7 July 2015
A Franciscan priest, the Rev. Dhiya Azziz, was kidnapped from Syria over the weekend.
(photo: Vatican Radio)
This morning, two Catholic priests from Homs told me of the abduction of the Rev. Dhiya Azziz. He is a member of the Custody of the Holy Land, an apostolate of the Franciscans charged with the care of Catholics in the Holy Land since the visit of St. Francis to the region in the Middle Ages. The kidnapping took place on Saturday 4 July, while he was in his parish of Yacubiyeh, a village in Syria’s Idlib province, more than 56 miles northeast of Latakia.
The Franciscans are asking for prayers, and released this communique yesterday:
“Some militants of an unknown armed brigade, perhaps connected with Jahbat al-Nusra, came to take him away for a brief interview with the Emir of the place. From that moment we do not have any more news and we are unable to trace his where abouts at the present moment...We are doing everything possible to locate the place of his detention and secure his release. We entrust him to the prayers of all.”
The whole area is under the control of different Islamic armed brigades, including Jabhat al-Nusra — which is affiliated with al Qaeda and is considered the most powerful and predominant force. They also mentioned that another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Francois Murad, was abducted and killed in the same region in June 2013.
Father Dhiya’s kidnapping is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian religious since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
In 2013, militants kidnapped the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, S.J., in Raqqa, a group of Greek Orthodox nuns in Qalamoun to the west of Homs, and the Greek and Syriac Orthodox bishops of Aleppo. The nuns were eventually returned to their convent unharmed, but Father Paolo and the bishops remain missing.
In 2014, a Dutch priest the Rev. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., was murdered in Homs. The priest served in Syria for more than four decades. He was involved in interreligious dialogue and had built a spirituality center that housed children with mental disabilities.
The same year, another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Hanna Jallouf, was kidnapped together with as many as 20 people from his parish in Qunaya, a neighboring village of Yacubiyeh — the two are less than a mile apart.
In February, the Islamic State kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria.
And in May, the Rev. Jacques Mourad was kidnapped at gunpoint from a monastery southeast of Homs.
7 July 2015
Iraqi refugees line up to receive food and supplies in Beirut. (photo: CNEWA)
Iraqi refugees came to Lebanon because they had no other choice. They were uprooted from what was normal and familiar — from schools, homes and lands. More importantly, they have all witnessed the horror of war. They fled in large numbers from the bombing and destruction that ravaged their homeland, seeking refuge in Lebanon and neighboring countries. So far, an estimated 1.8 million Iraqis, fleeing ISIS, have been forced to leave their homes in fear for their lives.
As a result, a new wave of around 1,500 Iraqi Christian refugee families — including about 500 children who were pulled up from their schools and were at risk of being a lost generation — entered Lebanon in 2014, settling in densely populated areas of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
From their first day in Lebanon, the Syriac Catholic Church has mobilized resources and staff to offer emergency assistance to these refugee families. So far, 1,080 Christian Iraqi refugee families have been screened, identified and supported through different local and international donors. They are provided with food and non food items, shelter, and other basic needs.
Iraqi children are able continue their education in a school run by the Syriac Catholic Church
in Lebanon. (photo: CNEWA)
To rescue the lost generation who already have lost one year of their school life, the Rev. Firas Dardar, from the Syriac Catholic Church, opened a school to educate the Iraqi children. He hired two floors in an old private five-story building school which provides education to Lebanese students in Nabaa, a densely populated Beirut suburb. Monday through Thursday, they are taught the Iraqi curriculum which Father Dardar brought from Iraq. It includes classes in English, Arabic, science, mathematics, civic education, sports and drawing activities. Fridays are specialized for catechetical studies.
CNEWA’s Beirut office, thanks to its donors, is supporting the local church with emergency aid: mattresses, blankets, food and non-food packages to these Iraqi families. In an attempt to save the future of these children and preserve their Christian faith and hope, CNEWA will support their catechetical studies and education.
