28 August 2015
In the video above, priests from Iraq and Syria describe what is happening in the Middle East
as genocide. (video: Rome Reports)
The lives of Syrian refugees who fled (BBC) Hundreds of thousands of people seeking to escape war, persecution and poverty have crossed into Europe this year. The vast majority are fleeing the conflict in Syria, and under international law are classed as refugees. Since the conflict began more than four years ago, about eight million people — or 40% of the population — have had to leave their homes...
Estonia plans Russian “border fence” (BBC) Estonia says it wants to build a fence along its eastern border with Russia to boost security and protect the EU's passport-free Schengen zone. Construction on the fence, planned to be about 110km (70 miles) long and 2.5m (8ft) high, is set to start in 2018. It is expected to cost about €71m (£52m; $80m), according to reports. The plans come amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict. Europe is also struggling with an influx of migrants...
Martyred Syrian bishop hailed as a model of holiness (Vatican Radio) On Saturday, 29 August, the venerable Servant of God, Flavyānus Mikhayil Melkī is to be beatified. Melkī was an Eastern Catholic prelate of the Brothers of Saint Ephrem, who became the Syrian Catholic eparch of Gazarta — or what is Cizre in modern-day Turkey, and was was killed in Gazarta during the sayfo or “putting to the sword” of Syrians in 1915, after he refused to convert to Islam. In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio, the Prefect of the Congregations for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, said that the soon-to-be Blessed Flavyā nus Mikhayil Melkī is a model of holiness for our time, in which once again the Christian communities of very ancient standing face the threat of extinction...
Gaza victims still displaced a year later (The Daily Telegraph) It is a year this week since the homes and lives of Beit Hanoun families were levelled in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that to this day sees more than 100,000 people in Gaza still displaced with no real homes or livelihood and many living in the rubble created during the intense seven-week war...
Coptic Christian jailed for handing out Bibles to Muslims (Christian Post) An Egyptian Christian who was arrested in early August for handing out Bibles to Muslims at a mall is likely to remain jailed indefinitely after a judge extended his sentence and charged him with blasphemy right before he was scheduled to be released...
27 August 2015
Near Alexandria, the Sisters of the Incarnate Word care for orphaned or disadvantaged children from Egypt’s large Coptic Christian community. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Egyptian Christians — known as Copts, a derivative of the Greek word Aigyptios, meaning Egyptian — are proud of their ancient roots. They received the Gospel from St. Mark the Evangelist, who brought the faith to the city of Alexandria, second only to Rome in the ancient Mediterranean world. There, he died a martyr’s death around the year 67.
The evangelist extended his activity beyond the city’s prosperous Jewish community. He called for the city’s populace, mainly Copts and Greeks, to adopt “the way,” the early Christian description for discipleship in Jesus Christ.
Mark sowed the Christian seed on fertile ground. Centuries before the Arab advent in the eastern Mediterranean, and with it the rise of Islam, Egyptian Christianity blossomed. It provided the church with the philosophical foundation and theological vocabulary responsible for its explosive expansion in the Greco-Roman world, introduced monastic life and peopled the universal church with some of its greatest saints and scholars, including Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, Anthony, Macarius, Didymus, Athanasius, Arius, Cyril and Dioscorus.
The Coptic Catholic Church offers a wide variety of assistance to people with special needs, including those with addictions. (photo: Shawn Baldwin)
The Copts today form the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Embracing an estimated 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 88.5 million, the Copts belong to three groups. The majority belongs to the Coptic Orthodox Church. This church developed independently, breaking communion with the churches of Rome and Constantinople, after the Council of Chalcedon (451) attempted to solve the Christological clashes of the early church. Despite centuries of relative isolation and on-again off-again discrimination or persecution, the Coptic Orthodox Church is experiencing a revival.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, European and North American missionaries — Catholic and reformed — competed for influence among the Orthodox Copts, especially after their evangelical efforts among Muslims failed. The goals of these missionaries — to educate the largely illiterate laity, bolster the formation of the clergy and work for the reunion of the churches — were well intended. But their efforts splintered the Coptic Orthodox Church, eventually forming Coptic Catholic and Coptic Evangelical communities.
