22 October 2019
Buses transport displaced Syrian families, who fled violence after the Turkish offensive against Syria, to camps in Iraq on 17 October 2019. After a five day pause, Turkey's offensive may resume as early as today. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)
Turkey’s Erdogan says Syria offensive could resume (Reuters) Hundreds of Kurdish fighters remain near to Syria’s northeast border despite a U.S.-brokered truce demanding their withdrawal and Turkey could resume its offensive in the area when the ceasefire expires, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said…
ISIS reaps gains from U.S. pullout from Syria (The New York Times) When President Trump announced this month that he would pull American troops out of northern Syria and make way for a Turkish attack on the Kurds, Washington’s onetime allies, many warned that he was removing the spearhead of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Now, analysts say that Mr. Trump’s pullout has handed the Islamic State its biggest win in more than four years and greatly improved its prospects…
Eritrean refugees continue to flood into Ethiopia (The New Humanitarian) The long-dormant border crossings re-opened with such fanfare between Eritrea and Ethiopia last year as a symbol of warming relations are all now closed — but that isn’t stopping a steady flow of Eritrean refugees from fleeing across the heavily militarized frontier…
Netanyahu fails to form government (BBC) Israel’s long-standing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he cannot form a government, handing the opportunity to his political rival. Mr Netanyahu has been in power for the past decade, but he was unable to build a coalition with a majority after September’s election ended in deadlock. His rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party will now be invited to attempt to form a government…
Heavy rains inundate Kerala (The Indian Express) Heavy rains are likely to lash several parts of Kerala and Lakshadweep in the next five days as the North-East monsoon became active over the state, according to the latest forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD)…
Vatican: Christians and Hindus must show world peace is possible (CNS) Christians and Hindus must resist pessimism and instead draw from and add to the “a hidden sea of goodness” that convinces many men and women around the world that peace and brotherhood are possible, said a Vatican message for the Hindu feast of Diwali…
21 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey Eritrea
Members of the Habib family stand outside a store they have recently rebuilt in Qaraqosh.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the current edition of ONE, reporter Raed Rafei revisits Iraq, two years after the defeat of ISIS, and writes of how Iraqi Christians are facing the future with Resolve. He has some additional reflections on the people he met:
It was a blazing hot August Sunday. The streets of Qaraqosh, the largest Christian enclave in Northern Iraq, were mostly empty. Compared to my last trip two years ago, there were some repaired and freshly painted homes here and there. But overall, despite the signs of improvement, heavy destruction caused by the liberation war from ISIS almost three years ago was still visible. Pockmarked walls, collapsed ceilings, piles of rubble, scorched buildings were common sights across this once thriving town.
The people I talked to during my visit to Iraq as a reporter were generally relieved to be back to their homes and felt relatively safe, but the weight of the economic crisis and uncertainties about the future were noticeable in their worried faces and resonated during the silent moments of our conversations.
As the sun started to set, I could see groups of people of all ages flocking to the Church of Saints Behnam and Sarah. Despite the difficult circumstances, it was heartwarming to see how elegantly dressed the men and women of Qaraqosh were for the Sunday Mass. To secure the area, the streets around the church were blocked for vehicles by the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian Assyrian military organization formed after the invasion by ISIS. The service was being held in a makeshift tent in the church’s courtyard because the main hall was still under reconstruction. The fallen bell tower was a stark reminder of the recent tragedy of displacement. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of hope witnessing how packed the area was and the disarming simplicity of returnees resuming age-old cultural traditions.
The next morning, reality hit again. Members of a Shiite militia supported by Iran had blocked roads leading to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, to protest attempts by the government to integrate them into the Iraqi army. This was a testimony to the fragility of the situation. A vibrant, well-built local man in his late 20’s came in his gym apparel to the monastery where I had spent the night. He was going to drive me out of Qaraqosh. On the road, he told me about his taxi business and a restaurant he owned and managed. Despite economic difficulties, he said he was trying hard since his return to Qaraqosh to rebuild a life for his wife and his young daughter. I was impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit in a country where most people rely on governmental jobs.
After driving for two hours under an intense sun through alternative dirt roads to bypass the blocked highway, I was able to reach my hotel in Erbil. That night, I received a call from my driver. With a desperate voice, he asked me if I could help him find work as a concierge in Lebanon. He said he wanted to apply from there for asylum in Australia where some of his family resides. I was surprised and perplexed by his unexpected call. Compared to all the people I had talked to, he seemed to be doing well.
I answered him, reluctantly, “I will see what I can do but I can’t make any promises.” I wanted to help but with Lebanon’s ailing economy overburdened by a large number of refugees, it would be very difficult for him to find a job there.
He said that sadly, no matter how successful he was, he felt that as a young Christian man, there was no future for him and his small family in Iraq.
Read more about the plight of Iraqi Christians in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
21 October 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Demonstrators near Al-Amin mosque in Beirut carry national flags during an anti-government protest on 20 October. Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, protests were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese of various religions sounded their cries in unison in streets and public squares throughout the country calling for government reforms.
Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, a fifth day of protests on 21 October were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes.
Lebanon’s Catholic patriarchs — who have repeatedly raised their voices against political corruption, imploring the government to address the country’s dire economic situation — expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, cut short a pastoral visit in Africa to return to Lebanon amid the unprecedented uprising.
Speaking from Laos, Nigeria, on 20 October, Cardinal Rai said that Lebanon’s government officials “know that they are the ones who brought their country to this situation and they must find successful ways to reform.”
The cardinal reiterated that more than one-third of Lebanese citizens are below the poverty line, the country’s unemployment rate stands at nearly 40 percent and that “hunger and destitution threaten many citizens.”
“We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger,” which the cardinal said threatens the lives of the Lebanese as did the famine in 1914.
The crisis, “imposed from within,” Cardinal Rai said, led elderly and youth alike to demonstrate their rejection of such political practices. “In so doing they (the demonstrators) have all shown that they are united from all spectrums demanding a decent living.”
In an effort to quell the demonstrations, Lebanon’s coalition government on 21 October approved a package of economic reforms that reportedly included a plan to overturn the new taxes and cut by half the salaries of top officials.
Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi also declared his solidarity with the people “who express today their pain and bitterness and loss of confidence in those who brought them to this bitter reality.”
He appealed to government officials “to respond to the demands of the Lebanese people and not drown them with promises, after reaching the brink of despair.”
Patriarch Absi emphasized that “serious reform and the elimination of waste and hot spots of corruption and respect for the dignity of the citizen is urgent and necessary to restore confidence in officials and the salvation of the homeland.”
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan offered his support to the protesters’ demands as well. “We appeal to the consciences of officials, if there is a conscience in this world of hypocrisy, to be within the responsibility assigned to them,” he said.
He urged officials to “listen to the voice of the people, and immediately undertake the necessary and fundamental reforms,” including fighting corruption and holding the corrupt accountable, ending the theft of public money, stopping waste in state facilities and refraining from imposing any tax increase.
“We ask God to inspire officials to get out of this current crisis and to implement the demands of the people, to return to Lebanon its peace, security and prosperity, and to its citizens to reassure, stability and a decent life, through the intercession of our mother, the Virgin Mary of Lebanon, and all the saints and martyrs,’’ he said.
In affirming their solidarity with the demonstrators, each patriarch pointedly called for maintaining peacefulness and rejected any violent means or destruction by protesters. “We are well aware of the role of the fifth column,” Cardinal Rai cautioned, referring to groups that foment violence.
21 October 2019
In this 2018 photo, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, speaks during a news conference in Bangalore. The cardinal is taking part in the Amazon Synod at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
At Amazon Synod, Cardinal Gracias sees similarities between Amazon and India (Vatican News) An Indian cardinal participating in the Amazon Synod, currently taking place in the Vatican, says he is moved by the passion of the bishops of the Amazonia region for their poor and suffering people. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, made the remark in an interview to Vatican News…
U.S. troops leave Syria and cross into Iraq (CNN) Hundreds of trucks carrying American troops have crossed into Iraq in a long military convoy Monday, marking the largest withdrawal of US forces from Syria to date. US personnel, who were fighting the terror group alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, will be mostly repositioned in western Iraq, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, while some will remain temporarily in Syria to protect oil fields from ISIS. It’s an apparent walk back of President Donald Trump’s assertion last week that he would bring all American troops stationed in Syria “back home…”
Coptic Christians in Egypt fear martyrs are being forgotten (Crux) While the video footage of the deaths of the 21 Christians [in Libya in 2015] stunned much of the world, many Coptic Christians have since lamented that the events seem to have been quickly forgotten — though in the rural village of Al Our, the presence of their family members seemed to be a plea for both remembrance and continued attention to the ongoing realities of Christians in the region…
‘Lost’ street built by Pontius Pilate uncovered in Jerusalem (The Independent) A 2,000-year-old “lost” street built in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate has been uncovered for the first time since the city was sacked by the Romans in 70AD. The ancient walkway most likely used by pilgrims as they made their way to worship at the Temple Mount was first discovered in 1894 by British archaeologists in the “City of David” within the walls of Jerusalem…
18 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem
Students attend class at Bethlehem University. Learn more about what makes this school so distinctive in A Letter from Bethlehem in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
18 October 2019
Tags: Bethlehem University
Migrants from the Philippines are starting over in Jordan, with support from the local church.
(video: Nader Daoud)
The current edition of ONE features a look at migrants from the Philippines making a new home in Jordan, with the help and support of the Catholic Church. Journalist Dale Gavlak here offers some additional impressions of the people she met:
It seems that you almost can’t go anywhere in the western part of the Jordanian capital, Amman, without running into a guest worker from the Philippines.
They are everywhere. Although I’ve had the pleasure of knowing some who have worked for friends, I felt a whole new world open before me as I got to know two very special Filipina women with the Teresian Association who provide support and counsel to their many fellow country people navigating work and family challenges in Jordan.
Indeed, the Teresians are like “godmothers” to the Filipino community, says Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman.
I recall first meeting Elisa Estrada when she welcomed me at the front door of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church. Her lovely, warm, and engaging smile immediately put me at ease. I’m sure she has this same calming effect on everyone she meets. Afterwards, scores of us joined hands all across the aisles to say the Lord’s Prayer.
“For all the people in the church, you just hold their hand and I ask, ‘Jesus, put your hands in my hands. Whatever the person needs, provide that,’“ Elisa says.
At the end of the service, we enjoy a delicious communal lunch featuring Filipino specialties at the Pontifical Library Cultural Center, where I am introduced to many Filipinas working in Jordan. It’s also a festive celebration of the parish priest Father Gerald’s birthday, including song and heartfelt prayer and thanks.
“I have baked thousands of cakes to celebrate the gift of life because these domestic helpers are unable to bake their cakes in the households where they serve,” says Elisa of celebrations involving birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. “It’s the time that I can share the beauty of life. By using the illustration of the cake as well, I have an opportunity to speak.”
She points to the ingredients needed to make a cake. Taken individually, she says, they won’t taste good. ”It the same with us, if we work together, if there is unity, life will be beautiful,” Elisa says.
“I always tell Jesus, when I face somebody, please put your words in my mouth and open their heart. I ask Him, “When I speak, make it no longer me, but You speaking through me,” she explains.
Sharabeth Rosqeta, 35, from Cabaruan Quirino Isabela, Philippines, says she sought work in Jordan because her family is poor.
“We are 10 children, and I’m the youngest. I come to the Center every Friday because it’s a big help for me and I learn a lot. I was baptized here at the age of 23 with confirmation and communion following,” Sharabeth says. “I have been able to learn more about my faith and Jesus.”
The other Teresian, Amabel Sibug, has taught Sharabeth to play the guitar as well as how to budget her finances effectively.
“We celebrate as a family. This is the most important thing that they feel: I belong,” says the energetic Teresian. ”Welcome to the family, we are glad that you have come to share your life with us where we can learn to love and to pray, as well as to be strong and to lean on each other,” says Amabel.
”For us, the gift of our vocation is that we give up everything to share the love of Jesus,” Elisa adds. “Thanks to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for sponsoring us for our activities. “
Read more about those making a new home In a Land of Refugees in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
18 October 2019
While Turkey has agreed to a pause in its offensive, Syrian Kurdish fighters are accusing the Turkish military of violating the terms of a truce. (video: DW News/YouTube)
Kurds accuse Turks of violating truce (The New York Times) The leadership of the Syrian Kurdish fighters accused the Turkish military and its proxies on Friday of violating the terms of a truce in northern Syria that was brokered a day earlier by Vice President Mike Pence, raising questions about the feasibility of the cease-fire and whether the Americans can enforce it…
Armenia backs Christians in northeast Syria (Armenian Weekly) The Armenian government is working to assist ethnic Armenians in danger of being caught in the wake of the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria, which is now entering its first week. Authorities in Yerevan were quick to formally condemn the Turkish assault, which has been dubbed “Operation Peace Spring” by the Turkish military…
Chennai becomes first in India to get ’intelligent flood warning system’ (The New Indian Express) Tamil Nadu is all set to deploy an ‘intelligent flood warning system’ in Chennai, which will enable officials to get area-wise inundation details during the monsoon. The technology, called CFLOWS, is India’s first integrated coastal flood warning system...
Ethiopia opens its secretive Imperial Palace for the first time (CNN) For more than a century, the secretive imperial palace complex has stood over Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, closed off to everyone but the country’s leaders and the troops who protected them. Almost hidden from view on a wooded bluff, its forbidding 40-acre compound was unknown even to some of those living beneath it. Behind its walls, plots were hatched, conquests planned and dark deeds executed…
17 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey
Displaced Syrian families, who fled violence after the Turkish offensive against Syria, sit in a bus on their way to camps in Iraq. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)
Like so many around the world, we are watching what is unfolding in Syria with concern and prayer. I am reaching out at this moment to let you know we are in close contact with our partners in the region and getting regular updates from the local churches.
Mercifully, our partners on the ground remain reasonably safe and the activities of the churches we support continue to serve those in need. Be assured: We at CNEWA stand with our suffering brothers and sisters during this crisis —and stand ready, as well, to help in whatever way we can.
The headlines hour by hour tell of a country in turmoil, of a fluid theater, as Turkish troops move in from the north. Reports tell of thousands of people fleeing, seeking safety wherever they can. Some of those in harm’s way are Christians. They cannot be forgotten.
Last Sunday during the Angelus, Pope Francis focused the prayers of the world on “beloved and tormented Syria.” He noted that the many innocent people “forced to abandon their homes due to military actions” were “also many Christian families.” The Holy Father called for dialogue and urged the international community to work for effective solutions to the crisis.
I can only echo his plea for peace.
I invite you to join the Holy Father and all of us at CNEWA in praying for the men, women and children of Syria who are facing this moment with uncertainty, but with unwavering faith. I’ve been humbled and uplifted by so many I’ve met from this troubled corner of the world, who have held fast to the faith of their ancestors with courage and hope. They have never forgotten the consoling words of Scripture that remind us: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:22).
On behalf of all those we are privileged to serve, thank you for your prayers and continued support.
17 October 2019
Tags: Syria CNEWA
Displaced Syrians who fled violence after the Turkish offensive against Syria receive aid on 15 October 2019, at a camp on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq. Humanitarian concerns are growing as people caught in the crosshairs of the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria try to flee for safety, and groups are scrambling to aid them. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)
Humanitarian concerns are growing as people caught in the crosshairs of the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria try to flee for safety, and groups are scrambling to aid them.
“There are big concerns about what is going on in northeastern Syria with the Turkish military aerial assaults and ground operations,” the Rev. Emanuel Youkhana told Catholic News Service by phone from northern Iraq, bordering the area.
Father Youkhana, a priest, or archimandrite, of the Assyrian Church of the East, runs Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq (CAPNI), a Christian program for displaced Iraqis around the city of Dohuk.
The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has reported that so far 1,000 Syrians have fled over the border into northern Iraq.
“The numbers are increasing,” Father Youkhana said. “CAPNI staff are on the border of Fishkhabur, and they are set up now in the camps to assist those fleeing.”
Fishkhabur is a town on the northwestern edge of Iraqi Kurdistan, principally inhabited by Chaldean Catholic Assyrians and some Kurds.
Karl Schembri, a spokesman for the Norwegian Refugee Council, described the situation to CNS: “The situation for many of the people is utter chaos: fear gripping the entire area, not know what is going to happen next, where the next attacks will be. A lot of ... displacement happening, the latest figures speak of around 200,000 people because of the fighting. There have been displacement camps that have closed down with people evacuated to other areas, which are hopefully safer.”
“Where can (we) go except here?” Omar Boobe Hose, a refugee from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, which has seen heavy, fighting told the Associated Press. “We can’t go to Turkey, because they are our enemy, and the other side is also our enemy, the Syrian (government) side. Where can we go? We have only here. There are no other places for Kurds.”
About 50,000 Syrian refugees are expected to cross into northern Iraq over the next six months, according to the UNHCR. The migration is spurred by the Turkish military operation, which is using Syrian militants from Islamic State and al-Qaida as part of its ground troops fighting Kurdish and Syriac Christians of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The Syrian Democratic Forces were, until recently, America’s ally in fighting Islamic State in Syria and ending its territorial caliphate there. The forces lost about 11,000 fighters waging war against the terror group. The U.S. troop pullback and Turkish offensive has raised fears of an Islamic State resurgence.
UNHCR said it so far has aided some 32,000 of the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting and Turkish bombardments in Syria’s northeast, mainly in Hassakeh, Qamishli, and Tal Tamer, by meeting basic needs.
But it also has mobilized protection teams to provide “psychological first aid and psychosocial support” to the many who were forced to leave “their homes without papers and other belongings” due to the suddenness of the Turkish military assault. “Families have also been separated,” the UNHCR reported.
Nearly all foreign aid workers reportedly have been evacuated because of security concerns, and there are fears that local staff could face reprisals, either at the hands of Turkish-led forces or its Syrian allied troops.
Schembri said the withdrawal of workers “is putting lives in danger, because there are at least 100,000 displaced (Syrians) due to previous fighting in the Syrian crisis who were completely dependent on humanitarian aid. So they depend on aid agencies for water, food, medical aid and shelter. Most of these services have been suspended because of the uncertainty and lack of safety for aid workers. Every day that passes without these aid services resuming is putting lives at risk in itself, not to mention the fighting that has already killed civilians.”
Bishop Georges Khazen, apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latin-rite Catholic Church, said the United States “has betrayed the Kurdish people” and insisted that Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria will lead to a new exodus, forcing Christians and other minorities out.
“Jihadis (Islamist militants) operate and fight under the auspices of the Turkish army. They (the Turks) claim they want to repatriate Syrian refugees to places where other peoples and communities already live,” Bishop Khazan told AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary news agency. He said the Turkish military’s goal “is ethnic cleansing.”
“These wars do not solve problems; on the contrary, they lay the foundations for other, bigger ones,” he said, voicing his fear that Turkey’s interference in Syria will not stop with the so-called safe zone it is trying to establish for 2 million Syrian refugees from other regions who now live in Turkey.
Siban Sallo, a local Yazidi activist and journalist, reported that more than 500 Yazidis had been displaced in eight out of 15 Yazidi villages extending across Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey. Three Syriac-Christian villages in the vicinity also emptied out after the conflict began.
In a bipartisan vote on 16 October, the U.S. House of Representatives condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
The resolution asked the U.S. to support communities that have been displaced by the conflict with humanitarian assistance and called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to immediately halt military action in the region. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington would impose further sanctions on Turkey if a cease-fire in northeastern Syria is not established.
17 October 2019
Smoke rises over the Syrian city of Ras al Ain on 16 October 2019, as seen from the Turkish border city of Ceylanpinar. Humanitarian concerns are growing as people caught in the crosshairs of the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria try to flee for safety. (photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
Pence arrives in Turkey as U.S. seeks to halt Syria offensive (The Washington Post) Vice President Pence arrived Thursday in Turkey’s capital on a mission to persuade President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt a military offensive in northeastern Syria that has set off a hasty U.S. troop withdrawal and posed political problems for the Trump administration. Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were scheduled to meet with Erdogan, the State Department said Monday. The United States and other Western allies have reacted with alarm to the Turkish military operation, aimed at beating back Kurdish militants from Turkey’s border region and creating a zone where Syrian refugees could be resettled, Ankara says…
Turkish offensive sends new wave of refugees to Iraq (The Washington Post) As foreign powers jostle for control of northeast Syria, a new wave of refugees is trudging into Iraq, fearful, uncertain and worn out. Aid groups said Wednesday that more than a thousand Syrians had crossed the Iraqi border in the days since U.S. troops pulled back and Turkey moved in to push Kurdish-led forces from its southern frontier. Should the violence worsen, humanitarian agencies are preparing to receive as many as 50,000 people by January…
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox teens attack Palestinians in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox teens rioted on Wednesday overnight in central Jerusalem, attacking Palestinians that drove by them and vandalizing their vehicle. Seven were arrested by police on suspicion of causing property damage…
Archbishop urges dialogue between Pakistan, India (Vatican News) A Catholic bishop of Pakistan has expressed concern over the confrontation between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir and wishes the leaders of both the nuclear-armed nations take on the path of dialogue to save humanity. ”Atomic weapons will never be needed or used if world leaders remain firm in their commitment to build global peace,” Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore said last week, during a ceremony to commemorate the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt, 800 years ago in Egypt 1219…
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Turkey