19 June 2014
As Islamist militants battle Iraqi security forces for control of towns and cities not far from Baghdad, the capital has taken on the tense feel of a city under siege. (video: CNN)
Assyrians and Christians under attack in Iraq and Syria (AINA) With extremists battling for control of Iraq’s largest oilfield on Tuesday, raising the stakes in a burgeoning war against the central government in Baghdad, Iraq’s Christians once again find themselves at risk. Over the past 10 days, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a fundamentalist Islamist group, has streamed across the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq from its bases in eastern Syria, capturing a line of towns and cities, including several with large Assyrian and Chaldean Christian populations…
Black flags fly over Iraqi refinery, as U.S. weighs cooperation with Iran (Al Jazeera) ISIL fighters, who want to carve out an Islamic caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria, have reportedly made progress at Iraq’s largest oil refinery. The rebels hung their black banners on watchtowers at the Baiji refinery, 150 miles north of Baghdad, a witness said Thursday, though a top Iraqi security official said the government still held the facility…
Ukrainian Catholic leader appeals for Christian reconciliation (AsiaNews.it) Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis, tensions are getting worse between local Catholics and the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, which continues to denounce the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine for its alleged involvement with Western policy vis-à-vis Russia. In making an appeal for reconciliation, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk hopes Moscow will recognize the dignity of the Ukrainian people and open a sincere dialogue based on truth…
United Nations: ‘Climate of fear’ grips eastern Ukraine (U.N. News Center) With United Nations monitors reporting today that armed separatists have used killings, abductions and torture to instill a “climate of intimidation and fear” in eastern Ukraine, the world body’s human rights chief urged all armed groups to put down their weapons, end the violence and begin the process of long-term reconciliation…
Syrian refugees in Turkey exceed 1 million mark (The Guardian) The number of Syrians in neighboring Turkey has surpassed 1 million, the Turkish deputy prime minister has said. There are more than 20 refugee camps in Turkey near the roughly 500-mile border with Syria housing more than 220,000 people. But the bulk of people who have crossed the border are living in Turkish cities, mostly in the provinces of Hatay, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa. They have taken advantage of the “open border” policy maintained by Turkey, a staunch opponent of the regime in Damascus, towards Syrian refugees…
18 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Refugees Iraqi Christians United Nations
A pilgrim prays in the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Recently, pilgrims to this holy site included Pope Francis, who used his visit as an opportunity to invite the presidents of Israel and Palestine, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, to participate in a subsequent “invocation for peace” at the Vatican. (photo: Paul Souders)
18 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Jerusalem Israeli-Palestinian conflict Pilgrimage/pilgrims Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Iraqi refugees are seen in a camp near the northern city of Erbil on 12 June. Hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes in Mosul are left without access to aid, officials said. Christians from the city say they were targeted long before Iraqi security forces abandoned the major political and economic hub. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)
Pope Francis appeals for concrete help for refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to institutions to offer concrete help to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who continue to flee conflict and persecution in their homelands…
A country implodes: ISIS pushes Iraq to the brink (Der Spiegel) The militant organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has occupied vast portions of Syria and Iraq in the hopes of establishing a caliphate. The jihadists’ success lays bare Iraq’s disintegration and could ignite yet another civil war between Shiites and Sunnis in the country…
Chaldean archbishop of Mosul: Armed intervention does not solve problems (Fides) “In the villages in the Nineveh plain that accommodated part of the population fleeing from Mosul, the situation is worsening day by day. There has been no water and electricity for two days. Fuel is beginning to run out. And last night, a part of Mosul was bombed, causing a new exodus of civilians,” said Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona of Mosul…
ISIS and government forces battle for control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery (Christian Science Monitor) Iraq’s largest oil refinery is under attack by Islamic militants northwest of Baghdad, threatening domestic oil and electricity supplies and signaling the rapid acceleration of the group’s offensive against Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s Shiite government…
Ukraine president announces ‘unilateral’ cease-fire plan (Los Angeles Times) Ukraine’s president said Wednesday that government forces will unilaterally cease fire to allow pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country a chance to lay down weapons or leave the country, a potential major development to bring peace to the country…
Syria conflict: Toxic chemicals ‘used systematically’ in attacks (BBC) A team from the world’s chemical weapons watchdog believes toxic chemicals such as chlorine are being used in a “systematic manner” in Syria. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a fact-finding mission to the country’s north last month to investigate several incidents. The inspectors’ preliminary report says information was gathered that seemed to corroborate the testimony of medics…
