20 November 2014
A mother and child are shown in the cramped makeshift housing being used by refugees in northern Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)
Staff members from CNEWA visited refugees in northern Iraq last week, and on their return offered an exhaustive and detailed analysis of the situation on the ground:
After 100 days away from their homes, churches, and lands, more than 20,000 Christian families find themselves in dire situations where they have to fight everyday to cover their basic needs.
In our second visit to northern Iraq, the CNEWA delegation — comprised of Michel Constantin and Imad Abou Jaoude, from the Beirut office, and Ra’ed Bahou from the Amman office — was not able to meet with the local bishops as they were all outside the country.
Consequently, we focused on the Iraqi displaced families in their settlements; the local religious congregations, who are deeply involved with the displaced population in different centers; the parish priests from different churches, who are actively working to help these families; and finally a number of Catholic local and international NGO’s that are also providing aid and responding to the needs of struggling families.
The first observation following our visit was that it is true that theoretically the Christian families and others displaced from their hometowns and villages can find refuge in other parts of Iraq, and they are considered by the international organizations as internally displaced people and are supported on this basis. Yet in reality those displaced families have very little rights and access to public services within Kurdistan. Many families informed us they feel they would have more rights and it would be easier for them to cope in a strange country, such as Jordan or Lebanon, rather than in Kurdistan.
The second important observation is related to the hope of getting back to their villages and homes in case of liberation. Many families and religious sisters informed us that the experience of liberating Tel Eskof village following the air raids of the coalition against ISIS was a real disappointment; the few families who decided to return back to that village found that their homes were seriously destroyed by the raids and the houses that escaped destruction were mined by the fanatic militants before their withdrawal. A week ago, a 16-year-old boy died when he tried to enter his house, which had been mined. This situation made the return to their homes almost impossible for the foreseeable future.
It is estimated that today more than 1.8 million people are displaced in the country, mostly in Kurdistan and Anbar provinces, where about 390,000 are estimated to be in need of shelter and currently living in schools, under bridges or out in the open, in very bad conditions. Over 860,000 internally displaced persons have arrived from Anbar, Mosul and Sinjar in the last several months as the situation has deteriorated in all those regions. In August alone, 650,000 people arrived in Kurdistan seeking shelter, security and safety. Many of them have been staying with friends and relatives. About 400,000 displaced now live in Anbar Province, which is not controlled by Iraqi Government forces.
Presently, there are 120,000 Christian refugees in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil and other parts of Kurdistan.
As the needs continue to rise, the humanitarian conditions of the displaced are deteriorating. Children, being fragile, are the most affected in this crisis.
And that’s just the beginning.
The needs are great — and growing. Read the full report to learn what those needs are and what CNEWA is doing to help those displaced Christians affected by this crisis. And visit this link to find out how you can assist those most in need.
20 November 2014
A boy looks through a hole in a tent at Syria’s Bab Al-Salam camp for displaced in Azaz, near the Turkish border, on 19 November. To help Syrian refugees fleeing war, visit this giving page.
(photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)
20 November 2014
Pope Francis meets with José Graziano da Silva, director of the F.A.O., on 20 November in Rome. (photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis addresses F.A.O. nutrition conference (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis travelled to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome on Thursday to give a speech to the Second International Conference on Nutrition, taking place this week. In his address to participants, the pope spoke of waste and excessive consumption of food, as well as the rights of those who go hungry…
Israeli mayor imposes partial ban on Arab workers (Daily Star Lebanon) An Israeli mayor has imposed a partial ban on employing Arab workers in his city in a sign of mounting security concerns after a surge in deadly Palestinian attacks. Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni announced on Facebook that he was stopping “until further notice” the work of Arab laborers building bomb shelters in nursery schools in the city of 113,000, which is close to the Gaza Strip…
3,500 Palestinians stuck outside Gaza (Al Monitor) I had planned to travel with my son for two weeks, and got permission to take him out of school. I thought that this trip would make us forget about the last war on Gaza. But we are now facing an even harder reality. Since 5 November, we have been stuck in a Cairo hotel room. We found ourselves unable to board the plane in Paris, as airlines flying to Egypt were instructed not to allow Gazans aboard. When we landed in Istanbul to take the flight to Cairo, we were mistreated…
Suicide attempt highlights plight of Lebanese migrant workers (Al Monitor) The video of an Ethiopian domestic worker attempting suicide on 10 November by jumping off the fourth floor of her building in Beirut shocked the country. It once again brought Lebanon’s much-criticized sponsorship system (kafala, in Arabic), which controls the way domestic workers live, into the spotlight…
Almost 1,000 dead since east Ukraine truce (BBC) An average of 13 people have been killed daily in eastern Ukraine since a 5 September ceasefire came into place, the United Nations’ human rights office says. In the eight weeks since the truce came into force, the U.N. says 957 people have been killed, amid continuing violations on both sides…
19 November 2014
Tags: Lebanon Pope Francis Ukraine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Migrants
Sister Wardeh Kayrouz, right, returned to Lebanon after two decades in Jordan to give emotional support to refugees. (photo: Amal Morcos)
The Autumn edition of ONE turns a spotlight on Lebanon and Sister Wardeh’s World, where refugees from Syria are seeking a safe haven. Writer Amal Morcos here offers some additional context:
Muslims of the Middle East have a saying: “If there are no Nazarenes [Christians], it is a pity.” The saying is better in Arabic because it rhymes, but the gist is that Muslims recognize the value of having Christians in their society. Muslims aspire to send their children to Christian schools, to live in Christian neighborhoods, and to be helped by Christian organizations. But in Lebanon, a place where Christians were once powerful, wealthy and numerous, I discovered that there is an entire sea change taking place. Large numbers of Christian middle class families, affected by the country’s soaring prices and scarcity of jobs, have dropped into poverty. This has left Christian institutions — schools, hospitals, orphanages — underfunded and struggling to help the growing numbers of needy Christians.
First, there are the elderly. While Lebanon is typical of traditional Arab culture where the elderly are primarily cared for by family, growing numbers are being placed in nursing homes. Sunnis and Shi’as (who outnumber Lebanon’s fragmented Christians — the country has seven different patriarchates) have several well-financed charitable institutions. But for elderly Christians who have no family and no money, the Daughters of Charity run one of the very few nursing homes in Lebanon that will take care of Christians for free.
Christians have also been affected by the Lebanese government’s almost legendary corruption. Corruption deprives the country of resources — resources that could go into funding the nation’s crumbling public schools. Ten years ago, the overwhelming majority of Christian Lebanese school children attended parochial or private schools.
These days, growing numbers of financially burdened Christian parents are sending their children to public schools.
Sister Ann Sauve, a nurse and Daughter of Charity who runs a medicine dispensary in Beirut’s working class Karm al Zatoun neighborhood, finds herself serving more and more Christian families. She believes that Christians are especially vulnerable in Lebanon because of the lack of safety nets. “Lebanon is not like Egypt or Syria where the government will provide you with social services such as free medical care,” says Sister Ann.
Christians may also not get as much help as Muslims from international aid organizations who are more accustomed to aiding Muslims. Sister Wardeh Keiruz of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary — who works with Syrian Christian refugees — says she plans to ask for more funding in 2015 to help Lebanese Christians cope with the psychological stress of the refugees crisis, the economic crisis, and the country’s political turmoil. She’s clear though that she wants to help Christians because they are poor, not because they are Christian.
“I just want to help those not getting help,” she says, “and that is the Christians.”
Check out the Autumn edition of ONE for more on Sister Wardeh’s World.
19 November 2014
The virtual print edition of ONE looks exactly the same as the paper edition, but with some additional features. (photo: CNEWA)
Last year, we unveiled a new look for CNEWA’s magazine, ONE — and a new way to read it.
If you haven’t discovered it yet, check out the Autumn edition, which we posted online last week. It offers readers everything you can find in the print edition, but with a notable exception: no paper.
But that’s just the beginning.
Visit this link and you’ll find all 40 pages of the magazine reproduced exactly as they appear in the edition you receive in your mailbox, right down to the pages you can turn. But there are also added features in this version: you can enlarge the page for easy reading, and you can click on links that will take you to blog posts and video.
We think you’ll find it’s an exciting new way to experience the award-winning journalism and powerful photography that have made ONE among the most honored and admired magazines in the Catholic press. Check it out.
Meantime, for a preview of this newest edition of the magazine, click on the video below.
It’s all part of our ongoing effort to keep you closely connected to the world we serve — and the people your generosity helps us reach. We think these enhancements also make ONE, in so many ways, one of a kind. Thank you for your readership and your support!
19 November 2014
An explosion following a 17 November airstrike is seen in central Kobane, Syria. Lebanon’s Catholic leaders have called for peace in Syria and Iraq. (photo: CNS/Osman Orsal, Reuters)
Watching Kobane (Al Monitor) I spent time on 15-16 November close to the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, located within half an hour’s drive from Turkey’s historical provincial capital Urfa. Suruc, the twin Kurdish town on the Turkish side of the border, is about 6.2 miles across a flat and fertile plain that was built on a hill overlooking the plain. Kurds from all corners of Turkey have come to express their solidarity with the epic Kobani resistance, now in its 63rd day, labeled as the “Stalingrad of Kurds” by the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) and its Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.)…
Pope Francis calls for peace after series of Jerusalem attacks (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has made a heartfelt plea to Israelis and Palestinians to put an end to the violence that has plagued Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land in recent weeks. His appeal follows an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday in which two Palestinian men armed with a meat cleaver and a gun killed three U.S.-Israeli rabbis and a British-Israeli man. An Israeli policeman later died of his wounds…
Vatican calls on United Nations to protect religious minorities in Iraq (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in New York has called on the U.N. to “act to prevent possible new massacres of defenseless religious and ethnic minorities” in Iraq by the so-called Islamic State…
Chaldean patriarch: Christians essential to Iraq’s future (AsiaNews) On the evening of 15 November a delegation of senior Baghdad officials, led by the speaker of Parliament, visited the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate to express solidarity and closeness to the Christian community. He also assured the support of the government for the religious minority…
Abu Faour: Lebanon’s food, water sanitation ‘catastrophic’ (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanon Health Minister Wael Abu Faour described the condition of food and water sanitation in Lebanon as “truly catastrophic,” after revealing that drinking water sold by unlicensed water companies contained traces of sewage…
Ukraine rejects Moscow’s call for direct talks with rebels (Al Jazeera) Russia urged Ukraine’s leaders on Wednesday to talk directly to separatists to end the conflict in the east, but Kiev rejected the call and told Moscow to stop “playing games” aimed at legitimizing “terrorists.” Kiev and the West accuse Russia of destabilizing Ukraine by providing the rebels with money, arms and reinforcements. The West has imposed sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in which more than 4,000 people have been killed since mid-April. Russia backs the separatists but denies it is directly involved in the conflict in the Donbass region…
19 November 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Ukraine Jerusalem
Morning sunshine fills St. Basil the Great Church in Krajné Cierno, Slovakia. (photo: Andrej Ban)
Some significant news for Eastern Catholics, from CNS:
The Vatican has lifted its ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in Eastern Catholic churches outside their traditional territories, including in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, signed the decree on 14 June. It was published later online in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official periodical through which Vatican laws and decisions are published.
The new law says the pope concedes to Eastern Catholic bishops outside their traditional territory the faculties to “allow pastoral service of Eastern married clergy” and “to ordain Eastern married candidates” in their eparchies or dioceses, although they must inform the local Latin-rite bishop in writing “in order to have his opinion and any relevant information.”
“We are overjoyed with the lifting of the ban,” Melkite Bishop Nicholas Samra of Newton, Mass., told Catholic News Service in a 15 November email.
