7 October 2014
A destroyed car sits outside a school in Homs, Syria. Two car bombs exploded near the school on 1 October, killing at least 47 students. (photo: CNS/courtesy Jesuit Refugee Service)
Jesuit based in Syria urges caution as Canada debates military action (Catholic Register) As Canada debated joining the United States and other nations in military intervention to stop Islamic State militants, a Jesuit priest based in Syria urged caution and called for renewed efforts to find peace. “I am not a political man,” said the Jesuit Rev. Ziad Hilal, pastor of Holy Savior Parish in Homs and project manager for Jesuit Refugee Service. “What I want to say, the Syrian people need peace and security…”
Syrian priest and Christians kidnapped by fighters linked to Al Nusra (Fides) The Franciscan Fathers of the Custody of the Holy Land confirm that the Rev. Hanna Jallouf, O.F.M., parish priest in Knayeh, was taken by some brigades linked to Al Nusra Front on 5 October. Along with Father Hanna, several men of the Christian village were also taken. The number of those who were kidnapped is not specified…
Syria border town ‘about to fall’ as hundreds dead (Daily Star Lebanon) Jihadists are on the verge of seizing the key Syrian border town of Kobane, Turkey warned Tuesday after a three-week assault by ISIS that has left hundreds reported dead…
Islamic State using water as a weapon in Iraq (Washington Post) The Islamic State militants who have rampaged across northern Iraq are increasingly using water as a weapon, cutting off supplies to villages resisting their rule and pressing to expand their control over the country’s water infrastructure. The threat from the jihadists is so critical that U.S. forces are bombing the militants close to both the Mosul and Haditha dams — Iraq’s largest — on a near-daily basis. But the radical Islamists continue to menace both facilities…
Chaldean bishop: ‘Our people have been abandoned’ (Aid to the Church in Need) The Government of Iraq is guilty of not helping Christians desperate to flee Islamic State militia, according to a leading Catholic bishop from the country. Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said Iraq’s national government in Baghdad “has done nothing, absolutely nothing” for 120,000 Christians seeking sanctuary away from areas terrorized by the extremists…
Pope Francis convokes consistory on Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday convoked a consistory of cardinals and patriarchs to discuss the situation facing Christians in the Middle East. The consistory will take place in the Vatican on 20 October…
‘What truce?’ ask residents of Donetsk, where battles continue to rage (Euronews) A ceasefire may still be officially in place in eastern Ukraine, but try telling that to the owners of burning homes in Donetsk. Battles are raging unabated between Ukrainian forces and separatist fighters, mainly around the city’s airport. And nearby neighborhoods are often caught in the crossfire…
6 October 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Iraqi Christians
Men gather for class in Navachaithanya, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center established in 1991 by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda, in Kerala. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Al Jazeera recently published this video, calling attention to Kerala’s high rates of alcohol abuse:
In the July 2005 issue of ONE, we shined a spotlight on this issue, and on one institution the Syro-Malabar Church created to help address this problem:
Kerala has the highest consumption of alcohol per capita in the country (about 20 percent of Indians drink alcohol, and of that number 5 percent are alcoholics, reported The Hindustan Times last year). Each year, the state consumes 2.2 gallons of liquor per capita, about three times the national rate, according to India’s Outlook magazine.
“In Kerala, people tend to start drinking once they are 18 years old, which is the legal age for being able to purchase liquor,” said Father Titus Kattuparambil, a Syro-Malabar priest of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda and assistant director of Navachaithanya.
“Among the bad cases, you’ll see people who earn about three dollars a day, and they’ll blow two dollars of that on alcohol.”
Both national and local governments have acknowledged the problem of alcoholism, and alcohol advertising is illegal. Kerala’s state government also funds several detoxification centers at public hospitals. But at the same time, Father Titus pointed out, the government in Kerala — as in other Indian states — draws revenue from liquor taxes and therefore has a fiscal disincentive to curb alcohol consumption.
