9 August 2019
Unusually heavy rains continue to pound India, causing massive flooding and forcing thousands to be evacuated to relief camps. (video: Down To Earth/YouTube)
Heavy rains pummel Kerala; thousands evacuated to relief camps (India Today) As incessant rains continued to wreak havoc in Kerala leading to a flood-like situation, 14 people have died since yesterday and over 22,000 have been evacuated to 315 relief camps. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought the army’s help and additional 13 more units of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the relief and rescue operations…
How plastics are both a curse and a blessing for Gaza (National Geographic) Gaza’s plastic recyclers are at the forefront of work to stave off economic, humanitarian, and environmental collapse. In recent years a new culture and economy have risen up around recycling plastics: from collecting and cleaning to sorting and repurposing, people have created direly needed business opportunities…
Population control efforts gaining ground in India (Al Jazeera) Across northern and central India, a campaign advocating for a population control law is gaining momentum. The movement ostensibly seeks to raise awareness over the need to restrain India’s population of 1.34 billion, second only to China’s 1.39 billion. But its subtext reflects a core belief of right-wing Hindu organisations: that Muslims are trying to “overtake” Hindus…
In Ethiopia’s mountains, a glimpse at how ancient human lived (The New York Times) Scientists have discovered what is by far the oldest evidence of human occupation at extreme altitudes: a rock shelter strewn with bones, tools and hearths 11,000 feet above sea level. People lived at the site, in the mountains of Ethiopia, as long as 47,000 years ago…
8 August 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Kerala
In this image from 2017, a Dominican sister visits the Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah in Qaraqosh, Iraq, heavily damaged by ISIS. (photo: Raed Rafei)
On Saturday 10 August this year, Jews all over the world observe Tish’a b’Av, literally “the ninth of (the month) Av.” On this day, Jews remember the destruction of the Temple of Solomon by the Babylonians in 587 BC and the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.
Although it is a Jewish observance, it gives all of us something to think about. The destruction of the sacred places of enemies and conquered peoples is almost as old as humanity itself. Tragically, it is a practice that has not waned in the contemporary world — including parts of the world CNEWA serves.
The briefest of researches uncovers some sobering data. Attacks on sacred places are far more common than most believers realize. Some of these desecrations receive media coverage. The vast majority do not.
In recent times there have been several attacks that have shocked the world. On 18 July 1994, a synagogue in Buenos Aires was firebombed and 85 people were killed. On 2 March 2001, with the entire world watching, the Taliban destroyed the 1500-year-old old giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. — dynamiting and shelling the statues into oblivion. Most recently, on 24 July 2014, ISIS destroyed the Shrine of Yunus (Jonah) in Mosul, Iraq. Built on a still-existing 6th century BC palace, this had been originally a Christian shrine. When Christians were no long able to maintain it, it was taken over by Muslims, but was revered and visited by both Muslims and Christians. It was architecturally a strikingly beautiful building.
The Taliban destroyed statues of the Buddha of Bamiyan in 2001. The image above shows before it was destroyed (left) and after (right). (photo: Wikipedia Commons)
Across the centuries, the targets have included many different religions. Throughout the Middle East, there are the almost unrelenting attacks on Christian places of worship, with almost no country in the region being immune. And even before the rise of ISIS, Yazidis, Mandeans and even other Muslims (e.g., at the Shrine of Yunus) have seen their sacred places destroyed.
Significantly, the ancient world isn’t the only place where these horrors are unfolding. You need look no further than parts of the United States.
Although not nearly as old as the Buddhas of Bamiyan or the Shrine of Yunus, African American churches in the U.S.—sacred places—have been under almost constant attack, to the point that there is often little or no coverage of the atrocities. An article in The Huffington Post on 21 October 2015 recounts 100 attacks since 1950 against churches whose congregants were primarily black. A Google search uncovered a Wikipedia article that lists the churches and dates of the attacks. Since 2001, a dozen black churches have been attacked, three in 2019 alone.
The attacks on the temples in Jerusalem and almost all of the other sacred spaces mentioned here involved assaults on physical structures: temples, shrines, statues, etc. But it is important to remember that other cultures, especially indigenous cultures, have sacred spaces without buildings or permanent structures — some of them with histories going back thousands of years. It is the place that is sacred; frequently, there are no buildings on it.
Often in the news we hear about Native Americans or indigenous peoples elsewhere protesting what they see as the desecration of land by outside developers. This, too, is an attack on the sacred that deserves attention and action. International bodies like the United Nations are becoming aware of the problem of the destruction of sacred places and are trying to develop protocols and conventions to protect them.
Attention must be paid. These kinds of attacks affect us all. This Saturday, as Jews around the world observe and mourn the loss of the two temples in Jerusalem, we should pause and remember the loss of the sacred that is still going on around the world—not just in far-off and ancient places, but in our own country and neighborhoods.
8 August 2019
Tags: Persecution Iraqi
Houry Kulkutchyan, a refugee from Syria now living in Armenia, makes soap from scratch in her home. Read more about how Syrians are starting over in a place where Hope Takes Root in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
8 August 2019
Tags: Syria Refugees Armenia
The video above has the latest about widespread flooding that has hit Kerala this week, sparking red alerts across the region. (video: India Today/YouTube)
Heavy rains, landslides wreak havoc in Kerala (Business Today) Water levels in most of the rivers and dams across the state have risen flooding nearby areas. Major rivers like Manimala, Meenachal, Moovattupuzha, Chaliyar, Valapattanam, Iruvazjinjpuzha and Pamba are have risen. The Chief Minister’s office has asked district collectors to evacuate people from danger-prone areas. A holiday has also been declared for all educational institutions in most of the northern districts including Kannur, Wayand and Malappuram, authorities said…
UN: Over 100,000 detained or missing in Syria (Time) Reports suggest more than 100,000 people in Syria have been detained, abducted or gone missing during the eight-year conflict, with the government mainly responsible, the U.N. political chief said Wednesday. Rosemary DiCarlo urged all parties to heed the Security Council’s call for the release of all those arbitrarily detained and to provide information to families about their loved ones as required by international law…
Report: climate change threatens world’s food supply (The New York Times) The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at ”unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself. The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report…
What tourists might see if they were allowed to visit Gaza (NPR) I’m in search of a different Gaza than the Gaza of violence and misery you usually hear about. I’m retracing the route the tourists used to take. I walk through the old city market to the antique shop Saleem Elrayes has run for more than 30 years…
Church pays tribute to Indian politician who loved Christians (UCANews.com) Church leaders have expressed their condolences following the death of Sushma Swaraj, India’s former external affairs minister, recalling her role in securing freedom for two abducted Catholic priests. Swaraj, a prominent member of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), died on 6 August following a heart attack. She was 67. ”She brought a human touch to all decisions of the ministry. As foreign minister, she was our best ambassador and projected a great image of the country in international circles,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Indian bishops’ conference…
7 August 2019
Tags: Syria India Gaza Strip/West Bank Kerala
Msgr. John Kozar visits a seminary of the Order of Discalced Carmelites at Cotton Hill, Trivandrum, in Kerala. In the current edition of ONE, Msgr. Kozar reflects on vocations — and the many forms they take, among both religious and lay people. Read more in the July 2019 edition of the magazine. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
7 August 2019
Tags: India Vocations (religious)
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, seen in this photograph from 2017, warned this week that Iraqi Christians face "extinction." (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
Archbishop warns Iraqi Christians facing ‘extinction’ (CNS) Iraqi Christians face “extinction” unless Islam recognizes the fundamental equality of all people and takes steps to overcome violent factions that seek to force religious minorities from the country, said Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil…
Hundreds stuck in Mumbai due to flooding (Reuters) Hundreds of passengers were stuck in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and nearby towns after two days of heavy rain flooded rivers and undermined railway tracks, forcing authorities to cancel or divert dozens of long-distance trains. Rivers in the western state of Maharashtra were flooded after authorities released water from dams made full after many parts on the west coast received more than 200 mm (8 inches) of rain…
Pentagon report says ISIS is ‘re-surging in Syria’ (CNN) ISIS is “re-surging” in Syria less than five months after President Donald Trump declared the terror group’s caliphate there had been 100% defeated, according to a new Pentagon inspector general’s report on the fight against ISIS. Despite losing its territorial ‘caliphate,’ the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was re-surging in Syria,” the report warned…
Indian state toughens punishment for mob lynching (UCANews.com) Church officials in India’s Rajasthan state have welcomed a new law that allows harsher punishment for mob violence and lynching despite opposition from pro-Hindu political groups. The state legislature on Aug. 5 passed the Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill 2019 amid vociferous protests from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Catholic officials have welcomed the new legislation as a necessity to stem increasing incidents of mob lynching, mostly connected with protecting cows, a revered animal in Orthodox Hinduism…
6 August 2019
Tags: India Iraqi Christians ISIS
In this image from February, Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul, Iraq, center, concelebrates the liturgy at St. Thomas Syriac Catholic Church in the old city of Mosul. Five years after the invasion of ISIS, many Iraqis are still struggling to recover and rebuild their homes and their churches. (photo: CNS/Khalid al-Mousily, Reuters)
Today, 6 August, marks the five-year anniversary of the assault of ISIS on the Nineveh Plain. Thousands of Iraqi Christians were displaced — many literally running for their lives.
Last fall, we published a letter from one woman, describing the challenges she and her family faced:
I have to admit that, spiritually, I have passed through some difficult times. I questioned God many times, wondering, “How is it possible that he has abandoned us?” But after all those moments of fear, I have finally surrendered my life and my fate to God.
My mother taught me how to live my faith, how to face crises and adapt to change. She taught me how to synchronize my hands and my mind to achieve my goals. Thanks to the image of my mother and her encouraging whispers that have accompanied and guided me in such difficult times, my hope in God has become so strong that now I live it in every single detail of my life. And now, again, I take this opportunity and this experience to pass it on to my children.
Following our return to our homes in a liberated Qaraqosh in September 2017, our joy was mixed with pain and bitterness. Our beloved home was gutted by fire and our fields were destroyed, but yet our joy was unbelievable; we were home! We were back in the home of our forefathers, our pride!