The Vatican decree explained that in response to the “protests” of the Latin-rite bishops in the United States, in 1890 the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples prohibited married Ruthenian priests from living in the United States. And in 1929-30, the Congregation for Eastern Churches extended the ban to all Eastern-rite priests throughout North America, South America and Australia.
The 1929 prohibition, known as Cum data fuerit, had significant repercussions for the Eastern Catholic churches in the United States. Sandri’s decree noted that soon after the law was promulgated, “an estimated 200,000 Ruthenian faithful became Orthodox.”
Ruthenian Bishop John Kudrick of Parma, Ohio, said 16 November that he sees the end to imposed celibacy for Eastern priests in the diaspora as an acknowledgement of the Eastern churches’ “obligation to maintain their integrity” and “of the right of the various churches to equal responsibility of evangelization throughout the world.”
“The world needs the church in its fullness,” he said, adding he believes the “change of policy results from the longstanding experience of married priests in the Western world, especially the Orthodox, but also Eastern Catholic.”
To learn more about the church in North America most impacted by the ban, read our profiles of The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church and Carpatho-Rusyan Greek Catholic Churches.
18 November 2014
Rev. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon, discusses the crisis in his homeland as
Bishop Gregory Mansour listens. (photo: CNEWA)
With much of the media’s attention focused on the still-escalating crisis in Iraq and Syria, the president of Caritas Lebanon — a longtime collaborator with CNEWA — visited our New York offices this morning to remind the world that his homeland is also suffering.
And: it’s getting worse.
Rev. Paul Karam — accompanied by Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron from Brooklyn — spoke to a small gathering of journalists at CNEWA’s headquarters to underscore the difficulties many in his country are facing as a result of the dramatic surge of refugees from neighboring countries.
Father Karam said an estimated 1.6 million refugees have crowded into Lebanon — many fleeing conflicts in Iraq and Syria. This has upset the demographic balance in the country, he explained; the influx, along with hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, has cost many people jobs and put stress on the country’s resources, including electricity, water and food.
It’s also sparked an escalation in crime, including sex trafficking. All of this has had a profound impact on the country’s economy.
“Host and local communities are suffering,” Father Karam explained. “The Lebanese are getting more poor.” He told of a mall that opened 18 months ago. At the time, 76 percent of the employees were Lebanese. Now, it’s down to 22 percent. Local unemployment has skyrocketed. This, in turn, is creating more challenges for Caritas and other aid organizations, as the number of needy families — both refugees and Lebanese — continues to grow.
In spite of such dire numbers, Father Karam said he remains hopeful that the international community will support Lebanon, one of the most stable and welcoming democracies in the Middle East.
Both Father Karam and Bishop Mansour emphasized the importance of maintaining Christianity in the region where it began. And they asked us to help get out the word — and encourage ongoing prayers for the Lebanese people.
“The Christian presence in the Middle East is something that’s very dynamic in Lebanon,” said Bishop Mansour. “Caritas is a symbol of Christ’s presence amid the poor.”
18 November 2014
A boy sitting on the rubble of damaged buildings chats with other boys on 17 November in Aleppo, Syria. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)
Map of regional and international influence in Aleppo (Al-Akhbar) Once again, the capital of the Syrian north finds itself the center of a proposal for an agreement among the parties to the conflict, despite the lack of any indications suggesting U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura’s proposal could become a viable agreement and put an end to suffering in the city of Aleppo. Al Akhbar sheds light on the armed groups present in the city, and the reality of their regional and international links, which will have a fundamental role in the success or failure of the international envoy’s proposals…
Latin patriarch decries attack against the synagogue in Jerusalem (Fides) “I extend my condolences to the relatives of the victims of the assault against the Synagogue of Jerusalem and all the violence that bloodies the Holy Land. In our churches, convents and monasteries, we will pray more than ever that the Lord helps us and helps political leaders to take the right steps so that there is peace and security for all, all, all,” said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem…
Jerusalem on edge as Israel vows ‘harsh response’ to synagogue attack (Al Jazeera) An attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in which four worshippers were killed by Palestinian attackers — later shot dead by police — has ramped up tensions in the region, with Israel vowing a “harsh” response to the latest act of violence…
Israeli settlers stab a Palestinian in Jerusalem, attack school in West Bank (Al-Akhbar) A Palestinian man was stabbed by a group of Israeli settlers in north Jerusalem on Tuesday, relatives told Ma’an news agency, hours after settlers attacked a Palestinian school in the village of Urif in the occupied West Bank. The two incidents came just hours after two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli Occupation Forces after attacking a Jerusalem synagogue and killing four Israelis, and two days after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged inside his vehicle in Jerusalem…
Egypt will expand its security zone near the Gaza Strip (New York Times) Egypt’s military said on Monday that it intended to double the size of a secured buffer zone in a town bordering the Gaza Strip after discovering smuggling tunnels across the frontier that were longer than expected, according to state news media. Last month, with little warning, the military began destroying hundreds of houses and other dwellings in the border town, Rafah, displacing more than a thousand families in a security zone that stretched almost 1,650 feet, or 500 meters, from the border…
Iraq accuses ISIS of stealing a million tons of grain (Time) Iraq’s agriculture minister on Tuesday accused the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of pilfering more than 1.1 million tons of grain from the country’s northern region and delivering it to militant-controlled cities in Syria…
18 November 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Jerusalem Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Journalist Hanan Fekry holds a press conference at the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo.
(photo: David Degner)
In the Autumn edition of ONE, Sarah Topol reports on the “Coptic Renaissance” in Egypt. Below, she offers an additional perspective from covering the story.
When I reported the story on the influence of Copts on Egyptian history, it was a heady time for the Christian minority that makes up roughly 10 percent of the population. After a year of increasing sectarian attacks on rural Christian communities and a government run by Islamists, many Coptic Christians saw the leader of Egypt’s military coup as their savior. For decades, the minority has felt disenfranchised in their own country, and with the removal of political Islam from public life, many thought their position in Egypt would improve — no matter that the previous three military-bred presidents of Egypt had not improved their lot.
But that winter, the population was still afraid. It seemed most people I spoke with did not want to be identified strictly as Coptic. This was the most striking and puzzling part of reporting this story. On one hand, it made perfect sense to not want to be considered a token minority — it is understandable to want to be an Egyptian, no matter where or how one worships.
Being termed Coptic risks being seen as one-dimensional. “They were using me as a decoration, like a flower on a jacket lapel,” Hanan Fekry, a journalist who ran in the Journalist Syndicate Board election told me of her campaign, where many referred to her as the Coptic female candidate.
But what was unexplainable to me was how people who were campaigning for the rights of their minority did not want to be identified as that minority — even at a time of marked optimism for their future.
I spoke to quite a few people to put together this story — academics, cultural icons and public figures like Fekry; Youssef Sidhom, editor in chief of the Coptic weekly al-Watani newspaper; George Ishaq, a famous Coptic political activist who was a leader in the Kefeya movement, the first activist group to openly challenge Mubarak in the mid-2000s; Lotfy Labib, a famous Coptic actor; and Gerges Saber, a-33-year-old political activist. None of them wanted to be known as Copts. They felt it marginalized them, even though (as you’ll see in the story) Copts have been marginalized by pretty much everyone else in Egypt’s history. Why would they want to brush aside their identity? Is that not also marginalizing themselves?
The best answer I could get was from Ibrahim Ishak, the Christian researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights: it seemed to be, eh said, a vestige of the old fear. “In this part of the world, minority is a bad word,” Ishak said. “This is part of the culture here, minority means division, weakness. The Copts are speaking in this society, and the society doesn’t like this word [Coptic]. So if they use it, the society will dislike them more. It will look like you are trying to cut and divide the country.”
This, to me, was heartbreaking. Regardless of how you view the new Egyptian leadership, after so much turmoil since the 2011 revolution — and suddenly so much optimism — it felt like nothing was really all that different.
Read more on the “Coptic Renaissance” in the Autumn edition of ONE.