Current Issue
June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
20 September 2018
Greg Kandra

In this image from August, a religious sister helps a man who has been displaced by interethnic violence in Ethiopia. Thousands have been impacted by the ongoing crisis in the country, and the church is responding. To lend your support, visit this page. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: Ethiopia

20 September 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Smoke rises from a government-held area of Aleppo, Syria, after an explosion in December 2016. (photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)

Every year on 21 September the United Nations observes International Peace Day. In 2001 the UN General Assembly called on the member states to observe the day through non-violence and ceasefires.

How well that has been observed is tragically clear for all to see.

There are many ways to calculate “armed conflict,” which can cover everything from a full-blown war to local terrorist attacks. Generally speaking, armed conflicts are registered in terms of casualties per year: over 10,000, 1,000-9,999, and 100-999 deaths. Using this metric, it is estimated that there are 38 armed conflicts raging in the world during 2018. These range from smaller local conflicts to larger ones involving massive loss of life in places like Syria, Yemen and Burma.

Almost every religious tradition speaks of peace, although some would limit that peace to fellow believers. Christians speak of pax and eirene, Jews speak of shalom and Muslims of salaam. The religions of the Indian subcontinent speak of shanti and ahimsa (non-violence). Leaders from every world religion speak with some frequency about the importance of peace. International groups and movements such as Religions for Peace and the Parliament of the World’s Religions work tirelessly to promote peace and understanding.

Yet for all this talk and all these efforts, there is still tremendous violence in the world. If we are honest, all too often the conflicts have religious components. It is common for religious people to claim that this or that conflict is political and not religious. In some cases that might be true. However, denying religious components to many conflicts is built on the naïve and faulty assumption that religion cannot be politicized. It can and it is. While religion may not be the only factor in some major conflicts, it definitely plays a role: Buddhists vs. Rohingya Muslims in Burma; Sunni vs. Shi’ite Muslims in Yemen and, to some extent in Syria; Muslims against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq; Hindus against Christians in part of India; and majority Christians against minority Christian groups in places like Russia. One is reminded of the verse in the book of the prophet Jeremiah: “Peace, peace, they say, but there is no peace” (Jer 6:14; 8:10).

If almost all religions speak of peace, if so many religious leaders around the world speak of the importance of peace, why is there so much conflict and not just conflict but conflict involving religion? Perhaps a partial answer can be found in the UN International Peace Day. It is a day not when governments and religious leaders speak of global peace and peace on the much touted macro-scale; it is, rather, a call for not just religions but individual believers to practice peace and non-violence. As long as religious people do not see themselves obliged by their faith to be active agents of peace and reconciliation — but rather allow and even promote conflict in their families, workplace and neighborhoods — conflicts will continue to rage in our world.

CNEWA, of course, is no stranger to conflict. We work in war-torn areas such as the Middle East and the Horn of Africa; we also work with refugees, those quintessential victims of violence, in refugee camps and displacement centers throughout the world. We serve in areas where there are intra-religious conflicts like Ukraine. The words of Jeremiah ring often in our ears.

International Peace Day provides us with an opportunity and a challenge: an opportunity to evaluate our role as believers who work actively to promote peace and reconciliation, and a challenge to bring that peace and reconciliation into our daily lives and local communities.

Tags: Middle East United Nations

20 September 2018
Greg Kandra

The above video, from last month, shows some of the Ethiopians who have been internally displaced by ethnic violence in their homeland. A new report says Ethiopia has the largest number of internally displaced persons in the world. (video: AfricaNews/YouTube)

Report: Ethiopia has most internally displaced people in the world ( Ethiopia’s internal security lapses coupled with floods in parts of the country have earned them the unenviable record of global leader in internally displaced persons. According to the Geneva-based group, Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, IDMC, Ethiopia currently had about 1.4 million internally displaced persons for the first half of this year (January — June 2018.) ”The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia deteriorated significantly in the first half of 2018,” IDMC said in its current report. The country has 200,000 more internally displaced than Syria in second place…

Government team to visit Kerala and assess damage (The Indian Express) An inter-ministerial team, headed by a special secretary of the Home Ministry, will visit Kerala for five days beginning Thursday to assess the damage caused by the recent devastating floods, officials said…

Jerusalem police thwart attempted attack on Yom Kippur (The Jerusalem Post) Police thwarted an attempted stabbing attack around 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Jerusalem, shortly after Yom Kippur had begun. The incident occurred on HaNeviim Street, near the Old City, according to Police Foreign Press Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. The attacker was shot and killed by police…

Are Muslims observing a Jewish holiday? (Al Jazeera) Given the way in which the Christian calendar has been imperially universalised, the other two may look erratic and confusing, but Jewish and Islamic high holy days are perfectly logical, routine, and regular. Both Jewish and Muslim observers have noticed this proximity between Yom Kippur and Ashoura. On the occasion of the two holidays coinciding in 2016, Rabbi Allen S Maller noted how “both holy days occur on the 10th day of the month, Muharram for Muslims and Tishri for Jews…”

Tags: Ethiopia Jerusalem Kerala Islam

19 September 2018

CNEWA's external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., speaks at Holy Family Parish in Lawton, OK, during a parish visit in 2015. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)

We were heartened to see this recent report in The Sooner Catholic about a parish in Oklahoma that has been supporting CNEWA’s work:

There has been a war in Syria since 2011, and half the country has been displaced, meaning families are no longer living in their hometowns, cities or villages. Thousands are victims of the war and are in dire need of help.

For the past three years, Holy Family in Lawton has made it their mission to help those war-stricken families by giving Lenten offerings to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).

“Every Lent, we have a special Lenten Project. The past three years it has been Syrian refugees, the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, and refugees,” said the Rev. Phil Seeton, pastor of Holy Family.

“People are invited to drop an envelope into a basket that we have marked with CNEWA information. As they come up, they are bringing their gifts to the altar. I know from letters that the money has gone to medical clinics, and to some refugee camps. The refugees served in the camps are mainly members of the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches, the Assyrian Church of the East as well as Yzdidis and Muslims.”

Father Phil expressed the need to do more.

“These folks are brothers and sisters in the faith, and they are not getting much help from governments. It comes through the generosity of the different Christian churches in Europe and the United States. These people are modern day confessors to the faith. Maybe they have not been martyred, but there are thousands who have been martyred for Christ over there. They are confessing their faith with their lives.”

Luscia Hankins is the co-chairman of Holy Family’s Spiritual Life Committee, along with Mary Beth Mullins. The committee helps organize the Lenten fundraiser for CNEWA. In 2017, they raised $6,200.

“This year, we raised $10,200. It was for the displaced Syrians who were placed in camps. The donation was to build camps of their own. They are being persecuted for the religion we share. It is an obligation to our fellow Christians,” Hankins said.

Since 2013, they have given $38,000 to CNEWA.

Read more.

We remain deeply grateful to Father Phil and the people of Holy Family for their generous and prayerful support, helping so many of our brothers and sisters in need. Thank you!

Tags: Syria CNEWA

19 September 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis greets a St. Bernard and dog owners during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tags: Pope Francis

19 September 2018
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2017, Pope Francis greets Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, during a meeting with representatives of the Conference of European Rabbis. The pope sent greetings to the Jewish community of Rome to mark this month's holy days. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope sends greetings to Jewish community of Rome (Vatican News) ”I am pleased to extend my sincere best wishes to you and to the Jewish Community of Rome”, Pope Francis said in a letter addressed to Rome’s Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Shemuel Di Segni. The occasion for the Pope’s greeting is three-fold: Rosh Hashanah celebrated from 9-11 September, Yom Kippur celebrated on 18-19 September, and Sukkot which begins on 23 September and ends on 30 September…

A month after the flood, 2,500 still in relief camps ( Even a month after Kerala witnessed an unprecedented deluge, said to be the worst in the last 100 years, at least 2,500 persons are still in relief camps in the state. Presently, there are 80 relief camps in the state, in which 787 families, comprising 2,457 people, have taken shelter…

Ethiopia’s reforms now challenged by unrest (AP) Ethiopia’s stunning political reforms are now threatened by long-standing ethnic tensions that have roared back to life since a young prime minister took power just five months ago and promised greater freedoms. While exiled groups once banned as terror organizations are welcomed home to join political dialogue, deadly violence erupts on the fringes of celebrations…

Jordan takes steps to support Jerusalem’s Palestinians (Al-Monitor) The Jordanian government’s decision to reduce fees on passports for Palestinians in Jerusalem has revived hopes of a larger role for the kingdom in defending the rights of Jerusalemites…

India’s religious minorities struggle to get scholarships ( The scholarships, started by the Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2006, offer financial grants from grade one to postgraduate and doctorate levels to encourage poor parents from minority communities to educate their children. The grants are available to deserving families from Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jain and Parsi families. Most grants go to Muslim students, as their community is the largest and poorest minority…

Thousands in Syria return home after Russia-Turkey deal (AP) Thousands of people who were recently displaced by violence in northwest Syria have returned home following a Russia-Turkey deal that averted a government offensive on the last major rebel stronghold, Syrian opposition activists said Wednesday…

Tags: India Pope Francis Ethiopia Jews

18 September 2018
Greg Kandra

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, second from left, conveyed the pope's good wishes to a congregation of Armenian monks on Sunday. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope Francis on Sunday praised the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation for their tradition of ecumenical openness and urged them to continue to provide witness.

From Vatican News:

The Congregation of Benedictine monks is widely recognized for its contribution to the renaissance of Armenian philology, literature, and culture early in the 19th century and for the publication of old Armenian Christian manuscripts, a tradition that Pope Francis described as a “beneficial gift for the ecumenical journey, which increasingly reveals itself as a sign of the times” in our effort to meet the Lord’s request to his disciples “to be one”.

In a letter addressed to Archbishop Boghos Levon Zekiyan, apostolic administrator of the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation, the Pope said the congregation “is called to preserve and deepen its charism for the good of all Armenian people.”

Francis’ message was read in the presence of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches during celebrations of the Divine Liturgy on the Island of San Lazzaro in Venice.

The ceremony took place on Sunday evening to the mark the third centenary of the foundation of the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation.

Read the full story.

Tags: Armenia

18 September 2018
Greg Kandra

Men prepare a Syrian revolution flag prior to protests on 14 September in the war-torn city of Idlib. (photo: CNS/EPA)

Indian diocese gathering evidence on martyrs (Vatican News) The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in eastern India’s Odisha state is currently gathering information and evidence on the martyrdom of some 100 people who were killed in the brutal anti-Christian violence that erupted in the state on 25 August 2008…

Christian aid group says Idlib civilians fear offensive by Syrian forces (CNS) Christians and other civilians inside Idlib, Syria, are fearful of an impending, all-out offensive by their government and its Russian and Iranian backers on the northwestern province, the last rebel stronghold and presumed endgame in Syria’s more than seven-year-old war. ”A Franciscan father told us that the situation in Idlib is really bad, the people are very scared. They don’t know what will happen and it’s unclear what is actually taking place,” Andrea Avveduto, communications chief for Pro Terra Sancta, told Catholic News Service on 17 September. The association, based in Jerusalem and Milan, supports the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land…

More EU aid for flood-hit Kerala (The Hindu) he European Union has allocated an additional 1 million euros in emergency aid for flood-devastated Kerala, an EU delegation to India said on Tuesday. According to a statement, this comes on top of the initial assistance of 190,000 euros announced last month and channelled through the Indian Red Cross…

In Ethiopia, violence targeting minorities leaves at least 23 dead (Business Day) At least 23 people were killed in a weekend of violence targeting minorities in the ethnic Oromo heartland near Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, police said. It is a blow to new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts at reconciliation…

Yom Kippur 2018: what you need to know about the holiest day of the Jewish new year (The Independent) Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, takes place in 2018 on the evening of Tuesday 18 September. Following Rosh Hashanah — the faith’s new year — Jews observe the Ten Days of Repentance, an opportunity to reflect on their sins and transgressions over the past 12 months…

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Jews Saints

17 September 2018
Philip W. Eubanks

Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample, center, recently met with CNEWA development team members Thomas Moore (l) and Philip Eubanks (r). Archbishop Sample is a member of CNEWA’s board and was eager to hear about some of our work around the world. (photo: CNEWA)

From time to time, CNEWA takes to the road to visit with our family of donors and local parishes who are helping to support those in need in the places where CNEWA works. It’s just one special way CNEWA can connect with those who share our mission — and invite others to be a part of it. For many, it is their first introduction to CNEWA, so it’s a welcome opportunity to help tell our story.

Recently, we were privileged to visit with some friends in Oregon, in the greater Portland area. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, a member of CNEWA’s board, generously took time from his busy schedule to meet with us. We got to hear about the work of the church in Portland — and we had a chance to share with the archbishop more about the work CNEWA is doing around the world, thanks to the generosity of the Archdiocese of Portland and the many members of our faithful donor family who have partnered with us.

If you would be interested in bringing CNEWA to your parish for a visit, just drop a line to our development associate, Christopher Kennedy:


17 September 2018
Greg Kandra

In the video above, leaders from Eritrea and Ethiopia are shown signing a peace deal at a summit in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. (video: CGTN/YouTube)

Ethiopia, Eritrea sign peace accord at Saudi summit (Al Jazeera) Ethiopia and Eritrea signed an agreement at a summit in Saudi Arabia, bolstering an historic peace accord between the two former Horn of Africa enemies, officials said. Authorities did not reveal exact details of the new deal signed on Sunday in Jeddah, but sources close to the Saudi government said it would help strengthen the truce and enhance security in the wider region…

Indian government reaches out to others for help in rebuilding Kerala after flood (The Times of India) One month into the deluge which displaced people and left a trail of destruction, the state government has opened itself to welcoming support from anybody who can contribute to Rebuilding Kerala. Reaching out to financial institutions, central agencies and well-wishers in the country and abroad, the state government now plans to use mult-ipronged strategies to address the issues of livelihood and rehabilitation of affected families…

Hundreds of refugees in Lebanon plan to return to Syria (The Daily Star) Hundreds of refugees gathered in locations across Lebanon Monday morning in the latest return initiative organized by Lebanon’s General Security, in cooperation with the Syrian government. According to the state-run National News Agency, more than 200 refugees, the majority of whom will head to Syria’s Aleppo, gathered at Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Beirut’s Al-Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood. The refugees will be transported on six buses through the Masnaa border crossing under the supervision of Laura Almirall, the head of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR’s Mount Lebanon Field Office…

U.S.-backed Syrian forces launch offensive against last ISIS stronghold (The Jerusalem Post) A major offensive launched by U.S.-backed Syrian forces in the country’s east will likely lead to the downfall of Islamic State’s last major stronghold, but will not spell the end of the extremist group, analysts believe…

Architects slam planned cable car to Western Wall in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Prominent architects, including Moshe Safdie, have sounded an alarm over a plan to build a cable car near the Western Wall area, warning that the project will damage the Old City skyline and will fail to solve traffic problems in the area…

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Eritrea

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