishop has turned his attention to writing and lecturing; this spring, he is a guest instructor at John Carroll University, a Jesuit institution in Cleveland, where he is teaching a course on the Quran to a small group of undergraduate and graduate students.
In his class he often highlights differences between Christianity and Islam, though in such a way as to encourage respect for distinctive Muslim approaches.
“In our ceremonies we read the scripture — the Gospel is read,” he said in a recent classroom session. “In Islamic prayer, it is not read, it is recited. The imam has to know the Quran. So it’s very good to become a ...,” and then Fitzgerald wrote the word hafiz on the blackboard, explaining that it means someone who has memorized the Quran from start to finish.
Read more about his class at NPR.
30 April 2015
Raghad, a refugee from Mosul, Iraq, feeds her 4-year-old son Rami at St. Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Church in Jordan. Meet Iraqi refugees and learn how CNEWA is trying to help them in “Finding Sanctuary in Jordan” in the Spring edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
30 April 2015
In this image from last summer, residents near Kramatorsk, Ukraine, carry empty buckets and bottles to have them filled with potable water. The World Bank this week reported that Ukraine’s economy is in ruins and faces years of recession. (photo: CNS/Valentina Svistunova, EPA)
Pope urges Catholics to spread culture of justice, peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday urged Italian Catholics to spread a culture of justice and peace, support families in difficulties and show solidarity with the world’s poorest and most needy. His words came during an audience with two Catholic associations, the Community of Christian Life in Italy and the Missionary League for Italian Students...
Ukraine’s economy “in ruins” (The Telegraph) Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia has left the country facing years of recession as the country struggles to break ties with Moscow and implement structural reforms, the World Bank has warned. The Washington-based organization cut its 2015 growth forecast to -7.5 percent, following a contraction of 6.8 percent in 2014. Last October, it forecast that the Ukrainian economy would shrink by 1 percent this year, while the International Monetary Fund has forecast a contraction of 5.5 percent this year...
Court sentences 71 to life imprisonment for destroying church in Egypt (Egypt Daily News) The Giza Criminal Court sentenced, on Wednesday, 71 people to life on charges of attacking and burning a Church in Kerdasa. The court also sentenced two minors to 10 years in prison. They are charged with burning the Kafr Hakim Church in the village of Kerdasa on 14 August 2013, in the post-Rabaa Al-Adaweya dispersal violence. They are also charged with joining an illegal group, possession of weapons, and attempted murder...
Toronto Ethiopians rally against ISIS brutality (Catholic Register) Close to 1,000 Ethiopian immigrants — a mix of Orthodox, Protestant and Muslim — gathered in the late afternoon and evening of 28 Apri in Dundas Square to mourn together the death of two Ethiopian migrant workers murdered 19 April in Libya by Islamic State militants. The Ethiopians also came to appeal to Canadians and the international community to do more to protect vulnerable Ethiopian migrants under attack in Yemen and South Africa and subject to grave risks as they try to reach Europe in rusted, leaky boats crossing the Mediterranean...
29 April 2015
Sister Najma and Sister Sara greet visitors to the Mother of Mercy Clinic, Zerqa, Jordan.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
The 29th of April marks the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th-century Dominican nun whose short life — she died when she was just 33 — was marked by determination, mysticism and unwavering faith. She was also known for her tireless works of charity:
The mystical communion that was at the heart of St. Catherine’s spirituality inspired her to reach out to the poor and suffering of Siena. When the Black Death swept through her city, she had no hesitation in caring for the victims. She worked as a nurse. She dug graves for those who died of the plague and then buried them properly herself. She accompanied prisoners who were condemned to death to the place of execution waiting with them and praying for them to the end.
In our own day, the courageous and sacrificial spirit of St. Catherine lives on in the order that bears her name, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, based in Iraq. Today, they are caring for the displaced, the frightened, the sick, the orphaned — their brothers and sisters who have fled ISIS.
As we have reported, these generous sisters are the face of Christ to so many who are suffering — and the sisters themselves, despite fleeing their convent in Qaraqosh last summer, are now reaching out to help others in Iraq.
They are also serving refugees who have sought sanctuary in Jordan, at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, where many of the patients are young mothers and newborns:
Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable.
“We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality.
“We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”
And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims... People come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.
“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.
“Our mission here is for everyone,” she adds. “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 is what we need to know.”
St. Catherine must surely be proud.
To assist the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and other courageous sisters in their mission, visit this giving page. And — this day in particular — join them in prayers of praise and thanksgiving to St. Catherine, whose life and work has inspired so many good works in CNEWA’s world.
29 April 2015
Lacking their own church in Tbilisi, Georgia, Armenian Catholics often celebrate the liturgy at Sts. Peter and Paul Latin Catholic Church. Meet the Rev. Mikael Khachkalian, the only Armenian Catholic priest in Tbilisi — pictured above — by checking out the profile of him in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
29 April 2015
In this image from last summer, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter, the Maronite patriarch, blesses a baby in Erbil, Iraq. The blessing took place in one of the churches housing the more than 100,000 Christians and minorities displaced in the country by the advance of
Islamist militants. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)
Gaza protestors beaten, detained by Hamas officials (The New York Times) A rare show of defiance against Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, was quelled on Wednesday as men who appeared to be Hamas security officials beat some protesters and detained others, witnesses said...
