22 August 2014
People displaced by violence sit outside St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Ain Kawa, Iraq, on 14 August. (photo: CNS/courtesy Aid to the Church in Need-USA)
A glimpse at the life of Iraqis on the run, from CNS:
A group of 11 sick, disabled and elderly Iraqi Christians — including an 80-year-old woman with breast cancer — defied terrorists who ordered them to convert to Islam or be beheaded, saying they preferred death to giving up their faith.
The united resistance prompted the Islamic State extremists to drop their demands and order the Christians to immediately leave their village of Karamless after first robbing them of their possessions, according to one of the survivors.
Sahar Mansour, a refugee from Mosul, told Catholic News Service in an 18 August email that the group turned up at Ain Kawa refugee camp, where she is living, after they were released by the Islamist fighters. They had remained behind in Karamless because they were too weak to flee when the town was overrun by Islamic State militants.
Mansour said she met the 80-year-old woman with cancer, who gave her name as Ghazala, in Ain Kawa on 18 August and heard her account of their escape.
“When the people of Karamless fled from the village they [the elderly] were alone,” Mansour said. “She [Ghazala] told me when they woke up in [the] morning they were surprised when they saw nobody in the village.”
Instead they were “afraid and terrified,” she continued, when they met masked fighters from the Islamic State, who ordered them to go home and remain indoors.
Mansour said Ghazala told her that on 16 August, the terrorists assembled the group “and told them either to convert or to be killed by sword.”
“Ghazala told me that all the people told the terrorists that ’we prefer to be killed rather than convert,’ ” Mansour said. She said Ghazala added that members of the group scolded the terrorists for ignoring Islamic sacred texts that forbade forced conversions of non-Muslims.
Mansour said the elderly told the militants that the Islamic State had nothing to gain from the conversion of a group of sick, disabled and elderly people.
“When ISIS heard that they told the people to leave Karamless immediately, without taking anything, to leave with only with the clothes they were wearing,” she said.
Please keep those Iraqis in flight in your prayers. And to help those in need, visit our giving page for Iraqi Christians under siege.
22 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Relief
A Ukrainian woman weeps after being reunited with her son at the Russia-Ukraine border in Russia's Rostov region 22 August. Ukrainians mark Independence Day on 24 August amid ongoing tensions in the East. (photo: CNS/Alexander Demianchuk, Reuters)
With thousands dead, Ukraine refugees say aid is welcome but peace is better (Washington Post) Amid intensifying battles Friday for control of key cities in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine and Russia are clashing over the delivery of food, medicine and other supplies to areas hit by the conflict. But aid, some residents say, is not as critical as peace. “People are able to survive even without electricity and water,” Sologub said as she lay bandaged in a hospital in this government-held village eight miles from Luhansk, a Ukrainian city close to the Russian border that has seen some of the worst combat of the four-month conflict. “But you can’t prepare yourself for bombing…”
Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader discusses the very difficult situation in Ukraine (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) “For nine months Ukrainians, have been on an arduous pilgrimage from post-Soviet fear to freedom and God-given dignity,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk wrote in a recent letter. “All of the churches and religious organizations of Ukraine stood together against the violence of the Yanukovych regime, the annexation of Crimea, and the division of the country. … Unfortunately, the beleaguered Ukrainian Catholics, Greek and Roman, faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and Protestants in the east of Ukraine are further endangered by the rhetoric of the Orthodox leadership in Russia, which is becoming increasingly similar to the propaganda of Russian political authorities and media. … Ukraine needs the effective support of the global Christian community and support of all people of good will…”
Iraqi Christians reach France after fleeing Islamists (BBC) France has welcomed about 40 Iraqi Christian refugees who were flown to Paris from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius greeted them at the airport and said several hundred more Iraqi Christians would be flown to France in the coming weeks. They fled the swift advance of Islamic State militants, who now control big swathes of Iraq and Syria. French officials say Iraqi Christians who already have links with France will be considered more favorably…
Cardinal Fernando Filoni speaks of his mission in Iraq (Fides) Cardinal Fernando Filoni returned from Iraq last night after his visit as personal envoy of Pope Francis, and met the pope this morning to inform him about the mission entrusted to him. In the following interview, the cardinal told Fides Agency about the meetings and impressions that marked the days spent in the devastated Middle Eastern country…
Syrian civil war death toll rises to more than 191,000, according to U.N. (The Guardian) The death toll from Syria’s civil war has risen to more than 191,300 people, the United Nations has said. The U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, who oversees the Geneva-based office, said the figures are so much higher because they include additional killings from earlier periods, as well as deaths since the last report. “As the report explains, tragically it is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict,” she said…
21 August 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Refugees Iraqi Christians
A man kisses the ring of Cardinal Fernando Filoni during his visit to Erbil, Iraq, last week. (photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)
Imad Abou Jaoude is an engineer and projects manager at CNEWA’s regional office in Beirut.
Please note the latest we have on the situation of displaced Iraqi Christians. Sister Marie Goretti of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena reports that the situation is still chaotic, and that they are doing their best to provide a proper stable place for the displaced families. There is a meeting today between different bishops, church communities and local authorities to organize better the work among them.
The largest refugee camps in Erbil and Dohuk are being coordinated by the Syriac Catholic Archeparchy of Mosul, and Sister Goretti is in close contact with Archbishop Yohanna Boutros Moshe. They are proceeding with the logistics necessary to support the mobile toilet and showers donated by CNEWA’s benefactors. They are also moving along with acquiring milk supplies and diapers for infants and children rushed by CNEWA.
Traveling to the city of Dohuk, where other camps for displaced Christian are located, is now a three-hour trip; 40 minutes more since my last visit. Travel has been diverted into the mountains. Sources have advised me not to go there for the time being, especially if I have a foreigner with me, and to limit my stay in Erbil or Suleimanieh.
Meantime, I can report Erbil is now safe, especially after the U.S. attacks on ISIS, and many international organizations are working there with lots of foreigners — Europeans, Americans and others. Ain Kawa, the Christian neighborhood in Erbil where most of the Christian camps are established, is a very safe area, for now.
I will keep you updated, especially as the bishops, priests, sisters and volunteers — reeling still from their violent expulsion — need more time to organize their work.
Visit this page to learn more about how you can support displaced Iraqi Christians.
21 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees Relief
Jerry and her friends in an Ethiopian refugee camp prepare for a dance recital.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures)
In a web exclusive for the Summer edition of ONE, we get a rare glimpse inside refugee camp run by Jesuits in Ethiopia:
Elsa was lying down, exhausted. Her daughter was working on the dough for ambasha, a local variety of Ethiopian bread. The hut contained little — just a few cooking materials and two beds made of mud attached to the mud floor.
Though tired from her rigorous daily routine — which includes collecting firewood every day for cooking in an ongoing struggle to keep her three daughters fed — Elsa warmly welcomed us, insisting on offering us coffee.
As we talked over our coffee, we were surprised at her optimism...
Elsa’s face brightened as she told us about [her daughter] Jerry’s performance at a program for music and the performing arts at the camp. From an early age, Elsa told us, Jerry had proven to be a talented dancer and performer.
Now in her mid-30’s, Elsa explains that she herself had a great passion for music and dance when she was young, and is delighted to see her daughter share that passion. This was one of the reasons behind Elsa’s determination to hang on to life — Jesuit Refugee Service [J.R.S.] has helped her keep her hopes alive.
Jerry is one of the many young people living in the Mai-Aini Refugee Camp taking classes at the J.R.S. program for music and the performing arts. Besides music, J.R.S. is also engaged in providing five other types of psychosocial support for children. These programs, which benefit not only the children, but the extended families living in the camp, include counseling, sports and recreational activities, theater and library services.
Read more of this web exclusive in our virtual online edition of the magazine. And to learn how you can support the work CNEWA is doing with J.R.S. in Ethiopia, visit our giving page.
21 August 2014
Tags: Ethiopia ONE magazine Refugee Camps
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, who headed a delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs to Iraq on 20 August, blesses a baby in Erbil. (photo: CNS/Courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)
Catholic, Orthodox patriarchs visit Erbil to support displaced Iraqis (CNS) A delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs visited Erbil, Iraq, to show their support and solidarity with the more than 100,000 Christians and minorities displaced in the country by the advance of Islamist militants. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter said the 20 August trip was “a first step in the implementation of the statement issued by the patriarchs,” referring to a special summit on 7 August to address the crisis facing Christians in Iraq and Syria…
Jerusalem patriarch calls for justice, international peace force for Gaza (Vatican Radio) As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to wreak destruction and death in Gaza, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has expressed dismay over the collapse of truce talks in Egypt. In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Italian service, the leader of the Latin Catholic Church in the Holy Land said despite hopes that the talks would succeed, “for years, there was this inner fear that things would not go well because there is no political good will to arrive at a final solution that is right for everyone…”
A Gaza family destroyed by Israeli bombs (Der Spiegel) Beit Hanoun’s 50,000 residents have long been accustomed to Israeli tanks driving through their town. But now it has become one of the worst battlefields of this war. Some 91 people have died here, including 23 children and 22 women. And eight members of the Wahdan family. The case of the Wahdan family is only a footnote in this war, in which more than 2,000 people have died. But it also exemplifies how innocent civilians became victims of the conflict. The fate of the Wahdan family helps provide answers to the question many are talking about, over whether this war was commensurate…
Greek Catholics warn of martyrdom in eastern Ukraine (AsiaNews) Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych warned yesterday that the Greek Catholic Church is experiencing a time of martyrdom in eastern Ukraine. A few days ago, Bishop Borys Gudziak, rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, also talked about “persecution” of the Greek Catholic Church in the regions torn by war between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops…
21 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Eastern Churches Patriarchs
As we announced earlier in the week, the new edition focuses on the needs of the marginalized, with some inspiring stories from the world CNEWA serves.
Check out our virtual print edition and discover the rich reporting and beautiful photography that have become hallmarks of our award-winning magazine.
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, offers a preview below.
20 August 2014
This image, “Rejoice, Mother Church,” is taken from “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation.” It is one of several original works going on sale this week to support the ongoing mission
of CNEWA in Iraq. (photo: courtesy Deacon Charles Rohrbacher)
A couple days ago, I got an email from Deacon Charles Rohrbacher in the Diocese of Juneau (Alaska), who wanted me to know about a fundraiser they are undertaking to help Christians in Iraq — and, specifically, to support the work of CNEWA.
Charles is a gifted artist who has created some magnificent icons (such as the one above). Now many of his most beautiful works are about to be sold, with all money going to benefit persecuted minorities in the Middle East. I was curious to know more, so he answered a few questions by email yesterday.
Q: Tell us about this unusual fundraising idea.
A:This coming Friday at the parish hall of the cathedral in Juneau, Alaska, we are having a fundraiser we are calling “Icons for Iraq” to support the relief work of CNEWA and CRS on behalf of Christians and other persecuted minorities in northern Iraq.
We are having an exhibit for the community this coming Friday from 4:30-7:00pm (AST) at the parish hall, displaying the original art from two books that I recently illustrated for Liturgical Press, “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation (Exsultet)” and the “The Passions of Holy Week” (which in June was honored by the Catholic Press Association.)
Parishioners and community members are invited to come by to see the artwork and have something to eat and drink. Everyone is encouraged to make a donation to CRS and/or CNEWA. In addition, all of the art on exhibit will be available for a donation — we have set a minimum donation for each of the matted and framed icon illustrations (although we’d be delighted if donors wished to contribute more.)
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: I got the idea as I was praying last week for Iraqi Christians. I was pondering what I might have to offer that could be of help to the Christians in Iraq who are in such dire need and it occurred to me that donating this artwork might be a way to help out.
I continued to pray about doing this, talked it over with some of my colleagues in ministry and then asked for the blessing of my bishop, Edward J. Burns, which he enthusiastically gave, along with the sponsorship of the Diocese of Juneau for the event.
Q: Have you or the diocese ever done anything like this before?
A: Our diocese is small here but our people are quite generous and creative raising funds for the work of the Church here and abroad. But I think this is the first time that I can recall that we’ve done something like this with icons.
Q: Tell us a little about your own background as an icon writer and deacon.
A: I just marked my seventh anniversary as a deacon and I regard creating icons as a part of my diaconal ministry. I’ve been doing this for the past 34 years. I’m grateful that I was able to study first with a Russian Orthodox iconographer and then with Fr. Egon Sendler SJ, a Byzantine Catholic iconographer in France. In Alaska and in other parts of the country, I’ve been fortunate to have painted (or written) icons for Orthodox, Eastern andRoman Catholic parishes. I’ve also done painted illustrations for Liturgical Press and Oregon Catholic Press.
What attracted me to the icon so many years ago was my discovery that the icon was, in the tradition of the undivided Church, a participation in the proclamation of the Word of God. The defense of the icon at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 was the last place of formal agreement between the Eastern and Western Churches. This suggested to me that the icon might be an occasion for unity between Christians, reaching across the various divisions and misunderstandings that separate us.
Q: How can people bid on this art?
A: The main event is on Friday, 22 August here in Juneau. But anyone interested in making an early donation to obtain a specific icon should contact me by noon Thursday, via email: email@example.com. The work being made available can be seen at the Facebook page of my studio, The New Jerusalem Workshop.
All requests from outside of Juneau will need to pay via credit card. All items that need to be shipped will have an additional 15% charge to cover postage and shipping.
To learn more, visit the “Icons for Iraq” page at the Diocese of Juneau website.
20 August 2014
Villagers gather for a candlelit satsang outside a house in a small village in Bhikkawala.
(photo: John Mathew)
The Summer edition of ONE is now online, and one of the stories focuses on the plight of the Dalits — or so-called “untouchables” in India — who, despite obstacles and difficulties, convert to Christianity:
A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically.
The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.
Mr. Singh accepted baptism as a Christian 12 years ago.
“I have wandered all my life for happiness and finally found peace in the Lord,” he says, standing tall and wiry despite a slight stoop.
Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender.
But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.
He and his wife, Preetam Kaur, live in a small village in an area known as Gangapar, a few miles from the eparchy’s newest parish, St. Alphonsa, founded in July 2013. Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
Read more about the Dalits in the Summer edition of ONE.
20 August 2014
An elderly Iraqi woman fleeing violence gestures at the Al Waleed refugee camp in Iraq
on 19 August. (photo: CNS/Morris Bernard, UNHCR handout via EPA)
U.S. Dominicans praying for Iraqi Dominicans, villagers (CNS) Dominican Sister Attracta Kelly in Adrian, Michigan, has been able to speak a few times with the superior of a group of Iraqi Dominicans and knows how desperate their situation is since they escaped Islamicists in northern Iraq. Sister Maria Hanna, the superior, and 51 other Dominican sisters, along with their family members and other villagers were driven from the Ninevah Plain by Islamic State fighters. “The problem is they have nothing,” Sister Kelly said of the group, which fled to the northern Kurdish city of Irbil. “They are sleeping in the streets, sleeping under trees. There is a church (where) they have been sleeping on pews, on the floor, outside in the yard, and they have no shelter. They are having a time getting food, and they want to leave the country...”
Pope thanks people for prayers (CNS) Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew’s wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience 20 August for their prayers. After each of the priests who translate the pope’s words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: “The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children — one who was 2 years old and the other several months...”
Strike in Gaza hits family of Hamas military commander (The New York Times) Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home...
Maronite patriarch prepared to meet with leader of Hezbollah to discuss ISIS (Fides) The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Bechara Boutros Rai said he was ready to meet soon the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, in order to address together growing concerns about the threat posed by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) that proclaimed the Caliphate in the regions which have fallen under their control in Syria and Iraq...
In Kerala, church decides not to bury bishops in sanctuaries (New India Express) In what could be called a revolutionary decision, the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three Catholic denominations in India, has decided not to bury bishops in the sanctuary (madbaha) of churches. The decision was taken at the Synod of the church that began at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, the headquarters of the Church, on Tuesday. “From now onwards, deceased bishops and metropolitans will be laid to rest in the crypt (an underground burial place in churches) if such a facility is available, or at the chapel attached to the cemetery,” said Syro-Malabar Church spokesperson Fr. Paul Thelakkatu...
19 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Pope Francis Kerala Maronite
The summer edition of CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE, is now online! In this latest edition, we focus on the needs of the marginalized — the new orphans of Armenia and Georgia, refugees in Ethiopia, Untouchable Christians in India — and how the church accompanies them, responding to their basic needs.
Scroll through our virtual print edition, with its glorious images and colorful layouts enhanced with links to web only exclusives and links, including Pope Francis’ homilies and speeches from his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
And finally, take a trip to Jordan with our own Msgr. Kozar, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy, who spend time with contemporary heroes and witnesses of the church: Middle East Christians.
Tags: CNEWA Armenia Georgia ONE magazine Caring for the Elderly