5 June 2015
Pope Francis leads Benediction outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major on the feast of Corpus Christi in Rome 4 June. In his homily, he issued a plea to remember persecuted Christians.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
ISIS infiltrates Iraqi Kurdistan (Al Monitor) About two weeks ago, Iraqi Kurdish security forces (asayish) captured another ring of terrorists who were planning a deadly attack on Erbil city. Their ability to effectively obstruct this heinous plot, aided by the brother of one co-conspirer, saved lives and uncovered the identity of the perpetrators: Kurdish residents of Erbil who professed their loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and were linked together by a mosque and the Internet. The local roots of the plotters — as well as previous ones — indicates ISIS’ societal reach beyond the front-lines of Iraq’s disputed territories. The terrorist group has been able to feed off and radicalize Kurds not only through extreme Salafist ideology but deep grievances tied to economic and political conditions inside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq...
Celebrating Corpus Christi, pope honors persecuted Christians (CNS) The Eucharist is the seal of God’s covenant, uniting Christians and giving them the strength to bring God’s love to others, even when faith carries a high price, Pope Francis said. Celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ with an evening Mass outside Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran 4 June, Pope Francis said the church and its members will never cease being in awe of the Eucharist. As the sun began to set, the Mass was followed by a traditional Corpus Christi procession from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one mile away. Pope Francis asked the faithful as they walked through the city with the Eucharist to remember “our many brothers and sisters who do not have the freedom to express their faith in the Lord Jesus”...
ISIS took their homes. What do they miss most? (CNN) Forced to flee their homes by ISIS’ advance, Iraqis living in a refugee camp in Baghdad’s Jamiaa neighborhood remember the items of daily life that used to bring them most joy...
High inflations makes Ukraine situation worse (The New York Times) While the rest of Europe tries desperately to shrug off low inflation, Ukraine has added rapidly rising prices to its long list of problems during its civil war with Russian-backed rebels. Official inflation figures showed that prices rose 61 percent in April compared with a year earlier. But many prices have doubled and tripled...
Putin to visit pope amid global tensions (RNS) Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Pope Francis on 10 June, with pressure on the pontiff to speak up about the Kremlin’s role in the Ukraine conflict. The visit, which was confirmed on 4 June by the Holy See’s chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, will be Putin’s second meeting with Francis. The two leaders also met in the Vatican in November 2013. But the ground between Moscow and Rome has shifted significantly in the interim, with Russia annexing the Crimea Peninsula last year and being accused of fomenting the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine...
4 June 2015
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Middle East Russia
Young parishioners at Holy Cross Church take part in perpetual adoration in Purakkad, India. Read more about this serene corner of Kerala in “Purakkad’s Natural Harmony” from the
May 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
4 June 2015
This file image shows the dam over the Euphrates River near Ramadi. ISIS has closed off the dam to cut water supplies to towns downstream. (photo: Azhar Shallal/AFP/Getty Images)
ISIS cuts off water supplies in parts of Iraq (CNN) ISIS has closed off a dam to the north of the Iraqi city of Ramadi — seized by its forces last month — cutting water supplies to pro-government towns downstream and making it easier for its fighters to attack forces loyal to Baghdad, local officials and residents said...
Israel fears breakup of Syria (U.S. News & World Report) Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, who previously headed the Northern Command, addressed a Tel Aviv University conference 1 June to mark 30 years since the Israel Defense Forces’ establishment of the security zone in southern Lebanon. He said, “From a strategic perspective, our situation in the northern arena may be better than ever.” On the other hand, Golan added that Hezbollah now possesses formidable, unparalleled capabilities that no other terrorist organization ever had, and is capable of threatening all of Israel’s population centers. Oh, and that the Islamic State could develop into a “disturbing future threat”...
Ukraine’s president warns of possible “full-scale” invasion (BBC) President Petro Poroshenko has told MPs the military must prepare to defend against a possible “full-scale invasion” from Russia, amid a surge of violence in eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied that its military is involved in Ukraine, but Mr. Poroshenko said 9,000 of its troops were deployed. Clashes involving tanks took place in two areas west of Donetsk on Wednesday...
Grand Imam from Egypt to take part in interfaith conference (Vatican Radio) The Grand Imam of Al Azhar University in Cairo, Muhammad Al-Tayyeb, and other authorities of the Islamic world will be participating in an international conference in Florence, Italy next week to explore the theme “East and West–Dialogues of civilization”...
