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Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
  
26 April 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




In this 2016 image, an Ethiopian girl fetches water from what remains of a pond during a severe drought in the Afar region of Ethiopia. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Every year on 22 April, the world observes Earth Day, a moment intended to focus our attention on the plight of the environment and the future of the planet. There are lectures, gatherings and celebrations all over the world. (One acute observer in New York City noted that the Earth Day observance generates an unusually large amount of trash.) Nevertheless, despite all the contradictions involved in the observance of Earth Day, its purpose is extremely important.

Modern humans are facing — or ignoring — a threat to our very existence — to say nothing of our well-being. The overwhelming consensus of modern science is that the earth is warming and that human agency plays an important though not necessarily sole role in this. Ignoring this science because it is a “theory” is simply to misunderstand science. (As a comparison: Scientists are constantly studying gravity. The most omnipresent force in the cosmos, gravity barely exists at subatomic levels and seems not to exist at all in black holes. Some scientists see gravity as not so much a force as the consequence of the curvature of spacetime. However, even though the nature of gravity is open to several theories, no one in their right mind would walk off a tall building because gravity is “only a theory.”) We dismiss or minimize science at our own peril.

The importance of taking responsibility for our planet and its future (and ours) was the opportunity for an extraordinary exercise in ecumenical cooperation — which speaks, I believe, to part of CNEWA’s mission of encouraging understanding and fostering dialogue. On 24 May 2015, Pope Francis published the encyclical “Laudato Si’ ” (the opening words of the “Canticle of Creation” of St. Francis of Assisi). The opening of the encyclical repeatedly mentions Bartholomew, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, and the concerns which he and Pope Francis share concerning the health of the planet and its future. A Greek Orthodox theologian was part of the committee that helped Francis write the encyclical. The pope and patriarch have agreed to work together on this issue so that both Catholic and Orthodox can witness to its importance.

Francis lists the different forces which are threatening the planet. He mentions “Pollution, waste and a throwaway culture.” Although not mentioned by Francis, a good though terrifying example of this would be the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (aka Pacific Trash Vortex) which contains trash and plastics in various stages of decomposition. Conservative estimates see the vortex at 270,000 square miles — or roughly the size of Texas. Other measurements see it as large as Russia. This is environmental degradation on a massive scale but one which remains for all practical purposes “invisible” to most people. Francis and Bartholomew wish to change that.

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew make it very clear that this is not an issue merely for scientists or “tree huggers.” It is a moral challenge facing Christians everywhere. In the sixth chapter of “Laudato Si’ ” Francis develops the theme of “ecological education and spirituality.” He calls for a conversion of heart and action. A conversion from how we think of — or ignore — our environment, a conversion of how we use, consume and dispose of the goods of our world. Again and again in the encyclical Francis calls for an “integral ecology.” By this he means that responsibility for the environment is not something we do now and then, much less something we do only once a year on Earth Day. Rather, who we are as Christians and how we live our day to day lives must reflect our concern for the creation which has been entrusted to us by God.

We at CNEWA are often painfully aware of how people are impacted by the environment. Many of those we serve find their lives devastated by natural disasters and weather. For several years, for example, the monsoons in Ethiopia either never came or carried much less water than usual. The ensuing drought brought suffering, misery and, in some cases, death to those who had to live through it. Pollution and overfishing has threatened the livelihoods of many in south India whose lives depend on fishing. Environmentally-induced sicknesses affect the young and vulnerable in many places of the world where we work.

Earth Day and “Laudato Si’ ” are reminders — or, if necessary, wake up calls — that we as believers have a moral responsibility to remember that greed has never been a virtue, that the unjust hording of wealth and resources has never been moral that we are called by God to take care of our planet.



Tags: Catholic Environment Pollution

26 April 2018
Greg Kandra




A Christian pilgrim gestures after dipping in the water at the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud on the Jordan River near the West Bank city of Jericho. Israel is in control of the area and is working with Halo Trust to remove land mines near the baptismal site. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)



Tags: Middle East Christians Jordan

26 April 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi Christians slowly rebuild their communities, following the destruction wrought by ISIS. (video: Rome Reports)

Assyrians in Iraq struggle to return to their homes (AINA) In Qaraqosh, Christians from the Nineveh Plain celebrated Easter in churches still bearing burns from ISIS’ attack. Little by little, they’re returning to their homes after their forced exile, though many do not yet feel it is safe to return…

Chaldean priest: The slow rebirth of Mosul after ISIS (AsiaNews) In Mosul and on the Nineveh Plain “life is slowly returning to normal,” says the Rev. Paul Thabit Mekko. Young university students, Christians and others, “every day make the journey” that separates them from their lodgings in the towns of the plain to the university, in the east of the metropolis of northern Iraq to follow courses and lessons…

Caritas India works with those at the bottom of society (Crux) As the Rev. Frederick D’Souza ends his tenure as the head of Caritas India, he says the Christian perspective of volunteering or giving ourselves in selfless service stems from Diakonia, “one of the subtle expressions of life of church in the society.” Father D’Souza stepped down from his role this week. Caritas India is the official development arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and is especially committed to serving the underprivileged sections of Indian society, especially those coming from socially excluded communities, including those at the bottom of India’s caste system, its indigenous Tribal community, and religious minorities…

Pope to host ecumenical prayer for peace in the Middle East (CNS) Pope Francis will travel to Bari, the southern Italian Adriatic port city, on 7 July to host a day of reflection and ecumenical prayer for peace in the Middle East. The pope intends to invite the heads of Christian churches and communities in the Middle East to join him, the Vatican said on 25 April. The Vatican did not release a list of those who would be invited…

Detained Iraqi immigrants are fighting ICE for their day in court (AINA) The American Civil Liberties Union is arguing against federal immigration authorities indefinitely detaining Iraqi nationals and attempting to deport them without trial. A Cincinnati federal appeals court is set to hear the ACLU’s arguments in the defense of about 100 Iraqi nationals detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids conducted in the Detroit area last June…



Tags: India Iraq Middle East Christians Iraqi Christians Ecumenism

25 April 2018
Greg Kandra




Students take notes during a class at St. Anne’s Secondary School in Boditi, Ethiopia. Discover how Catholic schools are changing young lives in the country — and young religious sisters are growing into The Habit of Learning — in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)



Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Catholic education

25 April 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Armenian opposition supporters take part in a rally in Yerevan on 25 April. (photo: Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images)

Armenians protest after talks with government collapse (Vatican News) Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of the Armenian capital after talks between the opposition and the acting prime minister were called off amid a deepening political crisis in the impoverished former Soviet nation. Wednesday’s rally underscores new uncertainty over the country’s political future after longtime leader Serzh Sargsyan stepped down earlier this week…

Armenian Catholicos calls on Turks to return churches and property (AsiaNews) For Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, the harm caused by the Armenian Genocide must be repaired on the basis laws and conventions. This can start with the return of thousands of “churches, monasteries, schools and centers, cultural and spiritual objects…”

Ukraine: the forgotten war (Vatican News) In an interview with U.N. News, U.N.D.P.’s Ukraine representative, Neil Walker, spoke about the current situation in Ukraine. He addressed continued targeting of Ukraine’s water supply, the ongoing violation of the cease-fire, and the reality of land mines…

As water scarcity worsens, ‘Day Zero’ becomes commonplace in India (Christian Science Monitor) Parched Cape Town, in South Africa, has managed to push back its “Day Zero” — an estimate of when taps in the city could run dry — to 2019 after successful water-saving efforts. But in India, “Day Zero” has come and gone for residents in many parts of the country, where taps failed long ago and people have turned instead to digging wells or buying water. An expanding population, growing demand for water from agriculture and industry, and poor management of water supplies have sent India’s groundwater to ever lower levels…

Nuns on cause of human trafficking: ‘Money, money, money!’ (Crux) “Money, money, money” was the motto repeated by religious sisters at a conference in Rome, pointing to the main cause of human trafficking, one of the most profitable businesses in the world. “I discovered in my research that what pushes the mob is greed and ignorance,” said Nigerian Sister Dorothy Ezeh, who works at the Catholic Secretariat in her African nation and helps women forced into prostitution…

Palestinian journalist shot at Gaza protest dies of wounds (Daily Star Lebanon) A Palestinian journalist shot two weeks ago by Israeli forces on the Gaza border has died, Israeli and Palestinian sources said Wednesday, the second journalist killed in a month of unrest. Ahmad Abu Hussein, 25, was shot on 13 April while covering protests along the Gaza border for a radio station based in the Palestinian enclave…



Tags: India Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia human trafficking

24 April 2018
Greg Kandra




Sister Anahid leads a primary school for displaced children in Dohuk. Read about the challenges Iraqi Christians faced when ISIS swept through Iraq — and how the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have ministered to the displaced — in A Letter From Iraq in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees

24 April 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinian protestors stand under their national flag near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis during ongoing demonstrations on the Gaza-Israel border on 22 April. (photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Slaying of Gaza youth draws condemnations of Israeli brutality (New York Times) He lay down among the tombstones in a cemetery beside his grandfather’s house, his cousin said, in what passes for child’s play in the grim reality of Gaza. Telling his cousin he hoped to be buried there, he scooped up piles of sand as if digging his own grave. The boy, 14-year-old Muhammad Ayoub, then sneaked off on Friday, disobeying his mother, to join the weekly protest along the fence dividing Gaza from Israel. Shot through the head by an Israeli sniper, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, he was buried in the same small graveyard that night. His death has intensified international attention and censure over Israel’s handling of the protests that began on 30 March, both because of his age and because it was caught on graphic video…

Ecumenical Patriarchate issues statement on Ukrainian autocephaly (Ecumenical Patriarchate) Following efforts by the Ukrainian government to promote the detachment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has issued a statement effectively declaring the discussion open. “Having received from ecclesiastical and civil authorities — representing millions of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians — a petition that requests the bestowal of autocephaly, [the Ecumenical Patriarchate has] decided to closely communicate and coordinate with its sister Orthodox Churches concerning this matter,” the statement said…

Ethiopian mega-dam causes stir in Egypt-Ethiopia relations (Christian Science Monitor) The filling of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam using water from the Nile River threatens Egypt’s agriculture industry even as it promises to boost Ethiopia’s hydropower industry. The dam calls into question who has the right to the waters of the Nile…

Armenia, Artsakh top leadership pay homage to genocide victims (Panorama.am) Senior officials of Armenia and Artsakh visited today Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, to pay tribute to the memory of innocent victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide commemorated on 24 April. President Armen Sarkissian of Armenia, Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan, Acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, National Assembly Speaker Ara Babloyan, Supreme Judicial Council Chairman Gagik Harutyunyan, as well as other top officials placed flowers at the memorial in memory of the Armenian Genocide victims. After the flower-laying ceremony, Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians offered prayers…

Iraqi musicians fight to revive ancient art of maqam (Al Monitor) Rooted in classical and colloquial Arab poetry and embracing a wide repertoire of melodies, the Iraqi maqam is considered a symbol of the musical history of Iraq and the Middle East. Inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008, the Iraqi maqam is still alive, whereas many Arab musical styles in the region have either disappeared or become Westernized over time…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Art

23 April 2018
Greg Kandra




A prisoner practices in the sewing workshop in Addis Alem Prison in Ethiopia. Learn about the remarkable ministry that is helping give young men hope in For I Was in Prison in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)



Tags: Ethiopia Catholic

23 April 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Cardinal Timothy Dolan visits a refugee camp just east of Zahleh, Lebanon. (photo: Michael La Civita)

An update on Lebanon from Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Cardinaldolan.org) When I put pen to paper ten days or so ago, writing my column for Catholic New York, I mentioned that I was on my way to Lebanon, and would report to you upon my return. Here goes . . . There we went, the three of us — Bishop William Murphy, retired Bishop of Rockville Centre; the Archbishop of Vancouver, Canada, Most Reverend Michael Miller, and me — as members of the board of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a nine-decade-old acclaimed but behind—the-scenes initiative of the church, to offer support to the fragile, small Eastern Catholic churches, centered mostly in the Mideast, but alive as well in Central and Eastern Europe, India, and Ethiopia (with members who have left their country of origin flourishing as well around the world)…

Syriac Orthodox Church calls for release of abducted archbishops (AINA) The Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut called for the release of two kidnapped archbishops Saturday on the fifth anniversary of their abduction in Syria. Gunmen abducted Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim in April 2013 while the two church leaders traveled to the northern Syrian city from the Turkish border…

Syrian state TV claims rebels are set to quit enclave near Damascus (Christian Today) Syrian state TV said on Saturday that rebels had agreed to surrender an enclave northeast of Damascus and go to opposition areas at the border with Turkey…

Church attacked by mob in Egypt after applying for government license (AINA) A church that recently applied for a government license in Egypt’s Beni Suef governorate has been attacked by villagers on the same day a committee came to inspect the building. World Watch Monitor has reported that the Virgin Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI Church in Beni Meinin was attacked on 14 April, just after inspectors from the Building Authority Committee came to visit the building. The church, which has 700 members, has been in use for a decade, and it had applied for an expansion of the building…

How Egypt’s stubborn poverty threatens Sisi’s grip (Christian Science Monitor) Despite his landslide reelection last month and renewed talk of constitutional amendments to make him president for life, Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s grip on power is far from absolute as he enters his second term. Analysts warn that the retired general is presiding over a much more uncertain Egypt than when he first rose to power in a 2013 coup…

Tug of war between Poroshenko and Hilarion for Ukrainian Orthodox (AsiaNews) Discussions have been multiplying for days on the attempt by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to force the hand of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, to completely detach the Orthodox Church still linked to the Russian Patriarchate from Moscow and form a single autocephalous Ukrainian jurisdiction, in which all the souls of local orthodoxy converge. According to a statement issued on 17 April by Metropolitan Hilarion, the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate “have no element to confirm or refute the existence of a negotiation between the President of Ukraine and the Patriarch of Constantinople”…

Armenia Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigns amid protests (Al Jazeera) Armenia’s newly elected prime minister has resigned following days of protests against his government, according to the politician’s website. In the past 10 days, thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in the capital, Yerevan…



Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Ukraine Armenia

20 April 2018
Greg Kandra




With Cardinal Timothy Dolan, CNEWA’s chair, recently speaking about his encounter with refugees in Lebanon — and chronicling this week’s pastoral visit to the region with some richly detailed videos — we thought it a good time to look back on a short piece we produced and posted three years ago.

Marlene Constantin, a CNEWA project manager in Beirut, described efforts to help Syrian refugees in her country, and did it with both poignancy and power.



Tags: Syria Refugees





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