14 November 2014
Sister Micheline (left) and CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar visit a classroom in the elementary school opened by the sisters. 220 children, all Sunni, receive remedial education from qualified Syrian teachers. (photo: Michael La Civita)
Sisters risk lives to serve Syrian refugees (Catholic News Agency) Near the Lebanon-Syria border, two religious sisters are among the staff members at a refugee service center working to give relief — and hope — to thousands who have fled the armed conflict in Syria. “I keep my hope in prayer,” Sister Micheline Lattouff, a Good Shepherd Sister, told CNA at a 1 November meeting with journalists in Beirut. Sister Micheline is the director of the Social and Community Center of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon’s northern Bekaa Valley. The community center was originally established to run after-school programs and remedial classes for Lebanese children. The sisters have expanded their mission, helping educate refugee children and distribute food to Syrian families, while continuing to support a Christian tent settlement. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Catholic Relief Services support her efforts…
Syrian archbishop: U.S. attack on Syrian army would spell ‘second Libya’ (Fides) “If the U.S.-led intervention against the jihadists of the Islamic State eventually turns against the Syrian army, we could have a second Libya in Syria,” said Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Archeparchy of Hassaké-Nisibis. The archbishop describes the uncertainties and risks related to military intervention in Syria…
Pope’s visit to Turkey is a chance to bridge ancient divide (Al Monitor) As Ankara prepares to receive Pope Francis on 28-30 November, Turkish media have noted with raised eyebrows that Turkish affairs do not appear to be uppermost on the pope’s mind. His visit to the Turkish capital seems little more than an obligatory courtesy call on the host country of his real destination, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. His visit likely has less to do with Turkey than the opportunity to work toward mending the schism with the Orthodox Church…
Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access (BBC) The restrictions on Muslim male worshippers were imposed after tension and unrest in the city between Israel and the Palestinians. Extra police units were deployed in the city before Friday prayers, spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. Israel said the decision was linked to agreements reached during talks between Israel, the U.S. and Jordan in Amman…
13 November 2014
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Sisters Ecumenism
Nesma al Haddad plays with her brother and friends in in her room in Gaza City. She could not sleep there during the war. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)
What is it like to be a child during wartime? The Autumn edition of ONE answers that question by visiting some children in Gaza:
Twelve-year-old Nesma al Haddad spent the summer in the safest part of her apartment building: the living area on the ground floor of a 12-story building. The main entrance was just a few steps away, and there were few windows. Her room upstairs, with her bed and her assortment of beautiful collectibles, went unoccupied.
With Israel and Hamas at war in Gaza, Nesma tried to carry on with her normal life, hiding her anxiety from her five siblings, despite the sounds of explosions and gunfire during the bombardment of the surrounding neighborhood.
More than once, Nesma and her family were forced to flee to a neighbor’s house; an apartment on the eighth floor was a target. She would leave behind her belongings, except for a suitcase, packed in advance with her favorite clothes and a toy.
“I did not fear anything,” Nesma says. “I worried about losing my favorite toy that I had bought during the last war, in 2012. But I was more worried about losing one of my family members.”
Hers is an all too common story in Gaza these days, and it reveals the invisible scars borne by so many children of war. When talking with these children, and hearing their experiences, one learns how deeply they have been affected by the violence around them — trauma that will take years to heal fully.
Read more about Nesma and other children of war in Shell-Shocked: Growing Up in Gaza in the Autumn edition of ONE.
