3 October 2017
Slewa Shamoon Aba displays a broken crucifix in the garden of his home. With the exit of ISIS, many Iraqi Christians are returning to their homes and villages and trying to rebuild.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the September 2017 edition of ONE, photojournalist Raed Rafei visits once-displaced Iraq Christians who are returning to home and having to make some Hard Choices:
Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qaraqosh served as a commercial hub for the entire region of the Nineveh Plain. Since the landmines were cleared and the area was declared safe in April, some 500 families have returned — a fraction of the pre-war population of 50,000.
Yet the simple fact that they are here tells a story of resilience, determination and faith.
In a once-bustling commercial neighborhood known simply as Al Souk (Arabic for “market”), locals have begun the mammoth task of clearing away rubble. With a shovel in hand and a black hat, Bahnam Matti, 72, removes detritus from what had been a clothes shop, now desolate with large holes in the ceiling. Every now and then, he pauses to wipe the sweat off his face with a pink towel placed on his shoulder.
Across the street, a woman in a bright red and blue dress sprays water from a hose on the entrance of her scorched restaurant. Others paint walls or cut wood panels, undaunted by the scale of destruction — scores of collapsed rooftops, smashed storefronts and hills of accumulated debris.
...Despite some shy rebuilding efforts by churches and homeowners, the estimated $70 million needed for the overall reconstruction of Qaraqosh still looms large. Several organizations have pledged to help with large finances, but substantial aid has not materialized yet.
The condition of Qaraqosh is not very different from that of most Christian towns in the Nineveh Plain, which typically report damage to 30 to 40 percent of structures — houses, schools, public institutions, churches, monasteries and hospitals alike.
But some towns, such as Batnaya, have been rendered completely uninhabitable, reporting 85 percent of buildings demolished under heavy aerial bombardment
Read more — and check out the video below.
3 October 2017
ISIS claims responsibility for deadly suicide attack in Syria (AP) The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a pair of suicide bombings in the Syrian capital that killed 17 civilians and policemen the previous day. In Monday’s bombings, two men attacked a police station in the al-Midan neighborhood with several bombs, before one of them blew himself up, according to Syria’s interior minister, Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Shaar. He said the other bomber made it inside the compound, where police killed him, causing his bomb to explode...
Kurdistan plans elections next month (Reuters) Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region is calling presidential and parliamentary elections for 1 November, the Erbil-based Rudaw TV said on Tuesday, as the Kurdish leadership cements its case for independence...
Catholics mark Gandhi’s birthday in India (UCANews.com) Some 500 people — Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians — marched with lit candles through Bhopal in India on 2 October to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the Indian nation, stressing his ideals of non-violence. Bhopal Archdiocese, based in the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, organized the march that culminated in an inter-religious prayer gathering. The event marked the 148th birth anniversary of Gandhi, who led India’s struggle for freedom from British rule while advocating non-violent methods. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal who addressed the prayer gathering said the program was part of the church’s efforts to promote “inter-religious harmony and peace” in the state...
Russian Orthodox church takes aim at film about Tsar’s affair (Hollywood Reporter) Hundreds of billboards affirming the tsar’s love for his empress have been welcomed by director of controversial film ‘Matilda.’ In the latest salvo in a dispute over a Russian film about the last tsar’s affair with a ballerina, the Russian Orthodox Church has put up 300 billboards in Moscow displaying what it called “words about love” exchanged between the tsar and his wife...
2 October 2017
Tags: India Iraq Russian Orthodox ISIS
Students at the Father Roberts Institute in Lebanon study ecology in a greenhouse area. Learn how the church is serving these young people and others by Reaching the Margins in the
September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
2 October 2017
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, prays that a young refugee he met in Greece has found someone willing to “share the journey” with him. A leading Vatican official on Monday declared that immigration and health care are pro-life issues.
Archbishop: Immigration, health care are pro-life issues (CNS) Pro-life issues cannot be restricted solely to bioethical concerns but must encompass a broader definition that defends life in every aspect, said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Speaking to journalists at the Vatican press office on 2 October, Archbishop Paglia said that to be pro-life, Christians must “rethink the semantic value of the word, ‘life’ and not just in a reduced way...”
Coordinated bombing strikes Damascus (Al Jazeera) More than 10 people have been killed in an apparently coordinated bombing in Syria’s capital Damascus, according to several sources. A car bomb went off near a police station in Damascus’s al-Midan neighborhood on Monday, shortly before two suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. The 11 dead included police officers and civilians, the SOHR said, adding that the attack also caused injuries...
Russian border guard killed in shootout near Ukraine border (Voice of America) Russia’s top domestic security agency says one Russian border guard has been killed in a shootout with two men who tried to cross into Ukraine. The FSB said in a statement Monday the two men on Saturday opened fire when the officer who approached them in a Russian village that borders northeast Ukraine. One of the men blew himself up and the other was detained. The border guard died of gunshot wounds...
Church of the Holy Sepulchre suffers roof collapse (Newsweek) Part of the of the roof of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre collapsed Friday as hundreds of worshipers visited the site. The church, one of the holiest locations in the Christian faith, had to be closed in the wake of the collapse while officials made sure it was safe for the congregation to return...
Palestinian prime minister visits Gaza (The Washington Post) The Palestinian prime minister arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday for the first time in years as part of a new attempt to reconcile with the militant group Hamas after a decade-long split...
22 September 2017
Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees Jerusalem Russia
Students join hands to perform the dabke, a folk dance native to the Levant, at the Father Roberts Institute for Deaf Children north of Beirut. Check out the September 2017 edition of ONE to learn how CNEWA is Reaching the Margins and helping those most in need in Lebanon. (photo: Don Duncan)
22 September 2017
Tags: Lebanon Education Disabilities Caring for the Elderly
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, shown in a 2014 file photo, addressed Catholic leaders in India and spoke of the persecution Christians are facing around the world. (photo: CNS/Tyler Osburn)
Patriarch: Christians facing attacks (The Hindu) The West and East Asian countries have been witnessing selective gory attacks and massacres of Christians, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III has said. The patriarch was addressing a gathering at the 87th anniversary of the reunion of the Syro-Malankara Church at Mar Ivanios Nagar (Green Valley Convention Centre) at Adoor on Wednesday…
Civilians evacuate eastern Syria (Reuters) Hundreds of civilians left a besieged ISIS enclave in central Syria after the Syrian government and ISIS reached an evacuation deal, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday…
Mosul’s children return to school (ABC News) Since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Mosul in July, a sense of normalcy has returned. In West Mosul, 110 schools have reopened to welcome nearly 81,000 children, about 36,000 of them girls, Laila Ali, a media officer with UNICEF in Iraq, told ABC News…
Ethiopia: 55,000 displaced over ethnic clashes (AP) More than 55,000 ethnic Oromos have been displaced from Ethiopia’s Somali region after a week of clashes with Somalis in which dozens were killed, the regional government of Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region said…
Trump’s call for refugee resettlement causes stir in Lebanon (The National) Lebanon’s politicians have been quick to respond to Donald Trump’s comments at the U.N. General Assembly that the United States would “seek to host refugees as close to their home country as possible.” The issue is a sensitive one for Lebanon, where as many as 1.5 million Syrian refugees have fled since civil war broke out in their country in 2011. Lebanon now hosts more refugees per capita than any other country, and ranks third in the world for overall number of refugees…
21 September 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Ethiopia
Syrian Christians celebrate the Divine Liturgy at Jesus the King Chaldean Catholic Church in Hassake, in late May. (photo: Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas)
The new edition of ONE features a Letter From Syria by the Rev. Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas, a priest of the Chaldean Church. He describes the challenges his people are facing today — and the deep faith that sustains them:
I have vowed to stay with my parish and those displaced from other areas. I have struggled. However, with the support of the patriarch and my bishop, Antoine Audo, S.J., of Aleppo, who has helped provide material, medical and humanitarian support, we are helping to provide, as much as possible, the basic needs for the displaced Christian families remaining in our part of Syria.
Beyond those necessities of food, health care and shelter, our presence as priests and religious helps give hope to the people of God, where it is lacking. As shepherds — men and women who have left everything and followed Christ — our faith and trust in Christ binds us to the people. We have reopened education centers and provided recreational and pastoral activities for children in the summer.
We are still here.
Jesus Christ remains our inspiration. We are strengthened by his grace. Despite the circumstances, we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, honor the Virgin Mary and pray to Christ, asking for peace from the King of Peace. As a priest, I have given my life to serve the Lord and his people. Some have become martyrs in order to free their homeland. Yet, we continue to live in hope. As Jesus Christ said: “Take courage, I have overcome the world.”
Read more and see more images in the September 2017 edition of ONE.
21 September 2017
Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine (right) surveys the damage from yesterday’s attack by vandals on St. Stephen Church outside Jerusalem.
(photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
Vandals desecrate church near Jerusalem (Latin Patriarchate) On Wednesday, 20 September 2017, vandals have broken into and desecrated St. Stephen Church in Beit Gemal, near Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. The perpetrators smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary and the stained-glass windows depicting important passages in the life of Jesus. Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine, who visited the Church this morning, said that “this is not only an act of vandalism but an action against the sacredness of the holy places and the faith of people...”
‘Anti-conversion’ laws in India giving rise to conflict (Fides) “Anti-conversion” laws, which are instruments to restrict religious freedom, continue to exacerbate and polarize Indian society, says Jesuit Father Michael Kerketta, Indian theologian and professor in Ranchi, capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand, northern India...
Explosion injures pilgrims at Rosh Hashanah celebration in Ukraine (Radio Free Europe) A celebration of Rosh Hashanah in the central Ukrainian city of Uman has been marred by an explosion that authorities say lightly injured two Israeli pilgrims. Ukraine’s National Police said that an unidentified explosive device went off early in the morning on 21 September in a garage near the site where pilgrims are celebrating the Jewish New Year...
Egypt hands down death sentences to ISIS militants who beheaded Copts in Libya (AFP) An Egyptian court Saturday condemned to death seven people for membership of the Islamic State group and over the beheading in Libya of 21 Christians, all but one of them from Egypt, judicial officials said. ISIS in Libya posted a video on the internet in February 2015 of the gruesome beheadings on a Libyan beach, sparking international condemnation and Egyptian air strikes against jihadist targets in the neighboring Arab state...
20 September 2017
In this image from March, a member of the Jordanian armed forces carries a toddler from the Rukban refugee camp to a nearby medical clinic operated by the UN. Reports indicate many displaced Syrians in the camp are stranded there, unable to return home.
(photo: Khalil Mazraawi/Getty Images)
Christian community in India threatened (Vatican Radio) A tiny Christian community in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state is being threatened by a right-wing Hindu nationalist group to flee the village or face dire consequences, the local bishop told Vatican Radio. Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabar diocese of Sagar, who was visiting his Catholics in Mohanpur village in Guna district on Wednesday told Vatican Radio that the situation there was “very serious...”
The desperation of Syria’s displaced civilians (The Nation) Displaced Syrians are trapped as never before. Those in the desolate encampment in Rukban, on Jordan’s remote northeastern border (known as “the berm”), are a microcosm of Syria’s stranded civilians. They face an immediate threat, as the Syrian government forces they fled advance along the border with Jordan...
Israel announces general closure of West Bank, Gaza (Palestinian News Network) Israeli army spokesmen announced imposing a general closure on the West Bank, all crossings of the Gaza Strip, as the Jewish holidays approach. The closure is to start from midnight last night until Sunday night...
Richmond ordination reflects burgeoning membership in Russian Orthodox church (Richmond Press Herald) Toddlers, babes-in-arms, and other young children populating the church yard and inside St. Alexander Nevsky Church showed just how rapidly the parish family of the Russian Orthodox congregation has grown. Inside the sanctuary Sunday was another sign: the ordination of the Rev. Nathan Williams to the priesthood, the ordination of Joseph Kimball to the diaconate and the investiture of two tonsured Readers, Patrick Kimball and Matthew O’Donnell. Tonsured Reader is a first step toward priesthood...
19 September 2017
Sister Anahid, a Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena, administers a primary school in Dohuk. Read more about efforts to keep hope alive in Iraq in ‘God Wants Me Here,’ a web exclusive story from our March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)