Palestinians freed in 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner-swap back in custody (The Guardian) More than 50 Palestinians released in 2011 as part a high-profile deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit are back in custody after they were arrested during Israeli military operations to locate three missing teenagers. The overnight arrests — 65 in total — bring the number of Palestinians detained during the military campaign to locate the teenagers to 240, the Israeli Defense Forces confirmed on Wednesday. Gilad Shalit was an Israeli soldier captured in Gaza by Hamas in 2006 and held for five years before being traded for the release of 1,027 Palestinians…
17 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Refugees Syrian Civil War Iraqi Refugees
Students gather in front of St. John’s Lower Primary School, where Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam had his early education. To read about the late archbishop’s many humanitarian initiatives, which continue to provide stability and care to their communities and change lives in India, read Remembering India’s “Father of the Poor,” from the Spring 2014 issue of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)
17 June 2014
Tags: India Poor/Poverty Indian Christians Indian Bishops
Claiming it owes $4.5 billion in unpaid bills, Russia has cut off Ukraine from its gas supply. Ukraine’s prime minister claims the move is intended to destabilize Ukraine. Kim Vinnell reports. (video: Al Jazeera)
Russia halts gas supplies to Ukraine amid clashes (Vatican Radio) Ukraine says neighboring Russia has cut off all natural gas supplies to Kiev, in a major escalation of a dispute over outstanding debt between the two nations. The latest standoff comes after Moscow also expressed anger over a crackdown by Ukrainian government forces on pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s troubled east…
The Ecumenical Laboratory of Ukraine (Catholic World Report) In this interview with the Catholic World Report, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 2001 until his retirement in 2011, offers his characteristically candid insight into the role of the church in Ukraine’s Maidan movement, the question of ecumenism in Ukraine, and the oftentimes complex relationship between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches…
Iraq’s fleeing Christians find safe haven in Kurdistan (France24) Mosul, in northern Iraq, had a substantial Christian population of around 10,000 until Sunni Islamist militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took the city in their lightning offensive last week. Most of them have fled, seeking refuge in nearby Kurdistan, an autonomous Kurdish territory where they feel protected from the hardline Sunni fighters by the local army…
Iraq conflict: Clashes on approaches to Baghdad (BBC) Iraqi government forces are engaged in heavy clashes with Sunni insurgents who have made major advances in the past week. Parts of the city of Baquba — just 37 miles from Baghdad — were briefly taken over by the rebels. Reports say 44 prisoners were killed during fighting at a police station in the city…
Israel considering expelling Hamas leaders from West Bank (The Guardian) Israel is considering expelling Hamas leaders from the West Bank to Gaza as part of its response to the kidnapping of three teenagers, which it has blamed on the Islamist group. The deliberations come as Israel continued to round up members of Hamas in six West Bank towns for the third night running, including senior Palestinian lawmakers, in one of the biggest waves of arrests in recent years…
16 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In this image from 2004, Sister Nahla tends to a patient at the Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital
in Mosul. (photo: Philip Toscano-Heighton)
Mosul’s remaining Christians have cleared out, according to news reports, but CNEWA’s partners on the ground, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, are staying put.
The sisters, who run our maternity clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, and whose various apostolates are supported thanks to our generous benefactors, are safe for now.
A report last week noted:
Following the takeover of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by Islamic extremists this week, an estimated 500,000 civilians poured out of the city, fleeing bullets and burning wreckage. Yet, in all the chaos, one group remains resolute in its determination to stay in Mosul: the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, a congregation of Iraqi sisters that has witnessed generation upon generation of war and carnage.
Sr. Donna Markham, former prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, spoke with the sisters in Mosul by phone three days after the extremist group ISIS, also known as ISIL, took the city. They told her the militants had left and were marching toward Baghdad, which they had promised to take next.
Still, the sisters are far from safe. In addition to reports that there is no electricity in post-siege Mosul and that water supplies are low, the sisters also face the burden of living in a region that has become increasingly hostile to Christians.
In 2004, we profiled these committed and courageous sisters, as they endured the US-led invasion and its aftermath:
As war approached last spring most Iraqis sealed their windows and stored food and water.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena also made special housing arrangements and collected necessities, but not for themselves.
As they had done 12 years earlier, the sisters prepared a safety net for the people of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and surrounding villages, many of whom are still suffering from the fallout of the second war between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the United States.
Before the fighting began, the sisters went door-to-door collecting food, which they stored and then distributed during the war to those who came to the convent looking for help. They also distributed food and medicine purchased with help from CNEWA.
