1 October 2014
Local residents stand next to the debris of a house hit by a mortar shell from the Syrian side of the border in Alanyurt village near the Turkish-Syrian border on 29 September. A Syrian priest on a U.S. mission trip says amid ongoing death and destruction in the Middle East, the Catholic Church continues to provide spiritual and material support for those in need.
(photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
The military attacks on Syria are having a powerful impact on the lives of ordinary families:
After telling parishioners and students in the religious education program at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Parish about what is happening in Syria, Father Rodrigo Miranda was impressed that a 13-year-old girl was one of the first to respond.
“She came up to me and immediately asked: ‘What can we do to help?’” said Father Miranda, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
As the current pastor at the cathedral in Aleppo, Syria, Father Miranda is hoping that all Catholics would be just as quick to generously respond to the needs of fellow Christians in the Middle East.
For the past three years, he said, Aleppo has been embroiled in a violent civil war that has destroyed the once-thriving Syrian city that is home to about 2.5 million people. While the vast majority of inhabitants are Muslim, Father Miranda said there is a small contingent of Christians living in Aleppo. “A few years ago, I’d say maybe 15 percent of the population was Christian,” Father Miranda told The Anchor, newspaper of the Fall River diocese. “Now, I think it’s closer to 10 percent, if not less. We are clearly the minority within the community.”
He said that not only are Christians in the minority, they often find themselves caught in the middle of the warring factions on either side of the conflict. More than 70,000 people — mostly civilians — have been killed and more than 3 million Syrians have been displaced since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. In addition, some 1.1 million people have taken refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
“The problem is you have Palestinians on one side, Arabs on the other, and the Christians are stuck in the middle,” Father Miranda said. “Both sides have preconceptions about the other,” he added.
“People have their own beliefs and they don’t understand or appreciate the other’s style of life.” While “everyone receives some form of help from the United Nations,” Father Miranda said Christians must rely solely on the Catholic Church for support. “Our mission (in Syria) is to evangelize the culture,” Father Miranda said. “We are trying to bring Christ to the people. We go to the places where the church can’t go due to circumstances.”
Read more about what CNEWA is doing to help the men, women and children of Syria here. And to offer your support, visit this page.
1 October 2014
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, addresses the 69th U.N. General Assembly in New York on 29 September. (photo: CNS/Mike Segar, Reuters)
Dilemma for Iraqi Christians: stay or go? (Wall Street Journal) As America again gears up for deeper military involvement in the Middle East, many Chaldeans are engaged in a fateful debate: Either get as many people out of Iraq as possible to safe havens, such as the United States, or stay and fight, possibly with U.S. help. Iraq’s minority groups, including Christians, are more vocally pressing the Iraqi central government to set up militias to protect from Islamic militants. The militias would be part of a U.S.-backed plan for a national guard, but has met with resistance from Iraq’s government which fears militias may further destabilize the fragile country...
Holy See: World needs a revitalized United Nations (Vatican Radio) The conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine demand a revitalized United Nations where member states put their responsibility to protect persecuted peoples above personal interests and thoroughly apply international law, according to the Vatican Secretary of State...
Israelis rethink life along Gaza border after war (Wall Street Journal) The mortar shell hit the roof of the Tragerman family home in the last days of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Their cars were already packed to flee, but it was too late for their 4-year-old son Daniel who lay on the floor dead. Thousands fled Israel’s kibbutz communities during the 50-day conflict that turned the Gaza Strip and the border region inside Israel into a war zone, according to Kibbutz Movement, the group that represents the collectives and organized evacuations for those on the Gaza border. Most of them have since returned. But after the death of Daniel, the Tragerman family said it won't go back to the border...
Over 400 corpses found in mass grave in Ukraine (International Business Times) Some 400 bodies, mostly of civilians, were taken to the morgues of Donetsk and other cities in eastern Ukraine now controlled by pro-Russian rebel militias after they were retrieved from mass graves, the insurgents said on Monday. “Currently there are about 400 bodies in morgues, 350 of which are of civilians, and many are in such a state that they cannot be identified,” said the deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, Andrei Purgin...
Hostility toward refugees in Lebanon growing (Fides) “The effects of the uncontrolled influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon opens a disturbing scenario,” says the Rev. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon. “The concern has reached the warning level. Among the local population, hostility towards refugees continues to grow, after arms were found in refugee camps...”
30 September 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Israel Gaza Strip/West Bank
The tide of refugees fleeing air strikes in Syria is growing. In the image above, Syrian Kurdish refugees walk with their belongings on 29 September after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc. (photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
29 September 2014
Pope Francis greets emeritus Pope Benedict XVI during an encounter for the elderly in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 28 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the elderly in St. Peter’s Square — one that brought together again the pontiff and his predecessor. During the Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the plight facing many older men and women:
The wisdom and love of older people are instrumental for building the future, and they can even cheer up grumpy teenagers, the pope said.
“It’s very good for you to go visit an older person. Look at our kids. Sometimes we see them being listless and sad; (if) they go visit an older person, they become happy,” he said.
“Older people, grandparents have an ability to understand very difficult situations, a great talent. And when they pray about these situations, their prayers are strong and powerful.”
But there are many who instead prey on their fragilities, and the pope warned against the “inhuman” violence being waged against the elderly and children in areas of conflict.
Harm can also be waged quietly, he said, through many forms of neglect and abandonment, which “are a real and true hidden euthanasia.”
People need to fight against “this poisonous throwaway culture,” which targets children, young people and the elderly, on “the pretext of keeping the economic system ‘balanced,’ where the focus is not on the human being but on the god of money.”
While residential care facilities are important for those who don’t have a family who can care for them, it’s important these institutes be “truly like homes, not prisons,” the pope said, and that their placement there is in the best interest of the older person, “not someone else.”
The summer edition of ONE looked closely at this issue, with a poignant glimpse into the lives of the “new orphans” of Armenia and Georgia:
For Georgia, a society with a long, cherished tradition of multigenerational households that take care of their own from cradle to grave, the idea of a senior citizen with no money and no family used to be unthinkable. As part of the Soviet Union, Georgians were insulated by a state-run system of health care: doctors were plentiful and medicine was cheap. The question of who would take care of grandma or grandpa in their old age was never an issue.
Today, however, with widespread poverty pushing families apart — many emigrate to Russia, or abroad — it is becoming more common.
Tsiala Gogodze, 74, used to arrange tours and official visits for dignitaries when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. With a smattering of English to flavor her fluent Russian and Georgian, Ms. Gogodze laments the loneliness that gnawed at the seniors before they found the center and each other.
“You know what is horrible? No one needs people like us, not our relations, not anyone,” she says. “That is horrible.”
Family is a crucial part of Georgian culture, and the expectation that one’s family will always be there runs deep in the national psyche. Without family to look after them, or visit with them, many of the seniors who now visit the center had no one to talk with them or even care about them.
29 September 2014
Tags: Armenia Georgia Pope
In this image from last month, boys look at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq.
A vicar at Iraq’s only Anglican church claims ISIS militants are closing in on Baghdad,
despite airstrikes. (photo: CNS/Wissm al-Okili, Reuters)
Report: ISIS closing in on Baghdad (International Business Times) The Islamic State group is allegedly closing in on Baghdad, according to a report from a vicar at Iraq's only Anglican church that claims the jihadists formerly known as ISIS are roughly one mile away from the Iraqi capital. Airstrikes against ISIS targets were supposed to stop the group from taking Baghdad...
Nuncio: Russian expansion endangers Catholics in Ukraine (CNA) The apostolic nuncio to Ukraine has urged efforts to support Catholics in the nation, warning that Russia’s expansion into the country has caused major instability and threatens a return to political persecution. “The danger of repression of the Greek-Catholic Church exists in whatever part of Ukraine Russia might establish its predominance or continue through acts of terrorism to push forward with its aggression,” Archbishop Thomas Gullickson said on 23 September...
Cardinal Koch expresses hope for closer Catholic-Orthodox relations (Vatican Radio) The head of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity says he regrets that Catholics and Orthodox leaders are unable to give a stronger sign of unity for Christians suffering persecution in the Middle East. Cardinal Kurt Koch has just returned from a meeting in Amman where he served as co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. A communique released on Wednesday reflects the difficulties the two sides encountered in the search for agreement on the theme ‘Synodality and Primacy’ which has been at the heart of the discussions since a 2007 plenary meeting in Ravenna, Italy...
India high court rules it is legitimate to not declare a religion (Fides) The Bombay High Court has ruled that the State cannot “compel any citizen to disclose his religion while submitting forms or declarations.” The decision reaffirms the secular character of Indian democracy and puts an end to a dispute that is recorded in other Asian countries...
Patriarch Kiril: modern art can harm humanity (The Moscow Times) Patriarch Kirill should take care not to wander too far from Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, lest he risks stumbling upon the city’s museum of modern art — a cultural genre he recently described as “filth.” Speaking at an Orthodox festival on Wednesday, the head of the Russian Church told journalists that some forms of contemporary culture “show some horrors, some nonsense, idiocy,” state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported...
26 September 2014
Tags: India Iraq Ukraine Russia Orthodox
With their country undergoing continuing air strikes targeting ISIS, some Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries. Here, a number of refugees wait at the Turkish border near Sanliurfa,
on 24 September. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
25 September 2014
An Iraqi family that fled ISIS gathers at a table in one of the refugee centers in Jordan. To read a full report on the flood of refugees pouring into Jordan, visit this link. (photo: CNEWA)
24 September 2014
A cross atop a temporary building in downtown Erbil, Iraq, marks the office of Syriac Catholic Archbishop Boutros Moshe of Mosul — one of more than 130,000 Christians displaced by ISIS who are now seeking refuge in Erbil. To learn more, read the latest report on the refugee situation.
24 September 2014
A man holds Argentina’s flag as Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 24 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
New air strikes hit Iraq, Syria (USA Today) U.S. and coalition aircraft hit five targets in Iraq and Syria early Wednesday as part of the continued round of airstrikes on targets connected to the militant Islamic State terrorist organization, the U.S. Central Command reported. Meanwhile, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice told NBC News Wednesday the White House had seen social media reports that the allied airstrikes had killed the leader of Khorasan Group terrorist organization, Muhsin al-Fadhli, although U.S. officials had not confirmed those reports...
Syrian archbishop expresses concern over U.S. air strikes (Fides) The air raids against jihadi bases in Syria, carried out by the United States with the support of some Arab countries, do not elicit positive expectations among the population of Aleppo in Syria, This was reported to Fides Agency by the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Boutros Marayati, who added he is afraid “that this type of external involvement could worsen the situation...”
Pope: Albania proves that diverse religions can live in peace (CNS) People of different religious beliefs can and must live together in peace, Pope Francis said. The Muslim majority and Christian minorities in Albania cooperate beautifully for the common good and prove to the world that it can be done, he said. I could see, with great satisfaction, that the peaceful and fruitful coexistence between people and communities belonging to different religions is not only beneficial, but is concretely possible and practical. They put it into practice” in Albania, he said during his general audience on 24 September...
Gaza talks to resume in late October (Reuters) Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Tuesday to resume talks late next month on cementing a Gaza ceasefire, allowing time for Palestinian factions to resolve internal differences which could threaten the Egyptian-mediated negotiations...
Pope Francis to visit Armenia in March (Public Radio of Armenia) Pope Francis will visit Armenia in March 2015, Chancellor of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, His Grace Bishop Arshak Khachatrian told reporters today. He said it’s going to be both a state and religious visit. A prayer in memory of the Armenian genocide victims will be held within the framework of the visit...
NATO: Russia has withdrawn many troops from Ukraine (Wall Street Journal) A top European Union official blasted Russia for reviving threats of retaliation against Ukraine over a trade deal with the bloc, stoking political tensions even as signs mount of a military de-escalation in the conflict zone. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said that Russia had withdrawn a sizable number of troops from eastern Ukraine—though some remained. Meanwhile Russia-backed rebels in the region said they had begun pulling back their heavy artillery, after Ukrainian troops did the same...
Patriarch: Lebanon’s Muslims and Christians share same fate (Fides) “For the good of the nation, as spiritual leaders, our duty is to protect the moral and spiritual values and the fundamental and national constitutional principles.” This is what the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai said after his meeting on Tuesday 23 September with the new Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Abdel Latif Derian. In statements reported by the local press, the Primate of the Maronite Church said “At a social level, muslims and Christians in Lebanon are a family with a common destiny and a common culture...”
23 September 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia Muslim
The book of the Gospels is seen during during an ecumenical prayer service for Middle Eastern peace in Washington on 9 September. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
What does it mean to defend Christians in the Middle East? This week, National Catholic Reporter explores that question — and gets some answers from CNEWA:
As many minority Christians in the region — already buffeted by decades of social marginalization and political instability and experiencing a historic bottoming out of their ranks — now face barbaric forms of persecution in places like Iraq and Syria, the questions have taken on a newfound significance. The issue has become all the more important here in America, where the effort to raise public awareness of their plight is still in its nascency (and susceptible to political opportunism), and the nation is, again, on the brink of war.
Interviews with experts — and the words of Middle East Christians themselves — suggest two answers. The first has to do with the legacy of Christians in the region.
“The center of the church in its formative years was in the area we now call the Middle East,” said the Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s Michael La Civita. He called the Christian presence in the Middle East “absolutely vital” to the development of both Eastern and Western civilization.
“So many of the great works of our classical Greco-Roman heritage would have been lost, but they were preserved by the Eastern churches, by the monasteries,” La Civita said. “The monks were scholars, they preserved books, transcribed them into Copt, Syriac and Armenian,” ancient languages still spoken by Middle East Christians today. “With the advent of Islam, the various Muslim courts appropriated the services of these Christians. They gave to the Muslim Arabs geometry and astronomy, and classical philosophy, all of which then the Muslim Arabs brought back to us, through Sicily and Spain.”
Asked what the loss of the Christian presence would mean to Christianity, La Civita said: “Culturally, liturgically, it would be a great loss to the church of Christ if its Eastern roots were severed. It would be a tremendous loss — a tremendous loss.”
There’s much more. Read it all at the NCR link.
Tags: CNEWA Middle East Christians