Current Issue
Summer, 2015
Volume 41, Number 2
2 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

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…”

Tags: Syria Egypt War Turkey Greece

1 July 2015
Michel Constantin

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

1 July 2015
Greg Kandra

Sister Ayelech, center, helps administer a church-funded school lunch program in Ethiopia. To learn more about her life and work, check out “A Letter from Ethiopia” in the Spring 2015
edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

1 July 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II visits St. George Monastery in Tartab on 28 June, where some displaced families from Hassake are currently seeking refuge. After praying together, the patriarch sat with the families and listened to their stories. (photo: Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II’s Facebook page)

Syriac Orthodox patriarch: ‘Stop arming our assassins’ (AINA) In recent days, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II has become involved in the trials and tribulations that are afflicting his people. His last pastoral mission, which has just come to an end, was in Qamishli, his home town. He went there to meet the thousands of new Christian refugees who fled attacks against the nearby urban center of Hassake. “We are not asking the West for military intervention to defend Christians and all others,” the patriarch said. “We are asking them to stop arming and supporting terrorist groups that are destroying our countries and massacring our people. If they want to help, they should support local governments, which need sufficient armies and forces to maintain security and defend respective populations against attacks. State institutions need to be strengthened and stabilized. Instead, what we see is their forced dismemberment being fuelled from the outside…”

Leaflet purportedly issued by ISIS threatens Jerusalem Christians (Haaretz) A leaflet threatening Christians purportedly issued by Islamic State was found in several locations around Jerusalem on Saturday. It is unclear if the leaflet, inscribed with the ISIS standard, was prepared by a group affiliated with the Islamist militants or whether it was a prank…

ISIS threatens to topple Hamas in Gaza (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS insurgents threatened Tuesday to turn the Gaza Strip into another of their Middle East fiefdoms, accusing Hamas, the organization that rules the Palestinian territory, of being insufficiently stringent about religious enforcement…

Indian Christians protest inaction in sister’s sexual assault case (Vatican Radio) On Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India organized a protest in the Indian capital, New Delhi, ?to protest atrocities committed against sisters and the laxity of police and authorities in bringing the perpetrators to justice…

Austria, Hungary, Serbia urge E.U. to help amid refugee crisis (Vatican Radio) Austria, Hungary and Serbia have urged the European Union to step up efforts to fight human smuggling through the Balkans and to not just focus on southern immigration routes as they face a massive influx of refugees…

Tags: India Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Eastern Europe Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II

30 June 2015
Michel Constantin

In this image from March, displaced Assyrians who fled the villages around Tel Tamer gather outside the Assyrian Church in Hassake as they wait for news about abductees kidnapped by ISIS. The city of Hassake is now under siege, and Christians there are seeking refuge
in nearby cities. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)

While I’m working in Erbil this week among the refugees in Kurdistan, I’m also monitoring developments in Hassake in northern Syria.

It’s estimated that that about 1,300 Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac families have been displaced from Hassake and have fled to the nearby city of Qamishli. Most of them are being housed in churches, schools, and monasteries; some are in the homes of host families. A number of other families have fled to the towns of Tel Tamer and Derbassiyeh.

In the wake of the latest attack by ISIS on Hassake city on Wednesday 24 June, the terrorist organization was able to gain control of the Al Nashwa neighborhood south of the city. Clashes are still ongoing between members of ISIS and government forces backed by militias.

It’s not accurate to say that the situation is similar to what happened in Mosul — mainly because the fighting is still going on and it is fierce; in Mosul, the area was occupied without any local resistance and without any real fighting.

In Hassake we have different parties involved in fighting ISIS. In addition to the Syrian regular army, the Kurdish fighters and local inhabitants of Sunni Arab nomad clans (al Shouaytat family) are also fighting on the side of the Syrian troops.

This Sunni clan is one of the largest in northern Syria. Last year, they lost about 925 young men. The men opposed ISIS occupying their region, and the militants executed them all within three days.

CNEWA has already rushed funds for the displaced Christians of the city, and is working with partners on the ground to respond to the growing needs of the families in flight.

To learn how you can help, click here.

30 June 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis chats with retired Pope Benedict XVI during a meeting at the Vatican on 30 June.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Francis stopped by to visit Benedict this morning. Details, from Vatican Radio:

Pope Francis on Tuesday morning visited Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his residence, the former Convent Mater Ecclesiae, in the Vatican, to greet him and wish him a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo in the Roman hills. The meeting lasted about half and hour.

The director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope Emeritus transferred to the summer retreat earlier today and will remain there for the next two weeks. He is scheduled to return on 14 July.

30 June 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from last autumn, Syrian Christians pray in a church in Qamishli, Syria. The city has now become a haven for thousands of families fleeing ISIS. (photo: Eddie Gerald/Getty Images)

Thousands of Syrians fleeing Hassakè (Fides) Fighting it taking place in the Syrian city of Hassakè, the largest town in the northeastern province of Jazira, after the jihadist militants of ISIS managed last Thursday, to enter some neighborhoods, causing the mass exodus of at least 120,000 people. Nearly 4,000 Christian families belonging to various churches were among the first to flee, and have largely taken refuge in the nearby urban area of Qamishli...

Fighting in Ukraine continues, despite ceasefire (The Guardian) “This doesn’t smell like peace to me,” said the Monk, sighing heavily in his makeshift control centre, a former chandelier shop in the basement of a block of flats, near the remains of what not long ago was Donetsk international airport. “There is shooting all the time,” he said. A 47-year-old former policeman from Donetsk whose real name is Oleg Gorlenko, he was given his nom de guerre, he said, because he never cheated on his wife. He has been fighting the Ukrainian army for more than a year and does not believe in the current ceasefire. “Often it’s hard to tell who is shooting at whom. Nobody knows what anyone else is doing. But it definitely isn’t a ceasefire”...

Pope Francis: Christians and Jews, brothers and friends (Vatican Radio) This week members of the International Council of Christians and Jews have been meeting to discuss “The 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate: The Past, Present and Future of the Christian-Jewish Relationship,” and it was on this theme that Pope Francis addressed the participants on Tuesday in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican...

Buddhists, Catholics call for closer cooperation on shared values (Vatican Radio) Buddhist and Catholic leaders from the United States have concluded a meeting in Rome calling for closer cooperation on key environmental and social justice initiatives. A joint statement at the end of the meeting, which was held from 23-27 June on the theme of “Suffering, Liberation and Fraternity,” said the dialogue “strengthened mutual understanding” about these issues and “deepened relationships as a basis for interreligious cooperation based on shared values”...

Tags: Syria Ukraine Jews

29 June 2015
Greg Kandra

We’re pleased and proud to report that CNEWA’s multimedia magazine ONE took home top honors at the Catholic Press Association awards dinner Friday. The magazine won 12 awards — including First Place for General Excellence — at the Catholic Media Conference in Buffalo, New York.

The panel of judges — comprised of journalism professors from Spring Hill College and Marquette University — wrote:

“First rate journalism. Consistently strong reporting and research, not simply quotes and descriptions. Any one of the news features in a given issue could easily have been a cover story. Great job of putting the reader in far-flung places. … Outstanding.

The editors of ONE raise the bar for every publication that wants to use strong photos in a large format magazine. Compelling photos dominate the spreads and pull a reader into the well crafted text of stories with a distinctive hook for each theme. The magazine also includes well edited news stories about the world of Catholic Near East [Welfare] Association.”

Here’s a complete list of ONE’s awards:

First Place:

General Excellence (Mission Magazine)

Best Feature Article, Mission Magazine
“Caste Aside” by Jose Kavi

Best Online Content Not Published in Print
“Iraq Updates” by Michel Constantin — e.g.:

Second Place

Best Single Photo Originating with Magazine or Newsletter, Black & White
“Sister with Iraqi Refugees” by Don Duncan

Best Feature Article, Mission Magazine
“Sister Wardeh’s World” by Amal Marcos

Individual Excellence: Graphic Artist/Designer
Paul Grillo

Third Place

Individual Excellence: Editor
J.D. Conor Mauro

Best Electronic Newsletter
“Discover ONE Online” by Staff

Best Online Content Not Published in Print
“Survivors of the Exodus” by Don Duncan

Honorable Mention

Best Photo Story Originating with a Magazine or Newsletter, Feature
“Reaching the Unreached in India” by John E. Kozar

Best Single Photo Originating with a Magazine or Newsletter, Color
“Siblings in Mai-Aini refugee camp” by Petterik Wiggers

Best Essay Originating with a Magazine or Newsletter, Mission Magazine
“Prayer and Protest” by Borys Gudziak

Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine

29 June 2015
Greg Kandra

Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, Ukraine, and Father Andriy Lehovych show Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, USCCB associate general secretary, the poor conditions of a Ukrainian seminary in Lviv on 22 June. The building was confiscated by the former Soviet regime, but only a small chapel in the structure was returned to Roman Catholic officials after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. Read more about the bishops’ visit to Ukraine at this link.
(photo: CNS/Markiian Lyseiko)

29 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis salutes Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon, a hierarch under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, at the end a mass for the investiture of the pallium on 29 June. (photo: AFP/Filippo Monteforte)

Pope welcomes Orthodox delegation for feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (Vatican Radio) On the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis urged 46 new metropolitan archbishops to hear the first apostles’ call to prayer, to faith and to witness. The pope’s words came during his homily at Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, which included several significant ecumenical initiatives…

Historic meeting of pope and Russian Orthodox head approaching (Reuters) A historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is “getting closer every day,” a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on Sunday. The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054…

Al Azhar and Vatican against terrorism (AsiaNews) There is a clear common vision between Al Azhar, the most prestigious and authoritative university in the Sunni world, and what the Vatican has been saying for over a year now — terrorism is a global challenge and must be addressed with an all-out campaign. However, it is increasingly clear that many countries prefer the distinctions of ambiguous alliances, focusing particularly on mere economic interests…

Christians organize ‘banquet of unity’ for Ramadan (Fides) Once again this year, according to custom, parishes and Christian families in Egypt have organized to celebrate with their Muslim neighbors who in these weeks observe, from dawn to dusk, the fast prescribed in the holy month of Ramadan…

Gaza-bound flotilla vessel seized by Israeli navy (Al Jazeera) Israel has boarded and taken over a vessel attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip, officials said. In a statement the Israeli army said on Monday that it did not use force in redirecting the main boat Marianne to the Israeli city of Ashdod…

Aleppo’s fuel prices quadruple (Al Monitor) The rebel-held parts of northern Syria that extend from Aleppo to Idlib and through Hama’s northern countryside are paralyzed; vehicular traffic is significantly reduced while fuel vendors are no longer present on the side of the roads. This was not the case before 31 May, when the Islamic State prevented the entry of fuel to rebel-controlled areas…

Anti-Christian Violence in Kerala (Fides) Christians in India continue to face attacks by Hindu extremist groups. As reported to Fides by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, a new episode of anti-Christian violence took place on 14 June in Kerala: A group of worshipers was attacked during a celebration in a Protestant church in the town of Attingal. As reported to Fides, over 200 militants of radical Hindu organizations entered the hall of worship shouting slogans like “Bharat Mathaki Jai” (”Hail Mother India”)…

Tags: India Pope Francis Middle East Ecumenism North Africa

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