26 November 2014
Children play in a field as Turkish Armed Forces dispatch tanks to the Turkish-Syrian border. (photo: Getty Images)
Swing sets and death in Syria: A visit to an Aleppo playground (Der Spiegel) Majid, what are you doing? “I’m watering mommy.” Majid drags a large, blue bucket — so full that he can hardly carry it — across the withered grass. But why are you watering your mother? The 13-year-old looks puzzled, as though it were the kind of idiotic question that only outsiders might ask. “Because she’s right here,” he says and pours the water onto a mound surrounded by a few stones meant to mark the site as a grave. An old pine tree offers a bit of shade, but so far, nothing seems to have taken root at the place where Majid’s mother is buried. “I have to water it. Then something will grow for sure,” he says with a steady voice as he heads back to refill his bucket. Majid’s mother died in the summer, but nobody in the family had enough money for a proper gravestone or even a border for the site. She died “because of her heart,” Majid says, “in her mid-30’s.” He can’t be more precise than that; nobody in Aleppo really asks anymore why someone is dead. Majid drags a third bucket-full to the grave, as though seeking to atone for something he played no part in, as if he could score a tiny victory against all the dying…
Syria conflict: Raqqa air strikes death toll rises (BBC) Almost 100 people are now believed to have died in a series of government air strikes against the Islamic State in Raqqa on Tuesday, activists say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 52 civilians were killed. One activist from Raqqa told the BBC the only hospital still functioning in the city was finding it difficult to cope with the dozens of wounded. Syrian government and U.S.-led coalition aircraft frequently bomb Raqqa, which the Islamic State took full control of in January…
Pope says he would ‘never close the door’ on talks with Islamic State (CNS) Meeting reporters on 25 November on his return flight from Strasbourg after addressing the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis said terrorism is a threat the world must take seriously. Specifically asked if he thought there was even the most remote possibility of dialoguing with terrorists like those from the Islamic State, Pope Francis said, “I never count anything as lost. Never. Never close the door. It’s difficult, you could say almost impossible, but the door is always open…”
Islamic State imposes a reign of fear in Iraqi hospitals (Washington Post) After storming the Iraqi city of Mosul in June, the brutal Islamic State quickly solidified its control. Gunmen enforced its laws, and supportive imams preached at the mosques. But the jihadists were missing something — doctors. So last month, the Islamic State issued an ultimatum to physicians who had fled: Return to work, or we’ll seize your property and you can never come back. The Islamic State’s efforts to run Mosul’s health-care system provide a glimpse into its efforts to build a caliphate, or Islamic state, in Iraq and Syria. Despite their victories on the battlefield, the jihadists have struggled as everyday administrators in Mosul, with the city’s hospitals grappling with daily power outages and shortages of medicine. The Sunni fighters have also imposed measures that have alienated staff and compromised the lives of patients, doctors say…
Israel violates terms of Gaza cease-fire (Al Monitor) Israel closed its border crossings with Gaza on 24 November to prevent the export of vegetables from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and some Arab countries, in clear violation of the truce agreement signed between the Palestinian factions and Israel under the auspices of Egypt. One of the most important points of the truce was the opening of the crossings and providing guarantees to lift the siege on Gaza. Israel is also preventing Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza from accessing the agreed-upon area of six nautical miles in the truce agreement. It either shoots them or destroys their boats and arrests them out at sea…
25 November 2014
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Children Israeli-Palestinian conflict Aleppo
In this 2011 photo, a shop owner in the market of Hamdaniya, a city in northern Iraq's Nineveh plains, tends to his produce. Though ONE took a look at the lives of Iraqi Christians seeking shelter in the north in A New Genesis in Nineveh, the landscape has changed dramatically for the worse in the last three years. CNEWA continues to accompany displaced Iraqis in their time of need. To join in this mission of compassion and hope, please click here. (photo: Safin Hamed)
25 November 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Relief
In this 2012 photo, Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of Brooklyn, N.Y., celebrates the Divine Liturgy with U.S. bishops from the Eastern Catholic churches at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
‘Orientalium Ecclesiarum’ at 50 (National Catholic Register) In the 50 years since the promulgation of “Orientalium Ecclesiarum,” the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the Eastern Catholic churches, this document has made noteworthy progress toward its goals, yet much waits to be done, according to church observers and specialists on the council. Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour, who heads the Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn, N.Y., said these 50 years have been “graced years, and Eastern Catholic churches are closer than ever before in a good union with the Latin Church…”
Pope Francis meets with Egyptian President (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday received in audience Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi. Following this encounter, the President met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The pope expressed his hope that the peaceful coexistence among all components of society may be strengthened and the path to inter-religious dialogue may continue to be pursued.…
Islamic State militants blow up convent in city of Mosul (Vatican Radio) Islamic State militants blew up with explosives the Sacred Heart convent in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday, according to local Chaldean Christian sources consulted by Fides news agency. The explosions badly damaged the convent, especially its church…
Iraq’s Anbar grapples with devastation (Al Jazeera) A 10-month siege of the Anbar province has sparked one of the worst humanitarian crises to hit Iraq. The province, which borders Syria, has seen fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State, which has controlled most of Iraq’s western province for the past two months…
24 November 2014
Tags: Egypt Iraq Pope Francis Ecumenism Chaldean Church
A girl collects water outside of the 300-square-foot open shed serving as St. Alphonsa Church, the newest parish in the Eparchy of Bijnor, in northern India. To learn more about the Dalit Christians of this region, read Cast Aside, in the Summer 2014 issue of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
24 November 2014
Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Indian Catholics Dalits
A poster displayed outside of a Catholic church in Istanbul welcomes Pope Francis, scheduled to visit Turkey 28-30 November. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is pictured with Pope Francis. (photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)
Catholic and Orthodox churches move closer in Istanbul (La Prensa) After centuries, the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches are enjoying an unusual period of harmony in Istanbul, in the hope of overcoming the millenary schism in Christianity. A placard with the images of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew decorates the entrance to Istanbul’s St. Anthony Church with the inscription “Welcome” in Turkish and English on it. The Catholic community in the city on the Bosphorus is completing preparations for a meeting between the bishops of Rome and ancient Constantinople, an event the Orthodox are also awaiting with anticipation…
Israeli cabinet approves ‘Jewish state’ bill (Al Jazeera) The Israeli cabinet has approved a bill declaring Israel a Jewish state in a controversial move seen as intensifying discrimination against Arabs residing in occupied territories. Ministers voted 14-6 in favor of the bill, threatening the unity of the governing coalition. The bill will now be referred to the Knesset, or parliament, where legislators will see it for the first time on Wednesday. The Times of Israel, which described the bill as “controversial,” said cabinet members debated it behind closed doors but their screams were “loud enough for reporters in the hallway to hear much of the discussion…”
Church is a mother without borders, welcoming migrants, pope says (CNS) The Catholic Church “is a mother without limits and without borders,” welcoming and assisting all of God’s children, particularly those fleeing violence, oppression and poverty, Pope Francis said. Addressing the 300 participants in the Vatican-sponsored World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, the pope said the church’s concern for the whole person motivates its material aid to immigrants and refugees, its offer of legal assistance and, especially, its pastoral outreach and offer of the sacraments…
The people of Donetsk trudge along warily under the rebel government (Al Jazeera) A year has passed since the Maidan protests began in Kiev on 21 November and sparked Ukraine’s worst political crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union. Within six months of the demonstrations’ start, Ukraine’s eastern industrialized heartland was transformed into a brutal battleground between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels declaring independence. Donetsk, a rebel stronghold, has been the center of what Kiev, the United States and the European Union say is a Russian-supported rebellion. Pundits say the conflict threatens to create a new cold war between the West and Russia…
Pope: Syro-Malabar Sts. Kuriakose Elias and Euphrasia are examples (VIS) This morning Pope Francis met with a group of faithful of Syro-Malabar Catholics, gathered in Rome for the canonization on Sunday of Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family, and Euphrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart. The Holy Father took the opportunity to thank the church in India, and specifically in Kerala, for “all its apostolic strength and for the witness of faith you have,” he said…
21 November 2014
Tags: Ukraine Israel Ecumenism Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
CNEWA’s Ra’ed Bahou meets with refugees at a temporary shelter in northern Iraq.
Thursday, Canadian government officials got a powerful glimpse into the ongoing crisis in Iraq and Syria.
Carl Hétu, the head of CNEWA’s Canada office, and Rev. Elias D. Mallon, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, were invited by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian House of Commons to give testimony on the situation in Iraq and Syria. The testimony was part of a study “on the response of the Canadian government to the horrific violence, religious persecution and dislocation perpetrated in Iraq, Syria and the region by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”
Father Elias began by underlining the historical instability of the region and the artificial nature of many of the countries which were created by the French and British after World War I. As Father Elias explained, the authoritarian regimes which have held these countries together were, for any number of reasons, incapable of doing that any longer. He said that situation has created a vacuum in which the most violent elements can find space todevelop and further destabilize society.
Mr. Hétu spoke of the immense humanitarian crisis in the area. He outlined how CNEWA has been providing emergency relief to the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, as well as to others who are suffering from the incredible violence in the region. Mr. Hétu explained where CNEWA raises its funds and how these funds are used for humanitarian relief in the region. Both men stressed that while the immediate needs were overwhelming, it would be a mistake to overlook the long term needs. All the aid in the world, they emphasized, cannot return the region to the status quo ante, the way things used to be. As Father Elias noted, a new, participatory and pluralistic society in the region must be encouraged and supported. The concepts of civil society, citizenship and participatory democracy have not developed in most places in the Middle East, he said, and this must occur if there is ever to be a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Middle East.
“Only a society build on these principles,” Mr. Hétu added, “can guarantee full participation and protection of the small and vulnerable Chrisitan communities and others like the Yezidi.” This is the only place in our world, he noted, that has Suni, Shiite, Chrisitans, Druze, Jewish and many other groups in living close to one another. This diversity needs to be preserved, he said, if there is going to be peace.
CNEWA staff from the Middle East recently completed a visit to Iraqi refugees. You can read a full report of the situation on the ground at this link.
The needs remain great and urgent. To learn how you can help, please visit this giving page.
21 November 2014
A little boy and his family in Gaza live with the aftermath of last summer’s war. A story in the Autumn edition of ONE explores the impact of that war on the children, with scars that are often invisible. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)
21 November 2014
A boy carries belongings on 17 November as he walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in Aleppo. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)
‘Conflict freeze’ desperately needed in Aleppo (Al Monitor) The long stalemated northern front, which has seen little change since a rebel offensive took over half the city of Aleppo and almost the entirety of its countryside over two years ago, seems now to be entering a new phase, one which may either solidify the status quo via a U.N.-proposed “conflict freeze” or see the regime push on with its increasingly successful campaign to take Aleppo back from the rebels. Although opinion in the city is divided over the ambiguous “freeze” proposal, there is overwhelming support for a respite — brief or permanent — from the real hardships and dangers of war…
Pilgrims to defy Jerusalem tension on Via Crucis (ANSAmed) A prayer will be held in St Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem and the Stations of the Cross visited in the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday morning to call for peace in the region…
Conference reopens question of Palestinian children without citizenship (Fides) Many Palestinian children in East Jerusalem continue not to have an ID card or proof of permanent residency. Their condition was analyzed during a 19 November conference at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem. Children of Palestinians in prison, and those who belong to families separated — for example, they have a parent residing in the West Bank — are those who suffer most…
Pope Francis: Christian unity remains a priority for Catholics (Vatican Radio) The search for full Christian unity remains a priority for the Catholic Church and it is one of the pope’s principal daily concerns. That was the message that Pope Francis shared on Thursday with members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity who are taking part in a plenary session in the Vatican this week…
Ban urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to stand up to extremism (U.N. News Center) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he “extremely alarmed by the upsurge of violence in recent weeks,” and said both leaders must show the courage to do everything necessary to root out extremism…
Yazidi families reclaim girls seized by Islamic State — for a price (Christian Science Monitor) In interviews, girls who escaped or were bought back by their families tell of their brutal treatment at the hands of ISIS militants. Almost 150 girls have returned to Kurdish-controlled areas in recent weeks, according to activists, with families paying as much as a year’s income to get them back…
Sufis look for a political role in Egypt (Al Monitor) Following the car bombing of the Ahmad al Badawi Mosque — a Sufi mosque that contains the shrine of Al Sayyid al Badawi, founder of the Badawiyyah Sufi order — on 14 October, sheikhs of the Sufi order issued statements accusing the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist movements of carrying out the operation. They vowed that they would even the scores in the next parliamentary elections, as the Sufi orders, for the first time, would toss their hat in the ring, in coordination with other political forces…
20 November 2014
Tags: Jerusalem Pilgrimage/pilgrims United Nations Christian Unity Aleppo
A mother and child are shown in the cramped makeshift housing being used by refugees in northern Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)
Staff members from CNEWA visited refugees in northern Iraq last week, and on their return offered an exhaustive and detailed analysis of the situation on the ground:
After 100 days away from their homes, churches, and lands, more than 20,000 Christian families find themselves in dire situations where they have to fight everyday to cover their basic needs.
In our second visit to northern Iraq, the CNEWA delegation — comprised of Michel Constantin and Imad Abou Jaoude, from the Beirut office, and Ra’ed Bahou from the Amman office — was not able to meet with the local bishops as they were all outside the country.
Consequently, we focused on the Iraqi displaced families in their settlements; the local religious congregations, who are deeply involved with the displaced population in different centers; the parish priests from different churches, who are actively working to help these families; and finally a number of Catholic local and international NGO’s that are also providing aid and responding to the needs of struggling families.
The first observation following our visit was that it is true that theoretically the Christian families and others displaced from their hometowns and villages can find refuge in other parts of Iraq, and they are considered by the international organizations as internally displaced people and are supported on this basis. Yet in reality those displaced families have very little rights and access to public services within Kurdistan. Many families informed us they feel they would have more rights and it would be easier for them to cope in a strange country, such as Jordan or Lebanon, rather than in Kurdistan.
The second important observation is related to the hope of getting back to their villages and homes in case of liberation. Many families and religious sisters informed us that the experience of liberating Tel Eskof village following the air raids of the coalition against ISIS was a real disappointment; the few families who decided to return back to that village found that their homes were seriously destroyed by the raids and the houses that escaped destruction were mined by the fanatic militants before their withdrawal. A week ago, a 16-year-old boy died when he tried to enter his house, which had been mined. This situation made the return to their homes almost impossible for the foreseeable future.
It is estimated that today more than 1.8 million people are displaced in the country, mostly in Kurdistan and Anbar provinces, where about 390,000 are estimated to be in need of shelter and currently living in schools, under bridges or out in the open, in very bad conditions. Over 860,000 internally displaced persons have arrived from Anbar, Mosul and Sinjar in the last several months as the situation has deteriorated in all those regions. In August alone, 650,000 people arrived in Kurdistan seeking shelter, security and safety. Many of them have been staying with friends and relatives. About 400,000 displaced now live in Anbar Province, which is not controlled by Iraqi Government forces.
Presently, there are 120,000 Christian refugees in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil and other parts of Kurdistan.
As the needs continue to rise, the humanitarian conditions of the displaced are deteriorating. Children, being fragile, are the most affected in this crisis.
And that’s just the beginning.
The needs are great — and growing. Read the full report to learn what those needs are and what CNEWA is doing to help those displaced Christians affected by this crisis. And visit this link to find out how you can assist those most in need.
20 November 2014
A boy looks through a hole in a tent at Syria’s Bab Al-Salam camp for displaced in Azaz, near the Turkish border, on 19 November. To help Syrian refugees fleeing war, visit this giving page.
(photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)