25 January 2019
In this photo from 2014, Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel works on a manuscript at his restoration laboratory in Qaraqosh, Iraq. On 25 January, Father Michaeel became the new Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. (photo: CNS/courtesy of Centre Numerique des Manuscrits Orientaux)
Iraqi priest who saved priceless manuscripts ordained archbishop (AFP) An Iraqi priest who saved a trove of religious manuscripts from the Islamic State group was ordained on Friday as the new Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. Najeeb Michaeel, 63, was ordained in a ceremony in Mosul’s St. Paul Church attended by Catholic leaders from the region and the US, as well as local officials and residents. “Our message to the whole world, and to Mosul’s people, is one of coexistence, love, and peace among all of Mosul’s different communities and the end of the ideology that Daesh (IS) brought here,” Michaeel told AFP…
Vatican, Indian theologians discuss Christian faith in India (Vatican News) A delegation from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) concluded a 3-day theological meeting on Thursday in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, a CBCI press release has said. It said the 21-24 January theological symposium on Christian faith in a multicultural context was organized by the CBCI at St. John’s Medical College. Forty-four 44 bishops and theologians from India participated in the colloquium…
Down to its last two villages in Syria, ISIS still fights back (The New York Times) Along two sharp curves of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State is fighting to hold on to the last speck of the vast territory it once controlled…
More Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon (AP) Hundreds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon went back to their war-torn country on Thursday — the latest batch to return home in recent months…
Patriarch of Jerusalem cancels meeting with Ukrainian president (The Jerusalem Post) According to the official version, Theophilos III was hospitalized with a minor illness. According to information from unnamed sources in the church circles of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the head of the Jerusalem church did not want to meet with the Ukrainian leader after a scandal with a letter that Theophilus III sent to Poroshenko in December 2018…
24 January 2019
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Chaldean Church ISIS
Pope Francis remembered the Holocaust and honored its victims with a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 2016 (video: CNS)
This year on Sunday 27 January, the world observes Holocaust Remembrance Day. Different from the Jewish observance of Yom HaShoah, The Day of the Holocaust (this year on 2 May), Holocaust Remembrance Day is the result of a UN resolution on 1 November 2005. It chose 27 January for the observance because it was also the 60th anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi extermination camp, on 27 January 1945. In the resolution, the UN recognized the horror of the Nazi extermination program which killed 6 million Jews, 5 million Slavs, 3 million Poles and over a half million more “undesirables.”
Figures like this are almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend. It has been said that the human mind can visualize nine as three rows of three. Beyond that visualization becomes more and more difficult. The number 14 million simply cannot be visualized. It is something like the complete annihilation of New York, London or Tokyo. The suffering which that involves overloads the human capacity for compassion and we tend to shut down. That is why the UN Holocaust Remembrance Day is so important: it reminds the world not merely of the horrors of which we are capable but of the horrors which we have actually committed.
Every generation creates its own vocabulary. The experience of the 20th century resulted in the word "megadeath." Between the beginning of World War I in 1914 and the end of the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1979, it is estimated that over 135 million human beings were killed. Jews, Armenians, Slavs, Gypsies, Ukrainian peasants, soldiers, Cambodian intellectuals and others were killed in numbers that stagger the imagination. Megadeath had become a reality. Technology has been harnessed and used with incredible effectiveness to kill tens of millions of people.
In CNEWA’s world this has been a tragic, almost unbearably cruel fact of life. The Middle East was, especially between the two World Wars, the scene of numerable massacres of tens of thousands of people at a time. One of the things that deeply motivated Fr. Paul Wattson to co-found CNEWA was precisely the suffering of millions of Christians in Armenia, Turkey and the Middle East.
It is easier for the human psyche, even the psyche of a compassionate person, to forget the horror of megadeath than to deal with it. But wise people know that forgetting is a dangerous thing. Forgetting allows the horror to fade and, when the horror fades, the will to prevent that horror from reoccurring also fades.
The UN is acutely aware of this. When Auschwitz-Birkenau becomes a faded memory, expressions like “some Nazis are good people” move into the field of acceptable speech. When anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism edge towards the center of our societies and threaten to become “mainstream,” the overwhelming evil of megadeath begins to lose its horror; we and our leaders begin to believe that there are worse things than total war. The UN knows this is wrong. Popes throughout the 20th and 21st centuries know this is wrong and have continued to forcefully call for peace and justice.
UN Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds the world of the evil we have done. This day challenges us to face the horror of megadeath and to realize that it must not happen again—ever or anywhere.
24 January 2019
In honor of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 18-25 January, Middle East Christian leaders attended an ecumenical prayer service at St. Severus the Great Church in Atchaneh, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Orthodox patriarchate)
At a gathering of Middle East leaders coinciding with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Syriac Orthodox patriarch emphasized the need to unify efforts against extremism and terrorism.
“A hundred years after the genocide during the Ottoman Empire and major displacements,” Christians in the region are still facing similar circumstances, said Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch.
“Many of our churches have been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of our Christian brothers have been forced to migrate from the land of their fathers,” Patriarch Aphrem said. “To whose benefit is it if the region is emptied of Christians?”
He opened the 22-23 January executive committee meeting of the Middle East Council of Churches, which he hosted at the patriarchal residence in Atchaneh, Lebanon.
Members of the executive committee attending the meeting included Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics; the Rev. Habib Badr, senior pastor of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut; and Souraya Bechealany, acting secretary-general of Middle East Council of Churches; as well as bishops and representatives from Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches in the Middle East.
Patriarch Aphrem called for regular meetings, at both the spiritual and political levels, to unify efforts against extremism and terrorism, as well as “to promote the principles of coexistence, human values, religious freedom and the spiritual and social values that exist.”
“We know that our future is the future of living together with our Muslim brothers,” the patriarch said, adding that “if we want to have a secure future,” all must work together.
The patriarch lamented “the great silence of the great world powers” regarding the fate of two bishops kidnapped in Syria nearly six years ago, Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo.
In its final statement, the executive committee called on “the international community and the Arab world to work for the release of the kidnapped bishops” as well as priests and lay abductees.
It called for “the establishment of peace in Syria and the dignified and safe return of displaced persons to their homeland and for the restoration of Iraq’s recovery and the return of uprooted children to their land.”
It rejected the decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of “the occupying power” and called for the “realization of the state of Palestine stipulated in the relevant international resolutions.”
It also condemned “all forms of extremism and terrorism,” expressing their hope for the “cooperation between churches and Islamic authorities to build a religious discourse” based on “the values of love, peace, social justice and dialogue.”
24 January 2019
Tags: Middle East
In this image from November, U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria. (photo: CNS/Zoe Garbarino, U.S. Army handout via Reuters)
Future of Syria “safe zones” uncertain (CNN) A “safe zone” in Syria? The US tried it with Turkey before. It didn’t work. President Donald Trump has tweeted twice about the possibility of establishing a “20 mile safe zone” in Syria, something he has said is part of his decision to pursue a total withdrawal of US troops from Syria, a decision that sparked several high profile resignations from his administration…
Ethiopia says thousands have been granted amnesty (AFP) Ethiopia on Tuesday said it had granted more than 13 000 people amnesty as part of a broad reform agenda pushed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, state media said…
Terrorist involved in beheading of Copts killed in Libya (Egypt Today) Al-Mahdy Deqno, one of the three most dangerous terrorists, Libya’s national army (LNA) Killed on Friday, was involved in beheading 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya in 2015…
Ancient cistern complex found under Jerusalem playground (The Times of Israel) Back in 2005, the Israel Antiquities Authority received word that at a Jerusalem neighborhood playground, the sand was being swallowed up into the earth. After initial testing by IAA archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch, it was discovered that the sand box was constructed directly above an ancient water cistern…
Indian pilgrims gather for World Youth Day (Vatican News) An Indian delegation of some 56 young people is in Panama City to celebrate the Catholic Church’s 34th World Youth Day (WYD) with Pope Francis. The young pilgrims from across India landed in Panama on 15 January and were hosted in the parish of Atalaya in the Diocese of Santiago de Veraguas, for the preliminary “Days in the Dioceses” events of the WYD…
