27 March 2019
Young adults are seen during a workshop in a Beirut church at the 2019 International Ecumenical Youth Meeting organized and sponsored by the Churches of Lebanon, the Middle East Council of Churches and the monastic Community of Taize. (photo: CNS/Middle East Council of Churches)
Amid all the violence of the world, religions must be factors of peace, Brother Alois Leser, prior of the Taize community, told Christian and Muslim young adults from 43 countries.
More than 1,600 Muslims and Christians gathered in Beirut to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March in a ceremony punctuated by songs, prayers, reflections and speeches. They were encouraged to respect others to foster genuine interreligious dialogue.
The Beirut gathering was part of the 22-26 March International Ecumenical Youth Meeting, organized and sponsored by the churches of Lebanon, the Middle East Council of Churches and the monastic Community of Taize. For the Annunciation encounter -- at which participants observed a minute of silence for victims of violence around the world -- the young people were joined by various Muslim religious officials and clerics; Lebanese government representatives; the papal nuncio; Christian and Orthodox prelates and religious; and brothers from the French-based Taize ecumenical community.
Lebanon has observed the Marian solemnity of the Annunciation as a joint Christian-Muslim feast and a national holiday since 2010.
Brother Alois noted that for Christians and Muslims, “Mary is an example of a believer. With confidence, Mary surrendered herself to the will of God.”
He also told them, “At this time when our world is often shaken by violent events, it is fundamental to do everything to express that religions do not want violence, but seek to be factors of peace, friendship and fraternity among all human beings.”
He said that, in the Gospel, “Jesus went beyond the cultural, social and religious barriers of his time to enter into relationships with people who were not his people, who did not share his faith.”
“Allowing fraternity and friendship to grow implies respecting others in their difference,” he stressed. “In any genuine interreligious dialogue, an attitude of respect should keep us from wanting to force the other person to think as we do.”
Brother Alois’ speech was followed by a Muslim girls’ chorus singing about the Annunciation.
Sabine Adrien, a 28-year-old Catholic who participated in the meeting with seven other young adults from Lyon, France, told Catholic News Service: “I loved the gathering, especially the prayer between Christians and Muslims. It was very simple and beautiful, all of us praying together around Mary.
“It was especially touching to be in Lebanon to experience this because it’s a country of contrasts and coexistence,” Adrien said, observing that it is “sometimes (a) difficult coexistence between religions and between sects within each religion.”
Workshops and sessions at the ecumenical meeting -- at the main seaside event venue as well as in various churches in Beirut -- focused on issues related to coexistence and interfaith dialogue, as well as rituals and traditions of the Eastern churches.
Speaking to participants during a 23 March evening prayer service, Soraya Bechealany, secretary-general of the Middle East Council of Churches, said: “This gathering proves to you that the Christian presence is an integral part of the Middle East. Young people of the Middle East, you are involved in the preservation of human freedom and its dignity.”
That evening, Brother Alois told participants that “Lebanon can be a gateway of understanding between East and West.”
The relations between the Taize community and Lebanon date back to the early 1980s, when the late Brother Roger Schutz -- who founded the monastic community in 1940 -- visited the country as its civil war was still raging.
“We believe and see that the power of peace in this country is stronger than anything else,” Brother Alois said.
27 March 2019
Tags: Lebanon Muslim Interfaith
In this image from August 2018, an aerial view shows a partially submerged road in the Indian state of Kerala. Many in the country want the upcoming election in India to focus on climate change. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)
Following 2018 floods, Kerala residents want climate change to dominate election (NDTV.com) With memories of last year’s devastating floods still fresh in the minds of people of Kerala, they want the issue of climate change to be a dominant theme of the electoral discourse in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls beginning 11 April. A total of 483 people died in the August 2018 floods, which were the state’s worst in a century…
Syria requests urgent UN meeting on Golan Heights (The Jerusalem Post) The Syrian mission to the United Nations is urging the U.N. Security Council to call a meeting regarding President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. A U.N. official toldThe Jerusalem Post he estimated a meeting on this matter would take place in the upcoming weeks…
Voting to go ahead on Holy Thursday in India (UCANews.com) Voters in 13 Indian states will go to polling stations on Maundy Thursday in parliamentary elections after the High Court in Tamil Nadu state dismissed a petition from church officials to reschedule the date. The federal Election Commission has scheduled polling in 97 constituencies of 13 states on 18 April when Christians observe Maundy Thursday this year, starting their Easter Triduum leading to Good Friday and Easter…
Pope’s visit to Morocco shows ’Christians and Muslims are not enemies’ (Crux) Even though Abdellah Redouane has spent the past 20 years of his life as the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy, the Morocco-born man can’t disguise his hope for the upcoming 30-31 March papal visit to his homeland. ”This is not just a regular visit,” Redouane told Crux on Tuesday. “I believe it’s particularly important because 99 percent of the population in Morocco is Muslim. Inviting the pope, who is the leader of the Catholic religion, is something important, and we must thank those who worked to organize this visit…”
Jewish artifacts found in Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) 2,000-year-old olive and wine presses, a burial cave and mikvah from the descendants of the Maccabees were found in a south Jerusalem neighborhood…
26 March 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Israel
Salwa Salem Copty, 70, holds a photo of her father, Fares, in front of the Melkite Catholic Church of St. Jacob in Ma’alul village, Israel. Salwa, who now lives in Cana, is fighting for the right to visit her father’s grave in the Ma’alul cemetery, which is now enclosed in an Israeli army base.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
The destroyed Arab village of Ma’alul, located just outside of Nazareth, does not appear on any Israeli map, but it is etched on Salwa Salem Copty’s heart.
Copty’s widowed mother and her three older siblings, along with other residents, were expelled from the village in July 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence. Copty was born 16 days later.
Copty laments that she has no memories of Ma’alul, but she clings to the stories her relatives have told her about what life was like there. Now, at age 70, she still visits the site of the village, drinking coffee and eating pastries with her children and grandchildren in the shadow of the reconstructed Melkite Catholic Church of St. Jacob.
But she is unable to visit her father’s grave because an Israeli air force base was constructed around the Christian cemetery shortly after the residents’ expulsion, and they have never been permitted to enter the base to go to the cemetery. Her father was killed a few months prior to the expulsion by a Jewish militia bullet and is buried in the cemetery.
“They told me father was in heaven and I would look at his picture and would see a cloud in the sky that looked like the picture, and I would think that my father is looking at me and is speaking to me, and I would talk to him,” said Copty, a retired social worker. She has enlarged the photograph of her father and keeps it in her home, still confiding her deepest worries and concerns to it.
“I am appealing to all sense of humanity for this request to visit the grave. I want to whisper on his grave, as if he will hear that he has a daughter named Salwa who misses him, just to touch the grave, the dust, his soul, the place where he walked, even where maybe he stepped. That drives me crazy,” she said.
Since 2000, Copty repeatedly has made formal requests to gain access to the cemetery to visit her family members buried there, but her appeals to various Israeli authorities through multiple channels have gone unhandled.
“I dream about this grave. I’m begging. I just want to visit my father’s grave before I die and it’s too late,” Copty said. “You can’t just erase someone’s memory.”
On 13 January Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on behalf of Copty and her 93-year-old uncle, Subhi Mansour, to allow them to visit the cemetery. Mansour is the only living displaced resident of the village who can identify the location of the grave of Copty’s father, Fares Salem.
The petition, which will be heard by the court 24 June, was filed against the Israeli defense and interior ministries and the Israel Land Authority and demands that Copty and Mansour be permitted to visit the cemetery. The petition also seeks clarification regarding why the Interior Ministry and ILA have not been required to preserve Ma’alul’s Christian cemetery and protect it from desecration or, alternatively, why it is not allowing the petitioners or anyone on their behalf to maintain and protect the cemetery from desecration.
“The desecration of and failure to maintain the cemetery, and the failure of Israeli authorities to respond to Copty’s appeals within an appropriate and humane time frame, are all violations of the constitutional right to dignity -- both of the living and of the deceased -- and a violation of her right to grieve at the family grave,” Adalah said in the petition.
This is the first time a case relating to access to a cemetery located inside a military base has been brought to court.
The government ministries did not reply to requests for a response from Catholic News Service.
Mansour told CNS: “We haven’t been able to visit the cemetery since 1948. ... It’s not just us, everyone has family buried in the cemetery. Everyone should be able to visit their dead, place flowers on their graves.”
Copty’s oldest daughter, Odna -- which means “return” in Arabic -- accompanies her mother on visits.
“Because I have this name, I feel this village is always with me,” she said. “I always live my mother’s pain and suffering. Sometimes I wake up at night and she is crying to the picture.”
Along with the other descendants of the expelled families, Copty and her family return to St. Jacob Church, which they restored, on the second day of Easter for Mass, and her children attended the yearly summer camps held at the site to remember their village.
Today the remains of the destroyed village are overgrown, and the overturned rocks peek out from under rolling mounds of green grass, which has sprouted after a rainy winter, but Mansour can still point out where he lived and where Copty’s parents lived. He identifies one of the village’s wells amid the jumbled rocks.
Together with another niece who is an engineer, Mansour recently mapped out the pre-1948 village and, next to the church, they placed a large sign of the area marked with every family’s home.
They also placed name markers next to every pile of rubble to identify the homes on the ground, but someone tore down all the name signs.
26 March 2019
Tags: Israel Melkite
In this image from 2016, Syrian refugees stand in snow outside their tents in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Lebanon's president says many Syrian refugees in his country today may end up migrating to Europe. (CNS photo/Lucie Parsaghian, EPA)
Lebanon president: wave of refugees may soon flood Europe (TASS) The economic situation in Lebanon, which provides shelter for 1.5 million Syrian refugees, may push them toward migration to Europe, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday at a meeting with State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin…
Kerala bishops will not support any political party in elections (Business Standard) The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) declared Tuesday that it will not support any political party in the Lok Sabha elections but will be with those who “protect democracy and secularism”. Kerala goes to the polls on 23 April to elect 20 Lok Sabh candidates. A circular issued by KCBC President Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said: “KCBC wishes to make it clear that they will not support any political front or political party or any candidate. We do not wish to interfere in the freedom of our laity…
Russian businesses wary of Syrian reconstruction (Al Monitor) On 24 March, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin met in Moscow with Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, the UN Development Program’s director of the regional bureau for Europe, and David Akopyan, the UNDP’s country director in Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry reported, “UNDP representatives in Syria have informed us about the current state of affairs in Syria’s early reconstruction and about the results achieved in the context of the implementation of projects with Russia’s donor participation aimed at rebuilding residential areas and basic infrastructure in Syria…”
Gaza tense after heavy fire overnight (AP) Israeli aircraft bombed targets across the Gaza Strip and Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel early Tuesday, the second day of cross-border fighting that erupted in the last stretch of a closely contested race for Israeli prime minister between the long-serving incumbent and an ex-army chief…
Jerusalem becomes most accessible ancient city in the world (Israel Today) The Old City of Jerusalem and its walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and therefore are subject to special preservation rules designed to present the city and its heritage to its visitors, while developing and upgrading it to the benefit of its residents. The Old City is the most visited place in Israel with about 10 million visitors each year. A new accessibility plan costing over 20 million shekels was recently implemented by the East Jerusalem Development Company, with funding coming from the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Antiquities Authority. It was an innovative and groundbreaking project that now enables the disabled to enjoy the historic and cultural wealth of the city…
25 March 2019
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Jerusalem
A teenager looks on as Pope Francis smiles during his visit to the Sanctuary of the Holy House on the feast of the Annunciation in Loreto, Italy, on 25 March 2019. (photo: CNS/Yara Nardi, Reuters)
25 March 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
In this image from August 2018, young Syrian refugees are seen atop a vehicle at a camp in June in the village of Arsal, Lebanon. The head of Caritas Lebanon has expressed concern that Syrian refugees will end up forgotten and abandoned by the world community.
(photo: CNS/Nabil Mounzer, EPA)
Caritas leader expresses concern that Syrian refugees will become forgotten (AsiaNews) The “risk” is that Syrian refugees “will become like Palestinians, abandoned for decades” on Lebanese territory. This “is the great fear” of the majority of the citizens of the land of the Cedars, who “are close to those who need” but, at the same time, “cannot solve all of the problems and are themselves experiencing great suffering,” says the Rev. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon…
Bishop criticizes Catholics who spread fear of Muslims (CNS) An Irish bishop has criticized Catholics who identify as “faith-filled” while spreading fear and mistrust of immigrants, particularly those who are Muslims. Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, chairman of the Council for Life of the Irish bishops’ conference, told The Irish Catholic newspaper: “I’ve found that people who would classify themselves in some cases as traditional Catholics and faith-filled people seem to, in relation to migration and care of asylum-seekers and stuff, they’ll say ‘oh well these Muslims are putting our civilization at risk and they pose a threat to us…’”
Iraq ferry accident sets off political upheaval (The New York Times) In a rare show of deference to the anger of Mosul citizens over government abuses, the Iraqi Parliament on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to remove the province’s governor, citing accusations of corruption, self-dealing and negligence. Although Mosul citizens had pleaded with the central government to remove the governor for more than two years, it was only after a ferry disaster brought angry citizens into the street that senior political figures decided to act…
Nuns, priests in India concerned over income tax order (UCANews.com) Church people in India’s Tamil Nadu state are seeking legal ways to counter a High Court order that asked priests and nuns to pay income tax if they draw a salary from state-funded educational institutions. The 20 March order in the southern state ended a long-time practice that exempted Catholic priests, brothers and nuns from paying tax on their salaries on grounds that they donate their salaries to religious homes or dioceses engaged in social services…
East Jerusalem neighborhood targeted in apparent hate crime (The Jerusalem Post) Police opened a probe into a suspected hate crime targeting a Palestinian section in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where residents woke up Monday to discover over 25 vehicles vandalized. On a number of the cars in the French Hill neighborhood, red Stars of David were graffitied and on an adjacent wall the Hebrew phrase, “Jews wake up, Jewish blood is not cheap.” Tires were also slashed on several vehicles…
22 March 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Muslim
In Ethiopia’s Afar region, girls wait to fill containers at the local water pump. The United Nations marks World Water Day on 22 March. In a message for the day, Pope Francis declared that access to water is "a fundamental human right." (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
22 March 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia United Nations
President Trump's tweet calling to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights has sparked widespread condemnation. (video: DW News/YouTube)
Trump’s Golan tweet inflames tensions (The Washington Post) Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies slammed President Trump’s call to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Friday, inflaming regional tensions at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to curtail Iran’s expanding influence. A statement by Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the move would increase Syria’s determination to recover the territory occupied by Israel “by all available means,” and Russia and Iran both said it violated international law. Turkey, a U.S. ally, said it risked creating a new Middle East crisis…
Pope releases message for World Water Day (Vatican News) World Water Day is commemorated annually on 22 March as a way of concentrating efforts to resolve the water crisis that afflicts people, often the poorest, around the world. Pope Francis marked the Day on Friday with a message to the Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, José Graziano da Silva. “Water is an essential asset for the equilibrium of ecosystems and human survival, and it must be managed and cared for so that it is not polluted or lost,” he said…
Women in Iraq push to criminalize domestic violence (Al Jazeera) Domestic violence has been on the rise in Iraq, with women’s groups blaming instability and the break down of law and order. However, there has been a growing awareness of the issue at the highest levels of government and the women’s rights groups are hopeful that the legislature will finally pass a law criminalizing what they see as a “national crisis”…
Leaders in India target politicians who exploit religious differences for votes (UCANews.com) Groups of Indians including Christians are on a campaign to popularize a “manifesto against hate” aiming to block political efforts to garner votes by dividing citizens on religious lines though hate speeches. Indians are set to elect members to their 543-seat national parliament in a seven-phase election from 11 April 11 to 19 May. The world’s largest democratic exercise has almost 900 million eligible voters, an estimated 80 percent of them Hindus…
21 March 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Israel
The Most Rev. Marcel Gervais, archbishop emeritus of Ottawa, seated, visits the office of CNEWA Canada, in Ottawa. (photo: CNEWA)
Today we had a special visitor in our Ottawa office: The Most Rev. Marcel Gervais, archbishop emeritus of Ottawa.
In 2003, he accepted the invitation of the Holy See’s Congregation of the Eastern Churches and helped establish CNEWA in Canada. He was the first chair of CNEWA Canada until his retirement in 2007. At 87 years old, he is still very active, with a keen sense of humor. The CNEWA staff had a great time meeting him.
You are in our prayers Archbishop Gervais! May God give you many good and healthy years ahead.
21 March 2019
Tags: CNEWA Canada
A young Syrian refugee holds a watermelon at his shop in the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan, on 22 June 2018. (photo CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Caritas Lebanon: As with Palestinians, Syrian refugees forgotten by the international community (AsiaNews) The Rev. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon, says there is a risk that Syrian refugees “will become like Palestinians, abandoned for decades” on Lebanese territory…
Trump: Time to recognize Golan Heights as Israeli territory (BBC) President Donald Trump says it is time the U.S. recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967. Israel applied its administration and law to the Golan in 1981, but other governments did not recognize the act. Syria has consistently sought to regain sovereignty over the region…
Aoun: Lebanon wants to be part of Syria reconstruction (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Thursday that his country wishes to be part of the reconstruction of Syria, emphasizing that ties between the two countries were never formally severed…
Ahead of Romania trip, pope recognizes seven martyrs of communist era (Crux) On Tuesday, ahead of a late May/early June trip by Pope Francis to Romania, Greek Catholic Bishop Vasile Aftenie and six of his fellow bishops who died under the Romanian communists have been officially recognized as “martyrs” by the pontiff…
Iraqi museum unveils 100 looted artifacts (AINA) Over 2,000 artifacts, including about 100 that were looted from Iraq and found abroad, were unveiled Tuesday in a museum in the Basra province on the southern tip of Iraq, authorities said…
Holy island feast helps Sri Lankans, Indians bury the hate (UCAN India) Over 6,500 Sri Lankans and 2,100 Indians came together to celebrate the feast of St. Anthony, the patron saint of seafarers, on Kachchathivu Island from 15-16 March, with many Sri Lankans using the occasion to pray for national reconciliation. This uninhabited, Sri Lanka-owned isle hosts the pilgrimage every year, providing a rare window for Sri Lanka’s Tamils and Sinhalese to mingle after years of war. It also brings fisher folk from both nations together to cement their fraternal bonds in the face of adversity…
Scores dead as ferry sinks in Tigris River near Mosul (Al Jazeera) Scores of people have died after a ferry carrying families celebrating the Nowruz holiday capsized in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to officials. Major General Saad Maan, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said at least 71 people were killed in Thursday’s accident. A separate source told Reuters news agency that 72 were confirmed dead. Another 55 people, including 19 children, were rescued…
Tags: Syria India Iraq Romania