23 October 2014
In the video above, Iraqi refugees pouring into Jordan describe their struggles. To offer support during these trying times, visit our giving page. (video: Rome Reports)
ISIS threatens Iraq’s cultural heritrage (CNN) Thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the people of Mesopotamia mastered the first writing system, mathematics, astronomy, literature and law. Iraq’s past, however, is threatened by the nightmare of its present. ISIS is not only at war with the Iraqi state, it’s also at war with Iraq’s very identity — blowing up religious shrines, slaughtering and enslaving minorities such as the Yazidis, Christians and Turkmen, and executing its enemies...
Airstrikes in Syria have killed more than 500 people (The Telegraph) A month of US-led air strikes on Syria has now killed more than 500 jihadists, according to activists monitoring the conflict. As allied jets continue to bombard positions of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) around the besieged Kurdish town of Kobane, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said it had recorded a total of 553 dead since the air raids started in late September. Of those 32 were civilians, including women and children — mainly in towns further south such as Raqqa, the de facto headquarters of Isil, and around other targets such as oilfields. But 464 members of ISIS had been killed, many around Kobane. The number is thought to include sizeable numbers of foreign fighters, including a number of Britons...
Gaza rebuilding slowed by delays (News24) Several dozen tons of cement bags stored in a warehouse are one of the few tangible achievements so far of a $2.7bn plan to rebuild war-wrecked Gaza Strip. The programme was launched with high expectations at an international conference in Cairo on 12 October, but has run into obstacles, including wrangling between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah for control in Gaza and what officials say has been a trickle of promised aid. Hardest hit by delays are tens of thousands of Gazans living in communal shelters or the ruins of their homes since the summer war between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas destroyed or damaged some 100 000 homes...
As elections approach, Catholic leaders say they see a new Ukraine (CNS) The task of the Catholic Church is not only to teach people how to pray, but how to live authentically Christian lives, two leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said. The church’s ministers also have an obligation to accompany, support and minister to their followers in the midst of strife and even danger, said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, and 81-year-old Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the retired head of the church...
Can Christians celebrate Diwali? (Deseret News) With a South Asian population of about three million, there are significant Diwali celebrations going on throughout the U.S. this week. Local Hindu and Jain temples and Sikh gurudwaras will host Diwali celebrations featuring hundreds of lights and lanterns, Indian curries and festive music played on harmoniums (keyboard), tablas (drum) and tambours (a stringed instrument). For many Asian Indians living in the diaspora, Diwali is not only religious, but steeped in socio-cultural significance and celebrations of South Asian identity. With this in mind Pramod Aghamkar, Executive Director of Satsang Ministries, started celebrating “Christian Diwalis” a few yeas ago in Dayton, Ohio. The Christian Diwali in Dayton is an effort on his part to immerse himself in native Asian-Indian culture and add the concepts and ideologies of the Christian worldview...
Dunkin Donuts in India: chickpea, saffron and chili (The Atlantic) The globalized world may not be flat, but it is round. And also frosted. And also, it must be said, delicious. In 2012, Dunkin’ Donuts — that quintessentially American purveyor of that quintessentially American thing, larded sugar-dough — launched in India. The 34 stores that are now spread across the country sell many products that will be familiar to American consumers: coffee, bagels, sandwiches, and, yep, doughnuts. They also sell items that were formulated specifically for Indian consumers: veggie burgers, lychee coolattas, and spicy sandwiches. The menu deviates so far from U.S. stores’ traditional breakfast-y fare that, in India, the chain brands itself as “Dunkin’ Donuts and More”...
22 October 2014
Tags: Syria India Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank
A Kurdish refugee child from the Syrian town of Kobani sits in front of a tent on 18 October in a camp on the Turkey-Syria border. To help refugees like these, visit this link.
(photo: CNS /Kai Pfaffenbach, Reuters)
22 October 2014
A Kurdish fighter undergoes training by British soldiers at a shooting range on 16 October in the northern Iraqi town of Erbil. (photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)
How ISIS is devastating Iraq’s schools (AP) Iraqi students went back to school on Wednesday amid tightened security as the academic year began a month late because thousands of people displaced by last summer’s onslaught by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had taken shelter in school buildings. In the areas of northern and western Iraq captured by the extremist group earlier this year — including the country’s second largest city Mosul — students are not required to attend classes, but will be able to watch lectures on state-run TV to prepare for final exams, Education Ministry spokeswoman Salama al-Hassan said. She told The Associated Press only a few schools are still occupied by displaced families and that authorities have set up trailers to be used as classrooms...
Holy See reaffirms support for two-state solution (Vatican Radio) The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, was the subject of the address given to the United Nations in New York by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Archbishop Bernardito Auza...
Cold winter looms in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Ukraine is preparing for a cold winter after Kiev and Moscow failed to conclude a deal on resuming Russian gas deliveries to the country. Russian and Ukrainian officials say they will meet again next week in Brussels as they could not hammer out an agreement in the Belgian capital...
Wars begin in a jealous heart, pope says (CNS) All wars begin in the human heart — a heart that is jealous and bitter and tears apart communities through misunderstandings and marginalization, Pope Francis said. “How wonderful if we would remember more often who we are, what Jesus Christ did with us: We are his body,” members of the church filled with the Holy Spirit’s gift of new life in Christ and united in fellowship and love, he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square on 22 October. The day also marked the feast day of St. John Paul II, who “invited everyone to open the doors to Christ,” said Pope Francis, who had canonized the Polish pope in April...
30 years later: looking back at the Ethiopian famine (BBC) It is 30 years since Ethiopia was in the grip of one of the worst famines to ever hit the country. Shocking pictures filmed by a BBC News team sparked a global effort to raise funds to help...
Christmas without commerce in Kerala (The Telegraph) Christmas in Kerala, jewel of the Malabar Coast, is different. It was my wife’s idea to experience Christmas in another culture where, we hoped, the celebrations would be more spiritual than commercial. Hence our festive-season passage to India. Kerala is an odd place. Nominally communist in its politics, it is one of the most religious places on Earth, with large Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities in which devotions are integral parts of life...
21 October 2014
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Ukraine Palestine Kerala
People displaced by fighting in Eastern Ukraine wait to enter an abandoned building site in Kiev on 19 October. The lot has been turned into a center for the distribution of food,
clothing and other aid. (photo: CNS/Petro Didula, Ukrainian Catholic University)
The Ukrainian capital of Kiev enjoyed warmer weather in early October, but the temperatures dropped dramatically in the middle of the month, catching displaced people completely unprepared.
At an ad hoc aid distribution center on 19 October, people who had fled their homes in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine lined up early in the morning to be among the first allowed inside to go through piles of donated coats, scarves and clothing. Two young mothers, seeing a volunteer pass a box of disposable diapers through the donation window, pleaded for the box, certain that by the time they got inside the abandoned construction site the diapers would be gone. Standing quietly at the back of the line, Elena, a petite dark-haired, blue-eyed woman from Donetsk, said she and her 10-year-old daughter had come to the center the day before as well. The “Volunteer Hundred,” a group formed during the Maidan demonstrations earlier in the year, hands out food on Saturdays and clothing and household goods on Sundays. The young woman, who asked that her last name not be used, recounted her blessings: The Donetsk family whom she served as a nanny owns a small apartment in Kiev and is letting her and her daughter stay there. Her husband has gone back to the conflict zone because of widespread accounts of pro-Russian rebels confiscating or destroying abandoned homes and apartments.
To support the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as it ministers to its people, visit this page.
21 October 2014
In this image from May, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople attend an ecumenical celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The two are scheduled to meet again next month in Turkey. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Vatican confirms papal visit to Turkey next month (Reuters) Pope Francis will travel to Turkey next month, the Vatican said on Tuesday, his first visit to the predominantly Muslim country which has become a refuge for Christians fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and in Iraq. During his three-day visit, the pope will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He will also meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the Orthodox churches that make up the second-largest Christian church family after Roman Catholicism...
Iran president pledges support for Iraq (AP) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised on Tuesday that Iran will stand by Iraq in the neighboring country’s fight against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group. Rouhani told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Heidar al-Abadi that Iran “will remain on the path until the last day,” according to a report by the official IRNA news agency. Rouhani says Iran will continue to provide Baghdad with military advisers and weapons. He also criticized the U.S. for allegedly failing to sufficiently support Iraq against an escalating Sunni insurgency...
More details emerge from consistory discussion on Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. The Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. At a briefing following the morning session, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explained that the participants, among whom were counted the Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches present and based in the region, used the occasion to speak broadly of the challenges facing Christians throughout the entire Middle East, to express gratitude for the spiritual closeness of the Universal Church to their sorely tried communities, and to reiterate the need to foster dialogue, protect the rights of all people regardless of religious affiliation, and search for solutions that respect and further the common good...
Ukraine’s president condemns plans for elections (Vatican Radio) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Russia has agreed to resume natural gas deliveries to his nation for the winter following concerns that a permanent halt in supplies over a pricing dispute could impact the rest of Europe. However tensions remain with Russia over eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have announced early elections...
Turkey to allow soldiers from Kurdistan to transit Turkey (Vatican Radio) Intense fighting has broken out yet again in the embattled town of Kobani in Syria, on the border with Turkey. The increase in intensity follows two days of relative calm after Kurdish forces defending the city pushed back Islamic State fighters with the help of US air support. The Turkish government has announced that it will allow Peshmerga fighters from neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan to transit Turkey and reinforce the defenders of Kobani...
Hamas claims it has resumed building tunnels in Gaza (Haaretz) Hamas has reportedly resumed digging tunnels throughout the Gaza Strip in preparation for its next battle with Israel. According to the Hamas-affiliated website Arsalanet, tunnel construction has resumed, since they provide the organization, and particularly its military wing, with strategic depth...
20 October 2014
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Vatican Turkey
Pope Francis leads a consistory at the Vatican on 20 October. Among other things, the meeting of cardinals discussed terrorism in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool)
Pope Francis turned his attention today to the worsening crisis among Christians in the Middle East.
The Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria, are experiencing “terrorism of previously unimaginable proportions” in which the perpetrators seem to have absolutely no regard for the value of human life, Pope Francis said.
“It seems that the awareness of the value of human life has been lost; it seems that the person does not count and can be sacrificed to other interests. And all of this, unfortunately, with the indifference of many,” he said during a special meeting at the Vatican on the Middle East.
The pope met on 20 October with cardinals gathered for an ordinary public consistory to approve the canonization of new saints, and to discuss the current situation in the Middle East.
The pope announced during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family that he would include a discussion on the Middle East at the 20 October consistory in order to let the region’s seven patriarchs, who were taking part in the synod, also attend the proceedings. It was the second such high-level summit the pope convened at the Vatican; the first was a meeting on 2-4 October of the region’s apostolic nuncios and top Vatican officials.
Pope Francis told those gathered that in the wake of the closing of the extraordinary synod that he wanted to focus attention on “another issue that is very close to my heart, that is, the Middle East, and in particular, the situation of Christians in the region.”
“Recent events, especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrisome,” he said.
“We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable proportions. Many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted and have had to leave their homes, in a brutal manner, too.”
“This unjust situation demands, beyond our constant prayers, an adequate response from the part of the international community as well,” he said.
The church is united in its “desire for peace and stability in the Middle East and the desire to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue, reconciliation and political efforts,” he said.
However, “at the same time, we want to offer the Christian communities the most help possible to support their presence in the region,” he said.
As hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee because of increased violence, “We cannot resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians, who for 2,000 years have been professing the name of Jesus.”
The pope said he was certain the day’s meeting would produce “valuable reflections and suggestions to be able to help our brothers and sisters who suffer and also to respond to the tragedy of the decreasing Christian presence in the land where Christianity was born.”
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, was among the seven patriarchs representing the Latin-rite and Eastern Catholic churches at the meeting.
The cardinal said the pope’s concern and calls for coordinated action represent “real moral support, but also real diplomatic support because the Holy See also has its role, its important influence on an international level,” he told Vatican Radio 19 October.
Just as the Vatican has endorsed sanctioned force according to international law in order to stop unjust aggression, Cardinal Rai said, something must be done to stop the violence.
“It is not possible that in the 21st century we have reverted to primitive law, where an organization shows up, uproots you from your home and your land, and says, ‘You are out of here,’ and the international community watches — inert and neutral. It is not possible.”
He said what is really painful is knowing that there are “many countries in the East and West that support these fundamentalist organizations and terrorists for their own interests — political and economic — and support these terrorist organizations with money, with arms and politically.”
When the church says the international community has a responsibility to act and do something to stop the violence, he said they are not pointing to some nameless entity, but rather specifically to “the United Nations, the (U.N.) Security Council and the International Criminal Court” to take on their responsibilities.
“They must act, otherwise where do we go? The United Nations loses its reason to exist. This assembly of nations was created to protect peace and justice in the world, right? However, now it has become a tool in the hands of the great powers. It is impossible to accept that.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, told the 20 October assembly that the United Nations must act “to prevent possible and new genocides and to help the numerous refugees.”
While it is licit to use force within the framework of international law to stop unjust aggression and protect people from persecution, he said it is clear that a complete resolution of the problems in the region cannot be found in “just a military response.”
In his talk, which was a summary of the 2-4 October meeting with Vatican diplomats and officials, the cardinal said the international community also “must go to the root of the problems, recognize past mistakes” and work to promote peace and development in the region.
Experience has shown that “war, instead of dialogue and negotiations, increases suffering,” the cardinal said in his lengthy talk.
Violence only leads to destruction, he said, so the first, most urgent step is for all sides in the Middle East “to lay down their arms and talk.”
To help bring stability to the region, long-lasting and just political solutions must be found for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said. The international community should also improve its relations with Iran to help in the resolution of the crisis in nearby Iraq and Syria, he added.
When it comes to the so-called Islamic State, he said, focus must be on who is supporting them, not just politically but also through “illegal trade of petroleum and the supply of arms and technology.”
Muslim leaders have a responsibility to denounce the religious claims of the Islamic State and “to condemn the killing of others for religious reasons and every kind of discrimination.”
“It is a moral obligation for everyone to say enough to so much suffering and injustice and to begin a new journey” where everyone has a role and rights as citizens in building up their country and its future, he said.
CNEWA is actively engaged in supporting all those suffering in the Middle East. To learn more, read our latest updates from Iraq and Syria. And to support our ongoing programs, visit this link.
20 October 2014
Hindu holy men protest against alleged violence against Hindus in Jammu, India. Leaders of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said Hindus and Christians must work for a “culture of inclusion for a just and peaceful society.” (photo: CNS photo/Jaipal Singh, EPA)
The Vatican has released a message to Hindus for the Feast of Deepavali, which takes place later this week:
Dear Hindu Friends,
- The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue joyfully greets all of you on the festive occasion of Deepavali, celebrated on 23 October this year. May the Transcendent Light illumine your hearts, homes and communities, and may all your celebrations deepen the sense of belonging to one another in your families and neighbourhoods, and so further harmony and happiness, peace and prosperity.
- We wish to reflect with you this year on the theme “Fostering together a culture of ‘inclusion’”. In the face of increasing discrimination, violence and exclusion throughout the world, ‘nurturing a culture of inclusion’ can be rightly seen as one of the most genuine aspirations of people everywhere.
- It is true that globalization has opened many new frontiers and provided fresh opportunities to develop, among other things, better educational and healthcare facilities. It has ushered in a greater awareness of democracy and social justice in the world, and our planet has truly become a ‘global village’ due in large part to modern means of communication and transportation. It can also be said, however, that globalization has not achieved its primary objective of integrating local peoples into the global community. Rather, globalization has contributed significantly to many peoples losing their sociocultural, economic and political identities.
- The negative effects of globalization have also had an impact on religious communities throughout the world since they are intimately related to surrounding cultures. In fact, globalization has contributed to the fragmentation of society and to an increase in relativism and syncretism in religious matters, as well as bringing about a privatization of religion. Religious fundamentalism and ethnic, tribal and sectarian violence in different parts of the world today are largely manifestations of the discontent, uncertainty and insecurity among peoples, particularly the poor and marginalized who have been excluded from the benefits of globalization.
- The negative consequences of globalization, such as widespread materialism and consumerism, moreover, have made people more self-absorbed, power-hungry and indifferent to the rights, needs and sufferings of others. This, in the words of Pope Francis, has led to a “‘globalization of indifference’ which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2014). Such indifference gives rise to a ‘culture of exclusion’ (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Apostolic Movement of the Blind and the Little Mission for the Deaf and Mute, 29 March 2014) in which the poor, marginalized and vulnerable are denied their rights, as well as the opportunities and resources that are available to other members of society. They are treated as insignificant, dispensable, burdensome, unnecessary, to be used and even discarded like objects. In various ways, the exploitation of children and women, the neglect of the elderly, sick, differently-abled, migrants and refugees, and the persecution of minorities are sure indicators of this culture of exclusion.
- Nurturing a culture of inclusion thus becomes a common call and a shared responsibility, which must be urgently undertaken. It is a project involving those who care for the health and survival of the human family here on earth and which needs to be carried out amidst, and in spite of, the forces that perpetuate the culture of exclusion.
- As people grounded in our own respective religious traditions and with shared convictions, may we, Hindus and Christians, join together with followers of other religions and with people of good will to foster a culture of inclusion for a just and peaceful society.
We wish you all a Happy Deepavali!
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
20 October 2014
Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, at the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul VI celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday 19 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope: Middle East without Christians is unthinkable (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there...
Australia to deploy forces in Iraq to battle ISIS (BBC) Australia has reached an agreement with Iraq to allow 200 special forces personnel to train local troops to fight against Islamic State militants. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the military would now decide when to deploy the special forces group. The unit has been waiting in United Arab Emirates for a month, amid a legal row between the two sides. Australia is a major contributor to the US-led coalition against Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq...
Amnesty International deplores abuses on both sides in Ukraine (BBC) Human rights group Amnesty International says there is evidence of atrocities committed by both warring sides in eastern Ukraine, but not on the scale reported by Russia. It said “strong evidence” implicated government forces in the killing of four men near rebel-held Donetsk...
Pope Francis beatifies Pope Paul VI (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday celebrated the Closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. During the Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, the Holy Father beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, whom he described as a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle”...
Cardinal sends message of inclusion to Hindus (VIS) “Christians and Hindus: together to foster a culture of inclusion” is the theme of the message addressed to followers of Hinduism by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on the occasion of Deepavali, the festival of lights, to be celebrated on 23 October this year...
17 October 2014
Tags: Syria India Iraq Ukraine Middle East
Laborers crowd into a bus in Ernakulam, India, after a long workday. The region is undergoing dramatic changes, as a result of urban sprawl. Learn more about this in Change Comes to ‘God’s Own Country’ from the July 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
17 October 2014
Civilians and a member of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad make their way through rubble and debris of destroyed buildings 7 October near Damascus.
(photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)
Iraq imposes curfew (AP) The Iraqi government imposed a curfew in the western city of Ramadi on Friday over fears that the Islamic State group might try to advance on the strategically important city. The curfew began at midnight as part of an effort to limit movement in and out of the city as government forces prepared to eliminate pockets of resistance there, said Sabah Karhout, the chairman of the Anbar provincial council. Ramadi, the capital of the vast Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, is located 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad...
Report: ex-Iraqi pilots training Syrians (AP) Former Iraqi air force pilots are training extremists from the Islamic State group to fly three warplanes captured earlier from air bases belonging to the Syrian army, a Syrian activist group said Friday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the planes, seen flying over the Jarrah air base in the eastern countryside of Aleppo province this week, are believed to be of the MiG-21 and MiG-23 variety...
Leaflets announce threats against Ukrainian clergy (RT) Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been receiving threats, including that of violence against the clergy, as radical nationalist movements try to take over churches and force them under the Kiev Patriarchate...
Pope sends message on World Food Day (VIS) World Food Day, held on 16 October, was instituted in 1979 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in order to raise public awareness and strengthen solidarity in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father sent a message to the director general of the FAO, Jose Graziano da Silva...
Pope to beatify Pope Paul VI on Sunday (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will officially declare Pope Paul VI Blessed on Sunday, 19 October during the closing Mass of the 3rd Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family...
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine