19 August 2016
A civilian removes the rubble in front of a damaged shop after an airstrike in the rebel-held Al Saleheen neighborhood of Aleppo. (photo: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail)
Russia supports cease-fire in Aleppo (Al Jazeera) Russia has said it would support a 48-hour ceasefire in Syria’s Aleppo, a move the United Nations envoy said would allow aid to reach besieged areas soon, as long as all sides respected the truce. As viral images of a dazed child pulled from rubble in the heavily bombarded rebel-held east of the city captured the plight of its civilians and drew the attention of the world, Moscow said it was ready to start the first “humanitarian pause” next week…
Ukraine president may declare martial law (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s president has warned of “a full-scale Russian invasion” and says Kiev may have to impose martial law. Petro Poroshenko made the remarks amid reports of ongoing fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine…
Israel budget could bring more Jews from Ethiopia (The Times of Israel) Activists campaigning to bring Ethiopia’s Jews to Israel inched closer to their goal during a 21-hour marathon budget approval last Friday, but they are waiting to see what will happen before breaking out the champagne. In the 2017-2018 budget, the Finance Ministry allocated a budget that would enable 1,300 Ethiopians to move to Israel, to be divided among a number of entities, including the Interior Ministry, the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency, among others, according to M.K. David Amsalem (Likud) spokesman Nimrod Eliran Sabbah…
Cardinal urges more subdued celebrations in India (Ucanindia) The head of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry has appealed to the faithful to put curbs on church festivities, to reduce noise and pomp, and turn feasts into occasions of simplicity and kindness. The Cardinal said it was time traditional festivals were given a makeover…
Smithsonian, other agencies protect artifacts in Iraq, Syria (The Washington Post) The Smithsonian, better known for museums ringing the Mall, is one of a half-dozen agencies cited in a Government Accountability Office report on the “Protection of Iraqi and Syrian Antiquities.” Smithsonian experts provide cultural property protection training in countries facing war or natural disasters. “To prevent destruction, the Smithsonian and others trained Syrian antiquities professionals to use sandbags and other materials to protect ancient mosaics at a Syrian museum, reportedly resulting in the successful protection of the museum collection when it was bombed,” according to the GAO…
18 August 2016
Tags: Syria Ukraine Israel Historical site/city
The Rev. Francis Eluvathingal ministers to Syro-Malabar Catholic migrants in Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Many of the heroes we have met over the years have possessed a missionary zeal — and that is surely true of the Rev. Francis Eluvathingal. Father Eluvathingal is a Syro-Malabar priest whom we met while he was ministering to the Thomas Christians in Mumbai, many of whom have moved there from Kerala. Since 2015, he’s been the “coordinator general for the Syro-Malabar Migrant Faithful in India Outside the Proper Territory” — in short, he helps migrants stay connected to their faith.
When we caught up with him four years ago, he was a man very much on the move:
Rushing to a wedding ceremony outside the city, the priest jumps into the driver’s seat of his hatchback. He swiftly attaches his phone to the center console, fits the accompanying headset in his ears and backs the car out of the narrow driveway of the bishop’s rectory.
…The priest inserts a cassette tape of devotional hymns into the car’s stereo and waits for an opening. He spots one, slams his foot on the accelerator and speeds into the melee. Once on the road, he races through the traffic, passing another driver one moment, only to slam on the brakes at a sudden standstill the next.
“I’m a fast driver,” says the priest. “There are many things to do and very little time to drive.”
The priest’s dynamism mirrors that of his flock, most of whom have ties to the southwest state of Kerala. They or their parents migrated north to Mumbai, where the majority now prospers…
…“Keralites who migrated to Mumbai had very deep faith,” says Father Eluvathingal. “Once they came here and found jobs — on the railways, in government or in banking — and were happy in terms of their stomach, with bread on the table, they immediately began searching to satisfy their spiritual needs.”
Without a church of their own, the first Thomas Christian migrants joined one of the many local Latin Catholic parishes. Since the 16th century, when Portuguese missionaries settled in Mumbai and the neighboring state of Goa, the Latin Catholic Church has been the predominant church in the region.
