5 August 2016
Refugees’ tents are damaged after Russian airstrikes hit the Etarib district of Aleppo, Syria,
on 4 August 2016. (photo: Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Religious freedom threatened by Turkey’s response to coup (The Catholic Register) Civil service purges and mass arrests in Turkey since a 15 July failed coup attempt are bad news for religious freedom in what has been one of the Muslim world’s most open and democratic societies, said Canada’s former ambassador for religious freedom...
UN considers role in “deeply flawed” humanitarian plan for Syria (The Guardian) The United Nations is considering overseeing a Russian proposal to create humanitarian corridors for civilians who wish to leave besieged Aleppo, despite strong opposition from aid organizations. Confidential documents seen by the Guardian detailing internal UN deliberations on the Kremlin’s proposal, described as “deeply flawed” by humanitarian agencies, reveal the contours of a debate inside an organisation that wants to provide assistance to suffering civilians in Aleppo but fears being seen as an accomplice in an onslaught that has left a quarter of a million civilians under siege....
World Vision manager charged with funneling funds to Hamas (The New York Times) The Palestinian manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision, a major Christian aid organization, was charged by Israeli prosecutors on Thursday with infiltrating the charity on behalf of Hamas and funneling about $43 million in the group’s funds over the past six years to the military wing of the Islamist militant group...
Catholics protest demolition of cathedral in India (Vatican Radio) Tension prevailed at Tarapet in the city on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday when the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) authorities faced resistance from the clergy and lay people for demolishing a portion of the Roman Catholic church St. Peter’s Cathedral as part of the road-widening project. The church was built more than 100 years ago and is of undisputed cultural and artistic value...
Weddings offer break from gloom in Gaza (AP) In a time with little to be joyous about in Gaza, weddings have emerged as welcome festivities that offer a break from the often morose mood in the strip. The coastal territory has faced three wars with Israel over the last decade and a stifling blockade imposed by both Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant Hamas group violently overran the territory in 2007. But for the happy couple and their families, a wedding is both a respite from daily hardships and a focal point in the lives of both the well-off and the poor...
4 August 2016
Bob Baker, shown here with his wife Dita, has been a generous donor to CNEWA for 16 years. (photo: courtesy, Bob Baker)
Many of the unsung heroes in CNEWA’s world are donors who never seek attention, but make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through their generosity. They are people like Bob Baker.
The San Diego Union Tribune profiled him a few months ago:
Sixty-three years ago, Bob Baker was a young Army corporal stationed at Outpost Harry during the Korean War when he embarked on what his commanders warned would be a suicide mission. When he ended up in the middle of a minefield during the night patrol for Chinese soldiers, he was glad that he made a deal with God. If he was able to come back alive, he would he would do whatever he was able to do.
“I told Him, if He spared me that night, I would go home, get married, have six children, become a success and do whatever he wanted me to do,” Baker said.
Bob Baker believes that God had a special plan for him, a plan that has guided him on his journey to helping others. Blessed with a beautiful family and the success of his business, the Bob Baker Auto Group, he has given back by generously supporting the Catholic Church, his community, plus programs for military veterans and the homeless.
He has also been a loyal friend of CNEWA for 16 years. Our development director, Norma Intriago, met him recently and recalls:
“Bob told us that, at one point, he wanted to become a priest but was told that because he came from a divorced family, he could not. Now he realizes that God had a different plan for him. He believes that everyone has value, and that God is there if you just listen. Just as God guided his life, his giving, God is there for everyone.”
Bob’s personal connection to CNEWA comes from his Christian Lebanese and Irish Catholic heritage. His paternal grandparents came from Lebanon and belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church. He struggled as a child, and at one point was destitute. So he is especially moved by CNEWA’s childcare initiatives, which assist needy children and orphans.
Faith and family are the pillars in Bob’s life, along with sharing those blessings with others through charity. As he explains, his guiding principle is simply this: “The main thing is to surrender to God and never give up.”
For his spirit of optimism, generosity and selfless giving — a genuinely Christian spirit that has changed countless lives, including many in CNEWA’s world — Bob Baker is truly a CNEWA hero.
4 August 2016
Tags: CNEWA Donors
Young sisters are seen joking and laughing as they walk near their convent in Bharanaganm, Kottayam, in the Indian state of Kerala. India is facing new challenges in trying to attract young people to religious life. Discover why some feel they are On a Mission from God in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
4 August 2016
Tags: India Sisters Kerala Indian Christians Vocations (religious)
An Iraqi Christian spruces up his shelter on 24 July with a cross and other Christian symbols at the the Ashti camp for internally displaced Iraqis in Ain Kawa, a Christian enclave of the Kurdish capital, Erbil. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)
Aid agencies brace for Mosul offensive (CNS) The upcoming military offensive to root out Islamic State militants from Mosul and surrounding villages will be a “huge challenge,” the United Nations says, as it expects about 1.5 million people to flee the warfare in a short amount of time…
Fallout from failed coup leaves Syria rebels in a lurch (The Wall Street Journal) Many of the top Turkish military and intelligence officials involved in programs to assist the rebellion, including the commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army responsible for borders with Syria and Iraq, have been detained for alleged involvement in the 15 July putsch…
UN: ISIS genocide of Yazidis is ‘ongoing’ (AP) The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is still committing genocide and other crimes against the Yazidi minority in Iraq, a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria said on Wednesday. The commission’s statement — released on the second anniversary of the initial ISIS attack on the Sinjar area in Iraq — urged action to prevent further death and suffering…
Indian delegation will head to Rome for canonization (UCanIndia) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian delegation to the canonisation of Mother Teresa at the Vatican in September, it was announced on Thursday…
Patriarch Kirill backs monument to Ivan the Terrible (The Guardian) The head of the Russian Orthodox church has backed what is planned to be Russia’s first monument to Ivan the Terrible, the controversial ruler who killed his own son…
3 August 2016
Tags: Syria India Iraq Turkey Yazidi
Arpineh Ghazaryan lives with her two boys in Gyumri, Armenia. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
In the Summer 2016 edition of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan writes about fatherless families in Armenia. Here, she reflects on a visit to one family in particular.
The long search for subjects for my story took me again to Armenia’s second biggest city of Gyumri, which seems to have consolidated all the issues challenging the country — it’s where the poor are even poorer than in any other province of Armenia, where every other child suffers from malnutrition, where the highest number of homeless people live, where the survivors of the 1988 devastating earthquake are still enduring its consequences...
Even 28 years after the earthquake, more than 4,000 people are still residing in what was intended to be temporary shelters — tin structures referred to as “domiks,” provided as part of the humanitarian aid; several generations have been born in them, lived, grown old. Meanwhile so much has changed in the city itself: beautiful new squares have been built, statues and monuments erected on almost every corner. But, sadly, nothing has changed in the domik districts, and only the presence of cell phones points to the fact that it is, actually, the 21st century.
Two years ago, when I was working on my piece about seniors living alone with no families, Shaken by the Earthquake of Life, it was beyond agitating to enter each home, listen to each story. Tears of frustration and fury, born from the sense of helplessness, were choking me — fury that two decades later, they still lived in extreme poverty in the domiks that were the earthquake legacy, while an Armenian official’s most basic housing costs a few million US dollars.
Injustice is so striking in this city in particular, where holes in the walls and the floors of these tin structures — by now in complete decay — are patched by tin cans in a futile attempt to protect residents from rat attacks.
The bitter sense of injustice and unshed tears kept choking me until I could no longer resist when I stepped into another house of poverty, famine and destitution, where 32-year-old Arpineh Ghazaryan resided with her two boys, their eyes mirroring a lost childhood and hunger and yearnings, yet full of so much warmth and love.
It was hard to write about seniors and their issues; it is, perhaps, an even harder task to write about children and their pain. This time, my search was for children who lost their fathers due to unemployment. The fathers went abroad as migrant workers, leaving their families behind — wives hoping one day their husbands would return home, children waiting for fathers, waiting for so long they no longer remember the faces they are waiting for.
Arpineh is raising her two boys as a single mother. Providing food is the biggest challenge, along with the fight against rats. During winter, when the temperature can drop to -22F, there is the additional challenge of trying to heat the 28-year-old rusty tin structure with cracks in walls.
“Sometimes, I just want to no longer be alive and free myself of these problems, and when they start asking questions, I feel completely lost,” says the beautiful young mother, too skinny and exhausted from hardship and lack of nutrition.
