Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
21 December 2018
CNEWA staff

Youth celebrate at a Christmas party for Iraqi refugees in Jordan in December 2014. (photo: CNEWA)

CNEWA’s blog content will return in January; in the meantime, we wish a happy and healthy holiday season to all, and a blessed new year.

(photo: CNEWA)

Tags: Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees

21 December 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

Catholic faithful gather to celebrate the parish feast of Holy Savior Church in Addis Ababa. Read more about the challenges facing the Ethiopian Catholic Church in a letter from Abba Teshome Fikre Woldetensae published in the December 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church

21 December 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

People gather near a light display on 17 December, ahead of Christmas in Moscow. (photo: CNS/Tatyana Makeyeva, Reuters)

A “roofless crib” in Damascus (Fides) This year the task of preparing the Christmas Nativity scene in the Cathedral of Damascus was given to the youth who had started meeting together after eight years of violence and dispersion. In the representation of the Nativity, the figures of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and Infant Jesus in the manger are exposed outdoors, not covered by the roof of a stable or a hut. The youth have stated that this represents the 13,000,000 Syrian refugees who are homeless and have no roof of their own…

Syrian bishop: U.S. pull-out further step towards to ending the conflict (AsiaNews) The withdrawal of U.S. troops “is further confirmation that the conflict in Syria, albeit in a slow and laborious way, is heading towards an end,” says Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo. The Jesuit and former president of Caritas Syria says he hopes the country now can seek a long-term solution…

Turkey’s Erdogan delays operation against Kurdish forces in Syria (Washington Post) Turkey will delay a planned offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, citing talks with the U.S. president and other officials after the administration’s decision this week to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country…

U.S. genocide law triggers mixed feelings among Iraqis (Al Monitor) A new US law designed to protect religious minorities and punish the Islamic State for its atrocities is getting a mixed reception from Iraqis, who are uncertain about how it will be applied on the ground. Murad Ismael, the executive director of the Yazidi rights group Yazda, praised the Trump administration’s support for religious minorities as an “excellent principle.” Other groups, however, bristled at the new law’s focus on Yazidis and Christians. U.S.-based Mandaean activist Nazar al Haidar, for example, told Al Monitor that his community is not explicitly covered by the law…

Orthodox believers rally to protest Ukraine parliament vote (New Jersey Herald) Over 1,000 believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church rallied outside the country’s parliament Thursday to protest its demand that their church’s name is changed to reflect its ties to Moscow. Parliament passed a bill earlier Thursday demanding that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church explicitly indicate its link to the Moscow Patriarchate in its name. The Ukrainian church has been part of the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries, but a bitter tug-of-war following Russia’s annexation of Crimea has encouraged moves within Ukrainian orthodoxy to create a separate church with no direct links to Moscow…

Indian nun: Survivors ‘need to be heard’ at Vatican abuse summit (Crux) A Vatican summit on clerical sexual abuse from 21 to 24 February will emphasize the fact that “victims need to be heard,” says a member of pope’s main child protection organization. The crucial steps, says Indian Sister Arina Gonsalves, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, are to “recognize the truth of what has happened and … meet abuse survivors in their home country ahead of the February summit in order to learn firsthand the suffering that they have endured…”

Tags: Syria Ukraine Sisters Yazidi

20 December 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

Susanna Akram conducts a class in sign language organized by the Better Life ministry. To learn more about this program and other efforts by the Coptic Catholic Church to nourish faith and community in Egypt, read Signs of Hope in the December 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)

Tags: Egypt Education Disabilities Coptic Catholic Church

20 December 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol on 1 Nov in Manbij, Syria. (photo: CNS/Zoe Garbarino, U.S. Army handout via Reuters)

U.S. announces withdrawal of American troops from Syria (Vatican News) Announcing the pullout, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed American forces had defeated ISIS in Syria. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he said in a video address taped on the White House lawn…

Blindsided U.S. ally France to stay in Syria, Britain says ‘much remains to be done’ (Rudaw) France will not pull its forces out northeast Syria, a French minister said Thursday, after US President Donald Trump announced the immediate and complete withdrawal of American troops…

Climate change hits Indian farmers (UCAN India) The effects of climate change and unseasonal rains have been wreaking havoc on economically poor communities in India, says Purshutam Das, a social worker among farmers in New Delhi. “The crop yields have turned monstrous for the farmers across the country and they aren’t able to even feed their families because their crops are every year getting destroyed due to bad weather,” Das said…

Christian, Muslim leaders join Jordan’s king for Christmas celebration (Crux) As sectarian strife engulfs neighboring Mideast countries, Jordan’s King Abdullah II invited Catholic and other leaders to celebrate Christmas in the spirit of fraternity and harmony the holiday symbolizes… [Read more about this church here.]

Ancient Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church establishes congregations in Georgia and France (OCP Media Network) The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has opened new congregations in the European nations of Georgia and France. Metropolitan Mathew Mar Timotheus of the U.K., Europe and Africa celebrated Divine Liturgy at one of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Churches in Georgia. This ancient church is said to have been established by St. Thomas the Apostle. His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II is the current catholicos on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas in the East and the Metropolitan of Malankara…

Tags: Syria India Jordan Syrian Conflict Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

19 December 2018

The December 2018 edition of ONE is now online.

Christmas arrived early this year: we’ve just posted the December edition of ONE online. Look for it in your mailbox, soon!

This edition focuses on those we are calling “The Caregivers” — and within its pages you will find some of the many ways CNEWA works to extend care and compassion to those in need.

You will discover how a mobile clinic visits the marginalized Dalits in India, bringing them care and Healing the Forgotten.

We’ll take you to A Refuge in Lebanon serving Syrian refugees.

And you will see how compassionate caregivers in Ukraine offer the elderly Windows to the World.

To experience the powerful photography and award-winning journalism of ONE, read more of our digital magazine at this link. And check out Msgr. John E. Kozar’s video preview of the latest edition below.

Have a blessed Christmas!


19 December 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

In this image from 2016, women light candles before attending Christmas Eve liturgy at the Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)

All over the world in the places where CNEWA serves, Christians—Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant—next week will be celebrating Christmas. Earlier in the month Jews around the world celebrated Hanukkah. In different ways both Christmas and Hanukkah are festivals of light.

We human are at times odd creatures. Although we spend as much of our lives in darkness as in light, we are never quite comfortable with darkness. In the modern world we really don’t know what darkness is, other than the condition that exists before we turn on the lights. Blackouts, especially in big cities, become epic events and everyone remembers where they were “when the lights went out.”

For ancient peoples, darkness was far more powerful. What artificial light there was came from candles. While the wealthy might have many candles, the poor had few. When darkness set in, life changed. No one in the ancient world would consider themselves a “night person,” unless they were thieves or robbers.

In the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, light is a very important thing. Light is connected with divinity: God dwells in unapproachable light. In the highly sophisticated and even academic Nicean Creed Christ is proclaimed “Light of light.” The prophets often spoke of the people walking in darkness — and in describing the saving power of God, Isaiah (9:2) speaks of the people who walked in darkness seeing a great light, which is God. The psalmist (36:9) calls God the “fountain of light” and goes on to say “in your light we see the light.” Bonaventure, the great Franciscan saint and philosopher, spent a great deal of time thinking about what it means to say “in God’s light we see the light.”

Light and darkness also become metaphors for goodness and evil. One of the documents found among the Dead Sea scrolls was entitled “The Battle of the Children of Darkness with the Children of Light.” Light is good; darkness is not. Jesus himself is the light which enlightens his followers.

Hanukkah, which celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it was desecrated by the Seleucid Greek conquerors, recalls how the menorah was able to remain lit in the Temple for seven days, despite having enough oil for only one day. Hanukkah is for Jews the festival of lights par excellence.

Interestingly, while we Christians spend much of this season stringing lights and lighting candles to mark the birth of Christ, the New Testament is silent as to the time of year in which Jesus was born. It was something which just did not interest the Gospel writers, who were concerned with who Jesus was and what his teachings were. The overwhelming event of the Resurrection made things like the date and circumstances of Jesus’ birth quite secondary. In fact, two of the Gospels—Mark and John—do not mention it at all.

As Christianity took root and grew in the Roman Empire, converts from paganism were familiar with two very important pagan celebrations that took place around the winter solstice—the longest night of the year. Those feasts were the Saturnalia and the feast of Sol invictus, “the unconquerable sun.” These feasts were set at the darkest time of the year but also precisely at the winter solstice, after which the days started to become longer. Both of these festivals were extremely popular with Romans.

Not having a concrete date for the birth of Jesus, Christians opted to take the images of light overcoming darkness of the Roman festivals and to give them new meaning with the birth of Christ, the Light of the World.

As we Christians celebrate Christmas in our electrified world, it might be helpful to reflect a bit on darkness as something more powerful and frightening that merely having the switch off. When we see the darkness of war, suffering, racism, poverty and hatred in our world, the importance of light impresses us. The light of Christ dispels and overcomes that darkness.

In his light, the followers of Christ not only see the light but are ourselves called to become lights, to live in our world as enlightened and illuminating witnesses to the one whose birth we celebrate on Christmas.

Tags: Christianity Judaism

19 December 2018
Greg Kandra

Palestinian girls wear Santa hats on a class trip to Manger Square outside of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 17 December. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Tags: Bethlehem

19 December 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis has encouraged generous support for victims of the ongoing war in Ukraine. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Russia warns Ukraine on threats of war (Newsweek) Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned on Tuesday that Ukraine is preparing a provocation against his country with the support of its Western allies. ”Kiev is preparing yet another provocation at our borders, with the help of its Western supporters. We would not start a war, but our response will be most convincing,” Lavrov said…

Pope encourages generosity, special collection to aid victims in Ukraine (Rome Reports) Pope Francis is one of the few international leaders who continues to remember that a war has been going on in Ukraine since 2014. That is why in April 2016 he asked for generosity to help the victims of one of the most forgotten conflicts in the world…

Indian Christians seek protection over Christmas ( Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh has been asked to ensure police protection for Christians in the lead-up to Christmas amid fears of attacks by hard-line Hindu militants. The ecumenical Christian group Persecution Relief has sent a letter to Singh making the request and backing it up with a list of violent incidents during past Christmas periods…

Jerusalem’s neighbors are becoming more ultra-Orthodox (Haaretz) Research about the identity of home buyers in Jerusalem conducted by Dr. Eitan Regev, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, shows that the growth in the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews among home buyers in the capital has almost completely stopped, and the percentage of Haredim buying homes in Jerusalem is similar to their share of the overall population…

More Christians visiting Turkey on pilgrimage (Andalou Agency) An ancient city, home to a Christian church, in western Turkey has attracted thousands of Christians in 2018, according to a Turkish academic. Mehmet Ozhanli, an archeology professor at Isparta’s Suleyman Demirel University, said 15,000 Christians visited St. Paul Church in Pisidia Antiocheia ancient city in western Isparta province for pilgrimage this year…

Tags: India Ukraine Jerusalem Turkey

18 December 2018
Greg Kandra

A Palestinian woman walks by a mosaic of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 17 December. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Tags: Bethlehem

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