29 March 2016
The Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., has worked to ease the suffering of those who remain in Homs, Syria, especially the children. (photo: John E. Kozar)
It is impossible to read about the work of the Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., a longtime partner of CNEWA, and not be moved. He has worked tirelessly in Syria to help that country’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, during a period of devastating war and upheaval. He wrote about it for ONE in 2013:
Starting February 2012, we realized the new status quo was likely to persist and we had to deal with this new reality, assisting the thousands of families living in temporary shelters in the relatively safe areas of the city. Our first priority was to take care of the hundreds of children who transformed the streets into their only playground and school, putting them at the mercy of the snipers, the shelling and the street violence. I still remember one of the children hiding behind a wall and calling me to take cover from a sniper. The children of Homs became experts in the art of escaping violence, but unfortunately many were not as lucky as I was on that day, and they paid with their lives on the streets.
Recent events have deeply affected the children, and we have noticed changes through our follow-ups at school. When they play, they transform wooden boxes into imitation weapons and play war games, reflecting the reality that the children are also internalizing the patterns of the war around them. Confronting this, we had to work hard to redirect the children to regular games, such as football and other sports.
Most children live in a state of denial. They refuse to acknowledge their fears. Meanwhile, mothers report their children cannot sleep alone in a separate bed anymore, which speaks to their trauma. Some others report cases that required the assistance of a speech therapist and a psychologist to overcome communication troubles.
At the same time, many youth have lost their jobs and their income, their great potential going to waste.
Thus, we decided to join both priorities in one project, aiming to take the children out of the streets and to provide jobs to the displaced youth.
His concluding thoughts:
As a priest, I would like to say our role as a church is to push people toward hope, which should never be abandoned — no matter how unbearable circumstances may seem.
Hope is what CNEWA has helped us provide. I believe it has been a lifeline from God — helping us and guiding our efforts to glorify the name of the Lord.
Read more in his Letter from Syria: Saving the Children of War from the Summer 2013 edition of ONE.
29 March 2016
Ivlita Kuchaidze, center, has survived famine, war and neglect over her 93 years in Georgia — but today lives in poverty, depending on charity to survive. Read her remarkable life story in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
29 March 2016
A general view taken on 27 March 2016 shows part of the remains of the Arc de Triomph (Triumph Arc) monument that was destroyed by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in October 2015 in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. (photo: Maher Al Mounes/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria retakes Palmyra from ISIS, finds ruins in better shape than expected (Slate) Syrian forces, backed by lots of Russian air strikes and Lebanese militias, managed to drive the Islamic State out of Palmyra on Sunday in what was seen as a big victory for President Bashar al-Assad. Retaking the ancient city that is known for its 2,000-year-old ruins ended a three-week push by the government to retake the UNESCO world heritage site that had been in the hands of ISIS since May...
Some West Bank Christians denied permits to enter Jerusalem (CNS) Nicola Sansour’s voice had a tinge of sadness as he recounted how his family planned to celebrate Easter this year. They planned to attend Holy Week services at Beit Jalla’s Annunciation Parish, purchase new clothes for the three small children, decorate eggs and attend the parish Easter egg hunt. His wife, Nivine, 34, would gather with his mother and sisters to make the traditional stuffed semolina “mamoul” Easter cookies. But this would be another year in which he and his family would not be able to celebrate the holiday with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher — a mere three miles from his home...
Pope washes feet of refugees on Holy Thursday (CNS) In a moving gesture of brotherhood and peace, Pope Francis washed the feet of several refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Copts. Gestures, like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, “speak louder than words,” he said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper 24 March. Coming together, he added, is another gesture meant to show a desire to live in peace as brothers and sisters despite people’s different cultural and religious backgrounds...
Kidnapped Indian priest’s whereabouts unknown (Vatican Radio) The Indian government said it was still actively trying to rescue a Salesian priest kidnapped in Yemen in early March amid unconfirmed reports that the missionary had been crucified on Good Friday...
Killing of lawyer heightens tensions between Ukraine and Russia (Vatican Radio) Tensions are rising between Kiev and Moscow as a Ukrainian lawyer of an alleged Russian special forces soldier was found dead after disappearing in the middle of the soldier’s trial...
24 March 2016
Elias Kayrouz, right, works to help refugees in Lebanon, many of whom are Muslim.
(photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
In 2014, writer Diane Handal caught up with one Lebanese Maronite villager in the Bekaa Valley who volunteers to help Syrian refugees, most of whom are Muslim.
Here is some of her interview with Elias Kayrouz:
ONE: What has your work as a volunteer working with Syrian refugees taught you?
EK: Through working with the Syrian refugees, I have come to know hardship. Some of them say: “You can’t help us; we need more.” That makes me feel down — even frustrated — but at the end of the day, you can only do so much.
ONE: What is your personal advice to others in helping Muslims, bridging the differences and exposing biases?
EK: I think to myself: When I lay my head on my pillow, what would make me feel more at peace — if I work against other people and feed into the negativity, or if I help other people? Which would help me sleep better at night?
I advise everyone to think deeply about this.
ONE: Do you have any words to share about your philosophy on how this sectarian conflict can be resolved?
EK: We are one. All we need is for people to see how Muslims and Christians treat each other as human beings.
Think about the animal kingdom: The strong animals kill the weak ones. If this is how human beings live, the strong keep killing the weak, there will be no progress — just the law of the jungle. For me, doing good differentiates me from the animals. Over time, maybe I will help other people because of my example.
I do good in order to differentiate myself from the animals. I am sorry to put it so simply, but it is the truth.
Read the full interview here.
24 March 2016
In this image from 22 March, visitors pray in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, at the Stone of Unction or Anointing, where it is believed that the body of Jesus was prepared for burial.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
24 March 2016
In this image from December, Nabil Jelil Daud and his wife, Semira Ayup Miha, both from Qaraqosh, Iraq, pose in front of their trailer at Ashti 2, a camp for internally displaced people in Erbil. Pope Francis has called on people to remember persecuted Christians in Iraq.
(photo: CNS/Oscar Durand)
Pope Francis: Do not forget persecuted Iraqi Christians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called on people to “not forget the tragedy of persecution” in a letter sent Iraq Christians in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The letter — along with a gift of liturgical vestments and monetary support — was brought to the city by a delegation of the Italian branch of Aid to the Church in Need, led by the Bishop of Carpi, Francesco Cavina...
Iraq says it has launched offensive to retake Mosul (AP) The Iraqi military backed by U.S.-led coalition aircraft on Thursday launched a long-awaited operation to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, a military spokesman said. In the push, Iraqi forces retook several villages on the outskirts of the town of Makhmour, east of Mosul, early in the morning on Thursday and hoisted the Iraqi flag there, according to the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool...
Catholic Eastern churches in India will not follow changes in foot-washing ritual (UCANIndia.in) The two Eastern Catholic churches in India have decided not to include women in the washing of the feet ceremony on Maundy Thursday this year...
Canadian archdiocese seeks to increase refugee sponsorships (Catholic Register) The Archdiocese of Toronto is asking Ottawa for the chance to sponsor another 4,000 refugees over the coming year, said Martin Mark, director of the refugee office. But the ambition of Toronto Catholics may be on a collision course with a hard cap on the number of private sponsorships Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is willing to process...
Food for Ethiopia’s hungry stuck on ships (Bloomberg) Food supplies flowing to Ethiopia during the country’s growing hunger crisis are meeting a major challenge: they can’t get to people fast enough. Ethiopia is doubling its wheat purchases after the harshest drought in half a century, causing bottlenecks of ships at the country’s main port in neighboring Djibouti. At least 10 vessels are waiting to unload about 450,000 metric tons of wheat, according to information on the port’s website and ship-tracking data on Bloomberg. One carrying 50,000 tons of wheat and sorghum is berthed...
Muslim restorers feel history at work in mosaics above Jesus’ burial site (CNS) It’s quiet and dark in the cavernous gallery above Jesus’ burial place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Raed Khalil and his small team of trained restorers have been patiently and methodically cleaning off centuries of soot and dirt from 39 ancient mosaics and two carved marble pieces, some of which may date back to the Byzantine period. All but one of the restorers are Muslim...
23 March 2016
Iraqi refugees Sabhan Jinan Maqadas Hasso and Lina Safaa Najeeb Alkes Asahq and their three children live now in Amman, Jordan.
(photo: GSR/Chris Herlinger)
Correspondent Chris Herlinger of the Global Sisters Report, a project of the National Catholic Reporter, spent three weeks reporting in Lebanon and Jordan on the refugee crisis. While there, he also spoke with some refugees about the significance of the Lenten and Easter season:
For many Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria now living in Jordan and Lebanon, this year’s Easter will be celebrated in the heart — but not necessarily on the table.