Nonetheless, in 1996 the state government banned the consumption of arrack, a potent liquor made from fermented palm sap (and not to be confused with the arak liquor of the Arab world). The government thought the ban on arrack, which is much stronger than toddy, would help curb alcoholism. The prohibition, however, only encouraged illegal traffic and production. Hundreds of Keralites have been killed or blinded from drinking bad batches of home-brewed arrack. And alcohol consumption continues to rise.
It has largely been left to religious organizations and NGOs to treat Kerala’s alcoholics.
“Alcohol has always been a problem here, it’s not just recently,” said Syro-Malabar Bishop James Pazhayattil of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda. “Several years ago, people approached me about the problem in our community and we started Navachaithanya.” Since then, the center has treated more than 8,000 men for alcoholism or drug addiction, though alcohol is by far the area’s larger problem.
Read the rest here.
6 October 2014
Tags: India Kerala Health Care Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Alcoholism
In this June photo, Islamic State fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The United Nations reported that the Islamic State has committed a “staggering array” of human rights abuses in Iraq, causing many in Mosul to flee. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Mosul residents fear U.S. airstrikes and sectarian revenge (Christian Science Monitor) Four months after a band of Sunni jihadists captured their city with shocking ease, residents of Mosul are bracing for possible United States-led airstrikes. As the U.S. and its allies have stepped up a bombing campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State, Sunni residents of Mosul say militants have lowered their profile and switched up tactics…
Most ISIS ammunition from U.S. and China (New York Times) In its campaign across northern Syria and Iraq, the jihadist group Islamic State has been using ammunition from the United States and other countries that have been supporting the regional security forces fighting the group, according to new field data gathered by a private arms-tracking organization. This suggests that ammunition transferred into Syria and Iraq to help stabilize governments has instead passed from the governments to the jihadists, helping to fuel the Islamic State’s rise and persistent combat power…
Kurds repel attack on Syrian town (Daily Star Lebanon) Kurdish forces defending a Syrian town near the Turkish border clashed with the Islamic State Monday after repelling a wide-ranging militant assault the day before in battles that left dozens dead on both sides…
Hezbollah pushes back Syrian militant offensive in Bekaa (Yahoo! News) At least 16 insurgents from Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Al Nusra Front, were killed in clashes with Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on Sunday after launching a major offensive, a source close to Hezbollah said…
Abbas pushes U.N. statehood plan forward (Al Monitor) Palestinians seek to restart negotiations with Israel, on equal footing. “Permanent status negotiations between the state of Palestine and the state of Israel is what we want to see in 2015,” said a senior political Palestinian source in Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority will move forward on four tracks toward a “make it or break it” year…
Many killed as rebels storm Ukraine’s Donetsk airport (Vatican Radio) At least some 12 pro-Russian rebels have reportedly been killed in fighting around the airport of Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk. Pro-Russian rebels could be seen dragging the body of a fellow fighter to a truck in one of the bloodiest clashes since a ceasefire was agreed last month…
3 October 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Lebanon Palestine
In Gangapar, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a brick house protects the children of Jasvir Singh from floods. The children attend a school run by the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Bijnor and funded by CNEWA. To read more about life in Gangapar, read Caste Aside, published in the Summer 2014 issue of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
3 October 2014
Tags: India Children Indian Christians Indian Catholics Catholic education
A Syrian Kurdish family walks through a border crossing on 29 September to return to their home in the Syrian city of Kobane, on the Turkish-Syrian border. A Syrian priest on a U.S. mission trip says amid ongoing death and destruction in the Middle East, the Catholic Church continues to provide spiritual and material support for those in need. (photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
Islamic State steps up attack on Syrian town of Kobane (BBC) Heavy fighting is being reported between Kurdish militiamen and Islamic State militants advancing on the northern Syrian town of Kobane. A BBC correspondent across the border in Turkey saw explosions and smoke rising from buildings hit by shells…
Hama maintains its calm amid Syrian storm (Al Monitor) Residents of the city of Hama, 30 miles north of Homs, call it “the city of the massacre,” but it is still far from the battles continuing in the surrounding countryside. Since the Syrian army stormed the city in early August 2011, relative calm has prevailed in the city that witnessed some of the largest peaceful protests against the Syrian regime…
Sweden to recognize state of Palestine (Reuters) Sweden’s new center-left government will recognize the state of Palestine in a move that will make it the first major European country to take the step, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday…
Aid worker killed in Donetsk as fighting continues over besieged airport (Al Jazeera) Amid fierce fighting around the besieged Donetsk airport Thursday, a Swiss aid worker was killed as conflict between government forces and advancing pro-Russian rebels in the city intensified. The Red Cross employee died when a shell landed at the organization’s office in a separatist-held part of the eastern Ukrainian city. “We’re deeply distressed by this loss,” Ewan Watson, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Reuters…
Pope to Church of the East patriarch: We are close in faith, persecution (Vatican Radio) “No religious, political or economic motives can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” said Pope Francis said Thursday, describing what is happening to Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria as “daily persecution.” The remark was addressed to Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Church of the East — one of the oldest Christian churches, tracing its roots back to the first century in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey…
2 October 2014
Tags: Syria Ukraine Palestine Ecumenism Sweden
Displaced people fleeing violence in Iraq walk toward the Syrian border town of Elierbeh. Pope Francis opened a three-day summit on 2 October on the violence and persecution underway in the Middle East, saying arms trafficking was the root cause of many problems in the region. To help those Iraqis who have been displaced, please visit this page. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
2 October 2014
In the video above, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak discusses the situation in Ukraine.
Read more about the bishop and his reflections on his homeland
in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE. (video: CNS)
Papal representatives in the Middle East gather in the Vatican (VIS) The papal representatives in the Middle East are meeting in the Vatican from 2 to 4 October, at the Holy Father’s behest, to discuss the presence of Christians in the region, due to the grave situation that has prevailed in recent months. The meeting began this morning at the Secretariat of State and was attended by the Superiors of the Secretariat of State and the Roman Curia directly linked with the issue, as well as the Holy See Permanent Observers at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the apostolic nuncio to the European Union...
Pope to Assyrian Patriarch: we are close in faith, persecution (Vatican Radio) “No religious, political or economic motives can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children:” that’s what Pope Francis said Thursday, calling what is happening to Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria “daily persecution”...
Ukraine rebels seek to capture Donetsk airport (BBC) Rebel forces in eastern Ukraine are conducting an offensive to capture the government-held airport in Donetsk, officials say. Pro-Russian rebels have tried several times in recent weeks to take the airport, which lies to the north-west of the city, despite an official truce. The Ukrainian military said the rebels were moving on “a broad front.” However a spokesman denied claims they had taken a large part of the airport and insisted it was not surrounded...
Pope speaks to Eritreans, expresses support for migrants (CNS) People need to open their hearts to the many people who are forced to migrate as they face enormous difficulties and sometimes tragedy, Pope Francis said. “I pray for closed hearts that they may open. And everything I have available to me, is available to you,” he told a group of young Eritreans who survived a deadly shipwreck off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. The pope met with 20 survivors and their family members at the Vatican on 1 October, just a few days shy of the anniversary of the 3 October 2013, disaster...
Gaza portraits: what I saved from the rubble (The Guardian) Tanks and airstrikes blasted holes in people’s homes, offering us a glimpse into their lives, and these evocative images of Gaza residents show them with cherished items salvaged from the devastation...
Saudi Arabia: 2 million Muslim pilgrims arriving at Mecca for hajj (AP) Saudi Arabia sought to assure the public that the kingdom was Ebola-free as an estimated 2 million Muslims streamed into a sprawling tent city near Mecca on Thursday for the start of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage...
Hindu temple reportedly purified after low-caste government minister visits (Reuters) The government in the Indian state of Bihar has ordered an investigation after reports that a Hindu temple was cleaned and its idols washed after a visit by the state’s chief minister (governor), who belongs to a lower caste community...
1 October 2014
Tags: Syria Ukraine Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank Eritrea
Local residents stand next to the debris of a house hit by a mortar shell from the Syrian side of the border in Alanyurt village near the Turkish-Syrian border on 29 September. A Syrian priest on a U.S. mission trip says amid ongoing death and destruction in the Middle East, the Catholic Church continues to provide spiritual and material support for those in need.
(photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
The military attacks on Syria are having a powerful impact on the lives of ordinary families:
After telling parishioners and students in the religious education program at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Parish about what is happening in Syria, Father Rodrigo Miranda was impressed that a 13-year-old girl was one of the first to respond.
“She came up to me and immediately asked: ‘What can we do to help?’” said Father Miranda, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
As the current pastor at the cathedral in Aleppo, Syria, Father Miranda is hoping that all Catholics would be just as quick to generously respond to the needs of fellow Christians in the Middle East.
For the past three years, he said, Aleppo has been embroiled in a violent civil war that has destroyed the once-thriving Syrian city that is home to about 2.5 million people. While the vast majority of inhabitants are Muslim, Father Miranda said there is a small contingent of Christians living in Aleppo. “A few years ago, I’d say maybe 15 percent of the population was Christian,” Father Miranda told The Anchor, newspaper of the Fall River diocese. “Now, I think it’s closer to 10 percent, if not less. We are clearly the minority within the community.”
He said that not only are Christians in the minority, they often find themselves caught in the middle of the warring factions on either side of the conflict. More than 70,000 people — mostly civilians — have been killed and more than 3 million Syrians have been displaced since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. In addition, some 1.1 million people have taken refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
“The problem is you have Palestinians on one side, Arabs on the other, and the Christians are stuck in the middle,” Father Miranda said. “Both sides have preconceptions about the other,” he added.
“People have their own beliefs and they don’t understand or appreciate the other’s style of life.” While “everyone receives some form of help from the United Nations,” Father Miranda said Christians must rely solely on the Catholic Church for support. “Our mission (in Syria) is to evangelize the culture,” Father Miranda said. “We are trying to bring Christ to the people. We go to the places where the church can’t go due to circumstances.”
Read more about what CNEWA is doing to help the men, women and children of Syria here. And to offer your support, visit this page.
1 October 2014
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, addresses the 69th U.N. General Assembly in New York on 29 September. (photo: CNS/Mike Segar, Reuters)
Dilemma for Iraqi Christians: stay or go? (Wall Street Journal) As America again gears up for deeper military involvement in the Middle East, many Chaldeans are engaged in a fateful debate: Either get as many people out of Iraq as possible to safe havens, such as the United States, or stay and fight, possibly with U.S. help. Iraq’s minority groups, including Christians, are more vocally pressing the Iraqi central government to set up militias to protect from Islamic militants. The militias would be part of a U.S.-backed plan for a national guard, but has met with resistance from Iraq’s government which fears militias may further destabilize the fragile country...
Holy See: World needs a revitalized United Nations (Vatican Radio) The conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine demand a revitalized United Nations where member states put their responsibility to protect persecuted peoples above personal interests and thoroughly apply international law, according to the Vatican Secretary of State...
Israelis rethink life along Gaza border after war (Wall Street Journal) The mortar shell hit the roof of the Tragerman family home in the last days of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Their cars were already packed to flee, but it was too late for their 4-year-old son Daniel who lay on the floor dead. Thousands fled Israel’s kibbutz communities during the 50-day conflict that turned the Gaza Strip and the border region inside Israel into a war zone, according to Kibbutz Movement, the group that represents the collectives and organized evacuations for those on the Gaza border. Most of them have since returned. But after the death of Daniel, the Tragerman family said it won't go back to the border...
