15 November 2016
Italian Cardinal-designate Mario Zenari has been nuncio to Syria since 2008. He will be one of 17 new cardinals consecrated by Pope Francis at a Vatican consistory on Saturday 19 November. The Vatican’s Secretary of State says this is a sign of the Pope’s closeness to the people of Syria.
(photo: CNS/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)
Humanitarian agencies call to protect civilians in Mosul (Vatican Radio) Innocent civilians in the embattled city of Mosul are being caught in the crossfire and isolated from the outside world. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Iraq is calling for greater protection of civilians trapped inside of Mosul. Since the military offensive began on 17 October to recapture city from ISIS, more than 50,000 people have fled. The number of displaced civilians has increased drastically over the past week, totaling more than 20,000 compared to just 6,000 the previous week...
Syria’s new cardinal a sign of Pope’s closeness (CNA) Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said that Francis’ decision to give a red hat to the longtime papal envoy to Syria is a sign of the Pope’s closeness to the Church and people on the ground amid the country’s dire situation...
Muslim attacks on Christians in Egypt on the rise (The Independent) Attacks against Christians have intensified as mistrust between Christians and Muslims deepens. Today, community leaders and human rights activists say the smallest of matters are setting off violence, often pitting neighbor against neighbor. At a time when President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s government is jailing its opponents and struggling to revive a sinking economy, the violence adds a new layer of populist frustration: Christians strongly supported Sissi’s rise, expecting him to protect them after the former army general led a coup that toppled the Islamists...
Jewish-Muslim alliance formed against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia (RNS) The day after president-elect Donald Trump appointed a man accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as his chief strategist, two of the nation’s largest Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups formed an unprecedented partnership to fight bigotry...
Turkey rebuilds mosques in Gaza (Andalou Agency) Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency Foundation has rebuilt nine mosques destroyed during Israel’s military onslaught on the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2014, an official statement said on Tuesday. The Religious Affairs Directorate announced in a statement the mosques in Gaza were now ready to be used by the Muslim community...
Icon reproduction enshrined in historic Chicago cathedral (OCA.org) His Grace, Bishop Paul and a number of clergy and faithful were present as a reproduction of the Wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God was enshrined in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago on Wednesday, 9 November 2016...
14 November 2016
At the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, different faiths work together in harmony. Here, a Muslim nurse administers a vaccination to a baby, as his mother and one of the Dominican sisters at the clinic look on. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)
Editor’s note. Journalist Peter Jesserer Smith of the National Catholic Register recently completed a visit to Jordan with other Christian writers and journalists, and saw first-hand some of the important work CNEWA’s donors are supporting. We recently featured his impressions of the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman. This week, he takes us to Jordan’s Mother of Mercy Clinic:
At CNEWA’s Mother of Mercy Clinic, Dominican sisters and Muslim medical professionals work side-by-side to bring health, healing and compassion to the poor and the refugee families seeking their out-patient services.
“People from far away come, because we respect everyone here,” said Sister Miriam, one of the three Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena who run the clinic. “They each feel treated like a person.”
Dr. Hanin Mohammed is one of two doctors working at the clinic, which provides general care, but specializes in pre-natal and post-natal care. She sees on average 75 to 100 patients a day in the space of six hours.
“We have a well-trained and experienced staff,” she said.
Zerqa is Jordan’s third largest city and has a population of more than one million people. Dr. Mohammed said she treats a number of respiratory infections and asthma from the industrial air pollution.
The Mother of Mercy Clinic is located near Zerqa’s Palestinian refugee camp, but it has also been serving the influx of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Dr. Mohammed said she has had to treat diseases once deemed eradicated, such as tuberculosis, as well as disabilities from “relative marriages,” and child malnutrition. The clinic administers approximately 370 vaccinations per month.
The one area where Dr. Mohammed believes the clinic needs more resources is psychological support — not just for refugees who have suffered the trauma of war, but also poor families afflicted by domestic violence.
“The psychological damage is severe,” she said. Dr. Mohammed noted that many children from Syria have difficulty sleeping due to what they suffered. Some of these victims may need “pharmacological treatments” that the clinic cannot yet afford.
CNEWA’s support has helped provide the clinic with equipment it needs to offer medical ultrasounds, plus new blood testing equipment that has helped doctors speed up diagnoses for diseases such as diabetes.
Ayah, a social worker at the clinic, said she has been working for two years with children, helping parents with social and family issues. Some of the children she works with come from families with marriage problems. Other children are refugees from Iraq or Syria whom she says are “very scared” at the sound of the smallest noise.
“This boy was so attached to his parents,” she said of one child, “he would not let go.”