Eastern Catholic leaders meeting in Europe (Vatican Radio) The annual meeting of the Eastern Catholic hierarchs of Europe is taking place in Prague- Břevnov (Czech Republic), at the invitation of Mgr. Ladislav Hučko, Apostolic Exarch for Byzantine Rite Catholics resident in the Czech Republic. The meeting will take place at the Benedictine Archabbey of St. Adalbert and St. Margaret (Břevnov)...
3 June 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Ukraine
Children at St. John Paul II Maronite Catholic Church created art, which was auctioned off to
help children in Lebanon (photo: CNEWA)
On Sunday, CNEWA took part in a special event held at St. John Paul II Maronite Catholic Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York. The event brought together nearly 30 people — children, ages 4-12, and their parents — who wanted to raise money for one of CNEWA’s projects in Lebanon.
The children were asked to create some art with the theme of charity, which was then auctioned off. A total of $1,145 was raised. All the proceeds then went to the St. John the Baptist School in Lebanon — specifically, to help support art therapy for disabled children.
It was very touching and humbling to see the enthusiasm of kids and how excited they were to know that their donations will be able to help the less fortunate and disabled children.
The idea was part of the school’s Heritage Program, which seeks to teach children about their roots. The crowd present at the event was most American-Lebanese and Syrian families who were supporting their kids and making sure that stay connected with their home countries and cultures.
Today, Lebanon and Syria are facing one of the most challenging periods of their times but in the eyes of kids everything is possible and hope will always prevail.
We would like to thank the organizers and particularly Mrs. Janine Wakim for her devotion, contributions and a successful event!
To learn how you can join the children of Sleepy Hollow and help children in Lebanon, please visit this giving page.
3 June 2015
Bishop Christian Riesbeck, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, offers a reflection at the beginning of a fundraising breakfast held last Friday in Ottawa, Canada.
(photo: CNEWA Canada)
I would like to share with you some news about a very successful fundraising event which took place last Friday in Ottawa, Canada.
CNEWA Canada in cooperation with a Ukrainian-Canadian community organization, The Ukrainian National Federation of Canada Ottawa-Gatineau Branch, organized a breakfast with a goal to raise funds for families internally displaced by the war in Ukraine.
About 100 people attended. The event brought together CNEWA’s donors, representatives of the Ukrainian-Canadian diasporas and ordinary Canadians from various walks of life who shared a common desire to provide relief for the victims of war in Ukraine.
Bishop Christian Riesbeck, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, officially opened the event with a theological reflection and a prayer. The breakfast’s flow was managed by the event’s MC, Father Peter Galadza, director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies.
Our main speaker was Dr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom. In his presentation, Ambassador Bennett shared his insights on the importance of religious freedom in the global context and provided analysis of the challenges to religious minorities on territories that were recently seized by pro-Russian militants. The keynote speaker praised CNEWA’s role in peacebuilding and defense of religious freedom.
The event also featured remarks from members of Canada’s parliament: Jim Eglinski, as a representative of the government of Canada and Paul Dewar, on behalf of the official opposition.
At the conclusion, Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada’s national director, elaborated on CNEWA’s mission and explained that the funds raised will be used to provide shelter, water, food, clothing and medical supplies to the internally displaced families via regional support centers of Caritas Ukraine, CNEWA’s long-time partner in Ukraine.
We are happy to report that this fundraising breakfast brought in $20,000. This sum adds up to another $20,000 committed by CNEWA Canada for areas with the greatest needs.
Due to the surge of refugees in the Middle East, the problem of internally displaced people in Ukraine has gone largely unreported. (However, you can read a detailed account of the plight of the people of Ukraine in “Casualties of War,” from the Spring 2015 edition of ONE.) Since the beginning of the conflict in Crimea — and later in Donetsk and Luhansk regions — more than one million Ukrainian citizens have had to leave their towns and villages, looking for refuge elsewhere, sometimes in neighboring countries.
To join CNEWA’s efforts to help the people of Ukraine, visit this giving page.
From left to right: Antin Sloboda, Dr. Andrew Bennett, CNEWA Canada’s national director
Carl Hétu. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
3 June 2015
In this image from late April, Syrian citizens clear streets after shelling in Aleppo. This week, ISIS claimed more territory in Aleppo province near the border with Turkey.
(photo: CNS/Syrian Arab News Agency handout via Reuters)
Violence flares in Ukraine (BBC) Fierce fighting is raging between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, officials on both sides say. The clashes — said to involve heavy artillery and tanks — are taking place in Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, outside the rebel-held city of Donetsk. There were reports of multiple injuries in the towns held by Ukraine’s army...
ISIS seizes territory from rebels in Aleppo (Al Jazeera) The Islamic State group has seized more territory from Syrian rebels in Aleppo province near the border with Turkey. The advance by the armed group on Tuesday threatens to cut off supply lines used by Syrian rebel factions fighting both ISIS and the Syrian government. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebel groups have sent reinforcements to ward off the offensive, which has seen four villages and a town previously held by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front fall to ISIS fighters...
Iraq allies pledge support in bid to regain Ramadi (AFP) Iraq’s allies pledged support for Baghdad’s plan to retake the city of Ramadi from Islamic State jihadists, whose advance Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described as a “failure” for the global community. The US-led coalition, which has been carrying out air strikes against IS, also called for the “speedy launch” of efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, which it said was crucial to tackle the group rampaging through Syria and Iraq...
Coptic homes attacked following charges of blasphemy (Christian Today) Coptic homes have been attacked and Christian families forced to flee from a village in Egypt after reports that Islam was insulted on Facebook. Some Muslims in the Beni Suef governate in Egypt tried to protect Copts from villagers angered over alleged “insults to Islam.” Ayman Youssef Tawfiq, from Kafr Darwish in Al-Fashn, denies he posted cartoons on Facebook that were insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. Nevertheless, Coptic homes in his village have been stoned and attacked with Molotov cocktails. A car has been destroyed and several homes set on fire...
Archbishop Fitzgerald on Vatican II’s legacy of interfaith relations (Vatican Radio) This year, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council declaration, Nostra Aetate, which radically changed the Catholic Church’s relationship with people of other faiths. Issued on 28 October 1965, the document for the first time urged Catholics to recognize the truth present in other religions and to work together for the benefit of all of humanity. Over the past half century, the message of that document has been taken up by interfaith groups across the globe, often promoted and coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The former president of that Council, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, was a key speaker at a recent conference at Georgetown University In Washington DC. The encounter was organised by the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network to discuss the ecumenical and interfaith legacy of the Second Vatican Council...
2 June 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Ukraine
Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomes Sister Diana Momeka to CNEWA’s New York office. (photo: CNEWA)
The first thing that struck me about the veiled woman in white standing in our reception area was: “She’s so little.” The petite Dominican sister with the piercing eyes and dark hair didn’t look like someone who would shake the world.
But I soon learned that her passion and her message are, in fact, earth shaking. Small wonder that this small wonder has made some of the most powerful people in world capitals sit up and take notice.
Sister Diana Momeka left Iraq a few weeks ago to visit the United States; one of her most important stops was Capitol Hill, where she spoke to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Last night, she braved a thunderstorm to drive from Washington to New York, to visit with several of us this morning at the offices of CNEWA. Beyond a reunion between old friends and collaborators — CNEWA has sponsored the work of her congregation for many years — this meeting held a deeper and more poignant purpose. She wanted to share her message about the plight of thousands of Iraqi refugees — men, women and children, young and old, healthy and infirm — who fled their homes last year to escape ISIS, and settled in whatever housing they could find in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.
It has been a harrowing time — and the Iraqi families aren’t the only ones suffering. Sister Diana and dozens of other Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena fled their convent and also settled in Erbil, where they are working tirelessly to help people who sometimes feel helpless.
“My main message,” she told those of us gathered in the board room, “is to get human dignity to people there, in Iraq.” Her words were measured and her focus, laser sharp.
“People,” she continued, “have been humiliated. They are living in slums. These people are human beings with great love, great faith. But when you lose your home, your heritage, your culture, you lose your dignity. When you live in a container, in a tent, you don’t have any privacy, this is not a real human life to live. My hope is to find a way to give dignity back.”
Sister Diana spoke of the great suffering the people are enduring — but also their great faith. She recalled a Mass last month celebrated by CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, who made a pastoral visit to Erbil.
“At Mass,” she said, “at first, they weren’t smiling, but then Msgr. Kozar talked to them and spoke and gave a message of hope and said, ‘I’d like to see you smiling,’ and they smiled and he noticed there is faith there. They attended Mass because they are hungry for words of hope. They appreciate every movement, every step that is taken by the Western world to acknowledge their pain and persecution.”
Msgr. Kozar explained: “When you talk about the faith of these individuals, it is because of their faith that they continue to carry on. Their faith, their village, their church are all synonymous. It’s more than just going to a religious service. It’s everything you are.” He sighed. “And they’ve lost all of it.”
Sister Diana said they are working to rebuild the lives of the people, providing health care, education and a sense of hope. She told of opening a kindergarten to care for young children. “For the first two months,” she said, “we were just trying to get the children to smile, just to smile. They couldn’t smile.” They finally made some breakthroughs with painting and art therapy, but many challenges remain.
“We still feel it’s a nightmare,” she concluded.
She noted with gratitude that CNEWA had been a tremendous support to the sisters and their work — helping fund clinics, provide housing and give both material and spiritual comfort to the displaced Iraqis. “Through your help,” she said, “you have helped us give dignity to people. This is how you care for the Body of Christ that has been hurting.”
But she added, there is still much to do. Many Iraqi families still live in crowded storage containers that, in the heat of the summer, are “unbearable.” And then there are the storms. “We spend nights and nights not being able to sleep because you hear the rain hitting the containers,” Sister Diana said, “and the memory comes back of all the bombs we have heard before.”
And the small woman with the great message emphasized, once more, what she wanted the world to know:
“We need to get back our humanity, our human dignity.”
To support CNEWA’s work in Iraq and to help our suffering brothers and sisters, visit this link. And please keep Sister Diana and all the people of Iraq in your prayers.
1 June 2015
Tags: Iraq Middle East Christians Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees
CNEWA is helping house the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraqi Kurdistan — who, like the refugees they serve, were displaced by ISIS. (photo: Don Duncan)
NEW YORK — CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, has released $849,200 to aid Christians in the Middle East. “The funds address a broad spectrum of needs across a broad area of the region,” he said, “and reflect the vast scale of the challenges facing Middle East Christians.”
CNEWA’s aid supports initiatives as diverse as post-trauma counseling, medical care, formation of sisters and priests, and renovation of church institutions. Always, programs are administered by CNEWA’s personnel in the region, who partner with the local churches and their priests, sisters and lay professionals. These funds represent the second portion of CNEWA’s allocation from the collection taken up last autumn in most U.S. dioceses. Support includes:
$161,000 to renovate or furnish church institutions — such as socio-pastoral centers, schools, vocational training centers, schools for children with special needs and orphanages — destroyed during anti-Christian riots in Egypt in August 2013.
$100,000 to house the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, many of whom now live in shipping containers in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since being displaced from their convents by ISIS, the sisters have faced great hardship and loss, including the deaths of 12 sisters.
$15,000 to assist Iraqi men and women study theology at Babal College in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. As the Iraqi Christian community is dispersed further, proper theological formation is necessary to help these communities maintain their rites and traditions.
$80,000 to assist parishes in Jordan hosting Iraqi refugee families. Living in parish multipurpose centers, families carve out whatever private space they can with temporary dividers, while parishioners distribute bedding, clothing and food.
$12,000 to support counseling services at Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. Administered and staffed by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Mother of Mercy maternity clinic serves impoverished refugee expectant mothers. These funds will help the sisters employ a social worker, which is needed to help serve an increasing number of refugees.
$45,000 to support counseling assistance, tutorial services, catechesis and English classes for marginalized populations, especially Syrian and Iraqi refugee families, at the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman.
$20,000 to provide additional medical care to refugees at Amman’s Italian Hospital.
$45,000 to host summer Bible camps for impoverished children in Jordan. Run by parishes and congregations of sisters, summer Bible camps offer refugee children (Syrian and Iraqi) as well as impoverished Jordanian children a respite from the drudgery of poverty. Camps provide counseling, catechesis and recreation.
$48,000 to assist refugees in Jordan who need complicated medical tests and procedures identified by our health care partners, e.g., radiology, urology and ophthalmological procedures, endoscopies and cardio vascular tests.
$50,000 to provide schooling for Iraqi refugee children in Catholic schools in Jordan.
$133,200 to help the churches’ outreach to the poor in Lebanon, devastated by an influx of more than a million refugees.
Funds will assist a dispensary sponsored by various religious communities of women in Naba’a with hospital fees, medical tests and food and hygiene packages; the Little Sisters of Nazareth and their work with poor children living in Dbayeh; schooling and hospital expenses for nearly 300 people cared for by the Archeparchy of Zahle; and medical care offered by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross.
$80,000 to help the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches in Lebanon care for nearly 1,600 Iraqi families who have fled ISIS, providing food and hygiene packages.
$20,000 to cover medical care costs of Gaza’s seniors, whose needs are identified by Gaza’s parish priests. Ahli Arab Hospital, administered by the Anglican Church, provides care for those whose medical needs have been exacerbated by war.
$40,000 to rush essentials to Syrian Christians fleeing ISIS in the northeastern Syrian city of Al Hasakah. Monies will purchase milk and diapers, food packages, medicines and other essentials to families who have fled their villages south of the city.
Most of these funds supplement CNEWA’s 2015 budgeted commitment of more than $6.4 million for the peoples and churches of the Middle East. CNEWA’s Middle East program includes basic support for displaced Iraqi and Syrian families; formation programs for seminarians in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon; youth formation initiatives in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Syria; health care support across the region, especially pre- and post-natal care; and various social service efforts for the poor and the indigent.
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Middle East, with offices in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches. CNEWA is a registered charity in Canada and in the United States by the State of New York. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800.442.6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195. In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; send your gift to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.
1 June 2015
A sister climbs the stairs at the Good Shepherd convent in Suez, which was burned during an attack in August 2013. CNEWA has just released funds to help rebuild this and other institutions. Read more about the relief effort to help Christians in the Middle East here. And to learn more about the struggles of Christians in Egypt, read “Out of the Ashes” in the Spring 2015
edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
1 June 2015
Residents of Nikishyne, Ukraine, sit in the remains of a building on 15 May. Residents returned to the village, which has been heavily damaged by artillery bombardment since February.
(photo: Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
U.N.: death toll in Ukraine tops 6,400 (AP) The United Nations’ human rights office says the number of people killed in more than a year of fighting in eastern Ukraine has risen to over 6,400. The office said Monday that at least 6,417 people have been killed and 15,962 wounded between April last year and Saturday. The latest numbers compare with figures of 6,116 dead and 15,474 wounded given in mid-April. Shelling diminished following a February cease-fire deal, but fighting has worsened in recent weeks...
UNICEF to launch appeal for Iraq (AFP) Humanitarian organisations are preparing to launch a fundraising appeal for $500 million (454 million euros) for the crisis created by the Islamic State group in Iraq, UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency said on Monday. The announcement came a day ahead of a meeting in Paris of the US-led coalition of countries working to defeat the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria. “The humanitarian situation in Iraq is close to disaster! We urgently need extra resources in order to continue assistance,” Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF’s representative in Iraq, said in a statement in French...
Muslim leaders in Syria seeking path for release of kidnapped priest (Fides) Father Jaques Murad, the priest kidnapped in the area of Homs on 21 May, known in the area of the village of Al-Qaryatayn, where he lived in the monastery of St. Elias, was much appreciated for his work proximity, dialogue, closeness and friendship towards the local community, in an area where a large majority are Sunni Muslims. This is why, says a source of Fides, “the Muslim leaders of the community, village chiefs, clan leaders denounced the kidnapping and are now trying to open a channel and find a path for the release.” However, “it seems that the people or groups who seized him are foreign to the social, ethnic and religious fabric of the area...”
ISIS drives back Syria insurgents near Turkey (Reuters) Islamic State fighters advanced against rival insurgents in northern Syria on Sunday, capturing areas close to a border crossing with Turkey and threatening their supply route to Aleppo city, fighters and a group monitoring the war said. Islamic State captured the town of Soran Azaz and two nearby villages after clashes with fighters from a northern rebel alliance, which includes both Western-backed rebels and Islamist fighters. Islamic State will now be able to move along a road leading north to the Bab al-Salam crossing between the Syrian province of Aleppo and the Turkish province of Kilis, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said...
India’s Christians concerned about growing attacks on minorities (RNS) In March, an elderly nun was raped in Calcutta and a Christian school in West Bengal received anonymous threats, according to a Times of India report. In April, St. Mary’s Church in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, was vandalized, setting off a wave of protests. Earlier this month, the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cited an “increase of harassment and violence” among India’s Christian community. The attacks have come against a background of fear that Christians are increasing their efforts to proselytize — especially in schools...
Tags: Syria India Iraq Ukraine Turkey