30 May 2018
In the video above, Christians in Jerusalem explain why it is important to maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land to “seek political peace in Jesus’ land.” (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Battle to stamp out ISIS in Syria gets new momentum, but threats remain (The New York Times) A return of Kurdish commanders has revived a stalled American-backed ground offensive to wipe out the last pockets of ISIS militants in eastern Syria. But the campaign may have only little more than six months to hunt down the few hundred fighters — not enough time to extinguish a threat that is quickly moving underground…
Israel and Palestinians trade fire on Gaza border (The Washington Post) Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired more rockets and mortars into Israel Wednesday morning, and Israeli jets retaliated by striking some 25 targets belonging to Hamas even as talk of a cease-fire surfaced. The restless night, with consistent rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli communities, followed a sharp escalation Tuesday as Palestinian militants in the besieged coastal enclave fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel…
Chaldeans take step into the global spotlight with new cardinal (The Catholic Register) Roman Catholics are used to belonging to a global church, one that transcends borders, encompasses cultures and finds expression in all the languages of the world. But it’s a whole new ball game for Chaldeans, which is why appointing Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael to the College of Cardinals on 20 May is particularly significant, the Chaldean bishop of Canada told The Catholic Register…
Video shows Hindu leader calling on Christians to be thrown out of India (UCANews.com) A hardline Hindu group has called on Christians to be thrown out of India and stamped on images of Pope Francis while accusing him of promoting terrorism in a video being circulated on social media since 25 May. The video shows controversial Hindu leader Om Swami Maharaj with a group of about 20 people carrying placards and banners with pictures of Pope Francis not far from Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi…
U.S. State Department issues annual report on religious freedom around the world (The Los Angeles Times) U.S. ally Saudi Arabia continued to torture, execute and discriminate against minority Shiite Muslims last year, according to the State Department, but the Trump administration followed the Obama administration and has granted the Sunni-ruled kingdom an exemption from sanctions normally placed on countries with bad records on religious freedom. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the annual report on international religious liberty on Tuesday…
29 May 2018
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem ISIS Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi (in red) strolls through the ancient Mediterranean coastal city of Sidon in southern Lebanon on 26 May with Melkite Archbishop Elie Haddad of Sidon, left. The Melkite Eparchy of Sidon hosted an iftar banquet that day. The patriarch’s visit to Sidon was the first to southern Lebanon since becoming patriarch in June. (photo: CNS/courtesy National News Agency of Lebanon)
Christians and Muslims gathered in Sidon, Lebanon, for an iftar, the fast-breaking meal after sunset during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“What a beautiful gathering we have on this memorable day of the holy month of Ramadan,” said Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi to the more than 300 guests assembled for the 26 May banquet hosted by the Melkite Eparchy of Sidon, the ancient Mediterranean coastal city in southern Lebanon.
“And what is more beautiful is that we Christians and Muslims meet in the subject of our faith in God almighty,” he said.
Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset during Ramadan.
The patriarch noted that for Muslims and Christians, their respective time of fasting — Lent for Christians and Ramadan for Muslims — has the same aim of “drawing closer to God.”
“What we are witnessing now in this gathering is the model that we believe in and we are holding on to … not just because it is our destiny but because the Bible scriptures teach us that Jesus put all his efforts and himself for the well-being of every human being.”
The patriarch praised Melkite Archbishop Elie Haddad of Sidon for his development and social projects for Christians and Muslims alike that “witness the message of Lebanon of living together in a rich and diverse environment.”
Guests dined at the grounds of Dar el Einayeh, an orphanage and school founded by the late Melkite Archbishop Georges Kwaiter of Sidon. The Sidon Eparchy has hosted an iftar annually since 2007.
The patriarch, pointing to the iftar gathering he attended with various faith leaders hosted by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Catholic, at the Presidential Palace noted that “the Ramadan tables in Lebanon are no longer an Islamic matter, but are of a national nature.”
“Ramadan tables are the tables of fraternity and affection,” the patriarch said.
It was Patriarch Absi’s first official visit to southern Lebanon since becoming patriarch in June. He is based in Damascus, Syria.
Sidon’s Shiite Mufti Mohammad Ousaylar told Catholic News Service that even apart from the iftar banquet “it was our duty to honor him and welcome him” to the city on his first visit to the south.
“Sidon has always been a model of coexistence, welcoming, respectful and loving to its guests,” he said.
He said that welcoming the patriarch and jointly celebrating the iftar, is “a message that the people — Christians and Muslims — love each other and coexist and that the people want to be all united together.”
Unity, he said, “is important to everyone.”
Of Lebanon’s approximate population of 4 million, not counting refugees from war-torn Syria, about 40 percent are Christian.
29 May 2018
Tags: Lebanon Melkite
Pope Francis greets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during a meeting in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on 26 May. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope, patriarch call for ethical intervention in economy (CNS) Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople called on Christians to work together to build a culture of solidarity in the face of growing economic inequality and a lack of respect for the human dignity of the poor and of migrants. The two leaders met privately 26 May before addressing an international conference sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, which seeks to promote the teaching of St. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical on social and economic justice…
‘Honor’ killing in Catholic family shocks Kerala (UCANews.com) The murder of a socially poor Dalit Catholic man who had married a woman belonging to an upper-caste Christian family has fueled protests across India’s southern state of Kerala. Kevin P. Joseph, 26, a member of Vijayapuram Diocese, was murdered on 28 May, five days after he married 20-year-old Neenu Chacko of an affluent Christian family in Kollam district against the wishes of her family…
Syria takes rotating presidency of U.N. conference in Geneva, U.S. protests (PressTV) Syria has taken the rotating presidency of the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, prompting disruptive objection by the United States. The chairing of the Conference on Disarmament rotates alphabetically among the body’s 65 members every four weeks, and Syria’s turn came on Monday. The U.S. delegation briefly left the room in protest and returned shortly afterwards…
Palestinians risk losing Jerusalem ID over Israel loyalty law (Al Jazeera) On 29 April, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri upheld the deportation of four parliamentarians, after Israel’s parliament passed a law in March granting the interior minister full power to revoke the Jerusalem residencies of Palestinians over allegations of “breaching allegiance” or “loyalty” to the Israeli state. Rights groups have raised serious concerns over the new law, noting that the legislation is a clear breach of international law and threatens the basic rights of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem...
Ethiopian church hopes to grow in Halifax (The Chronicle Herald) In a tiny, white one-story house near an industrial area outside downtown Halifax, a small group of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians has been meeting quietly for three years. Now the congregation is making plans to create a larger, dedicated worship space…
25 May 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Jerusalem Ecumenism
The Rev. Emanuel Youkhana, center, meets Iraqi Christians who have opened a mobile cellphone shop in the Ninevah Plain following the defeat of ISIS. (photo: CNS/courtesy CAPNI)
In the aftermath of Iraq’s elections, Christians want to see a government formed that is free from the sectarianism that has torn apart the country, and they want Iran’s influence to diminish. Both issues have played a huge role in politics since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The Rev. Emanuel Youkhana, a priest of the Assyrian Church of the East, told Catholic News Service that although fiery Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr has gained the majority of parliament’s seats, Al Sadr’s uncompromising nationalism, stand against corruption and against foreign meddling seem to have struck a chord among ordinary Iraqis, who are fed up with what many call Baghdad’s broken political system.
“Iraq’s Shiite politicians, whose population forms the country’s majority, are of two streams: one pro-Iran and the other freer from Iranian influence, and Sadr is the leader of this latter group,” the priest explained.
“Al Sadr has called for a Cabinet of technocrats, not politicians. So far, he is more acceptable with the public because of his slogans. But can he realize forming a coalition government? In Iraq, it’s very complicated,” Father Youkhana said.
Father Youkhana runs the Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq or CAPNI, for displaced Iraqis around the city of Dohuk, partnering with CNEWA, in addition to rebuilding homes and restoring livelihoods in several towns in the Ninevah Plain following its destruction by Islamic State since 2014.
Iraq’s historic Christians and other religious minorities, such as the Yezidis, are also dismayed that the government has so far failed to address and counter the problems that led to the rise of the Islamic State in the first place. And it has not contributed to rebuilding efforts in their communities.
“Now in Germany or the U.S., if a situation happens two or three times, they call for a debate in Congress. But in Iraq, it’s now four years from what happened, and there has been no national debate on what took place, how it happened, and how to prevent it from reocurring,” the priest said.
Yet, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael, now also a Cardinal-designate, has repeatedly called for a serious national dialogue to combat sectarianism in his homeland. So far, those calls seem to have gone largely unheeded.
Iraq’s military and police abandoned Christians and Yezidis in the face of the brutal attacks by Islamic State in 2014 that saw thousands killed, kidnapped, turned into sex slaves, maimed and displaced. The United Nations deemed the Islamic State the perpetrator of a genocide against the Yezidis of Iraq.
These events have left Iraq’s rich cultural mosaic of religious minorities feeling that they are second-class citizens. They sense that Iraq’s political leaders do not represent their interests or concerns.
Iraq’s Christian population, believed to number up to 1.4 million in the late 1990’s, now is estimated to be fewer than 500,000. They have been victims of sectarian violence, driven out of their ancestral homeland. Almost two-thirds of Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church.
They worry that Shiite militias that fought Islamic State militants are staking claim to parts of the historic Christian Ninevah Plain, where they never before resided.
“Bartella is becoming a Shiite town,” said Father Youkhana. “Now when you enter Bartella, you see the photos of [Iran’s ayatollahs] Khomeini and Khamenei. This demographic change is protected and facilitated by the militias,” he said. “This is our concern.”
“The failure of the government goes beyond the material,” said Father Youkhana, referring to the Iraqi government’s lack of funding or efforts to rebuild the ancestral areas destroyed by the Islamic State militants where Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities historically have lived.
Most of reconstruction of these areas have been undertaken by Western governments and various Christian agencies, such as CAPNI, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas.
“I would also partially blame the church for giving the impression that we can do it ourselves. But the reality is that the church single-handedly doesn’t have the resources for that,” the priest said.
“People have been hesitating to return [to their towns] unless the government provides safety guarantees, but so far it hasn’t, and I’m not sure if the new Cabinet will do so,” Father Youkhana said. “I call for a mini-Marshall Plan.”
CAPNI has rebuilt 28 schools and some 300 partially damaged houses in Qaraqosh, Bartella, Bashika and Bahzani. He said these partially damaged homes are the focus of rebuilding efforts by Christian aid groups and Western governments, such as Germany and Hungary, to reinstall electricity, doors, windows, etc. Health centers also are being rehabilitated.
Father Youkhana estimates that about 40 percent of such houses have been reconstructed. Others, which have been burned or completely destroyed, are not being rehabilitated by relief groups.
“Houses are being rehabilitated, but still people need to have livelihoods” if the towns are to be viable, he added.
So far, an estimated 25,000 people have returned to the area’s main town of Qaraqosh, which once housed 50,000 Christians.
Sura Jamiel Hanna, who heads CAPNI’s community development work, said the group provides loans and grants for income generating projects to revive some 20 livelihoods for Christians, Yezidis and Muslims in the towns such as beekeeping, sheep raising, carpentry and hairdressing.
CAPNI, in conjunction with Jesuit Worldwide Learning, also provides English language courses as well as 13 others such as management, math, and ethics for those who already possess proficient English skills.
Teaching of Kurdish to Arabic-speakers, music, sports and studies on Eastern Christianity are also offered.
“This is important for us as a matter of identity,” Father Youkhana said of the latter, adding that advocacy is now vital for Iraq’s minorities to realize their rights in both school curriculum and national and local legislation.
“This is the way to address the roots of the problem,” he said of Iraq’s troubling sectarianism. “We are fighting to keep the hope of our people alive.”
25 May 2018
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians
Palestinians wait in a bus to cross to Egypt following the opening of Rafah border gate in Khan Yunis, Gaza, on 18 May 2018. (photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In Gaza, border opening brings relief and anxiety (AP) Egypt has opened Rafah for the duration of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, temporarily easing a border blockade of Gaza that it has enforced, along with Israel, for the past 11 years. But thousands of people hoping to travel are on a waiting list, a backlog created by long periods of closures, and Egyptian border officials are processing them at an excruciatingly slow pace…
Kerala monitoring spread of deadly virus (UCSNews.com) India’s Kerala state has imposed restrictions on public functions in four northern districts because of a virus spread by fruit bats that has killed 11 people, including a nurse who treated infected people. Health authorities on 24 May advised travelers to the region to guard against the Nipah virus. Senior official Rajeev Sadanandan told journalists that the infection was currently linked to only one family and people who came into direct contact with them. Lini Puthuserry, 32, the nurse who succumbed to the infection, had treated a member of the family in a hospital. The situation was described as being under control…
Syriac Christians hail return of churches, monasteries in Turkey (Daily Sabah) In 2014, ownership of churches, monasteries and cemeteries belonging to the ancient community were transferred to the state after Mardin, the southeastern city where they are located, was designated as the “greater city municipality.” The community fought for their return but faced bureaucratic red tape and a lengthy legal process. Finally, they were formally handed title deeds yesterday, crediting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for helping them to settle the issue…
Coptic Peace Association distributes food to poor for Ramadan (Egypt Today) In celebration of the holy month of Ramadan, the Coptic Peace Association distributed cartons of basic commodities to the poor people of Cairo’s Shubra district on Wednesday. The ceremony was held in the hall of Marjerjis Hospital in Shubra. Matta Sawiris, head of the association, said that this day is an extension of the 50-year march, adding, “We set up the first Iftar in the church in 1969 until we inaugurated it in 2004; Egypt is mentioned in the Gospel more than 500 times and five times in the Qur’an.” Sheikh Mohammed Qutb said that the Muslims and Christians are one blood, stressing that the distribution of such aid without distinction between Muslim and Christian is an important message and must appear in the public opinion…
CNEWA Canada launches Middle East campaign (Catholic Register) Under the banner “Christians Can’t Survive Without You,” the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Canada has launched a year-long fundraising campaign to help Christians remain in the Middle East…
24 May 2018
Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey
Apparitions of Mary are a relatively recent phenomenon, occurring primarily in the West, but they have served to popularize devotion to the mother of Jesus. This stained glass window at St. Mary Church in Manhasset, N.Y., depicts Mary appearing to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, in 1858. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
In continuing our reflections on Mary, Mother of the Church, a new Marian feast initiated by Pope Francis, we will be comparing how Christians in the Western (Roman Catholic) and Eastern (primarily Byzantine Orthodox, here) churches revere Mary.
While CNEWA works closely with Eastern churches in much of the world we serve, our mission is also to help build bridges between East and West. Understanding Marian devotion can serve to add more planks to that bridge.
This week, let’s look to the West.
First, a little history: In the earliest days of Christianity, the role of Mary was primarily, if not exclusively, as the virgin mother of Jesus. She is mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke; never mentioned by name in John’s Gospel and never mentioned at all in the other books of the New Testament. This is not surprising since the kerygma — the Good News, the preaching and message of early Christians — was about Christ.
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), a Western Father of the Church, is one of the major theologians of the West in the first five centuries of Christianity. He produced a tremendous amount of letters, sermons, biblical commentaries and theological treatises. As A. D. Fitzgerald notes in “Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia,” Augustine never dedicated a separate treatise to Mary, “nor did he advocate a Marian devotion in any of his collected works.” Although Mary is the subject of intercessory prayer in Egypt as early as the second century, Augustine never addresses Mary as a subject of intercessory prayer.
Indeed, in the early centuries of the Western church, Mary’s role was secondary and subordinate to that of Christ. The Council of Ephesus in 431 declared that Christians could rightly call Mary theotokos, “Mother of God,” something that had been common among the Syriac-speaking Christians. However, in calling Mary theotokos, Ephesus was concerned more with saying something about Christ than about Mary. In calling Mary theotokos, ”Mother of God,” the Council was stating that in the person of Christ, humanity and divinity were so closely united that what was said of his humanity could also be said of his divinity and vice versa. Nevertheless, the title gave impetus to devotion to Mary in the church.
The Middle Ages gave rise to the troubadour tradition, which paid great and romantic honor to the “pure woman”; coupled with this was the rise of the mendicant orders, such as the Franciscans and Dominicans, which made devotion to Mary increasingly popular. Theologians and preachers from the 12th through 14th centuries — such as Sts. Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Dominic, Bonaventure, Aquinas and Duns Scotus — all wrote and preached a great deal about devotion to Mary. As a result, during this time, Mary became a very important theme in theological treatises, sermons and, significantly, art. A new “theology of Mary” — Mariology — was developed which dealt with the person, titles, privileges and reverence due the mother of Jesus.
So intense — and, at times, extreme — was the Medieval reverence for Mary that the Protestant Reformation reacted to it negatively. Devotion to Mary was judged by the reformers to be unbiblical, diminishing the centrality of Christ, and was considered by some of the reformers to be idolatrous.
At the beginning of the modern era, a new Marian phenomenon began to emerge in the West — the apparition. The mystical suddenly became visible. Mostly, but not exclusively, in Western Europe, apparitions of Mary began to be reported. We find apparitions at Guadalupe (Mexico 1531), LaSallette (France 1846), Lourdes (France 1858), Knock (Ireland 1879), and Fatima (Portugal 1917), which gave rise to intense and widespread devotion to Mary. With most of these apparitions, the center of attention situated Mary in a particular geographic and cultural context.
As we noted last week, Vatican II (1962-1965) recognized the importance of reverence for Mary and also of correcting some of the exaggerations and at times abuses that had grown up around some Marian devotions. Also, by dedicating itself to ecumenism (i.e., the work for Christian unity), the Catholic Church took seriously some of the criticisms of the Reformation.
In our own day, the church thus situates reverence for Mary in the context of the saving work of God in Christ, which is always at the center of Christian faith and life. Recognizing the importance of local pilgrimage sites, the church underlines that Mary is the Mother — not just of a particular geographic locale or culture — of the entire church.
Pope Francis’ recent institution of a new Marian feast — Mary, Mother of the Church, observed the Monday after Pentecost (21 May this year) — is the fruit of the work of Vatican II, finally giving liturgical expression to an idea as old as Ambrose but as modern as Paul VI.
Next week, we will look at how devotion to Mary evolved in the traditions of Orthodoxy.
Hailing Mary, Part 1 — Mary, Mother of the Church
24 May 2018
Tags: Catholic Church history Mary
An injured Palestinian lies on a bed at a hospital in Gaza City on 15 May. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)
Already in a precarious state, Gaza’s health system faces a medical emergency, with more than 1,000 people injured in the recent Gaza border demonstrations that flared up since 30 March.
Hilary Dubose, country representative for Catholic Relief Services, said hospitals have already been suffering from lack of medicine, proper medical equipment and enough electricity to run them, but the sudden swelling of injured patients has pushed the hospitals over the edge.
“They were pushed to the breaking point even before the demonstration injuries,” said Dubose, who visited Gaza on 22 May. “The injuries have pushed them [past] that point now. It is important that humanitarian actors support the medical system.”
Humanitarian organizations such as CRS, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency that receives some of its funds from the U.S. government, are hampered in their work, she said. The government has withheld funds not only to UNRWA, the U.N. organization tasked with providing assistance to Palestinians refugees and their descendants, but also has put a hold on all U.S. funding to Palestinians pending an “administrative review.”
“We can’t provide any humanitarian aid. It is making the situation worse. We don’t know what impact it will have,” Dubose said, noting that there are 155,000 people going without humanitarian assistance in Gaza because of the freeze.
CRS has had to make drastic cuts in its programs, she said, and has retained only a skeleton staff in its Gaza office. CRS programs in the West Bank are not affected because those do not receive U.S. government funding, she said.
People are at the end of their ropes, said Dubose. Gazans get only four hours of state-provided electricity per day; 95 percent of water in Gaza contaminated; unemployment in Gaza is 44 percent among the general population and 62 percent among young people.
“People can’t earn a living and support their families. Young people can’t get married, because here to get married they need a house and a means of supporting their bride,” she said. “People can’t accomplish their very simple dreams of getting married and having a family.”
During her visit with the Missionaries of Charity in Gaza, she heard the story of a young man who had been engaged for two years but had not yet been able to marry because he had no way to support a family or provide a house.
“His sister told us that he had gone to the demonstrations feeling prepared to die, and he did,” Dubose said. “Conditions are bad, with no hope for change. There is so much hardship and frustration.”
After 11 years of an international blockade people are getting desperate, she said. There is a lack of freedom of movement, and young people are unable to travel for job or educational opportunities, she said. If there were some signs of hope, of change, people would not feel so desperate, she added.
“There has really been marked shift in [the ability of people to hope]. People are really reaching levels of frustration I have not witnessed before,” said Dubose. “It is so claustrophobic. People are so stuck. There is a loss of hope.”
24 May 2018
Tags: Palestine Israel Health Care Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In the video above, Iraqis describe challenges in observing Ramadan in the post-ISIS era. (video: Al Jazeera English/Youtube)
Syrian state media says U.S. hit army posts, U.S. denies (Reuters) Syrian state media reported that the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State struck Syrian army positions in eastern Syria early on Thursday, but the U.S. military denied knowledge of it…
Ramadan in post-ISIS Iraq (Al Jazeera) More than a billion Muslims around the world are observing the month of Ramadan, a time for reflection, worshipping and self-restraint. And it has a special meaning for more than two million Iraqis displaced by the conflict ISIS…
Violence in Gaza prompts calls for prayer, dialogue, investigation (The Catholic Register) With at least 60 killed and over 2,700 injured, Canadian Catholics can’t just shrug and say the violence on the Israel-Gaza border is not their problem…
Controversy surrounds Indian archbishop’s call for prayer ahead of elections (UCANews.com) Archbishop Anil Couto of New Delhi has sparked a political controversy after Hindu groups accused him of undermining Indian interests and working with the Vatican to tarnish the government’s image. The prelate launched a year-long prayer campaign 13 May, saying India faces a “turbulent political future” that threatens the country’s democracy. He asked Catholics in the capital to have special prayers and fast on all Fridays until national elections due in April next year. Hindu groups reacted angrily and said the archbishop’s statement was politically motivated…
Turkey hands out money and flags in east Jerusalem (Israel Hayom) he Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency has handed out about $420,000 in $500 checks to eastern Jerusalem merchants and residents as a gift for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, Israel Hayom discovered. The move exacerbates already tense relations between Israel and Turkey, which called for Israel to be tried at the International Criminal Court for its use of force to deter violent weekly demonstrations along the Gaza border…
23 May 2018
Tags: Syria India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Ramadan
People fish in Topapoli, India, on 10 April. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan has inspired thousands of young Indians to join a water conservation movement using methods originally advocated by Swiss Jesuit Father Hermann Bacher. (photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)
Thousands of young Indians have joined a water conservation movement led by popular Bollywood actor-producer Aamir Khan to fight drought using methods originally advocated by a Swiss-born Jesuit.
Ucanews.com reported more than 150,000 college students from drought-prone western Indian cities joined Khan in early May to dig trenches ahead of monsoon rains in more than 100 villages across 24 drought-prone districts of western Maharashtra state.
Saurabh Vishal, a student from Symbiosis International University in Pune, said he was proud to be helping.
“It was like doing something for the nation, for the village and our people,” said Vishal, who assisted digging of trenches in Savargaon.
“I felt honored to join villagers in their hard work to make their village drought-free,” the 25-year-old told ucanews.com.
Khan, 53, said his movement originally planned to enroll 100,000 university students to offer free physical labor to help remote drought-prone villages. It’s all a part of the actor’s nonprofit Paani [water] Foundation, which he established in 2016.
Khan said it takes about 45 days to prepare a drought-prone village for water conservation. The method requires digging trenches to allow rainwater to collect and seep into the earth, where it will help replenish over-exploited ground water sources.
The work was to be completed in May, ahead of the June-September monsoon season. The water percolation and collection will make the village self-sufficient in water for the following summer.
The Paani Foundation works with the Watershed Organization Trust as its “knowledge partner.” The trust provides both technical support and training to the foundation, Khan said.
The actor-producer said he appreciated the pioneering water conservation work carried out by Swiss Jesuit Father Hermann Bacher who founded Watershed Organization Trust with Crispino Lobo, a former Jesuit priest, in 1993.
The trust was established to help villagers fight drought in arid regions and is now active in eight Indian states.
The idea of seeking free physical labor for water conservation “was conceived and implemented by Father Bacher in [the] 1980’s, which inspired the other volunteer groups to follow suit,” Lobo said.
Jesuit Father Joe D’Souza, director at Jesuit-run Social Center at Ahmednagar, which helps empower marginalized farmers, said Father Bacher “foresaw water crisis 50 years ago when he launched a drilling team in 1966 to dig wells” in Ahmednagar district to collect water.
In Maharashtra, more than half of its 43,665 villages were declared drought-stricken in 2016, reported ucanews.com.
“Our dream is to make Maharashtra drought-free in five years,” Khan said.
“We found that wherever the water issue had been solved,” he said, “the solution lay in people’s collective efforts and labor.”
23 May 2018
Tags: India Water
Archbishop Bernadito Auza meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The archbishop, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N., on Tuesday denounced atrocities against civilians during war. (photo: Vatican Media)
Patriarch calls for peace in Malankara Church (The Hindu) Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Aphrem II has called for peace between the two factions of the Malankara Church based on dignity and respect for each other. On his second apostolic visit to India, the Patriarch told a press conference here on Tuesday: “I will do all I can to achieve peace based on respect, dignity and mutual acceptance…”
Iraq works to form new government (NPR) Former U.S. foe Muqtada al Sadr appears to be the new face of reform in Iraq. The Shia cleric’s bloc won the most votes in this month’s parliamentary election…
Holy See calls for protection of civilians during war (Vatican News) The Holy See on Tuesday denounced atrocities against civilians in armed conflicts and attacks against hospitals, schools and medical and humanitarian personnel that provide them essential services, saying, “the culture of impunity for such crimes must end.” Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. in New York made the remark at a Security Council debate on the protections of civilians in armed conflict…
Egypt opens a door, and Gaza residents run for the exit (The Wall Street Journal) A taxi driver who hopes to move to Turkey. An aspiring law student. A father seeking opportunities for his children. They are among the hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who have rushed for the exit since Egypt opened its border last week. It is a rare opportunity to leave a territory that has been largely sealed off from the outside world since Israel and Egypt tightened border controls after the Islamist group Hamas was elected in 2007…
Russian Orthodox Church wants to ’form Christians worthy of the name’ (Herald Malaysia) On 14 May, the Synod of Russian Orthodox bishops approved an important document, titled “Principles of the activity of the diocesan missionary office.” It is a vast project of evangelization, aimed mainly at the formation of lay faithful and their insertion into the life of the church. In this way, the patriarchate wants to free itself from the identification of religion with the “national sentiment” that has characterized these decades of post-Soviet religious renaissance, and find ways to form Christians worthy of the name…
Tags: Iraq Egypt Russian Orthodox Church Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II