12 December 2018
In this image from January, Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, at the cathedral in Lima, Peru. Cardinal Parolin this week said the Global Compact on human rights affirms that migration should never be an act of desperation.
(photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)
Cardinal highlights migration as he marks human rights declaration (Vatican News) Marking 70 years of this human rights document, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, gave an address with the issue of migration at its core saying, “the Global Compact affirms that migration should never be an act of desperation. In many countries of origin, however, individuals feel forced to flee whether due to conflict, violence, environmental degradation, human rights violations, or the inability to secure a dignified life for one’s family…”
New law provides relief for victims of genocide in Iraq, Syria (CNS) President Donald Trump has signed into law the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018, which will provide humanitarian relief to genocide victims in Iraq and Syria and hold accountable Islamic State perpetrators of genocide. ”The legislation signed today again reminds us of America’s earlier efforts to aid victims of genocide — Christian communities targeted by Ottomans a century ago and Jewish survivors of Shoah,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement…
UN says 250,000 refugees could return to Syria in 2019 (Al Jazeera) As many as 250,000 Syrian refugees could return to their homeland in 2019 despite massive hurdles facing them, the United Nations refugee agency said. Some 5.6 million Syrian refugees remain in neighbouring countries, namely Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, Amin Awad, UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday…
Jerusalem planning committee refuses to discuss permit for mixed-gender prayer site (Haaretz) Jerusalem’s local planning and building committee refused to discuss a building permit for expanding the mixed-gender prayer area in the Western Wall, saying it is “a highly sensitive site.” The mixed prayer area is meant to resolve a dispute with Jewish diaspora and non-Orthodox Jews to allow men and women to pray together and not under ultra-Orthodox rules at Judaism’s second holiest site…
Is the church getting lost in India’s ‘smart cities’? (UCANews.com) If economic relationships in the past were marked by the exploitation of the poor, today a vast number of people find themselves largely irrelevant in the grander scheme of things. The cathedral or basilica was once considered the chief meeting place for the urban Catholic elite. Well-heeled non-Christians benefited from the services the church offered in terms of education and healthcare. But these services are becoming more and more irrelevant to the aspirational urban elite…
10 December 2018
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Migrants
The CNEWA team visited St. Lawrence Martyr Parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Last weekend, our little CNEWA team hit the road once again, this time heading to Hanover, Maryland in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. There, we spent time at St. Lawrence Martyr Parish, where I had the privilege of preaching at all the Masses and sharing the story of CNEWA’s work in the Middle East, particularly among refugees and those who have faced religious persecution.
The parish is staffed by the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, or Trinitarians — a group of priests and brothers founded by St. John de Matha. They trace their roots all the way back to the 12th century. The order has a special charism to the imprisoned — especially those imprisoned for their faith — and the parish in Maryland has a lay ministry devoted to this, known as SIT:
In 1999, the Trinitarian Order established an organization within their order called SIT (Solidaridad Internacional Trinitaria or Trinitarian International Solidarity) that focuses on our fellow Christians who suffer persecution because of their commitment to Christ and His Church. In October 2015, we started SIT St. Lawrence at the parish level to try and bring awareness and assistance to the persecuted Christians around the world.
It was this group, under the leadership of parishioner Matt Behum, that welcomed us to the parish and gave us the opportunity to share our story at the Masses.
Matt Behum, center, welcomed Chris Kennedy (l) and Deacon Greg Kandra (r) to the parish.
Deacon Greg preached at all the Masses over the weekend and shared stories about CNEWA's work among persecuted Christians. (photo: CNEWA)
The people in the pews were eager to learn more and my colleague, development associate Chris Kennedy, was only too happy to share information, literature and copies of our award-winning magazine, ONE.
CNEWA's Chris Kennedy greeted parishioners after the Masses. (photo: CNEWA)
It was a wonderful weekend. We’re grateful to the faith community at St. Lawrence for their warn welcome. We want to thank in particular the Trinitarians— the Rev. Binoy Akkalayil, O.SS.T. and the pastor, the Rev. Victor Scocco, O.SS.T.—for their generous hospitality and fellowship.