Pope highlights pros and cons of internet and social media (Vatican News) In his message for the World Day of Social Communications 2019, Pope Francis urges responsible use of the internet, saying it should be used to liberate not to entrap. In his message entitled “We are members one of another» (Eph 4:25) From social network communities to the human community, released on the feast day of St Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of Journalists, the Pope underlines that the Internet and social media are an important resource. But he also emphasizes that the Internet has been “proven to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which are often used to discredit…”
23 January 2019
Tags: Syria Egypt Pope Francis Ethiopia Coptic Christians
A sister assists a student at the Franciscan Sisters’ School in Beni Suef, Egypt. Learn how children there are seeing Signs of Hope in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
23 January 2019
Pope Francis shakes hands with Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, during a private audience at the Vatican on 21 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope receives Ethiopian Prime Minister (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, at an audience at the Vatican. According to a communique from the Holy See Press Office, the “cordial talks” emphasized “important initiatives underway for the promotion of national reconciliation, and for the integral development of Ethiopia”. The talks also focused on the “role of Christianity in the history of the Ethiopian people”—Ethiopia was one of the first lands to adopt Christianity, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church remains the largest religious body in the country by population…
Holy See urges resumption of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue (Vatican News) The Holy See on Tuesday reiterated its appeal to Israeli and Palestinian authorities to resume dialogue for peace in the region and respond to the legitimate aspirations of both the people by ensuring the coexistence of two states. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, made the call on Tuesday at a Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question…
ISIS gearing up for comeback in Syria (The Jerusalem Post) Four days after a major attack claimed by the Islamic State in Manbij, Syria killed at least nineteen people, including four Americans, a suicide bomb ripped through a passenger bus in nearby Afrin, causing numerous fatalities. While the nearly eight-years-long war has turned decidedly in the Assad regime’s favor, the prevalence of terrorist activity continues to force people from their homes, effectively providing cover for ISIS fighters to escape detection…
India state lifts ban on eggs for school meals (UCANews.com) Eggs are back on the menu for school students in India’s Chhattisgarh state, 13 years after they were banned for fear of hurting the religious sentiments of upper-caste Hindu and Jain vegetarians. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government withdrew eggs from students’ midday meals in 2005, two years after it came to power…
A million rosaries from Bethlehem headed to Panama for World Youth Day (Vatican News) A million rosaries made by Christian artisans of Bethlehem have been destined as gifts to the participants in the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day (WYD) that kicked off on Tuesday in Panama City…
22 January 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ethiopia
A Syrian child greets visitors at a refugee camp in Zahleh, Lebanon. Read more about Syrians finding care in Lebanon in the December 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Carl Hétu)
22 January 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees
Turkish military vehicles are seen in late December 2018 in the countryside of Manbij, Syria. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
U.S. demands security guarantee for Kurdish Y.P.G. from Turkey (Al Jazeera) The protection of allied forces who fought and died battling ISIS in Syria must be guaranteed, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone conversation…
How hundreds of Syrians found refuge in Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) While Syrians make up a tiny fraction of the refugee population in Ethiopia, estimated at more than 905,000 people by the U.N., they have attracted attention and sympathy among locals…
Orthodox patriarch of Antioch receives Russian delegation (Fides) A delegation of Russian parliamentarians visiting the Middle East was received in Damascus by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch. Interfax reports that the patriarch expressed gratitude for the role carried out by Russia in the scenario of the Syrian conflict…
Discrimination within Dalit community a huge challenge in fight against casteism (Kathmandu Post) The so-called “lower-caste Dalits” of Olani Village in Godavari Municipality, Kailali, cannot use the same water tap or well as that of the “upper-caste Dalits.” Separate wells have been constructed for the upper and lower caste Dalits in the village. This is only a case in point. Chairman of ward-11 Shiva Bahadur B.K. said incidents of caste-based discrimination take place in the municipality almost every day. “A Dalit is humiliated and discriminated by another Dalit. How can we fight against caste-based discrimination when the Dalit community itself is entrenched in casteism?” said B.K…
In Iraq, there’s life for Christians after Islamic fundamentalism (Crux) When Cardinal Patriarch Louis Sako presided over the episcopal ordinations of the new Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Najib Mikhael Mousa and the new auxiliary of the country’s capital, Bishop Robert Jarjis, on Jan. 18, the message seemed clear: There’s life for Christianity in Iraq after ISIS. “This is the greatest challenge that requires active participation of the church and Christians in public life in a city of ‘almost fully destroyed’ ancient churches,” Sako said. In fact, the bell tower of the city’s Dominican church is one of the few things that remained standing after the occupation of the city by the Islamic terrorist organization…
18 January 2019
Tags: Syria India Iraq Dalits
Some of the young people at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home share their Christmas joy.
Earlier this week, our regional director in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, forwarded to us this lovely note and some pictures from our old friend Sister Lutgarda, of the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home. Thanks to our generous benefactors, CNEWA once again was able to send a donation to help the young people celebrate Christmas:
Peaceful greetings to all from Kidane Mehret Children’s Home!!
How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it! These are the words with which I would like to thank each one of you, who have fundraised for our dear children. The generous sum of $5,000 has been received through CNEWA to celebrate the Christmas party for our children. It came truly in a good time, when we are preparing for Christmas.
I wish again and again that one day one of you will be here to participate and experience the joy of our children as they share their talents and receive their gifts.
To you and to all those who have donated this money, in the name of all the sisters and our dear children, I would like to express to you our heartfelt thanks for your kind and generous donation you have sent us for all these years. Hope that all of you are keeping well.
We have no words to thank you for your generosity. Every small donation counts. Whatever money remains of the party will go toward buying some items of food for the children and milk for the smaller ones.
Be sure that we will include you in our daily prayers and we ask the good Lord to continue to shower his choicest blessings upon each one of you and on your family. We wish you a very happy year to you and all your families.
God bless you all!
Sister Lutgarda Camilleri
Sister Lutgarda poses with some of the children at the home. (photo; CNEWA)
18 January 2019
In this image from 2015, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Bishop Camillo Ballin, apostolic vicar of Northern Arabia, Sheik Nahyan and Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia, cut a ribbon during the inauguration of St. Paul’s Church in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates next month.
(photo: CNS/courtesy of Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia)
When Pope Francis visits Abu Dhabi 3-5 February, he will visit a land where interreligious tolerance is mandated by law; while Catholics in the United Arab Emirates count their blessings for that, the pope is expected to nudge for something more.
Tolerance is praiseworthy, and Catholics in the Emirates do not take it for granted. But for Pope Francis, the next step — and often a big one — is mutual knowledge, respect and cooperation.
As the pope said in Bangladesh in late 2017, “respect and shaping a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family” requires “more than mere tolerance. It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth.”
The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia cares for the almost 1 million Catholics living in the Emirates, Oman and Yemen. The faithful belong to 16 parishes -- with Mass offered in a dozen languages in churches, chapels and meeting rooms, sometimes simultaneously.
In the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates on the southeast edge of the Arabian Peninsula, the ruling families have donated land for Catholic and other Christian churches. But no bells call the faithful to prayer and no crosses can be visible from the street.
Islam is the state religion and the faith of almost all of its citizens. But citizens account for less than 20 percent of the Emirates’ population; most of the rest are foreign workers from almost every country in the world and include significant numbers of Catholics from India and the Philippines.
“We have experienced great benevolence from the leaders of the Emirates to be able to worship in the churches that have been built on land generously donated by them,” said Bishop Paul Hinder, head of the apostolic vicariate. “These gestures and the continuous efforts by the state to create an environment of tolerance and harmony in the community are very encouraging.”
The Catholic parishes run busy Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults programs, but only for foreigners. “Most of our RCIA candidates come from other Christian denominations or did not have a life in faith at all. Some are Hindu,” said Marcus Khoury, who assists with the program at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi.
Bringing adults into the Catholic faith is “a delicate matter where we have to be careful at all times,” Khoury said. “We are not allowed to proselytize among Muslims, and therefore have to make sure that our RCIA candidates were not originally Muslim.”
For Khoury, who worked for a year in neighboring Saudi Arabia, where Christianity can be practiced only in private homes, “Abu Dhabi is fortunately very open and relaxed when it comes to practicing other religions.”
Khoury works as in-house legal counsel specializing in construction and arbitration law. Many Muslims, he said, know just by his name that he is Christian, or at least from a Christian family. But “my Muslim co-workers rarely talk about religion with me. To a certain extent it still is a touchy subject, as one may risk being misunderstood as proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims when talking to them about Christianity.”
At work and at school, Bishop Hinder said, Catholics interact with their Muslim sisters and brothers and people of other faiths, so friendships are formed and cultures shared.
But the visit of the pope, which will include “the first ever public Mass in the country,” will bring even more attention to the Catholic community, the bishop said, so Catholics want “to put our best foot forward to shine during this time.”
Feras Hamza is a Dubai-based professor and Islamic historian who has participated in high-level Christian-Muslim dialogue programs. He told Catholic News Service, “The lived reality of day-to-day interaction, co-existence and social exchange -- economic, cultural or otherwise -- is itself a form of continuous dialogue” and one that best describes “the state of Christian-Muslim relations in the UAE.”
“Christians and Muslims in the UAE do not need to discuss their scriptures to demonstrate ‘dialogue,’“ he said. “‘Religion’ cannot be singled out from what anthropologists would call ‘culture,’“ and people’s “values may be anchored in and shaped by religious traditions, but they ultimately have life and meaning only in communal exchange and in the everyday.”
A sign of how seriously the UAE takes tolerance, he said, is the appointment of a Cabinet “minister of state for tolerance” and the proclamation by Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed, the UAE president, of 2019 as the “Year of Tolerance.”
In addition to focusing on dialogue with his Muslim hosts, Pope Francis will devote time to the international community of Catholics living in the Emirates. Those Catholics include lawyers like Khoury and financiers, doctors, nurses, teachers and tens of thousands of maids and construction workers.
For many of the domestic and blue-collar workers, a job in the Emirates is a great opportunity to work and send money home to their families. But policing their working conditions has not been easy; the government continues to enact protections, such as making it illegal for an employer to confiscate the worker’s passport, regulating the fees employers can withhold from paychecks, mandating a maximum 12-hour work day for domestics and guaranteeing one day off each week.
The Catholic parishes are one of the few places in the Emirates where foreign workers of all countries and categories come together.
Khoury, the lawyer, said his French-language community at St. Joseph’s includes people from France, Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq, Cameroon and Egypt. It lets him “break through the otherwise typical expat bubble in which expatriates-foreigners largely stick to their own nationality and social class.”
Many of the migrants are unmarried. Bishop Hinder said that through their involvement in parish communities “they end up becoming each other’s support system for spiritual growth and in personal relations.”
And while the government has made strides in protecting workers, “there are sometimes unfortunate situations where migrant workers find themselves in dire straits if companies close down or salaries are not paid,” the bishop said. “All parishes have set up community-service initiatives to help in this type of case,” with volunteers providing legal assistance, parishioners collecting food and clothing and sponsors coming forward to pay for a stranded worker’s plane ticket back home.
As guests in a foreign land, Bishop Hinder said, Catholics know their actions speak louder than words, and “living in peace and harmony becomes a natural priority.”
“We do not take anything for granted,” the bishop said, “but we are thankful to the Lord for his grace in being able to live and share our faith in the communities we live in.”
Tags: Muslim Arabs