21 August 2015
In this image from 2003, pensioner Lury Merkvilashvili, 79, savors his only daily meal, thanks to Caritas Georgia. To learn more about the plight of the elderly in post-Soviet Georgia, read Caring for Georgia’s New Orphans from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Dima Chikvaidze)
21 August 2015
Tags: Georgia Caring for the Elderly Caritas Pensioners
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and President Vladimir Putin are seen visiting the restored St. Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles Church under the Moscow Eparchial House in June. (photo: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
ISIS demolishes monastery in Syria (BBC) ISIS militants in Syria have demolished a Christian monastery in the town of Al Qaryatain in Homs province. The militants had also moved Christians taken captive in the town to their stronghold of Raqqa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring group…
Russian Orthodox Church lends weight to Putin patriotism (BBC) A raid by Russian Orthodox vigilantes on “blasphemous” artworks in central Moscow has highlighted the influence of traditional, ultra-conservative values in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The Orthodox Church has long had close links to the Kremlin. And during Russia’s standoff with the West over Ukraine that relationship has only grown stronger…
Iraq’s child soldiers (Al Monitor) The world has borne witness to countless crimes committed by ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria over the past year. Iraqi and Syrian children have not been spared from these atrocities. Several reports by international human rights organizations have documented the group’s use of children for suicide operations, executing prisoners, guerrilla warfare and also as human shields…
Turkey awakens to ISIS threat within (The Wall Street Journal) News reports over the weekend revealed that Turkish police recently discovered 30 suicide vests, some ready for immediate use, in raids against the ISIS. The news came one week after an Islamic State social-media account threatened the Turks with an imminent attack. Accusing Turkey’s government of “standing with the crusaders and spilling Muslim blood,” the group warned that the Turkish people would be the ones paying the price for their leaders’ war on the caliphate. Reuters reported this week that a new video calls for the group to conquer Istanbul…
Sisters open new convent in India (Fides) The Salesian Sisters, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have opened a house in the Indian state of Orissa, in Kandhamal district, which is located in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. The district was notorious for the killings and anti-Christian violence that took place in August 2008, promoted by Hindu extremist groups against the faithful. The initiative of the new house comes from the religious sisters of the province of Calcutta, who responded to an invitation of the local church…
20 August 2015
Tags: Syria India Sisters Turkey ISIS
Sister Imre Ágota begins the day behind her desk, planning. A Greek Catholic Basilian sister, she is working to restore the faith in Hungary after years of Communist domination and suppression. Read more about their ministry in A Sister’s Act from the June 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Tivadar Domaniczky)
20 August 2015
Tags: Sisters Eastern Europe Hungary Hungarian Greek Catholic
Egyptian policemen stand in front of a damaged national security building in northern Cairo on 20 August. (photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)
ISIS claims responsibility for car bombing in Cairo (The Washington Post) ISIS claimed Thursday it carried out a massive car bombing that targeted Egyptian security forces in Cairo, calling the operation revenge for the deaths of some of its members earlier this year. Six policemen were injured in the predawn attack on a branch of the National Security Agency, the country’s domestic spy service, in the Cairo suburb of Shubra al Kheima, the Interior Ministry said. The powerful blast — which could be heard across several Cairo districts — has raised fears of stepped up insurgent attacks in the Egyptian capital. Islamists and other militants have waged an increasingly deadly campaign against Egyptian security forces since a military coup ousted President Muhammad Morsi in 2013…
Kidnapped Syrian priest released (Christian Today) A priest kidnapped in Syria a month ago has been released but others are still missing. The Rev. Tony Boutros, 50, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest, was taken by unknown assailants on 12 July when he was being driven to church. His driver was also kidnapped. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch, disclosed the release of Father Boutros. Still missing are Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio and two Orthodox Archishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi…
Hamas seizes ‘Israeli spy dolphin’ (BBC) Hamas claims to have captured a dolphin being used as an Israeli spy off the coast of Gaza, local media report. The group says the mammal was equipped with spying devices, including cameras, according to the newspaper Al Quds. It was apparently discovered by a naval unit of Hamas’s military wing and brought ashore…
Inside Aleppo (Newsweek) Over three years, this crude slaughter by both sides has turned Aleppo into a Syrian Stalingrad. It has also divided the city into two distinct halves. In the June attack, the jarra came in such numbers and over such a wide area that they sowed mass panic. Three days before Ramadan, the point of this barrage was to trumpet a major new rebel assault on the regime-held part of the city; the rebel militias, emboldened by new alliances and successes elsewhere in northern Syria, were hoping to break through the stalemate and take Aleppo once and for all. Their new offensive came amid persistent rumors that the Syrian regime might let go of the country’s second most important city, the better to defend its heartlands in the south and west of the country…
Torrential rains threaten historic Orthodox cathedral in Sitka, Alaska (oca.org) For two weeks, Archpriest Michael Boyle and the faithful of St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral here have been praying for relief from torrential rains that have pounded the region and flooded the historic structure’s basement. “While the cathedral, which stands in the middle of the downtown district, has been spared from mudslides, it has been significantly affected by rain — especially over the past 48 hours, during which at times up to an inch an hour fell,” said Father Michael…
Ethiopia restoring its first mosque (The Daily Trust) The history of Negash is one tied to that of Islam in Ethiopia dating back to the seventh century and is home to Africa’s first mosque built then. It has been dubbed ‘The second Mecca.’ Nigerian tourists were educated on the fact that during Haile Selassie’s reign, Muslim communities brought personal, inheritance and family issues before Islamic court. When our reporter visited, renovations were ongoing by the Turkish government as part of preparations to make it a UNESCO World Heritage site…
19 August 2015
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Orthodox ISIS
In this image from 2004, the Rev. Varghese Palathingal holds a young H.I.V. patient named Christy, who never leaves the priest’s side. (photo: K.L. Simon)
Several years ago, ONE took readers to a hospice in India offering care to AIDS patients:
The hospice was established in 2000 for patients with H.I.V. or AIDS, who were untreated or had been turned away by other medical facilities.
“We have had some 300 patients pass through here since we opened,” said the Rev. Varghese Palathingal, who runs the hospice named after the former Syro-Malabar Catholic Archbishop of Trichur, Mar Joseph Kundukulam. “We are the only facility of this kind in Kerala, perhaps in all of southern India.”
The AIDS epidemic in India is well-documented. The country has the second largest infected population in the world after South Africa. But for all practical purposes the country acts as if AIDS is not a serious social problem. Ignorance remains common among the public and even some supposed experts.
Hospitals and medical staff still routinely turn away patients. When their infection becomes known, people are pushed out of their homes by their communities, sometimes even by their own families.
Fear of dismissal or reprisal has forced most to keep their H.I.V. status secret at work and school. In addition, drugs that are immediately available in the West are out of reach due to cost. With nowhere to go, many of the infected take their own lives.
At the facility, the patients are glad to see Father Palathingal. His speech, touch and manner reveal real affection and concern. The children often swarm around him like some kind of off-season Santa Claus.
One child, Christy, grew so close to the priest that he now lives with him and the sisters at Pope Paul Mercy Home, a nearby facility for the mentally handicapped, also run by Father Palathingal.
Christy, an active 2-year-old who insists on going everywhere with the priest, was also at the center of a recent medical controversy. The boy was born H.I.V. positive and was abandoned by his parents. When his status turned negative at around 18 months, his health became the subject of public speculation.
Father Palathingal, the sisters and even some doctors credited the Ayurvedic treatment the boy received at the hospice for his negative status. Other medical professionals disagreed, saying such cases are rare but natural occurrences.
“During the first 18 months, a mother’s antibodies can remain in the child, without infecting him,” said Dr. Gopal Sankar, a young physician volunteering at Mar Kundukulam. “This may lead to H.I.V. tests coming back positive at first. Later, when the mother’s antibodies finally disappear from the child, the same tests will come out negative.”
Read more in “Hoping Against Hope” from the July-August 2004 edition of ONE.
19 August 2015
Sources say Khaled Asaad, the 82-year-old archaeologist who supervised the ancient ruins of Palmyria in Syria, was beheaded by ISIS militants. (photo: Vatican Radio/AP)
ISIS militants reportedly behead archeologist in Syria (Vatican Radio) The archaeologist who looked after ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria is reported to have been killed by Islamic State (ISIS) militants. Khaled Asaad was taken hostage by the group after it seized the Unesco World Heritage site earlier this year. The family of the 82-year-old scholar said he had been beheaded by ISIS fighters, according to Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim...
Iraq’s economy battered by war (AP) Since early 2014, Iraq has suffered a serious economic decline after the Shiite-led government in Baghdad started losing territory to the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group. Low oil prices exacerbated the decline, wreaking havoc on Iraq’s national budget, of which oil revenue makes nearly 95 percent...
Israel turns focus to anti-tunnel technology (Reuters) A year after Hamas used cross-border tunnels to launch deadly attacks during the Gaza war, Israel is testing new techniques to detect the hidden passages as a “top priority,” sources say, but has yet to announce the system fully operational. Beyond standard military secrecy, the reticence to trumpet the measures may be to mask lingering short-falls in the system and avoid giving Israelis a false sense of security as they return to homes near the Gaza Strip abandoned during the war...
Why Israel and Armenia should adopt the Yazidis (Huffington Post) The recent horrifying New York Times exposé on the Islamic State’s sex slavery system targeting Yazidi women was one of the most-read articles on the paper’s website in the last days. And yes, in a doubly perverse sense it feels good to be morally outraged at ISIS for a few minutes. But let us not get all too comfortable with our outrage over what the Times titled “Theology of Rape,” because we like to forget just how easily we forget. The history of mass media and atrocities in the modern world has taught us that the hurdle for us to really care — to the point where something is done about atrocities in progress — is just astoundingly high...
Russian cultural institutions urged to hold courses in self-defense (The Art Newspaper) After an attack last week by Russian Orthodox fundamentalists who damaged works of art in a Moscow exhibition, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the general director of St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum has urged the country’s cultural institutions to hold self-defence courses. In an open letter published on the museum’s website on Monday, 17 August, Piotrovsky proposed that Russia’s museums “immediately organise in-house training on protecting the state of their exhibitions, taking into account that as of November of this year, police will stop physically guarding museums,” due to budget cuts. He added that the Russian Museums Union, of which he is president, is looking to take legal measures against vandals...
18 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel ISIS
Israeli authorities uproot olive trees to build the separation wall near Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank on 17 August 2015. To learn more about the controversy surrounding the wall — and the people whose lives will be impacted by it — check out this post.
(photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
18 August 2015
Bodies of Syrians are seen after Assad regime forces bombed a marketplace inside residential areas in Douma Town of East Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 16 August 2015.
(photo: Motasem Rashed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians killed in fierce clashes in Ukraine (ABC — Australia) Ten people have reportedly been killed in eastern Ukraine in a flare-up in violence between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. Military and separatist sources said at least two Ukrainian soldiers and eight civilians were killed over the past day in several locations in the east of the country. It is thought to be the highest single day death toll in more than a month...
In Syria, UN “horrified” by attacks on civilians (BBC) The UN’s humanitarian chief has said he is “horrified” by the attacks on civilians taking place in Syria. Stephen O'Brien told reporters during a visit to Damascus that the targeting of non-combatants in the country’s war was “unlawful, unacceptable and must stop.” He was “particularly appalled” by government air strikes on a rebel-held suburb of the capital on Sunday...
Iraq’s summer of protest (Al Jazeera) For the past six weeks, thousands of Iraqis across the streets of Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and other cities have been protesting electricity cuts amid soaring temperatures, rampant corruption and the government’s mismanagement of basic services. They protestors, many of them young secular Iraqis, want government officials to be held accountable...
Church in Ethiopia works to promote family values (Vatican Radio) Series of workshops are being conducted for Pastoral Coordinators, Catechists, couples, laity councils, youth, Catholic students of Universitites, Catholic Life Community Movements and Young Catholic Workers on “Vocation and Mission of Families in the Church and in the Contemporary World.” According to the Rev. Hailegabriel Meleku, National Pastoral Coordinator, ‘Family’ is given great attention as the current situation of families is precarious in Ethiopia and the world. “All families have a mission to announce the Gospel of the family, the National plan of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat’s summer program is focused around the theme of the family, its vocation and their mission in the Church and the contemporary world,” he said...
Church leaders in India accuse authorities of tolerating crimes against Christians (UCANews.com) A parish church in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has been robbed, prompting Church leaders to accuse state authorities of allowing criminals to commit crimes against Christians with impunity. Thieves used the cover of darkness to break into St. Joseph Church in Ganj Basoda in Sagar diocese on 13 August and steal an unspecified amount of cash from the collection box, parish officials said. “This is the third theft or attempted theft from this church” in less than a year, parish priest Nitish Jacob told ucanews.com...
17 August 2015
This image from April shows a general view of the Crimesan landscape around the Christian village of the same name, near Bethlehem. (photo: Musa Al-Shaer, AFP/Getty Images)
After years of debate and dispute, the Israeli Supreme Court last month ruled to allow the building of a separation barrier through the historic Cremisan Valley.
From Vatican Radio:
Following a series of international appeals, the court in April blocked plans by the Israeli military to extend the wall through the valley which is home to two Salesian monasteries and a convent school. Under the latest court ruling, those religious buildings will remain on the Palestinian side of the wall, accessible from the town of Beit Jala, while land belonging to 58 Palestinian families will be cut off on the Israeli side of the wall. While Israel claims the construction of the barrier is necessary for security reasons, Palestinians say the move is aimed at confiscating fertile land for the expansion of two Israeli settlements.
Last week, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement condemning the move. The statement says in part:
We believe that peace can only be achieved by seeking justice for all. The separation of peoples through walls and barriers can only further divide and anger people and will not contribute to peace. We call on all leaders in the Holy Land to work for peace by seeking justice, and to show mercy and compassion to one another. We express our solidarity and support for the Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Faoud Twal, his auxiliary bishops, and all the suffering peoples of the Holy Land.
Furthermore, we hold all people of the Middle East in our hearts and prayers. We continue to pray for them.
Just this morning, CNEWA received word that the Israeli Defense Force arrived in the valley and, in preparation for the construction, began destroying olive trees belonging to five Palestinian families from Beit Jala.
Meantime, The Society of St. Yves has submitted a new petition to Israel’s High Court, seeking to have the whole planned route of the Separation Wall revealed before construction begins.
You can read more history and background on the wall here and here.
17 August 2015
Children attend a class in traditional Arab dance at the Centro Social Hondureño árabe.
(photo: Carina Wint)
Some might be surprised to learn there’s a thriving Arab population in the heart of Central America. We explored some of that phenomenon in 2006:
The Centro Social Hondureño árabe is Honduras’s largest and most opulent country club, boasting tennis courts, a fitness center, sushi bar, disco and other luxuries rare in this country that is one of the poorest in the hemisphere. But for all its glitter, the club’s chief distinction, suggested by its name, is that it was founded by and primarily for the country’s small but prosperous Arab-Honduran community.
“The community has always looked for forums to socialize, to maintain our bond, and this club is a consummation of that feeling,” said Lidia Abouid, the club’s supervisor.
On a recent summer day, only a couple of miles from the urban din of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s city of industry, scores of children could be found paddling in an Olympic-sized pool, cooling off after a morning of tennis and racquetball. The voice of the Lebanese chanteuse Fayrouz wafted over the grounds as the staff tidied the club’s three banquet halls: the Palestine, the Jerusalem and the Bethlehem.
Today, there are as many as 220,000 Arab-Hondurans. While they represent only 3 percent of the total population of 7.3 million people, they have had an outsized influence on the nation. They are most visible in business and only slightly less so in politics. Centro Social’s president, Juan Canahuati, a textile magnate with numerous other entrepreneurial activities, is considered the country’s top businessman. Coffee exporter and former Industry and Commerce Minister Oscar Kafati’s ancestors immigrated to Honduras in the late 19th century from Beit Jala, a Christian town adjacent to Bethlehem. Former President Carlos Flores Facusse’s mother came from Bethlehem.
Arab immigration to Latin America is not unique to Honduras nor are such success stories. To take just two prominent examples: former Argentine President Carlos Ménem (1989-1999) traces his roots to Syria; Mexico’s telecommunications titan, Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s third richest man, is of Lebanese descent.
Nearly all Arab-Hondurans claim Christian Palestinian origins, making the Arab-Honduran experience unique. Proportionally, there are more people of Palestinian descent in Honduras than any other Latin American country.
Arab Palestinians first came to Honduras in the 19th century, but the largest waves arrived after 1896, the year the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which then controlled
Palestine, first allowed emigration. Numerous factors motivated the early emigrants. In 1909, the Ottomans included in the military draft Christians and Jews, who were once forbidden to serve, but required to pay tribute instead. Economic incentives also drove Arabs abroad. Tourism and commerce, areas in which many Christians worked, declined during World War I. And increasingly Palestine’s Arab Christians found themselves competing with the growing Jewish population, largely secular Zionist immigrants from Europe, in their entrepreneurial activities. Just as today, there seemed to be more opportunities for enterprising Arabs abroad.
Read more about “Middle Eastern, Central American Style” in the September 2006 edition of ONE.