7 December 2018
The EU has expressed serious concerns about the situation between Ukraine and Russia, with martial law in Ukraine heightening the tensions. (video: EuroNews/YouTube)
Ukraine’s martial law brings unease (NBC News) Larysa Spitsyna was shocked and confused when she learned her city would be placed under martial law. ”As a psychologist, I know that the main thing that is disturbing to us is uncertainty,” said Spitsyna, 54, who teaches at a local university. It was precisely such a feeling that swept thorough Zaporizhzhia last week. The city is in one of the regions where martial law was imposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — a response to Russian ships ramming, shooting and then seizing three naval vessels in the Black Sea…
Ukrainian police search homes of Russian Orthodox priests (AP) Ukrainian police searched the homes of Russian Orthodox priests and Russian Orthodox churches in several cities Monday, stepping up pressure as Kiev pushes for the creation of an independent Ukrainian church. The eight searches in Ukraine’s capital and the nearby Zhytomyr region were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence, according to a police statement…
A thousand Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon (The Daily Star) Groups of Syrian refugees started to arrive back in their home country after leaving Lebanon early Thursday morning, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported. The returnees were met by medical and assistance teams in Syria’s Dabousieh opposite the Abboudieh border crossing, in Jdeidet Yabous opposite the Masnaa border crossing as well as opposite the Al-Zamarani border crossing, the agency said…
Indian state’s move on tribal people vexes church leaders (UCANews.com) Catholic tribal leaders in India are worried over a move by Jharkhand’s government to take away tribal status from people who have left their traditional Sarna religion to join other faiths. The eastern state’s move will deprive thousands of tribal people of social benefits meant for their advancement. ”It is a deliberate attempt to divide tribal people on grounds of religion ahead of the state and national elections next year,” said Bishop Vincent Barwa of Simdega, who is based in a tribal Christian stronghold…
Ancient synagogue reopens in Kerala (NDTV) An 818-year-old Kadavumbagam synagogue in Kerala, which was closed for worship since 1972, reopened on Thursday. The synagogue, located on Market Road in Ernakulam, was reopened on its anniversary. On the occasion, the Sefer Torah, which is a handwritten copy of the Torah (holy scripture), was brought from Israel and kept in the renovated synagogue…
6 December 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Russian Orthodox
This image from January shows one example of modern migration that has become all-too-common: a raft with 112 passengers drifts in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast before being rescued. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)
On 18 December every year, the United Nations observes International Migrants Day. There are very clear and important legal differences between refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers and migrants that should not be forgotten. (You can read more about what they mean at this blog post.) These categories are kept separate and distinct by the UN. However, CNEWA works in a world where all of these categories are present — and, at times, massively present. Today, I will look at how the various migrations of peoples have affected the globe and had a significant impact on the world CNEWA serves.
It is important to understand several things. Mass movements of people are not new; as you’ll see below, they have occurred several times in at least past two thousand years. The movements cause untold suffering for those who are displaced. However, they have also caused the destabilization and even destruction of civilizations and cultures which were the “host” or target countries/peoples. The problems caused by these movements often provide demagogues with deceptively easy “solutions,” which are often little more than thinly veiled forms of racism. Nevertheless, the problems and challenges are real.
Let’s look at how these migrations have occurred, and some important examples.
Throughout history people and groups have moved to find better or safer living conditions — at times, doing so in great numbers. There are many causes for this. The biblical book of Ruth speaks of Naomi and her family leaving Judah for Moab because of famine. Over the last 2,000 years there have been times of massive movements of peoples. War and military aggression are among the chief drivers of the mass movement of peoples. The arrival of the Huns on the stage of world history in the 4th to 6th centuries caused massive movements of peoples from Central Asia to the west, fleeing the armies of the Huns. The Huns coming from the east put pressure on the Goths and other “barbarians” who, in turn, pressured and ultimately brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west.
In the late 11th centuries, it was the Mongols, again coming from eastern Asia, that caused great destruction and displacement from central Asia to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. The Mongols brought the Muslim Abbasid Caliphate to an end and destroyed other kingdoms in Central Asia and the Middle East.
Lastly, the mass movement of Europeans to the “New World” which began in the 16th century had major impact on the indigenous peoples of North and South America, causing the extinction of many native civilizations and cultures. In each of these, climate, military conquest and economic issues all played varying roles.
In the last 20 years, it appears that there is a new mass movement of peoples. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are 68.5 million “forcibly displaced” people in the world. That number is broken down into 40 million internally displaced people, 25.4 million refugees and 3.1 million asylum seekers. As has been the case with every massive movement of peoples, this brings with it huge social, political and economic changes, all of which—at least initially—are destabilizing.
While it is common for the media in Europe and the United States to focus on the impact these people have on the situation in Europe and the U.S., in point of fact, the major “hosting countries,”— i.e., countries targeted by the movement of peoples—are Turkey (3.5 million displaced people), Uganda (1.4 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (1 million) and Iran (just under 980,000).
The UN recognizes that this is a humanitarian crisis of the highest magnitude for those people who are displaced. However, it presents almost insurmountable political, social and economic problems for the “hosting countries,” few of which are that economically—and at times politically—stable themselves.
In an attempt to address this, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was signed 13 July 2018. While not a treaty and not formally binding under international law, the Compact is an attempt to deal both with the problem both practically and compassionately. The Holy See. especially through its Permanent Observer Mission at the UN, has been active in promoting the Global Compact as a possible way of dealing with the problem. The main goals are not merely to provide for a safe and orderly migration of peoples but also to eliminate those “drivers of migration” that force people to leave their homes— i.e., climate change, war, poverty.
As a papal agency working in areas where the mass movement of peoples has had profound and almost invariably negative impact on all involved, CNEWA encourages our readers to become informed about the issues involved and remain familiar with what the Catholic Church is trying to do to address these important challenges.
Next week, we’ll look at how the various migrations of peoples have had a lasting impact — spreading new traditions, beliefs, practices and cultures to different corners of the world.
6 December 2018
Tags: Refugees Migrants
People in Byblos, Lebanon, gather around a Christmas tree on 30 November.
(photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)
6 December 2018
In this image from 2016, Pope Francis shakes hands with Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi during a private audience at the Vatican. The pope will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula.
(photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)
Francis to become first pope to visit Arabian Peninsula (CNS) Pope Francis will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the Vatican announced. In a 6 December statement, the Vatican said the pope will “participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on ‘Human Fraternity’“ after receiving an invitation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi…
U.S. makes plans to sail warship into Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions (CNN) The US has begun making the necessary preparations to sail a warship into the Black Sea, a move that comes amid heightened tensions in the region following Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships and detention of Ukrainian sailors. The US military has requested that the State Department notify Turkey of its possible plans to sail a warship into the Black Sea, three US officials tell CNN, a move they said is a response to Russia’s actions against Ukraine in the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov…
Tailoring a future in Jordan (Norwegian Refugee Council) Anas from Syria is one of many who graduated from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) vocational training centre in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp this year. Today, several organizations request the products that the certified tailor and his colleagues produce in the camp…
Dalits march through New Delhi (UCANews.com) Beating their drums, some 200 socially poor Dalit people marched through the streets of Indian capital New Delhi on 4 December in a novel form of protest to demand that they be given social benefits denied to them because of their Christian faith. Participants in the “the drum, dance, demonstration” played their drums near parliament to demand that the government withdraw a 1950 presidential order that said only Dalits of Hindu religion should be given social security benefits meant for Dalit people’s advancement…
In Ethiopia, visual storytelling from a deeper perspective (The New York Times) Aida Muluneh was a middle school student in Canada when local newspapers and magazines started running dramatic images of starving children in Ethiopia. The photos struck her as odd. She was born in Ethiopia, and the pictures were nothing like the memories she had of the country she left when she was 5. They also didn’t match the stories her mother told her of life there. ”This is not to say the famine didn’t happen, but there are so many different stories in Ethiopia — it’s not just the story of famine or the priest with the cross,” Ms. Muluneh said. “There’s so many things that have yet to be documented…”
5 December 2018
Tags: India Pope Francis Ethiopia Dalits Abu Dhabi
Dominican Sister Luma Khudher of Iraq is pictured in an early October photo in Chester, England. At a 4 December ecumenical service at Westminster Abbey, Britain's Prince Charles spoke of how he was deeply moved by the testimony of Sister Luma, who fled ISIS but has returned to the Ninevah Plain to help re-establish the Christian presence. (photo: CNS/Simon Caldwell)
The heir to the British throne spoke of how he was deeply moved by the testimony of an Iraqi sister who fled Islamic State militants but has returned to the Ninevah Plain to help re-establish the Christian presence.
Charles, Prince of Wales, described the resilience of Sister Luma Khudher, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena, and other Iraqi refugees as a testament to the “extraordinary power of faith.”
Speaking in Westminster Abbey at a 4 December ecumenical service “to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East,” the prince recalled his “great joy” of meeting Sister Luma in England in October.
He told a congregation of more than 1,000 people how, in 2014, as extremists advanced on the Christian town of Qaraqosh, Sister Luma “got behind the wheel of a minibus crammed full of her fellow Christians and drove the long and dangerous road to safety.”
“Like the 100,000 other Christians who were forced from the Ninevah Plains by Daesh that year, they left behind the ruins of their homes and churches and the shattered remnants of their communities,” he said.
“The sister told me, movingly, of her return to Ninevah with her fellow sisters three years later, and of their despair at the utter destruction they found there,” he said. “But like so many others, they put their faith in God, and today the tide has turned -- nearly half of those displaced having gone back to rebuild their homes and their communities.”
Prince Charles said the return of Christians to Iraq represented “the most wonderful testament to the resilience of humanity, and to the extraordinary power of faith to resist even the most brutal efforts to extinguish it.”
He said that in meeting people like Sister Luma, he was repeatedly “deeply humbled and profoundly moved by the extraordinary grace and capacity for forgiveness that I have seen in those who have suffered so much.”
“It is an act of supreme courage, of a refusal to be defined by the sin against you,” he said, “of determination that love will triumph over hate.”
Christians who face persecution, endure and overcome “are an inspiration to the whole church, and to all people of goodwill.”
Sister Luma visited the United Kingdom in October as a guest of the Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians.
She speaks English, having studied at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and earning a doctorate in biblical studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, so she could describe her ordeal in detail during a private meeting with the prince.
In his address, Prince Charles also expressed his hope that Christians and Muslims will again live together in peace, saying that throughout history they have “shown that it is possible to live side by side as neighbors and friends.”
“Indeed, I know that in Lebanon, Muslims join Christians at the Shrine of our Lady of Lebanon to honor her together,” Prince Charles said. “And I know that there are Muslim faith leaders who have spoken out in defense of Christian communities and of their contribution to the region.”
“Co-existence and understanding are not just possible, therefore; they are confirmed by hundreds of years of shared experience,” he said. “Extremism and division are by no means inevitable.”
The Catholic Church was represented at the service by Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, vice president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference; Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe; and by U.S. Archbishop Edward J. Adams, papal nuncio to Great Britain. Christian leaders from the Middle East and North Africa also were in attendance.
Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury said that “to live in a country or in a society where a government, or an armed group, or even a minority of people consider that you should be consigned to oblivion because of your faith in Christ is an experience that is without parallel.”
“Obedience for Christians outside the Middle East and outside areas of persecution is to ensure that governments, that households, that societies welcome the afflicted, pray for the suffering, stand with those in torment, rejoice in liberation,” he said.
Read more about the remarkable work of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq in ONE magazine:
5 December 2018
Tags: Iraq Dominican Sisters
In the video above, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko offers his views about the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine. (video: Bloomberg/YouTube.)
Ukraine council to meet to form independent church (Reuters) A Ukrainian church council will meet on 15 December in order to create an independent Orthodox church and elect its leader, President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday. Under Poroshenko’s presidency, Ukraine has pushed to establish a national church and thereby sever centuries-old ties with the Russian clergy. The Kiev authorities say the step is essential to tackling Russian meddling on its soil…
Pope appoints new archbishop in Nagpur, India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday appointed a bishop in the Indian Archdiocese of Nagpur. The Pope transferred Bishop Elias Joseph Gonsalves of Amravati to Nagpur Archdiocese, both in Maharashtra state. The See of Nagpur has been vacant following the death of Archbishop Abrahan Viruthakulangara on 19 April 2018…
'Peace is everything': Ethiopia and Eritrea embrace open borders (NPR)Almost everywhere you go in Zalambessa, a town on Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, there are reminders of war: buildings in rubble, walls riddled with bullet holes and a border still delineated by two rows of trenches. But now, dramatic change is underway…
Egypt’s Pope Tawadros discusses status of copts, regional politics, reforms (Arab News) The pope describes events in Syria and Iraq, with the rise of Daesh, as “very painful,” and points out that Christians who had to flee and seek asylum abroad were among the most affected. However, his concerns extend beyond the plight of Christians alone, and he argues that a “weakening of Arab countries” means “the weakening of Arabs as a whole … Christians and Muslims alike…”
Beirut’s refugee artists (Al Jazeera) The ongoing conflict in Syria has forced not only Syrians, but Iraqis and Palestinian refugees out of the country and into Lebanon in search of safety. Sitting in a Beirut cafe, Syrian screenwriter Najeeb Nseir is unable to accept being labelled a refugee. ”I tell people I’m a tourist,” he says...
4 December 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Ukraine Indian Bishops
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East gathered for its annual meeting 26-30 November in Baghdad under the theme "Youth is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries." (photo: CNS/courtesy Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East)
Catholic leaders of the Middle East cautioned that the very existence of Christians in the region is threatened, but their faithful continue “to bear witness to the Lord Jesus amid a turbulent world interrupted by mighty waves.”
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East reminded young people: “In light of the difficulties and challenges you face in the midst of the current situation in the Middle East, and in light of the bleak migration that threatens your future and the Christian presence in the East as a whole, we stand by you. As we share the same present pain, we look forward to a bright future with your presence, and we assure you that we will work together to provide the foundations of your steadfastness and steadfastness in your land.”
The patriarchs met in Baghdad 26-30 November with the theme, “Youth Is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries.”
Cardinal Louis Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics, opened the meeting and noted that emigration and religious extremism are pressing challenges.
At a 27 November liturgy at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph, overflowing with young people who shared their questions, concerns, fears and aspirations for their future with the prelates, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said: “We live in this terrible legacy that we have inherited in recent years. Today, many people want to leave because of the difficulties and pain created by takfiri terrorism and external interference.”
However, Patriarch Younan exhorted, “If we want to be faithful and faithful to our fathers and grandfathers, we must remain steadfast despite all the challenges.”
The patriarchs also concelebrated the liturgy on 26 November at the Syriac Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad, marking the attack there eight years ago in which two young priests and 45 believers were martyred.
In their final statement, the patriarchs called upon Iraq’s officials “to work hand in hand to renew the country and its development.”
The patriarchs also met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, who was received by Pope Francis at the Vatican on 24 November. The president told the prelates that he had invited the pope to visit Iraq.
Regarding Syria, the patriarchs expressed satisfaction “with the stability in most parts of the country, where life has returned to normal, hoping that this will include stability in all of Syria.” They appealed “to all decision-makers to work hard for the return” of displaced people and refugees, which they stressed “will have a profound impact” on maintaining national unity “so that Syria will remain the land of peace, freedom and dignity.”
In their statement, the Middle East patriarchs affirmed their solidarity with Palestine and its people “who still groan under the occupation and long for the dawn of salvation and independence.” They called upon the international community to “recognize the Palestinian state within the framework of the two states and the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.”
They also urged respect for religious minorities, adding, “The truth, as Pope Benedict XVI warns us, is that ‘peace and justice in our world cannot be achieved if religious freedoms are not respected for all.’“
4 December 2018
Tags: Iraq Middle East
Ukrainian soldiers ride atop armored vehicles during military exercises on 3 December near Honcharivske. Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a "right and sacred duty" to defend themselves against "Russian aggression," but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic.
(photo: CNS/Valentyn Ogirenko Shevchuk, Reuters)
Bishops: Ukrainians have ‘sacred duty’ to defend against Russian aggression (CNS) In a message marking the anniversary of their country’s December 1991 referendum on independence from the Soviet Union, Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a “right and sacred duty” to defend themselves against “Russian aggression,” but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic…
Two refugees dead after fire rips through tents in Lebanon (AFP) A fire ripped through a refugee settlement in Baalbeck’s Yammouneh Monday, killing two Syrians, including a boy, and burning nearly two dozen tents, a local official said. An electric spark first ignited the fire in one of the tents, and winds caused the blaze to spread to around 25 others, a local source told The Daily Star, adding that Civil Defense units later fully extinguished the fire…
American-style holiday cheer comes to Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) The hoopla, billed as “Together: Marching with World Jewry,” was the initiative of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and was designed to celebrate Hanukkah and demonstrate unity between Israelis and Diaspora Jewry…
Bakers from Baghdad who fled violence pursue a sweet dream (The New York Times) The marriage of Nael and Manar al-Najjar was forged in sugar. Mr. Najjar grew up working in his family’s Baghdad sweet shop. When he proposed, three months after meeting his future wife at a family wedding, he traveled six hours to her hometown, carrying 15 boxes of confections: baklava, kenafeh and Turkish delights. The couple settled in Baghdad, opened a bakery and started a family. As Catholics, though, they faced discrimination and threats of violence. When those threats turned deadly, they fled and sought asylum in America…
Searching for the real Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia (National Geographic) The Queen of Sheba is the Greta Garbo of antiquity. A glamorous, mysterious figure immortalized in the Bible and the Quran, celebrated in an oratorio by Handel, an opera by Charles Gounod, a ballet by Ottorino Respighi, and depicted in paintings by Raphael, Tintoretto, and Claude Lorrain, she remains tantalizingly elusive to the inquiries of historians. Across swaths of modern-day North Africa her legend lives on, despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that no one knows for sure if she existed, or if she did, where she lived…
3 December 2018
Tags: Lebanon Ethiopia Ukraine Jerusalem Jews
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican on 3 December. (photo: CNS/Andrew Medichini, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas renewed their commitment to peace in the Holy Land and a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the Vatican said.
The pope welcomed President Abbas to the Vatican on 3 December and the two spoke privately for 20 minutes.
In a statement released after their meeting, the Vatican said the two leaders focused on “efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”
Pope Francis and Abbas also discussed the status of Jerusalem and underlined “the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the holy city for the three Abrahamic religions.”
Tensions over the city rose again in December 2017 after President Donald Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.
The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East and drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States’ long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.
Abbas presented the pope with a painting of the Old City of Jerusalem and said, “This represents the spirit of the Old City of Jerusalem.”
He also gave the pope a book titled, “Two Lands of Holiness,” a historical book about the Holy Land and Vatican City as well as hand-carved wooden panel.
The pope gave the president a commemorative medallion depicting St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1600s and a copy of his 2018 message for the World Day of Peace.
“It is from this year and I signed it with today’s date,” the pope said as he gave him the message.
Taking his leave, Abbas warmly embraced the pope, who thanked the Palestinian president for visiting.
“I am happy about this meeting,” Abbas replied. “We are counting on you.”
3 December 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine
Pope Francis places an Advent candle during the Angelus prayer led from his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square on 2 December. The pope lit the candle as part of a plea for peace in Syria.
(photo: CNS/Giuseppe Lami, EPA)
Pope leads prayers for ’tormented’ Syria (CNS) Leading thousands of pilgrims in prayer, Pope Francis lit a candle in remembrance of the people of Syria, especially innocent children tormented by the country’s eight-year conflict. ”May this flame of hope and many flames of hope dispel the darkness of war,” he said on 2 December after praying the Angelus prayer…
Battle between Israel and Iran shifting from Syria to Lebanon (Haaretz) Thursday’s incident occurred a few hours after former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin made an unusual statement. Yadlin, who heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the radio station 103 FM that Iran has recently altered its behavior in the region…
JRS: a true Christian must ’welcome, protect, promote’ the other (Vatican News) As thousands of forced migrants continue to flee conflict and poverty in the countries, an increasing number of governments are implementing new migration plans and policies aimed at turning people back and discouraging them from setting out in their journeys of hope…
Ukraine calls up reservists amid tensions with Russia (AP)Ukraine’s president has announced a call-up of reservists amid tensions with Russia. Relations between the two neighbors have strained further following the 25 November incident in which Russia fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews…
Landmark Ukrainian Catholic church declared total loss after fire (CNS) A three-alarm fire that raged through St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church late 27 November left the landmark church on Roosevelt Avenue in Carteret a total loss. No one was injured in the blaze that sent tongues of flame into the night sky while smoke billowed out of broken spaces that once were beautiful stained-glass windows and holes in the roof made by the firefighters to gain control of the conflagration…
Artists work with refugees to create mosaic park in Jordan (The Jordan Times) What once was a dull desert area in the middle of the Azraq refugee camp was transformed into a new space for art and community engagement by the London-based organization Artmongers, recently…
Tags: Syria Lebanon Ukraine Israel Ukrainian Catholic Church