29 April 2015
Sister Najma and Sister Sara greet visitors to the Mother of Mercy Clinic, Zerqa, Jordan.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
The 29th of April marks the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th-century Dominican nun whose short life — she died when she was just 33 — was marked by determination, mysticism and unwavering faith. She was also known for her tireless works of charity:
The mystical communion that was at the heart of St. Catherine’s spirituality inspired her to reach out to the poor and suffering of Siena. When the Black Death swept through her city, she had no hesitation in caring for the victims. She worked as a nurse. She dug graves for those who died of the plague and then buried them properly herself. She accompanied prisoners who were condemned to death to the place of execution waiting with them and praying for them to the end.
In our own day, the courageous and sacrificial spirit of St. Catherine lives on in the order that bears her name, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, based in Iraq. Today, they are caring for the displaced, the frightened, the sick, the orphaned — their brothers and sisters who have fled ISIS.
As we have reported, these generous sisters are the face of Christ to so many who are suffering — and the sisters themselves, despite fleeing their convent in Qaraqosh last summer, are now reaching out to help others in Iraq.
They are also serving refugees who have sought sanctuary in Jordan, at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, where many of the patients are young mothers and newborns:
Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable.
“We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality.
“We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”
And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims... People come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.
“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.
“Our mission here is for everyone,” she adds. “If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include ‘religion’ in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here. Just the name and the age is what we need to know.”
St. Catherine must surely be proud.
To assist the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and other courageous sisters in their mission, visit this giving page. And — this day in particular — join them in prayers of praise and thanksgiving to St. Catherine, whose life and work has inspired so many good works in CNEWA’s world.
29 April 2015
Lacking their own church in Tbilisi, Georgia, Armenian Catholics often celebrate the liturgy at Sts. Peter and Paul Latin Catholic Church. Meet the Rev. Mikael Khachkalian, the only Armenian Catholic priest in Tbilisi — pictured above — by checking out the profile of him in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
29 April 2015
In this image from last summer, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter, the Maronite patriarch, blesses a baby in Erbil, Iraq. The blessing took place in one of the churches housing the more than 100,000 Christians and minorities displaced in the country by the advance of
Islamist militants. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)
Gaza protestors beaten, detained by Hamas officials (The New York Times) A rare show of defiance against Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, was quelled on Wednesday as men who appeared to be Hamas security officials beat some protesters and detained others, witnesses said...
Cardinal: Christian exodus from Middle East will weaken moderate Islam (CNS) The exodus of Christians from the Middle East — due to wars, conflicts, socio-economic crises and persecution — will weaken moderate Islam “which, thanks to the Islamic-Christian conviviality, is so far the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East,” said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter. Speaking at UNESCO in Paris on 25 April, the cardinal said Christians were “irreplaceable peacemakers” and, without them, “Islam will fall into the hands of fundamentalists.” He called on Europe and the international community “to ensure that Christians remain in their countries...”
Pope: Christians should kneel before the poor (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Tuesday that poverty is the great teaching Jesus gave us and we can find his face among the poor and needy. Stressing that the poor are not a burden but a resource, he said he wished that both the city of Rome and the local Church community could be more attentive, caring and considerate towards those in need and that Christians could kneel before a poor person...
Egypt to let Christians start work later on Sundays (Fides) A legal ruling has reaffirmed the right of Christian workers to start work at 10 on Sundays, in order to allow them to participate in the Sunday Eucharistic liturgy. This was reported by Coptic sources consulted by Agenzia Fides...
First ‘Lourdes Grotto’ to be dedicated in Jordan (Fides) The first shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes in Jordanian territory is located in the parish of the Sacred Heart in Nour, 24 kilometers south of Amman, and will be inaugurated on Saturday 2 May with the recitation of the Rosary and with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem...
28 April 2015
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Muslim
Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu, left, attends 5:30 morning prayer in the chapel of her convent
in Bahir Dar. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Name: Sister Ayelech
Order: Daughters of Charity
Facility: Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School
Location: Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Nearly 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 14 attend the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia — and the woman responsible for them all is Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu. A member of the Daughters of Charity, Sister Ayelech has a special mission to “serve the poorest of the poor.” This includes making regular visits to 30 poor families, whose children attend the school. Some of the parents have tested positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.
The sisters who serve the school live in a residence in the poorest corner of Bahir Dar, located about 350 miles northwest of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.
ONE contributor Petterik Wiggers recently contacted Sister Ayelech, who described her vocation, her mission and her hopes for the children in her care:
I have been in Bahir Dar for 13 years. As a Daughter of Charity, we go wherever we are sent. We obey, we are obedient; we don’t refuse. Now that we are here, we are happy. We don’t know our next station.
I have never regretted my decision, never. I didn’t care about other things. I don’t really care about getting married, having children. My family taught me to be kind and how to help others. And also, the first sister I worked with, she was a good example to me.
My work brings me satisfaction. The children continue studying, and some of them go to university. But it is first the will of God that is most important to me. God is very good to me. He made so many things happen to me in my life, so many things that I couldn’t have done by myself. God is always with me. Every day, he is with me.
I think God has given me the gift to lead. But I have struggled to lead, to reach this place. I have made a lot of mistakes, many times. Every day is a struggle. Every day we are trying to change. We are trying to live for God. We fail on a daily basis. We argue with the sisters. We argue with people in the work place. In spite of all this, forgiveness is there — we forgive each other. We are trying to do our work for God. We try to help each other in our spiritual life and in community life, too.
You can read more in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE.
Sister Ayelech’s life has been enriched immeasurably by her vocation — and the loving generosity of the donors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association has enriched the lives of so many she graciously serves.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the great work of women like Sister Ayelech, click here.
28 April 2015
Residents of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ orphanage in Egypt take a break from their studies. To learn more about the orphanage, and how it is recovering from violence in the region, read “Out of the Ashes” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
28 April 2015
A Palestinian boy sits on a chair in the ruins of a house on 28 April in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaia, destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the summer of 2014. (photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
U.N. report says Israel struck Gaza shelters (BBC) At least 44 Palestinians were killed by “Israeli actions” while sheltering at seven United Nations schools during last summer’s war in Gaza, a U.N. inquiry has found…
Palestinians in Israel demand end to home demolitions (Daily Star Lebanon) In a demonstration on Tuesday, hundreds of people protested in Tel Aviv against demolitions targeting Palestinian-owned houses. Protests by Israel’s Palestinians occur frequently, but seldom have they taken place in Tel Aviv, in a central square that typically hosts demonstrations for causes championed by Jewish Israelis…
Muslims raise funds to build Coptic church in Cairo (Christian Today) Muslims in Egypt have donated money towards the building of a Coptic church in the Monufia governorate, north of Cairo, signaling another step towards solidarity in a country previously divided along sectarian lines. Coptic Orthodox Bishop Benyamin began a collection of donations for the church, which will be dedicated to the Virgin Mary…
Sinai Islamist groups threaten Copts for supporting Egyptian president (Fides) A threat issued to Copts in the Sinai peninsula states that they must leave their homes if they do not want to die. People identifying with militant Islamic fundamentalist groups spread this threat across social networks…
Armenians in Lebanon keep their culture, memory of 1915 heroism alive (Los Angeles Times) The priest unlocks the door to a musty room, home to the ghosts of Moses Mountain, a lost place where determined townsfolk once gathered with hunting rifles and faced down an imperial army. A glass-and-wood frame secures a white flag emblazoned with a fading red cross, a symbol of resistance and survival celebrated in Armenian lore. Laid out on tables and shelves are prized artifacts: a chalice, rusted farming implements, an ancient rifle and black funeral boxes holding remains of those who were killed fighting the Turks 100 years ago. “Here, you can feel our ancestors’ presence,” said the Rev. Ashod Karakashian, 82, who came here from Turkey as a boy and has few direct memories of his homeland. But he lives daily with its legacy…
27 April 2015
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Violence against Christians Christian-Muslim relations
The Spring 2015 edition of ONE is now available online, and headed to a mailbox near you.
Among many fine stories, this edition features a powerful profile of Ukrainians displaced by war; a dramatic look at Iraqi refugees being cared for at the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan; and a letter from Ethiopia by a sister, a member of the Daughters of Charity, describing her life and her vocation.
Once again, this edition brings together first-rate journalism and extraordinary photographs to produce one of the most acclaimed magazines in the Catholic press. We’re proud to be able to share these stories with you — and to bring CNEWA’s world into your world, reporting on the vital work we do and the important role you are playing in helping to bring the love of Christ to so many who are in need.
Check out ONE — and be sure to visit our virtual edition to experience this award-winning magazine on your computer exactly as it appears in print.
27 April 2015
Indian schoolgirls light candles for the victims of an earthquake in Nepal at a school in Amritsar on 27 April. (photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepal earthquake: International aid effort increased (BBC) The international aid effort for Nepal is gathering pace, with Saturday’s huge earthquake now known to have killed at least 3,900 people and injured 7,000. China, India, Pakistan and Britain are among the countries contributing to the effort, alongside major aid agencies. Nepal has asked for more help, saying it needs everything from helicopters and blankets to paramedics and drivers…
Tensions rise on Israel-Syria border after infiltration attempt, airstrikes (Washington Post) Israeli forces were on heightened alert on Monday along the northern border with Syria after the military reported thwarting an attack by armed militants and retaliating with airstrikes. Details about the late Sunday incident were not clear, but unrest from Syria’s war has occasionally spilled over into the heavily guarded border zone near the Israeli-held Golan Heights…
Gaza’s dying bamboo crafts industry (Al Monitor) Amer Khalaf cuts and shapes bamboo culms into arcs to make handmade furniture. Although he was preoccupied with work, he did not look satisfied. It appears that people no longer care about this profession amid a decline in demand for bamboo products. Those who work in the bamboo furniture industry in the Gaza Strip fear the near extinction of a craft that is one of the Palestinians’ most important traditional handicrafts carrying a long historical legacy…
E.U. won’t send armed force to Ukraine despite clashes (BBC) EU leaders have told Ukraine they are worried about ceasefire violations in the east of the country but will not send armed peacekeepers there. “We can only talk about a civilian mission, not military,” European Council President Donald Tusk told a news conference in Kiev…
Pope meets with chief rabbi of Rome (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Monday morning at the Vatican with the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni. A press statement from the spokesman of the Jewish community in Rome described the meeting as cordial. During the meeting, the two leaders discussed a number of issues, including issues arising from immigration to Europe…
24 April 2015
Tags: Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Cultural Identity Catholic-Jewish Dialogue
People lay flowers at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, commemorating 100 years since the massacre took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. (photo: Karen Minasyan/AFP/Getty Images)
Armenians around the world are remembering today the genocide 100 years ago of Armenians by Ottoman Turks:
The annual 24 April commemorations mark the day when the mass killings started. An estimated 1.5 million died in massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 as Ottoman officials worried that the Christian Armenians would side with Russia, its enemy in World War I.
Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest. …
In Beirut, tens of thousands of Lebanese of Armenian descent marched the stretch of several miles from an Armenian church in northern Beirut to a soccer field where the commemoration service took place. Many waved Armenian and Lebanese flags and scores wore caps with “I remember and I demand” printed on them in Arabic. Lebanon has one of the largest Armenian communities in the world outside Armenia itself — mostly descendants of people who fled their homes in 1915. Experts estimate the community to number about 150,000 people today.
Among those attending the Beirut service was Agop Djizmedjian, a 52-year-old supermarket employee who brought his 5-year-old son George. “I brought George today to tell him that our ancestors were killed in this genocide,” Djizmedjian said. “When I die, my son will teach his children until we get our rights.”
In Beirut’s predominantly Armenian district of Burj Hammoud, most of the shops were closed and balconies were decorated with the red, blue and orange Armenian flags.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, Armenian priests held a Mass at St. James Cathedral, their chants rising to the sky in the cavernous century-old church adorned with hundreds of metal lamps as light filtered from the dome windows.
Pope Francis spoke of the slaughter of the Armenian people on 12 April, and draw parallels to the plight of Christians today:
Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Pope Francis said atrocities from the past have to be recognized — not hidden or denied — for true reconciliation and healing to come to the world.
However, Turkey’s top government officials criticized the pope’s use of the term “genocide” — citing a 2001 joint statement by St. John Paul II and the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church — in reference to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during their forced evacuation by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18.
Turkey rejects the accusation of genocide, and the government called its ambassador to the Holy See back to Turkey “for consultations” on 12 April, the same day Pope Francis made his statement. The government also summoned Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, nuncio to Turkey, to lodge a complaint.
Before concelebrating the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis greeted the many Armenian faithful who were present, including Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
The pope lamented the continued forced expulsions and atrocious killings of Christians in the world saying, “Today, too, we are experiencing a kind of genocide created by general and collective indifference” and “complicit silence.”
Humanity has lived through “three massive and unprecedented tragedies the past century: the first, which is generally considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,’ ” struck the Armenian people, he said, quoting a joint declaration signed in 2001 by St. John Paul and Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The other two 20th-century tragedies were those “perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism,” while more recently “other mass exterminations” have been seen in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia, Pope Francis said.
“It seems that the human family refuses to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that there are still today those who try to eliminate their own kind with the help of some and with the complicit silence of others who act as bystanders,” he said.
Addressing Armenian Christians, the pope said that recalling “that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter, which your forebears cruelly endured,” was necessary and “indeed a duty” to honor their memory “because wherever memory does not exist, it means that evil still keeps the wound open.”
“Concealing or denying evil is like letting a wound keep bleeding without treating it,” he said.
To learn more about Armenia, read our profiles of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church in the pages of ONE. Also, check out our blog series on the Journey Through the South Caucasus, for an intimate look at life in Armenia today.
24 April 2015
Tags: Pope Francis Armenia Turkey
Over a million people have been forced to flee their homes because of the war in Ukraine. Many of these internally displaced people struggle to find a new life. (video: New York Times)
A population uprooted by Ukraine’s war struggles to get by (New York Times) Valeria Huseva fled her home in Luhansk last July during heavy fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian military forces. “I couldn’t stay in the city,” she said. “It was too dangerous for a baby.” Three months pregnant, Ms. Huseva, then 19, arrived alone in this industrial city outside of rebel-controlled territory and sought refuge at a coordination center for internally displaced people…
Ecumenical patriarch affirms solidarity with Iraqi Christians (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I paid an official visit to Turkey a few days ago, meeting the faithful and visiting a number of Chaldean places of worship in Ottoman lands. A highlight of his trip included a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul. The meeting took place last Wednesday, confirming the bond of closeness and solidarity between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Chaldean Church, which has endured violence and persecution at the hands of ISIS in Iraq…
Syriacs urge Turkey to recognize massacres (Al Monitor) The Ottoman policy of slaughter and deportations in 1915, associated mainly with its Armenian victims, was actually much broader in its scope. Along with more than a million Armenians killed, it also crushed the Syriac Christian community, which counts its dead in the hundreds of thousands. Syriacs remember it as the Seyfo (or “sword”) Massacre. On the 100th anniversary this year, the Syriacs are for the first time holding protests urging Turkey to recognize the Seyfo Massacre and to apologize…
Pope Francis meets with the president of the Czech Republic (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with the President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman. A statement released by the Holy See Press Office called the meeting “cordial,” and noted the meeting took place on the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the then-Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, which took place on 19 April 1990…
Rights group: Czechs segregating Roma children at schools (Al Jazeera) The Czech Republic has failed to comply with a European court order to stop placing Roma children in schools for the mentally disabled regardless of the students’ capabilities, rights group Amnesty International said Thursday. The European Court of Human Rights had ruled in 2007 that the Czech Republic must stop the practice. Roma people in Europe suffer from widespread discrimination not only in schools, but also in the labor and housing markets and from health care providers, according to a report by the European Commission published last year. The commission opened an investigation last year into whether the Czech Republic was breaching European Union anti-discrimination legislation…
Gaza women shed veil, spark conversation (Al Jazeera) Two weeks ago, journalist and film director Razan Madhoon took off her veil and posted her picture on Facebook, stirring a fierce backlash of comments against her and her husband. Madhoon’s decision came as a shock for the Gaza public, given the region’s rising religiosity. Women wearing the veil and frequenting mosques have become commonplace in the Gaza Strip. Though it may be widely believed that Gaza is a conservative society by nature, no one knows where this idea came from, as society was not as it is now in the 1960’s and 1970’s…
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Armenia Roma Czech Republic