11 December 2018
Palestinians and foreign tourists take part in the Santa Run outside the Cremisan Monastery on 7 December in Beit Jala, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Bethlehem and the neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour depend economically on tourism, but traditionally have struggled with keeping visitors in the area for more than half a day. Although the hotels are fully booked for Christmas this year, that does not necessarily mean it will translate into any business for the locals.
Most large tour and pilgrim groups are bused through the Israeli checkpoint straight to the Church of the Nativity and sometimes to the nearby Milk Grotto or Shepherds Field in Beit Sahour. Then tourists get back on their buses and go to one of a select few souvenir shops to spend their money. If the souvenir hawkers hovering in the area are lucky, they may be able to sell the tourists a few trinkets during their brief stay. But for the most part smaller businesses, including shops and cafes, rarely see any rainfall from visitors.
With the memories of the economic difficulties during the second intifada still fresh in their memories, private residents and the three municipalities are starting initiatives to entice visitors to stop, stroll through the towns, eat a local baklava sweet or take a city tour, much like they would in any other city they visit.
Janneke Stegeman, 38, a German theologian, has been to Bethlehem many times. But this time, arriving during the Christmas season, she took advantage of a two-hour Art Walk tour through the old city of Beit Sahour — one of Bethlehem’s sister towns in the Bethlehem “triangle” — to get to know some of the young artists in the area and hear about the work they are doing.
“For me, coming here as a pilgrim is having a deep connection to the context and people you are visiting,” she told Catholic News Service. “People come to the holy places without realizing where they are and who the people are who are living here.”
“This experience is really crucial to me … especially at Christmas,” Stegeman added. “It has to do with real people. I want to understand what is happening here, to talk to the people who are living here. To see how people keep their hope and perseverance in a context of a difficult reality.”
Just having a cup of coffee at a place like Singer Cafe affords a glimpse into the life of young Palestinians who opt to stay in their city and invigorate their town rather than emigrate, she said, sipping her coffee as she spoke.
“It is important for me that people understand that Palestinians deserve as much time as Israel. There is nothing to be afraid of if they come here. Come, see the Nativity Church, but then come meet the local Palestinians, have a chat with them. People come to see the Biblical stones and then forget to see the living stones,” she said.
Dutch expat Kristel Elayyan, 40, who runs the Singer Cafe with her husband, Tariq, started the Art Walk, so people get to know local artisans.
Social media is also taking a role in advertising the events and stirring up interest for both local and international visitors. The Bethlehem Christmas tree was lit to the delight of a crowd of thousands in Nativity Square, with live music and fireworks following. Similar tree-lightings took place a few days later in Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
The Latin Patriarchate tweeted about the tree-lighting event in Bethlehem, and the municipal Facebook pages advertise in English the various events taking place in the area during the season: the Art Walk, Christmas markets featuring locally produced crafts and food, an Afro-Dabkeh dance workshop, a pre-Christmas gala dinner, a pub dance party and a Christmas “Santa Run” in Beit Jala, where St. Nicholas is the patron saint.
As rain drizzled, participants in the Santa Run gathered in the parking lot of the Beit Jala Latin seminary on 7 December, stretching their muscles, buying their red Santa shirts and taking selfies as they waited for the shuttle to take them to the Cremisan Monastery, where the run began.
“Five years ago, you could maybe go to a coffee place to smoke a water pipe and play some cards. Now there are bars for youth and places to meet up. There are a lot of places where you can spend your time here now,” said Musa Khatib, 26, a pharmacist from the nearby Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa. “Because of social media you can follow the events, schedule your week. The spirit here is nice, the vibe is very positive, and you can see happy people.”
A representative from the Beit Jala municipality who declined to give his name told CNS: “Our vision is of strengthening the cultural side of Beit Jala. We want to note the connection between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. It is about promoting tourism, and bringing it up to the international level is our dream,” he said as upbeat Christmas carols blared in English from a car with oversized loudspeakers.
In the end, some 80 locals and a few internationals took part in the run — some came just for the fun while others came intent on winning. The Santa Run Facebook page was updated continuously throughout the event.
“This is great,” said Elizabeth Purcell, 35, from Mt. Vernon, Illinois, whose husband works for the Baptist Church in Jerusalem. She was there with her three sons and two young friends visiting from the U.S. “If you just go to the church, you are not seeing what is really here. You don’t get to meet the people if you don’t go to something like this race or to a craft fair. You can see the energy here. It is energizing to see foreigners coming here. It is great for the Palestinian economy.”
11 December 2018
Tags: Holy Land Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians West Bank
A Nativity scene made of sand decorates St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Bethlehem church renovation hopes to bolster local Christian community (Christian Science Monitor) A historic renovation of the Church of the Nativity is lifting spirits in the biblical town of Bethlehem ahead of Christmas, offering visitors a look at ancient mosaics and columns that have been restored to their original glory for the first time in 600 years…
For Christmas, no exit permits for Christians in Gaza (Fides) This year Christians in Gaza will not have permission from the Israeli authorities to cross the border at Erez in order to visit relations and friends in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other towns in the Holy Land to celebrate Christmas together. According to the Middle East Concern organization, this year most of the travel permits requested have been refused…
No haven from hardship: Why some Syrians return from Europe (Christian Science Monitor) Since 2016, thousands of disappointed Syrian refugees have left Europe. No one has counted their exact numbers, but many of them are thought to have joined the 310,000 others who have returned home from Turkey and Lebanon this year to both government- and opposition-controlled areas…
Bid to raise $5.5 billion for millions of Syrians and their host communities (U.N. News) Since conflict erupted in Syria in 2011, host communities in neighboring countries have supported those who have fled, despite the significant impact on their own development, The UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Amin Awad, Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syria and Iraq, told journalists in Geneva…
Church offering job opportunities to youths in Ethiopia to prevent migration (Newsbook) The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is working on addressing the issue of migration by creating job opportunities for the youth so that they remain in the country and are not forced to leave to find a better future…
Catholics celebrate resignation of tainted Indian bishop (UCANews) Catholics in a southern Indian diocese let off firecrackers and exchanged sweets to express their joy over Pope Francis accepting the resignation of a bishop who has been facing allegations of stealing funds to maintain his “secret family”…
Bekaa river turns black, prompting action from politicians (Daily Star Lebanon) Both the Environment and Justice ministries have taken action to hold accountable those responsible for the waters of Zahleh’s Berdawni River turning black, statements from the ministries reported Tuesday…
10 December 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank
The CNEWA team visited St. Lawrence Martyr Parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Last weekend, our little CNEWA team hit the road once again, this time heading to Hanover, Maryland in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. There, we spent time at St. Lawrence Martyr Parish, where I had the privilege of preaching at all the Masses and sharing the story of CNEWA’s work in the Middle East, particularly among refugees and those who have faced religious persecution.
The parish is staffed by the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, or Trinitarians — a group of priests and brothers founded by St. John de Matha. They trace their roots all the way back to the 12th century. The order has a special charism to the imprisoned — especially those imprisoned for their faith — and the parish in Maryland has a lay ministry devoted to this, known as SIT:
In 1999, the Trinitarian Order established an organization within their order called SIT (Solidaridad Internacional Trinitaria or Trinitarian International Solidarity) that focuses on our fellow Christians who suffer persecution because of their commitment to Christ and His Church. In October 2015, we started SIT St. Lawrence at the parish level to try and bring awareness and assistance to the persecuted Christians around the world.
It was this group, under the leadership of parishioner Matt Behum, that welcomed us to the parish and gave us the opportunity to share our story at the Masses.
Matt Behum, center, welcomed Chris Kennedy (l) and Deacon Greg Kandra (r) to the parish.
Deacon Greg preached at all the Masses over the weekend and shared stories about CNEWA's work among persecuted Christians. (photo: CNEWA)
The people in the pews were eager to learn more and my colleague, development associate Chris Kennedy, was only too happy to share information, literature and copies of our award-winning magazine, ONE.
CNEWA's Chris Kennedy greeted parishioners after the Masses. (photo: CNEWA)
It was a wonderful weekend. We’re grateful to the faith community at St. Lawrence for their warn welcome. We want to thank in particular the Trinitarians— the Rev. Binoy Akkalayil, O.SS.T. and the pastor, the Rev. Victor Scocco, O.SS.T.—for their generous hospitality and fellowship.
Father Binoy, Deacon Greg, Chris Kennedy and Father Victor. (photo: CNEWA)
During this season of Advent, it was especially meaningful to speak about bringing the light of Christ into the world through our mission and our ministry, and to remind people of the ongoing suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters around the world. We continue to lift them up in prayer.
We’re always eager to spread the word about CNEWA’s work and let others know how they can make a difference. If you would like us to visit your parish or group, please drop Chris Kennedy a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Maryland. (photo: CNEWA)
10 December 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq ISIS Persecution
Volunteer youth from the Knights of Malta Lebanon, a Catholic organization, and "Who is Hussein," a Muslim Shiite organization, as well as Girl Guides sponsored by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, gather on 8 December at the Malta health center in Beirut before heading out to decorate the homes of poor elderly. (photo: CNS/courtesy Order of Malta Lebanon)
On a gloomy, rainy Saturday morning in Beirut, 92-year-old Julia enthusiastically greeted her visitors, Christian and Muslim youth, who had come to set up a Christmas tree in her modest apartment.
“Welcome. I love you,” she said to her guests, who each greeted the beaming woman with kisses before breaking out in a chorus of “Jingle Bells.”
Julia, a Maronite Catholic, was one of 10 beneficiaries on 8 December of a Christmas tree decoration project for poor elderly that brought together Lebanese volunteers from the Knights of Malta, a Catholic organization, and “Who is Hussein,” a Muslim Shiite organization, as well as Girl Guides associated with the local St. Vincent de Paul.
Widowed for 40 years, Julia had spent her life as a homemaker. She lives with her 66-year-old unmarried son, Nicholas, who has difficulty finding work in his trade as a house painter.
There are no government-sponsored services for the needy in Lebanon. Julia is one of the beneficiaries of the Knights of Malta Lebanon’s Elderly Guardianship Program, in which the order’s youth volunteers visit the homes of elderly on a monthly basis.
And on this day, Julia was gleefully basking in the royal treatment, seated near her street-level balcony window, as her visitors enthusiastically demonstrated teamwork: assembling the tree, untangling and attaching lights and hanging brilliantly colored ornaments, singing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”
“Jesus Christ called us to bring joy to people, to help make their lives better,” 17-year-old Girl Guide Lea Chalhoub told Catholic News Service as she decorated Julia’s tree. “Lebanon is a country of Muslims and Christians living together, and so we need to work hand-in-hand to build a better society.”
“Jesus wants us to help people, especially at Christmas,” added Thea Rizkallah, age 8.
Switching to entertainment mode, some from the group danced to Christmas tunes streamed from a phone. Clapping and singing along, soon Julia could hardly contain herself, joining them for a little jig, her cane held out horizontally like a vaudeville star.
“My legs and arms are not so strong anymore,” Julia apologized, resuming her dance in a seated position, tapping her cane to the beat.
Then, choosing a shade from a mish-mash of items stored in a container beside her, Julia asked to have her nails painted. Malta volunteer Zahraa Omeiry applied the festive maroon color like a caress to each finger, as the singing continued. A neighbor, passing by on the street with groceries, stopped at the balcony window to peer in on the festivities, asking, “Is it your wedding day?” as Julia proudly showed off her nails.
Among Julia’s visitors, Zahraa and her cousin, Nour Omeiry, Shiite Muslims, recently joined the Malta group at Beirut’s Jesuit-run St. Joseph University, where they are both studying political science.
“It’s so important to help the less fortunate, to make people smile,” Nour Omeiry told Catholic News Service.
“We are all human and we have to live together,” she said of Muslim-Christian coexistence. “It’s great to bond with each other and to share something we all like to do,” she added. Like many Muslims in Lebanon, her family always observes Christmas with a small tree and a family dinner.
With a manger placed under its boughs, Julia’s tree was illuminated to great cheers, and together the young and old sang “Feliz Navidad.”
“Thanks be to God. You are better than gold,” Julia told her visitors.
Nicholas, who had quietly kept to himself on the balcony to allow his mother to solely relish in the attention, told CNS: “I’m so thankful that God has blessed us with this visit. I feel at peace when I see my mom so happy,” he added, his eyes filled with emotion.
The Knights of Malta manages a network of 30 different operations throughout Lebanon, including community health centers, mobile medical units and day care centers for the elderly.
The Lebanese chapter of “Who is Hussein” sponsors activities such as taking flowers to hospitals for the sick and poor and distributing food during the season of Ramadan and its “10 days of kindness” outreach during the feast of Ashura.
Young people from both groups also have collaborated by serving elderly poor the Iftar feast during Ramadan.
10 December 2018
Tags: Lebanon Muslim Interfaith
Pope Francis greets a child as he visits poor, sick people at a center run by the CasAmica Onlus organization on the outskirts of Rome on 7 December. The pope in a message for Human Right Day urged everyone to place human dignity at the heart of all policies. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope marks Human Rights Day (Vatican News) Marking Human Rights Day, Pope Francis makes an appeal in a message to an International Conference on Human Rights, urging everyone to place human rights at the heart of all policies…
Caritas releases message for Advent to ’share the journey’ with migrants (Vatican News) Caritas Internationalis is urging the people of the world ahead of Christmas to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees and expand the horizons of their hearts by organizing a short pilgrimage with the migrants and refugees in their community to learn more about one another and forge bonds of hope. “It is how we live out our journeys and how we treat the people we meet that has the potential to transform our world,” said Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in an Advent message…
Ukrainian Navy commander dismisses Russia’s charge of provocation (Al Jazeera) Ukrainian Navy commander Admiral Ihor Voronchenko says Russia has no right to put the 24 captured sailors on trial as they were “prisoners of war, not some criminals involved in contraband or illegal fishing”. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Voronchenko said he had no doubt that Russia was behind the attack on three of his boats, saying, “I confirm with authority ... we are sure the tactical decisions were not being taken by the commanders of the Russian ships”…
Algerian martyrs bear witness to dialogue and coexistence, pope says (CNS) The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God’s plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said. In a message read 8 December at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs’ commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war…
Bishop Hinder: pope’s visit to UAE will be an opportunity for dialogue, peace (Vatican News) In an open letter, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia (UAE, Oman, and Yemen), Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap, commented on the announcement of the upcoming papal visit. ”We welcome Pope Francis with open hearts”, he writes, “and we pray with the words of St Francis of Assisi, which have been chosen as the theme of the visit: ‘Make me an instrument of your peace’”…
International airport opens in Kerala (Economic Times) Kerala has become the first state in the country to have four international airports with the inauguration of the Kannur airport on Sunday…
7 December 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Kerala Muslim Migrants
In this image from 2014, 80-year-old Marjik Harutyunyan was one of those struggling to get by, decades after the earthquake that devastated Armenia. To this day, countless others like her are still living in makeshift shacks erected in the aftermath of the quake. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
It was 30 years ago today that Armenia was hit by a catastrophic event — and the country’s people are still feeling the emotional and economic aftershocks:
Armenia’s second-largest city, Gyumri was flattened by a devastating earthquake in December 1988, taking the lives of 25,000 people, about 40 percent of whom were children. In the Western media, photographs of the ruined city — then known as Leninakan — became a source of humiliation for a crumbling Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; the quality of construction was so poor almost every building erected in Gyumri in the Soviet period was destroyed. A quarter century later, the city and its environs are shaken by a “different kind of quake.”
“This is an earthquake of life, of terrible social hardship and of moral values,” says Vahan Tumasian, who advocates for earthquake survivors’ housing rights and implements housing programs in northwestern Armenia. Even 25 years after the calamity, he adds, “poverty and homelessness are even more acute.”
…Since the earthquake, the population of Gyumri has dropped by about half. In 1988, some 220,000 people lived in the city. But by 2011 — due to the earthquake and the country’s economic collapse after it achieved independence from an unraveling Soviet Union — Gyumri’s population declined to 121,500. Many are convinced the actual number of people living in the city is less than 90,000.
According to the United Nations, Armenia is among the world’s “aging” nations. Pensioners constitute some 14 percent of the country’s 2.9 million people. In Gyumri, the average age is trending upward as more and more of the young and capable pursue employment abroad, usually Russia.
“Imagine how things stand with the frail elderly if men leave their children to go find jobs to earn their living, if unemployment is 40 percent in the city during the summer, and rises to 60 percent in the winter due to fewer seasonal jobs,” says Sister Arousiag Sajonian of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
“If the young cannot survive, how can seniors?” asks Sister Arousiag, who arrived in northwestern Armenia soon after the earthquake. She later founded the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center in Gyumri, which since 2011 has also included a center to care for the elderly.
Observers say pensioners in northern Armenia are left alone with no caretakers for a variety of reasons. Some may have lost their children in the earthquake. Others lost their children to emigration. But alone in Gyumri exists the phenomenon of orphaned children brought by the Soviets to work in factories — orphans such as Ophelia Matevosian — who never married or created families and remain alone.
Though two of these factors find their roots in the past, one remains an ongoing concern.
“The growing migration of the young is aggravating the issue with pensioners,” says Theresa Grigorian, who heads the social affairs department of Gyumri’s municipal government. She says thousands of childless seniors now live in Gyumri, the majority of whom were orphans themselves. Between 300 and 400 have lost their children in the earthquake and more than 2,500 are now left without a caretaker because of the emigration of their surviving children.
CNEWA has been at the forefront of efforts to assist these broken men and women and give them a sense of possibility and hope.
CNEWA supports a variety of initiatives of Caritas Armenia, the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and the Ordinariate for Armenian Catholics in Armenia. Among efforts to care for the elderly, CNEWA supports the “Warm Winter” program of Caritas, which provides heating fuel to 620 pensioners living in Gyumri and in remote villages farther north, where temperatures can dip as low as 20 degrees below zero.
Read more about the remarkable spirit of these people who have survived so much and CNEWA’s work among them below. And to support efforts to give them dignity and hope, visit this link. Meantime, please lift up these people in your prayers and remember them in a special way, especially during this cold and difficult time of year.
An Unshakable Faith
Armenia’s Children, Left Behind
Shaken by the Earthquake of Life
7 December 2018
CNEWA will be visiting St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Md. this weekend.
CNEWA is heading to scenic Maryland this weekend (my home state!) where I’ll be preaching at all the Masses about CNEWA’s work. We'll be at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Hanover, Maryland in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I’ll be traveling with my colleague Christopher Kennedy from our development department.
Can’t make it Sunday? We’ll be giving a special presentation about CNEWA after the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday.
It’s a great privilege to be able to share our story — particularly during this beautiful time of year, Advent, when our hearts are anticipating the joy of Christmas and are uplifted by the hope of Christ’s coming.
I had a chance to talk about that and more with Christopher Gunty, editor of Baltimore’s Catholic Review, on the archdiocese’s radio program Catholic Baltimore. You can give a listen to that right here.
We love visiting churches or groups around the country to speak about our mission. Can we pay you a visit? Just drop us a line: email@example.com
Meantime, see you in Maryland!
7 December 2018
The EU has expressed serious concerns about the situation between Ukraine and Russia, with martial law in Ukraine heightening the tensions. (video: EuroNews/YouTube)
Ukraine’s martial law brings unease (NBC News) Larysa Spitsyna was shocked and confused when she learned her city would be placed under martial law. ”As a psychologist, I know that the main thing that is disturbing to us is uncertainty,” said Spitsyna, 54, who teaches at a local university. It was precisely such a feeling that swept thorough Zaporizhzhia last week. The city is in one of the regions where martial law was imposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — a response to Russian ships ramming, shooting and then seizing three naval vessels in the Black Sea…
Ukrainian police search homes of Russian Orthodox priests (AP) Ukrainian police searched the homes of Russian Orthodox priests and Russian Orthodox churches in several cities Monday, stepping up pressure as Kiev pushes for the creation of an independent Ukrainian church. The eight searches in Ukraine’s capital and the nearby Zhytomyr region were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence, according to a police statement…
A thousand Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon (The Daily Star) Groups of Syrian refugees started to arrive back in their home country after leaving Lebanon early Thursday morning, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported. The returnees were met by medical and assistance teams in Syria’s Dabousieh opposite the Abboudieh border crossing, in Jdeidet Yabous opposite the Masnaa border crossing as well as opposite the Al-Zamarani border crossing, the agency said…
Indian state’s move on tribal people vexes church leaders (UCANews.com) Catholic tribal leaders in India are worried over a move by Jharkhand’s government to take away tribal status from people who have left their traditional Sarna religion to join other faiths. The eastern state’s move will deprive thousands of tribal people of social benefits meant for their advancement. ”It is a deliberate attempt to divide tribal people on grounds of religion ahead of the state and national elections next year,” said Bishop Vincent Barwa of Simdega, who is based in a tribal Christian stronghold…
Ancient synagogue reopens in Kerala (NDTV) An 818-year-old Kadavumbagam synagogue in Kerala, which was closed for worship since 1972, reopened on Thursday. The synagogue, located on Market Road in Ernakulam, was reopened on its anniversary. On the occasion, the Sefer Torah, which is a handwritten copy of the Torah (holy scripture), was brought from Israel and kept in the renovated synagogue…
6 December 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Russian Orthodox
This image from January shows one example of modern migration that has become all-too-common: a raft with 112 passengers drifts in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast before being rescued. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)
On 18 December every year, the United Nations observes International Migrants Day. There are very clear and important legal differences between refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers and migrants that should not be forgotten. (You can read more about what they mean at this blog post.) These categories are kept separate and distinct by the UN. However, CNEWA works in a world where all of these categories are present — and, at times, massively present. Today, I will look at how the various migrations of peoples have affected the globe and had a significant impact on the world CNEWA serves.
It is important to understand several things. Mass movements of people are not new; as you’ll see below, they have occurred several times in at least past two thousand years. The movements cause untold suffering for those who are displaced. However, they have also caused the destabilization and even destruction of civilizations and cultures which were the “host” or target countries/peoples. The problems caused by these movements often provide demagogues with deceptively easy “solutions,” which are often little more than thinly veiled forms of racism. Nevertheless, the problems and challenges are real.
Let’s look at how these migrations have occurred, and some important examples.
Throughout history people and groups have moved to find better or safer living conditions — at times, doing so in great numbers. There are many causes for this. The biblical book of Ruth speaks of Naomi and her family leaving Judah for Moab because of famine. Over the last 2,000 years there have been times of massive movements of peoples. War and military aggression are among the chief drivers of the mass movement of peoples. The arrival of the Huns on the stage of world history in the 4th to 6th centuries caused massive movements of peoples from Central Asia to the west, fleeing the armies of the Huns. The Huns coming from the east put pressure on the Goths and other “barbarians” who, in turn, pressured and ultimately brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west.
In the late 11th centuries, it was the Mongols, again coming from eastern Asia, that caused great destruction and displacement from central Asia to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. The Mongols brought the Muslim Abbasid Caliphate to an end and destroyed other kingdoms in Central Asia and the Middle East.
Lastly, the mass movement of Europeans to the “New World” which began in the 16th century had major impact on the indigenous peoples of North and South America, causing the extinction of many native civilizations and cultures. In each of these, climate, military conquest and economic issues all played varying roles.
In the last 20 years, it appears that there is a new mass movement of peoples. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are 68.5 million “forcibly displaced” people in the world. That number is broken down into 40 million internally displaced people, 25.4 million refugees and 3.1 million asylum seekers. As has been the case with every massive movement of peoples, this brings with it huge social, political and economic changes, all of which—at least initially—are destabilizing.
While it is common for the media in Europe and the United States to focus on the impact these people have on the situation in Europe and the U.S., in point of fact, the major “hosting countries,”— i.e., countries targeted by the movement of peoples—are Turkey (3.5 million displaced people), Uganda (1.4 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (1 million) and Iran (just under 980,000).
The UN recognizes that this is a humanitarian crisis of the highest magnitude for those people who are displaced. However, it presents almost insurmountable political, social and economic problems for the “hosting countries,” few of which are that economically—and at times politically—stable themselves.
In an attempt to address this, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was signed 13 July 2018. While not a treaty and not formally binding under international law, the Compact is an attempt to deal both with the problem both practically and compassionately. The Holy See. especially through its Permanent Observer Mission at the UN, has been active in promoting the Global Compact as a possible way of dealing with the problem. The main goals are not merely to provide for a safe and orderly migration of peoples but also to eliminate those “drivers of migration” that force people to leave their homes— i.e., climate change, war, poverty.
As a papal agency working in areas where the mass movement of peoples has had profound and almost invariably negative impact on all involved, CNEWA encourages our readers to become informed about the issues involved and remain familiar with what the Catholic Church is trying to do to address these important challenges.
Next week, we’ll look at how the various migrations of peoples have had a lasting impact — spreading new traditions, beliefs, practices and cultures to different corners of the world.
6 December 2018
Tags: Refugees Migrants
People in Byblos, Lebanon, gather around a Christmas tree on 30 November.
(photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)