Father Binoy, Deacon Greg, Chris Kennedy and Father Victor. (photo: CNEWA)
During this season of Advent, it was especially meaningful to speak about bringing the light of Christ into the world through our mission and our ministry, and to remind people of the ongoing suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters around the world. We continue to lift them up in prayer.
We’re always eager to spread the word about CNEWA’s work and let others know how they can make a difference. If you would like us to visit your parish or group, please drop Chris Kennedy a line: email@example.com.
St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Maryland. (photo: CNEWA)
10 December 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq ISIS Persecution
Pope Francis greets a child as he visits poor, sick people at a center run by the CasAmica Onlus organization on the outskirts of Rome on 7 December. The pope in a message for Human Right Day urged everyone to place human dignity at the heart of all policies. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope marks Human Rights Day (Vatican News) Marking Human Rights Day, Pope Francis makes an appeal in a message to an International Conference on Human Rights, urging everyone to place human rights at the heart of all policies…
Caritas releases message for Advent to ’share the journey’ with migrants (Vatican News) Caritas Internationalis is urging the people of the world ahead of Christmas to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees and expand the horizons of their hearts by organizing a short pilgrimage with the migrants and refugees in their community to learn more about one another and forge bonds of hope. “It is how we live out our journeys and how we treat the people we meet that has the potential to transform our world,” said Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in an Advent message…
Ukrainian Navy commander dismisses Russia’s charge of provocation (Al Jazeera) Ukrainian Navy commander Admiral Ihor Voronchenko says Russia has no right to put the 24 captured sailors on trial as they were “prisoners of war, not some criminals involved in contraband or illegal fishing”. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Voronchenko said he had no doubt that Russia was behind the attack on three of his boats, saying, “I confirm with authority ... we are sure the tactical decisions were not being taken by the commanders of the Russian ships”…
Algerian martyrs bear witness to dialogue and coexistence, pope says (CNS) The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God’s plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said. In a message read 8 December at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs’ commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war…
Bishop Hinder: pope’s visit to UAE will be an opportunity for dialogue, peace (Vatican News) In an open letter, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia (UAE, Oman, and Yemen), Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap, commented on the announcement of the upcoming papal visit. ”We welcome Pope Francis with open hearts”, he writes, “and we pray with the words of St Francis of Assisi, which have been chosen as the theme of the visit: ‘Make me an instrument of your peace’”…
International airport opens in Kerala (Economic Times) Kerala has become the first state in the country to have four international airports with the inauguration of the Kannur airport on Sunday…
7 December 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Kerala Muslim Migrants
In this image from 2014, 80-year-old Marjik Harutyunyan was one of those struggling to get by, decades after the earthquake that devastated Armenia. To this day, countless others like her are still living in makeshift shacks erected in the aftermath of the quake. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
It was 30 years ago today that Armenia was hit by a catastrophic event — and the country’s people are still feeling the emotional and economic aftershocks:
Armenia’s second-largest city, Gyumri was flattened by a devastating earthquake in December 1988, taking the lives of 25,000 people, about 40 percent of whom were children. In the Western media, photographs of the ruined city — then known as Leninakan — became a source of humiliation for a crumbling Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; the quality of construction was so poor almost every building erected in Gyumri in the Soviet period was destroyed. A quarter century later, the city and its environs are shaken by a “different kind of quake.”
“This is an earthquake of life, of terrible social hardship and of moral values,” says Vahan Tumasian, who advocates for earthquake survivors’ housing rights and implements housing programs in northwestern Armenia. Even 25 years after the calamity, he adds, “poverty and homelessness are even more acute.”
…Since the earthquake, the population of Gyumri has dropped by about half. In 1988, some 220,000 people lived in the city. But by 2011 — due to the earthquake and the country’s economic collapse after it achieved independence from an unraveling Soviet Union — Gyumri’s population declined to 121,500. Many are convinced the actual number of people living in the city is less than 90,000.
