20 July 2017
Men carry the casket of Israeli policeman Hail Sethawi 14 July who was killed in an attack at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. The heads of Jerusalem’s Christian churches have expressed “serious concern” over rising tensions and violence in the Old City.
(photo: CNS/Ancho Gosh, EPA)
The heads of Jerusalem’s Christian churches expressed “serious concern” over an escalation in tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City as hostilities remained high following the mid-July shooting deaths of two Israeli policemen and three gunmen on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
The church leaders said they were worried that any change to the status quo of the site could “easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequences.”
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, were among the signatories of the 19 July statement.
Police believe the gunmen — three cousins, Arab citizens of Israel who were killed by Israel police — stashed their weapons inside the compound of the holy site for use in the 14 July attack.
“We express ... our grief for the loss of human life and strongly condemn any act of violence,” the Christian leaders said. “We are worried about any change to the historical situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram ash-Sharif) and its courtyard, and in the holy city of Jerusalem. ... We value the continued custody of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on Al-Aqsa mosque and the holy places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which guarantees the right for all Muslims to free access and worship to Al-Aqsa according to the prevailing status quo.”
Israel, which maintains control to access the site and has set up metal detectors at the entrance of the compound, repeatedly has said it has no intentions of changing the status quo in the area. The Jordanian Waqf Islamic trust administers the inside of the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site but cannot pray there.
The compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is also considered a Jewish holy site as the historical location of the two Jewish biblical temples. Today, Jews pray at the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the platform, below the compound. Visitors to the Western Wall plaza must go through metal detectors to enter the site.
Jerusalem Muslim leaders have called on worshipers not to go through the metal detectors, and Muslims have been converging outside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate for prayers instead.
“We renew our call that the historical status quo governing these sites be fully respected, for the sake of peace and reconciliation to the whole community, and we pray for a just and lasting peace in the whole region and all its people,” the Jerusalem church leaders said.
On 14 July, the same day as the attack, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the incident as a “desecration.” The bishops said they mourned for those killed and deplored “the heightened tensions that such an attack can span.” They noted that the “path to peace, for which both Israelis and Palestinians yearn, cannot be paved with violence.”
20 July 2017
India’s President-elect Ram Nath Kovind greets people during a ceremony in New Delhi after his election on 20 July 2017. (photo: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)
Citizens of Iraqi Christian village protest mayor’s removal (Fides) Hundreds of citizens in Alqosh, a Christian majority city of the Nineveh Plain, participated in the protest march on Thursday that crossed the central streets of the town center. They wanted to show their dissent regarding the sudden removal from office of the local mayor, ordered in recent days by the Council of the Nineveh Province...
‘Untouchable’ elected president of India (Bloomberg) Ram Nath Kovind was elected as president of India, the world’s most populous democracy, becoming the second leader from country’s ‘untouchable’ community to occupy the highest post...
Sunday in an Indian jail (National Catholic Register) Whenever I go to Kandhamal — the ground zero of one of the worst persecutions of Christians in Indian history — unexpected things unfold. The primary objective of my visit mid-June to the remote jungle district in Odisha state on the east coast, where Christian targets had gone up in flames since August 2008, was to confirm couple of important stories, including elephants saving a Catholic youth from being burnt alive by a mob...
Drought worsens in Ethiopia (IPS) Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert...
Flow of tourists into Armenia (Public Radio of Armenia) 1,350,791 people have visited Armenia over the first half of this year — 24.3 percent more than at the same period a year before, Zarmine Zeytuntsyan, head of the Economic development and investments ministry’s tourism committee, told journalists on Wednesday referring to the figures received from border checkpoints, reports ARKA News Agency...
19 July 2017
Caritas Georgia Director Anahit Mkhoyan visited CNEWA’s New York office today, 19 July 2017, and led a discussion on the region she serves. (photo: Greg Kandra)
We were delighted to get a visit Wednesday from a longtime friend in Georgia, Anahit Mkhoyan.
