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13 June 2014
This image from 2011 is a reminder of the suffering and grief of the Iraqi people. Nasrin Abdul-Ahad Aziz, 53, had lost several family members as result of ethnic and sectarian violence in Iraq. Her husband Tali Mati Nasser sits to the left. (photo: Safin Hamed/Metrography)
The news this week out of Iraq is sobering and alarming. As the crisis deepens, we were reminded of a story from three years ago, about Iraqi Christians seeking refuge in the northern part of the country — a region that has now been overrun by insurgents, amid reports of hundreds of thousands fleeing the area for safety.
In 2011, this was a glimpse of life in Iraq:
Mosul serves as the nerve center for the region’s extremist activities. Though historically a Sunni metropolitan area, the city and its surrounding villages were for centuries also home to an array of vibrant minority communities, including Christians, Kurds, Turkomans, Mandaeans and Yazidis. And until the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, these diverse groups coexisted more or less peaceably with one another and the Sunni majority. But as militant groups gained control of the city in the war’s aftermath, violence against these communities escalated.
Most Christians have left in recent years. In 2008 alone, more than 2,600 Christian families fled the city following a string of violent attacks on the community.
Salam Talia and his family know all too well the hardships of living in a post-Saddam Hussein Mosul.
“In Mosul, a cleric pointed at both Christians and Kurds, calling them infidels,” says the young man. “But the Kurds are powerful and able to protect themselves. We are not.”
Fearing for their lives, the family kept a low profile in the city for years. They never disclosed their Christian identity and actively disguised it. The family refrained from attending church. Mrs. Talia and her daughter-in-law began to cover their heads, following Muslim practice. And while a student at Mosul’s fine arts academy, Salam Talia expressed interest in Islamic calligraphy, often choosing passages from the Quran as the subjects of his paintings.
These efforts, however, were in vain. Salam Talia narrowly escaped two separate kidnapping attempts. And while he was riding a university bus, a roadside bomb blew up the bus driving directly behind his. Finally in November 2007, tragedy struck the family. The eldest son, a police officer, died in an Al Qaeda attack on a police station. Just weeks later, extremists raided the daughter-in-law’s family home, slaughtering the young woman, her parents and a brother. Devastated and terrified, the Talia family hastily moved to Hamdaniya.
Read more about A New Genesis in Nineveh in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
And to help support Iraqi Christians during their hour of need, visit this page — and please, keep them in your prayers.
13 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees
In this image from 2013, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri arrives for a prayer service at St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinal, who is prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, says he is following events in Iraq with “extreme concern.” (photo: CNS/Paul Haring).
Iraqis flee as militants close in (CNN) Radical Islamists pushed forward in Iraq as an increasingly nervous United States sought ways to stop the militants from closing in on Baghdad. As Iraq further disintegrated, residents fled Mosul in droves. Militants captured the country’s second-largest city this week after soldiers scattered, leaving their uniforms and weapons behind. Jittery families eager to leave sat in traffic jams stretching as far as the eye could see. Violence is spreading and security deteriorating in the nation, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to say the beleaguered government required assistance…
Cardinal Sandri expresses concern for situation in Iraq (Vatican Radio) The Congregation for Eastern Churches has issued a press statement saying the Cardinal Prefect, Leonardo Sandri is following the unfolding of events in Iraq with extreme concern, and is united in prayer with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael, all the bishops, priests and lay faithful of Iraq…
Archbishop says Mosul now emptied of Christians (Vatican Radio) Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona, said he thought Mosul’s last remaining Christians had left now a city which until 2003 was home to 35,000 faithful. The Christians are among 500,000 thought to have fled Mosul whose overthrow was followed by news of militant attacks on the Iraqi city of Tikrit 95 miles north of the capital, Baghdad. Describing reports of attacks to four churches and a monastery in Mosul, the archbishop, 46, said: “We received threats ... [and] now all the faithful have fled the city. I wonder if they will ever return there…”
Thousands of Syrian refugee children forced to work (Reuters) At least 50,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are working, often in dire conditions and for 12 hours a day, to pay for food and shelter for their families, aid organization CARE said. More than a million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, making up a quarter of the country’s population, having fled a civil war in its fourth year, which has left more than 160,000 dead…
Pope Francis: world economic system inevitably leads to war (CNS) Pope Francis said the world economic system inevitably promotes military conflict as way to enrich the most powerful nations. He also condemned religious fundamentalism, defended the controversial record of Pope Pius XII and said he does not worry about his personal security because, “at my age I don’t have much to lose.” Pope Francis’ words appeared in a wide-ranging interview published 12 June in the Spanish daily La Vanguardia…
Ukraine’s president offers safe passage for people fleeing (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s new president has ordered security officials to create a corridor for safe passage for thousands of civilians fleeing eastern regions that have been rocked by deadly clashes between government forces and pro-Russia separatists…
12 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Ukraine Refugees
A Holy Child of Miracles statue in St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Mexico City is dressed in the national team colors for the World Cup. Parishioners ask for miracles and that Mexico advance deep into the soccer tournament. (photo: CNS/David Agren)
The World Cup begins today and the church’s most famous fan, Pope Francis, sent his good wishes to all who are following the sport:
As the World Cup was about to kick off, Pope Francis called on fans and competitors to celebrate the event as an opportunity to promote dialogue, respect and peace.
He also warned against all forms of discrimination on the sidelines, in the stands and on the field: “Let no one become isolated and feel excluded! Watch out! ‘No’ to segregation, ‘no’ to racism!”
The pope made his comments in Portuguese in a video message aired on Brazilian television on 11 June, the eve of the start of the world soccer championship in Brazil that runs until the final match 13 July.
“It is with great joy,” the pope said, that he could greet all “soccer lovers,” organizers, players, coaches and fans who will be following the matches on television, radio and the Internet.
The World Cup “overcomes linguistic, cultural and national barriers,” said the pope, a lifelong soccer fan who actively rooted for the San Lorenzo team in his native Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“My hope is that, beyond just a celebration of sport, this World Cup can turn into a celebration of solidarity among peoples.”
Read more of what the pope had to say at the CNS link.
12 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis
A member of the Iraqi security forces searches a man at a checkpoint in Baghdad on 11 June. Baghdad will cooperate with Kurdish forces to drive militants out of Mosul, the country’s second-biggest city. Christians are among 500,000 fleeing Mosul after Islamist forces seized
it in early June. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)
Iraqi militants take aim at Baghdad (The New York Times) Sunni militants consolidated and extended their control over northern Iraq on Wednesday, seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, threatening the strategic oil refining town of Baiji and pushing south toward Baghdad, their ultimate target, Iraqi sources said...
Two Arab countries fall apart (The Economist) Whoeveer chose the Twitter handle “Jihadi Spring” was prescient. Three years of turmoil in the region, on the back of unpopular American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have benefited extreme Islamists, none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a group that outdoes even al-Qaeda in brutality and fanaticism. In the past year or so, as borders and government control have frayed across the region, ISIS has made gains across a swathe of territory encompassing much of eastern and northern Syria and western and northern Iraq. On 10 June it achieved its biggest prize to date by capturing Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and most of the surrounding province of Nineveh. The next day it advanced south towards Baghdad, the capital, taking several towns on the way. Ministers in Iraq’s government admitted that a catastrophe was in the making. A decade after the American invasion, the country looks as fragile, bloody and pitiful as ever...
Two Indians to be canonized in November (Vatican Radio) During mid morning prayer on Thursday in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis gathered with the College of Cardinals to vote on the Canonisations of six Blesseds who will become Saints of the Church. They include two Indians, Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara who was a priest and the founder of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and who is remembered for his solid leadership. He is also recognized for having saved the Church in Kerala from a schism in 1861. The other is Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Congregation of Mount Carmel, of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel; who was born in 1877 in Kattur and became known as the “Praying Nun”...
Pope issues message for opening of World Cup (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered a video message to the organisers, players and fans participating in the 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil. Delivered in Portuguese, the message expresses the Holy Father’s hope that, in addition to a celebration of sport, this World Cup can be transformed into a festival of solidarity between peoples...
11 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Kerala
A child of Ambo, Ethiopia whose isolated village has not been spared by AIDS. To learn of efforts there to battle this disease, read the article Ambo’s Hope in the March 2005 issue of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
11 June 2014
Pope Francis holds up a pamphlet for the Red Card to Child Labor campaign as he leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican 11 June. One day in advance of the World Day against Child Labor, the pope appealed to the international community to help safeguard children from forced labor. The words on the pamphlet in Italian say: “All together
against child labor.” (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
In Iraq, the next target is Kirkuk (Fides) After the capture of Mosul, the advance continues on the Iraqi territory on behalf of rebels of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the jihadist faction also active in the Syrian conflict. On Tuesday, 10 June also large areas of the governorate of Kirkuk fell under their control and, according to local sources, the rebels of ISIL are now stationed at the gates of the city 250km from the capital Baghdad. Meanwhile, according to information gathered by Fides, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Shamon Nona, and all the priests of the city have fled from the urban areas and found refuge in the villages of Kramles and Tilkif...
