23 August 2018
Pilgrims pray at the Stone of the Anointing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Christians believe this is the stone on which the body of Jesus rested as it was prepared for burial. (photo: Don Duncan)
This week, on 21 August, Muslims all over the world celebrated the eid al adha, the Feast of Sacrifice which occurs every year at the end of the Hajj, the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Every Muslim who is physically, financially and otherwise able is obliged once in a lifetime to perform the Hajj with its special rituals.
During this time of year, when so many people are often traveling on vacation, this singular event reminds us of the importance of a specific kind of travel, pilgrimage, in the religions of the Middle East— Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In fact, pilgrimage to a sacred place is something deeply rooted in so many of the people and places CNEWA serves. It’s a tradition stretching back many centuries.
Long before Islam, for example —even before the arrival of Muhammad and the monotheistic faith he preached —pilgrims went to Mecca to worship the over 300 gods revered there.
In fact, the Arabic word hajj is related to the Hebrew word hag, which appears many times in the Hebrew Scriptures to men “festival” in general; specifically, it refers to a festival which involves a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Even in modern Israeli Hebrew, hag sameah means “happy holiday.”
It is interesting to note that although the three great Hebrew feasts of Passover, Shevuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (“booths”) antedated the Temple in Jerusalem—in some instances by centuries—and were originally home or agricultural feasts, the three eventually evolved into pilgrim festivals. Israelites ideally observed them with a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Again and again in the Pentateuch and historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament, there are accounts of Jews—including Jesus—making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Christianity, for a number of reasons, did not originally place an emphasis on pilgrimage. The deep-seated belief that the Risen Christ was alive and present in the community rendered pilgrimages to encounter the Lord unnecessary. In addition, the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD removed the goal for pilgrimage. Three centuries of intermittent persecution and the struggle to assert a Christian identity that was rooted in Judaism— yet different from it— also reduced the importance of Jerusalem and pilgrimage there in the life of most Christians.
However, when Christianity became the religion of the Empire, emperors and wealthy people began to show their piety by building churches and shrines at places connected with events in the life of Christ.
The Emperor Constantine and his mother Helen were the first in the line of many emperors who restored and built new holy places in the Holy Land. In the first four centuries of Christianity, Jerusalem went from being a Jewish city under Roman control to a Roman city where Jews were forbidden to enter to a Roman (Byzantine) Christian city. Once under Christian control, Jerusalem and the Holy Land gradually became a place for Christian pilgrims. However, it was never the only pilgrim destination or even the most important goal for Christian pilgrims. Christians made pilgrimages to the tombs of Peter and Paul in Rome, the tomb of Thomas Becket in Canterbury, England, and to the tomb of James the Apostle in Compostela, Spain. In modern times the convenience of air travel has made Jerusalem and “the Holy Land” increasing popular with Christian pilgrims.
While the purposes and goals of pilgrimage vary among the three faith traditions, all three see the period of pilgrimage as a special time, an occasion for the pilgrim to be dedicated totally to God. In all three religions, it is a time of strict non-violence and spiritual reflection.
More pious than a vacation, and more physically involving than a retreat, it is a time when the believers renew themselves and rededicate their lives to following the faith and worshipping the one God.
Pilgrimage is a practice that binds all three religious traditions together — and as such, it is one we should all respect, cherish and appreciate throughout the world CNEWA serves.
23 August 2018
Tags: Middle East Christianity Islam Judaism
Pope Francis listens as Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, speaks during an audience with participants in the annual meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network, at the Vatican on 22 August. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
Catholic legislators must defend religious freedom around the globe, but they must take care to ensure they do not fall into the trap of showing disrespect toward or intolerance of other religions while doing so, Pope Francis said.
The pope met on 22 August with participants in the annual meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network and the group’s “freedom summit.”
According to the group’s website, the network began in 2010 “as an independent and nonpartisan international initiative to bring together practicing Catholics and other Christians in elected office on a regular basis for faith formation, education and fellowship.”