The sisters offered refuge to all in village churches, particularly in Kerakush. There, Christians and Muslims slept together as bombs pounded nearby Mosul for several nights in a row, said Sister Shirine Hanoush from the motherhouse in Mosul, where she has served as a sister for 40 years.
“Christian and Muslim families would share the same space. Everyone would pray together,” she said. People came from all over the country, knowing the northern villages were safer than the cities. “This was a very challenging experience for the sisters,” said Sister Shirine, “but it has made us more devoted to our work and faith.”
To read more, check out In the Shadow of War from the January 2004 issue of ONE.
And to help the sisters in their work, and support Iraqis in this hour of need, visit this page.
16 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Dominican Sisters
An Iraqi refugee carries a mattress at a camp near the northern city of Irbil on 12 June. Hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes in Mosul are left without access to aid, officials said. Christians from the city say they were targeted long before Iraqi security forces abandoned the major political and economic hub. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)
Pope asks for payers for Iraq (Vatican Radio) “I invite all of you to unite yourselves with my prayer for the dear Iraqi nation, especially for the victims and for those who most suffer the consequences of the growing violence, in particular the many persons, among whom are so many Christians, who have had to leave their homes.” Pope Francis made an appeal for prayers for Iraq on Sunday at his weekly Angelus address. “I am following with lively concern the events of these last days in Iraq,” the Pope said...
Chaldean patriarch calls for fasting and prayer for Iraq (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, with a widespread appeal on Sunday 15 June, called on all Chaldean communities in Iraq and the world to “dedicate next Wednesday 18 June to fasting and prayer for the restoration of security and stability in Iraq. “Fasting and Prayer” — reads the statement released to promote the initiative — “are capable to change the hearts of people and encourage them towards dialogue and respecting each other through the blessing of God”...
Bombs kill nearly 30 in Aleppo (AFP) Syrian regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs Monday on opposition-held districts in the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 30 people including several children, an activist group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a number of people were injured, some of them seriously, in the attacks on the Sukkari and Ashrafiyeh neighborhoods....
Russian Orthodox church to rise in Paris (Bloomberg News) A stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower and Paris’s famed Alexandre III bridge, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is putting his mark on the French capital. Construction of a new Russian Orthodox church with five golden domes in central Paris gets under way in the next few weeks, with U.S. and European efforts to slam Putin’s Russia for its incursions into Ukraine doing little to halt its progress. The yet-to-be-named church is being built on a plot of land sold in 2010 to Russia by the French state for 73 million euros ($99 million). The deal was sealed by Former President Nicolas Sarkozy. His successor Francois Hollande’s government says it’s “determined” to see the monument erected...
13 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Russia Russian Orthodox
This image from 2011 is a reminder of the suffering and grief of the Iraqi people. Nasrin Abdul-Ahad Aziz, 53, had lost several family members as result of ethnic and sectarian violence in Iraq. Her husband Tali Mati Nasser sits to the left. (photo: Safin Hamed/Metrography)
The news this week out of Iraq is sobering and alarming. As the crisis deepens, we were reminded of a story from three years ago, about Iraqi Christians seeking refuge in the northern part of the country — a region that has now been overrun by insurgents, amid reports of hundreds of thousands fleeing the area for safety.
In 2011, this was a glimpse of life in Iraq:
Mosul serves as the nerve center for the region’s extremist activities. Though historically a Sunni metropolitan area, the city and its surrounding villages were for centuries also home to an array of vibrant minority communities, including Christians, Kurds, Turkomans, Mandaeans and Yazidis. And until the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, these diverse groups coexisted more or less peaceably with one another and the Sunni majority. But as militant groups gained control of the city in the war’s aftermath, violence against these communities escalated.
Most Christians have left in recent years. In 2008 alone, more than 2,600 Christian families fled the city following a string of violent attacks on the community.
Salam Talia and his family know all too well the hardships of living in a post-Saddam Hussein Mosul.
“In Mosul, a cleric pointed at both Christians and Kurds, calling them infidels,” says the young man. “But the Kurds are powerful and able to protect themselves. We are not.”
Fearing for their lives, the family kept a low profile in the city for years. They never disclosed their Christian identity and actively disguised it. The family refrained from attending church. Mrs. Talia and her daughter-in-law began to cover their heads, following Muslim practice. And while a student at Mosul’s fine arts academy, Salam Talia expressed interest in Islamic calligraphy, often choosing passages from the Quran as the subjects of his paintings.
These efforts, however, were in vain. Salam Talia narrowly escaped two separate kidnapping attempts. And while he was riding a university bus, a roadside bomb blew up the bus driving directly behind his. Finally in November 2007, tragedy struck the family. The eldest son, a police officer, died in an Al Qaeda attack on a police station. Just weeks later, extremists raided the daughter-in-law’s family home, slaughtering the young woman, her parents and a brother. Devastated and terrified, the Talia family hastily moved to Hamdaniya.
Read more about A New Genesis in Nineveh in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
And to help support Iraqi Christians during their hour of need, visit this page — and please, keep them in your prayers.
13 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees
In this image from 2013, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri arrives for a prayer service at St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinal, who is prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, says he is following events in Iraq with “extreme concern.” (photo: CNS/Paul Haring).
Iraqis flee as militants close in (CNN) Radical Islamists pushed forward in Iraq as an increasingly nervous United States sought ways to stop the militants from closing in on Baghdad. As Iraq further disintegrated, residents fled Mosul in droves. Militants captured the country’s second-largest city this week after soldiers scattered, leaving their uniforms and weapons behind. Jittery families eager to leave sat in traffic jams stretching as far as the eye could see. Violence is spreading and security deteriorating in the nation, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to say the beleaguered government required assistance…
Cardinal Sandri expresses concern for situation in Iraq (Vatican Radio) The Congregation for Eastern Churches has issued a press statement saying the Cardinal Prefect, Leonardo Sandri is following the unfolding of events in Iraq with extreme concern, and is united in prayer with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael, all the bishops, priests and lay faithful of Iraq…
Archbishop says Mosul now emptied of Christians (Vatican Radio) Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona, said he thought Mosul’s last remaining Christians had left now a city which until 2003 was home to 35,000 faithful. The Christians are among 500,000 thought to have fled Mosul whose overthrow was followed by news of militant attacks on the Iraqi city of Tikrit 95 miles north of the capital, Baghdad. Describing reports of attacks to four churches and a monastery in Mosul, the archbishop, 46, said: “We received threats ... [and] now all the faithful have fled the city. I wonder if they will ever return there…”
Thousands of Syrian refugee children forced to work (Reuters) At least 50,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are working, often in dire conditions and for 12 hours a day, to pay for food and shelter for their families, aid organization CARE said. More than a million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, making up a quarter of the country’s population, having fled a civil war in its fourth year, which has left more than 160,000 dead…
Pope Francis: world economic system inevitably leads to war (CNS) Pope Francis said the world economic system inevitably promotes military conflict as way to enrich the most powerful nations. He also condemned religious fundamentalism, defended the controversial record of Pope Pius XII and said he does not worry about his personal security because, “at my age I don’t have much to lose.” Pope Francis’ words appeared in a wide-ranging interview published 12 June in the Spanish daily La Vanguardia…
Ukraine’s president offers safe passage for people fleeing (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s new president has ordered security officials to create a corridor for safe passage for thousands of civilians fleeing eastern regions that have been rocked by deadly clashes between government forces and pro-Russia separatists…
12 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Ukraine Refugees
Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople plant an olive tree after an invocation for peace in the Vatican Gardens 8 June. (photo: CNS/Cristian Gennari)
This past Pentecost Sunday, I was profoundly moved by the historic prayer summit our Holy Father hosted in the Vatican. I hope you were, too.
When Pope Francis prayed for peace with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, they weren’t alone. Millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims around the globe were praying with them.
To my ears, our Holy Father’s prayer perfectly summed up the hopes each of us share. “Lord,” he asked, “Defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be ‘brother’, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!”
I have faith that Sunday moved us closer to seeing the pope’s prayer answered — even as it posed a challenge: What should we do, every day, to ensure peace comes to pass?
I believe there’s only one answer: share our Lord’s compassion with one and all. For more than 85 years, that’s exactly what Catholic Near East Welfare Association has been doing in Palestine, Israel and beyond.
To borrow from the pope’s words, CNEWA helps renew hearts and minds. We fund educational, nutritional and health care projects that improve the lives of impoverished Christians and their neighbors. We support the hard-working priests, nuns and lay people who devote their lives to helping the poor.
On Sunday, Pope Francis crossed the chasm of religious, political and cultural differences to pursue one goal: peace. At CNEWA, we approach our mission with the same spirit — using Christ’s love to bridge the gulf between people and communities.
How do we do it? Through the simple generosity of people like you. Every gift you make to CNEWA, large or small, helps make our world a bit less threatening. A little closer to becoming the peaceful place we want for all.
Won’t you join us? Please click here and give what you can. Let’s help our Holy Father and his guests see their prayers — and the hope for peace — find fertile ground at last.
Thank you and God bless you.
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine Israel Muslim