4 December 2019
In this undated photo, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, is shown meeting refugees in Lesbos. He will be bringing more refugees to the Vatican next week. (photo: Vatican Media)
At Pope’s request, more refugees coming to Italy from Lesbos (Vatican News) Cardinal Konrad Krajewski left for Lesbos on Monday. This new mission follows that of last May and comes after the visit of Pope Francis to Lesbos in 2016. The Apostolic Almoner will return next Wednesday with a group of 33 refugees. Another 10 will arrive by the end of the year. Assistance for all of them will be provided by the Holy See and the Sant’Egidio Community…
To make sense of Lebanon’s protests, follow the garbage (The New York Times) The government’s inability to provide basic services, including 24-hour electricity and garbage collection, is rooted in an agreement that ended Lebanon’s civil war nearly 30 years ago. The deal divided power between the nation’s 18 recognized religious sects, effectively institutionalizing corruption, with each group able to dole out government jobs, contracts, favors and social services to its followers. The Lebanese have finally had enough of a system that has enriched the political elite while failing to build a stable economy or provide basics like reliable running water or consistent waste management…
In Syria, health workers risk becoming ‘enemies of the state’ (The New York Times) On Wednesday, Physicians for Human Rights, a group that has documented the collapse of Syria’s health care system, released a study asserting that over the course of the war, President Bashar al-Assad has successfully made medical assistance to his enemies a crime…
Explaining Kerala’s connection to ISIS (Indian Express) Security agencies estimate that some 100-120 individuals from Kerala either joined, or tried to join, ISIS. Some of them moved to Syria or Afghanistan from the Middle East, where they were employed; others migrated from Kerala. Even in 2018, when ISIS was largely in retreat in Syria and Iraq, 10-odd people from Kerala made the journey…
In Ethiopia, church forests are withstanding environmental destruction — but just barely (The New York Times) I grew up attending churches surrounded by parking lots and populated by congregations that didn’t connect their spirituality to ecology. So when I first heard about the church forests of Ethiopia, I was intrigued…
3 December 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Refugees Kerala ISIS
Today marks #Giving Tuesday, an international day of charitable support.
For more than 90 years, CNEWA has been reaching out to those in need, working for, through and with the churches of the East. And with your participation, we will continue to support regional and local efforts — whether by parishes, men and women religious, or the dedicated lay communities — to uplift and strengthen the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.
2 December 2019
A reliquary containing what is believed to be a small fragment of Jesus’ crib is seen on 1 December 2019, in the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine, adjacent to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. Pope Francis gave the relic fragment to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees the main churches and shrines associated with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. (photo: CNS /Debbie Hill)
As Advent approached, Pope Francis gave a small fragment of Jesus’ crib back to Catholics in the Holy Land.
In Bethelehem, West Bank, Franciscan Father Rami Asakrieh of St. Catherine Church welcomed the relic’s return and called it “a great blessing.”
“This is more blessings for this place,” he said. “You can’t imagine the great joy to have this blessing.”
On 22 November, experts from the Vatican Museums extracted a small fragment from the relic of what has been venerated as Jesus’ manger. The relic, given to the Vatican in the seventh century, has been kept in a chapel under the basilica’s main altar.
Pope Francis gave the relic fragment to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees the main churches and shrines associated with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The relic arrived in Jerusalem on 29 November and was present during a Mass celebrated by the nuncio, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, in the chapel of Our Lady of Peace at the Notre Dame Center.
After the Mass and time for people to venerate the relic, the Franciscan friars carried it in procession to the Church of St. Saviour, where they recited vespers. The relic was transferred to Bethlehem on 30 November to be in place for beginning of Advent on 1 December.
“May the return to Bethlehem of this piece of holy wood arouse in us the profound desire to be bearers of God. Now it is our hearts that are a manger: the holy crib of God made man,” said Archbishop Leopoldo
Girelli, apostolic nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, at the handing-over ceremony to the Franciscan friars at Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Center.
