Current Issue
Summer, 2015
Volume 41, Number 2
15 May 2015
Greg Kandra

Three families displaced by the war in Ukraine now share one small apartment in Svyatogorsk. To learn more about how the crisis in Ukraine has impacted people living there, read “Casualties of War” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)

15 May 2015
Greg Kandra

Sister Diana Momeka, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington titled “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities.” (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)

Help us ‘go back home,’ displaced Iraqi sister urges U.S. Congress (CNS) Speaking quietly and deliberately, Dominican Sister Diana Momeka from Iraq urged a congressional committee hearing May 13 to help the displaced Christian refugees in Iraq to “go back home.” “We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home,” Sister Diana, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena of Mosul, Iraq, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. During the hearing: “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities,” Sister Diana was one of four women who spoke of the urgent need to not only help and protect religious minorities but also to preserve and save religious sites...

Bishop says Syrians are exhausted (CNS) Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, and his people are exhausted. The bishop, who is president of the church’s charitable agency, Caritas Syria, left the country for a few days to attend the general assembly of Caritas Internationals in Rome from 12-17 May. Daily life “is becoming more and more difficult and tiring,” he told Catholic News Service. When the fighting first began in 2011, he said, the people of Aleppo held up well because the danger zones were far away. “Now our situation is very bad, very difficult,” he said. “We are without electricity, without (running) water.” “Something like 80 percent of people in Aleppo are without jobs. So they don't have any money to survive,” the bishop said...

Vatican-Palestine accord supports two-state solution (CNS) Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory. Without fanfare, the Vatican has been referring to the “State of Palestine” at least since January 2013. The “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican’s official yearbook, lists a diplomatic relationship with the “State of Palestine.” The Vatican, which praised the United Nations’ recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in 2012, said on 13 May that the bilateral commission working on the agreement had finalized the text...

Chaldean Patriarch visits Tehran (Fides) The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran “does not hesitate to support the people and the Iraqi government, because the two Countries share the same history and civilization.” This is what the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I said during his visit that began on 12 May in Iran, where the Primate of the Chaldean Church will be staying until 22 May...

ISIS reported on the offensive in Ramadi (CNN) ISIS has launched a wide-scale attack on Iraqi security forces in Ramadi in an apparent attempt to take the rest of the key central Iraqi city, a provincial governor said Friday. The ISIS offensive, which started Thursday night and continued into Friday, included suicide attacks with explosive-rigged cars near security posts in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Anbar Gov. Suhaib Al-Rawi said...

Cardinal Tagle elected head of Caritas (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines has been elected as the new president of Caritas Internationalis. He was nominated at the confederation’s 20th General Assembly in Rome. Following his election, the Cardinal, speaking by phone to the delegates from over 130 member organisations from all over the world said “Buona sera a tutti!” “Thank you for your trust. I’m limited in my capacities but with all of you, with the love that Jesus has poured into our hearts and in the name of all of the poor people in the world, I accept this election...”

Pope urges African bishops to promote inter-religious dialogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Catholic bishops of the Central African Republic (CAR) to promote inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence and encourage their flock to respond to hatred and violence with forgiveness and love...

Christian center, churches attacked in India (Vatican Radio) Tuesday night, suspected Hindu radicals attacked three churches in Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s largest city, and a temporary home of Augustinian nuns (OAS) in Pipaldhar, which houses a centre for disabled children run by nuns, as reported by AsiaNews. While, unknown attackers threw heavy bricks on the roof of the building, which is home to rehabilitation centre for children with mental disabilities, in Pipaldhar, the extremists threw stones, destroyed crosses, vandalised various items and attempted to set fire to one of the places of worship in Indore. However, police intervened before they could carry out their plans...

Two new Palestinian saints (VIS) This morning in the Holy See Press Office Fr. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan, presented the figure of the Palestinian blesseds Sister Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, founder of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and the Carmelite Maryam Baouardy (Mary of Jesus Crucified). Along with another two women religious, the French Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve and the Italian Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception Brando, they will be canonized by Pope Francis this coming Sunday in St. Peter’s Square...

Tags: Syria Iraq India Palestine Iran

13 May 2015
CNEWA staff

A young Iraqi refugee living at the Ashty camp displacement center in Iraq greets a visitor.
(photo: John E. Kozar)

Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, has just returned from making a pastoral visit to Iraq and Egypt, where he saw first-hand some of the challenges facing Christians fleeing persecution in that troubled part of the world.

Next week, Msgr. Kozar will share his insights and experiences in a special evening at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York.

We invite you to join us for this important event, in an effort to raise awareness and funds to aid Christian families in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and beyond. It will be an opportunity to learn more about the crisis facing the people of the Middle East — and how you can help. The problems of our suffering brothers and sisters in that region right now are urgent, and the needs are great. Donations will be greatly appreciated.

When: Wednesday 20 May 2015 — 6:30 pm
Where: Seminary of the Immaculate Conception
           440 West Neck Road
           Huntington, NY
The evening will include light refreshments.

To learn more, please contact Norma Intriago at

Msgr. Kozar and others pose for a picture with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena in the tent church at the Kasnasan displacement center in Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)

13 May 2015
Greg Kandra

At the Good Shepherd Church in Suez, one of the sisters has saved the first rock that broke through the window of the church in 2013, when hundreds protested the ouster of President Muhammed Morsi. To learn more about efforts to rebuild after the violence, read “Out of the Ashes” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)

12 May 2015
Greg Kandra

Iraqi Christian refugee Steven Osama, a 27-year-old from Mosul, plays guitar on his bed at St. Ephraim's Syrian Orthodox Church, where the church provides shelter for Iraqi Christian refugees, in Amman, Jordan. To learn more about the lives of Iraqis like Steven Osama, check out “Finding Sanctuary in Jordan” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)

12 May 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from March, Khanon Hamo from Kobani tends to her 7-month-old twins in her tent in a refugee camp in Suruc, in the province of Sanliurfa, Turkey. Turkey has one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing civil war, with official estimates currently
at 1.6 million. (photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Turkish border crackdown imperils Syrian refugees (Voice of America) Turkish authorities have tightened controls, ending their open-door policy for Syrian refugees and making it more difficult for Syrians to enter Turkey and for international journalists to cover the war. There are even reports of people being fired upon as they approach the border...

European bishops to discuss dialogue with Muslims (Vatican Radio) The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences is having its 4th meeting of bishops and delegates in charge of relations with Muslims in Europe. The meeting is being held at the Abbey of Saint Maurice in Switzerland this week and will last for three days. Two key areas which will be covered are dialogue between Christians and Muslims, along with sociological realities...

Report: Hundreds of Russian soldiers died in Ukraine (The New York Times) Russian opposition activists published a report Tuesday that they claim proves that Russia is deeply involved in the war in Ukraine, seeking to counter overwhelming state media reports casting the events as a local uprising against the Ukrainian government. Prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov was working on the report, entitled “Putin.War,” after Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the time of his murder in February. Drawing on media accounts, testimonies from relatives and other representatives of dead soldiers and confidential sources, the 64-page report maintains that hundreds of Russian troops have died fighting in a war that has cost Russia hundreds of millions of dollars...

Life in Syria for Christians: teaching tolerance and harmony among the faithful (Deseret News) Since 2013, I had traveled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan as part of my Project Amal ou Salam, which translates from Arabic to mean Project Hope and Peace. I had led workshops to over 5,000 kids, teaching them about diversity, tolerance and nonviolence. Having grown up in Syria, leaving at the age of 17 to attend university in Canada, this was my way of giving back to the future of my country. But I have also learned as well. The more Syrian children I work with, the more I understand the dynamics of Syrian society that I hadn’t noticed before...

Tags: Syria Ukraine Turkey Muslim

11 May 2015
Dale Gavlak

Eveet, an Iraqi Christian refugee woman kisses her baby girl during a group therapy session at a church hall in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)

Journalist Dale Gavlak reports on Iraqi Christians finding sanctuary in Jordan in the Spring 2015 issue of ONE — and offers some additional insight below.

I began covering the successive waves of refugees descending upon Jordan nearly 12 years ago. At that time, most Iraqis fled their country because the U.S.-led invasion and its turbulent aftermath of sectarian violence made parts of the embattled land — especially the capital, Baghdad — unsafe.

Among some of those who arrived in Jordan were Iraqi Christians, whose family members were kidnapped for ransom and sometimes brutally killed or whose neighborhoods and churches were targeted by suicide bombers.

Then came the Syrians — who for the most part are Sunni Muslim civilians fleeing terrible violence by both government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and extremist militants. Most Syrian Christians have escaped to Lebanon, rather than Jordan.

Both sets of refugees made the decision to leave their homes and countries due to spiraling, horrific violence and protracted war. The decisions were not made lightly. Many Syrians fled with just the clothes on their backs or carried a couple of plastic bags with their treasured items, thinking and hoping they would soon return home.

But with the Iraqi Christians, a different narrative is at play. Somehow, the despair and pain they feel and project seems deeper and rawer.

ISIS militants cruelly and brutally forced these original inhabitants of Mosul and the villages of the Ninevah Plain for the past 1,600 years out of their historic Christian heartland. Why should they recant their faith and that of their forefathers or be forced to pay a so-called protection tax? Why should they be run out of town by the sword? These are some of the questions they ponder.

An Iraqi Christian in his mid-60’s said it wasn’t just the fact that the extremists took over the businesses he had worked for his entire life. What really galled him was that a militant from Afghanistan was living in his home — a cherished house that had been in his family for generations.

The Christians were sometimes betrayed by their Muslim neighbors. The country’s own security forces failed to defend them in their hour of need.

Such betrayal is hard to come to grasp and difficult to overcome. Many say that is why — as much as they long to return to their beloved homes and land — they can never go back.

How will these refugees work out the Christian tenets of forgiveness and grace to combat the natural tendencies toward despair and bitterness in the face of such great loss? These are the challenges that loom as they ponder what kind of future awaits them and where.

One 10-year-old Iraqi girl, named Myriam, however, has made the decision to forgive her ISIS persecutors.

TV interviews with Myriam and the brother of two Egyptian laborers beheaded in Libya by the extremists — both voicing forgiveness — have been watched by at least one million viewers in the Arab world and are sparking positive social media comment.

A columnist in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Nahar said the interview by the Christian SAT-7 network with Myriam “should be presented in Lebanese schools as a lesson in humanity.”

Sounds like members of ISIS should tune in.

For more, read “Finding Sanctuary in Jordan” in the Spring edition of ONE.

11 May 2015
Greg Kandra

A small shrine adorns the home of Marlene Dachache, who works as a nurse at a charity dispensary in Beirut, and her husband Joseph. The family has been struggling to make ends meet since the influx of Syrian refugees in the country. To read more, check out “Lebanon on the Brink” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)

11 May 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2014, Cardinal George Pell gestures as he leaves the extraordinary Synod of Bishops at the Vatican. The cardinal has praised efforts at dialogue between Christians and Jews on the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate. (photo: Paul Haring/CNS)

Cardinal praises efforts to Christians and Jews (Vatican Radio) Cardinal George Pell has praised the efforts of participants in an historic international gathering of Christian and Jewish leaders in Israel to mark the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the Conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate, on the Church’s relation to non-Christian religions...

Ukraine port braces for attack (Bloomberg) Ukraine’s eastern port of Mariupol is bracing for attack. Army vehicles rumble down streets, windows are fortified to shield against shell damage and signs pasted to apartment blocks point people to their nearest bomb shelter. Locals fear pro-Russian separatists will unleash an assault on their city now that President Vladimir Putin has finished hosting world leaders to mark the Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany. “Everyone’s talking about it,” said Iryna Hrynko, 40, a designer who arrived last year after fleeing the rebels’ Donetsk stronghold. “Friends back home even tell me about an attack...”

Iraq begins training Sunni fighters to battle ISIS (The Wall Street Journal) Iraq’s Shiite-led government has begun training Sunni tribal fighters here in the western province of Anbar, in an urgent U.S.-backed initiative to stem recent advances by Islamic State. The setbacks in Anbar have exposed the need for trusted and equipped Sunni fighters to help turn momentum against Islamic State and dry up the extremists’ pool of potential recruits. “When the government fails, people turn to Islamic State,” said Mohammad Abu Risha, a young tribal sheik from Anbar who commands 150 fighters. “The tribes don’t trust the government, and the government doesn’t trust the tribes...”

Suicide bombers attack hospital in Syria (AFP) Suicide bombers attacked a hospital in northwestern Syria on Sunday morning where around 250 soldiers and civilians have been trapped for two weeks, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels, including members of a branch of Al-Qaeda, stormed the complex in the town of Jisr al-Shughur, having already captured the surrounding area a fortnight ago. Harrowing pictures show the scale of the assault, with the suicide bomber’s car bomb sending fireballs and plumes of thick black smoke into the air. it is not yet known how many people were killed in the attack...

Russian Orthodox Church sends over a million dollars to Ukrainian refugees (Christian Telegraph) The Russian Orthodox Church sent Ukrainian refugees more than 75 million of rubles (nearly 1.5 million of dollars) during last 9 months, reports Christian Telegraph. “Last summer we organized the center of help for civilians of Ukraine. By 24 April 2015 we received more than 20,000 appeals from refugees,” stated Vladimir Legoida, Chairman of the Synodal Informational Department of the Russian Orthodox Church...

8 May 2015
CNEWA staff

Members of the Rifo family gather in their temporary dwelling in Sulimaniyeh, Iraqi Kurdistan,
in September 2014. (photo: Don Duncan)

Yesterday, CNEWA’s Communications Director, Michael J.L. La Civita, spoke at a conference, “The Islamic State’s Religious Cleansing and the Urgency of a Strategic Response,” hosted by the Hudson Institute in New York. He placed the present crisis in context:

Long before there was ISIS, civil war in Syria, an Arab Spring, Al Qaeda, the U.S. invasions of Iraq, civil war in Lebanon, and the Israeli-Arab conflict, Middle East Christians were on the move. Whether hiding from persecution by Jewish leaders, Roman emperors, Persian forces, Byzantine bishops, Muslim Arab invaders or Ottoman bureaucrats, the region’s Christians demonstrated agility, tenacity and the will to survive. As they moved from place to place — leaving behind their ancient centers of Antioch or Edessa — Middle East Christians preserved their identities, their cultures, their languages, their rites and their unique approaches to the one Christian faith. They reestablished their monasteries and convents, churches and schools from Beirut to Baghdad, prospering in the modern era even with the rise of ideological fanaticism and its destructive twin, intolerance. But the sixth day of August 2014 will be forever seared into the psyches of all Middle East Christians. For on that day, maniacal extremists upended the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqi Christians, forcing them to flee their homes, leaving behind everything in a matter of minutes.

The human cost of the displacement of the Middle East’s Christians is tremendous. Although they may account for only about 5 percent of the region’s population — about 15.5 million people — Christians dominate the region’s middle classes, exercising prominence in the tourism industry, commercial and skilled labor sectors, and the civil service. And as they flee the extremists rapidly taking hold in the region, moderates from other communities follow, leaving behind those who cannot leave — the poor, the uneducated, the elderly and the infirmed — and those who stand to gain by fanning the flames of hate.

...The flight of Christians from the region is arduous and painfully slow. While hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes in Iraq and Syria, most exist in a sort of limbo, hunkering down with friends and family in safer areas of Lebanon, Syria’s Valley of the Christians, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or Iraqi Kurdistan. Some 12,000 Syrian Armenian Christians have found refuge in Armenia, but few others have acquired the coveted visas necessary to emigrate to the Americas, Europe or Oceania, where most Middle Eastern Christians now live.

Just a few months into their exile, the Rifo family was not yet able to accept the possibility of emigration.

“We all agree that this is something we don’t want to think of,” said the matriarch of the family, Ibtihaj. “We will go back to our houses, even if the house is destroyed. Returning home is the only possibility we are thinking of and we don’t want to think of any other possibility.”

Her husband Nabil had different thoughts.

“Even if we go back to our houses, we have lost our sense of security,” he said, adding that some of his non-Christian neighbors and colleagues were responsible for the looting of abandoned Christian houses. Others joined ISIS.

“Will we ever return to normal?”

There is much more. Read the full speech at this link.

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