16 August 2018
The ancient Christian town of Maaloula, pictured in October 2007, is one of the oldest communities in the world, where Aramaic is still spoken in everyday life. (photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)
In a heartening piece of news, Fides reported this week that the Monastery of St. Thecla, in the ancient town of Maaloula in western Syria, has reopened to the public:
The Orthodox monastery of St. Thecla, in the Syrian town of Maaloula, will soon be open again to the visits of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, reconstruction work on the monastery is nearing completion. Maaloula was freed from militants in 2014, after which the restoration of the town and monastery began.
As reported by Fides (see Fides 9/6/2018) an important contribution to the reconstruction of St. Thecla came from the Russian veterans organizations “Boevoe Bratstvo” (Brothers in Arms). Russian media report that the nuns have already returned to the monastery, 90 percent of the reconstruction is already done, and that the reconstruction will be completed in the coming weeks.
Maalula, [35 miles] northeast of Damascus, known throughout the world as one of the places where Aramaic — the language spoken of Jesus — is still spoken, houses both the monastery of St. Thecla and the sanctuary dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus, which belongs to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. On 3 December 2013, 13 Greek Orthodox sisters from St. Thecla were kidnapped from the monastery, along with three of their collaborators. The kidnapping ended happily on Sunday, 9 March 2014, when the sisters and the three collaborators were freed in Lebanese territory. The liberation also occurred thanks to the mediation of the Lebanese and Qatar intelligence apparatus.
To learn more, check the pages of ONE magazine, which has featured several pre-war profiles of this remarkable town — including Mitchell Prothero’s Echoes of Jesus From Syria’s Mountains in 2008, and Michael La Civita’s 1989 Maaloula: An Oasis of Faith.
16 August 2018
Tags: Syria Monastery Aramaic
A makeshift shelter is seen 13 August on the edge of Athirapally Falls in the Indian state of Kerala. The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in the southeastern state, killing at least 75 people within a week. (photo: CNS/Prakash Elamakkara, EPA)
Indian church joins relief efforts as floods wreak havoc in Kerala (CNS) The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India’s Kerala state, killing 75 people within a week. Ucanews.com reported that all 41 Catholic dioceses in the southern state have opened schools and other institutions to accommodate flood victims and are cooperating to send food, clothes and other relief materials to affected areas…
UNRWA: Palestinian refugee schools to open (Daily Star Lebanon) Hundreds of U.N.-run schools for Palestinian refugees will open on time after fresh funding temporarily staved off a financial crisis triggered by a U.S. contributions freeze, the United Nations said on Thursday. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said all 711 schools it runs for 526,000 pupils in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would open for the coming school year…
‘There are no girls left’: Syria’s Christian villages hollowed out by ISIS (New York Times) The memories of the retired oilman dot the village in Syria where he grew up. The mud chapel he got married in. The concrete church he helped build that would overflow with worshipers on holidays. The tight community of Assyrian Christian families who had lived together in this area for generations. Now it’s a village of ghosts. The church is a pile of rubble, its bell tower and its cross toppled over like a felled tree. The dirt paths are overgrown, walked by stray dogs. Most homes are empty, their owners in Germany, Australia, the United States and elsewhere…
The Monastery of St. Thecla in Maaloula reopen (Fides) The Antiochene Orthodox Monastery of St. Thecla, in the Syrian town of Maaloula, will soon be open again to the visits of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, reconstruction work on the monastery is nearing completion. Maaloula was freed from militants in 2014, after which the restoration of the town and monastery began…
Kurds meet with Syrian government to discuss self-rule (AINA) Representatives from Syria’s Kurdish-run northeastern region met with the government in Damascus last week to discuss self-administration in a postwar Syria, a leading Kurdish official said Tuesday. It was the second meeting between the two sides, and they agreed to continue their discussions, said Ilham Ahmed, the co-president of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council…
Economic turmoil leaves Turkey reeling (Vatican News) Last week, the Turkish lira lost 20% of its value against the U.S. Dollar. Today it remains under pressure as it continued its descent on world currency markets. The leading Turkish Sabah newspaper cited the head of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and Indus try as saying the government needed to take urgent action, as the financial stability of the country was in doubt…
As Ethiopia embraces forgiveness, government victims call for justice (Christian Science Monitor) Ethiopia has released thousands of prisoners as a new prime minister reverses decades of security abuses. No one knows how many were tortured. But some of those torture victims are now talking openly — to the media, to their relatives, and to their friends — about what happened to them after they were jailed, in many cases for protesting against the government…
14 August 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey
The Temple of Bel in Palmyra in Syria is a World Heritage Site that was destroyed by ISIS. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Many of the people and places CNEWA serves are somehow imperiled—whether by war, persecution, economic hardship or drought. Often, the stories we tell in our magazine, ONE, revolve around ways of life that are rapidly disappearing.
We aren’t the only ones chronicling this phenomenon. The United Nations has been involved in this, as well, and has actively taken steps to try and save what otherwise might be lost.
In 1965 the United States, under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, hosted a conference entitled “World Heritage Trust.” The conference recognized the universal human significance of some sites in the world. These sites—both natural and cultural—touch the deepest part of what it means to be human in the best sense of the term. The conference recognized that natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon invoke a sense of wonder and awe that transcends language, culture and religious affiliation. Likewise some sites—buildings, cities, places of worship—also signify the heights human achievement can attain. It was recognized that these sites, while remaining under local state sovereignty, are nonetheless part of the patrimony of the entire human family.
In 1972 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Four years later, the World Heritages Committee was formed, with the express intent of creating the World Heritage List — places and landmarks to be treasured by all. As of 2017, there are 1,052 World Heritages Sites around the world. Of these, 814 are cultural, 203 are natural and 35 are “mixed.” (For a complete list of these sites, visit this link.)
While the World Heritage List revolves around those things both natural and created that bring out and reflect the best in humanity, it cannot be overlooked that in the list of the sites — in addition to noting whether the site is cultural, natural or mixed — there is a note as to whether is it threatened. Many are threatened — and some are threatened by deliberate human activity.
The Middle East, the world of CNEWA’s original mission, is one of the so-called cradles of civilization. Sixteen World Heritages Sites can be found in Jordan, Syria and Iraq alone. These countries have been involved in war for almost a decade. Hence, many of these sites are also the victims of war. Caught between fighting factions, places such as the citadel in Aleppo, the Nebi Yunus Mosque in Mosul and many others have been reduced to rubble. The Islamic State (ISIS), with its nihilist theology, deliberately destroyed many ancient sites because they were considered “infidel.” Ancient statues and artifacts and priceless, irreplaceable manuscripts have been wantonly destroyed.
On 18 August 2015, the 82-year-old Syrian scholar Khaled al-Asaad was beheaded by ISIS and his dead body was then publicly crucified. His crime? He refused to reveal to ISIS where the archaeological treasures of the World Heritage Site of Palmyra were hidden. Al-Asaad dedicated his life to studying and preserving the ancient heritage of his country and, indeed, the whole world.
He gave his life to save that heritage.
If the UNESCO World Heritage Sites were created to reflect and bring out the best of humanity, they have also been the victims of the worst of humanity.
While CNEWA does not work directly with UNESCO or the World Heritage Sites, we do strive to reduce the violence and inhumanity in all places where we work. By helping to meet the basic needs of people often left homeless, scarred by violence and war, we hope ultimately to meet their spiritual needs as human beings — beings who are compassionate, just, secure and open to things of beauty like the UNESCO World Heritages Sites, often in their own lands.
14 August 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq United Nations
A Basilian Sister prays with a little girl in her convent in the village of Berehy near Lviv. Read how the sisters are Giving 200 Percent, doing more with less, in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
14 August 2018
Thousands have been forced into relief camps across Kerala as flood waters continue to devastate the region. (video: YouTube/Al Jazeera)
Kerala floods force thousands into relief camps (The Times of India) According to the latest official figures, more than 60,000 people have been lodged in various relief camps across 14 districts of Kerala following the unprecedented monsoon rains that triggered floods and landslides in several places…
Scores killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia (Reuters) At least 40 people were killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia over the weekend, a senior regional official said on Monday, in the latest spate of violence driven by ethnic divisions. Unrest first broke out along the border of the country’s Somali and Oromiya provinces in September, displacing nearly a million people, though the violence had subsided by April…
Indian bishops cry foul as police probe church agencies (UCANews.com) Catholic prelates in India’s Jharkhand state have asked the government to substantiate allegations of fund diversion for religious conversion as police continue to investigate nearly 90 Christian institutions. The joint move by the eastern state’s bishops came on 12 August, a day after the state’s Criminal Investigation Department and Anti-Terrorism Squad carried out searches at the offices of Christian-managed non-government organizations (NGOs)…
Israel may be about to relax sanctions against Gaza (The Los Angeles Times) After over a month of suffocating sanctions that left many Gazans on the brink of economic collapse, relief may be on its way. Israel’s Defense Ministry said Monday that two days of “complete quiet” on its border with Gaza have led Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to consider easing the closure it imposed on the sole commercial entryway into the Gaza Strip on 9 July…
Early marriages rising in Iraq (Global Post) In 1997, 15 percent of Iraqi women wed before 18, according to government statistics. That was six years prior to the US invasion that toppled its brutal but secular dictator, Saddam Hussein. By 2016, two years after the outbreak of a sectarian Sunni vs. Shiite civil war and the rise of ISIS, who by then had imposed a harsh version of Islam on around a third of the country under its control — Iraq’s early marriage figure jumped to 24 percent, including nearly 5 percent who married before age 15…
Economic turmoil leaves Turkey reeling (Vatican News) On Friday, Minister of Finance Berat Albayrak rolled-out his “new economic model” that was supposed to reassure markets and investors, however, his plan was vague and further accelerated the crash of the lira. In an attempt to calm the markets on Monday, the Turkish Central Bank said it would provide local banks with all the liquidity they needed, but fears remain that the crisis could spread to markets in Europe…
13 August 2018
Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank
A sister carries a box of biscuits to help feed children at St. Paul Catholic Church. Hundreds of families fleeing violence have gathered there, seeking refuge. CNEWA is rushing emergency aid to support them. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic Near East Welfare Association has rushed $40,000 in emergency aid to help more than 4,000 people fleeing interethnic violence in south central Ethiopia.
Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, said the emergency assistance will provide food, medicines and sanitary items for about 733 families, including some 700 children under the age of 5 and about 400 expectant or nursing mothers. All are seeking refuge on the grounds of St. Paul Catholic Church in an area known as Galcha, which straddles a contested stretch of land dividing two related but distinct tribal groups some 270 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa. The parish, which includes some 6,000 Catholics, runs primary and secondary schools and a clinic that normally treats 180 people a day.
Since April, interethnic violence has rocked many parts of Ethiopia, especially among the various ethnic groups living in areas of south central and southeastern Ethiopia. In the east, violence has claimed the lives of at least six priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as many laity. The recent violence in south central Ethiopia has pitted the Gedeo tribe of the Southern Nations and Nationalities People region against the neighboring Guji Oromo of the Oromia region, ultimately displacing nearly a million people from both communities and killing hundreds. The majority of both peoples are Protestant; some, however, are Ethiopian Orthodox, Muslim or Catholic.
A family stands amid the ruins of their destroyed house. Recent interethnic violence in Ethiopia has claimed the lives of both priests and laity, and displaced nearly a million people. (photo: CNEWA)
“All of the IDPs [internally displaced peoples] have lost their livelihoods,” reported CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu. “Their houses have been burned to the ground, their livestock killed, their fields and crops — mostly coffee and enset, the staple for both peoples — destroyed.
“When the conflict first broke out our school compound was flooded with more than 400 people with their domestic animals,” said the pastor of St. Paul’s, Ugandan Father Tiberius Onyuthfua. “Days went by with no food and other essential provisions, especially for children under 5 and nursing mothers.”
While many of the 733 families have since been resettled with families in the parish area, they still return to the parish grounds daily for food and medical assistance. The emergency funds will enable the local jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, the Vicariate of Hawassa, which includes the parish of St. Paul, to secure supplies of fortified soya-cereal mix, high energy biscuits, beans, oil and whole wheat, as well as soap, water purifying chemicals, water containers and essential medicines for up to five months.
Sister Teresa Gebremariam distributes energy biscuits to the elderly at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. (photo: CNEWA)
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Horn of Africa, as well as in other areas of conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and India. 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.
13 August 2018
In this image from 2017, worshippers pray during Mass at St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Esqof, Iraq, which was damaged by ISIS militants. The Chaldean Catholic Church has concluded a synod in Baghdad offering thanks to God for those who have returned to Iraq after being displaced. (photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)
The Chaldean Catholic Church concluded a weeklong synod in Baghdad offering thanks to God for the return of numerous displaced Christians to their hometowns in the Ninevah Plain and for pastoral achievements in their dioceses.
The synod, held 7-13 August at the invitation of Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, brought together church leaders and participants from Iraq, the United States, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Canada, Australia and Europe to discuss issues vital for the church’s future both in Iraq and among its diaspora.
Patriarchs and other leaders proposed potential candidates for election as new bishops because several Iraqi clergy are nearing retirement age. Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service that no names would be made public until approved by the Holy See.
The final statement said a key discussion point focused on the need for “a larger number of well-qualified priests, monks and nuns” to work in Chaldean Catholic churches to “preserve the Eastern identity and culture of each country and its traditions.”
Synod participants decried the suffering experienced by Christians and other Iraqis over the past four years following the Islamic State takeover of Mosul and towns in the Ninevah Plain as well as the deterioration of Iraq’s political, economic and social institutions. They also praised the humanitarian efforts by the churches and Christian organizations to help those displaced to return home and re-establish their lives.
The synod expressed “sincere thanks to all the ecclesiastical institutions and international civil organizations that supported them during their long ordeal.”
Church officials and the international community have expressed growing concern that unless Iraq’s ancient religious minorities are supported in their rebuilding, many will seek a new life elsewhere.
Observers believe that 400,000 to 500,000 Christians now live in Iraq, compared to 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Iraq, whose roots trace back thousands of years.
The synod said that Iraqi Christians still aspire to see the government establish “a strong national civil state that provides them and other citizens equality and a decent living, as well as preserves them in an atmosphere of freedom, democracy and respect for pluralism.”
The religious leaders also expressed support for Cardinal Sako’s multiple efforts to encourage and build national unity in Iraq.
In addition, they urged Iraqi government officials to help the displaced to “rebuild their homes, rehabilitate the infrastructure of their towns and maintain their property” as most of the reconstruction efforts have been at the initiation of the church, international donors and foreign governments. They appealed to the international community to assist them in “a dignified and safe return.”
The synod called for an end to the war and Syria and in other Middle East countries. It also called on the U.S. and Iran to engage in diplomacy to resolve their differences and to avoid punitive measures, saying that “wars and sanctions only result in negative consequences.”
The church leaders offered Muslims warm wishes for the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday, 21-25 August, and expressed a sincere desire for them both to seek a “common life in peace, stability and love.”
10 August 2018
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Massive flooding has had a devastating effect on Kerla over the last several days, with officials describing the situation as "very serious." (video: YouTube/The Times of India)
Kerala flood situation ’very serious’ (UCANews.com) Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday described the situation in the flood-affected areas of Kerala as “very serious” and assured the state of all possible help from the Centre. Rajnath Singh, who arrived here on Sunday afternoon, made the statement after an aerial survey of Idukki and Ernakulam districts. He was accompanied by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General Sanjay Kumar. ”The situation is very serious in Kerala. The Centre will extend all necessary support to the state in all respects,” Rajnath Singh told the inmates of a relief camp near Kochi…
Countries vow support to Jordan after terrorist attacks (The Jordan Times) Countries from across the Middle East and elsewhere continued to offer their condolences to Jordan on Sunday, after five security personnel were killed in a terrorist attack. The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemned the attack on the security personnel in Fuhais and Salt. ”The United States embassy in Jordan strongly condemns the attack on Jordanian security personnel in Fuhais on 10 August and the ensuing terrorist actions in Salt on 11 August...
Egyptian monk charged in murder of Coptic Orthodox bishop (Vatican News) Prosecutors say Wael Saad, a former monk at the monastery — who was defrocked last week — confessed to using an iron bar to bludgeon the bishop; however, there is no known motive for the crime, but it is reported he was being investigated by the victim for violating some rules of monasticism. Saad has now been charged and remains in custody, as investigations continue. The Coptic Orthodox Church has frozen the recruitment of new monks for the next 12 months, banned the use of social media, and instructed monks that leaving monastery grounds requires official permission…
Arms depot blast in Syria kills at least 67 (BBC) At least 67 people were killed and 33 injured by an explosion at an arms depot in rebel-held northern Syria on Sunday, rescuers and activists say. The blast in the village of Sarmada, in Idlib province, caused the collapse of two five-story buildings. More than 50 of the dead were civilians. The others were members of a jihadist alliance linked to al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)…
Ethiopian rebels declare ceasefire (Reuters) An Ethiopian rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire on Sunday, the latest dissident movement to aim for an end to hostilities in the wake of reforms…
2,200-year-old earring found in Jerusalem parking lot (Israel21c.org) The 2,200-year-old earring — a tiny gold filigree piece from Jerusalem’s Hellenistic era — was discovered during an archeological dig in the lot next to the City of David National Park. The hoop earring bears the head of a horned animal, possibly an antelope or deer. Excavators also found nearby a gold bead with intricate embroidered ornamentation resembling a thin rope pattern. While the earring’s owner and gender are a mystery, archaeologists are sure that it “definitely belonged to Jerusalem’s upper class. This can be determined by the proximity to the Temple Mount and the Temple, which was functional at the time, as well as the quality of the gold piece of jewelry…”
10 August 2018
Tags: India Egypt Ethiopia Jerusalem
Sister Odile, 84, helps young residents of the orphanage study in the basement of the church in Egypt. (photo: David Degner)
Sunday, the United Nations marks International Youth Day:
There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labor market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.
12 August was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999, and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.
From the very beginning, CNEWA has been at the forefront of efforts to help uplift, inspire and educate the world’s youth — and that mission continues every day around the parts of the world we serve.
We are working to give disabled children a brighter future in Armenia; we are helping displaced families from Syria start over in Lebanon; we’re helping young Ethiopians learn new skills.
And, as the image above shows, we’re also supporting sisters seeking to pass on the faith in corners of our world, such as Egypt, facing violence and persecution.
All these efforts and more are bringing hope and help to the next generation. You can be a part of that mission, too! Check out this page to learn how.
10 August 2018
Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Children Armenia
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, who is head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, concelebrates Mass on 8 August during the 136th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Baltimore. He called on Catholics to remember the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (photo: CNS /courtesy Knights of Columbus)
Syria’s war could be entering its last, most dangerous phase (The Washington Post) As Syria’s war enters what could be its last and most dangerous stretch, the Syrian government and its allies will have to contend for the first time with the presence of foreign troops in the quest to bring the rest of the country back under President Bashar al-Assad’s control…
Kerala flood claims dozens of lives; thousands evacuated (AP) Torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 26 people in flooding, landslides and house collapses in the southern Indian state of Kerala with more than 15,500 people taking shelter in state-run relief camps…
Archbishop makes plea to remember Ukraine’s ’silent’ war (Crux) Four years of fighting in eastern Ukraine have led to “the biggest humanitarian crisis on the European continent since the end of the Second World War,” according to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev called on the international community and the Catholic Church not to neglect the crisis in Ukraine. He made the plea during his keynote address at the Knights of Columbus convention in Baltimore on 7 August…
For Christians in Iraq, trust is the hardest thing to rebuild (Crux) Even in the context of the vast destruction left by ISIS everywhere across the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq, nothing compares to the staggering sight of Mosul’s Old City, where piles of rubble and overturned cars riddled with bullet holes make up half the landscape of the once-thriving city…
Eritrean officials in Ethiopia to discuss peace deal (AfricaNews.com) A senior Eritrean delegation is due in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss implementation of a historic peace deal between the two countries. The Eritrean Information Minister confirmed that the delegation comprised Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab. The “delegation will deliver a message from President Isaias Afwerki to Prime minister Abiy Ahmed and discuss progress of the implementation of the agreement,” Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet…
Syrian refugee women find their way to Jordanian economy (The Jordan Times) a vocational and soft skills training project was established by international NGO Oxfam in April 2017, helping Syrian refugee women enhance their employability and increase their self reliance…
Tags: Syria Ukraine Iraqi Christians Kerala