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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
23 May 2019
Greg Kandra




Early reports say India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poised to win a landslide victory in the country's elections. (video: BBC/YouTube)

Modi poised for victory in India (CNN) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was poised for a landslide victory in the country’s general elections, early results showed on Thursday, defying expectations of even his own party to win a second term in office. Modi thanked Indians for “the faith placed” in his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), tweeting that it “gives us strength to work even harder to fulfill people’s aspirations…”

Vatican publishes a ’milestone’ for promoting interreligious dialogue (Vatican News) The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) have launched a joint document to encourage Churches and Christian organizations to reflect on the structural roots that have led to the disruption of world peace…

Jerusalem prepares for thousands of Muslim visitors for Ramadan (The Jerusalem Post) The Israel Police have completed preparations for the third Friday of Ramadan in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands are expected for Friday services for the Islamic holy month. “The Israel Police will act decisively against anyone who tries to disrupt the peace,” the police spokesperson’s office announced…

Caste-driven honor killings haunt India (UCANews.com) In the last three years, more than 300 cases have been reported, according to government statistics. The practice has its roots in the caste system followed in Hinduism, the religion of 80 percent of Indian people. The caste system considers those outside the four castes — priests, warriors, traders and farmers — to be outcasts. They are socially excluded because even their presence is considered polluting. The socially and economically poor are considered untouchable because of their menial work such as clearing night soil (human excrement) and removing dead animals…

Ethiopia farmers fight drought with cows (Reuters) After farmer Manza Bulacho’s crops were wiped out in a drought that devastated parts of Ethiopia in 2017, the father of 10 hoped a cow could keep him going. Bulacho, 42, who lives near the city of Arba Minch in southern Ethiopia, joined a program that helped him borrow money to purchase a dairy cow and get it insured…

No Ramadan ceasefire in northern India (UCANews.com) Ramadan 2019 has been deadly in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir compared to last year’s when the government announced a unilateral truce. The conflict-ridden region has witnessed six major encounters during the first 15 days of this year’s Ramadan, killing 12 Islamist militants, two army personnel and a civilian…

Grooms face crushing debt in Gaza (AP) Wedding lenders have filled an important need in Gaza’s conservative society, where young men and women are typically expected to marry in their late teens or early 20s. Facing a nearly 60% unemployment rate, many young Gazan men have been forced to put off their dreams of marriage because they cannot afford it…



Tags: India Ethiopia Interreligious Ramadan

22 May 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2017, Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II attend an ecumenical prayer service in Cairo. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tawadros: ‘Egypt’s church is not a political party’ (Middle East Monitor) Egypt’s churches distinguish between their national and political roles, the country’s Coptic pope, Tawadros II, said.”Politicians have their own speciality, which I didn’t study,” Tawadros told ME Sat. “All Copts are Egyptians, including myself. Our [Christian] role is to participate in our homeland’s prosperity, practice our rights as Egyptians,” the pope pointed out, adding that politics were being participated through “legal political parties.” “Egypt’s church is not a political party,” he stressed…

U.S. says Assad may be using chemical weapons in Syria again (The New York Times) The State Department said on Tuesday that the Syrian government might be renewing its use of chemical weapons, citing a suspected chlorine attack in northwest Syria, and maintaining that any use of such weapons would lead the United States and its allies to “respond quickly and appropriately…”

How a religious controversy may be shaping India’s election (The New York Times) Our correspondent, Jeffrey Gettleman, traveled to the south Indian state of Kerala, to see how Modi’s party, the B.J.P., is expanding its reach. Kerala is a progressive state, with large communities of Christians and Muslims, and the highest literacy rate in India. It’s one of the least likely places for Hindu nationalist politics to succeed. In fact, Modi’s party has never won a single seat in Parliament from Kerala. Now, that may be changing…

India’s disappearing Jewish community (UCANews.com) Jews arrived in the ancient port town of Kochi some 800 years ago. With just three Jews left in Mattancherry — all of whom are aged more than 80 — Jewish life in Synagogue Lane is destined to disappear…

Foreign spouses of West Bank residents in state of limbo (CNS) What was meant to be one of the happiest of occasions for the Zoughbi family became a nightmare because of Israeli policy on family reunification for foreign spouses of Palestinians…



Tags: Syria India Egypt Kerala

21 May 2019
Greg Kandra




An Israeli border policeman stands guard not far from Ramallah, West Bank, on 17 May 2019, as Palestinians make their way to attend Friday prayer at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. (photo: CNS/Raneen Sawafta, Reuters)

Former Jerusalem patriarch: time to move away from war (CNS) Appealing to Israel and the United States, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, retired Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, said it was time to move away from war. ”It is time to look for more peace in the region and in Israel and Palestine,” he said. Seemingly addressing U.S. President Donald Trump, Sabbah said since the president says he believes in the Bible, he should read it and pay attention to what is written there about peace…

Ukraine’s new president dissolves parliament, calls election (The New York Times) Minutes after taking office on Monday, Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced a snap parliamentary election that he hopes will consolidate his power and help him deliver on campaign promises to end endemic corruption and a prolonged separatist conflict…

Eight months after floods, Kerala is reeling from a water crisis (Scroll.in) The crisis in Karivellur Peralam is particularly severe, but all 14 of Kerala’s districts, save for Wayanad and Pathanamthitta, are facing acute drinking water shortage, just eight months after the state witnessed the worst floods in a century last August…

Indian bishops’ quiz ’an invigorating experience’ for young (UCANews.com) The Indian bishops’ office for education and culture has for the first time conducted a nationwide quiz involving about 30,000 Catholic school students. The event marked the 10th anniversary of the All India Catholic Education Policy. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s ‘Education Mastermind’ quiz culminated in the capital, New Delhi, on 15 May following a series of state and regional rounds that began in December…

U.S. parish awaits Russian bells (The Tribune-Review) Five Russian Orthodox bells are on their way from Voronezh, Russia, to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks. The bronze bells, ranging in size from 9 pounds to 42 pounds, were shipped last week and are expected to arrive in about two months…



Tags: India Ukraine Jerusalem Kerala Russian Orthodox Church

20 May 2019
Greg Kandra




Children wave Indian flags as they receive informal education at the Snehalaya Social Center run by the Sisters of the Holy Cross of Chavanod at a slum in New Delhi. (photo: Rita Joseph/ucanews.com)

Religious sisters offer women and children a way out of a New Delhi slum (UCANews.com) if the sisters had not taken the initiative to set the center up, many of their young wards would likely end up as child laborers with no chance of ever getting a formal education. The Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod congregation has been running the center since 1981, offering kids an informal education and preparing them for formal schooling, said Sister Lavina Rogers, who joined five years ago…

Pope tells missionaries to evangelize with urgency (Vatican News) The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, or PIME, was founded in Italy in 1850 as a society of diocesan priests and lay people who dedicate their lives to missionary activities. Pope Francis met Monday with participants in the Institute’s 15th General Assembly, reminding them of the “co-responsibility of all dioceses to spread the Gospel to peoples who do not yet know Jesus Christ…”

Russia announces ceasefire by Syrian forces (Al Jazeera) The Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have unilaterally ceased firing in the northwestern Idlib province, the last major rebel-held territory, Moscow’s defense ministry said. However, opposition activists said shelling and air attacks continued on Sunday despite the announcement…

Putin intervenes to halt cathedral project after protests (The New York Times) President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intervened in a bitter dispute in a provincial Russian city that erupted in protests this week, calling on the regional authorities to settle the matter peacefully. Such bursts of public outrage are growing more common in Russia, where stagnating and even declining living standards juxtaposed with expensive foreign adventures, official corruption and environmental degradation are testing people’s patience and driving down Mr. Putin’s popularity ratings…

At bombed shrine in Sri Lanka, a closeness to the universal church (Vatican News) The shrine’s rector said they never gave up their faith and continue to pray and celebrate Mass inside the shrine saying, “Our God is not a god of revenge. He is the God of love…”

Feeling awe at Ethiopia’s reverence for the dead (The Observer) The Kidist Selassie, Amharic for the Holy Trinity Cathedral, is located near Ethiopia’s parliamentary buildings. This cathedral is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia, specifically to adherents of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christianity has a vast following in Ethiopia, and it is no wonder that one of the Patriarchs (Popes) in the Orthodox Church sits in Addis Ababa.



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Russian Orthodox

16 May 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




An Iraqi Airways Airbus rolls along a runway in Estonia, in January 2018. (photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons)

Iraqi Airways to resume flights to Syria after eight-year break (France24) Iraq’s national carrier is to resume flights to the capital of neighbouring Syria for the first time since the war there erupted in 2011, a spokesman said Thursday. Iraqi Airways will operate a weekly service from Baghdad to Damascus starting Saturday, spokesman Layth al Rubaie told AFP…

U.N. agency: Gaza blockade causes ‘near ten-fold increase’ in food dependency (U.N. News) According to UNRWA, it must secure an additional $60 million by June to continue providing food to more than one million Palestine refugees in Gaza, including some 620,000 “abject poor” who cannot cover their basic food needs and are surviving on $1.6 per day. The funds are also needed to cover the severely challenged 390,000 “absolute poor”, who survive on about $3.5 per day…

Rocket strike on Syria refugee camp kills ten civilians (Daily Star Lebanon) At least ten civilians were killed and 30 wounded in Syria by a rocket strike on the Neirab camp for Palestinian refugees close to the city of Aleppo Tuesday night, the United Nations said in a statement Thursday…

ISIS claims India foothold (UCAN India) Global terror group ISIS claims to have created a “province” in India as well as inflicting causalities on the Indian army while aiding local Muslim insurgents in the northern Kashmir region…

In Ethiopia, women and faith drive effort to restore biodiversity (Urban Faith) In Addis Ababa, approximately 35 percent of the household fuel wood — mainly eucalyptus — is systematically gathered from the Entoto Mountains just outside the city. Ethiopia historically planted large areas with fast-growing eucalyptus, a non-native species, to meet the demand for fuel wood. But the trees’ water-hogging nature has had a destructive impact on the land. There are efforts to reforest areas with native species, supported by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has a tradition of maintaining tree gardens throughout the country…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

10 May 2019
Greg Kandra




The video above explains some of the preparations and practices surrounding Ramadan in Jerusalem. The Vatican has issued a message for Ramadan, urging universal fraternity between Christians and Muslims. (video: 24News/YouTube)

Muslims gather in Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers (AP) Crowds of worshippers have gathered at a Jerusalem holy site the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. Israeli police said more than 135,000 worshippers prayed at al-Aqsa mosque in the sacred compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount…

Vatican message for Ramadan urges universal fraternity (Vatican News) The Vatican is calling on Christians and Muslims worldwide to promote human fraternity and harmonious existence by building bridges of friendship and promoting a culture of dialogue where violence is rejected and the human person is respected. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) made the invitation in a message to wish Muslims worldwide a peaceful and fruitful celebration of Ramadan…

Lebanon won’t survive with refugees, says Aoun (Middle East Monitor) Lebanon would never survive if half a million Palestinian refugees and 1.6 million Syrian refugees remained in the country, the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, said yesterday. Aoun remarks came during a meeting held at the presidential palace in the Lebanese capital of Beirut with a delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), headed by its secretary general Souraya Bechealany. Aoun called on the MECC to help the Lebanese government resolve the Syrians refugees’ issue “by persuading Western countries to accept the refugees return to their countries as soon as possible…”

Sources: only a toddler left after airstrike in Syria (BBC) Dozens of people have reportedly been killed after government and Russian air strikes were stepped up in north-western Syria. Two-year-old Khadija al-Hamdan was pulled out of the rubble in Idlib after one such assault. She was the only member of her immediate family to survive…

Pope sends cardinal to Lesbos as refugees continue to arrive (CNS) Three years after Pope Francis visited Lesbos and took 12 refugees back to Rome with him, Cardinal Krajewski returned to the Greek island on 8 May to check on the situation for the pope, to make contact with government officials and to distribute more than $100,000 to Caritas Hellas and to projects the Greek Catholic charity is supporting…



Tags: Syria Refugees Jerusalem Muslim Ramadan

9 May 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis prays in front of a candle in memory of victims of sexual abuse as he visits St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin in August of 2018. Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope issues new norms for mandatory reporting of abuse (CNS) Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. The new juridical instrument is meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care. For this reason, the new document establishes a clearer set of universal procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and protecting victims and whistleblowers…

Indian Christians seek better security at churches (UCANews.com) Christian leaders in India have intensified their call to make churches safer after police arrested a man and accused him of having links to Islamic terror groups and planning to attack religious places in Kerala state…

Iraq’s Christians grapple with new threat from Iran-backed militias (National Catholic Register) After surviving the genocidal campaign of Islamic State militants, Iraq’s Christians are facing new challenges as they attempt to rebuild their lives in their ancestral homeland…

Government forces capture village in Syria (Al Jazeera) Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have pushed their way into a northwest rebel-held enclave, clashing with armed groups and capturing a strategically located village in Hama province, widening an offensive that had previously involved mainly aerial bombings and shelling…

Calls for reform over India’s ’vanishing girls’ (UCANews.com) Indians’ preference for male children has created a skewed gender ratio but the trend could be reversed with social change and government determination to implement laws, say rights activists. About 100 medical doctors, activists and lawyers attended a national consultation in New Delhi on 2 May with the theme “Vanishing girls: Revisiting Civil Society Response Against Sex Selection…”



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Iraqi Christians

8 May 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2015, a red sun is seen over a dinghy overcrowded with Syrian refugees drifting in the Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece after its motor broke down off the Greek island of Kos. The United States has slashed the number of refugees it will admit to the country, with Syrians being the most affected. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)

U.S. has slashed its refugee intake; Syrians are most affected (The Washington Post) Under the Trump administration, the number of refugees allowed into the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the resettlement program began in 1980. And few groups have been as affected as Syrians, who have been fleeing a brutal civil war that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead since it began in 2011…

Solidarity of India’s Catholic Church and Islamic organization for victims in Sri Lanka (Vatican News) The Catholic Church of India and a leading Islamic organization of the country have issued a joint statement vehemently condemning the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. They also plan to send an inter-faith delegation as a gesture of their condolence and solidarity with the victims…

Pope Francis pays tribute to Jean Vanier (Vatican News) ”I want to express my gratitude for his testimony” Pope Francis told journalists aboard the papal flight from Skopje to Rome, as he recalled Jean Vanier who died on Tuesday. As he prepared for the questions put to him during the usual inflight press conference upon his return from an apostolic visit abroad, the Pope’s priority was to pay his heartfelt tribute to the man whom, he said, was able to read and interpret the Christian gaze on “the mystery of death, of the cross, of suffering”, on “the mystery of those who are discarded by the world…”

Church-run training changes lives for young Indians (UCANews.com) Since September 2017, the Jan Vikas Center also aided unemployed urban youths trapped by circumstances such as drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies and various forms of abuse. With support from the Don Bosco congregation, under its flagship Don Bosco Tech program, the center trains people aged 18 to 35 in computer, electrical, sewing machine, driving, carpentry and other skills…

A cathedral for Russia’s armed forces rises (Radio Free Europe) The Main Cathedral of Russian Armed Forces, set to become Russia’s third-tallest Orthodox cathedral, is rising in a wooded clearing overlooking the highway on the grounds of Patriot Park, a military-themed recreation and expo complex opened by the Defense Ministry in 2016. When it’s unveiled one year from now — on 9 May 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II — it will be the set piece of an ostentatious memorial complex merging Russia’s Orthodox tradition with the most sanctified episode of the country’s past: the Soviet Union’s victory over invading Nazi forces in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War…



Tags: Syria India Refugees Muslim

7 May 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis accepts gifts from women in traditional dress as he arrives at the international airport in Skopje, North Macedonia, on 7 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Pope in Macedonia: respect human dignity, diversity (Vatican News) In his first speech on North Macedonian soil on Tuesday, Pope Francis encouraged the West Balkan state in its effort to be a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples. Addressing the nation’s authorities, the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society at the presidential palace in capital, Skopje, the Pope described the land as a bridge between East and West and a meeting-point for numerous cultural currents. With a Christian presence that dates back to the apostolic times, the country also bears elegant testimonies of its Byzantine and Ottoman past…

