20 August 2018
Floodwaters have left thousands of people in Kerala stranded or homeless. (photo: CNEWA)
Late Friday, we received the following message from M.L. Thomas, our regional director in India, regarding the devastating floods that have swept through the region:
The flood situation in Kerala is very scary and unpredictable right now. People — including many of our staff — are overwhelmed by the water and not able to move. Almost all of Kerala is now under water. The telephone and other connections are not working properly. Utilizing all sources possible, I am in touch with some of our priests and I have already received requests for help from many of them. I am personally involved right now in the rescue work.
The local government and social service organizations of the church are all involved in rescue operations in many places around Kerala. Food packets and clothing are being supplied to the hundreds of relief camps. With so many people stranded in so many places, there is difficulty supplying essential materials. However, everything possible is being done by the government and the Catholic church.
My own village is surrounded by floodwaters. There are two relief camps set up at my parish, and at another parish nearby. Thousands of people were evacuated to these two places.
A woman surveys the damage in her flooded home. (photo: CNEWA)
Almost all the dams are releasing water, which is now finding its way into many parts of Kerala through various rivers. In some places, the rain is still pouring.
Right now, the needs are urgent and immediate. This is a terrible situation and will soon require help to rebuild and rehabilitate many neighborhoods and help thousands who have lost everything.
To help support those in need in India, visit this page. And please keep all affected in your prayers.
20 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Flood victims wait to receive food inside a temporary relief shelter on 20 August in Cochin, India. The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India's Kerala state, killing more than 100 people. Read a report from on the ground and learn how you can help here.(photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
20 August 2018
Residents survey the aftermath of severe flooding in Kerala that has caused massive damage and loss of life in the Indian state. (photo: CNEWA)
Pope prays for victims of Kerala floods (Vatican News) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for victims of the flooding in the Indian state of Kerala. “In recent days,” he noted, “the inhabitants of Kerala have been harshly struck by intense rains, which have caused flooding and landslides, with heavy loss of human life, with many people missing and displaced, with extensive damage to crops and homes…”
Kerala focuses on cleanup, relief, rehabilitation (Vatican News) With a lull in the rains and no heavy downpours forecast in the next five days, morale has surged in southern India’s Kerala state, boosting the ongoing relief, rescue and cleanup operations. About 22,000 people were reported rescued on Sunday, after monsoon rains finally eased. No red alert was issued for any of Kerala’s rain-ravaged 14 districts…
Lebanese Foreign Minister: no reason for Syria refugees to stay in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Russia lashed out at Western countries accusing them of blocking UN aid for Syria’s reconstruction and trying to prevent the return of refugees. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks on Monday with his Lebanese counterpart, Gibran Bassil, the US refusal to provide assistance for rebuilding Syria after more than seven years of fighting would deter Syrians from returning to their homes…
Murder mystery reverberates in Coptic Church (The New York Times) Christian monks living in the solitude of Egypt’s deserts have always faced the threat of attack from outside. In the early centuries, they built drawbridges and windowless towers to repel marauding nomads. More recently, barricades and armed police officers ring the monasteries to guard against Islamic State suicide bombers, who target Christians. But now, to the shock of the faithful, it turns out that danger also lurks inside the monastery walls…
Patriarch Kirill visits Russia’s northernmost Orthodox church (TASS) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has arrived in Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, where he performed a divine service in one of Russia’s northernmost Orthodox churches — the Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker in Belushya Guba, an administrative center of Novaya Zemlya, a TASS correspondent reported. This church in Russia’s Far North dates back to pre-revolutionary times, but this is the first visit by the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church there…
17 August 2018
Tags: India Lebanon Kerala Russian Orthodox
A man is rescued from drowning on 16 August after the opening of a dam following heavy rains on the outskirts of Cochin, India. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
UCAN reports Indian bishops have appealed to Christians across the world to help those affected by the flooding in India:
Indian bishops have appealed to Christians across the country come together to help the millions of people stranded because of the unprecedented and devastating flood in Kerala.
“We are distressed by the extensive damage to the life and property through a disaster of this magnitude,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Bishops Conference of India said in a statement.
Cardinal Gracias termed the disaster as national calamity and said there was “a strong urgency to reach out to more communities who are stranded and isolated in the most remote and unreached villages.”
