12 September 2019
The video above shows some of the recent devastation in Syria, with a growing number of children suffering casualties. A UN report says Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes may have committed war crimes in targeting schools and medical facilities.
(video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
UN: US-led coalition may have committed war crimes in Syria (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes may have committed war crimes while targeting medical facilities, schools, markets and farmland in an ongoing deadly campaign in northwestern Syria, UN investigators say. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria also said on Wednesday that Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate fighting government forces in the northwestern province of Idlib, fired rockets indiscriminately and killed civilians…
Indian state’s plan to fund Christian pastors sparks row (UCANews.com) Hindu groups have opposed a move by the chief minister of India’s Andhra Pradesh state to implement his election promise of paying a US$70 monthly honorarium to Christian pastors. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the southern state began its resistance after the state government on 27 August asked district officials to count the number of pastors in their areas…
‘Long way to go” before Russia and Ukraine repair relations (CNBC) A high-profile prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine is being seen as a boost to the possible resumption of peace talks, but some experts are tempering those hopes…
Shevchuk: marriage doesn’t solve the priest shortage (Crux) Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, has urged those considering allowing priests in the Latin rite to marry in order to help solve a crippling shortage, to proceed with caution, saying marriage has not curbed shortages in his own rite…
11 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Pope Francis greets Mohamed Husin Abdelaziz Hassan, president of Al Azhar University, during a meeting at the Vatican on 11 September. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
On a day remembered for the terrorist attacks against the United States, Pope Francis met with members of a committee of Muslim leaders and Vatican officials promoting a new era of dialogue and world peace.
The first meeting of the committee working to fulfill the goals of the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” was held 11 September in the Vatican residence where the pope lives.
“The date was chosen as a sign of the will to build life and fraternity where others sowed death and destruction,” said a communique by the Vatican press office.
The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together — which rejects violence and terrorism and promotes identity, dialogue and harmony — was signed in the United Arab Emirates in February by Pope Francis and Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar, a leading authority for many Sunni Muslims.
The seven-person committee is made up of representatives for the Vatican, Al Azhar University and the United Arab Emirates.
The pope greeted each member and gave them a special copy of the document, issued by the Vatican Library.
Calling them “artisans of fraternity,” the pope thanked them and encouraged them to be the source of a new form of politics of “not only of outstretched hands, but of open hearts,” the communique said.
During the committee’s meeting, which the pope did not attend, the members agreed to invite representatives of other religions to be part of the committee, and they made a proposal to ask the United Nations to proclaim a World Day of Human Fraternity, to be celebrated between 3 and 5 February.
When the meeting ended, “each member prayed according to his own faith for the victims of Sept. 11 and of every act of terrorism,” the Vatican statement said.
The members of the committee included: Cardinal-designate Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, former adviser to Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar University; Mohamed Husin Abdelaziz Hassan, president of Al Azhar University; and Sultan Faisal Al Remeithi, UAE secretary general of the Muslim Council of Elders.
11 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim
In this image from 2014, the Rev. M.J. Joseph, pastor of St. Alphonsa Church in India, leads a service for Dalits in a mud hut. Members of this poor and marginalized caste have appealed to Pope Francis for help to fight discrimination. (photo: John Mathew/CNEWA)
Dalits appeal to pope for help (UCANews.com) As Indian bishops prepare for their periodic visit to the Vatican, a group of socially poor Dalit people has appealed to Pope Francis to direct the prelates to work toward ending caste-based discrimination in the Church. The call from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) came ahead of the Ad Limina Apostolorum meeting between 200 bishops from India’s 174 dioceses and Pope Francis in three groups from 13 September to 3 October…
Attacked Jesuit mission seeks action in eastern India (UCANews.com) A week after a mob of some 500 suspected Hindu hardliners vandalized a Jesuit mission in the eastern state of Jharkhand, church leaders have appealed to the governor to intervene and ensure police act against those responsible. The 11 September appeal to Governor Draupadi Murmu followed an attack on St. John Berchmans Inter College and an attached hostel for tribal students in the Mundli area of Sahibganj district eight days earlier…
Trapped in Jordan, Syrian refugees see no way home (AP) Seven years after fleeing the civil war in his homeland, Zahir Hamshari’s life is filled with questions and doubts: How to pay the rent? How to cover the electricity bill? How to afford even basic staples like bread and bottled water? But one thing is crystal clear for him. Like many Syrian refugees, he cannot envision returning to his war-torn country. ”There is no future for us in Syria,” Hamshari said. “Nothing encourages us to return back to Syria...”
Catholic bishop in Turkey calls for missionary effort, vocations (The Tablet) A Catholic bishop in Turkey has warned his Church lacks enough priests and places of worship to meet the needs of refugees and local residents, many of whom seek to return to Christianity or learn more about it. ”We need priests, nuns and laypeople who can help with the formation and daily pastoral care of Christians, which is made more complex by great distances”, said Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, an Italian-born Jesuit heading Turkey’s apostolic vicariate of Anatolia. “We also have Muslims who don’t intend to convert but wish to learn more about Christianity and help us convey its true values to Turkish society. This really is a land of opportunity for a Church wishing to become missionary again…”
10 September 2019
Tags: India Refugees Jordan Dalits
Students from Nativity Girls School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, review an assignment. With more kids heading back to school this month, learn how Catholic schools in Ethiopia are Making the Grade, and making young scholars, in the November 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
10 September 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Education
Syrian refugees are seen in 2015 at a makeshift camp in Adana, Turkey. After years of welcoming millions of Syrians, Turkey is now forcing thousands of refugees to leave.
(CNS photo/Nathalie Ritzmann)
Turkey, long a haven for Syrian refugees, is sending them home (The New York Times) Turkey, which for eight years has welcomed millions of Syrian refugees, has reversed course, forcing thousands to leave its major cities in recent weeks and ferrying many of them to its border with Syria in white buses and police vans. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing a radical solution — resettling refugees in a swath of Syrian territory controlled by the United States and its Kurdish allies. If that does not happen, he is threatening to send a flood of Syrian migrants to Europe…
Russian Orthodox churches in Europe may reconnect with Moscow (La Croix) Russian Orthodox churches in Europe are preparing to reconnect with Moscow after nearly 90 years under the protection of Constantinople. An extraordinary General Assembly of 186 members met in Paris 7 September to decide whether to reconnect with the Russian Orthodox Church, which they left in 1931 because of persecution under Stalin’s anti-religious policy…
Kerala on high alert following warnings of possible terror attack (Gulf News) All district police chiefs in Kerala have been asked to stay on high alert, said Director General of Police (DGP) Kerala, Loknath Behera on Monday. Earlier on Monday, the Lieutenant General SK Saini, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C), Army Southern Command had warned that there might be an attack on the southern states, following the discovery of some boats from the Sir Creek region in Gujarat…
UN: Israel may have ’willfully killed’ Gaza protestors (The Jerusalem Post) The UN accused Israel of killing and injuring “peaceful” Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border, when it opened the 42nd session of its Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday…
Ancient seal found near Western Wall (The Jerusalem Post) A 2,600-year-old seal bearing a Hebrew name was uncovered in dirt excavated in 2013 near the Western Wall, archaeologist Eli Shukron said on Monday. The seal is inscribed with the name of “Adenyahu Asher Al HaBayit,” meaning “Adenyahu by Appointment of the House,” the most prominent role in the king’s court in the Kingdom of Judea that appears for the first time on the list of ministries of Solomon…
9 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Jerusalem Turkey Russian Orthodox Church
A collection of pants and shirts on the floor at The Phillips Collection museum in Washington illustrates the lives of migrants lost at sea. "The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement" exhibit focuses on people forced to leave their homelands.
(photo: CNS/Lee Stalsworth courtesy The Phillips Collection)
A pair of well-worn shoes left in the desert at the U.S.-Mexico border is the last thing you’d expect to find in one of the most prized rooms of the Washington museum known as The Phillips Collection, a premier venue for modern American art as well as classic European expressionists such as Renoir and Matisse.
But there, in a transparent case, in a space that focuses the viewer on the work of Mark Rothko, celebrated as a 20th century American artist but one who was born in what later became Latvia, the small battered shoes are on display.
They’re next to an item that looks as if it belonged to a child -- a piece of cloth embroidered with the image of a lion. A description explains the items were found in 2018 near the Arizona-Mexico border by members of the Undocumented Migration Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The items, likely left behind by a migrant heading north, made up part of the 100 multimedia pieces in the museum’s “The Warmth of Other Suns: Global Stories of Displacement” exhibit focused on those forced to leave their homelands. It is on display until 22 September.
“A lot of the works can be very heavy,” explained a museum guide — and she wasn’t talking about the physical weight of the objects.
Much like the person to whom the embroidered item likely belonged, Rothko left his homeland as a child, barely 10 when he left the Russian Empire and headed with his mother to a new life in the United States, where they arrived in late 1913.
They resettled with other family members who had arrived earlier in Portland, Oregon.
A large part of the exhibit focuses on the emotional toll as well as the dangers of such immigration journeys, and one experienced in modern times by a record 70.8 million around the world, fleeing war, persecution and conflict, according to 2018 statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
One of the rooms in the exhibit, with a large-scale photograph of the sea covering a wall, and jeans and shirts strewn on the floor, reminds museum-goers of the stream of recent refugee drownings. The clothing installation, by artist Kader Attia, is titled “La Mer Morte” (The Dead Sea) and is reminiscent of the Italian island of Lampedusa, where Pope Francis in 2013 called attention to tragedies faced by those seeking refuge from conflicts in Africa to Europe.
Audio of waves and video of the sea nearby make it hard to escape the reality of the risks that refugees have confronted: Die drowning while trying to reach safety or die in a different way at home.
The exhibit takes up three floors of the Phillips, which is filled with portraits of refugees who arrived from Europe to Ellis Island in the early 1900s, photos of modern-day refugees from places such as Eritrea, Iraq and Syria who set up a refugee camp torn down in Calais, France, in 2016, audio in various languages in which immigrants speak of their experiences as well as the indignities they or their children suffer in their adoptive countries.
A black and white photograph of a building with a large sign that says “I am an American” showed what one American family of Japanese descent had to do the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941. Even after its prompt display of loyalty to the U.S., the family was sent to what was called a War Relocation Authority center, or an internment camp where some Japanese Americans were forced to live during World War II.
Though some of the items have a documentary quality, other art offers political commentary, such as the work of Siah Armajani, a Minnesotan artist, in a piece labeled with the ironic title “Seven Rooms of Hospitality.” It features plastic 3-D printed models of “uncertain spaces occupied by refugees, deportees, and exiles.” They include a cage, a shack and a model of a truck with the name of a company called Hyza on the side and the words describing its contents: “60 men, eight women, and three children, all dead.”
It was a reference to a 2015 incident in which 71 refugees and migrants from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan suffocated in an airtight, refrigerated truck found abandoned on the side of an Austrian highway as they traveled from Hungary to Munich.
There’s also a chilling video made by Erkan Ozgen called “Wonderland” that focuses on a 13-year-old child who can’t speak, but miming with his hands and through grunts, describes an attack he witnessed and escaped from in his native Syria, motioning what seems to be a shooting and someone’s hands being tied. After watching, it’s hard not to hear his trauma through the grunts that travel through the museum floor.
Where a news item will document singular moments of difficulty, struggle, trauma and sometimes death that a displaced person may face, the exhibit’s photos, the audio playing in the background of migrants’ voices, videos of the empty and uninviting landscapes some of them have traveled through bring together the totality of the experience. Though it seems as if hope is absent and the “warmth” promised in the exhibit’s title is all but missing, perhaps it can be found in the space known as the “Rothko room,” where the migrant’s shoes are temporarily residing.
The Rothko room, a place where silence is encouraged, was envisioned as a place to meditate. Duncan Phillips, the museum’s founder, is said to have referred to it as a “chapel” and a painting by the immigrant artist, now widely recognized as a full-fledged American, hangs on each wall.
The paintings are of large and small blocks of bright and sometimes dark colors. According to the museum’s online literature, Phillips said of Rothko’s paintings that “what we recall are not memories but old emotions disturbed or resolved -- some sense of well-being suddenly shadowed by a cloud -- yellow ochres strangely suffused with a drift of gray prevailing over an ambience of rose or the fire diminishing into a glow of embers, or the light when the night descends.”
