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June, 2017
Volume 43, Number 2
8 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2011 photo, Palestinian Christians George Hamah, 65, left, and Yousef Lutfi, 73, walk near the Israeli-erected barrier that divides their olive groves near Bethlehem, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Israel okays more West Bank settlement homes (Al Jazeera) Israel has given preliminary approval for the construction of more than 800 new homes in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank, an Israeli official has said. Guy Inbar, the spokesman for Israel’s military-run Civil Administration in the West Bank, said on Thursday that initial plans to build 800 new settler homes were approved a day earlier. However, actual construction would require additional approval from the government. “This is a lengthy process,” said Inbar, who did not immediately provide further details on the plans. Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, put the number of new homes discussed by the Civil Administration on Wednesday at 1,096 and said they were earmarked for 11 illegal settlements, some located deep within the West Bank…

Maronite bishops urge Lebanon to remain neutral (Fides) Lebanon can avoid the many pitfalls that threaten its stability only if it remains out of the wars raging on its borders and maintains its “neutrality before the ongoing conflicts at a regional and international level.” This alarm for the fate of the country comes from the Council of Maronite Bishops, who met on Wednesday, 7 August, for their monthly meeting in Dimane, at the patriarchal summer seat. The bishops, under the leadership of Patriarch Bechara Peter, also addressed a direct criticism to the two opposing national political blocs held responsible for the institutional paralysis that prolongs the nation’s social and economic crises…

Syrian officials deny claimed rebel attack on Assad motorcade (Los Angeles Times) The Syrian government strenuously denied unsubstantiated reports Thursday that rebels had attacked a motorcade carrying President Bashar al Assad in Damascus, the capital. “The news is completely baseless and a mere reflection of the wishes and illusions of some media outlets and the governments standing behind them,” Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoubi said in a statement. Several Arab-language news services carried word of the alleged attack based on statements from opposition representatives. The Syrian president was pictured on state television Thursday getting into a car and attending services at a mosque in Damascus celebrating the Eid ul Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Ramadan fasting period. Assad appeared unruffled…

Syriacs continue battle over religious buildings (Hurriyet Daily News) The Syriac Christians of Mardin, in southeastern Turkey, will continue their legal battle after the Mor Gabriel Monastery, seeking to reclaim their rights to Syriac Catholic Patriarchate land. Despite a decree signed in 2011 to return property taken away from them, minorities have yet to take their lands back. Münir Üçkardes, a member of the Mardin Syriac Catholics Foundation, says they may take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights (E.C.H.R.). Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old monastery located in Mardin’s Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarli and Eglence sued the monastery for allegedly occupying their fields. The court recognized the monastery as an “occupier,” after which the case was brought to the E.C.H.R…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Maronite Church West Bank Syriac Christians

7 August 2013
Carl Hétu

The Church of the Beatitudes, run by Franciscans, was built on the site believed to be where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. (photo: CNEWA)

The first three days of our journey were spent in Israel. We visited the Mount of the Beatitudes and the surroundings of the Lake of Tiberias, referred to in the Bible as the Sea of Galilee; Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus; and the house of St. Peter in Capernaum, which was used for community gatherings by the very first Christians.

It seems so simple and peaceful to build a church, but the political climate of that era was complex and violent, making the process extremely hazardous. The Christians had to be strong, determined and forgiving.

In a similar way, we encountered a brave man who as a child was forced with his family out of his village and became a refugee in the new Israel. Archbishop Elias Chacour is the Melkite Catholic leader for Haifa, Nazareth and Galilee. Our group spent a good two hours with him in Haifa where he explained the difficult life of Arab Palestinian Christians in Israel since its creation in 1948.

Most of the Arabs live in segregated villages where Israeli Jews and Arabs rarely connect. He told us he had to go to court over 35 times as a priest, just trying to construct a parish hall, schools and a gym. “I never understood why the authorities didn’t want us to succeed,” he said.

One of his projects, a school for Israeli children from all backgrounds — Jewish, Muslim and Arab Christian — has seen great success, but it is an exception in this complex place.

We were all very moved by Archbishop Chacour’s presentation. Before we parted ways, he shared copies of his books with us — Blood Brothers and Faith Beyond Despair, in which he describes his life in Israel and how peace is possible. A few days later, one of my fellow pilgrims, Corina, told me that she couldn’t put the book down. “It’s too good,” she said, “and so informative. I never knew about Arab Palestinian Christians living in Israel. It’s a must read.”

Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour poses with Velma Harasen, former national president of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, and Carl Hétu, director of CNEWA Canada. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour

7 August 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2005, an Assyrian Christian man kisses a cross before the liturgy at St. George Cathedral in Chicago. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

Today marks Assyrian Martyrs Day, commemorating a tragic event recalled by thousands around the world. The Assyrian International News Agency takes note:

On this day, hundreds of innocent Assyrians were massacred under the rule of newly established Kingdom of Iraq. The Simele Massacre took place in August 1933 in Iraq.

Following Iraqi independence and the establishment of its political, social and economic system, the Simele Massacre was committed with the sole objective of ethnic cleansing. In August 1933 Iraqi forces massacred civilians in Simele and at the villages of Dohuk and Mosul. Nearly 3,000 civilians were killed and residential areas, destroyed. Men, women, children and elders were victims without any distinction.

The survivors of the 1915 atrocities under Ottoman-Turkish rule had once again been the victims of mass murder. Well-known lawyer Raphael Lemkin was inspired by these two events to coin the term “genocide.”

In 2005, we wrote about Assyrians settling in Chicago in a story called Assyrian Assimilation. And we explored the history of the Assyrians in Michael J.L. La Civita’s profiles of the Chaldean Church in 2005 and the Church of the East in 2009.

Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Chaldean Church Assyrian Church Church of the East

7 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Women labor in a farmer’s market in Addis Ababa. Unemployment and underemployment among Ethiopian youth is a major problem. Peter Lemieux discusses this in The High Stakes of Leaving, appearing in the May 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Seeking a better life, Ethiopian women turn to construction jobs (NPR) The 19-year-old Mekedes is one of six women working alongside 60 men at a construction site that will next year be a new wing of a city hospital. She wears a paint-spattered sweatshirt and a skirt over her jeans, a nod to her Orthodox Christian upbringing. While she typically does lighter jobs like cleaning and shoveling sand, roles on the site are always fluid. She’s tackled even the heaviest lifting jobs since she showed up to work as a day laborer at age 15…

Refugee children face abuse, forced marriages (Fides) Children who fled the war in Syria with their families continue to be exploited, abused and forced into early marriages. UNHCR has launched an initiative to seek the most effective security measures to prevent the young from working, dropping out of school or returning to Syria as child soldiers. According to the latest UNHCR estimates, 130,000 Syrian refugees live in the Zaatari camp in Jordan, where networks of organized crime are being built and scarce resources are constantly being looted and destroyed…

Exploited ‘child brides’ on the rise in Egypt (Washington Post) When young girls are sold into marriage, as 38,000 are every day, they can expect a life with no education and few opportunities, little public autonomy outside of their adult husband’s control and an increased risk of death from pregnancy or childbirth, which are the number one killer of girls aged 15 to 18 in the developing world. One in seven girls born in the developing world is married by age 15, usually sold by her family. But some girls who grow up in Egypt’s poor rural communities face an even scarier sort of child marriage: the temporary kind. Sex tourism to Egypt tends to spike in the summer, when wealthy men from Gulf countries flood into Egypt and thousands of underage girls are sold by their parents into temporary “marriages”…

No deal between army and Islamists in Egypt (New York Times) Egypt’s interim president said Wednesday that diplomats had failed to broker an agreement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-backed government to end the political crisis that has gripped the nation for the past five weeks. Today, Egypt’s prime minister said on state TV that the decision to clear the sit-ins was “irreversible.” Neither announcement said what the interim leadership’s next step would be, hinting that a forceful breakup of the sit-ins may be imminent…

Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Children Refugee Camps Women (rights/issues)

6 August 2013
Greg Kandra

Singers Yana Grigorian and Svitlana Kukharuk take a break during choir practice at the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Lviv. Read about Armenian efforts to rebuild a sense of church and community in western Ukraine in Restoring Faith in the September 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)

Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Eastern Christianity Armenian Apostolic Church

6 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

A man mourns his father at a Roma funeral in Hodász, Hungary. Located about 240 miles east of Budapest, Hodász is one of the most significant Roma communities in Hungary. Most Roma are Catholic, with a strong tradition of reverence for the Virgin Mary. To learn more, see Jacqueline Ruyak’s Our Town from the March 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Balazs Gardi/VII Network)

Hungarian men jailed over Roma killings (Al Jazeera) Four Hungarian men have been sentenced to jail after being found guilty of killing six Roma in a wave of racially motivated attacks between 2008 and 2009. A Budapest court on Tuesday handed down life sentences to Arpad Kiss, Istvan Kiss and Zsolt Peto. A fourth defendant, Istvan Csontos, who served as a driver during the crimes, was sentenced to a 13-year prison term. All four men are linked to the neo-Nazi movement. In one of the most gruesome attacks, a Roma father and his 5-year-old son were gunned down as they tried to flee their house, which the gang had set on fire…

Audit of Syrian refugees finds organized crime, child soldiers (AINA) Many Syrians who have escaped their country are now desperate to escape from United Nations refugee camps, where women are not safe and teenage boys are recruited as soldiers to fight in the conflict, according to an internal United Nations report. The report, a self-evaluation of U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, admits the United Nations could have done much better and “a far more substantial and coherent strategy is needed…”

Growing concern over plight of missing Jesuit priest in Syria (Vatican Radio) Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino says the Italian Jesuit priest missing in Syria has probably been abducted by an Islamic group, telling state television Tuesday that Italy has been working to secure his release. The Jesuits of the Middle East earlier issued a statement expressing their deep concern over the fate of the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, who went missing a week ago in northern Syria. One Jesuit priest based in neighboring Beirut who knows Father Dall’Oglio well is the Rev. Michael Zammit who spoke to Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges…

Israeli settlements proceed despite peace negotiations (AsiaNews) A week after agreeing to talks with Palestinian leaders, the Israeli government on Sunday added 20 West Bank settlements to a list some 600 Jewish communities prioritized for aid. According to Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, such a move will have a “destructive impact” on peace talks. Considered illegal by the international community, the settlements established by Israel are a longstanding stumbling block for diplomacy…

Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Refugee Camps Hungary Roma

5 August 2013
Melodie Gabriel

On our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we made it a point to give our patronage to Christian-owned businesses whenever possible. We felt it was important to show solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land in a tangible way by supporting their livelihoods.

For many Christians, running a local business is a major factor enabling them to stay in the Holy Land and thereby maintain a Christian presence there. Christians comprise less than 2 percent of the population and that number continues to decrease. Many emigrate due to high unemployment and a harsh financial climate.

Tourism plays a vital part in the Holy Land’s economy, and gift shops can grow quite large to accommodate this. (photo: CNEWA)

Some of our support for Christian businesses took the form of visits to gift shops to buy souvenirs. Many of us purchased olive wood holy statues — traditional handicrafts of the Holy Land. We also visited a wine shop run by Salesian Fathers, who have their own winery in the Cremisan Valley.

We stayed at the Ararat Hotel, a new Christian-owned hotel in Bethlehem in the Palestinian Territories. Our other accommodations were at the Mount of the Beatitudes and Stella Maris guesthouses run by religious orders.

We also enjoyed a traditional lunch with Nora Kort, a Christian woman representing the Arab Orthodox Society. The Arab Orthodox Society of East Jerusalem is dedicated to helping Palestinian women help themselves. One of their initiatives is the Melia Art and Training Center — “an organization of women from all over the West Bank” dedicated to preserving traditional Palestinian cross-stitch embroidery.

Catholic Women’s League of Canada members examine embroidery sold through the Melia Art and Training Center. (photo: CNEWA)

One of the most memorable details of our trip to the Holy Land was the food — pita bread with hummus and other dips, kebabs, tabbouleh and more delicacies. We ate at numerous restaurants and really experienced the local culture through its cuisine.

Tour guide Alex, left, breathed life into our excursion by providing historical and biblical context. (photo: CNEWA)

Finally, our tour guide, Alexander (“Iskandar” in Arabic), was a Palestinian Christian. Alex was awesome — he greatly enhanced our experience of the Holy Land. He was not only knowledgeable of the cultural and historical context of the places we visited, but we also saw to the very roots of his deep Christian faith. In every place we visited, he brought out a Bible and we read a passage from Scripture pertaining to the place, treating us to a more complete experience. We also appreciated his patience and his humor. He was a pleasure to be around!

Tags: CNEWA Catholic Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians CNEWA Canada

5 August 2013
Greg Kandra

Orphans join in prayer at Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Read more about the work of the children’s home in Every Child Has a Name from the September 2001 issue of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Tags: Ethiopia Children Orphans/Orphanages

5 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2010 photo, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch and All the East, left, meets with Archbishop Timothy Dolan at the monastery and seminary of St. Ephrem the Syrian, in Damascus. (photo: CNEWA)

Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate to remain in Damascus (Fides) Patriarch Ignatius Zakka of Antioch and All the East denies all rumors that the See of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Syriac Orthodox Church will move from Damascus. The patriarch puts it simply: “There is no intention to move it to another place.” The Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church unanimously echoes this position. According to a statement sent to Fides Agency, such a transition would be tantamount to the admission of a danger of “extinction” of the Syriac Orthodox Church and its spiritual heritage…

Jesuits of the Middle East express ‘deep concern’ for priests (Fides) In a recent statement, the Jesuits of the Middle East expressed “deep worry” about the fate of some of their confreres in the Syrian conflict. Along with Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, the Roman Jesuit who has been missing in northern Syria for a week, the Provincial Assouad also refers to the plight of Father Frans van der Lugt and the people with whom he lives in the center of the city of Homs, stranded and isolated by the war…

Metropolitan Tikhon: American Orthodoxy obliged to the Russian (The Voice of Russia) The Russian Orthodox Church can offer a great deal to the modern world, says Metropolitan Tikhon of All America and Canada. The Orthodox Church of America participated in the celebrations dedicated to the 1025th anniversary of the spreading of Christianity to Russia. In an interview with the Voice of Russia, Metropolitan Tikhon shared his impression on his visits to Moscow, Kiev and Minsk. “We’re filled with gratitude to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill for the invitation to come and to pray together with the hierarchs from all the Orthodox churches,” he said…

In Egypt, mounting tension between Islamists and military (Christian Science Monitor) Tens of thousands of the former president’s supporters have spent the last month camped across two locations in eastern Cairo, demanding the reinstatement of Muhammad Morsi, who was ousted by the military and arrested on 3 July. Two early morning attempts by police and military forces to clear the camps have resulted in the deaths of around 140 Morsi supporters. Fears are now growing over the possibility of a third state-led massacre in as many weeks if the security services move in again…

Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Orthodox Church Syriac Orthodox Church

2 August 2013
Greg Kandra

Muslims take part in prayers during the I’tikaf, a spiritual retreat in a mosque that is usually held during the last 10 days of Ramadan, at the Sanusi Dantata Memorial Jummu’at mosque in Abuja, Nigeria on 31 July. (photo: CNS Afolabi Sotunde, Reuters)

The Vatican today released the text of Pope Francis’ message to Muslims at the conclusion of Ramadan. The theme of the message is mutual respect through education. It says, in part:

What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal.

Turning to mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!

It is clear that, when we show respect for the religion of our neighbours or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions.

Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.

We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.

Read the entire message here.

For more on the observance of Ramadan, check out this essay from the September 2011 issue of ONE.

Tags: Pope Francis Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations Interfaith Ramadan

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