Her name may ring a bell. She is director of Caritas Georgia, and wrote A Letter From Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE — a deeply personal and moving essay that was honored last month at the Catholic Press Awards in Quebec. We were pleased to present Anahit with her award certificate and hear her thoughts about the important work she is doing in Georgia.
“We touch the human,” she told our staff. “This is the precious part of Caritas.”
She spoke, in particular, of her gratitude for CNEWA’s support of the organization’s mother and child center — and the boundless generosity of CNEWA’s donors. The impact of CNEWA’s donors, she explained, is dramatic.
“Financial support becomes spiritual support for us,” she explained. “We can take a case and give the first support, human support, which people really need. We know if we don’t catch a woman and her child now, the kids may end up as street children, she may become a prostitute. It is a vicious cycle. People, when they are left out of one circle, then they drop out of other circles, and Caritas is the only place for them to be safe.”
And she emphasized: “I want you to feel like every spirit, every smile, every saved soul is behind every penny you are raising.”
Thank you, Anahit, for that message — and for being such a generous collaborator in CNEWA’s work!
19 July 2017
Tags: Georgia Caritas Caucasus
Iraqis celebrate in Baghdad on 10 July as Prime Minister Haider al Abadi announces victory over the Islamic State in Mosul. Iraq has announced a 10-year plan to rebuild Mosul. (photo: CNS/Khalid al Mousily, Reuters)
With ISIS gone, Iraq shapes plan for rebuilding Mosul (Voice of America) Just days after Iraqi forces evicted ISIS militants from the last parcel of land that they controlled in Mosul, Iraqi government officials say they are ready to rebuild the war-torn city and return an estimated million displaced civilians to their homes. Officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Planning told VOA that they had drawn up a 10-year plan to reconstruct the city, which came under full control of U.S.-backed Iraqi forces last week…
Christian mayor in Iraq dismissed (Fides) With an unusual emergency procedure, the Council of the Iraqi Province of Nineveh dismissed the mayor of Alqosh, a town of the Nineveh Plain historically inhabited by Christians, and replaced him with a local political leader close to the Democratic Kurdistan Party…
Chicago center hopes to train Syrians how to launch startups (The Chicago Tribune) Chicagoan Steve Lehmann has taken his expertise in early business development nearly 6,000 miles away to the Turkish border town of Reyhanli. His mission: to teach Syrian teens how to launch startups of their own. Even as war rages in the nation, there are still students learning business and plenty of people who can’t find work…
Indian Catholics prepare for Asian Youth Day (Vatican Radio) Asian Youth Day, a major event of the Catholic Church in the continent, is taking center stage in two weeks’ time in Yogyakarta in the Archdiocese of Semarang, Indonesia. Over 2,000 young people from 21 Asian countries are gathering in the central Javanese city, from 2 to 6 August, for the seventh Asian Youth Day…
Last Russian Tsar and family remembered (Radio Free Europe) Large numbers of people marched near the Russian city of Yekaterinburg before dawn on 17 July to mark the 99th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Marchers carried Russian Orthodox icons and crosses in the procession from the site where Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Aleksandra, and their five children were killed in 1918 — months after the Bolsheviks seized power — to the spot where their bodies were buried...
18 July 2017
In the video above, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the papal nuncio to Iraq, expresses his hopes for Christians in that beleaguered country. (video: CNS/YouTube)
To understand the current situation in Iraq — the evolving and complex conflicts there, and the fear and resilience of its Christians — one has to understand its past, which is often ignored or unknown in the West, said a former papal representative to the country.
“History is itself a victory over ignorance, marginalization and intolerance; it is a call for respect and to not repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Cardinal Fernando Filoni in his book, “The Church in Iraq.”
The book is also “a testimonial” to the victims of “the Islamic terrorism of ISIS,” he told the Christians and non-Christians he met when Pope Francis sent him as his personal representative to encounter and pray with these shaken communities that fled the Islamic State.
That brief visit in 2014 was a homecoming of sorts.
The Italian cardinal, now 71, lived in Iraq during a time of great tension and turmoil. St. John Paul II made him the apostolic nuncio — the pope’s diplomatic representative — to Iraq and Jordan in January 2001. Several months later, after 9/11, the United States administration started building pressure against Iraq, pushing for military action.
St. John Paul firmly opposed military intervention and, despite the fact that he sent peace-seeking missions to Washington and Baghdad, the United States attacked.
“Not even the stern warning of the saint-pope could deter President George W. Bush from his purpose,” the cardinal wrote. He said the day of the invasion, 19 March 2003, became “a very sad day for Iraq and for the whole world.”
The nunciature never shut down, not even during the airstrikes and occupation or the ensuing chaos of looting and revenge.
It was during his tenure there in Baghdad, which ended in 2006, that Cardinal Filoni went through the nunciature’s archives, which housed “a rich history” of documentation and letters, detailing the history of the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with Iraq and the establishment of an episcopal see in Baghdad in the 16th century.
“Naturally, this caught my eye,” he said, and the idea for a book emerged there in the wealth of material buried in an archive.
The book’s chapters take a historical overview of the church’s long presence in Mesopotamia, dating back to the time of St. Thomas the Apostle, and looks at how the expanding early Christian communities there evolved, faced internal divisions and challenges, and still shared their unique gifts.
Looking at the church’s journey in the past also made him realize: “This is unknown to us. And so I thought, writing a book that traced, especially for us in the West, the birth, the evolution of this history up to present day could be ... of service to Christianity in the Middle East, particularly in Mesopotamia, which is suffering because of expulsions, persecution or discrimination.”
Published first in Italian in 2015, The Catholic University of America Press is releasing the English edition toward the end of July in the United States and in mid-August in the United Kingdom.
The cardinal spoke to Catholic News Service in Rome during an interview at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, where he has served as prefect since 2011.
The book looks particularly at how minorities and the country as a whole suffered invasions, despots and Western hegemony, and yet tenaciously held on to its cultures and religious identities.
“In order to defend their identity within this great sea of Islam, Christians had to withdraw into themselves, keeping their own language, which dates back to the time of Jesus, that is, Aramaic,” he said. While, over the centuries, the everyday spoken language developed into different dialects, the liturgy still maintained the original form of ancient Aramaic, he added.
Even though Christians held on to their traditions and culture, they were “truly open” and didn’t ignore the world around them, learning and speaking Arabic, for example, he said.
This kind of everyday contact between Christians and their Muslim neighbors also led to a sharing of ideas, influence and mutual respect on the local level, Cardinal Filoni said.
For example, he recalled when he lived in Baghdad, he visited a church dedicated to Mary in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood.
“I was astounded by the fact that the walls of this church were dirty” with what looked like handprints smudged everywhere, he said.
When he asked church members, “‘Why don’t you clean this?’ They said ‘No! Because these are the signs of the Muslim women who come to pray to Mary, mother of Jesus, and as a sign of their prayer, they leave an imprint of their hand.’”
Since Mary is revered by Muslims, he said many expectant mothers visit this church to pray to her for protection.
“This influence, for example of Mary, in people’s daily lives” and similar devotions to prayer, fasting and charity, fostered closer relationships, mutual respect and understanding between Christians and Muslims, he said.
“A modern Iraq, full of history, of possibility and responsibility — not least because of its huge oil resources, which continue to be a source of discord, jealousy, envy, and oppression — should be defended, helped, and supported more than ever,” the cardinal concludes in his book.
While the primary responsibility for allowing Muslim, Christian and other minorities to return to their country and help build its future belongs to Iraq’s three largest communities — Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds — the rest of the world is also “in some way responsible for this crisis,” he told CNS.
“We all have to assume responsibility to rebuild, which is very difficult, because once people emigrate, they very rarely go back,” he said. “But if we can still preserve the coexistence of these even small communities (that remain), this will benefit peace, which is essential so that Christians don’t keep leaving behind this ancient land so rich in culture, tradition and history.”
