28 November 2017
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, seen in this photograph from October 2016 during a visit to CNEWA’s New York office, is urging President Trump to give aid to persecuted Iraqi Christians.
During this week devoted to raising awareness about persecuted Christians in the Middle East, a leading voice for Christians there is speaking out, in an interview with AFP:
With ISIS routed at last, one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East has a chance to reoccupy its ancestral towns.
But the Chaldean and Syriac people of the Nineveh plain in Iraq need support to rebuild to their homes and are still anxious that fighting will return.
Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, hopes President Donald Trump’s administration will redirect US aid to his persecuted people.
And, in an interview in Washington with AFP, he suggested Christians could help quell tensions on frontline between Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
US Vice President Mike Pence and the ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, have suggested redirecting funds from UN aid agencies to Christian charities.
But with almost 20,000 Iraqi Christian families — around 100,000 people — driven from their homes, the bishop is calling for urgent action.
“This is a just case,” he told AFP of his people. “They are persecuted, they are marginalized and they are in need.”
Read the full story here.
Iraq’s Archbishop Warda: ‘Persecution Started on Good Friday’
28 November 2017
This little girl in Lebanon reminded us what generosity is all about — offering to share what little she had with a visitor. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
This #GivingTuesday is a special one for me. I spent some time this year reviewing our work on a pastoral visit in Lebanon and near the Syrian border. I saw firsthand the children we serve, many of whom — thanks to the local schools we support — are given not just an education and a safe place to better their future but also a warm meal they might not have had otherwise.
I wrote about one of these schools in particular in March:
“Run jointly by the Marist and Lasallian Brothers at the request of Pope Francis for congregations to join together to tackle the challenges facing refugees, [the Fratelli Association] hosts 270 Syrian students, both Muslim and Christian. We met the dynamic Brother Andres Gutierrez, who oversees the school along with Brother Miquel Cubeles, a Marist from Barcelona. [...] Brother Andres explained that he had rebuilt the school when he arrived, as the structure had sat abandoned for over 25 years prior to his arrival. The school has been open for just a year, and in that time they’ve completed several classrooms, a kitchen, a residence for the brothers and a computer lab. As it focuses on acclimating refugee students to the Lebanese curriculum, which is taught in French and English as opposed to the Arabic Syrian students are used to, the school will function as a remedial program of sorts, easing students into the Lebanese school system to improve their likelihood of success.”
As we visited during the lunch hour, the children were enjoying manoushe, a kind of Lebanese pizza, along with chips and a drink. One little girl, noticing I had nothing to eat, approached me and offered me one of her chips. I was caught entirely off-guard: a little girl who likely knew what it is to have nothing to eat wanted to make sure she shared what little she had.
As it says in the Gospel of Luke, “to whom much has been given, much will be required; and... to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” What of those to whom almost nothing has been given, even those to whom much has been taken from them, and yet they still give eagerly the little they have? When I come into our office hoping to give back — to give of my time and from my heart — I do so with that little girl in mind.
So, this #GivingTuesday is, indeed, a special one for me, because I know how much every gift is appreciated and that what’s shared from your heart is shared also in the actions, prayers, witness, and love of all those children of God we serve.
Whether in Lebanon or elsewhere among CNEWA’s global family, we hope you’ll help us make this #GivingTuesday one of sharing, whether you’re sharing our blog, our #GivingTuesday video, sharing your prayers and intentions, or sharing from your pocketbook. Thank you for helping us #filltheirplates, hopefully to overflow in abundance.
To make a gift, visit this link. Thank you!
28 November 2017
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura addresses the media as he leaves a hotel following talks with Syria’s opposition delegation, on 28 November in Geneva.
(photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)
New Syria talks open in Geneva (Al Jazeera) Syria’s government and opposition will start a new round of UN-brokered talks in Geneva on Tuesday, but there is little optimism for progress towards ending the seven-year conflict. After months of stalemate, the talks are expected to focus primarily on a new constitution and elections, two of the four so-called “baskets” of reforms laid out by the United Nations for a political settlement to the Syria crisis...
In Iraq, Kirkuk residents nervous as power turns over again (NPR) Power has shifted again in one of Iraq’s most ancient and pivotal cities — Kirkuk. Kurds have recently been on top there but now Arab leaders are in charge and residents are tense as they look ahead...
Egypt says troops killed 14 militants after mosque massacre (AP) Egyptian authorities say security forces have killed at least 14 Islamic militants in Sinai and an adjacent Suez Canal province following the massacre at a village mosque in the northern part of the peninsula last week that killed 305 people...
Indian Catholics sorry papal invitation never came through (CNS) As Pope Francis began his tour to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Catholics in neighboring India regret missing a chance to meet him in their homeland, nostalgically recalling past papal visits, reported ucanews.com...
Delegation of Ethiopian Orthodox Church visits Moscow (The Ethiopian Herald) The delegation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church went to Moscow with a 4-day working visit at the invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.The visit was preceded by the message from His Holiness Patriarch Abba Mathias to Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church expressing interest in reestablishing active cooperation that existed between two sisterly Churches earlier...
Russian church investigates czar’s killing in 1918 (AP) A Russian Orthodox Church panel looking into the 1918 killing of Russia’s last czar and his family says it’s investigating whether it was a ritual murder — a statement that has angered Jewish groups. Father Tikhon Shevkunov, the Orthodox bishop heading the panel, said after Monday’s session that “a large share of the church commission members have no doubts that the murder was ritual.” A representative of Russia’s state investigative agency said it will also probe the theory...
27 November 2017
The video above shows some of the people you can help through CNEWA on #GivingTuesday. (video: Chris Scazzero/Regis High School)
It’s the time of year again. Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, the annual global online event designed to raise funds for a variety of important causes. Please remember CNEWA and the people we serve around the world.
On Tuesday 28 November, CNEWA will raise funds to ease hunger in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Scores of hospitals, orphanages, schools and care facilities need your help, so struggling families and elderly have enough to eat.
To help us help them, please visit this link.
Thank you and God bless you!
27 November 2017
Pope Francis meets with members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of the East at the Vatican on Friday 24 November. (photo: Vatican Radio/Facebook)
On Friday, Pope Francis meet with Catholic and Assyro-Chaldean theologians who are conducting an ongoing dialogue. Vatican Radio reports:
In greetings to the Commission, the pope thanked God “for today’s signing of the Joint Declaration.”
“We can now look to the future with even greater confidence and I ask the Lord that your continuing work may help bring about that blessed and long-awaited day when we will have the joy of celebrating, at the same altar, our full communion in Christ’s church,” he said.
Part of the pope’s message:
When we look at the cross, or make the sign of the cross, we are also invited to remember sacrifices endured in union with Jesus and to remain close to those who today bear a heavy cross upon their shoulders. The Assyrian Church of the East, along with other churches and many of our brothers and sisters in the region, is afflicted by persecution, and is a witness to brutal acts of violence perpetrated in the name of fundamentalist extremism. Situations of such tragic suffering take root more easily in contexts of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion, largely caused by instability, often fuelled by external interests, and by conflicts that have also led in recent times to situations of dire need, giving rise to real cultural and spiritual deserts, within which it becomes easy to manipulate people and incite them to hatred. Such suffering has recently been exacerbated by the tragedy of the violent earthquake on the border between Iraq, the homeland of your Church, and Iran, where your communities have also long been established, as well as in Syria, Lebanon and India.
Read it all.
And to learn more about the Church of the East, visit this link.
27 November 2017
Damaged vehicles line the road on 25 November after a bomb attack at Al Rawdah Mosque in Bir al Abd, Egypt. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Soliman, Reuters)
Egypt reels from mosque attack (Voice of America) Sufi Muslims in Egypt say they plan to continue plans for an annual celebration of the birthday of their prophet, Mohammed, even as the country reels from the massacre at a Sinai mosque that killed 305 worshippers and wounded another 128. No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, widely believed in Egypt to have been launched because Sufis worshipped at the Al Rawdah Mosque in a village by the same name…
Pope prays for victims of Egyptian mosque attack (CNA) On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the attack on a mosque in Sinai, Egypt, on 24 November, which killed 305 people and wounded hundreds more. “I continue to pray for the many victims, for the wounded and for the whole community, so severely affected. God frees us from these tragedies and sustains the efforts of all those who work for peace, concord, and coexistence,” he said during his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square...
Pope Francis meets commission with Church of the East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday received in audience the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Church of the East. In greetings to the Commission, the pope thanked God “for today’s signing of the Joint Declaration…”
Pope releases message for World Day of Peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the celebration of the 2018 World Day of Peace was released on Friday during a press conference at the Holy See Press Office…
Is the sari a Hindu garment? (Hindustan Times) Mumbai’s native Christians have a version of the sari called the lugra. A variation of the Maharashtrian nine-yard sari, it is distinctive because each sub-caste had its own style and color preference, with red and green predominating…
22 November 2017
Tags: India Egypt Pope Francis
Members of a local band of Roma take a break to enjoy the cuisine at a festival in Hungary. In 2005, we looked at how Hungarians use paprika to make meals “fiery, spicy and temperamental.” Read all about it here. And check out some of the recipes. There’s even a recipe for chicken paprikás. Maybe it can be adapted for turkey? (photo: Jacqueline Ruyak)
22 November 2017
Tags: Cultural Identity Hungary Cuisine Roma
A young woman takes a selfie with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after his press conference announcing the withdrawal of his resignation at his residence in Beirut, Lebanon, on 22 November. (photo: Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation, returns to Beirut (The Washington Post) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday suspended his shock resignation delivered weeks earlier from Saudi Arabia, marking a stunning return to Beirut after weeks of speculation over his freedom of movement…
What’s happening in Lebanon and why its stability matters (CNBC) “The U.S. and EU worry that increasing instability in Lebanon will further destabilize an already volatile region,” said Marianne Knaevelsrud, Middle East analyst at Protection Group International. “Lebanon hosts more refugees per capita than any other country, a huge economic burden and potential source of insecurity. The West is concerned that political uncertainty could exacerbate the refugee situation or allow militant groups to expand their influence…”
Assad and Putin meet amid new push to end Syrian war (The New York Times) Thanking Russia for the military intervention he credited for “saving Syria,” President Bashar al Assad met with President Vladimir V. Putin amid preparations for new talks aimed at ending the civil war…
‘Armenians stand at the foundations of Christian civilization’ (Public Radio of Armenia) Armenia is hosting a conference on preventing hate crimes on the basis of religion. “Historically being situated on the crossroads of different civilizations Armenia has cultivated deeply rooted traditions of coexistence and respect towards other cultures and religions,” Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbanian said in his opening remarks…
Israel thwarts attempt to smuggle explosives into Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) An attempt to smuggle tons of explosive material into the Gaza Strip has been thwarted by the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Crossing Authority, it was announced on Wednesday. The attempt was foiled thanks to a new, advanced chemistry laboratory that was set up in recent weeks at Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza…
21 November 2017
Tags: Syria Lebanon Israel Armenia Russia
The U.S. bishops have designated Sunday, 26 November, as a day of prayer for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Watch the video above for more details. (video: U.S.C.C.B./YouTube)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated this Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King, as a day of prayer for persecuted Christians, and the bishops have marked next week, 26 November to 2 December, as a time to raise awareness about the challenges our suffering brothers and sisters around the world are facing.
As the U.S.C.C.B. notes:
The Christian presence in the Holy Lands traces its roots to the earliest days of Christianity. These small, diverse communities have historically contributed to the vibrant social fabric of their societies in the fields of science, medicine, and philosophy. Their fraternity with the diversity of Churches and other religious groups helps to foster greater interreligious dialogue, unity, and peace in the Middle East.
In the midst of the turbulence in the Middle East, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expresses solidarity with Christians and all those who suffer from the conflict and persecution in the region. The Church stands at the service of all people in the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims.
CNEWA is proud to be a part of this initiative and to offer our resources to help educate the public about this urgent issue.
The U.S.C.C.B. website has a wealth of material—including prayer cards, logos, homily notes and intercessions— for parishes to use in the days ahead.
We encourage you to explore all that CNEWA has to offer as well, with some of the most comprehensive journalism and reporting on this issue to be found anywhere:
In Advent of 2014, Pope Francis sent a letter to Christians in the Middle East. As we near the season of Advent once again, and look with hope to the coming of Christ, his words today have even greater resonance:
Every day I follow the new reports of the enormous suffering endured by many people in the Middle East. I think in particular of the children, the young mothers, the elderly, the homeless and all refugees, the starving and those facing the prospect of a hard winter without an adequate shelter. This suffering cries out to God and it calls for our commitment to prayer and concrete efforts to help in any way possible. I want to express to all of you my personal closeness and solidarity, as well as that of the whole Church, and to offer you a word of consolation and hope.
Dear brothers and sisters who courageously bear witness to Jesus in the land blessed by the Lord, our consolation and our hope is Christ himself. I encourage you, then, to remain close to him, like branches on the vine, in the certainty that no tribulation, distress or persecution can separate us from him (cf. Rom 8:35). May the trials which you are presently enduring strengthen the faith and the fidelity of each and all of you!
Please join us in prayer this Sunday, to express what the bishops have called our “solidarity in suffering,” and pray for an end to persecution.
21 November 2017
Tags: CNEWA Middle East Christians Middle East U.S.C.C.B.
A conservator cleans the surface of the Edicule, the traditional site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Oded Balilty, National Geographic)
In the nation’s capital, a $15 museum ticket and pair of 3-D glasses is the passport Christian pilgrims and others need to experience what may be the holiest site in Christianity.
Employing state-of-the-art technology, the National Geographic Museum in Washington on 15 November opened an exhibit that virtually transports visitors to the streets of Jerusalem and through the doors of a small church that protects what is believed to be the site of Christ’s burial and, to Christians, the site of his resurrection.
“We put you in the Old City, we talk to you a little about the walls of the city, how they move over time and where the Gospels say that the Crucifixion took place, and try to give you the context,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of exhibitions for National Geographic during an interview with Catholic News Service.
After an introductory video explaining some of the tumultuous history surrounding the tomb of Christ site, where structures above have been built and torn down repeatedly over the centuries, visitors walk toward a set where a virtual guide projected on a wall welcomes them to a courtyard just outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
It’s a visual appetizer to get them ready for the experience of, not just entering via 3-D through its doors, but also of flying over it and witnessing, from a bird’s eye view, a time-lapse of the structure’s physical history.
“We’re not only taking you in the church the way it looks today but we also go up above the church and we take you back through time,” said Keane. “It’s a bit of a time machine and we show you all the evolutions of the building, from the time that it was, under [Roman emperor] Hadrian, a pagan temple.”
“This is not what I would consider a traditional exhibit. It’s more an experience than it is an exhibit,” said National Geographic archaeologist Fred Hiebert, whose unique experience inside the church led to “Tomb of Christ: The Church of Holy Sepulchre Experience,” which runs at the Washington museum until August 2018.
Last year, Hiebert witnessed various stages of a nine-month-long, $3 million restoration of the small shrine within the Holy Sepulcher that protects the tomb of Christ. The shrine often is referred to as the Edicule, Latin for “little house.” During the process, the three religious groups with jurisdiction over the structure, and who had agreed on its restoration — the Armenians, the Franciscans and the Greek Orthodox — agreed to also allow restorers to put a moisture barrier around the the tomb itself.
The tomb likely had not been opened in centuries and, at some point, marble slabs were placed on top, perhaps to keep pilgrims from taking home parts of it. It has been venerated since the time of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor who, in the fourth century, sent a team in search of the holy burial site. Soon after, they identified a quarry as that place and Constantine’s mother, Helena, had a shrine built around it.
The exhibit explains how the effects of weather, earthquakes and also great numbers of pilgrims, many of whom light candles that contribute to a buildup of soot, had brought the structure to the brink of collapse.
It also explains the dilemma religious leaders faced when they learned that by injecting liquid mortar into the shrine to reinforce it, it presented the possibility that it would seep into the tomb itself — defeating the purpose of protecting the most important part. They had to swiftly decide to shut down the shrine to allow the team to protect the tomb — and that meant briefly opening it.
“They said, ‘Do it, but don’t take more than 60 hours to do it,’“ said Hiebert.
When restorers temporarily shut down the site, Hiebert and other members of the National Geographic team were present to witness the opening of the tomb, which exposed the original limestone bed and the walls of the cave, which Christians believe witnessed Christ returning to life.
“To think that we, we were some of the few people who were locked in that church, got to see what people for hundreds and hundreds of years of Christianity hope to see, and we had a chance to see that. … If there’s anything that drove me to do a virtual exhibit, it was that guilt,” Hiebert said to an audience gathered at the museum on the opening night of the exhibit. “We have to tell the world about this.”
The National Geographic team scanned the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the smaller structure inside, the Edicule, in such detail, that visitors who stop by the exhibit can don a VR, or virtual reality, headset and enter the tiny shrine, navigate the small passage way that leads to the tomb, a space that accommodates no more than three or four people, and see an exact visual representation of the tomb, without the real-life inconveniences.
“As tourist, you get maybe 15 seconds in the tomb and then they move you out,” explained National Geographic engineer Corey Jaskolski at the opening night event. “Part of capturing this and being able to share it with the world through the National Geographic Museum is that we can let people spend as long as they want in the tomb. You can go in there and have your own personal experience and be able to see it in all its glory without the interruptions and bustle of the crowd around.”
The exhibit explains some of the technology the restoration team from the National Technical University of Athens used, as well as what National Geographic used to scan the images that made the visual aspect of the exhibit possible.
“We can tell a story about great science and there’s a certain great aspect of faith to it, too,” said Hiebert.
Keane said the project is an intersection of history, architecture, science, technology and faith.
“All of these things aren’t at odds with each other,” she said.
The exhibit displays the document that Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Franciscan leaders signed in 2016, which made the restoration possible, while also noting in a timeline that the groups had agreed in principle in 1959 that the “little house” needed the renovations.
Hiebert applauded the cooperation among the religious groups as a “brave” and said of their ability to agree, “That happens once in a lifetime with these guys.”
The project shows, Hiebert said, that there can be cooperation among different groups in the Middle East.
“Having reviewed the history of the [Holy Sepulcher] church, and realizing that it’s a contested space, in a contested area … here was a project that was bringing people together to do something that was positive,” he said. “That is a metaphor for optimism in the Middle East. In a place as difficult as Jerusalem, as complex as the Middle East, it’s still possible to do an optimistic idealistic project.”
Archaeologist Hiebert said the exhibit, as well as a TV show about the restoration of the tomb of Christ that National Geographic documented, will debut 3 December on its cable channel. The December cover story of National Geographic magazine also focuses on archaeology and what it reveals about the life of Christ. It shows that science and faith can go hand in hand, Hiebert said.
“When we look back on the history of exploration and even the history of National Geographic, we realize that this idea that science is divorced from faith is not true,” he said. “It seemed to me natural that National Geographic would be in a position of, here’s a site, which is sacred and historic, and we’re about to embark on an epic adventure.”
Tags: Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre