26 June 2015
Syrian Kurds wait behind the barbed wired on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey after fleeing the Syrian town of Kobane on 26 June. (photo: AFP/Bulent Kilic)
Why many Kurds in Turkey are willing to die in Syria’s border towns (Washington Post) The battle for Kobane raged once more this week after ISIS fighters launched an assault on the Syrian border town, which had been firmly in the control of Kurdish militias ever since they chased out the jihadist organization in January. Initial reports suggested dozens died in the fighting, including numerous civilians, with Syrian Kurdish militias forces either killing, capturing, or cornering most of the Islamic State militants. The plight of Kobane, a predominantly Kurdish town right on the border with Turkey, is a lightning rod for many Kurds in Turkey…
ISIS offensive on Syria’s Kobane leaves almost 150 dead (Haaretz) An attack by Islamic State fighters on the Syrian town of Kobane and a nearby village has so far killed at least 146 civilians, the second-biggest massacre by the hardline group in the country, a conflict monitor said on Friday…
Vatican signs treaty with Palestine, calls for two-state solution (National Catholic Reporter) The Vatican on Friday signed a comprehensive agreement formally recognizing the state of Palestine following 15 years of negotiations on a bilateral accord that is said to provide juridical recognition for Catholic churches and call for a two-state solution with Israel on the basis of their borders in 1967…
Patriarch calls for Iraqi churches to unite after centuries of division (Catholic Herald) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has proposed that the three main Iraqi Christian churches should merge in order to secure the survival of the faith in that country. Writing on the patriarchate website the head of the Chaldean Church, which has been in communion with Rome, proposed a reunion between his church and the two largest Assyrian churches: the Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East…
Maronite head demands help for the exiled Iraqi Christians (The Tablet) The head of the Maronite Church has condemned the “international silence” over the suffering of Iraq’s Christians, during a one-day visit to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. At the head of a Lebanese-Italian delegation to visit refugees, Patriarch Bechara Peter demanded action from the international community to help Iraqi Christians stay in their homeland…
25 June 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Middle East Christians Turkey Patriarchs
The pastor of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ezraa points out the Roman-era foundation of the sixth-century church. To learn more about the ancient Christian communities of the volcanic plains south of Damascus known as the Houran — now threatened by the approach of militants — read From Dust to Life, from the March 2008 issue of ONE. To lend support to Christians and their neighbors affected by war in Syria, click here. (photo: Mitchell Prothero)
25 June 2015
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Cultural Identity Village life Architecture
Pope Francis looks on after greeting Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX during a 12 April Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Today, the pope sent a telegram to the the Patriarchate of Cilicia in Beirut to express condolences for the death of the patriarch. (photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX dies in Lebanon (Daily Star Lebanon) Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia Nerses Bedros XIX passed away Thursday after suffering from a heart attack, media reported. The renowned Egyptian patriarch, who resided in Lebanon, was widely known for serving the Armenian community and promoting its interests. The patriarch had visited Armenian communities in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. to boost Armenian Catholic schools…
Displaced Iraqis still wait to return home (Al Monitor) Amid accusations of affiliation with ISIS and an uncompleted demining process in the liberated areas, most of Iraq’s displaced have yet to return to their cities…
ISIS trying to retake Kobane in northern Syria (Christian Science Monitor) ISIS militants launched two major attacks in northern Syria on Thursday, storming government-held areas in the mostly Kurdish city of Hassake and pushing into Kobane — the Syrian Kurdish border town they were expelled from early this year — where they set off three cars bombs, killing and wounding dozens, activists and officials said…
On Greek island, migrants bring stark contrast to the usual tourists (Washington Post) This is the second front in Europe’s migrant crisis. Tens of thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia are rushing the shores of Europe, with Greece now just behind Italy as the single largest entry point. From clandestine ports in Turkey as close as 30 minutes by raft, dozens of newcomers are landing every day…
Indian government denies any crackdown on Caritas India (Vatican Radio) A government spokesperson addressed popular reports claiming that Caritas India has been put under a “prior approval” category, saying the organization had been remitted money by a Netherlands-based donor under that category…
24 June 2015
Tags: Iraqi Refugees Migrants ISIS Greece Armenian Catholic Church
Students play basketball at San Joe Puram in the Faridabad district of the northern Indian state of Haryana. To learn more about the important work of this Syro-Malabar Catholic Church institution, read A Place of Promise — and Providence in the Winter edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
24 June 2015
Tags: India Education Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Catholic education Youth
A boat illegally carrying immigrants of Syrian origin to Greece sinks off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea on 23 June. Passengers were rescued by the Turkish coast guard. (photo: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency)
Migration crisis: The E.U.’s shipwrecked refugee plan (Der Spiegel) When 800 refugees drowned on their way to Europe this April, leaders promised to act. Just over two months later, the European Union’s attempts at real reform have all but failed — and raised some serious questions about the credibility and nature of the union…
