28 August 2018
Residents of Kerala sort through the extensive damage from the floods that swept through the region last week. (photo: CNEWA)
Early Tuesday, we received this update on the crisis in Kerala from M.L. Thomas, CNEWA's regional director in India.
As you know, the flood has devastated many districts in Kerala. Millions of people had to flee to the rescue camps. This has been the most frightening and dangerous situation the people of Kerala have had to face in recent decades.
But now, with the flood waters receding, the Catholic Church — along with many volunteers from social services organizations, along with individuals and local governments — has taken up the challenge of the clean up.
The house owners who are healthy are doing much of the cleaning work—pushing out the dirty mud and stinking water from their homes.
The Kuttanad region, where the flood waters reached last, now has the worst flooding in the state. Around 200,000 people from the region have been evacuated and are waiting in camps. The government plans to begin cleaning operations there on 29 August. Many homes are still overwhelmed by water.
Some who have returned home are working to clean mud and filthy water from their homes, trying to salvage whatever they can. (photo: CNEWA)
There is an acute shortage of clean water; drinking water is being supplied through water tanks loaded on trucks.
The toilet facilities have been washed away. Most families lost everything— including clothing, food, household utilities, school books and even official documents, including deeds and property titles. Many also lost their domestic animals, such as goats and poultry.
The Catholic dioceses in many parts of the state have taken immediate steps to help the families in the relief camps, ensuring they receive food, medicine and clothing. The government alone is not able to meet all the demands of the flooded areas and the needs of the victims. Medical camps have also been set up to help the sick.
The need remains great. CNEWA is rushing aid to the people of Kerala, but more help is needed. Visit this page to learn more. And please: keep our brothers and sisters in India in your prayers!
28 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Sister María Niña plays soccer with the girls in the backyard of her community’s house in Dekhela, Egypt, where many of the girls live. Read more about how a congregation of religious sisters is Building a Brighter Future for these girls in the November 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
28 August 2018
The report above shows the life of a Syrian refugee in Jordan. Jordan now says it can take in no more refugees and is encouraging them to return home. (video: BBC/YouTube)
Jordan says it can’t host any more refugees (AFP) Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday his country has exceeded its capacity to host refugees from Syria and is backing their voluntary return home. Amman estimates that it has taken in close to 1.3 million refugees from its war-torn neighbor and says it has already spent more than $10 billion to host them…
India criticized for refusing UAE aid for Kerala (UCANews.com) India’s pro-Hindu government is facing criticism for refusing to accept aid worth US$100 million from the United Arab Emirates for flood-ravaged Kerala state. Catastrophic floods and landslides from 14 — 18 August killed an estimated 400 people and displaced 1.3 million to relief camps where they subsist on donated food and clothes...
Israel plans to expand mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall (Haaretz) A plan to expand the mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall has won final approval, following pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The plan, whose details are reported here for the first time, was approved under a special regulation that created a fast-track process authorizing the municipal engineer, in this case Jerusalem’s, to approve work to make a site handicapped-accessible. Such access was called for in the plan, in addition to the expansion of the area and its entrance…
Fishermen hailed as heroes of Kerala flood (UCANews.com) Fishermen in India’s Kerala state are being hailed as heroes for using their traditional wooden boats to rescue men, women and children from swirling floodwaters. ”You are like our God,” a woman with folded hands told fishermen who saved her along with another female villager and 30 youngsters trapped in a children’s home in Alappuzha district, an area laced with waterways…
Young Palestinians take hold of their future at Gaza tech hub (The Independent) ”Global tech hub” may not be the first three words that spring to mind when describing the besieged and war-ravaged Gaza Strip. But a group of young Palestinians in the tiny territory, home to some 1.8 million people, are trying to change assumptions…
27 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank
Religious sisters from various congregations prepare items for meals at a relief camp in Trichur, Kerala. (photo: Rev. Jolly Vadakken/Global Sisters Report)
As Kerala struggles to recover from catastrophic flooding, sisters are pitching in with the relief effort.
From Global Sisters Report:
More than 6,700 Catholic nuns are among those helping over a million people taking shelter in relief camps after unprecedented floods ravaged Kerala, a southwestern Indian state.
“This is the biggest rescue and relief operation the Catholic Church in Kerala has undertaken in its history,” says the Rev. George Vettikattil, who heads the church’s relief operations in the state.
The church deployed its personnel and opened its institutions across Kerala to help people after rains and massive floods devastated 13 of Kerala’s 14 districts from 15 August through 20 August. The rain has stopped in many places and water is now receding.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on 24 August told the media that the rains and floods have claimed 417 lives. At least 36 people are still missing.
The floods initially displaced nearly 1.3 million people. About 869,000 people were still sheltered in 2,787 relief centers in the state, Vijayan said.
