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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
7 August 2017
Greg Kandra




The synod of bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church has erected the Eparchy of Parassala, India, and with the assent of Pope Francis, has elected as the first bishop of the eparchy Bishop Thomas Eusebius Naickamparampil, who is currently serving Syro-Malankara Catholics in the U.S. and Canada. (photo: CNS/Mary Iapalucci, Long Island Catholic)

Syro-Malankara bishop from U.S. will head new eparchy in India (CNS) The synod of bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church has erected the Eparchy of Parassala, India, and with the assent of Pope Francis, has elected as the first bishop of the eparchy Bishop Thomas Eusebius Naickamparampil, who is currently serving Syro-Malankara Catholics in the U.S. and Canada...

For first time, Christian woman elected mayor of Iraqi town (Catholic Herald) A Catholic woman has been elected as the new mayor of Alqosh, a small town on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq. Lara Yussif Zara was the unanimous choice of the municipal council last Thursday, defeating another candidate. The first woman to be mayor of Alqosh, she replaces another Chaldean Christian, Abdul Micha, who was dismissed after charges of corruption...

How long can Gaza survive with no water? (Al Monitor) The water crisis caused by ongoing power outages of more than 20 hours a day has pushed Gaza Strip residents to dig unlicensed wells, disregarding the ensuing serious threats to the already scarce aquifer water stock...

India’s ‘Black Day’ for Dalit Christians (Vatican Radio) Dalit Christians and Muslims of India will once again observe ‘Black Day’ on 10 August this year to highlight the discrimination that low-caste Christians and Muslims have been facing for 67 years. India’s Catholic bishops want to remind the people that the country bears a constitution-based discrimination against Dalit Christians, i.e. Dalits who embrace Christianity...

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox celebrate start of Virgin Mary fast (Xinhuanet.com) The Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church celebrated on Monday the start of the fast of the Virgin Mary that will end on 22 August, MENA news agency reported. This fast is 15 days long and precedes the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Dormition of the Theotokos). The celebration will be held at the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Drunka, Assuit...



4 August 2017
Greg Kandra




The video above shows the challenges families are facing as they return to what is left of Mosul, Iraq. (video: SkyNews/YouTube)

Families return to booby-trapped homes in Mosul (SkyNews) The city of Mosul spreads out along the banks of the Tigris River. It is a formidable, if scenic, obstacle and five bridges were built to overcome it. After months of vicious warfare however, there is only one way for residents to cross. The Iraqi generals call it “Victory Bridge,” but this single-lane, floating structure looks a little less grand…

How climate change could affect the Nile (The Economist) To the untrained eye, the satellite photos of northwest Ethiopia on 10 July may have seemed benign. They showed a relatively small pool of water next to an enormous building site on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile. But the project under construction is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is more than halfway complete. And the water is why it is so controversial…

Jordan: 10,000 babies born as refugees (Doctors Without Borders) A maternity hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Jordan’s Irbid governorate has witnessed the births of 10,000 babies — most of them Syrian — in just four years. These babies are part of a generation of Syrian children who have never seen their homeland and may face challenges of identity and integration in the future…

Armenia’s population continues to decline (Azernews) The population of Armenia continues decreasing in number, thus further worsening the demographic crisis in the country, which is caused by social and economic problems that the Armenian government fails to solve…

Orthodox monasteries prepare for pilgrimages (OCA.org) The word “pilgrimage” means “a journey of spiritual significance.” And every year, the month of August proves to be significant for three monastic communities of the Orthodox Church in America observing their annual pilgrimages in conjunction with their patronal feast days…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Ethiopia Armenia United States

3 August 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A Syrian girl holds a woman’s hand as she walks down a street in the central Syrian rebel-held town of Talbiseh, north of Homs on 3 August 2017. (photo: Mahmoud Taha/AFP/Getty Images)

Homs cease-fire deal announced in Syria (BBC) A cease-fire between Syrian forces and rebels north of Homs has been agreed and will come into effect on Thursday, Russia’s defence ministry says. It would be the third such “de-escalation zone” put in place since July after talks between powers backing and opposing the Syrian government…

Maronite bishops issue appeal for repatriation of Syrian refugees (Fides) In a statement released at the end of their meeting on Wednesday, 2 August, Maronite bishops urge Lebanese civilian institutions to adopt a “global plan” to arrange for the return of Syrian refugees who found shelter in Lebanon…

Indian cardinal: There are no forced conversions (AsiaNews.it) The government of Jharkhand (in the northeast of the country) last night approved a law prohibiting conversions brought about by force or coercion. The government spokesman explained that “anyone who violates this law may be sentenced to three years in prison and 50,000 rupees fine, or both.” Speaking to AsiaNews, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi and of Tribal Ethnicity, states: “This law is not to prohibit conversions, but it is against forced conversions. Forced conversions do not exist. We are free people with a free will and a free conscience and intelligence. No one can force another to convert…”

Why Germany’s new Muslims go to mosque less often (PulitzerCenter.org) Refugees I’ve spoken to complain that preexisting mosques’ members are overbearing and that the teachings there are irrelevant to their concerns: integration, trauma, and finding footing in a new society. They say older Muslims in Germany focus too much on identity politics and self-victimization, perhaps because they’ve felt like alienated minorities for decades. Many newcomers haven’t abandoned their culture or their faith, but they don’t want to hear this talk when they’re busy trying to fit in…

Russian Orthodox protest planned movie about Tsar Nicholas (The Telegraph) Hundreds of Orthodox activists held a standing in prayer protest in Moscow on Tuesday against a film about the last Russia Tsar Nicholas II having an affair, RBC reported…



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Russia

2 August 2017
Greg Kandra




In this photo from June, a Palestinian boy stands outside his house at a refugee camp in Gaza City. New statistics show child labor is increasing in Gaza, as the economy continues to deteriorate.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)


Child labor increasing in Gaza (Fides) Over the past five years, with the worsening of the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip, the phenomenon of child labor continues to increase. The news comes from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics...

Lebanon jihadists withdraw to Syria (BBC) Thousands of jihadists and their families are relocating to Syria from the border with Lebanon as part of a ceasefire deal with Hezbollah. Fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) agreed to withdraw to Idlib province after Hezbollah, backed by Syrian forces, launched an offensive. The jihadists were targeted in the Juroud Arsal region, which had become a bastion for the group...

Knights of Columbus raises money to assist Christian town in Iraq (CNS) In 2014, the Islamic State removed hundreds of families of religious minorities from their homes in Karamdes, a mostly Christian town on the Ninevah Plain in Iraq. Just over two years later, the town, also known as Karemlash, was liberated. The Knights of Columbus will raise $2 million to assist these families in returning to their homes, according to Knights CEO Carl Anderson, who announced their pledge at the Knights’ 135th annual Supreme Convention being held in St. Louis...

Draft Orthodox catechism defends ecumenism (The Catholic Herald) A new draft catechism of the Russian Orthodox church has declared ecumenical discussions to date ‘completely faithful and obedient’ to Christian teaching, in opposition to critics of ecumenism within the church. The Catechesis of the Russian Orthodox Church, issued with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, follows a submission to the Council of Bishops in February, and is published for Church-wide discussion...

In Kerala, ‘the world’s first Christian shoe brand’ (NewKerala.com) Neon Apostle is the first footwear company in the world to combine functionality, faith and footwear. Their initial offering of 11 designer Christian-themed casual shoe designs features a combination of cutting edge graphics and traditional Christian motifs...



1 August 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a priest from Mosul explains how families have been keeping the faith during the long siege by ISIS and the battle to liberate the city. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

In Mosul, revealing the last ISIS stronghold (The New York Times) Days after the Iraqi government officially declared victory over the Islamic State in Mosul in July, the fighting was far from over. Roughly the size of a block in Manhattan, the last ISIS holdout of the Old City did not seem like the kind of place where anyone could still be alive after weeks of brutal combat. But a few such areas kept up the fight for days. And — horribly, amazingly — civilians were still being pulled out. What we saw as we went step by step with the Iraqi forces here made their survival seem even more miraculous...

Report: U.S. proposes arming Ukraine (The New York Times) The Pentagon and State Department have proposed to the White House a plan to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other arms, according to Defense Department officials. The proposed transfer — which also would include antiaircraft arms that would be defined as defensive weaponry — comes as fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists has increased in recent days, and the United States is taking steps to deter aggressive military actions by Moscow...

After 150 years, a baptism takes place in Turkish province (DailySabah.com) Baptism ceremony has taken place at a chapel located near the ancient Temple of Apollo in Turkey’s southwestern Aydin province for the first time after 150 years. According to reports, the son of Assyrian businessman Enlil Simon Afram was baptized at the 300-year-old chapel, located in Aydin’s Didim district. The Metropolitan Bishop of Mardin and Diyarbakir Saliba Özmen performed the baptism...

Mosul musicians emerge from the shadows (Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces continue to root out the last remaining pockets of ISIL fighters in Mosul. But rebuilding the city and allowing people to return to their old lives is now the main priority. Musicians who lived under ISIL rule had to keep their profession a secret or face severe punishment...



31 July 2017
Greg Kandra




As the fighting is coming to an end, West Mosul is slowly coming back to life and students, such as those shown here, are returning to schools that are slowly reopening. Iraq reports
250,000 people have returned to the Nineveh Plain in recent weeks.
(photo: Noe Falk Nielsen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Iraq: 250,000 have returned to homes in Nineveh (Fides) The Iraqi Ministry for Migration and Internal Mobility reported that more than 250,000 people have returned to their respective areas of origin in the Nineveh Province, who had to leave when those regions had been occupied or threatened by jihadist militias of the Islamic State...

Russia stages military parade in Syria (The New York Times) Russia’s global military ambition was on display Sunday when the country celebrated Navy Day with large military parades not only in St. Petersburg, but also off the coast of Syria. The parades of ships, submarines and aircraft were held at Russian naval bases in Sevastopol, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and at Tartus in Syria, where Russia is expanding its military presence...

Cardinal Parolin to visit Moscow (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has confirmed that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, will travel to Moscow in September. Parolin’s journey to Russia comes in the wake of his visits to Belarus and to Ukraine in the past two years signaling the Vatican’s continuing engagement with eastern Europe and its desire to continue supporting the Christians in the region...

Thousands poised to leave Lebanon-Syria border zone (Times of Oman) Convoys of buses arrived on Monday to transfer thousands of Syrian militants and refugees from Lebanon’s border region into rebel territory in Syria in exchange for Hezbollah prisoners. Under a local ceasefire between the militants and the Hezbollah, about 9,000 fighters and their relatives were to leave on Monday, a Hezbollah media unit said earlier...

Children continue to swim as raw sewage floods Gaza beach (The Guardian) While pollution of Gaza’s 25 miles of beaches is not new, what is different is the degree. These days, according to the last environmental survey, 73 percent of Gaza’s coastline is dangerously polluted with sewage amid an energy crisis that is now also affecting Israel across the border wall, sharply up from 40-50 percent a year ago...

Four years later, still no word of priest kidnapped in Syria (Crux) In late July 2013, when Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio entered a “rebel” territory of Syria, at the time under siege by the Islamic State, he knew something could happen. He want to Raqqa anyway, in hopes of brokering a deal for the release of kidnap victims. As it turns out, he himself was kidnapped on the 29th. No one has heard of him since...



28 July 2017
Greg Kandra




Workers unload supplies of medicine from trucks of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent near Damascus. The United Nations has delivered aid to only a few areas in Syria this month.
(photo: Samer Bouidani/NurPhoto/Getty Images)


UN struggles to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria (Al Jazeera) The United Nations has delivered aid to only a few hard-to-reach areas in Syria and not a single besieged location this month, a senior UN humanitarian official said on Thursday. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller told the UN Security Council in a video briefing from Amman, Jordan, that there have been no UN aid convoys to besieged areas in July and just one a week to hard-to-reach areas, meaning just over 120,000 people got help this month...

Catholic charities wants migrant stories to be heard (Vatican Radio) No matter the position one takes on national migration policy, Pope Francis, Caritas Internationalis and national Catholic charities across the globe want Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story...

Cardinal: Russia and West must settle differences for peace (CNS) Peace and an end to violent conflicts around the world should be placed above any national interests when it comes to the relationship between Western countries and Russia, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said...

Egypt sets up national council to combat terror (AFP) Egypt has created a “national council” to combat the rise of Islamist “terrorism” which has targeted its security forces and Coptic Christian minority, in a presidential decree issued on Wednesday. The decree, published in Egypt’s official gazette, sets up a “national council to combat terrorism and extremism” by adopting a “global national strategy”...

Zaatari: the ‘temporary’ shelter that has become Jordan’s fourth largest city (ABC.net.au) About 80,000 Syrians live here, and as far as refugee camps go, aid groups say Zaatari is the gold standard. There’s a bustling main market that smells strongly like the flat bread baking in wood ovens inside shops. Gold traders jostle for business with bridal wear shops and fresh fruit and vegetables are laid out for the choosing. Zaatari isn’t like the other camps though — many don’t allow commerce or small businesses, and don’t have as many aid programs offering such comprehensive support...

Iraq’s unsung culinary queen (Al Jazeera) Her previously out-of-print cookbook, which found its way into the nation’s heart 52 years ago, went back into circulation this year for the 18th time, with just 400 copies printed and distributed. The first edition has been upgraded with glossy pages showcasing Iraq’s time-tested recipes and dishes from the wider region. Adib and coauthor Firdous al-Mukhtar have been described as the first women to grant Iraqi cuisine its rightful place in history...



27 July 2017
Greg Kandra




A destroyed building is seen in Mosul, Iraq, on 24 July. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)

The hunt for the missing in Mosul (AFP) In Mosul, the missing are everywhere, their families hunting through the ruined Iraqi city for traces of lost husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters...

Gaza power-sharing deal moves ahead (AP) Lawmakers from Hamas and those affiliated with a former Gaza strongman have met for the first time in a decade in Gaza’s parliament building...

Ethiopia’s model drought defenses are put to the test (Christian Science Monitor) If Ethiopia was once the world’s poster child for drought mismanagement, it is now the regional model for early warning and nimble response. As two of the worst droughts in recorded history have swept across the country, a muscular, government-led reaction has driven back the crisis to mostly manageable levels — even as in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia, the same weather conditions have brought populations to the edge of famine...

India’s first Dalit president given a second Christian burial (OutlookIndia.com) A part of the ashes of India’s first Dalit President KR Narayanan, who was cremated on the banks Yamuna following Hindu rituals, was given a second Christian burial, admits his daughter Chitra Narayanan. There was kerfuffle over the discovery of a tomb in cemetery exclusively for Christians in the name of former president KR Narayanan, who was born into a Hindu Dalit family in Uzhavoor village in Kerala and remained so officially until he died on 9 November 2005...

Pushing the boundaries with icons (KALW) In the Russian Orthodox Church, art is much more than just decoration. Small, elaborate paintings known as icons portray Christianity’s most famous persons, and are used as tools for prayer. Today, a number of artists who are neither Russian nor Russian Orthodox are nonetheless pushing the boundaries of this religious art form...



26 July 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a religious sister from Syria describes how Christians there have continued to cling to their faith. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Pressure continues to involve Christians in Kurdistan referendum (Fides) Political leaders of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan continue to try and involve Christians in support of the referendum convened for next 25 September, seeking to proclaim full independence from Baghdad...

Security forces sent to Lebanese Christian town near Syria (Al-Arabiya.net) Security reinforcements were sent to the Lebanese Christian town of Al-Qaa after reports that gunmen may have entered. A number of suicide bombers attacked the Lebanese Christian village last year killing a number of people and wounding dozens more. ISIS was responsible for the bombings in the village of Qaa on Lebanon’s border with Syria...

Syrians rebuild a mosque in Aleppo — and rebuild their community (The Independent) The crumpled heap of stones, all that is left of the minaret of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, asks questions of us all. How do we “restore” or “repair” or “rebuild” a jewel of Seljuk civilization from which millions of Muslims — perhaps even Saladin himself — were called to prayer five times each day for 900 years in one of the oldest cities of the world?...

Coptic Church launches campaign against female genital mutilation (Fides) The Orthodox Coptic Church is about to launch an intense awareness campaign among its faithful against the practice of female genital mutilation, which continues to be widespread among Coptic Christians in different areas of Upper Egypt...

Ethiopian Rosh Hashanah blends unique customs (Jewish News Service) Despite relative isolation from their Jewish brethren around the world for millennia, Ethiopian Jews have coveted the same dream of celebrating Rosh Hashanah “next year in Jerusalem.” Though unique, the Jewish New Year festivities in Ethiopia bear many similarities to the holiday’s observance in the broader diaspora...



Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Ethiopia Copts

25 July 2017
Greg Kandra




A migrant child sits on the deck of rescue ship as it arrives on 19 April in Augusta, Italy. A Vatican representative told the U.N. Monday that the integration of migrants and refugees in host nations must become an opportunity for new understanding.
(photo: CNS/Darrin Zammit Lupi, pool via Reuters)


Vatican on migration: an opportunity for development, fraternity (Vatican Radio) The integration of migrants and refugees in host nations can and must become an opportunity for new understanding, broader horizons and greater development for everyone. This message was at the heart of a statement released on Monday by Father Michael Czerny at the UN in New York during an Informal Thematic Session in New York to gather substantive input and recommendations to inform the Global Compact on Migration...

Tensions continue in Jerusalem (Fides) The Israeli government has ordered the removal of installed metal detectors to control the entry at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. But it is too soon to tell whether this measure will have an impact on the tension and violence unleashed around the Holy City where the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated...

A new life in strangers’ clothes for refugees in Canada (Racked.com) Like most refugees, the Syrians arriving in Canada come with very little literal baggage. They leave behind wedding presents and photo albums, family heirlooms and art collections. A threat to physical safety, the need to flee from civil conflict, might seem like it renders material objects irrelevant. But we carry a powerful attachment to tangible things. The things we collect keep us rooted in the earth; our homes, our beds, our bookshelves and frying pans, the sneakers with the shoelaces that always come undone, and the letters collected in a box tell the story of who we are and where we have been...

How Gaza became unlivable (Al Jazeera) The United Nations Country Team in the occupied Palestinian territory recently released an incisive report on Gaza (PDF), focusing on the humanitarian impact of Israel’s 10-year blockade and the internal political divisions among the Palestinians. Its findings are bleak: Gaza’s impoverishment is entirely the product of human decisions, and not the fate of nature...

Indian Christians observe ‘Martyrdom Day’ (Vatican Radio) A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe Martyrdom Day on 22 July in memory of Christians who are persecuted and killed for their faith. It was the initiative of Shibu Thomas who through his ecumenical movement, “Persecution Relief” said special prayers were offered in Churches across the country. The observance is “part of a concerted effort to encourage those who continue to struggle to cope with persecution and challenge to live a true Christian life,” Thomas told UCANEWS...

Vatican turns off fountains to save water (Vatican Radio) The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water...







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