29 August 2018
Children in Kerala finally returned to school on 29 August after days of devastating floods. Many lost everything, including books, clothes and school supplies. (photo: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, sent us this update from Kerala today:
After a long spell of forced holidays due to floods and vacations surrounding the Hindu Onam festival, millions of children in Kerala started back to school today, 29 August.
While most schools reopened, there is much more work to do. About 250 schools are still closed while the cleanup work continues; in some places, the toilet facilities have to be rebuilt. For some, the buildings remain unsafe. In a few places, they are still waiting for the water to recede. At one school that was turned into a relief shelter, helicopters dropped food packets, damaging some of the roof tiles, resulting in leaks in some of the classrooms; that school is still not open.
Volunteers and school teachers have pitched in to clean class rooms, benches and tables. But in many places, furniture and equipment are still lying outdoors.
The main task of the teachers now is to help the children recover from the terrifying shock of seeing their homes and schools swept away by floodwaters.
The children came through a terrific emotional trauma. Most of the students lost their books and study materials. They are worried about their belongings and how to continue their studies without books. We have to make arrangements to supply books and other materials, with the help of book suppliers and publishers. Most children also lost their uniforms and clothing.
Many church organizations and voluntary agencies are trying to minimize the trauma for children. The teachers will mainly focus on helping students to relax and regain confidence.
To help those in Kerala in need during this difficult time, please visit this page.
29 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomes Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath from India. (photo: CNEWA)
A trailblazer from India stopped by our New York office this morning for a visit: Syro-Malankara Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath.
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, described a visit to the bishop’s home turf, what he calls “The Great North,” a few years ago:
The great call of these churches is to reach out to the real mission territory of India: The spiritual sons and daughters of the Apostle Thomas have undertaken a new missionary thrust to evangelize the “unreached” in the northern half of India.
On a series of visits with my hosts — a team of humble priests, religious sisters and lay leaders, including catechists — I have experienced firsthand this new approach to missionary life in India. It is happening not by building schools, erecting clinics or developing social service projects, but simply by humbly living with the poor. This means no formal structures — no buildings per se — but living, breathing witnesses of Christ who share with the poor the love that God has for all, giving them a sense of hope and belonging.
Cultural and political sensitivities prohibit me from sharing with you where some of these visits have taken place, but I can tell you what I experienced. I met humble, tribal people. Many were not of any caste (thus, they are literally outcasts) and all of them were hungry to learn about Jesus. They felt very comfortable and loved by the priests, sisters and lay leaders who were sharing their faith with the poor.
I may have been the first North American to have ever visited them — and these beautiful, spiritually thirsty souls made me feel most welcome by making the sign of the cross and praying with me (in their local language) the Lord’s Prayer. This is where I really choked up; at that moment I felt that God truly was the father of us all. They reminded me of this tenet of my faith.
We got a great sense of that faith from Mar Barnabas, whose zeal and joy enlivened our office. He shared with us stories of the tremendous sacrifice and sense of mission that animate the Christians in his diocese — men and women, mostly lay people, who carry the message of the Gospel to people who may never before have heard the name of Jesus.
Often, these lay catechists teach and lead liturgies in an atmosphere of great risk.
“I tell them,” the bishop said, “at maximum you may lose your head. Get ready for it! And they respond, ‘We are ready!’”
The region he serves in northern India is very humble — he himself has no chancery, no house, no income beyond a modest budget to make ends meet. He described visiting one mission in his diocese and sleeping on the floor. But again and again, he reminded us of the faith that sustains and inspires his flock.
He told us about one man who isn’t a physician, yet people call him “the doctor,” and bring him anyone who is sick. He prays with them and for them—and often, that is enough.
“He tells them, ‘I have just one medicine,’” Mar Barnabas explained with a smile. “‘Prayer and fasting!’”
To spend time with this bishop — whom Msgr. Kozar described as “my younger brother”— is to be reminded of the missionary roots of our faith, and how that kind of fervor, even in times of great difficulty and challenge, continues to bear witness to the Gospel today.
29 August 2018
Tags: India Indian Bishops
Kerala residents are returning home, but the economic impact is severe. The region's once-thriving tourism industry has been devastated and may take a long time to rebuild. (video: News18 Digital/YouTube)
After flood, tourism in Kerala is left a muddy mess (VOA) More than a week after the floodwater began subsiding, animal carcasses are still floating in Kerala’s backwaters, and in places a nauseating stench rises like a wall when the wake from a passing boat breaks the surface. These inland lagoons running parallel to the coast are one of the biggest tourist draws in India’s most southwesterly state, but the stain of death and devastation wrought by Kerala’s worst flood in a century will take longer than a season to wash away…
U.S., Russia in war of words as Syria attack looms (Al Jazeera) Russia has deployed a dozen warships to the Mediterranean Sea in what a Russian newspaper on Tuesday called Moscow’s largest naval buildup since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015. The reinforcement comes as Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is believed to be considering a major assault on the last rebel-held enclave in northern Idlib province…
Moscow, Kiev in tug-of-war over religious future of Ukraine (AP) As Kiev and Moscow clash on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, a new front has opened up in the religious sphere. Earlier this year Ukrainian’s president launched a campaign to persuade Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, seen by many as the first among equals of Eastern Orthodox leaders, to grant Ukrainian clerics full ecclesiastical independence from the Russian Orthodox Church to which they have been tied for hundreds of years…
Pope reaches out to other Christian churches, inviting them to serve the poor (Vatican News) Pope Francis has invited the faithful of the Waldensian and Methodist Churches to join Catholics in together proclaiming Jesus, especially to the poor and the marginalized of today. In a message sent to the participants in the annual synod of the Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches that is taking place in Torre Pellice, near Turin, northern Italy, the Pope expressed his and the Catholic Church’s fraternal closeness...
28 August 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Russia
Residents of Kerala sort through the extensive damage from the floods that swept through the region last week. (photo: CNEWA)
Early Tuesday, we received this update on the crisis in Kerala from M.L. Thomas, CNEWA's regional director in India.
As you know, the flood has devastated many districts in Kerala. Millions of people had to flee to the rescue camps. This has been the most frightening and dangerous situation the people of Kerala have had to face in recent decades.
But now, with the flood waters receding, the Catholic Church — along with many volunteers from social services organizations, along with individuals and local governments — has taken up the challenge of the clean up.
The house owners who are healthy are doing much of the cleaning work—pushing out the dirty mud and stinking water from their homes.
The Kuttanad region, where the flood waters reached last, now has the worst flooding in the state. Around 200,000 people from the region have been evacuated and are waiting in camps. The government plans to begin cleaning operations there on 29 August. Many homes are still overwhelmed by water.
Some who have returned home are working to clean mud and filthy water from their homes, trying to salvage whatever they can. (photo: CNEWA)
There is an acute shortage of clean water; drinking water is being supplied through water tanks loaded on trucks.
The toilet facilities have been washed away. Most families lost everything— including clothing, food, household utilities, school books and even official documents, including deeds and property titles. Many also lost their domestic animals, such as goats and poultry.
The Catholic dioceses in many parts of the state have taken immediate steps to help the families in the relief camps, ensuring they receive food, medicine and clothing. The government alone is not able to meet all the demands of the flooded areas and the needs of the victims. Medical camps have also been set up to help the sick.
The need remains great. CNEWA is rushing aid to the people of Kerala, but more help is needed. Visit this page to learn more. And please: keep our brothers and sisters in India in your prayers!
28 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Sister María Niña plays soccer with the girls in the backyard of her community’s house in Dekhela, Egypt, where many of the girls live. Read more about how a congregation of religious sisters is Building a Brighter Future for these girls in the November 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
28 August 2018
The report above shows the life of a Syrian refugee in Jordan. Jordan now says it can take in no more refugees and is encouraging them to return home. (video: BBC/YouTube)
Jordan says it can’t host any more refugees (AFP) Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday his country has exceeded its capacity to host refugees from Syria and is backing their voluntary return home. Amman estimates that it has taken in close to 1.3 million refugees from its war-torn neighbor and says it has already spent more than $10 billion to host them…
India criticized for refusing UAE aid for Kerala (UCANews.com) India’s pro-Hindu government is facing criticism for refusing to accept aid worth US$100 million from the United Arab Emirates for flood-ravaged Kerala state. Catastrophic floods and landslides from 14 — 18 August killed an estimated 400 people and displaced 1.3 million to relief camps where they subsist on donated food and clothes...
Israel plans to expand mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall (Haaretz) A plan to expand the mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall has won final approval, following pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The plan, whose details are reported here for the first time, was approved under a special regulation that created a fast-track process authorizing the municipal engineer, in this case Jerusalem’s, to approve work to make a site handicapped-accessible. Such access was called for in the plan, in addition to the expansion of the area and its entrance…
Fishermen hailed as heroes of Kerala flood (UCANews.com) Fishermen in India’s Kerala state are being hailed as heroes for using their traditional wooden boats to rescue men, women and children from swirling floodwaters. ”You are like our God,” a woman with folded hands told fishermen who saved her along with another female villager and 30 youngsters trapped in a children’s home in Alappuzha district, an area laced with waterways…
Young Palestinians take hold of their future at Gaza tech hub (The Independent) ”Global tech hub” may not be the first three words that spring to mind when describing the besieged and war-ravaged Gaza Strip. But a group of young Palestinians in the tiny territory, home to some 1.8 million people, are trying to change assumptions…
27 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank
Religious sisters from various congregations prepare items for meals at a relief camp in Trichur, Kerala. (photo: Rev. Jolly Vadakken/Global Sisters Report)
As Kerala struggles to recover from catastrophic flooding, sisters are pitching in with the relief effort.