Cardinal: Christian exodus from Middle East will weaken moderate Islam (CNS) The exodus of Christians from the Middle East — due to wars, conflicts, socio-economic crises and persecution — will weaken moderate Islam “which, thanks to the Islamic-Christian conviviality, is so far the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East,” said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter. Speaking at UNESCO in Paris on 25 April, the cardinal said Christians were “irreplaceable peacemakers” and, without them, “Islam will fall into the hands of fundamentalists.” He called on Europe and the international community “to ensure that Christians remain in their countries...”
Pope: Christians should kneel before the poor (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Tuesday that poverty is the great teaching Jesus gave us and we can find his face among the poor and needy. Stressing that the poor are not a burden but a resource, he said he wished that both the city of Rome and the local Church community could be more attentive, caring and considerate towards those in need and that Christians could kneel before a poor person...
Egypt to let Christians start work later on Sundays (Fides) A legal ruling has reaffirmed the right of Christian workers to start work at 10 on Sundays, in order to allow them to participate in the Sunday Eucharistic liturgy. This was reported by Coptic sources consulted by Agenzia Fides...
First ‘Lourdes Grotto’ to be dedicated in Jordan (Fides) The first shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes in Jordanian territory is located in the parish of the Sacred Heart in Nour, 24 kilometers south of Amman, and will be inaugurated on Saturday 2 May with the recitation of the Rosary and with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem...
28 April 2015
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Muslim
Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu, left, attends 5:30 morning prayer in the chapel of her convent
in Bahir Dar. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Name: Sister Ayelech
Order: Daughters of Charity
Facility: Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School
Location: Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Nearly 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 14 attend the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia — and the woman responsible for them all is Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu. A member of the Daughters of Charity, Sister Ayelech has a special mission to “serve the poorest of the poor.” This includes making regular visits to 30 poor families, whose children attend the school. Some of the parents have tested positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.
The sisters who serve the school live in a residence in the poorest corner of Bahir Dar, located about 350 miles northwest of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.
ONE contributor Petterik Wiggers recently contacted Sister Ayelech, who described her vocation, her mission and her hopes for the children in her care:
I have been in Bahir Dar for 13 years. As a Daughter of Charity, we go wherever we are sent. We obey, we are obedient; we don’t refuse. Now that we are here, we are happy. We don’t know our next station.
I have never regretted my decision, never. I didn’t care about other things. I don’t really care about getting married, having children. My family taught me to be kind and how to help others. And also, the first sister I worked with, she was a good example to me.
My work brings me satisfaction. The children continue studying, and some of them go to university. But it is first the will of God that is most important to me. God is very good to me. He made so many things happen to me in my life, so many things that I couldn’t have done by myself. God is always with me. Every day, he is with me.
I think God has given me the gift to lead. But I have struggled to lead, to reach this place. I have made a lot of mistakes, many times. Every day is a struggle. Every day we are trying to change. We are trying to live for God. We fail on a daily basis. We argue with the sisters. We argue with people in the work place. In spite of all this, forgiveness is there — we forgive each other. We are trying to do our work for God. We try to help each other in our spiritual life and in community life, too.
You can read more in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE.
Sister Ayelech’s life has been enriched immeasurably by her vocation — and the loving generosity of the donors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association has enriched the lives of so many she graciously serves.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the great work of women like Sister Ayelech, click here.
28 April 2015
Residents of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ orphanage in Egypt take a break from their studies. To learn more about the orphanage, and how it is recovering from violence in the region, read “Out of the Ashes” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
28 April 2015
A Palestinian boy sits on a chair in the ruins of a house on 28 April in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaia, destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the summer of 2014. (photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
U.N. report says Israel struck Gaza shelters (BBC) At least 44 Palestinians were killed by “Israeli actions” while sheltering at seven United Nations schools during last summer’s war in Gaza, a U.N. inquiry has found…
Palestinians in Israel demand end to home demolitions (Daily Star Lebanon) In a demonstration on Tuesday, hundreds of people protested in Tel Aviv against demolitions targeting Palestinian-owned houses. Protests by Israel’s Palestinians occur frequently, but seldom have they taken place in Tel Aviv, in a central square that typically hosts demonstrations for causes championed by Jewish Israelis…
Muslims raise funds to build Coptic church in Cairo (Christian Today) Muslims in Egypt have donated money towards the building of a Coptic church in the Monufia governorate, north of Cairo, signaling another step towards solidarity in a country previously divided along sectarian lines. Coptic Orthodox Bishop Benyamin began a collection of donations for the church, which will be dedicated to the Virgin Mary…
Sinai Islamist groups threaten Copts for supporting Egyptian president (Fides) A threat issued to Copts in the Sinai peninsula states that they must leave their homes if they do not want to die. People identifying with militant Islamic fundamentalist groups spread this threat across social networks…
Armenians in Lebanon keep their culture, memory of 1915 heroism alive (Los Angeles Times) The priest unlocks the door to a musty room, home to the ghosts of Moses Mountain, a lost place where determined townsfolk once gathered with hunting rifles and faced down an imperial army. A glass-and-wood frame secures a white flag emblazoned with a fading red cross, a symbol of resistance and survival celebrated in Armenian lore. Laid out on tables and shelves are prized artifacts: a chalice, rusted farming implements, an ancient rifle and black funeral boxes holding remains of those who were killed fighting the Turks 100 years ago. “Here, you can feel our ancestors’ presence,” said the Rev. Ashod Karakashian, 82, who came here from Turkey as a boy and has few direct memories of his homeland. But he lives daily with its legacy…
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Violence against Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Christian-Muslim relations