Early evacuation in India spares more than a million from deadline cyclone (CNS) A powerful cyclone ripped through eastern India and sideswiped Bangladesh, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 30 deaths. Authorities said the evacuation of 1.2 million people from more than 10,000 villages prior to Cyclone Fani’s landfall on 3 May prevented a larger death toll and minimized injuries, ucanews.com reported…

Jean Vanier dies at 90 (Vatican News) Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, a community which supports people with disabilities, died during the night, aged 90. The community is active all over the world with about 150 centers. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris. Pope Francis was informed of his death and the ad interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community.” Jean Vanier had met with Pope Francis in 2014, calling him a man of smiles and encounter…

Why Israel and Gaza keep fighting brief battles (The New York Times) More than two dozen people were killed and homes and businesses destroyed in the weekend’s fighting between Israel and Gaza, but on Monday leaders on both sides declared themselves satisfied with the outcome. The cycle of violence-ceasefire-repeat that keeps verging on all-out war may look like pointless destruction to the outside world. But analysts say it is amply serving the interests of the two main antagonists…

Syrian Kurds reshape region with books and schools (Reuters) A law student who was tortured for carrying a Kurdish book now owns a bookstore. A woman who once secretly huddled with friends at night to learn Kurdish is now a de facto education minister. Kurdish activists who could not protest without risking arrest now have printing presses, festivals and television channels. ”We never imagined this. This was a dream,” said Semira Haj Ali, who co-chairs the education board in the northeast. “Of course, we will not go back to before 2011. We will not turn back…”



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Balkans

6 May 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis visits with refugees in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 6 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope meets refugees in Bulgaria (CNS) Twelve boys and girls wearing white T-shirts and dark pants sang for Pope Francis at a refugee center on the outskirts of Sofia. Their songs were cheerful and the drawings they gave the pope were chock full of smiles and hearts, but their parents’ letters to Pope Francis contained appeals for help. Ismael Taha Saber, a 42-year-old father of six from Mosul, Iraq, was one of those who wrote to the pope for help finding a permanent home elsewhere after being in Bulgaria for three years…

Dozens killed after plane catches fire in Moscow (Vatican News) Forty-one people, including two children, were killed after a plane caught fire at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Russia. The Superjet 100 plane, which belongs to Russian National carrier Aeroflot, caught fire shortly after take—off. The crew immediately returned to the airport and made an emergency landing. Those who survived the fire escaped the plane using the evacuation slides. There are differing reports of the incident…

Gaza-Israel violence continues for third day (Vatican News) Palestinian militants have fired more than 450 rockets into Israel, drawing dozens of retaliatory air strikes on targets across the Gaza Strip. There had been a month-long lull in hostilities in the region, before this latest bout of violence. Cross-border attacks have now run into their third day. United Nations mediators, along with Egyptian officials credited with brokering ceasefires in the past, are working to prevent further hostilities. It is unclear if they have made any progress…

U.K. foreign secretary warns about persecution of Christians (AP) Britain’s foreign secretary has warned that governments in many parts of the world have failed to take action to slow the persecution of Christians. Jeremy Hunt said on an official visit to Ethiopia that governments have been “asleep on the watch” as anti-Christian actions spread. Interim findings of a report commissioned by Hunt released Friday suggest that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world with violence against them spreading…

Burqa ban in India sparks controversy (UCANews.com) A Muslim educational group in India has banned women from wearing outfits that cover their faces in its institutions, but not all are happy about the move. The Muslim Education Society (MES) based in the southern state of Kerala issued a circular stating that female teachers and students in its 150 institutions should not wear the burqa, the garment Muslim women use to cover their whole body including the face. ”A dress code that is not acceptable to mainstream society cannot be allowed even if in the name of modernity or religious practice,” MES president P.A. Fazal Gafoor told media on 3 May after his 17 April circular became a media discussion point…



Tags: India Refugees Russia Orthodox Persecution





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