Current Issue
Summer, 2016
Volume 42, Number 2
18 March 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

People gather in Minya, Egypt, on 16 February for the funeral of Coptic Christians kidnapped and killed by ISIS rebels in Libya. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said atrocities carried out by ISIS against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities constitute genocide. (photo: CNS/Alaa Elkamhawia, EPA)

U.S. declares ISIS atrocities ‘genocide’ (Los Angeles Times) The Obama administration declared Thursday that rapes, killings and repression of minorities in Iraq and Syria by ISIS militants constitute genocide. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the region’s Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims were victims of genocide — the deliberate and systematic elimination of a group — and ethnic cleansing…

Armenians, Assyrians praise John Kerry for ISIS genocide statement (AINA) After months of pressure from lawmakers, clergy and organizations, Secretary of State John Kerry used the word “genocide” Thursday to describe atrocities committed by ISIS not only toward Yazidis, but also on Christians and other ethnic minorities who live in the Middle East. Kerry’s announcement likely won’t affect policy, lawmakers said. But by calling the Islamic State’s actions a genocide against Christians symbolizes a change within the Obama administration, members of Southern California’s Armenian and Assyrian organizations noted…

Syriac Catholic archbishop: U.S. declaration of genocide fueled by political interests (Fides) Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibis says the path that led the U.S. administration to recognize ISIS’ violence as genocidal is “a geopolitical operation” that “exploits the category of genocide for their own interests.” The church leader says: “The proclamation of genocide is accomplished by pointing the spotlight on [ISIS] and censoring all the complicity and historical and political processes that led to the creation of the jihadist monster,” adding that the move represents an attempt to regain lost credibility in the region…

Papal visit to Armenia under consideration (Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See’s press office, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the possibility of a visit by Pope Francis to Armenia in the second half of June is being studied…

Ethiopian prime minister appeals to world: Don’t forget us (Newsweek) Ethiopia’s prime minister has urged the international community to increase its support towards the Horn of Africa state as ten million people face going hungry. The country is currently in the midst of its worst drought in around 50 years, exacerbated by the El Niño weather pattern…

Christians and Muslims face rising persecution by Hindu extremists in India (VICE News) Violent attacks on religious minorities in India averaged one attack per day last year, a rising number that has led a coalition of U.S. Congress members to plead with India’s leaders to condemn the violence. According to the Catholic Secular Forum, attacks rose more than 20 percent from 2014 to 2015. There have been 36 attacks on Christians so far this year, ranging from churches being destroyed to priests, sisters, and parishioners being beaten, according to the Christian human rights group International Christian Concern, as well as four murders of Muslim men by Hindu mobs over their consumption of beef…

Tags: India Ethiopia Armenia United States ISIS

16 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Elsa stands in her home in Mai-Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

In the summer of 2014, Fanuel Abebe, project director for Jesuit Refugee Service (J.R.S.) described his encounter with one of his clients, a refugee from Eritrea named Elsa. CNEWA partners with J.R.S., which works in the Mai-Aini Refugee Camp, assisting in the provision of services to those seeking shelter there. It was an inspirational visit that serves to remind us of the everyday heroism of people who dare to dream of a better life in a troubled world:

As we entered the mud house, we were welcomed with a warm smile by Jerry, whose mother, Elsa, is a client of Jesuit Refugee Service. 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. We were also delighted at the work J.R.S. had done in keeping Elsa’s spirits high despite her very difficult life as a refugee.

Elsa’s face brightened as she told us about Jerry’s performance at a J.R.S. 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 — J.R.S. has helped her keep her hopes alive.

Elsa’s daughter 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.

In spite of the desolation in Mai-Aini, Elsa dreams of a better life for her children.

Read more about Elsa’s Dream in the Summer 2014 edition of ONE.

16 March 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita

The spring edition of ONE magazine is here!

Meet a Georgian hero, tour Egypt with Msgr. Kozar, meet Ukraine’s future leaders, see CNEWA in action in northern Iraq, and learn about Ethiopia’s need for water.

You’ll find all of this — and more — in the spring edition of ONE.

(P.S. Spread the word!)

Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine

16 March 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

A mother and child suffering from malnourishment visit the clinic run by the Daughters of St. Anne in Idaga Hamus, Ethiopia. To learn more about Ethiopia’s drought and how church are responding to growing needs, read When Rain Fails, from the new Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures)

Tags: Ethiopia Drought Ethiopia’s Catholic Church

16 March 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

A child sits beside a toy rabbit in the mud at the refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece, on 15 March. The decision by Macedonia to close its border to migrants on Wednesday has left thousands of people stranded at the Greek transit camp. (photo: Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Pope appeals to leaders to open borders to migrants (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reiterated his appeal to State leaders to open their doors to migrants. Speaking during the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square the Pope said “I like to see leaders who open their hearts and their doors” to the many migrants fleeing their countries.

Syrian Army advances in the Palmyra Hills as ISIS retreats east (Al Masdar News) The Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” — backed by the Desert Hawks Brigade and Liwaa Imam Ali (Iraqi paramilitary) — launched a powerful assault on ISIS’ defensive positions at the strategic hills surrounding the ancient desert city of Palmyra this morning…

Syria’s Assyrians Fight Back (AINA) Assyrians, an ethnic minority, represent one small faction of prewar Syria’s 1.8 million Christian population. The Syrian government, to the exasperation of Assyrians, has never regarded the Assyrians as a separate ethnicity, instead classifying them as Arab, while Assyrians consider themselves a separate ethnic group with roots in the region dating back more than 4,000 years. Their identity is closely associated with Christianity, the faith Assyrians have followed since shortly after the religion’s beginning. Historically oppressed and underrepresented in political life, the Assyrians in northern Syria have armed themselves in an effort to protect their identity amid the chaos of civil war…

ISIS expands as Libya descends into chaos (Der Spiegel) As two separate governments wage war against each other, Libya is crumbling. ISIS is taking advantage of the turmoil to put down roots in the country…

Orissa bishops mark 30 August to commemorate Christian martyrs (Fides) Bishops of the state of Orissa, in central India, have declared 30 August “Martyrs’ Day” — the day after the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. “We are delighted with this decision, adopted to honor and respect the sacrifice of more than 101 people who lost their lives during the anti-Christian massacres in 2007 and 2008,” said Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, president of the regional conference. The Regional Conference of Bishops of Orissa has officially asked the Indian Bishops’ Conference to make 30 August a national day of commemoration…

Can the Coptic Church help solve Egyptian-Ethiopian dam dispute? (Al Monitor) The Ethiopian and Egyptian Coptic churches share close historical relations. Coptic Bishop Beeman of Nagada and Qus, who coordinates ties between the Egyptian and Ethiopian Coptic churches, has told Al Monitor that the church could play an indirect role in solving the Renaissance Dam crisis between the two countries…

Holy Land bishops discuss the agreements between Israel and the Holy See (Fides) At an ongoing assembly of Catholic leaders in the Holy Land in Amman, bishops discuss relations between the Holy See, the local churches and civil authorities, among other topics. Led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, the event also provides in-depth sessions dedicated to the agreements not yet signed and implemented between the Vatican and Israel, and the activity of the Society of St. Yves, a body of the Latin Patriarchate engaged in the protection of human rights…

Tags: Syria India Egypt Ethiopia Migrants

15 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Flora Sargsyan, project manager for Caritas Armenia, works to assist Armenia’s elderly.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

CNEWA has long had a concern for the poor and marginalized people throughout Eastern Europe, and works with religious and lay agencies to provide support where it is most needed.

We’ve partnered with Caritas Armenia to serve Armenia’s elderly — “the new orphans” of that part of the world — and one person who has been at the forefront of that effort is Flora Sargsyan, who runs a senior day care center in Gyumri. In the summer of 2015, she wrote about her work in the pages of ONE:

Despite years of work experience, Armenia’s elderly find themselves in hard socioeconomic situations in this post-Soviet period — deprived of jobs and a steady income while trying to live on miserable, inadequate pensions. Unfortunately, their situation has worsened with the massive migration of young people seeking jobs outside the country, leaving their aged parents alone and helpless.

The elderly encounter a lot of hardships; some can’t take care of their health needs, or even handle the routines of daily life. It is a challenge for them just to survive in their late age. They need support — physical, material, psychological and spiritual.

The initiatives we implement are intended to improve their quality of life. We work to help those who are physically and mentally frail to be integrated into society and to be treated with respect and care. We provide an array of supportive services conducted by social workers, medical nurses, caregivers and volunteers.

Each time I visit the people we serve, I feel I need to offer them encouragement. Most are alone and have lost hope. They are anxious for our visits; they long to engage with others, to speak and to be heard. The elderly need proper hygiene, clean homes, hot meals; they also need medical care and attention. This is what our programs help provide. A caregiver or nurse might help bathe the patient or offer to cook or clean — even dress their hair.

Our caregivers are vital to the elderly because they soothe their pain — both physical and emotional. They help ease the sufferings of their souls.

Read more about Flora’s heroic mission here.

15 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Pharmacist Falah Ahmad distributes medicine to displaced Iraqis from the back of the mobile clinic. The clinic, supported in part by CNEWA, is a lifeline for thousands of refugees. Read more about it in Health on Wheels in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE, now available online.
(photo: Raed Rafei)

15 March 2016
Greg Kandra

A Russian fighter bomber prepares to leave the Hmeymim air base for its permanent base in Russia. On 14 March 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an order to start the withdrawal of the main part of Russian forces from Syria. (Photo: TASS via Getty Images)

New round of peace talks as Russia withdraws troops from Syria (Vatican Radio) President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to withdraw most of its forces from Syria, timing his move to coincide with the launch of Syria peace talks. But Mr Putin made it clear that Russia will maintain its air base and a naval facility in Syria and keep some troops there...

Holy See: Syria experiencing crimes against humanity (Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Tuesday said it is “urgent” to begin immediately the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population of Syria. Monsignor Richard Gyhra, the Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, was speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council...

Russian Orthodox center nears completion in Paris (TASS) The construction of a Russian Orthodox cathedral is nearing completion in Paris with its domes to be mounted on Saturday, 19 March. The cathedral will be part of the Cultural and Spiritual Russian Orthodox Center located on Quai Branly near the Eiffel Tower. It will incorporate a French-Russian primary school for 150 school students, a library, exhibition halls, premises of an Orthodox parish and a seminary...

Iraq’s last Christian soldiers (The Daily Beast) Martin Banni is the last of his family in Iraq. The 25-year-old Christian fled his village of Keremles when the so-called Islamic State invaded the Nineveh Plains in the summer of 2014. Today he lives in a camp in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, while the rest of his family lives in San Diego. The thought of one day working to preserve his ancient community is what keeps him here. “Abroad we might have safety,” he says. “But we will disappear...”

Mother Teresa to be canonized 4 September (Vatican Radio) At a public Consistory held on Tuesday, Pope Francis gave his approval for the canonization of five new saints...

14 March 2016
Greg Kandra

Parishioners sing Armenian hymns during the Divine Liturgy at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, which they share with the local Roman Catholic community. To learn more about Catholics in Armenia, read A Firm Faith from the Spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)

14 March 2016
Greg Kandra

The video above, posted online by the ISIS news agency Amaq, reportedly shows ISIS soldiers burning Christian books in Mosul. (video: YouTube)

Video: ISIS burning Christian books in Mosul (AINA) ISIS has released a video purporting to show members of its religious police burning hundreds of Christian books which it considers blasphemous towards Allah. The footage shows a militant tossing pamphlets and manuscripts bearing crucifixes on the front cover onto a bonfire in the terror group’s stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq. It is the latest incident in which the jihadists have sought to purge society of anything that doesn’t conform to their violent interpretation of Islam. The video was posted online yesterday by its news agency Amaq...

Turkey carries out airstrikes after deadly bombing in Ankara (AP) Turkey’s air force hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Monday, hours after a suicide car bombing in the capital killed 37 people and heightened tensions with the militants...

Indian bishops: Church must leave it’s “comfort zone”> (Fides) “As citizens of the country, we put our trust in democratic values and in the Indian Constitution. Trusting in the grace, love and mercy of God, we walk to accomplish the mission that God has entrusted us. We appeal to all people of good will in India to cooperate with us for a better church and a better society.” This is how the Indian bishops expressed themselves in the final document of their 32nd Plenary Assembly, held from 2 to 9 March in Bangalore...

Gaza’s new generation of children only knows war, aggression ( If you keep depriving children from Gaza of everything, eventually some of them will join armed conflict and Israel will have no one to blame but themselves, Belal Dabour, a Palestinian doctor from Gaza, told RT...

Pope marks third anniversary of election with talk on mercy (CNS) Pope Francis celebrated the third anniversary of his election with a simple Tweet — “Pray for me” — and the usual Sunday recitation of the Angelus prayer with tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. In his talk 13 March, the pope did not mention the anniversary, but focused on God’s forgiveness and mercy as he did in his first Angelus address in 2013...

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