4 April 2018
Eritrean Catholic refugees Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, look at olive branches 23 March at Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
A refugee’s life is one of constant uncertainty and confusion.
Yet in their faith the refugees have found strength and refuge, said Father Rafic Nahra, priest of the St. James Vicariate, which ministers to the asylum seekers and migrant worker community in Israel.
Late 2 April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended a U.N. deal that would have sent thousands of asylum seekers in Israel to Western countries rather than to Africa. The deal had been announced hours earlier, but its reversal did not surprise the refugees.
“The refugees are fearful but, unfortunately, they are used it,” Father Nahra said. “They have already left their country, crossed the Sinai, crossed a lot of dangers and faced a lot of problems. Uncertainty has become part of their life.”
Sitting in the courtyard of the Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in late March, two Catholic Eritrean refugees, Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, said they do not feel certain of their future.
“If our country was good, nobody would want to leave. But because it is a dictatorship, everybody wants to leave,” said Kflom, who has been in Israel for six years. “Of course, I am worried they might send me (to Rwanda).”
Both men fled during compulsory military service in Eritrea, which kept them away from their families for years. In the army, they said, people become like slaves to the commanders. Some men are forced to serve in the army until their 60s. There is no time limit to the service; people cannot decide when to leave.
Neither had intended to come to Israel. Kflom was kidnapped by members of the Rashaida Bedouin tribe, who took him and his friends from Sudan into the Sinai Desert, where he was brutally tortured for four months until his family was able to pay $19,000 in extortion money. He was released at the border with Israel.
During his captivity, his childhood prayers sustained him, he said.
Now, early every Saturday morning, Kflom walks with his wife and young son to the pastoral center for a traditional three-hour Eritrean Mass.
“I pray to God to help me,” he said. “Life is very difficult. You can’t look forward to your future. You don’t have permission to live here. You can't organize your life here. I am always under a lot of stress.”
Netanyahu has said he wants to deport 20,000 refugees — whom he maintains are mainly economic migrants — by the year 2020. If his original deportation plan is implemented, the deportation process will require single adult males to choose between a financial incentive for “voluntary deportation” to a third African country or indefinite incarceration.
Israel is not alone in struggling with a deportation policy. Countries such as Australia, Germany and Greece have implemented similar deportation policies, including financial incentives for refugees to leave or face incarceration. Following the October 2016 European Union declaration of “safe zones” in Afghanistan, other countries began to deport Afghan refugees. France will be debating a controversial migrant deportation bill in April.
“If you are married or not married, it won’t make a difference,” said Daniel, whose wife will give birth to their first child in mid-April. “They say they won’t deport someone who is married, but they are making a lot of pressure so you will go to another place.”
Without hesitating, Daniel and Kflom said they would choose incarceration over deportation to Africa.
“To sit in jail is nothing for me. I have been through worse,” said Daniel. “You do not know what an African country is. There is no democracy there, no one to look after us. Someone can take you and kill you and no one will know. It would be easier to return us to our country. So why are they sending us to Rwanda? It shows you that they know there is a problem with our country, and our lives are in danger if they send us back there.”
African refugees began reaching Israel via the Sinai Desert in 2005, and by 2013, there were 60,000 African refugees in Israel. As the numbers of refugees grew, the
government began taking measures to prevent or discourage them from reaching Israel. In 2013, Israel completed work on a border fence with Egypt and, since last year, the flow of refugees stopped.
Today an estimated 38,000 adult refugees remain in Israel, the large majority from Eritrea and about 20 percent from Sudan; smaller percentages come from other African countries.
According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, of the more than 13,700 applications for asylum submitted by Africans, only 10 people have been given refugee status in Israel. Some 200 Sudanese refugees from Darfur also have been granted humanitarian status.
Father Michael Gropse, director of the Tel Aviv pastoral center, said when the refugees come to weekly Mass, their prayers are in earnest.
“I can really feel their prayer of hope,” he said. “They are always asking for God’s guidance. But in their daily life, they are afraid, sometimes, to go out and be caught by the immigration police. But still their faith and hope is strong, and every Saturday I see it when they attend Mass.”
“In Eritrea, I grew up in the Catholic Church,” said Daniel, kicking around a soccer ball with a friend’s young son as he waited for an afternoon prayer study to begin at the pastoral center. “The moment I come here, I forget about everything until I leave, then reality hits me again.”
4 April 2018
A broken Marian statue is shown inside the grotto of Bihabandh Catholic Church in Odisha state after unidentified people attacked it on 1 April. (photo: provided by Rourkela Diocese)
Syrian regime claims last rebel group leaving Ghouta (CNN) Members of the last remaining and most powerful rebel group in the besieged Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus are leaving, according to Syrian state media. But an activist countered the government’s narrative, saying the evacuees were humanitarian cases — not all members of the group. Twenty buses carrying 1,065 Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families left Douma for Al-Wafideen Crossing on Monday. They headed to Jarablus in northern Syria, the Syrian Arab News Agency said...
Churches attacked in India’s Odisha state (UCANews.com) Vandals have destroyed two Marian statues and set fire to the sacristy and storeroom of a parish in Rourkela Diocese of India’s Odisha state. Sundergarh district administration has deployed armed police in the area because of the religious sensitivity of the two separate incidents on 1 April, said police inspector Bijay Kumar Singh...
Lebanon unemployment at alarming levels due to refugees, weak economy (Albawaba.com) President Michel Aoun said Thursday that the grave economic situation, presence of Syrian refugees and the reluctance of Lebanese to take low-paid jobs has caused unemployment to soar to 46 percent. Aoun made the remarks during a meeting with a delegation from the Lebanese Press Syndicate at Baabda’s presidential palace...
Jordan helping refugee children overcome trauma through football (The Jordan Times) HRH Prince Ali has highlighted Jordan’s efforts to heal traumatized Syrian refugee children through football. In a recent interview with CNN, conducted by Becky Anderson, a British journalist and anchor at CNN, Prince Ali explained that football is not only a sport, but a universal language in itself. Anderson visited the Zaatari refugee camp, during the Laureates and Leaders For Children summit, where she spoke to Prince Ali about how football is helping some children deal with the trauma of Syria’s civil war...
Indian government withdraws rules to punish journalists for ‘fake news’ (Vatican News) The round-about turn from Narendra Modi’s government came following an outcry from journalists and opposition politicians who said the measure was to stifle press freedom, especially in the run-up to next year’s general elections. Late Monday, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had announced the government would withdraw its accreditation to journalists who peddled “fake news.” The withdrawal of accreditation would be either for a limited time or permanently, depending on the frequency of infringements...
Easter message of Christian leaders in Jerusalem (Vatican News) Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem have issued an Easter message offering their prayers for those suffering across the world for various reasons, that they may find hope, peace and life in the Cross of Christ. Thirteen patriarchs and heads of various Christian denominations in Jerusalem released a joint message on Friday, as violence erupted between Palestinians and Israeli security forces along the Israeli-Gaza border...
800 Copts travel to Jerusalem for Easter (Egypt Today) Five Air Sinai flights carrying 800 Coptic pilgrims headed to Jerusalem on Monday to celebrate Easter, officials from the Cairo International Airport told Egypt Today on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Egypt has built an air bridge to transport elder Coptic Christians, who are allowed to perform pilgrimage in Jerusalem during the Holy Week, the week before Easter...
3 April 2018
Masresha Tilahun displays the cross he has been carving by hand in woodworking class in the Addis Alem prison in Ethiopia. (photo: Don Duncan)
Journalist Don Duncan turns a spotlight on a remarkable prison ministry in Ethiopia in the March edition of ONE.
The assignment offered some challenges he didn’t expect, as he reports here.
Even before I made the journey to Ethiopia, I’d been warned that this would be a tricky assignment.
Through the connections of a CNEWA beneficiary, ONE had the rare and fortunate opportunity to gain access to two of Ethiopia’s prisons so as to see and understand the lives, needs and spirituality of an oft-overlooked population: the incarcerated.
I have only ever been in one prison before in my life, a medium-security facility in upstate New York which I visited with a journalism school classmate who was working with me on a crime story.
