10 November 2016
Mahinder Singh sits with neighbors on charpai (cots of woven ropes) in their tiny village in Gangapar, India. (photo: John Mathew)
We never cease to be humbled by those we serve who persevere in the face of difficulties and discrimination.
One of those people is Mahinder Singh:
Mahinder Singh’s life has been fraught with hardship. His troubles began in 1947, when Britain — which had occupied the Indian subcontinent for generations — divided its colony into India and Pakistan, causing a migration of people considered the most extensive in recorded history. Major riots flared among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The ensuing violence killed roughly a million people, including Mr. Singh’s son and many of his relatives.
Born more than 90 years ago to a Sikh family of farmers in the Okara district of present-day Pakistan, Mr. Singh became one of the estimated 14.5 million people forced to abandon their ancestral homes and cross the new border after the partition. Complicating matters further, Mr. Singh is a Dalit.
A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically.
The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.
Mr. Singh is a Christian. “I have wandered all my life for happiness,” he says, “and finally found peace in the Lord.” But the challenges he faces are many:
Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender.
But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.
...Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
You can read more about Mr. Singh’s witness in Caste Aside from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE magazine.
For decades, CNEWA has worked to improve the quality of life for Dalits throughout India.
Want to help us help them? Take a moment to visit this link.
10 November 2016
Young men play basketball at the Mai-Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia, home to more than 17,000 Eritrean refugees. To learn more about the camp, and the dreams of those who have settled there, read Starting Over from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures)
10 November 2016
Internally displaced children sit in a pickup truck 25 October near Mosul, Iraq. Iraq forces are closing in toward Mosul’s airport. (photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)
Iraqi forces prepare push into Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi security forces are preparing to advance toward Mosul airport on the city’s southern edge to increase pressure on Islamic State militants fighting troops who breached their eastern defenses, officers said on Thursday...
U.S. Says it has killed 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria (The New York Times) The United States has killed 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria since it began military operations against the Islamic State there in 2014, military officials said Wednesday. In each case, the American military followed the proper procedures and it did not violate laws of armed conflict, officials said...
Syria’s Assad is ‘ready’ to cooperate with Donald Trump (The Independent) Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “ready” to cooperate with the US President-elect Donald Trump, one of Mr Assad’s advisers has said. Speaking to National Public Radio on Thursday — just after Mr Trump’s seismic victory in the US general election — Bouthaina Shaaban said any collaboration on Syria’s almost six-year-long civil war will depend on “whether Mr. Trump’s policies meet expectations...”
Pope says the search for Christian unity is a top priority (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis revealed on Thursday that the search for Christian unity is one of his principle concerns, one that he prays may be shared by every baptized person. The Pope’s words came as he met in the Vatican with participants at a plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The meeting, from 8 to 11 November is exploring the theme “What model of full communion?...”
Indian priest tries to preserve sacred music (New India Express) The Rev. Joseph Palackal is trying his best to preserve the memories and the melodies. He comes to Kerala every year to meet people who are able to capture the melodies of the Syriac songs. “But the time is running out,” he says. “Most of the stalwarts are losing their memory or passing away...”
Publishers participate in Coptic Book Fair (Fides) There are 37 publishing houses involved these days in “Coptic Book Fair,” underway until 22 November at the exhibition hall in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. The inauguration, which took place on Tuesday, 8 November, was attended by three Bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, including Anba Musa, in charge of the pastoral and cultural initiatives for young people...
9 November 2016
Father Sunny Mathew delivers a homily in Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, New York.
(photo: George Kurian)
For the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE, I sat down for an interview with the Rev. Sunny Mathew, a Syro-Malankara priest who pastors a small parish in suburban New York:
“The Malankara Catholic liturgy is basically the Antiochene liturgy,” he says, explaining that the Antiochene liturgy is among the oldest liturgies of the church, dating to the time of the apostle, St. James the Less, for whom the liturgy is named. “And we still keep the purity and originality of that liturgy.”
This heritage has buoyed his small parish for decades, as the faithful met in various schools around the metropolitan area while trying to find a permanent home.
In the spring of 2016, the search ended when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York turned over to the Syro-Malankara Church a parish in Yonkers that had been closed. Father Mathew’s flock now has a real church to call home, reinforcing what the priest calls the Syro-Malankara sense of family.
“It is a small church,” the 43-year-old priest says of the worldwide Syro-Malankara community. “We still live like one family. We are almost 500,000 members now. And we all feel like we belong to one family, one church. Our major archbishop knows each priest by name. He knows almost everyone in every parish, where each priest works. This is the kind of family atmosphere we have in our church,” he says.
He pauses to measure his words. “‘Small’ has its own beauty,” he explains. “That is the blessedness we enjoy.”
Read on to learn more about his parish and this particular branch of the Catholic family tree. And check out the video below, in which we pay a visit to his parish and experience the liturgy.
9 November 2016
Raban Boutros Kassis, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo, is recovering from gunshot wounds he received after being attacked in his car by a sniper. (photo: Fides)
Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo wounded (Malaysia Herald) Staring death in the face is an experience that can awaken the faith even in those who do not believe in God. For the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo Raban Boutros Kassis, therefore, this sensation was all the more intense and today he says he feels a profound closeness to Christ. Two days ago, he miraculously escaped death after a sniper shot at him as he traveled by car from Homs to Aleppo...
Iraq reportedly suspends military operations near Mosul (Anadolu Agency) Iraq’s anti-terrorism agency has temporarily suspended military operations in the eastern part of the Daesh-held city of Mosul while stressing that Iraqi forces were not being withdrawn from the area, according to an Iraqi military source...
My Journey into Aleppo (The New York Times) I took these videos and photographs last week while on a bus tour of western Aleppo that was part of a government public relations offensive. There were 12 journalists, three Ministry of Information minders (government workers assigned to keep tabs on us and those we talked to) and maybe a dozen soldiers...
Lebanon’s new president receives Iran’s Foreign Minister (AP) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday became the first foreign minister to visit newly appointed Lebanese President Michel Aoun, underscoring the ties between Iran and Aoun’s Hezbollah-backed presidency. The Shiite militant group and predominantly Shiite Iran are close allies. Speaking alongside his Lebanese counterpart, Zarif said recent political developments in Lebanon can be the key to breaking the deadlock in wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen...
Lebanon boosts schooling to help refugee children (SBS.com) It’s estimated there are a quarter of a million Syrian refugee children in the country who currently don’t have access to school. With more than half a million Syrian children taking refuge in Lebanon, the country is looking to foster better educational opportunities for all young people. New research, aimed at developing ways to offer better access to schools, has been announced...
Ukraine hopes for continued support from U.S. under Trump (Reuters) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he hoped the United States would continue to support Ukraine in its stand-off with Russia following the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election...
8 November 2016
The Good Shepherd Sisters in Egypt are heroically working to rebuild after Christian institutions were attacked during political uprisings in 2013. (photo: David Degner)
Last year, we met the heroic women of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Egypt, who have survived violence and persecution amid political upheaval, and are now patiently working to rebuild. One of the women we met is Sister Amal:
Sister Amal was drinking tea at the Good Shepherd Convent in the Egyptian port city of Suez when the first stone came through the window.
It had been a chaotic year. For months, massive protests against President Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood had rocked the country. By late June the protests, which had gained the public support of Christian leaders, culminated in the military’s forced removal of the Islamist president. In the eyes of some Egyptians, especially those who supported Mr. Morsi, an alliance had been forged between the military and Egypt’s Coptic Christians. (Ethnic Egyptian Christians are known as Copts, derived from the Greek “Aigyptos,” meaning Egyptian.) This was affirmed further by the interim government’s subsequent brutal crackdown of Islamists throughout Egypt.
Picking up the shattered glass, Good Shepherd Sister Amal was unaware that earlier that same day, 14 August 2013, the interim government had used lethal force to end two massive sit-ins, resulting in more than 600 deaths. In retribution for the alleged alliance, supporters of the ousted president stormed churches and Christian institutions across the country.
A mob of possibly hundreds attacked the chapel near the convent. Sister Amal and her team rushed about, attempting to save as much as they could from both the sanctuary and the structure. Frantically, they turned off the gas and electricity, and eventually found a way to extinguish some of the flames. But as they worked, arsonists set fires elsewhere. Looters helped themselves to furniture, electronics and money.
The flames proved too much to fight. In the chaos, Sister Amal ushered the workers out a rear exit. The police and army were nowhere to be seen. The mob had already killed one soldier operating an armored personnel carrier outside the chapel. Another fled. No one else came to help.
But Sister Amal’s tenacity and faith speak to the courageous spirit that is helping Suez start over:
On the final Friday of November, Sister Amal dreamed she had asked for a candle, but instead a friend named Raheb, who had helped her put out the flames all night long after the August 2013 attack, brought her the Virgin Mary wrapped in blankets.
“At the end of the next day I told Sister Mariam the dream. She told me, ‘God willing, the Virgin will come in a flash, but I have to tell you some bad news.’ ” Sister Mariam told her the military had withdrawn from the area. They were once again without any protection. Protests were taking shape intermittently, and looters were still entering the chapel, which was open to the street. Anyone could walk in or out of the grounds.
“There was no one. The teachers had left and the workers had gone. There was nobody but us two.”
She turned to Sister Mariam and said, “Look, our Lord is who will protect us in the beginning and the end. Don’t worry.”
She was right. They have prevailed. Schools and churches are being rebuilt; the faithful will not be dissuaded or discouraged. And the heroic heroic sisters will not give up or give in:
The sisters did not wait for help and have not forgotten what they have been through. As Sister Amal tells her story, she drinks out of the same teacup she held when the first stone came in the window. And sitting in the chapel, next to a statue of the Virgin Mary, is that very first stone.
Read more about Sister Amal in Out of the Ashes in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. And learn how you can help Egyptian Christians rebuild here.
8 November 2016
A little girl picks out a pumpkin in the village of Horpyn in Ukraine. Read about the ethnic and religious patchwork of the region in this article from the March 2009 issue of ONE.
(photo: Petro Didula)
8 November 2016
An Iraqi Christian soldier wearing a rosary stands inside the badly damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception on 2 November in Qaraqosh, near Mosul.
(photo: CNS/Alaa Al-Marjani, Reuters)
Christians struggle to survive amid wreckage left by ISIS (The Independent) The 28,000 people from Qaraqosh who stayed inside Iraq have understandable doubts about going home, even if Isis is fully defeated and loses Mosul. “There is no security while ISIS is still in Mosul,” says Yohanna Towara, a farmer, teacher and community leader in the town, but even when ISIS is gone the Christians will be vulnerable. He says that “the priority is for us to control our local affairs and to know who will rule the area in which we live.” He adds that the need for permanent security outweighs the need to repair the destruction wrought primarily by Isis but also by US-led air strikes...
Iraqi experts investigate mass grave near Mosul (BBC) Iraqi forensic experts are investigating a mass grave that was discovered by troops advancing towards the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. The Iraqi military has said the grave, in the grounds of an agricultural college in the town of Hamam al-Alil, contains about 100 decapitated bodies...
Syrian rebels battle near Aleppo (Reuters) The Syrian army said it had taken a strategic district of Aleppo on Tuesday, in what would be the most important advance in the divided city by Damascus and its allies in weeks, but rebels said the battle was not over. The 1070 Apartments district is located on the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo and lies alongside the government’s corridor into the parts of the city that it controls...
Egypt church construction law labeled ‘regressive’ (Daily News of Egypt) The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an NGO concerned with human rights, discussed in a press conference Wednesday the downsides of the Church Construction Law, issued in August, arguing that the law is regressive for religious freedoms...
Refugee life in Lebanon empowers Syrian women (Ya Libnan) For some Syrian women living in Lebanon, the bitter realities of life as a refugee have nourished an unexpected side effect: empowerment. Difficult economic and legal circumstances have pushed women to take on more responsibilities within their families, including many that were once a man’s domain. Uprooted from some familiar social constraints and exposed to programs promoting women’s rights through contact with aid groups, some of them have obtained a degree of personal autonomy they never experienced in Syria...
7 November 2016
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, greets children after celebrating Mass on 6 November at Holy Family Church in Gaza City. The cardinal said his pastoral visit reinforced the importance of Christian hope, especially for those living in very insecure circumstances.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)
Battle for Mosul becomes urban combat (NBC News) As Iraqi forces struggle to secure the gains they made over the past week on Mosul’s eastern edge, the fight against ISIS has quickly morphed into close-quarters urban combat. With it, casualties among Iraq’s troops and civilians are spiking...
Displaced Syrians fear returning to their homeland (AP) Syria’s government says people who fled rebel zones that have since been retaken by the military are now welcome to return. But that’s not how it worked out for one refugee family that came to check out the state of their home: They found another family had moved in. That’s just one of many hurdles keeping away those displaced in Syria’s war...
Cardinal: faith reassures Christians in Gaza (CNS) English Cardinal Vincent Nichols said his pastoral visit to Holy Family Parish in Gaza reinforced the importance of Christian hope, especially for those living in very insecure circumstances. “It is very encouraging to witness the faith of the community of Christians living in that enclosed space and also in the midst of a huge Muslim community majority,” said Cardinal Nichols, Westminster archbishop and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. “They live day by day, and their faith is a reassurance for them”...
Pope Francis raises awareness about scourge of human trafficking (Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis spoke out against human trafficking, in an address to members of RENATE: Religious in Europe Networking against trafficking and exploitation). The group is in Rome for their 2nd European Assembly, which took place on Sunday. The theme of this year’s assembly was “Ending Trafficking Begins with Us”...
Patriarch: do not delay in forming government in Lebanon (Fides) The economic and social emergencies that mark the present situation of Lebanon do not allow any delays or postponement in the formation of a government that would help the country. This is what was strongly emphasized by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, during his homily yesterday, Sunday, 6 November, six days after the election of former general Michel Aoun for the office of President of the Lebanese Republic, vacant for almost two years and a half...
Nobel laureates to meet in Delhi to discuss children’s issues (Vatican Radio) Nobel laureates and eminent leaders around the globe will meet in the Indian capital New Delhi next month to discuss why children suffer the most in conflicts though they don’t cause them, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi said on Thursday. “Children are never responsible for any wars, conflicts or violence, yet they are the worst sufferers in any such hideous situation. This is completely unacceptable,” he said while announcing a global initiative for children...
4 November 2016
In the video above, a priest from Aleppo says Christians are the targets of many attacks
in the city. (video: Rome Reports)
Humanitarian pause begins in Aleppo (The New York Times) A temporary halt in fighting announced by Russia to allow Syrian rebels and residents to leave the besieged eastern parts of Aleppo went into effect on Friday, with activists reporting a relative calm in the city. However, by early afternoon, state media said seven mortar shells from the rebel-held side of the city hit one of the corridors opened for those wanting to leave eastern Aleppo. The State TV said a correspondent for a pro-government station was wounded by shrapnel...
Iraqi forces push deeper into Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi special forces recaptured six districts of eastern Mosul on Friday, a military statement said, expanding the army’s foothold in the Islamic State bastion a day after its leader told his jihadist followers there could be no retreat. An officer in the elite Counter Terrorism Service, which has spearheaded the Mosul offensive, said its troops had launched a major operation against the militants who are now almost surrounded in their last major urban redoubt in Iraq...
Why Christianity’s holiest shrine is guarded by two Muslim families (The Washington Post) Two Muslim families were entrusted by a presumably weary Arab potentate to be the gatekeepers of the church. The Joudeh family keeps the key, while the Nuseibeh family opens up the church door every morning and locks it in the evening. In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Adeeb Joudeh, the current keeper of the key — an old, cast-iron object that’s a foot long — considered his family’s hereditary task to be a metaphor for religious tolerance...
The human tragedy unfolding in Gaza (The National) Gaza has experienced three wars in the past decade, each more devastating than the last. I last visited Gaza in 2009, six months after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. I found an enclosed territory and population struggling to adapt to Hamas rulers and recovering from devastated homes and lives. The 2014 conflict, that killed more than 2,250 Palestinians — hundreds of them children — and left thousands permanently injured, along with the deaths of 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians, still reverberates in Gaza; another war, just around the corner, is always feared...