In the first decades after Vatican II, the Coptic Catholic Church grew considerably. Much of this growth may be attributed to the many social service activities of the Coptic and Roman (Latin-rite) Catholic churches. These include schools (more than 100 parishes sponsor primary and secondary schools), orphanages, clinics and medical dispensaries. Most of these institutions are located in the poorest and remotest villages of the Nile Valley, which remains the center of Coptic Catholic life.
And while for decades relations between the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic churches had been frosty, the rise of militant Islam and its violent targeting of all Christians has now united all Copts, highlighting what they hold in common: their faith in Christ.
Click here for more on the Coptic Catholic Church from the pages of ONE magazine.
27 August 2015
Sally, Sister Laetetia Hanna, Rita, Mariam, Thikra and Sister Muntaha Marzena make up the happy family at Holy Family Orphanage in Ain Kawa, Erbil. (photo: Don Duncan)
In the Summer 2015 edition of ONE, Don Duncan describes revisiting Iraq a year after the invasion of ISIS. One of the places he visited is a local orphanage:
I must admit that I had certain preconceptions and received images that crossed my mind as I passed over the threshold of the Holy Family Orphanage in Ain Kawa, Erbil, a recently-opened home for children in need run by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena to cater to the needs of Christians displaced by ISIS last August.
In the village I grew up in in the Irish midlands, there was a house known as “the orphanage” where kids from various backgrounds were taken care of by a mixture of nuns and state-employed social workers.
The children in this home were of various ages and so were in various classes of the village’s primary and high schools. They were cloaked in a sort of childhood mystery. Who are they really? Who are their real parents? Do they really feel like brothers and sisters? What is it like to have so many “parents?” There was also a sort of sadness, I remember, that we projected on them: a supposition that to be brought up by anyone but your biological parents can be nothing but a tragedy.
So this was the sort of vague, unprocessed baggage that brought with me as I crossed the threshold of the orphanage in Ain Kawa But from that moment, I was constantly surprised and enlightened. The Erbil orphanage reminded me not of the orphanage in my long-ago childhood village but rather it reminded me of my own childhood home and upbringing. Again and again.
The children in the orphanage: Sally (20), Rita (16), Mariam (13) and Thikra (10) had an age-spread not unlike my own family’s. And while my family consists of six siblings and theirs of four, I could immediately relate to the dynamics among the children: it is recognizable to anyone from a big family: alliances exist between various siblings, chores are shared out and one helps or hinders the other, there is a chain of surrogate care from the youngest to the eldest where gaps in over-stretched parental care are compensated for in an organic and spontaneous way.
That said, while I was struck by all the similarities between my childhood and those of the girls at the Holy Family Orphanage in Ain Kawa, it became clear during my interviews that there were some deep, indelible facts in their lives that make it such that I could never know their experience fully. Only one of the four girls is a “true orphan,” in that both of her parents have passed away. All the rest of the girls still have one parent alive, for example or are from broken homes or from families who are incapable of minding them and so were placed in the care of the nuns. That is to say that these girls once knew what it was to have biological family and to belong to a family bound by blood and not by various family misfortunes. The parallels, I eventually realized, only go so far.
The displacement of the Christians of the Nineveh Plain by ISIS in August 2014 constituted a second displacement for these girls: the first being the one from their biological families. That said, the displaced girls of this orphanage have come to find themselves in perhaps the best possible circumstance of refuge. While other families are reduced to sharing rooms with other families, while domestic problems flourish across the displaced community, while children exhibit behaviors concurrent with symptoms of trauma, the girls of the Holy Family Orphanage in Ain Kawa have found themselves consistently swaddled in the love and comfort of the two nuns who take direct care of them and of the larger family of some 40 Dominican Sisters in the convent just at the end of their street.
Read more in “Grace” from the Summer 2015 edition of ONE. And check out this profile of the Holy Family Orphanage in the same issue.
To support the Dominican Sisters and their work with displaced families in Iraq, please visit our giving page.
27 August 2015
Oseni Khalajian, a pensioner living in Eshtia, belongs to a community of Armenian Catholics descended from Armenians who fled to Georgia to escape the Turkish mass murder. Learn more about the the efforts of Armenians Catholics to retain identity and faith in “Staying Power” from the Autumn 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
27 August 2015
Ukrainian scouts patrol a neutral zone to survey the position of pro-Russian rebels in the Lugansk region on 27 August. (photo: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)
Seven Ukrainian servicemen killed, 13 wounded (Reuters) Seven Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 13 wounded in fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the past 24 hours, military spokesman Oleksander Motuzyanyk said on Thursday. The casualties were the highest daily losses for the Ukrainian army since mid-July, as violence continues to test a six-month-old ceasefire deal.
Iraqi archbishop: Plights of Christians has challenged his faith (CNS) Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, placed his face in his hands when asked how his faith has been challenged and changed in the crisis he has helped manage over the past year. He said he has outwardly encouraged the Christians whom he welcomed to Irbil when they fled Islamic State, but within his heart he would frequently “quarrel with God.” “I don’t understand what he is doing when I look at what has happened in the region,” Archbishop Warda said. “I quarrel with him every day...”
UN: growing need for food aid in Ethiopia (The Guardian) The number of Ethiopians who will need food aid by the end of this year has surged by more than 1.5 million from earlier estimates, according to United Nations agencies. After failed rains, some 4.5m people are now projected to require assistance, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), the World Food Programme and the UN children’s agency, Unicef, said. This is an increase of 55% on initial projections of 2.9 million, and means donors must urgently provide an extra $230m to meet these needs...
Dozens of refugees found dead in truck in Austria (Reuters) As many as 50 refugees were found dead in a parked truck in Austria near the Hungarian border on Thursday, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the discovery had shaken European leaders discussing the migrant crisis at a Balkans summit. Police made the grisly discovery in the 7.5-tonne truck stopped on the A4 motorway near the town of Parndorf, apparently since Wednesday, Hans Peter Doskozil, police chief in the province of Burgenland, told a news conference...
A Jewish perspective on “Nostra Aetate” 50 years later (Vatican Radio) Susannah Heschel is an American author and professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College in the United States. She’s also the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who played an influential role in the drawing up of ‘Nostra Aetate.’ At a recent conference, organised by theEcclesiological Investigations network at Georgetown University, Philippa Hitchen talked to Susannah about her father’s role and about the importance of that document, half a century on...
26 August 2015
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Ukraine Refugees
On 20 August, Israeli heavy equipment loads an olive tree after it was uprooted to make way for the controversial separation barrier in the Cremisan Valley in Beit Jala, West Bank.
(photo: CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
The latest developments in the Cremisan Valley — with Israel moving forward with construction of a controversial barrier that will divide the region — has prompted a response from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (U.S.C.C.B.).
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces this week sent the following letter to Secretary of State John Kerry:
Dear Secretary Kerry:
As Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write regarding the injustice being perpetrated in the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. My predecessor as Chairman called this situation to your attention earlier. A recent statement of the Latin Patriarchate encapsulates our concerns:
“On Monday morning, 17 August, Israeli bulldozers arrived unannounced on private properties in Beir Ona, near the Cremisan Valley, to resume construction of the Separation Wall. The residents of the area were surprised and felt the pain of the loss of about 50 of their centuries-old olive trees that were uprooted.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem strongly condemns this Israeli conducted operation, which is without regard to the rights of the families of the valley; the rights that these same families have bravely tried to defend before the law over the past decade. We join with the sorrow and frustration of these oppressed families, and we strongly condemn the injustice done to them.
The construction of the Separation Wall and the confiscation of lands of the local families are threats and insults to peace. We call on the Israeli authorities to await the decision on the petition submitted by the families of the Valley to the Supreme Court of Israel a few days ago and to stop the work that has been started.
We urge you to press Israeli authorities to stop the work on the Separation Wall whose route is confiscating the private lands of Palestinian families in the West Bank. Such actions undermine the cause of peace and impair the possibility of a two-state solution.
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú
Bishop of Las Cruces
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
26 August 2015
Tags: Palestine Israel Holy Land
A bougainvillea grows through the open window of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ convent in Suez, burned by rioters in 2013. To learn more about efforts to rebuild in Egypt, read Out of the Ashes in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
26 August 2015
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Sisters
In the video above, a Vatican official says that charitable Christian organizations have been invited to Rome on 17 September to discuss what can be done to improve aid to refugees from Iraq and Syria. (video: Rome Reports)
Kurds launch new assault on ISIS (Reuters) Kurdish forces attacked ISIS insurgents in a cluster of villages in Iraq’s northern province of Kirkuk on Wednesday, bent on securing territory they have gained in the course of rolling back the jihadists since last summer. The assault began overnight south of Daquq, a town about 108 miles north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad…
Pope extends boundaries of Syro-Malabar eparchy (Vatican Radio) The pope has extended the boundaries of the Syro-Balabar Eparchy of Mandya and included six neighboring civil districts. At the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishops at Mount St. Thomas in Kerala, the Rev. Dr. P. Antony Kariyil, C.M.I., was canonically elected bishop of the Eparchy of Mandya…
Russia inadvertently publishes death toll in eastern Ukraine (NBC News) Russia’s military death toll in eastern Ukraine may be officially classified — but it appears to have inadvertently slipped out. A Russian financial news website published a report — which has now been censored — saying that Moscow has paid compensation to around 2,000 families of troops slain in the conflict. Russia has steadfastly denied allegations its troops have been sent to assist pro-Moscow rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. However, the Kremlin said in May that army deaths in peacetime were classified information…
Vatican sends letter to mark 60th anniversary of Hebrew Catholic Vicariate (Vatican Radio) Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has sent a letter on behalf of Pope Francis for the 60th anniversary of the Apostolate of St. James. The Apostolate is the Hebrew Catholic Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem…
Mortar attacks on churches in Damascus (Fides) On Sunday, 23 August, a rain of mortars fell on the neighborhood, including two shells on the roof of the Maronite church. This was reported by Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar, in an statement specifying that 9 people were killed and about 50 were wounded…
Census on religions in India shows increase in Muslims (Fides) The Muslims have increased by 0.8 percent and now represent 14.2 percent of the Indian population, while Hindus have fallen by 0.7 percent and represent 79.8 percent. These are the data just released by the Indian authorities, emerged from the 2011 Census on the population of the religious communities in the country…
25 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Syro-Malabar Catholic Church ISIS Pope
Dating back to the sixth century, St. Catherine’s Monastery is one of the world’s oldest functioning monasteries and the sum territory of the Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai. (photo: Mohammed El‑Dakhakhny)
Few monuments from antiquity have come down to us unaltered or unharmed. Just yesterday, 24 August 2015, the world learned that ISIS blew up an important monument of the Classical era: the Temple of Baal Shamin in Palmyra, Syria.
In Egypt, in the arid and rocky wilderness of the southern Sinai Peninsula, rests a living link to Byzantine emperors, fourth-century pilgrims, third-century Christian hermits and Moses. The Monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria is a major repository of the early church’s cultural and spiritual heritage. Deep behind its sixth-century walls, the monastery’s monks — who form the smallest of the churches in the Orthodox communion of churches — revere and guard thousands of rare manuscripts, codices, icons and liturgical objects. Many of these precious relics date to the time of the church fathers.
In the last few decades, especially as the enemies of civilization target its patrimony, there is a renewed interest in St. Catherine’s and its position in the ancient Christian East. Sinai’s monks have shared their treasures, loaning parchment and painted wood to museums throughout the world. And record crowds, surprising even the experts, have responded, waiting in long lines to view ancient relics once preserved in an isolated oasis lost in time and sand. Scholars have flooded the monastery, studying its manuscripts and digitizing their pages. And tourists, thanks to daily bus service from Cairo, challenge the monks in their efforts to preserve their ministry from commercialization and economic exploitation.
On 25 November, St. Catherine’s Monastery celebrates the feast of its patron. (photo: Jean-Luc Manaud/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
“The Holy Monastery,” the monks have written, “is a purely religious institution dedicated to the protection of the Sinaitic pilgrimage sites ... the maintenance of the history of Sinai … the values of the great religious tradition of the monastery [and] to cultivate the development of the exalted moral life through the exercise of the Christian virtue that derives from the first commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…”
These are objectives that Muhammad appreciated, granting the monastery and its monks his protection after visiting it circa 628:
“No compulsion is to be on them,” the prophet wrote in a letter known in Arabic as the “Ahtiname.”
“Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey his prophet. … They are my allies.”
Click here to learn more about the monastery, its monks and miracles.
25 August 2015
Tags: Egypt Orthodox Church Eastern Churches Monastery Monastic Life
Children in in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, participate in a psychosocial program run by the Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees of the Near East Council of Churches, funded in part by CNEWA. The program is designed to help the children cope better with stress caused by the 2014 war with Israel and the continuing hardship provoked by the Israeli siege of the Palestinian territory. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
A year after war tore apart Gaza, efforts are still underway to help heal the often invisible wounds, especially among children. CNS’s Dale Gavlak reports on one prime example, supported by CNEWA:
Catholic aid agencies having been using various counseling techniques, even a live clown and puppets, to help the Gaza Strip’s children overcome the trauma of lost loved ones and homes in the year since the cease-fire ended the conflict. But they warn that only a political solution can hope to remedy the increasingly desperate situation there.
“Almost everything we do as an international nongovernmental organization — and most peers would say the same — is like putting a Band-Aid on a pretty serious injury,” said Matthew McGarry, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative for Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.
McGarry and other aid officials told Catholic News Service that the long-festering conflict between Israel and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has created a man-made humanitarian and psychosocial crisis that politics alone must solve.
“It’s cumulative. Children as young as 7 have lived through three wars in the past 7 years — that’s your lifetime,” McGarry told CNS of the psychological toll Gaza’s multiple wars have taken on its youngest residents.
The U.N. estimates that at least 370,000 children in Gaza need psychosocial support following last summer’s war, which cost the lives of more than 2,250 Palestinians, 65 percent of whom were civilians. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers were killed, along with six civilians, it said, before the 26 August 2014, cease-fire was reached.
But Catholic aid officials who regularly assess assistance on the ground called the U.N. estimate “low.” McGarry and Sami El-Yousef, regional director for Palestine and Israel for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said everyone in the war-torn strip is traumatized and needs psychosocial support.
Still, Gaza’s youngest appear to bear the hardest and most-lasting consequences of the seven-week conflict, according to findings by Save the Children, based in the United Kingdom.
Three-quarters of Gaza’s children experience unusual bed-wetting regularly, while 89 percent of parents said that their children suffer constant feelings of fear, reported a study issued by the group in July.
More than 70 percent of children worry that another war will break out. Seven out of 10 children interviewed now suffer regular nightmares.
For the past year, CRS, CNEWA and Caritas have worked with local partners to tackle these problems.
“The program we designed was to reach mainly children, but not exclusively,” El-Yousef told CNS. CNEWA’s psychosocial support became its biggest program to aid post-conflict Gaza, helping more than 20,000 at some 30 schools and other community spaces.
“Some recreational activities were involved, but others needed deep psychological follow-up with specialized counselors, including the transfer to institutions qualified to handle severe cases on a one-on-one basis which were detected during the intervention,” El Yousef said.
A combination of group and individual counseling, puppets, play and art therapy has begun to show some signs of lessening the trauma.
“I was talking with a mother the other day about her 10-year-old daughter, who had been wetting the bed every night and had to be put on anti-anxiety medication by her doctor,” McGarry said.
The girl was enrolled into one of 17 child-friendly spaces CRS has set up in Gaza’s towns hardest hit by the bombardment. There, children draw and paint, play games and talk about their feelings.
Although she still wets her bed from time to time, it’s no longer a nightly occurrence, the mother told McGarry. The doctor has also lowered the medication dosage because he said “she is clearly making some progress.”
The CRS country representative recounted another case of a 12-year-old boy who was acting out violently and being overly aggressive at home.
“He had to be coaxed a bit to come to the child-friendly space and didn’t participate at first. But in time he became more active,” McGarry said. “His mother says he is now gentler and less antagonistic with his siblings. This is what we are looking for.”
CRS introduced puppets for the first time in Gaza as a way to encourage children to express their feelings, work through the trauma and adopt nonviolent conflict resolution practices. So far, 3,000 children have participated in such programs, and more opportunities are planned for them next year.
Caritas Jerusalem has expanded its help beyond psychological staff visits to families and schools. From July until October, Marco Rodari, an Italian clown therapist, is helping healing hearts in Gaza.
Experienced in working with traumatized and sick children, Rodari has created a special program for Gaza’s children.
First, he develops a relationship with children through a comedy and magic show. Next, they become the clowns or magicians performing the tricks. The third aspect of the program will be the start of a “real school of magic” for the children.
Clown therapy enables the traumatized child to forget for a while the horrors experienced, to feel happy emotions and smile again, Rodari told Caritas.
Making theater brings out children’s emotions. While performing simple magic tricks, the child uses different parts of the body at the same time, thus activating several parts of the brain. Rodari said this promotes psychological healing and helps to replace “bad emotions and memories with happy, positive feelings and thoughts.”
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Children Relief