On a warm spring day in their bare apartment in the Al-Hashni neighborhood of Amman, Jordan, Sabhan Jinan Maqadas Hasso and Lina Safaa Najeeb Alkes Asahq smiled as they recalled past Easter feasts in their hometown of Mosul, Iraq, when the centerpiece of the meal was a lamb stuffed with meat and rice.
Best not to dwell on the past, said Hasso and Asahq. The family fled war-torn Mosul in early 2015 for Amman. As the young couple and their three young children await word of their official application for asylum and the possibility of new life in Europe or elsewhere, Easter will be a simple affair. Their celebration will be focused on religious observances at a nearby Syrian Catholic Church.
“The most important thing is to celebrate the Mass,” Asahq said. An Easter meal can await another year.
The immediate family is together — reason enough to give thanks. But any sense of stability in life is gone in the waiting and anxiety about their immigration status. “Inside there is no peace,” Hasso said. “It brings us sadness.”
A five-minute drive from Hasso and Asahq’s small walkup apartment is the home of Wilsin Salim Dawood Agla and Lina Behnam Majeed Hanusi and their young daughter. Like the other couple, they are Christians from Mosul, Iraq. Though new to Amman, they, like Asahq and Hasso, left Iraq because of threats from the so-called Islamic State group (ISIS), aerial bombardments and other acts of violence that made living an unwelcome test and endurance.
The mood is uncertain. Yet Hanusi in particular takes comfort from attending Mass daily and in the assurance, she said confidently, that God has not forgotten her family — and never will. “God will not abandon us,” Hanusi said. “God will not leave us. We are sure he will help us get out of this situation.”
...Sr. Nesreen Dababneh, a Jordanian nun who works at a Caritas clinic for refugees in the neighborhood, calls this kind of faith “touchable” because it is deeply felt, an example of incarnation.
“Easter is the most appropriate feast for this time of year,” she said, because it is Easter, not Christmas, that tries to make sense of the mystery of how to live amid pain. “It’s not a philosophy, it’s a reality,” said Dababneh, a psychologist by training who oversees a program to help refugees with trauma and other effects of war, flight and displacement.
...“This is his [Jesus’] land, and we are his people,” said Marlene Constantin, a project manager at Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission. As she reflects on this year’s Easter, she thinks it is essential for all Christians to embrace the essential teachings of Jesus. “These problems we face in the region are far from his experience and teaching,” Constantin said. “I think everything starts from that point.”
She worries about the “power of evil” and the “evil stance” she sees in the region now. The Christian community often feels under threat. And yet, she believes Easter’s quintessential message is that “even with these problems, Jesus will not abandon us.” So she continues to affirm her faith.
Read the full story.
23 March 2016
Four seminarians from Iraq fled the country for Lebanon after the invasion of ISIS, but chose a church in an Erbil refugee camp for their ordination as deacons.
(photo: CNA/courtesy Remi Momica)
A remarkable story of sacrifice and solidarity in the face of suffering, from CNA/EWTN:
After their seminary in Qaraqosh was dissolved following a brutal ISIS attack in 2014, four Iraqi seminarians chose not to give up after being forced to flee, but to continue their path to the priesthood.
Now, a year and a half after the attack that uprooted them from their homes, the four men will be ordained deacons, and chose a church in an Erbil refugee camp for the 19 March ceremony.
“People want hope, and when they see that there are four young people who will become deacons and after a few months they will be priests, that will give them hope and the power to stay,” Remi Marzina Momica told CNA 17 March.
Momica is one of the four seminarians from the Syriac Catholic Church of Mosul who will be ordained Saturday. All of them formerly studied at St. Ephraim’s seminary in the mainly Christian city of Qaraqosh, which is now under the control of ISIS.
The young seminarians were forced to flee the city when the militants attacked on 6 August 2014 driving out inhabitants who didn’t meet their demands to convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax or face death.
Before being forced to leave Qaraqosh, Momica and his sister were among the victims wounded in a 2010 bombing of buses transporting mainly Christian college students from the Plains of Nineveh to the University of Mosul, where they were enrolled in classes.
Since the Qaraqosh seminary has been closed following the 2014 attack, the four seminarians were sent to finish their studies at the Al-Sharfa Seminary in Harissa, Lebanon.
After completing their studies in Lebanon, the four Syriac Catholic rite seminarians returned to Iraq for their ordination.
Momica, whose family fled to Erbil, where they are still renting a small house, said he and the other three seminarians told their bishop that they specifically wanted their ordination to take place in a refugee camp, “because we are refugees.”
“We want our people to know, we want to tell everyone that there are young people who will become priests,” he said, explaining that the event will be a sign of hope for the Christians who are left.
Read the full story.
23 March 2016
Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia, greets community members in the garden of St. Joseph Catholic Cathedral in Abu Dhabi. (photo: Don Duncan)
In the Spring 2016 edition of ONE, reporter Don Duncan speaks with Bishop Paul Hinder in Abu Dhabi, who describes the challenges of the Catholic community in the Persian Gulf:
ONE: Do you find working in an Arab monarchical system different from your previous work experience in Switzerland and Rome?
Bishop Paul Hinder: I come from Switzerland, a democratic culture with participation of the people, a reliable legal system and so on. In a monarchy, you suddenly have to go to the court, to the palace or to the ruler or the ruler’s representative if you need things done. That is something very strange to my heart — or it was when I started. In the meantime, I had to learn how to work within that system. What I had to learn, and I am still learning, is that living here requires patience — patience in the relationship you cannot establish in five minutes; to be seen to take care of friendships without selling your soul; to show you understand the problems in building the nation. We have to keep in mind that within the last 50 years, they were catapulted from the Bedouin lifestyle to a highly modern and technologically advanced situation, so the locals are also adapting.
ONE: The Gulf States are becoming more tolerant of Christian migrants. The number of churches is increasing. And yet, Christian religious activity is limited to defined spaces. Does this present any problems?
PH: It’s complex. We have limited space and there’s simply too much to do. What we are doing is taking the five loaves and two fish and distributing them, knowing it’s not sufficient but hoping that it will somehow multiply on the ground. The parish priest of St. Mary’s in Dubai was here a few minutes ago. He said that during nine Masses before Christmas, they had 10,000-12,000 Filipinos every evening. How do you deal with so many people? You can’t take them all for confession. On one end, it’s a pastoral opportunity, but you cannot establish individual relationships. This is one of the challenges: to meet the needs, knowing we lack the means, the manpower and the infrastructure to answer them all.
ONE: Some Catholics have mentioned that the lack of space has led to an opportunity for other churches to proselytize and convert. Is this happening?
PH: Sometimes, not having enough space means some people may prefer to go where they can move more easily: the Pentecostal community, the Anglicans, the Orthodox. There is also proselytism. Here on the compound parking area, Pentecostals or the “born-again” Christians distribute leaflets and so on. Never would I have this idea; we accept converts if they come to us freely, but we do not actively propagate Catholicism among the Protestants or the Orthodox.
Read the full interview here.
23 March 2016
A man places flowers on a street memorial 23 March following bomb attacks in Brussels. Three nearly simultaneous attacks on 22 March claimed the lives of dozens and injured more than 200.
(photo: CNS/Francois Lenoir, Reuters)
Pope Francis appeals for condemnation of terrorism (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said it was with an “aching heart” that he followed the news of the terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday which killed at least 34 people and injured hundreds of others...
Syrian archbishop: Europe is reaping what has been sown in Syria and Iraq (Fides) In the massacres in Brussels, after those in Paris, “unfortunately innocent people reap what European powers have sown in Syria and Iraq in the last few years.” This is the bitter reflection regarding the tragic events of the Belgian capital from the Syrian Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo...
Syria troops reach outskirts of Palmyra (BBC) Syrian government forces are reported to have reached the outskirts of the ancient city of Palmyra, after driving back Islamic State (ISIS) militants. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that troops were now only 2km (1.2 miles) south of the Unesco World Heritage-listed ruins. ISIS militants seized the site and the adjoining modern town in May...
Church officials dismiss reports kidnapped priest will be crucified (CNS) Church officials dismissed rumors of social media messages that said an Indian Salesian priest kidnapped by suspected Islamic terrorists in Yemen 4 March is being tortured and will be crucified on Good Friday. “We have absolutely no information” on the Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, said the Rev. Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians’ Bangalore province, to which the kidnapped priest belongs. His remarks were reported by ucanews.com. Suspected Islamic terrorists took away the priest after they attacked a home for the elderly operated by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden and gunned down some 16 people, including four nuns...
Most water in Gaza is unfit to drink (Gulf News.com) Drinking water in the Gaza Strip does not meet international standards, the Palestinian National Authority said on Tuesday. The announcement, which corresponded with World Water Day, said that 97 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is not drinkable...