It’s hard to know how the journey of a displaced person will end, with success or with struggle, with the brightness of a new life like the one Rothko’s family was able to build or trudging through an unwelcoming place. The journey nevertheless began inside the shoes of a child that, like Rothko, was taken by his parents to start a new life in a new land.
9 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Immigration
Alexandria, Egypt is surrounded on three sides by water is now threatened by rising sea levels. (photo: Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
Rising sea levels threaten Egypt’s Alexandria (Voice of America) Alexander the Great established the city more than 2,000 years ago. In that time, it has survived invasions, fires and earthquakes. But, Alexandria now faces severe flooding from rising waters blamed on climate change. Alexandria is Egypt’s second largest city, with more than 5 million people. It is also an important port and home to about 40 percent of Egypt’s industrial activity. The city is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea and sits next to a lake…
Gandhi seeks reconstruction payments for flood-ravaged Kerala (The Hindu) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has written to Union Minister Arjun Munda and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, urging them for early payment of compensation to tribals and reconstruction measures in flood-hit areas in the State…
Report: ’air strikes’ hit near Iraq border (BBC) Warplanes have struck positions of Iran-backed militias near Syria’s border with Iraq, activists say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said at least 18 Iranian and pro-Iranian fighters were killed. It was not clear who carried out the overnight strikes in and around the town of Albu Kamal…
Catholic priest, catechist arrested in India (UCANews.com) A Catholic priest and a catechist were arrested and jailed on Sept. 7 in India’s Jharkhand state after they were accused of grabbing tribal people’s land and engaging in forced religious conversions. The Rev. V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda, who work in the Rajadah mission area in Godda district under Bhagalpur Diocese, were arrested after a complaint by a villager. Two villagers — village head Rameshwar Thakur and Charlis Hansda — were accused of the same charges but reportedly absconded. The four have been accused of violating the eastern state’s stringent anti-conversion law, which prohibits religious conversion through allurement or force and without informing government authorities…
6 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Egypt
Two employees of Caritas Armenia care for 80-year-old Marjik Harutyunyan. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
Every year on 5 September the world observes the UN International Day of Charity. On 17 December 2012, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution establishing an International Day of Charity to encourage people to volunteer services and engage in acts of philanthropy throughout the world. The UN chose 5 September as the date for the observance because it is also the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta), who died on 5 September 1997. That date now serves as her feast day on the Catholic calendar.
Charity is at the very core of the work of CNEWA. In the many countries where we work, we strive to help people who have been driven from their homes, are suffering from illnesses and crushing poverty. The list can be extended almost infinitely. The Welfare in Catholic Near East Welfare Association is almost identical to Charity in the International Day of Charity.
This day, then, serves as a good opportunity to reflect on what we mean when we talk about ”charity.”
Words are interesting things. They move through space and time. The ancient words of sacred texts of the Bible are alive and well in the languages of modern people. The inspired texts, originally in Hebrew, some Aramaic and Greek have been translated into literally thousands of languages, starting with Latin and Syriac in the earliest centuries of Christianity. As words move from place to place and century to century, they are not static. Words change. Sometimes they change radically and take on new meanings that may be almost the opposite of the original meaning. For example, in the time of Shakespeare the word ” ice” had the connotation of quibbling, silly and picky. It could also mean nice in the modern sense — but generally it was not a compliment. More often words take on or shed layers of meaning—the connotation is almost constantly evolving. In American English of the mid-20th century, for example, a turkey was a bird and that’s all it was. By the turn of the century a turkey — in addition to being a bird — became a naïve or unintelligent person.
Most of these changes, while interesting, are not earth-shaking. However, sometimes words from sacred texts change in ways that can be confusing. ”Love” is one of those words.
In Hebrew, the common word for love is built on the root 'h b. It — and its opposite, hate — mean pretty much what ”love” and ” hate” mean in modern English. However, they are also used to show a legal relation in a covenant. A vassal king “loves” his overlord and “hates” the enemies of his overlord. There is no sense of emotion or feeling. To “love” the overlord means to be faithful to the legal treaty — the covenant — between the two.
The Greek of the New Testament has three words for love, each with a slightly different connotation.
The first is erao. It has the connotation of passionate, physical love. Our English word ”erotic” is derived from Greek erao. To the best of my knowledge, this word does not appear in any form in the New Testament.
The two other words are phileo, which has the connotation of loving and befriending, and agapao, with its noun agape which is the love we find mostly in the New Testament. The word phileo in all its forms appears some 27 times, including three times with the connotation of “to kiss” (Matt 26:48; Mark 14:44; Luke 22:47)— all in relation to Judas Iscariot.
Agapao is clearly the preferred word in the New Testament, appearing some 256 times. When Paul speaks of “faith, hope and love” (1 Cor 13:13), he uses agape.
While some scholars have seen deep differences between the two words — with agapao being the more important of the two — that does not seem to be the case. While agapao is clearly the preferred word, phileo is nonetheless used to describe the love of the Father for the Son (John 5:20). More interestingly in the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter in John 21:15-18 Jesus asks Peter twice “do you love me” (agapas me) and twice Peter replies, “You know I love you” (philo se). The third time Jesus asks “Do you love me” (phileis me), he uses Peter’s word for love. It is most unlikely John would have Jesus use a lesser word for love, merely because Peter used it.
Some problems do occur, however, in later translations. Latin, for example, does not have the same broad choice of words for “love” as Greek. In the Latin Vulgate, there is a tendency to translate agape as caritas. When the verb “to love” is translated into Latin, the preferred word is diligo.
Words change as they travel. The Latin caritas, used to translate the Greek words for love, comes into English as ”charity.” However, over the centuries charity has taken on the additional and perhaps now primary meaning of “acts of charity,” which the New Testament often refers to as “acts of mercy” (from the Greek eleeo, “to be compassionate”).
As a result, as least in English, charity becomes increasingly unmoored from love. It becomes at least theoretically (to say nothing of practically) possible to be charitable without being loving.
In point of fact, nothing could be further from the ideal preached by Jesus. Acts of charity are acts and signs of love. We must never allow “charity” to become a substitute for ”love.”
Which brings us back to our mission at CNEWA.
At CNEWA, so much of what we do may be considered a work of charity.
But that word reminds us: it is all, really, a work of love.
6 September 2019
Countless children are returning to school this month, so we are remembering some of those students we serve around the world. In this image, a child reads Braille at the Shashemene School for the Blind. Learn more about how CNEWA helps give Special Attention for Special Needs in the November 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Nile Sprague)
6 September 2019
Faithful gather to celebrate the parish feast of Holy Savior Church in Addis Ababa. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Ethiopia: Ethnic strife threatens church unity (DW) It started out as a legitimate grievance, Reverend Daniel Seifa Michael acknowledges: “There are issues that they have raised which are really of concern. Like the church has to be strong in the evangelical services in the Oromo communities. And the church has to provide Oromo language services,” the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC’s) foreign affairs department told DW. The linguistic problem has been turned into a political one, according to expert Mohammed Girma…
U.N.: More than a thousand civilians killed in Syria over four months (Al Jazeera) U.N. human rights chief says her office has tallied more than 1,000 civilian deaths in northern Syria over the last four months…
Archbishop criticizes India’s Freedom of Religion Act (Vatican News) The government of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, led by the pro-Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed a bill last week to check what it describes “forcible religious conversions”. Cutting across party affiliations, the Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 was unanimously passed in the state assembly on 30 August. Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai Diocese spoke to Vatican News lamenting the bill saying conversion is a free and conscientious act which should be restricted but respected…
Palestinian refugees seek asylum in Canada (AP) Waving Palestinian and Canadian flags, hundreds of Palestinian refugees gathered outside the Canadian Embassy in Beirut on Thursday requesting asylum in the North American country. Many among the group lamented the deteriorating economic and living conditions in Lebanon, which is going through a severe economic crisis, and said they wanted a more dignified life…
Families press for memorial at site of Ethiopian plane crash (Reuters) Many of the relatives are now pressing for the farmland where the plane crashed to be turned into a permanent memorial. ”Out of respect to the dead, the crash site should be treated as a graveyard,” said Adrian Toole, a Briton whose daughter Joanna died in the crash, the second involving a Boeing 737-MAX in the space of five months…
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia