21 November 2019
Samia Sleman, 15, a Yazidi who was held hostage and raped by members of ISIS when she was 13, cries while speaking at a conference addressing the persecution of Christians and other minorities at the United Nations on 28 April. Also pictured is human-rights advocate Jacqueline Isaac.
(photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
People around the world were horrified when they read about the systematic rape of Yazidi woman after ISIS had taken control of Mt. Sinjar, the center of the Yazidi community in northern Iraq. It is a part of the world CNEWA knows well. CNEWA works in Iraq and continues to help both Christian and Yazidi women who were raped by ISIS and whose lives have been destroyed.
While that shock and outrage were justified, most people don’t realize how common and widespread violence against women is. Of course, when a sports or entertainment personality is accused of violence against a woman in the U.S., the coverage is often lurid. However, two things need to be noted: 1) most often the reporting is more about the abuser than the victim and 2) the reporting often gives at least the impression that such abuse is an uncommon event.
In the rest of the world, it is often a very different story.
Towards the end of the 20th century, it was noted that in the conflicts raging in the Great Lakes Region of Africa the number of military casualties was unexpectedly low. Further research indicated that the reason was that the fighting was not so much soldier against soldier as it was soldier against civilian and most often against women civilians. Although the reality is as old and vicious as war itself, it wasn’t until recently that rape as a weapon of war entered the area of international humanitarian law. On 19 June 2008 the UN Security Council condemned rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity in SC Res 1820.
It is a crime that can no longer be ignored or overlooked. And next week, attention will be paid.
On 25 November the UN observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For far too many of us in the west this is just another UN observance. Violence in our world is probably the strongest proof for the existence of evil. To see violence against women, however, as merely a subset of human violence in general overlooks characteristics of this crime that are uniquely vicious and evil. In the small space allotted to this piece, I would like to highlight two issues of importance regarding violence against women. They are by no means the only issues but they are, nevertheless, significant and also demonic in their efficiency.
They are: rape as a weapon of war and human trafficking.
Rape as a weapon of war became prominent as an issue not only in the context of conflicts in Africa but also in the atrocities regularly committed against women by ISIS in the Middle East. Similar atrocities have been committed against student girls by Boko Haram in West Africa. As a weapon of war, rape is horrifyingly efficient. It reduces the risk of injury to the military; it demoralizes the civilian population and—something which is often overlooked—it is also a method of genocide. In many cultures a woman who is raped becomes a social outcast and ineligible for marriage even though she is an innocent victim. She is doubly violated—by the rapist and by her own culture. In some cultures “unmarriable” women are outcasts, cut off from their parental families and from the overall culture. If the number of potential wives and mothers is radically reduced, the future of a people is threatened. Rape, therefore, can prevent a people from reproducing and can ultimately condemn them to extinction.
The pain that these innocent women suffer is simply unimaginable. In 2009 Jonathan Torgovnik, a professional photographer, published a book of interviews and photographs entitled “Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape” (Aperture, 2009). Torgovnic gives not only voices but faces to the women raped in the conflict. He takes statistics and with his camera and interviews produces a searing witness of the suffering these women continue to endure. It is a very important book and should be read with the realization that what happened to these women in Rwanda is happening throughout the world where rape is seen and used as a weapon of war.
The second issue is the trafficking of persons — or “contemporary forms of slavery,” as it is sometimes called. This is a world-wide issue. There is a tendency to think that trafficking is limited to underdeveloped countries. That is absolutely untrue. Several years ago law enforcement uncovered a large trafficking business that literally shuttled slave labor daily between New York City and Philadelphia. Developed countries in western Europe, the United States and Canada all have serious problems with trafficking.
Documentation on human trafficking indicates the following:
1) studies show that, due to increased police work against trafficking, statistics are getting more accurate. It is estimated that in 2018 the average number of detected victims of trafficking per country was 25,400;
2) the sex trade is the major outlet for trafficking in the world;
3) of the victims of trafficking 21 percent are men, 49 percent are women, 23 percent are girls and 7 percent are boys.
With 72 percent of the victims being adult or under aged females, the problem of trafficking is clearly an issue of violence against women.
Pope Francis has frequently been outspoken against violence towards women. In an interview on 28 May 2019, he condemned such violence; as recently as 11 October 2019, the Permanent Observer Representative of the Holy See to the UN addressed the body on the importance of combatting this scourge.
CNEWA has worked for generations to support and empower women in countries where we serve — through education, catechesis, skills training and health care. Significantly, much of that work is being carried out by other women, frequently women religious, who are helping restore dignity and witnessing the Gospel to those who have been abused, victimized or treated merely as commodities.
But there is still so much to do, by all of us.
Slightly more than half the human race is female. How can it be that half of humanity is so invisible? One day a year the UN observes an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. However, that one day should remind all of us that violence against women is not just a woman’s problem. It is a problem for all of us.
We must be aware of it in our own society and country and in the world at large. We must be aware that there will never be peace and justice worthy of the name while women are singled out as targets of violence.
21 November 2019
Tags: ISIS Women
Pope Francis visits with Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, supreme patriarch of Buddhists, at the Wat Ratchabophit temple in Bangkok on 21 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope meets with Buddhist patriarch in Thailand (Vatican News) The first signs of dialogue between the Buddhist and Catholic traditions appeared half a century ago when the 17th Supreme Buddhist Patriarch visited Pope Paul VI in the Vatican. Pope Francis recalled that visit when he met with the present Supreme Buddhist Patriarch at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple in Bangkok, on Thursday morning…
Pope: Mission is seeking family we don’t know yet (CNS) Missionaries are not mercenaries, but beggars who recognize that some brothers and sisters are missing from the community and long to hear the good news of salvation, Pope Francis told the Catholics of Thailand. Celebrating Mass on 21 November, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Bangkok’s National Stadium, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of what he calls “missionary discipleship…”
Fear, turmoil in Lebanon as financial crisis worsens (AP) On one of Beirut’s main commercial streets, store owners are cutting salaries by half or considering shutting down. Shops advertise sales, but still can’t draw in customers. The only place doing a thriving business: the store that sells safes, as Lebanese increasingly stash their cash at home. It’s a sign Lebanese fear their country’s financial crisis, which has been worsening for months, could tip over into disaster…
Vatican reiterates: two states needed in Holy Land (CNS)The Vatican reiterated its call for a two-state solution in the Holy Land after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States would no longer recognize the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank…
In secular India, it’s getting tougher to be a Muslim (CNN) India has a long history of sectarian violence, but over the past few years, there has been a rise in suspected hate crimes against Muslims, who make up roughly 200 million of the country’s 1.3 billion population…
Putin thanks Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for maintaining peace (TASS) Russian President Vladimir Putin has wished a happy birthday to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and thanked him for his assistance to the government in maintaining interfaith peace. A meeting of the president and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church took place in the Patriarchal Chambers of the Moscow Kremlin on Wednesday…
19 November 2019
Tags: India Pope Francis Lebanon Interreligious
As Lebanon is engulfed in a massive protest movement, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon gathered for its annual meeting 11-15 November 2019, at Bkerke, the Maronite Catholic patriarchate north of Beirut. The meeting was led by Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, second from left, and included other heads of religious orders. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for the Maronite patriarchate)
Lebanon Catholic leaders urge protestors to remain peaceful (CNS) While Lebanon continues to be engulfed in a massive protest movement, the country’s Catholic leaders called on demonstrators to be peaceful and civilized. In a 15 November statement at the end of its annual meeting, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon hailed the “historic uprising” that has shaken the country since 17 October…
U.S. embassy in Jerusalem warns of Palestinian unrest (The Times of Israel) The US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday issued a travel warning for Americans planning to visit Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, warning of Palestinian unrest in light of Washington’s settlement policy shift announced earlier in the day. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and repudiating a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that they were “inconsistent with international law…”
After massacre, Ethiopia’s leader faces anger, and a challenger (The New York Times) Not long after security forces tried to arrest him in the middle of the night, Jawar Mohammed, a media baron and one of Ethiopia’s most prominent political activists, found himself face to face with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the man whose government ordered his arrest…
Pope meets Indian nun bringing hope to the destitute (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday received Indian nun Sister Lucy Kurien who has worked tirelessly for over 20 years giving shelter to destitute women, men and children in her country. Pope Francis knows Sister Lucy; they have met before in the Vatican because of her work to provide love, care and shelter to battered, exploited women, destitute men and street children. Sister Lucy is the Director and founder of Maher which she set up in Pune, the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra in 1997…
18 November 2019
Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia
Pope Francis greets a woman as he arrives to eat lunch with the poor in the Paul VI hall as he marks World Day of the Poor at the Vatican on 17 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor.
“The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love.”
Thousands of poor people and volunteers who assist them joined Pope Francis for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. After the liturgy and the recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis hosted a luncheon for 1,500 of them while thousands more throughout the city enjoyed a festive meal at soup kitchens, parish halls and seminaries.
Served by 50 volunteer waiters in white jackets, the pope and his guests in the Vatican audience hall enjoyed a three-course meal of lasagna, chicken in a mushroom cream sauce with potatoes, followed by dessert, fruit and coffee.
To speak Jesus’ language, the pope had said in his homily, one must not speak of oneself or follow one’s own interests but put the needs of others first.
“How many times, even when doing good, the hypocrisy of ‘I’ reigns: I do good, but so people will think I’m good; I help, but to attract the attention of someone important,” Pope Francis said.
Instead, he said, the Gospel encourages charity, not hypocrisy; “giving to someone who cannot pay you back, serving without seeking a reward or something in exchange.”
In order to excel at that, the pope said, each Christian must have at least one friend who is poor.
“The poor are precious in the eyes of God,” he said, because they know they are not self-sufficient and know they need help. “They remind us that that’s how you live the Gospel, like beggars before God.”
“So,” the pope said, “instead of being annoyed when they knock on our doors, we can welcome their cry for help as a call to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with the same loving gaze God has for them.”
“How beautiful it would be if the poor occupied the same place in our hearts that they have in God’s heart,” Pope Francis said.
In the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, the crowds ask Jesus when the world will end and how they will know. They want immediate answers, but Jesus tells them to persevere in faith.
Wanting to know or to have everything right now “is not of God,” the pope said. Breathlessly seeking things that will pass takes one’s mind off the things that last; “we follow the clouds that pass and lose sight of the sky.”
Worse, he said, “attracted by the latest ruckus, we no longer find time for God and for our brother or sister living alongside us.”
“This is so true today!” the pope said. “In yearning to run, to conquer everything and do it immediately, those who lag behind annoy us. And they are judged as disposable. How many elderly people, how many unborn babies, how many persons with disabilities and poor people are judged useless. One rushes ahead without worrying that the distances are increasing, that the lust of a few increases the poverty of many.”
The pope’s celebration of the World Day of the Poor concluded a week of special events and services for the homeless, the poor and immigrants in Rome.
The poor served by the city’s Catholic soup kitchens and Vatican charities were invited Nov. 9 to a free concert in the Vatican audience hall featuring Nicola Piovani, the Oscar-winning composer, and the Italian Cinema Orchestra.
From 10-17 November dozens of physicians, nurses and other volunteers staffed a large medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square. The clinic offered flu shots, physical exams, routine lab tests and many specialty services often needed by people who live and sleep on the streets, including podiatry, diabetes and cardiology.
As rain beat down on the square on 15 November, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to the clinic and spent about an hour visiting with the clients and volunteers.
Afterward, the pope went across the street to inaugurate a new shelter, day center and soup kitchen for the poor in the Palazzo Migliori, a four-story, Vatican-owned building that had housed a community of women religious. When the community moved out, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, began renovating it.
The building now can accommodate 50 overnight guests as well as offering a drop-in center for the poor and housing a large commercial kitchen. Meals will be served at the building, but also will be cooked there for distribution to the homeless who live around two Rome train stations.
The Community of Sant’Edigio, a Rome-based lay movement that already runs soup kitchens and a variety of programs for the city’s poor, will manage and staff the shelter.
Watch a video about the lunch below:
18 November 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty
In this undated photo, Pope Francis meets with Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, whom he named Saturday as the new Permanent Observer to the United Nations. (photo: Vatican Media)
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines to be Permanent Observer to the UN (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Saturday appointed Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia as the new Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. He succeeds Philippine Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who on 1 October 2019 was named by Pope Francis as Apostolic Nuncio to Spain and Andorra. Since 12 September 2017, Archbishop Caccia has been serving as Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon…
UNICEF: Many children remain left behind (Vatican News) Although the world has made historic gains over the past three decades in improving children’s lives, urgent action is required if the poorest children are to feel the impact, says a new UN report published on 18 November…
Pope: Having a friend who is poor will help you get to heaven (CNS) The poor are the church’s treasure because they give every Christian a chance to “speak the same language as Jesus, that of love,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass for the World Day of the Poor. ”The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” the pope said in his homily on 17 November. “In fact, they open up the treasure that never ages, that which joins earth and heaven and for which life is truly worth living: love..”
