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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
23 February 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Msgr. Kozar describes visiting the “unreached” in the northern half of India.
(video: CNEWA)


This Friday, we travel with Msgr. John E. Kozar to India, where with words and pictures he recounts a visit he made a few years ago. As he described it in the pages of ONE:

By way of a little background, CNEWA’s work in India focuses on assisting and accompanying the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches. These churches trace their heritage to the time of St. Thomas the Apostle. As mission-minded churches, its members reach out all over the world, dynamically serving as proclaimers and evangelizers.

But we have concentrated much of our support for these churches in the south — specifically in the state of Kerala. Thanks be to God, the churches in Kerala have flourished; many young men are drawn to the priesthood, and young women, though perhaps in slightly fewer numbers, are becoming sisters. Little by little, the church in southern India is becoming more and more self-sufficient.

But now the great call of these churches is to reach out to the real mission territory of India: The spiritual sons and daughters of the Apostle Thomas have undertaken a new missionary thrust to evangelize the “unreached” in the northern half of India.

Check out the video for an intimate glimpse at life in this corner of the world.



23 February 2018
Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service




Worshipers pray at St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Eskof, Iraq, which was damaged by ISIS militants. Iraqi Catholic leaders are urging Christians to remain steadfast in this Lenten season as they encounter challenges of ISIS’ legacy in their historic lands.
(photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)


Iraqi Catholic leaders are urging Christians to remain steadfast in this Lenten season as they encounter challenges of the ISIS’ legacy in their historic lands.

In a Lenten pastoral letter, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad urged Iraqi Christians to pursue unity with other Christians at this sacred time with “open hearts.”

“Many Christians today live in a crisis of faith and intellect because of the circumstances of war, instability, migration and the dominance of social media on the details of their daily lives,” he wrote in the letter, released on 21 February.

Many Chaldean Catholics lost their homes, properties and other possessions as they fled ISIS militants in the summer of 2014. Many are destitute, still living in camps for the internally displaced or sheltering abroad.

“However, these challenges should not discourage their determination and dissuade them from renewing their faith and deepening it, to witness of the Lord and his church,” the patriarch said, calling on Christians to “increase within themselves strength, confidence and enthusiasm.”

Patriarch Sako also repeated his appeal to fellow Iraqis from different religious backgrounds to recognize Christians as “part of the national fabric of Iraq and to stop their decline, for Christians have had a historical presence in this country, where they have a role and a message.”

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah estimates that between “40-45 percent of the Christians have returned to the some of their ancestral villages, particularly Qaraqosh.”

But he and other Catholic leaders told Catholic News Service there are many challenges to those Christians hoping to return home after the ISIS occupation and expulsion.

“There are problems with Bartella. Although Bartella is not far from Qaraqosh, the Shiites have been imposing themselves and using the force of Iran to take over territory, etc. The Christians of Bartella are very upset by this situation,” Archbishop Mirkis told CNS by phone.

“Maybe the Americans and Baghdad government are not very aware of what is happening in these villages,” he said.

“The Christians of Bartella tell me: ‘We cannot go back. We don’t dare to go back.’ So, these people are still sheltering in Irbil or in the camps for internally displaced people in Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah,” Archbishop Mirkis said of the northern Iraqi cities providing Christians with refuge.

“Qaraqosh is a little bit better. There, houses are being repaired. Now, the people are returning, but many houses are burned and are completely destroyed. These Christians cannot afford the prices to reconstruct the houses,” he said.

The archbishop and his dioceses have been helping displaced Christians with material and spiritual support as well as providing transportation for hundreds of their university students. Many Christian supporters claim Christian organizations have been the sole sponsors of reconstruction efforts, without help from the government.

But Father Emanuel Youkhana told CNS that so far, the planned “return, reconstruction and rebuilding movement did not meet our expectations and hopes. Thousands of families are hesitating and/or unable to return, and they are still displaced in Kurdistan.”

The archimandrite, a member of the Assyrian Church of the East, heads the Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, CAPNI. He spoke to CNS by phone and email.



23 February 2018
Greg Kandra




A rescue worker carries an injured girl amid destroyed buildings on 21 February in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)

Christian leader, bishop add to outcry over Syria (CNS) A Syrian Christian political leader has joined the growing ranks of international condemnation over violent attacks in Syria's northwestern area of Afrin and the Damascus enclave of Eastern Ghouta. “The struggle is no longer in the Syrian people’s hands, it is a regional and an international conflict with colliding interests. What is happening in Afrin and Ghouta is tragic,” Bassam Ishak told Catholic News Service by phone...

As conditions in Gaza worsen, Israel turns to the world for help (VOA) Four years ago, Israeli forces and Hamas militants fought a 50-day war. The fighting caused heavy damage to many buildings, roads and other infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Now, Israel fears a humanitarian disaster along its border. The country is appealing to the world to provide support for a series of development projects in Gaza...

