6 February 2017
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visits Aleppo on 1 February. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
Meeting the Christians of Aleppo (Catholic Herald) On December 23, the guns finally fell silent and an apparent victory was handed to Syria’s President Assad in the battle for the city. Today, the cacophony of bombs is replaced by an eerie silence. Will the people come back? Not yet. With a political settlement still a distant hope, people are just marking time. In the meantime, the full cost of war can at last be counted, including the depletion of the city’s Christian population…
Syria’s Assyrians concerned about postwar existence (AINA) Some of Syria’s Christians fear that their existence in the postwar Syria would be threatened, particularly following the latest political and military developments accompanying the crisis. Those Christians expressed their worries after they were ruled out from the upcoming Geneva talks, and because the Syriac language was not included in the draft constitution that a Russian delegation handed over to representatives of the Syrian government in Damascus last month to provide equality between Kurdish and Arabic language in local administrative areas…
Jordan joins the table in Astana for Syrian ceasefire talks (Rudaw) For the first time Jordanian representatives are in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, meeting with officials from Russia, Turkey, Iran, as well as the United Nations to discuss the implementation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement on Monday…
Israel’s settlement bill ‘big step towards annexation’ (Al Jazeera) The Israeli Knesset has advanced controversial legislation that, if approved, would lead to a host of illegal settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land being legalized retroactively. The so-called “Regulation Bill,” scheduled for a vote on Monday, would apply to around 4,000 settlement homes in the West Bank for which settlers could prove ignorance that they had built on privately owned land and had received encouragement from the Israeli state to do so…
Israel not paying to de-mine Christian holy site (Al Jazeera) Nearly half a million tourists annually walk past two fenced-in minefields to visit Qasr al Yahud (“Castle of the Jews”), the site where Jesus was believed to have been baptized in the River Jordan. A $4 million project launched last year by the de-mining charity Halo Trust is hoping to make the site safer, after the group struck an agreement with Israeli authorities, the Palestinian Authority and local churches that own plots in Qasr al Yahud. But Israel, whose army peppered the site with mines after the 1967 war, is not paying for these de-mining efforts, observers note…
Tremors felt in northern India (Times of India) An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale struck Uttarakhand late on Monday night. The quake caused tremors that were felt across northern India. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (N.D.R.F.) “have been rushed from Ghaziabad to Uttarakhand to conduct rescue and relief operations, if the situation arises,” tweeted the Office of the Home Minister of India…
3 February 2017
Tags: Syria India Palestine Israel Aleppo
In this image from 1991, Cardinal John O’Connor speaks with the Lebanese press corps following a conference with Beirut’s ranking Orthodox leader, Metropolitan Elias Audi.
(photo: Maria Bastone)
He was a lion, a man who “said it like it was.” He never feared to make his point and rarely if ever apologized in public — except for one glaring exception: asking the Jewish community’s forgiveness for the acts and offenses committed against them by the Catholic Church. So read the obituaries of a man indeed larger than life, a passionate defender of life, a powerful enemy of racism and anti-Semitism, a man who preferred to be a priest’s priest and pastor, a boy from Philly, Cardinal John J. O’Connor.
Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association from January 1984 until his death in May 2000, Cardinal O’Connor does not bring to mind cool feelings. After attending a prayer vigil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral the day of his death, I piled into a cab. The cabbie was listening to talk radio, and the talk that night was of the life and death of the cardinal. As the cabbie snarled through the congested traffic that defines the Big Apple, I heard caller after caller, New Yorkers from all walks of life, talk about a man who touched their lives in deeply personal ways — his midnight stops to hospitals, his visits to people dying of AIDS, his ability to listen and empathize, his love of mothers, his concern for the priests and sisters serving the people of the archdiocese, his passion for the rights of laborers and the poor.
At the end of the trip — a long one — even the cabbie had tears in his eyes.
