27 June 2014
Last year’s participants in the pilgrimage to the Holy Land gather in the Shepherds’ Fields near Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
On 29 June 2014, I will be blessed to travel for the second time to the Holy Land with members of the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.). We are visiting Israel and Palestine for nine days on a spiritual pilgrimage and to learn about local Christians and Christian organizations.
The Catholic Women’s League of Canada has about 90,000 members in parishes all across Canada. Through the initiative called Velma’s Dream, they are currently supporting two projects in the Holy Land: the Infant Welfare Centre in Jerusalem and Shepherd’s Field Hospital near Bethlehem, both of which we will be visiting.
Velma Harasen, former national president of the C.W.L. and namesake of “Velma’s Dream,” will be accompanying us. Ms. Harasen also came with us last year. Her vision is to encourage the Catholic Women’s League to continue to support the poor in the Holy Land.
Our group also includes Betty Anne Brown Davidson, the current C.W.L. national president; Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada’s national director; the Rev. Vincent Pereira of the Archdiocese of Ottawa; and participants from as far west as British Columbia and as far east as Quebec.
I look forward to this exciting trip, as we walk in the footsteps of Pope Francis, who made a recent pastoral visit to the Holy Land in May. The Holy Father encountered local Christians, prayed with them and lovingly listened to their stories.
Two of last year’s participants shared some reflections on the trip:
“I am so grateful for this trip on so many levels — to experience the land where Jesus chose to minister, to deepen my faith in God by reflecting on his presence in me … to see what life is like as a Christian in an area of struggle.” – Angela Pomeroy, Kelowna, BC
“Wherever we went, we were continually reminded of the life of Christ in the sacred stones of the buildings we entered, but also in the “living stones,” the Christians we were so fortunate to meet. These people, living in Israel and Palestine, are desperately trying to maintain and preserve the Christian presence in the Holy Land.” – Chantal Devine, Caronport, SK
We will post an update on the blog during our trip, so stay tuned!
Learn more about Velma’s Dream on our website.
27 June 2014
Tags: Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians Canada CNEWA Canada Women
An Argentina fan wears a mask of Pope Francis as he attends the 2014 World Cup Group Final on 25 June between Argentina and Nigeria at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Argentina defeated Nigeria, 3-2. (photo: CNS/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)
27 June 2014
A girl kisses her wounded father in a hospital on 5 June after a car bomb attack the previous day in Hilla, Iraq. The bomb killed at least 14 people, police and medical sources said. (photo: CNS/Alaa al Marjani, Reuters)
Iraqi Christians live in fear of ISIS (Der Spiegel) Iraq is a culturally divided country, and in cities like Qaraqosh this division is most evident. There are few places in the Middle East that are home to as many Christians as the population of 40,000 residing here, with 12 churches rising above the city like stone sentinels. Two weeks ago, radical Islamist ISIS militants seized control of Mosul and then proceeded to advance to within seven kilometers of the Christians. The people of Qaraqosh have been living in a state of fear ever since…
Even in Iraq’s refugee camps, sectarian divide is apparent (Al Jazeera) Many of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who used to live in Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, are filling up refugee camps in the Kurdish region that — like the fighting — is itself divided along ethnic and religious lines…
Ukraine signs landmark accord with E.U. (Washington Post) Ukraine on Friday signed a landmark trade deal to bind itself to the European Union, a monumental step that came in defiance of months of Russian efforts to block the country from turning westward. The agreement will have “serious consequences” for Ukraine’s relationship with Russia, a top Russian diplomat said immediately after the signing ceremony in Brussels. The decision was also sure to complicate efforts to end more than two months of separatist violence in eastern Ukraine…
Aleppo’s water crisis adds to local suffering (Al Monitor) Aside from the horrors of indiscriminate targeting and bombing of civilians, the people of Aleppo have had to endure orchestrated campaigns of sieges and deliberate starvation. A crumbling infrastructure and collapsed public services mean that for many, what once were basics were now luxury items, well out of reach. With lack of access to utilities and basic health care, new forms of death threaten the inhabitants of this unfortunate land. Now, rebel attempts to cut the water supply to regime-held areas have backfired, disrupting drinking water supplies to the entire city…
Priest in Ethiopia decries poverty stemming from unjust economic system (Fides) Poverty in Africa is the result of a global economy based on injustice. Chronic hunger seems a completely normal phenomenon. “No one can imagine the horror of the consequences of poverty,” says Father Ángel Olaran of the White Fathers, who has been in Tanzania for twenty years and for the same number of years in one of the poorest regions of Ethiopia where people die of hunger…
Pope to ROACO: Continue work, pray for families (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches — ROACO — on Thursday. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered during the audience, Pope Francis confirmed his closeness to all the churches of the East…
26 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Aleppo Water ROACO
In this image from last fall, a woman in Lebanon clutching a rosary prays for peace.
(photo: CNS/Hasan Shaaban, Reuters)
Elizabeth Scalia, the managing editor of the Catholic portal at the spiritual website Patheos, asked me to share some thoughts with her readers about the worsening crisis among Christians in the Middle East.
The picture is grim:
Today’s headlines are dramatic; the emotion raw: “Middle East Christians Feel Abandoned.” “Beleaguered Christians Make Final Stand.” “Christians Wonder if it is Time to Leave.” “Christians Last Journey.”
As the artificial geopolitical construct that is the Middle East collapses, millions of lives are altered irrevocably and indiscriminately each day: young and old, male and female, city sophisticate and nomadic shepherd, Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Armenian, rich and poor. In Iraq and Syria — by far the largest states in the region created by the Western Allied powers after their victory in World War I — the pressure cookers once controlled by strongmen have exploded, unleashing violent forces so extreme even Al Qaeda has repudiated the bloodletting.
Iraq — once awash in cash thanks to its oil reserves — has disintegrated, its people exhausted by more than 25 years of constant war. Syria — once the bedrock of regional stability — has crumbled, its people displaced and maimed. Meanwhile, extremist militias overrun vast swaths of devastated territory to restore an Islamist empire akin to those that dominated the region for centuries.
Middle East Christians bear the brunt of these brutalities. Though descendants of those who first received the Gospel almost 600 years before the advent of Islam, Christians are perceived by the extremists as imports from the West and, therefore, as enemies of Islam. Spread from Egypt to Iraq, and numbering no more than 15 million, Middle East Christians possess neither powerful allies supplying arms, nor an exclusivist ideology capable of rallying and uniting a diverse community with distinct traditions, rites and histories. And so to survive, Middle East Christians do what they have always done during similar waves of violence in their long history: they head for the hills.
Observers describe the current wave of violence in the Middle East, and the flight of its minorities — especially its Christians — as an existential threat. Can the Middle East survive without its Christians and other minorities? Sure, but can a region thrive though overwhelmed by extremist ideologies at odds with mainstream Muslims?
Check out Elizabeth Scalia’s blog, The Anchoress, for more.
To help Iraq’s besieged Christians, visit this page. And remember them, please, in your prayers.
26 June 2014
In this image from 2011, A 53-year-old Christian mother in northern Iraq displays a photo of her son, who was killed in sectarian violence. (photo: Safin Hamed)
CNEWA has just learned that the situation in Qaraqosh, Iraq, is critical, that all 50,000 people have been evacuated and that the Syriac bishop there is negotiating between two sides for his people.
The Globe and Mail has the background:
Thousands of Iraqi Christians arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas on Thursday after Islamist militants attacked one of the last Christian enclaves in country.
A staff member from the International Organization for Migration said that between 2,000 and 3,000 people arrived Wednesday night and Thursday morning at a converted youth centre in Ain Kawa, a Christian town on the outskirts of the Kurdish capital of Erbil, that was serving as a temporary refugee-processing hub. Thousands of other Christians were reported to have sought protection with local families in Erbil and other Kurdish cities.
The refugees were fleeing an attack by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on Qaraqosh, an historic Christian town outside the city of Mosul. In recent weeks, The Sunni extremist ISIL has made stunning advances in Iraq, seizing the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, as well as border crossings to neighbouring Jordan and Syria, as it pushes towards Baghdad.
ISIL is supported by remnants of the Baath Party of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as many local Sunni Muslim tribes opposed to the Shia-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Qaraqosh residents and Kurdish officials say ISIL attacked Qaraqosh — which had been under the joint protection of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and local Christian militiamen — late Wednesday night. Although the attack was apparently repulsed, several mortar rounds landed in Qaraqosh, a town of 50,000, provoking a mass exodus.
Until Wednesday, Qaraqosh had been seen as a safe haven for Christians fleeing violence and persecution in Mosul and other cities. Many residents had moved there following a wave of murders and threats targeting Mosul’s Christians in 2008.
We reported extensively on the plight of Christian refugees in northern Iraq in ONE in 2011, in our story A New Genesis in Nineveh.
Please keep the suffering people of Iraq in your thoughts and prayers. You can also help them with a tangible gift that can help bring medicine and equipment to those in need. Visit this page to learn how you can make a difference today.
26 June 2014
In this image from 2006, Metropolitan Nicholas presides at a liturgy in honor of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Camp Nazareth, Mercer, Pennsylvania. To learn about the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, read our profile in the July 2006
issue of ONE. (photo: Lisa Kyle)
26 June 2014
Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces take their positions during clashes with the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the city of Ramadi on 19 June. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Clashes between Kurds and Islamists, Christians fleeing Qaraqosh (Fides) On 25 June, Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked the city of Qaraqosh, situated in the Nineveh Plain, about 17 miles from Mosul, home to many Chaldean Christians. The Kurdish militia repelled the attack thanks to the intervention of contingent reinforcement from Iraqi Kurdistan. Local sources consulted by Fides Agency confirm that the clashes have caused many deaths on both sides, and that since Wednesday evening, the civilian population has begun to flee en masse from Qaraqosh and other predominantly Christian villages in the region, heading towards Erbil and safer areas of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan…
Vatican embassy official talks about Syrian and Iraqi situation (Vatican Radio) Lebanon is hosting more than a million refugees from the civil war in neighboring Syria, a greater number than any other nation. More recently, the insurgency in Iraq by the ISIS Islamic militants is causing concern among many Lebanese people about the risk of further destabilization in the Middle East. Monsignor Jain Mendez, a councilor at the Apostolic Nunciature in Lebanon, spoke to Susy Hodges about those fears…
Hundreds flee Sunni advances in Iraq (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of Iraqi villagers fleeing advances by Sunni militants crowded at a checkpoint on the edge of the country’s Kurdish-controlled territory Thursday to seek shelter in the relative safety of the self-ruled region, as Britain’s top diplomat arrived in Baghdad to urge the country’s leaders to unite against the insurgent threat…
Shiite violence traps Baghdad’s Sunnis, haunted by a grim past (New York Times) For now, sectarian assassinations do not nearly approach the wholesale slaughter of the years 2005 to 2007, when as many as 100 bodies a day sometimes showed up at the morgue, some of them Shiites killed in suicide bombings but many Sunnis who had been executed by Shiite militias. Still, the specter of that grim past preys on the thoughts of Baghdad’s Sunnis, who suddenly find themselves in a Shiite-dominated city threatened by extremist Sunnis, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its allies, who want to kill all the Shiites…
Ukrainian rebels scheduled to meet with government Friday (Christian Science Monitor) Ukrainian separatist rebels have agreed to take part in further peace talks on Friday to end the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern regions, Interfax news agency said on Thursday…
Jordan shaken by threats from ISIS, Iraq, Syria (Al Monitor) Jordan has reacted swiftly to reports that the border crossing point of Treibel, on the Iraqi side, had fallen into rebel hands, including possibly fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), by beefing up military presence on the eastern front and heightening the state of alert. The Jordanian armed forces confirmed on 24 June that it has reinforced its units along the 112-mile border with Iraq. It said the action was taken after the Iraqi army withdrew from the border crossing, and that the army and security personnel were ready to deal with any contingency…
25 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees
Making sfeeha from scratch is laborious, but well worth the effort. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
In Massachusetts, you can find a thriving enclave of Armenian culture, which we reported on in 2006:
At first glance, Watertown is not unlike many of the middle-class suburbs and small towns that have sprung up around Boston. Its most imposing building is the brick post office on Main Street, which is surrounded by an array of inconspicuous office buildings and stores. Take the New England accents away, and you could be anywhere in Small Town, U.S.A.
But look closer, especially along Mount Auburn Street, another of Watertown’s major thoroughfares. There you will find the offices of lawyer Ara H. Margosian II and optometrist J.C. Baboian, the Bedrojian Funeral Home and the St. James Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenian flags — tricolors of red, blue and orange — fly above filling stations. There is a cluster of specialty groceries, all more or less like the Sevan Bakery, which advertises “Fresh lahmejune daily” and displays a list of available dips: hommus, babagounesh, muhammara, yalangy, tabouleh and tarama. You would think Watertown, population 33,000, was founded by a group of Armenian gourmands, not 17th-century English settlers.
Like other immigrant communities, the 50,000 Armenian-Americans in the Boston area are bound together by several cultural factors. There is of course religion. In Watertown alone there are four Armenian churches — two Armenian Apostolic, a Catholic and an Evangelical — and several more within a short drive. There is also language, though this cultural glue is weakening as Armenians followed the historic assimilation patterns of other immigrant groups. And there is politics, particularly the galvanizing efforts to raise awareness about the Armenian genocide, which many believe has been an overlooked tragedy of the 20th century and one that Turkey has never fully acknowledged. Food might seem a less lofty social glue, but nonetheless it may be the most enduring. After all, very few drive to Watertown from New Hampshire or Vermont to attend a political rally or a Sunday liturgy. But they do come, and in droves, to stock their pantries and freezers.
Margaret Chauushian and her husband, Gabriel, bought the Sevan Bakery 22 years ago, five years after they moved to Watertown from Istanbul. The store is dominated by a long salad bar — actually, a salad bar that has been converted into a depository of dozens of different nuts: almonds, cashews, peanuts, toasted or fresh, unsalted or salted. In the back, several men and women were making fresh lahmejunes — a thin, spicy pizza — for which the bakery is best known. The store caters to Watertown’s 7,000 Armenian-Americans, Armenian-Americans who drive in from near and far and non-Armenians who have developed a taste for the food.
“Most of our customers are Armenian, of course, but we also have a lot of Jewish customers,” Mrs. Chauushian said. “Saturday is our busiest day. We have people who drive in from all over New England.”
Read more about where you can get A Taste of Little Armenia in the July 2006 issue of ONE.
25 June 2014
By providing services like traffic management the rebels hope they can get locals to help consolidate their hold. Imran Khan reports. (video: Al Jazeera)
Iraqi prime minister rejects emergency ‘salvation’ government (BBC) Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has rejected calls for an emergency “national salvation” government to help counter jihadist-led Sunni rebels. Such calls represented a “coup against the constitution and an attempt to end the democratic experience”, he warned. The United States has led appeals to the country’s political leaders to rise above sectarian and ethnic divisions.
Ukraine helicopter shot down, ceasefire shattered (Vatican Radio) Ukrainian officials say nine people have died when a military helicopter was shot down by pro-Russia separatists, shattering a temporary ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and adding to fears of civil war…
Israel reins in West Bank military offensive (Christian Science Monitor) Israel’s military is starting to rein in its retaliatory offensive against Hamas in the West Bank amid concern that a campaign of arrests and raids following the disappearance of three teenagers may backfire by stirring Palestinian unrest. Since the abduction of three Israeli teens, Israel has arrested about 350 Palestinians, conducted sweeps of 1,800 locales, and raided 64 Islamic charities with suspected links to Hamas…
Chechen extremists threaten Jordan (Al Monitor) The exceedingly small number of foreign heads of state who have visited Grozny, the capital city of Russia’s Chechen Republic, increased by one last week when Jordan’s King Abdullah II met there with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Though neither side offered any real detail on their discussions, the central topic may have been a profound one for the Middle East. According to Chechnya’s regional government, tens of thousands of Chechens live in Jordan, in itself an important topic for the leader of this relatively small ethnic group. Hardened veterans of Chechnya’s two unsuccessful wars for independence from post-Soviet Russia have become a significant component within the groups of international extremist Islamist fighters ranging across the Middle East and South Asia…
24 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Jordan War Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Some of the more than 500 sets of twins are seen on 19 June taking part in the feast of Sts. Gervasis and Prothasis, patron saints of twins, at the parish of the same name in Kothanalloor, India. The church was dedicated in 1599 to the twin saints of the second century. To learn more about this unusual feast, visit the parish’s website. (photo: CNS/courtesy Kothanalloor parish)
Tags: India Kerala