29 January 2019
On a home visit, Father Vinu Joseph and Sister Savari Arul administer medication to a patient. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
In the current edition of ONE, journalist Anubha George reports on the inspiring work among the poor with a mobile clinic Healing the Forgotten in India. Here, she offers more details from her visit.
It is the end of October. The roads are winding. We’re driving up the hills. The Sun is at its scorching peak. The weather is humid. We in the Kanyakumari Social Service Society (K.K.S.S.S.) ambulance are sweaty and thirsty. But the morale in the team is at an all time high. It’s as if nothing can faze them. There is no urgency as the palliative care team visits one home after another. It’s as if serving the community is their one and only purpose.
That is the one thing I take away from them: that service is a calling. There are people in this world who go to absolutely any length to help others, without expecting anything in return.
K.K.S.S.S. was set up in 1972. It is the social development arm of the Diocese of Thuckalay in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. K.K.S.S.S. runs a mobile ambulance which provides palliative care for people who are very poor and have nowhere to turn to for help.
This morning, the Rev. Vinu Joseph is leading the team of a nurse and three volunteers. We go high up in the hills. It’s a tribal area. It’s an actual forest. Tigers and wild elephants can be spotted. Health services aren’t easily accessible to people here. We park the ambulance by the foothills and start to climb up. A two mile hike later, we’re at Vijay Kumar’s home. It’s a hut. He’s 52 and had a stroke a few years ago. Doctors said it was caused by high blood pressure. Vijay Kumar wasn’t even aware he had high BP. His daughter stands by the door with her two children. One is a toddler, the other an infant. There are big poisonous spiders weaving their webs all around. A dog guards the hut. There are some hens and chickens running around.
Vijay Kumar is bed ridden. He has been so since the stroke. His wife welcomes Father Vinu as he walks in. I’m too scared of the spiders to go in. Vijay Kumar puts his hand out. I hold his hand from outside the window. Members of the K.K.S.S.S. team have known the family a while. Father Vinu prays. The family are Hindus. But they’re glad that someone’s come to check up on them. They’re happy that someone prays for them. Vijay Kumar’s daughter tells me they appreciate the support and help.
It turns out that the K.K.S.S.S. team make this trek up the hills just to check Vijay Kumar’s blood pressure a couple of times a week. All that just to check up on one person? I ask Father Vinu if that’s worth it. His reply touches my heart.
“People like Vijay Kumar look after our forests. They guard nature. The least we can do is look after them,” he says. Then he adds: “The service of the poor is the service of Christ. Jesus gives us the strength to do what we do. And he alone shows us the way.”
Read more in the December 2018 edition of ONE.
29 January 2019
A religious sister walks through a construction site in Beni Suef, Egypt. The planned school under construction will allow students to continue studying with the sisters past grade school. Read more about this and other Signs of Hope in Egypt in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
29 January 2019
Vandals attacked and defaced a synagogue in Jerusalem Monday. (photo: Twitter)
Jerusalem synagogue defaced (Haaretz) A synagogue in Jerusalem was defaced Monday overnight as vandals broke in and damaged its Torah ark, facilities and books. Police has opened an investigation into the matter. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “shocked” at the incident, writing on Twitter that “police must find those responsible immediately and ensure they are brought to justice…”
France planning to repatriate ISIS suspects (The Telegraph) France is reportedly planning to repatriate more than 100 French ISIS suspects from Syria amid fears they could lose track of them after US troops withdraw from the war-torn country. Some 130 Islamic State suspects being held in custody by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in prisons across northern Syria are to be sent back within the next few weeks, according to French channel BFMTV. ”All those who will return to France will be entrusted to the judges. The judge will decide that it will be necessary to put them in prison,” Christophe Castaner, France’s Interior Minister, told BFMTV…
Ethiopia bans street begging by Syrians (AP) Ethiopia is banning street begging by Syrian nationals who have startled people by showing up in growing numbers in recent months. The deputy head of Ethiopia’s immigration office tells The Associated Press that “we have tolerated them for some time but we have now decided to ban the illegal practice...They are becoming a burden…”
Jordan Foreign Minister urges closure of refugee camp (The Jordan Times) Arrangements to deliver humanitarian aid to the Rukban camp are only temporary solutions that do not address the real issue, and the focus must be on the de-establishment of the camp and allowing refugees to return to their hometowns, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has said. ”The area in which Rukban exists has never sustained life. Humanitarian supplies are important, but now that the conditions of their return are met, with Daesh pushed out of them, I think all efforts should be focused on achieving that,” Safadi told Sputnik news agency in a recent interview…
28 January 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jerusalem ISIS Jews
The Kanya Kumari Social Service Society’s mobile clinic visits patients in remote regions of Tamil Nadu, India. Read more about the extraordinary mission of Healing the Forgotten in the December 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
28 January 2019
The ‘caliphate’ of ISIS has been severely diminished in Syria, and the remnants are making a final stand in the desert. (video: ITV News/YouTube)
The ISIS ‘caliphate’ is reduced to a pair of villages in Syria (The Washington Post) A pair of dusty villages in the Syrian desert is all that remains of the vast expanse of territory the Islamic State once called its caliphate, and the complete territorial defeat of the militant group appears to be imminent, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials…
Asian bishops’ president issues statement for World Day of Sick in Calcutta (Vatican News) The Asian bishops’ president is urging believers in the continent to continue upholding the sacred duty and tradition of caring and respecting the elderly, the infirm and the helpless, saying it is a barometer of society’s health. Cardinal Charles Bo, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), made the exhortation in a message he released on Sunday in view of the upcoming international celebration of the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Sick…
Goa being hurt by exploitation (UCANews.com) The planeloads of foreign tourists and pleasure-seekers are no longer descending on the coastal state of Goa — a bastion of Christianity in India — with such regularity, lured by its palm-fringed beaches and hippie vibe. The lines of local tourists vying to try their hand at jet-skiing or paragliding have also shortened in this former Portuguese colony that sits on the country’s western coast. For the first time in years, hotel occupancy rates reportedly shot down to around 50 percent on average over Christmas and New Year, significantly lower than in previous peak seasons in this former tourism hot-spot…
Israel unearths a sacred Roman road in Jerusalem (The Washington Post) The main road winding through the densely built Arab neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh is like many others in Jerusalem, lined with convenience stores and often crammed with traffic. There’s little clue to what is happening just yards below the pavement and under the floors of surrounding houses and apartment blocks. For five years, Israeli archaeologists, supported by a nationalist Jewish organization, have been digging a tunnel here. Their aim is to uncover what they say was once an important thoroughfare used by worshipers some 2,000 years ago to reach the Jewish holy temple…
25 January 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem ISIS
The video above shows the very real struggles of Ukraine's elderly poor — and the efforts of Caritas to bring them light and hope. (video: Ivan Chernichkin/CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, journalist Mark Raczkiewycz looks at how Caritas Ukraine offers Windows to the World for the country’s elderly poor. He offers further impressions below.
There’s a saying in Ukraine that translates in English as: “Growing old isn’t a blessing.”
There are about 11 million pensioners here, who comprise about a quarter of the population. They eke out a living by relying on their paltry monthly pensions that amount to less than $100; the average monthly nationwide salary is $320. Yet they somehow survive. Statistics show that this segment is the most diligent when it comes to paying their utility bills on time. When I speak to them, they usually say that all their money goes towards buying medicine, paying bills and food. They really don’t have much left after that. They can’t afford to do what they want like go on trips and pursue hobbies in their leisure time. The healthier, more mobile ones help by taking care of grandchildren. Many often supplement their pensions by staying in the workforce. For example, they’ll sell fruits and vegetables from their summer home gardens or work as newspaper vendors near subway stations or hawk honey from their hives, anything they don’t consume.
It’s a necessity — otherwise, they wouldn’t survive. They usually don’t stray from their household budgets so they’re immediately vulnerable to any shocks in the economy like a rise in natural gas prices for heating or consumer inflation.
Their plight is impossible not to notice.
I’ve heard of women working as nannies or house cleaners and men who will moonlight as plumbers or basic repairmen. They’re resourceful in that way, doing whatever they can to make extra money to stay afloat. People joke that the seniors who gather and sit on benches act as the most effective community watchdogs. But that company is valuable for them to avoid being alone.
The more unfortunate really can’t rely on the state, which is why groups like Caritas as well as humanitarian efforts by the Greek Catholic Church are so important.
For the elderly, homecare assistance is more than helping them do things they can’t. Human interaction brightens their day and makes them feel like they’re not abandoned. Otherwise, the world becomes a lonely, cold place. Depression sets in. Dementia as well. I’ve seen how even taking a pet like a cat or dog improves their lives. How house calls by social workers, even for one hour a week makes a difference. The elderly deserve better and should lead more dignified lives.