ISIS attacks Hassake (Fides) On Tuesday evening, 23 June, the city of Hassake in the northeast of Syria was struck by ISIS. The series of attacks started with an explosion at a tank adjacent to a garrison of Kurdish militias. Then a truck full of explosives detonated in the northeast of the city…
ISIS blows up ancient shrines near Syria’s Palmyra (Al Jazeera) ISIS says it has destroyed two ancient shrines close to the Syrian city of Palmyra, seized by the armed group a month ago. Photographs posted online appeared to show the shrines being blown up and reduced to rubble on Saturday. It was the first reported damage to ancient sites since ISIS first captured Palmyra, known as Tadmur in Arabic and famed for its UNESCO-listed Roman ruins…
Ukrainians displaced by fighting tell speak to U.S. bishops (CNS) Displaced Ukrainians shared their stories and experiences with the members of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation visiting Ukraine for four days. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.C.C.B. president, and Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, headed the delegation…
Indian government places Caritas India on watch list (The Indian Express) The Indian government has placed Caritas India — an arm of Catholic Bishops Conference of India — under its “prior approval” category. Any transaction the organisation makes through Indian banks will now need clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs. A senior government official said the organization was put under the category after its funds, given to various NGOs, were alleged to be involved in purportedly “anti-India” activities…
Thousands in Armenia protest steep hikes in electricity rates (Washington Post) Thousands of protesters returned to a main thoroughfare of downtown Yerevan, Armenia, on Tuesday evening, facing down riot police to protest steep electricity price increases planned in the economically strapped country. Protesters in the capital city marched toward the presidential palace on Marshal Baghramyan Avenue just hours after police had unleashed water cannons to disperse a peaceful overnight sit-in that had taken place in the same spot earlier in the day, detaining more than 230 demonstrators and journalists in the process…
23 June 2015
Tags: Syria India Ukraine Armenia Migrants
Elderly Roma men sit and chat together in Hodasz, 240 miles east of Budapest, Hungary. Citing a recent Harvard University study, NPR reports “the Roma minority in that Central European country face an unprecedented amount of violence and discrimination.” To learn more about this community, check out Our Town in the March 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Balazs Gardi/VII Network)
23 June 2015
Tags: Cultural Identity Village life Hungary Roma Discrimination
A child refugee from Syria sits eats near his tent on the outskirts of Mount Lebanon on 20 June. (photo: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency)
In exile, Assyrian children bear scars of war (IOCC) Desperate to flee the onslaught of violence surrounding his village near Hassake, Syria, Charbel remembers how frightened he was when his family barely escaped their home before they saw it destroyed by their attackers. The 14-year-old Assyrian boy left behind all of his possessions, friends, and school, but still carries his memories of Syria before the war and a wish to become a dentist someday…
Syrian military and Druze allies join forces to fend off ‘terrorist’ militants (Los Angeles Times) About 70 miles southeast of Damascus, the Syrian military is making a stand against an opposition onslaught along the nation’s strategic southern flank. The overstretched Syrian military, fighting battles across multiple front lines, is relying here on a key ally: members of the Druze sect, an offshoot of Islam that has adherents in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Thousands of men from the province are said to have signed up to protect Suwayda, the Druze heartland. Syria is believed to be home to about half of the estimated 1.5 million Druze worldwide…
Kurdish forces gain ground against ISIS in Syria (Christian Science Monitor) Kurdish-led forces advanced on Monday deep into territory in Syria held by Islamic State, showing new momentum after they unexpectedly swiftly seized a border crossing from the jihadists last week…
U.N. report on Gaza war may bolster I.C.C. inquiry (The Guardian) The United Nations inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war issues a rallying call for suspected war criminals “at all levels of the political and military establishments” to be brought to justice, but as the report itself wearily concedes, that is unlikely to happen soon. However, the report is likely to bolster the International Criminal Court’s preliminary examination of last summer’s conflict, increasing the likelihood that a full investigation will eventually follow…
Greek Catholic Synod spotlights anti-Christian violence, families in crisis (AsiaNews) The annual Synod of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church, held on 15-20 June at the patriarchal summer residence in Ain Trez, Lebanon, focused on the development of centers for catechesis, Christian preparation for marriage and families in crisis, as well as the situation in Syria, whose war has devastated the country and the Middle East, sparking a Christian exodus…
Church condemns the assault of a sister in Raipur (Vatican Radio) The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has spoken out against an attack on a sister of the Salesian Missionaries of Mary on Friday night, 19 June, at a nursing center run by the sisters…
22 June 2015
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel
Retired Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem speaks to parishioners and visitors about religious co-existence and forgiveness during a prayer service at the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, Israel on 21 June. (CNS photo/Mary Knight)
Following last week’s attack on a holy site in Galilee — which authorities suspect was carried out by Jewish extremists — people of many faiths gathered Sunday to pray and protest:
Thousands of Christians held a protest rally in the Galilee on Sunday, near the Christian church that suffered serious damage following a suspected arson attack last week.
The event was held in the compound of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, in Tabgha, near Tiberias. Although it had been planned as a quiet prayer rally, the mood quickly became more aggressive.
Hundreds of youths carrying crosses of various sizes and waving Vatican flags blocked the access road to the church and chanted in honor of Jesus and Mary. Inside the church, a mass was led by former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo.
U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission William Grant attended the mass, telling Haaretz he wanted to express his condemnation and disgust with the alleged attack, which he described as a hate crime like last week’s attack on the church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine African Americans dead.
22 June 2015
In the video above, analysts note that every minute another 30 people in the world flee their homes because of war or persecution. This, as the UN reports that the most dangerous country in the world is, for the second year in a row, Iraq — where war and persecution are having a devastating effect on Christians and other minorities. (video: Rome Reports)
Church reopens after arson attack attributed to Jewish extremists (Fides) Thousands of Christians in Galilee gathered on Sunday, 21 June at the Church of the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha. Arsonists, believed to be Jewish extremists, attacked the church Thursday. Sunday’s gathering marked the reopening of the church for Sunday Mass. Hundreds of young people protested, blocked the roads carrying crosses and white and yellow flags of the Vatican, and the singers sang in honor of Jesus and Mary...
UN report on Gaza finds evidence of war crimes (The New York Times) A United Nations investigation found “serious violations of international humanitarian law” that “may amount to war crimes” by both Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip during their bloody battle last summer, according to a report released on Monday in Geneva. The report by a commission of the United Nations Human Rights Council said that “impunity prevails across the board” regarding the actions of Israeli forces in Gaza, and it called on Israel to “break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable”...
Holy See to UN: victims’ needs are a priority for humanitarian efforts (Vatican Radio) “The priority of any humanitarian response are the needs of the victims,” according to the Holy See’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi was speaking at the 2015 Humanitarian Segment of the Economic and Social Council on Friday. The theme of the segment was “The future of humanitarian affairs: towards greater inclusiveness, coordination, interoperability, and effectiveness.” In his address, Archbishop Tomasi focused on the need to make the best use of available resources in responding to greater and more protracted humanitarian crises...
Report: Iraq most dangerous place in the world to live (RT) Iraq is the most dangerous place in the world for civilians to live, according to new figures from the UK based monitoring group Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). Syria, Gaza, Nigeria and Pakistan round out the top five.
Unenviably occupying the top spot for most civilian fatalities and injuries, Iraq has seen a renewed surge in violence since the rise of ISIS. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed or injured by explosive devices, including car bombs, roadside bombs and other IED’s, making Iraq the most dangerous nation on the planet for the second year running...
EU extends sanctions against Russia (CNN) European Union foreign ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg extended sanctions against Russia imposed because of the country’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, an EU spokeswoman has told CNN. The sanctions were imposed a year ago to punish Russia for its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its military support for separatists in the eastern regions of Ukraine, which border Russia. The sanctions consist of asset freezes on some Russian companies and people as well as travel bans against certain officials...
Nun sexually assaulted in India (Voice of America) A 47-year-old nun working as a nurse at a medical center run by Christian missionaries in the central Indian city of Raipur was sexually assaulted by unidentified men Saturday. After a medical investigation, police in Raipur’s Chhattisgarh state said the nun from Kerala had not actually been raped, with police calling it a case of “attempt to rape.” Police say some suspects have been detained for questioning...
19 June 2015
Tags: India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Russia
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch John X Yazigi (L), Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai (C) and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II (R) light candles during a meeting of spiritual leaders at the Greek Patriarchate of Damascus on 8 June 2015.
(photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)
This morning, we received an unofficial translation of the final statement for the spiritual summit held at the Mariamite Church in Damascus on 8 June. The patriarchs sent a call to the world and to the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to hold on in their homelands and to preserve good relations with their compatriots the Muslims.
The full text of the document is below.
Statement of the Spiritual Christian Summit
At the invitation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, the Patriarchs of Antioch attended a spiritual summit held at the Mariamite Church in Damascus on 8 June 2015. Present were: Patriarch Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch and head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon, Ignatius Ephrem II, patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem Melkite, Ignace Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Syriac Catholic Church, Msgr. Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, in addition to the heads of the different Christian communities in Damascus.
As a result of the summit, the following statement was released:
To our dear children in the Lord in the Antioch Churches
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, for who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)
We, first of all, thank the Lord who allowed us to come together, we the Patriarchs to whom was entrusted the care of the Christian people in the widespread Antioch, in Damascus, this blessed city that has embraced Paul the Apostle of all nations. We, from this Patriarchate which has long defended the righteous humanitarian causes over time, raise our voice and pray for you, so that in these calamities, “you live a life worthy of the Gospel,” not ashamed to bear witness of Jesus Christ who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.” We pray that you endure the
hardships, relying on “God’s power”, fortified “with strength, love and insight”. There is no need, dear beloved, to remind you to pray for us, so that God helps us “cut in a straight line the word of truth” and glorify His Holy name in our works, while we accompany the Church in these crucial historical circumstances.
We wish to tell you that: by our encounter, our joy is renewed, by our consultations it is deepened, by our cooperation it is increasing, to be testimonies of the Christian Antioch unity in the extent in which “the disciples were called Christians first” (Acts 11:16), and where God wanted us to be witnesses. For this reason, based on your full loyalty to your Churches, its beliefs and teachings, we invite you to come together and serve the poor with dedication, acquaint yourselves with the valuable thought of our Churches, discover its holiness, deepen your knowledge of the Antiochian heritage, pray for the “unity of Christians” and work to achieve this desired unity commanded by the Lord, with the hope that it will be attained in our world today, starting from Antioch.
We also invite you to bear your countries in your thoughts and prayers, and to pray with persistence for peace to prevail, so that everyone could experience the true sense of happiness and live in dignity “as children of God.” Do not forget to work hard for the unity of your country, for its progress and the establishment of a civil state. Preserve the pluralism in all its richness without losing your distinctions. Strengthen your faith and bear witness of the “hope in you.” Don’t let your faith be the reason for divisions or from banning others.
We invite you, dear beloved, to preserve the best relations with our Muslim brothers, our national partners, with whom we share this land and the trials and ordeals of violence and terrorism, consequences of takfiris who are trying to distort Islam. These same partners feel your pain. They are working with their religious authorities to eradicate the takfiri thought, the cause of the loss of thousands of lives. We, together with our partners, raise our voice and declare that it is time to confront the takfiri thought through a religious education calling for openness, peace, and freedom of belief.
In these times of adversity, terrorists are exerting their hideous acts in the name of God. In times of fear, violence, kidnapping, murder, displacement, people are being forced to change their religion by individuals who do know neither God nor His mercy. By killing you, your murderers do not realize that they have brought eternal misery to themselves and defectiveness to their countries. In the midst of all this, do not forget what the Lord has promised “Fear not, little flock, for your Father desires to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Yes, dear beloved, in these times of adversity, where “desolation” prevails, where people are being “driven as sheep to slaughter,” remain strong, do not despair. Be strong and hold on to the Grace which complements each deficiency. Commit to “refinement of your soul” based on purification, forgiveness and love. Impersonate the Gospel’s mores. Trust in the Lord who conquered evil and death, as He will not “turn his face away from you.” He is your companion along the paths of displacement and migration. He is your support in poverty and hunger. He is your consolation in times of tribulation when grievance prevails and qualms in God’s care for his loved ones overwhelm you. He is your peace in your ordeal; He is the Light who leads you in darkness of this world. He is your Resurrection from every despair and death. He is your victory against the evil and his malice.
In these times of adversity, rally around the Church, the extension of Jesus Christ in the world. Accompany your Churches, as we are all bound by the spirit of pastoral responsibility and committed to double our efforts in solidarity with the people of good will, to take further and necessary initiatives to maintain our presence in our homelands and look after the needs of your families and your well being and secure the future of our youth who are our vital and promising strength. We express our thanks and appreciation to all the volunteers who are dedicated to serve with love in our institutions. Gather around the Church and pray its martyrs who have fallen in defense of their faith to intercede for you. Pray for all those persecuted and abducted, especially for Mgr Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim from Aleppo, and all the abducted priests, especially Fr. Jack Mourad, who was the last one to be kidnapped. Sustain each other and carry the burdens of one another. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Look after the poor in their torment, as they are God’s beloved. Care for the widows and the orphans. Share your bread with the hungry. Ease the pain of the displaced and refugees. Assist your Churches in its relief and social work. Generously dedicate your time and effort for the “young brothers of Jesus.”
And to our children in Syria, who fell in the grip of terrorism, manipulated by the forces of this world to fragment their country, displace them and expel them from their land, we confirm our commitment to the unity of this country and to the right of its people to live safely, freely and with dignity. We call on the world to work seriously to find a political solution to this senseless war that has ravaged Syria, to reach a solution that guarantees peace and the return of the abductees, the refugees and the displaced and the right of the Syrian people to decide their fate, away from any external interference.
For Iraq, suffering from the scourge of successive wars which uprooted generations and generations from their ancestors’ land, as it happened last year in Mosul and the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain who have been witnesses to the horrors that reminded the world of the brutality of past centuries’ wars and which continues to destroy ancient civilizations.
As for Lebanon, the country, the message, we ask for faithfulness to this country alone, to a sense of dedication to work for its unity, serve the best interest of its people and elect a President for the Republic who restores the Constitutional Institutions’ role, building a nation in which its people can rejoice.
For our beloved ones in Palestine, the heads of the Church promise that they will remain the focus of their attention and will not back from defending them and their righteous cause, no matter how much the world tries to weaken it through wars and conflicts.
We ask the international community to assume its responsibility and stop the wars on our lands, find peaceful and political solutions to the existing conflicts and work seriously on repatriating the displaced and refugees to their homes and properties, protecting their rights as citizens.
We are the people of this land, deep-rooted in its earth, watered by the sweat of our fathers and ancestors. We declare that we are here to stay in our land, to build it with our partners in citizenship. This land has been entrusted to us; we have shed our blood to defend it, sanctifying it by the blood of our martyrs.
We invite all those who pretend to care about our destiny to help us stay rooted in our land, to take care of it, preserve it and benefit from its resources and not facilitate the looting of our heritage and resources, the destruction of our civilization and the expatriation of our people, by forcing them to migrate. We raise our voice and demand the end of war on our land and the support of the foundations of stability in the entire region.
Dear beloved, at a time when man is being killed in the name of God, we are required, more than ever, to learn that “Love is stronger than death.” Killing in the name of God is stabbing God in His essence. Our faithfulness to Jesus who said “Blessed are the peacemakers, they are called the sons of God,” makes it imperative to be messengers of peace in this East. Our role is to face every thought or ideology that sanctifies violence, killing and revenge. Our faith in God cannot but be translated in love and peace to all, in defense of our land and churches, respecting the freedom of God’s children, while maintaining diversity and differences.
From this Mariamite Church, we pray the Mother of God, the mother of us all, our trusted advocate, to save us and our homelands from all adversities surrounding us, and help us be at her image, as people who bear witness to Christ in our darkest moments. May God bless you and may you remain bearers of His witnesses in this land. Your vocation is to remain “the salt of the Earth” and the “small yeast that permeates the dough.” Do not underestimate this call for the salvation of the world. Trust that with you and through you the Gospel of Jesus Christ will remain vital in our Church of Antioch.
Unofficial translation from the original Arabic text by Lara Cordahi, CRS, Lebanon.