Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
31 October 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

Hindus light candles in clay lamps in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights. Read more about this holiday here. (photo: Khokarahman via Wikimedia Commons)

Christians and Hindus to defend the vulnerable in society (AsiaNews) In a statement commemorating Diwali, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said: “Attentiveness and cooperation are needed, not only to defend the legitimate place and rights of the vulnerable in society, but also to cultivate a culture of care and concern in their regard…”

US-backed Syria force suspends anti-ISIS attacks after Turkey strikes (Al Monitor) A Kurdish-led force backed by a U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday it was suspending operations against the Islamic State group after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria…

Ancient Assyrian sculpture up for sale at Christie’s — but should it ever have left Iraq? (AINA) A 3,000-year-old Iraqi artifact goes on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York this week, where it is expected to fetch more than $10 million for its American owners. However, the Iraqi government has demanded a halt to the sale of the two-meter frieze taken from an ancient Assyrian palace…

Coptic Church gears up for a new fight at Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre (Haaretz) A dispute between the Coptic and Ethiopian churches reared its head last week. The incident involved the forcible dispersal by the Israel Police of a quiet protest by a few Coptic monks, who were objecting to renovations by the Israel Antiquities Authority at St. Michael’s, a chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre…

Tags: Syria Iraq Interreligious Ethiopian Orthodox Church Coptic Church

30 October 2018

Students at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia sing and pray together after breakfast. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

CNEWA’s regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu, forwarded us a report from the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia — a CNEWA-supported facility that is working wonders with young people.

Some highlights of the report:

Entrusting ourselves in the hands of God, we began the new scholastic year (2017-18). In spite of the political disturbances, we carried on our good work. Regular and fulltime teaching started by the end of September, as it took time to reach all our students, perhaps because of the political unrest throughout the country.

This year the teachers had the opportunity to attend a workshop held in our Catholic mission school. Though it was difficult for only two sisters to see to the running of the residential school—with the political unrest every now and then and other problems—nevertheless, with God’s grace, everything became possible. May God bless those we are privileged to serve!

As soon as all the children arrived we had an opening ceremony with the Holy Eucharist. Abba Tesfaye, our parish priest, offered the Mass, invoking God’s blessing on the school. This was followed by Bunna (coffee) ceremony.

We were happy to have the visit of our Bishop Abraham Desta along with Abba Gobezayehu, Abba Tesfaye and some visitors from abroad. They took time to go around the school and interact with the children. At the end, we met together to share some concerns of the school.

There were several visitors during the year — students from different universities and friends. All expressed appreciation for the work being done.

Ex-students: Most of our former students are well-settled in life. One of our ex-students who is married and is working for a government organization was happy to give a talk to the students on causes and prevention of HIV. Another two students doing their research on the foundation and development of the school had a lot to share as a part of their research. It was also a joy to meet five of our ex-students from Hawassa Universitym, who visited the school along with their colleagues. These five have completed their graduation this year and hope to be employed in the near future.

Volunteers: We thank a couple from Poland who occasionally gave their services by teaching the children music. They also gave a short training to the teachers on how to operate the braille printer. Another group of youngsters from Shashemane spent time with the children every Saturday. They taught them hymns and games.

Christmas Celebrations: This year, the celebrations, were extra colorful with a beautiful decorated tent. New dance costumes added flavor to the show. Many friends, some ex-students, and relatives of children who are not too far away attended. Our children are always happy and excited when they get an occasion to exhibit their talents such as acting, music, dance, acrobatics, reciting poems,etc. Thanks to the efforts of the music teacher, some of the boys were able to handle the key board and perform well, to the delight of the audience.

Day of the Differently Abled: This is what the children are — talented and intelligent. On this special day, we created an atmosphere to make them feel that they are indeed able and not disabled. Through a short program, they showed that they are gifted and on a par with any sighted person.

Maintenance: The school is 37-years-old. No doubt the buildings and furniture need maintenance and replacements. With the help of our benefactors, we were able to purchase some furniture, water tanks, mattresses, blankets, two sets of sweaters and other necessary items. A lot of maintenance was also done. Here I need to mention Luigi, a volunteer from Italy, who worked hard to get our electrical system in order. We look forward to re-arranging our water system by replacing the old rusted iron pipes with fiber pipes. We hope this will solve our perennial water shortage problem.

Tree Planting: Bunna (coffee) is the specialty of Ethiopia. Our teachers were very eager to plant coffee saplings in our school garden. They continue to water and nurture their respective coffee plants. All praise to you, God, for our beautiful green garden!

Outings: What a joy to go out for a picnic! We went often with our children to a beautiful park. They looked extra-smart this year in their new school T- Shirts, which had this printed on the front: “Disability is Not Inability.” May they continue to enjoy their childhood and their dignity.

Our staff too had a great day at Hawassa Lake. IThey cooked their lunch and had a sumptuous meal. All felt a bond of togetherness as they sang, ate and had a boat ride together. Let us keep up the joy of togetherness!

Graduation: This year, we bade farewell to 12 students who completed their elementary education in the residential setting. On the day of their farewell, for the first time, to the amazement of the parents and staff our 12 children dressed in blue graduation gowns and walked elegantly in the midst of the audience. All were filled with joy to see these students in their new attire. All the best, dear students, God bless you!

For the first time, students donned gowns for their graduation.
(photo: Shashemene School for the Blind

A Word of Thanks: We — the students, staff and sisters — owe a deep debt of gratitude to our many kind and generous benefactors, both individuals and groups, without whom our work would not have been possible.

My heart-felt thanks to all those who helped us economically and morally, encouraging and strengthening us during the past year.

May God bless you!

Sister Ashrita Mendes, Shashemane School for the Blind

CNEWA remains grateful to all who have helped so many of the young people at Shashemane — truly bringing light to their darkness. What a difference you are making in so many lives.

On behalf of all of them, and the people who serve them in Ethiopia, we can only echo this heartfelt sentiment from Sister Ashrita: "Thank you! May God bless you!"

Tags: Ethiopia

30 October 2018
Greg Kandra

A group of Sikhs gathers for a candlelight vigil in the Queens borough of New York on 29 October to pray for the victims of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
(photo: CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters)

Tags: India Jews

30 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Holy Land church leaders have raised concerns about recent incidents of vandalism in a cemetery adjacent to a Salesian monastery west of Jerusalem. (photo: Crux/Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

Holy land cemetery vandalism concerns church leaders (CNS) Holy Land church leaders expressed concern in the wake of two separate incidents involving the Christian community that occurred over a one-week span. Monks of the Salesian Monastery at Beit Jamal west of Jerusalem discovered the evening of 16 October that their cemetery had been vandalized, including broken crosses and damage to tombs…

Thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in desert near Jordan risk starvation (Haaretz) Tens of thousands of Syrians stranded in a desert camp near the Jordanian border are at risk of starvation amid dwindling supplies and the approach of winter, while regional powers trade blame over who is responsible for this latest humanitarian catastrophe in Syria’s civil war. Desperately needed aid deliveries to the besieged Rukban camp have repeatedly failed or been postponed, including a UN convoy which was supposed to go in on Thursday but has now been indefinitely delayed…

How caste discrimination during and after Kerala flooding affected dalits (The News Minute) One would expect that in the face of such a huge disaster, people would come together across communities to fight the forces of nature. However, during the rescue operations itself, there were reported cases of caste discrimination…

Russia vows ’to act’ if Georgia and Ukraine join NATO (The Express) In a clear sign of the country’s unease in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu voiced concern at what he described as the “militarization of the European continent”…

Pope Francis emphasizes importance of truth in journalism (Vatican Media) Pope Francis has sent a message to the Italian news agency SIR (Servizio Informazione Relgiosa/Religious Information Service) in time for the thirtieth anniversary of its publication. The agency was founded in order to help better communicate information relating to both religious and world affairs to the Italian Catholic Church…

Tags: Syria Jerusalem Kerala Refugee Camps

29 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis accepts letters of credential from Seyed Taha Hashemi, Iran's ambassador to the Holy See, during a private audience at the Vatican on 29 October. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Tags: Iran

29 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, left, and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman stand for a moment of silence to honor the victims of a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on 28 October. Pope Francis at his Sunday Angelus prayed for those affected by the attack inside the Pittsburgh synagogue. (photo: CNS/Oded Balilty, pool via Reuters)

Pope prays for victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting (Vatican News) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and especially to the Jewish community there. Eleven people were killed, and several others were wounded, on in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. A suspect was taken into custody after the attack…

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv stand with Pittsburgh (The Jerusalem Post) ome 500 Americans and Israelis gathered Sunday night to sing somber songs in Hebrew and English at Jerusalem’s Zion Square in a candle-lit vigil in memory of the 11 victims of Saturday’s massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh organized by The Meeting Place Dialogue Group, The Jerusalem Movement and the Hartman Institute Hevruta program…

Anti-Christian violence reaches record highs in parts of India (AsiaNews) Anti-Christian violence is reaching record levels in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, a study by Violence Monitor reveals. According to the monthly survey of anti-minority incidents in India, 25 cases of religious intolerance were reported in September, 20 of which in Jaunpur, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, near the sacred city of Varanasi. The high number of cases is worrying, activists say, noting that with more than 200 million inhabitants, Uttar Pradesh is the country’s most populous state…

Synod document: listen to, support, guide young people (CNS) The Catholic Church and all its members must get better at listening to young people, taking their questions seriously, recognizing them as full members of the church, patiently walking with them and offering guidance as they discern the best way to live their faith, the Synod of Bishops said. While the synod’s final document spoke of friendship, affection, sexuality and “sexual inclinations,” those issues were not the center of concern in the lengthy final document, which was released on 27 October...

Amnesty India bank accounts frozen (Vatican News) The bank accounts of human rights watchdog Amnesty International in India have been frozen, effectively stopping its work, after the government’s financial crime investigating agency carried out a 10-hour raid at the group’s Bengaluru office on Thursday…

The revolutionary history of Ethiopia’s Jews (Haaretz) The Jewish community in Ethiopia, labeled in the past as Falasha or Beta Israel, is perceived in Israel as a traditional-religious community which, while in Ethiopia, conducted its life in isolation from its inimical neighbors and from the processes unfolding around it, with all its aspirations focused on immigrating to Israel. A new study, which I conducted, reveals that men and women in this community were political activists and members of Marxist underground movements during the revolutionary years and civil war in that country (from the 1970s until 1991)…

Tags: India Ethiopia Israel Jews

26 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Members of CNEWA’s staff in Jerusalem paid a visit to leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church to show solidarity and support after yesterday’s clash at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
(photo: CNEWA)

We first reported on this story Thursday, via the Associated Press:

A scuffle between Israeli police and Coptic priests at a major Christian holy site in Jerusalem on Wednesday drew condemnation from Egypt and churches in the Holy Land.

Police and Coptic priests wrangled outside a contested chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The Copts were protesting the start of restoration work by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, which both the Ethiopian and Egyptian Orthodox churches claim.

Friday morning, our Jerusalem office sent us the photo above with a note:

[CNEWA’s] director and staff, along with the Rev. Ibrahim Faltas and the staff from the Custody of the Holy Land, visited the Coptic Orthodox Church and His Excellency Anba Antonius, to show solidarity with him and his clergy.

26 October 2018
Greg Kandra

A report from the UN says it will cost more than $4 billion to help Kerala recover from the devastating floods of August. The video above chronicles the extent of the damage.
(video: Chavara Media/YouTube)

UN: Kerala will need billions to recover from floods (Business Standard) Kerala will need about Rs 310 billion (about $4 billion) for recovery and reconstruction following the century’s worst floods, according to a UN report presented to the Chief Minister by UN Resident Coordinator in India Yuri Afanasiev…

Heavy rains bring flooding, death to refugee camps (Middle East Monitor) Flooding in Lebanon and Turkey has left refugees dead after heavy rains hit the region and swamped refugee camps. Videos shared by member of the Syrian Negotiations Committee Hadi Albahra, reportedly from refugee camps near the Lebanese border town of Arsal, show the ground completely flooded, with tents and belongings destroyed…

Russian Orthodox leaders concerned about ’provocations’ (The Catholic Herald) Turmoil in the Orthodox world continues with interesting news from Moldova, where, it is reported, Patriarch Kirill is cutting short a planned visit, in case there are ‘provocations’…

Catholic youth in Arabia attend youth congress (Vatican News) As the Synod of Bishops on Young People draws to a close on Sunday, 1,500 Catholic young people living on the Arabian Peninsula are attending the Arab Catholic Youth Congress (ACYC) in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 25-27 October. They have responded to the invitation to ”Stand up, reignite your faith, hope and love and experience Jesus deeper”…

Exhibitions celebrate Syria before the war (The New York Times) A thousand miles southeast of what remains of Syria’s civil war, “Syria Matters,” a major exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art here, is focused on the history and the soul of the country rather than the images of conflict that have been reflected in headlines and splashed across television screens for the past seven years…

Tags: Syria India Lebanon Refugee Camps

25 October 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis greets Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, during a private audience on 24 October at the Vatican.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media handout via Reuters)

Tags: Armenia

25 October 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Archbishop Bernadito Auza serves as the Holy See's Permanent Observer at the United Nations. (photo: Vatican Media)

On 24 October every year the world observes United Nations Day. This week, then, offers us an opportunity reflect on the important work of this body—and the Holy See’s involvement in it. CNEWA, as an agency of the Holy See, has significant interest in what the United Nations does — and it often impacts our work.

The United Nations or the UN was formed in 1945 immediately after World War II. The planet had experienced two major wars within a 30-year period. It has been estimated that up to 80 million people died in both wars; cities were leveled, populations were displaced and there was unimaginable suffering. Although the horror of those wars ominously seems to have faded for many people, the UN was founded precisely to prevent war, which was then rightly seen as the worst of all possibilities for humanity.

The UN consists of three different groupings: the Member States, which includes the General Assembly and the Security Council; UN Agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, etc.; and civil societies which consists of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who engage in advocacy for causes such as peace, disarmament, human rights, etc.

There are 193 sovereign member states at the UN. Each of these countries maintains a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and often in Geneva. The head of the mission is the Permanent Representative, who holds the rank of ambassador and is often referred as such and such a country’s “ambassador to the UN.” All of these countries form the UN General Assembly (GA), which meets in plenary session every year in September but can meet at any other time. The GA works on issues that are before it on any number of issues, many of which result in conventions by which member states bind themselves by treaty to follow, maintain and enforce certain issues.

The UN Security Council (SC) consists of five permanent members (the P5): China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, each of whom enjoys absolute veto power over measures brought to the Council. Ten member states are elected by the General Assembly to serve on the Council for two-year terms.

In addition to the 193 sovereign member states, the UN recognizes two Permanent Observer Missions: the Holy See and Palestine. The Holy See, which has diplomatic relations with 180 states, was admitted to Permanent Observer status in 1964 and to full Observer Status in 2004. With full Observer Status, the Holy See has all the rights of a member state in the General Assembly except the right to vote.

The Holy See has a Permanent Observer Mission and a Permanent Observer Representative at the UN. The Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the UN is an archbishop with the rank of Nuncio. The Holy See is an active and effective member of the UN community as it advocates for, among other things, peace, disarmament, ecological responsibility, quality of life issues and very many others. One recent example: just last month, on 25 September 2018 Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, addressed the UN General Assembly advocating for the abolition of the death penalty. Although the Holy See is not a full member of the General Assembly, it plays a visible and important role in promoting peace and justice issues, serving in some ways as the conscience of the body.

The present and sixth Permanent Observer Representative is Archbishop Bernadito Auza, who was appointed on 1 July 2014. Archbishop Auza has shown himself to be an expert in increasing the visibility and, hence, effectiveness of the Holy See at the UN, especially through timely, strategic and informative conferences and side events. Through his work, the Holy See is an active participant in the issues affecting the contemporary world.

CNEWA has been accredited as an NGO at the UN for three decades, and I have been working at the UN for over 12 years, seven of which have been for CNEWA. It has been a fruitful and fascinating partnership, as CNEWA works with other NGOs to promote peace and justice in the Middle East — working with topics such as children’s rights, refugees and freedom of religion.

As we mark United Nations Day this week, it is good to recall the vital work the UN undertakes on behalf of the global community — and remember, as well, how all of us in the Christian community are called to work for unity and peace.

Tags: United Nations

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