23 October 2019
Displaced Kurds stuck at a border near Derik, Syria, wait to try to cross into Iraq on 21 October 2019. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Syrians fleeing to Iraq (CNS) Humanitarians expressed concern over the situation of Syrian civilians displaced by the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria. They say that as the cease-fire there is about to expire, they are seeing increasing numbers of refugees fleeing into Iraq while others are trapped inside the country. ”In the last 24 hours alone, 1,736 Syrians crossed into Iraq, the highest number to cross in one day since the beginning of Turkey’s military operation,” said Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council, in a statement made available to Catholic News Service…
Msgr. Peter Vaccari tapped to lead CNEWA (CNEWA) Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Chair and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission for Palestine, has announced the Holy See has approved the nomination and election of Msgr. Peter Vaccari to succeed Msgr. John E. Kozar as president of CNEWA/PMP. Msgr. Vaccari will initiate the process of transition as vice president on 1 January 2020. At a date yet to be determined, but in the near future, Msgr. Kozar will retire and concurrently Msgr. Vaccari will assume his responsibilities as president of CNEWA/PMP…
Ethiopia protestors burn Nobel winner Abiy Ahmed’s book (BBC) Protesters in eastern Ethiopia have burnt copies of a new book by prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed in a show of solidarity with an opposition media activist. Jawar Mohammed had said the government was removing security from his home in the capital, which officials denied. This triggered protests outside his compound and elsewhere in the country…
Russian Orthodox TV plans reality show set at monastery (Radio Free Europe) A TV channel affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church is putting out a call for applications for a reality show with a spiritual twist: its setting will be an island monastery on a lake halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg...
22 October 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia CNEWA
Thousands continue to protest in Beirut, demanding government reform. The protests have been going on for six days. (photo: Rod & Roy / Instagram)
Protests in Lebanon are continuing and show no sign of abating, according to Al Jazeera:
Protesters in Lebanon insisted on Tuesday they will stay in the streets for a sixth day even after the government approved an unprecedented package of economic reforms.
The protesters have declared a general strike, sending a clear signal they reject the measures Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government agreed upon on Monday.
Among the reforms is a 50-percent reduction in salary for former and current politicians and ministers; the abolishment of the Ministry of Information and a number of other state institutions; and the establishment of an anti-corruption panel.
CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, sent us the picture above on Monday — which has been widely circulated on social media — and added this note:
This has become Lebanon’s biggest protest movement in modern history.
Accordingly, our office in Beirut was affected as the main road in front of Boutique Hotel has been closed by demonstrators and wheel burning since Friday, preventing the access to the office.
On Monday, church leaders expressed solidarity with the protestors, with Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, stating: ”We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger.”
22 October 2019
Msgr. Peter Vaccari, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Msgr. John E. Kozar. (photo: CNEWA)
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Chair and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission for Palestine, has announced the Holy See has approved the nomination and election of Msgr. Peter Vaccari to succeed Msgr. John E. Kozar as president of CNEWA/PMP. Msgr. Vaccari will initiate the process of transition as vice president on January 1, 2020. At a date yet to be determined, but in the near future, Msgr. Kozar will retire and concurrently Msgr. Vaccari will assume his responsibilities as president of CNEWA/PMP.
In a staff meeting in New York on Tuesday announcing the move, Cardinal Dolan said that Msgr. Kozar had approached him nearly a year ago to discuss a successor, noting he was going to be turning 75 in 2020 and wanted a smooth transition.
The cardinal expressed his gratitude to Msgr. Kozar for initiating the process — and also expressed his personal affection for him and the work he has done with CNEWA/PMP over the last eight years. The cardinal reminded the CNEWA family of his high regard for the agency and its work since his days serving the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., then led by Archbishop Pio Laghi. Archbishop Laghi served in Jerusalem under St. Paul VI and was a great supporter of CNEWA and its work in the Middle East.
A priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Msgr. Vaccari, 67, will conclude his term as Rector of Saint Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, on 31 December. Ordained a priest in 1977, he has served as a parish priest, seminary professor, Chaplain with the Air Force Reserve, and Rector of Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington before becoming Rector of Saint Joseph’s Seminary in 2012.
Msgr. Kozar, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, began his tenure as president of CNEWA/PMP in September 2011, after having served as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies for ten years. “A diocesan priest on loan to the missions,” Msgr. Kozar has encouraged the Eastern Catholic churches — which CNEWA is privileged to serve — as these communities continue in their renewal called for by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
”As I travel throughout CNEWA’s world, the men and women of these rich communities of faith demonstrate the church at her best, whether by wiping tears from the eyes of abandoned pensioners or in offering the Bread of Life to refugees in a camp.”
Msgr. Kozar and Msgr. Vaccari reminded the CNEWA staff that they share a deep and long-lasting friendship, built over many years of traveling together to the Middle East on pilgrimage, and they look forward to working together during this period of transition of leadership.
22 October 2019
Tags: CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Buses transport displaced Syrian families, who fled violence after the Turkish offensive against Syria, to camps in Iraq on 17 October 2019. After a five day pause, Turkey's offensive may resume as early as today. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)
Turkey’s Erdogan says Syria offensive could resume (Reuters) Hundreds of Kurdish fighters remain near to Syria’s northeast border despite a U.S.-brokered truce demanding their withdrawal and Turkey could resume its offensive in the area when the ceasefire expires, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said…
ISIS reaps gains from U.S. pullout from Syria (The New York Times) When President Trump announced this month that he would pull American troops out of northern Syria and make way for a Turkish attack on the Kurds, Washington’s onetime allies, many warned that he was removing the spearhead of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Now, analysts say that Mr. Trump’s pullout has handed the Islamic State its biggest win in more than four years and greatly improved its prospects…
Eritrean refugees continue to flood into Ethiopia (The New Humanitarian) The long-dormant border crossings re-opened with such fanfare between Eritrea and Ethiopia last year as a symbol of warming relations are all now closed — but that isn’t stopping a steady flow of Eritrean refugees from fleeing across the heavily militarized frontier…
Netanyahu fails to form government (BBC) Israel’s long-standing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he cannot form a government, handing the opportunity to his political rival. Mr Netanyahu has been in power for the past decade, but he was unable to build a coalition with a majority after September’s election ended in deadlock. His rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party will now be invited to attempt to form a government…
Heavy rains inundate Kerala (The Indian Express) Heavy rains are likely to lash several parts of Kerala and Lakshadweep in the next five days as the North-East monsoon became active over the state, according to the latest forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD)…
Vatican: Christians and Hindus must show world peace is possible (CNS) Christians and Hindus must resist pessimism and instead draw from and add to the “a hidden sea of goodness” that convinces many men and women around the world that peace and brotherhood are possible, said a Vatican message for the Hindu feast of Diwali…
21 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey Eritrea
Members of the Habib family stand outside a store they have recently rebuilt in Qaraqosh.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the current edition of ONE, reporter Raed Rafei revisits Iraq, two years after the defeat of ISIS, and writes of how Iraqi Christians are facing the future with Resolve. He has some additional reflections on the people he met:
It was a blazing hot August Sunday. The streets of Qaraqosh, the largest Christian enclave in Northern Iraq, were mostly empty. Compared to my last trip two years ago, there were some repaired and freshly painted homes here and there. But overall, despite the signs of improvement, heavy destruction caused by the liberation war from ISIS almost three years ago was still visible. Pockmarked walls, collapsed ceilings, piles of rubble, scorched buildings were common sights across this once thriving town.
The people I talked to during my visit to Iraq as a reporter were generally relieved to be back to their homes and felt relatively safe, but the weight of the economic crisis and uncertainties about the future were noticeable in their worried faces and resonated during the silent moments of our conversations.
As the sun started to set, I could see groups of people of all ages flocking to the Church of Saints Behnam and Sarah. Despite the difficult circumstances, it was heartwarming to see how elegantly dressed the men and women of Qaraqosh were for the Sunday Mass. To secure the area, the streets around the church were blocked for vehicles by the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian Assyrian military organization formed after the invasion by ISIS. The service was being held in a makeshift tent in the church’s courtyard because the main hall was still under reconstruction. The fallen bell tower was a stark reminder of the recent tragedy of displacement. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of hope witnessing how packed the area was and the disarming simplicity of returnees resuming age-old cultural traditions.
The next morning, reality hit again. Members of a Shiite militia supported by Iran had blocked roads leading to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, to protest attempts by the government to integrate them into the Iraqi army. This was a testimony to the fragility of the situation. A vibrant, well-built local man in his late 20’s came in his gym apparel to the monastery where I had spent the night. He was going to drive me out of Qaraqosh. On the road, he told me about his taxi business and a restaurant he owned and managed. Despite economic difficulties, he said he was trying hard since his return to Qaraqosh to rebuild a life for his wife and his young daughter. I was impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit in a country where most people rely on governmental jobs.
After driving for two hours under an intense sun through alternative dirt roads to bypass the blocked highway, I was able to reach my hotel in Erbil. That night, I received a call from my driver. With a desperate voice, he asked me if I could help him find work as a concierge in Lebanon. He said he wanted to apply from there for asylum in Australia where some of his family resides. I was surprised and perplexed by his unexpected call. Compared to all the people I had talked to, he seemed to be doing well.
I answered him, reluctantly, “I will see what I can do but I can’t make any promises.” I wanted to help but with Lebanon’s ailing economy overburdened by a large number of refugees, it would be very difficult for him to find a job there.
He said that sadly, no matter how successful he was, he felt that as a young Christian man, there was no future for him and his small family in Iraq.
Read more about the plight of Iraqi Christians in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
21 October 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Demonstrators near Al-Amin mosque in Beirut carry national flags during an anti-government protest on 20 October. Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, protests were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese of various religions sounded their cries in unison in streets and public squares throughout the country calling for government reforms.
Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, a fifth day of protests on 21 October were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes.
Lebanon’s Catholic patriarchs — who have repeatedly raised their voices against political corruption, imploring the government to address the country’s dire economic situation — expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, cut short a pastoral visit in Africa to return to Lebanon amid the unprecedented uprising.
Speaking from Laos, Nigeria, on 20 October, Cardinal Rai said that Lebanon’s government officials “know that they are the ones who brought their country to this situation and they must find successful ways to reform.”
The cardinal reiterated that more than one-third of Lebanese citizens are below the poverty line, the country’s unemployment rate stands at nearly 40 percent and that “hunger and destitution threaten many citizens.”
“We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger,” which the cardinal said threatens the lives of the Lebanese as did the famine in 1914.
The crisis, “imposed from within,” Cardinal Rai said, led elderly and youth alike to demonstrate their rejection of such political practices. “In so doing they (the demonstrators) have all shown that they are united from all spectrums demanding a decent living.”
In an effort to quell the demonstrations, Lebanon’s coalition government on 21 October approved a package of economic reforms that reportedly included a plan to overturn the new taxes and cut by half the salaries of top officials.
Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi also declared his solidarity with the people “who express today their pain and bitterness and loss of confidence in those who brought them to this bitter reality.”
He appealed to government officials “to respond to the demands of the Lebanese people and not drown them with promises, after reaching the brink of despair.”
Patriarch Absi emphasized that “serious reform and the elimination of waste and hot spots of corruption and respect for the dignity of the citizen is urgent and necessary to restore confidence in officials and the salvation of the homeland.”
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan offered his support to the protesters’ demands as well. “We appeal to the consciences of officials, if there is a conscience in this world of hypocrisy, to be within the responsibility assigned to them,” he said.
He urged officials to “listen to the voice of the people, and immediately undertake the necessary and fundamental reforms,” including fighting corruption and holding the corrupt accountable, ending the theft of public money, stopping waste in state facilities and refraining from imposing any tax increase.
“We ask God to inspire officials to get out of this current crisis and to implement the demands of the people, to return to Lebanon its peace, security and prosperity, and to its citizens to reassure, stability and a decent life, through the intercession of our mother, the Virgin Mary of Lebanon, and all the saints and martyrs,’’ he said.
In affirming their solidarity with the demonstrators, each patriarch pointedly called for maintaining peacefulness and rejected any violent means or destruction by protesters. “We are well aware of the role of the fifth column,” Cardinal Rai cautioned, referring to groups that foment violence.
21 October 2019
In this 2018 photo, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, speaks during a news conference in Bangalore. The cardinal is taking part in the Amazon Synod at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
At Amazon Synod, Cardinal Gracias sees similarities between Amazon and India (Vatican News) An Indian cardinal participating in the Amazon Synod, currently taking place in the Vatican, says he is moved by the passion of the bishops of the Amazonia region for their poor and suffering people. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, made the remark in an interview to Vatican News…
U.S. troops leave Syria and cross into Iraq (CNN) Hundreds of trucks carrying American troops have crossed into Iraq in a long military convoy Monday, marking the largest withdrawal of US forces from Syria to date. US personnel, who were fighting the terror group alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, will be mostly repositioned in western Iraq, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, while some will remain temporarily in Syria to protect oil fields from ISIS. It’s an apparent walk back of President Donald Trump’s assertion last week that he would bring all American troops stationed in Syria “back home…”
Coptic Christians in Egypt fear martyrs are being forgotten (Crux) While the video footage of the deaths of the 21 Christians [in Libya in 2015] stunned much of the world, many Coptic Christians have since lamented that the events seem to have been quickly forgotten — though in the rural village of Al Our, the presence of their family members seemed to be a plea for both remembrance and continued attention to the ongoing realities of Christians in the region…
‘Lost’ street built by Pontius Pilate uncovered in Jerusalem (The Independent) A 2,000-year-old “lost” street built in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate has been uncovered for the first time since the city was sacked by the Romans in 70AD. The ancient walkway most likely used by pilgrims as they made their way to worship at the Temple Mount was first discovered in 1894 by British archaeologists in the “City of David” within the walls of Jerusalem…
18 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem
Students attend class at Bethlehem University. Learn more about what makes this school so distinctive in A Letter from Bethlehem in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
18 October 2019
Tags: Bethlehem University
Migrants from the Philippines are starting over in Jordan, with support from the local church.
(video: Nader Daoud)
The current edition of ONE features a look at migrants from the Philippines making a new home in Jordan, with the help and support of the Catholic Church. Journalist Dale Gavlak here offers some additional impressions of the people she met:
It seems that you almost can’t go anywhere in the western part of the Jordanian capital, Amman, without running into a guest worker from the Philippines.
They are everywhere. Although I’ve had the pleasure of knowing some who have worked for friends, I felt a whole new world open before me as I got to know two very special Filipina women with the Teresian Association who provide support and counsel to their many fellow country people navigating work and family challenges in Jordan.
Indeed, the Teresians are like “godmothers” to the Filipino community, says Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman.
I recall first meeting Elisa Estrada when she welcomed me at the front door of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church. Her lovely, warm, and engaging smile immediately put me at ease. I’m sure she has this same calming effect on everyone she meets. Afterwards, scores of us joined hands all across the aisles to say the Lord’s Prayer.
“For all the people in the church, you just hold their hand and I ask, ‘Jesus, put your hands in my hands. Whatever the person needs, provide that,’“ Elisa says.
At the end of the service, we enjoy a delicious communal lunch featuring Filipino specialties at the Pontifical Library Cultural Center, where I am introduced to many Filipinas working in Jordan. It’s also a festive celebration of the parish priest Father Gerald’s birthday, including song and heartfelt prayer and thanks.
“I have baked thousands of cakes to celebrate the gift of life because these domestic helpers are unable to bake their cakes in the households where they serve,” says Elisa of celebrations involving birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. “It’s the time that I can share the beauty of life. By using the illustration of the cake as well, I have an opportunity to speak.”
She points to the ingredients needed to make a cake. Taken individually, she says, they won’t taste good. ”It the same with us, if we work together, if there is unity, life will be beautiful,” Elisa says.
“I always tell Jesus, when I face somebody, please put your words in my mouth and open their heart. I ask Him, “When I speak, make it no longer me, but You speaking through me,” she explains.
Sharabeth Rosqeta, 35, from Cabaruan Quirino Isabela, Philippines, says she sought work in Jordan because her family is poor.
“We are 10 children, and I’m the youngest. I come to the Center every Friday because it’s a big help for me and I learn a lot. I was baptized here at the age of 23 with confirmation and communion following,” Sharabeth says. “I have been able to learn more about my faith and Jesus.”
The other Teresian, Amabel Sibug, has taught Sharabeth to play the guitar as well as how to budget her finances effectively.
“We celebrate as a family. This is the most important thing that they feel: I belong,” says the energetic Teresian. ”Welcome to the family, we are glad that you have come to share your life with us where we can learn to love and to pray, as well as to be strong and to lean on each other,” says Amabel.
”For us, the gift of our vocation is that we give up everything to share the love of Jesus,” Elisa adds. “Thanks to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for sponsoring us for our activities. “
Read more about those making a new home In a Land of Refugees in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
18 October 2019
While Turkey has agreed to a pause in its offensive, Syrian Kurdish fighters are accusing the Turkish military of violating the terms of a truce. (video: DW News/YouTube)
Kurds accuse Turks of violating truce (The New York Times) The leadership of the Syrian Kurdish fighters accused the Turkish military and its proxies on Friday of violating the terms of a truce in northern Syria that was brokered a day earlier by Vice President Mike Pence, raising questions about the feasibility of the cease-fire and whether the Americans can enforce it…
Armenia backs Christians in northeast Syria (Armenian Weekly) The Armenian government is working to assist ethnic Armenians in danger of being caught in the wake of the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria, which is now entering its first week. Authorities in Yerevan were quick to formally condemn the Turkish assault, which has been dubbed “Operation Peace Spring” by the Turkish military…
Chennai becomes first in India to get ’intelligent flood warning system’ (The New Indian Express) Tamil Nadu is all set to deploy an ‘intelligent flood warning system’ in Chennai, which will enable officials to get area-wise inundation details during the monsoon. The technology, called CFLOWS, is India’s first integrated coastal flood warning system...
Ethiopia opens its secretive Imperial Palace for the first time (CNN) For more than a century, the secretive imperial palace complex has stood over Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, closed off to everyone but the country’s leaders and the troops who protected them. Almost hidden from view on a wooded bluff, its forbidding 40-acre compound was unknown even to some of those living beneath it. Behind its walls, plots were hatched, conquests planned and dark deeds executed…
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey