25 March 2019
In this image from August 2018, young Syrian refugees are seen atop a vehicle at a camp in June in the village of Arsal, Lebanon. The head of Caritas Lebanon has expressed concern that Syrian refugees will end up forgotten and abandoned by the world community.
(photo: CNS/Nabil Mounzer, EPA)
Caritas leader expresses concern that Syrian refugees will become forgotten (AsiaNews) The “risk” is that Syrian refugees “will become like Palestinians, abandoned for decades” on Lebanese territory. This “is the great fear” of the majority of the citizens of the land of the Cedars, who “are close to those who need” but, at the same time, “cannot solve all of the problems and are themselves experiencing great suffering,” says the Rev. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon…
Bishop criticizes Catholics who spread fear of Muslims (CNS) An Irish bishop has criticized Catholics who identify as “faith-filled” while spreading fear and mistrust of immigrants, particularly those who are Muslims. Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, chairman of the Council for Life of the Irish bishops’ conference, told The Irish Catholic newspaper: “I’ve found that people who would classify themselves in some cases as traditional Catholics and faith-filled people seem to, in relation to migration and care of asylum-seekers and stuff, they’ll say ‘oh well these Muslims are putting our civilization at risk and they pose a threat to us…’”
Iraq ferry accident sets off political upheaval (The New York Times) In a rare show of deference to the anger of Mosul citizens over government abuses, the Iraqi Parliament on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to remove the province’s governor, citing accusations of corruption, self-dealing and negligence. Although Mosul citizens had pleaded with the central government to remove the governor for more than two years, it was only after a ferry disaster brought angry citizens into the street that senior political figures decided to act…
Nuns, priests in India concerned over income tax order (UCANews.com) Church people in India’s Tamil Nadu state are seeking legal ways to counter a High Court order that asked priests and nuns to pay income tax if they draw a salary from state-funded educational institutions. The 20 March order in the southern state ended a long-time practice that exempted Catholic priests, brothers and nuns from paying tax on their salaries on grounds that they donate their salaries to religious homes or dioceses engaged in social services…
East Jerusalem neighborhood targeted in apparent hate crime (The Jerusalem Post) Police opened a probe into a suspected hate crime targeting a Palestinian section in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where residents woke up Monday to discover over 25 vehicles vandalized. On a number of the cars in the French Hill neighborhood, red Stars of David were graffitied and on an adjacent wall the Hebrew phrase, “Jews wake up, Jewish blood is not cheap.” Tires were also slashed on several vehicles…
22 March 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Muslim
In Ethiopia’s Afar region, girls wait to fill containers at the local water pump. The United Nations marks World Water Day on 22 March. In a message for the day, Pope Francis declared that access to water is "a fundamental human right." (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
22 March 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia United Nations
President Trump's tweet calling to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights has sparked widespread condemnation. (video: DW News/YouTube)
Trump’s Golan tweet inflames tensions (The Washington Post) Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies slammed President Trump’s call to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Friday, inflaming regional tensions at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to curtail Iran’s expanding influence. A statement by Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the move would increase Syria’s determination to recover the territory occupied by Israel “by all available means,” and Russia and Iran both said it violated international law. Turkey, a U.S. ally, said it risked creating a new Middle East crisis…
Pope releases message for World Water Day (Vatican News) World Water Day is commemorated annually on 22 March as a way of concentrating efforts to resolve the water crisis that afflicts people, often the poorest, around the world. Pope Francis marked the Day on Friday with a message to the Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, José Graziano da Silva. “Water is an essential asset for the equilibrium of ecosystems and human survival, and it must be managed and cared for so that it is not polluted or lost,” he said…
Women in Iraq push to criminalize domestic violence (Al Jazeera) Domestic violence has been on the rise in Iraq, with women’s groups blaming instability and the break down of law and order. However, there has been a growing awareness of the issue at the highest levels of government and the women’s rights groups are hopeful that the legislature will finally pass a law criminalizing what they see as a “national crisis”…
Leaders in India target politicians who exploit religious differences for votes (UCANews.com) Groups of Indians including Christians are on a campaign to popularize a “manifesto against hate” aiming to block political efforts to garner votes by dividing citizens on religious lines though hate speeches. Indians are set to elect members to their 543-seat national parliament in a seven-phase election from 11 April 11 to 19 May. The world’s largest democratic exercise has almost 900 million eligible voters, an estimated 80 percent of them Hindus…
21 March 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Israel
The Most Rev. Marcel Gervais, archbishop emeritus of Ottawa, seated, visits the office of CNEWA Canada, in Ottawa. (photo: CNEWA)
Today we had a special visitor in our Ottawa office: The Most Rev. Marcel Gervais, archbishop emeritus of Ottawa.