Despite the huge efforts exerted by the Syriac Catholic church to support these needy families, much is still needed. Many times, they still fall short of funds. To support CNEWA’s important work in Lebanon, and to aid these families, visit this giving page.
And please keep all our brothers and sisters in the Middle East in your prayers.
7 July 2015
In this image from 2011, Father Roman Prokopets hears confessions at the Druzhba Camp for orphaned children and youth in the village of Svirzh, Ukraine. To learn more about the life of a priest in Ukraine, read about men “Answering the Call” in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
(photo: Petro Didula)
7 July 2015
Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Erbil. (photo: Getty Images/AFP/Safin Hamed)
Burying Christians under ISIS guns (Daily Beast) Christians whose roots go back many centuries in Iraq are risking everything today, braving snipers and mortar fire, to bring their dead back from asylum abroad and bury them in villages previously abandoned to ISIS. Many of those making these hasty pilgrimages fear that otherwise the age of Christians in Mesopotamia is coming to an end. Their dead, they say, may be their only lasting legacy…
For some Palestinians in East Jerusalem, a pragmatic ‘Israelification’ (Christian Science Monitor) In recent years, a modest shift has begun as a growing number of Palestinians are embracing elements of Israel, including hundreds of applicants for citizenship every year when once there were almost none. Palestinians are also increasingly moving into Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, while others are studying Hebrew to attend Israeli colleges and universities…
Hungary votes to for border fence against migrant influx (Vatican Radio) Hungary has passed new legislation to tighten asylum laws which include the erection of a four-meter-high fence along the Serbian border to keep out the tens of thousands of migrants trying to enter the country. The parliament approved amendments on Monday to tighten the country’s asylum system to deal with the influx of migrants flooding the region…
Lebanon to poll Christians on choice for president (Al Monitor) Ever since the presidential vacuum started on 25 May 2014, Lebanese Christian political circles seem to be striving to find an innovative solution to the crisis. Their latest effort is a joint political-ecclesiastical proposal to poll Lebanon’s Christian communities on the Maronite candidate that would garner the largest proportion of supporters among Christians…
ISIS executes over 3,000 in first year of caliphate (Christian Post) In the first year of its self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate, ISIS jihadists executed over 3,027 people, among them being at least 86 women and 76 children, as reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Some analysts have suggested that such executions are part of an “apocalypse ideology.” The report, released earlier this week, looks back at the atrocities the jihadists have committed throughout the past year, since it first invaded Iraq back in June 2014…
Syrian Christians face new threat from rebel alliance (NPR) Christians living through the war in Syria face a new threat as an Islamist rebel alliance surges in the country’s north. Today, amid the heaviest fighting for months, the Islamist alliance launched an attempt to seize the key city of Aleppo from government forces. With backing from U.S. allies, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, this rebel coalition fights both the Syrian regime and ISIS. But the coalition has extremists in its own ranks who have mistreated Christians and forced them out of their homes…
6 July 2015
Tags: Syria Lebanon Iraqi Christians Hungary ISIS
Sister Belaynesh Walteji supervises students at the Atse Tekleghiorghis Catholic School
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Name: Sister Belaynesh Walteji
Order: Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul
Facility: Atse Tekleghiorghis Catholic School
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
They’re poor. They’re hungry. And if not for their daily school lunch, many students at Atse Tekleghiorghis Catholic School would eat little or nothing at all.
Sister Belaynesh Walteji is a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul. Each school day, in one of the poorest slums in Ethiopia’s capital city, she and her staff offer free education and a hot lunch to 681 impoverished students.
“Many kids are physically weak, thin and underweight,” Sister Belaynesh explains. “They’re restless and inattentive due to hunger. They don’t have enough to eat at home.”
She says the meals help kids grow physically and be focused mentally. Few ever miss class. That’s not surprising, since each also receives an added treat of nutrient-rich biscuits, accompanied by tea and milk. “For kids,” she points out, “the stomach issue is more sensitive than lesson issues!”
But it’s the lessons that offer hope. Sister Belaynesh is especially proud of a 13 year-old boy named Eshetu. “He lost his mother at age 4,” she says. “His elderly father lives in a shelter run by a charity organization. I found a poor family with whom he can share a shelter. I personally contribute some money for his supper and breakfast.”
Has her support worked? Ask young Eshetu. “This past semester I stood fifth among 37 children in grade seven,” he says, adding that his hobby is “science creativity. I produced a winnowing machine for the family I live with. My school is everything to me — home, hope and stepping stone towards my future. Sister Belaynesh rescued me. Otherwise I would have ended on the street.”
Such caring costs money. As Sister Belaynesh says, “I come from one of the poorest and remotest parts of Ethiopia. I do not have external connections and cannot look for resources from abroad. Local costs of living are high and teachers’ salaries increasing.”
She admits that without help from Catholic Near East Welfare Association and its donors, many more children would go hungry. As one of the 25 Ethiopian Catholic schools with feeding programs supported by CNEWA, Sister Belaynesh’s school is a place where learning and nutrition come together. And where young lives change for the better.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.
6 July 2015
In this image from 2005, Syro-Malankara parishioners in India process to their new village church. To learn more about this Eastern Catholic church, read the profile in the July 2005
edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
6 July 2015
Kurdish fighters stand watch during clashes with ISIS on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Hassake on 30 June. (photo: Uygar Onder Simsek/AFP/Getty Images)
US-led airstrikes target ISIS in Syria, Iraq (Voice of America) The U.S.-led coalition carried out 38 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq over a 24-hour period Saturday into Sunday with nearly half of the sorties conducted around the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa. Fighting in northern Syria has alarmed neighboring Turkey, which has vowed retaliation if it feels threatened...
Coptic church distributes food to Muslims for Ramadan (Fides) The Coptic Orthodox Church of Saints Anthony and Paul, in the Egyptian district of Nasser oversees the weekly distribution of food parcels to hundreds of poor Muslim families during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month particularly characterized by the practice of fasting combined with prayer...
Gaza grieves for its child casualties (The Guardian) The walls of the office of Salim Abu Rous, headmaster of the Doha boys’ secondary school in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, are decorated with medals and trophies. He has photo albums of the boys in football teams and other clubs. Six pupils from the Doha school were killed in the war, more than from any other school in Gaza. In total, more than 550 Palestinian children died during the conflict. Across Gaza, schools lost pupils and teachers, and thousands were injured...
Ukraine launches Western-style police force (Reuters) The first 2,000 recruits of a new Ukrainian police force passed out in the capital Kiev at the weekend, intended by the government as a visible sign of its commitment to shake off a deep-rooted culture of corruption in public institutions. Trained by U.S. and Canadian forces, and given less militaristic uniforms and the name ‘Politsiya’ to mark a break with the old, Soviet-style ‘Militsiya,’ the young officers pledged to forsake the bribes associated with their job. President Petro Poroshenko told the force, which will first patrol big towns and then be deployed across the country, that it was their task not only to uphold the law but “also to make people believe that reforms are inevitable”...
2 July 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Muslim Copts
This image from 2002 shows Armenak Kaiserian in his shoe shop in Bourj Hammoud.
(photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 2002, we took readers to a corner of Lebanon with a distinct Armenian flavor:
After the near annihilation of the Armenian community by the Turks between 1895 and 1915 (an estimated 1.5 million Armenians perished), survivors found refuge in French-protected Lebanon and Syria. Most of these refugees settled in Beirut, particularly in the suburb of Bourj Hammoud. Those who settled in rural Lebanon, notably in the village of Anjar in the Bekaa valley, arrived more than two decades later.
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. Yet inflation and regional economic challenges have affected even this affluent quarter:
“I have difficulty earning a living today; there is no work here,” says Armenak Kaiserian, who has run a shoe repair shop in Bourj Hammoud for 40 years.
In the narrow streets of Bourj Hammoud, traffic is so dense even the most intrepid drivers hesitate to venture there. Casting a rather somber pall on the area, five-story buildings border the narrow streets; drying clothes, hanging on lines along balconies, compete with webs of electric and telephone cable. Although it is hard to imagine, everyone in Bourj Hammoud can distinguish his or her own wires among the mess.
Read more about “Little Armenia” in the July-August 2002 edition of the magazine.
2 July 2015
Smoke rises over Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula after militants launched attacks on Egyptian military checkpoints on 1 July. (photo: Anadolu Agency)
Copts flee northern Sinai (Al Monitor) In the northern region of the Sinai peninsula, battles are raging between the Egyptian army and radical Islamist militias, displacing the local Coptic population…
Syrian forces retake another major district (FARS News) The Syrian army continued to make more gains in its battle against ISIS in the northeastern city of Hassake, recapturing another major district. According to Syrian media outlets, the army troops inflicted massive losses on the terrorists and managed to retake the Ghoweiran neighborhood, which is located south of Hassake…
Syria refugee child labor a ‘growing, dangerous problem’ (Daily Star Lebanon) A growing number of Syrian refugee children are being pushed into the labor market to support their families and exploited, often in dangerous conditions, said a report released Thursday…
Syria’s Kurds warn Turkey against military move (Daily Star Lebanon) Syria’s main Kurdish party warned Turkey Wednesday that any military intervention would threaten international peace and said the country’s main Kurdish militia is ready to face any “aggression.” The statement by the Democratic Union Party comes as Turkish media is abuzz with talk of a military intervention to push ISIS back from the Turkish border — a move that would also outflank any Kurdish attempt to create a state along Turkey’s southern frontier…
Pope Francis urges faithful to pray for Greece (Catholic Herald) Pope Francis has called on the faithful to unite in prayer for Greece. In a statement released by the Holy See yesterday, the pope expressed his closeness to the Greek people as they face increasing economic and social turbulence. The statement referred to the “economic and social situation of the country as worrying” and expressed concern for “the many families gravely beset by such a complex and keenly felt human and social crisis…”
1 July 2015
Tags: Syria Egypt War Turkey Greece
This CNEWA-supported dispensary in Erbil, Iraq, helps meet the medical needs of
displaced Iraqis. (photo: CNEWA)
After the ISIS attack on Mosul and the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq — displacing thousands of Christians and Yazidis, forcing them into camps all over the Kurdish area of Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Zakho — there was an urgent need to intervene and provide medical support and attention to these people.
In September, just three weeks after the displacement, the situation was miserable. CNEWA representatives who visited the region were shocked at what they saw, especially when it came to the medical care of the refugees. The only existing dispensary was a tent placed on the side of a street, with families waiting in line outside under the sun to get their medicine or their injections. This terrible situation moved CNEWA to install a prefab dispensary in Erbil, which has been successful through the support of its local partners.
The Dohuk dispensary consists of ten rooms, including a waiting room, two quick checkup rooms, two doctors’ rooms, a lab, two small operating rooms, a pharmacy and a storage. All are connected by a middle corridor. The building is a prefab steel structure. The rooms are properly air conditioned and furnished.
A dentist cares for a patient in the new Erbil dispensary. (photo: CNEWA)
In early May, the dispensary received around 55 patients per day in addition to about 20 chronic patients; this adds up to about 420 patients per week, and that number is expected to increase to around 700 patients per week. The dispensary is under the supervision of a committee representing all communities — Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox. It is managed and operated by the Rev. Aphrem Philippos, representing the committee; two sisters from the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine, who have great experience in similar projects; and a doctor.
On the first week of May, the dispensary got the blessing of both Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and Msgr. John Kozar, who visited the facility as part of a pastoral visit.
Cardinal Sandri greets the staff at the dispensary. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees Relief