13 November 2014
Israeli Border Police patrol the the site in Jerusalem's Old City known as Haram al Sharif by Muslims and that Jews refer to as the Temple Mount on 6 November. Recent tensions at the site, which is important to the faith life of Jews and Muslims, led the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land to call for calm, saying that attachments to holy places should not be a cause of bloodshed, hatred or violence. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
Catholics and Muslims, working together to serve others (VIS) The third seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum was held in Rome from 11 to 13 November, on the theme “Working Together to Serve Others.” Three specific issues were considered: working together to serve young people, enhancing interreligious dialogue, and service to society…
Jordanian prince: Jerusalem, a sanctuary for all (Al Monitor) What is to be done about Jerusalem? Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this region is witnessing new walls being built in vain attempts to contain problems between people. When will we realize that walls for separating cultures and people only exacerbate sectarianism and accelerate fragmentation? How long will walls, figurative and physical, continue to poison our humanity? A walk through Jerusalem is a tour of world religion, architectural ascendancy and the winners and losers of wars…
International protection for Christians in the Nineveh Plain is needed (Fides) The international community must take charge of the return and protection of Christians in the Nineveh Plain, the bishops of the Syriac Orthodox Church said on 11 and 12 November in a synodal assembly in Lebanon, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II…
Syria conflict: ‘Door closing’ on refugees, say NGOs (BBC) Syria’s neighbors are sharply reducing numbers of refugees from the conflict that they let onto their soil, two prominent humanitarian agencies say. Fewer than 18,500 fled Syria in October compared with more than 150,000 a month on average in 2013. The NGOs accused the international community of “a total collapse of solidarity…”
Yazidi families struggle to bring enslaved daughters home from captivity (Al Jazeera) The Yazidis caught the world’s attention in August when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked the Sinjar region of northern Iraq. Some 200,000 Yazidis fled into the mountains, walking for days as the weakest died of hunger and thirst. International forces sent humanitarian supplies and attacked ISIL fighters from the air, opening a path for Kurdish militias to evacuate the Yazidis. They flooded through Syria and took shelter in tents, parks and schools in Iraqi Kurdistan. Amid the subsequent politics of forming an international anti-ISIL coalition, few asked what happened to those Yazidis who didn’t escape…
12 November 2014
Tags: Middle East Christians Jerusalem Christian-Muslim relations Middle East Peace Process Yazidi
Christians gather for Evening Prayer outside St. Joseph’s Church in Erbil.(photo: Don Duncan)
The Autumn edition of ONE is online, and focuses a spotlight on The Middle East-most notably, with a dramatic look at life among refugees in Erbil, Iraq:
On talking to many Christian families and individuals who have taken refuge in cities across Iraqi Kurdistan, the master narrative is the same: ISIS, the jihadist Islamic terrorist movement seeking to create a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, had made rapid advances across large swaths of Iraq, and by early August, seized the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq — a historic Christian stronghold.
The sixth day of August promises to be a date that will be seared into the Iraqi Christian psyche for quite some time: That is the day Iraqi Christendom finally — and maybe definitively — succumbed to extremists and much of the population was sent fleeing.
The exodus was rapid and frantic, beginning in the evening of 6 August. Families recount how they had 15 minutes to half an hour to grab what they could and leave, ahead of the rapid arrival of ISIS. The roads were choked with families in cars and on foot — Chaldean and Syriac Catholics, Copts and Armenians, but also Yazidis and Shiite Muslims from all over Nineveh — all fleeing the particular brand of ISIS fundamentalism. They headed east, to Iraqi Kurdistan and the protection of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces there. By the next morning, the heartland of Christian Iraq was firmly in the hands of ISIS.
“My father sold his own mother’s gold and took a loan from the government so he could build our house, and then everything was gone in 15 minutes,” says Wissam Abdul Hadi. “He worked for years and lost everything in a few minutes.”
The sense of loss and the incomprehension of the sudden, new reality are common to many of the displaced families. Beyond the shared narrative of expulsion, the personal stories issuing from the camps, church grounds and repurposed schools and social centers housing displaced Christians are varied and many.
...At a distance of 46 miles, Erbil is the nearest Kurdish city to Qaraqosh and, therefore, received the largest number of displaced people, currently estimated at more than 60,000. Most of them descended on the Christian neighborhood of Ain Kawa over the span of just a couple of days. Because of the overpopulation, living conditions for displaced Christians are the worst in Erbil.
Any and all resources were tapped so as to offer the displaced shelter and food. The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, the Ephremite and Franciscan sisters, the Little Sisters of Jesus as well as Chaldean and Syriac priests and bishops were all mobilized. For the first week, many people were sleeping in churchyards without shelter, using each other’s stomachs as pillows. They complained of the scourge of ants at night and of the strong, beating sun during the day.