They actually don’t ask for much, are the least demanding and the most patient. Thank goodness the church and Caritas are there for them.
Read more in the December 2018 edition of ONE.
25 January 2019
World Youth Day pilgrims from Venezuela take a selfie with Muslims from Jumma Mosque in Panama City. The Muslims handed out complimentary cold bottles of water to people as they waited to get into a welcoming ceremony with Pope Francis on 24 January 2019. (photo: CNS/Chaz Muth)
Thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims stopped by the Jama Mosque on 24 January en route to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.
“Brothers, sisters, you need water,” Hashim Bhana yelled at them from under a tent that announced a “hydration center” outside the mosque, a place where pilgrims could pick up free water, or catch some needed shade and a smile as they struggled to stay hydrated under the blazing sun.
“This is an event for the good of young people, it benefits them so how could we say no” to helping them, said Bhana.
While hundreds of vendors sold water to the thirsty, the Muslim community at the oldest mosque in Panama City gave it away for free near a banner that said, “Welcome Pilgrim Friends.” By the time Pope Francis had arrived at Santa Maria la Antigua Field, they had handed out 15,000 bottles and were looking for more because of the demand, said Bhana.
In Panama City, people of different religions get along well, he said, so the gesture was not unusual.
“What’s important to us is that we’re all brothers and sisters. We don’t ask about your religion, your skin color, age. We’re all humans and we want everyone to be well,” said Kasim Bhana, who was helping distribute water.
Having the pope in Panama City is a blessing, he said, adding that the Muslim community would be providing free water until World Youth Day was over, particularly because the venues for many of the events were near the mosque and they did not want the pilgrims to dehydrate or suffer.
The mosque has about 8,000 members, give or take, said Kasim Bhana, and many were taking turns staffing the water stations during the hottest times of the day. Others bought and delivered water and ice to keep the water bottles cold.
But on the day the pope was going to be closest to the mosque, they opened earlier.
“This was the best day,” he said.
25 January 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim Interfaith
In this photo from 2014, Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel works on a manuscript at his restoration laboratory in Qaraqosh, Iraq. On 25 January, Father Michaeel became the new Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. (photo: CNS/courtesy of Centre Numerique des Manuscrits Orientaux)
Iraqi priest who saved priceless manuscripts ordained archbishop (AFP) An Iraqi priest who saved a trove of religious manuscripts from the Islamic State group was ordained on Friday as the new Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. Najeeb Michaeel, 63, was ordained in a ceremony in Mosul’s St. Paul Church attended by Catholic leaders from the region and the US, as well as local officials and residents. “Our message to the whole world, and to Mosul’s people, is one of coexistence, love, and peace among all of Mosul’s different communities and the end of the ideology that Daesh (IS) brought here,” Michaeel told AFP…
Vatican, Indian theologians discuss Christian faith in India (Vatican News) A delegation from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) concluded a 3-day theological meeting on Thursday in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, a CBCI press release has said. It said the 21-24 January theological symposium on Christian faith in a multicultural context was organized by the CBCI at St. John’s Medical College. Forty-four 44 bishops and theologians from India participated in the colloquium…
Down to its last two villages in Syria, ISIS still fights back (The New York Times) Along two sharp curves of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State is fighting to hold on to the last speck of the vast territory it once controlled…
More Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon (AP) Hundreds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon went back to their war-torn country on Thursday — the latest batch to return home in recent months…
Patriarch of Jerusalem cancels meeting with Ukrainian president (The Jerusalem Post) According to the official version, Theophilos III was hospitalized with a minor illness. According to information from unnamed sources in the church circles of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the head of the Jerusalem church did not want to meet with the Ukrainian leader after a scandal with a letter that Theophilus III sent to Poroshenko in December 2018…
24 January 2019
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon ISIS Chaldean Church
Pope Francis remembered the Holocaust and honored its victims with a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 2016 (video: CNS)
This year on Sunday 27 January, the world observes Holocaust Remembrance Day. Different from the Jewish observance of Yom HaShoah, The Day of the Holocaust (this year on 2 May), Holocaust Remembrance Day is the result of a UN resolution on 1 November 2005. It chose 27 January for the observance because it was also the 60th anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi extermination camp, on 27 January 1945. In the resolution, the UN recognized the horror of the Nazi extermination program which killed 6 million Jews, 5 million Slavs, 3 million Poles and over a half million more “undesirables.”
Figures like this are almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend. It has been said that the human mind can visualize nine as three rows of three. Beyond that visualization becomes more and more difficult. The number 14 million simply cannot be visualized. It is something like the complete annihilation of New York, London or Tokyo. The suffering which that involves overloads the human capacity for compassion and we tend to shut down. That is why the UN Holocaust Remembrance Day is so important: it reminds the world not merely of the horrors of which we are capable but of the horrors which we have actually committed.
Every generation creates its own vocabulary. The experience of the 20th century resulted in the word "megadeath." Between the beginning of World War I in 1914 and the end of the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1979, it is estimated that over 135 million human beings were killed. Jews, Armenians, Slavs, Gypsies, Ukrainian peasants, soldiers, Cambodian intellectuals and others were killed in numbers that stagger the imagination. Megadeath had become a reality. Technology has been harnessed and used with incredible effectiveness to kill tens of millions of people.
In CNEWA’s world this has been a tragic, almost unbearably cruel fact of life. The Middle East was, especially between the two World Wars, the scene of numerable massacres of tens of thousands of people at a time. One of the things that deeply motivated Fr. Paul Wattson to co-found CNEWA was precisely the suffering of millions of Christians in Armenia, Turkey and the Middle East.
It is easier for the human psyche, even the psyche of a compassionate person, to forget the horror of megadeath than to deal with it. But wise people know that forgetting is a dangerous thing. Forgetting allows the horror to fade and, when the horror fades, the will to prevent that horror from reoccurring also fades.
The UN is acutely aware of this. When Auschwitz-Birkenau becomes a faded memory, expressions like “some Nazis are good people” move into the field of acceptable speech. When anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism edge towards the center of our societies and threaten to become “mainstream,” the overwhelming evil of megadeath begins to lose its horror; we and our leaders begin to believe that there are worse things than total war. The UN knows this is wrong. Popes throughout the 20th and 21st centuries know this is wrong and have continued to forcefully call for peace and justice.
UN Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds the world of the evil we have done. This day challenges us to face the horror of megadeath and to realize that it must not happen again—ever or anywhere.
24 January 2019
In honor of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 18-25 January, Middle East Christian leaders attended an ecumenical prayer service at St. Severus the Great Church in Atchaneh, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Orthodox patriarchate)
At a gathering of Middle East leaders coinciding with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Syriac Orthodox patriarch emphasized the need to unify efforts against extremism and terrorism.
“A hundred years after the genocide during the Ottoman Empire and major displacements,” Christians in the region are still facing similar circumstances, said Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch.
“Many of our churches have been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of our Christian brothers have been forced to migrate from the land of their fathers,” Patriarch Aphrem said. “To whose benefit is it if the region is emptied of Christians?”
He opened the 22-23 January executive committee meeting of the Middle East Council of Churches, which he hosted at the patriarchal residence in Atchaneh, Lebanon.
Members of the executive committee attending the meeting included Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics; the Rev. Habib Badr, senior pastor of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut; and Souraya Bechealany, acting secretary-general of Middle East Council of Churches; as well as bishops and representatives from Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches in the Middle East.
Patriarch Aphrem called for regular meetings, at both the spiritual and political levels, to unify efforts against extremism and terrorism, as well as “to promote the principles of coexistence, human values, religious freedom and the spiritual and social values that exist.”
“We know that our future is the future of living together with our Muslim brothers,” the patriarch said, adding that “if we want to have a secure future,” all must work together.
The patriarch lamented “the great silence of the great world powers” regarding the fate of two bishops kidnapped in Syria nearly six years ago, Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo.
In its final statement, the executive committee called on “the international community and the Arab world to work for the release of the kidnapped bishops” as well as priests and lay abductees.
It called for “the establishment of peace in Syria and the dignified and safe return of displaced persons to their homeland and for the restoration of Iraq’s recovery and the return of uprooted children to their land.”
It rejected the decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of “the occupying power” and called for the “realization of the state of Palestine stipulated in the relevant international resolutions.”
It also condemned “all forms of extremism and terrorism,” expressing their hope for the “cooperation between churches and Islamic authorities to build a religious discourse” based on “the values of love, peace, social justice and dialogue.”
Tags: Middle East