17 August 2016
A Syrian man drives a three-wheeler on a street in the northern Syrian town of Manbij as civilians go back to their homes on 14 August, after the Arab-Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces drove ISIS from the city. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
Jordan’s reversal on Syrian work permits starts to bear fruit (BBC) More than 650,000 Syrians are registered as refugees in Jordan. However, until recently, the government allowed only a few thousand to work. It was worried they would push down wages, take jobs from Jordanians and be encouraged to stay permanently, stirring up resentment. Now the authorities are experimenting with another possibility — that the presence of so many Syrians could boost the sluggish economy…
U.S.-backed Syrian forces gave defeated ISIS militants safe passage (USA TODAY) Islamic State fighters surrounded during the key battle for Manbij, Syria, last week agreed to surrender their weapons to U.S.-backed Syrian forces in return for safe passage out of the embattled city, a senior defense official said Tuesday. It was the first such agreement with the terror group…
Turkey to release 38,000 prisoners jailed before coup (BBC) Turkey is to release conditionally 38,000 prisoners jailed before last month’s failed coup, while its jails are crowded with new detainees. Some 23,000 people have been detained or arrested since the July coup, although the government has not said its move is to free up space for them…
Uproar in Egyptian mosques as clerics are ordered to read state-written homilies (AP) Launched last month, a new initiative mandates that all imams at state-run mosques read pre-written sermons distributed by the ministry. The measure — which expands upon a three-year-old effort to provide general guidelines — is unprecedented in Egypt, even under previous autocratic governments…
Retired Indian archbishop dies of cancer (Vatican Radio) Retired Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, the champion of the cause of Christians who bore the brunt of one of the worst Christian persecutions India has ever witnessed in modern times, expired on 14 August. The 82-year old archbishop, who led the archdiocese for over 30 years, died of colon cancer at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai…
Ethiopia says small-scale irrigation reduces drought effects (AllAfrica.com) The Ministry of Farming and Natural Resource said that small-scale irrigation schemes have played a big role in reducing El Niño induced drought effects. Speaking at consultative meeting on resource mobilization for sustainable irrigation system yesterday, State Minister Frenesh Mekuria said that the nation’s overall small-scale irrigation activities in the last dry season were encouraging…
16 August 2016
Tags: Syria Egypt Ethiopia Turkey ISIS
Sister Elizabeth Endrias assists a trainee at the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne Vocational Training Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
One of the hallmarks of our CNEWA heroes is that they often give something beyond price and beyond measure: hope. Among those who do this selflessly are the women of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne in Ethiopia.
Last year, we profiled one of them, a young woman named Sister Elizabeth Endrias. We first met her during our Year of Sisters, She was supervising the Women’s Promotion Center in Ethiopia’s capital, training some of the poorest women and girls in fabric cutting, sewing and embroidery. The purpose: survival.
The sister in charge, Sister Elizabeth Endrias, is 24 years old. But the program she’s developed is intensive. “Training takes from ten months to two years,” she explains. “This year we have thirty trainees in dressmaking and seven in embroidery.”
With resources limited, the school has begun charging a modest fee. For the poorest students, however, money is never a barrier. “In this case we intervene, inquire about their difficulties,” Sister Elizabeth says. “And when we find it necessary to support them, we offer them free education to complete their studies.”
She remembers the day one teenager arrived with her father. “He had the desire to help his daughter in her training. He told me the extent of their poverty but willed to pay.”
The father paid for two months, but grew ill and passed away. “Imagine the challenge facing this 18-year-old girl,” Sister Elizabeth says. “We not only exempted her from fees, but also gave back to her mother the two months payment that her father had paid.”
That young seamstress — her name is Hanna — plans to start a dressmaking business to support her family. “Sister Elizabeth is very special for me,” she says. “She rescued me from losing this opportunity after the death of my father. I am very grateful to her.”
The Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne also runs clinics in Ethiopia — bringing healing as well as hope to so many in need. To help support these and other heroes like Sister Elizabeth Endrias, visit this page.
16 August 2016
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Women
Children flash victory signs as they play in Manbij, following its liberation from ISIS. (photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)
Friday, the northern Syria city of Manbij was liberated from ISIS, and residents celebrated by doing things that the militant group had forbidden.
From the BBC:
They have poured into the streets enjoying basic rights they had been denied for two years, including shaving off their beards and smoking.
US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters fought 73 days to drive IS out of Manbij, close to the Turkish border.
About 2,000 civilians being used as human shields were also freed.
Reuters news agency spoke to a resident of Manbij who described a spot where people were beheaded. “For anything or using the excuse that he did not believe [in God], they put him and cut his head off.
“It is all injustice,” he said.
“I feel joy and [it is like a] dream I am dreaming. I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it. Things I saw no one saw,” a woman said screaming and fainting, according to Reuters.
Another woman thanked the fighters that had set them free: “You are our children, you are our heroes, you are the blood of our hearts, you are our eyes. Go out, Daesh [Arabic name for IS]!”
The Washington Post noted:
Under the Islamic State, women were forced to cover their faces. But on Friday, some of them were photographed with lifted veils.
One woman set fire to a niqab, a veil that covers all of a woman’s face except the area around her eyes.
Below is a video report on the liberation of Manbij:
16 August 2016
Tags: Syria ISIS
A Russian long-range bomber carries out air strikes against ISIS and Al Nusra Front targets in Syria. This is the first time Russia’s bombers used an Iranian base to carry out air strikes against terrorist targets in Syria. (photo: TASS via Getty Images)
Russia uses Iranian base for Syria campaign (The New York Times) Russian bombers launched attacks in Syria from an Iranian air base for the first time on Tuesday, potentially altering the political and military equation in the Middle East. Long-range Tupolev-22M3 bombers, which would otherwise have to fly from Russia, used an Iranian base near Hamadan to hit a series of targets inside Syria, according to a brief statement from the Russian Defense Ministry…
Ukraine puts troops on combat alert (Vatican Radio) Ukraine has put its troops on combat alert along the country’s de facto borders with Crimea and separatist rebels in the east…
Severe weather threatening Ethiopia’s food production (ANA) Seasonal floods followed by drought caused by El Niño have caused severe crop damage in Ethiopia. However, in a Monday press release, the United Nations warned that further damage caused by cooler weather brought on by La Niña, expected in October and onwards, could further devastate food production. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) highlighted that if the floods worsened later this year, there could be outbreaks of crop and livestock diseases, further reducing agricultural productivity and complicating recovery. “The situation is critical now,” said Amadou Allahoury, FAO representative to Ethiopia…
Cardinal: the need for Muslim-Christian dialogue (L’Osservatore Romano) “Often I realize that many problems are due to the ignorance on both sides. And ignorance generates fear,” says Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. “In order to live together it is essential to look at those who are different from us with esteem, benevolent curiosity and the desire to walk together...”
Travels of Patriarch Gregorios III (ByzCath.org) Politicians, business leaders and representatives of international organizations came together in the heart of Vienna, Austria, for the 27th annual Crans Montana Forum. Attendees discussed a wide range of subjects from the role of women in decision-making to renewable energies — the main angle being the rise of central-eastern Europe as a new power — and the migration crisis. One of the most memorable comments was that of Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem, who had a — perhaps surprising — view on the reception of Syrian refugees in Europe…
Kerala police launch ‘pink patrol’ to improve women’s security (IBT) The Kerala Police on Monday deployed three women patrol teams, called Pink Patrol, in Thiruvananthapuram. Kerala Chief Minister Pinari Vijayan and his wife Kamala Vijayan formed the teams to improve women’s security in the state…
Egypt Christians stage rare Cairo protest demanding rights (Associated Press) Egyptian Christians staged a rare protest in downtown Cairo on Saturday to demand the government uphold their rights, saying they are being treated as second-class citizens in the Muslim-majority country. Standing on the steps of a courthouse in the capital, some three dozen demonstrators braved Egypt’s draconian protest ban to hold signs aloft, calling for their legal rights to be upheld in disputes between Muslims and Christians…
Iraqi Christians fret about going home even if Islamic State is ousted (Crux) Iraqi Christians appear divided about whether they will be able to return home after ISIS militants are flushed out of the battle-scarred Nineveh Plain. They say their safety must be guaranteed at all costs. “If the liberation of the Nineveh Plain region is successful, infrastructure is rebuilt and there is security, I would want to be among the first to return,” said Fadi Yousif, who teaches children in the Ashti II camp for displaced Christians in Ain Kawa, near Irbil. “It’s my home. I love that place. But what is absolutely essential is that we have real security there…”
12 August 2016
Tags: Syria Iraq India Egypt Ukraine
In this image from May, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, left is seen Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar mosque and university, and Archbishop Georg Gaenswein at the Vatican. The French cardinal said terrorists want to make peace-loving Christians and Muslims believe that it is impossible for them to live side by side; it is up to Christians and Muslims to prove them wrong.
(photo: CNS/Reuters pool via EPA)
Terrorists want to make peace-loving Christians and Muslims believe that it is impossible for them to live side by side; it is up to Christians and Muslims to prove them wrong, said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said he was in France 26 July when 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel was brutally murdered in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the murder.
Writing 12 August in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Tauran said, “Obviously, these crimes threaten the credibility of interreligious dialogue, but we must continue to meet, to speak and to work together when possible so hatred does not prevail.”
In a multicultural, multireligious society, ignorance breeds problems, he said. “In order to live together we must look at those who are different from us with esteem, friendly curiosity and a desire to walk together.”
When tensions arise or outrageous acts are perpetrated, the cardinal wrote, they must be studied as “providential lessons from which people must draw the necessary wisdom to open more reasonable and more courageous paths.”
As now-retired Pope Benedict XVI taught, he said, dialogue deepens only when both dialogue partners know and practice their own faith and are willing to try to explain it to the other.
“Dialogue cannot be based on ambiguity,” the cardinal said, so “an event like that of 26 July 2016, pushes us to deepen our spiritual life and nourish it with prayer and study.”
Christians and Muslims, he wrote, “can — rather, we must — work together and promote religious instruction,” especially in societies that appear to be trying to drive religious faith to the margins of social life.
“By killing Father Jacques, those who conceived of this despicable act had one precise goal: to demonstrate that peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Christians is impossible,” Cardinal Tauran said. “But we have demonstrated and we believe that we must join forces in the name of God to work together for harmony and unity in a spirit of sincerity and mutual trust.”
12 August 2016
Pope Francis sits with refugee children from Syria at the Vatican on 11 August.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis has lunch with Syrian refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis had lunch with a group of 21 Syrian refugees on Thursday at the Casa Santa Marta. During the luncheon, both adults and children had the possibility to speak with Pope Francis about the beginnings of their life in Italy...
Religious staff suspended in Turkey coup aftermath (Christian Today) More than 2,500 officials have been suspended from Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate in another crackdown following the failed military coup last month. The move, announced on Tuesday, was part of a wider purge of those believed to support US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government has blamed for the uprising. More than 50,000 people have been rounded up, sacked, or arrested in the wake of the July 15 attempted coup, and this latest figure brings the total dismissed from the religious affairs agency to 3,672...
Turkey, Iran pledge cooperation over Syria (AP) The foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran agreed Friday to boost trade relations and pledged greater cooperation on resolving the Syria crisis despite their divergences on the issue...
Fractured lands: how the Arab world came apart (The New York Times) Azar is one of six people whose lives are chronicled in these pages. The six are from different regions, different cities, different tribes, different families, but they share, along with millions of other people in and from the Middle East, an experience of profound unraveling. Their lives have been forever altered by upheavals that began in 2003 with the American invasion of Iraq, and then accelerated with the series of revolutions and insurrections that have collectively become known in the West as the Arab Spring. They continue today with the depredations of ISIS, with terrorist attacks and with failing states...
Russian Orthodox Church launches its own winery (Calvert Journal) The Russian Orthodox Church is set to start producing its own wine, with the first bottles expected to be ready next year. Set in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, on the Black Sea coast, the Church’s vineyards were constructed by subsidiary company Mezyb and cover over 70 hectares of land. They are situated next to the summer residence of Church leader Patriarch Kirill, who will surely be first in line for a bottle...
11 August 2016
Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil was a leading force in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church was a good friend of and advocate for CNEWA in India until his death in 2011.
“All churches, East or West, have equal dignity and the same rights and obligations to preach the Gospel and address injustices” he said in an interview with CNEWA in 2000. Our story about the Syro-Malabar Church noted:
In the true spirit of Christ, a Syro-Malabar army of priests, religious and lay persons offer spiritual sustenance, moral education and social service programs to those in need.
Prior to his appointment as the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Mar Varkey Vithayathil, C.S.s.R., worked in various apostolates for more than 30 years. From his residence in Ernakulam, Kerala, this soft-spoken man explains that, after Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church, the Syro-Malabar is the second largest of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches; its influence is great.
...Centered in Ernakulam, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church reaches out to her country’ poor through an extensive social services network. Many of these programs receive direct support from CNEWA.
...Micro-credit programs encourage poor families to save their money; small loans offer women the opportunity to start their own businesses. A house-building program uses direct grants or loans to allow families to obtain basic housing. Health programs, latrine construction, safe drinking water, garbage recycling, biogas generators — which generate cooking gas from farm animal manure — smokeless stoves, organic farming and composting, AIDS awareness, vocational skills training, homes for the aged, orphanages and emergency disaster relief are just some of the many programs and services offered.
A driving force behind all of this for many years was Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil.
Born in Kerala in 1927, he joined the Redemptorists and was ordained a priest in 1954. After studying canon law in Rome, he returned to India to teach.
In, 1996 he became the apostolic administrator of the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church and of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly. In 1997, he was named a major archbishop. In 2001, the pope elevated him to the College of Cardinals.
CNEWA had the opportunity to welcome Mar Varkey Vithayathil, to our New York office in 1998, shortly before he was named a Major Archbishop. In 2001, he became a cardinal.
It was during Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil’s tenure that CNEWA opened its regional office for India in Ernakulam in 2003. Cardinal Vithayathil extended whole-hearted support to our programs and projects.
“Seventy-three percent of the priests and religious working in the Latin dioceses in northern India hail from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church,” Mar Varkey said in his interview in 2000. A large number of Syro-Malabar clergy work in Latin missions throughout India and the world — and the cardinal worked zealously to carry out the Church's ministry wherever possible.
In addition to his work as an archbishop, Mar Varkey was a member of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
As CNEWA marks 90 years of service to the world, we fondly remember the heroic support of our friends and partners in India, especially Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, whose generous spirit still inspires us.
11 August 2016
Arpine Ghazaryan cuts her son’s hair. She lives with her two boys in Gyumri, Armenia — just one of many families in the country who are now fatherless. Discover why, and what is being done to help them, in Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer edition of ONE.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
11 August 2016
An injured boy stands amid rubble outside his home after airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria.
(photo: CNS/Ali Mustafa, EPA)
Aleppo bishop speaks of “destroyed country and families” (Vatican Radio) As the United Nations called for an urgent humanitarian pause to the fighting raging in the divided city of Aleppo where two million people lack access to clean water and electricity, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo speaks about his “destroyed country and the destroyed families” in Syria...
Casualties rise as fighting continues in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Fighting is raging once again in eastern Ukraine with the United Nations saying that civilian casualties have reached the highest level in a year. The ongoing conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists has also added to pressure on media, after personal details were released of thousands of journalists...
Ethiopia dismisses calls for UN observers as protests rage (Al Jazeera) Ethopia has dismissed a plea from the United Nations that it allow international observers to investigate the killing of protesters by security forces during a recent bout of anti-government demonstrations. Getachew Reda, a government spokesman, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the UN was entitled to its opinion but the government of Ethiopia was responsible for the safety of its own people. Reda’s comments came after the UN urged the government to allow observers to investigate the killings of at least 90 protesters in the Oromia and Amhara regions over the weekend...
Thousands still displaced in Gaza (USA TODAY) For the past two years, Iftetah Amsha, 50, has been sharing a hot, cramped mobile home with her husband and 10 children. Their house was destroyed during the 50-day war with Israel that ended two years ago this month. “I don’t know when I will get out of here,” she said. The conflict left 18,000 housing units destroyed or damaged, according to the United Nations. Fewer than 4,500 have been reconstructed and more than 13,000 families remain displaced in this crowded strip of land along Israel’s southwestern border...
Cheering on the Olympic Refugee Team (CNS) Glued to the improvised screen set up on the patio of the Caritas house, the refugees yelled and they cried. But most of all, they cheered. They cheered for their two Congolese colleagues, Popole Misenga, 24, and Yolande Mabika, 28, who were competing in judo as part of the United Nations’ Refugee Olympic team. “They represent all of us today,” said an emotional Mirelle Muluila, also from Congo. “They represent the strength it takes to come from nothing and being considered a ‘nobody,’ to becoming a champion,” she cried out as others around her agreed...