I had no idea what a prison in Ethiopia would be like but I proceeded with a certain sense of caution and even nervousness. I had been warned to be very careful about what kinds of questions I asked. Incarceration is quite politically charged and a hot issue in Ethiopia. A simple question — one that would go unnoticed in a regular context — could wreck havoc in the context of the prison, either among the prisoners or between the prison administration and the Addis Ababa Archdiocese Prison Chaplaincy, the organization that had helped to get us access to the prison.
Thus, I entered Addis Alem prison not with the thoughts of which questions I would ask the prisoners but rather which questions I would NOT ask them, under any circumstances.
I was to stay away from politics, for sure, but also stay away from any discussion of human rights; any questions that might convey an implied criticism of how the prison is run; and any questions as to the personal histories of the inmates: their homes, family lives, their specific crimes and the length of their sentences.
These restrictions, as sensible and well-meaning as they were, made for a very interesting exercise in interviewing.
I suddenly realized how spoiled I am in my usual interview practice, in the “outside world,” where the freedom of the press means that no question is off-limits. Now, I had to eventually write a colorful and insightful article based on material I was gathering under very restricted conditions. I was shot through by a low-burning anxiety that the story would be a washout, that it would fall flat on its face because of these restrictions.
But to my great surprise, the opposite happened. I’d been briefed that the prison was home to people from places near and far in Ethiopia and that their sentences varied, for crimes of gravity spanning from theft to serial murder. But when I found myself face-to-face with a prisoner, there was no way — because of the restrictions I was working under — that I could know or find out the specifics of his life or crimes. This meant that I could only focus on the here-and-now, his name and age, what his likes and dislikes were, what he was feeling in the present moment and what his spiritual life is like.
As I proceeded to interview inmates on these restricted terms, their humanity shone forth. I realized that, had I known their crimes or sentences, my rapport with them or my thinking about them would be shaded by the gravity of their past actions. Without that knowledge, I encountered everyone in the moment and I could fully perceive and appreciate their beauty and humanity as souls.
When I left the prison after a few hours, I realized how fortunate I was to have had the experience of visiting it. It was a striking manifestation of Jesus’s words in Matthew (5:43-44): “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
It is a beautiful thought — but it is often, in practice, a tall order.
Beyond prison, in the “outside world” that we live in, where there are far fewer restrictions on what we know about each other, how capable are we of perceiving and loving the soul of the sinner in spite of his/her sin?
It is rarely very easy to overcome one’s own biases, prejudices and judgments. And yet, Addis Alem prison caused me to be struck again by how truly indispensable a part of living a good life it is to be able to see beyond the sin, in spite of it, to project love.
Read Don Duncan’s report, ‘For I Was in Prison’ in the current edition of ONE.
3 April 2018
Seminarians stand outside a church in Lviv, Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the new edition of ONE, we focus on the formation of priests, religious sisters and lay people in the world CNEWA serves. Our president Msgr. John E. Kozar writes about it in the magazine:
For decades, CNEWA’s donors have made a powerful impact on seminarians — helping to educate and train future priests. Most of the Eastern Catholic seminaries where CNEWA serves are supported in varying degrees thanks to the generosity of our donors. For some, our support makes a tremendous difference. It may mean feeding hungry seminarians, or just keeping the doors open. For others, this support means improving the faculty, hiring more teachers or making modest renovations to the facilities. But for all, it represents an investment in the good health and future of the church.
Religious women, meanwhile, receive financial assistance from CNEWA from their first days in the novitiate. Although the subsidy may be modest, it represents a commitment of faith and hope — a sign of solidarity with these women as they formally embark on their journey to serve Christ as vowed religious.
And then there is the great and growing resource of the laity. The faith formation of the laity is often overlooked, with more attention given to those who are preparing for the priesthood or religious life. But it is vitally important to support the lay faithful, especially in places where it is not always possible to commission a priest or religious. CNEWA continues to place great importance on lay catechetical programs and adult faith enrichment and mission-sending initiatives that challenge the faithful to share their faith with those who have never been exposed to it.
Read more in the March 2018 edition of ONE. And hear more from Msgr. Kozar in the video below.
3 April 2018
Pope Francis greets the crowd during his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 1 April.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Netanyahu cancels plan to resettle African asylum seekers (Haaretz) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that Israel is cancelling a deal with the United Nations on the resettling of African asylum seekers. The deal was annnounced by Netanyahu himself on Monday afternoon. The deal was set to stop the forced deportation to Africa from Israel of asylum seekers, resettle 16,000 of them in Israel and the same number in Western countries. Netanyahu hours later decided to suspend the deal, even though he has already signed it, following pressure from within his party and from coalition members...
Iraq vows to secure Sinjar border region (Vatican News) The Iraqi prime minister said that any attempt by ‘foreign fighters’ to launch cross-border attacks on Turkey will be prevented by the Iraqi military. Haider Al Abadi told Turkish officials he had ordered the army to establish full control of the national frontier, especially near Sinjar — a region of Iraq which borders Turkey...
Christians in Iraq celebrate Easter (The Jerusalem Post) Thousands of Christians celebrated the Assyrian New Year in northern Iraq over the last several days. The celebrations coincided with Easter and brought together groups of Assyrian Christian activists who are seeking to rekindle the flame of their community from the ravages of ISIS. The Easter Mass at the Saint Mary’s Assyrian Church of the East was attended by hundreds of worshipers on March 31, the same day on which Juliana Taimoorazy, the founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and co-founder of a project called “Rise Nineveh,” led members of her group to Mosul to stand on the ruins of Nineveh...
War in Syria: Stories of survival and hope (National Geographic) “War arrives suddenly, uninvited, and brings with it a new normal,” writes Rania Abouzeid in No Turning Back, her poignant account of the Syrian conflict. Following the lives of a group of people from rebel-held areas over a period of five years, she brings home to us what television coverage rarely can: the human dimension of one of the most violent and complicated conflicts since World War II...
Pope’s Easter appeals include prayers for Syria, Gaza (CNS) In his Easter appeal for peace throughout the world, Pope Francis made special mention of the ongoing “carnage” in Syria and the recent violence along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, violence the Pope said had not spared “the defenseless...”
Pope’s Urbi et Orbi message: ‘The last word is the resurrection’ (Vatican News) Beginning his customary “Urbi et Orbi” message, Pope Francis greeted the faithful with “Jesus is risen from the dead!” He then said that Jesus used of the image of the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies to prophesy his own death and resurrection...
29 March 2018
Children play in the St. Rachel Center, a church institution that primarily serves the community of migrant workers in and around Jerusalem. CNEWA supports a variety of programs such as this, designed to help children around the world. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
I grew up in Tennessee and I’d often hear people say, “Blood is thicker than water.” But as someone who had been adopted, I sort of took on the mantra that “Love is also thicker than blood.”
Perhaps because I was adopted, my sense of family was always as widened — almost as though “family” was those I learned to love and those who loved and nurtured me, especially my church family.
Recently, CNEWA spoke with a donor who shared that wide sense of family in his support for our work and mission. Malcolm Donalson, professor emeritus of the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, had this to say about his own very personal experience with his family:
That CNEWA carries an outstanding credential, as a relief organization associated with the Holy Father, there can be no doubt. Certainly, to participate in CNEWA‘s programs for children in the Middle East is a blessing and can have long-lasting, positive consequences. In my own experience, assisting children in Ethiopia through CNEWA was an inspiration to take the further step and adopt children from overseas. When I lost one of my biological children in an auto accident, having considered adoption previously led to my active pursuit of an adoption from India. My acquaintance with other adoptive parents during the process easily lead to a second adoption, in this case, from China. Without question, the adoptions of my two daughters were some of the signal events of a lifetime. Now in their 20’s, they have been nothing but blessings to one another and to our family. I will forever be grateful to CNEWA for the opportunities it has afforded me, including the inspiration to adopt two of my children.
Our president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, often likes to refer to the work we do — whether that’s in the field overseas or here in the United States meeting with friends and supporters — as a matter of caring for our one “CNEWA family.” We’re grateful to consider Malcolm Donalson and his own as part of that big family.
If you’d like to support our children-in-need programs, and be a part of the CNEWA family, you can do so by visiting this link. Thank you!
29 March 2018
The Rev. Baby Karintholil of St. Thomas the Apostle Seminary in India prays with a family during a home visit. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
The new edition of ONE magazine includes a great glimpse at the formation of priests in India:
According to tradition, Christianity’s presence in India dates to the arrival of the Apostle Thomas in the first century in what is now Kerala. Today, in the hearts and minds of aspiring priests and many others throughout the state, visitors catch a glimpse of a church to come — one no less driven and hopeful than it was in those first days.
On a warm and humid February morning, a few men gather at St. Francis Theological College in Thellakom, a tiny village in Kerala. Seated in the library, the men — Brothers Abhilash Elamthuruthil, Nelson Verghese, Arun Elavumkal, Nishad Sebastian, Manoj Sebastian and Michael Thomas — discuss their call to serve the church as members of religious communities.
Brother Abhilash says he was inspired by reading a biography of St. Francis of Assisi while in secondary school.
“I then came in contact with Capuchin priests,” he says. “In our community, Capuchins have a good name because they lead a simple life. My parents were supportive about me joining them.”
Brother Nelson says his experience as an altar server in his parish in a village in northern Kerala helped him realize his calling.
“I believe I can work with people. That’s my charism. Capuchins aren’t limited to a parish. We work in the community, ready when required,” he says.
Read more. And check out the video below.
29 March 2018
Tags: India Priests Indian Catholics Seminarians
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, washes the feet of a clergyman on Holy Thursday 29 March in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. The ritual reflects the call to imitate Christ by serving one another. (photo: CNS/Corinna Kern, Reuters)
Easter in Jerusalem: No access for Gaza’s Christians (Al Jazeera) Israel has not issued permits for Gaza Palestinian Christians to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, church authorities have said. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said church authorities had applied for around 600 permits for Gaza Palestinian worshipers to travel, but had not received any…
Jews in Israel prepare for Passover (The Jerusalem Post) Jews in Israel on Thursday are making last-minute preparations for the Jewish holiday of Passover, due to begin Friday at sunset. In ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem residents burn all remnants of leavened food they have in their house, before the start of the holiday…
Lebanon is drowning in its own waste (BBC) This beach has already been cleaned up 16 times, and had been cleaned less than a week before I stepped onto it with Joslin Kehdy, the founder of Recycle Lebanon, which arranges the cleanups. Plastic is turning up on beaches around the world, but the difference in Lebanon is that rubbish is also being directly dumped into the sea and coastal landfills — spelling disaster for the shoreline’s ecosystem and public health…
Thousands evacuate Eastern Ghouta in Syria (NPR) Let’s turn now to Syria and to the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where thousands of people are bidding goodbye to their homes and boarding buses to leave, maybe for good — a part of a deal with the government to end the rebel presence in the area…
Turkey’s churches publish landmark book of common Christian doctrine (Sight Magazine) A joint commission of Turkey’s major Christian denominations has published an historic book of concise Christian doctrine, receiving the unprecedented endorsement of all the nation’s Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Syriac and Protestant churches. According to Armenian Bishop Sahak Masalyan, keynote speaker at the formal book launch in Istanbul of the English edition on 3 February, the “most spectacular aspect” of the book is in fact its first page of endorsements, which he declared “akin to a miracle.” “[This book] expresses the shared beliefs of the churches in Turkey. We approve its publication and recommend that it be widely read,” the statement says…
28 March 2018
Tags: Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Holy Land Christians
The March 2018 edition of ONE is now available online and is headed to your mailbox — just in time for Easter!
This edition focuses on formation, and there’s a rich collection of articles and images that help tell the story of how CNEWA is working to form faithful Christians in some of the most challenged and challenging parts of the world.
You will meet young Ethiopian sisters preparing to become leaders of their communities; you will hear from seminarians in India, describing their vocation journey; and you will be introduced to a a group of religious sisters in Jordan who are enriching the lives of the laity, many of whom are refugees.
Visit our digital edition to read more. And be sure to check out Msgr. Kozar’s preview below.
28 March 2018
Tags: ONE magazine
Sister Hanne Saad passes out sweets at an Iraqi youth group meeting in Jordan. Learn how the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary are Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan in the new edition of ONE.
(photo: Nader Daoud)