Pope denounces child labor (CNS) Pope Francis denounced those responsible for human trafficking, slave labor and arms manufacturing, saying people producing weapons of war are “merchants of death.” “One day everything comes to an end and they will be held accountable to God,” the pope said at his weekly general audience on 11 June. The pope also launched an appeal to the international community to help safeguard children from forced labor, highlighting the plight of an estimated 160 million child workers worldwide. Holding up a bright red leaflet, which had, in Italian, “All together against child labor” written on it, the pope asked the world community to help “eradicate this scourge.” The leaflet was part of the International Labor Organization’s #RedCard campaign, urging people to “blow the whistle,” like a referee on a soccer field, and give a “red card” to those exploiting children...
Summit of religious leaders calls for release of Meriam Ibrahaim (Vatican Radio) A minute’s silence for the victims of the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24 and a call for Sudan to urgently release Meriam Ibrahim the Sudanese Christian who has been condemned to death for ‘apostasy’, marked the beginning of the 10th Summit of Religious Leaders at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday...
Kerala women protest rape (IBNLive.com) The rape and hanging of two young girls at Badaun in Uttar Pradesh has failed to generate widespread protests and sympathy across India. There have been some protests and candlelight marches, but it is nothing compared to the ‘Nirbhaya’ incident of Delhi. In distant Kerala, a group of women created a furor when they stood in public, wrapped in banners with anti-rape messages on them. According to a report in ‘Global Voices’ a group of women, angry over the fact that nothing has been done yet, held a protest in Ernakulam in Kerala, covering themselves with banners that were in tri-colours symbolising the Indian flag. The ‘sthreekoottayma’ group that consisted of a small group of women arranged this protest event..
10 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ethiopia Kerala
Hilda Ajrab watches her brother, Henry, who, like her son, is a drug addict.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
In 2004, we looked at the personal, often painful war being waged on drug addiction in Palestine:
Hilda Ajrab peers warily out her front door and down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City. It is from this street — the street down which Christ carried his cross — that narcotics first entered her home and consumed her world.
Mrs. Ajrab steps back into the house, checks her watch and asks her husband, Emil, “Shouldn’t he have called by now?”
The couple are waiting for their regular Friday afternoon call from their son, Johnny, a heroin addict who is spending a year as an inpatient at a rehabilitation center.
It is the only chance they get to speak to him these days.
Johnny is one of the few addicts to have the opportunity to try to get clean in a place far away from the drug playground the Old City has become in recent years.
A study of drug abuse among Palestinians in Jerusalem has found what Mrs. Ajrab and the community at large have long known — drug abuse is rising precipitously.
While hashish has been readily available in Jerusalem’s Arab population centers since before 1980, the far more addictive heroin (here known as “coke”) has become an easily obtained drug of choice in the last 20 years.
Many blame this uptick in drug abuse on a society weakened by years of conflict with Israel.
Read more about Fighting a Modern Plague in the May-June 2004 issue of ONE.
10 June 2014
Tags: Palestine Health Care Bethlehem
Syrian children from Aleppo play in a shanty near Gaziantep, Turkey, on 25 May According to U.N. agencies, more than 40 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.4 million has been displaced by the conflict. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
Iraqi Christians on the run (Fides) Insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, conquered in the late evening of 9 June the seat of the provincial government in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The governor Athel Nujafi was able to escape before the building fell into the hands of the assailants armed with grenade launchers and machine guns mounted on all-terrain vehicles. On Monday, Governor Nujiafi, with a televised appeal, urged the people of Mosul and the province to organize themselves into self-defense groups to resist the ISIL attack. As Fides learns, the attack of Al-qaeda militants has accelerated the flight of Christian families to the villages in the Nineveh Plain, where in recent days the presence of the militia “Peshmerga” Kurds has strengthened...
Initiative urges help to save Syria’s Christians (Public Radio of Armenia) “First Christians,” a new Facebook community of faith devoted to protecting the first Christian nations, has asked all those devoted to religious freedom to join together in calling upon President Obama to bring an end to the latest wave of brutal attacks by extremist groups upon the Christian civilian population of Syria, Asbarez reports...
Ukrainian Catholic bishops thank world for prayers (CNS) Ukrainian Catholic bishops thanked people around the world for their prayers over the last six months and asked for continued prayers for peace in their country. “The dignity that Ukrainians yearn for is not first and foremost material,” said a message from the Permanent Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “They seek a God-given dignity, a respect for their very being. Their right for self-determination, territorial integrity, cultural and especially ecclesial tradition has been violated brutally in the past and is demeaned today.” The bishops described recent events in Ukraine as “truly miraculous,” noting that “transforming grace poured down upon the people of our country...”
Russian Orthodox Church backs renaming Volgograd (Ecumenical News) The Russian Orthodox Church is said to have tentatively voiced its support of a referendum suggesting the renaming of Volgograd, the Russian city formerly known as Stalingrad. A Washington Post blog on June said that the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed support for holding a referendum, but rather wishes to go back to the city’s original name Tsaritsyn, which was the city’s name since 1589 before it became Stalingrad in 1925...
Hundreds of Christians convert to Islam in Turkey (ABNA News Agency) According to the information reported in the Turkish press and from the General Secretariat of Religious Affairs in Turkey, 779 people residing in the Country have converted to Islam since the beginning of 2014. The overwhelming majority of the converts were Christians (616) while the former atheists are only 21, 3 former Hindu and those from Judaism and 132 new Muslims who previously belonged to other religions. A significant number of converts are foreigners living in Turkey, including 150 Germans and 52 Russians...
9 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Islam Russian Orthodox Church
Pope Francis looks on as Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embrace during an invocation for peace in the Vatican Gardens on 8 June.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
9 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine Israel
In the video above, Pope Francis prays with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican on 8 June. (video: from CNS)
Pope: only God can bring peace to the Holy Land (CNS) Praying for peace in the Holy Land alongside leaders of long-antagonistic nations, Pope Francis called on God to act where human efforts had failed, to end what he described as violence inspired by the devil. “More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” the pope said June 8 at an evening ceremony in the Vatican Gardens. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.” The pope addressed his remarks to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an “invocation for peace” in the Holy Land, to which he had invited them during his visit to the region two weeks earlier...
Text: Pope Francis’s remarks at the “invocation for peace” (Vatican Radio) Your presence, dear Presidents, is a great sign of brotherhood which you offer as children of Abraham. It is also a concrete expression of trust in God, the Lord of history, who today looks upon all of us as brothers and who desires to guide us in his ways. This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions: they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication. It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies...
The “Francis Doctrine” puts the Vatican on the world stage (RNS) The Israeli-Palestinian prayer summit is drawing particular attention because it comes as traditional diplomatic efforts in the region have once again stalled. It also follows on the heels of Francis’ three-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land, where he spoke forcefully on behalf of peace, and often matched his words with bold actions. That approach raised both hopes and the Vatican’s profile, and it’s the formula Francis has used since he was elected in March last year: repeatedly calling for reconciliation in global hot zones like South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and Latin America, and dispatching emissaries or launching initiatives when he can. Francis has been especially engaged in the intractable Syria conflict, organizing a fast and a public prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square last year and insisting that the Holy See be present at peace talks in Switzerland this year. “Francis is not resigned to a passive vision of world affairs,” Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organization active in conflict resolution and peace brokering, said last summer. “We must prepare for a new age of political audacity for the Holy See...”
Orthodox-Catholic group urges Vatican to lift ban on ordination of married priests (USCCB) The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation voted in early June to encourage the “lifting of the restrictions regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches of North America.” “This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition, and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two Churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned,” the consultation said in a statement released on 6 June. “We are convinced that this action would enhance the spiritual lives of Eastern Catholics and would encourage the restoration of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians,” the statement said...
Syria’s president issues amnesty for prisoners (AP) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared a general amnesty Monday for prisoners in the country, state media reported. It was not clear how many — if any — prisoners would be freed after the presidential decree, issued just five days after al-Assad had won a third, seven-year term in office amid the three-year-old civil war in his country...
Eritrean bishops describe life in the country (BBC) Four Eritrean Catholic bishops have published a letter criticizing life in the country — a rare move in one of the world’s most tightly controlled states. Although they were careful not to condemn the government directly, correspondents say the letter-writers are taking a huge risk. The bishops describe the country as “desolate” because so many people had fled or were in prison or the army...
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Palestine Israel Vatican