From Global Sisters Report:
More than 6,700 Catholic nuns are among those helping over a million people taking shelter in relief camps after unprecedented floods ravaged Kerala, a southwestern Indian state.
“This is the biggest rescue and relief operation the Catholic Church in Kerala has undertaken in its history,” says the Rev. George Vettikattil, who heads the church’s relief operations in the state.
The church deployed its personnel and opened its institutions across Kerala to help people after rains and massive floods devastated 13 of Kerala’s 14 districts from 15 August through 20 August. The rain has stopped in many places and water is now receding.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on 24 August told the media that the rains and floods have claimed 417 lives. At least 36 people are still missing.
The floods initially displaced nearly 1.3 million people. About 869,000 people were still sheltered in 2,787 relief centers in the state, Vijayan said.
The initial estimated loss was around 200 billion rupees ($2.85 billion).
Catholic aid agencies such as Caritas India are now working among the flood victims. Caritas India has already spent about 6.1 million rupees ($87,140) distributing food, medicine and sanitation items. Its director Fr. Paul Moonjely says the agency plans to raise another 10 million rupees.
Vettikattil says all 32 Catholic dioceses in Kerala have joined relief works. As many as 69,821 young people and 99,705 lay volunteers joined 6,737 nuns, 2,891 priests and 354 seminarians to rescue stranded people with the help of government agencies and individually, the priest told Global Sisters Report.
And to learn how CNEWA is supporting this effort — and how you can pitch in yourself — visit this link.
27 August 2018
Tags: India Sisters Kerala
Indian Christians marked the 10th Anniversary of the atrocities in Kandhamal with a Mass in Bhubaneswar on 25 August 2018. (photo: Vatican News)
India’s Christians mark somber anniversary (Vatican News) Ten years on, India’s Christians recalled the terrible massacre of their brothers and sisters in faith in eastern India’s Odisha state, with a commemorative Mass on Saturday in the state capital in thanksgiving, reconciliation and grace. Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful came together in large numbers for the high Mass at St. Joseph’s School in Bhubaneswar on 25 August, recalling the day 10 years ago when violence erupted with untold brutality against the Christians of Kandhamal District, with Hindu extremists blaming them for the 23 August murder of their Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples…
As India recovers from floods, sense of community grows (Channel News Asia) It is likely to take months for the Indian state of Kerala to get back on its feet, after severe flooding claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and washed away roads and bridges. But the disaster has brought out the best in people in Kerala — their sense of community…
Jordan’s king calls for help to refugee-hosting states (Andalou Agency) King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday called on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the countries hosting Syrian refugees. This came during a meeting between the Jordanian monarch and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, who arrived in the kingdom on Sunday for an official visit...
Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation (Reuters) Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported on Monday. Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami traveled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and senior military officials, Tasnim reported…
Why Ethiopians believe their new prime minister is a prophet (CNN) Since taking office on 2 April, Africa’s youngest head of government has electrified Ethiopia with a dizzying array of liberal reforms credited by many with saving the country from civil war. Abiy has freed thousands of political prisoners, unblocked hundreds of censored websites, ended the 20-year state of war with Eritrea, lifted a state of emergency, and planned to open key economic sectors to private investors, including the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines…
Report: Orthodox clergy targeted by Russian spies (ABC News) The Associated Press has found that the same hackers charged with intervening in the 2016 U.S. presidential election also spent years trying to eavesdrop on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, often described as the first among equals of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christian leaders…
24 August 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Refugees Jordan Russian Orthodox
Seminarians from the Pune Papal Seminary collected food, medicine and blankets to deliver to residents of Kerala who have lost everything in the floods. (photo: UCANews)
The disastrous flooding in Kerala has prompted a remarkable outpouring of humanitarian support.
CNEWA has rushed aid to the region — and others are also pitching in.
Two trucks carrying the relief material from Pune left for Paravur, one of the worst flood-affected areas in southern Kerala state that is reeling under deluge for the past one week.
The collection was done in collaboration with De Nobili College, Pune and other houses of Pune Papal seminary.
The seminarians and others from the campus collected material for the past one week and sorted and packed them ready for transportation to relief camps.
“We were approached by the authorities seeking help, so started collecting materials,” said the Rev. Vincent Crasta who works in Papal Seminary
Flash floods and landslides in the past week have killed some 380 people and displaced some 800,000 to relief camps as overflowing rivers ploughed through residential areas washing away homes, farm lands, roads and bridges.
Schools, churches, temples, mosques and seminaries and convents have been converted to relief camps accommodating thousands who have no food, cloth or place to sleep.
Father Crasta said that one more truck will leave this evening carrying the relief material.
Five seminarians are accompanying the trucks carrying medicines, blankets, towels, toilet articles, candles, cleaning material, biscuits and bed sheets. The seminarians will return immediately after the relief materials are delivered on Sunday.
But goodwill is also pouring in from people of all religions and castes:
Transgressing all barriers of religion and caste, rich and poor, high and low, Indians have joined hands to provide succor to people reeling under the worst flood in five decades in Kerala.
Justice Kurien Joseph, a Supreme Court judge, Catholic and Kerala native, worked until late at night in New Delhi to help pack and label boxes containing relief materials for flood victims.
“It was heartening to see people unite in love for their suffering brethren casting aside all boundaries of religion and region,” Joseph said as he assisted children and women packing materials.
The flood in the southern state washed away hundreds of houses and submerged villages, killing at least 370 people and displacing about 800,000 to relief camps.
Not only Kerala people living in New Delhi “but people from other parts of India have gathered here. It just goes to show that goodness has not disappeared from humans,” Joseph said.
A group of lawyers launched the initiative through social media. Despite the short notice, people gathered with clothing and food to be packed and sent to the flood-hit state 2,500 kilometers away.
In Kerala, fishermen took out their boats on their own to rescue people. According to reports, they refused remuneration from the government for their voluntary work, saying they did not do it for money.
“Jesus’ love thy neighbor philosophy has never been so evident in our country,” said Lucy John, a teacher from New Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area, where a collection drive was organized by an association of Kerala people.
…Also keen to help, Indian Railways is ferrying relief materials free of cost.
The Ramakrishna Mission, a Hindu organization, is at the forefront of relief operations in northern Kerala, said Swami Shantatmananda, secretary of its New Delhi branch.
“We are sending cash donations from states while our Chennai centers are organizing relief materials,” he told ucanews.com.
Khalsa Aid, the U.K.-based Sikh organization’s Indian wing, has volunteers cooking and providing food for the marooned.
Churches, church-run schools, seminaries, convents and other Christian institutions have opened their doors to stranded flood victims besides providing relief in cash and kind.
And to help CNEWA’s efforts in the region, please visit this page.
24 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
In India, hundreds of thousands of people in Kerala are coping with the worst flooding in a century. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
After worst flooding in a century, India turns down foreign aid (The New York Times) After devastating floods killed more than 400 people and engulfed entire towns in a southern state in India, the United Arab Emirates offered $100 million to help the recovery. The Indian government’s response: thanks, but no thanks…
Fear of drought in parts of south India (The Times of India) In a cruel irony, surging rains in Kerala have lifted the monsoon’s performance in south India to an 11 percent surplus. The figure, however, doesn’t reveal the extremely skewed rain distribution in the region. Outside Kerala and coastal Andhra, half the districts in south India are grappling with deficient rainfall…
Ethnic unrest tarnishes new Ethiopian leader’s reforms (Reuters) A surge in ethnic violence, sometimes in the form of mob attacks, has displaced nearly 1 million people in the past four months in southern Ethiopia and is inflaming bad feeling between ethnic groups in other regions. The violence threatens to undermine Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s calls for unity in one of Africa’s most ethnically diverse countries. It also overshadows the popular liberal measures he has announced since coming to power in April…
Iraqi Christians unable to attend World Meeting of Families (AsiaNews) The Iraqi delegation’s exclusion from attending the 2018 World Meeting of Families, scheduled from 21-26 August in Dublin (Ireland) is “a terrible event”, says Msgr. Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad. The number two to the Chaldean patriarch confirms that there will be no faithful present at the Irish meeting due to a problem linked to the issue of entry permits. “They told us that it took months to process them — explains the prelate — and our online applications were not even granted…”
Report: in 24 hours, Armenia violates ceasefire 86 times (AzerNews) Over the past 24 hours, Armenian armed forces have 86 times violated the ceasefire along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said 24 August. Armenian armed forces were using heavy machine guns. The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts…
Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Armenia