Cardinal O’Connor’s commitment to and love of the CNEWA family extended years before he assumed the mantle of leadership. He served as a generous benefactor, friend and counselor. Of his impact on CNEWA as its head, my dear friend and former colleague, the late Peg Maron, said it best in the pages of our magazine, published soon after his death:
He challenged the leadership of CNEWA to renew itself.
Under his direction, programs in the Middle East expanded to include such innovative projects as a housing renovation program in the Old City of Jerusalem and a comprehensive village rehabilitation initiative in Lebanon. And, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, he committed CNEWA’s support of the church in post-Communist Eastern Europe.
Cardinal O’Connor tirelessly encouraged support of avenues of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox; Christians, Jews and Muslims; Israelis and Palestinians. On trips to the Middle East he met with religious and political leaders throughout the region to keep open the lines of communication.
And he had a special love for the people of Lebanon.
At great personal risk he traveled to Lebanon twice during its civil war, in 1986 and 1989, to demonstrate the solidarity of American Catholics with the people of Lebanon. ...
Following the war, in January 1992, the Cardinal visited Lebanon a third time. During this visit he promised to do whatever he could to help rebuild that shattered nation. He fulfilled this pledge immediately after his return when he invited Lebanese American leaders to his residence on 26 February and challenged them to forget their differences and coordinate their efforts toward rebuilding their homeland. Also, at their request, he led a representative delegation to a White House meeting with President George Bush to seek a change in the United States’ Lebanon policy.
In gratitude for the Cardinal’s efforts on behalf of Lebanon, the Ambassador of Lebanon to the U.S., on behalf of the Lebanese President, presented Cardinal O’Connor with the Order of the Cedar, Lebanon’s highest honor, in January 2000.
Cardinal O’Connor was and remains a CNEWA hero. He retooled the agency, challenging its administrators to clarify its Catholic identity, update its systems, improve its transparency, expand its good works, and to remember always the needs of the poor. His leadership set CNEWA on a course to enter the turmoil of the 21st century, when the works of this special agency of the Holy See have been so sorely needed.
His life was one of a true leader. No doubt, he was received into the bosom of the Lord with the words, “well done, John Joseph.”
3 February 2017
Tags: CNEWA Catholic Cardinal John O’Connor
Ivlita Kuchaidze relaxes at the Caritas Georgia Harmony Day Center and shares pictures from her past. The center serves the elderly in Tbilisi. Read about their work in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Antonio Di Vico)
2 February 2017
A displaced Syrian woman, fleeing from Deir Ezzor city besieged by ISIS, walks through the falling snow carrying a child on her shoulder in a refugee camp in al-Hol, near the Iraqi border
on 1 February 2017. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
Lebanon backs returning Syrian refugees to ‘safe zones’ (AP) Lebanon’s president says the international community should facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to Syria by setting up “safe zones” in coordination with their government. Michel Aoun made his comments Friday during a meeting with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. Lebanon is home to some 1.2 million Syrian refugees, equivalent to one fourth of its own population...
Trump discusses safe zones with Jordan’s king (Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump discussed with Jordan’s King Abdullah the possibility of establishing safe zones in Syria, the White House said on Thursday...
Advocates stress the U.S. has moral obligation to help refugees (CNS) Leaders from six organizations want Americans and President Donald Trump to understand that refugees, especially those from war-torn Middle Eastern countries, are average people with careers, comfortable homes and loving families rather than see them as a monolithic threat to the United States...
In Mosul hospital, nothing left but scavengers and the ISIS dead (The Daily Beast) After three months of battle and over two years under the rule of the so-called Islamic State, Mosul’s health sector is stretched beyond its limits, and the destruction of the city’s biggest and most prestigious hospital weighs heavily on the people here. It is symbolic of the price the city has had to pay for its liberation, which remains incomplete...
Gentiles in fight to save Kerala’s Jewish monuments (Asia Times) For Jews, Mala, a small town in southern India, is unique in many ways. Some 50 families are said to have lived there peacefully for over a thousand years — something that is quite rare in Jewish history. Mala also has the largest Jewish cemetery in India and one of its oldest synagogues. These are the monuments of their existence that the Jews of Mala handed for preservation to the local government before they left en masse for Israel, after its formation in 1948...
2 February 2017
In this image from 2015, displaced Iraqis celebrate the liturgy in a tent church in Kasnazan, in northern Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
There has been a lot of discussion lately about Christian refugees in the Middle East — and a lot of misinformation has been appearing online and in the media. CNEWA’s communications director Michael J.L. La Civita sets the record straight today at the website Aleteia. He notes:
This piece is offered to help dispel some of the erroneous information currently feeding confusion and partisanship where there should be none. Especially with portions of the electorate that self-identify as Christian or Catholic, it is vitally important to understand the realities about refugees and immigrants, beyond the unhelpful partisan narratives that are making assistance to both problematic and politicized...
...Much has been written regarding Middle East Christian refugees, their status, and whether or not they and other religious minorities should be offered refuge in the United States before other groups, such as Sunni Muslim refugees, whose numbers are far greater.
Here are a few points to consider:
- Of the 120,000 Christians pushed out of the Nineveh Plain into Iraqi Kurdistan (Irbil and Dohuk) in 2014 by ISIS, some 80,000 remain.
- Those living in Iraqi Kurdistan are legally identified as internally displaced peoples, and all are receiving some form of assistance from the UN, as well as from church organizations, such as CNEWA.
- Many have fled to Jordan — the king offered hospitality and expedited visas, but he asked the churches to care for the primary needs of the community. Parishes did just that, temporarily housing the refugees and providing for their basic needs.
- Others have returned to Baghdad, where they continue to draw pensions and salaries if once employed by the state.
- In 2016, 955 Iraqi Christian families, including 1,187 children, left Jordan for resettlement. Many went to Australia.
There is much more, including details about Syrian refugees, at the Aleteia website.
2 February 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Middle East ISIS
Students perform at The Infant Jesus School in Dwaraka, India. CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar visited the region in December. You can learn more and check out a video describing the trip here. (photo: John E. Kozar)
2 February 2017
In the video above, Vatican officials who traveled to Aleppo describe the liveliness and depth of the Christian community’s faith in that war-ravaged corner of the world. (video: Rome Reports)
In war-ravaged Aleppo, few answers on how to rebuild (AP) Aleppo has been scarred beyond recognition: Weeks after fighting stopped, a pall of dust covers its eastern districts, where streets are lined for blocks with buildings smashed to metal and brick rubble in scenes reminiscent of cities devastated in World War II. The destruction is the worst wreaked on any city in Syria’s six-year war. No one has any quick answers on how to rebuild Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, much less the rest of a country that has seen appalling desolation...
Iraqis returning home to Mosul (Andalou Agency) Almost 50,000 displaced people have returned to their homes in eastern Mosul and the city’s southern Qayyarah district, both of which were recently recaptured by the Iraqi army from the Islamic State terrorist group, according to Iraq’s Displacement and Migration Ministry. “The ministry is trying to persuade displaced people to leave the camps and return to liberated areas so the camps might be used to accommodate those expected to be displaced in upcoming operations to retake western Mosul,” ministry spokesman Sattar Nowruz told Anadolu Agency...
Report: hate speech against Christians on the rise in Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News) Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches has prepared its 2016 Rights Violations Report, noting that hate speech against the country’s Christians has increased in both conventional and social media. The annual report said hate speech against Protestants persisted throughout 2016, in addition to physical attacks on Protestant individuals and their churches. The report also noted that churches in particular faced serious terror threats...
Some Muslim refugees converting to Christianity “to find safety’ (The Telegraph) The situation for refugees in the country — which is hosting more than a million and a half Syrians that make up a quarter of its total population — has become increasingly dire over the course of the six-year conflict. Some say they converted to benefit from the generous aid distributed by Christian charities, others to help their asylum applications to Europe, the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Christian converts are more likely to be persecuted in the Middle East than those who stay Muslims, and are thus more eligible for asylum...
Gaza sees rise in divorce rate (GulfNews.com) The Supreme Sharia Judicial Council in the Gaza Strip has reported an increase in divorce rates in the territory for 2016, with a total of 3,188 divorce cases being reported in the tiny coastal strip during that year...
1 February 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey Islam
CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomed Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil to CNEWA’s New York offices last October. A visit planned for this week had to be postponed because of the new executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. (photo: CNEWA)
U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, issued last Friday, is hitting close to home.
The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil has been forced to postpone a visit to the United States that was scheduled to begin this week.
Catholic New York explains:
President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” issued 27 January, includes a ban of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, including Iraq. The others are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also bars Syrian refugees from entering and suspends refugee admissions for 120 days.
“The door is closed for now for him to come to this country,” said Msgr. Kozar in a phone interview with CNY 31 January.
Along with Archbishop Warda, a priest from the diocese and a layman who serves there were banned from traveling to the United States. The trip was scheduled to include visits to Washington, D.C., and New York. The archbishop was originally invited by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J...
...“We could possibly lose the moment to express the solidarity of Cardinal Dolan and the entire CNEWA family,” Msgr. Kozar said. “It directly affects us as a helping agency.” CNEWA is a papal agency that has served the poor throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe since 1926.
Msgr. Kozar said he has already been in touch with CNEWA directors in the Middle East. Regarding the future, the executive order could gravely damage the agency’s ability to continue its mission.
“I’m planning a visit to Iraq in March to continue to demonstrate the solidarity we have and to show them we haven’t abandoned them and assure them that they are not forgotten. But I don’t know — will I be permitted to enter that country? As we have stopped the flow from these listed nations, some of them are doing the same in kind,” Msgr. Kozar said.
Asked how Catholics should respond, Msgr. Kozar said, “Our Holy Father is an eloquent spokesman of what our position is: Everyone is created in God’s image. It doesn’t matter at all about color or creed, or religion or what part of the world they are from. We love all. That’s in our Scriptures. That is from Christ Himself. That is the Church at its best.
“We want all people to be treated with basic human dignity that we hold comes from God himself and that comes from being part of his holy family,” he said.
Read more at Catholic New York.
1 February 2017
The Rev. Michael Kerestes dips a candle in holy water during the blessing service. With him are the Rev. Mykhaylo Prodanets, left, and the Rev. Gary Mensinger.
(photo: Sean McKeag/Times Leader)
The short video below was posted Sunday afternoon in the Times Leader, a newspaper for Northeastern Pennsylvania that covers the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
As the paper reported:
From the end of the Nesbitt Boat Launch, the Rev. Mykhaylo Prodanets tossed a large cross sculpted from ice into the Susquehanna River on Sunday.
As he threw both the cross and a bucket of holy water into the river, Prodanets prayed, “In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.” He was invoking the name of the Holy Trinity during a service commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The ceremony mirrors prayers and actions done during the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Theophany.
About two dozen Byzantine Catholic faithful joined Prodanets and two other priests and a deacon at the Annual Susquehanna River Blessing.
The Byzantine Catholic churches have been offering the service for more than 10 years, according to the Very Rev. Gary Mensinger. The churches used to hold the service on the Pierce Street bridge, but it has since moved to the boat launch.
Mensinger, who splits his time as pastor of both St. Michael’s in Pittston and St. Nicholas Parish in Swoyersville, said another purpose of the 30-minute service is to thank God for the vitality the river holds in the Wyoming Valley and to ask for protection from floods in the upcoming year.
Read more. And watch the video below:
1 February 2017
Christians celebrate a Marian feast in the northern region of Tigray in Ethiopia. Catechists are being trained to help spread the faith. Learn more about why this movement might be
considered Ethiopia’s Sleeping Giant in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)