31 August 2018
Young Syrian refugees are seen atop a vehicle at a camp in June in the village of Arsal, Lebanon. Officials say the refugee crisis in Lebanon continues, with the situation for many largely unchanged. (photo: CNS/Nabil Mounzer, EPA)
Syrian rebels destroy bridges in anticipation of offensive (AP) Syrian opposition fighters blew up bridges Friday linking areas they control to government-held territories in northwestern Syria in anticipation of a military offensive against their last stronghold in the country, activists and a war monitor said. The explosions rocked the area in al-Ghab plains, south of Idlib and came after rebels detected government troop movement in the area, according to Rami Abdurrahman, head of the war monitoring Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…
Status of Syrian refugees in Lebanon remains largely unchanged (CNS) While procedures are being put in place for Syrians to return to their war-torn country from neighboring Lebanon, the refugee crisis continues to linger and remains largely unchanged, a Caritas Lebanon official said…
Kerala needs a Marshall Plan (Times of India) The recent floods which have ravaged Kerala, in terms of scale and effect can be compared to post-war Germany. Kerala with a land mass of 38863 Sq. kms. is a little larger than Germany which has 35,021 Sq. kms. of land. With 7,24,649, people living in 5,645 camps, and the destruction of 10,000 kms of roads and extensive damage to industrial and agricultural infrastructure, it resembles a war-ravaged land. The repairing of the flood damaged Cochin airport, bridges, roads, dams, irrigation projects, waterways, schools, hospitals, homes, agriculture would all require vast amounts of money…
UN: four million refugee children out of school worldwide (The Jordan Times) Four million refugee children across the world remain out of school today, according to a new report issued by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday. The study, titled “Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis”, identified an increase by half a million in the number of out-of-school refugee children over the past year, warning that “despite the efforts of the governments of host countries, UNHCR and its partners, enrollment of refugee children in school is failing to keep pace with the growing refugee population…”
The scourge of child marriages in India (UCANews.com) All of 12 years old, a child with a cherubic face holding a balloon is the mother of a four-month-old baby girl. Both seem to consider the balloon to be a fun toy to play with. Each year at least 1.2 million children are married in India in violation of a law that sets a minimum marriage age of 18 for females and 21 for males…
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul (TASS) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia arrived in Istanbul on Friday and is due to hold a meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the press service of the Russian Orthodox Church head said. ”Patriarch Kirill has arrived at Istanbul’s airport. In an hour, a meeting between the two Patriarchs will begin,” the statement said…
30 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Russian Orthodox
In this image from April, Syrian children are seen inside an informal settlement for refugees in Bar Elias, Lebanon. Many refugees fear returning home, wondering what the future will bring after the war. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)
Kerala leader says economic impact of floods was immense (The Indian Express) During the special Assembly session convened to discuss the relief and rehabilitation measures underway to cope with the state’s worst floods in a century, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed the House that a total of 483 people lost their lives in rain-related incidents this monsoon. While 14 people are reported to be still missing, around 140 people were admitted to hospitals during this period…
U.S. concerned as Syrian regime moves helicopters (CNN) The Syrian regime has moved armed helicopters closer to the rebel stronghold of Idlib in the last few weeks, according to two defense officials. The US is concerned they could eventually be used to launch another chemical attack using chlorine filled barrel bombs, though they are readily available for a conventional assault…
Syrian refugees fear for future after the war (The Guardian) The blazing guns of insurgency have largely been silenced in central and southern Syria, and politicians in Damascus, Beirut and Amman are claiming with increasing vehemence that a ruined country from which at least 6 million people have fled is now a safe for them to return. Few Syrians in Lebanon seem convinced. “I’ll serve my country proudly and shed my blood for it with a smile on my face, but not like this,” said Abu Ahmed, 41, who hails from the former opposition stronghold of Ghouta…
Copts called ’infidels,’ harassed for attending church (The Tablet) Last week, two churches in Egypt were subject to demonstrations by Muslim hardliners who prevented Coptic Christians from worshiping, claiming the churches are unlicensed. In a third incident, a police officer broke onto a church and screamed at the worshippers “Infidels … you are all infidels…”
Archbishop calls for ‘culture of encounter’ at U.N. (Vatican News) Genuine negotiation in dispute settlement calls for a “culture of encounter” that places at the center of all political, social and economic activity the human person, who enjoys the highest dignity, and respect for the common good. Genuine peace mediation needs trustworthy mediators and must include all parties for a good that is mutually beneficial to all the parties involved, said Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York…
29 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Kerala
Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomes Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath from India. (photo: CNEWA)
A trailblazer from India stopped by our New York office this morning for a visit: Syro-Malankara Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath.
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, described a visit to the bishop’s home turf, what he calls “The Great North,” a few years ago:
The great call of these churches is to reach out to the real mission territory of India: The spiritual sons and daughters of the Apostle Thomas have undertaken a new missionary thrust to evangelize the “unreached” in the northern half of India.
On a series of visits with my hosts — a team of humble priests, religious sisters and lay leaders, including catechists — I have experienced firsthand this new approach to missionary life in India. It is happening not by building schools, erecting clinics or developing social service projects, but simply by humbly living with the poor. This means no formal structures — no buildings per se — but living, breathing witnesses of Christ who share with the poor the love that God has for all, giving them a sense of hope and belonging.
Cultural and political sensitivities prohibit me from sharing with you where some of these visits have taken place, but I can tell you what I experienced. I met humble, tribal people. Many were not of any caste (thus, they are literally outcasts) and all of them were hungry to learn about Jesus. They felt very comfortable and loved by the priests, sisters and lay leaders who were sharing their faith with the poor.
I may have been the first North American to have ever visited them — and these beautiful, spiritually thirsty souls made me feel most welcome by making the sign of the cross and praying with me (in their local language) the Lord’s Prayer. This is where I really choked up; at that moment I felt that God truly was the father of us all. They reminded me of this tenet of my faith.
We got a great sense of that faith from Mar Barnabas, whose zeal and joy enlivened our office. He shared with us stories of the tremendous sacrifice and sense of mission that animate the Christians in his diocese — men and women, mostly lay people, who carry the message of the Gospel to people who may never before have heard the name of Jesus.
Often, these lay catechists teach and lead liturgies in an atmosphere of great risk.
“I tell them,” the bishop said, “at maximum you may lose your head. Get ready for it! And they respond, ‘We are ready!’”
The region he serves in northern India is very humble — he himself has no chancery, no house, no income beyond a modest budget to make ends meet. He described visiting one mission in his diocese and sleeping on the floor. But again and again, he reminded us of the faith that sustains and inspires his flock.
He told us about one man who isn’t a physician, yet people call him “the doctor,” and bring him anyone who is sick. He prays with them and for them—and often, that is enough.
“He tells them, ‘I have just one medicine,’” Mar Barnabas explained with a smile. “‘Prayer and fasting!’”
To spend time with this bishop — whom Msgr. Kozar described as “my younger brother”— is to be reminded of the missionary roots of our faith, and how that kind of fervor, even in times of great difficulty and challenge, continues to bear witness to the Gospel today.
29 August 2018
Tags: India Indian Bishops
Kerala residents are returning home, but the economic impact is severe. The region's once-thriving tourism industry has been devastated and may take a long time to rebuild. (video: News18 Digital/YouTube)
After flood, tourism in Kerala is left a muddy mess (VOA) More than a week after the floodwater began subsiding, animal carcasses are still floating in Kerala’s backwaters, and in places a nauseating stench rises like a wall when the wake from a passing boat breaks the surface. These inland lagoons running parallel to the coast are one of the biggest tourist draws in India’s most southwesterly state, but the stain of death and devastation wrought by Kerala’s worst flood in a century will take longer than a season to wash away…
U.S., Russia in war of words as Syria attack looms (Al Jazeera) Russia has deployed a dozen warships to the Mediterranean Sea in what a Russian newspaper on Tuesday called Moscow’s largest naval buildup since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015. The reinforcement comes as Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is believed to be considering a major assault on the last rebel-held enclave in northern Idlib province…
Moscow, Kiev in tug-of-war over religious future of Ukraine (AP) As Kiev and Moscow clash on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, a new front has opened up in the religious sphere. Earlier this year Ukrainian’s president launched a campaign to persuade Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, seen by many as the first among equals of Eastern Orthodox leaders, to grant Ukrainian clerics full ecclesiastical independence from the Russian Orthodox Church to which they have been tied for hundreds of years…
Pope reaches out to other Christian churches, inviting them to serve the poor (Vatican News) Pope Francis has invited the faithful of the Waldensian and Methodist Churches to join Catholics in together proclaiming Jesus, especially to the poor and the marginalized of today. In a message sent to the participants in the annual synod of the Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches that is taking place in Torre Pellice, near Turin, northern Italy, the Pope expressed his and the Catholic Church’s fraternal closeness...
28 August 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Russia
Sister María Niña plays soccer with the girls in the backyard of her community’s house in Dekhela, Egypt, where many of the girls live. Read more about how a congregation of religious sisters is Building a Brighter Future for these girls in the November 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
28 August 2018
The report above shows the life of a Syrian refugee in Jordan. Jordan now says it can take in no more refugees and is encouraging them to return home. (video: BBC/YouTube)
Jordan says it can’t host any more refugees (AFP) Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday his country has exceeded its capacity to host refugees from Syria and is backing their voluntary return home. Amman estimates that it has taken in close to 1.3 million refugees from its war-torn neighbor and says it has already spent more than $10 billion to host them…
India criticized for refusing UAE aid for Kerala (UCANews.com) India’s pro-Hindu government is facing criticism for refusing to accept aid worth US$100 million from the United Arab Emirates for flood-ravaged Kerala state. Catastrophic floods and landslides from 14 — 18 August killed an estimated 400 people and displaced 1.3 million to relief camps where they subsist on donated food and clothes...
Israel plans to expand mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall (Haaretz) A plan to expand the mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall has won final approval, following pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The plan, whose details are reported here for the first time, was approved under a special regulation that created a fast-track process authorizing the municipal engineer, in this case Jerusalem’s, to approve work to make a site handicapped-accessible. Such access was called for in the plan, in addition to the expansion of the area and its entrance…
Fishermen hailed as heroes of Kerala flood (UCANews.com) Fishermen in India’s Kerala state are being hailed as heroes for using their traditional wooden boats to rescue men, women and children from swirling floodwaters. ”You are like our God,” a woman with folded hands told fishermen who saved her along with another female villager and 30 youngsters trapped in a children’s home in Alappuzha district, an area laced with waterways…
Young Palestinians take hold of their future at Gaza tech hub (The Independent) ”Global tech hub” may not be the first three words that spring to mind when describing the besieged and war-ravaged Gaza Strip. But a group of young Palestinians in the tiny territory, home to some 1.8 million people, are trying to change assumptions…
27 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank
Religious sisters from various congregations prepare items for meals at a relief camp in Trichur, Kerala. (photo: Rev. Jolly Vadakken/Global Sisters Report)
As Kerala struggles to recover from catastrophic flooding, sisters are pitching in with the relief effort.
From Global Sisters Report:
More than 6,700 Catholic nuns are among those helping over a million people taking shelter in relief camps after unprecedented floods ravaged Kerala, a southwestern Indian state.
“This is the biggest rescue and relief operation the Catholic Church in Kerala has undertaken in its history,” says the Rev. George Vettikattil, who heads the church’s relief operations in the state.
The church deployed its personnel and opened its institutions across Kerala to help people after rains and massive floods devastated 13 of Kerala’s 14 districts from 15 August through 20 August. The rain has stopped in many places and water is now receding.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on 24 August told the media that the rains and floods have claimed 417 lives. At least 36 people are still missing.
The floods initially displaced nearly 1.3 million people. About 869,000 people were still sheltered in 2,787 relief centers in the state, Vijayan said.
The initial estimated loss was around 200 billion rupees ($2.85 billion).
Catholic aid agencies such as Caritas India are now working among the flood victims. Caritas India has already spent about 6.1 million rupees ($87,140) distributing food, medicine and sanitation items. Its director Fr. Paul Moonjely says the agency plans to raise another 10 million rupees.
Vettikattil says all 32 Catholic dioceses in Kerala have joined relief works. As many as 69,821 young people and 99,705 lay volunteers joined 6,737 nuns, 2,891 priests and 354 seminarians to rescue stranded people with the help of government agencies and individually, the priest told Global Sisters Report.
And to learn how CNEWA is supporting this effort — and how you can pitch in yourself — visit this link.
27 August 2018
Tags: India Sisters Kerala
Indian Christians marked the 10th Anniversary of the atrocities in Kandhamal with a Mass in Bhubaneswar on 25 August 2018. (photo: Vatican News)
India’s Christians mark somber anniversary (Vatican News) Ten years on, India’s Christians recalled the terrible massacre of their brothers and sisters in faith in eastern India’s Odisha state, with a commemorative Mass on Saturday in the state capital in thanksgiving, reconciliation and grace. Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful came together in large numbers for the high Mass at St. Joseph’s School in Bhubaneswar on 25 August, recalling the day 10 years ago when violence erupted with untold brutality against the Christians of Kandhamal District, with Hindu extremists blaming them for the 23 August murder of their Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples…
As India recovers from floods, sense of community grows (Channel News Asia) It is likely to take months for the Indian state of Kerala to get back on its feet, after severe flooding claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and washed away roads and bridges. But the disaster has brought out the best in people in Kerala — their sense of community…
Jordan’s king calls for help to refugee-hosting states (Andalou Agency) King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday called on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the countries hosting Syrian refugees. This came during a meeting between the Jordanian monarch and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, who arrived in the kingdom on Sunday for an official visit...
Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation (Reuters) Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported on Monday. Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami traveled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and senior military officials, Tasnim reported…
Why Ethiopians believe their new prime minister is a prophet (CNN) Since taking office on 2 April, Africa’s youngest head of government has electrified Ethiopia with a dizzying array of liberal reforms credited by many with saving the country from civil war. Abiy has freed thousands of political prisoners, unblocked hundreds of censored websites, ended the 20-year state of war with Eritrea, lifted a state of emergency, and planned to open key economic sectors to private investors, including the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines…
Report: Orthodox clergy targeted by Russian spies (ABC News) The Associated Press has found that the same hackers charged with intervening in the 2016 U.S. presidential election also spent years trying to eavesdrop on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, often described as the first among equals of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christian leaders…
24 August 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Refugees Jordan Russian Orthodox
Seminarians from the Pune Papal Seminary collected food, medicine and blankets to deliver to residents of Kerala who have lost everything in the floods. (photo: UCANews)
The disastrous flooding in Kerala has prompted a remarkable outpouring of humanitarian support.
CNEWA has rushed aid to the region — and others are also pitching in.
Two trucks carrying the relief material from Pune left for Paravur, one of the worst flood-affected areas in southern Kerala state that is reeling under deluge for the past one week.
The collection was done in collaboration with De Nobili College, Pune and other houses of Pune Papal seminary.
The seminarians and others from the campus collected material for the past one week and sorted and packed them ready for transportation to relief camps.
“We were approached by the authorities seeking help, so started collecting materials,” said the Rev. Vincent Crasta who works in Papal Seminary
Flash floods and landslides in the past week have killed some 380 people and displaced some 800,000 to relief camps as overflowing rivers ploughed through residential areas washing away homes, farm lands, roads and bridges.
Schools, churches, temples, mosques and seminaries and convents have been converted to relief camps accommodating thousands who have no food, cloth or place to sleep.
Father Crasta said that one more truck will leave this evening carrying the relief material.
Five seminarians are accompanying the trucks carrying medicines, blankets, towels, toilet articles, candles, cleaning material, biscuits and bed sheets. The seminarians will return immediately after the relief materials are delivered on Sunday.
But goodwill is also pouring in from people of all religions and castes:
Transgressing all barriers of religion and caste, rich and poor, high and low, Indians have joined hands to provide succor to people reeling under the worst flood in five decades in Kerala.
Justice Kurien Joseph, a Supreme Court judge, Catholic and Kerala native, worked until late at night in New Delhi to help pack and label boxes containing relief materials for flood victims.
“It was heartening to see people unite in love for their suffering brethren casting aside all boundaries of religion and region,” Joseph said as he assisted children and women packing materials.
The flood in the southern state washed away hundreds of houses and submerged villages, killing at least 370 people and displacing about 800,000 to relief camps.
Not only Kerala people living in New Delhi “but people from other parts of India have gathered here. It just goes to show that goodness has not disappeared from humans,” Joseph said.
A group of lawyers launched the initiative through social media. Despite the short notice, people gathered with clothing and food to be packed and sent to the flood-hit state 2,500 kilometers away.
In Kerala, fishermen took out their boats on their own to rescue people. According to reports, they refused remuneration from the government for their voluntary work, saying they did not do it for money.
“Jesus’ love thy neighbor philosophy has never been so evident in our country,” said Lucy John, a teacher from New Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area, where a collection drive was organized by an association of Kerala people.
…Also keen to help, Indian Railways is ferrying relief materials free of cost.
The Ramakrishna Mission, a Hindu organization, is at the forefront of relief operations in northern Kerala, said Swami Shantatmananda, secretary of its New Delhi branch.
“We are sending cash donations from states while our Chennai centers are organizing relief materials,” he told ucanews.com.
Khalsa Aid, the U.K.-based Sikh organization’s Indian wing, has volunteers cooking and providing food for the marooned.
Churches, church-run schools, seminaries, convents and other Christian institutions have opened their doors to stranded flood victims besides providing relief in cash and kind.
And to help CNEWA’s efforts in the region, please visit this page.
24 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
In India, hundreds of thousands of people in Kerala are coping with the worst flooding in a century. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
After worst flooding in a century, India turns down foreign aid (The New York Times) After devastating floods killed more than 400 people and engulfed entire towns in a southern state in India, the United Arab Emirates offered $100 million to help the recovery. The Indian government’s response: thanks, but no thanks…
Fear of drought in parts of south India (The Times of India) In a cruel irony, surging rains in Kerala have lifted the monsoon’s performance in south India to an 11 percent surplus. The figure, however, doesn’t reveal the extremely skewed rain distribution in the region. Outside Kerala and coastal Andhra, half the districts in south India are grappling with deficient rainfall…
Ethnic unrest tarnishes new Ethiopian leader’s reforms (Reuters) A surge in ethnic violence, sometimes in the form of mob attacks, has displaced nearly 1 million people in the past four months in southern Ethiopia and is inflaming bad feeling between ethnic groups in other regions. The violence threatens to undermine Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s calls for unity in one of Africa’s most ethnically diverse countries. It also overshadows the popular liberal measures he has announced since coming to power in April…
Iraqi Christians unable to attend World Meeting of Families (AsiaNews) The Iraqi delegation’s exclusion from attending the 2018 World Meeting of Families, scheduled from 21-26 August in Dublin (Ireland) is “a terrible event”, says Msgr. Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad. The number two to the Chaldean patriarch confirms that there will be no faithful present at the Irish meeting due to a problem linked to the issue of entry permits. “They told us that it took months to process them — explains the prelate — and our online applications were not even granted…”
Report: in 24 hours, Armenia violates ceasefire 86 times (AzerNews) Over the past 24 hours, Armenian armed forces have 86 times violated the ceasefire along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said 24 August. Armenian armed forces were using heavy machine guns. The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts…
Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Armenia