Read more about the Christian Exodus in the Autumn edition of ONE.
The need in Iraq remains great. Please visit this giving page to learn how you can help.
12 November 2014
Iraqi children play outside a tent in Ain Kawa, where some 300 Kaka’i have taken shelter. The Kaka’i, a lesser-known religious minority, were forced to flee their homes in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants in August. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)
Minority communities wonder why Iraqi government fails to protect them (CNS) Two months after Islamic State militants snatched 3-year-old Christina, Ayda Abada wonders about the fate of her daughter. Her Syriac Catholic family suffers from loss, grief and despair like so many other religious minorities in Iraq targeted by attacks by the fundamentalist group. Not only are many of Iraq’s religious minorities speaking out against the militants, but they are questioning why the Iraqi government has failed to protect them…
Iraqi Shiites join Sunnis to fight Islamic State (Al Monitor) The Islamic State aimed to create a Shiite-Sunni conflict to impose its control, but Iraqi Sunnis have instead turned to help from Shiites to get rid of the extremist group…
Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal speaks to Vatican Radio (Vatican Radio) “To lose Christianity from the birthplace of Christianity,” said the Jordanian prince, speaking to Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure at the Royal Palace in Amman, “would be to lose the richness of the tapestry of this pluralist region…”
Pope calls for global defense of Christians facing persecution (CNS) Pope Francis condemned the “absurd violence” being used against Christians in several countries and called on people of good will everywhere to take up the cause of religious freedom. At the end of his general audience on 12 November, Pope Francis asked the estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square to join him in reciting the Lord’s Prayer for Christians facing persecution…
Syrian bishop: Peace talk for Aleppo must be genuine (Fides) “Among the population of Aleppo there is hope, but also skepticism regarding the hypothesis of a truce to silence the weapons in the region of Aleppo,” said Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, O.F.M. The bishop describes mixed feelings among residents of the Syrian city in front of the negotiations put in place by the United Nations to achieve a cease-fire in the conflict between the Syrian army and the rebel militias. “Everyone wants truce to represent only the first step to establish an authentic process of peace and reconciliation. Otherwise, a temporary ceasefire would only give the warring parties time to reorganize themselves…”
Arson attacks on mosque, synagogue inflame Holy Land tensions (Al Jazeera) Palestinians officials blamed Israeli settlers for an arson attack on a mosque in a West Bank village early Wednesday, hours after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an ancient synagogue in a predominantly Palestinian town in Israel — incidents that underscore the tit-for-tat nature of recent violence…
Israel approves 200 new east Jerusalem settler homes (Daily Star Lebanon) An Israeli planning committee Wednesday approved plans to build 200 homes in a Jewish settlement neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem, a city councilor told AFP…
10 November 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Israeli-Palestinian conflict religious freedom
It is no secret: This has been a time of tremendous turmoil for so many in the Middle East.
War this summer in Gaza left thousands dead, an overwhelming majority of them civilians. At the same time, violence exploded in Iraq, as radical Islamic jihadists — from their base in Syria — began their assault of Iraq, targeting Christians and other minorities. Hundreds of thousands of people found themselves literally running for their lives, fleeing to mountain refuges, or to Erbil, Baghdad, Amman and Beirut.
The autumn edition of the magazine brings vividly to life the hardship and the hope of so many who live in the land where Christianity first began.
You’ll meet the men, women and children, priests, sisters and care providers, people whose lives have been turned upside down, and yet still hope even as they cope with a new reality most would call a nightmare. You’ll see how the generosity of good people like you has been deployed; how through CNEWA, aid is reaching those most in need, and making a difference.
Let us know what you think! And spread the word!
10 November 2014
The Monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was built by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, in the sixth century. The monastery marks where Moses is said to have encountered the Lord in the burning bush and received the tablets of the Law. To read more about this unique holy site — which houses some of the most important treasures of the early church — see ONE’s profile of the Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai.
(photo: Jean-Luc Manaud/Getty Images)
St. Catherine’s Monastery denies the news of an Islamist attack (Fides) St. Catherine’s Monastery, located in the region of Sinai, has denied reports of alleged assaults carried out by Islamist groups, put into circulation in recent days by Christian media and blogs....
The Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox: may the Churches unify the dates for the Easter celebration (Fides) A new appeal to all Christian Churches so that they celebrate the solemnity of Easter on the same date has been launched by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Tawadros II...
To counter rise of Islamic State, Jordan imposes rules on Muslim clerics (Washington Post) Jordanian authorities have begun a campaign to coax — and, when necessary, pressure — Muslim clerics to preach messages of peaceful Islam from their pulpits. The main targets are Jordan’s more than 5,000 imams, including lay clerics and those on the government dole, who give the traditional sermon that follows Friday prayers...
The video of an Israeli cop shooting Arab citizen that has rocked the country (Washington Post) [T]he grainy black and white tape of police shooting a man in the Galilee early Saturday has lit a fuse in Israel, sparking praise and condemnation, and begging bigger questions about police conduct, allegiance to the state and who, really, is an Israeli and who is not...
The furniture of Christian homes put up for sale in the markets of Mosul (Fides) In the markets of Mosul entire areas are now occupied by the furniture and the tools looted in the houses abandoned by the Christians. The looted goods are put on sale at bargain prices...
7 November 2014
In this image from 2006, Father Adel Madanat celebrates a Sunday Divine Liturgy at the Greek Orthodox church in Ader, Jordan. (photo: Miriam Sushman)
Several years ago, we profiled the lives of Jordanian Christians, people with a rich and varied history:
Although most locals picture Jordanian Christians as exclusively wealthy urbanites, Christians, who count up to 6 percent of Jordan’s 5.9 million residents, live throughout this kingdom’s cities, towns and villages. A diverse mix of communities in a country sandwiched between Israel/Palestine and Iraq, they play an integral part in the kingdom’s public and economic life.
“Christianity was born in our region and it is not confined to Western culture,” Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal said on the occasion of the publication of the French edition of his book, ‘Christianity in the Arab World.’
“Our Christian brothers’ defense of Arab values and the causes of the Arab world in all international fora is a truthful expression of their affiliation to their Arab patrimony.”
Only a few elderly women and young girls attended Mass on a recent Friday at St. Joseph Latin (Roman Catholic) Church in Ader, one of a cluster of villages in the Jordanian Christian heartland near the town of Kerak. Father Basheer, pastor of St. Joseph’s, explained that most of his congregation had gone to the nearby Orthodox parish to attend a funeral liturgy.
“Here, human relations and blood ties are very strong,” Father Basheer said. “Villagers are all relatives.”
Ader is an oasis of golden wheat fields in the middle of Jordan’s rocky southern desert. Herds of goats and sheep dot the gently rolling landscape. Of the village’s 4,500 inhabitants, Christians number one third of the population. Only when pressed do they identify themselves in Arabic as either “Lateen” (Latin), “Katulik” (Greek Catholic) or “Ruum” (Orthodox). Ader’s Christian community is a close one; differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy are secondary to family.
Most Christian villagers belong to Arab Christian tribes who gave up their semi-nomadic way of life in the late 19th century, settling with their herds near Kerak. According to tribal custom, these Bedouin Christians were among the first peoples to embrace Christianity after Jesus’ ascension.
To learn more, read Jordanian Christians from the September 2006 edition of ONE.
7 November 2014
A Catholic clergyman, center, stands with members of the Druze community at the funeral of Israeli border police officer Jedan Assad in Galilee on 6 November. A Palestinian man rammed his vehicle into pedestrians and Israeli border police on a road straddling East and West Jerusalem, killing Assad and wounding at least a dozen others. (photo: CNS/Finbarr O’Reilly, Reuters)
Statement from the heads of churches in Jerusalem (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) On 6 November 2014, patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem published a statement in which they express their concern about the outbreak of violence and the rapid deterioration of the situation in the Holy City. They also call for the respect of the Status Quo, especially on the Haram al Sharif, the esplanade of the Mosques…
Jerusalem: Netanyahu seeks to reassure Jordan’s king as tensions spike (Christian Science Monitor) A day after Jordan recalled its ambassador over Israel’s handling of clashes at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque, Israel’s prime minister called King Abdullah. But Netanyahu’s diplomatic options are limited…
Gaza bombings stir tension between Fatah and Hamas (Los Angeles Times) Tensions grew high Friday between Palestinian political adversaries Fatah and Hamas, which share a unity government, following a series of explosions in the Gaza Strip that targeted the homes of key Fatah members. The blasts caused no injuries but shook Palestinian politics, which is still recovering from the seven-year rift between Fatah and Hamas, which formally reconciled in April…
Stagnation and infighting take hold in eastern Ukraine (Der Spiegel) There was a time when it looked as though eastern Ukraine might become part of Russia. Now, though, rebels in the region have been fighting among themselves and Moscow is unsure how to proceed. Sunday’s election changed nothing…
Vatican releases message for Sikh holiday (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on Friday released a message to mark the Sikh festival of Guru Nanak Jayanti, an annual recurrence celebrating the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. The theme of the message is “Christians and Sikhs — together to promote compassionate service.” The full text of the message is available below…
6 November 2014
Tags: Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Interreligious Interfaith
A woman venerates Holy Myron — chrism oils consecrated by the catholicos once
every seven years. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 2008, we looked at the deep spiritual history of Armenia:
"Etchmiadzin is the spirit and soul of Armenians,” said Father Mkrtich Proshian, dean of the Vaskenian Theological Seminary, which overlooks the shore of Armenia’s Lake Sevan.
“It keeps the diaspora spiritually alive and is the heart of the nation.”
At once referring to the world’s oldest cathedral and a complex of structures — ancient, medieval and modern — Etchmiadzin echoes sanctity and stability. The complex houses the administrative offices of the Armenian Apostolic Church and functions as the repository of its cultural and spiritual heritage. Located west of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city, Etchmiadzin enjoys renewed celebrity in post-Soviet Armenia. Yet, it faces daunting challenges as the church struggles to redefine itself in this resource poor and geopolitically fragile country.
“The fact that it was built with stone from Mount Ararat is very symbolic,” continued the priest. Armenians have revered the region’s highest peak for more than three millennia, once believing Ararat to be the home of their pantheon of gods. Here, Noah’s ark rested after the great flood and here God offered his covenant to Noah. Though Ararat remains a national symbol, the mountain lies across the country’s border, in what is now Turkey — a fact that inspires great sorrow among Armenians.
“It is at once a symbol of our covenant with God, a symbol of hope of our promised land and the most poignant reminder of our loss,” said Armenian journalist Levon Sevunts, who immigrated to Canada in 1992.“Being Armenian means being Christian. The national identity and Christian identity are inseparable,” said Father Gevork Saroyan, who serves as dean of Etchmiadzin’s Karekin I Theological-Armenilogical Center. “And thanks to the church we were able to survive”…
…The seamless integration of culture, faith and language, which had forged a unique Armenian identity, enabled the Armenian people to endure (and thrive) for centuries, despite periods of benign neglect or political oppression. But the collective trials of the past had not prepared them for the tragedies that would visit them in the 20th century.
Under Turkish rule since the 14th century, Armenians of the eastern Mediterranean had long moved freely within the Ottoman Empire. But during World War I, the Young Turks — a reform movement under the sultan — forcibly displaced the empire’s Armenians for their alleged ties to the Allies, who were at war with Turkey. This resulted in the deaths of some 1.5 million people. Survivors fled to Lebanon, Syria, Europe and America.
The Armenian clergy in Ottoman Turkey were particularly hard hit; only 47 of an estimated 5,000 priests survived, according to studies conducted by the Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group.
Still reeling from the devastation, eastern Armenia, which included Etchmiadzin and the Armenian heartland in the Caucasus, fell to the Red Army as the Bolsheviks consolidated their power in Russia and forced its weaker neighbors to surrender.
Read more about Where God Descended in the May 2008 issue of ONE.