Ayah said she sees up to six people a day, and sessions can last up to 90 minutes, if needed. The hardest cases for the social worker involve children with autism. But she said the real need in Zerqa is for specialists trained in helping children with special needs.
“Such a thing doesn’t exist here,” she noted.
Ayah added she enjoys working with the Dominican sisters at the clinic. She has been coming to the clinic since her mother was pregnant with her. Her work at the clinic, in a certain way, allows her to pass on the care her family received to other mothers and children.
The clinic is trying to improve women’s health. According to Sister Miriam, the clinic diagnoses about five cases a month of breast cancer — a rising phenomenon in Jordan. Women come in for breast cancer screening every six months. Some of the cases were caught because the women came in for prenatal care. The clinic also provides information on natural family planning as a healthy, non-toxic way to space their children.
Because health insurance is not available for Palestinian and Syrian refugees, the clinic is subsidized by CNEWA, thanks to its generous benefactors.
The cost per visit to Mother of Mercy Clinic is three dinars ($4.20 US), but the fee is waived for the destitute who cannot pay. Sister Miriam added that it saves these families a fortune — regular clinics cost upwards of 20 dinars ($28 US).
Prescription drugs are expensive in Jordan, but the clinic is able to offer medicine to families at a discount. Again, the clinic makes sure that everyone receives medicine regardless of their ability to pay. For families who are very poor, the sisters go even further.
“We treat them for free,” Sister Miriam said. At the Mother of Mercy Clinic, the Dominican sisters and the Muslim medical professionals who work with them, have their hearts united in one aim: “We are here to serve the human being.”
To support the invaluable work of the Mother of Mercy Clinic, visit this page.
And read more about the clinic in Finding Sanctuary in Jordan and Overwhelming Mercy in ONE magazine.
14 November 2016
Sister Mater Domini embraces Lolla, the youngest child at the St. Aloysius Gonzaga School in the village of King Mariut near Alexandria, Egypt. To learn more about this oasis of hope in Egypt, read City of Charity from the May 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
14 November 2016
The image above, from a 2015 BBC video, reportedly shows ISIS militants destroying some of the ruins of Nimrud in Iraq, near Mosul. Iraqi troops retook the town over the weekend.
Iraqi troops enter town where ancient ruins were destroyed (ABC News) Iraqi troops entered a town south of Mosul on Sunday where Islamic State militants destroyed artifacts at a nearby ancient Assyrian archaeological site, while special forces fended off suicide bombers during a cautious advance into the northern city. The push into Nimrud was the most significant gain in several days for government forces, potentially opening up the area for teams to assess the damage done to the famed ruins just outside the town...
Syrian rebels reportedly losing Aleppo battle (AP) Syrian government forces regained control Saturday of areas they lost over the past two weeks to a rebel offensive on the edge of the northern city of Aleppo, ending a major attempt by insurgents to break the siege on eastern parts of the city, an activist group and pro-government media said...
Joint initiative between Vatican and Al Azhar to begin in 2017 (Fides) A coordination committee linked to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Center for Dialogue of the University of Al Azhar, the most authoritative academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, has started the first joint initiative between the two institutions after the resumption of direct dialogue: a seminar study on problems related to the presence of religious communities in the context of civil society...
Syrian refugees regret move to Gaza (AP) Like millions of Syrians, Wareef Hamedo fled the civil war in his homeland in search of safety and security. But in a decision he now regrets, he chose to go to Gaza. Hamedo’s family is among 12 Syrian households that found refuge in Gaza after the civil war erupted in 2011 and are now trapped in the war-battered territory, ineligible for most social services granted to Palestinians but also unable to travel abroad...
Identity crisis at an Indian Catholic church (NPR) It’s a familiar battle in any immigrant community: The older generation fears extinction, while the young people rebel against stagnation. But to this church, this faith, that fear of loss is twofold. The Syro-Malabar community is Indian and Catholic in equal measure. Parents worry that if their children lose their faith, they will also lose an intrinsic part of their culture...
10 November 2016
Mahinder Singh sits with neighbors on charpai (cots of woven ropes) in their tiny village in Gangapar, India. (photo: John Mathew)
We never cease to be humbled by those we serve who persevere in the face of difficulties and discrimination.
One of those people is Mahinder Singh:
Mahinder Singh’s life has been fraught with hardship. His troubles began in 1947, when Britain — which had occupied the Indian subcontinent for generations — divided its colony into India and Pakistan, causing a migration of people considered the most extensive in recorded history. Major riots flared among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The ensuing violence killed roughly a million people, including Mr. Singh’s son and many of his relatives.
Born more than 90 years ago to a Sikh family of farmers in the Okara district of present-day Pakistan, Mr. Singh became one of the estimated 14.5 million people forced to abandon their ancestral homes and cross the new border after the partition. Complicating matters further, Mr. Singh is a Dalit.
A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically.
The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.
Mr. Singh is a Christian. “I have wandered all my life for happiness,” he says, “and finally found peace in the Lord.” But the challenges he faces are many:
Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender.
But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.
...Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
You can read more about Mr. Singh’s witness in Caste Aside from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE magazine.
For decades, CNEWA has worked to improve the quality of life for Dalits throughout India.
Want to help us help them? Take a moment to visit this link.
10 November 2016
Young men play basketball at the Mai-Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia, home to more than 17,000 Eritrean refugees. To learn more about the camp, and the dreams of those who have settled there, read Starting Over from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures)
10 November 2016
Internally displaced children sit in a pickup truck 25 October near Mosul, Iraq. Iraq forces are closing in toward Mosul’s airport. (photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)
Iraqi forces prepare push into Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi security forces are preparing to advance toward Mosul airport on the city’s southern edge to increase pressure on Islamic State militants fighting troops who breached their eastern defenses, officers said on Thursday...
U.S. Says it has killed 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria (The New York Times) The United States has killed 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria since it began military operations against the Islamic State there in 2014, military officials said Wednesday. In each case, the American military followed the proper procedures and it did not violate laws of armed conflict, officials said...
Syria’s Assad is ‘ready’ to cooperate with Donald Trump (The Independent) Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “ready” to cooperate with the US President-elect Donald Trump, one of Mr Assad’s advisers has said. Speaking to National Public Radio on Thursday — just after Mr Trump’s seismic victory in the US general election — Bouthaina Shaaban said any collaboration on Syria’s almost six-year-long civil war will depend on “whether Mr. Trump’s policies meet expectations...”
Pope says the search for Christian unity is a top priority (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis revealed on Thursday that the search for Christian unity is one of his principle concerns, one that he prays may be shared by every baptized person. The Pope’s words came as he met in the Vatican with participants at a plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The meeting, from 8 to 11 November is exploring the theme “What model of full communion?...”
Indian priest tries to preserve sacred music (New India Express) The Rev. Joseph Palackal is trying his best to preserve the memories and the melodies. He comes to Kerala every year to meet people who are able to capture the melodies of the Syriac songs. “But the time is running out,” he says. “Most of the stalwarts are losing their memory or passing away...”
Publishers participate in Coptic Book Fair (Fides) There are 37 publishing houses involved these days in “Coptic Book Fair,” underway until 22 November at the exhibition hall in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. The inauguration, which took place on Tuesday, 8 November, was attended by three Bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, including Anba Musa, in charge of the pastoral and cultural initiatives for young people...
9 November 2016
Father Sunny Mathew delivers a homily in Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, New York.
(photo: George Kurian)
For the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE, I sat down for an interview with the Rev. Sunny Mathew, a Syro-Malankara priest who pastors a small parish in suburban New York:
“The Malankara Catholic liturgy is basically the Antiochene liturgy,” he says, explaining that the Antiochene liturgy is among the oldest liturgies of the church, dating to the time of the apostle, St. James the Less, for whom the liturgy is named. “And we still keep the purity and originality of that liturgy.”
This heritage has buoyed his small parish for decades, as the faithful met in various schools around the metropolitan area while trying to find a permanent home.
In the spring of 2016, the search ended when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York turned over to the Syro-Malankara Church a parish in Yonkers that had been closed. Father Mathew’s flock now has a real church to call home, reinforcing what the priest calls the Syro-Malankara sense of family.
“It is a small church,” the 43-year-old priest says of the worldwide Syro-Malankara community. “We still live like one family. We are almost 500,000 members now. And we all feel like we belong to one family, one church. Our major archbishop knows each priest by name. He knows almost everyone in every parish, where each priest works. This is the kind of family atmosphere we have in our church,” he says.
He pauses to measure his words. “‘Small’ has its own beauty,” he explains. “That is the blessedness we enjoy.”
Read on to learn more about his parish and this particular branch of the Catholic family tree. And check out the video below, in which we pay a visit to his parish and experience the liturgy.
9 November 2016
Raban Boutros Kassis, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo, is recovering from gunshot wounds he received after being attacked in his car by a sniper. (photo: Fides)
Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo wounded (Malaysia Herald) Staring death in the face is an experience that can awaken the faith even in those who do not believe in God. For the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo Raban Boutros Kassis, therefore, this sensation was all the more intense and today he says he feels a profound closeness to Christ. Two days ago, he miraculously escaped death after a sniper shot at him as he traveled by car from Homs to Aleppo...
Iraq reportedly suspends military operations near Mosul (Anadolu Agency) Iraq’s anti-terrorism agency has temporarily suspended military operations in the eastern part of the Daesh-held city of Mosul while stressing that Iraqi forces were not being withdrawn from the area, according to an Iraqi military source...
My Journey into Aleppo (The New York Times) I took these videos and photographs last week while on a bus tour of western Aleppo that was part of a government public relations offensive. There were 12 journalists, three Ministry of Information minders (government workers assigned to keep tabs on us and those we talked to) and maybe a dozen soldiers...
Lebanon’s new president receives Iran’s Foreign Minister (AP) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday became the first foreign minister to visit newly appointed Lebanese President Michel Aoun, underscoring the ties between Iran and Aoun’s Hezbollah-backed presidency. The Shiite militant group and predominantly Shiite Iran are close allies. Speaking alongside his Lebanese counterpart, Zarif said recent political developments in Lebanon can be the key to breaking the deadlock in wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen...
Lebanon boosts schooling to help refugee children (SBS.com) It’s estimated there are a quarter of a million Syrian refugee children in the country who currently don’t have access to school. With more than half a million Syrian children taking refuge in Lebanon, the country is looking to foster better educational opportunities for all young people. New research, aimed at developing ways to offer better access to schools, has been announced...
Ukraine hopes for continued support from U.S. under Trump (Reuters) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he hoped the United States would continue to support Ukraine in its stand-off with Russia following the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election...
8 November 2016
The Good Shepherd Sisters in Egypt are heroically working to rebuild after Christian institutions were attacked during political uprisings in 2013. (photo: David Degner)
Last year, we met the heroic women of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Egypt, who have survived violence and persecution amid political upheaval, and are now patiently working to rebuild. One of the women we met is Sister Amal:
Sister Amal was drinking tea at the Good Shepherd Convent in the Egyptian port city of Suez when the first stone came through the window.
It had been a chaotic year. For months, massive protests against President Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood had rocked the country. By late June the protests, which had gained the public support of Christian leaders, culminated in the military’s forced removal of the Islamist president. In the eyes of some Egyptians, especially those who supported Mr. Morsi, an alliance had been forged between the military and Egypt’s Coptic Christians. (Ethnic Egyptian Christians are known as Copts, derived from the Greek “Aigyptos,” meaning Egyptian.) This was affirmed further by the interim government’s subsequent brutal crackdown of Islamists throughout Egypt.
Picking up the shattered glass, Good Shepherd Sister Amal was unaware that earlier that same day, 14 August 2013, the interim government had used lethal force to end two massive sit-ins, resulting in more than 600 deaths. In retribution for the alleged alliance, supporters of the ousted president stormed churches and Christian institutions across the country.
A mob of possibly hundreds attacked the chapel near the convent. Sister Amal and her team rushed about, attempting to save as much as they could from both the sanctuary and the structure. Frantically, they turned off the gas and electricity, and eventually found a way to extinguish some of the flames. But as they worked, arsonists set fires elsewhere. Looters helped themselves to furniture, electronics and money.
The flames proved too much to fight. In the chaos, Sister Amal ushered the workers out a rear exit. The police and army were nowhere to be seen. The mob had already killed one soldier operating an armored personnel carrier outside the chapel. Another fled. No one else came to help.
But Sister Amal’s tenacity and faith speak to the courageous spirit that is helping Suez start over:
On the final Friday of November, Sister Amal dreamed she had asked for a candle, but instead a friend named Raheb, who had helped her put out the flames all night long after the August 2013 attack, brought her the Virgin Mary wrapped in blankets.
“At the end of the next day I told Sister Mariam the dream. She told me, ‘God willing, the Virgin will come in a flash, but I have to tell you some bad news.’ ” Sister Mariam told her the military had withdrawn from the area. They were once again without any protection. Protests were taking shape intermittently, and looters were still entering the chapel, which was open to the street. Anyone could walk in or out of the grounds.
“There was no one. The teachers had left and the workers had gone. There was nobody but us two.”
She turned to Sister Mariam and said, “Look, our Lord is who will protect us in the beginning and the end. Don’t worry.”
She was right. They have prevailed. Schools and churches are being rebuilt; the faithful will not be dissuaded or discouraged. And the heroic heroic sisters will not give up or give in:
The sisters did not wait for help and have not forgotten what they have been through. As Sister Amal tells her story, she drinks out of the same teacup she held when the first stone came in the window. And sitting in the chapel, next to a statue of the Virgin Mary, is that very first stone.
Read more about Sister Amal in Out of the Ashes in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. And learn how you can help Egyptian Christians rebuild here.