Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
8 July 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this photo from January, Latin Patriarch Faoud Twal of Jerusalem leads an annual pilgrimage at the baptism site on the Jordan River. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

“We need your solidarity, your advocacy and yes, your material help,” said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem during his visit today with CNEWA.

“But we need you to be courageous, courageous to tell the truth.”

The patriarch is in the United States on a three-week journey that will include the priestly ordination of an Arab American man, who will serve the patriarchate as a pastor.

“For us, things have gotten worse since the pastoral visit of the Holy Father to the Holy Land in late May,” the patriarch said. “His gestures, his simplicity, his words moved our people,” he continued, “but the day after the pope prayed for peace with the patriarch and the presidents of Israel and Palestine, the Israelis announced the building of 3,000 more apartments for settlers.

“And now,” he said quietly, shaking his head, “the terrible deaths of those three young Israelis, the death of the two Palestinian men the Israelis say are responsible, the death of that boy in East Jerusalem, and now Gaza…” his voice trailed off as he thought about the cycle of tit-for-tat violence that has haunted Israelis and Palestinians for decades.

When the Holy Father visited the Holy Land, “he could not avoid the politics in our region. He had to meet with the refugees, Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian. He had to be clear that the drama of Syria cannot go on.

“Outsiders cannot decide Syria’s future,” the patriarch added. “Who appointed outsiders to police the Middle East? And why start with Syria?” There are other Middle Eastern regimes, he said, where extremists are harbored and Christians and other minorities, discriminated against.

The patriarch expressed his gratitude for the support of CNEWA and other organizations such as Caritas and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, solidarity he said that gives good witness to the followers of Jesus in the land of his birth.

“Our people, especially the refugees I meet, are conscious of their dignity,” the patriarch said softly. “They say, ‘help us find work, abuna [father], all we want is to keep our dignity, to keep our pride.’ ”

The patriarch ended his interview reminding readers: “Don’t be satisfied with what you read in the newspapers.” Dig deeper, he urged, there you’ll find the truth.

Click here to learn how you can help Middle East Christians reclaim that dignity cited by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.

Tags: Middle East Holy Land Israeli-Palestinian conflict Holy Land Christians

8 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

A shepherd walks his flock out to graze in Deir Mimas village, in Lebanon. To read more about life in this region, read Rebuilding Southern Lebanon, from the November 2005 issue of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Tags: Lebanon Village life Farming/Agriculture

8 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Residents of Gaza are picking through the rubble of flattened homes on Tuesday morning, after Israel launched what could be an offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. (video: Washington Post/AP)

Israel launches major operation against Hamas in Gaza Strip (Washington Post) The Israeli army, air force and navy launched a major operation Tuesday against the Islamist militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, striking dozens of sites in the coastal enclave and mobilizing infantry troops along the border for a possible ground incursion designed to stop rocket attacks on Israel. Israel announced the beginning of “Operation Protective Edge” to strike Hamas and protect southern Israeli citizens from intensified rocket fire from Gaza…

Kidnappings of Copts are increasing, appeal to President Sisi (Fides) The Coalition of the Copts, an active organization in the Egyptian governorate of Qena, has addressed an urgent appeal to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and to the Egyptian Interior Ministry to ask for action against the scourge of seizures, affecting with particular virulence the Christians of Coptic confession in the areas of Upper Egypt. In the city area of Nag Hammadi alone, there have been 72 kidnappings for ransom in the past three years…

We need to help Iraq’s Christians, before it’s too late (Vatican Radio) “The situation was already bleak but now it has got a whole deal worse. For the first time the ever, the bishops have raised the doomsday scenario of an Iraq emptied of Christians,” reports John Pontifex, spokesman for the UK branch of the global Catholic Aid Agency, Aid to the Church in Need…

Recent events in Lebanon threaten religious coexistence (Al Monitor) A new concern has been added to the fears of the Lebanese people, whose Muslim community in this confessional country is fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The security concern that surfaced in debates and discussions even before the start of Ramadan on 28 June has now taken the shape of bombs and immediate threats to non-Muslim Lebanese and other residents in Lebanon. For decades, Lebanon has prided itself on being the only place of religious and cultural diversity in the Middle East. However, it seems that this situation has now changed…

Ukraine rebels retreat for last stand (New York Times) Separatist rebels retreated Monday from positions in eastern Ukraine, apparently blowing up bridges, and began building barricades in the two largest cities, Donetsk and Luhansk, in anticipation of a final stand against advancing government troops. The action on Monday came after a series of surprising successes by Ukraine’s underequipped and underfunded military, which in recent days has driven the rebels from some strongholds that were seized early in the three-month rebellion. It has accomplished this without encountering strong resistance or a reaction from Moscow…

Tags: Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Copts

7 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian refugee children gather for lessons at the community center in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, founded by Sister Micheline Lattouff and administered by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Diane Handal recently contributed a story to ONE on the large population of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and the work of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to ease their lot. Today, Ms. Handal shared with us a message she received from Sister Micheline Lattouff, who heads their efforts in the Bekaa Valley, from the Christian village of Bechouat:

Dear Diane,

Thanks for your message, and for your interest for our mission. Thanks be to God, we are all good — Sisters Gisele, Rita and I, and all the staff too. We are in a very critical moment, it’s true, and in Baalbeck Christians receive few political threats, but we are here and we continue to live and to serve all the people: Muslim and Christian, Lebanese and refugee.

Last week, we began two youth camps. In the morning we have 200 Lebanese children from 10 villages, and in the afternoon we have 400 refugee children. It’s a very good experience and the staff is very happy to do something for children. We have 40 animators [facilitators] who are very good people, and responsible with kids. The topic of the camp is: go to the mondial [World Cup]. Very interesting for all!

So, thanks for all you have done and are doing for us.

God bless you and your family.

With love,

Sister Micheline

You can also read Ms. Handal’s reflections on the story, featured on our blog. To learn how you can help Sister Micheline in her efforts to help Syrian refugees, click here.

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Children Sisters

7 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Bat-El Shmueli, an Ethiopian woman who has lived in Israel for more than two decades, works closely with the new Ethiopian community as a supervisor of the organization Ethiopian National Project in Haifa. Ms. Shmueli strives to build bridges between the Israeli and Ethiopian culture. She lives with her husband, a famous Israeli Sepahardic artist, in Ein Hod with their two children and her niece, who was orphaned in Ethiopia. To learn more about Ethiopian Jews in Israel, read Challenges for a Land of Immigrants, in the November 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

Tags: Israel Immigration Multiculturalism Ethiopian Jews

7 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis tosses a wreath of flowers into the Mediterranean Sea off the Italian island of Lampedusa in this 2013 photo. The pope threw a wreath to honor the memory of immigrants who have died trying to cross from Africa to reach a new life in Europe. Marking the first anniversary of his Lampedusa visit, the pope said the the tragic deaths of thousands searching for a better future should trigger compassion and action, not indifference. (photo: CNS)

Pope Francis sends message to mark Lampedusa anniversary (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to mark the first anniversary of his pastoral visit to the island of Lampedusa, which is a major way-point for irregular migrants from North Africa who seek to enter Europe…

Eduard Shevardnadze, Soviet foreign minister under Gorbachev, is dead at 86 (New York Times) Eduard A. Shevardnadze, who as Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s foreign minister helped hone the “new thinking,” foreign and domestic, that transformed and ultimately rent the Soviet Union, then led his native Georgia through its turbulent start as an independent state, died Monday. He was 86. In 1992, he was baptized into the Georgian Orthodox Church, taking the name Georgy…

Besieged Palestinians in Syria refugee camp ‘will likely go hungry’ (U.N. News Center) Unable for more than a month now to deliver food and other supplies to Palestinians trapped in a refugee camp near Damascus, the United Nations agency tasked with ensuring their well-being said today it is urgently seeking to resume its humanitarian activities, warning that the civilians would likely go hungry…

Hamas: Israeli air strikes in Gaza kill 6 of its men (Daily Star Lebanon) Israeli air strikes killed six Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip Monday, the Islamist group said, in the deadliest attacks in a surge of violence exacerbated by the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youths and a Palestinian teen…

Sisi: Egypt should have deported journalists (Al Jazeera) Egypt’s president has said he wished journalists jailed in his country had been deported rather than tried, less than two weeks after three Al Jazeera staff were sentenced to seven years in prison for “aiding a terrorist group.” Abdel Fattah al Sisi was reported by the Al Masry al Youm newspaper as telling a meeting of local editors that the trials had hurt Egypt…

Egypt’s Copts may soon regret supporting Sisi (Al Monitor) Most Coptic Christians will tell you that anything is better than the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the unequivocal support for current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi among Copts was no surprise. But now with the devastating curb of freedom of expression and the widespread crackdown on journalists and activists, the Coptic Orthodox Church is finding out, Copts, too, are not safe from the new government’s oppressive measures…

Christians displaced again by Iraqi violence (Al Monitor) An estimated 10,000 Christians have been displaced from the Nineveh plains to Iraqi Kurdistan during the past few days as a result of raids by the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), surrounding the majority-Christian Hamdaniya district. Al Monitor has confirmed that shelters for displaced persons have been opened in the town of Ain Kawa, in Erbil province…

Tags: Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank United Nations Georgia Immigration

3 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Before moving to Jifna, a village in the West Bank 14 miles north of Jerusalem, the Rev. Firas Aridah was a pastor in the village of Aboud for six years. Over 1,600 acres of Aboud’s land were confiscated by the Israeli occupation for construction of two illegal settlements and a stretch of Israel’s separation wall. You can read more about forming priests in a land of conflict in the March 2011 issue of ONE. To learn more about Father Aridah, watch this video from our 2009 special feature on the priests of the regions CNEWA serves. (photo: Rich Wiles)

Tags: Middle East Holy Land Israeli-Palestinian conflict Holy Land Christians Priests

3 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Iraqi refugees line up to receive free food inside the Khazer camp on the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq, 29 June. Archbishop Bashar Matte Warda of Erbil told Catholic New Service by telephone on 28 June the situation was going “from bad to worse.” (photo: CNS/Stringer, Reuters)

Iraqis flee to Kurdistan region (Al Jazeera) Since ISIL seized Mosul earlier this month, long-standing sectarian and regional rifts permeating Iraq have created a landscape that many now worry is irrevocably fragmented. However, because the fighting has largely been driving southward, and because of the presence of a well-trained Kurdish armed force, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north has remained largely stable. This stability has drawn hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Mosul and the surrounding areas…

Tensions spike along Gaza border amid airstrikes as Israeli troops deploy (Christian Science Monitor) Israeli airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza overnight and the return fire of 14 rockets into southern Israel is intensifying concerns of a full-blown conflict after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers as well as a Palestinian teen…

Authorities dismiss threats against Christians in the Bekaa (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanese authorities Thursday dismissed threats by a shadowy militant group against churches in the Bekaa Valley as bogus, a security source told The Daily Star. The so-called Free Sunni Brigades in Baalbek is nothing more than a group with a Twitter account, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “Security forces do not take this group seriously ... but the nationwide security plan inherently provides reinforcements outside places of worship,” the source added…

Chechen in Syria a rising star in extremist group (Washington Post) A young, red-bearded ethnic Chechen has rapidly become one of the most prominent commanders in the breakaway Al Qaeda group that has overrun swaths of Iraq and Syria, illustrating the international nature of the movement. Omar al Shishani, one of hundreds of Chechens fighting in Syria, has emerged as the face of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, appearing frequently in its online. Syria’s civil war, in its fourth year, has attracted militants from around the world. Some estimates run as high as 10,000 foreign fighters in the country. But the Chechens — hardened from years of wars with Russia in the Caucasus region — are considered some of the best fighters…

Reaching out to Eritrea: Italy seeks to encourage end to isolation (Vatican Radio) After the tragedy of the boat that sank off Italy’s Southern Island of Lampedusa, came Pope Francis’ first the appeal for a global response. Recently, Catholic bishops in Eritrea issued a pastoral letter calling on Eritreans to do some soul searching. Now Italy is reaching out to the Eritrean government. The Italian deputy minister of foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, visited Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to restart Italian-Eritrean relations…

Andra Pradesh bishops launch web network for Dalit youth (Vatican Radio) Spearheaded by Jesuit Father Dusi Ravi, the rector of Andhra Loyola College, Indian bishops have launched a network for Dalit youth to help them share information on jobs, scholarships and other opportunities…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees Eritrea Indian Bishops

2 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Sister Najma chats with a patient visiting the clinic for a routine checkup at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. The clinic is administered by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, an order of Iraqi nuns. Recently, ISIS extremists kidnapped two Iraqi Sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate — Sister Atur and Sister Miskinta — along with three of the young charges of their foster home in Mosul. Please keep them in your prayers. To find out how you can help Iraq’s religious sisters, click here. (photo: Nader Daoud)

Tags: Iraq Children Violence against Christians Sisters Health Care

2 July 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Violence in eastern Ukraine has resumed following the expiration of the cease-fire. According to residents of Kramatorsk, the first bombshells slammed into the city just minutes after the cease-fire ended. (video: Al Jazeera)

Palestinian teen killed in suspected revenge attack by Israeli settlers (Al Jazeera) A 16-year-old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem was abducted and killed early Wednesday by Israeli settlers, Israeli police said — a suspected act of revenge for the killing of three Israeli youths that comes amid heightened tensions. The murder highlights a growing fear that there will be more cases of violence not between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups, but by vigilante groups on both sides taking matters into their own hands…

Latin patriarch of Jerusalem calls for end to cycle of revenge (Fides) “It is not worthy of political and religious leaders to support, feed and foment revenge. Revenge calls for revenge, blood calls for blood. And innocent people who are killed, all the children killed, are victims sacrificed on the diabolical altars of hatred. We pray for the parents and families of all these young people kidnapped and killed,” said Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, regarding the news of the slain Palestinian teen…

Christians find refuge, aid in biblical Iraqi town (AINA) The advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has left few safe havens for Iraq’s Christians. Many fleeing Christians found refuge in parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, such as the northern Ninevah town of Alqosh. Alqosh is mentioned in the Bible — it was the hometown of the Old Testament prophet Nahum. Today, it is one of the rare all-Christian cities in the region…

Iraq will disintegrate, Chaldean leader predicts (Aleteia) Patriarch Louis Rafael I, head of the Chaldean Church, spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on 28 June. The patriarch reported no hope that Iraq will remain a single, unified state. “Perhaps a symbolic unit and the name of Iraq will continue to exist,” he said, “but de facto there will be three independent zones with their own budgets and armies…”

Pope says there are more Christian martyrs today than ever (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Monday that there are more persecuted Christians in the world today than there were in the first centuries of Christianity. The pope’s words came as he celebrated Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on the day in which the church remembers the first Roman martyrs who were martyred during Nero’s persecution in 64…

Tags: Iraq Ukraine Iraqi Christians Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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