… “In Kerala, the church is very strong. It has a political voice and strong influence on society,” Father Eluvathingal continues. “But Christian life in Mumbai is different because we’re very much a minority. We’re not even one percent of the population. The voice of our leaders is not heard or respected. At the same time, we have a very strong sense of Christian identity here because there’s a greater sense of unity and belonging. Our faith has a religious role, but also a social role.”
“I am a very happy priest,” he told us in a video interview several years ago. “The faith and the tradition we live is really rich.” He also has a blog and tries to minister to his growing flock online.
“Whatever time I spare from my vocational duties, I take to the internet and try to be active there. People feel helped, feel that the church is here to give solace to them and listen to their problems. And they find God’s hand in all their problems, in his providence. That kind of spiritual satisfaction has been a great joy for me.”
That joy helps to define a true CNEWA hero: one who gives to others with a generous heart and buoyant spirit, full of love for others and love for the Lord.
Watch an interview with him below.
18 August 2016
Tags: Migrants Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Priests
A 5-year-old Syrian boy named Omran Daqneesh sits alone in the back of the ambulance after he was rescued from the Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo on 17 August 2016. (photo: Mahmud Rslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
This image has caused a sensation in social media, capturing the heartbreak and terror of what is happening in Aleppo. As The New York Times reported:
In the images, he sits alone, a small boy coated with gray dust and encrusted blood. His little feet barely extend beyond his seat. He stares, bewildered, shocked and, above all, weary, as if channeling the mood of Syria.
The boy, identified by medical workers as Omran Daqneesh, 5, was pulled from a damaged building after a Syrian government or Russian airstrike in the northern city of Aleppo. He was one of 12 children under the age of 15 treated on Wednesday, not a particularly unusual figure, at one of the hospitals in the city’s rebel-held eastern section, according to doctors there.
But some images strike a particular nerve, for reasons both obvious and unknowable, jarring even a public numbed to disaster. Omran’s is one.
Within minutes of being posted by witnesses and journalists, a photograph and a video of Omran began rocketing around the world on social media. Unwittingly, Omran — like Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned last September and whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach — is bringing new attention to the thousands upon thousands of children killed and injured during five years of war and the inability or unwillingness of global powers to stop the carnage.
Maybe it was his haircut, long and floppy up top; or his rumpled T-shirt showing the Nickelodeon cartoon character CatDog; or his tentative, confused movements in a widely circulated video — gestures familiar to anyone who has loved a child. Or the instant and inescapable question of whether a parent was left alive to give him a hug.
Watch a video of the boy’s rescue below.
18 August 2016
Tags: Syria Children War Aleppo
A Syrian priest speaks about the violence against Christians in his country, which he describes as genocidal. (video: Rome Reports)
Christians ‘praying for peace’ amid bitter battle for Aleppo (The Irish Catholic) The apostolic vicar of Aleppo of the Latins has described the situation for the people in his city as “critical” during this time of fierce fighting. Stuck in the Lebanese capital Beirut as the latest stage in the Syrian conflict forces road closures, Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, O.F.M., said that through contact he has managed to make with Christians in the city, it is clear that “people are afraid” of an even greater escalation in the fighting and that trapped Christians and Muslims are now “praying unceasingly for peace”…
Amnesty International: nearly 18,000 have died in Syrian prisons since 2011 (BBC) Nearly 18,000 people have died in government prisons in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2011, according to Amnesty International. A new report by the charity, based on interviews with 65 “torture survivors,” details systematic use of rape and beatings by prison guards…
Turkey seizes assets in post-coup crackdown (Reuters) Turkish authorities ordered the detention of nearly 200 people, including leading businessmen, and seized their assets as an investigation into suspects in last month’s failed military rebellion shifted to the private sector. President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to choke off businesses linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for the 15 July coup attempt, describing his schools, firms and charities as “nests of terrorism…”
Catholic bishops appeal for calm in Ethiopia (The Tablet) Catholic bishops made a passionate plea for peace as security forces continue to brutally suppress anti-government protests in Ethiopia. Chaos can never be a way forward, said Cardinal Berhaneyesus, head of the Church in Ethiopia, as Ethiopian police were reported to have killed hundreds of protesters during riots in the regions of Oromia and Amhara in recent weeks. Amnesty International puts the death toll at nearly 100, and other rights groups have suggested the number of dead is higher, although the government disputes these figures...
