19 July 2016
In this photograph from last month, Syrian Kurdish women mourn during the funeral of eight members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who died during an assault against ISIS in the town of Manbij. A monitoring group says US-backed forces led airstrikes against the town Tuesday, killing at least 56 civilians. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
Airstrikes kill 56 civilians in Syrian town (Al Jazeera) At least 56 civilians, including 11 children, have been killed in US-led air strikes against areas in Syria held by the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS), a monitoring group said. “We believe that the raids which were carried out Tuesday were by US [or] allied planes, but it was by mistake,” Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman told DPA news agency...
Alleged coup supporters to face trial in Greece (The Wall Street Journal) Greece faces a delicate balancing act as it confronts the spillover of Turkey’s failed coup on its territory: Eight Turkish officers who supported the coup and fled to Greece want asylum, while Turkey wants them handed over swiftly...
Gaza tunnel collapse kills terror operative (The Times of Israel) A Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror operative was killed in the Gaza Strip Monday night when a tunnel used by the group collapsed east of the town of Khan Yunis, according to various media reports...
In Lebanon, Syrian refugees fear rising discrimination (AFP) Lebanon hosts more than one million Syrian refugees — roughly a quarter of its population — and has regularly been praised for opening its borders to those fleeing the brutal conflict in its neighbor. But the refugee influx has strained resources and tempers, with some Lebanese viewing the years-long presence of Syrians as a burden, even an imposition...
Olympic champion: world must not forget about Ethiopia’s food crisis (Reuters) Millions of Ethiopians in the grip of a severe hunger crisis are at risk of being forgotten by the international community and urgently need more aid to help them recover, former Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie said on Monday...
In Egypt, law on the construction of churches delayed (Fides) The start of parliamentary debate on the new Egyptian law that should regulate the construction of churches and places of worship had been announced for the end of May, but almost two months later, the text of bill has not yet been brought into parliament, and is subjected to constant changes...
During trip to India, Cardinal Dolan celebrates Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, praises CNEWA (CardinalDolan.org) Today, we in America praise Jesus for your priests, sisters, and lay faithful whose deep Catholic faith, joy, and sense of family is an inspiration to us all. I praise Jesus Christ for the apostolic work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which allows us to accompany you with our prayers and alms, and am glad that Monsignor John Kozar is here with us. I praise Jesus Christ for the lessons Mar Ivanios has taught us: especially his trust, his emphasis on the Imitation of Christ, and his thirst for unity and reconciliation...
18 July 2016
The neighborhoods surrounding the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station host large migrant populations.
Note: Earlier this year, writer Diane Handal visited Israel to report on what migrants endure to reach this Promised Land. What follows are some random impressions of her journey as a traveler herself, experiencing anew the sights and sounds of a land she knows well.
I boarded the flight to Tel Aviv in a plane filled with men wearing tall black hats and sporting beards, women in wigs and kerchiefs — many of them carrying babies — with toddlers running in front and older ones trailing behind.
Everyone was speaking Hebrew except for a group of older women tourists from Oregon on their way to visit the Holy Land.
We arrived in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and after being grilled at immigration, I picked up my baggage and boarded a shuttle to Jerusalem.
The settlements had grown so much from my last visit here, making my heart sink. The scars of the recent uprising and killings lay like a dark blanket over its residents. Hotels have been shuttered as the pilgrims had stopped coming and now there is an uneasy quiet in the streets and a definite police presence.
I walked in through the New Gate and rang the bell of Sami el-Yousef, my dear friend and CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel. He gave me a warm welcoming hug. I had come home again to the place I love and where I feel I belong. I am 100 percent Palestinian, with my entire family from Bethlehem.
The following day, I met the Rev. David Neuhaus, who is collaborating with CNEWA to help Hebrew-speaking migrants.
I walked with him to Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center. The children came running up to him, hugging him. The women who worked there were bowing and bending their heads to his hand in a traditional gesture of blessing. He grabbed one child and flipped her upside down! She laughed. My heart stopped.
Lots of hula-hoops were spinning in the playground. Inside the tent, children were drawing with magic markers, their finished work hanging on a clothesline. Snacks and juice were being served and as the clock struck 4 pm, Father David pushed them all inside the tent to maintain quiet as the synagogue began services next door.
Soon, I met two single mothers from the Philippines who are raising their children in Israel and use the center for after school activities.
And then there was Faith. She is ten years old, and is taking care of her five-year-old brother who has Down Syndrome. He doesn’t talk, she says. (But he does communicate; he screams.) Their mother cleans houses. Faith is just precious.
I drove with Father David the next day to southern Tel Aviv and saw houses of corrugated metal roofs and siding to shield its residents from this nasty cold weather. They buildings are “graced” by an old bus station where big green buses are constantly coming and going.
We were in the slums where most of the migrants lived.
A small shopping area below encircled this “Central Bus Station.” On the right side was a Kingdom of Pork Factory store.
Graffiti was scribbled on the stone walls of a cement block house with concrete bricks inserted into what were once windows. A dirt lot next door was full of pigeons.
We went to Rehovat for Mass with Father David and Tony, a seminarian, who reminds me so much of my brothers. He said when he told his mother he was going into the seminary, she cried for a month!
Rehovat is a small town about 12 miles south of Tel Aviv. At last report, in 2014, the population numbered about 129,000 people.
Off one of the main streets, we walked into an alley. A small room overflowed with some 50 worshipers, mainly Filipinos, with some international students in the mix, all coming for Mass.
A Filipino woman was playing a portable organ and the words to the songs were displayed on a screen to the right of the altar.
Everyone was so happy to see Father David, who said the Mass. As before, there were people constantly bowing their heads to his hand.
I left Jerusalem, on my way to the Allenby Bridge crossing to Amman, Jordan.
On the way, I passed Ma’ale Adumim, an enormous settlement on the West Bank with beautiful paved roads and tall modern street lamps. Its population in 2015 was around 40,000.
Soon they will have company. The number of migrants is only expected to grow.
According to The Jordan Times, Israel’s defense ministry recently approved plans to build 153 new settler units in the occupied West Bank.
Read more about Surviving Without a Country in the Promised Land in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
18 July 2016
Women prepare coffee and snacks at a clinic operated by the Daughters of St. Anne in Ethiopia. To learn more about our recent visit to the Horn of Africa, check out this photo essay in the Summer edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
18 July 2016
At a funeral in Adana, Turkey, on 18 July, relatives mourn around the coffin of Turkish police officer Yunus Ugur, who was killed during the failed military coup attempt.
(photo: Muzaffer Cagliyaner/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Turkey crackdown continues after attempted coup (The New York Times) Turkish authorities moved to widen their purge of perceived opponents on Monday by removing thousands of police officers from their posts, part of the crackdown that followed a failed military coup that was aimed at toppling the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan...
Syrian army takes main road leading to Aleppo (CNN) The Syrian army and pro-government forces have taken control of the main road leading into rebel-held areas in Aleppo, effectively cutting off the rebels’ main supply route, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Sunday...
Report: Poorest countries shouldering responsibilities for world’s refugees (CNN) The world’s six wealthiest countries host less than 9 percent of the world’s refugees, according to a new Oxfam report. While the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France and UK make up more than half the global economy, last year they only hosted 2.1 million refugees and asylum seekers — just 8.88 percent of the world’s total, the aid organization said in its report released Monday...
Report: 15 arrested for arson attacks on Copts’ homes (Christian Today) Police have arrested 15 people after an arson attack on homes belonging to Coptic Christians in an Upper Egyptian village, in the latest of a series of attacks on Christians in the country. The arson attack on five houses in Abou Yaboub in the Minya governate came on Saturday after rumors spread about a church being built in the area. The arrests reportedly came hours later...
Ethiopia’s ancient sites fueling tourism boom (Quartz.com) Named the world’s best tourist destination of the year in 2015, Ethiopia says it post a 20.7 percent spike in tourism dollars last year hitting a record of $3.4 billion. Much of the growth of Ethiopia’s tourism has been due to its nine UNESCO world heritage sites, such as the 13th century rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, which continue to be a big draw...
Cardinal Dolan: India is an example (UCANIndia.in) Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said that India constituted a great example of good relations among religious groups and that rare outbursts of hostilities among the groups were exceptions not representing the country. This is Cardinal Dolan’s first visit to Kerala and he was speaking to reporters in Kochi yesterday...
15 July 2016
St. Vladimir embraced Christianity in the tenth century, and is considered the founder of the Eastern churches in the Belorussian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Russian and Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox traditions. (photo: OCA.org)
Today, 15 July, marks the feast of St. Vladimir:
“The Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles.” Few names in the annals of history can compare in significance with the name of St. Vladimir, the Baptizer of Rus.
Born in 956, Vladimir was raised a pagan, but converted to Christianity — the first ruler of the Rus’ to embrace the faith. The people of his country soon followed his example:
Then followed an unforgettable and quite singular event … the morning of the Baptism of the Kievans in the waters of the River Dneipr. On the evening before, St Vladimir declared throughout the city: “If anyone does not go into the river tomorrow, be they rich or poor, beggar or slave, that one shall be my enemy.” The sacred wish of the holy Prince was fulfilled without a murmur: “all our land glorified Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the same time.”
