25 July 2019
A local catechist visits an Adivasi village in rural India. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
In the July 2019 edition of ONE, Msgr. John E. Kozar looks at the idea of vocations — and how this idea really applies to all of us:
More than ever, each baptized Catholic is called to give public witness and service by assuming a greater responsibility in the abiding need for personal sanctification and the evangelization of others.
Although the response to Vatican II may have been slower in some countries, due to remote conditions and cultural limitations, the need to more fully integrate all members of the church in the continuing challenge to evangelize is as strong as ever. And CNEWA is committed in our role of accompaniment to support a variety of programs that invite more and more of the laity to be trained and available for service within the local church and to continue in the education and formation of men and women in religious life. That includes everything from teaching and preaching to simply witnessing the Gospel with lives of generosity and love.
In CNEWA’s world, there are some overriding challenges: Men and women religious who originally came from Europe are not as present; some areas are so remote that they have never been visited by a Christian; and many areas which came to know of Jesus a long time ago were not properly evangelized and thus their faith has diminished greatly.
Thus, much emphasis is placed on preparing catechists and supporting them, sometimes going to tribal areas which have never heard the name of Jesus or to areas where the faith needs to be reintroduced. CNEWA proudly offers support in this entire process of evangelization and religious education.
Read more in the current edition of ONE. And check out the video below for more of Msgr. Kozar’s thoughts on this important subject.
25 July 2019
Refugees at a large camp in Syria complain of endless illness, dirty water and hot tents.
Residents of Syria refugee camp face disease, dirty water (AFP) Kurdish-led forces expelled the last Islamic State group fighters from the riverside hamlet in March, after streams of people poured out of the jihadists’ embattled holdout. Months later, they are among the 70,000 people — mostly women and children — packed into the camp, where residents depend on aid and complain of endless illness, dirty water and boiling hot tents…
Ethiopian crisis triggers new displacement (Reuters) Ethiopia’s latest displacement is in the southern regional town of Yirgalem, a town that was hit by deadly unrest related to the autonomy push by the Sidama people. The BBC quotes an official who said over 450 people were sheltering in a church having fled their homes for fear of attacks. Sidama is located in Ethiopia’s multi-ethnic Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region, SNNPR. The displaced are said to have fled into a district in the neighbouring Oromio Regional State…
Iraq unearths mass graves (VOA) Four mass graves with dozens of bodies believed to be Kurds killed by the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s forces were found in the desert of al-Muthanna province in southern Iraq. Early exhumation of the mass graves about 80 kilometers southwest of al-Samawah city has found bodies of 70 people, said Jabar Omar, the chief of Kurdistan Region’s Office of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs in Garmyan, who also oversees the unearthing process. The people, consisting mostly of women and children, are believed to have been killed between 1987-1988, during the Iraqi former regime’s “Anfal campaign” against the Kurds…
Muslims, Christians criticize Indian minister’s comments on ’fake’ lynchings (UCANews.com) Leaders of India’s religious minorities have been shocked by a government minister’s claim that most reports of cow-related lynchings were fabricated. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the minister for Minority Affairs, said in an interview published online 21 July that the majority of mob lynchings were “concocted and fake.” Christian and Muslim leaders, as well as rights activists, say he was in truth defending his government’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is accused of tacitly approving Hindu violence in the name of protecting the animal revered by orthodox members of their religion...
Archeologists confirm tale of crusaders’ siege of Jerusalem (Ars Technica) Recent excavations south of Jerusalem unearthed a ditch used to defend against siege towers, along with a ruined house Crusaders may have used as cover during a battle. The finds confirm some oft-questioned details of historical accounts of the First Crusade, including how a ditch along the city’s southern wall thwarted the attacking siege engines. And this new evidence provides tangible links to events recorded 920 years ago…
24 July 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Jerusalem
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop John Michael Miller and Bishop William Francis Murphy visit the shrine of St. Charbel in Annaya and on their 2018 pastoral visit to Lebanon. (photo: Michael La Civita)
Today marks the feast of St. Charbel, who “ranks among Lebanon’s most celebrated religious men.” As Marilyn Raschka continued in the July 2009 edition of ONE:
During his life, the hermit performed numerous miracles and inspired the lives of those who sought his counsel. Even after his death in 1898 at the age of 70, he has touched the lives of countless more. As did the legendary oil lamp that once illuminated his cell, Sharbel’s memory still burns today, inspiring pilgrimages, parish shrines, internet chat-room conversations and even a feature film.
