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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
30 June 2015
Michel Constantin

In this image from March, displaced Assyrians who fled the villages around Tel Tamer gather outside the Assyrian Church in Hassake as they wait for news about abductees kidnapped by ISIS. The city of Hassake is now under siege, and Christians there are seeking refuge
in nearby cities. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)

While I’m working in Erbil this week among the refugees in Kurdistan, I’m also monitoring developments in Hassake in northern Syria.

It’s estimated that that about 1,300 Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac families have been displaced from Hassake and have fled to the nearby city of Qamishli. Most of them are being housed in churches, schools, and monasteries; some are in the homes of host families. A number of other families have fled to the towns of Tel Tamer and Derbassiyeh.

In the wake of the latest attack by ISIS on Hassake city on Wednesday 24 June, the terrorist organization was able to gain control of the Al Nashwa neighborhood south of the city. Clashes are still ongoing between members of ISIS and government forces backed by militias.

It’s not accurate to say that the situation is similar to what happened in Mosul — mainly because the fighting is still going on and it is fierce; in Mosul, the area was occupied without any local resistance and without any real fighting.

In Hassake we have different parties involved in fighting ISIS. In addition to the Syrian regular army, the Kurdish fighters and local inhabitants of Sunni Arab nomad clans (al Shouaytat family) are also fighting on the side of the Syrian troops.

This Sunni clan is one of the largest in northern Syria. Last year, they lost about 925 young men. The men opposed ISIS occupying their region, and the militants executed them all within three days.

CNEWA has already rushed funds for the displaced Christians of the city, and is working with partners on the ground to respond to the growing needs of the families in flight.

To learn how you can help, click here.

30 June 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis chats with retired Pope Benedict XVI during a meeting at the Vatican on 30 June.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Francis stopped by to visit Benedict this morning. Details, from Vatican Radio:

Pope Francis on Tuesday morning visited Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his residence, the former Convent Mater Ecclesiae, in the Vatican, to greet him and wish him a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo in the Roman hills. The meeting lasted about half and hour.

The director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope Emeritus transferred to the summer retreat earlier today and will remain there for the next two weeks. He is scheduled to return on 14 July.

30 June 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from last autumn, Syrian Christians pray in a church in Qamishli, Syria. The city has now become a haven for thousands of families fleeing ISIS. (photo: Eddie Gerald/Getty Images)

Thousands of Syrians fleeing Hassakè (Fides) Fighting it taking place in the Syrian city of Hassakè, the largest town in the northeastern province of Jazira, after the jihadist militants of ISIS managed last Thursday, to enter some neighborhoods, causing the mass exodus of at least 120,000 people. Nearly 4,000 Christian families belonging to various churches were among the first to flee, and have largely taken refuge in the nearby urban area of Qamishli...

Fighting in Ukraine continues, despite ceasefire (The Guardian) “This doesn’t smell like peace to me,” said the Monk, sighing heavily in his makeshift control centre, a former chandelier shop in the basement of a block of flats, near the remains of what not long ago was Donetsk international airport. “There is shooting all the time,” he said. A 47-year-old former policeman from Donetsk whose real name is Oleg Gorlenko, he was given his nom de guerre, he said, because he never cheated on his wife. He has been fighting the Ukrainian army for more than a year and does not believe in the current ceasefire. “Often it’s hard to tell who is shooting at whom. Nobody knows what anyone else is doing. But it definitely isn’t a ceasefire”...

Pope Francis: Christians and Jews, brothers and friends (Vatican Radio) This week members of the International Council of Christians and Jews have been meeting to discuss “The 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate: The Past, Present and Future of the Christian-Jewish Relationship,” and it was on this theme that Pope Francis addressed the participants on Tuesday in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican...

Buddhists, Catholics call for closer cooperation on shared values (Vatican Radio) Buddhist and Catholic leaders from the United States have concluded a meeting in Rome calling for closer cooperation on key environmental and social justice initiatives. A joint statement at the end of the meeting, which was held from 23-27 June on the theme of “Suffering, Liberation and Fraternity,” said the dialogue “strengthened mutual understanding” about these issues and “deepened relationships as a basis for interreligious cooperation based on shared values”...

Tags: Syria Ukraine Jews

29 June 2015
Greg Kandra

We’re pleased and proud to report that CNEWA’s multimedia magazine ONE took home top honors at the Catholic Press Association awards dinner Friday. The magazine won 12 awards — including First Place for General Excellence — at the Catholic Media Conference in Buffalo, New York.

The panel of judges — comprised of journalism professors from Spring Hill College and Marquette University — wrote:

“First rate journalism. Consistently strong reporting and research, not simply quotes and descriptions. Any one of the news features in a given issue could easily have been a cover story. Great job of putting the reader in far-flung places. … Outstanding.

The editors of ONE raise the bar for every publication that wants to use strong photos in a large format magazine. Compelling photos dominate the spreads and pull a reader into the well crafted text of stories with a distinctive hook for each theme. The magazine also includes well edited news stories about the world of Catholic Near East [Welfare] Association.”

Here’s a complete list of ONE’s awards:

First Place:

General Excellence (Mission Magazine)

Best Feature Article, Mission Magazine
“Caste Aside” by Jose Kavi

Best Online Content Not Published in Print
“Iraq Updates” by Michel Constantin — e.g.:

Second Place

Best Single Photo Originating with Magazine or Newsletter, Black & White
“Sister with Iraqi Refugees” by Don Duncan

Best Feature Article, Mission Magazine
“Sister Wardeh’s World” by Amal Marcos

Individual Excellence: Graphic Artist/Designer
Paul Grillo

Third Place

Individual Excellence: Editor
J.D. Conor Mauro

Best Electronic Newsletter
“Discover ONE Online” by Staff

Best Online Content Not Published in Print
“Survivors of the Exodus” by Don Duncan

Honorable Mention

Best Photo Story Originating with a Magazine or Newsletter, Feature
“Reaching the Unreached in India” by John E. Kozar

Best Single Photo Originating with a Magazine or Newsletter, Color
“Siblings in Mai-Aini refugee camp” by Petterik Wiggers

Best Essay Originating with a Magazine or Newsletter, Mission Magazine
“Prayer and Protest” by Borys Gudziak

Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine

29 June 2015
Greg Kandra

Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, Ukraine, and Father Andriy Lehovych show Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, USCCB associate general secretary, the poor conditions of a Ukrainian seminary in Lviv on 22 June. The building was confiscated by the former Soviet regime, but only a small chapel in the structure was returned to Roman Catholic officials after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. Read more about the bishops’ visit to Ukraine at this link.
(photo: CNS/Markiian Lyseiko)

29 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis salutes Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon, a hierarch under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, at the end a mass for the investiture of the pallium on 29 June. (photo: AFP/Filippo Monteforte)

Pope welcomes Orthodox delegation for feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (Vatican Radio) On the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis urged 46 new metropolitan archbishops to hear the first apostles’ call to prayer, to faith and to witness. The pope’s words came during his homily at Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, which included several significant ecumenical initiatives…

Historic meeting of pope and Russian Orthodox head approaching (Reuters) A historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is “getting closer every day,” a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on Sunday. The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054…

Al Azhar and Vatican against terrorism (AsiaNews) There is a clear common vision between Al Azhar, the most prestigious and authoritative university in the Sunni world, and what the Vatican has been saying for over a year now — terrorism is a global challenge and must be addressed with an all-out campaign. However, it is increasingly clear that many countries prefer the distinctions of ambiguous alliances, focusing particularly on mere economic interests…

Christians organize ‘banquet of unity’ for Ramadan (Fides) Once again this year, according to custom, parishes and Christian families in Egypt have organized to celebrate with their Muslim neighbors who in these weeks observe, from dawn to dusk, the fast prescribed in the holy month of Ramadan…

Gaza-bound flotilla vessel seized by Israeli navy (Al Jazeera) Israel has boarded and taken over a vessel attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip, officials said. In a statement the Israeli army said on Monday that it did not use force in redirecting the main boat Marianne to the Israeli city of Ashdod…

Aleppo’s fuel prices quadruple (Al Monitor) The rebel-held parts of northern Syria that extend from Aleppo to Idlib and through Hama’s northern countryside are paralyzed; vehicular traffic is significantly reduced while fuel vendors are no longer present on the side of the roads. This was not the case before 31 May, when the Islamic State prevented the entry of fuel to rebel-controlled areas…

Anti-Christian Violence in Kerala (Fides) Christians in India continue to face attacks by Hindu extremist groups. As reported to Fides by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, a new episode of anti-Christian violence took place on 14 June in Kerala: A group of worshipers was attacked during a celebration in a Protestant church in the town of Attingal. As reported to Fides, over 200 militants of radical Hindu organizations entered the hall of worship shouting slogans like “Bharat Mathaki Jai” (”Hail Mother India”)…

Tags: India Pope Francis Middle East Ecumenism North Africa

26 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Family members visit Sister Paraskevia at the Convent of the Transfiguration, located on a hill above oldest part of Tbilisi. To learn more about this religious community, read Alternative Lifestyles from the September 2007 issue of ONE. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

Tags: Sisters Georgia Tbilisi

26 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian Kurds wait behind the barbed wired on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey after fleeing the Syrian town of Kobane on 26 June. (photo: AFP/Bulent Kilic)

Why many Kurds in Turkey are willing to die in Syria’s border towns (Washington Post) The battle for Kobane raged once more this week after ISIS fighters launched an assault on the Syrian border town, which had been firmly in the control of Kurdish militias ever since they chased out the jihadist organization in January. Initial reports suggested dozens died in the fighting, including numerous civilians, with Syrian Kurdish militias forces either killing, capturing, or cornering most of the Islamic State militants. The plight of Kobane, a predominantly Kurdish town right on the border with Turkey, is a lightning rod for many Kurds in Turkey…

ISIS offensive on Syria’s Kobane leaves almost 150 dead (Haaretz) An attack by Islamic State fighters on the Syrian town of Kobane and a nearby village has so far killed at least 146 civilians, the second-biggest massacre by the hardline group in the country, a conflict monitor said on Friday…

Vatican signs treaty with Palestine, calls for two-state solution (National Catholic Reporter) The Vatican on Friday signed a comprehensive agreement formally recognizing the state of Palestine following 15 years of negotiations on a bilateral accord that is said to provide juridical recognition for Catholic churches and call for a two-state solution with Israel on the basis of their borders in 1967…

Patriarch calls for Iraqi churches to unite after centuries of division (Catholic Herald) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has proposed that the three main Iraqi Christian churches should merge in order to secure the survival of the faith in that country. Writing on the patriarchate website the head of the Chaldean Church, which has been in communion with Rome, proposed a reunion between his church and the two largest Assyrian churches: the Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East…

Maronite head demands help for the exiled Iraqi Christians (The Tablet) The head of the Maronite Church has condemned the “international silence” over the suffering of Iraq’s Christians, during a one-day visit to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. At the head of a Lebanese-Italian delegation to visit refugees, Patriarch Bechara Peter demanded action from the international community to help Iraqi Christians stay in their homeland…

Tags: Syria Iraq Middle East Christians Turkey Patriarchs

25 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

The pastor of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ezraa points out the Roman-era foundation of the sixth-century church. To learn more about the ancient Christian communities of the volcanic plains south of Damascus known as the Houran — now threatened by the approach of militants — read From Dust to Life, from the March 2008 issue of ONE. To lend support to Christians and their neighbors affected by war in Syria, click here. (photo: Mitchell Prothero)

Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Cultural Identity Village life Architecture

25 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis looks on after greeting Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX during a 12 April Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Today, the pope sent a telegram to the the Patriarchate of Cilicia in Beirut to express condolences for the death of the patriarch. (photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX dies in Lebanon (Daily Star Lebanon) Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia Nerses Bedros XIX passed away Thursday after suffering from a heart attack, media reported. The renowned Egyptian patriarch, who resided in Lebanon, was widely known for serving the Armenian community and promoting its interests. The patriarch had visited Armenian communities in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. to boost Armenian Catholic schools…

Displaced Iraqis still wait to return home (Al Monitor) Amid accusations of affiliation with ISIS and an uncompleted demining process in the liberated areas, most of Iraq’s displaced have yet to return to their cities…

ISIS trying to retake Kobane in northern Syria (Christian Science Monitor) ISIS militants launched two major attacks in northern Syria on Thursday, storming government-held areas in the mostly Kurdish city of Hassake and pushing into Kobane — the Syrian Kurdish border town they were expelled from early this year — where they set off three cars bombs, killing and wounding dozens, activists and officials said…

On Greek island, migrants bring stark contrast to the usual tourists (Washington Post) This is the second front in Europe’s migrant crisis. Tens of thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia are rushing the shores of Europe, with Greece now just behind Italy as the single largest entry point. From clandestine ports in Turkey as close as 30 minutes by raft, dozens of newcomers are landing every day…

Indian government denies any crackdown on Caritas India (Vatican Radio) A government spokesperson addressed popular reports claiming that Caritas India has been put under a “prior approval” category, saying the organization had been remitted money by a Netherlands-based donor under that category…

Tags: Iraqi Refugees Migrants ISIS Greece Armenian Catholic Church

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