10 August 2016
In this image from December 2015, a refugee prays Christmas day at a camp in Calais, France. Iraqi Christians appear divided about whether they will be able to return home after ISIS militants are flushed out of the battle-scarred Ninevah Plains region. (photo: CNS/Stephanie Lecocq, EPA)
Iraqi Christians appear divided about whether they will be able to return home after Islamic State militants are flushed out of the battle-scarred Ninevah Plains region. They say their safety must be guaranteed at all costs.
“If the liberation of the Ninevah Plains region is successful, infrastructure is rebuilt and there is security, I would want to be among the first to return,” said Fadi Yousif, who teaches displaced children in the Ashti II camp for displaced Christians in Ain Kawa, near Irbil. “It’s my home. I love that place. But what is absolutely essential is that we have real security there.”
Housed in an unfinished concrete building, Yousif and other displaced people live in containers that take the place of homes lost to the Islamic State. He said his home region would be a different place from what he remembers due to the dispersal of friends and family abroad because of the long wait to rid the area of the Islamist extremists.
“About 60 percent of my friends are now living in exile, whether in neighboring countries or Europe. My mother, father and two sisters are now in Lebanon. I have a brother in Jordan. My uncle is in the United States. Only another brother and I are still in Iraq,” he said. It was unclear whether Yousif’s family would regather in Iraq following the liberation.
Um Fadi, a 37-year-old Chaldean Catholic mother, also is concerned about safety. She and her family of six live in Ashti II.
“I swear, I never saw something like this except in a horror film. But I actually witnessed people being killed and saw dead bodies with my own eyes,” she said of her escape from the Islamic State’s assault on her village of Qaraqosh two years ago.
“Of course, we are frightened to return. What are we going back to? The houses and churches have been bombed. My children, particularly my youngest son, is very frightened about the idea of returning there,” Um Fadi told Catholic News Service.
Other Christians like, Saif Haney, told CNS they will never go back home because they heard that Islamic State militants used their family houses as execution dens.
Some Iraqi Christian political leaders are calling for the inclusion of armed Christian militias to participate in the liberation of Mosul and the Ninevah Plains, their ancestral homeland, alongside U.S.-led coalition forces, Iraqi troops and Kurdish fighters.
Although that may not happen, Christian political leaders such as Yousif Yaqoob Matti want to see Christian defense forces built up to protect Mosul and the Ninevah Plains after their liberation. They said this is necessary because although many Christians would prefer to have an international force, such as U.N. peacekeepers in the area, this is unlikely to happen.
“The battle for the Ninevah Plains against Islamic State will be complex, but the military forces involved must perform as one, unified entity,” Matti told CNS.
“After the liberation, demining efforts will take place and electricity, water and other necessary infrastructure will need to be rebuilt. It is hoped that after four months, people may be able to return safely.”
Bahman Maalizadeh of the North Carolina-based Norooz Foundation has traveled to Mosul’s frontline villages ahead of the offensive. His and other nongovernmental organizations have provided badly needed food and medicine to displaced Christians and Yezidis.
“There is a small Christian force left to protect so many lands,” Maalizadeh told CNS. “It is so important for the international community to help these forces to not only protect the land, which they have, but once the area is liberated, to provide security to ensure that Christians can return home.”
A man who identified himself only as John, a Syriac Catholic from Hamdaniyya, is Um Fadi’s neighbor in Ashti II camp. Although he and his family are desperate to forget the past and to leave Iraq, that might not be possible.
“We can’t leave Iraq, but we want to. Although Kurdistan has been kind to us, there is really no work here, so we have run out of money,” he told CNS. “We have to have a future for ourselves and our kids, so we need to go somewhere else. We don’t see that happening in Iraq because so many wars and conflicts have erupted here.”
He and his family have already been displaced already twice: They had to flee the capital, Baghdad, for safety to Hamdaniyya and then escape to Ain Kawa following the Islamic State takeover of their area.
“Frankly, money isn’t the objective. The only thing we want in life is what everybody else wants,” he told CNS. “It’s to be able to live in your own home without any concern about what can happen to your kids. I want my children to grow up that way, feeling secure.”