In 2003, he accepted the invitation of the Holy See’s Congregation of the Eastern Churches and helped establish CNEWA in Canada. He was the first chair of CNEWA Canada until his retirement in 2007. At 87 years old, he is still very active, with a keen sense of humor. The CNEWA staff had a great time meeting him.
You are in our prayers Archbishop Gervais! May God give you many good and healthy years ahead.
21 March 2019
Tags: CNEWA Canada
A young Syrian refugee holds a watermelon at his shop in the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan, on 22 June 2018. (photo CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Caritas Lebanon: As with Palestinians, Syrian refugees forgotten by the international community (AsiaNews) The Rev. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon, says there is a risk that Syrian refugees “will become like Palestinians, abandoned for decades” on Lebanese territory…
Trump: Time to recognize Golan Heights as Israeli territory (BBC) President Donald Trump says it is time the U.S. recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967. Israel applied its administration and law to the Golan in 1981, but other governments did not recognize the act. Syria has consistently sought to regain sovereignty over the region…
Aoun: Lebanon wants to be part of Syria reconstruction (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Thursday that his country wishes to be part of the reconstruction of Syria, emphasizing that ties between the two countries were never formally severed…
Ahead of Romania trip, pope recognizes seven martyrs of communist era (Crux) On Tuesday, ahead of a late May/early June trip by Pope Francis to Romania, Greek Catholic Bishop Vasile Aftenie and six of his fellow bishops who died under the Romanian communists have been officially recognized as “martyrs” by the pontiff…
Iraqi museum unveils 100 looted artifacts (AINA) Over 2,000 artifacts, including about 100 that were looted from Iraq and found abroad, were unveiled Tuesday in a museum in the Basra province on the southern tip of Iraq, authorities said…
Holy island feast helps Sri Lankans, Indians bury the hate (UCAN India) Over 6,500 Sri Lankans and 2,100 Indians came together to celebrate the feast of St. Anthony, the patron saint of seafarers, on Kachchathivu Island from 15-16 March, with many Sri Lankans using the occasion to pray for national reconciliation. This uninhabited, Sri Lanka-owned isle hosts the pilgrimage every year, providing a rare window for Sri Lanka’s Tamils and Sinhalese to mingle after years of war. It also brings fisher folk from both nations together to cement their fraternal bonds in the face of adversity…
Scores dead as ferry sinks in Tigris River near Mosul (Al Jazeera) Scores of people have died after a ferry carrying families celebrating the Nowruz holiday capsized in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to officials. Major General Saad Maan, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said at least 71 people were killed in Thursday’s accident. A separate source told Reuters news agency that 72 were confirmed dead. Another 55 people, including 19 children, were rescued…
20 March 2019
Tags: Syria India Iraq Romania
Ayyub Bhikoo, an official of Al-Jamie Mosque, speaks during a 17 March 2019 prayer service at Sacred Heart Church in Auckland, New Zealand, for victims of the 15 March mosque attacks in Christchurch. (photo: CNS/Michael Otto, NZ Catholic)
20 March 2019
Tags: Muslim Interfaith
In this image from 2018, migrants are seen before disembarking from a dinghy at Del Canuelo in southern Spain. By mid-2018 the number of migrants arriving in Spain, usually from Morocco, had surpassed the number arriving in Italy. Pope Francis is planning to draw attention to the plight of migrants during his upcoming visit to Morocco. (photo:CNS/Reuters)
Pope’s trip to Morocco to highlight migrants, relations with Muslims (CNS) Pope Francis wanted to go to Morocco to draw attention to the need for international cooperation in assisting migrants and in alleviating the situations that force people to seek a better life outside their homeland. His meeting 30 March with migrants at the Rabat archdiocesan Caritas center also will highlight the very practical form Catholic-Muslim relations take in the country of more than 35 million people, almost all of whom are Muslim…
Bishops see Indian vote as minorities’ big chance (UCANews.com) Christian leaders and activists are rooting for minority groups, whose rights have long been overlooked in India, as the country prepares for six weeks of polls in the world’s biggest democracy. ”The coming elections are going to be very important for the country’s overall future, and especially for minority groups,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, a spokesperson for Indian bishops…
Ethiopian Jews call Netanyahu racist (Andalou Agency) Andualem Wugu, manager of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Addis Ababa told Anadolu Agency that members of the community had been regularly praying for God’s help to immigrate to Israel for over two decades. ”In our beliefs, the more we beg God for help the more he listens and responds” he noted, adding: “We are sure, God will not sit idly by while the racist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps us languishing here…’’
Armenian Christians in Turkey mourn patriarch (Euronews.com) Mourners gathered at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul on Sunday for the funeral of their spiritual leader, Mesrob Mutafyan. Patriarch Mesrob, who was 62, had been incapacitated with early onset dementia since 2008. Archbishop Aram Artesyan took over as acting patriarch for Turkey’s Armenian community, which numbers some 70,000 people…
Arabs are humans, too: a Jerusalem doctor’s video goes viral (The Jerusalem Post) When Dr. Nadav Granat read the Instagram post of Israeli model Rotem Sela in which she reminded the country that “Arabs are also human beings,” he decided he wanted to take action, too. As a religious Jewish doctor who works alongside Arabs every day, he launched his own online campaign to show the inclusive face of Israel. The campaign has gone viral...
19 March 2019
Tags: Refugees Armenia Muslim Migrants Ethiopian Jews
In this image from 2018, a young Syrian refugee holds a watermelon at his shop in the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan. "A lot of young men left Syria because they didn't want to fight in the conflict," Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, told Catholic News Service. (photo: CNS /Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
As Syria’s civil war enters its ninth year, citizens in and outside the country find themselves in limbo. Catholic and other aid agencies are urging a swift resolution to the crisis.
Caritas Syria is campaigning for “an immediate end to the violence and suffering” and calling for “all sides of the conflict to come together to find a peaceful solution,” chiefly through reconciliation work.
“We are initiating reconciliation among the various communities to correct misconceptions in the minds of those living in Damascus, Ghouta, Aleppo and elsewhere about people outside their religious community,” said Sandra Awad, communications director for the Catholic aid agency Caritas Syria.
Caritas Syria is the country’s branch of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s international network of charitable agencies.
Awad told Catholic News Service by telephone from Damascus that a meal involving Christians, Alawites and Muslims brought about a wonderful understanding and compassion for the suffering shared by all.
She said a Christian woman told her at the start of the lunch that she did not want to sit next to a woman wearing a headscarf because Muslims had kidnapped her son. Militants had entered her home and beat her son, resulting in psychological problems for him. They shot another son’s legs, leaving him paralyzed. The militants kidnapped the third son with his wife and child.
But Awad said she told her, “This woman with the headscarf lost her husband from mortar shelling, and her 15-year-old son lost his legs. She is taking care of her children by herself without any income.”
The Christian woman then responded: “Yes, all of us have suffered.”
“I could see her ideas begin to change,” Awad said. “The people spoke about the pain they experienced during the war. They began to feel that people have suffered as much as themselves and perhaps even more,” she said and, as a result, they got along together.
During a Caritas-sponsored visit to the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, a Muslim man questioned why militants were calling for people to be killed, rather than supported.
“Let them see who is helping us,” he said. “A Christian organization is helping us now.”
Caritas’ reconciliation efforts underline the practical support it provides to thousands of Syrians by distributing food baskets, clothes and blankets as well as medical assistance and psychosocial support.
Pope Francis has been closely engaged with the Syrian crisis, consistently calling for an end to the fighting. He has acknowledged the assistance Caritas gives to Syrians regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation as the best way to contribute toward peace.
Syria’s war has killed more than 400,000 people and forced more than 6 million Syrians out of their homes inside Syria; 5.5 million have fled to neighboring countries since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011.
CAFOD, the Catholic international development charity in England and Wales, and Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid and development agency, are part of the Caritas network.
In a statement provided to Catholic News Service, CAFOD said it “believes that until a political process addresses the underlying issues that led to the Syrian war, there will be no safe future in Syria for the millions of Syrians caught up in this conflict.
Syrian refugees sheltering in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon, many for longer than they ever imagined, have expressed concern for their future.
“My family believes that we cannot return to Syria because our home was destroyed, so there is nothing to go back to,” Um Mohamed, using her familial name in Arabic, told CNS in the northern Jordanian border town of Ramtha, which abuts Syria. “But we’re also finding it impossible to stay in Jordan because there is no work, my husband is sick, and our savings are running out.”
Another Syrian refugee at the large Zaatari camp, also near the border, said she is worried about her son left behind in Syria.
“He was living in an area controlled by the rebels, although he didn’t fight with them. But because of being in that place, he and other young Syrian men have turned themselves into the Syrian authorities in the hopes of getting a lesser jail term,” Um Sami told CNS, saying the Syrian government views them with suspicion.
“But the fear is that the government will forcibly conscript these men into the Syrian military and put them in frontline positions without any training. Or, what if my son is never seen again?” she said, her eyes welling with tears.
Other Syrian refugees are fearful that the regime considers them “traitors.”
“A lot of young men left Syria because they didn’t want to fight in the conflict,” Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, told CNS.
“A lot of refugees said to me, ‘I left so I don’t kill, and I don’t get killed.’ Even if they go back today, there is a new amnesty law, but there are no guarantees that they won’t be thrown into prison or sent to the frontline,” she explained.
Other refugees around Zahle, near the Syrian border in Lebanon, said they, too, fear a return, but for some there is no other choice.
A Christian aid worker told CNS about a Syrian widow who died unexpectedly in March. She left behind three young children who must go back to Syria to join relatives to care for them. But these family members live in the militant stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s north, making their fate uncertain.
Eight million Syrian children are now in need of assistance, including psychosocial support, according to the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.
“Every single Syrian child has been impacted by violence, loss, displacement, family separation and lack of access to basic services, including health and education. Grave violations of children’s rights -- recruitment, abductions, killing and maiming continue unabated,” UNICEF said on 6 March.
Syrians live without “peace or war,” Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus, told the Vatican news agency, Fides, on 11 March. “It’s an uncertain and difficult situation, which is becoming unsustainable for the weakest,” he said.
Archbishop Nassar warned that Syria’s historic Christian population has decreased in some areas by 77 percent, compared to the time before the conflict.
19 March 2019
Tags: Syria Jordan Caritas Relief
The battle to clear ISIS from Syria has entered a final critical phase, after weeks of intense fighting. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
ISIS camp captured (NPR) The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are now in control of an ISIS encampment in Baghouz, after weeks of operations and attacks on the village. But isolated gun battles are continuing in the area, seen as ISIS’s last remaining redoubt. ”This is not a victory announcement, but a significant progress in the fight against Daesh,” said Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF press office. In a tweet, he added, “Clashes are continuing as a group of ISIS terrorists who are confined into a tiny area still fight back…”
Hundreds of parishes join new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (UNIAN.info) Over 500 parishes have already taken the decision to move from the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, formerly known as the Moscow Patriarchate, to the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Volyn region remains Ukraine’s transition leader with a number of parishes that have switched to the OCU having already exceeded a hundred. The total number of registered religious communities of the former Moscow Patriarchate in the said region is one of the largest in Ukraine — more than 600, according to the Dukhovniy [Religious] Front online outlet…
New Zealand attack hits close to home for Canadian bishops (Canadian Catholic News) The horrific murder of 50 Muslims at prayer at two New Zealand mosques on 15 March hit close to home because of a similar attack in 2017 on Muslims at prayer at a Quebec City mosque…
Farmers concerned about crops, lives near border with Pakistan (UCANews.com) With the harvest season a month away, farmers near the India-Pakistan border are praying the nuclear-armed neighbors end their skirmishes over the disputed state of Kashmir without destroying their crops, their livelihoods, and their very lives. Last month, when fighter planes from both sides began hovering over Vijay Kumar’s single-story mud house, his biggest concern was the Basmati rice crop on his two-acre plot in the Ranbir Singh Pura area of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir…
18 March 2019
Tags: Syria Ukraine Muslim ISIS Orthodox
Members of the Chaldean Catholic community in Papatoetoe, New Zealand, placed flowers and a tribute outside Ayesha Mosque after the 15 March 2019, attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. The message reads in part: "Please accept our prayer and condolences in this terrible, painful time. God have mercy on the people and we pray for the injured ones. Your brothers, St. Addai Catholic Church, New Zealand." (photo: CNS/courtesy NZ Catholic)
The St. Addai Chaldean Catholic community in suburban Auckland felt the impact of the Christchurch mosque killings with a special poignancy, because many members have experienced the sufferings inflicted by terrorism.
“There is a lady in my community -- they beheaded her son in front of her,” the Rev. Douglas Al-Bazi, a Chaldean priest, told NZ Catholic. “Another man, they killed his parents in front of him.”
Father Al-Bazi, who was kidnapped for nine days by Islamic militants in 2006 in Iraq, suffering serious injuries -- including being shot in the leg by an assailant wielding an AK-47 -- said that when he heard of the events in Christchurch, he was “really angry.”
“There were thousands of questions in my head, and also for my people,” he said.
He said he told his parishioners that “we fully understand as Iraqi people, especially Christian, we really understand” the pain, “because we are survivors of genocide, systematic genocide.”
“I am still shocked, me and my people, how this could happen here in New Zealand,” he added.
Father Al-Bazi said people at his church have said they are scared in the wake of the events in Christchurch, fearful of revenge attacks.
“I told them, no, this is not the time to be scared. It is the time to be united. So, show your happiness, show we are brave, and we have to tell the people how to be calm. Because already, we have had that experience. So, we have to guide people to tell them.”
Parishioners placed a floral tribute with a message of support in Arabic outside a local mosque the day after the shootings.
Father Al-Bazi said most of his community came to New Zealand seeking a safe place, and the violence that happened in Christchurch is unacceptable.
“I don’t know what we can do for those survivors, for those relatives, the only thing we can do is pray for them and say, ‘This is not New Zealand.’“
At the end of Mass on 18 March, everyone at St. Addai Church sang the national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand” in Maori and in English.
Police were stationed outside the church and told Father Al-Bazi, “It is for your protection.” The priest said he asked the officers to park a little down the road, so as not to alarm Massgoers.
Tags: Muslim Chaldean Church