Pope Francis told participants that the Christian politician is called “to try, with humility and courage, to be a witness” to Christian values and to propose and support legislation in line with a Christian vision of society and of the human person.
The situation of Christians and other religious minorities in some parts of the world has “tragically worsened” due to “intolerant, aggressive and violent positions” even in countries that claim to recognize the freedom of religion, he said.
While defending religious freedom is part of the obligation to promote the common good, Pope Francis cautioned the legislators about the rhetoric and actions they use to do so. There is “the real danger of combating extremism and intolerance with just as much extremism and intolerance, including in attitudes and words,” he said.
23 August 2018
Tags: Lebanon Pope Francis
The video above shows how thousands of residents who fled their homes after the flooding in Kerala have begun returning home. What they are finding is often overwhelming. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
Kerala victims try to pick up the pieces of their lives (CNN) Idicula Gevarghese, forced to abandon his home in the town of Venmoney in the southern Indian state of Kerala last week, returned with his family on Monday to the ruins of their lives. Three of them -- himself, his wife and their granddaughter -- came back to the swamped house armed with disinfectant, and began the overwhelming task of clearing out five days of muck and water…
Palestinians: No ‘deal of the century’ without Jerusalem as capital (Haaretz) The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement that Israel will have to give something in return to the Palestinians now that Jerusalem is “off the table,” calling it ”meaningless…”
A course for Catholics organized by Russian Orthodox patriarchate (AsiaNews) A training course for representatives of the Catholic Church opens in Moscow on 24 August. They will attend a program prepared for them by the Moscow Patriarchate until 2 September. This was announced by the press service of the Department for external ecclesiastical affairs of the Patriarchate, recalling that it is the fourth appointment of this kind. After some years of frosty relations, starting 2016 the Russian Orthodox Church began to share several initiatives with the Catholic Church, such as these study exchanges that the Orthodox themselves took advantage of last May, sending their own delegation to Rome…
Eritrea mulls building port on Red Sea (Bloomberg) Eritrea is considering building a port on its Red Sea coastline to export potash from deposits being developed in the Horn of Africa nation, a mines ministry official said. Plans for the harbor signal the country’s reemergence as a potential investor destination after its surprise rapprochement with neighboring Ethiopia last month ended two decades of political tensions…
UN marks international day for remembrance and abolition of slavery (Vatican News) The international observance “helps to guard against racial prejudices that have been developed to justify slavery and continue to fuel everyday racism and discrimination against people of African descent,” said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, in a message for Thursday’s observance. Since 2001, trafficking and slavery have been recognized by the international community as crimes against humanity, but Azoulay observed that “these scourges resurface at regular intervals in different ways and in different places.” ”That is why,” she said, “a better knowledge of the history of the slave trade and slavery is essential for a better understanding of the emergence of new forms of slavery, in order to prevent them…”
Syria’s famous ice cream is melting hearts in Jordan (Haaretz) There are certain institutions that are immune to economic fluctuations and major upheavals. Such is the Bakdash ice-cream enterprise, which after seven years of civil war and more than half-a-million dead, is still making its famous product every day in the Al-Hamidiyah Souq in the old city of Damascus. And in our case, it is also weathering Jordan’s high cost of living, which is bringing masses of people to the streets in protest…
22 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Palestine Kerala
A man stands outside what is left of his home following the severe flooding that swept through Kerala. (photo: CNEWA)
The devastating rains that have flooded Kerala have stopped for now. But as the waters recede, the full extent of the damage is finally being revealed.
For the first time in many days, the sun shone brightly over Kerala on Tuesday even as hundreds of thousands remained in relief camps while many who returned home broke down after seeing the enormity of the destruction.
There were no rains and the level of flood water in several areas of the state that got submerged had receded, officials and residents said. But the low-lying areas in the districts of Ernakulam, Idukki and Thrissur were still under a sheet of water.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to hundreds of thousands of Keralites, has pledged $100 million for relief work in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced.
“A new Kerala has to be built... Funds are the prime requisite for this. This will be raised by us through various sources besides getting it from the Centre and other agencies,” he told the media.
The need at this moment is great. Please visit this link to learn how you can help — and kindly remember our brothers and sisters in Kerala in your prayers. Thank you!
22 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
A young flood victims eats a meal inside a temporary relief shelter on 20 Augusut in Cochin, India. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
Caritas India reaching out to flood victims (Vatican News) After heavy lashing by monsoon rains since 8 August, southern India’s Kerala state is limping back to normalcy with the rains subsiding since Monday. However, the task of recovery and rehabilitation remains enormous and arduous. According to Kerala state chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, 223 deaths have been reported and over a million people are staying in 3,274 relief camps, of which more than 100,000 are kids below 12 years of age. As waters recede, the threat of water-born and air-borne diseases loom large with scarcity of clean drinking water and sanitation in relief camps…
Assad and Aoun discuss ways for Syrian refugees to return from Lebanon (AsiaNews) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun recently discussed the refugee problem, one of the most serious consequences of the conflict that has been bloodying Syria for seven years, in a telephone conversation. According to sources of al-Akhbar newspaper, the two leaders have investigated ways and means “to accelerate their return home”…
Suicide attack kills Sunni fighters in northern Iraq (Reuters) A suicide attack on a former Iraqi lawmaker’s house killed at least six tribal militiamen and wounded seven others in a northern Sunni Muslim village early on Wednesday, police said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but Islamic State militants operate in the area…
Hindu musicians face opposition at Christian concerts in India (UCANews.com) Hindu classical musicians who perform at Christian concerts face stiff opposition from fans and hard-line Hindu groups in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. Carnatic singer O.S. Arun canceled a performance after he was severely criticized on social media and accused of helping Christians to proselyte and convert Hindus…
21 August 2018
Tags: India Iraq Lebanon
These two residents a refugee camp in northern Ethiopia are, like so many others, living in exile, waiting for a better life beyond its borders. Read about how the church is seeking to help them in This, Our Exile, in the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
21 August 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Refugees
Flood victims are served food inside a temporary relief shelter on 20 August in Cochin, India. The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India's Kerala state. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
More than one million in Kerala have fled to relief camps to escape flooding (The Guardian) More than 1 million people have packed into relief camps to escape the devastating monsoon floods in India’s south-western state of Kerala, where more than 410 people have died. About 50,000 homes have been destroyed, according to one official in Kerala, and people are flocking to the camps as the scale of the desolation is revealed by receding waters. Thousands of army, navy and air force personnel have been deployed across the state to help people stranded in remote and hilly areas…
Syrian refugees in Lebanon left with confusion over return (The Daily Star) A group of Syrians planning to return from the Bekaa to the Damascus countryside before the Eid al Adha holiday said they were left hanging for two days when Lebanese authorities unexpectedly put their returns on hold. But as of Monday evening, a coordinator for the refugees said they had gotten the go-ahead to return…
Hamas: Gaza close to ending blockade, Trump peace plan ‘clinically dead’ (Haaretz) Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday that “we are on the way to ending the blockade on Gaza,” adding “this is the result of your steadfastness and your struggle, and any humanitarian aid to Gaza will not be made at a diplomatic price.”Haniyeh further said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” was “clinically dead.” He added that any talks of internal Palestinian reconciliation requires the lifting of sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority, and called on the PA to cease security coordination with Israel and end what he termed persecution of Hamas and other resistance groups in the West Bank…
India’s Catholics pay tribute to late former prime minister (Vatican News) India’s Catholic Church has expressed profound sadness at the death of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 93. Vajpayee headed India’s government three times: first for just 13 days in 1996, for 13 months in 1998, and then from 1999 to 2004…
Muslims celebrate Eid al Adha in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) Eid al Adha, “The Feast of Sacrifice,” commemorates Abraham’s obedience to God’s command in his willingness to sacrifice his son. The sacrifice of a sheep is central to the holiday given God’s last-minute intervention, offering Abraham an animal instead. Four days before the slaughter of the sheep, it’s forbidden to shave or cut one’s nails, followed by a one-day fast. They break the fast with a meat-based feast, part of the feast is offered to the poor as part of the holiday’s celebration…
20 August 2018
Tags: India Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank
Floodwaters have left thousands of people in Kerala stranded or homeless. (photo: CNEWA)
Late Friday, we received the following message from M.L. Thomas, our regional director in India, regarding the devastating floods that have swept through the region:
The flood situation in Kerala is very scary and unpredictable right now. People — including many of our staff — are overwhelmed by the water and not able to move. Almost all of Kerala is now under water. The telephone and other connections are not working properly. Utilizing all sources possible, I am in touch with some of our priests and I have already received requests for help from many of them. I am personally involved right now in the rescue work.
The local government and social service organizations of the church are all involved in rescue operations in many places around Kerala. Food packets and clothing are being supplied to the hundreds of relief camps. With so many people stranded in so many places, there is difficulty supplying essential materials. However, everything possible is being done by the government and the Catholic church.
My own village is surrounded by floodwaters. There are two relief camps set up at my parish, and at another parish nearby. Thousands of people were evacuated to these two places.
A woman surveys the damage in her flooded home. (photo: CNEWA)
Almost all the dams are releasing water, which is now finding its way into many parts of Kerala through various rivers. In some places, the rain is still pouring.
Right now, the needs are urgent and immediate. This is a terrible situation and will soon require help to rebuild and rehabilitate many neighborhoods and help thousands who have lost everything.
To help support those in need in India, visit this page. And please keep all affected in your prayers.
20 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Flood victims wait to receive food inside a temporary relief shelter on 20 August in Cochin, India. The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India's Kerala state, killing more than 100 people. Read a report from on the ground and learn how you can help here.(photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
20 August 2018
Residents survey the aftermath of severe flooding in Kerala that has caused massive damage and loss of life in the Indian state. (photo: CNEWA)
Pope prays for victims of Kerala floods (Vatican News) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for victims of the flooding in the Indian state of Kerala. “In recent days,” he noted, “the inhabitants of Kerala have been harshly struck by intense rains, which have caused flooding and landslides, with heavy loss of human life, with many people missing and displaced, with extensive damage to crops and homes…”
Kerala focuses on cleanup, relief, rehabilitation (Vatican News) With a lull in the rains and no heavy downpours forecast in the next five days, morale has surged in southern India’s Kerala state, boosting the ongoing relief, rescue and cleanup operations. About 22,000 people were reported rescued on Sunday, after monsoon rains finally eased. No red alert was issued for any of Kerala’s rain-ravaged 14 districts…
Lebanese Foreign Minister: no reason for Syria refugees to stay in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Russia lashed out at Western countries accusing them of blocking UN aid for Syria’s reconstruction and trying to prevent the return of refugees. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks on Monday with his Lebanese counterpart, Gibran Bassil, the US refusal to provide assistance for rebuilding Syria after more than seven years of fighting would deter Syrians from returning to their homes…
Murder mystery reverberates in Coptic Church (The New York Times) Christian monks living in the solitude of Egypt’s deserts have always faced the threat of attack from outside. In the early centuries, they built drawbridges and windowless towers to repel marauding nomads. More recently, barricades and armed police officers ring the monasteries to guard against Islamic State suicide bombers, who target Christians. But now, to the shock of the faithful, it turns out that danger also lurks inside the monastery walls…
Patriarch Kirill visits Russia’s northernmost Orthodox church (TASS) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has arrived in Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, where he performed a divine service in one of Russia’s northernmost Orthodox churches — the Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker in Belushya Guba, an administrative center of Novaya Zemlya, a TASS correspondent reported. This church in Russia’s Far North dates back to pre-revolutionary times, but this is the first visit by the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church there…
Tags: India Lebanon Kerala Russian Orthodox