17 June 2019
Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world met in Lebanon last week for their annual synod at Bkerke, the patriarchal seat north of Beirut.
(photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for Maronite Catholic Patriarchate)
Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting in Lebanon, called for unity among politicians and the international community to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees.
Returning the refugees to their homeland, the bishops said in their synod final statement, would lift Lebanon from the “heavy burden” it faces in hosting them, which they noted is recognized by international authorities as “exceeding Lebanon’s potential.”
It also would encourage the preservation of Syria’s history, heritage and culture, the bishops said.
With an existing population of around 4 million, Lebanon has absorbed more than 1.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria. This has inflicted humanitarian and socio-economic strains on the tiny country, about two thirds the size of Connecticut. Lebanon has the world’s highest number of refugees per capita.
The Maronite prelates also pointed to Lebanon’s housing crisis, calling on government officials to revive housing loans, which were suspended due to a weakening of the central bank’s capacities. The stagnation, the bishops said, is forcing young couples to abandon marriage and plans for a family and a future. The bishops stressed that the housing sector is vital to the country’s economic growth, trade and production.
The bishops also looked at Maronite dioceses in other countries and addressed the “growing needs they face, due to an accumulation of crises.”
Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay of Australia told Catholic News Service his parishes have not been directly affected by the approximate 18,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq that have settled in Australia.
However, he said, Lebanon’s refugee crisis is of great concern to the Lebanese diaspora in Australia who have family in their ancestral homeland. The Maronite diocese of Australia has 15 parishes and six missions, or Mass centers, serving more than 200,000 Maronites.
“Whenever we’re talking to the faithful that have relatives in Lebanon, they are conveying to us the suffering of their relatives” due to the country’s economic slump exacerbated by the refugee crisis. Increasingly, their relatives in Lebanon are facing unemployment, unable to meet basic livelihood needs and slipping further into poverty, he said. Many have lost their jobs to Syrian refugees.
Bishop Tarabay relayed his flock’s distress: “They’re asking, ‘What can be done to help the Lebanese people?’“
The Maronite bishops concluded their synod statement with the confidence that Mary “will help us to guide the world’s leaders to work to stop the wars in the Middle East and the world and to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace and the return of all displaced and abducted people to their lands and homelands.”
The 10-15 June synod took place at the patriarchal seat of Bkerke, north of Beirut. It was preceded by a spiritual retreat.
14 June 2019
Tags: Lebanon Maronite Maronite Catholic
Claudio Di Segni, a tenor and director of the choir at Rome's main synagogue, performs with the choir on 13 June 2019, during a concert at the synagogue marking the 25th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Israel and the Holy See. (photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)
Plaintive pleas and rousing, rhythmic recognitions of God’s goodness filled the air at Rome’s main synagogue as Israeli and Vatican officials celebrated 25 years of formal diplomatic relations.
“A concert of sacred Jewish music in a highly symbolic place like the major synagogue of Rome highlights our special bond that is founded in our common root: the Bible,” Oren David, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, told Catholic News Service.
“Songs from the Psalms show that we have a common heritage, which is reflected in the biblical values that we share, and we want to bring attention to the special and unique bond between us,” said David, who hosted the concert on 13 June.
Nathan Lam, the cantor of Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, was one of four cantors to perform at the concert. He said the singers, who are ordained for service and can preside at weddings and funerals, purposefully chose songs with texts common to Jews and Christians for the celebration.
Jews and Christians will interpret those texts differently, he said, “but the fact that we share them is a very important commonality.”
“I hope this leads to more and more dialogue, to more and more celebrations of relationships that are productive and good,” Lam said.
Celebrating 25 years of formal Vatican-Israeli diplomatic relations is not only about the relationship of two states. The ties were built on decades of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, which first focused on healing a relationship wounded by anti-Jewish church teaching and then moved on to common religious and moral teachings.
Celebrating what has been accomplished does not mean ignoring the sticky issues that remain on a diplomatic, political and religious level: for example, diplomats on both sides continue to try to negotiate an agreement governing church property ownership and taxation issues; the Vatican continues to call for international guarantees of Jerusalem’s status as a city sacred to Jews, Christian and Muslims; and Jewish religious leaders continue to press Catholic theologians involved in dialogue to discuss the religious significance of the land of Israel.
The Israeli ambassador and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, mentioned the three issues in their remarks before the concert. But they both also insisted there was much more to celebrate than to worry about.
“In our relations, political and religious issues are intertwined, this is why they are so special,” the ambassador told CNS.
For Catholics, the “special” relationship includes recognizing that Jesus was a Jew, the apostles were Jews and that Christianity not only recognized the Hebrew Scriptures -- the Old Testament -- as part of God’s revelation, but Catholics adopted and adapted Jewish liturgy, including the chanting and singing of the Psalms.
“Our liturgy stems from the liturgy of the Jewish people,” said the Rev. Norbert Hofmann, secretary of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. “For example, reading texts, interpreting texts, giving sermons on texts -- that already can be found in Judaism, in Jewish liturgy and practice.”
“Jews and Christians are praying with the same texts,” he said, “but with a different interpretation” because Christians would read those texts in the light of their faith in Jesus.
Lam, the “chazzan” or cantor, prayed that those differing understandings would not overshadow the basic shared faith in one God, the creator of all, and -- to a lesser degree -- in the power of music to carry prayer and to touch hearts.
Like Christian sacred music, Jewish sacred music includes many styles influenced by the cultures the Jews were living in when the music was written. The cantor and choir of the Rome synagogue, who also performed 13 June, had a unique sound and style reflecting what the program described as the Jewish “Roman rite.”
The songs are sacred not because of their style, Lam said, but because the texts are the word of God, and the music upholds, reflects and emphasizes its content.
For Jews and for Christians, the Psalms have a special connection to liturgical music and not just because
they are written in a poetic form that makes it natural to chant or sing them.
Lam, who has been the cantor at Stephen Wise Temple for 43 years, said the Psalms seem to be growing in importance for both Jews and Christians “because the Psalms are a great source of comfort, knowledge, joy and wisdom.”
The central piece of the anniversary concert fittingly was Psalm 122 with its prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, peace in the world and, finally a personal, “I pray for your good.”
You can watch a related video from CNS below:
13 June 2019
Tags: Vatican Jewish-Catholic relations
Filipino children demonstrate on 12 June 2019, near Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's house in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
A group of Philippine mothers and children facing imminent deportation from Israel are finding some solace in their faith, with weekly prayer meetings and counseling from their parish priest and nuns.
Most of the mothers arrived legally in Israel to work as caretakers for the elderly, but remained in the country even after their work visas had expired and have lived in Israel for up to 20 or more years. They have created a life for themselves in Israel, which they believe is better than they could have in the Philippines.
Sister Regina Cobrador of Our Lady of Valor Parish for migrant workers and asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv said several of the mothers who have deportation orders belong to the parish, and they have been coming every Wednesday to the church, where a special group prayer is held for them.
“My heart goes out to them, but sometimes I don’t know what to counsel them. They speak of their fears and concerns for their children who know only the Israeli culture, and the fear about their difficult economic situation,” Sister Cobrador said. “But I also tell them that, from the legal laws of Israel, their children can’t get citizenship, even if they were born here. Israel is very small, so if they would take all the migrant workers who are living here, it would be very difficult.”
Most of the Filipinas are Catholic, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has created a Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum Seekers to see to their pastoral needs.
The Rev. Rafic Nahara said the vicariate is trying to be available to those with deportation orders to counsel them about their concerns. However, they are in the country illegally, so there is little more the vicariate can do but help them prepare to return if they are deported, he said.
“(Israel) does have the right to do this. The mothers stayed illegally because they needed work. It is a very complex situation. Of course, people are asking for help, but it will hardly change the Israeli decision,” he said.
He noted that, previously, the Israeli government had reached an agreement allowing children under the age of 5 who were born in Israel to remain, with the understanding that no other such agreement would be forthcoming.
On 11 June, some 50 mothers and children demonstrated in front of the Israeli prime minister’s house, calling on him to halt the order and allow their children to stay, at least until they finish high school.
The children at the demonstration held up signs declaring their love for Israel, calling the country their home and asking not to be deported. They also sang Hebrew songs, including the Israeli national anthem.
“We wanted a better future for our children,” said Margie, a Catholic and one of 20 mothers facing deportation in July, with her 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. She asked that her last name not be used.
“The Philippines is a good country, but it is safer here,” she said. “The good schools are very expensive there, and there are drugs and crime and the children end up in the streets. In the Philippines, it is hard.”
Migrant workers from less-developed economies such as the Philippines and Thailand come to Israel to work and earn money to send home. Most are in Israel on five-year work visas, but a good number have risked deportation by staying even after their visas have expired, because the salaries they earn allow them to send their children in the Philippines to study at universities and to build a home there, but also because of the higher quality of life in Israel.
Margie, who is separated from her husband, said even though she is trained as a teacher, she would have to work a whole month in the Philippines to earn the same amount of money as she does in one day cleaning houses in Israel.
According to media reports, there are 1,500 Filipino children in the Israeli educational system, and the deportation orders were coordinated so they would be able to complete the school year.
The Israel Immigration Authority says it is enforcing Israeli immigration law against residents who are living in the country illegally.
Margie, who worships at Our Lady of Valor Parish, said she came to Israel 14 years ago to work as a caregiver for the elderly. She said she was like a family member to the Israeli families for whom she worked.
Her visa was cut short when she became pregnant with her daughter; she was told she would need to take her children to the Philippines if she wanted to remain in Israel to work.
She has been getting strength from prayer and speaking with the parish priest, she said, and going to confession.
“When I pray to God, I ask him to give us more strength,” she said. “We love Israel. My kids’ lives are here.”
Neither of her children speak Tagalog; they have never been to the Philippines and do not know the culture there, she said.
“I like my friends and my school here,” her son, Anton, said in Hebrew. He said he wants to go into the Israeli army when he turns 18 and be a soldier like his friends.
“I am an Israeli in every way. I don’t know what it will be like in the Philippines. I don’t want to leave,” he said.
Margie said she has tried to prepare her children for the possibility of leaving the only home they have ever known by talking about the places where she grew up and showing them pictures of the country.
Ellen, who came to Israel as a caretaker 14 years ago, is preparing to leave in July with her 10-year-old son, Umit. His father, who was from Turkey, died when Umit was 5.
Ellen overstayed her visa by nine years and has been working as a nanny and housecleaner to send back money for her four other children in the Philippines.
“It is very hard to find work there, and you make very little money, and I am not young,” said Ellen, who is Catholic. She has already started to pack, she said.
“I pray to God for his help because no one else can help me. I have to be strong for my son. I don’t know what I will do there, but we have no choice.”
Umit, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of several incidents when the immigration police entered their apartment, said he has slowly come to terms with the fact that he and his mother will be leaving once school ends.
“It is good for me here. I have lots of friends. I feel Israeli, but what can I do? Life will be harder there,” he said.
12 June 2019
Tags: Israel Migrants
Pilgrims from northern Kerala visit the St. Thomas Pontifical Shrine in Azhikode. Read more about this historically important corner of India in Kerala’s Spice Coast in the May 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
11 June 2019
Tags: India Thomas Christians
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, center, poses for a photo with Mark Morozowich, dean of theology and religious studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, left; John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America; Bishop Basil H. Losten, former head of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; and Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
Ukrainian Catholics in North America continue to struggle to develop ways to maintain their Ukrainian religious and ethnic identity amid a larger majority culture that beckons with the siren song of assimilation.
The answer may lie in young people, according to Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the newly enthroned archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, during a 6 June conference on the future of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in North America that he convoked at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
“It is time to give voice to our young people, to hear them,” Metropolitan Borys said in introductory remarks during the conference, which was part of an eight-day celebration of his 4 June enthronement in Philadelphia.
His words were echoed by Susan Timoney, an associate professor in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University.
“Young people are fully invested members of our community today,” not at some point in the future, Timoney said.
One takeaway from last October’s Synod of Bishops on “young people, faith and vocational discernment” at the Vatican, was that “our parishes are rightly placed (with) exactly what our young people are searching for,” although “we don’t always use the same language,” she said, adding that “if Jesus were preaching and teaching today, we might think of him as that millennial hipster with some crazy ideas.”
Youth coming together to celebrate also is helpful, according to Timoney, who cited national, regional and local World Youth Day celebrations concurrent with the international World Youth Day as an example.
“Young people need help with discernment,” Timoney said. “They need help to make sense of who they are, and who God wants them to be.”
Assimilation into the larger culture is not limited to Ukrainians, said Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
“Among Hispanics, kids are speaking English,” Munoz-Visoso said. “They are subject to the same temptations and cultural influence as all of the other kids.” What is needed is “to reach out in a way that is meaningful to them,” she said.
But discipleship is not to be restricted to one’s own group, she added. “The church in Ukraine is missionary in its own identify,” she said. Evangelization should not be limited to just “the ones who speak like me, or look like me, or think like me, but all nations,” as Jesus decreed, she added.
The Rev. Peter Galadza, a Ukrainian Catholic priest and theologian, said the Ukrainian liturgical rites hold an appeal to some non-Ukrainians who have joined the Ukrainian church, which like all Eastern Catholic churches, are in communion with Rome. Still there are some Ukrainian Catholics who harbor resentment of non-Ukrainians worshipping with them.
“We will never allow anyone in our church to look at you and say, ‘What are you doing here? You’re not Ukrainian,’“ said the priest, who is director and professor of liturgy at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at the University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.
There are people who have “an inferiority complex about being Ukrainian,” he added, but “we see parishes who refused to even have a homily in English in 40-50 years, and they are suffering today.”
Unity is key, Father Galadza said, but without unity in the pursuit of truth, “your sense of mission is going to be skewed.”
A recurring theme of the “From Heart to Heart” conference struck Robin Darling Young, an associate professor of spirituality at Catholic University professor, as profound, noting it was the motto of Blessed John Henry Newman, the 19th-century Oxford don and Anglican who joined the Catholic Church, became a cardinal, and whose canonization is expected later this year.
Blessed Newman probably spotted “cor” -- Latin for “heart” -- in St. Augustine’s “Confessions,” Young said, not to mention several biblical passages that refer to the heart.
“Our hearts are not isolates,” Young said. “Our hearts are affected by others, and of course by the heart of the Lord.”
10 June 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Nizar Semaan is seen during his 7 June 2019, episcopal ordination at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, his birthplace.
(photo: CNS/Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Nizar Semaan begins his new mission in Iraq with hope “that Christianity will flourish again” in his homeland.
Bishop Semaan chose the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, his birthplace, as the site of his episcopal ordination on 7 June.
Still scarred from the Islamic State group and not yet fully restored, the church, Bishop Semaan said, is “a symbol of what happened to our cities and villages in 2014 until the liberation (in 2017) from ISIS.”
It’s also the church where the new bishop was ordained a priest in 1991.
Located in the Ninevah Plain, Qaraqosh was the largest Christian city in Iraq. Its 50,000 residents -- all of them Christian -- were expelled by Islamic State forces in a single night during the summer of 2014. They were among 120,000 Christians uprooted from Mosul and the Ninevah Plain that summer.
Of his new mission as a bishop, Bishop Semaan told Catholic News Service his ministry is “all about challenges: political challenges, economical challenges, spiritual challenges, social challenges.”
Yet he is optimistic.
“I’m sure with the help and prayers of many people who are interested in the Christians of Iraq, we will carry our mission and we will go ahead for a brighter future,” he said.
In his homily during the ordination Mass, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan acknowledged the challenges facing the church in northern Iraq. Pointing to the “terrible calamity” that affected “the most precious diocese in our Syriac Catholic Church,” he said his people’s resilience is “an example of the heroic testimony and the steadfastness in the face of the evil forces that wanted to kill hope in your believing souls.”
The patriarch noted how parishioners “carried the cross,” following the example of Jesus. “Your hope has won the admiration of the faithful around the world, in the East and West.”
Bishop Semaan, who spent 14 years as a priest in London, said he plans to focus on building: not just in the physical sense with new construction, but especially restoring relationships among Iraqis and to work on healing “the psychological and spiritual injury of our people.”
“It wasn’t easy for our people, who lived here their entire life and in one night, suddenly, immediately they lost everything, and found themselves without a piece of bread to eat, sleeping in the street, to be forced to live as refugees in the north, Ankawa, Kurdistan, Irbil,” he said.
Such horrific trauma, he explained, left deep wounds in people’s hearts and minds.
Stressing the pastoral role of priests and bishops, he said that establishing peace, political stability and security in Iraq is not in the hands of the church.
“For this, we need the help of the international community,” to put pressure on the Iraqi government so that people can live in dignity, with democracy and respect for human rights, he said.
Without security, Bishop Semaan noted, it is difficult for Christians to be expected to stay in Iraq and restart their lives. Likewise, he said, the lack of security hinders economic investment.
He urged Christians in the West to encourage their government “to look at the situation of Christians in Iraq and try to find a political solution.”
“We need their support and prayers, as well as economic help,” Bishop Semaan said.
While touring Qaraqosh before his installation, the new bishop said he was struck by how, in two years, the community was able to rebuild again, citing as evidence numerous homes, shops and restaurants.
“It’s kind of like a miracle,” he said. “This is a sign of hope, really.”
More reconstruction is needed, Bishop Semaan told CNS, and for that the Christian community in the region must depend on the continued help from international charities and church groups.
Although there are no exact figures, Bishop Semaan said about 20,000 people have returned to Qaraqosh, where he will be based initially.
Bishop Semaan said his return to Iraq is grounded in the hope “that Christianity will flourish again in Iraq, and every Christian will play his positive role in rebuilding the new Iraq.”
“Everyone around the world should care about what is happening to the Christians of Iraq,” Bishop Semaan said, adding that without help, “in 20 years we will vanish from here.”
Bishop Semaan noted that Pope Francis “is always talking about the importance of Christianity in the Middle East, the importance of staying here, giving testimony to our faith. We need help to continue our mission in the Middle East.”
In 2003, about 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq. Their presence dates to apostolic times. Now that number has dwindled to about 250,000, according to international observers.
For his motto as bishop, Bishop Semaan chose Galatians 5:22: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. “Most important is peace and patience,” he said.
He said he hopes to bring that inspiration to the people of Iraq.
“If you look at the faces of our people and what they endured, you can see the sadness in their eyes,” he said. “They need a happy person.”
7 June 2019
Tags: Iraq Syriac Catholic Church
A widow stands amid the rubble of her destroyed home in Mudulisahi, India, on 22 May 2019, in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
Sabi Swati, stood on the ruins of her brick house, which had been ravaged by powerful cyclone Fani in early May, asking, “What will I do?”
“I am awaiting support to repair my house. I cannot stay in the palm-shed I am living in now when the monsoon comes (in mid-June),” Swati told Catholic News Service.
Nearby, Catholic Relief Service workers conducted a survey of damaged properties and the needs of hundreds of people who were evacuated from the remote village in Odisha state and returned home to find massive destruction.
Swati was not alone in her bewilderment. Dozens of people continued to wonder about their future a month after the storm as aid relief agencies worked to distribute emergency assistance and hygiene supplies.
Nearly all of the 120-plus houses in Mudulisahi suffered extensive damage from the storm that packed winds of 160 miles per hour when it walloped coastal and inland areas of eastern Odisha state on 3 May. Authorities said 70 people died and more than 500,000 families were affected by the cyclone.
Rows of roofless and severely damaged houses surrounded by stumps of headless and twisted coconut trees bear witness to Fani’s devastation throughout the region. Even a concrete roof in the village of Purushottam Ballabha, where CRS had distributed relief supplies, had sustained severe damage.
Because of timely and precise forecasts, the government was able to evacuate nearly 1.5 million people to inland communities ahead of the storm, Bhishnupada Sethi, special relief commissioner of Odisha, said, acknowledging that the swift action likely saved dozens if not hundreds of lives.
Sethi said the storm caused more than $1.7 billion in damage as assessments continued at the end of May.
“Over two lakh (US$200,000) families have been severely affected with their roofs blown away,” Sethi told CNS on 3 June.
“Along with restoring electricity and other amenities, our immediate target is to reach assistance to these families before the monsoon breaks in (mid-June),” Sethi said.
“We are reaching relief and cash assistance to over 100,000 families. Many (international) relief organizations are carrying out making meaningful relief and rehabilitation work. The government is working in coordination with them,” he added.
In Benpanjuri village, Caritas India workers met Sapura Bibi, whose home was roofless with the sun blazing into its interior. Bibi posed the same question heard countless times since the storm: “How can I live in this house?”
“Luckily, I had taken shelter with my children in the (government) cyclone shelter. Prone to cyclones frequently due to its curved coastline in the Bat of Bengal, Odisha has built thousands of cyclone shelters,” she said.
Anjan Bag, technical manager for humanitarian response with Caritas India, said the evacuation saved lives because Fani was more powerful and destructive than a super cyclone in 1999 that left more than 10,000 dead.
“The country realized the massive devastation only later. When I rushed to Odisha, there was neither electricity nor water. We had to sleep in the open under mosquito nets to coordinate the relief work,” Bag told CNS 6 June.
As of 3 June, Caritas India had distributed emergency shelter material to 5,537 households in 88 villages in addition to food supplies to more than 1,000 families, he said.
While the Caritas network has already donated nearly $255,000, Bag said, several other agencies have come forward to support a planned housing rehabilitation program. Homeowners will be trained in home reconstruction as well as small-business development.
6 June 2019
Former Bishop Geevarghese Mar Timotheos of India died Tuesday at the age of 91.
(photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
We received some sad news this week from India, regarding a man who was a great champion of the poor:
Geevarghese Mar Timotheos, 91, former bishop of Tiruvalla Diocese of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, passed away on Tuesday morning. The funeral will be held at St John’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Thursday. He was under treatment at Pushpagiri Medical College Hospital for the past six days due to age-related health problems.
Timotheos started his service as a priest under the Tiruvalla Diocese. He was the administrator of the diocese in 1987. He was elevated as bishop in 1988. He worked for the upgradation of Pushpagiri Hospital as medical college. Many hospitals and charity homes were launched by him when he served as bishop. He retired in 2003. He also served as the secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC).
He was featured in our magazine in 1995, in a story entitled The Heirs of St. Thomas.
May his memory be eternal.
5 June 2019
Tags: Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Bishops
In this image from 2017, a Dominican sister visits the Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah in Qaraqosh, Iraq, heavily damaged by ISIS. The United Nations has established 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion. (photo: Raed Rafei)
On 28 May, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion.
The resolution invites all member states, relevant organizations, civil society, individuals and the private sector to observe the international day and show appropriate support for victims of religiously motivated violence.
In the wake of recent religiously motivated terrorist attacks, the resolution notes a serious concern for “continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities around the world, and at the increasing number and intensity of such incidents.”
Poland initiated work toward the commemorative day, but united with Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, and the United States to co-draft the resolution.
Ultimately, 88 U.N. member states voted to co-sponsor the resolution.
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which is commonly referred to as the right to freedom of religion or belief, is a universal right of every human being and the cornerstone of many other rights,” Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz said in his keynote speech before the vote.
In response, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington issued a statement praising the resolution.
“We applaud the U.N. General Assembly for adopting this resolution, which acknowledges and honors victims of violence based on religion or belief around the world,” said Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the commission. “But we must not stop at condemnation. Like-minded governments must also increasingly work together to hold perpetrators accountable, whether they are state or nonstate actors responsible for the abuses.”
The Vatican, too, commented on the resolution after its adoption in a statement released by its Permanent Observer Mission to the U.N. The statement recalled the recent religiously motivated violence in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, California and Burkina Faso.
“This resolution and the international day it establishes is an opportunity for the international community to focus on the victims and to strengthen efforts to eradicate such violence and acts of terrorism targeting persons because of their religion or belief,” it said.
The Vatican also reminded the U.N. that religion and belief cannot be blamed for these acts. They are, rather, deviations from religious practices and must be condemned.
4 June 2019
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians United Nations
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak displays the papal bull about his appointment during his enthronement as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on 4 June 2019.
(photo: CNS/Jonathan Drake, Reuters)
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church