21 July 2014
Palestinians flee following an Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza City on 9 July. (photo: CNS/Majdi Fathi, Reuters)
This morning, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, wrote an email to Msgr. John E. Kozar, president, about recent developments in Gaza. Mr. El-Yousef recently visited Gaza and shared a report on the status of Christians in the region.
Dear Msgr. Kozar,
The situation on the ground is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday was very ugly, leaving 50 people dead — including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens — as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. You will recall that Shajaia is home to one of the three Near East Council of Churches clinics that we support in Gaza, as well as home to the largest N.E.C.C. Vocational Training Center operating there. Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets.
This morning I spoke to Dr. Issa Tarazi, Director of N.E.C.C., and he said that the clinic was broken into, but given the intensity of the fighting, no one could get close to inspect the damage. They will not be able to get there until a formal ceasefire is reached.
I also spoke to contacts in both the Latin Church and the Greek Orthodox Church and they both opened facilities to receive those displaced, mostly from Shajaia. Luckily, so far, there has not been any human loss affecting Christians and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.
We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness. I will keep you posted with developments.
To learn more about some of the N.E.C.C. institutions that CNEWA supports, read Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. To help Gaza’s suffering families, click here.
21 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Holy Land Christians Palestinians
Velma Harasen, left, and Betty Anne Brown Davidson of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada meet with the mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
We had an amazing visit to the Holy Land recently, joined by members of the Catholic Women’s League. I’d like to share with you some stories of our visit.
On 3 July 2014, our group was privileged to visit and speak with current mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. She is the first female mayor of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Our group was mainly composed of women leaders from the Catholic Women’s League in Canada, so it was a unique experience to visit the mayor, herself a Catholic woman and a leader.
Ms. Baboun is a passionate woman of faith. She shared with us a quote from a homily by the former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, James Beltritti, that touched her personally during a tough time in her life and resonated with all of us: “Blessings and grace only reside in the womb of suffering. Learn how to give it birth.”
As a widow and mother of five children, Ms. Baboun has experienced great hardship in her own life. But this perspective helped her to focus on the blessings that come from and with such difficulties.
She discussed with us Bethlehem’s unfortunate status as a gated city. As part of the West Bank, it is under occupation by Israel and surrounded by a separation wall. And, metaphorically speaking, she shared that the faith is now walled as well:
“The wall breaches the path of faith between the moment of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the moment of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. We have a young generation in Bethlehem now who do not know the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, [which is] ten minutes away by car. …
“It is not only Bethlehem that is walled, but the message of our faith, our Lord, and love and peace is walled as well. I’m terrified for this fact. It’s a walling of the message, not only the walling of a city.”
She also spoke about different injustices that the Palestinian people face due to the conflict with Israel — for example, water shortages, ongoing confiscation of property and limits on people’s movement. As a minority group, Palestinian Christians are also often caught in the middle of conflicts between Jewish and Muslim populations.
We can keep the Star of Bethlehem burning by sharing the story of the “living stones” — the Christians of the Holy Land. They keep the faith alive and bear their cross every day. She urged us to please carry the cross of Bethlehem with us wherever we go. We left inspired and touched by her words.
21 July 2014
Tags: Bethlehem Holy Land Christians CNEWA Canada West Bank Women
Marcie Alter pets Dennis, a therapy dog that visits patients at the St. Louis Hospital in Jerusalem once a week. To learn more about this institution’s good work, read An Oasis of Compassion, from the September 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Debbie Hill)
21 July 2014
Tags: Sisters Jerusalem Health Care
The Palestinian death toll has passed 500, with reports of more than 3,100 people wounded since air strikes began on 8 July. (video: Al Jazeera)
Israeli ground offensive in Gaza triggers shelter crisis for fleeing civilians (Christian Science Monitor) Overnight fighting killed at least 60 Palestinians in a Gaza neighborhood, while Israel’s army reported its deadliest day in a 13-day offensive. Aid agencies are struggling with more evacuees than during the 2008-2009 war…
Security Council holds emergency meeting on Gaza (U.N. News Center) The Security Council on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, the first leg of a Middle East tour which aims to end the conflict…
Cardinal Sandri appeals for end to violence in Middle East (Vatican Radio) The head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has made an appeal for reconciliation and an end to conflict in countries across the Middle East. Speaking at Mass in Los Angeles to mark the feast day of the two Lebanese Sts. Sharbel and Elias, Cardinal Sandri said: “Our hearts go out to the Christians in the Holy Land, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt and all the innocent victims of violence in the Middle East…”
In Iraq, rise of Islamic State deals blow to Christian population (Los Angeles Times) The ascendance of the Islamic State — a Sunni Muslim faction that embraces an intolerant strain of fundamentalist Islam — has generated alarm among the region’s diverse minority populations, including those here in the sprawling flatlands known as the Nineveh plains…
Iraqi patriarch laments status of Iraqi Christians (Vatican Radio) The last Christian families still present in Mosul are leaving the city and are heading towards Iraqi Kurdistan. The exodus was caused by the proclamation on Thursday by the self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate that Christians must pay a special tax or be killed. Islamists have for the past two days been marking the doors of homes belonging to Christians and Shiite Muslims living in the city. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael in an interview with the AFP news agency…
18 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict United Nations
A senior chef and his students at the Naipunya Institute proudly exhibit their entrees. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Several years ago, we took readers on a culinary adventure to discover the cuisine of Kerala enjoyed by Christians, Hindus and Muslims:
“If you enjoy food, you should come to Kerala!” said Father Sebastian Kalapurackal, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest and director of Naipunya Institute of Management and Information Technology, which boasts one of the state’s top hotel management programs. Each year, the program graduates some 100 students, many of whom land jobs with five-star hotels, major cruise lines and airline companies.
Keralites unquestionably take great pride in their local cuisine — and for good reason. Its diversity and sophistication have earned the state worldwide fame.
What is more, it is unique. A narrow strip of coastland bounded to the east by the Western Ghats (mountains) and to the west by the Arabian Sea, Kerala has been largely disconnected from the rest of India for much of its history. Isolated from the prevailing trends of Indian cooking, Keralites developed a distinct culinary tradition unlike any other on the subcontinent.
Read more about What’s Cooking in Kerala — and discover some recipes — in the November 2008 issue of ONE.
18 July 2014
Tags: India Cultural Identity Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Cuisine
The Rev. Jorge Hernandez celebrates Mass in Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza. Father Hernandez is a missionary of the Argentina-based Institute of the Incarnate Word. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Gaza’s Christians gather in prayer for peace in midst of war (Vatican Radio) As fighting intensifies in the Gaza Strip, faithful are gathering in the parish church of the Holy Family to pray for forgiveness, justice and peace for all. In the early hours of Friday, Israel launched a Gaza ground campaign after 10 days of bombardments from the air and sea failed to stop militants’ rocket attacks, stepping up an offensive that already has taken a heavy toll in civilian lives…
Pope urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to end Holy Land hostilities (CNS) Expressing his serious concerns over the escalating violence in the Holy Land, Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace…
Gaza faces imminent water crisis (Al Jazeera) According to International Committee of the Red Cross, hundreds of thousands of people are now without running water, and within days, the entire Gaza population “will desperately run short of water resources…”
The near enemy: Why the real threat to Israel isn’t in Gaza (Foreign Affairs) With Hamas busy firing rockets at Israeli cities, it’s only natural that the Israeli public’s primary concern in recent days has been physical security. But it should also be attuned to other, equally dangerous, problems posed by the current crisis. Once more, conflict has distracted Israelis from the fact that radical, messianic, and xenophobic forces have gained significant ground in the battle for the soul of their state…
‘Ripped our guts again’: Families mourn MH17 victims (News Herald) International passengers from all walks of life, from a prominent AIDS researcher and soccer fans to a nun and a florist, were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The Boeing 777 was carrying 298 people when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday in eastern Ukraine, sending shockwaves around the world from Malaysia to the Netherlands…
The last Christian families leave Mosul (Fides) The last Christian families still present in Mosul are leaving the city and are heading towards Erbil, Dohuk and other areas of Iraqi Kurdistan that are considered safer…
Syrian businesses in Bekaa Valley shut down (Daily Star Lebanon) Security forces shut down shops and small trades ran by Syrians in several areas of the Bekaa Valley Friday, the National News Agency reported. “All shops managed by Syrians in Chtaura, Bar Elias and Masnaa were sealed off,” the agency said. The move comes as Lebanon is reeling under tremendous economic stress, largely caused by the impact of the Syrian conflict and the influx of over 1.1 million Syrian refugees fleeing violence at home…
17 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Lebanon War Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Sister Mariam Almiron of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word spins a small child around following Sunday Mass at the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza. There are only about 3,000 Christians in Gaza, of which a little more than 200 are Catholic. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Vatican Radio reports that amid the ongoing airstrikes in Gaza, a group of Catholic sisters is making preparations to depart:
Three nuns of the Institute of the Word Incarnate working with the Catholic Holy Family parish in Gaza are preparing to leave the Gaza Strip following multiple Israeli air strikes Wednesday evening that destroyed a neighbor’s home.
According to the Catholic news agency Fides, the sisters, all foreigners, received a telephone call from the Israelis advising them to leave.
Meanwhile, for several days now, the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the 28 disabled children and 9 elderly people in their care have taken refuge in the parish. It is expected that they will remain in Gaza together with the parish priest Father Jorge Hernandez.
Father Jorge reports that the “crimes are multiplying. The smaller children are beginning to get sick from fear, stress, the blasts, the continuous din. The parents are going to incredible lengths to distract them so that the violence does not overwhelm them, like playing and jumping every time they hear an explosion, dancing or simply hugging them and holding their hands over their ears.”
The warning calls came just ahead of Israel’s ground invasion, which began today.
According to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, members of this order have been working through the Holy Family parish since 2009.
Please say a prayer for the safety of the sisters, the communities they serve and the people of Gaza, who continue to endure terrible hardship.
To learn what you can do to help Gaza’s suffering families, click here.
17 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Sisters War Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In this image from 2003, Anduamlak Getnet and his older brother, Melesa, prepare food for their blind grandmother. The boys lost both of their parents to AIDS. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Several years ago, we visited a bleak corner of Ethiopia, and found a flicker of light in the darkness:
Anduamlak Getnet was too young to remember the night six years ago when he was gently pulled away from his dead mother’s breast. Nor does he remember the moment when his father died — both parents succumbing to AIDS. According to the Ministry of Health, Anduamlak is one of the one million AIDS orphans living in Ethiopia right now. With no social welfare system in place, their childhood memories will be short and not always sweet.
Yet 7-year-old Anduamlak and his brother, Melesa, 10, are more fortunate than many orphans. They moved in with their blind grandmother — their lone relative. She tries her best to help them, but at age 80, disabilities limit her. So rather than care for them, Anduamlak and Melesa care for her. They wash the clothes, prepare the food, scavenge for firewood, water the chat plants and, when they find time, study their textbooks.
In spite of having no parents and no income, and living in a country that the World Food Program claims has the lowest primary education enrollment rate in the world, the brothers actually do study. Anduamlak and Melesa have this opportunity thanks largely to CNEWA’s needy child program. This program, which assists just over 29,000 children in 10 countries, provides assistance — in the form of school tuition, uniforms, materials, food, medical care, counseling and even shelter — to almost 5,000 of the neediest children in Ethiopia.
Read more about A Flicker of Candlelight Amid the Darkness from the September 2003 edition of the magazine. And to learn how you can help the children of Ethiopia today, visit this page.
17 July 2014
Tags: Ethiopia Children
An Israeli soldier adjusts the barrel of a tank at a military staging area outside the northern Gaza Strip on 14 July. (photo: CNS/Nir Elias, Reuters)
Israelis consider ground invasion of Gaza; brief truce planned (Los Angeles Times) Iraeli military and political leaders were increasingly leaning toward a ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to rid the Palestinian enclave of rockets and tunnels used by militants for attacks, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Wednesday. An operation to move Israeli troops into the densely populated coastal enclave had been resisted by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sources said earlier, because of the likelihood of wider casualties on both sides. The deaths of at least 222 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in the latest fighting has exposed the Israeli government to widespread criticism that escalated Wednesday with the deaths of four children playing on a Gaza beach when an artillery shell landed. One Israeli has been killed…
Jordanians angered by Israel’s war on Gaza (Al Monitor) Jordanians have raised their voice against the Israeli offensive on Gaza that has so far killed over 200 Palestinians and one Israeli, with protesters taking to the streets, members of parliament planning to head to the Gaza Strip and King Abdullah II warning of “the dangerous escalation” of violence in the area…
In Mosul, ISIL orders no aid to Christians and Shiites (Fides) The jihadist militiamen of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have ordered civil servants to suspend any provision of food aid and gas cylinders to the Shiites, Kurds and the few remaining Christians in Iraq’s second city. This is confirmed to Fides Agency by Christian sources in Mosul…
U.N. refugee chief calls for political solution in Iraq (Washington Post) The head of the United Nations refugee agency said Wednesday that he was increasingly frustrated with Iraq’s skyrocketing number of displaced people — and with governments worldwide that expect humanitarian aid organizations to resolve these matters alone. “There will not be a humanitarian solution for the Iraqi crisis. There is no humanitarian solution for the Syrian crisis,” António Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a closed briefing with reporters here in the Iraqi capital. “It is absolutely crucial that the Iraqi political system find a way to overcome its political divisions and contradictions,” he said…
16 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Holy Land Jordan Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A worker at the Olive Branch Foundation puts the finishing touches on dove peace lamps.
(photo: Miriam Sushman)
Three years ago, we profiled a village in Palestine, where there was an unsual effort underway to promote peace:
Father Ra’ed’s greatest contribution has been the Olive Branch Foundation, a nonprofit he founded and runs. The business includes a small ceramics factory and most recently an olive press and machinery to make and package olive oil and olive–based soap and cosmetic products from locally grown olives.
The priest’s business endeavors began five years ago, when one day at church he displayed some of his handmade white ceramic lamps in the shape of doves. He filled them with locally produced olive oil, placed them near the altar and encouraged parishioners to light them and pray for peace. Delighted by the “peace” lamps, parishioners quickly spread the word to neighbors from other congregations, and in no time, residents inundated Father Ra’ed with requests for lamps of their own.
Seeing an opportunity to promote peace and generate income for the local community, Father Ra’ed intensified production, hiring a small team of local craftsmen, and began selling the lamps to faithful throughout the region and beyond.
“I use the lamp to put pressure on the heavens to make peace in the Holy Land,” says the priest.
So far, the foundation has produced and sold more than 80,000 lamps, “flying them,” as he says, “around the world like little birds until peace comes.”
Read more about Taybeh, “A Town Named ‘Good’,” in the July 2011 issue of ONE.
Tags: Palestine Christianity Emigration