28 November 2016
One of the young people at Lebanon’s Dbayeh Refugee Camp is Abed, who hopes to learn French so he can be accepted into the Lebanese school system. (photo: Anna Fata)
Editor’s note: This year for #GivingTuesday, CNEWA is encouraging our friends to support our education programs, including those at the Dbayeh Refugee Camp outside Beirut. You can learn more about how to help on our special Giving Tuesday page. Below, Anna Fata, a friend and advocate of CNEWA who works with the Holy See Mission to the U.N. in New York City, describes visiting the camp earlier this year.
On a recent trip to Lebanon to visit my family, I got to encounter some of the people CNEWA helps: a small number of the estimated 1.5 million refugees living in Lebanon. I visited the Dbayeh Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Beirut; it is home to more than 4,000 refugees, most of whom are Palestinian Christians. It is also home to the Little Sisters of Nazareth, one of many local congregations with whom CNEWA partners to offer relief and assistance to those displaced within the Middle East.
I had seen enough pictures of refugee camps to expect the run-down buildings and rusted playground. But what I didn’t expect — and what truly surprised me — was the resilience and generosity I discovered among its residents.
I visited in the summer, while many refugee children were attending one of the summer camp programs supported by CNEWA. The leader of the summer camp is a Palestinian refugee named Elias. He was born in Lebanon and has lived at the camp his whole life. The other summer camp workers were also refugees, many of whom recalled attending the camp in their childhood. For various reasons, Lebanese law prohibits refugees from working in professions such as law, medicine and engineering. As a result, unemployment is one of the major issues refugees face there. Elias, like many of the other camp workers, makes a living by serving the children in his community.
The ongoing conflict in neighboring states has brought an influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into Lebanon, as well. Elias told me the Palestinian Christians who make up most of Dbayeh’s residents accepted the Syrian refugees — many of them Muslim — into their community with open arms, sharing resources and jobs. In a country where until recently most neighborhoods and towns were segregated by religion, the Dbayeh camp is an exceptional model of harmonious interreligious living. Despite cultural and religious differences, Syrian and Palestinian children learn and play well together at school, as their parents educate them and socialize together, as well.
I don’t want to paint a rose-colored picture of their lives. Refugees are stigmatized both legally and socially. For example, I spoke with a 17-year-old camp counselor named Tania who spoke flawless English, loved math and aspired to work in finance. I was heartbroken to discover that her status as a refugee prevents her from working in her desired field. There are also laws that make it difficult to make basic home repairs to the “temporary houses” these families have lived in for more than 70 years. (An elderly couple I spoke with, for example, said the tin roof on their home always made noise, especially when rain fell on the leaky roof.)
Despite their troubles, everyone I met treated me with characteristic Middle Eastern hospitality and warmth. The children offered me their snacks, and poor families who had little to give invited me in for tea.
The more I learn about the situation of refugees in the Middle East, the more complex the issues facing these groups appear. I’m no expert on the Middle East and cannot begin to fathom solutions that would give the refugees a place of permanence. But I think there is an appropriate human response that we — whether Christians, Muslims, Jews, or none of the above — need to choose. It is a response that the Little Sisters of Nazareth are living every day. We can be part of the solution by following the example of the sisters and the refugees themselves — to respond with the same openness and generosity they have shown one another, despite differences in beliefs and culture.
As we celebrate this holiday season with our own families, we need to remember those who will be far from home for the holidays — including those who are internally-displaced and cared for by local congregations in the Middle East. Some may even celebrate their first Christmas in a refugee camp, separated from loved ones they may never see again.
The political and economic instability in Lebanon and surrounding areas makes the work of organizations such as CNEWA all the more vital. The refugees I met make up just a tiny fraction of the men, women and children CNEWA serves. There are so many more — and the needs are so great. This holiday season, please remember these and others CNEWA is working to uplift and support.
Visit this link to learn how you can help. To read more about refugees in Lebanon, check out Lebanon on the Brink from the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. To learn more about the selfless work of the Little Sisters of Nazareth, read A Sister Act Hard to Follow. And take a moment to watch the video below for a poignant glimpse into the lives of refugees in Dbayeh.
28 November 2016
The Rev. Remzi Diril, also known as Father Adday, celebrates the liturgy at an apartment in Kirsehir, Turkey, on 10 November. (photo: CNS/Oscar Durand)
Holding a golden chalice and paten with a single hand, Father Remzi Diril slowly moved from one person to another, distributing the Eucharist. He reached for a consecrated host, dipped it in the chalice, and gave it to a woman in her 40s, whose head was covered with a veil.
