Current Issue
Autumn, 2016
Volume 42, Number 3
2 June 2016
Greg Kandra

Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu helps administer a church-funded school food program for children who lack the means for daily lunch. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

If you want to find a real CNEWA hero, consider looking in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, where a woman named Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu oversees nearly 1,000 children at the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School.

A member of the Daughters of Charity, Sister Ayelech has a special mission to “serve the poorest of the poor.” This includes making regular visits to 30 poor families, whose children attend the school. Some of the parents have tested positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

She told us some of her story several months ago:

My work brings me satisfaction. The children continue studying, and some of them go to university. But it is first the will of God that is most important to me. God is very good to me. He made so many things happen to me in my life, so many things that I couldn’t have done by myself. God is always with me. Every day, he is with me.

I think God has given me the gift to lead. But I have struggled to lead, to reach this place. I have made a lot of mistakes, many times. Every day is a struggle. Every day we are trying to change. We are trying to live for God. We fail on a daily basis. We argue with the sisters. We argue with people in the work place. In spite of all this, forgiveness is there — we forgive each other. We are trying to do our work for God. We try to help each other in our spiritual life and in community life, too.

Her commitment and love for the people she serves is heroic — and, we think, even holy.

To help support Sister Ayelech, visit this link. And please keep her and her people in your prayers.

Tags: Ethiopia Children Sisters Catholic education

2 June 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Iraqi Assyro-Chaldean refugees celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Mar Elias Church in Beirut. To learn more about Iraqi Christians in Lebanon and the challenges they face, read In Limbo in Lebanon from the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)

Tags: Lebanon Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Chaldean Church

2 June 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Armenian priests attend a meeting of the German parliament on 2 June, as legislators approve a resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman government as a genocide. (photo: Mehmet Kaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

German parliament declares Armenian deaths a genocide, angering Turkey (New York Times) The German Parliament overwhelmingly adopted a symbolic but fraught resolution on Thursday declaring the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 a genocide, escalating tensions with Turkey at a diplomatically delicate juncture. The Turkish government angrily denounced the vote as “null and void” and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recalled the ambassador in Germany back to Ankara for consultations…

India: Traffickers force 300,000 children to beg in streets (Vatican Radio) At least 300,000 children across India are drugged, beaten and forced to beg every day, in what has become a multi-million rupee industry controlled by human trafficking cartels, say police and trafficking experts…

As fighting surges again in Ukraine, an environmental disaster looms (Washington Post) Land mines and sniper fire, tank traps and unexploded shells have shut down Highway 20, the main artery into eastern Ukraine’s separatist stronghold of Donetsk. But despite the upheavals caused by two years of war, ordinary life along the route has struggled on. As violence surges again, that could change…

Ancient Gaza monastery gets second life as children’s library (Al Monitor) Al Khodr Shrine, which is also known as the Khodr Monastery and St. Hilarius Monastery, is situated just 200 yards south of the Deir al Balah city center. The director general of antiquities and cultural heritage at the Ministry of Tourism, Jamal Abu Rayda, told Al Monitor that archaeological studies confirmed that at the bottom of this site is situated the monastery of St. Hilarius, which dates back to the third century and is considered one of the oldest that still exists in Palestine. The monastery is now being restored by the Iwan Center for Architecture Heritage of the Islamic University and the Riwaq Center for Architectural Conservation and turned into a library for the children of the neighborhood…

First seed library sprouts in Palestine (Al Jazeera) A search for rare seeds may seem like something out of a fairytale, but for Vivien Sansour it is a quest to bring back what years of Israeli occupation practices and climate change have pushed to the brink of extinction. The agronomist from Beit Jala, a town near Bethlehem, is collecting seed varieties handed down by Palestinian farmers for generations — an effort that will culminate with a seed library which she hopes will sprout into others across the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip…

Tags: India Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Germany

1 June 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Ivlita Kuchaidze enjoys the simple pleasure of reading in a warm environment at the Caritas Georgia Harmony Day Center. To learn more about the life of this 93-year-old World War II battlefield nurse, read A Survivor Speaks, from the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)

Tags: Georgia Caring for the Elderly

1 June 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Refugees wait in a queue for food at a makeshift camp at the Jardin d'Eole in Paris on 28 May. (photo: Nnoman Cadoret/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Refugee camp to be built in Paris (Vatican Radio) Preparations are underway in the French capital of Paris to construct a new refugee camp. The mayor has expressed concern about the mounting death toll among people fleeing war and poverty. She made the remarks after officials said at least 1,000 migrants perished in the Mediterranean…

Bishops condemn attacks on Africans in India (UCA News) Bishops in India have condemned a series of attacks on Africans in New Delhi, terming it as a disturbing trend and against Indian culture. “Africans and for that matter nationals of any country are our esteemed guests. Treat them as per our culture,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said in a press statement…

New apostolic vicar of Harar in Ethiopia consecrated (Vatican Radio) Bishop Angelo Pagano was last Sunday consecrated as the apostolic vicar of Harar in Ethiopia. The colorful ceremony took place at Diredawa St. Augustine Catholic Church. The new bishop was welcomed to his vicariate on 28 May at the Diredawa airport by the archbishop of Addis Ababa, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M., and Archbishop Luigi Bianco, the apostolic nuncio to Ethiopia. Also present were other Catholic bishops of Ethiopia, the mayor of Diredawa, students and hundreds of Catholics as well as people of good will…

A century ago, Syrians took in Armenians; now, in Armenia, a Syrian family rebuilds (Forbes) One month ago, one more Syrian restaurant opened, this one in Yerevan, Armenia. “I love Armenia. It’s my job, I think, to love it. I want to live here. I don’t want to go anywhere else,” says Shaghig Rastkelenian, who fled to Armenia about four years ago from Aleppo with her family. “My mom is professional cook. She cooks Arabic food and Syrian food, and everybody knows her,” she says. As the Syrian refugee diaspora spreads across the world, restaurants are one of the first signs of their integration in new communities. Syrians are known throughout the Middle East for their craft skills, which include cooking…

In Egyptian village, attack on Christian grandmother fuels anger (AINA) Souad Thabet’s house no longer has a door. Inside, its walls are blackened with soot and a television lies shattered on the floor. The remains of a red nightgown stand out among the ashes. Thabet, 70, describes being dragged outside by Muslim villagers and stripped naked in the dirt roads of Alkarm, the Egyptian village where she spent most of her adult life. Her crime? Her son, a married Christian, was rumored to have had an affair with a married Muslim woman. The woman has since denied the affair took place on national television. President Abdel Fattah al Sisi has denounced the Alkarm attack, which underlines that Copts remain vulnerable three years after he took power and pledged to unite the country following years of political turmoil…

Conference of European Churches discusses women and children’s rights (Fides) Women and children figure prominently as refugees in mass movements of people in recent months, and their rights will be at the forefront of a meeting organized in Greece by the Conference of European Churches in Thessaloniki, from 31 May to 4 June…

Tags: India Egypt Ethiopia Armenia France

31 May 2016
Greg Kandra

Pope Pius XI, CNEWA’s founder, was born 159 years ago today. (photo: CNEWA)

The man we know as Pope Pius XI — Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti — was born on this date, 31 May, in 1857.

From 1919 to 1921, he served as papal nuncio to Poland, where he gained extensive firsthand knowledge of the Eastern churches —knowledge that would later help guide one of his most important moves: establishing the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in 1926.

Elected pope in 1922, he witnessed some pivotal moments of 20th century history, including the rise of Mussolini, the signing of the Lateran Treaty (which created an independent Vatican City state) and the growing threat of totalitarianism. Encyclopedia Britannica notes:

Pius XI, a student of Hebrew, was responsible for the three major encyclicals against the totalitarian systems that challenged Christian principles: “Non Abbiamo Bisogno” (1931; [We Do Not Need to Acquaint You]) against the abuses of Fascist Italy; “Mit Brennender Sorge” (1937; “With Deep Anxiety”) against Nazi Germany, and “Divini Redemptoris” (1937; “Divine Redeemer”) against the ends of atheistic communism. Under his leadership the Vatican challenged the extreme nationalism of Action Français in France and the anti-Semitism of the Reverend Coughlin in the United States.

But for us at CNEWA, a critical decision he made 90 years ago would leave an indelible mark and launch a new era:

On 13 March, Pope Pius XI merged The Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Catholic Union into a new pontifical association with Father Walsh as its President. Catholic Near East Welfare Association was retained as the name of this new pontifical organization. The Board of Trustees agreed to continue to use the original civil charter.

The new CNEWA incorporated the purposes of both groups, including emergency relief in Asia Minor, the Balkans, Greece and Russia; religious welfare; education and the needs of the Eastern Catholic churches.

On 15 September 1926, the American Catholic bishops formally endorsed the new organization at their meeting in Washington, D.C., and named CNEWA as the sole instrumentality authorized to solicit funds for Catholic interests in Russia and the Near East.

His commitment to missions was total:

Surpassing his predecessors in support of overseas missions, he required every religious order to engage actively in this work, with the result that missionaries doubled their number during his pontificate. Most significant was his consecration of the first Chinese bishops, in 1926. He equally encouraged historians and liturgiologists to study Eastern Christianity, inaugurating the work of codifying Eastern canon law. In 1930 he witnessed the reunion of the Syro-Melankarese Christians (of southern India) with Rome.

Pope Pius XI died in 1939, but one of his enduring legacies remains the ongoing work of CNEWA around the world. He helped clarify and define the Catholic Church’s teaching on social justice, and made concern for one another a cornerstone of that teaching. As he wrote in his encyclical “Divini Redemptoris”: “It is the essence of social justice to demand from each individual all that is necessary for the common good.”

May he rest in peace.

Tags: CNEWA Pope

31 May 2016
CNEWA staff

Students at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv walk through an academic building. To learn more about this remarkable school and the impact it is having, read Where Change Is on the Curriculum in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Petro Zadorozhnyy)

Tags: Ukraine Education Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Catholic education

31 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

A child celebrates safe landfall at the port of Cagliari, Sardinia, on 26 May, two days after being rescued near the Libyan coasts. (photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. children’s agency ‘alarmed’ at deaths in the Mediterranean (U.N. News Center) The United Nations Children’s Fund has expressed alarm at the number of migrant and refugee deaths in the past week in the Mediterranean, many of whom were believed to be unaccompanied minors. In anticipation of a major summer upswing of child migrants using the dangerous crossing between Libya and Italy UNICEF will shortly begin an operation with the Italian Government and partners to provide protection support, the agency said yesterday in a press release…

Pope Francis asks for prayers for Syrian children (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis urged the faithful to join in prayer on Wednesday, 1 June, International Children’s Day, with a special thought for the children in Syria. Speaking after the Angelus Prayer in St. Peter’s Square the pope greeted all the deacons present in Rome for their jubilee, thanking them for being present for the occasion but also for their presence in the church…

Iraqi bishop: ISIS drove us to unity (AINA) Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf Daoud, the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Mosul, visited France and Belgium from 19 to 24 May and gave a series of lectures on the situation of Assyro-Chaldeans in Iraq. He and his congregation were forced into exile to Iraq’s northern region since ISIS attacked and took over Mosul in 2014. The archbishop expressed disappointment in the international community’s response, and hope for solidarity among the region’s Christian communities. “This tragedy made us walk towards unity,” he said. “Arriving in Mosul, ISIS’s men chased the Christians indiscriminately. So why should we make differences? In Erbil, I am constantly in contact with Bishop Petros Moshe, Syriac Catholic archbishop of Mosul, and Bishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil. We work together on all subjects…”

Syria cease-fire strengthens Al Qaeda branch (AINA) Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria has recruited thousands of fighters, including teenagers, and taken territory from government forces in a successful offensive in the north, illustrating how the cease-fire put in place by Russia and the United States to weaken the militants has in many ways backfired. The branch, known as Al Nusra Front, has churned out a flood of videos — slickly produced in the style of its rival, ISIS — that show off its recruitment drive…

How the war on Syria left its mark on Lebanon’s economy (Al Monitor) The economic and social impact of the Syrian crisis — now entering its sixth year — is one of the most critical issues facing Lebanon. The total number of displaced Syrians who took refuge in Lebanon since the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011 stands at 1.5 million — meaning one in four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. This has strained the public financial capacities and the provision of environmental services in Lebanon. The crisis is also expected to increase rampant poverty among the Lebanese and widen the income inequality gap…

Christians, Muslims, Yazidis and Mandaeans praying for peace (Chaldean Patriarchade of Babylon) At the invitation of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, a get-together event was held on Monday evening, 30 May, to pray for peace in Iraq, Syria and the region, at the Virgin Mary Church in Baghdad. Christian clergy of various churches participated in this event, in addition to Muslims — both Shiites and Sunnis — and representatives of Mandaean and Yazidi communities. Several ambassadors, and members of the Iraqi parliament also joined the large crowd of faithful in prayers…

Bishop to donate kidney to poor, lower-caste Hindu in India (Crux) Catholic news from India often pivots these days on anti-Christian bias, even outright persecution from the majority Hindu population. The way one Catholic bishop has chosen to put mercy into practice, however, is a reminder that interreligious tension and conflict is hardly the only narrative. Syro-Malabar Catholic Bishop Mar Jacob Muricken, 52, an auxiliary in the Palai diocese in Kerala, received the necessary clearances from a governmental medical college in Kottayam to take one of his healthy kidneys and have it transplanted into a 30-year-old poor and lower-caste Hindu man from Kottakal…

Tags: Syria Iraq India Interreligious United Nations

27 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

An Afar family sits at home in northern Ethiopia. In the Afar region, the drought has been deadly to livestock, a critical source of income and sustenance for residents. To learn more about the impact of Ethiopia’s drought and how church agencies have been responding, read about When Rain Fails in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Tags: Ethiopia Hunger Drought

27 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrians gather their belongings as they leave a refugee camp due to ISIS attacks in the Azaz district of Aleppo, on 27 May. (photo: Ali Demir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.N. relief chief calls for more assistance for Syrians (U.N. News Center) Following a visit to Hatay in southern Turkey, the top United Nations humanitarian official has called for greater assistance for Syrians in need, both inside the country and across the region, warning that the humanitarian situation for millions of people remains “unrelentingly distressing and dire…”

Syria’s ruined cities will need decades, not years, to recover (AINA) While diplomats wrangle in Geneva over a nascent, faltering peace process kick-started by the United Nations, other organizations are scratching their heads over the huge challenge of reconstructing and rebuilding a country that has been torn apart. In 2014, a U.N. study suggested that it would take Syria at least three decades to recover. The World Bank is trying to come to grips with the nuts and bolts of the destruction. Using satellite imagery of six Syrian cities, the organization came up with assessments for the damage wrought on these urban centers. A conservative estimate on the losses in public infrastructure sits at $6 billion…

Civilians trapped in Iraqi city of Falluja are starving (Vatican Radio) Around 50,000 civilians trapped in the Iraqi city of Fallujah face starvation as government forces continue their assault to retake it from ISIS militants. The grim assessment came from the Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO that has been delivering aid to those civilians who managed to escape from the outlying areas of Fallujah before the assault commenced…

Returning home to Iraq’s city of Ramadi means facing hidden dangers (Los Angeles Times) After more than a year away from the war-ravaged Iraqi city of Ramadi, Osama Ismail felt it was safe enough to return to check on the condition of his abandoned home. The government, after all, had declared the city “liberated” from Islamic State extremists. Ismail, a father of four, walked through the house last month surveying the damage, eventually reaching the bedroom he shared with his wife. They had left clothes and other items behind in their rush to leave the city and he was curious to see what remained. Then, an explosion. Family members said the blast threw the 42-year-old teacher against a wall and killed him instantly. The house, local officials said, had been booby-trapped with an improvised explosive device by Islamic State fighters…

‘Disaster in the making’: The many failures of the E.U.-Turkey refugee deal (Der Spiegel) The internment of Syrian refugees raises new doubts over the controversial refugee agreement between Europe and Turkey. Indeed, it appears that the deal is on the verge of falling apart, only two months after the program began…

Coptic Orthodox Church confirms mob attack on Christians in Minya village (Ahram Online) The Coptic Orthodox Coptic Church said in a statement on Wednesday that a mob attacked Christian homes in a village in Minya last Friday, and stripped an older Christian woman of her clothes during the assault…

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Turkey United Nations

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