18 July 2017
In this image from 2016, stray cows sit in the middle of the road in Bangalore, India. This past Sunday, the Catholic church in India criticized growing intolerance and mob violence targeting religious minorities over cow protection. (photo: CNS/Jagadeesh Nv, EPA)
The Catholic church in India criticized growing intolerance and mob violence targeting religious minorities over cow protection.
“The vast majority of the people of India of all communities (have) been shocked at the lynching in various states on the pretext of protecting cows,” said a statement issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India after a 16 July meeting in New Delhi. About 40 religious leaders — Christians along with Baha’i, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh — attended the meeting.
The statement asked the government “to end (the) impunity ... at the root of the atmosphere of fear that stalks the land today.”
Some Hindus worship the cow as a goddess and oppose slaughter of cows, with some states even running care centers for cows.
The bishops’ statement said lynchings over cows threatened “the constitution and the democratic fabric of the country.”
In a June report, The Times of India said that since 2014, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, vigilantes had killed at least 32 Muslims. It said that in most of these attacks, the premise had been allegations of cow slaughter, smuggling, eating or even possessing beef.
Mobs have killed meat and cattle traders in the name of protecting the sacred cow.
“We are going through difficult times. What we see on the TV (lynching) is frightening,” Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told Catholic News Service 18 July.
“Hatred is being spread, and attempts are being made to divide the people. We want to create harmony by bringing people of all faiths together,” he said.
The statement urged religious leaders “to assert the inherent unity of the people (to) restore public confidence and remove the mutual growing suspicion.”
At the end of the assembly of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council 8 June, Archbishop Maria Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum criticized the federal government’s move to curb cattle trade in states like Kerala, where beef eating has no cultural inhibition, even among majority Hindus.
“We will never accept a dictum on what we should eat or do,” Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said.
18 July 2017
In the video above, religious and political leaders gathered in Rome discuss repeated attacks on religious freedom around the world. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Mosul needs help to rebuild (CNA) Just days after Iraqi forces completed their recapture of Mosul from the Islamic State, the nation’s ambassador to the Holy See has said that they are eager to rebuild the city and have people return home, but it will require help to do so...
Mosul in ruins: ‘I see only despair around us’ (Al Jazeera) Western Mosul is in ruins. From the tenth floor of a badly damaged hotel in Iraq’s second-largest city, destroyed buildings and roads can be seen for miles on end. There is no building that has not been touched by fights and air attacks. The smell of decaying bodies fills the hot July air...
Separatists claim new state to replace Ukraine (AP) Separatists in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday proclaimed a new state that aspires to include not only the areas they control but also the rest of Ukraine. The surprise announcement in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk casts further doubt on the 2015 cease-fire deal that was supposed to stop fighting in Ukraine’s industrial heartland and bring those areas back into Kiev’s fold while granting them wide autonomy. It also caught unawares some rebels who said they have no intention of joining the new state...
Freed from prostitution, they’re becoming lawyers pursuing justice in India (Fides) Children systematically mistreated and forced into prostitution with 20 clients per day, without rights, no voice and no one worrying about their inhuman conditions. This is the harsh reality of over a million girls who are victims of child prostitution in India. It is a phenomenon that even the country’s punitive laws are unable to curb. Since April 2014, the Dutch Free a Girl Foundation has proposed to intervene against this hell. Thanks to the School for Justice, 19 young people survived the abuse of exploiters and will be trained so that they go to university and study law...
Climate change threatens an ancient way of life in Ethiopia (The Washington Post) Another drought has seized the Horn of Africa, devastating the livestock herders in these already dry lands. Even as the government and aid agencies struggle to help them, there is a growing realization that with climate change, certain ways of life in certain parts of the world are becoming much more difficult to sustain...
How the ‘Indian Oskar Schindler’ saved Polish children during World War II (Times of Israel) The elegant ballroom of the Indian consulate general in New York has been the venue for many cultural and other events attended by Indian and American audiences. But on 29 June a special event brought two communities, Indians and Jews, together to witness a hitherto unknown chapter of history, captured in a documentary film called “Little Poland in India...”
African migrants hit by new tax in Israel (Reuters) Nine years ago, Teklit Michael fled Eritrea to avoid military conscription, survived a perilous journey across the Sinai peninsula and sought asylum in Israel. The 29-year-old Eritrean community organizer now works as a cook at a restaurant in south Tel Aviv — alone, without family and in legal limbo, awaiting a response to his asylum request. Since May, Michael’s life has faced another challenge with new tax rules that force his employer to put part of his salary in a fund which he can access only if he leaves Israel...
17 July 2017
Fadia Shamieh, from the Palestinian Christian town of Beit Jala, helps youngsters prepare for their meal at the St. Rachel Day Care Center. This church institution provides care, play and education to the children of migrant workers. For more, read Found in Translation in the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
17 July 2017
Tags: Israel Jerusalem Catholic Migrants
An Iraqi carries away garbage from his house after his return to his hometown, the predominantly Christian Iraqi village of Qaraqosh, some 20 miles east of Mosul. (photo: Adel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)
The uncertain fate of Iraq’s largest Christian city (Der Spiegel) Before ISIS invaded, Qaraqosh was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community. Now liberated after three years of occupation, little remains and former residents are considering whether it is worth rebuilding in a country with an unclear future…
U.S.C.C.B. leaders say armed attacks near Jerusalem holy sites ‘a desecration’ (CNS) The president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference and two committee chairmen condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the fatal shooting of two Israeli police officers July 14 in Jerusalem’s Old City near some of the world’s holiest sites. “It is a particular desecration to carry out armed attacks in and around sites holy to Muslims and Jews in a city that is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims,” they said in a statement…
Syria takes more oil fields from ISIS (AINA) The Syrian army, backed by heavy Russian air strikes, seized a string of oil wells in southwest province of Raqqa on Saturday, as retreating ISIS militants battle to defend their remaining territory in the country…
Threat of attacks forces Egyptian churches to shut down activities (AsiaNews) Copts have suspended some of their activities — including pilgrimages, summer camps and conferences — for security reasons, fearing new attacks by Islamist extremist groups. The measure, which will remain in force for the months of July and August, was issued following alerts by the Cairo authorities…
Clash between self-proclaimed “Christian militias” operating in the Nineveh Plain (Fides) Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) have blamed the so-called “Babylonian Brigades” for having broken into one of their posts to seize military supplies and, above all, to release six of their militiamen, previously arrested on charges of looting private houses and Christian churches, including the Mar Behnam monastery…
14 July 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Jerusalem
David Safaryan displays one of his paintings from art class. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
In the June 2017 edition of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan writes about the exceptional work being done by Caritas in Armenia, with CNEWA’s support, to bring light to the darkness, and help those most in need — especially the elderly and the young:
In one of the large, bright rooms, children stand behind easels, refining pencil sketches and proudly presenting their masterpieces.
The teacher, Vanush Safaryan, is a member of the Painters’ Union of Armenia and a former director of an art school in Artashat. He teaches children not only the craft of drawing and painting, but also the history and appreciation of art more generally.
“Art will save the country,” he says of a country that savors its rich art and architectural heritage. “Let them love the art. Twenty of the children have already chosen this path, so it is already a victory,” he adds.
“We have very bright children; they need to be given freedom and they will reveal themselves.”
The center’s smallest pupil is a 9-year-old named David. David has drawn a picture of construction site, with a worker seated inside a crane and a still-unfinished building nearby.
David lives with his parents and a younger sister in a rented apartment in poor condition. The center offers him an escape, and a sense of hope.
“After school we come here,” he says. “We have dinner, then we play games, draw, do our homework. It is very good.” He stops talking so he can focus on bringing his sketched construction site to life.
Read more in ‘This Is the Only Light’ in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
Tags: Children Armenia Caritas