With chants in the background and incense filling the air, the moment inspired reverence. Yet the liturgy was not in a church; it was in an apartment in Kirsehir, a small, conservative city in the heart of Turkey, a Muslim-majority country.
Being the only Chaldean Catholic priest in charge of pastoral work in Turkey, Father Adday, as he is known, has become a true itinerant priest, a road warrior who, each year, logs thousands of miles tending his flock, the community of Iraqi Christian refugees in Turkey. Their exact number is unknown, but it is estimated to be 40,000.
Since he was ordained two years ago, Father Adday, 34, has baptized more than 200 children, married more than 20 couples and administered the Anointing of the Sick to more than 30 people. He also is on his fifth suitcase.
“So far this year we have celebrated first Communion for more than 100 children. And last year it was more than 150,” he said.
On a recent hourlong flight from his base in Istanbul to Nevsehir, a city in central Turkey, Father Adday sat comfortably in the emergency exit row of a plane from a low-cost airline.
“There is more legroom here,” Father Adday said; his eyes locked on the airline’s magazine crossword.
The trip’s cost is an important factor considering that the church is not able to reimburse his expenses. That only happens when there is an official function or religious festival. More often it is the priest, or the families he visits, who pay for the trip.
“It is easier for them to help me with my travel expenses than to pay, for a family of 10, for a trip to Istanbul," Father Adday explained.
Once he arrives at his destination, the priest relies on a support network who connects him to the local community of Iraqi Christians.
From Nevsehir Father Adday took a 60-mile bus ride to Kirsehir, where he met Adnan Barbar and his wife, Faten Somo. This was the priest's eight time in the city.
“This is my family in Kirsehir. In every city, I have a family. Sometimes more than one,” he said.
The couple acts as Father Adday’s local liaison. After welcoming the priest to their apartment with the customary tea and sweets, Barbar and Somo got on their cellphones. They were familiar with the city’s 225 Iraqi Christian families, and they were assembling the priest’s itinerary.
This area of Turkey is a pivotal place in the history of Christianity. Early Christians came here escaping persecution in the Roman Empire. Remains of the churches they built can still be visited today. However, no Catholic churches function in this part of the country. And when Father Adday visits, Mass is celebrated in homes, as the early Christians also did.
Celebrating the liturgy in a public hall would allow more people to attend, but renting a hall costs about $900, which can be better spent traveling to visit more families.
On average, 10 families are invited to each Mass, and 30 people attend. This allows for an experience different from the one felt in a church.
“A Mass in a house is more like a family. Father and children sharing the glory of God,” Father Adday said. “I would say it is like watching a film in a movie theater versus watching it at home with your family.”
After the liturgy, the priest visited Marta Kiryakos, a woman from Bartella, Iraq, suffering from cancer. Her daughter, Nadira, opened the door of the bedroom, crying, worried about her mother's health. Kiryakos' condition is delicate, and the priest prayed for several minutes as he anointed her temples and forehead with oils.
Many of the people Father Adday visits have spent several years in Turkey, waiting for an answer to their asylum applications to countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States. The process is long, and this time in limbo has caused many people physical and psychological problems.
“People need spiritual help. They need a priest. They want the church with them. I can’t give them material things, but I can give them my time and give them hope,” the priest said.
Father Adday and the Iraqi refugees he serves are Assyrian, an ethnic group from the Middle East. Their language — Assyrian — is related to the language Jesus spoke, Aramaic.
But their connection is not only the ethnic group and language. When Father Adday was a child, his village in southeast Turkey was burned during the Kurdish-Turkish conflict. He and his family had to move to Istanbul.
That is another reason that keeps Father Adday on the road with the people.
“When you leave your sheep in the mountain, you don’t know what will happen to them. But when you are with them it is different. You can show them where the water is; where there is a good place to stay. They are like children waiting for their father,” he said.
After two intense days and one night in Kirsehir, Father Adday prepared to return to Istanbul. He celebrated five liturgies and visited multiple families, but he said he was not tired.
“I hope that my visits allow them to become more spiritual and in touch with the church, and to refresh their belief in Jesus. Every Christian needs to refresh his spiritual life,” he said.
“I also hope to give them hope and remind them ... that God makes miracles, and for that they need to believe. I tell them let God do the working for you. He is our Father and he wants the best for you,” Father Adday said.
28 November 2016
In the video above, experts raise concerns about the rising number of missing and exploited refugee children in Europe. (video: Rome Reports)
A third of Aleppo now taken by Syrian forces (BBC) Syrian government forces have captured a third of the rebel-held territory in eastern Aleppo, monitors say. The advance, after heavy bombing from the air, is a major blow for the armed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad...
Winter closes in on Iraqi refugees fleeing Mosul (Reuters) The United Nations is asking donors to fund winter kits for 1.2 million people — preparing for a worst case scenario that much of the city’s population may have to flee. Seventy-two thousand have fled so far, and winter has brought freezing temperatures. The Kurdish authorities are requiring fleeing civilians to stay in camps even if they have family outside, so that males can be checked for ties to Islamic State. Relatives crowded out front, bringing blankets and pillows...
Gaza risks becoming an ‘easy launch pad’ for ISIS (The Jerusalem Post) Palestinian infighting and years of an Israeli blockade could turn the impoverished Gaza Strip into an easy “launching pad” for Islamic State recruiters, Qatar's foreign minister says.
African ant colonies pose threat around Christian churches (CNBC) The ant colonies are in the forests that surround Orthodox Christian churches in Ethiopia, which are some of the last natural forests in the country. Ethiopian Christians have long surrounded their churches with woodland. Some of these forests are more than a thousand years old, and are unusually rich areas of biodiversity in areas otherwise barren or deforested for agriculture.
Iconography classes attract non-Orthodox (RNS) Anna Schalk finds herself weeping each time she enters an Orthodox church and gazes at the flat, colorful icons of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The impressionistic painter had long been drawn to spiritual images but this year she took a big step beyond her own artistic and religious traditions. At a summer workshop, she created an icon of her own, alongside other students who spent a week together with the same mission. “It’s like a meditative experience,” said the retired pediatric occupational therapist, a Roman Catholic, comparing her work on the icon to partaking in Communion...
23 November 2016
At St. Mary’s, a Byzantine Catholic church in Kingston, Pennsylvania, parishioners make peroghi. (photo: Cody Christopulos).
As families in the United States gather together for Thanksgiving Day — and abundant feasting — we’re reminded of other cultures that have their own celebrated food traditions. In 2005, we took a look at some Eastern European delicacies in a corner of Pennsylvania:
In the early 20th century many Ruthenian immigrants came from villages in Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine to work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. St. Mary Protector, a Byzantine Catholic church in Kingston, near Wilkes-Barre, was founded to serve these immigrants, whose descendants have stayed in the area long after the mines shut down.
Four times a year St. Mary’s holds a peroghi sale, twice during the 40-day Filipovka fast before Christmas and twice during the 40-day Great Fast before Easter.
For each sale, about 30 volunteers spend two days making 4,000 potato peroghi. Church fund-raisers selling Ruthenian food are common in most parts of Pennsylvania, including my hometown of Bethlehem. (The regional popularity of peroghi is such that Pittsburgh is called the “peroghi capital of the world.”) The language and many of the traditions of the old country may fade, but its foods bind the generations together. Such is the American “melting pot.”
Read more from the January 2005 edition of ONE.
23 November 2016
Tags: Cultural Identity United States Eastern Europe Cuisine
Metropolitan Justinus Boulos Safar, the Syriac Orthodox patriarchal vicar of Zahle and Bekaa [editor’s note: mistakenly referred to as “Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch” in narration], says Christian refugees have been a blessing and an opportunity to put the faith into practice. (video: Rome Reports)
Mosul completely surrounded by Iraqi troops (CNN) The city of Mosul is now entirely surrounded by Iraqi-led forces, an alliance of paramilitary groups said Wednesday, more than a month since the operation was launched to seize control of the key city from ISIS militants. The Popular Mobilization Units made the announcement in a statement that was also distributed by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command…
Christianity returns to the Nineveh Plain (CNA) Two years after the sound of church bells was replaced by the sound of explosives in Bashiqa, Iraq, just north of Mosul, Christians are again celebrating the Divine Liturgy after forcing the Islamic State out of their homeland...
Single male refugees face hardships in Lebanon (Huffington Post) A study of single, male refugees in Lebanon by the International Rescue Committee, published earlier this year, paints an alarming picture of men struggling to access aid and vulnerable to exploitation. Among the 500 men interviewed, 53 percent did not register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, due to access restraints and misconceptions about their eligibility. While 19 percent was not able to reach one of the centers, at least 30 percent believed unmarried men are automatically ineligible to register and 8 percent believed they would not get aid even if they registered…
Pope meets with Islamic culture group (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met in the Vatican on Wednesday with participants at a colloquium organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization from Tehran…
Maronite bishop named chairman of board of C.R.S. (U.S.C.C.B.) Bishop Gregory John Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn has been appointed chairman of Catholic Relief Services (C.R.S.) Board of Directors by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The cardinal made the announcement on 22 November. The C.R.S. appointment is effective for a three-year term…
Activist: Three years after uprising, life in Ukraine ‘considerably worse’ (Sputnik) The Ukrainian leadership has failed to salvage the economy, tackle corruption and improve the lives of the people two and a half years after the protests in central Kiev, which became known as Euromaidan, led to a coup, activist and blogger Dennis Schedrivy told Radio Sputnik, painting a grim picture of what life is like in Ukraine these days…
22 November 2016
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Lebanon Refugees Pope
The Rev. Thomas Rosica has been a great partner in CNEWA’s mission. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Readers of CNEWA’s materials — magazine, blog, social media and appeals for help — are aware that this special agency of the Holy See depends on its partnerships with men and women in all walks of life to carry on its mission of service to the Eastern churches. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.
Without these relationships, Catholic Near East Welfare Association would be merely an idea, not even a vision.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is one of those partners, a companion committed to the mission of CNEWA who in a very real way works “to connect you to your brothers and sisters in need.”
Born, reared and educated in Rochester, New York, Father Tom entered the Congregation of St. Basil and was ordained to the priesthood in Rochester in 1986. It was during his years of advanced studies at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem that Father Tom became well acquainted with the work of CNEWA and the staff of our Jerusalem office, then led by Brother Donald Mansir, F.S.C., and (then) Father Denis J. Madden. These were hopeful and exciting years in Jerusalem, with peaceful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians making headway — invigorating CNEWA’s outreach to the poorest of the poor through the local churches — and dialogue among the Holy City’s church leaders, coordinated by CNEWA, that would eventually lead to the restoration of the great dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In a very real way, Father Tom began connecting the people served through CNEWA with hosts of concerned men and women after he founded in 2003 Salt+Light Television, Canada’s first national Catholic television network. A fruit of World Youth Day and the visit of St. John Paul II to Canada in 2002 (which Father Tom directed at the request of the Canadian Catholic bishops), Salt+Light has become a major resource for Catholics not just in Canada, but throughout the English- and French-speaking world.
Millions of homes have learned about the miracles of Bethlehem University, the hopes of Pope Benedict XVI’s special assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, the challenges of the churches in the lands made holy by the blood of martyrs, and the crises in Ukraine and the role of the churches there in healing a people scourged by war.
In televised features and interviews with CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar and staff members, such as Canada’s national director Carl Hétu, Father Tom has explored what makes CNEWA tick, revealing CNEWA’s love for the poor and passion for the truth.
In these times of fear, trouble and uncertainty, Father Tom has been a clear voice of reason, serving the Holy See as a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, media attaché for synods and papal transitions and as an English-language assistant for the Holy See’s press office. An engaging man with a lively wit and a clear understanding of the church’s role in engaging and transforming rather than condemning society, Father Tom is, nevertheless, critical of those instruments used to divide the people of God. The Internet, for example, “can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space,” he said upon accepting the St. Francis de Sales Award given by the Diocese of Brooklyn earlier this year, describing it as “an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties.”
“The church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who — even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation — often find themselves afraid and wounded by life,” he added.
“The light of Christ reflected in the church must not become the privilege of only a few elect who float enclosed within a safe harbor or ghetto network of communications for the elite, the clean, the perfect and the saved.”
CNEWA is grateful to Father Tom for his heroic work to help us reflect “the light of Christ” — and spread that light around the world, especially among those most in need.
22 November 2016
CNEWA visited two parishes in Groton, Connecticut, last weekend, including St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Catholic Church, where multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra preached at all the Masses. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)
Being at CNEWA for just over two years now, I often look back at my journey to working here as a development associate. You could say the journey began at any number of places — perhaps with my undergraduate degree in theology, or my year of service after college with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. But I’d say it truly began at my childhood parish of St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer in Groton, Connecticut, where I was fortunate to visit this past weekend with CNEWA multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra as part of our Parish Hope and Awareness Program.
The recent expansion of our Hope and Awareness program has literally taken us from coast-to-coast — as close as Long Island and as far away as California. But it was an honor to return home to the Connecticut coastline, where we were graciously welcomed by the Rev. Darius Dudzik, the pastor of St. Mary’s and its sister parish across town, Sacred Heart. Deacon Greg preached at all five weekend masses across both parishes, and I manned a table in the vestibules between Masses, offering more information about our work and some copies of ONE Magazine.
We set up a display table with information in the back of the church at St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer in Groton. (photo: Greg Kandra)
Parishioners were invited to sign up for CNEWA’s mailing list after Mass.
(photo: Catherine Hoffman)
Deacon Greg’s homily for the Feast of Christ the King began and ended with the plea of one of the men who was crucified next to Jesus, and who asked him, “Jesus, remember me.” This is the plea, Deacon Greg explained, of Christians across the Middle East who have fled violence and terror. Fortunately, their call for help is being answered by people like Sister Maria Hanna, mother superior of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. With CNEWA’s support, the Dominican Sisters have set up a primary school for displaced children in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, a health clinic serving remote villages, and an orphanage — and 400 young boys and girls recently received First Holy Communion under the sisters’ care.
Deacon Greg preached about remembering forgotten, suffering Christians at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Groton. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)
On a personal level, it was quite meaningful for me to be able to bring the good news of CNEWA’s work back home to Groton. A number of parishioners remembered me from my days as an altar boy and lector and occasional substitute organist, and were happy to see me again. Many had wondered what I had been up to since leaving home for college eight years ago. When they heard about CNEWA, they told me just how blessed I am to be working for such a worthy cause. I wholeheartedly agree.
If you’re interested in bringing CNEWA to your parish, please do let me know. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (212) 826-1480, ext. 504.
The Rev. Darius Dudzik, left, serves as pastor for two parishes in Groton, and hosted Deacon Greg Kandra and CNEWA development associate Christopher Kennedy on 19-20 November.
22 November 2016
A glimpse inside the wooden church in Ladomirova, Slovakia. To learn more about these remarkable churches, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 edition of ONE.
(photo: Andrej Bán )
22 November 2016
In this image from 18 November, a boy comforts a child waiting for medical treatment at a makeshift hospital in Douma, Syria. The U.N. reports health services in Syria have been devastated by the ongoing conflict in the country. (photo: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)
UN: Syria health services ‘devastated’ by war (VOA) Top United Nations aid officials warned Monday that health care services in Syria have been devastated by bombings and the nearly six-year-old conflict. “Over half the country’s public hospitals and primary health care centers are either closed or only partially functioning,” the World Health Organization’s representative in Syria, Elizabeth Hoff, told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council via a video link from Damascus. “Almost two-thirds of all health professionals have left the country; domestic production of medicines has dropped by two-thirds and vaccination coverage rates have dropped by half,” she said...
U.S. strike destroys bridge, restricts ISIS (Reuters) U.S. forces backing Iraqi troops retaking Mosul from Islamic State carried out an air strike on a bridge spanning the Tigris river, restricting militant movements between western and eastern parts of the city, a U.S. official said on Tuesday...
In Jordan, a Syrian refugee camp withers (Reuters) Mohammad Othman’s bicycle route through the marketplace in the Syrian refugee camp of Zaatari was once a struggle against a tide of people. Now it’s an easy ride. So many residents have left for the West, or been forced back to Syria by Jordanian authorities, that Zaatari, once the fastest-growing refugee camp in the Middle East, has gone quiet...
Chaldean bishop: ‘Speak up about Middle Eastern Christians’ (CUA.edu) The perilous state of Christianity in the Middle East was the topic of discussion on 17 November as Chaldean Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat, eparch of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Detroit, addressed members of the Catholic University community. Speaking as part of a panel discussion organized by the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS), Bishop Kalabat explained the complexities of keeping Christianity alive in the Middle East, and the struggles of Christians who live there...
Coptic patriarch visits Kuwait (Herald Malaysia) The Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac, the spiritual leader of the Catholic Copts, the largest Egyptian Catholic community, made his first pastoral visit to Kuwait last week. Upon arriving at the airport, the patriarch said he was very happy to visit the country for the first time. “Thousands of different nationalities and faiths live in this state, known for its religious tolerance,” he said. “The Egyptian community is very well received in Kuwait. For many of them, it is a second home country...”
Awakening to the religious divide in Kerala (Asia Times) ”What was it like growing up? Did you ever sense a divide between the Muslims and Hindus?” My editorial assistant, a Kashmiri Pundit woman half my age, wanted to know. The truth is I had no sense of religion as I grew up. In Avadi, the ordnance factory township in southern India, religion took a backseat to national spirit. Every morning at school we took a pledge: “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters...”
21 November 2016
Children gather for religion class taught by the Rev. Androwas Bahus at St. Andrea the Apostle Melkite Catholic Church in Israel. To learn more, check out A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest from the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)