14 February 2019
Leaders from Russia, Turkey and Iran held talks Thursday to plan the post-war future of Syria. (video: VOA/YouTube)
Russia, Turkey, Iran hold Syria talks (The Washington Post) Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the leaders of Turkey and Iran on Thursday, intensifying efforts to usher in peace in Syria as a fragile truce is threatened in the country’s final rebel stronghold. The three presidents — Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani — gathered at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, where they pledged to take some sort of action against militants in Idlib province in northern Syria…
Some refugees who returned to Syria have fled back to Lebanon (The Daily Star) Amid increasing calls for Syrian refugees to return, a Lebanon-based NGO said in a report earlier this week that its researchers had spoken to refugees who returned to Syria only to flee back to Lebanon after encountering unexpected dangers and obstacles. Researchers with SAWA for Development and Aid, a small NGO that has been working with refugees in the Bekaa Valley for the past seven years, interviewed 40 refugees living in various parts of Lebanon — most of them in camps — about conditions in Lebanon and the factors that influenced their decision to return or stay in Lebanon…
Ukrainians in U.S. commemorate five-year anniversary of Maidan uprising (Kyiv Post) Ukrainian-Americans are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the end of the EuroMaidan Revolution, which ended after security forces shot dead more than 100 demonstrators in Kiev in February 2014, the same month that Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych fled power…
Rome remembers Jesuit missionary kidnapped in Syria (Crux) Last night, a torchlit rally took place in front of Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore for Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a native Roman and Jesuit missionary in Syria who disappeared in 2013, along with the thousands of both natives and foreigners who’ve been subject to kidnapping or arbitrary detention in Syria since violence broke out in 2011…
The curious case of Gaza’s only grand piano (The National) Right now, the Gaza Strip’s only grand piano is covered by a big bit of bright red fabric. A piece of paper has been stuck on top haphazardly, a scrawled note that reads simply: “no touch.” The sleek, black Yamaha has been through a lot already, but after being used in a rare public concert last year, in which a group of Japanese and Palestinian pianists performed to a crowd of 300 people at the home of the Red Crescent Society, the piano was seized by the Ministry of Culture and locked away in an office…
13 February 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia
David Safaryan displays one of his paintings from art class at the Little Prince Center in Armenia. The church is accompanying countless people in need in his homeland — both young and old. Read more about the journeys they are taking in ‘This Is the Only Light’ in the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
13 February 2019
In this image from 2016, Syrian girls walk near garbage inside an informal refugee camp in Zahle, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
Syrian refugees face growing pressure to return to insecure conditions (The Washington Post) With resettlement increasingly less possible and the domestic instability surrounding fears of naturalization, the regional and global push for the return of Syrian refugees is underway. In most instances, however, it is premature for the proper conditions of a sustainable, safe, secure and dignified repatriation to occur. Refugees are, thus, at risk of forced return to Syria, the result of shifting norms in the existing refugee solutions model…
Pope approves canonization of Syro-Malabar sister, Cardinal Newman (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Tuesday cleared the way for the sainthood of renowned English Cardinal John Henry Newman and an Indian nun, and brought six others a step closer to canonization. The Pope received in audience Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints and authorized him to promulgated two decrees on miracles for sainthood, a decree on martyrdom and five on heroic virtues…
India’s parliament shelves citizenship bill (UCANews.com) The upper house of India’s parliament has shelved a controversial bill on citizenship amid prayers by tribal Christians for its defeat…
Decision to raze Palestinian Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem denounced (WAFA) The Islamic-Christian Committee to Defend Jerusalem and the Holy Sites denounced Israel’s decision to raze the remaining part of an ancient Palestinian Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem. The Committee’s Secretary-General Hanna Issa denounced Israel’s decision to raze the remaining part of Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery as a prelude to the construction of new roads and public buildings as a gross encroachment upon the inviolability of the cemetery, which enflames Muslims and Jerusalemites’ sensibilities…
Author holds up martyred Copts as model for contemporary Christians (Crux) Four years ago this week, 21 men were videotaped on a beach in Libya as their ISIS captors beheaded them one by one. Of the 21 victims, 20 were Coptic Christians from Egypt who had migrated to Libya for work. In his new book, The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs, German novelist and poet Martin Mosebach chronicles his travels through Upper Egypt, where he met with the families and priests of the martyrs. Mosebach believes Coptic Christianity offers a purer form of the faith from which modern believers should seek to learn…
12 February 2019
Tags: Syria India Refugees Palestine Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Dalit children often drop out of school to work menial jobs to help support their families. But a new resolution in the Andhra Pradesh state will help Dalits receive welfare benefits enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
CNEWA has long worked with the Dalits of India — many of them outcast, marginalized and poor. So we were heartened to read this news today, a hopeful milestone in the journey of the Dalits, who continue to seek justice and ways to retain their dignity:
India’s Andhra Pradesh state has passed a resolution which church leaders say will help socially poor Dalit Christians receive welfare benefits enjoyed by their counterparts in Hinduism.
The legislative house of the southern state passed the resolution on 7 February appealing to the federal government to make amendments to regulations to allow Christians from Dalit communities to enjoy benefits meant for the advancement of socially disadvantaged people.
The resolution proposed by chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu said that if Dalit people convert to Christianity it does not change their social and economic status.
“We appreciate the move. Naidu understood the plight of the poor Christians but that does not mean we achieved our target. There is still long way to go,” the Rev. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for Dalits, told ucanews.com.
The Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC), an ecumenical organization of heads of different churches, welcomed the resolution on behalf of the Christian community.
The APFC said it appreciated Naidu’s “consistent stand on this issue” that Dalit Christians should be treated on a par with Dalits who had adopted Sikhism and Buddhism.
The Christians’ struggle began in 1950 when a presidential order said only Dalit people following Hinduism could enjoy constitution-guaranteed concessions and seat reservations meant for the socioeconomic advancement of Dalit people.
The order effectively cut off benefits to Dalit people who converted to other religions. It was amended twice to include Dalits among Sikhs in 1956 and Buddhists in 1990.
Christians of Dalit origin are estimated to be make up 33 percent of India’s 28 million Christians.
Healing the Forgotten
India’s Christian Untouchables
12 February 2019
Tags: India Dalits
In this image from 2016, Pope Francis greets Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Iraq, during a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia. Cardinal Sako has expressed his hope that Pope Francis will visit Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Top Iraqi Catholic says country’s Christians ‘really need’ a papal visit (Crux) Though reaction to Pope Francis’s recent joint declaration with the leader of Al-Azhar, arguably the most important figure in the Sunni Muslim world, received a mixed verdict — from being hailed as historic, to being dismissed as another feel-good statement without teeth — few men have more reason for wanting it to be the former than Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako. The Patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, Sako is among those who openly described the 3-5 February papal visit to United Arab Emirates, the first ever to the Arabian peninsula, as “historic” and the declaration on “Human Fraternity for world peace and living together” signed by Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, as a “seed for a possible papal visit to Iraq…”
Forces strike Syria mosque being used as ISIS command center (Haaretz) The U.S.-led coalition says it has hit a mosque used by Islamic State as a command and control center in eastern Syria. The coalition said Tuesday it launched the strike in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to drive the extremists from their last tiny stronghold near the border with Iraq. It said the strike occurred Monday as Islamic State was using the mosque to direct attacks and employ suicide car bombs against the SDF…
Egyptian authorities arrest students for mocking Christianity online (AFP) Egyptian authorities have arrested four students for mocking Christian rituals in an online video and ordered them to be kept in custody for four days, a judicial source said Monday. The university students aged between 19 and 24 were accused of being in “contempt of the Christian religion”, the source said…
In Ethiopia, climate change leads herders to retrain as farmers (Reuters) With extreme droughts as much as five times more likely than 60 years ago in parts of the country, the estimated 12 million pastoralists in Ethiopia living off flocks of cows, goats and sheep have been hit hard in recent years. In the Hamar region, where Orgo lives, 1.5 million of the 3 million animals that herders owned perished during the particularly brutal 2015-2016 drought, when the region saw poor rainfall for 18 months, according to district authorities…
11 February 2019
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia ISIS
A man sits on his chair in a small village in the Toubkal region near Imlil, Morocco on 12 January 2019. Pope Francis plans to visit Morocco next month. (photo: CNS/Youssef Boudlal, Reuters)
Pope Francis’ trip to Morocco on 30-31 March will include a visit to a school training an international group of Muslim prayer leaders and preachers, including women.
He also will visit to a Caritas center assisting migrants, many of whom ended up in the North African country with hopes of eventually making it to Europe.
Returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates on 5 February, Pope Francis told journalists he had hoped to go to Marrakech, Morocco, in December for the signing of the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, but protocol dictated that he make a full visit to the country and there was not time in December.
The trip in March will include a full slate of formal events, including a meeting with King Mohammed VI and a visit to the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, who negotiated the country’s independence from France and ruled until his death in 1961.
The visit to Morocco, where more than 99 percent of the population is Muslim, will give Pope Francis an opportunity to continue the reflections on Christian-Muslim relations he began in Abu Dhabi in February. As he did in the United Arab Emirates, he is expected to highlight 2019 as the 800th anniversary of the encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt.
When the Vatican first announced the trip in November, it said the pope would visit both Rabat, the capital, and Casablanca. But the Vatican said on 9 February it had accepted “the proposal by Moroccan authorities to limit the trip to the city of Rabat to facilitate the visit of the Holy Father.”
View the full itinerary of the trip here.
11 February 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim
The staff and students of Bethlehem's Paul VI Ephpheta Institute. (photo: Ephpheta/CNEWA)
We recently received this report on the most recent semester at Bethlehem's Paul VI Ephpheta Institute for the Deaf, which CNEWA has supported for decades. As we described it in the pages of our magazine:
Ephpheta was founded at the Pope’s request after his visit to the Holy Land in 1964. Supported almost entirely by CNEWA, Ephpheta admits children on the basis of need, not their parents’ ability to pay. Ephpheta is run by the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, a largely Italian community dedicated to spreading the love of Christ through fostering human and Christian development. Although engaged in many types of educational and social work, the sisters have specialized in educating the deaf.
Currently, there are 182 students attending classes at Ephpheta Institute; at the beginning of the school year, the number of students fluctuated (more or less) according to various reasons: new students enrolled at the school while some students due to several factors such as difficult access issues; expensive transportation costs which parents cannot afford; change of residence; and other personal reasons/ decisions taken by parents. Currently, there are 14 or 15 students enrolled in the kindergarten and preschool; in the upper classes, the attendance tends to decrease.
Teacher training and activities (divided by class), were drawn up in accordance with the new academic programs offered by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The common goal agreed upon, is to deepen the value of respect and cooperation towards oneself and others. This value involves teachers and students and will be implemented within the year through various initiatives and activities.
During the past four months, several initiatives have been implemented to help develop the skills of the students and help them overcome, at least in part, the “barrier” which may affect them psychologically, and their ability to communicate. The initiative included various activities such as Arabic dance, art, music, cooking and student-to-student exchange with semester.
Students learn to express themselves through fingerpainting. (photo: Ephpheta/CNEWA)
Students also had the opportunity to get creative, participating in a course by “CheArte” an organization dedicated to children’s expression through art. During the course, both students and teachers learned how to express their emotions using art forms and color. They learned how emotions can deeply affect us and by using art, to express their inner feelings, helping them to improve their wellbeing.
The teachers also participated in a workshop and ‘formation courses’ in cooperation with the Ministry of Education which taught them how to present the new revised curriculum to students. Ephpheta Institute also continued to offer parents workshops that raised awareness and enhance understanding of the needs of deaf children and how to be an effective, supportive parent.
Finally, all operators, teachers, speech therapists, specialists, continue to demonstrate commitment in carrying out their role with the aim to accompany and help students towards a positive assimilation into Palestinian society.
You can read more about the institute below:
The Miracle of Ephpheta
A Milestone: Ephpheta’s First High School Graduation
11 February 2019
Tags: CNEWA Bethlehem
Cardinal Peter Turkson is in India to mark the 27th World Day of the Sick.
(video: Vatican Media/YouTube)
Cardinal visits India to promote World Day of the Sick (Vatican News) Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is in Calcutta to celebrate the 27th World Day of the Sick, held annually on 11 February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Speaking to Vatican News, the Cardinal says the Pope’s message to the faithful is that there can be no true care without sharing in the situation of those afflicted, by showing compassion and being willing to empathize with the sick…
U.S. general: ’Tens of thousands’ of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria (CNN) The top US commander in the war against ISIS aligned himself Sunday with the US intelligence community assessment that there are “tens of thousands” of ISIS fighters spread across Syria and Iraq. “They are dispersed and disaggregated, but there is leadership, there are fighters there, there are facilitators there,” Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters traveling with him to the Middle East for his farewell tour…
Former Muslim highlights plight of Christian converts in Iran (Catholic Register) An increase in Muslims converting to Christianity has prompted a crackdown by Iran’s theocratic government, says an Iranian convert to Christianity…
‘Prison of Christ’ reopens in Jerusalem (AFP/Premier.org) Visitors are being allowed back to a place in Jerusalem where some people believe Jesus was held captive prior to his crucifixion. The ‘Prison of Christ’ chapel had been closed to tourists for a number of years while repairs were carried out following a fire which caused significant damage…
African leaders unveil statue of Ethiopia’s last emperor (AP) A statue of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haileselassie has been unveiled at the headquarters of the African Union on Sunday. The statue is the second to be erected inside the continental body’s offices in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, after one of Ghana’s first leader, Kwame Nkrumah, who championed pan-Africanism…
8 February 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Jerusalem ISIS
A gift is pictured as Pope Francis leads an audience with members of the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa at the Vatican on 8 February 2019. The statue depicts a farmer carrying the Gospel to others as he works. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis met with missionaries from Africa on Friday, and offered a vision for how to bear witness to the Gospel.
From CNS’s Cindy Wooden:
Proclaiming the Gospel is not the same thing as proselytism and often means simply being a neighbor and friend to someone while living an authentically Christian life, Pope Francis said.
Mission “is that dynamic that leads you to be a neighbor to others to share the gift you have received: the encounter of love that changed your life and led you to consecrate your life to the Lord Jesus, good news for the life and salvation of the world,” the pope said on 8 February.
Pope Francis spoke about mission and witness during a meeting with the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa, men’s and women’s religious orders founded 150 years ago by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie of Algiers, Algeria.
Encouraging the missionaries to continue being “nomads for the Gospel,” the pope asked them to be “men and women who are not afraid to go into the deserts of this world and seek together the means for accompanying brothers and sisters to the oasis that is the Lord so that the living water of his love can quench their every thirst.”
To be a missionary, the pope said, a Christian first must be a disciple of Jesus.
And while the missionaries may be working in situations where an explicit invitation to follow Christ is not possible, he said, their own lives must be firmly rooted in “listening to his word, the celebration of the sacraments and service to your brothers and sisters so that your gestures manifest his presence, his merciful love and his compassion to those to whom the Spirit sends and leads you.”
Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit would continue to make the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa “builders of bridges” and promoters of a “culture of encounter” and dialogue where everyone involved “learns to draw riches from the diversity of the other.”
The missionaries’ dialogue with Muslims deserves particular recognition and the gratitude of the church, the pope said.
Our own Msgr. John E. Kozar expressed his thoughts about “accompanying our brothers and sisters” in the current edition of ONE. Check it out.
8 February 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Africa
Pope Francis has made the issue of human trafficking the subject of his prayer intentions for February, as he explains in the video above. Friday, he declared that it is the duty of Christians to raise awareness about this crisis. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Pope: Duty of Christians to raise awareness of human trafficking (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Friday received in audience members of the Galileo Foundation, telling them on the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron of victims of human trafficking, that Christians can follow her great example…
As ISIS shrinks, Syrians return home to discover a wasteland (CNN) As the war against ISIS wanes, civilians returning to their homes in Iraq and Syria are discovering wastelands where towns once stood — urban moonscapes of twisted metal, shattered concrete, unexploded bombs and mines…
Bishop: Abu Dhabi document is a roadmap for interreligious dialogue (Vatican News) Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told Vatican News that the Abu Dhabi document signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Ahzar, is a precious roadmap for peace, and contains indications that must be spread throughout the world…
Discovering the ‘second Jerusalem’ for Ethiopia’s Christians (Andalou Agency) The churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia are pieces of architecture that fascinate visitors with their underground constructions. The region is called the “Jerusalem of Ethiopia” as Ethiopian King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela wanted to build a second Jerusalem in the area as the roads leading to Jerusalem were not safe. Each of the structures, constructed underground so enemies could not recognize them, help to understand the strong religious life of Ethiopia during that time through the symbols they reflect…
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Muslim Interreligious