Over 400 corpses found in mass grave in Ukraine (International Business Times) Some 400 bodies, mostly of civilians, were taken to the morgues of Donetsk and other cities in eastern Ukraine now controlled by pro-Russian rebel militias after they were retrieved from mass graves, the insurgents said on Monday. “Currently there are about 400 bodies in morgues, 350 of which are of civilians, and many are in such a state that they cannot be identified,” said the deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, Andrei Purgin...
Hostility toward refugees in Lebanon growing (Fides) “The effects of the uncontrolled influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon opens a disturbing scenario,” says the Rev. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon. “The concern has reached the warning level. Among the local population, hostility towards refugees continues to grow, after arms were found in refugee camps...”
30 September 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel
Good Shepherd Sister Micheline speaks to the Syrian students in Bechouat, Lebanon. CNEWA — through its generous benefactors — supports the ongoing work of the Good Shepherd Sisters with Syrian refugees. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, Michel Constantin, has just filed a comprehensive report on Syria that highlights this agency’s activities on behalf of Syrian families displaced within Syria and those now living in Lebanon.
“Since May 2012, CNEWA has disbursed U.S. $1,799,767 for more than 24,069 needy displaced Syrian families and 24,234 children,” he reports. “In 2014, CNEWA has thus far disbursed U.S. $553,109 to assist around 6,324 Syrian displaced families inside Syria and Lebanon.” These funds:
- Provided milk and diapers for newborn infants and also for children under 14 years old; this need was identified and prioritized by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Homs,Tartous and Damascus, in addition to the Daughters of Charity of Besançon in Damascus. This program reached around 2,525 children in four locations.
Provided daily breakfast and school kits for some 5,000 displaced students in 11 educational centers in the district of Homs, the Valley of Christians and Aleppo in coordination with the Jesuit Fathers in Homs, the Paulist Fathers in the Valley of Christians and the Maronite clergy in Aleppo.
Distributed winter clothing and blankets to some 2,500 displaced families in the area of Damascus, Homs, Tartous and Latakia.
Provided heating fuel for 400 families in Aleppo through coordination with the Society of St. Vincent DePaul in Aleppo.
Distributed food packages for around 1,740 Christian families recently displaced to downtown Aleppo, through coordination with the Marist Fathers in Aleppo and the Maronite Archeparchy of Aleppo.
Offered trauma healing and catechetical activities to around 900 children in 4 parishes (Maamoura, Qusayr, Hamra and Dmeineh) located in Qalamoun, recently recuperated by the government. This program was implemented through coordination with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Homs and the Greek Catholic Bishop Abdo Arbash of Homs.
Supported two Christian Armenian schools in the village of Kessab to repair damages to allow 260 Armenian students to be reenrolled in their schools after the liberation of Kessab from the Islamic militants.
Provided potable water tanks and food ratios to 514 Syrian families in Deir el Ahmar, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, through coordination with the Good Shepherd Sisters in the Bekaa.
Provided programs offering psychological and spiritual support to mothers and children and 155 families as follows:
155 Assyrian — Syriac Orthodox and other Syriac Christian — families displaced from Syria and settled in the suburbs of Beirut.
350 Armenian Syrian mothers and 105 children settled in Bourj Hammoud and the surrounding areas northeast of Beirut.
Provided educational support to 970 children as follows:
486 school kits to 486 children including school uniforms, sports suits, shoes, stationery and books.
484 Syrian and Lebanese children with summer school and tutorial/remedial classes to strengthen their learning capacities to betterintegrate in Lebanese schools and follow the Lebanese academic curriculum.
“CNEWA’s operational approach relies on partnering with church affiliated groups (parish priests, congregations, patriarchal representatives, bishops, lay societies and others) that are already active and efficient in collecting the necessary data,” he writes, “can implement the program (purchasing, packaging, distribution, etc.), and have the capacity to report back in a timely manner.”
There’s much more here. To help CNEWA continue its good work for displaced Syrian families, click here.
Tags: Syria Refugees CNEWA War Relief