Reading a letter sent by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Archbishop Girelli said, “Pope Francis accompanies this gift with his blessing and with the fervid wish that the veneration of this illustrious relic can open the hearts of many men and women, adults and youngsters, the elderly and children, to receive with a renewed fervor of faith and love the mystery that changed the course of history. The Holy Father wishes, in particular, that the message of peace announced by the angels on the night of Christmas to the men loved by God, which for 2,000 years has rung out from Bethlehem, brings the gift of peace and reconciliation which our world needs more and more.”
Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, said the relic would be used to “rekindle faith in Jesus between the different Christian communities of the Holy Land.”
Local Catholics in Bethlehem had the opportunity to venerate the relic at Mass at St. Catherine’s on 1 December before the relic was put away until a proper location and protocol for it can be arranged.
Meanwhile, as Christmas approached, the opening hours of the Church of the Nativity adjacent to St. Catherine had been extended by three hours to 8 p.m. to accommodate the influx of pilgrims who sometimes had to wait up to four hours to go down to the grotto where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born.
On the first day of Advent, the wait was only about one hour.
“We are going to wait as long as it takes to go in,” said David Williams, 67, of Texas as he waited in line with his tour group and a local guide. “It is very exciting. This is what you read, and when you read it again after having been here there will be new insight.”
Local guide Jaber Saadeh, said that as a Christian he was happy to see the large number of pilgrims coming to Bethlehem.
“I feel so proud and happy to welcome them. We are a peaceful country,” he said.
Coming out from the grotto, Claudia Haita, 44, of Romania, said the wait had not been an issue. Having the opportunity to visit the grotto and say a prayer there had been “good for my soul as a Christian” and strengthened her faith, she said.
Another pilgrim who identified herself only as Maria said she had been overwhelmed by the experience.
“I had an overwhelming feeling of tears of joy but also a feeling of sadness because of the hurting of humanity, of the suffering. It is time to let that go,” she said.
Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Bethlehem, West Bank.
2 December 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Bethlehem
Iraqi demonstrators throw stones towards security forces during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad on 29 November 2019. Pope Francis said after the Angelus on 1 December he was concerned and saddened following two months of protests in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. (photo: CNS/Khalid al-Mousily, Reuters)
Pope Francis laments violence against Iraqi protestors (Vatican News) At the Angelus prayer on Sunday, the Pope said he is following developments in Iraq “with concern.” ”I was saddened to learn that the protests in recent days have been dealt with harshly, leading to the death of dozens of victims,” he said. Pope Francis promised his prayers for the victims and his spiritual closeness to their families and all Iraqis. He also invoked “peace and harmony from God….”
Nearly 100 killed as fighting intensifies in Syria (The Telegraph) Regime forces and armed groups were locked in heavy clashes Monday on the edge of Syria’s last opposition bastion, with 96 fighters killed over two days, a war monitor said. The battles since Saturday on the edge of the jihadist-dominated Idlib region are the most deadly since a Russia-brokered ceasefire went into effect in late August, the Syrian Observatory for Human rights said…
Nearly $4 billion withdrawn from banks in Lebanon over unrest (Andalou Agency) Nearly $4 billion have been withdrawn from banks since September amid protests against economic woes, the country’s caretaker economy minister said. ” The bank withdrawals were prompted by fears of the confusing economic situation in the country,” Mansour Bteish told Al-Jadeed TV on Sunday...
Pope asks Catholics to set up, be enchanted by Nativity scene (CNS) A Nativity scene is a simple reminder of something astonishing: God became human to reveal the greatness of his love “by smiling and opening his arms to all,” Pope Francis said in a letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs. ”Wherever it is, and whatever form it takes, the Christmas creche speaks to us of the love of God, the God who became a child in order to make us know how close he is to every man, woman and child, regardless of their condition,” the pope wrote in his apostolic letter, “Admirabile Signum” (“Enchanting Image”)…
27 November 2019
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Lebanon
We at CNEWA want to wish you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving — and pray for safe travels for all those around the United States who are hitting the road this weekend.
As you count your blessings, we want to share with you some thoughts about one group of people, in particular, that we are thankful for. Check out the video from Msgr. Kozar below.
26 November 2019
Tags: CNEWA Sisters
In this image from 2018, a man is rescued from drowning after the opening of a dam following heavy rains on the outskirts of Cochin, India. Climate change is having a profound effect on life in India. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
How climate change is radically affecting life in India (The New York Times) The monsoon is central to Indian life and lore.It turns up in ancient Sanskrit poetry and in Bollywood films. It shapes the fortunes of millions of farmers who rely on the rains to nourish their fields. It governs what you eat. It even has its own music. Climate change is now messing with the monsoon, making seasonal rains more intense and less predictable. Worse, decades of short-sighted government policies are leaving millions of Indians defenseless in the age of climate disruptions — especially the poor…
Second night of clashes in Lebanon amid anti-government protests (Al Jazeera) Clashes have erupted between protesters calling for an overhaul of the political system and supporters of the main Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal amid reports of gunfire in some parts of Lebanon, according to local media…
India proposes nationwide citizens list; Muslims fear persecution (DW.com) India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah, recently proposed creating a National Register of Citizens (NRC)for the entire country. Although Shah assured the Indian Parliament that no groups would face discrimination, resistance to the proposal has been mounting, with several Indian states describing it as a move to target and harass minorities…
Palestinians protest closure of institutions in East Jerusalem (Middle East Eye) Tens of Palestinians held a protest on Tuesday in the occupied city of East Jerusalem against Israel’s closure of several Palestinian institutions in the Old City. Israeli authorities closed down several institutions on 21 November, claiming that they are funded and belong to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA)…
25 November 2019
Tags: India Lebanon Palestine
Protests are continuing in Lebanon, including the one in the video above, marking Independence Day on Friday. (video: France24/YouTube)
Protestors, Hezbollah and Amal supporters clash in Beirut (Al Jazeera) Security forces fired tear gas early on Monday amid confrontations in central Beirut between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, and demonstrators protesting against Lebanon’s political elite. Lebanon has faced five weeks of anti-government protests, fuelled by anger at corruption among the sectarian politicians who have governed the country for decades. Demonstrators want all of them gone from power…
Concern over rise of dark tourism in Syria (The Guardian) As President Bashar al-Assad tightens his grip on the remains of the opposition in the north-west, a handful of tour companies and travel bloggers catering to English-language customers have started running bespoke trips to the country to “mingle with locals while also passing destroyed villages,” visit archeological sites “shrouded in a coat of destruction” and “experience the famous cosmopolitan nightlife that has returned to the centre of Damascus…”
Bishop voices concern over anti-conversion law in India (Crux) A local bishop in India has voiced his objection to a proposed new anti-conversion law in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission on Thursday submitted a report to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath suggesting a new law to check “forcible religious conversions…”
Egyptian Coptic rights activist faces terror charges (AFP) An Egyptian Coptic rights activist is facing charges of joining a “terror” group and spreading misinformation, his lawyer confirmed Monday, amid a renewed crackdown on dissidents in the country. Ramy Kamel was arrested from his Cairo home early Saturday by seven plainclothes police officers, a member of his defence team, Atef Nazmy, told AFP…
22 November 2019
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Coptic
Pope Francis greets religious leaders during a meeting with Christian leaders and the leaders of other religions at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, on 22 November 2019.
(photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope tells Thai religious leaders to work for peace (Crux) Speaking to people from 18 different religions on Friday, Pope Francis said that the complex challenges of the world today — including globalization, the rapid advances of technology and the persistence of civil conflicts resulting in migration, refugees, famine and war — makes the need for cooperation between religions all the more pressing. ”These challenges remind us that no region or sector of the human family can look to itself or its future in isolation from or immune to others,” Francis said. “All these situations require us to be bold in devising new ways of shaping the history of our time without denigrating or insulting anyone…”
Parallel rallies in Lebanon draw protesters, leaders (AP) Lebanon’s top politicians made their first joint appearance Friday since massive anti-government protests erupted last month, attending a military parade for the country’s 76th Independence Day. Protesters gathered for alternative independence celebrations, converging by early afternoon on Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut, which used to be the traditional location of the official parade. Protesters have occupied the area, closing it off to traffic since mid-October…
Tawadros II opens world’s largest Coptic library (Egypt Independent) Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria inaugurated on Tuesday the Central Papal Library in Wadi al-Natrun’s Saint Pishoy Monastery alongside other church officials. It is now considered to be the largest Coptic library in the world…
Ethiopia to launch first satellite next month (AP) Ethiopian officials say the country will launch its first ever satellite next month. It is the latest example of space ambitions by several African nations. The satellite was built in China and will be launched from a site there…
21 November 2019
Tags: Lebanon Coptic Christians Interfaith Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
Samia Sleman, 15, a Yazidi who was held hostage and raped by members of ISIS when she was 13, cries while speaking at a conference addressing the persecution of Christians and other minorities at the United Nations on 28 April. Also pictured is human-rights advocate Jacqueline Isaac.
(photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
People around the world were horrified when they read about the systematic rape of Yazidi woman after ISIS had taken control of Mt. Sinjar, the center of the Yazidi community in northern Iraq. It is a part of the world CNEWA knows well. CNEWA works in Iraq and continues to help both Christian and Yazidi women who were raped by ISIS and whose lives have been destroyed.
While that shock and outrage were justified, most people don’t realize how common and widespread violence against women is. Of course, when a sports or entertainment personality is accused of violence against a woman in the U.S., the coverage is often lurid. However, two things need to be noted: 1) most often the reporting is more about the abuser than the victim and 2) the reporting often gives at least the impression that such abuse is an uncommon event.
In the rest of the world, it is often a very different story.
Towards the end of the 20th century, it was noted that in the conflicts raging in the Great Lakes Region of Africa the number of military casualties was unexpectedly low. Further research indicated that the reason was that the fighting was not so much soldier against soldier as it was soldier against civilian and most often against women civilians. Although the reality is as old and vicious as war itself, it wasn’t until recently that rape as a weapon of war entered the area of international humanitarian law. On 19 June 2008 the UN Security Council condemned rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity in SC Res 1820.
It is a crime that can no longer be ignored or overlooked. And next week, attention will be paid.
On 25 November the UN observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For far too many of us in the west this is just another UN observance. Violence in our world is probably the strongest proof for the existence of evil. To see violence against women, however, as merely a subset of human violence in general overlooks characteristics of this crime that are uniquely vicious and evil. In the small space allotted to this piece, I would like to highlight two issues of importance regarding violence against women. They are by no means the only issues but they are, nevertheless, significant and also demonic in their efficiency.
They are: rape as a weapon of war and human trafficking.
Rape as a weapon of war became prominent as an issue not only in the context of conflicts in Africa but also in the atrocities regularly committed against women by ISIS in the Middle East. Similar atrocities have been committed against student girls by Boko Haram in West Africa. As a weapon of war, rape is horrifyingly efficient. It reduces the risk of injury to the military; it demoralizes the civilian population and—something which is often overlooked—it is also a method of genocide. In many cultures a woman who is raped becomes a social outcast and ineligible for marriage even though she is an innocent victim. She is doubly violated—by the rapist and by her own culture. In some cultures “unmarriable” women are outcasts, cut off from their parental families and from the overall culture. If the number of potential wives and mothers is radically reduced, the future of a people is threatened. Rape, therefore, can prevent a people from reproducing and can ultimately condemn them to extinction.
The pain that these innocent women suffer is simply unimaginable. In 2009 Jonathan Torgovnik, a professional photographer, published a book of interviews and photographs entitled “Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape” (Aperture, 2009). Torgovnic gives not only voices but faces to the women raped in the conflict. He takes statistics and with his camera and interviews produces a searing witness of the suffering these women continue to endure. It is a very important book and should be read with the realization that what happened to these women in Rwanda is happening throughout the world where rape is seen and used as a weapon of war.
The second issue is the trafficking of persons — or “contemporary forms of slavery,” as it is sometimes called. This is a world-wide issue. There is a tendency to think that trafficking is limited to underdeveloped countries. That is absolutely untrue. Several years ago law enforcement uncovered a large trafficking business that literally shuttled slave labor daily between New York City and Philadelphia. Developed countries in western Europe, the United States and Canada all have serious problems with trafficking.
Documentation on human trafficking indicates the following:
1) studies show that, due to increased police work against trafficking, statistics are getting more accurate. It is estimated that in 2018 the average number of detected victims of trafficking per country was 25,400;
2) the sex trade is the major outlet for trafficking in the world;
3) of the victims of trafficking 21 percent are men, 49 percent are women, 23 percent are girls and 7 percent are boys.
With 72 percent of the victims being adult or under aged females, the problem of trafficking is clearly an issue of violence against women.
Pope Francis has frequently been outspoken against violence towards women. In an interview on 28 May 2019, he condemned such violence; as recently as 11 October 2019, the Permanent Observer Representative of the Holy See to the UN addressed the body on the importance of combatting this scourge.
CNEWA has worked for generations to support and empower women in countries where we serve — through education, catechesis, skills training and health care. Significantly, much of that work is being carried out by other women, frequently women religious, who are helping restore dignity and witnessing the Gospel to those who have been abused, victimized or treated merely as commodities.
But there is still so much to do, by all of us.
Slightly more than half the human race is female. How can it be that half of humanity is so invisible? One day a year the UN observes an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. However, that one day should remind all of us that violence against women is not just a woman’s problem. It is a problem for all of us.
We must be aware of it in our own society and country and in the world at large. We must be aware that there will never be peace and justice worthy of the name while women are singled out as targets of violence.
21 November 2019
Tags: ISIS Women
Pope Francis visits with Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, supreme patriarch of Buddhists, at the Wat Ratchabophit temple in Bangkok on 21 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope meets with Buddhist patriarch in Thailand (Vatican News) The first signs of dialogue between the Buddhist and Catholic traditions appeared half a century ago when the 17th Supreme Buddhist Patriarch visited Pope Paul VI in the Vatican. Pope Francis recalled that visit when he met with the present Supreme Buddhist Patriarch at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple in Bangkok, on Thursday morning…
Pope: Mission is seeking family we don’t know yet (CNS) Missionaries are not mercenaries, but beggars who recognize that some brothers and sisters are missing from the community and long to hear the good news of salvation, Pope Francis told the Catholics of Thailand. Celebrating Mass on 21 November, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Bangkok’s National Stadium, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of what he calls “missionary discipleship…”
Fear, turmoil in Lebanon as financial crisis worsens (AP) On one of Beirut’s main commercial streets, store owners are cutting salaries by half or considering shutting down. Shops advertise sales, but still can’t draw in customers. The only place doing a thriving business: the store that sells safes, as Lebanese increasingly stash their cash at home. It’s a sign Lebanese fear their country’s financial crisis, which has been worsening for months, could tip over into disaster…
Vatican reiterates: two states needed in Holy Land (CNS)The Vatican reiterated its call for a two-state solution in the Holy Land after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States would no longer recognize the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank…
In secular India, it’s getting tougher to be a Muslim (CNN) India has a long history of sectarian violence, but over the past few years, there has been a rise in suspected hate crimes against Muslims, who make up roughly 200 million of the country’s 1.3 billion population…
Putin thanks Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for maintaining peace (TASS) Russian President Vladimir Putin has wished a happy birthday to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and thanked him for his assistance to the government in maintaining interfaith peace. A meeting of the president and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church took place in the Patriarchal Chambers of the Moscow Kremlin on Wednesday…
Tags: India Pope Francis Lebanon Interreligious