“Everywhere throughout Holy Rus, from the ancient cities to the far outposts, St. Vladimir gave orders to destroy the pagan sanctuaries, to flog the idols, and in their place to clear land in the hilly woods for churches, in which altars would be consecrated for the Bloodless Sacrifice. Churches of God grew up along the face of the earth, at high elevated places, and at the bends of the rivers, along the ancient trail “from the Variangians to the Greeks” figuratively as road signs and lamps of national holiness. Concerning the famed church-building activity of St Vladimir, the Metropolitan of Kiev St Hilarion (author of the “Word on Law and Grace”) exclaimed: “They demolished the pagan temples, and built up churches, they destroyed the idols and produced holy icons, the demons have fled, and the Cross has sanctified the cities.”
The man known as the “Baptizer of the Rus’ ” died on 15 July 1015, 28 years after his own baptism. He’s buried in a crypt in Kiev, now the capital of an independent Ukraine.
A beautiful troparion in the Orthodox tradition celebrates him as “another Paul”:
Holy Prince Vladimir
you were like a merchant in search of fine pearls.
By sending servants to Constantinople for the Orthodox Faith, you found Christ, the priceless pearl.
He appointed you to be another Paul,
washing away in baptism your physical and spiritual blindness.
We celebrate your memory,
asking you to pray for all Orthodox Christians and for us, your spiritual children.
Read more about his life here.
15 July 2016
Tags: Russia Saints
A man prays in front of a makeshift memorial on 15 July in Nice, France, as people pay tribute near the scene where a truck ran into a crowd, killing more than 80 people the previous evening. (photo: CNS/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters)
French president links attack in Nice to conflict in Middle East (ABC News) In a late-night address to the nation, French President Francois Hollande linked the deadly “terrorist attack” in Nice to the conflict in Iraq and Syria — and said France will intensify its military operations there in the aftermath of today’s tragedy. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a large truck plowed into a crowd in Nice, France, killing at least 80 people late Thursday. But Mr. Hollande said that “the terrorist nature” of the attack “cannot be denied”…
Pope condemns attack in Nice (Vatican Radio) In a telegram sent on his behalf by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis has condemned the terror attack in Nice and expressed his profound sadness and his spiritual closeness to the French people…
Portion of Holy Sepulchre remains open during restoration (Fides) The restoration work, which started a few weeks ago, has completely surrounded the aedicule of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with scaffolding and tarpaulins. But the place where, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid after crucifixion will remain accessible to pilgrims during the work of restoration and consolidation of the structure…
Agreement near on dispute surrounding Coptic monastery land (Fides) Egyptian lawyer Ihab Ramzy, who protects the interests of the Coptic Orthodox Church, has announced details of an imminent agreement between the parties that should put an end to the long dispute which arose around the territories linked to the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of San Macarius, in the area of Wadi el Rayan…
Losing everything to drought in Ethiopia (TRTWorld) There are currently 10,000 men, women and children at this facility for internally displaced people. It includes a school, a medical unit, a food storage area, and little else. And according to the camp’s water supply expert, only ten people work here…
14 July 2016
Tags: Ethiopia Church of the Holy Sepulchre France
In this photo from 2005, Sister Winifred Doherty enjoys lunch with children at Good Shepherd School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
For 16 years, Sister Winifred Doherty of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd — informally known as the Good Shepherd Sisters — ministered to the poor in Ethiopia.
In 2012, citing dwindling vocations, the congregation suspended its work in the country. But we can’t forget the tremendous good work that Sister Winifred accomplished — work that is, in every sense, heroic.
Much of her ministry was devoted to helping those who had become victims of trafficking:
“While our ministry as Good Shepherd Sisters always had women in prostitution in mind,” says Sister Winifred, “we took a more direct approach in October 1994.
“The distresses of these women are many: poverty, depression, unwanted pregnancy, homelessness, the threat of AIDS, the distress of working on the streets — they face these things every day. But we listen to them and invite them into friendship.
“A novice and I used to venture out two nights a week to meet these women,” she continues. “I remember those nights when we walked the roads beside our house. There was some initial nervousness, but soon these feelings disappeared.
“I recall one woman who was out on the road only two nights after giving birth by Caesarean section. Immediately we drove this woman to her house outside the city where her little baby lay alone. The woman had no money for food, the rent was due and there were no social services available! Ongoing support for this woman meant teaching her rudimentary baby care, buying milk for the baby and providing financial support when she or the baby got sick or the rent was due. We were ready to help.
“My direct street ministry with these women only lasted seven months, but the friendships have continued. Today these women are involved in various training programs and income-generating activities such as card-making, cosmetology, catering, bamboo crafts, weaving and others.”
In 2012, as she embarked on a new chapter in her life, she looked back with fondness at her time in Ethiopia, and her congregation’s efforts to bring dignity to the poor and marginalized:
The work of the Good Shepherd congregation is about compassion and reconciliation. It is identifying and wanting to be close to and in solidarity with people who have been excluded — especially women and girls — and the most excluded groups are people living in poverty, women who have been forced into prostitution and, today, women and girls, boys and men, who have been trafficked. So I am energized by the work that we do. …
The one thing that always stood out for me was the spirit of the people, their sense of hope in the midst of desperate situations. I often think of them. Even when I was there, I remarked on their richness of spirit. Despite dire circumstances — horrible poverty and often threatening environments — they continue to give freely, share rich relationships with one another and seek to live in peace. That always impressed me and, of course, that was informed by their faith in God and their great prayer lives.
You can view a video interview with Sister Winifred below.
14 July 2016
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters human trafficking
Father Sherubine, his wife, Antoinette, and their children visit the Al Karma Center near Alexandria, Egypt. Antoinette volunteers at the center. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we visited the Al Karma Center in a suburb of Alexandria, Egypt, to explore how it is helping Coptic families enrich their faith:
Being a minority is never easy; being a minority newly settled in a once inhospitable terrain much less so. But such is the fate of some 40,000 Coptic Orthodox, who face poverty and isolation in the arid land west of the Nile Delta.
Most immigrated to the area from Upper Egypt to escape discrimination from Islamic fundamentalists and economic deprivation. Others came after the government encouraged them to leave the over-populated Nile Valley and settle along the desert highway linking Alexandria and Cairo. With only one church to serve them, all fear their faith and heritage will be lost on younger generations eager to escape the bleak landscape where jobs are few.
A multipurpose religious center near Alexandria, however, is providing this isolated community with an opportunity to bring their children together and strengthen their faith.
“The role of the center is to identify needy children and equip them with the tools and education to live their lives in a Christian way,” said Antoin Nabil, the coordinator of the Al Karma Center in Mariout, a southwestern suburb of the Mediterranean port city.
The center gathers children from across the desert for a three-day program of activities dubbed “Jesus the Child.” Boys and girls, ages 6 to 14, are shuttled to the center in groups of 50 to 60 for an up-close look at the life of the Coptic Church.
Read more about this Oasis of Hope in the March 2004 edition of our magazine.
14 July 2016
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Copts Coptic
Smoke rises from the site of air strikes conducted jointly by Syrian government and Russian planes against opposition forces controlling the Anadan district of Aleppo, Syria, on 5 June. (photo: Ahmed Muhammed Ali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. reportedly offering Russia military pact to battle ISIS (The Washington Post) The United States is offering Russia a new military pact against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in Syria, according to a leaked U.S. proposal that, if finalized, could dramatically alter America’s role in the Arab country’s five-year civil war…
U.S. trying to confirm air strike killed high-ranking ISIS leader (CNN) The United States is trying to verify that an airstrike recently killed a high-ranking ISIS commander, and the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that in a separate action it took out a commander of the Pakistani Taliban who was responsible for the deaths of more than 130 children…
Syrian refugees graduate from Caritas-run school in Jordan (CNS) Exuberant Syrian refugee children sang, danced and played with colorful clowns as they celebrated graduation at their Caritas-sponsored school in this sleepy suburb of the Jordanian capital, Amman. Some 170 Muslim children, ages 5 to 17, proudly strode up on the outdoor platform of the Latin Patriarchate School of Naour, festooned for the occasion with red, yellow and orange balloons. They wore big smiles as they collected their certificates allowing them to move from primary to secondary school, while others completed high school…
Gaza farmers seek damages for Israel’s crop-spraying (Al Jazeera) Ibrahim Abu Taaymeh has grown spinach on land in the Gaza Strip for more than a decade. But the Palestinian farmer from Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, says his harvest was destroyed after the Israeli army sprayed an unknown herbicide on lands in the buffer zone near the Israel-Gaza border fence in October 2014…
For Palestinians, raising Arabian horses is the ‘hobby of the poor’ (The New York Times) The two gleaming black horses, certified purebreds named Rawnaq and Furys, provided a glimpse of a Palestinian passion — some call it an obsession — for raising show horses, racehorses and more modest steeds in what might seem like impossible conditions. The horses are bred and to some extent trained in gritty East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Issawiya, Tur and Jabal al-Mukaber, often by families who struggle to share tiny, cramped homes. “In America, they call raising horses the hobby of the rich,” said Muhamed Hamdan, 25, a Palestinian trainer who studied in the United States. “Here, it’s the hobby of the poor…”
Film on Indian martyrs to be released in Kerala (Vatican Radio) A documentary film that captures the agony of Kandhamal villagers of the eastern Indian state of Odisha is all set for release in Kerala, India. Directed by K.P. Sasi, “Voice from the Ruins — Kandhamal in search of Justice,” will be screened at three different places in Kerala, southern India, in the second half of July…
13 July 2016
Tags: Syria India Refugees Palestine War
Farha Nasrallah, widow of Boulos Al-Ahmar, stands with her 3-year-old daughter on the front steps of St. Elias Melkite Catholic Church in Al Qaa, Lebanon, on 10 July. Her late husband was driving an ambulance to the scene of explosion when more bombs went off. Residents of the predominantly Christian village are determined not to live in fear. (photo: CNS/Brooke Anderson)
Boulos al-Ahmar had just driven the ambulance to the scene of the explosion when more bombs detonated, killing him. When Majed Wehbe heard the first explosions near his home, he ran to the scene to help, only to arrive in time for the next set of explosions.
These men died as heroes, unafraid to run toward disaster to help others, and their Christian village wants to honor their memory by shunning the fear these explosions were designed to instill.
The Lebanese frontier village is mourning the loss of five residents to a series of explosions in late June. But within two weeks, the people were showing their determination to bring back life.
“We will continue to have culture, activities and late-night celebrations. We’re not just going to survive. We’re going to live our lives,” said Bashir Mattar, the mayor of Al Qaa, a village of about 15,000, predominantly Melkite Catholic, with some Maronite Catholic and Orthodox. They share the village with nearly 30,000 Syrian refugees who have fled war in their country, about three miles away.
The village is relatively poor, with the majority of the population belonging to the army, a reliable employer for an area with few job opportunities. Families live in modest homes, often decorated with canopies of grape vines. Syrian refugees live nearby in informal tented settlements.
“We will continue helping Syrian refugees so that they can live in dignity,” the mayor said at a 9 July town hall meeting, the first of its kind since the explosions, which led to the arrest of more than 200 Syrian refugees in the area. “If they get an education and have hope, especially the children, then they won’t turn to extremism and terrorism.”
Four suicide bombers hit the town in two separate incidents 27 June. They killed themselves and the five residents and injured more than 30 others. Although the perpetrators have yet to be identified, the area’s growing Syrian refugee community has been under tight security following the attacks.
Hilal Khashan, a professor of political studies at the American University of Beirut, said Al Qaa probably was not the target of the attack. He said some believe the suicide bombers got stuck in the village as they were trying to coordinate an attack in a big city.
Although there is a narrow stretch of Islamic State group-controlled land between Al Qaa and Syria, Khashan said he does not foresee a repeat of the attack, because the group does not have the constituency or resources in Lebanon to stage spectacular attacks, as it does in Iraq. Still, the bombings in al-Qaa left the Christian villages that border Syria’s Islamic-State-controlled areas shaken.
From the beginning of the Bekaa Valley until the entrance to the village of Al Qaa, 10 Lebanese Army checkpoints line the road. Inside the village, as the sun set and residents began to arrive at the town hall meeting in a building near the scene of the attacks, armored vehicles began patrolling the area. Some soldiers set up positions on the roofs of nearby buildings.
“Al Qaa is the door to Lebanon. If it falls, then Lebanon could fall,” said lifelong resident Georgette Farha Taom, emphasizing that she still considered the village’s Lebanese and Syrians to be on good terms. “We’ve always had a good relationship with the Syrians. They’re more scared than us. They fled their country. They have nowhere to go.”
The next morning, as worshipers, including some local Muslims, filled St. Elias Melkite Catholic Church, security personnel were again out in force, closely observing and sometimes checking IDs of those entering or walking by the church. Once the service started, the soldiers’ faces could be seen peering through the church’s windows, as the priest gave an impassioned sermon urging people not to be scared. He thanked the Lebanese army and honored the victims of the attacks, whose names and photos appeared at the main entrance to the church.
A prominent guest joined the congregation that day: Myriam Skaff, president of the Popular Bloc, visited the village from Zahle to show her support for Al Qaa, something she said she would continue to do on a regular basis. Although such gestures by politicians are not unusual at times of crisis, this visit appeared to give support to what locals wanted to show the rest of the country and beyond — that their village is open for business and is a safe destination.
“This is the first time since the attacks that the church is filled with people,” said the Rev. Elian Nasrallah. “There was no life after the attacks, but it’s coming back slowly.”