Ethiopian human rights leader battles scant resources (Reuters) When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a former political prisoner in July as head of the state-funded human rights commission, supporters hailed it as a sign the country might finally tackle abuses by security forces and move to break a cycle of bloody ethnic feuds. Now reality has hit…
India may attempt to land on the moon in 2020 (Space.com) Just months after a landing anomaly, India is hard at work pursuing another try at touching down on the moon, according to a news report…
15 November 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Poor/Poverty United Nations
Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque and university, during a private audience at the Vatican on 15 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
15 November 2019
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis
A demonstrator walks near burning tires barricading a road during ongoing anti-government protests in Khaldeh, Lebanon, on 13 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
U.S. church leaders pray for peace as religious leaders meet in Lebanon (CNS) The U.S. bishops and the Knights of Columbus offered their “prayerful solidarity” to the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon as Iraq and Lebanon experience protests against political corruption and foreign interference. The support came in a 13 November letter from Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus…
Egyptian woman fights unfair Islamic inheritance laws (AP) One Egyptian woman is taking on the country’s inheritance laws that mean female heirs inherit half that of men. Since her father’s death last year, Huda Nasrallah, a Christian, has stood before three different judges to demand an equal share of the property left to her two brothers by their father. Yet courts have twice issued rulings against her, basing them on Islamic inheritance laws that favor male heirs…
Israel-Gaza ceasefire strained by rockets, air strikes (BBC) Israel has launched fresh air strikes on militant targets after renewed rocket-fire from Gaza, as a day-old ceasefire is put under strain. Palestinian media said missiles hit sites belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group early on Friday, injuring two people. It comes after five rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday following the ceasefire declaration by the PIJ…
Politics blocks Armenian hopes for genocide recognition (LA Times) On 29 October, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405 to 11 in favor of a resolution to recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians more than a century ago as a genocide. Quick approval by the Senate appeared possible. But the 80-year-old Jamushian, whose parents survived the slaughter by Ottoman Turks, will have to keep waiting…
14 November 2019
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In this image from 2015, Pope Francis greets an elderly woman as he meets with people in a poor neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay. Pastoral care of the poor and those in need has been emphasis of the pontificate of Pope Francis. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Once again this year Pope Francis has opened a walk-in clinic in St. Peter’s Square to provide health care for the poor of Rome. The poor have been a constant theme for Francis’s preaching. In this he echoes Jesus, who not only preached about the poor, but also associated with them. This year 17 November is the World Day of the Poor for the Catholic Church.
The poor, the orphaned, the war torn, those driven from their homes are CNEWA’s constant companions. As we move across CNEWA’s world, cultures, languages, ways of dressing change like a kaleidoscope. Suffering and crushing poverty, however, remain a gray and ugly constant.
While the poor may be pushed to the peripheries of many societies in our world, they are central to both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament alone there are over 150 references to the poor; it appears over 30 times in the New Testament. It is a constant theme of the prophets who thunder against those who oppress the poor or treat them unjustly. The prophet Amos, speaking in God’s name, condemns those who “trample on the needy” and “suppress the poor,” those who “lower the bushel, raise the shekel” and “swindle and tamper with the scales,” i.e. charging more and giving less to poor customers. In response, God states, “Never will I forget a single thing you have done!” (Amos 8:4 ff.) God is angered not only by physical abuse of the poor but also by the economic exploitation of the poor through dishonest and exploitive business practices.
Jesus sees his ministry as intimately related to the poor. In his “inaugural” sermon in Nazareth Jesus describes himself and his ministry in the words of the prophet Isaiah “[God] has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor… (and) to set the downtrodden free.” (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1 ff). The first of the Beatitudes is “How blessed the poor in Spirit…” (Matt 5:3; note that Luke 6:20 has simply “how blessed the poor.”) Luke is disturbingly harsh in his contrast between the poor and the powerful. In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:16-31), the only reason Abraham gives for the rich man to be in hell is that he was rich: “…remember, my son, that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things…to Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in torment.” (16:25) This is a very disturbing position but one we simply cannot ignore. Luke is quite clear: to ignore the poor—to say nothing of oppressing and exploiting them—is something we do at great spiritual risk.
It is interesting that care for the poor is central to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each realizes the seductive pull of wealth and power. Each realizes that it is easy to take one’s wealth as a sign not of only of God’s blessing but of God’s approval — and to move from there to a sense of entitlement.
For his part, Pope Francis speaks of “global indifference.” It is a truly frightening concept. It can arise from a sense of helplessness, vis-à-vis the seemingly overwhelming poverty, suffering and injustice in the world. For people experiencing this crippling sense of helplessness, the Gospel offers hope and courage: God is on the side of justice and goodness; grace and love will ultimately be victorious.
However, global indifference can also arise from a sense of entitlement — a sense that overwhelming poverty, suffering and injustice in the world is just not my concern. It is the attitude of: “I have enough to worry about without worrying about people I don’t know and really don’t care about.”
But for people suffering from an sense of entitlement and indifference, the Old and New Testament both offer a stark message: the prophets and Jesus warn us that indifference to the poor can put one’s very salvation in jeopardy (Matt 25:31-46).
The observance of the World Day of the Poor can provide us with a very important opportunity to examine what our attitude is to those for whom Jesus and the prophets were so concerned.
14 November 2019
Tags: Pope Francis CNEWA
Iraqi demonstrators carry a wounded man during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad on 14 November 2019. (photo: CNS/Alaa al-Marjani, Reuters)
Protests have erupted across Iraq, sparking turmoil and uncertainty in a country already suffering from the aftershocks of ISIS. And the toll of the injured and dead keeps rising.
Time magazine reports:
Iraqi protesters draped in their country’s flag have been taking part in demonstrations since 1 October that have left at least 319 people dead and at least 8,000 injured according to the U.N.
Many of the protesters wear face masks and helmets in the hope that this will protect them from security forces’ use of live bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and sound bombs to disperse the crowds of mostly young protesters. But many have been injured and hundreds of families are left searching for their injured loved ones in hospitals. Activists and physicians have been killed or kidnapped while giving aid to the demonstrators in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched over the past six weeks and the protests have spread across the country. Dr Renad Mansour, a Middle East and North Africa Research Fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House describes the protests as “one of the largest grassroots political mobilizations.” Many Iraqis are frustrated that they are without clean water and electricity, despite the country having large oil reserves. Angered by the lack of jobs and basic public services, many protesters say corruption is to blame; money is being placed in the hands of the few, rather than the many, according to Mansour. Violence quickly became part of the equation, as protesters were met with lethal force by security forces.
14 November 2019
Lebanon is facing a serious financial crisis, as banks remain on strike over safety fears.
(video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
Lebanon bank staff union to remain on strike (Reuters) Lebanon’s bank staff union called on Thursday for employees to stay on strike until it receives details of a security plan, especially on how to deal with customers. The union called for the strike over safety fears, as protests against political leaders sweep Lebanon and depositors demand access to their money after banks imposed new curbs…
Photos: Life in Iraqi Kurdistan (The Washington Post) President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria last month has brought fresh attention to the ethnic group known as the Kurds. For many years, the Kurds have been U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State. Trump’s move led to a bipartisan backlash and renewed interest in the Kurds, who also live in Turkey, Iraq and Iran. But who are they?...
Israel, Islamic Jihad agree on ceasefire (The Jerusalem Post) Israel and Islamic Jihad appear to have reach a ceasefire understanding that went into effect at 5.30 a.m, the IDF announced on Thursday morning. An Israeli official said that a restoration of calm could only be measured by the facts on the ground, clarifying that no concessions has been made to the Islamic Jihad. The operative policy remains in place, “we will harm those who harm us,” the official said…
India to set law on women entering temples (DW.com) India’s Supreme Court will set law on women entering places of worship after it was asked to review a 2018 decision to lift a ban on women entering a Hindu temple in Kerala. The court said Thursday that it will appoint a seven-judge bench to working on the case…
U.S. struggles to keep allies in fight against ISIS in Syria (The New York Times) At a high-level State Department meeting scheduled for Thursday, diplomats from 35 nations and international organizations will be asked to stick with the campaign to eradicate the extremist group even after its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in an American raid last month. But confusion over the Trump administration’s policy in northeast Syria has discouraged allies, according to several diplomats, who said it has fomented doubt that whatever agreements are struck could be reversed by the president…
Tags: India Lebanon Israel Turkey ISIS