U.S. Envoy visits Beirut, mediating Lebanon-Israel dispute (The Jerusalem Post) A senior US diplomat met Lebanon’s foreign minister on Wednesday in Beirut as part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve tensions between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters. Disputes over Israeli construction of the border wall, Lebanon’s start of oil and gas exploration at sea and the growing arsenal of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah have caused a spike in tensions between Lebanon and Israel, both friends of the United States that regard each other as enemies...

Ukraine, four years after the Maidan (Brookings Institute) Ukraine finds itself in a low-intensity but still very real war with Russia. Russia seized Crimea and has prosecuted a conflict in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. While President Petro Poroshenko and his governments have implemented serious reforms, the pace has slowed markedly. Many are particularly frustrated that more has not been done on the anti-corruption front...

Preserving Chaldean culture in Saskatoon (CTV) Efforts of a community in Saskatoon to preserve one of the oldest languages in human history are paying off. The number of people in the city of Chaldean descent and speaking the language of the same name has grown roughly 50 times in the last three decades, according to Kaesir Istifo, one of the members of Saskatoon’s Chaldean community. Istifo immigrated to Saskatoon from Baghdad following the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s. He refers to himself as Chaldean, a tribe from Iraq with roots dating back to 10th Century B.C. The group’s language, also called Chaldean, has roots in Aramaic. Aramaic was the language spoken during the time of Jesus Christ in what was then referred to as the Mesopotamia region...



22 February 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




A sister serves a midday meal in Ghaziabad, India. (photo: John Mathew)

This past Tuesday, on 20 February, the UN observed the World Day for Social Justice. In one sense the concept of justice and social justice as a basic human right is a relatively new phenomenon in world history. In the past, highly stratified societies with very inequitable sharing of resources were considered to be part of the natural order. The poor were poor, it was believed, because God did not create them nobles. On the other hand, a notion of social justice and the call to a more equitable sharing of resources are as old as the prophetic tradition. The three great monotheistic religions of the world — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — not only believe in the same one God, they all also have a strong prophetic tradition of justice. CNEWA’s roots are — as its name implies — in the Near East, the home of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Among the people we serve many are Christians and Muslims. The home of the prophetic call to justice is in a real sense also the home of CNEWA.

In the tradition of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah, or Law, stressed the importance of taking care of the weak and poor and offering them the same legal justice as the strong and powerful. In Leviticus, farmers are told not to harvest their entire fields and to leave whatever parts of their harvest fall to the ground, so that the poor may glean them (Lev. 19:9 ff.) The handicapped are not to be taken advantage of (19:14-15). The Bible demands that the administration of justice not be overawed by the wealthy and powerful (Exod. 22:20; Lev. 19:34). Repeatedly the bible demands justice for the widow, the orphan and the alien. In Deut. 10:17-18 it reads “...Yahweh your God is God of gods...it is he who sees justice done for the orphan and the widow, who loves the alien and gives him food and clothing.”

In the books of the prophets, justice is more central than worship. In Isaiah 1:11-17, God says, “...I am sick of holocausts of rams...bring me your worthless offerings no more....Take your evildoing out of my sight. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.” Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, God abhors usury, false weights and measure of merchants (Amos 8:4 ff.) and withholding wages from workers (Lev. 19:13).

In the New Testament Jesus describes his ministry as, among other things, “to bring good news to the poor” (Lk. 4:18). The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Lk. 16:19-31) describes the horrible fate of the rich man who ignored the poverty-stricken Lazarus. In Christ’s description of the Last Judgement (Mt. 25:31-46), the difference between the righteous and the damned is that the righteous fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, etc., etc. and the damned did not. Although often conveniently overlooked by the entitled and comfortable, social justice is the ultimate “orthodoxy” for the followers of Jesus in the Gospels.

A similar situation can be found in Islam. The Qur’an constantly calls for the protection of the poor and the weak. Zakat, donations for the poor, is one of the Pillars of Islam. Qur’an 4:136 reads “...be strict in observing justice and be witnesses for God, even though it be against yourselves or against parents or relatives...” One of the most extraordinary Surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an is Surah 80, ‘Abasa. It begins “He {Muhammad} frowned (‘abasa) and turned away....” It relates the story of a blind man approaching the Prophet who is speaking/preaching to some people. God rebukes the Prophet for ignoring the handicapped man and paying attention to “him who is disdainfully indifferent.” For Muslims, even the Holy Prophet of Islam is not absolved from caring for the poor, outcast and handicapped and is rebuked when he fails in this.

For many of us — and perhaps, at times, all of us — social justice is something quite secondary, little more than a decoration on the Christmas tree of our lives of virtue. That is really quite amazing. While there are things in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Qur’an that are esoteric, hard to understand or appear only once, the demands of social justice are found boldly woven throughout all our sacred texts like a shockingly bright pattern on a fabric — a pattern than cannot be overlooked. There is neither reason nor excuse to ignore it.

The UN is a relatively recent organization. World Day for Social Justice is even more recent.

But the call for social justice is — literally — as old as the Bible.



22 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Youngsters at Our Lady’s Catholic School in Dubbo, Ethiopia, show the youthful promise of Catholic education in a country where Catholics are a small minority. Read more about how Catholic schools are helping students like these go to the Head of the Class in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)




22 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Destroyed buildings are seen in a time lapse image at night on 18 February in the rebel-held city of Daraa, Syria. (photo: CNS/Alaa Al-Faqir, Reuters)

Calls for cease-fire in Syria, as violence escalates (CBS News) Sweden and Kuwait called for a vote Thursday on a U.N. resolution ordering a 30-day cease-fire throughout Syria to enable delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of people in acute need, and the evacuation of the critically sick and wounded...

Fire guts Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon (Andalou Agency) An early-morning fire destroyed several tents in a Syrian refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Tuesday. The fire broke out inside the 23-tent camp in al-Wazzani camp, destroying 15 tents, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter in the area. He said a heater had caused the blaze. No injuries were reported in the fire, which has left around 60 people homeless...

Report: Ukraine ‘desperately concerned’ about possible attack on gas pipeline (CNBC) Ukraine is worried that one of Europe’s most contentious energy developments will leave its gas pipeline vulnerable to a Russian attack, according to a leading political risk expert...

Has proof of the existence of the prophet Isaiah been found in Jerusalem? (Haaretz) The impression of Prophet Isaiah’s personal seal may have been found in Jerusalem. Excavations in the Ophel — an area just below the Temple Mount — found the seal mark, called a bulla, in undisturbed Iron Age remains, just 3 meters (10 feet) from where the bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah was found in 2015...

How volunteers made Lent special for a poor man in India (The Better India) In Thrissur, Kerala, a volunteer group led by social activist Devassy Chittilappilly under the moniker ‘Karuna’ has been regularly engaging in various philanthropic deeds for some time now. During Lent, the group involves itself in helping the homeless and people living on streets by giving them food and a bath. Nevertheless, nothing prepared them for the shock when they saw an old man, in a miserable state, eating food waste at a garbage dump yard at Velappaya, a village in the Thrissur district...

Pope Francis: The importance of native languages (Vatican News) Today is International Mother Language Day. Promoted by UNESCO, this day seeks to promote lingual and cultural diversity, as well as the ability to speak more than one language. Pope Francis supports the use of one’s mother tongue. “The mother tongue is a bastion against ideological and cultural colonization, and against a dominant way of thinking, which destroys diversity,” he said during his homily at Santa Marta in November 2017. For Pope Francis, not being able to speak in one’s native language is a way of erasing history in order to undermine freedom of thought. Each dialect, Pope Francis says, “has historical roots”...



21 February 2018
CNEWA staff




The video above, from 2017, offers a look at some of the young residents of the Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Lebanon. (video: CNEWA)

CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, passed along this update on the Dbayeh Refugee Camp, which was established in the early 1950’s to shelter Palestinian refugees expelled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. CNEWA has been supporting an educational program at the camp, which is now helping Syrian children whose educational level is very low and who may need remedial studies and therapy in order to adapt and fit it.

Sometimes, the challenges can be quite daunting. Without help, the children could be doomed to become drop-outs. That could have been the fate for one young girl in particular — but Michel wanted us to know her story and how CNEWA’s support for this program had made a profound difference:

Sajida el Saleh is a 9-year-old Muslim Syrian girl from Aleppo who fled the war zone and found refuge in a small rented house on the edge of Dbayeh Camp. She lives with her parents and two brothers.

Following her admission in the second-grade remedial program for Syrian students in October 2016, Sajida was referred for a speech therapy assessment; the assessment showed written language difficulties. She had a weak ability to read and write, due to a variety of problems, including an inability to make the connection between certain letters and certain sounds.

Throughout the academic year 2016-2017, Sajida followed speech therapy sessions to help her improve her pre-reading and writing skills. Through follow-ups, it was discovered that Sajida also had hearing difficulties. Her parents were advised to consult a specialist. The diagnosis showed hearing malfunction that required a hearing aid.

By the end of the school year, Sajida, started hearing properly. With the assistance of a speech therapist, she showed major improvements. She is now able to read syllables and words and form simple sentences easily.

The specialist follow-up, along with the skills improvement in reading and writing, enabled her to take the end-of-year exams and pass her class. Sajida was admitted to public school in the third grade.

The remedial program, with the psycho-social support, gave Sajida the opportunity to grow on many levels — physically, intellectually and socially.

There are now about 520 families living in the Dbayeh Refugee Camp, a growing number are Syrians with young children.



21 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Soldiers gesture as the car carrying Lebanese President Michel Aoun leaves after his 20 February visit to Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, Iraq. Aoun arrived in Iraq on his first visit to the county since he was elected in 2016. The church was attacked by Islam militants during an evening Mass in 2010, killing at least 58 people and wounding dozens.
(photo: CNS/Ali Abbas, EPA)




21 February 2018
Greg Kandra




A young man lies on a stretcher at a at a clinic on 20 February after bombings in the besieged town of Ghouta, Syria. At least 194 people were among those killed by Syrian regime shelling and airstrikes on the besieged Damascus suburb. Another 900 have been injured.
(photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)


Syrian forces target rebel-held Eastern Ghouta (Vatican News) Air strikes, rocket fire and long-range artillery pounded several areas across Eastern Ghouta, leaving scores of people dead. The powerful and coordinated barrage targeted the last major opposition pocket near the capital and constitutes the most intense period of bombing seen in years. Rami Abdul Rahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Vatican News that 194 people have been killed and 900 injured since Sunday...

Ukraine marks anniversary of Maidan bloodshed (Radio Free Europe) With paper angels, flowers, and fond words for the dead, Ukraine has marked the anniversary of a bloody crackdown on the Euromaidan protests that drove a Moscow-friendly president from power four years ago. The annual commemorations honor protesters who were killed in clashes with security forces in Kyiv on 20 February 2014 — a group of victims many Ukrainians call the Heavenly Hundred...

Muslims and Copts begin building a church together in Egypt (Egypt Independent) Muslims and Copts in the Kom al-Loufi Village of Samalut city in Minya have started to build a church by the name of “the virgin and the martyr Abanoub” after clashes erupted between Muslims and Copts that led to the damage of the old church building in April 2017. The village inhabitants stressed the unity, cooperation, and love of the nation during the challenges facing the country at the moment...

U.S. condemns crackdown in Ethiopia (AP) Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism in North Africa, is again on the brink of chaos following the outbreak of large-scale protests that erupted last week. The demonstrations prompted the government to declare a state of emergency and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to submit his resignation amid the worst political crisis the country has faced in years...

Workers may have discovered ancient altar in Church of Holy Sepulchre (Aleteia) Greek workers and Israeli researchers may have discovered an ancient altar in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And it has been “hiding in plain sight” for centuries. “Leaning against a wall in a shadowy corner of Jerusalem’s [Church of the] Holy Sepulchre, the big blank rock the size of a dining-room table invited scribbling by passing pilgrims and tourists,” said Smithsonian magazine, noting that the piece was known to tourists as the “graffiti stone”...



20 February 2018
CNEWA staff




The Snehalayam Boys Home in Kerala bears a sign, expressing gratitude to CNEWA.
(photo: CNEWA)


Last week, we received this inspiring news from M.L. Thomas, our regional director in India, with an update on a project CNEWA has supported in Kerala:

In 2017, CNEWA supported a project for renovating a so-called “smart class room” — equipped with the latest computer technology — for the Snehalayam Boys Home at the remote village of Pattikkad in the district of Thrissur in Kerala.

This home is run by the Malabar Missionary Brothers, which was founded in 1948. Now there are 90 poor children and young people there, between ages of 5 and 20. The brothers are engaged in a variety of important ministries in the area: teaching catechism, taking care of orphan boys, caring for older men who are destitute, training and teaching mentally handicapped children, providing vocational training for the unemployed youth, offering health care in rural areas, among others.

The majority of the boys at the home come from broken families; some are orphans and a few are street boys. Their parents are daily wage workers and struggling hard to maintain the families. They are unable to provide sufficient nutritious food to the children and are not capable of meeting the expenses for education. Hence, they send the children to orphanages for a chance at a better life.

The home now has a “smart class room,” with the latest computer technology, to help teach the students. (photo: CNEWA)

At the home, there are 12 computers for training the children. The smart class room is equipped with these computers and an LED projector. One of the students, Amal Jose, with training and support from the Boys Home, is learning to excel in learning English and using computers. His parents are separated. For the last five years Amal Jose is staying in this Boys Home.

The home also provides the students opportunities for higher education, such as courses in hotel management and accounting. Some of our students are attending these vocational higher degree courses.

All these facilities receive assistance from CNEWA. We are grateful to all our donors for the generous contributions to the Snehalayam Boys Home!

Below is a brief video showing some of the home. It includes a personal message of gratitude from one of the boys.








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