Born Youssef Antoun Makhlouf on 8 May 1828, Sharbel grew up in a remote mountain village near the Cedars of Lebanon. He entered religious life at the age of 23, leaving his village home to serve Christ as a priest and monk in the Maronite Catholic tradition at the Monastery of St. Maron, in the village of Annaya, north of Beirut. He was given the name Sharbel, after a second-century Christian martyr, and lived at the monastery for 16 years before retreating to a nearby cell to live as a hermit in ceaseless prayer, which he did for the remaining years of his life. He died quietly on Christmas Eve 1898 and was buried near the monastery.
While Sharbel never traveled much further than a couple days’ journey from his boyhood home, stories of his miraculous works during and after his life have spread throughout the world. He is said to have cured a madman by reading from the Gospel and to have protected crops from locusts by sprinkling them with water that he had blessed. In the last century, pilgrims to the saint’s tomb have attributed numerous miracles, two of which were made public before Sharbel’s beatification in December 1965 and a third before his canonization in October 1977.
Read the rest here.
23 July 2019
Tags: Lebanon Saints Maronite Hermit
Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomes the Rev. Ziad Hillal to CNEWA's New York offices.
We received a visit from an old friend this afternoon: the Rev. Ziad Hillal, S.J.
Readers may remember that Father Ziad wrote a Letter from Syria printed in ONE magazine in 2013, describing in vivid detail the humanitarian efforts of his Jesuit community, working (with support from CNEWA’s donors) to help Syria’s children who were trapped in the nightmare of the country’s civil war:
Caring for more than 3,000 displaced families and providing support to 2,000 children who need continuous care on all levels is indescribably heavy. And until now, few organizations have assisted us with our mission. I still remember how CNEWA took the initiative at the beginning of the harsh winter and provided 1,000 families with winter kits to help the children in our schools survive the cold and the poor housing conditions.
We have had some difficult cases of children who have lost one or both of their parents. One such child is a 12-year-old whom I will call “Rita.” Her father was shot in the head and has been in a coma since last year; her mother had a nervous breakdown and is being treated in a specialized center. Rita is currently living with her aunt, who is also displaced. Rita refuses to go back to school and she isolates herself from the world. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, along with a psychologist, are trying to support her morally and to assist her in her studies at home. However, she has thus far rejected these efforts to help her.
Maybe our efforts will not be enough to satisfy the huge needs of the displaced families and to relieve their sufferings. But what we are trying to do is simply shine a small spot of light on the shadow of violence.
Father Ziad left Syria in 2016. His ministry since then has taken him to Greece — where he worked with the Jesuit Relief Services to help refugees — and to France, where he is now living and has published a book about his experiences.
His life has been touched by tragedy in many ways. One close colleague, the Rev. Frans Van Der Lugt, S.J. was brutally killed in Homs in 2014; another, the Rev. Jacques Mourad, was kidnapped by ISIS and eventually released in November 2015. A third priest, the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, was kidnapped in 2013 and is still being held. His whereabouts are unknown.
Despite this, Father Ziad remains a figure of unflinching hope and zeal — and one who believes the greatest cause for his beleaguered and embattled homeland is the quest for peace.
“The message,” he said, ”is we have to stop the war in Syria. Immediately. To protect first the presence of our church and our people. The Christian people are the bridge between the West and the Middle East. We are also like a bridge between Sunnis and Shiites. And now if we lose our presence, I am afraid one day I will go to Syria, maybe my nieces or nephews will go there and say, our parents were in this church. It was our church but now we have nothing there. Only the stories. I am afraid for that.”
As he put it: “The only message for me is to stop the war in Syria and have the peace. If not, we will only lose again and again.”
You can watch a video we produced about his work below. Please keep him and all those working on behalf of victims of war and terror in your prayers.
23 July 2019
Syriac Catholic Archbishop John Jihad Battah, newly named to Damascus, Syria, will be installed as archbishop on 28 July 2019. He is pictured on 15 July in the Church of the Monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance in Harissa, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
After eight years of war, the faithful in Damascus, Syria, are “so tired,” said their new bishop, Syriac Catholic Archbishop John Jihad Battah. Nevertheless, he is returning to his birthplace with enthusiasm.
“I want to help the people, to give them hope to stay in their country,” Archbishop Battah told Catholic News Service ahead of his episcopal ordination in Damascus on 28 July.
“In all my missions, in Italy, in Lebanon, I was obeying the call of the church. This is the first time I feel great joy and happiness in a new mission, to be going back to Syria,” the 63-year-old archbishop said. He served in Lebanon for the last eight years as bishop for the patriarchal diocese of Beirut and previously in Rome for seven years.
“The most important thing is to take care of the people,” Archbishop Battah said of his new mission. His motto as archbishop is Luke 22:27: “I am among you as the one who serves.”
Damascus did not experience a mass exodus like in war-torn dioceses such as Aleppo. In the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese of Damascus, there are about 1,000 families, compared to about 1,200 families before the war, the archbishop said.
However, the sanctions against Syria are taking a toll on the Syrian people.
“It’s leading people to leave the country to search for a better future,” he stressed.
“The economic situation is very bad. Everyone is in need now,” he said. The cost of basic necessities has skyrocketed, and medicine is very expensive. “People are dying from lack of medicine.”
“We need prayers for the removal of sanctions. If the sanctions are removed, the people can at least live with dignity,” Archbishop Battah said.
The government in Syria “is a positive government that respects all religions,” Archbishop Battah noted.
He cited the Syriac Catholic youth gathering in Damascus in early July, when Syrian President Bashar Assad visited with the more than 200 young people for three hours, answering their questions in an open forum.
Archbishop Battah said his “main mission is to give Christians hope in the future, to stay in their country.”
“My message to the West is to help the Christians in the Middle East to stay in their homelands. Their presence is vital,” the archbishop said, noting that Christians are an “equilibrium, a bridge between all the religions.”
“The Christians are the light of the world. The light should stay in the Middle East,” Archbishop Battah said.
23 July 2019
Tags: Lebanon Syriac Catholic Church
Airstrikes on a busy Syrian market killed dozens of people on Monday, turning buildings into piles of rubble. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
At least 27 killed in attack on Syrian market (AP) Multiple airstrikes hit a busy market in a rebel-controlled town in northwestern Syria on Monday, killing at least 27 people and turning several buildings into piles of rubble, according to opposition activists and a war monitor. Shortly after the strikes, state media said rebels shelled a government-held village, killing seven…
Lynching attacks worry church leaders in India (UCANews.com) Church leaders in India have concerns of further civilian unrest after mob attacks killed eight people in three separate incidents over the weekend. In the latest incident on 20 July, a group of more than 10 men beat and killed four people — two men and two women — in the Gumla district of Jharkhand state. The four deceased, all aged between 60 and 65, came from three different families…
Israel begins tearing down Palestine housing (The New York Times) Israeli equipment arrived before dawn on Monday and began clawing at the first of 10 Palestinian apartment blocks that were scheduled for demolition because the government said they were built too close to its security barrier in a Palestinian area of the West Bank abutting Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem…
Sri Lanka’s bombed church re-consecrated (Vatican News) A Catholic church north of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, was re-consecrated on Sunday, three months after it was badly damaged in a string of suicide bombings on Easter Sunday that rocked the Indian island nation. St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo city, unveiled a stone monument inscribed with the names of 114 people who were killed in the 21 April attack, during the re-consecration ceremony that included Holy Mass…
22 July 2019
Tags: Syria India Palestine Persecution
Salbi makes kufta with bulgur, a variant of the dish brought to Armenia by Syrian-Armenians. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
In the July 2019 edition of ONE, Gohar Abrahamyan reports on Syrian refugees who have found a new home in Armenia. The author offers some additional reflections below.
Writing about people who have lived through war, and suffering inconsolable pain and loss, is difficult.
It is even harder when the story involves the Armenians living in Syria, recalling the reason why the Armenians found themselves in Syria to begin with. It was in 1915, when the leaders of Ottoman Turkey decided to ”cleanse” that part of their empire of Christian Armenians living in their historical homeland for centuries. What followed were massacres, mass killings, rapes and murders that claimed the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. Those who survived starvation in the desert were able to start over in Syria and Lebanon.
A century later, more war and violence and targeted attacks had them fleeing once again.
I keep replaying this tragic history in my mind, filled with indignation at the historical injustice, as I meet just a few of the 20,000 Syrian Armenians forced to leave their homes because of the war.
I realize anew: no matter how terrible the war is, it does not kill what makes us human. Love and kindness are unconquerable.
One of those I meet during my visit is a woman named Salbi.
She used to work as a cook. In Syria, she earned a living to support her 7-year-old son. She played with him, taught him how to read and write.
Then, the hopes for the future were scattered by roaring explosions, and these people fled with the dust of the ruined buildings. They became exiles.
”It was November of 2012,” Salbi remembers, “and I said that we would spend the New Year in Armenia and then would go back; see how many New Years we have spent?” Her face reveals her sorrow over what was lost. “Before coming here, I had bought two pairs of shoes for my son, one pair was black and the other one was coffee-colored. I said we would take only one pair with us, and the other he would wear after we come back. Since then, how many pairs of shoes has he worn out? But I am still thinking, with all my heart, about those shoes.” She can’t forget what she left behind. “My dowry with the tablecloth embroidered by my mom, the childhood photos of my son were left there. All the things from my baby’s childhood stayed there. They are irreplaceable.”
I am crying. Salbi collapses. George, Salbi’s 14-year-old son, brings his mother some water, then hugs her and with his hand wipes away the tears on his mother’s wrinkled cheeks.
Both of them have health problems, both of them are weak; but, for now, they are so strong with each other. They are struggling together, arguing, laughing, crying together, bound together by a new life in Armenia.
Mother and son hug each other; they are far from their home, far from their dear things. But they know that they have what matters.
They have life. They have each other. That is their consolation.
That is their hope.
Read more about how Hope Takes Root in the current edition of ONE.
22 July 2019
Tags: Syria Refugees Armenia
One of the windows of Notre Dame Cathedral is seen on 17 July 2019, three months after a fire destroyed much of the church’s wooden structure in Paris.
(photo: CNS/Stephane de Sakutin, pool via Reuters)
22 July 2019
A member of the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, uses a saw on rubble after an airstrike in Idlib, Syria, on 16 July 2019. Pope Francis urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to put an end to his nation's eight-year-long conflict and seek reconciliation for the good of the country and its vulnerable people. (photo: CNS/White Helmets, social media via Reuters)
Pope writes Syrian president, calling for peace (CNS) Pope Francis urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to put an end to his country’s eight-year-long conflict and seek reconciliation for the good of the nation and its vulnerable people. ”The Holy Father asks the president to do everything possible to put an end to this humanitarian catastrophe, in order to protect the defenseless population, especially those who are most vulnerable, in respect for international humanitarian law,” said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state…
Death toll from flood rising in India (Al Jazeera) The death toll in India continues to rise after flooding and landslides ravaged several parts of the country, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes and millions more affected. At least 142 people have died in two Indian states, Assam and Bihar, since monsoon flooding began earlier this month…
Ukraine votes amid concerns over corruption (Vatican News) Sunday’s parliamentary election was overshadowed by mounting concerns about financial wrongdoing by influential figures ranging from powerful business leaders to politicians, the police and even judges…
Restoring churches seen as key to have Christians return to Middle East (CNS) Speakers at a conference last week in Washington argued that restoring churches in violence-plagued sections of the Middle East will help foster the return of Christians who fled the strife, as well as introduce greater stability to the region. ”Billions of dollars will be needed to reconstruct and rehabilitate the holy places in Syria,” said Archimandrite Alexi Chehadeh, a member of the ecumenical relations department of the Greek Orthodox Church…
At least 17 killed in violence in Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) At least 17 people have been killed in clashes between Ethiopian security forces and activists seeking a new autonomous region for their Sidama ethnic group, according to a local official and hospital authorities. A local district official told Reuters news agency on Saturday that at least 13 people were killed in a town near Hawassa city, 275 kilometers [about 170 miles] south of the capital Addis Ababa, while hospital authorities said on Friday that four protesters had died of gunshot wounds in the city itself…
19 July 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ukraine
Sister Nabila Saleh, principal of the Rosary Sisters School in Gaza, checks in with students. Read her Letter from Gaza, about life with the students, in the July 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Ali Hassan)
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank