16 October 2019
A shoe is seen amid broken glass at the site of a car bomb blast in Qamishli, Syria, on 11 October 2019. Church bells have been ringing in Qamishli and elsewhere in northeastern Syria, signaling the alarm to Christians and others of the ongoing Turkish military operation having a devastating humanitarian impact on civilians. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
Church bells have been ringing in Qamishli and elsewhere in northeastern Syria, signaling the alarm to Christians and others of the ongoing Turkish military operation that is having a devastating humanitarian impact on civilians.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have escaped,” said Yerado Krikorian, communications assistant for the Catholic aid agency Caritas Syria, which is working around the clock to aid those displaced by Turkish bombing and shelling.
“They need water where they have fled, and so Caritas is distributing badly needed water bottles and other essentials to those displaced in shelters throughout the Hassakeh region,” Krikorian told Catholic News Service by telephone from Damascus.
Caritas Syria is the country’s branch of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s international network of charitable agencies.
The A’louk water station, supplying water to nearly 400,000 people in Hassakeh, is out of service, according to UNICEF. The organization and Syrian government are is trying to get it fixed.
Meanwhile, UNICEF warns that some 70,000 children have been displaced since hostilities escalated on 7 October, but it expected that number to more than double as a result of ongoing violence. As of 15 October, the United Nations estimates that at least 160,000 people have been displaced, but 400,000 are in need of humanitarian aid as the Turkish military and its allied Syrian rebels, including Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, press deeper into northeastern Syria, battling Kurdish and Syriac Christian forces.
Christians and other religious minorities said they feel particularly vulnerable as Turkish artillery targeted a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Qamishli, the largest city in northeastern Syria. News reports said Christians, Ayeda Habsono and her husband, Fadi, were severely wounded in the attack that hit their house. Several other residents also were injured. Christians and Yazidis have been victimized by Islamic State militants in recent times.
Humanitarians complain that they are being denied safe and unimpeded access to civilians due to Turkish shelling and airstrikes as well as uncertainty as to who is in control over certain areas, forcing many aid organizations to relocate to northern Iraq. Hospitals, schools and churches have been bombed. They have also decried targeted killings of civilians, including that of a Kurdish female politician, by Syrian militants working with the Turks.
Observers point to the danger of NATO member Turkey using proxy forces to carry out atrocities, deemed as war crimes.
David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, condemned Turkey’s offensive, designed to
clear out the native population of Kurds, Christians and Yazidis to put 2 million Syrian refugees from other regions and now sheltering in Turkey into a so-called “safe zone.”
“The so-called safe zone is becoming a death trap,” Miliband warned. “And the winners of this are Islamic State and the Assad government.
“The northeast was one of the most stable parts of Syria,” he said, before U.S. President Donald Trump announced in early October that he was withdrawing U.S. troops.
Trump has since called for an immediate end to Turkey’s moves against the Kurds in Syria and has sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Middle East. The U.S. is “simply not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion of Syria any longer,” said Pence.
Alarmed by the military onslaught on “beloved and martyred” Syria, Pope Francis called on “all the actors involved and the international community” to commit themselves “sincerely to the path of dialogue to seek effective solutions” to the crisis.
The pope said on 13 October that dramatic news was emerging about the fate of the populations forced to abandon their homes because of military actions. “Among these populations there are also many Christian families,” he said.
16 October 2019
Tags: Syria Caritas
In this image from 2016, children in Aiga, Ethiopia, enjoy biscuits they received as part of a food program supported by Catholic Near East Welfare Association. To mark World Food Day, 16 October, Pope Francis issued a message calling on the world to “realize that what we are accumulating and wasting is the bread of the poor.”(photo: John E. Kozar, CNEWA)
Pope’s message for World Food Day: wasting the bread of the poor (Vatican News) Pope Francis sends a message to the FAO Director General, Qu Dongyu, for World Food Day, observed on 16 October, expressing his concern for the “distorted relationship between food and nutrition.” The pope begins his message by referring to the theme for this year’s World Food Day: “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World”. The Pope notes that “despite efforts made in recent decades, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is yet to be implemented in many parts of the world…”
Turkey urges Kurdish fighters to lay down their arms (The New York Times) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey called on Wednesday for Kurdish fighters battling his troops in northeastern Syria to lay down their weapons and withdraw from the border area “this very night.” Resisting Western pressure to halt the operation, Mr. Erdogan also requested international support for his country’s battle against Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists but who had been allied with the United States against the Islamic State…
A look inside Egypt’s most embattled minority, Christians in ’Garbage City’ (The New York Post) Enormous bags of trash litter the streets and fill every nook and cranny, and the ambient scent is correspondingly pleasant. Pictures of Coptic popes and Jesus and Mary cover the walls, often next to hand-painted scenes from Mecca. Emaciated cats lounge about. If any place epitomizes the decrepitude and magic of the Egyptian capital — presenting both qualities in equal and abundant measure — it is this place called Garbage City...
Heavy rainfall warning issued for Kerala (The Times of India) A low pressure formation in the Arabian Sea will bring intentness rains and thunderstorms to Kerala for the next couple of days…
Jerusalem opens natural spring, but not to Palestinians (Haaretz) Police allowed a natural spring in southern Jerusalem to be opened to visitors on Tuesday, but on the explicit condition that Palestinians not be allowed to enter the site…
15 October 2019
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Kerala Turkey
Rahel cares for her daughter, Lydia, in their home in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the current edition of ONE, Emeline Wuilbercq writes about Ethiopians Breaking Free from their addiction to khat, with help from the Catholic church. Here, she adds some background to the story.
In Ethiopia, it is not always easy to talk to women. They are rather reserved, sometimes secretive, and it takes time before building a relationship of trust.
In the countryside, as in the cities, their lives are hard: even though early marriages are forbidden, they still take place. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced. A lot of girls do not go to school because they have to help their family at home.
They face many challenges, but they keep it to themselves. When they meet foreign journalists, they do not necessarily want to confide in them during the first exchange.
But sometimes, the unexpected happens.
When I talked with Rahel (her name has been changed), I honestly did not expect to discover such a frank woman, with a strong personality, when I first met her in the Abune Andreas Girls’ Home boarding school in Dire Dawa.
I remember this cheerful woman who was trying to help me and my colleague, Petterik, find someone to help us in Harar. Her English was perfect, and she felt at ease conversing with us. Little did I know at that time that she would become the main subject for my story about khat addiction.
A few days later, when we returned from Harar to Dire Dawa, Petterik and I decided to call her again and she welcomed us to her new apartment. She immediately felt the urge — or need — to confide in us. Was it because she felt isolated from those around her or that she had not yet dared to speak to her neighbors since she moved in?
During our discussion, we learned that she never received the support she needed when she decided to separate from her husband, a man whose khat addiction was becoming too troublesome. He would keep spending money on the green leaves while his wife and daughter were struggling to make ends meet.
This was an added challenge as Rahel, a young orphan girl, had already struggled throughout her teenage years. But with the help of the local Catholic church, she was able to become the strong mother she is today.
Since her husband didn’t listen to her advice, she decided to temporarily separate from him, and to raise her beloved daughter alone.
On the day that we met, she was happy to talk with people who could understand her, as she considered Ethiopians to be too conservative. “Backwards,” she even said. I quickly understood why she was using this strong word.
Rahel told me that her friends had turned their backs on her; in Ethiopia, the fault for a broken marriage rarely comes from the husband, and some think she should have given him another chance before leaving the house. But the only thing that mattered to her was that her daughter could grow up in a healthy environment surrounded by loving people — even if losing her friends was the price she had to pay.
One can only admire Rahel’s journey and the sacrifice she has made for her daughter. I’m glad that she decided to speak out. I hope her friends will read her story to understand her decision.
Learn more about Rahel’s journey in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
15 October 2019
Following a Mass near Thrissur, India, pilgrims carry a statue of St. Mariam Thresia on 13 October 2019. She was among five people canonized by Pope Francis at the Vatican that day.
(photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
Among the five people canonized over the weekend, one was a religious sister from Kerala who founded a congregation in India.
From Vatican News:
A religious and mystic, Sister Mariam Theresia was born in Puthenchira, in southern India’s Kerala state, on April 26, 1876. Belonging to a once rich and noble family with extensive landed property, the future pioneer of the family apostolate grew up in piety and holiness under the loving guidance of her saintly mother, Thanda. In her intense love for God, the 8-year old girl gave herself up to austere, penance, fasting and prayer. She wanted to be conformed ever more to the likeness of the suffering Christ to whom she also consecrated her virginity at an early age.
In imitation of Jesus, she helped the poor, nursed the sick, visited and comforted the lonely people of her parish.
She was also blessed with the stigmata but kept it secret to avoid attention. She received several mystical gifts like prophecy, healing, an aura of light, sweet odor and frequently had ecstasies and levitations. Her entire existence was tormented by demons and she offered her sufferings for the remission of the sins of the world.
Thresia and three companions who joined her led a life of prayer and austere penance and continued to help families, visiting the sick, the poor and the needy irrespective of religion or caste. This ministry led her to establish the new Congregation of the Holy Family on 14 May 1914.
Sister Thresia died on 8 June 1926, at the age of 50, and was declared Blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2000.
Pope Francis in February authorized a decree recognizing a miracle through her intercession, which cleared her for sainthood, and in July the Pope decided on 13 October as the canonization day.
Since then, the sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Family have been preparing intensely for this great day, said Sister Udaya, the Superior General of the Congregation. In Rome for Sunday’s canonization, she explained to Vatican news that they are concentrating more on spiritual preparation and works of charity for the family than external preparation.
Hear an interview with Sister Udaya at the link.
15 October 2019
Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters raise the Syrian opposition flag at the border town of Tel Abyad, Syria, on 14 October. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Syriac Catholic patriarch pleads for peace in Syria (CNS) The patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church pleaded for “immediate and lasting peace in northeastern Syria and the preservation of innocent lives, especially for Christians, who are the original and founding component of Syria.” Celebrating Mass on 13 October in the patriarchal Church of the Virgin Mary in Rome in the presence of people uprooted over the years from Syria and Iraq, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, “We Christians of the East are neglected and abandoned by this world, which searches for its immediate material interests…”
Fighting in Syria displaces more than 100,000 (Vatican News) Turkish troops moved on Saturday to seize key highways that link towns in northeast Syria. It marks the 4th day of the Turkish offensive against Kurds living near the border in Syria. Turkey says its goal is to push back Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units at least 20 miles from the border. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization. At least 30 civilians have so far been reported killed in the violence. The United Nations said Saturday that at least 100,000 people have been driven from the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad alone, where the heaviest fighting is going on…
Indian archbishop, priest die in car accident in U.S. (Vatican News) Archbishop Dominic Jala of Shillong of north-east India’s Meghalaya state and the Rev. Mathew Vellankal, a 58-year old Indian-born priest of the Diocese of Oakland, died last week a road accident in California in the United States. Archbishop Jala was 68. Father Vellankal was driving the archbishop and another Indian priest, the Rev. Joseph Parekkatt, to Clearlake in California, when the tragedy took place. Their car was hit by a semi-truck in Colusa County…
Greek Church recognizes Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Radio Free Europe) An extraordinary meeting of the leadership of the Church of Greece decided on 12 October to recognize the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), making it the first of the Eastern Orthodox churches to take such a step. The Orthodox Times said the Greeks’ formal recognition will take place on 19 October in Thessaloniki, with Archbishop Ieronymos and the OCU’s Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine present...
Leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia meet to discuss dam standoff (Reuters) A long-running diplomatic standoff over building and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has heightened tensions between the two countries. Egypt worries that the dam will threaten its already scarce water supplies…
11 October 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Turkey Indian Bishops
Children enjoyed fun and games and much more at an annual summer camp in Armenia.
(photo: Catholic Ordinariate of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe)
While much of the world is getting ready for winter, some of our friends in Armenia this week shared with us this glimpse of summer.
Below is a video showing highlights of a summer camp that was supported, in part, by CNEWA.
As a report from the church puts it:
From June to August 2019, the Armenian Catholic Ordinariate of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe hosted about 833 participants in “Aghajanyan” Summer Camp in a wonderful campsite of Torosgyugh. The children come from Catholic communities of both Armenia and Georgia.
The report goes on to say the camp also welcomed children with disabilities. Daily activities included catechism classes, to “provide children with a solid foundation in a rapidly changing world of values and morals.” The camp also featured dance, handicrafts, language clubs and games.
The report explains just how important this project has become:
Every summer, our participants are living the dream of a place where everyone belongs and knows each other; becoming more self-confidence and reinventing themselves in new situations; feeling included with their peers in a caring community; lasting friendships and endless fun; trying new things and exploring new talents; and making forever memories.
CNEWA is proud to support this venture — and we’re pleased to share this video of highlights from a summer many young people will never forget.
11 October 2019
In this image from January, Pope Francis shakes hands with Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, during a private audience at the Vatican. The Ethiopian prime minister was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize on 11 October. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Ethiopia’s prime minister awarded Nobel Peace Prize (The New York Times) Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, for his work in restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea, ending a long stalemate between the two countries. Mr. Abiy, 43, broke through two decades of frozen conflict between his vast country, Africa’s second most populous, and Eritrea, its small and isolated neighbor. When he became prime minister of Ethiopia in 2018, he threw himself at a breakneck pace into reforms at home, and peace negotiations with the rebel-turned-dictator Isaias Afwerki, president of Eritrea…
Turkey claims hundreds of ’terrorists’ killed in Syria (Bloomberg) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would “open the doors” for 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey to seek shelter in Europe, should his country come under undue criticism. Erdogan’s threats on Thursday came a day after Turkish troops began a major incursion into northeastern Syria, drawing criticism from the U.S., many European nations and Arab states. The cross-border military offensive, code-named “Peace Spring,” resulted in deaths of hundreds of “terrorists” since it began on Wednesday, according to Turkey’s military…
Why strong monsoon rains are not good news for Indian farmers (India Today) India, one of the world’s biggest agricultural producers, experienced its heaviest monsoon rains in 25 years this year. While rain would normally cheer the agricultural heartland, the monsoon was erratic and has left many crops damaged…
The young women who share language in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Two years ago two women decided to try to expand their mutual circle of friends in Jewish and Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. They started a Facebook page where they proposed creating a women’s group in which Arab women would teach their Jewish counterparts Arabic and the Jewish women would teach the Arab women Hebrew…
10 October 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Turkey
A multirocket launcher fires in an unknown location on 9 October 2019, in this still image from a video. Turkish warplanes have begun attacking northeastern Syria, causing widespread panic among Christian and other religious communities caught up in the aerial bombardments.
(photo: CNS/Turkish Defence Ministry via Reuters)
Turkish bombing causes panic about Christian community (CNS) Turkish warplanes have begun attacking northeastern Syria, causing widespread panic among Christian and other religious communities caught up in the aerial bombardments. ”Christians and others are extremely worried,” Syriac Christian political leader Bassam Ishak told the Catholic News Service by phone on 9 October. “The Turkish bombing seems designed to push people out of their towns, if, in fact, they manage to escape alive.” Ishak heads the Syriac National Council. A graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, he is also a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Democratic Council…
Archbishop of Aleppo condemns Turkish offensive in northeast Syria (Vatican News) The news on Wednesday afternoon that Turkish armed forces and Syrian rebel allies had launched a military attack “east of the Euphrates” has raised fears of a worsening humanitarian crisis and more civilian victims. In an interview with SIR news agency, Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart said he fears “a slaughter and many innocent deaths…”
Pope prays after synagogue attack in Germany (Vatican News) Before concluding the Wednesday evening session in the Synod Hall, Pope Francis prayed for victims of the attack on the synagogue of Halle, in Germany. Two people died and several bystanders were injured in the attack, which took place on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur…
IDF nears completion of new Gaza border fortifications (The Times of Israel) Israel is nearing completion of new defense works being constructed on the Gaza border in response to weekly border riots, threats from anti-tank missiles and other terror attacks, according to a Channel 13 report broadcast on Wednesday. The project includes defenses against missiles and improved sniper posts, which have been better fortified, placed higher up and in more strategic locations…
9 October 2019
Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey Jews
In this image from June, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of Stamford, Connecticut, in front of altar with book, concelebrates the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States have appealed to seminarians to identify candidates for the priesthood who can be “true missionaries and pastors.”
The appeal came in a September letter from the six bishops of the Metropolia of Philadelphia, which covers much of the U.S. It discussed some of the challenges and opportunities facing the Ukrainian Catholic Church and outlined the “spiritual and pastoral expectations of candidates to the priesthood.”
The bishops said parishes throughout the metropolia “will need a substantial replenishment of its clergy over the coming years.”
As an example, they cited the Philadelphia Archeparchy’s needs: 15 new priests in the next five years “to serve its faithful adequately and respond to their needs.”
“We are not looking for workers to simply accomplish a task or fulfill a plan, but for true missionaries and pastors who will care for the faithful with a willingness even to sacrifice their lives for them, from love of God and neighbor,” the bishops wrote.
The Metropolia of Philadelphia includes the Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the eparchies of Stamford, Connecticut, St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio, and St. Nicholas in Chicago.
Signing the letter were Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak and Auxiliary Bishops John Bura and Andriy Rabiy of the Philadelphia Archeparchy; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of Stamford; Bishop Bohdan J. Danylo of the St. Josaphat Eparchy; and Bishop Venedykt Aleksiychuk of the St. Nicholas Eparchy.
In the archeparchy and three eparchies, 185 active priests serve in ministry, according to a church spokesman. That includes 48 priests in Philadelphia, 59 in Stamford, 37 in Parma and 41 in Chicago.
The bishops said they remain committed to serving the faithful in the Ukrainian Catholic Church despite dwindling numbers. The letter cited how the number of parishioners has declined from more than 250,000 in the 1960s to 25,000 today.
The letter called for a widespread effort to rebuild the Ukrainian Catholic Church “one person at a time.”
“We need pastors who are ready to heal, inspire and rejuvenate, who, through their sermons and example, will give clear guidance to the conflicted postmodern person and will proclaim ‘the message of reconciliation,’“ the bishops wrote, citing St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.
The leaders said the church’s priorities will focus on spreading the word of God, evangelization and catechization. Special emphasis will be made to appeal to youth and young adults through “creativity from the pastor and the ability to address -- persuasively but serenely -- deep and difficult questions of the present day.”
“Answering the appeal of Pope Francis, we should and will go outside the gates of our church buildings. A shepherd should follow the scent of his sheep, even those who are now outside the fold,” the letter said, citing the “millions” of people within the territory of the metropolia who are “unchurched, do not know God, do not enjoy the support of community.”
The bishops called for “team-based” ministry to carry out the important work ahead.
In appealing for priest candidates, the bishops said they were not seeking people “to improve their material status” nor those “with personal or family motivations, rather than the priority of evangelization.”
The task facing future priests will be difficult, the bishops wrote.
“A commitment to serve in our church must be a commitment for the long haul,” they said. “It is not for those who are quickly discouraged or disillusioned. True service to the flock entrusted to a pastor requires dedication and endurance -- an understanding the realities of the community you serve, in all their unvarnished truth.”
9 October 2019
Tags: Vocations (religious) Ukrainian Catholic Church
Turkish troops have reportedly begun crossing into Syria. (video: Bloomberg/YouTube)
Kurds mobilize in Syria as Turkey is poised for attack (AP) The Kurdish-led civilian administration in northeastern Syria issued a “general mobilization” call along the Syrian border with Turkey on Wednesday as Ankara poised for an imminent invasion of the area in the latest major escalation in the war-ravaged country…
India’s Christians, Muslims face higher persecution (NCR) While most reported cases of persecution are against the country’s Muslim population, Christians have also come under attack. Jesuit Fr. Stanislaus Alla, theologian and professor at the Vidyajyoti College of Theology in Delhi, told NCR that the church in India was “paying the price for standing up for human rights.” Alla was on a trip to the United States to present a paper on public health in South Asia…
Syrian refugees issued more than 153,000 work permits in Jordan (The Jordan Times) The Ministry of Labor has issued over 153,000 permits for Syrian refugees since the beginning of 2016, a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official said. More than146,000 work permits were issued to male refugees and over 7,000 were issued to female Syrian refugees, according to UNHCR Spokesperson Lilly Carlisle. ”Male Syrian refugees work mostly in the agriculture and construction fields while women prefer to work in home-based activities,” Carlisle told The Jordan Times…
Ethiopia’s prime minister emerges as Nobel favorite (Reuters) The deal with Eritrea won Abiy Ahmed international plaudits. He is the bookmakers’ favorite to win a Nobel Peace Prize on Friday after climate activist Greta Thunder. But Abiy’s unpredictable style annoys some Ethiopians…
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey Persecution