16 October 2017
The Rev. Samaan Shehata, shown above in an undated photo, was killed in a knife attack in Cairo, Thursday. (photo: Twitter)
Coptic Orthodox priest killed in street attack in Cairo (The Catholic Herald) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church says a priest has been killed in a knife attack in a poor Cairo district, the latest deadly assault on members of the country’s Christian minority.
The church says the attack took place on Thursday. The priest was identified in the media as the Rev. Samaan Shehata...
Iraqi forces capture installations outside Kirkuk (BBC) Iraqi government forces have captured key installations outside the disputed city of Kirkuk from Kurdish fighters. A military statement said units had taken control of the K1 military base, the Baba Gurgur oil and gas field, and a state-owned oil company’s offices. Baghdad said the Peshmerga had withdrawn “without fighting,” but clashes were reported south of Kirkuk. The operation was launched a month after the Kurdistan Region held a controversial independence referendum...
Lebanese president says country ‘can no longer cope’ with refugees (AP) Lebanon’s president says his country “can no longer cope” with the presence of Syrian refugees and appealed to the international community for help to organize their return. Michel Aoun says the refugees’ return to safe areas in Syria will put an end to their suffering and save Lebanon from negative repercussions...
U.S.-backed forces in Syria begin assault on Raqqah (The Los Angeles Times) Syrian forces backed by the United States said Sunday that they have launched a final push to drive Islamic State from its last footholds in Raqqah, after tribal leaders and a provincial council negotiated the safe exit of civilians along with the surrender of local militants and family members...
How art is blooming amid the Gaza wasteland (The Guardian) It might seem incongruous to find an event commemorating the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death in an isolated enclave corralled by electronically monitored fences, ruled by an armed and proscribed Islamic faction, and succinctly dismissed by Condoleezza Rice as a “terrorist wasteland.” But it was part of a long history of cultural life and heritage, easily overlooked amid a decade-long economic siege and three devastating wars...
13 October 2017
Pope Francis exchanges gifts with the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri at the Vatican.
(photo: Vatican Radio/Reuters)
Pope Francis receives Lebanese prime minister (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Rafic Hariri on Friday morning, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. A Communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See reports that the Pope and the Prime Minister held cordial conversation over a range of subjects, including various aspects of the situation in Lebanon...
How a seed bank, almost lost in Syria’s war, could help feed a warming planet (The New York Times) Ali Shehadeh is a plant conservationist from Syria. He hunts for the genes contained in the seeds we plant today and what he calls their “wild relatives” from long ago. His goal is to safeguard those seeds that may be hardy enough to feed us in the future, when many more parts of the world could become as hot, arid and inhospitable as it is here. But searching for seeds that can endure the perils of a hotter planet has not been easy...
Animal blessing in India brings together different faiths (Crux) Among the things that can bring people of different faiths together is a love of animals. In India, the traditional blessing of the animals, associated with the feast of St. Francis, brings more than Christian families to one Catholic parish. “People from all faiths are welcome. Many people of other religions bring their animals for the blessing,” Father Joe D’ Souza, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church told Crux. “There were 8 non-Christian families present, belonging to the Parsi and Hindu faiths,” adding the animals break all religious barriers...
Unity deal offers hope for Palestinians (The New York Times) After a decade of hostility and recrimination, the two main Palestinian factions came together in Cairo on Thursday to sign a reconciliation deal that holds out the tantalizing prospect of a united Palestinian front...
12 October 2017
Ethiopian young people celebrate the conclusion of a summer religious festival in Adigrat, supported in part by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Several days ago, we received an inspiring report from our regional office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, describing the success of a summer feeding project, which included a large festival bringing together hundreds of young people.
Tarekegn Umoro, the programs officer in Addis Ababa, writes:
Pointing his finger towards all the youth, who were singing outside the hall in the evening, holding lit candles and waving their hands on the air, [youth minister] Eyob Hailesilassie said, “Look how they are praising the Lord! Do you think that they forget this moments in their lives? They never forget! We are very much satisfied, thanks to CNEWA and to all who supported this summer program.”
You can read the full account here.
12 October 2017
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. (photo: Vatican Radio/AFP)
Pope urges Oriental Churches to continue courageous witness (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated Mass in the Basilica of St Mary Major to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. In his homily the pope encouraged all Christians of the Oriental Churches to continue with their courageous witness, despite the dramatic persecutions that they suffer...
Syro-Malabar Catholics rejoice in Pope Francis’ recent moves (UCANews.com) In a historic move, Pope Francis has extended the administrative powers of the Syro-Malabar Church across India, removing restrictions imposed since the arrival of Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. Announcing the establishment of two new dioceses for the Eastern-rite church in letter to all India bishops, Pope Francis also authorized it to have pastoral powers across India, a move resisted by the majority Latin-rite bishops in the past...
The Christians fighting for freedom in Syria (National Review) The soldiers of the Syriac Military Council sit on a rug in an abandoned home in the urban wreckage of the caliphate’s capital, perhaps 200 yards from ISIS, drinking tea and chain-smoking. The predominantly Christian unit is a small but symbolically important part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have encircled ISIS and are slowly closing in...
Half of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon out of school (Middle East Monitor) Six years after the start of the Syrian crisis half of all Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are still out of school despite efforts by the UN and other parties, All4syria.info reported yesterday. Lebanese sources said that the ministry of education carried out several positive measures to bring Syrian refugee children into schools yet only 52 per cent joined in the 2017-2018 school year. Lebanon’s education ministry could only provide schooling for 250,000 children...
Prayers of the persecuted around the world (The New York Times) Though Monika Bulaj grew up in Communist Poland, she was nonetheless a devoutly Catholic child who studied mystics and dreamed of a life as a cloistered nun. But her teenage discovery that her grandmother’s town was once home to thousands of Jews who perished in the Holocaust set her on a different path: a 30-year journey documenting persecuted religious minorities around the world...
11 October 2017
A priest presides at the liturgy at the Church of the Blessed Nicholas Charnetskoho in Liviv, Ukraine. To learn about some of the millions of Ukrainians who are working to rebuild their lives after a three-year war, read The Displaced in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
11 October 2017
In this file photograph, novices of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, part of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India, gather for morning prayer. In a letter, Pope Francis has urged unity among Catholics of different rites in India and authorized creating two new parishes.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Pope urges unity among rites in India, authorizes creation of two new eparchies (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday urged for a “fruitful and harmonious cooperation” among the bishops of the three ritual Churches of India, as they reach out to provide pastoral care to their respective faithful, spread out in various parts of the country. “In India itself, overlapping jurisdictions should no longer be problematic, for the Church has experienced them for some time, such as in Kerala,” the Pope wrote in a letter the Indian bishops...
Iraqi women visit monastery after its recapture from ISIS (CNA) Last week 300 women visited a historic monastery near Mosul after its liberation from the Islamic State — a decision their priest said was made in order to show they aren’t afraid, and that Christians in Iraq are there to stay. “We decided to go to San Behnam and Sara monastery because a lot of Christian people are afraid to go to this place, because it is sometimes dangerous,” The Rev. Roni Momika said on 6 October, after returning from the visit. He said the group wanted to go to the monastery “to pray and to tell the world that we are here and we will pray for peace, and we will pray for the soldiers, and we will pray for Christians in all the world...”
Jordan says hosting refugees has cost $10 billion (Arab News) Authorities in Jordan on Tuesday estimated at more than $10 billion the cost of hosting thousands of refugees displaced from Syria since the civil war broke out there in 2011. The UN says that some 650,000 Syrian refugees are currently being housed in Jordan, but the government puts the figure far higher at around 1.3 million people...
Pope Francis reaches a milestone: 40 million Twitter followers (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ Twitter account — @pontifex — has reached a milestone: 40 million followers in 9 languages. The figure is significant not only in itself, but in what it represents for the Holy Father, himself, who, like his predecessor, desires to be a Christian witness among many on the “Digital Continent,” especially through social media...
10 October 2017
Churches work to meet the needs of displaced families in Ain Kawa, near Erbil.
(photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East right now, and the extraordinary work CNEWA is able to do, thanks to the generosity of our donors. He writes:
What a humbling experience for me during my many pastoral visits in the Middle East, when I see firsthand the courageous acts of love and mercy carried out by a dwindling family of Christians — those who are victimized, those who are hungry, those who suffer — for all, Christian or not. Their faith in our Lord is overpowering. Whatever we can do to assist them pales in comparison to their sacrifices. We are honored to accompany them.
Do the good works of the church make a difference and bring us closer to peace in the Middle East? Absolutely and positively. It does not matter how many Christians remain, because Christ is present in each one of them. They share Christ with all, including those of different faith traditions and even with the oppressor and the persecutor.
Read more and see more of his images here. And watch the video below, where he talks at length about the faith and fervor of the people we are privileged to serve.
10 October 2017
Chaldean bishops met with Pope Francis at the Vatican last week. (photo: Asia News)
Chaldean bishops express ‘solidarity and pride’ (AsiaNews) In a “critical and difficult” time for Iraq, the Chaldean Church expresses “appreciation” for the role played by the armed forces in the fight against the “terrorists” of the Islamic State (ISIS) and renews its call to “dialogue” to overcome the “crisis” between Erbil and Baghdad following the referendum on independence. This is what the Chaldean patriarchate underlines in a statement published at the end of the Synod, which was held in Rome from October 4 to 8. In the text, the leaders of the Iraqi Church also expressed the “solidarity and pride” of the Christian community, which has been able to keep the “faith” alive...
A journey into the destroyed heart of the Islamic State capital, Raqqa (The Guardian) After months of brutal fighting, the battle to retake Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the Islamic State caliphate, is almost over. Scroll down to follow photographer Achilleas Zavallis and reporter Martin Chulov as they journey from the Iraqi border to the wasteland of the frontline of the ancient Syrian city where the few remaining Isis fighters are making their last stand...
Libyan authorities recover bodies of Copts beheaded in 2015 (AP) Libyan authorities have recovered the bodies of 21 Coptic Christian workers, mostly Egyptians, who in 2015 were beheaded on a beach in the coastal city of Sirte by Islamic State militants, according to a statement issued Saturday by a government-linked anti-ISIS group...
ISIS fighters surrender en masse (The New York Times) The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs. More than a thousand prisoners determined to be Islamic State fighters passed through that room last week after they fled their crumbling Iraqi stronghold of Hawija. Instead of the martyrdom they had boasted was their only acceptable fate, they had voluntarily ended up here in the interrogation center of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq...
Indian bishops denounce burning of flag, Hindu deity (UCANews.com) Indian Catholic bishops have denounced youths who burned the national flag and an image of a Hindu deity in Mizoram state, northeast India. “Those who have committed these acts cannot and should not profess to be Christians,” the Indian bishops’ conference said in a 6 October media release signed by secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas...
6 October 2017
Tags: India Iraq ISIS Copts Chaldeans
Bahnam Matti removes rubble from a former clothing store in Qaraqosh. While some displaced Christians are returning to their homes, the recent referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan could have a significant impact. (photo: Raed Rafei)
As Iraq and the world cope with the results of last week’s referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan — in which an overwhelming 92 percent of ballots cast in the semiautonomous province of Iraq voted for secession — we are seeing firsthand how those results could impact Iraq’s Christians, many of whom hailed from the nation’s Nineveh Plain. When ISIS invaded northern Iraq in July 2014, tens of thousands fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. Many hoped they would eventually return to their homes.
But now that is increasingly in doubt.
Michel Constantin and Ra’ed Bahou — who direct CNEWA’s offices in Beirut and Amman, respectively — spoke of the challenges Iraqi Christians face in this suddenly changed political environment. Both are visiting New York for an annual planning meeting of CNEWA’s directors.
“I would say the real problem now is the Christians have very few choices,” said Mr. Constantin, “and all the choices are bad.”
Mr. Constantin explained that since the election, roads have been severed between Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, and Qaraqosh, the main Christian enclave in northern Iraq. Airports in both areas have been closed. All neighboring countries, with the exception of Syria, are working to isolate Iraqi Kurdistan, he said.
“What will happen?” he asked. “Nobody knows.”
He visited Erbil just a few weeks ago and says about 2,000 Iraqi Christians there were preparing to return to Qaraqosh. But the election has upended everything. Husbands and fathers who had returned to the Christian villages to begin rebuilding their homes in anticipation of a restored life now find themselves separated from their families left behind in Iraqi Kurdistan because of the closed roads.
Adding to the problems are serious economic pressures.
“People want to go back to Qaraqosh for one reason,” Mr. Constantin said: “work.” Most breadwinners, he added, are public workers employed by the Iraqi government in Baghdad, which has stated that if they don’t leave Erbil and go back to their regular jobs, they will lose their salaries.
The situation for organizations such as CNEWA has become more challenging as well, said Mr. Bahou.
“It will be much more difficult to send money to Erbil,” he said. “Organizations just can’t work as before.”
And Christians face uncertainty of what life will be like if and when they return to their homes. Some who return find themselves surrounded by non-Christians who were hostile toward them three years ago; Iraqi Christians now have to depend on them for labor to help rebuild their homes, and many of these neighbors are charging exorbitant prices. These circumstances contribute to widespread mistrust and even fear.
“I’m afraid Christians will just go back to their villages, sell the properties, and emigrate for good,” said Mr. Constantin. “Their neighbors will take advantage of them and make them sell their homes for peanuts. They are helpless. The government is pressuring them — their livelihood, their salaries. They are endangering their lives. They have no security. There is nothing to do.”
However, he said the local church can help by working to support the community at the individual level and to encourage the government to pledge funds for reconstruction. “The church must be united,” Mr. Constantin said, and should urge the patriarchs to work together on behalf of the people.
Otherwise, “many will leave the country, permanently,” said Mr. Bahou. “And the only place they can really go now is Jordan.”
This is a theme Pope Francis himself echoed yesterday when he met with Chaldean bishops from Iraq.
“This is an occasion for me,” the pope said, “to send my greetings to the sorely tested faithful of the beloved Iraqi nation ... in regions and cities that were subjected to painful and violent oppression.” While a tragic page of history has been concluded, he said, there remains much to do.
“I exhort you to work tirelessly as builders of unity,” he said.
Hard Choices for Iraqi Christians
‘God Is With Us and Will Not Leave Us’
6 October 2017
A Franciscan sister of the Cross guides a patient through Our Lady’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill in Lebanon. Read more about how the church is Reaching the Margins in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)