30 October 2015
Demonstrators in Bangladesh protest anti-Christian assaults throughout the Indian subcontinent. (photo: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/ZUMA Wire/Corbis)
In the Autumn edition of ONE, writer Jose Kavi writes on the persecution of Christians in India. Here, he reflects on his experience of reporting on anti-Christian violence in the country for more than 30 years.
Christians in India seem to be jittery these days. They feel helpless amid unprecedented attacks they have been facing for some time now.
Reporting these attacks now has given me a feeling of déjà vu.
I started reporting persecution of Christians in 1982, the year I joined South Religious Asian News, a news agency, as an in-service trainee.
That year Christians and Hindus clashed in Kanniyakumari, the southernmost district of India. Police firing on clashing groups had led to several deaths. The news agency ran stories for months about sectarian clashes involving both Christians and Hindus. Hindus then formed 49 percent of the district’s population and Christians 46 percent. The rest were Muslims.
Several probes by government and independent bodies blamed a group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S., “national volunteer organization”), for dividing people on the religious lines.
R.S.S. was formed in 1925 as a charitable, educational, volunteer, Hindu nationalist non-governmental organization. However, its main agenda is to create a Hindu theocratic state in India. It has now become the umbrella organization for all rightwing Hindu groups in India. Its political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P., “Indian people’s party”) now heads the federal coalition government.
Attacks on Christians and other minority religious groups in India have happened in proportion to the growth of R.S.S. and its affiliates in the country.
Most reported incidents of violence against Christians in 1998 occurred in Gujarat; it was the same year that the B.J.P. came to power in the state. The year began with an unprecedented hate campaign by groups espousing Hindutva (the ideology of Hindu nationalism). It culminated with ten days of nonstop violence against Christian tribal people and the destruction of churches and Christian institutions in the southeastern districts at the year’s end. Human Rights Watch investigated these attacks in the Dangs district in southeastern Gujarat. The events were preceded by escalating violence throughout the state in which many police and state officials were implicated.
Ten years later, Kandhamal district in Odisha, an eastern Indian state, witnessed much worse violence against Christians. Violence erupted upon the impoverished Christian minority in August 2008. A series of riots led by radical Hindus left roughly 100 people dead, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 people displaced — many forced to hide in nearby forests, where more died of hunger and snake bites.
The violence was carried out by mobs adorned with saffron headbands, a sign of right-wing Hindu militancy, and shouting slogans such as “Jai shri ram!” (victory to the Hindu god Ram) and “Jai bajrang bali!” (a tribute to another Hindu deity). Attackers wielded rods, tridents, swords, firearms, kerosene and even acid.
The same year, as many as 24 churches, including the chapel of cloistered convent, were damaged and several Christians were attacked in Karnataka, a southern Indian state.
All these incidents occurred away from New Delhi, India’s political capital. However, this ancient city also faced an unprecedented anti-Christian violence six months after the B.J.P. took over the national government. Over three months, at least five churches and a school were vandalized and the blame went to R.S.S. and its affiliates.
The Delhi incidents put the government in a bad light internationally. The attacks stopped suddenly and all churches in the capital were given police protection.
However, attacks now continue in villages far away from Delhi — giving me no respite from reporting on anti-Christian violence.
Read Jose Kavi’s report, ‘There Will Be More Martyrs’, in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE.
30 October 2015
Tags: India Violence against Christians Indian Christians Indian Catholics
Culinary students speak and sign to one another at the Women’s Promotion Center in Addis Ababa. To learn more about how the church in Ethiopia is responding to the challenges of urbanization, read Bright Lights, Big Problems from the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
30 October 2015
Tags: Ethiopia Education Disabilities Urbanization
A Jordanian boy looks on during a protest in solidarity with Palestinian demonstrators following Friday prayers in Amman on 30 October. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)
Pilgrims visit Holy Land, despite the violence (Fides) Pilgrimages continue to take place in Holy Land, despite the violence in recent weeks across the territory, according to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “A pilgrimage in difficult times is a real pilgrimage,” wrote Bishop William Shomali in a note thanking visitors and inviting groups to pray for peace in Holy Land…
Coptic Christians targeted for kidnappings in Egypt (Christian Today) Police complacency toward the kidnapping of Coptic Christians in Egypt has fostered a climate of impunity, according to a Christian persecution charity. The phenomenon of kidnapping Coptic Christians for ransom has spread in the Minya province, the latest of which occurred last week…
Project for women and vulnerable children in the Somali region (Fides) The Catholic Church in the Somali region of Ethiopia is engaged in a project assisting women and vulnerable children. The idea, says a local source, was born following the meeting of missionary volunteers with underserved local residents. Most of these vulnerable people live with H.I.V. and other serious health problems…
Photos: 150 rescued from sinking boat off Lesbos (Al Jazeera) Photos of the rescue effort: The craft was one of many to encounter trouble making the crossing from Turkey as waters turn treacherous…
Patriarch Kirill believes in improvement of Russian-U.S. relations (Interfax) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia believes that problems in Russian-U.S. relations will become history. “I think there is a special need for closer contact when problems arise in the relations between our countries,” the patriarch said in a meeting with U.S. Ambassador John Tefft in Moscow on Friday…
29 October 2015
Tags: Egypt Refugees Ethiopia Holy Land Patriarch Kirill
Easter is celebrated in the Italo-Albanian Catholic village of Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily.
(photo: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)
Not all Italian Catholics are Roman Catholics.
In the south of Italy, in the regions of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria and Puglia, the island of Sicily, and even just outside the walls of Rome, there are Italians who follow the Christian rites and traditions of the Byzantine East.
These “Italo-Greeks” or “Italo-Albanians” form a small Catholic church that comprises two eparchies and a monastery, numbering fewer than 65,000 faithful. Although small, “the history of this 1,500-year-old church — with its highs and lows — offers insights into possible models for church unity between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East,” writes Chorbishop John D. Faris in his short history of the church.
To read the full account of this fascinating story of survival, click here.
29 October 2015
Iraqi youth attend summer camp in the mountain village of Qartaba, Lebanon. Iraqis who have fled ISIS are facing new challenges in Lebanon. Read “In Limbo in Lebanon” in the
Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
29 October 2015
A picture taken on 29 October 2015 shows Syrians inspecting damaged buildings following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the rebel-held area of Douma, east of the capital Damascus. (photo: Sameer Al-DoumyAFP/Getty Images)
Kerry seeks end to Syrian civil war “hell” (BBC) The US is intensifying diplomatic efforts to end the “hell” of Syria’s civil war even as it increases support for moderate rebels, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said. Mr. Kerry is travelling to Vienna for talks with foreign ministers on ending the four-and-a-half year conflict...
Cardinal: Only peace will save the Christians of Mesopotamia (Fides) In Iraq and Syria, “without peace, there is no hope for anyone,” and only the end of sectarian conflicts can ensure the survival of the indigenous Christian communities in Mesopotamia. This is how Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, highlighted the dangers that threaten the present and the future of Christians in vast areas of the Middle East...
Bishop: talks underway about possible meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kiril (Tass) The Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican are in talks over the possible meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, said Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Yegoryevsk... “The relations [between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church] have varied over the past 20-30 years, at times they were tense. However, it is a different period now — of benevolent attention to each other. The negotiations over such a meeting [between the Pope and the Patriarch] are underway, and it is quite possible that we will learn something specific in the near future,” he said answering a question from a TASS correspondent...
Istanbul churches issue “Basic Principles of Christianity” book (TodaysZaman.com) For the first time after 1,700 years in the Christian world, the leaders of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churches in Turkey came together at the Fener Greek Patriarchate in the Balat neighborhood of Istanbul to release the book “Basic Principles of Christianity” written by a council consisting of members from the churches...
Rastafarians return to Ethiopia (CNN) Two hundred and fifty kilometers from Addis Ababa, Shashamene’s Rastafarians live in 200 hectares of land bequeathed by former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, the country’s leader from 1930 to 1974. A modernizer, he was a strong supporter of pan-Africanism and brought the country into the League of Nations, United Nations and made the capital Addis Ababa the center of the Organization of African Unity — the precursor for the African Union. But for many Rastafarians he was more than just the head of state. In fact the erstwhile duke (“Ras”) Tafari Makonnen gave his name to an entire religion...
28 October 2015
In this image from 2014, Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, in the blue habit, meets refugees
during a visit to Erbil, Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)
Name: Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf
Order: The Good Shepherd Sisters
Facility: The Provincial Home of the Good Shepherd Sisters
Location: Ain Áar, Metn, Lebanon
During times of peace as well as war, the abuse of wives and daughters is often condoned in many communities across the Middle East. Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf knows she can’t end such widespread, deeply ingrained practices. But at the Provincial Home in Lebanon, she’s having a positive effect on women’s lives just the same.
Like her fellow Good Shepherd Sisters, she views the group home they’ve established for those at-risk as an oasis of compassion. “Our mission is to support women and girls living in violence in their homes,” Sister Marie-Claude explains. “We receive women who have marital problems and they’re sometimes pregnant. We give them food and shelter. We also help children between 2 and 7 years old, and have a boarding home for girls 4 to 18 years old.
Many refugee families now living in Lebanon are also receiving help, either at the Provincial Home or at other facilities run by the greater community of Good Shepherd Sisters.
As Sister Marie Claude points out, “We provide shelter, rehabilitation, education and professional training for young people, women and refugees. There is also an emergency food and hygiene program, a legal support program for women, and psychosocial support for children who have suffered trauma from the war.”
Among the children they’ve assisted is Syrian girl named Hamide. As Sister Marie-Claude explains, “At the age 12, Hamide was taken by a group of terrorists. She was raped several times, but managed to escape and was found in a public garden in Damascus.”
Once she was brought to the Provincial Home, “Hamide became another person. She studied hard and she is now in her complementary level. Hamide is very loving and very sensitive, especially when the sisters receive a new person in our home.”
If Sister Marie-Claude has one frustration, it’s that the Provincial Home is so understaffed, “we are not able to help the sick refugees. We do not have enough time to listen to so many people. We are only three sisters and there are so many requests for help.”
With no solution in sight, Sister Marie Claude admits she’ll simply continue working, as hard as she possibly can. But with so many desperate people to comfort, the sisters need more than dedication to continue their work. It’s why they need your support.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.
Also, for a limited time, you can make your gift go twice as far. A generous benefactor is matching every donation to support the sisters between now and 1 November, All Saints’ Day. Learn more about this great gift here.
28 October 2015
The Autumn 2015 edition of ONE is now available online and will be arriving soon in a mailbox near you. You can check it out right here.
We have — appropriately — a cornucopia of inspiring news and information in this edition. Among other stories, our reporters and photographers tell how faith is growing in Ukraine, how Christians in India are standing firm in the face of persecution, and how Ethiopians are learning to adapt to an increasingly urbanized landscape. All this and more, in the new edition of ONE.
Take a look.
And take a moment to watch Msgr. John E. Kozar’s video preview below.
28 October 2015
A seminarian prays before the morning liturgy in Uzhorod, Ukraine. A new generation of seminarians is helping breathe new life into the seminary and the Greek Catholic Church. Read more in “Out From Underground” in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)
28 October 2015
In the video above, Pope Francis marks the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate during his
weekly audience. (video: Rome Reports)
Iran accepts invitation to Syria peace talks (Reuters) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and three of his deputies will attend multilateral talks on Friday in Vienna that seek to resolve the conflict in Syria, the foreign ministry was quoted as saying on Wednesday. It will be the first time that Tehran, the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, attends an international summit on the four-year-long war. Other participants, notably the United States, say Assad can play no part in Syria’s future...
Russians meet with religious leaders in Syria (Fides) A Russian delegation composed of parliamentarians, political and military representatives recently made a visit to Syria for a program of meetings which also includes visits to representatives of churches and local religious communities...
Iraqi parliament rejects law on religious affiliation for children (Fides) Parliament in Iraq rejected the proposal — made by Christian representatives, but supported by parliamentarians belonging to different alliances — to amend the law by which a child is automatically registered as a Muslim, even if only one parent converts to Islam...
Ethiopia experiencing worst drought in 30 years (UN Humanitarian Bulletin) Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 30 years. The impact of the failed spring belg rains was compounded by the arrival of the El Niño weather conditions that weakened summer kiremt rains that feed 80 to 85 per cent of the country. This greatly expanded food insecurity, malnutrition and devastated livelihoods across six affected regions of the country. The level of acute need across virtually all humanitarian sectors has already exceeded levels seen in the Horn of Africa drought of 2011 and is projected to be far more severe throughout an 8-month period in 2016...
Catholic bishops in India ask government to focus on values, inclusiveness (Vatican Radio) The CBCI has proposed the ministry of Human Resource Development to form its new education policy focusing on teaching values and probity in public life without being religion-specific. The Catholic Church which owns the second highest number of education institutions in the country claimed that the present system was deficient in ethical and moral components. Further, the Church said that the new policy should nurture diversity, inclusiveness and secularism as well as divergent and critical thinking among the students...
‘Nostra Aetate’ at 50: the ‘Magna Carta’ of interreligious dialogue (CNS) Representatives of the world’s religions gathered in Rome to commemorate and reflect on the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with other religions. Although it is the shortest of the Second Vatican Council’s documents, its influence continues to be felt in the life of the church today, said speakers at an anniversary conference 26-28 October sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews...
Tags: Syria Iraq India Pope Francis Russia