Current Issue
July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
19 July 2019
Greg Kandra

Sister Nabila Saleh, principal of the Rosary Sisters School in Gaza, checks in with students. Read her Letter from Gaza, about life with the students, in the July 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Ali Hassan)

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank

19 July 2019
Greg Kandra

Heavy rains continue to lash Kerala and other parts of India, as the monsoon gains strength.
(video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)

Heavy rains lash Kerala; monsoon gains strength (India Today) Heavy rains lashed several parts of Kerala for the second day Friday as the southwest monsoon intensified in the state after a period of lull. According to the India Meteorological Department website, some places in Kozhikode and Idukki districts, where a red alert has been sounded, recorded around 14 cm rainfall (about 5 inches) in the past 24 hours ended at 8.30 am Friday…

Iran says U.S. may have shot down drone by mistake (USA TODAY) Iran denied Friday it lost a drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the United States said it had “destroyed” an Iranian drone that was threatening a U.S. ship. ”We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) by mistake!,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Twitter…

Iraqi Christians facing deportation express sense of betrayal (The Guardian) Yousuf is one of over 1,400 Iraqi nationals who the Trump administration is attempting to deport. Most of those are Chaldean — Iraqi Catholics — living in metro Detroit, which holds the world’s largest Chaldean population outside of Iraq. The administration’s deportation efforts are viewed by many Chaldeans as a shocking “betrayal”, not least because many in the community have been enthusiastic supporters of Trump and voted for him in large numbers in 2016…

Church seeks probe into Mumbai building collapse ( Catholics in India’s commercial hub of Mumbai have joined demands for an official inquiry into the collapse of a four-story building that killed at least 10 people. The century-old building in the rain-soaked city collapsed on the morning of 16 July, trapping scores of residents under debris. Mumbai, a western city of some 20 million people, has had several British colonial buildings collapse in recent years…

Miniature Russian icons disappearing (The New York Times) With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the renaissance of the Russian Orthodox Church revived icon painting. It is miniature art now facing extinction…

Tags: India Iraqi Christians Kerala Russian Orthodox Church Chaldeans

18 July 2019
Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service

People gather at the site of a car bomb blast outside the Syriac Orthodox Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Qamishli, Syria, on 11 July 2019. At least 11 people were injured in the blast during evening services. It was unclear who was responsible for the attack.
(photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)

Syriac Christians in northeastern Syria are calling on the United States to help defend them against a buildup of Turkish troops along the border, fearing they will be overrun and suffer the same fate as Afrin, where jihadist forces pushed out inhabitants last year.

The appeal by the U.S.-backed Christian Syriac Military Council, made available to Catholic News Service, warns of a possible Turkish attack on the eastern Euphrates River region in Syria. It said it fears the onslaught could affect thousands of Christians who live in Syria’s northeast, and it urges Washington to intervene.

The military council forms part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces responsible for driving out Islamic State militants from Syria, while defending Syriac Christians from ISIS fighters.

About 700,000 Syrian Christians fled to Europe due to Islamic State attacks during Syria’s eight-year war.

Now, they fear a Turkish military incursion into the area east of the Euphrates River, which would again displace thousands of Christians who live in villages and towns along the Syrian-Turkish border.

“Turkey has been amassing troops at Ras al-Ayn, where there is no U.S. military presence,” Syriac Christian political leader Bassam Ishak told CNS by phone.

“But anywhere these troops come inside northeast Syria will be tragic, like in Afrin,” said Ishak, who heads the Syriac National Council. A graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, he is also a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Democratic Council.

“The safe zone Turkey has proposed is 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep. It’s in these areas where Kurds and Christians live. If Turkish forces come in, the expectation is that they will push out the inhabitants and turn the region over to extremist jihadist groups that they support, just like they did in Afrin a year ago,” he said.

Turkish troops and their rebel allies, including Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked fighters, swept into the northwest Syrian town of Afrin in March 2018, scattering its mainly Kurdish inhabitants, some of them Christian converts, and thousands of internally displaced Syrians from other parts of the country seeking shelter. Afrin had been one of the only areas virtually unaffected by the war. Turkey said it wanted to root out Kurdish militants.

Military Council member Aram Hanna told Kurdistan 24 TV that he hopes a U.S.-led coalition would protect northeast Syria because Islamic State “sleeper cells still pose a threat.”

Pope Francis has called Syria’s war the worst humanitarian disaster after World War II.

Ishak and Syrian religious leaders like Chaldean Catholic Father Samir Kanoon of Qamishli said the region’s inhabitants view Turkey as an enemy of Christians due to past history. Syriacs and other Christians living in Turkey were caught up in the 1915 Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenian Christians, which saw 1.5 million Armenians killed.

“Because of the massacres, Christians were forced to escape from Turkey, and this is where they fled, to northeastern Syria and Aleppo. Turkey is viewed by many as the enemy of Christians,” Father Kanoon told CNS earlier.

Also, “Syriac Christians and many of the Kurds who live in northeast Syria are the grandchildren and descendants of those who fled oppression and massacres in Turkey and fled to this area, considered the last safe zone from the Turks. Turkey, in their minds, is the source of terrorism,” Ishak told CNS.

Ishak drew attention to continuing instability in the area. On 11 July, three explosions took place in the northeast city of Hassakeh and, later that day, another explosion targeted the Syriac Orthodox Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Qamishli during the evening services, injuring about 11 people. It was unclear who was responsible for the attack.

“The church is located in an area within the control of the Syrian regime, but a truck was able to come and park outside the church,” Ishak said. “Someone detonated it from afar. It exploded just five minutes before the end of the Mass. If the blast happened 10 or 15 minutes later, when the people were leaving the church, it would have been a catastrophe.”

Lauren Homer, a Washington, D.C.-based international human rights lawyer familiar with the situation, called the Turkish troop amassing “puzzling, coming so soon after the Turks deployed Russian missiles near their southern border -- almost ensuring additional U.S. sanctions.”

Homer spoke to CNS during the U.S. State Department Ministerial on Religious Freedom taking place in mid-July in Washington.

She questioned whether Turkey is making “a direct challenge and threat to the U.S. and its global coalition partner troops present in Tel Abyad” or an “imminent threat to follow through on its long-threatened invasion of the entire Democratic Self-Administration” present in the region.

Syrian Christians and Kurds making up the self-administration have permitted religious freedom choices to all the inhabitants.

Homer, too, believes that if Turkey does invade northeast Syria, “it will be a repeat of Afrin in any territory they seize, bringing targeted genocide, ethnic cleansing, rapes and trafficking of women.”

Tags: Syria

18 July 2019
Greg Kandra

Monsoon floods this week have left millions homeless in India. (video: SBS Australia/YouTube)

Church groups join rush to help India flood victims ( Church groups in India’s Assam state have stepped up their humanitarian efforts after catastrophic floods wreaked havoc, leaving 15 people dead and an estimated 4.6 million homeless. More than 4,157 villages in 30 districts are submerged in the northeastern state as rains continue unabated, raising the water level of the Brahmaputra River above the danger level…

As Ethiopia works for reform, Church tries to support people in many ways (CNS) The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is leading peace and reconciliation efforts while it does what it can to help the millions of people who have fled their homes in an upsurge in communal violence. ”The Church is in a good position to help and the Catholic leadership is there,” Argaw Fantu, regional director for Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said in a 15 July interview from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital…

What’s the future of Syrian refugees in Turkey? (The New York Times) Of the nearly 3.6 million Syrians in Turkey, only about 100,000 live in camps close to the Turkish-Syrian border, the majority in Turkish cities and towns. Around half a million live in Istanbul. But the Turkish economy is struggling and the unemployment rate stands at 13 percent. Turks in socially and economically-stressed districts increasingly believe that the refugees are competing for their jobs and that the government grants them more privileges…

Pope makes appointments to Holy See press office (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Thursday appointed a new Director of the Holy See Press Office. British-born Matteo Bruni is the new spokesperson of the Holy See, effective on 22 July…

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Vatican

17 July 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro

Martina Isaac stands in front of her home in the Zabbaleen quarter of Manshiyat Naser, Cairo. For more about the life of this Coptic enclave, and the sisters who serve their community, read Reclaiming Lives, from the July 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Hanaa Habib)

Tags: Egypt Sisters Copts Catholic education Coptic

17 July 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syriac Catholic Rev. Youssef Sakat reads documents of an Iraqi family seeking help from inside the chapel at the Holy Family Syriac Catholic center in Beirut on 8 July 2019. (photo: CNS/Dalia Khamissy)

When Islamic State came, the monks had just finished hiding the manuscripts (Catholic Herald) Already, the four monks at the ancient Syriac Catholic Mar Behnam Monastery in Khidr, Iraq, had felt they were under siege. Ten days earlier, on June 10, 2014, five carloads of militants roared through the peaceful road leading to Mar Behnam, announcing through megaphones that the Islamic State was in control. Not long before that, the Iraqi army had withdrawn from a checkpoint near the monastery, located southeast of Mosul. All the while, Father Youssef Sakat was deeply concerned about how to safeguard the monastery’s extensive collection of religious manuscripts from inevitable destruction by the militants. The 630 manuscripts, dating from the 12th to 18th centuries, were written in a range of languages, including Syriac, Greek, French and Latin…

Archbishop of Basra: The pope’s visit, an opportunity for rebirth for Christians and Iraq (AsiaNews) Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq, scheduled for next year, represents a world stage for the Baghdad government to show itself close to Christians and active in defending the freedoms and rights of the entire population. “[I]t is necessary to prevent the formation of a second class citizenship, especially for Christians and other minorities that are affected and relegated to the margins by the Constitution and a sectarian culture,” says the Chaldean Archbishop Alnaufali Habib Jajou of Basra, according to whom the nation “is in pieces” because of a “widespread and visible corruption”…

Turkish diplomat shot dead in Iraqi city, officials say (The Guardian) Gunmen have killed at least one Turkish diplomat in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in an attack on consulate staff gathered in a restaurant, Turkey’s foreign ministry said. The state-run Iraqi news agency identified the dead man as the deputy consul general, the Associated Press reported…

Can Israel’s courts deliver justice for Palestinians? (Al Jazeera) The demolition of Palestinian-owned buildings by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is a routine occurrence. But in Sur Baher, a neighbourhood southeast of Jerusalem, an unprecedented mass demolition is looming — with the approval of Israel’s top court…

Tags: Iraq Palestine Turkey

16 July 2019
Doreen Abi Raad

Students at Fratelli enjoy a sports class. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)

In the new edition of ONE, journalist Doreen Abi Raad profiles a place Where Education Is Alive, the Fratelli Center in Lebanon. She offers some additional impressions below.

To reach the Fratelli Center in Rmeileh, Lebanon, the exit from the coastal highway near the southern city of Sidon leads to a lovely, winding road dotted with all kinds of flowering trees.

I imagine that Syrian refugee children, living nearby in dire conditions, perhaps also admire the beautiful landscape on their way to and from the center on the bus provided by CNEWA.

Fratelli is a non-profit association jointly founded by the De La Salle Brothers and Marist Brothers in Lebanon in 2016 with the goal of organizing educational, social and cultural activities for poor and vulnerable children.

From the former Marist Our Lady of Fatima school in Rmeileh, abandoned during Lebanon’s civil war, the Fratelli Center serves more than 600 children and youth, Syrian refugees as well as poor Lebanese. Most of the students are Muslim. Teachers and volunteers are Muslim and Christian alike.

It’s morning recess time. Children are running, screeching, laughing, some kicking soccer balls, immersed in exuberant momentum. Yet there’s nothing chaotic: It’s simply blissful joy, every child’s face radiant with a smile.

Three young boys run to Marist Brother Andrés Porras, hugging him in unison, nearly knocking him over with their enthusiasm. “How are you today?” he asks the students, returning their hugs and encouraging them to speak in English.

“For me, these children are the daily presence of God, it is very transparent, how they share their happiness and look in your eyes with such pureness,” Brother Andrés says.

When it’s time to get serious at the ringing of a teacher’s handbell, the children quietly line up, ready to return to classrooms, still brimming with joy. They are so eager to learn.

In the first grade classroom for Syrian refugee children, a colorful poster of “Fratelli Class Rules” is prominently displayed. The rules include: ”I will be honest and kind…I will respect myself and others…I will not be a bully…I will do my best…I come to school to learn.” The students indeed are doing their best, listening to their teacher with rapt attention and confidently reciting arithmetic drills in English.

For Fratelli’s afternoon basic literacy and numeracy program for youth, 16-year-old Zahra arrives with a sweet smile, after working in agriculture from 6 am to noon with her father, to help support her family. They fled to Lebanon from Idlib, Syria in 2012.

Zahra expected that with no fear of war, everything would be better in Lebanon. But life in her adopted country has been very difficult, she admits with a mature resolve. Her family lives in poverty; she missed out on school for several years, and she must work to help out financially.

Thanks to Fratelli, Zahra has restarted her education, opening a path for a better future. Ever since she was young, Zahra dreamed of being a pediatrician.

Zahra hopes to return to her homeland someday. But she would like her country to be as it was before the war.

For now, Zahra considers Fratelli “my second home.”

“Or to be honest, it is my main home. It’s the place where I feel free,” she says, adding that the teachers “are like a family to me.”

Read more about Fratelli in the July 2019 edition of ONE.

Tags: Lebanon Refugees

16 July 2019
Greg Kandra

Sister Abhaya and Sister Phincitta socialize with students St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf in Kerala. Read more about how these young people are getting A Sound Education in the July 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Sajeendran V.S.)

Tags: Kerala

16 July 2019
Greg Kandra

Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, speaks during the presentation of the UK Independent Review on Persecution of Christians, in Rome on 15 July 2019. Looking on is Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, an official at the Vatican Secretariat of State. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal fears Iraq could be caught in U.S.-Iran conflict (CNS) Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Louis Sako is concerned by rising tensions between the United States and Iran, fearful that his country, Iraq, could be caught in the middle of any potential conflict. It has also made a proposed visit by Pope Francis to Iraq next year uncertain, he said…

Alert issued for Kerala as monsoon strengthens (India Today) Authorities in Kerala have issued alerts across the state anticipating heavy rains in the next few days. The India Meteorological department (IMD) in its latest weather forecast has said very to very heavy rains are expected in Kerala. Besides this, IMD said the sea along the Malabar Coast in Kerala is expected to be very rough. This corresponds with the strengthening of monsoon in Southern India…

Study looks at how religious restrictions have increased around the world (Pew Research Center) Over the decade from 2007 to 2017, government restrictions on religion — laws, policies and actions by state officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices — increased markedly around the world. And social hostilities involving religion — including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups — also have risen since 2007, the year Pew Research Center began tracking the issue…

Archeologists unearth 9,000-year-old city near Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) A prehistoric ‘city’ — with complex streets, burial grounds and trade items from as far away as the Red Sea and Anatolia — was unearthed near Jerusalem during the work carried out to make a new entrance to the capital. The discovery of the cluster of buildings, homes, public compounds and ritual areas dates back to the Neolithic period and is one of the largest settlements discovered from the New Stone Age in the world…

Tags: Jerusalem Iraqi Christians Kerala Persecution

15 July 2019
Greg Kandra

Syrian Armenians celebrate the Divine Liturgy at St. Grigor Narekatsi Armenian Catholic Parish in Yerevan, Armenia. Read how Syrian refugees are starting over in Armenia, and how the church is supporting them, in Hope Takes Root in the July 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

Tags: Syria Armenia

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