The initial estimated loss was around 200 billion rupees ($2.85 billion).
Catholic aid agencies such as Caritas India are now working among the flood victims. Caritas India has already spent about 6.1 million rupees ($87,140) distributing food, medicine and sanitation items. Its director Fr. Paul Moonjely says the agency plans to raise another 10 million rupees.
Vettikattil says all 32 Catholic dioceses in Kerala have joined relief works. As many as 69,821 young people and 99,705 lay volunteers joined 6,737 nuns, 2,891 priests and 354 seminarians to rescue stranded people with the help of government agencies and individually, the priest told Global Sisters Report.
And to learn how CNEWA is supporting this effort — and how you can pitch in yourself — visit this link.
27 August 2018
Tags: India Sisters Kerala
Indian Christians marked the 10th Anniversary of the atrocities in Kandhamal with a Mass in Bhubaneswar on 25 August 2018. (photo: Vatican News)
India’s Christians mark somber anniversary (Vatican News) Ten years on, India’s Christians recalled the terrible massacre of their brothers and sisters in faith in eastern India’s Odisha state, with a commemorative Mass on Saturday in the state capital in thanksgiving, reconciliation and grace. Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful came together in large numbers for the high Mass at St. Joseph’s School in Bhubaneswar on 25 August, recalling the day 10 years ago when violence erupted with untold brutality against the Christians of Kandhamal District, with Hindu extremists blaming them for the 23 August murder of their Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples…
As India recovers from floods, sense of community grows (Channel News Asia) It is likely to take months for the Indian state of Kerala to get back on its feet, after severe flooding claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and washed away roads and bridges. But the disaster has brought out the best in people in Kerala — their sense of community…
Jordan’s king calls for help to refugee-hosting states (Andalou Agency) King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday called on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the countries hosting Syrian refugees. This came during a meeting between the Jordanian monarch and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, who arrived in the kingdom on Sunday for an official visit...
Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation (Reuters) Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported on Monday. Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami traveled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and senior military officials, Tasnim reported…
Why Ethiopians believe their new prime minister is a prophet (CNN) Since taking office on 2 April, Africa’s youngest head of government has electrified Ethiopia with a dizzying array of liberal reforms credited by many with saving the country from civil war. Abiy has freed thousands of political prisoners, unblocked hundreds of censored websites, ended the 20-year state of war with Eritrea, lifted a state of emergency, and planned to open key economic sectors to private investors, including the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines…
Report: Orthodox clergy targeted by Russian spies (ABC News) The Associated Press has found that the same hackers charged with intervening in the 2016 U.S. presidential election also spent years trying to eavesdrop on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, often described as the first among equals of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christian leaders…
24 August 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Refugees Jordan Russian Orthodox
Seminarians from the Pune Papal Seminary collected food, medicine and blankets to deliver to residents of Kerala who have lost everything in the floods. (photo: UCANews)
The disastrous flooding in Kerala has prompted a remarkable outpouring of humanitarian support.
CNEWA has rushed aid to the region — and others are also pitching in.
Two trucks carrying the relief material from Pune left for Paravur, one of the worst flood-affected areas in southern Kerala state that is reeling under deluge for the past one week.
The collection was done in collaboration with De Nobili College, Pune and other houses of Pune Papal seminary.
The seminarians and others from the campus collected material for the past one week and sorted and packed them ready for transportation to relief camps.
“We were approached by the authorities seeking help, so started collecting materials,” said the Rev. Vincent Crasta who works in Papal Seminary
Flash floods and landslides in the past week have killed some 380 people and displaced some 800,000 to relief camps as overflowing rivers ploughed through residential areas washing away homes, farm lands, roads and bridges.
Schools, churches, temples, mosques and seminaries and convents have been converted to relief camps accommodating thousands who have no food, cloth or place to sleep.
Father Crasta said that one more truck will leave this evening carrying the relief material.
Five seminarians are accompanying the trucks carrying medicines, blankets, towels, toilet articles, candles, cleaning material, biscuits and bed sheets. The seminarians will return immediately after the relief materials are delivered on Sunday.
But goodwill is also pouring in from people of all religions and castes:
Transgressing all barriers of religion and caste, rich and poor, high and low, Indians have joined hands to provide succor to people reeling under the worst flood in five decades in Kerala.
Justice Kurien Joseph, a Supreme Court judge, Catholic and Kerala native, worked until late at night in New Delhi to help pack and label boxes containing relief materials for flood victims.
“It was heartening to see people unite in love for their suffering brethren casting aside all boundaries of religion and region,” Joseph said as he assisted children and women packing materials.
The flood in the southern state washed away hundreds of houses and submerged villages, killing at least 370 people and displacing about 800,000 to relief camps.
Not only Kerala people living in New Delhi “but people from other parts of India have gathered here. It just goes to show that goodness has not disappeared from humans,” Joseph said.
A group of lawyers launched the initiative through social media. Despite the short notice, people gathered with clothing and food to be packed and sent to the flood-hit state 2,500 kilometers away.
In Kerala, fishermen took out their boats on their own to rescue people. According to reports, they refused remuneration from the government for their voluntary work, saying they did not do it for money.
“Jesus’ love thy neighbor philosophy has never been so evident in our country,” said Lucy John, a teacher from New Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area, where a collection drive was organized by an association of Kerala people.
…Also keen to help, Indian Railways is ferrying relief materials free of cost.
The Ramakrishna Mission, a Hindu organization, is at the forefront of relief operations in northern Kerala, said Swami Shantatmananda, secretary of its New Delhi branch.
“We are sending cash donations from states while our Chennai centers are organizing relief materials,” he told ucanews.com.
Khalsa Aid, the U.K.-based Sikh organization’s Indian wing, has volunteers cooking and providing food for the marooned.
Churches, church-run schools, seminaries, convents and other Christian institutions have opened their doors to stranded flood victims besides providing relief in cash and kind.
And to help CNEWA’s efforts in the region, please visit this page.
24 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
In India, hundreds of thousands of people in Kerala are coping with the worst flooding in a century. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
After worst flooding in a century, India turns down foreign aid (The New York Times) After devastating floods killed more than 400 people and engulfed entire towns in a southern state in India, the United Arab Emirates offered $100 million to help the recovery. The Indian government’s response: thanks, but no thanks…
Fear of drought in parts of south India (The Times of India) In a cruel irony, surging rains in Kerala have lifted the monsoon’s performance in south India to an 11 percent surplus. The figure, however, doesn’t reveal the extremely skewed rain distribution in the region. Outside Kerala and coastal Andhra, half the districts in south India are grappling with deficient rainfall…
Ethnic unrest tarnishes new Ethiopian leader’s reforms (Reuters) A surge in ethnic violence, sometimes in the form of mob attacks, has displaced nearly 1 million people in the past four months in southern Ethiopia and is inflaming bad feeling between ethnic groups in other regions. The violence threatens to undermine Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s calls for unity in one of Africa’s most ethnically diverse countries. It also overshadows the popular liberal measures he has announced since coming to power in April…
Iraqi Christians unable to attend World Meeting of Families (AsiaNews) The Iraqi delegation’s exclusion from attending the 2018 World Meeting of Families, scheduled from 21-26 August in Dublin (Ireland) is “a terrible event”, says Msgr. Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad. The number two to the Chaldean patriarch confirms that there will be no faithful present at the Irish meeting due to a problem linked to the issue of entry permits. “They told us that it took months to process them — explains the prelate — and our online applications were not even granted…”
Report: in 24 hours, Armenia violates ceasefire 86 times (AzerNews) Over the past 24 hours, Armenian armed forces have 86 times violated the ceasefire along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said 24 August. Armenian armed forces were using heavy machine guns. The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts…
23 August 2018
Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Armenia
In India, massive flooding has destroyed thousands of homes in Kerala. CNEWA has released emergency aid to help some 4,000 families in need in the devastated region. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic Near East Welfare Association has released $67,000 in emergency aid to help some 4,000 families cope with the flooding that has devastated much of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. Nonstop monsoon rains have swelled rivers, creeks and ponds, immersing heavily populated low lying areas in muddy waters. The rains have triggered landslides, severing power, washing away roads, livestock, crops and homes. More than a million people have fled their homes for refuge in camps set up on higher and drier ground. Up to 400 deaths have thus far been recorded.
The emergency aid includes food kits, potable water, medicines and sanitary items, said CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, as well as household materials and school supplies for children. These items will be delivered to families in higher elevations in Kerala by social service teams of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches, including the High Range Development Society of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Idukki, the Shreyas Social Service Center of the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of Bathery and the Center for Overall Development of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Thamarassery. Aid to low-lying areas will follow.
The latest reports indicate that the rains have subsided, allowing some of the waters to recede. Recovery efforts are just beginning.”The local government and social service organizations of the church are all involved in rescue operations in many places around Kerala,” writes CNEWA Regional Director M.L. Thomas from his own flooded village near Cochin. “Food packets and clothing are being supplied to the hundreds of relief camps. [But] with so many people stranded in so many places, there is difficulty supplying essential materials.
“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.”
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the subcontinent of India, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and Eastern Europe. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to displaced families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.
CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States by the State of New York and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800‑442‑6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022‑4195. In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1‑866‑322‑4441.
23 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
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.
Tags: Pope Francis Lebanon