Questions were asked by the two fair-haired boys with eyes as deep as the sea, for whom the happy thoughts of toys and cartoon characters had long been replaced by concerns that are impossible to solve. They have the desperate desire to help their mother; they also have dreams of being equal to their classmates at school, dreams that just can’t come true.
Nine-year-old Artyom walked me out and gave me a warm hug by the door, concealing his tears behind my shoulder. He was silent for a moment — then, suddenly words burst out of him.
“I am so happy you came,” he said. “At least my mom was able to vent and feel a little better. If we had a house, perhaps, my mom would be smiling,” he added and gave me another hug, so that I would not see his tears. Meanwhile, my own tears were burning my eyes.
Every time I visit Gyumri, I feel broken. Solving its enormous issues seems an impossible task, and that’s the worst feeling. It makes me want to give up reporting, forget about being civilized, take all the seniors and children, all the mothers forced to put starving children to bed, take them all and break into the luxurious offices and houses of our officials and make them face these people, look them in the eyes, and confront the heavy challenges of the country under their rule.
Read more about Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. And visit this link to learn how you can help the suffering people of Eastern Europe.
3 August 2016
In this image from 2003, an Eritrean Orthodox bishop displays two Coptic-style crosses. The hand cross is used for blessings. To discover more about the Orthodox Church in Eritrea, read Ancient Church in a Young Nation from the November-December 2003 edition of the magazine.
(photo: Chris Hellier)
3 August 2016
Pallbearers carry the coffin of the Rev. Jacques Hamel on 2 August outside the cathedral in Rouen, France. Father Hamel was killed 26 July in an attack on a church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen; the attack was carried out by assailants linked to the Islamic State.
(photo: CNS/Jacky Naegelen, Reuters)
Thousands of mourners, including Muslims, turn out for funeral of murdered French priest (CNS) During the 2 August funeral Mass for the Rev. Jacques Hamel, killed a week earlier by men claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen stressed the need for forgiveness. “As brutal and unfair and horrible as (Father) Jacques’ death was, we have to look deep into our hearts to find the light,” he told the congregation of more than 1,500 at the Notre Dame Cathedral, while hundreds more watched the ceremony on a big screen outside in the rain...
Fighting rages in Aleppo (BBC) Intense fighting has continued around the Syrian city of Aleppo, where a rebel offensive is trying to break a government siege of rebel-held areas. Over the weekend, the rebels tried to reconnect an encircled area in the east with insurgent territory in the west. They set off a huge tunnel bomb underneath army positions in the strategic Ramouseh district. The army has been fighting back with the help of Russian air strikes to stop the rebels breaking through...
British jets bomb Saddam’s palace used by ISIS in Iraq (The Guardian) British fighter jets have bombed a former palace of Saddam Hussein being used as a training centre for Isis recruits in Iraq, according to the UK Ministry of Defense. A pair of RAF Tornados took part as a multinational squadron attacked the headquarters and training centre for foreign terrorist recruits, located close to the Tigris in Mosul...
U.S. will likely reach goal of admitting 10,000 refugees (International Business Times) While the U.S. acceptance rate of Syrian refugees has increased in recent months, the resettlement groups would like to see more done. America’s neighbor to the north has accepted almost 30,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015 and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a point of welcoming new arrivals in a public manner...
Aftermath of Turkey coup attempt delays reconciliation with Israel (The Jerusalem Post) Last month’s attempted coup in Turkey and its aftermath have pushed off normalization of Israeli-Turkish ties, since the requisite accord has not yet come before the parliament in Ankara...
Detroit imams send condolences to Archbishop (Archdiocese of Detroit) Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was moved this week to have received correspondences from local Imams on behalf of Michigan Muslims, expressing condolences for the death of Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed by terrorists in Normandy, France, on 26 July. “We are greatly saddened and troubled to hear of his tragic death and wish to express our sadness that so humble a servant of God was called to his Lord in such a cruel and violent manner,” wrote Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, co-chair of the Imams Council, in a letter sent to Archbishop Vigneron on behalf of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC)...
Pope Francis meets with refugees during audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with a group of 65 child refugees from Syria and Eritrea on Wednesday during his General Audience. The children are staying in the small town of Castelnuovo di Porto, north of Rome...
2 August 2016
The Rev. Jose Manjiyil, C.S.T., seen in this file photo from 1998, has worked for decades to give dignity to the poor in India. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
As a Catholic missionary, the Rev. Jose Manjiyil, C.S.T. spent 30 years of his priestly life in the mission territory of Gorakhpur-Nepal Province of Little Flower Congregation (known as the C.S.T. Fathers).
Ordained a priest in 1986, Father Jose is also a lawyer and educator; he holds a Ph.D. in civil law, along with degrees in Arts and Education.
Through the years, he has been a good companion of CNEWA. His relationship with CNEWA began in 1997, when we provided financial assistance for constructing Mount Carmel Church in Gorakhpur.
In the years that followed, St. Mary’s Primary School was upgraded to a Hindi medium school for the poor children of the villages recognized by the Uttar Pradesh Government, thanks to Father Jose’s hard work and the generosity of American donors through CNEWA.
But healing the sick in Gorakhpur was Father Jose’s main concern. CNEWA supported his mission — and he received acclaim for his efforts.
He was honored with the Best Social Worker award in 1998 by the District Collector and Magistrate of Gorakhypur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The same year, he was featured in our magazine, describing his efforts to help the poor:
“The problem we face is poverty,” says Father Jose. “You know it, but you don’t feel it. If you ask a mother to add just one more spoonful of medicine to help a child, she will answer, ‘How can I? Where should I get it?’
“You can feel that poverty when you go to the village. We say you have to do this or that to prevent a disease and, if the people are poor, we will give them the medicines. But you still have to get them to want to do it.”
Diocesan social workers go from village to village to offer health care and teach villagers basic hygiene. They teach mothers natural methods of family planning and administer immunization programs; the task is gargantuan and, at times, frustrating.
“Our goal is empowerment,” says Father Jose, “to teach people how to keep clean and treat problems at home.
Father Jose’s hard work has brought smiles to many who persevered in difficult moments of life. He has attracted a beautiful blend of young and old. He cherishes them all. To quote him, “Old is gold, youth is bold. When you put both together, products are sold.”
CNEWA continues its support in Gorakhpur today among the poor — providing faith formation, help with hygiene and sanitation, assistance with finances, and pastoral outreach programs.
Today, Father Jose is the Director of Educational Institutions under the Little Flower Congregation, which runs more than 60 schools, technical schools and colleges.
He has been a great asset to the Catholic Church in India — and is a true CNEWA hero.
2 August 2016
Displaced Iraqis gather 16 July at a refugee camp near Mosul, Iraq.
(photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)
Security tops the list of what Christians of Iraq and Syria want before they’ll consider returning to areas they fled when the Islamic State and other extremist groups took over.
They also want help with displacement difficulties, justice for past offenses, self-governance, ethnic militias, and the right to ultimately choose to move permanently to Europe, the United States or beyond, said representatives of Christians and other minority ethnic groups. The minority representatives spoke at an all-day conference at Jesuit-run Georgetown University 28 June. The following day, the same group met at the U.S. State Department with representatives of more than 20 countries involved in supporting a post-Islamic State scenario in Iraq and Syria.
“The important thing ... is the security and the confidence that a family, a father, a wife, a child a daughter ... can be safe in their own home,” said Bishop Awa Royel of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Bishop Royel and other members of indigenous Iraqi Christian groups told Catholic News Service at the Georgetown conference that up to 70 percent of Iraq's Christians had fled their native country since U.S.-led forces toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, and that, due to the Islamic State takeover of northern Iraq in 2014, close to 150,000 Christians from those areas had either escaped to nearby Kurdish-controlled areas or to neighboring nations.
“Security is important, long-term security, against ISIS and against any other group that could come up in the future,” Bishop Royel said, suggesting one way to achieve that was through international protection and a “constant line of dialogue” among northern Iraq’s various ethnic groups, to prevent the weakening of society, which the bishop said had facilitated the Islamic State takeover.
“When there are suspicions and when there are mistrusts, you have each religion going into their own little corner. Leaders of various religions present in Iraq ... have to meet regularly, not to discus theology, but just to share what the communities are going through,” he said.
Other Iraqi Christian participants at the conference concurred with Bishop Royel that their communities would be looking for increased security in the regions they had inhabited before fleeing Islamic State, which claims to have established a caliphate across parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Christians insisted this could only be achieved it they were given full administrative control of historically Christian cities and towns and if local Christian militias were reinforced in those areas.
Both “empowering (Christians) to take administrative control of their areas” and “training Christian youth to protect their areas” must be achieved for displaced Christians to feel safe enough to return home after Islamic State has been defeated, said Syriac Catholic Father Behnam Benoka of Iraq.
Father Benoka pointed out that since the time of Saddam, there were efforts on the part of the Iraqi state to populate historically Christian areas with other religious groups, and he called for demographic justice and for such historically Christian lands to be restored.
In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Syria and Iraq.
“Unfortunately, months later, ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to target and terrorize their victims through rape, enslavement and murder, while religious and cultural sites are systematically looted and destroyed,” read a statement by Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project, which hosted the conference, “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities Under the Islamic State.”
Bishop Royel, Father Benoka and the other Christian representatives to the conference's different panels told CNS that, in addition to their concerns regarding safety of the future, they were worried about the immediate welfare of tens of thousands of Christians now living in camps, containers, and in other desperate situations, in areas where they had fled inside Iraq and Syria, or in neighboring countries.
They called on Western governments to speed up the asylum process for minorities who wanted to leave until peace was restored, or for good.
“As a minority ... you pay the biggest price,” said panelist Bassam Ishak, a member of Syria’s Christian minority who estimated that well over a million of his co-religionists had been displaced due to the violence of ongoing civil war, Islamic State, and other extremist groups back home.
“We need a political resolution ... that takes into account the Syrian diversity and seeks to build a pluralistic Syria. Then (Christians) may have a future, and we may even have some ... who return,” Ishak said.
Concerns of the conference’s Christian panelists’ mirrored for the most part those of the region’s various other minority groups.
Conference panelist Rajab Assi Kareem, speaking on behalf of Iraq’s tiny Kakai minority, said Islamic State had destroyed the group’s places of worship and that it was up to “the United Nations to ensure the peace” needed to prevent it or similar extremist groups from ever coming to power again.
Murad Ismael, one of the conference’s several panelists representing Iraq’s Yezidi minority, called on the international community to “put some parameters for the minorities to maintain their homeland and to ensure a future.”
Yezidis wanted international protection and restitution, especially in light of the recent raping, kidnapping and massacres the community had endured at the hands of Islamic State in Iraq, said Ismael.
“Otherwise,” he said, “the best thing will be to open doors ... and to permit mass exodus.”
2 August 2016
A civilian carries a victim of an attack on the Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria,
on 31 July 2016. (photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Rescuers say toxic gas dropped on Syrian town (Reuters) A Syrian rescue service operating in rebel-held territory said on Tuesday a helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas overnight on a town close to where a Russian military helicopter was shot down hours earlier. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) accused President Bashar al Assad of being behind the attack. Assad has denied previous accusations of using chemical weapons...
Aleppo explained by the numbers (CNN) Some neighborhoods in Aleppo have been under fire for more than 80 consecutive days, leaving 6,000 people either dead or injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UK-based monitoring group said rebel-held areas in the city’s east have faced sustained attack by regime artillery and airstrikes, while rebel and Islamic factions have shelled regime-controlled areas in western neighborhoods...
Muslims and Christians in French town pray old bonds survive priest’s murder (The New York Times) In the wake of Father Hamel’s murder, Muslim and Christian communities around France came together over the weekend to show solidarity by attending each other’s religious services, in churches and mosques alike. But the services in Rouen, and in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a nearby suburb where Father Hamel was killed, took on a special resonance...
Turkey orders arrest of doctors in post-coup crackdown (Middle East Eye) Turkey has issued arrest warrants for 100 staff, including doctors, at the main military hospital in Ankara as part of the investigation into last month’s failed coup, local media reported. Police were searching the Gulhane Military Medical Academy hospital in the capital, private NTV television reported. It was not immediately clear if any suspects had been arrested...
Shrine in India elevated to basilica (Vatican Radio) St. Lawrence Shrine at Attur, Karkala, the Diocese of Udupi, has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica on Monday, 1 August 2016, making it the second Minor Basilica in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka and the 22nd Basilica in the country...
Ancient Russian icon comes to Canada (Globalnews.ca) Saskatoon’s St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church greeted the Kursk-Root Icon Wednesday — an item believers say is capable of miraculous healing. The gold and jewel-laden image depicts the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. The icon has been viewed by millions, according to Father Florin Soane with the church. “In a visible way, we can say, the Mother of God, the Mother of Church, is coming to us,” Soane said...