13 June 2013
Residents walk near a damaged church on 8 June in Qusayr, Syria, on their way to inspect their houses and collect their belongings. Fierce fighting in the area in the past three weeks left dozens of rebels, troops and Hezbollah fighters dead. (photo: CNS/Rami Bleibel, Reuters)
Conflicts in Syria, Mali pose unprecedented threats to children (United Nations) Despite efforts to protect children living in war-affected countries, the evolving character and tactics of conflict are creating unprecedented threats for children, particularly in Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic, a top United Nations envoy said today. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on children and armed conflict reviews situations in 21 countries. On Syria, Mr. Ban said in his annual report that the toll the conflict is taking on children is “unacceptable and unbearable,” and urging immediate measures to protect the lives and dignity of all children…
As Syrian crisis grows, donors are in short supply (Los Angeles Times) Facing a growing humanitarian crisis, international relief agency Oxfam set a goal in January of raising $53 million to aid victims of Syria’s brutal civil war. So far, Americans have contributed $150,000. Oxfam isn’t alone. Mercy Corps has collected $900,000 for Syrian refugees during the 27 months of the war, a fraction of the $2.5 million raised in a few weeks in 2006 during the one-month war between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Other aid groups report similar low levels of response — a sharp contrast to Americans’ usual warmhearted giving to help victims of foreign earthquakes, floods and wars. The stinginess reflects the murky nature of the Syrian war…
Palestine decries Israel’s new outpost plan (Al Jazeera) An Israeli settlement push in the occupied West Bank, involving the building of 1,000 new homes in two new settlements, is “killing the two state solution,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah today. Earlier in the day, an Israeli settlers’ council asked Israeli zoning authorities in the occupied territory to approve the building of 550 housing units in Bruchin, an unauthorized outpost granted legal status by Israel last year…
Ethiopian Orthodox patriarch’s visit to Egypt postponed (Fides) Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Mathias I has postponed his visit to Egypt originally planned for 17 June. This act disconfirms the rumors circulating about the possibility of an “ecclesial mediation” carried out by Abune Mathias and Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II on the thorny issue of the Grand Renaissance Dam, which is causing tension in the relations between Egypt and Ethiopia…
Coptic leaders to attend 30 June protests (Egypt Independent) Senior leaders in Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church denominational council have announced they will join opposition groups’ 30 June protests to demand early presidential elections. However, the church establishment has not urged Copts to attend demonstrations, preferring to leave it to each member of the congregations personal convictions…
12 June 2013
Tags: Children Palestine Syrian Civil War Donors Coptic Orthodox Church
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Pope Francis is presented with a leather Harley Davidson jacket during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 12 June. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
It’s not unusual for Pope Francis to receive gifts from people during his weekly audience. It is unusual for him to receive gifts like this:
Harley Davidson has given Pope Francis two of its classic motorcycles to mark the brand’s 110th anniversary and on Sunday hundreds will be allowed to park along the road leading to St Peter’s Square while the pontiff recites the Angelus prayer.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 bikers are expected to fill St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s blessing — the highlight of a four-day event in Rome to celebrate more than a century of Harley Davidson.
12 June 2013
Tags: Vatican Pope Francis Pope Rome
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In this video, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports on the state of the war in Syria. In this struggle, morale is flagging, sectarian hatred is growing and civilians are increasingly victimized. (video: Al Jazeera)
Reports of ‘massacre’ in eastern Syria (Al Jazeera) Syrian rebels have attacked a village in the country’s east, killing dozens of Shia Muslims, activists said. A Syrian government official on Wednesday denounced the attack that occurred a day earlier, saying it was a “massacre” of civilians. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 60 people were killed in the village of Hatla in the oil-rich province of Deir al Zour, bordering Iraq. The reported killings highlight the sectarian nature of Syria’s conflict that has killed more than 94,000 people, according to the United Nations…
Coptic pope holds meeting on Nile dispute (Ahram Online) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II held a meeting with Egyptian Christian public figures to discuss the ongoing row over Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project on Tuesday, in advance of scheduled trip to Cairo by head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government, which fears that the project, if completed, could negatively impact the volume of Nile water reaching Egypt…
United for reconciliation with Muslims, Christians return to Qusayr (AsiaNews) After fleeing to surrounding villages and the capital, Damascus, Christians from Qusayr are returning to their homes after almost two years. Many have lost everything; some have started to remove rubble from rooms and rebuild roofs, bringing life back to a city that in recent months had lost more than 98 percent of its population, going from 30,000 inhabitants to 500…
Coptic Christians flee from Egypt to Georgia (AINA) Coptic Orthodox say that Georgia’s strong Orthodox Christian heritage — Eastern Christianity took root here in the 4th century — motivated them to make the move. The country’s relative proximity (Tbilisi is roughly a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Cairo) and reputation for relatively lax business and visa regulations also played a role. Around 2,500 Coptic Egyptians currently live in Georgia, according to the Ministry of Justice’s Public Service Development Agency, which manages residence data. Most arrived this year and live in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi; a few hundred have settled a few hours’ drive to the west in the parliamentary seat of Kutaisi…
Turkish protesters defy warning, battle police in Taksim Square (Los Angeles Times) Protesters defying a blunt warning from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan engaged in running battles Tuesday with police who unleashed clouds of tear gas and blasts of water cannons in an effort to end nearly two weeks of protest…
11 June 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Turkey Coptic Christians Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
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Mary Mathai and her son inspect their new home as it nears completion. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In India, there is an ongoing effort underway to move the poorest from humble huts into real homes:
A “roof over your head” is considered one of life’s basic necessities, and yet for many it remains out of reach.
“During the heavy rains, water would seep through the roof and fall on my face while I slept,” said Aleyama Luka, a widow from Wayanad, a district in northern Kerala.
“I would have to sit up all night sheltering the children under an umbrella.”
Poverty is not uncommon in Wayanad, a tiny hill area known for its spices and coffee. Though much of the local economy is tied to agriculture, the overuse of chemical fertilizers and insecticides and painful government-led economic reforms have devastated district farmers. In the period of a year, from May 2006 to June 2007, 101 farmers — all of whom faced bankruptcy — reportedly took their own lives.
But thanks to the Malabar Social Service Society (MASSS), an agency of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Kottayam, efforts are under way to improve the lot of tens of thousands of people in need throughout northern Kerala: needy children, senior citizens, tenant farmers, unskilled laborers, fishermen, artisans, tribals anddalits, the so-called “untouchables” of India. …
Employing professional social workers, MASSS selects beneficiaries for its many programs from research gathered by an extensive network of field animators, as well as from recommendations made by priests of the archeparchy. MASSS’s housing initiative is part of its overall sustainable development strategy that also includes giving selected beneficiaries access to savings accounts, credit and affordable housing.
Mary Mathai borrowed 3,000 rupees (about $75) toward the cost of her new family home and pays only a nominal interest rate of 1.2 percent.
“Our old mud house just melted away in the rains ... and we used to get sick,” she said. “We sleep so much sounder now. The house changed our outlook toward life.”
Read more about Changing Lives in Northern Kerala from the November 2007 issue of ONE.
11 June 2013
Tags: India Kerala Economic hardships Homes/housing
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In this 2011 photo, Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, talks with Catholic News Service in Washington. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)
Cardinal Koch in Ukraine: Goal of ecumenism ‘visible communion’ (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave a lecture on ecumenism at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, on 10 June. According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU), the cardinal focused on the discussion of one of the most painful and key issues of Orthodox-Catholic relations — the primacy of the bishop of Rome…
Chaldean patriarch calls for committee to promote dialogue (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis hosted a dinner last night at a hotel in the Green Zone in Baghdad, inviting political and religious leaders — including the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, the first to accept the invitation. In the context of this initiative, Patriarch Raphael Louis said he hoped to see the birth of a “committee” to boost the work of “frank and brave” dialogue and encounter between the country’s various souls: Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish…
Bulgarian Orthodox metropolitan of Western Europe resigns (Sofia Globe) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, has accepted the resignation of Simeon, Metropolitan of Western Europe, on grounds of poor health. Simeon, elected in 1986 as the first Metropolitan of the then-newly established Diocese of Western Europe, has been ill for some time and has been receiving medical treatment in the United States. It is expected that a replacement will be named in the autumn…
Clashes over church in Macedonia (Eurasia Review) At least two people have been injured in clashes between protesters and police that erupted over a church construction project in the Centar municipality of the capital Skopje. The clashes started on Monday when several hundred government supporters tried to push past a police cordon into a local government courtyard, angry over the opposition mayor’s alleged plan — which he denies — to demolish a church. Macedonian Orthodox Bishop Pimen came out with an appeal for calm. “My faithful people, is this the way we witness the peace of Christ? We demolish a municipality in an attempt to prevent the ‘demolishing’ of a church. Let us fill up the churches instead of municipal courts…”
St. Macrina Church in Anatolia holds first ceremony in 90 years (Hurriyet Daily News) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, officiated at the first religious ceremony in 90 years at St. Macrina Church in the Central Anatolian province of Nigde yesterday. About 200 people attended the liturgy, including Greek Deputy Agriculture Minister Maksimos Harakopulos and members of various associations from Argentina, Greece and Istanbul…
Survivors of Syrian fighting describe harrowing flight from Qusayr (Los Angeles Times) Ibrahim, a dark-haired man with bandages across his abdomen, said he was injured in a rocket attack amid raging battles between rebel fighters and Syrian government troops backed by Lebanon’s militant group, Hezbollah. It took him three days to trek nine dangerous miles through rocky mountains to Lebanon, dodging soldiers he said were targeting the group of wounded he fled with. Their group, which would dwindle to only a few, split up as Syrian troops chased them…
Damascus hit by multiple suicide bombings (BBC) Two suicide bombers have blown themselves up in the center of the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing 14 people, Syrian state media says. At least 30 other people were injured in the blasts, in Marjeh Square. The explosions happened at a police building in the busy commercial district. The attack comes as regime forces prepare an assault to recapture the northern city of Aleppo after having retaken Qusayr from the rebels…
10 June 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Chaldean Church Orthodox Cardinal Kurt Koch
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Ruth Girmay, founder of Addis Hope, shares a moment with the program’s children. (photo: Sean Sprague)
A few years ago, we profiled a remarkable effort to bring help and hope to children in Addis Ababa:
Gete and her son, Dawit, live in a makeshift hut in Shiro Meda, a slum on the edge of Ethiopia’s sprawling capital city, Addis Ababa. Both have H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Dawit’s father died of the disease five years ago. And though AIDS is not uncommon in Addis Ababa — one in six adults is thought to have it — those who suffer from the disease are stigmatized. Gete cannot use the communal clotheslines to hang her washing, as her neighbors believe — wrongly, of course — that her clothes might spread the disease. Children in the neighborhood will not play with Dawit.
But Dawit is not friendless. He is one of 58 children who attend the Shiro Meda Day Care Center, more than half of whom are H.I.V. positive. Here the children receive instruction, have a regular meal and play. Shiro Meda is one of three day care centers run by the Addis Hope Program, which serves over 200 of Addis Ababa’s poorest children.
Many are children of women who have been abandoned, raped or, in Gete’s case, widowed. While providing a refuge for preschool children (ages 4 to 7), Addis Hope also trains mothers in entrepreneurial activities.
The program was founded in 2001 by Ruth Girmay, a former teacher at the Nativity Cathedral School in Addis Ababa. Helping the less fortunate has been a constant of her life. The daughter of a retired Ministry of Agriculture administrator, she used to give what little spending money she had to beggars outside her church.
Ruth, 28, said a dream she had as a teenager about St. Francis of Assisi inspired her to devote her life to helping the less fortunate. At first, she rented a small room to take in 15 children, whose mothers were making ends meet by begging or prostitution.
Ruth, a Catholic, then turned to De La Salle Christian Brother Gregory Flynn, who helped solicit funds from donor agencies. Brother Flynn also helped her navigate the bureaucratic hurdles in establishing her program for children. It took two years for the Addis Hope program to receive the proper certification from the government.
There is a great need for such programs in Ethiopia, a country of 75 million, half of whom live below the poverty line according to the latest United Nations survey. More than 50 percent of school-age children do not attend school. AIDS accounts for 30 percent of all adult deaths, and two million children have been orphaned because of the disease.
Read more about Addis Hope in the July 2006 issue of ONE.
10 June 2013
Tags: Children Ethiopia Health Care Orphans/Orphanages HIV/AIDS
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Syrian children attend a class at a new school that opened in the Al Zaatri refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on 4 June. Some 500,000 Syrian refugees have sought shelter in Jordan from the civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad and rebel fighters trying to overthrow him. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Cardinal: Lebanon will ‘pay cost’ of Syrian conflict (France24) “Where do the refugees go? The Christians go to Christian homes in Lebanon, the Druze go to Druze homes in Lebanon, the Alawites go to their relatives [in Lebanon],” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. More than 500,000 Syrians fleeing the conflict have sought refuge in Lebanon, which is increasingly being sucked into the war…
U.S. considers taking in Syrian refugees (Los Angeles Times) Two years into a civil war that shows no signs of ending, the Obama administration is considering resettling refugees who have fled Syria, part of an international effort that could bring thousands of Syrians to American cities and towns. A resettlement plan under discussion in Washington and other capitals is aimed at relieving pressure on Middle Eastern countries straining to support 1.6 million refugees, as well as assisting hard-hit Syrian families…
Palestinian descendants start to reclaim village (Al Jazeera) A dream long nurtured by hundreds of thousands of Palestinians made refugees during the establishment of the state of Israel has become a concrete reality at a small makeshift camp atop a windswept hill. Today, all that remains of the village of Iqrit, close to Israel’s border with Lebanon, is a Catholic church on the hill’s brow. But in 1948, the village was home to 600 Christian Palestinians…
Syria troops ‘preparing for Aleppo assault’ (BBC) Syrian government forces are reported to be preparing for a major offensive on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo and its surroundings. A Syrian security source said it would start “in the coming hours or days.” On Sunday, they retook the last remaining rebel-held villages in the strategically important area, which lies between the Lebanese border and the central city of Homs…
Amman, Christian Arab media discuss peace, justice and human rights (AsiaNews) Today, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, in collaboration with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, has begun a two-day conference on justice, human rights and the Arab media. Guests include Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem…
Cleric fights to save rural Romania from fracking (ENCA) For months, 50-year-old Father Vasile Laiu has been one of the most outspoken opponents to plans by United States energy giant Chevron to drill for shale gas in rural eastern Romania. Clad in his black cassock, Father Laiu has joined thousands of locals in street protests against a project he says “threatens man, nature and future generations”…
7 June 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Refugees United States Palestinians Patriarch Fouad Twal
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A Lebanese family dances at an engagement party. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
We began this week with a story about Iraqi refugees finding a new home in Toronto. We thought we’d end with another image from that part of our world. Those refugees from Iraq are joining a growing number of people from the Middle East in Canada. In 2004, for example, we visited Lebanese immigrants who had settled in Montreal:
You will find them bowed in churches, whispering praise to “Allah” (God).
You will find them animated in cafes and bars, smoking water pipes and exclaiming “haram” (it’s a shame) over the latest injustice in the Holy Land or some bad call during a European soccer match.
You will find them seated in restaurants before plates of lamb sausages and salads, pounding their fists on tables and crying “mish maouleh” (impossible) in response to some devilishly tall tale.
You will find them frenzied near altars, elbowing their way to capture the perfect photograph of a loved one exchanging marriage vows and begging “lazza choue” (pardon me).
You will find them bellies bared in dance clubs, twisting their torsos and asking “in jeid?” (really) over the reported affection of some member of the opposite sex.
They are everywhere. They are Lebanese and they have found a home in Montréal.
That the most distinct people of the Middle East have found refuge and new life in the most distinct of Canada’s great cities should come as no surprise. The urbane, gregarious and multilingual Lebanese seem a natural fit for Québec’s cosmopolitan center, whose denizens fiercely protect their Francophone patrimony.
Read more about the Lebanese of Montreal from the September 2004 issue of ONE.
7 June 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Canada Immigration ONE magazine
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Syrian refugees wait to receive aid and rations at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, 4 June. Some 500,000 Syrian refugees have sought shelter in Jordan from the civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad and rebel fighters trying to overthrow him. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
U.N. says half of Syria’s population will need aid by end of year (The Guardian) The United Nations has launched the largest emergency appeal in its history — $5 billion — warning that half the population will need humanitarian aid by the end of the year. The civil war in Syria has led to the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world amid a conflict in which hospitals, schools and water and sanitation infrastructure have been targeted. But some fear that the appeal will not be enough, as aid agencies have struggled to keep pace with the three-year crisis that has left more than 80,000 people dead…
Patriarch: Millennium of Russian presence on Mount Athos in 2016 (Interfax-Religion) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has proposed rebuilding the Ksilurgu Monastery, the oldest Russian monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, by 2016, when the 1,000 years of the Russian presence on Mount Athos will be celebrated. “In three years, we will celebrate the 1,000 years of the Russian presence on the Holy Mount Athos,” the patriarch said in Ksilurgu, addressing monks…
With Golan fence, Israel closer to surrounding itself with barriers (Washington Post) Fearful that the Syrian civil war, jihadist terrorists or Lebanese Hezbollah fighters will spill into Israel, the country’s military engineers are rushing to complete their latest “smart fence,” this one in the occupied Golan Heights. When the 45-mile fence is finished in the coming months, Israel will have taken another big step in surrounding itself with barriers. But some Israelis worry that the fences are a metaphor for weakness as much as they are for strength and that the barriers have increased a sense of isolation…
Church denies Israeli municipality use of its property for festival (WAFA) The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem said Tuesday that it would not allow the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem to use church property in the Old City for a festival of lights because of Israeli police mistreatment of Christians during their holidays. A statement by the church spokesman Issa Musleh said the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III has told the municipality of its objections to the use of its property in any way for the festival, which he said “does not reflect in any way the true identity of Jerusalem”…
Egypt-Ethiopia water dispute escalates after threatening remarks (Los Angeles Times) A battle over water has turned into a war of colorful rhetoric between Ethiopia and Egypt over the flow of the Nile, which begins in the African highlands but keeps Egypt from being swallowed entirely by desert. An ambitious Ethiopian dam project is diverting Nile waters that Cairo says will reduce the river’s northward flow. The Egyptians have stumbled into crisis mode: At a meeting hosted by the Egyptian president this week, several politicians, unaware TV cameras were rolling, suggested sabotaging or threatening to bomb the dam…
6 June 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Israel Refugees Pope Francis Separation Barrier
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The Azar family shares a one-bedroom house with two other Syrian refugee families in the village of Al Qaa in Lebanon. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
The current issue of ONE features a look at refugees from Syria and Iraq, and ongoing efforts to help them. This morning, the Vatican released a document on refugees:
Catholic laity have an obligation to root out traces of xenophobia in their hearts and recognize refugees as their brothers and sisters — children of God whose dignity must be protected, said a new Vatican document.
“Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons,” a document of pastoral guidelines for providing material and spiritual assistance to people forced to leave their homes was published June 6 by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable activity.
Since the mid-1980s, the document said, the debate surrounding refugees and other asylum seekers has become “a forum for political and administrative election purposes, which fed hostile and aggressive attitudes among the electorate.”
In effect, countries are focused more on deterring newcomers from reaching their shores than they are on offering protection and a welcome to suffering people fleeing situations that threatened their lives and dignity, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the council for migrants and travelers, told reporters.
From a Catholic point of view, he said at a Vatican news conference, “every policy, initiative or intervention in this area must be inspired by the principle of the centrality and dignity of the human person.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of Cor Unum, said being Christian means trying to meet both the material and spiritual needs of refugees and displaced people, who “ask us for a commitment of love that first of all restores their dignity as persons made in the image and likeness of God.”
“Along with bread, they need love that nourishes their spiritual dimension,” Cardinal Sarah said, and that love is precisely what gives witness to “the love with which Christ loves us and saves us.”
How can you help give witness to “the love with which Christ loves us”? Visit our Syria Emergency Relief page to learn more.
Tags: Syria Refugees Migrants
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