Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
29 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Sisters Luma and Montaha, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, visit Qaraqosh’s Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah, damaged by ISIS. The church was built in 2008. Read more about Iraqi Christians returning to their homes in the Nineveh Plain in Hard Choices, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)

Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Violence against Christians

29 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Embed from Getty Images
Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj greets the Rev. Thomas Uzhunnalil, rescued after being held hostage in Yemen, in New Delhi on 28 September. (photo: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images)

Freed Salesian priest arrives in India (UCAN India) Indian Salesian Father Thomas Uzhunnalil — who was released over a fortnight ago after his 18-month-long captivity in Yemen — arrived in New Delhi on 28 September and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Father Uzhunnalil arrived in the Indian capital following two weeks in Rome where he was taken after his release from suspected Islamic militants who abducted him 4 March 2016…

Assyrian to head Syrian parliament for first time in decades (AINA) A Christian legislator was Thursday elected speaker of parliament in predominantly Muslim Syria for the first time in decades. Hammudeh Sabbagh, a 58-year-old Syriac Orthodox Christian graduate in law and member of President Bashar al Assad’s Baath party from Hassake province in northeast Syria, won 193 votes out of 252 cast, state media reported…

Christians should return to Iraq as full citizens, cardinal says (Catholic Philly) Christians don’t want to be a “protected minority” in the Middle East; they must be full citizens with full rights and the opportunity to contribute to a just and lasting peace, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. The return of Christians to Iraq’s Nineveh Plain “must be the first and urgent objective of our efforts,” the cardinal said. “That will allow the Christian community to then face the other challenges that awaits it in being fully active and generous in building up the common good of the entire nation…”

The sea was a breath of fresh air for isolated Gaza; now the water stinks (Washington Post) Some 100,000 cubic meters of raw or partially treated sewage have flowed into the sea each day since early summer, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to cut the power supply to Gaza amid a worsening feud with Hamas, the militant movement that controls the enclave. The power shortage means that sewage treatment plants can’t function. The pollution is so bad that Israel has shut down neighboring beaches for safety reasons and called on the Palestinian Authority to find a solution…

Palestinians slam U.S. Israel envoy’s ‘ignorance’ (Al Jazeera) The United States ambassador in Tel Aviv has angered Palestinians with a comment downplaying Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank, the second such spat in a month. In a video interview with Israeli news site Walla broadcast in full on Friday, ambassador David Friedman said the Jewish state is “only occupying 2 percent” of the West Bank. “Israel is internationally recognized as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied east Jerusalem,” said Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat…

Tags: Syria India Iraq Middle East Christians Priests

28 September 2017
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

The Shrine of Hussein in Karbela, Iraq, stands above the tomb of Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Talib.
(photo: Tasnim News Agency [CC BY 4.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons)

Muslims will be commemorating a significant event this weekend — and it’s one that has ramifications for our world today.

On Saturday 30 September Shi’ite Muslims observe Ashura, the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Talib. In the Muslim calendar Hussein died on the tenth (‘ašara) day of the month of Muharram in the year 61. This translates to 10 October 680 AD. The death of Hussein is a pivotal event in the history of Shi’ite Islam.

When the Prophet Muhammad died in June 632, he left behind no instructions about a successor. As the “Seal (i.e. “last”) of the Prophets,” there was no one who could succeed him. However, his role as Commander of the Faithful (amīr al-mu’minîn) — the religious and political leader of the Muslim community — required a successor.

From the very beginning, Muslims were divided about who should succeed Muhammad as leader of the faithful. One group held that Ali bin Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet, should take leadership — and that leadership should remain in the family of the prophet. This group was known as the “party/faction” (Arabic: šî‘ah, hence Shi’ite). Another group held that anyone of the prophet’s tribe could be elected to fulfill the office. This group acted immediately after the death of Muhammad to elect Abu Bakr as the first caliph. This pre-empted the candidacy of Ali.

Three caliphs followed each other in succession until the assassination of Uthman, the third caliph, in 656. At this point, Ali was elected the fourth caliph. His election was contested by the Umayyad clan, the clan of the assassinated Uthman. Mu‘awiya, of the Umayyad clan was also elected Caliph and conflict ensued. Ali was ultimately assassinated in 651 by one of his disaffected followers. Ali’s first son, Hassan, made a treaty with Mu‘awiya agreeing not to pursue his (rightful) claim the to caliphate during Mu‘awiya’s lifetime.

Hassan died before Mu‘awiyah and, for the party of Ali, the caliphate should rightfully have passed to Ali’s second son Hussein. Once again this led to conflict. Hussein had a strong following in Kufa in what is now modern Iraq and attempted to go there to be with his supporters. Yazid, the son of Mu‘awiya, intercepted Hussein and his small caravan at a place called Karbala, just north of Kufa. Hussein’s retinue consisted not just of fighters but also women and children, among whom was Hussein’s 6-month-old son.

Hussein was betrayed by the people of Kufa. Hussein and his entourage faced the much larger army of the Kufan followers of Yazid. The forces prevented Hussein’s followers from obtaining water and they suffered greatly from thirst. The forces attacked; most of Hussein’s followers — including his infant son — were killed. Lastly, Hussein himself was killed and his head taken to Damascus, the seat of Yazid.

For Shi’ite Muslims, Hussein is the martyr par excellence. His martyrdom galvanized the followers of Ali into a clear movement in opposition to the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus.

Over the centuries, Shi’ite Muslims have developed a piety of martyrdom surrounding the events at Karbala. Every year on 10 Muharram, Shi’ite Muslims stage commemorations of Hussein’s death. The ta‘ziya (literally: “consolation”) reenacts the martyrdom of Hussein and is accompanied by great mourning, loud wailing and self-flagellation. The emotional intensity of the ceremonies is extremely high; some of the mourners in an almost ecstatic state strike themselves to the point of drawing of blood.

Although strange to most Westerners, similar rituals can be found in some cultures on Good Friday. Indeed, there are some striking parallels here to Christianity. One of the unique characteristics of Shi’ite Islam is their belief in the sanctifying power of Hussein’s death. Some Shi’ite scholars would speak of redemptive suffering, a concept not acknowledged in Sunni Islam and considered heretical by Wahhabi Muslims. Nevertheless, in both his righteousness and his suffering, Hussein becomes the ideal of the Shi’ite community.

Shi’ite Muslims comprise about 15 percent of the Muslim community. As a result even people in the West familiar with Islam are likely more familiar with Sunni Muslims.

Nevertheless, Christians can easily see points of comparison and between the death of Jesus and the Shi’ite observances of Ashura — and from that, perhaps, there may even be a possibility for understanding and dialogue.

Tags: Islam

28 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Students conduct class in sign language at the Father Roberts Institute for Deaf Children, north of Beirut. Read more about this school and other institutions working to assist Lebanon’s most vulnerable in Reaching the Margins, from the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)

Tags: Lebanon Education Catholic Disabilities Caring for the Elderly

28 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

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A picture taken through a broken TV screen shows Palestinian children playing near their home on 27 September in Gaza City. (photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Gaza power watch: How much electricity did Gaza get yesterday? (Haaretz) A severe electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip has left residents with as little as four hours of power a day in the sweltering summer heat, raising humanitarian concerns…

Interpol votes to accept ‘State of Palestine’ as member country (Haaretz) The Palestinians will join Interpol, the international police organization’s generally assembly voted on Wednesday, clearing the way for Palestine to become a member. Some 75 countries voted in favor, with 24 voting against and 34 abstaining. “The State of Palestine and the Solomon Islands are now INTERPOL member countries,” Interpol said on Twitter after the vote in Beijing…

Gaza’s fishermen struggle to keep afloat (Al Monitor) Fishing is not always a peaceful time at sea for Gaza’s fishermen, who follow in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers. They are allowed only to catch the fish in a small area close to the shore due to Israeli restrictions, and if they go beyond the permitted fishing zone they risk being shot at or losing their boats. Yet Palestinian fishermen still hold on to their trade, which has passed on to them for generations, fishing off the coast of the Gaza Strip and making their own fishing nets by hand…

Assyrian organization asks U.N. for support in northern Iraq (AINA) The Assyrian Universal Alliance, an umbrella organization for Assyrians worldwide, has sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Guterres, regarding the establishment of an Assyrian regional government in north Iraq, where the majority of Assyrians remain after being driven out of Iraq since 2004. The population of Assyrian has dwindled from 1.5 million in 2004 to 400,000 today, with most having emigrated to flee the violence from Muslim groups and their continued marginalization by Arabs and Kurds…

Desperate plea from Chaldean patriarch: ‘We cannot endure another war’ (Christian Today) Fears of a new military confrontation in Iraq are mounting among Christians, Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Luis Raphael I, has warned. Christians who are still reeling from the depredations of Islamic State across the Nineveh Plain now fear the Kurdish referendum will lead to a resurgence of violence…

In Ukraine, a huge ammunition depot catches fire (New York Times) One of the Ukrainian Army’s largest ammunition depots caught fire overnight after what was probably an act of sabotage using a drone, an official said on Wednesday, setting off gigantic explosions and forcing the evacuation of about 30,000 people…

Bibles and other church contents burned in Karnataka attack (Global Christian News) A church in the Chitradurga district of Karnataka was broken into and all the items inside the church set ablaze by some unidentified miscreants just before midnight of 17 September…

Tags: India Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank

27 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Palestinian Christians Najwa and George Saadeh pray in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Following the death of her daughter at the hands of Israeli soldiers, Najwa says she has drawn strength from her faith to pursue reconciliation. For more on families who have suffered tragedies working diligently to create a better world, read Love as a Healing Balm, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nadim Asfour)

Tags: Middle East Christians Palestine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Holy Land Christians

27 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Returning residents of Tel Eskof, in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, sign up to receive aid packages through the local authorities. (photo: Raed Rafei)

Iraqi governor: More than 1,400 Christian families have returned to Nineveh (Fides) More than 1,400 Christian families have already returned to their homes and villages scattered in the Nineveh Plain, which they had abandoned in the summer of 2014 due to the advance of ISIS, says Governor Nawfal al Akoub of the Nineveh province. Indirect confirmation of this can be seen in provisions suspending housing programs established in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014 by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, which were designed to help displaced families…

Kurdish independence referendum passes (Daily Star Lebanon) Iraq’s Kurds announced a massive “yes” vote for independence Wednesday following a referendum that has incensed Baghdad and sparked international concern. Longtime Iraqi Kurd leader Massud Barzani said the vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence and should instead open the door to negotiations…

Satna mission seminary completes 25 years (UCAN India) St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna will commemorate its 25 years of operation with a series of programs on 3 and 4 October, seminary officials said. The seminary of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church — the only one outside of Kerala — focuses on preparing priests for the northern Indian missions. Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, will preside over the Divine Liturgy on 4 October…

‘Share the journey,’ embrace migrants, refugees, pope says (CNS) Christ calls believers to welcome migrants and refugees “with arms wide open, ready to give a sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace,” Pope Francis said, launching the “Share the Journey” campaign of Catholic charities around the world. Christians’ embrace of people fleeing war or poverty should be “a bit like the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, which represents the mother church who embraces all in sharing a common journey,” the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience on 27 September…

Holy Land Christians frustrated by lack of legal action against vandals (CNS) Christians in the Holy Land, including Catholic leaders, have expressed frustration with lack of legal action against cases of desecration and vandalism of sacred places. Even as the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued a statement condemning the 20 September desecration and vandalism of a Catholic shrine in Israel, some people criticized the statement’s “weak language”…

In Aleppo, faith overwhelms fear and violence (AsiaNews) Despite difficulties and the possibility of emigrating, Rania Salouji, a 40-year-old Christian, and her family stayed. Neither the violence of war and fear for an increasingly uncertain future; nor her husband’s abduction and months of captivity at the hands of an extremist group; nor what she calls her “most difficult time,” the death of a child, who was killed by a rocket, were able to drive them out. Rania, is married to Grigor. They have two children: Michael, 17, and Hovik, 14. They have stayed in their city to overcome fear and contribute to the reconstruction of a future of peace and hope in Syria’s largest northern city, once the country’s business capital, as to that of Syria, its history and its people…

Tags: India Iraq Holy Land Migrants Aleppo

26 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Ismaeel Maiatah, a Bedouin Christian, grazes his sheep on the outskirts of Ader, Jordan. Read more about the deep roots of this community in Jordan’s Christian Shepherds, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)

Tags: Middle East Christians Jordan Cultural Identity Holy Land Christians Bedouin

26 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

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Palestinian children gather outside their homes in a southern neighborhood of Gaza on 21 September. (photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Gaza: Children suffer from war trauma three years on (Al Jazeera) As Gaza marks three years since the Israeli assault that devastated the Strip and left more than 2,200 Palestinians killed, the psychological effects of the violence linger on. Children were among the most affected groups; in the 50-day onslaught, the Israeli army killed 500 children. The bombing campaign, which started in July and ended in late August 2014, caused outrage and spurred international protests as images of dead children flooded social media…

Egypt’s Christian, Muslim institutions join efforts to advance women’s issues (Al Monitor) Muslim female preachers and Christian nuns attended an awareness course at Assiut University on 13 to 14 September. This came as part of the training they have been receiving in the Door to Door campaign, led by Egypt’s National Council for Women, in cooperation with the Ministry of Religious Endowments and the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church to promote Egyptian women’s issues…

Ranchi: 5,000 protest against the anti-conversion law and the lands (AsiaNews) About 5,000 faithful of various confessions gathered in Ranchi, the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand, to protest the anti-conversion law approved by the Jharkhand State Assembly and the land law amendments that the local government approved to dispose of tribal property to the highest bidder…

A cultural center named after Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II (Fides) A cultural center named after Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan of Constantinople was inaugurated in an Armenian church in Istanbul. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, along with the Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva of Istanbul and Hayati Yazici, Turkey’s minister of Customs and Trade, took part in the inauguration on Wednesday, 20 September. The patriarch’s mother, Mari Mutafyan, was present at the event and was visibly moved…

Syria rejects Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum (AINA) The Syrian government rejects the independence referendum organized by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Syria’s foreign minister has said. “We in Syria only recognize a united Iraq and reject any procedure that leads to the fragmentation of Iraq,” Foreign Minister Walid al Moualem was cited as saying by Syrian state news agency SANA. Kurdish-led regions in Syria held elections for community leaders on Friday, the first in a three-phase vote that will culminate in the election of a parliament and the establishment of a federal system of government. Syrian Kurds insist independence is not their aim and they want to remain part of a decentralized Syria…

Tags: Syria India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey

25 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Sister Luma Khudher reflects near the stoup of the damaged Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah in Qaraqosh. Read more about Iraqi Christians returning to rebuild their homes in the Nineveh Plain — and contemplating their identity and future — in Hard Choices, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)

Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Cultural Identity Iraqi

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