17 July 2014
An Israeli soldier adjusts the barrel of a tank at a military staging area outside the northern Gaza Strip on 14 July. (photo: CNS/Nir Elias, Reuters)
Israelis consider ground invasion of Gaza; brief truce planned (Los Angeles Times) Iraeli military and political leaders were increasingly leaning toward a ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to rid the Palestinian enclave of rockets and tunnels used by militants for attacks, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Wednesday. An operation to move Israeli troops into the densely populated coastal enclave had been resisted by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sources said earlier, because of the likelihood of wider casualties on both sides. The deaths of at least 222 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in the latest fighting has exposed the Israeli government to widespread criticism that escalated Wednesday with the deaths of four children playing on a Gaza beach when an artillery shell landed. One Israeli has been killed…
Jordanians angered by Israel’s war on Gaza (Al Monitor) Jordanians have raised their voice against the Israeli offensive on Gaza that has so far killed over 200 Palestinians and one Israeli, with protesters taking to the streets, members of parliament planning to head to the Gaza Strip and King Abdullah II warning of “the dangerous escalation” of violence in the area…
In Mosul, ISIL orders no aid to Christians and Shiites (Fides) The jihadist militiamen of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have ordered civil servants to suspend any provision of food aid and gas cylinders to the Shiites, Kurds and the few remaining Christians in Iraq’s second city. This is confirmed to Fides Agency by Christian sources in Mosul…
U.N. refugee chief calls for political solution in Iraq (Washington Post) The head of the United Nations refugee agency said Wednesday that he was increasingly frustrated with Iraq’s skyrocketing number of displaced people — and with governments worldwide that expect humanitarian aid organizations to resolve these matters alone. “There will not be a humanitarian solution for the Iraqi crisis. There is no humanitarian solution for the Syrian crisis,” António Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a closed briefing with reporters here in the Iraqi capital. “It is absolutely crucial that the Iraqi political system find a way to overcome its political divisions and contradictions,” he said…
16 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Holy Land Jordan Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A worker at the Olive Branch Foundation puts the finishing touches on dove peace lamps.
(photo: Miriam Sushman)
Three years ago, we profiled a village in Palestine, where there was an unsual effort underway to promote peace:
Father Ra’ed’s greatest contribution has been the Olive Branch Foundation, a nonprofit he founded and runs. The business includes a small ceramics factory and most recently an olive press and machinery to make and package olive oil and olive–based soap and cosmetic products from locally grown olives.
The priest’s business endeavors began five years ago, when one day at church he displayed some of his handmade white ceramic lamps in the shape of doves. He filled them with locally produced olive oil, placed them near the altar and encouraged parishioners to light them and pray for peace. Delighted by the “peace” lamps, parishioners quickly spread the word to neighbors from other congregations, and in no time, residents inundated Father Ra’ed with requests for lamps of their own.
Seeing an opportunity to promote peace and generate income for the local community, Father Ra’ed intensified production, hiring a small team of local craftsmen, and began selling the lamps to faithful throughout the region and beyond.
“I use the lamp to put pressure on the heavens to make peace in the Holy Land,” says the priest.
So far, the foundation has produced and sold more than 80,000 lamps, “flying them,” as he says, “around the world like little birds until peace comes.”
Read more about Taybeh, “A Town Named ‘Good’,” in the July 2011 issue of ONE.
16 July 2014
Tags: Palestine Christianity Emigration
Palestinians inspect a destroyed car following an airstrike in Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on 10 July. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)
Level of human loss, destruction in Gaza ‘immense,’ says U.N. agency (U.N. News Center) The level of human loss and destruction in Gaza as a result of the ongoing conflict with Israel has been “immense,” the United Nations agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees said today. “The numbers are increasing by the hour,” Sami Mshasha, from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told a news conference in Geneva…
100,000 Gazans told to flee as both sides press attacks (New York Times) Israeli forces intensified their assaults on targets in Gaza on Wednesday, bombing the residences of several Hamas leaders and warning 100,000 Gazans to flee their homes ahead of more attacks. The Gaza death toll from nine days of conflict vaulted past 200, including at least four children killed on a beach from what Palestinian officials called an Israeli gunboat shell…
Israeli airstrikes damage Egyptian homes (Al Monitor) Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip is rattling Egyptians on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border. Eyewitnesses on the Egyptian side said houses along the border that is adjacent to the Gaza Strip have been directly affected by the intense Israeli bombardment. According to the residents of the Egyptian part of Rafah, Israeli fighter jets have been targeting tunnel entrances with highly explosive concussion bombs to destroy the main outlets on the Palestinian side. Abu Mohammed al Shaer, who resides in a two-story building on the border, about 1000 feet from the bombing sites, told Al Monitor: “No one can imagine how harsh the bombardment is. … The glass windows have all been shattered, and the [walls of the] houses have cracked…”
Pope Tawadros II: Bishops do not express support for candidates (Fides) The date of the next general elections in Egypt has not yet been set. In all probability, the Egyptians will not go to the polls before next October, but already meetings and to define candidates have started. In this context, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has already warned the bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Church to refrain from any direct involvement in the election campaign in support of political parties or individual candidates…
Chaldean patriarch to politicians: Waste no more time, Iraqis are in danger (Vatican Radio) Patriarch Louis Raphael I has sent a Letter to the Members of Iraqi Parliament urging them to “waste no more time” in resolving the crisis that is devastating the nation. Adding his “humble voice as Christian religious authority in Iraq” to the voice of all the Muslim authorities, the patriarch begs them “to accelerate the elections of the three presidencies to save the country…”
Iraq Christians see ISIL uprooting Prophet Jonah’s remains as dire portent (Ecumenical News) Members of Jihadist group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are believed to have unearthed the remains of revered biblical Prophet Jonah in Mosul. This act is fueling the fears of Christian leaders in Iraq that the persisting violence could spell the end of 2000 years of Christianity in the country…
Ancient cave monastery complex in Georgia to be preserved (Serbian Orthodox Church) Vardzia, a cave monastery complex of the 12th-13th centuries in the valley of the Kura river, is an outstanding monument of medieval Georgian architecture. A three-day international seminar, dedicated to the development of plans for preserving the Vardzia cave monastery complex in the Samche-Javaheti region, began on 9 July. The seminar was organized by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia and the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia…
15 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict United Nations
Elderly parents in India are increasingly left behind and alone when their
children emigrate overseas. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Yesterday, our daily news summary noted the phenomenon of nurses leaving Kerala for better salaries abroad. It’s an issue we explored in ONE in 2008:
According to the Centre for Development Studies, women now make up 15 percent of all Keralite emigrants and about 28 percent of those emigrants are Christian — a significant increase from 25 years ago.
Nurses in Kerala generally earn less than $1,000 per month. In Delhi, salaries are double and in the Gulf states as much as 10 times that amount. Attracted by these salaries, tens of thousands of Keralite nurses have accepted employment elsewhere in India or overseas. Currently, about 40,000 Keralite nurses work in the Gulf and another 25,000 in Europe and North America.
And emigration, we found, is taking a toll:
Many economists have hailed the Kerala Phenomenon — the common term referring to Kerala’s unique development model that sacrifices industrial production and job growth for a generous social welfare system — for achieving near universal literacy, providing quality health care and promoting greater gender equality. However, if the troubling social trends that have manifested in recent years accurately reflect life in Kerala, it may not be long before experts coin another term: “Kerala Paradox.”
Current statistics indicate that among Keralites rates of alcoholism, depression, suicide, domestic violence and divorce have been spiraling upward. Today, Kerala boasts the highest per capita liquor consumption in India, a suicide rate three times the national average and, in the most recent study, a level of domestic violence that far eclipses the national average. And Kerala’s divorce rate has increased some 350 percent over the last decade. While tough to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between migration and these social ills, surmising one is not difficult.
Read more about Kerala’s Bittersweet Phenomenon in the September 2008 edition of ONE.
15 July 2014
Tags: India Kerala Emigration
Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza Strip, gather around the remains of a house that police said was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. Israel said it shot down a drone from Gaza on 14 July, the first reported deployment of an unmanned aircraft by Palestinian militants whose rocket attacks have been regularly intercepted. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Israeli strikes on Gaza enter day seven (Various) Israel launched a military offensive on Hamas-controlled Gaza last week, alleging a response to an increase of rocket attacks from the territory. At least 172 Palestinians have died and more than 800 homes have been damaged or destroyed since fighting began last Tuesday, with more than 1,300 Israeli rockets striking the region. Palestinian militants have in turn fired some 1,000 rockets into Israel causing some injuries and property damage, but no fatalities have been reported among Israelis. Egypt proposed a cease-fire deal that Israel backed, but whereas Hamas found the proposal met none of its conditions, the effort ultimately failed. As the conflict continues to escalate, both on physical and ideological fronts, many around the world appeal for peace — including Pope Francis, the office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Israeli and Palestinian mothers, and the United Nations.
Iraq: Nuns, orphans released by kidnappers (Vatican Radio) Two nuns and three orphans under their care have been released in Iraq by kidnappers linked to ISIS, the Al Qaeda-inspired Sunni militant group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Speaking to AsiaNews, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I expressed relief that there was “finally good news” in the country where ISIS, under the banner of a new Islamic “caliphate,” has captured large swaths of territory from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad…
Christian, Muslim groups urge Lebanon neutrality (Daily Star Lebanon) Moderate and independent Lebanese Christian and Muslim figures Tuesday called for a Lebanon free from Hezbollah or the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. A statement issued Tuesday by the moderate groups the Lady of the Mountains and the Shiite Consultative Gathering as well as other independent Lebanese figures slammed ISIS and Wilayat al Faqih, an indirect reference to Hezbollah, as “spiritual sisters.” Under the Wilayat al Faqih doctrine, which was introduced in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the supreme ayatollah, or highest religious authority, has final say in political matters as well…
Ukrainian army shells convent in Lugansk (Pravoslavie) Before sunrise on 4 July 2014, the Ukrainian army, coming very close to Lugansk, fired artillery against the regional clinical oncological dispensary of Lugansk, where the St. Olga’s Convent is located, reports the convent’s website. The site message suggests the attack was “a response to the prayer resistance to the fratricidal war, organized by the clergy and sisters of the convent…”
14 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Palestinians surround the body of a 10-year-old girl, whom hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli airstrike, during her funeral at a mosque in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip on 11 July.
(photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)
Some thoughts on the escalating crisis in the Holy Land and its impact on young people, from the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem:
What is the origin of the current conflict? It is difficult to say precisely. We agree on several factors: the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the endless conflict in Syria, and instability in Egypt. Recently we witnessed the end and the failure of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, in particular because of the refusal of Palestine to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” and the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements, which led to a new wave of pessimism and despair. The attempted reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas has not convinced the State of Israel which refuses to talk to Hamas, considered a terrorist organization.
The discovery of the three dead Israeli teenagers and the revenge that followed, leading to the horrific death of a young Palestinian, were sufficient to ignite a wick. And one does not know how big the powder keg is to which this wick is attached. “We do not know when and how it will end,” says Father David Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar for the Hebrew-speaking Catholics to Vatican Radio. This recent expression is very sad because once again the victims are young adults and the responsible elders are not ready to shift their policy positions that deny the rights of others.“
Also on Vatican Radio, Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem appeals to parents, governors and the Ministry of Education: “What kind of education are we giving to these young people? That is the question. From where does this education come? No one is happy. No one. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians.”
In fact, often it is young people between 15 and 30 years who are at the forefront of these conflicts, encouraged or brainwashed by their elders, or they are discouraged by the lives they lead, without work and without a clear future. “You meet youth who are also against all this violence, says Fr. David Neuhaus. There have been demonstrations against the violence that brought Arabs and Jews together. To tell you the truth, I do not blame the youth, but I blame our political leaders who are not able to develop a language that will prepare a different future without the cycle of violence.“
...Father Neuhaus concludes by wishing “to take a stand with those values that are dear to the Church. It does not means looking at the Jewish or Palestinian part, the Israeli or Arab side. We look at the people, Jews and Arabs, who want something different from our current reality. I think that the Church seeks to contribute to change and must be courageous, generous and creative,” concludes Fr. Neuhaus. “The thing to do is look at who stands before us and call him ‘my brother’ because we are all children of God.”
Read more at the Latrin Patriarchate website.
14 July 2014
An Israeli takes pictures with his mobile phone as a missile launched from the Gaza Strip is intercepted by an Israeli defense system on 10 July. (photo: CNS/Atef Safadi, EPA)
14 July 2014
Pope Francis leads his 13 July Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Pope Francis called for an end to the flare-up of hostility between Palestinians and Israelis, urging leaders to listen to the call of the people who want peace. (photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
Pope Francis appeals for peace in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for peace in the Holy Land. Speaking after the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope described his appeal as “heartfelt” and said we must all continue to pray insistently for peace in the Holy Land in the light of the tragic events of the past days...
Israel says it downed drone as death toll climbs (ABC News) The military wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed today that it sent homemade drones over Israel, after Israel said that it had shot down a Palestinian drone flying along the coast in southern Israel. Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades boasted on Twitter that the drones carried out “three missions over Israeli military bases” and a “specific mission over Israeli war ministry.” The group claimed to have domestically built three different kinds of drones for surveillance and bombing missions...
Ukraine forces end blockade at airport (Reuters) Ukraine said on Monday its forces had ended a rebel blockade of a strategic airport in the east as it traded charges and threats with Russia over violations of their joint border during a weekend of fierce military combat. Ukraine’s military said its warplanes had inflicted heavy losses on the pro-Russian separatists during air strikes on their positions, including an armoured convoy which Kiev said had crossed the border from Russia...
Ukraine crisis damaging Catholic-Orthodox relations (AFP) The crisis in Ukraine is undermining reconciliation efforts between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church and has shown up Pope Francis’s inability to make his peace message heard in the conflict-torn country, analysts said. Francis has called for dialogue in Ukraine — as he does for conflicts around the world — but the Vatican has kept a distance and did not take a position on Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March or subsequent hostilities in the east of the country...
More Kerala nurses leaving India (Hindustan Times) The rains are weak this year in Kerala and everyone was talking about it. Then they started talking of something else — the rescue of the 45 nurses from Iraq, and the scandal of another batch that wants to go right back. The return from Iraq has lobbed certain questions at the Kerala nursing fraternity. It believes it has to answer them, both for self-clarification and to explain why things are the way they are. The questions are: Should they allow themselves to be ill-paid and stay safe? Or should they, before all else, go after the money?...
11 July 2014
A Palestinian boy carries his belongings as he walks past the rubble of his family’s house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on 9 July. The Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing dozens of people in a military operation it says is aimed at quelling rocket fire against Israel. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)
On 8 July 2014, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land issued a statement entitled, “Call for a Courageous Change.” The document is in response to the increasing violence that has followed upon the murder of three Israeli teenagers and the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager. The response of the Israeli government and the Palestinian organization Hamas has been to escalate the violence and revenge. Each side with some justification sees itself as the aggrieved partner seeking justice, which is often little more than blood vengeance. Each side — again with some justification — sees the other as the aggressor and occupier. As has so often been the case in the past, the conflict conceives itself as a battle of the righteous against the unrighteous and then feeds upon itself getting larger and more violent.
With clarity and courage, the commission analyzes what it sees to be the main forces driving the crisis. The commission also is very clear as to where it sees responsibility on both sides. The statement clearly mentions “the irresponsible language of collective punishment and revenge that breeds violence” and lays responsibility on “many in position of power and political leadership [who] remain entrenched, not only unwilling to enter into any real and meaningful process of dialogue, but also pouring oil on the fire with words and acts that nurture the conflict.”
Following in the path of Pope Francis, the commission in its statement attempts to “speak truth to power.” It recognizes that no side in this conflict is pure victim and no side is pure victimizer. The roles go back and forth. The statement’s critique of that common human trait to see where I am right and my opponent is wrong, while overlooking the instances where I am wrong and my opponent is right, traces its roots to the saying of Jesus, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own” (Matt 7:3). The commission’s “Call for a Courageous Change” also throws strong light on one of the major problems in the conflict — namely, the mutual demonization of the other.
The statement makes a very important point that is often selectively overlooked in the media: “We need to recognize that resistance to occupation cannot be equated with terrorism. Resistance to occupation is a legitimate right, terrorism is part of the problem.” Throughout the entire document, however, there is the constant call for non-violent solutions and the commission condemns violence regardless of the side from which it originates.
In a region where polarization has become a way of life, “Call for a Courageous Change” is a light shining in the darkness. However, in a region where both sides have become “comfortable” with polarization, one wonders how much impact the document will have.
Read the statement here.
11 July 2014
Tags: Middle East Holy Land Israeli-Palestinian conflict Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land
A student attends a computer class at the Near East Council of Churches vocational center in Gaza City. To learn more about how Christian institutions help to sustain a beleaguered population, read Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Eman Mohammed)
Tags: Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Education Health Care Women (rights/issues)