26 July 2018
In this image from last summer, a displaced Iraqi boy fills a bottle with water in Jada, Iraq. Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako has issued a letter to his flock, asking them to promote harmony in their country. (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters) Caption
Iraqi cardinal appeals for citizens to come together (Vatican News) Recently appointed Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako issued an appeal in a heart-felt letter to the citizens of Iraq this week. In his letter he asks for help from the people in order to promote harmony, unity and partnership in their country…
Death toll from ISIS attack in Syria climbs to 216 (AP) The death toll from coordinated attacks by Islamic State fighters on a usually peaceful southern Syrian city and surrounding countryside has climbed to 216, a local health official said Thursday, in the worst violence to hit the area since the country’s conflict began. Mass funerals were held in the city of Sweida on Thursday, a day after the wave of attacks that began in the early hours of the mourning and lasted for hours. The city was the scene of several suicide bombings, including one at a busy vegetable market that left a scene of devastation and set in motion the coordinated assaults…
Caste bias alleged at Indian relief camp (The Hindu) A group of people belonging to the Dalit community have alleged that they faced caste discrimination at a relief camp at Pallippad panchayat in Alappuzha district. Fifty-six members of the community, belonging to 23 families, registered a complaint with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and District Collector S. Suhas, stating that members of the Christian community had humiliated them at a relief camp functioning at Anjilimoodu L.P. School. Mr. Suhas has ordered a probe into the complaint…
Thousands of Syrian refugees want to remain in Lebanon (The Daily Star) At least 30,000 Syrian refugees who fought against the Syrian army hope to remain in Lebanon, a representative of Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday…
Russian Orthodox patriarch hopes anniversary will bring peace to Ukraine (RT) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed hope that the forthcoming 1030th anniversary of Christianization of the Kievan Rus, and planned celebrations for the event, will help to overcome strife in Ukraine…
25 July 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS
A woman participates in an outdoor prayer session at the Trippadam Center for Women. To learn more about this institution and the women it benefits, read A Refuge to Mend and Grow, from the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
25 July 2018
Tags: India Sisters Health Care Women
The Musa family fled Bashiqa, Iraq, in 2014 in the face of ISIS attacks. The family lived in Dohuk, Iraq, for three years. (photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Relief Services)
In Iraq, the threat to Assyrians remains (AINA) Thanks to the generosity of donors around the world, Christians are returning from internal exile, determined to keep their faith alive, despite extraordinary challenges. But we must not be complacent about the fundamental political problems threatening the existence of a religiously, racially and culturally diverse Iraq…
Priest in Gaza: ‘people living in fear of a new war’ (Vatican News) As tension continues to erupt in violent clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza, the living conditions in the Gaza Strip continue to deteriorate. A Catholic Parish Priest speaks of the desperation of the people, of the dwindling Christian community, and of the widespread fear of a possible new war…
Deadly attacks hit Syrian villages, city of Suweida (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS militants killed about 100 people in a series of attacks on government-held parts of southwestern Syria Wednesday, official sources said…
Award given to priest and builder of bridges between Islam and Christianity (AsiaNews) The Rev. Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and internationally renowned scholar, is this year’s recipient of the special award of the Stephanus Foundation for Persecuted Christians. The Foundation, through its chairperson Michaela Koller, decided to honor Father Samir because of his service to the spiritual heritage of Arab Christians…
24 July 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Interreligious
A Jahalin Bedouin man and his son are seen in a tent in Khan al Ahmar, West Bank, on 17 June. Israel's Supreme Court ruled in May in favor of demolishing the village, home to about 190 Jahalin Bedouin people. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
U.N. denounces grave ‘assaults’ on fundamental rights of Palestinian people (U.N. News) From arbitrary detentions and deliberate deprivation, to attacks against civilians and forced displacements, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed “acute concerns” on Monday over the current human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…
Advancing technology unearths ‘lost city of ancient Israel’ (Al Monitor) A team of Israeli and American researchers is using cutting-edge technology to explore and document an obscure and inaccessible but increasingly significant archaeological site in central Israel…
Copts celebrate first liturgy in new church in seven years (Sight) Seven years after their previous church was closed by local authorities because of “security reasons”, the Coptic community in the Egyptian village of Kom El-Loufy, 250 kilometres south of Cairo, held a first Divine Liturgy in their new church on Sunday. The 1,600 Copts from the village in Minya governorate were marking the completion of the first stage of building of their church, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Martyr Abanoub al Nahisi…
Joy as two patriarchates of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church unite (Borkena) Sources close to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church say the Holy Synods in Ethiopia and the United States reached agreement to unite which may mean that Abune Merkorios could return home soon after over two decades. An agreement has been reached which means that there will no longer be two patriarchates hereafter; the two holy synods will unite to form a single one which was the case for millennia before TPLF took control of power in Addis Ababa in 1991…
Israel shoots down Syrian fighter jet over Golan Heights (Al Jazeera) The Israeli army said it shot down a Syrian fighter jet that allegedly crossed into the occupied Golan Heights as heavy fighting continued between the Syrian military and the last rebel holdouts in the country’s southwest…
Christians in India observe Martyrdom Day (UCAN India) Christians of different denominations across India remembered those killed for their faith with prayers on 22 July. Christian groups, mostly Pentecostal and Protestant churches, observed Indian Christian Martyrdom Day praying for those killed mostly by Hindu hardliners…
23 July 2018
Tags: India Egypt Israel United Nations Ethiopian Orthodox Church
In this 2016 photo, the Al Ahli Arab Hospital provides care in Gaza. ONE magazine published a letter from the hospital’s director in the pages of its Summer 2016 edition. (photo: CNEWA)
Writing for National Catholic Reporter, Patrick Whelan, a pediatric specialist at UCLA, and lecturer at the Keck School of Medicine, describes the medical crisis he witnessed on a recent visit to Gaza:
Traveling to Tel Aviv, I sought out a pharmacy to obtain for my son, Olivier, some melatonin, a natural supplement that helps with jet lag and is widely available without a prescription in the United States. I discovered that, though it has no adverse side effects, melatonin requires a prescription in Israel that must come from an Israeli doctor; the pharmacist would not provide it to a physician like me from abroad.
This level of concern for our own health stands in stark contrast to the devastating health effects I observed during a June 7-8 visit to Gaza where residents have been living under severe Israeli economic sanctions for the past 11 years.
It is only with extreme difficulty that residents can enter or leave Gaza, and only with the permission of the Israeli government. The Erez Crossing is a looming building that once processed thousands of people traveling every day to work in Israel. But when my son and I arrived just before 9 a.m. on a Thursday, for an hour-long trip through Israeli customs, the terminal was virtually deserted.
Later, some Israeli friends told us that Palestinians had been replaced with other day laborers — Filipina women staffing hospitals and nursing homes; Romanian and Chinese workers staffing numerous construction sites; and Thai farmworkers being brought in to pick crops. Meanwhile, unemployment in Gaza is more than 40 percent, with 80 percent of the population receiving some kind of international economic assistance.
The Gaza side of the Erez Crossing was very bleak, with high concrete walls topped by barbed wire. We were bussed from the crossing to a security checkpoint with uniformed men from the Palestinian Authority. There we met our host, Nahed Wehaidi, the Gaza director of American Near East Refugee Aid — a relief organization founded after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War to provide aid for refugees in the Middle East. His negotiations allowed us through a third checkpoint, maintained just a few yards away by Hamas, the political party that is the de facto government of Gaza.
The purpose of our visit was to tour four hospitals and clinics, accompanied by a group of seven public health doctors and aid workers from American Near East Refugee Aid.
The first visit was Al Ahli Arab Hospital — the only Christian hospital in Gaza — first built in 1882 and operated for 30 years until 1982 by the Southern Baptist Convention in the U.S. The hospital and its clinics are currently sponsored by the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
The head of Ahli Arab, Suhaila Tarazi, who is from South Carolina, along with Jehad al Hesi, chief of pediatrics, spent an hour telling us about the malnutrition and related illnesses that they had been treating. The halls were packed with mothers and children. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East estimates that the number of daily medical consultations at their own 22 facilities across Gaza is 113 patients per doctor per day.
Every provider we met seemed overwhelmed. Their distress is in part a result of a January decision by the Trump administration to withhold $65 million of a $125 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. According to Tarazi, Ahli Arab recently had to drop the number of patient beds from 80 to 50 because of a lack of resources.
We visited an outpatient clinic in Gaza City — sponsored by the Middle East Council of Churches — that focuses on prenatal care, family planning and early childhood development. It was packed with women in dark-colored abayat and veils. Issa Tarazi, the executive director, took us to meet a group of girls who were in a program to help diminish the psychosocial impact of post-traumatic stress related to the conflicts. Thirty smiling teenagers insisted on performing a dance for us, to very loud music, proudly showing off their preparation.
The children of Gaza, Tarazi told us, are still suffering the consequences of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict that, according to UNICEF, killed more than 500 children and injured almost 3,400 — nearly a third with permanent disability. More than 1,500 children were orphaned. Tarazi said things got worse during two months of weekly protests that began in March against the Israeli blockade, with at least 125 people killed and thousands more injured. The Israeli Defense Forces have publicly stated that they are shooting to wound rather than to kill. A June 9 story in the Los Angeles Times documented the wave of lower extremity amputations of young people as a result of gunshot wounds to the legs that had overwhelmed medical facilities — which lack the kind of vascular surgery capability to which gunshot victims have access in most trauma centers in the United States.
At the Ard El Insan Clinic, the chief of pediatrics, Adnan al Wahaidi, said he had evaluated two children just that morning with rickets, a form of malnutrition almost never seen today in the U.S. He introduced me to one of the children — Jamal, a 2-year-old boy with the worst bowed legs of vitamin D deficiency that I had ever seen. Jamal waddled around one of the exam rooms, kicking a ball to the best of his ability, which al Wahaidi artfully returned.
One of the doctors told me they had seen many children with bullet wounds to their lower extremities — with treatment limited to cleansing the wounds, sterile bandages, antibiotics and only ibuprofen and Tylenol for pain relief. One couldn’t help but notice bullet holes on the walls of the clinic, which doctors described as being “on the front lines” during the Israeli Defense Forces’ invasions of December 2008 and July 2014.
At Al Quds Hospital, a major trauma unit run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, we were ushered into the palatial office of hospital chief Khalil Abou Foul, a trauma surgeon trained in Libya. A delegation of their doctors sat with us while he explained what the hospital was up against.
He took us into the operating areas and we all donned surgical boots for a visit to the cardiac catheterization laboratory. The doctors were very proud of all their equipment and the chief of interventional cardiology came out of a procedure to shake hands and tell us about their clinical capabilities — for people with insurance. He said they sometimes had to plan a month in advance for certain procedures in order to procure the necessary supplies; he had recently missed an international meeting because he could not get an exit pass in time.
Our last stop was to 1,600-year-old Orthodox St. Porphyrius Church, named for a fourth century bishop who demolished pagan temples and introduced Christianity. The caretaker of the church showed us a baptismal font made of white stone that dated to the construction of the church around the year 402, in which generations of his own family had been baptized. But the number of Christians has been falling as the level of distress in Gaza has been rising, he said.
Gaza City was itself a prosperous port in the spice trade, dating long before the time of Jesus. Now, with no functioning stoplights, hundreds of horse and donkey-drawn carriages driven by children, and only four to six hours of electricity available every day, there was a sense of disorder and economic desperation everywhere we went.
The most striking thing to me was the lack of hostility toward Israel in our conversations with the doctors, nurses, and the staff of that ancient church. Contemplating our visit, reconciliation seemed not only possible but essential.
For now, my inability to obtain melatonin from an Israeli pharmacy pales in comparison with all the reasons that Palestinian parents in Gaza have for losing sleep at night.
An infant receives a checkup at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital. (photo: CNEWA)
23 July 2018
Iraqi youth pose with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III on 22 July during a gathering at Our Lady of Light convent in Faytroun, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Catholic patriarchate)
First international convention of young Syriac Catholics held in Lebanon (Fides) The words of Jesus’ invitation, “Come and See,” are the guiding thread of the first Syriac Youth International Convention, which took place in Lebanon this weekend. The conference, said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, was intended as an opportunity to share with the young Syriac Catholics from all over the world the hope “for the renewal of the Christian community in the Holy Spirit…”
Maronite Patriarch: Law on Jewish state excludes Christians and Muslims (AsiaNews) The new Israeli law defining the country as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is unacceptable, says Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Peter, because of its exclusion of Christians and Muslims, among others. The church leader denounced the law as “ignoble, anti-democratic and anti-pluralist…”
Essential services on verge of shutdown in Gaza as emergency fuel set to run out (U.N. News) Supplies of emergency fuel provided by the United Nations for critical facilities in Gaza are being fast depleted, a senior U.N. relief official there warned on Sunday. “At least one hospital has been forced to shut down for a few hours, and services are being dramatically reduced at others,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory…
Indian state accused of harassing Christians (UCAN India) A Catholic leader has sought Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to stop harassment of Christians after Jharkhand state ordered a probe into the funding of more than 80 Christian organizations. Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which has run Jharkhand’s government since 2014, has been accused of moving against the Christian community, with police arresting nuns, priests and lay Christians on trumped-up charges…
East African bishops applaud Eritrea, Ethiopia peace process (CNS) The bishops of East Africa praised the peace efforts that brought an end to the two-decade war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In a statement 22 July, the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, known by the acronym AMECEA, said the steps taken by the leaders of both countries “show that Africans have the wisdom to solve their own problems amicably…”
20 July 2018
Tags: India Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Eritrea
In the town of Aiga, Ethiopia, children receive nutritionally dense biscuits from a school meal program. Read more about how CNEWA is serving others — and serving the Gospel — in Msgr. John E. Kozar’s ‘Focus’ feature in the current edition of ONE.(photo: John E. Kozar)
20 July 2018
In this image from 2017, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres smiles as he visits with Syrian refugee women at Zaatari camp near Mafraq, Jordan. Jordan closed its border this year and refused to admit any more refugees, sparking a dramatic public backlash. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Jordan shut out refugees — and then saw a backlash (The Washington Post) Over the past month, fighting in southern Syria has displaced more than 300,000 people — the most at any one time in Syria’s nearly seven-year civil war. More than 60,000 of these Syrians fled south, hoping to find safety in Jordan. But Jordan’s government closed the border and refused to let them in, claiming the country has already done enough to help Syrian refugees. Many Jordanians reacted angrily to the government’s position — #OpenTheBorders became a top trending Twitter hashtag in the country as people called the decision shameful and vowed to share their bread with the refugees…
India court steps in to try and contain mob violence (UCANews.com) India’s Supreme Court has asked parliament to introduce a new law to curb a dramatic spike in mob attacks and lynching incidents. The top court on 17 July directed states to set up special or fast-tracked courts to conduct trials of lynching perpetrators. It also wanted lower courts to hand down the maximum punishment for crimes involving mob attacks…
Israeli law declares the country a ’nation-state of the Jewish people’ (The New York Times) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has long demanded that the Palestinians acknowledge his country’s existence as the “nation-state of the Jewish people.” On Thursday, his governing coalition stopped waiting around and pushed through a law that made it a fact. In an incendiary move hailed as historic by Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition but denounced by centrists and leftists as racist and anti-democratic, Israel’s Parliament enacted a law that enshrines the right of national self-determination as “unique to the Jewish people” — not all citizens…
Italian bishops warn against culture of fear that rejects migrants (Vatican News) A statement released on Thursday by the Italian Bishops’ Conference warns against a current climate of fear in the country that has led to a political crackdown against immigration. The statement, entitled “Migrants, from fear to welcome” notes that we are becoming accustomed to images of an ongoing tragedy in which so many die or witness death during their journeys of hope…
Artist brings Jewish figures to life with paper (The Jerusalem Post) King David, a crusader queen, and Suleiman the Magnificent—these are just some of the ancient figures that have been brought to life by Karen Sargysan. The famed Dutch-Armenian artist spent months creating a series of colorful aluminum sculptures of a slew of historical and biblical characters who helped shape Jerusalem’s history. They are on display at “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” a new exhibition at the Tower of David Museum, which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem…
19 July 2018
Tags: India Jerusalem Jordan Migrants
An Orthodox woman holds a portrait of Czar Nicholas II during a 2012 gathering in Moscow. The secretary-general of the Russian bishops' conference urged Catholics to remember the 1918 murder of Nicholas II and his family with "penance and reflection," while suggesting Catholics could participate in future commemorations. (photo: CNS/Maxim Shemetov, Reuters)
The secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference urged Catholics to remember the 1918 murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family with “penance and reflection,” while suggesting Catholics could participate in future commemorations.
“The killing of this family was one of the first steps on a path of mass murder, forced labor, religious persecution and genocide which led on through the Stalinist period,” said Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general.
“Although not officially engaged in these centenary events, the Catholic Church must do something -- so the best is to reflect deeply, in a spirit of penance, on all those tragic times.”
The priest spoke after 100,000 people — led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill — attended a pilgrimage and religious observances in Yekaterinburg.
In a 19 July Catholic News Service interview, Msgr. Kovalevsky said the country’s million-strong Catholic Church had not been involved in past commemorations of the czar and his family, nor in their canonization by the Orthodox Church.
However, he added that Nicholas II’s murdered entourage had included at least one Catholic, the Latvian-born footman Alexei Yegorovich Trupp, and said he believed members of Yekaterinburg’s Catholic parish had taken part in the 12-17 July events.
“We should remember Nicholas II had voluntarily given up his throne the previous year, so it’s more historically accurate to mourn the killing of a family than the death of a czar,” Msgr. Kovalevsky said.
“We also follow quite different procedures when it comes to proclaiming saints, so the Orthodox Church’s approach to these matters is its own internal affair.”
Nicholas II, who abdicated in February 1917, was shot by Bolshevik captors in a basement while under house arrest at Yekaterinburg in the early hours of 17 July 1918. The empress and five children also were killed.
The victims, finished off with bayonets, were burned and doused with acid before being dumped in a pit at Ganina Yama, 14 miles from the city, where their presumed remains were exhumed in 1991.
All seven were later reinterred in St. Petersburg’s Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Cathedral and canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2000.
An Orthodox church was dedicated in 2004 on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the killings took place.
19 July 2018
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church
In this 2014 file photo, a man prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Sunday 22 July, Jews around the world quietly observe Tish’ah B’Av (“the ninth of Av”), Av being the fifth month of the Hebrew Calendar, corresponding to July/August. Tish'ah B’Av is a day of fasting and mourning for Jews. It commemorates primarily the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem. But, as we’ll see, the events being remembered can have meaning and significance to the wider world, as well— particularly in places CNEWA serves.
According to the biblical text (2 Kings 25:8 ff.), “in the fifth month on the seventh day of the month (587 BC)…Nebuzaradan, commander of the guard, an officer of the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. He burned down the Temple of Yahweh, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem.” It was an unparalleled disaster for the Israelites, bringing the end of the almost 500-year dynasty of David, the end of his city Jerusalem, and the destruction of the Temple which Solomon built.
In Numbers 13:25-14:38 we find the story of the spies sent to reconnoiter Canaan by Moses. Upon their return, all but two spies give a very negative—and false—report on the possibilities of entering the Promised Land. On hearing the negative report, the people revolted against Moses and God and were punished. According to an ancient Jewish commentary on the biblical text, the Israelites wailed and complained against God for no reason. It was—according to the tradition—on the 9th of Av. God the punished them by making that a day on which they would really have something to mourn.
For Jews, the 9th of Av has become a day which commemorates all the tragedies which have come upon them. Although few of these events actually occurred on the 9th of Av, many have occurred during the months of July/August in the calendar. To name just a few:
· July 70 AD: the Romans entered and destroyed Jerusalem and, with it, the Second Temple, built in the time of Ezra and greatly expanded by Herod the Great (d. 4 BC).
· 4 August 135 AD: the Romans at Betar killed almost half a million people who had been part of the rebellion of Bar Kochba.
· 2 August 1941: the Nazi party approved “The Final Solution,” which brought about the extermination of six million Jews in Europe.
On the 9th of Av the biblical book of Lamentations is read in the synagogue. Jews fast for 25 hours, sit on the ground or low stools and avoid any type of entertainment. Although many non-Jews might not be as aware of the observance of Tish?ah B’Av as they are of Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, it is nonetheless an observance with profound meaning for the Jewish people.
But perhaps the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in 587 BC and the Second Temple in 70 AD can have meaning for all people of faiths.
Without taking away from the poignancy of the Jewish tragedies observed on Tish?ah B’Av, we are reminded of the violence against sacred places around the world—and more importantly the persons who hold them sacred: the Buddhist statues in Bamyan, in Afghanistan; the bombing of churches in the Middle East; the destruction of Yazidi sacred sites and on and on.
The lands in which CNEWA works are no strangers to violence against places of worship and the worshippers who hold them sacred. Tish?ah B’Av, a sacred and solemn day to Jews, can serve as a reminder to all people of faiths. As long as one group of believers is the object of oppression and violence, no believer can be secure—and none can afford to be indifferent.
Tags: Jerusalem Israel