13 September 2018
In this image from August, Muslim pilgrims touch Kaaba's wall and pray at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
In countries where CNEWA serves, there are sizable—often majority—Muslim communities. And, of course, in the Holy Land, there is a majority Jewish community.
But in a rare coincidence, both Islam and Judaism are observing their respective New Years this week.
On 10 September, Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, literally “the head of the year,” and the following day Muslims observed the first of Muharram, the New Year in the Muslim calendar. Although Muslims and Jews (to some extent also Christians) follow a lunar calendar of twenty-nine days, Jews and Christians in different ways “correct” the lunar calendar to keep it in line with the 365-day solar calendar. Muslims, however, do not and the Muslim calendar year is 10-11 days shorter than the “corrected” calendar used by Jews and Christians. As a result, festivals like Ramadan, the Breaking of the Fast and New Year move “backwards” through the calendar commonly used. Thus 1 Muharram fell on 14 October in 2015 and will fall on 10 August in 2021. It is unusual, therefore, that 1 Muharram and Rosh Hashanah occur so close to each other.
There is some interesting history behind all this. The Islamic calendar — and hence, New Year — is calculated from the Hijra or emigration/flight of Muhammad and the Muslim community in 622 from a hostile Mecca to Medina where the community would thrive. After enduring more than a decade of often violent persecution in Mecca, Muhammad and his community were invited by the people of Medina, an oasis city over 200 miles north of Mecca, to move there and for Muhammad to govern the city. The story of the Hijra is tense and thrilling. As the Muslims were leaving the city, Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s son-in-law, disguised himself as Muhammad in the Prophet’s bed to throw off those who were trying to kill him. Muhammad and his faithful companion Abu Bakr hid from the pursuers in a cave for three days before finally beginning the trip and arriving safely in Medina.
It is important to understand the relationship between the Hijra and the Muslim New Year. It is estimated that the Hijra took place in June of 622. The 1 Muharram after the Hijra is the beginning of the Muslim calendar, which is abbreviated AH (anno hegira). One of the four “sacred months” in the Muslim calendar, Muharram is second in holiness only to the month of Ramadan. Muharram is traditionally a time of non-violence. War, fighting and even hunting is forbidden during the sacred month.
The 10th day of Muharram is Ashura, which for Shi’ite Muslims is a day of great mourning, recalling the murder of Hussein ibn Ali, the Prophet’s grandson, in 680. Ashura is extremely important for Shi’ites who observe the martyrdom of Hussein with re-enactments of his death and mourning rituals. Sunnis do not observe Ashura in this way and in some parts of the world this leads to conflict between the Shi’ite and Sunni communities.
Both Judaism and Islam observe their particular New Years in different ways, with different ceremonies, with rich and varied meanings for those communities. However, the New Year is always a time for looking back and looking forwards — the Roman god Janus, for whom January is named, is portrayed with two faces, one looking forward, the other backwards.
It is a time for remembering the past and correcting what needs to be corrected and a time for looking forward in faith and hope for the year to come.
13 September 2018
Tags: Muslim Islam Jews
Religious sisters, and the children in their care, greet Msgr. Kozar during a visit to India. (photo: John E. Kozar)
A few years ago, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar offered this heartfelt tribute to religious sisters:
Sometimes, they are the first evangelizers who share the Good News of Jesus; sometimes they are the mother figure a child has never known; sometimes they are a nurse at a clinic, not only dispensing medicine and bandages, but healthy measures of tender loving care; sometimes they offer a cup of rice to a starving mother and child; sometimes they welcome a refugee. And always, they are present. In the midst of war, famine, insurrection, terrorism, ignorance, abandonment or any form of persecution or oppression, the sisters offer their heroic witness. Make no mistake: They are heroes.
Read more about these heroes in the Spring 2013 edition of ONE.
13 September 2018
Tags: India Sisters
Syrians have begun to flee Idlib, fearing an anticipated attack, as the UN reports the country is facing unprecedented levels of displacement. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
UN: Syria facing unprecedented levels of displacement (Al Jazeera) Syria has witnessed unprecedented levels of internal displacement not seen throughout the seven-year conflict with more than one million forced to flee, a UN report said on Wednesday. The 24-page report by the UN Commission of Inquiry detailed the ordeal many Syrians have faced in the first six months of 2018…
Syrian refugees facing harsh winter (UNHCR) Overall, there are more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees registered across the region — 2.6 million of whom are children — driven from their homes by a conflict now in its eighth year. And the needs of families are great. Without support people resort to desperate measures such as going without adequate shelter, healthcare or education…
Violent protests hit Basra, Iraq (Reuters) Violent protests in the Iraqi city of Basra have all but ended U.S.-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s chances of winning a second term and shattered Washington’s hopes of shaping the next government. Fifteen people have been killed protesting against power cuts, polluted water, poor services and perceived corruption in Iraq’s second city, many of them in clashes with security forces…
Economic losses from Kerala floods top $4 billion (Asia Insurance Review) Total economic losses from floods in the southern state of Kerala have been tentatively estimated at upwards of INR300bn ($4.25bn), as direct damage and business interruption costs are still being assessed, according to an Aon catastrophe report..
As a new leader rises in Ethiopia, the diaspora dares to dream (The Washington Post) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has lifted a long-standing state of emergency, ended a decades-old conflict with neighboring Eritrea and called for Ethiopia to transition into a multiparty democracy. For the many Ethiopians who fled the country during the long years of autocracy, the reforms have revived a dream they once thought impossible: going home…
12 September 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Refugees
As a boy leans against an ancient khatchkar, or tablet, in an Armenian church as a choir rehearses. Learn more about the deep spiritual roots of Armenia in Where God Descended in the May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
12 September 2018
The situation in Syria could lead to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, with even more people being displaced. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
UN: Syria war displacement this year has been the worst ever (AP) U.N. investigators warned Wednesday that a war against some 10,000 extremists in northwestern Syria should not take 3 million people hostages. They added that the expected attack by Syrian troops on Idlib province would make other battles in the country look minor. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry said government forces carried out three chemical weapons attacks in Syria and that violence displaced the largest number of people the year, the largest since the conflict began in 2011…
Weeks after flood, Kerala now fights dry spell (Indian Express) An unusual dry spell coupled with the reported fall in the groundwater level in flood-hit areas of Kerala has emerged as a cause of concern…
Floods trigger influx of alien fish species (The Hindu) The catastrophic floods that caused widespread havoc throughout the State last month have also released several alien species of fish into waterbodies, raising a threat to the endemic aquatic ecosystem and biodiversity, scientists have reported…
Moscow warns of ’catastrophic’ consequences of Ukraine church independence (TASS) The chief of Moscow Patriarchate’s department for relations between the Church and society, Vladimir Legoida, warned that steps to authorize autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church may have catastrophic consequences, including violence and seizure of churches belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reporting to Moscow Patriarchate...
Pope to convene world meeting on abuse prevention with bishops’ leaders (CNS) Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops’ conference in the world to Rome on 21-24 February to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults…
11 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Ukraine
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, left, leads a procession on 9 September at the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Aleppo. During the inauguration and rededication of the cathedral, Patriarch Younan said, "We will always be people of hope and life." (CNS photo/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
In war-torn Aleppo, Syria, the Syriac Catholic patriarch proclaimed that “the will of life has overcome death; hope and security have overcome despair and chaos. Our people have overcome.”
Celebrating the liturgy on 9 September at the inauguration and rededication of the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral, Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, “We will always be people of hope and life.”
The cathedral’s inaugural liturgy, filled with worshippers, was attended by Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Vatican nuncio to Syria; bishops of other Christian churches; and representatives of Aleppo civil authorities.
The patriarch led a procession through the nearby streets to the restored cathedral, then cut a white ribbon fastened to the main door and entered.
In his homily, Patriarch Younan recalled his visit to Aleppo in 2017, when he celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in the damaged cathedral with the faithful assembled under umbrellas “because the rain was falling on us from all sides of this cathedral.”
“We are gathered today to sing thanks and praise to the Lord who gave us this wonderful gift to be able to repair this cathedral in order to recuperate its beauty of the past. We are so delighted to come once again and pray with you, in this cathedral so dear to you,” the patriarch said.
“For many years, this house of God suffered a lot of devastation, being at the demarcation line with terrorists. It is now restored for worship, a sign of hope and victory of the good over the evil that destroyed so many churches and mosques in this beloved city, Aleppo,” Patriarch Younan said. He noted that Aleppo was recognized for centuries as the most important center for many Christian communities.
“During the horrendous siege at the hands of criminals that lasted four years, this second-largest and prosperous city of Syria was deprived of basic necessities,” the patriarch said. “You lacked water, food, fuel and electricity. All this happened under the eyes of the ‘civilized’ world.’“
“You and hundreds of thousands of civilians under the ruling of the legitimate Syrian government were forgotten, abandoned even manipulated by those opportunistic geo-politicians of our present time,” he said.
In December 2016, the Syrian army retook control of almost the entire city of Aleppo. The city had been split between government and rebel control since 2012.
“Aleppo has returned, and Syria will return to its previous glory, and even more beautiful, because there are many civil and spiritual officials who felt the duty of their responsibilities to serve ... with integrity and honesty,” Patriarch Younan said.
“We should first thank God almighty that helped you, beloved brothers and sisters, under the leadership of our brother-Archbishop Antoine Chahda (of Aleppo), to undertake the hard and costly works of repairing this wonderful cathedral built in the 1970s,” the patriarch said.
He thanked the “generous benefactors” from the archdiocese, Catholic organizations and the government of Hungary.
“We owe to our Catholic brothers and sisters from around the world a lot of appreciation and gratitude for the charitable and unconditional solidarity toward us and all Christians of the Middle East, most particularly the two beleaguered countries of Syria and Iraq,” Patriarch Younan said.
The liturgy commemorated the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
“Our thanks go to our heavenly Virgin Mary, who protected the faithful of this cathedral, and protected the people of Aleppo,” the patriarch said. He stressed that Aleppo still needs her intercession after so much suffering and prayed that she would grant the Middle East “a true peace and unshakable security based on justice for all.”
He also prayed that she would hasten the return of Syrians who migrated to other countries.
The patriarch’s four-day visit to Syria from the patriarchate in Beirut included meetings with government officials and Muslim clerics. During the liturgy at the restored cathedral, the patriarch ordained six new deacons.
11 September 2018
Women religious and other residents walk in floodwaters in Kerala, in India. (photo: CNS/courtesy Father Jolly Vadakken via Global Sisters Report)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, just sent us this update on the aftermath of flooding in Kerala:
As a native of Kerala, it was terrible to see such devastating flooding. I thank God that my family somehow escaped.
It was really a catastrophic situation. This was the worst monsoon disaster in Kerala since 1924. More than 450 people died; many were missing for days.
Flood waters submerged houses, shops and destroyed crops. Tens of thousands of people had to be moved to relief camps. The situation was very scary in my own village, which was severely affected. Hundreds of families, including my own, had to take shelter in relief camps. More than 5,000 such camps were opened to accommodate flood victims.
There was no electricity in many villages for weeks; thousands of power connections were disrupted. Rivers changed course, dams overflowed and bridges collapsed.
Almost all the districts of Kerala were affected—more severely, in the districts of Idukki, Wayanad, Allepy, Trichur, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Kannur. Hundreds of landslides occurred in several parts of the state. People were trapped atop houses surrounded by water. They were not able to move due to flooding.
People were evacuated by military helicopters, assisted by the great work done by members of the fishing community. They came with their fishing boats, risking their lives and rescuing those who were trapped. Their experience in the violent sea helped them to face this challenge and save lives.
The flood swept through hundreds of villages, destroying about 6,200 miles of roads. In Kannur district alone, 48 landslides occurred and 2,000 houses were damaged; out of this, 196 houses were totally destroyed, 122 open wells were inundated with dirty flood water, 941 animals were killed, and 95 cattle sheds were washed away.
In Wayanad district, 3,747 families were affected and 14,134 people fled to relief camps; 226 houses were fully destroyed, 1,893 houses partially damaged, and 2,650 acres of agriculture were destroyed.
Idukki was one of the worst hit places, due to landslides and heavy rain. Some 325 landslides occurred in this district. More than 6,175 families were severely affected by the landslides; 60 people died and more than 50 were seriously injured. More than 1,200 houses were fully washed away by the flood, mudflow and landslides. About 6,000 people have become homeless; 2,266 houses were partially damaged, 180 shops totally damaged. Many livestock were lost.
In North Parur region and Aluva in Ernakulam, 117 schools were hit. In North Parur Taluk, almost all the villages were submerged and people were evacuated. Chalakudy in Trichur district was heavily affected, as the water level rose very high due to the Peringalkuthu dam overflowing.
In Kuttanad region, situated at the tail end of four major rivers, the area looked like a festering swamp after four days of torrential rain. Some 125,000 people from this region were in relief camps; about 50,000 chose to move to the houses of their relatives.
Hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, banks, government offices, shops, cattle, crops, food materials, household items — everything was destroyed and people had to depend on relief supplies.
For the first few days, there were no supplies coming in, as the flooding was so heavy that no one could move from one place to another; the people in relief camps had to struggle without food and water. Then, the helicopters dropped food materials and the military vehicles tried their best to bring necessary items to the people in camps.
All the belongings and household items — kitchen utensils, beds, furniture, chairs, tables, medicines, food items, dress materials — almost everything was lost. The most affected are the poor and the daily wage workers who now have to rebuild from almost nothing.
Please give what you can to help support our brothers and sisters in Kerala. Visit this page for more information.
11 September 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Families are struggling to salvage their homes and business after the massive flooding in Kerala last month. (video: TRTWorld/YouTube)
Disease and snakes await Kerala flood victims (UCANews.com) Sheela Joseph and her family spent a week in a relief camp before they were able to return to their flood-hit house on the banks of Periyar River in the southern Indian state of Kerala in late August. She was among 1.3 million people who found themselves displaced in the middle of last month when flash floods hit the state. Many have since gone back home as the waters have receded but many thousands still reside in temporary shelters as their abodes remain waterlogged and uninhabitable, if not completely destroyed…
Turkey warns attack on Idlib would cause humanitarian disaster (Reuters) A Syrian government offensive in the country’s northern region of Idlib would cause humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, Europe and beyond, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday in an article in the Wall Street Journal…
Ethiopia, Eritrea reopen border points for first time in 20 years (Reuters) The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea re-opened crossing points on their shared border for the first time in 20 years on Tuesday, cementing a stunning reconciliation and giving Addis Ababa a direct route to its former foe’s Red Sea ports…
Coptic abbot’s murder points to strains over ecumenism in Egypt (Religion News Service) The Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt is reeling from the recent murder of the abbot of St. Macarius Monastery, apparently by traditionalists of his own faith, in the fourth-century center of meditation and scholarship 60 miles northwest of Cairo…
Bishops from mission territory gather at Vatican (Vatican News) Bishops who have been ordained within the last two years in dioceses which are still considered mission territory have gathered in Rome to take part in a Seminar organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 3-15 September. There are 75 Bishops from 34 countries gathered for the Seminar hosted at Collegio San Paolo (Pontifical International Missionary College of St Paul the Apostle) in Rome…
Virtual reality allows visitors to walking through Jerusalem during the time of Jesus (Aleteia) Australian start-up Lithodomos VR will offer visitors the chance to actually see how ancient cities looked hundreds of years ago, thanks to virtual reality tours based on architectural reconstructions done by professional archaeologists. The Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City will launch a VR tour of the city for the holiday of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that celebrates the gathering of the harvest…
10 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Vatican
CNEWA's Philip Eubanks speaks at Holy Disciples Parish in Puyallup, Washington, last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
Last weekend, two members of CNEWA’s development team, Philip Eubanks and Thomas Moore, paid a visit to Holy Disciples Parish in Puyallup, Washington, where they spoke at the weekend Masses. They also spoke at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Eatonville, Washington. They’re continuing their travels this week through the greater Seattle area, visiting churches and meeting donors.
We love getting out to parishes around the United States to help tell CNEWA’s story, It’s an opportunity to bring the good news of the Eastern churches’ tireless efforts to alleviate poverty and despair across the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. It’s also a great way to thank all who continue to support the work of CNEWA.
If you’d like us to visit your parish or community, let us know! Drop a line to our development associate, Christopher Kennedy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 September 2018
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, announced that the Moscow Patriarchate has threatened to sever relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate if a patriarchate in Kiev is recognized. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Rebel-held areas bombed in northwest Syria (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces have pounded rebel-held areas in northwest Syria, killing at least five people in a second day of heavy bombardment, according to rescuers, as Turkey sent more troops to the region. The intensified strikes on Sunday, including air attacks, shelling and helicopter-dropped barrel bombs, targeted villages in southern Idlib and northern Hama provinces. The escalation comes amid growing fears over a seemingly imminent all-out offensive against the densely populated Idlib province, the last rebel bastion in Syria…
Monsoon rains pounding northern India, rendering millions homeless (UCANews.com) India’s monsoon floods have claimed 1,400 lives and rendered millions homeless as church agencies and others work to provide relief. The unusually heavy southwest monsoon that hit the southern tip of India in June is making its last lap in northern India and creating unprecedented rains…
Russian Orthodox Church threatens retaliation (Radio Free Europe) The Russian Orthodox Church has threatened to retaliate against its Istanbul-based rival if it allows Ukraine to cut its spiritual ties with Moscow and thereby end Russian religious rule in the country. Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s External Relations Department, said on 8 September that if the patriarch of Kiev was recognized, “we will have no choice but to sever relations with Constantinople”…
Ethiopia reopens embassy in Eritrea (Al Jazeera) Ethiopia has reopened its embassy in Eritrea after a 20-year hiatus, in a further sign of improving relations between the neighbors who signed a peace accord earlier this year…
Bishop’s home, religious items sustain damage from Kerala floods (The Times of India) During the floods, the Pamba River had devoured vast stretches of land and inundated several houses on its banks. One of the damaged houses belonged to Philipose Mar Chrysostom, the Mar Thoma Metropolitan. Now, weeks after the waters have receded, the bishop’s pets, including turkeys, rabbits, love-birds, ducks and goats, which were shifted during the deluge, have been brought back and are moving restlessly inside their pens…
Supporting Israelis in need on Rosh Hashanah (The Jerusalem Post) On Sunday evening, families across Israel are sitting down with loved ones and friends for a festive Rosh Hashanah meal. For most families, the new year festivities are an opportunity for celebration. For others, however, they are a stark reminder of their struggle to provide food for themselves and their households…
Tags: India Ethiopia Israel Russian Orthodox Eritrea