23 June 2014
Palestinian refugee Mohamad Yaser, 6, from the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, West Bank, plays music with the "Sounds of Palestine" program at the Bethlehem Live festival on Star Street on 20 June. The festival brings attention to the neglected street and raises awareness about its needs in the municipality. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Residents of Bethlehem gathered to make a little noise — and get some attention — last week.
Sitting outside their childhood home on Star Street, three sisters and their cousin chatted as they watched a small parade of children dance past, following a variety of clowns and jugglers and two giant dancing puppets.
An actor dressed as a caveman, hunched over and stomped through the crowd while clutching a walking staff in one hand and a stone in another; he brought smiles to some faces and sent even some of the older boys scurrying with fright.
Along the side of the stone road, vendors sold traditional olive wood crafts, homemade Palestinian delicacies, thin traditional shrak bread, protest posters, clothes, designer jewelry and the prerequisite popcorn, hot dogs and ice cream.
“When we were young, this street was always full and lively. Children were in the streets. There were shops and offices here,” recalled Marlene, 60, one of the three Catholic women who asked that their last name not be used. Antoinette, 77, the oldest and unmarried sister, still lives in the house where they grew up. “But since the intifada, everything closed. Now usually the street is always empty. Seeing all these people here reminds us of the good days.”
Though on the face the Bethlehem Live Festival is a cheerful street festival — originally intended to bring attention to the neglected street and raise awareness about its needs — it also focuses on faith, justice and culture, said Elias D'eis, project manager for the festival.
Workshops and panels such as nonviolence and nonlinear leadership were part of the festival schedule. An art gallery exhibited works by local artists, and an open-mic cafe allowed young local artists and performers to be seen and heard. Eight international bands were to perform on nights of the festival.
D’eis said Bethlehem Live aims to empower local small nongovernmental organizations, artists, youth and community committees to take action in defining their future and addressing some topics that affect them daily but also relate to the global community. The project was initiated in 2013 by the Holy Land Trust, a nonprofit peacebuilding organization in Bethlehem.
There are more than 128 closed shops on Star Street because tourists are not coming here,” D’eis said. “Our responsibility as a community organization is to work for the future, to help the community remember this is their city and to show them their social responsibility.”
16 June 2014
In this image from 2004, Sister Nahla tends to a patient at the Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital
in Mosul. (photo: Philip Toscano-Heighton)
Mosul’s remaining Christians have cleared out, according to news reports, but CNEWA’s partners on the ground, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, are staying put.
The sisters, who run our maternity clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, and whose various apostolates are supported thanks to our generous benefactors, are safe for now.
A report last week noted:
Following the takeover of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by Islamic extremists this week, an estimated 500,000 civilians poured out of the city, fleeing bullets and burning wreckage. Yet, in all the chaos, one group remains resolute in its determination to stay in Mosul: the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, a congregation of Iraqi sisters that has witnessed generation upon generation of war and carnage.
Sr. Donna Markham, former prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, spoke with the sisters in Mosul by phone three days after the extremist group ISIS, also known as ISIL, took the city. They told her the militants had left and were marching toward Baghdad, which they had promised to take next.
Still, the sisters are far from safe. In addition to reports that there is no electricity in post-siege Mosul and that water supplies are low, the sisters also face the burden of living in a region that has become increasingly hostile to Christians.
In 2004, we profiled these committed and courageous sisters, as they endured the US-led invasion and its aftermath:
As war approached last spring most Iraqis sealed their windows and stored food and water.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena also made special housing arrangements and collected necessities, but not for themselves.
As they had done 12 years earlier, the sisters prepared a safety net for the people of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and surrounding villages, many of whom are still suffering from the fallout of the second war between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the United States.
Before the fighting began, the sisters went door-to-door collecting food, which they stored and then distributed during the war to those who came to the convent looking for help. They also distributed food and medicine purchased with help from CNEWA.
The sisters offered refuge to all in village churches, particularly in Kerakush. There, Christians and Muslims slept together as bombs pounded nearby Mosul for several nights in a row, said Sister Shirine Hanoush from the motherhouse in Mosul, where she has served as a sister for 40 years.
“Christian and Muslim families would share the same space. Everyone would pray together,” she said. People came from all over the country, knowing the northern villages were safer than the cities. “This was a very challenging experience for the sisters,” said Sister Shirine, “but it has made us more devoted to our work and faith.”
To read more, check out In the Shadow of War from the January 2004 issue of ONE.
And to help the sisters in their work, and support Iraqis in this hour of need, visit this page.
16 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Dominican Sisters
An Iraqi refugee carries a mattress at a camp near the northern city of Irbil on 12 June. Hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes in Mosul are left without access to aid, officials said. Christians from the city say they were targeted long before Iraqi security forces abandoned the major political and economic hub. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)
Pope asks for payers for Iraq (Vatican Radio) “I invite all of you to unite yourselves with my prayer for the dear Iraqi nation, especially for the victims and for those who most suffer the consequences of the growing violence, in particular the many persons, among whom are so many Christians, who have had to leave their homes.” Pope Francis made an appeal for prayers for Iraq on Sunday at his weekly Angelus address. “I am following with lively concern the events of these last days in Iraq,” the Pope said...
Chaldean patriarch calls for fasting and prayer for Iraq (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, with a widespread appeal on Sunday 15 June, called on all Chaldean communities in Iraq and the world to “dedicate next Wednesday 18 June to fasting and prayer for the restoration of security and stability in Iraq. “Fasting and Prayer” — reads the statement released to promote the initiative — “are capable to change the hearts of people and encourage them towards dialogue and respecting each other through the blessing of God”...
Bombs kill nearly 30 in Aleppo (AFP) Syrian regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs Monday on opposition-held districts in the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 30 people including several children, an activist group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a number of people were injured, some of them seriously, in the attacks on the Sukkari and Ashrafiyeh neighborhoods....
Russian Orthodox church to rise in Paris (Bloomberg News) A stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower and Paris’s famed Alexandre III bridge, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is putting his mark on the French capital. Construction of a new Russian Orthodox church with five golden domes in central Paris gets under way in the next few weeks, with U.S. and European efforts to slam Putin’s Russia for its incursions into Ukraine doing little to halt its progress. The yet-to-be-named church is being built on a plot of land sold in 2010 to Russia by the French state for 73 million euros ($99 million). The deal was sealed by Former President Nicolas Sarkozy. His successor Francois Hollande’s government says it’s “determined” to see the monument erected...
13 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Russia Russian Orthodox
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.
Tags: Palestine Health Care Bethlehem