According to the United Nations, Armenia is among the world’s “aging” nations. Pensioners constitute some 14 percent of the country’s 2.9 million people. In Gyumri, the average age is trending upward as more and more of the young and capable pursue employment abroad, usually Russia.
“Imagine how things stand with the frail elderly if men leave their children to go find jobs to earn their living, if unemployment is 40 percent in the city during the summer, and rises to 60 percent in the winter due to fewer seasonal jobs,” says Sister Arousiag Sajonian of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
“If the young cannot survive, how can seniors?” asks Sister Arousiag, who arrived in northwestern Armenia soon after the earthquake. She later founded the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center in Gyumri, which since 2011 has also included a center to care for the elderly.
Observers say pensioners in northern Armenia are left alone with no caretakers for a variety of reasons. Some may have lost their children in the earthquake. Others lost their children to emigration. But alone in Gyumri exists the phenomenon of orphaned children brought by the Soviets to work in factories — orphans such as Ophelia Matevosian — who never married or created families and remain alone.
Though two of these factors find their roots in the past, one remains an ongoing concern.
“The growing migration of the young is aggravating the issue with pensioners,” says Theresa Grigorian, who heads the social affairs department of Gyumri’s municipal government. She says thousands of childless seniors now live in Gyumri, the majority of whom were orphans themselves. Between 300 and 400 have lost their children in the earthquake and more than 2,500 are now left without a caretaker because of the emigration of their surviving children.
CNEWA has been at the forefront of efforts to assist these broken men and women and give them a sense of possibility and hope.
CNEWA supports a variety of initiatives of Caritas Armenia, the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and the Ordinariate for Armenian Catholics in Armenia. Among efforts to care for the elderly, CNEWA supports the “Warm Winter” program of Caritas, which provides heating fuel to 620 pensioners living in Gyumri and in remote villages farther north, where temperatures can dip as low as 20 degrees below zero.
Read more about the remarkable spirit of these people who have survived so much and CNEWA’s work among them below. And to support efforts to give them dignity and hope, visit this link. Meantime, please lift up these people in your prayers and remember them in a special way, especially during this cold and difficult time of year.
An Unshakable Faith
Armenia’s Children, Left Behind
Shaken by the Earthquake of Life
7 December 2018
CNEWA will be visiting St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Md. this weekend.
CNEWA is heading to scenic Maryland this weekend (my home state!) where I’ll be preaching at all the Masses about CNEWA’s work. We'll be at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Maryland in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I’ll be traveling with my colleague Christopher Kennedy from our development department.
Can’t make it Sunday? We’ll be giving a special presentation about CNEWA after the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday.
It’s a great privilege to be able to share our story — particularly during this beautiful time of year, Advent, when our hearts are anticipating the joy of Christmas and are uplifted by the hope of Christ’s coming.
I had a chance to talk about that and more with Christopher Gunty, editor of Baltimore’s Catholic Review, on the archdiocese’s radio program Catholic Baltimore. You can give a listen to that right here.
We love visiting churches or groups around the country to speak about our mission. Can we pay you a visit? Just drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meantime, see you in Maryland!
