19 December 2017
Pope Francis greets Jordan’s King Abdullah II during a private meeting on 19 December at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
Pope receives King Abdullah of Jordan in audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday received King Abdullah II of Jordan in an audience at the Vatican. In a communiqué following the audience, the Holy See Press Office said the “cordial conversations focused above all on the theme of the promotion of peace and stability in the Mideast, with particular reference to the question of Jerusalem and the role of the Hashemite Sovereign as Custodian of the Holy Places…”
AP: Iraqi patriarch looks to life after ISIS (AP) As Iraq emerges from more than three years of war with the Islamic State group, battling an extremist “mentality” will be the key to peaceful coexistence among the country’s religious and ethnic groups, says a top Chaldean Catholic Church official…
Syria’s internally displaced in dire need of aid (Al Monitor) Displaced persons from various Syrian cities currently living in Aleppo’s northern countryside camps, especially in the vicinity of Azaz, are trying to survive the winter under the difficult humanitarian situation. There is no heating in these camps, as local and international humanitarian organizations are reluctant to provide assistance to displaced people in unorganized camps along the Syrian-Turkish border…
Israeli ambassador rededicates synagogues in India (The Jerusalem Post) Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon rededicated two of Kolkata’s oldest synagogues on Sunday after they were recently restored. “Remembering and preserving the glorious past of Jewish Kolkata, contributing to the fabric of the city of Kolkata in the present and looking at the future, two synagogues were rededicated today — in the most festive atmosphere of Hanukkah,” he wrote on Twitter…
Nativity message of Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA.org) As we come to the end of the year, we reflect back on a period in which tragedy, acts of terrorism, shootings in public spaces, political confusion and sexual misconduct allegations dominate the news. The darkness which enshrouds the world adds to the burden of our personal and family struggles…
18 December 2017
Tags: Syria India Iraq Pope Francis Jordan
Women gather inside Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Kosmach, Ukraine, during the Christmas liturgy. (photo: Petro Didula)
With Christmas fast approaching, we were reminded of a report from Ukraine in 2004 which gave readers a wintry glimpse of life in the Carpathian Mountains:
“The Christian faith in the area is nuanced,” says Father Vasylii Hunchak, pastor of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox parish of Sts. Peter and Paul in Kosmach. “There is faith, but it is not exactly Christian, rather half-Christian, half-pagan ... a mystical faith. In the Carpathian Mountains, there are people who know about trees, plants, nature.” The Hutsuls are intimately connected to nature, the elements and to their dead.
“Before Christmas Eve supper, people visit cemeteries,” says longtime resident Mykhailo Didushytskyi. “They put candles on the graves of their relatives and invite them to come for supper. A place is then left at the table, with plate and utensils for a deceased relative, to show respect for the dead.”
Timing is important.
“When the cattle are fed and the first star appears, we sit down at the table, light candles and pray,” Mr. Didushytskyi continues. “The eldest takes the kuttia [porridge made of wheat, honey, nuts and poppy seeds] and throws it on the ceiling with a spoon.” If the porridge sticks, this means God has blessed the family with health, cattle and fertile fields.
Caroling remains an important Christmas tradition. “According to legend, God gave gifts to all the countries,” says Father Hunchak, “Ukraine came late and God had nothing left to give except songs. Our Christmas carols are simply gifts from God.”
On Christmas Eve, grandchildren carol for their grandparents. On Christmas Day, older children carol. After that, however, only adult men who have permission from their pastors may carol. Proceeds from the singing — carolers receive “tips” — are donated to the parish.
Read more about Faith and Tradition in the November 2004 edition of ONE.
18 December 2017
In the video above, children gather on Sunday to celebrate Pope Francis’s 81st birthday at the Vatican. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Indian leader praises Christian contributions to country (Vatican Radio) India’s Vice President has commended the nation’s Christians for their service to the marginalized and for contributing to building a new India. “The Catholic community is peace-loving and it contributes immensely to nation building,” Vice President Venkaiah Naidu told a pre-Christmas gathering that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) organized on 12 December in the capital, New Delhi...
In Jordan, Iraqi Christians dream of fresh start abroad (The Jordan Times) Some 10,000 Iraqi Christian refugees live in Jordan, according to Father Rifaat Badr, who heads a Catholic research centre. Many of them dream of new lives in Europe, Canada, Australia or in the United States. The church’s priest, Khalil Jaar, believes education is also key to the children remembering where they come from. “The saying goes, “If you want to destroy a people, erase their history and make their children ignorant’,” he said. “We need to work to ensure all these children are given their right to education and to life...”
Syrian refugees improve Armenia’s ‘social fabric’ (Al Jazeera) The presence of Syrian refugees in Armenia’s mono-ethnic society has been celebrated in the capital Yerevan through the personal initiative of an art curator and three photographers who have been documenting the migration since the eruption of the war in Syria in 2011. A documentary photo exhibition that opened on Friday was called Home to Home, to highlight the fact that the 20,000 new arrivals were descendants of Armenians who fled from Turkey to Syria during another war more than 100 years ago...
Kerala likely to get a holy tourism circuit (Hindustan Times) A group of pilgrims from Goa kneel before the tomb of St Alphonsa in Kerala’s Kottayam. After prayers, a priest guides them through the sprawling church complex, packed with pilgrims from across the country. The 20th century religious figure, who became the first woman of Indian origin to be canonized in 2008, is one of three Christian figures who are fast becoming a big draw in the state...
A tiny ‘powerhouse of prayer’ in Alaska (JuneauEmpire.com) The Rev. Steven McGuigan was installed in his position as the rector of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in August. He’s the first full-time priest the church has had in about seven years. The St. Nicholas parish had previously been served by a patchwork of deacons and priests with other duties. Most recently, Father David Alexander, a U.S. Coast Guard chaplain, served as the “attached priest” at St. Nicholas for about a year...
15 December 2017
In the video above, Iraqi Christians displaced by ISIS return home and struggle to rebuild their lives. This video and dozens more can be found at the CNEWA YouTube channel. (video: CNEWA)
One of the great undiscovered resources here at CNEWA is hiding in plain sight: it’s our YouTube channel.
Since it was launched six years ago, the channel has become a repository of inspiring, sometimes profoundly poignant videos that show CNEWA’s world with surprising power and intimacy. Here you will see some of the projects and programs we support, meet the dedicated men and women bringing these programs alive, and see first-hand the tremendous good work our donors are making possible.
Take a few moments to browse our archive and you will meet some of wonderful people we are privileged to serve from places as varied as Armenia and Georgia, Iraq and Ethiopia.
We believe these videos—in every sense, “moving pictures” — help to tell our story in a way that enhances and enriches the work of our magazine ONE and our blog One-to-One. Together, these media resources help open a window to our world — and offer a glimpse at the courage, faith and hope that animate our mission.
The channel is updated frequently, so bookmark the page and revisit often!
The video above features CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar describing our work in the
Middle East. (video: CNEWA)
15 December 2017
Christian and Muslim leaders in Lebanon gather on 14 December for an interreligious summit at Bkerke, the seat of Maronite Catholics, to discuss and put forth a unified position regarding the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Read more about the meeting and the group’s response here.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Mychel Akl, Maronite Catholic Patriarchate)
15 December 2017
A Palestinian protester jumps as he throws stones during clashes with Israeli security forces near the Huwara checkpoint, south of Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on 15 December, 2017, as protests continue amid anger over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. (photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)
Forces brace for more protests over U.S. Jerusalem move (Times of Israel) Israeli security forces were preparing for clashes with Palestinian protesters for a second consecutive Friday, following last week’s announcement by US President Donald Trump that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Hundreds of additional IDF soldiers were to be deployed across the West Bank and on the Gaza border in anticipation of demonstrations against the US move, expected to follow Friday noon-time prayers...
Armenia archbishop urges calm over Jerusalem (Public Radio of Armenia) An Archbishop of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul on Thursday urged calm over the Jerusalem issue to prevent it from escalating into a larger crisis, Anadolu Agency reported. “We believe that all sides should make a common effort to prevent harming Jerusalem’s character as a common site for worshipping and visiting” for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, said Archbishop Karekin Bekciyan, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey until a Patriarch is elected...
Carolers in India arrested for singing, charged with attempted ‘conversion’ (BBC) Six carol singers have been arrested in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh after a man accused them of trying to convert him to Christianity. The state has some of the strictest anti-conversion laws in India...
Pope: missionary work must reach out to closed hearts (CNS) With so much suffering, poverty and exploitation in the world, missionary work must also include reaching out to people whose hearts are closed to receiving immigrants and refugees, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Myanmar. “Unfortunately, in Europe there are countries that have chosen to close their borders. The most painful thing is that to take such a decision they had to close their hearts,” he said during a private audience 29 November in the chapel of the archbishop’s house in Yangon...
Ethiopia’s living churches in pictures (The Guardian) As one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, Ethiopia has a legacy of churches and monasteries, built on hilltops or hewn out of cliff faces, as well as vibrant traditions of worship. These are celebrated in a lavish book, Ethiopia: The Living Churches of an Ancient Kingdom...
14 December 2017
French President Vincent Auriol speaks during the opening ceremony of the third United Nations Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris on 10 December 1948, the day when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Sixty-nine years ago this week — on 10 December 1948 — the newly formed General Assembly of the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR; res. GA217A). It could not have been more timely or urgent. Not half way through the 20th century, the world had experienced two world wars in which tens of millions of people — mostly civilians — were killed; it had experienced the Armenian genocide in the Middle East; it had witnessed the Holocaust of Jews in Europe and the dropping of two atomic bombs. CNEWA, in many ways, is a product of this century, one that has been called the century of “megadeath,” and our work is inextricably bound to those still suffering the aftershocks of so much war and slaughter.
The United Nations itself was the result of nations recognizing that wars and killings on this scale must not be allowed to continue. Something new needed to be created which could promote peace and restrain killing, especially of civilians.
In 1946, at the first session of the General Assembly, a draft document was prepared to complement the UN Charter and to guarantee the lives of rights of the peoples of the world. A preliminary draft was send to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for refinement. ECOSOC set up a Committee on Human Rights consisting of 18 people from around the world. The driving spirit behind the Committee was its only woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The draft was accepted by the General Assembly two years later (1948).
The UDHR attempted to “set a common standard of achievements for all people and all nations (setting out) for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected...” As such, the UDHR became the basis on which international law was built in the 20th century.
The Preamble recognizes “...the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all the human family” as “the foundation of justice and peace in the world.”
There were far fewer founding members of the UN in 1946 — only 51 — than the present 193 member states of the General Assembly. However, the UDHR, though often attacked and often ignored, remains the basis for the role of the UN in the world.
The UDHR is celebrated every year on 10 December. In a real sense it is a living document and continually evolving, as the nations of the world recognize new rights — such as the right to protection. The original UDHR contained 30 Articles delineating what the particular human rights are. As the notion of Human Rights has grown, members states agree to uphold different conventions (like treaties) protecting the expanding rights of their citizens.
It would be naïve in the extreme to think that each and every member state of the UN recognizes, much less protects, all the rights in the UDHR, even though the nations have signed protocols to protect those rights. Although the coercive power of the UN is extremely limited, it has considerable moral power. One of the ways it holds member states accountable is the Universal Periodic Revue (UPR) presented the UN Human Rights Committee. This, according to the UN, is:
“ ...a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.”
Every five years member states report to the Committee on how they have fulfilled their obligations to the conventions they have signed and on the state of human rights in their countries.
This is also a time when non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often present reports critical of the country under periodic review. In very many instances, the NGOs are the (unwanted) conscience of the country being reviewed — keeping it honest and pointing out failures the country may not want to admit.
The UN is often — and often enough, justifiably — criticized for many things. It is not a strong organization in the sense that it has little or no authority to force a nation to do something or to refrain from something. However, for all its weaknesses and failures, the UN stands as a monument of — and perhaps the only present instrument for attaining — the highest and noblest possibilities open to the planet: a place of peace, justice and responsibility; a place where the common good is promoted and the rights of all protected.
14 December 2017
Catholic and Orthodox leaders and 2,000 of their parishioners in Amman, Jordan, hold a silent candlelight march on 13 December. The event marked their rejection of the recent decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the
U.S. embassy there. (photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Center for Studies and Media)
Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim leaders denounced the “unjust” decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and demanded that it be reversed.
In a 14 December statement at the end of an interreligious summit, the leaders said “that, in addition to violating the laws and international charters,” the decision ignores the fact that Jerusalem is a city holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The previous evening, in Amman, Jordan, Christian leaders led about 2,000 parishioners in a candelit march to protest the U.S. decision.
“For us, Christian and Muslim Arabs, when we lose Jerusalem, we lose everything,” said Father Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, reading a statement. “We lose the core of our faith, because everything began in Jerusalem. We were all born in Jerusalem.”
The interreligious summit in Lebanon, led by Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic patriarch, gathered Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs and representatives, as well as leaders of the nation’s Protestant churches and Sunni, Shiite and Druze communities.
Participants stressed that Jerusalem “has a privileged position in the consciences of believers of these faiths.”
“The U.S. president’s decision, based on special political calculations, is a challenge and a provocation for more than 3 billion people and touches on the depth of their faith,” the statement said.
They noted that the international community “has adhered to the resolutions of the United Nations, which consider Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank to be occupied territory,” so most countries have “refrained from establishing embassies in occupied Jerusalem.”
They appealed to the Arab and international communities “to pressure the U.S. administration to undo this decision, which lacks the wisdom that real peacemakers need.”
They also called for the American people and their civic and religious organizations to raise their voices and warn Trump and his administration “of the unjust decision that will certainly push the Middle East again into a new cycle of violence.”
In his opening address, Cardinal Rai said he did “not know if the American people agree with their president’s decision,” but he noted that the U.S. bishops have rejected moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since 1984. He said he hoped for the bishops’ continued support.
He also said the interfaith leaders “categorically reject the Judaization of this holy city.”
In Jordan, Father Bader told Catholic News Service the 13 December march was a “condemnation of the decision” by Trump and a call to keep Jerusalem’s status quo. He said the Christian leaders also wanted to encourage diplomatic efforts by Jordan’s King Abdullah on Jerusalem. Jordan’s king is recognized as the custodian of Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem, retired Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop Yaser Ayyash of Jordan and Jordanian Orthodox Metropolitan Benedict led the march, which ended outside St. Mary of Nazareth Catholic Church in Amman. Church bells rang as people gathered outside the church.
In his statement, Father Bader called Trump’s decision “unjust to the Palestinians and contrary to United Nations and other international resolutions.”
“Jerusalem is calling on people to stand with it,” he said, adding that Christians and Muslims stand in unity to face any act that endangers the Holy City.
King Abdullah has called Trump’s decision a “dangerous” move and a threat to peace, saying “there is no alternative to Jerusalem as the key to ending the historical conflict in the Middle East.”
“We have constantly warned of the danger of unilateral decisions on Jerusalem outside the framework of a comprehensive solution that fulfills all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to liberty and an independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
“Moreover, attempts to Judaize Jerusalem and alter its Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity will unleash further violence and extremism; for the city is holy to the followers of the three monotheistic faiths,” King Abdullah said. “Our right, Muslims and Christians, to Jerusalem is eternal.”
14 December 2017
Hamas supporters take part in a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement, in Gaza City, on 14 December 2017. (photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria border crossing to reopen after five years (Daily Sabah) Lebanon and Syria said Thursday they will reopen a border crossing closed five years ago, in another sign of the Syrian government’s increasing control over its territory. The crossing, called Al-Qaa in Lebanon and Jussiyeh in Syria, was closed in 2012 as fighting raged between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel fighters seeking his overthrow...
In the Middle East, Christians stew over Trump plan to move embassy to Jerusalem (The Washington Post) Some of the festive cheer was missing this weekend at a public Christmas tree lighting near the site where Christians believe an angel proclaimed Christ’s birth to local shepherds. “Our oppressors have decided to deprive us from the joy of Christmas,” Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the former archbishop and Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the crowd in the town of Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Mr. Trump told us clearly Jerusalem is not yours...”
Hamas marks 30-year anniversary with Gaza rally (Al Jazeera) As the struggle for a Palestinian state continues, Hamas, one of the main Palestinian factions, is marking the 30th anniversary of its founding with celebrations in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinian men, women and children, brandishing Hamas’ green flags or sporting green scarves, gathered on Thursday at the al-Katiba Square in Gaza City...
Iraq executes more than 30 ISIS suspects on terrorism charges (The Independent) A total of 38 suspected ISIS fighters in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq have been executed on charges of terrorism, the justice ministry has said. The deaths on Thursday mark the largest number of executions in a single day since 25 September, when 42 people were put to death in the same prison on charges ranging from killing members of the security forces to making car bombs...
‘Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jerusalem’ (The New York Times) Daoud Hanania was born in West Jerusalem in 1934, the grandchild of an Arab Greek Orthodox priest. But his family left Jerusalem in 1951, in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jerusalem,” he wrote to The New York Times last week...
Dalit Christians march to protest quotas in Kerala (The Hindu) The capital witnessed a second consecutive day of protest on the issue of reservation on Tuesday as thousands of Dalit Christians took out a ‘reservation protection rally’ to the Secretariat. Inaugurating the rally, Church of South India (CSI) moderator Thomas K. Oommen said the discrimination of people based on their religious beliefs was violation of the Constitution...
13 December 2017
Palestinians walk past an inflatable Santa Claus on 12 December in Bethlehem, West Bank.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Not far from where journalists lined up for positions outside the guard tower at Rachel’s Tomb in anticipation of confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, life in Bethlehem continued. Trendy young Bethlehem residents and visitors were lunching on vegetarian pizza, quinoa and salmon salad, and sandwiches with names like Sexy Morning at the popular Zuwadeh Cafe.
“No benefit will come (of the demonstrations), but people are getting their frustrations out like they have the right to do. It’s the least they can do,” said Mahmoud Hamideh, 25.
“People go and throw stones, but then life goes back to normal,” agreed his cousin, Saleh al-Jundi, 31, who just moved back to Bethlehem from Abu Dhabi with his wife and 14-month-old son. “But this time I am not sure after what Trump said.”
Palestinians leaders called for three days of protests following U.S. President Donald Trump’s 6 December official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and demonstrations have broken out in the West Bank, Jordan and other parts of the Muslim world.
Palestinians reported one killed and at least 35 injured in clashes in the Gaza Strip, with some 115 Palestinians injured in all protests 8 December. In Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rock-throwing demonstrators.
Jerusalem is home to holy sites sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews and is contested as the capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state. The city has been a key point of contention in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which have been on hold since 2014.
Palestinians say that with his declaration, Trump has removed the United States from the status of neutral mediator.
Though concerned that a continuation of the hostilities may affect the busy Christmas season, shopkeepers and others in the tourism industry in Bethlehem said on 8 December that, for now, pilgrims are not canceling reservations.
“But people will be afraid and will think we have a war here,” said 21-year-old Marianna Musallam, who is Greek Orthodox, as she arranged oversized rosaries meant to be hung on the wall. “But we are always in war. Nothing has changed. Trump’s speech was not for good. Jerusalem is for us Palestinians. It is not possible to share.”
Several guests were busy checking messages on their smartphones in the lobby of the Franciscan Casa Nova Guest House, just steps from the Church of the Nativity, and an older couple dropped off their keys on their way out.
“Until now everything is good,” said Issam Matar, who was staffing the reception desk. “But no one knows what will happen in the future.”
Restaurant manager Mahmoud Abu Hamad, 30, a Muslim, said the Catholic owner had told him to close on 7 December for a one-day strike called by Palestinian leaders. He said they were not concerned about losing customers over Christmas.
“What we have to lose is bigger than anything. (Jerusalem), the capital of Palestine, is bigger than anything,” he said. “In the end, Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine. We don't care what (Trump) says.”
Others, like a Catholic shop owner and a Muslim in the tourism industry, both of whom did not want their names used, said the violence would not help the Palestinian situation.
“If people are smart they would not go out to the streets,” said the Muslim. “With a new conflict, we will lose more kids just because the leaders said to go out into the streets. They should send their own sons, not our sons, who don’t even know what they are fighting for.”
Inside the Church of the Nativity, a large part of which has been cordoned off due to ongoing restoration, pilgrims stood patiently in line, waiting to enter the creche that marks the traditional spot of Jesus’ birth.
Latvian pilgrim Janis Bulisi, 43, said he and his wife had disconnected from the internet since arriving in the Holy Land and had vaguely heard something about Trump’s announcement and the ensuing demonstrations.
“We are here on our pilgrimage. We have felt no tensions. We are just excited to be in the place where Jesus was born,” he said.
“Honestly, I did consider canceling the trip, but after thinking about it I saw the violence was more (in other areas), so I took the chance on still coming, though there is a lot of hesitation, nervousness and uncertainty,” said Daniele Coda, 34, of Italy.
Stella Korsah, 56, said though her group had seen some demonstrators on their way from Jericho to Jerusalem, they had not seen violence.
“I have been waiting for this (pilgrimage) for my entire life and I had the opportunity now,” said Korsah, who is a member of St. Catherine of Genoa Catholic Church in Brooklyn, New York. “I was nervous listening to the news ... but I hope for peace ... and remember my purpose for coming here. We serve a living God, and I know peace will prevail.”
In the courtyard outside the Church of St. Catherine, a Spanish group from the lay ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation prepared, in song, for their Mass.
“We are here on our pilgrimage. We were a bit worried, but our priest reassured us,” said Cristina Gallego, 53, who directed the singing. “We pray for peace. Christ is here. Here one comes to see, touch and feel their faith.”