But the initial excitement subsided as the brutal reality hit us. At the beginning, Qaraqosh — once a city of 50,000 inhabitants — was like a ghost town, very few people returned to live amid the destruction. It was hard to walk around and see the ruins everywhere. The path of destruction included schools, churches, hospitals, factories and houses. But we thought it was necessary to return home, where we could work and support ourselves. Since our house is uninhabitable, we have rented an apartment. My husband and his brothers have returned to the fields to revive them for planting. As for me, I found a temporary job in the power company and in the evenings I provide tutoring for extra income to help my husband and my family to rebuild our home.
The situation is improving now, and life is returning, but slowly. The return of the churches, of our priests and sisters, and the opening of our schools is encouraging us to have some confidence and hope for a better future.
It is a future many fervently await and pray for. June’s installation of a Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop, Nizar Semaan, was seen as a significant step for the people of Iraq:
While touring Qaraqosh before his installation, the new bishop said he was struck by how, in two years, the community was able to rebuild again, citing as evidence numerous homes, shops and restaurants.
“It’s kind of like a miracle,” he said. “This is a sign of hope, really.”
Hope is often hard to come by in an Iraq where people still struggle to rebuild their homes and churches. But they are blessed with an abundant faith and deep love for their homeland — along with the support of many around the world who will not let them be forgotten.
Please remember the people of Iraq in your prayers as they continue their long journey back.
6 August 2019
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS
Parts of India are coping with massive flooding, and Catholic charities have opened churches and institutions to help. (video: India Today/YouTube)
Catholic charities in India open churches for flood victims (UCANews.com) Catholic dioceses in flood-hit Mumbai have opened their churches and institutions to accommodate thousands of people stranded in the city by heavy rain and flooded streets. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay and Bishop Thomas Elavanal of Kalyan Diocese asked their parish priests on 5 August to help stranded and homeless people as heavy rain continued in western India...
Syrian army resumes bombardment in Idlib (Al Jazeera) The Syrian army has resumed operations against armed rebels in Idlib, scrapping a ceasefire in the last opposition-held stronghold. In a statement carried by state media on Monday, the army accused the rebels of violating the truce that was brokered last week during talks in Kazakhstan following a three-month campaign supported by Russia…
Charity calls for rights to be respected after Gulf tanker seizures (Vatican News) The Catholic charity Apostleship of the Sea, has voiced concern for the safety of seafarers navigating vessels in the Gulf. It comes after a second tanker and its seven crew was seized north of the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly smuggling fuel…
Extreme water shortages affect a quarter of the world’s population (Vatican News) A quarter of the world’s population across 17 countries are living in regions of extremely high water stress, a measure of the level of competition over water resources, a new report reveals. Experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI) warn that increasing water stress could lead to more of what is called “day zero” — a term that gained popularity in 2018 as Cape Town in South Africa came dangerously close to running out of water…
Kerala tourism rebounds (Economic Times) Tourism, a top revenue earner for Kerala, has rebounded to the pre-floods level with tourist footfalls registering a growth of 14.81 percent in the second quarter of 2019 from a year ago. There was an increase of 639,271 tourists (both domestic and foreign) during April-June this year as compared with same period last year.…
5 August 2019
Tags: Syria India Kerala
Children play on the grounds of the Fratelli School in Lebanon. Read more about Fratelli, Where Education Is Alive, in the July 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
5 August 2019
In this image from 2018, Syrian schoolchildren walk as U.S. troops patrol in Hassakeh, Syria. The Holy See has called for efforts to help children involved in armed conflicts.
(photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
Holy See calls for efforts to save children from war (Vatican News) The Holy See is decrying the violence and rights abuse that children suffer in various ways in conflict situations and is urging the international community to increase efforts especially to release child soldiers and help the reintegration of young victims of other grave violations. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, made the appeal on Friday at a Security Council open debate on children in armed conflict…
U.S. launches last-ditch effort to stop Turkish invasion of Syria (The Washington Post) The Trump administration has launched a last-ditch effort to head off a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria that it expects will come within the next two weeks. With tens of thousands of Turkish troops massed near the border, a high-level Defense Department delegation plans to present what U.S. officials describe as a final offer to address Turkey’s concerns at a meeting Monday in Ankara…
One Syrian refugee’s mission to take Jordan to the world (The National) A group of budding entrepreneurs in Jordan watch avidly as Ehab Kahwati, 26, demonstrates how the colorful array of gadgets and wires laid out in front of them can be used to create remotely controlled technology. Kahwati is a Syrian refugee living in Amman who has chosen to dedicate his time to empowering young people who aspire to enter the tech industry, while simultaneously pursuing his own entrepreneurial dreams…
Pope Tawadros II offers Eid al-Adha greetings to Egypt’s Grand Imam (Egypt Independent) The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb received on Sunday the Pope of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church Tawadros II, who offered felicitation for the occasion of Eid al-Adha and for the Imam’s return to his homeland following a successful therapeutic trip to Europe. Tayyeb thanked Tawadros, asserting that the relationship between Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church is a model for shared values and noble morals…
Tags: Syria Egypt Muslim Holy See