5 April 2018
Children line up to serve a First Communion Mass at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of St. Gregory, Ader, Jordan. Check out the March 2018 edition of ONE to read how catechists and religious sisters are Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
5 April 2018
Palestinians take part in a protest near the border with Israel in the east Khan Yonis town southern Gaza Strip, on 4 April. (photo: Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Palestinian killed by Israeli air strike on Gaza border: ministry (Daily Star Lebanon) A Palestinian was killed by an Israeli air strike on the Gaza border early Thursday, the health ministry in the Palestinian enclave said, as tensions increased ahead of new protests. This event comes after at least 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces last Friday when tens of thousands gathered along the border in a protest that led to clashes…
Egypt’s Catholic Coptic Church focusing on education, health and welfare (Vatican News) In a result that came as no surprise to Egyptians or to observers abroad, former army General Abdel Fattah al Sisi won the country’s presidential elections with 97 percent of the votes, securing another four-year term in office. Announcing the final results on Monday, Egypt’s election commission said there had been a 41.5 percent turnout at the polls. The only other opponent who ran against el-Sisi was little-known Mousa Mostafa Mousa, who entered the race hours before the deadline and whose party had previously endorsed Al Sisi. Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Coptic Catholic Church, said Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak sent the president a congratulatory letter, highlighting the importance of taking care of the educational, health and welfare sectors over the next four years…
White House says U.S. presence in Syria coming to ‘rapid end’ (AINA) The White House said Wednesday that the U.S. military mission in Syria was coming to “a rapid end” but offered no firm timeline for a withdrawal, even as President Donald Trump has insisted it’s time for American troops to return home…
India’s Dalits protest as laws protecting them are rolled back (Christian Today) A ruling by India’s Supreme Court that threatens to reduce protection for its marginalized Dalit people could be overturned after the court agreed to hear an appeal. At least 10 people died in protests yesterday against the ruling when tens of thousands of Dalits — formerly known as “Untouchables” — took to the streets…
Gaza fishermen face gunfire, death plying their trade (Al Monitor) Under a truce agreement after their 2014 conflict, Israel restricts Palestinian fishing to within six miles of shore. Israel says it considers ships outside that zone suspect because they could be smuggling arms. However, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, Israeli attacks are taking place within the permitted area…
Attacks on Pakistani Christians after Easter kill four Catholics (Vatican News) Four members of a Catholic family were killed in a militant attack in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Easter Monday, and in another incident the following day, a group attacked worshippers in a Christian church in Punjab province, injuring many…
Ethiopia seeks return of looted treasures from London museum (Al Jazeera) Ethiopian artifacts looted by the British colonialists in the 19th century are on a display in London, but a top Ethiopian official says the treasures belong to Addis Ababa and they need to be returned to the rightful owner…
Armenians protest Turkish authorities’ intervention in patriarch selection (Fides) Within the Apostolic Turkish Armenian community protests and division continue regarding the results of the process of election of the new Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, with see in Istanbul. Turkish-Armenian periodical Agos reports the appearance of anonymous posters criticizing Archbishop Aram Athesyan, former “locum tenens” of the patriarchate who in August was replaced by Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian. The latter has taken on a key role in the internal affairs of the patriarchate since the Turkish authorities cancelled the entire electoral process started in 2016 to choose a successor to Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafyan, affected in 2008 by a disabling neurological sickness…
4 April 2018
Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Turkey Dalits
Eritrean Catholic refugees Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, look at olive branches 23 March at Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
A refugee’s life is one of constant uncertainty and confusion.
Yet in their faith the refugees have found strength and refuge, said Father Rafic Nahra, priest of the St. James Vicariate, which ministers to the asylum seekers and migrant worker community in Israel.
Late 2 April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended a U.N. deal that would have sent thousands of asylum seekers in Israel to Western countries rather than to Africa. The deal had been announced hours earlier, but its reversal did not surprise the refugees.
“The refugees are fearful but, unfortunately, they are used it,” Father Nahra said. “They have already left their country, crossed the Sinai, crossed a lot of dangers and faced a lot of problems. Uncertainty has become part of their life.”
Sitting in the courtyard of the Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in late March, two Catholic Eritrean refugees, Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, said they do not feel certain of their future.
“If our country was good, nobody would want to leave. But because it is a dictatorship, everybody wants to leave,” said Kflom, who has been in Israel for six years. “Of course, I am worried they might send me (to Rwanda).”
Both men fled during compulsory military service in Eritrea, which kept them away from their families for years. In the army, they said, people become like slaves to the commanders. Some men are forced to serve in the army until their 60s. There is no time limit to the service; people cannot decide when to leave.
Neither had intended to come to Israel. Kflom was kidnapped by members of the Rashaida Bedouin tribe, who took him and his friends from Sudan into the Sinai Desert, where he was brutally tortured for four months until his family was able to pay $19,000 in extortion money. He was released at the border with Israel.
During his captivity, his childhood prayers sustained him, he said.
Now, early every Saturday morning, Kflom walks with his wife and young son to the pastoral center for a traditional three-hour Eritrean Mass.
“I pray to God to help me,” he said. “Life is very difficult. You can’t look forward to your future. You don’t have permission to live here. You can't organize your life here. I am always under a lot of stress.”
Netanyahu has said he wants to deport 20,000 refugees — whom he maintains are mainly economic migrants — by the year 2020. If his original deportation plan is implemented, the deportation process will require single adult males to choose between a financial incentive for “voluntary deportation” to a third African country or indefinite incarceration.
Israel is not alone in struggling with a deportation policy. Countries such as Australia, Germany and Greece have implemented similar deportation policies, including financial incentives for refugees to leave or face incarceration. Following the October 2016 European Union declaration of “safe zones” in Afghanistan, other countries began to deport Afghan refugees. France will be debating a controversial migrant deportation bill in April.
“If you are married or not married, it won’t make a difference,” said Daniel, whose wife will give birth to their first child in mid-April. “They say they won’t deport someone who is married, but they are making a lot of pressure so you will go to another place.”
Without hesitating, Daniel and Kflom said they would choose incarceration over deportation to Africa.
“To sit in jail is nothing for me. I have been through worse,” said Daniel. “You do not know what an African country is. There is no democracy there, no one to look after us. Someone can take you and kill you and no one will know. It would be easier to return us to our country. So why are they sending us to Rwanda? It shows you that they know there is a problem with our country, and our lives are in danger if they send us back there.”
African refugees began reaching Israel via the Sinai Desert in 2005, and by 2013, there were 60,000 African refugees in Israel. As the numbers of refugees grew, the
government began taking measures to prevent or discourage them from reaching Israel. In 2013, Israel completed work on a border fence with Egypt and, since last year, the flow of refugees stopped.
Today an estimated 38,000 adult refugees remain in Israel, the large majority from Eritrea and about 20 percent from Sudan; smaller percentages come from other African countries.
According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, of the more than 13,700 applications for asylum submitted by Africans, only 10 people have been given refugee status in Israel. Some 200 Sudanese refugees from Darfur also have been granted humanitarian status.
Father Michael Gropse, director of the Tel Aviv pastoral center, said when the refugees come to weekly Mass, their prayers are in earnest.
“I can really feel their prayer of hope,” he said. “They are always asking for God’s guidance. But in their daily life, they are afraid, sometimes, to go out and be caught by the immigration police. But still their faith and hope is strong, and every Saturday I see it when they attend Mass.”
“In Eritrea, I grew up in the Catholic Church,” said Daniel, kicking around a soccer ball with a friend’s young son as he waited for an afternoon prayer study to begin at the pastoral center. “The moment I come here, I forget about everything until I leave, then reality hits me again.”
4 April 2018
A broken Marian statue is shown inside the grotto of Bihabandh Catholic Church in Odisha state after unidentified people attacked it on 1 April. (photo: provided by Rourkela Diocese)
Syrian regime claims last rebel group leaving Ghouta (CNN) Members of the last remaining and most powerful rebel group in the besieged Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus are leaving, according to Syrian state media. But an activist countered the government’s narrative, saying the evacuees were humanitarian cases — not all members of the group. Twenty buses carrying 1,065 Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families left Douma for Al-Wafideen Crossing on Monday. They headed to Jarablus in northern Syria, the Syrian Arab News Agency said...
Churches attacked in India’s Odisha state (UCANews.com) Vandals have destroyed two Marian statues and set fire to the sacristy and storeroom of a parish in Rourkela Diocese of India’s Odisha state. Sundergarh district administration has deployed armed police in the area because of the religious sensitivity of the two separate incidents on 1 April, said police inspector Bijay Kumar Singh...
Lebanon unemployment at alarming levels due to refugees, weak economy (Albawaba.com) President Michel Aoun said Thursday that the grave economic situation, presence of Syrian refugees and the reluctance of Lebanese to take low-paid jobs has caused unemployment to soar to 46 percent. Aoun made the remarks during a meeting with a delegation from the Lebanese Press Syndicate at Baabda’s presidential palace...
Jordan helping refugee children overcome trauma through football (The Jordan Times) HRH Prince Ali has highlighted Jordan’s efforts to heal traumatized Syrian refugee children through football. In a recent interview with CNN, conducted by Becky Anderson, a British journalist and anchor at CNN, Prince Ali explained that football is not only a sport, but a universal language in itself. Anderson visited the Zaatari refugee camp, during the Laureates and Leaders For Children summit, where she spoke to Prince Ali about how football is helping some children deal with the trauma of Syria’s civil war...
Indian government withdraws rules to punish journalists for ‘fake news’ (Vatican News) The round-about turn from Narendra Modi’s government came following an outcry from journalists and opposition politicians who said the measure was to stifle press freedom, especially in the run-up to next year’s general elections. Late Monday, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had announced the government would withdraw its accreditation to journalists who peddled “fake news.” The withdrawal of accreditation would be either for a limited time or permanently, depending on the frequency of infringements...
Easter message of Christian leaders in Jerusalem (Vatican News) Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem have issued an Easter message offering their prayers for those suffering across the world for various reasons, that they may find hope, peace and life in the Cross of Christ. Thirteen patriarchs and heads of various Christian denominations in Jerusalem released a joint message on Friday, as violence erupted between Palestinians and Israeli security forces along the Israeli-Gaza border...
800 Copts travel to Jerusalem for Easter (Egypt Today) Five Air Sinai flights carrying 800 Coptic pilgrims headed to Jerusalem on Monday to celebrate Easter, officials from the Cairo International Airport told Egypt Today on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Egypt has built an air bridge to transport elder Coptic Christians, who are allowed to perform pilgrimage in Jerusalem during the Holy Week, the week before Easter...
3 April 2018
Masresha Tilahun displays the cross he has been carving by hand in woodworking class in the Addis Alem prison in Ethiopia. (photo: Don Duncan)
Journalist Don Duncan turns a spotlight on a remarkable prison ministry in Ethiopia in the March edition of ONE.
The assignment offered some challenges he didn’t expect, as he reports here.
Even before I made the journey to Ethiopia, I’d been warned that this would be a tricky assignment.
Through the connections of a CNEWA beneficiary, ONE had the rare and fortunate opportunity to gain access to two of Ethiopia’s prisons so as to see and understand the lives, needs and spirituality of an oft-overlooked population: the incarcerated.
I have only ever been in one prison before in my life, a medium-security facility in upstate New York which I visited with a journalism school classmate who was working with me on a crime story.
I had no idea what a prison in Ethiopia would be like but I proceeded with a certain sense of caution and even nervousness. I had been warned to be very careful about what kinds of questions I asked. Incarceration is quite politically charged and a hot issue in Ethiopia. A simple question — one that would go unnoticed in a regular context — could wreck havoc in the context of the prison, either among the prisoners or between the prison administration and the Addis Ababa Archdiocese Prison Chaplaincy, the organization that had helped to get us access to the prison.
Thus, I entered Addis Alem prison not with the thoughts of which questions I would ask the prisoners but rather which questions I would NOT ask them, under any circumstances.
I was to stay away from politics, for sure, but also stay away from any discussion of human rights; any questions that might convey an implied criticism of how the prison is run; and any questions as to the personal histories of the inmates: their homes, family lives, their specific crimes and the length of their sentences.
These restrictions, as sensible and well-meaning as they were, made for a very interesting exercise in interviewing.
I suddenly realized how spoiled I am in my usual interview practice, in the “outside world,” where the freedom of the press means that no question is off-limits. Now, I had to eventually write a colorful and insightful article based on material I was gathering under very restricted conditions. I was shot through by a low-burning anxiety that the story would be a washout, that it would fall flat on its face because of these restrictions.
But to my great surprise, the opposite happened. I’d been briefed that the prison was home to people from places near and far in Ethiopia and that their sentences varied, for crimes of gravity spanning from theft to serial murder. But when I found myself face-to-face with a prisoner, there was no way — because of the restrictions I was working under — that I could know or find out the specifics of his life or crimes. This meant that I could only focus on the here-and-now, his name and age, what his likes and dislikes were, what he was feeling in the present moment and what his spiritual life is like.
As I proceeded to interview inmates on these restricted terms, their humanity shone forth. I realized that, had I known their crimes or sentences, my rapport with them or my thinking about them would be shaded by the gravity of their past actions. Without that knowledge, I encountered everyone in the moment and I could fully perceive and appreciate their beauty and humanity as souls.
When I left the prison after a few hours, I realized how fortunate I was to have had the experience of visiting it. It was a striking manifestation of Jesus’s words in Matthew (5:43-44): “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
It is a beautiful thought — but it is often, in practice, a tall order.
Beyond prison, in the “outside world” that we live in, where there are far fewer restrictions on what we know about each other, how capable are we of perceiving and loving the soul of the sinner in spite of his/her sin?
It is rarely very easy to overcome one’s own biases, prejudices and judgments. And yet, Addis Alem prison caused me to be struck again by how truly indispensable a part of living a good life it is to be able to see beyond the sin, in spite of it, to project love.
Read Don Duncan’s report, ‘For I Was in Prison’ in the current edition of ONE.
3 April 2018
Seminarians stand outside a church in Lviv, Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the new edition of ONE, we focus on the formation of priests, religious sisters and lay people in the world CNEWA serves. Our president Msgr. John E. Kozar writes about it in the magazine:
For decades, CNEWA’s donors have made a powerful impact on seminarians — helping to educate and train future priests. Most of the Eastern Catholic seminaries where CNEWA serves are supported in varying degrees thanks to the generosity of our donors. For some, our support makes a tremendous difference. It may mean feeding hungry seminarians, or just keeping the doors open. For others, this support means improving the faculty, hiring more teachers or making modest renovations to the facilities. But for all, it represents an investment in the good health and future of the church.
Religious women, meanwhile, receive financial assistance from CNEWA from their first days in the novitiate. Although the subsidy may be modest, it represents a commitment of faith and hope — a sign of solidarity with these women as they formally embark on their journey to serve Christ as vowed religious.
And then there is the great and growing resource of the laity. The faith formation of the laity is often overlooked, with more attention given to those who are preparing for the priesthood or religious life. But it is vitally important to support the lay faithful, especially in places where it is not always possible to commission a priest or religious. CNEWA continues to place great importance on lay catechetical programs and adult faith enrichment and mission-sending initiatives that challenge the faithful to share their faith with those who have never been exposed to it.
Read more in the March 2018 edition of ONE. And hear more from Msgr. Kozar in the video below.
3 April 2018
Pope Francis greets the crowd during his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 1 April.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Netanyahu cancels plan to resettle African asylum seekers (Haaretz) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that Israel is cancelling a deal with the United Nations on the resettling of African asylum seekers. The deal was annnounced by Netanyahu himself on Monday afternoon. The deal was set to stop the forced deportation to Africa from Israel of asylum seekers, resettle 16,000 of them in Israel and the same number in Western countries. Netanyahu hours later decided to suspend the deal, even though he has already signed it, following pressure from within his party and from coalition members...
Iraq vows to secure Sinjar border region (Vatican News) The Iraqi prime minister said that any attempt by ‘foreign fighters’ to launch cross-border attacks on Turkey will be prevented by the Iraqi military. Haider Al Abadi told Turkish officials he had ordered the army to establish full control of the national frontier, especially near Sinjar — a region of Iraq which borders Turkey...
Christians in Iraq celebrate Easter (The Jerusalem Post) Thousands of Christians celebrated the Assyrian New Year in northern Iraq over the last several days. The celebrations coincided with Easter and brought together groups of Assyrian Christian activists who are seeking to rekindle the flame of their community from the ravages of ISIS. The Easter Mass at the Saint Mary’s Assyrian Church of the East was attended by hundreds of worshipers on March 31, the same day on which Juliana Taimoorazy, the founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and co-founder of a project called “Rise Nineveh,” led members of her group to Mosul to stand on the ruins of Nineveh...
War in Syria: Stories of survival and hope (National Geographic) “War arrives suddenly, uninvited, and brings with it a new normal,” writes Rania Abouzeid in No Turning Back, her poignant account of the Syrian conflict. Following the lives of a group of people from rebel-held areas over a period of five years, she brings home to us what television coverage rarely can: the human dimension of one of the most violent and complicated conflicts since World War II...
Pope’s Easter appeals include prayers for Syria, Gaza (CNS) In his Easter appeal for peace throughout the world, Pope Francis made special mention of the ongoing “carnage” in Syria and the recent violence along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, violence the Pope said had not spared “the defenseless...”
Pope’s Urbi et Orbi message: ‘The last word is the resurrection’ (Vatican News) Beginning his customary “Urbi et Orbi” message, Pope Francis greeted the faithful with “Jesus is risen from the dead!” He then said that Jesus used of the image of the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies to prophesy his own death and resurrection...