7 December 2018
The EU has expressed serious concerns about the situation between Ukraine and Russia, with martial law in Ukraine heightening the tensions. (video: EuroNews/YouTube)
Ukraine’s martial law brings unease (NBC News) Larysa Spitsyna was shocked and confused when she learned her city would be placed under martial law. ”As a psychologist, I know that the main thing that is disturbing to us is uncertainty,” said Spitsyna, 54, who teaches at a local university. It was precisely such a feeling that swept thorough Zaporizhzhia last week. The city is in one of the regions where martial law was imposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — a response to Russian ships ramming, shooting and then seizing three naval vessels in the Black Sea…
Ukrainian police search homes of Russian Orthodox priests (AP) Ukrainian police searched the homes of Russian Orthodox priests and Russian Orthodox churches in several cities Monday, stepping up pressure as Kiev pushes for the creation of an independent Ukrainian church. The eight searches in Ukraine’s capital and the nearby Zhytomyr region were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence, according to a police statement…
A thousand Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon (The Daily Star) Groups of Syrian refugees started to arrive back in their home country after leaving Lebanon early Thursday morning, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported. The returnees were met by medical and assistance teams in Syria’s Dabousieh opposite the Abboudieh border crossing, in Jdeidet Yabous opposite the Masnaa border crossing as well as opposite the Al-Zamarani border crossing, the agency said…
Indian state’s move on tribal people vexes church leaders (UCANews.com) Catholic tribal leaders in India are worried over a move by Jharkhand’s government to take away tribal status from people who have left their traditional Sarna religion to join other faiths. The eastern state’s move will deprive thousands of tribal people of social benefits meant for their advancement. ”It is a deliberate attempt to divide tribal people on grounds of religion ahead of the state and national elections next year,” said Bishop Vincent Barwa of Simdega, who is based in a tribal Christian stronghold…
Ancient synagogue reopens in Kerala (NDTV) An 818-year-old Kadavumbagam synagogue in Kerala, which was closed for worship since 1972, reopened on Thursday. The synagogue, located on Market Road in Ernakulam, was reopened on its anniversary. On the occasion, the Sefer Torah, which is a handwritten copy of the Torah (holy scripture), was brought from Israel and kept in the renovated synagogue…
6 December 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Russian Orthodox
People in Byblos, Lebanon, gather around a Christmas tree on 30 November.
(photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)
6 December 2018
In this image from 2016, Pope Francis shakes hands with Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi during a private audience at the Vatican. The pope will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula.
(photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)
Francis to become first pope to visit Arabian Peninsula (CNS) Pope Francis will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the Vatican announced. In a 6 December statement, the Vatican said the pope will “participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on ‘Human Fraternity’“ after receiving an invitation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi…
U.S. makes plans to sail warship into Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions (CNN) The US has begun making the necessary preparations to sail a warship into the Black Sea, a move that comes amid heightened tensions in the region following Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships and detention of Ukrainian sailors. The US military has requested that the State Department notify Turkey of its possible plans to sail a warship into the Black Sea, three US officials tell CNN, a move they said is a response to Russia’s actions against Ukraine in the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov…
Tailoring a future in Jordan (Norwegian Refugee Council) Anas from Syria is one of many who graduated from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) vocational training centre in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp this year. Today, several organizations request the products that the certified tailor and his colleagues produce in the camp…
Dalits march through New Delhi (UCANews.com) Beating their drums, some 200 socially poor Dalit people marched through the streets of Indian capital New Delhi on 4 December in a novel form of protest to demand that they be given social benefits denied to them because of their Christian faith. Participants in the “the drum, dance, demonstration” played their drums near parliament to demand that the government withdraw a 1950 presidential order that said only Dalits of Hindu religion should be given social security benefits meant for Dalit people’s advancement…
In Ethiopia, visual storytelling from a deeper perspective (The New York Times) Aida Muluneh was a middle school student in Canada when local newspapers and magazines started running dramatic images of starving children in Ethiopia. The photos struck her as odd. She was born in Ethiopia, and the pictures were nothing like the memories she had of the country she left when she was 5. They also didn’t match the stories her mother told her of life there. ”This is not to say the famine didn’t happen, but there are so many different stories in Ethiopia — it’s not just the story of famine or the priest with the cross,” Ms. Muluneh said. “There’s so many things that have yet to be documented…”
5 December 2018
Tags: India Pope Francis Ethiopia Dalits Abu Dhabi
In the video above, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko offers his views about the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine. (video: Bloomberg/YouTube.)
Ukraine council to meet to form independent church (Reuters) A Ukrainian church council will meet on 15 December in order to create an independent Orthodox church and elect its leader, President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday. Under Poroshenko’s presidency, Ukraine has pushed to establish a national church and thereby sever centuries-old ties with the Russian clergy. The Kiev authorities say the step is essential to tackling Russian meddling on its soil…
Pope appoints new archbishop in Nagpur, India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday appointed a bishop in the Indian Archdiocese of Nagpur. The Pope transferred Bishop Elias Joseph Gonsalves of Amravati to Nagpur Archdiocese, both in Maharashtra state. The See of Nagpur has been vacant following the death of Archbishop Abrahan Viruthakulangara on 19 April 2018…
'Peace is everything': Ethiopia and Eritrea embrace open borders (NPR)Almost everywhere you go in Zalambessa, a town on Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, there are reminders of war: buildings in rubble, walls riddled with bullet holes and a border still delineated by two rows of trenches. But now, dramatic change is underway…
Egypt’s Pope Tawadros discusses status of copts, regional politics, reforms (Arab News) The pope describes events in Syria and Iraq, with the rise of Daesh, as “very painful,” and points out that Christians who had to flee and seek asylum abroad were among the most affected. However, his concerns extend beyond the plight of Christians alone, and he argues that a “weakening of Arab countries” means “the weakening of Arabs as a whole … Christians and Muslims alike…”
Beirut’s refugee artists (Al Jazeera) The ongoing conflict in Syria has forced not only Syrians, but Iraqis and Palestinian refugees out of the country and into Lebanon in search of safety. Sitting in a Beirut cafe, Syrian screenwriter Najeeb Nseir is unable to accept being labelled a refugee. ”I tell people I’m a tourist,” he says...
4 December 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Ethiopia Indian Bishops
Ukrainian soldiers ride atop armored vehicles during military exercises on 3 December near Honcharivske. Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a "right and sacred duty" to defend themselves against "Russian aggression," but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic.
(photo: CNS/Valentyn Ogirenko Shevchuk, Reuters)
Bishops: Ukrainians have ‘sacred duty’ to defend against Russian aggression (CNS) In a message marking the anniversary of their country’s December 1991 referendum on independence from the Soviet Union, Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a “right and sacred duty” to defend themselves against “Russian aggression,” but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic…
Two refugees dead after fire rips through tents in Lebanon (AFP) A fire ripped through a refugee settlement in Baalbeck’s Yammouneh Monday, killing two Syrians, including a boy, and burning nearly two dozen tents, a local official said. An electric spark first ignited the fire in one of the tents, and winds caused the blaze to spread to around 25 others, a local source told The Daily Star, adding that Civil Defense units later fully extinguished the fire…
American-style holiday cheer comes to Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) The hoopla, billed as “Together: Marching with World Jewry,” was the initiative of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and was designed to celebrate Hanukkah and demonstrate unity between Israelis and Diaspora Jewry…
Bakers from Baghdad who fled violence pursue a sweet dream (The New York Times) The marriage of Nael and Manar al-Najjar was forged in sugar. Mr. Najjar grew up working in his family’s Baghdad sweet shop. When he proposed, three months after meeting his future wife at a family wedding, he traveled six hours to her hometown, carrying 15 boxes of confections: baklava, kenafeh and Turkish delights. The couple settled in Baghdad, opened a bakery and started a family. As Catholics, though, they faced discrimination and threats of violence. When those threats turned deadly, they fled and sought asylum in America…
Searching for the real Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia (National Geographic) The Queen of Sheba is the Greta Garbo of antiquity. A glamorous, mysterious figure immortalized in the Bible and the Quran, celebrated in an oratorio by Handel, an opera by Charles Gounod, a ballet by Ottorino Respighi, and depicted in paintings by Raphael, Tintoretto, and Claude Lorrain, she remains tantalizingly elusive to the inquiries of historians. Across swaths of modern-day North Africa her legend lives on, despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that no one knows for sure if she existed, or if she did, where she lived…
Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Ethiopia Jerusalem Jews