Lebanon’s tobacco industry booming because of Syrian war (AP) Syria’s conflict has caused hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee to Lebanon, putting a huge strain on the Lebanese economy and its already-crumbling infrastructure. But the five-year Syrian civil war has been a boon for at least one economic sector: the tobacco industry…
Russia says suspected militants killed (Vatican Radio) Russian authorities say six suspected militants have been killed by security forces in two separate incidents in the city of St. Petersburg and near Moscow, the capital. Those killed reportedly included gunmen who were described as Islamic insurgents fighting in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region…
French president meets with pope to thank him after terrorist attacks (CNS) Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican with French President Francois Hollande, who said he felt it necessary to thank the Pope in person for his words after the slaying of a French priest and other terrorist attacks in France…
17 August 2016
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Violence against Christians Turkey Syrian Conflict
Sister Ferdos Zora teaches students in a preschool in Erbil run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
With summer nearing an end, a lot of kids are heading back to school. This image, from the Summer edition of ONE, shows schoolchildren in Erbil: displaced young Iraqis who fled ISIS, beginning life over in Kurdistan. CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar visited the region last spring with a delegation that included CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan:
Pastoral visits included stops to the Martha Schmouny Clinic in the Ain Kawa area of Erbil; Al Bishara School in Erbil, where the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena now teach more than 680 displaced students; a youth center in Ain Kawa for a “town hall” conversation with families and community elders; St. Peter’s Seminary, which forms priests for the Chaldean Church; a clinic in Dohuk offering care to hundreds of displaced persons each day; and a visit to displaced families hunkered down in the remote village of Inishke.
With each visit, the delegation made time to listen, to counsel and to offer comfort.
United in faith, the displaced and the delegation together offered prayers and celebrated the Eucharist in the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic traditions.
The pastoral visit highlighted the efforts of parishioners, religious sisters, parish priests and bishops who have partnered with CNEWA in setting up nurseries, schools and clinics, apostolates of the church that not only heal and educate, but provide a source of hope.
“One of my hopes for this pastoral visit,” said CNEWA’s Msgr. Kozar, “was to highlight CNEWA’s unique role in coordinating worldwide Catholic aid, on behalf of the Holy Father, and deploying that aid through the local church to those most in need.”
Want to help children such as these? Visit this giving page to learn what you can do.
17 August 2016
Tags: Iraq Children Iraqi Christians Sisters Education
A Syrian man drives a three-wheeler on a street in the northern Syrian town of Manbij as civilians go back to their homes on 14 August, after the Arab-Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces drove ISIS from the city. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
Jordan’s reversal on Syrian work permits starts to bear fruit (BBC) More than 650,000 Syrians are registered as refugees in Jordan. However, until recently, the government allowed only a few thousand to work. It was worried they would push down wages, take jobs from Jordanians and be encouraged to stay permanently, stirring up resentment. Now the authorities are experimenting with another possibility — that the presence of so many Syrians could boost the sluggish economy…
U.S.-backed Syrian forces gave defeated ISIS militants safe passage (USA TODAY) Islamic State fighters surrounded during the key battle for Manbij, Syria, last week agreed to surrender their weapons to U.S.-backed Syrian forces in return for safe passage out of the embattled city, a senior defense official said Tuesday. It was the first such agreement with the terror group…
Turkey to release 38,000 prisoners jailed before coup (BBC) Turkey is to release conditionally 38,000 prisoners jailed before last month’s failed coup, while its jails are crowded with new detainees. Some 23,000 people have been detained or arrested since the July coup, although the government has not said its move is to free up space for them…
Uproar in Egyptian mosques as clerics are ordered to read state-written homilies (AP) Launched last month, a new initiative mandates that all imams at state-run mosques read pre-written sermons distributed by the ministry. The measure — which expands upon a three-year-old effort to provide general guidelines — is unprecedented in Egypt, even under previous autocratic governments…
Retired Indian archbishop dies of cancer (Vatican Radio) Retired Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, the champion of the cause of Christians who bore the brunt of one of the worst Christian persecutions India has ever witnessed in modern times, expired on 14 August. The 82-year old archbishop, who led the archdiocese for over 30 years, died of colon cancer at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai…
Ethiopia says small-scale irrigation reduces drought effects (AllAfrica.com) The Ministry of Farming and Natural Resource said that small-scale irrigation schemes have played a big role in reducing El Niño induced drought effects. Speaking at consultative meeting on resource mobilization for sustainable irrigation system yesterday, State Minister Frenesh Mekuria said that the nation’s overall small-scale irrigation activities in the last dry season were encouraging…
16 August 2016
Tags: Syria Egypt Ethiopia Turkey ISIS
Sister Elizabeth Endrias assists a trainee at the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne Vocational Training Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
One of the hallmarks of our CNEWA heroes is that they often give something beyond price and beyond measure: hope. Among those who do this selflessly are the women of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne in Ethiopia.
Last year, we profiled one of them, a young woman named Sister Elizabeth Endrias. We first met her during our Year of Sisters, She was supervising the Women’s Promotion Center in Ethiopia’s capital, training some of the poorest women and girls in fabric cutting, sewing and embroidery. The purpose: survival.
The sister in charge, Sister Elizabeth Endrias, is 24 years old. But the program she’s developed is intensive. “Training takes from ten months to two years,” she explains. “This year we have thirty trainees in dressmaking and seven in embroidery.”
With resources limited, the school has begun charging a modest fee. For the poorest students, however, money is never a barrier. “In this case we intervene, inquire about their difficulties,” Sister Elizabeth says. “And when we find it necessary to support them, we offer them free education to complete their studies.”
She remembers the day one teenager arrived with her father. “He had the desire to help his daughter in her training. He told me the extent of their poverty but willed to pay.”
The father paid for two months, but grew ill and passed away. “Imagine the challenge facing this 18-year-old girl,” Sister Elizabeth says. “We not only exempted her from fees, but also gave back to her mother the two months payment that her father had paid.”
That young seamstress — her name is Hanna — plans to start a dressmaking business to support her family. “Sister Elizabeth is very special for me,” she says. “She rescued me from losing this opportunity after the death of my father. I am very grateful to her.”
The Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne also runs clinics in Ethiopia — bringing healing as well as hope to so many in need. To help support these and other heroes like Sister Elizabeth Endrias, visit this page.
16 August 2016
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Women
Children flash victory signs as they play in Manbij, following its liberation from ISIS. (photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)
Friday, the northern Syria city of Manbij was liberated from ISIS, and residents celebrated by doing things that the militant group had forbidden.
From the BBC:
They have poured into the streets enjoying basic rights they had been denied for two years, including shaving off their beards and smoking.
US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters fought 73 days to drive IS out of Manbij, close to the Turkish border.
About 2,000 civilians being used as human shields were also freed.
Reuters news agency spoke to a resident of Manbij who described a spot where people were beheaded. “For anything or using the excuse that he did not believe [in God], they put him and cut his head off.
“It is all injustice,” he said.
“I feel joy and [it is like a] dream I am dreaming. I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it. Things I saw no one saw,” a woman said screaming and fainting, according to Reuters.
Another woman thanked the fighters that had set them free: “You are our children, you are our heroes, you are the blood of our hearts, you are our eyes. Go out, Daesh [Arabic name for IS]!”
The Washington Post noted:
Under the Islamic State, women were forced to cover their faces. But on Friday, some of them were photographed with lifted veils.
One woman set fire to a niqab, a veil that covers all of a woman’s face except the area around her eyes.
Below is a video report on the liberation of Manbij:
16 August 2016
Tags: Syria ISIS
A Russian long-range bomber carries out air strikes against ISIS and Al Nusra Front targets in Syria. This is the first time Russia’s bombers used an Iranian base to carry out air strikes against terrorist targets in Syria. (photo: TASS via Getty Images)
Russia uses Iranian base for Syria campaign (The New York Times) Russian bombers launched attacks in Syria from an Iranian air base for the first time on Tuesday, potentially altering the political and military equation in the Middle East. Long-range Tupolev-22M3 bombers, which would otherwise have to fly from Russia, used an Iranian base near Hamadan to hit a series of targets inside Syria, according to a brief statement from the Russian Defense Ministry…
Ukraine puts troops on combat alert (Vatican Radio) Ukraine has put its troops on combat alert along the country’s de facto borders with Crimea and separatist rebels in the east…
Severe weather threatening Ethiopia’s food production (ANA) Seasonal floods followed by drought caused by El Niño have caused severe crop damage in Ethiopia. However, in a Monday press release, the United Nations warned that further damage caused by cooler weather brought on by La Niña, expected in October and onwards, could further devastate food production. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) highlighted that if the floods worsened later this year, there could be outbreaks of crop and livestock diseases, further reducing agricultural productivity and complicating recovery. “The situation is critical now,” said Amadou Allahoury, FAO representative to Ethiopia…
Cardinal: the need for Muslim-Christian dialogue (L’Osservatore Romano) “Often I realize that many problems are due to the ignorance on both sides. And ignorance generates fear,” says Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. “In order to live together it is essential to look at those who are different from us with esteem, benevolent curiosity and the desire to walk together...”
Travels of Patriarch Gregorios III (ByzCath.org) Politicians, business leaders and representatives of international organizations came together in the heart of Vienna, Austria, for the 27th annual Crans Montana Forum. Attendees discussed a wide range of subjects from the role of women in decision-making to renewable energies — the main angle being the rise of central-eastern Europe as a new power — and the migration crisis. One of the most memorable comments was that of Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem, who had a — perhaps surprising — view on the reception of Syrian refugees in Europe…
Kerala police launch ‘pink patrol’ to improve women’s security (IBT) The Kerala Police on Monday deployed three women patrol teams, called Pink Patrol, in Thiruvananthapuram. Kerala Chief Minister Pinari Vijayan and his wife Kamala Vijayan formed the teams to improve women’s security in the state…
Egypt Christians stage rare Cairo protest demanding rights (Associated Press) Egyptian Christians staged a rare protest in downtown Cairo on Saturday to demand the government uphold their rights, saying they are being treated as second-class citizens in the Muslim-majority country. Standing on the steps of a courthouse in the capital, some three dozen demonstrators braved Egypt’s draconian protest ban to hold signs aloft, calling for their legal rights to be upheld in disputes between Muslims and Christians…
Iraqi Christians fret about going home even if Islamic State is ousted (Crux) Iraqi Christians appear divided about whether they will be able to return home after ISIS militants are flushed out of the battle-scarred Nineveh Plain. They say their safety must be guaranteed at all costs. “If the liberation of the Nineveh Plain region is successful, infrastructure is rebuilt and there is security, I would want to be among the first to return,” said Fadi Yousif, who teaches children in the Ashti II camp for displaced Christians in Ain Kawa, near Irbil. “It’s my home. I love that place. But what is absolutely essential is that we have real security there…”
12 August 2016
Tags: Syria India Iraq Egypt Ukraine
In this image from May, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, left is seen Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar mosque and university, and Archbishop Georg Gaenswein at the Vatican. The French cardinal said terrorists want to make peace-loving Christians and Muslims believe that it is impossible for them to live side by side; it is up to Christians and Muslims to prove them wrong.
(photo: CNS/Reuters pool via EPA)
Terrorists want to make peace-loving Christians and Muslims believe that it is impossible for them to live side by side; it is up to Christians and Muslims to prove them wrong, said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said he was in France 26 July when 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel was brutally murdered in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the murder.
Writing 12 August in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Tauran said, “Obviously, these crimes threaten the credibility of interreligious dialogue, but we must continue to meet, to speak and to work together when possible so hatred does not prevail.”
In a multicultural, multireligious society, ignorance breeds problems, he said. “In order to live together we must look at those who are different from us with esteem, friendly curiosity and a desire to walk together.”
When tensions arise or outrageous acts are perpetrated, the cardinal wrote, they must be studied as “providential lessons from which people must draw the necessary wisdom to open more reasonable and more courageous paths.”
As now-retired Pope Benedict XVI taught, he said, dialogue deepens only when both dialogue partners know and practice their own faith and are willing to try to explain it to the other.
“Dialogue cannot be based on ambiguity,” the cardinal said, so “an event like that of 26 July 2016, pushes us to deepen our spiritual life and nourish it with prayer and study.”
Christians and Muslims, he wrote, “can — rather, we must — work together and promote religious instruction,” especially in societies that appear to be trying to drive religious faith to the margins of social life.
“By killing Father Jacques, those who conceived of this despicable act had one precise goal: to demonstrate that peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Christians is impossible,” Cardinal Tauran said. “But we have demonstrated and we believe that we must join forces in the name of God to work together for harmony and unity in a spirit of sincerity and mutual trust.”