The uninterrupted rains and flood on 15 and 16 August alone claimed 106 lives and displaced at least a million people. Unofficial figures put the death toll at 116.
The monsoon season since June has already claimed more than 200 people, taking the total death toll to more than 300.
Cities and towns 12 of the 14 districts in the state are inundated and power lines in most part of Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur districts have been snapped to avoid electrocution as power transformers came under water.
The road, rail and air traffic into the state is paralyzed in the affected districts forcing the people to stay put in their homes if water does not enter or move to relief camps.
The government is also airdropping food and water in many affected areas as some 200,000 people are in 1,155 relief camps.
Cardinal Gracias bishops and all the leadership of churches “to come together in solidarity and encourage the community of faithful, institutions and people of goodwill to contribute generously to this humanitarian call and express our solidarity at this crucial moment.”
Read the full story here.
To help support the work of the church among those most in need in India, click here.
17 August 2018
A Palestinian woman hangs laundry at a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip 20 June. World Refugee Day is 20 June. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)
Egypt finalizing details of five-year Hamas-Israel truce (Daily Star Lebanon) Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security source said Thursday, amid easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some 2 million Palestinians live. Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid al Adha feast, which starts next week…
Christians, Muslims in Israeli village feel ‘second class’ after new law passed (Crux) In Deir Hanna, a small hillside village in the Lower Galilee, a church steeple and a minaret pierce the sky above its winding streets — neighboring dual structures that are symbolic of life on the ground where the town’s Muslim and Christian inhabitants live peacefully alongside one another. For the ancient town of Deir Hanna — which consists of fewer than 10,000 residents, approximately 20 percent of whom are Christians and 80 percent Muslims — the two faith communities have coexisted for centuries surrounded by their nearby Jewish neighbors, despite longstanding regional conflict being a way of life. Yet, as of last month when the Israeli government passed legislation to define itself as “the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” a new source of tension has emerged, where Christians and Muslims alike are charging that the new bill is not only not necessary, but also discriminatory against minority populations — and in this town, their Jewish neighbors agree…
Church ‘out in the field’ in flood-hit Kerala (UCAN India) The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India’s Kerala state, killing 75 people within a week. All 41 Catholic dioceses in the southern state have opened schools and other institutions to accommodate flood victims and are cooperating to send food, clothes and other relief materials to affected areas…
Caritas Syria: Ghouta refugees starving for food and love (AsiaNews) Displaced people speak of their condition in eastern Ghouta, an area on the outskirts of Damascus that was controlled for a long time by rebel forces. These people who, despite hardship and deprivation, are often without food to give to their children, claim they have “more need for love than for food.” And they reject the association with extremist and rebel groups who have long controlled the area and who today “have fled to Turkey and live happily. We, on the other hand, have not hurt anyone, we are suffering…”
16 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Galilee
The ancient Christian town of Maaloula, pictured in October 2007, is one of the oldest communities in the world, where Aramaic is still spoken in everyday life. (photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)
In a heartening piece of news, Fides reported this week that the Monastery of St. Thecla, in the ancient town of Maaloula in western Syria, has reopened to the public:
The Orthodox monastery of St. Thecla, in the Syrian town of Maaloula, will soon be open again to the visits of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, reconstruction work on the monastery is nearing completion. Maaloula was freed from militants in 2014, after which the restoration of the town and monastery began.
As reported by Fides (see Fides 9/6/2018) an important contribution to the reconstruction of St. Thecla came from the Russian veterans organizations “Boevoe Bratstvo” (Brothers in Arms). Russian media report that the nuns have already returned to the monastery, 90 percent of the reconstruction is already done, and that the reconstruction will be completed in the coming weeks.
Maalula, [35 miles] northeast of Damascus, known throughout the world as one of the places where Aramaic — the language spoken of Jesus — is still spoken, houses both the monastery of St. Thecla and the sanctuary dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus, which belongs to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. On 3 December 2013, 13 Greek Orthodox sisters from St. Thecla were kidnapped from the monastery, along with three of their collaborators. The kidnapping ended happily on Sunday, 9 March 2014, when the sisters and the three collaborators were freed in Lebanese territory. The liberation also occurred thanks to the mediation of the Lebanese and Qatar intelligence apparatus.
To learn more, check the pages of ONE magazine, which has featured several pre-war profiles of this remarkable town — including Mitchell Prothero’s Echoes of Jesus From Syria’s Mountains in 2008, and Michael La Civita’s 1989 Maaloula: An Oasis of Faith.
16 August 2018
Tags: Syria Monastery Aramaic
A makeshift shelter is seen 13 August on the edge of Athirapally Falls in the Indian state of Kerala. The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in the southeastern state, killing at least 75 people within a week. (photo: CNS/Prakash Elamakkara, EPA)
Indian church joins relief efforts as floods wreak havoc in Kerala (CNS) The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India’s Kerala state, killing 75 people within a week. Ucanews.com reported that all 41 Catholic dioceses in the southern state have opened schools and other institutions to accommodate flood victims and are cooperating to send food, clothes and other relief materials to affected areas…
UNRWA: Palestinian refugee schools to open (Daily Star Lebanon) Hundreds of U.N.-run schools for Palestinian refugees will open on time after fresh funding temporarily staved off a financial crisis triggered by a U.S. contributions freeze, the United Nations said on Thursday. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said all 711 schools it runs for 526,000 pupils in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would open for the coming school year…
‘There are no girls left’: Syria’s Christian villages hollowed out by ISIS (New York Times) The memories of the retired oilman dot the village in Syria where he grew up. The mud chapel he got married in. The concrete church he helped build that would overflow with worshipers on holidays. The tight community of Assyrian Christian families who had lived together in this area for generations. Now it’s a village of ghosts. The church is a pile of rubble, its bell tower and its cross toppled over like a felled tree. The dirt paths are overgrown, walked by stray dogs. Most homes are empty, their owners in Germany, Australia, the United States and elsewhere…
The Monastery of St. Thecla in Maaloula reopen (Fides) The Antiochene Orthodox Monastery of St. Thecla, in the Syrian town of Maaloula, will soon be open again to the visits of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, reconstruction work on the monastery is nearing completion. Maaloula was freed from militants in 2014, after which the restoration of the town and monastery began…
Kurds meet with Syrian government to discuss self-rule (AINA) Representatives from Syria’s Kurdish-run northeastern region met with the government in Damascus last week to discuss self-administration in a postwar Syria, a leading Kurdish official said Tuesday. It was the second meeting between the two sides, and they agreed to continue their discussions, said Ilham Ahmed, the co-president of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council…
Economic turmoil leaves Turkey reeling (Vatican News) Last week, the Turkish lira lost 20% of its value against the U.S. Dollar. Today it remains under pressure as it continued its descent on world currency markets. The leading Turkish Sabah newspaper cited the head of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and Indus try as saying the government needed to take urgent action, as the financial stability of the country was in doubt…
As Ethiopia embraces forgiveness, government victims call for justice (Christian Science Monitor) Ethiopia has released thousands of prisoners as a new prime minister reverses decades of security abuses. No one knows how many were tortured. But some of those torture victims are now talking openly — to the media, to their relatives, and to their friends — about what happened to them after they were jailed, in many cases for protesting against the government…
14 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey
The Temple of Bel in Palmyra in Syria is a World Heritage Site that was destroyed by ISIS. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Many of the people and places CNEWA serves are somehow imperiled—whether by war, persecution, economic hardship or drought. Often, the stories we tell in our magazine, ONE, revolve around ways of life that are rapidly disappearing.
We aren’t the only ones chronicling this phenomenon. The United Nations has been involved in this, as well, and has actively taken steps to try and save what otherwise might be lost.
In 1965 the United States, under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, hosted a conference entitled “World Heritage Trust.” The conference recognized the universal human significance of some sites in the world. These sites—both natural and cultural—touch the deepest part of what it means to be human in the best sense of the term. The conference recognized that natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon invoke a sense of wonder and awe that transcends language, culture and religious affiliation. Likewise some sites—buildings, cities, places of worship—also signify the heights human achievement can attain. It was recognized that these sites, while remaining under local state sovereignty, are nonetheless part of the patrimony of the entire human family.
In 1972 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Four years later, the World Heritages Committee was formed, with the express intent of creating the World Heritage List — places and landmarks to be treasured by all. As of 2017, there are 1,052 World Heritages Sites around the world. Of these, 814 are cultural, 203 are natural and 35 are “mixed.” (For a complete list of these sites, visit this link.)
While the World Heritage List revolves around those things both natural and created that bring out and reflect the best in humanity, it cannot be overlooked that in the list of the sites — in addition to noting whether the site is cultural, natural or mixed — there is a note as to whether is it threatened. Many are threatened — and some are threatened by deliberate human activity.
The Middle East, the world of CNEWA’s original mission, is one of the so-called cradles of civilization. Sixteen World Heritages Sites can be found in Jordan, Syria and Iraq alone. These countries have been involved in war for almost a decade. Hence, many of these sites are also the victims of war. Caught between fighting factions, places such as the citadel in Aleppo, the Nebi Yunus Mosque in Mosul and many others have been reduced to rubble. The Islamic State (ISIS), with its nihilist theology, deliberately destroyed many ancient sites because they were considered “infidel.” Ancient statues and artifacts and priceless, irreplaceable manuscripts have been wantonly destroyed.
On 18 August 2015, the 82-year-old Syrian scholar Khaled al-Asaad was beheaded by ISIS and his dead body was then publicly crucified. His crime? He refused to reveal to ISIS where the archaeological treasures of the World Heritage Site of Palmyra were hidden. Al-Asaad dedicated his life to studying and preserving the ancient heritage of his country and, indeed, the whole world.
He gave his life to save that heritage.
If the UNESCO World Heritage Sites were created to reflect and bring out the best of humanity, they have also been the victims of the worst of humanity.
While CNEWA does not work directly with UNESCO or the World Heritage Sites, we do strive to reduce the violence and inhumanity in all places where we work. By helping to meet the basic needs of people often left homeless, scarred by violence and war, we hope ultimately to meet their spiritual needs as human beings — beings who are compassionate, just, secure and open to things of beauty like the UNESCO World Heritages Sites, often in their own lands.
14 August 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq United Nations
A Basilian Sister prays with a little girl in her convent in the village of Berehy near Lviv. Read how the sisters are Giving 200 Percent, doing more with less, in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
14 August 2018
Thousands have been forced into relief camps across Kerala as flood waters continue to devastate the region. (video: YouTube/Al Jazeera)
Kerala floods force thousands into relief camps (The Times of India) According to the latest official figures, more than 60,000 people have been lodged in various relief camps across 14 districts of Kerala following the unprecedented monsoon rains that triggered floods and landslides in several places…
Scores killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia (Reuters) At least 40 people were killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia over the weekend, a senior regional official said on Monday, in the latest spate of violence driven by ethnic divisions. Unrest first broke out along the border of the country’s Somali and Oromiya provinces in September, displacing nearly a million people, though the violence had subsided by April…
Indian bishops cry foul as police probe church agencies (UCANews.com) Catholic prelates in India’s Jharkhand state have asked the government to substantiate allegations of fund diversion for religious conversion as police continue to investigate nearly 90 Christian institutions. The joint move by the eastern state’s bishops came on 12 August, a day after the state’s Criminal Investigation Department and Anti-Terrorism Squad carried out searches at the offices of Christian-managed non-government organizations (NGOs)…
Israel may be about to relax sanctions against Gaza (The Los Angeles Times) After over a month of suffocating sanctions that left many Gazans on the brink of economic collapse, relief may be on its way. Israel’s Defense Ministry said Monday that two days of “complete quiet” on its border with Gaza have led Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to consider easing the closure it imposed on the sole commercial entryway into the Gaza Strip on 9 July…
Early marriages rising in Iraq (Global Post) In 1997, 15 percent of Iraqi women wed before 18, according to government statistics. That was six years prior to the US invasion that toppled its brutal but secular dictator, Saddam Hussein. By 2016, two years after the outbreak of a sectarian Sunni vs. Shiite civil war and the rise of ISIS, who by then had imposed a harsh version of Islam on around a third of the country under its control — Iraq’s early marriage figure jumped to 24 percent, including nearly 5 percent who married before age 15…
Economic turmoil leaves Turkey reeling (Vatican News) On Friday, Minister of Finance Berat Albayrak rolled-out his “new economic model” that was supposed to reassure markets and investors, however, his plan was vague and further accelerated the crash of the lira. In an attempt to calm the markets on Monday, the Turkish Central Bank said it would provide local banks with all the liquidity they needed, but fears remain that the crisis could spread to markets in Europe…
Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank