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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
15 December 2015
Greg Kandra

An imam prays in a mosque. ISIS yesterday publicly beheaded three well-known imams in Mosul, Iraq. It’s the latest in a string of executions carried out by ISIS against Muslim religious leaders.
(photo: Tareq Salfur Rahman/Getty Images)

The news out of Mosul this morning is horrifying. From the Vatican news service Fides:

The self-styled Islamic State of jihadists beheaded three well-known Sunni imams in Mosul in the public square accused of not obeying orders that forced them to recruit young people for the Jihad.

The three imams, known by the local people for their profile of authentic men of God: Kazim Abdulkarim, Bilal al-Sheikh Agha and Abdullah al-Hayalli, had opposed to the atrocities committed by jihadists in the name of their bloody religious ideology. They were killed on Monday 14 December, in front of dozens of people gathered to witness the beheading. On the same day — report local sources to ARA Kurdish News Agency, also Ashwaq al-Nouaymi was murdered, a professor of Mosul who refused to give his students the teachings included in the new school curriculum imposed by Daesh.

Already in June 2014, a few days after having conquered Mosul, jihadists of Daesh had killed many Sunni imams of the city, including the Grand Imam, for refusing to swear allegiance to the Islamic Caliphate. The slaughter of the imam in Mosul was virtually ignored by the Western media. All Christians in the second Iraqi city managed to escape, and their houses were expropriated by jihadists.

ISIS has made headlines and shocked the world with its beheadings and executions of Christians and other minorities — most notoriously the mass killings of Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach last April.

But what may be less well-known is their practice of executing Muslims, particularly imams, who are the religious leaders of the community.

Last year, ISIS executed 12 imams in Mosul after they reportedly refused to swear loyalty to ISIS.

In January of this year, ISIS beheaded a Syrian imam for “insulting God.” According to AFP:

The Britain-based Observatory added that three of the man’s sons were ISIS fighters, and that it was the first time the jihadis executed a religious official for this reason.

The man was detained after watching a video on executions carried out by ISIS and cursing because God had permitted them, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

A month later, ISIS executed two more Muslim clerics and beheaded four civilians in Mosul for condemning the burning of a Jordanian pilot alive.

These public executions are clearly designed to sow intimidation and terror — not just among Christians, but also among Muslims.

What happened yesterday in Mosul is just the latest example.

Tragically, if the past is any guide, it won’t be the last.

15 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Sister Liza Mundamattom plays with a child in a village in Bastar, India. To learn more about the courageous work these sisters are doing in a dangerous corner of India, read Serving in the Red in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)

15 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Members of the Turkish Coast Guard near Izmir, Turkey, register Syrian migrants after capturing a boat carrying them on 10 December as they attempted to reach Greek island of Chios. Pope Francis spoke of the crisis facing refugees and migrants in his message for World Peace Day.
(photo: CNS/Tolga Bozoglu, EPA)

In Peace Day message, pope addresses death penalty, migrants (CNS) Pope Francis called for abolishing the death penalty worldwide, lifting the burden of debt on poor nations, global aid policies that respect life and revamped laws that welcome and integrate migrants. He urged individuals, communities and nations to not let indifference, information overload or pessimism discourage them from concrete efforts “to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors and places of employment.” Building peace, he said, is not accomplished by words alone, but through the grace of God, a conversion of heart, an attitude of compassion and the courage to act against despair. The pope’s multifaceted plea came in his message for World Peace Day, 1 January. The message, which was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican on 15 December...

ISIS beheads three imams in Mosul (Fides) The self-styled Islamic State of jihadists beheaded three well-known Sunni imams in Mosul in the public square accused of not obeying orders that forced them to recruit young people for the Jihad. The three imams, known by the local people for their profile of authentic men of God: Kazim Abdulkarim, Bilal al-Sheikh Agha and Abdullah al-Hayalli, had opposed to the atrocities committed by jihadists in the name of their bloody religious ideology. They were killed on Monday, 14 December, in front of dozens of people gathered to witness the beheading...

Thousands rally to mark anniversary of Hamas (Al A thousands-strong rally in the Gaza Strip has marked the 28th anniversary of the foundation of the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas, Press TV reports. The event was held in Gaza City on Monday, with attendees reaffirming their support for the movement. Since its establishment in December 1987, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel and adhered to resistance against the Israeli occupation, which it believes is the sole way of bringing about the liberation of occupied Palestinian territories. The movement says its goal is to liberate the entire historical Palestine...

Posters in Baghdad ask Christian women to wear the veil (Fides) There are posters on the walls of Baghdad, near the churches and in neighborhoods where there are still Christian communities asking women to wear the veil. The message is addressed directly to Christian women, since the poster portrays the image of the Virgin Mary and a text in which it is emphasized that even the Virgin Mary, docile to the teaching received, wore the veil. The same posters had appeared in some areas of the city in the month of November...

Letter of His Beatitude Gregorios III for the Feast of the Nativity ( Glad tidings! Gospel! Great joy! Thus begins the Gospel of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thus begins Christianity. Thus begins our holy Christian faith. This is the Feast of the Nativity. On this holy day, this year we hear anew the Christmas angel in the dark night, in the fields of Beit Sahur and Bethlehem, and in all parts of the world. We hear again the voice of the angel announcing to us all without exception, and particularly to all those receiving this letter, “I bring you glad tidings of great joy. I bring to you a Gospel, the Gospel of joy. This joy is Jesus himself, the Saviour...”

Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank

14 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Meron Getachew learns tailoring at a church-run training course in Ethiopia. To learn more about how the church is training young people to develop new skills, read “Bright Lights, Big Problems” in the Autumn edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

14 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad is pictured in a 2014 photo in Geneva.
(photo: CNS/Salvatore Di Nolfi, EPA)

Iraqi patriarch says Christian persecution has reached “critical, violent” point (CNS) The survival of Christianity in the Middle East has reached such a critical point that the chances of dialogue and reconciliation in the region are being threatened, said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. “The situation is very bad, very critical and always violent,” Sako told Catholic News Service on 10 December. “Last year in August, 120,000 Christian people were expelled from their homes, their villages and now they are living in some camps with nothing, but the Church is helping them.” Sako was among the keynote speakers at a 10-12 December international conference on Christian persecution in the world. He told CNS that the mass exodus of Christians in the region will only worsen the situation due to growing tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims who “are killing each other...”

Patriarch visits Egypt (Fides) Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Peter Rai carried out a four-day visit to Egypt, which ended yesterday, Sunday 13 December and was characterized by a busy schedule, not only from a pastoral point of view. The occasion for the patriarchal visit was the inauguration of the church dedicated to St. Maron, which underwent major restoration in the Cairo district of Heliopolis. During the visit in Egypt, the Primate of the Maronite Church had high-level contacts and met among others the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad al Tayyeb, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi...

Russia angry at Turkey’s military presence in Iraq (New Europe) The scale of Turkey’s military presence in northern Iraq cannot be justified by the tasks of training any local groups, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Sunday. “We think that Turkey’s actions in northern Iraq are illegal. It is an invasion into a neighboring state,” he said. “Moreover, the scale of these actions cannot be justified by any training-related argument.” Iraq appealed to the United Nations Security Council on Friday to demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Turkish troops from northern Iraq, calling Turkey’s military incursion a “flagrant violation” of international law...

Syrian refugees receive a primer on Canadian life (The Globe and Mail) As the new Syrian arrivals take in the mundane details of Canadian life like so many refugees before them, there are signs of the emotional toll of the past few years. There is also evidence of the network of support that is ready to help, the sponsors who have brought them here, the volunteers on hand to translate. With as many as 25,000 refugees expected in the coming months, this is a scene that will play out again and again across Canada...

Bhopal archbishop receives peace award (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Leo Cornelio SVD, of Bhopal on Thursday received the prestigious International Human Rights Award for the year 2015 at the India Islamic Centre, New Delhi in a glittering ceremony organized by All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice...

Hanukkah lights the darkness in Ukraine ( Since the crisis began two years ago, the Jewish community of Ukraine, numbering an estimated 300-350,000 Jews, has come together not just to provide much-needed aid, but also to celebrate the Jewish holidays with bravery and gusto unmatched under such circumstances. They have been joined in this massive undertaking by my organization, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and other overseas Jewish and Christian aid groups — the Jewish Federations, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, World Jewish Relief, and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews — individual philanthropists, foundations, community leaders, and activists all seeking to ensure that life goes on even under duress...

11 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Armenian archbishops from France, Ukraine, Russia and Nagorno-Karabakh concelebrate the blessing of chrism at Etchmiadzin in 1996. To learn more about Armenia’s spiritual core, read “Where God Descended” in the May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

11 December 2015
Greg Kandra

An aerial view from an Indian relief helicopter shows flood affected areas of Chennai.
(photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Some India Catholic churches to cancel Christmas celebrations after flooding (Vatican Radio) Catholic churches in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are cancelling Christmas in order to divert funds to help victims of flooding in Chennai — the worst in more than a century that are being blamed on climate change. Dozens were killed and thousands were left homeless as Chennai — the fifth most populous city in India — suffered the worst November rainfall in more than 20 years and the wettest December day in over a century when more than 12 inches fell on 1 December...

Canada’s prime minister welcomes Syrian refugees (BBC) The first military plane carrying Syrian refugees to be resettled in Canada has arrived in the country. Welcoming the 163 refugees, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country was “showing the world how to open our hearts”. The newly elected Liberal government has pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February. Canada’s stance on the issue differs sharply to that of the US, which has been reluctant to take in migrants. Another plane is due in Montreal on Saturday...

Studying Hebrew in Gaza: Bridging two peoples (Haaretz) At the small mixed-gender training room of the Nafha center for Hebrew and Israeli studies, six students of various ages have gathered. “Me’ayin is the Hebrew word for ‘from where,’” the teacher, Ahmed Alfaleet, explains. Alfaleet, the head of the center, was once a prisoner in Israeli jails. The 42-year-old was one of the more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011; after he was freed, he decided to take on the challenge of spreading the Hebrew language in Gaza...

Analysis: Jews and Catholics must implement new interfaith partnership (Vatican Radio) The new Vatican document on the Catholic Church’s changed relationship with the Jewish world will only be effective if it is shared “on the streets, in the pulpits, in the pews of our churches and synagogues”. That’s the view of Dr. Edward Kessler, founding director of the interfaith Woolf Institute in Cambridge and one of the two Jewish speakers at a press conference presenting the new Vatican document on Thursday...

Tags: Syria India Gaza Strip/West Bank Jews

10 December 2015
Greg Kandra

An Indian boy puts his school books out to dry as floodwaters recede in Chennai on 7 December 2015. Residents in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state were grappling with the aftermath of devastating floods as authorities stepped up relief work following the worst deluge in decades that killed over 250 people. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

As India struggles to recover from devastating floods, the Catholic Church is stepping in to help:

The Catholic Church in India has expressed solidarity with the victims of Tamil Nadu floods and appealed to the people to come forward and make voluntary donations for the relief and rehabilitation of the affected.

“The need of the hour calls us to express solidarity with the flood affected suffering families and communities and to contribute our mite for their relief and rehabilitation,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said in a statement.

Two days of heavy rains through 2 December brought double the normal rainfall the Tamil Nadu state capital normally receives during its entire two-month rainy season.

The deluge has affected Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Villupuram and Tanjavur districts with the state capital Chennai being the worst hit.

Read more.

10 December 2015
Greg Kandra

People gather on 20 November outside the Washington State capitol in Olympia to urge the United States’ acceptance of Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/David Ryder, Reuters)

25 Christian hostages freed in Syria (Fides) On Wednesday, 9 December the jihadists affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State released other 25 Assyrian Christians, who were part of the large group of hostages kidnapped by them on 23 February, when the jihadi militias had unleashed an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the valley of the river Khabur, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. According to reports from local sources, and re-launched by the Assyrian International News Agengy , the group of hostages freed includes men, boys and two children under ten years of age, who after their release reached the town of Tel Tamar...

Faith leaders, senators say U.S. must not “pause” refugee resettlement (CNS) A coalition of religious leaders joined three U.S. senators on Capitol Hill 8 December to say “enough is enough” to those who want to bar Muslim refugees from Syria and other Middle East trouble spots from the U.S. after terrorist attacks in Paris and Southern California...

First planes of Syrian refugees set to arrive in Canada (Reuters) The first two government flights carrying Syrian refugees to Canada will arrive this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday. His immigration minister noted with pride that Canada’s welcoming attitude contrasts with the wary stance of many in the United States. The first flight will arrive in Toronto on Thursday evening and another will land in Montreal on Saturday, Trudeau said in Parliament. The planes, both military aircraft, will carry a total of 300 Syrian refugees...

Orthodox rabbis urge partnership between Christians and Jews (The Jewish Press) A group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis are advocating for increased partnership between Christians and Jews. More than 25 Orthodox rabbis from Israel, the United States and Europe released the statement titled “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians” on the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) website...

Vatican issues new document on Christian-Jewish dialogue (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews has released a new document exploring the unresolved theological questions at the heart of Christian-Jewish dialogue. The new document, entitled ‘The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable’, marks the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking declaration ‘Nostra Aetate’...

Archbishop: “The pope has profoundly marked the Muslim community” (Fides) “The Pope came as a pilgrim to invite us to peace. Now we must become pilgrims of peace in our own country”, says Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, explaining his gesture to walk the Muslims’ PK5 neighborhood, after tensions in recent days due to the exclusion of former President Francois Bozize’s candidacy in the presidential elections...

9 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis presents a rose at an icon of Mary and the child Jesus — known as “Doors of Mercy” — as he begins his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 December.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis requested the ancient Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” to be brought to the Vatican for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Vatican Radio has details:

This icon, which combines both Western and Eastern traditions, is particularly symbolic and encourages all Christians to unity and peace for the sake of charity.

The Icon was met at the airport by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See, Tatyana Izhevska; and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See, Piotr Nowina-Konopka; and representatives from the Vatican.

The image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, which dates from the seventeenth century, comes from the cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Polish city of Jaroslaw. The icon, which takes its name from the Byzantine Lenten liturgical text, “Open the Doors of Mercy to me, O Mother of God.” is considered miraculous and was given a crown by St. John Paul II in 1996.

A copy of of the icon is also found in the Argentinian church belonging to Pope Francis’ former spiritual director, Ukrainian Catholic priest Father Stephan Chmil, who was later made a bishop.

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