30 July 2018
These young women and their children recently took part in a community health program supported by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Recently, we got an update on a project CNEWA has been supporting in India: a community health program for better mother and child care. To date, it has benefitted 587 families in 10 villages. Our regional director for India, M.L. Thomas, offered additional details:
This project was to support tribal women, to help them understand how to care for themselves and their children, through low cost nutrition and immunizations. It was done in the Darbha block at Bastar District.
Many health issues were identified, particularly anemia and malnutrition. Eight staff members, including a qualified nurse, were engaged in this project.
It was noted that the major problem in this area was malnutrition among children and among pregnant and lactating mothers.
A major concern is a lack of knowledge about diet. Many families have very limited diets with low nutritional content. Mothers are anemic, children are malnourished and the general health of the family is poor. Awareness classes were given to the families on the positive effects of dietary supplements to improve overall health.
About 260 mothers benefitted from this program. A total of 10 training sessions were conducted.
In addition, health camps were conducted in 10 villages. About 800 people took part. We were able to detect anemia in pregnant women, along with some skin diseases, high blood pressure, pneumonia, malaria and tuberculosis. A doctor from the government’s medical college came to assist and give classes.
Most of the families, we learned, were following the wrong customs and beliefs about the kinds of foods pregnant women should eat. (An example: due to some local customs, pregnant women are often not allowed to appear before others and are often forced to eat less.) The awareness programs helped them to understand the importance of eating well, especially when pregnant or lactating.
In villages, mothers often will decline to nurse their newborn children, because of a mistaken belief it is unhealthy. Classes were organized to correct that misunderstanding and promote correct feeding practices from the first day of birth.
We remain grateful to all who have supported our important efforts in India and elsewhere, as we work to help some of the poorest in our world live healthier and happier lives — giving dignity and hope to so many who have only known hardship.
Thank you and God bless you!
30 July 2018
A Syrian boy walks at a refugee camp in Zahrani, Lebanon last month. Russia is pushing for refugees to return home. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
Syrian refugees fear Russian repatriation (Vatican News) Russia, a key backer of hardline Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, wants refugees to go home, though an ongoing conflict in Syria has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions. The Russian special presidential envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, told reporters he had discussed the repatriation of refugees with government officials during his visits Thursday to Jordan and Lebanon…
Cardinal: call to ban confession in India is against freedom of religion (Vatican News) The Catholic Church of India has expressed shock that the government’s National Commission for Women (NCW) has called for abolishing the Sacrament of Confession, saying it is undue interference in a sacred an vital issue of Christian life. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) issued a press release on 27 July saying the demand by the commission is absurd…
Latin Patriarchate issues statement about new Israeli Nation-State Law (Latin Patriarchate website) The recently enacted Basic Law: “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People” is a cause of great concern. Seemingly enacted for internal political reasons, while defining Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, the law fails to provide any constitutional guarantees for the rights of the indigenous and other minorities living in the country. Palestinian citizens of Israel, constituting 20 percent are flagrantly excluded from the law…
Ukraine’s president calls Russian Orthodox Church a security threat (Politico) Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday called the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church a national security threat. At a ceremony marking the country’s conversion to Christianity 1,030 years ago, AFP reported that the Ukrainian leader said that the Russian church’s sway among Ukrainian believers is a “direct threat to the national security of Ukraine.” The head of state also added that “this obliges us to act…”
Indian state ’treats Christians as terrorists’ (UCANews.com) All nine Catholic bishops of India’s northeastern Jharkhand state have sought federal intervention to stop Christians being treated like terrorists as part of alleged state government harassment. The bishops told governor Draupadi Murmu, who is the representative of the Indian president, that the state government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had used its Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to probe Christian institutions…
Egypt investigates death of Coptic bishop (Egyptian Streets) Following the gruesome discovery of the corpse of Bishop Epiphanius, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church announced that authorities would be officially investigating the death. Bishop Epiphanius was the head of Anba Makar Monastery (Saint Macarius the Great) near Wadi el-Natroun. The church issued a statement on Sunday that the bishop had died in ‘strange circumstances…’
27 July 2018
Tags: Syria India Egypt
Bishop Milan Lach holds up an icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha, the Ruthenian bishop of Mukachevo, Ukraine, who was killed by the communists in the 20th century. The icon was presented to him by Bishop Milan Sasik, right, the current bishop of Mukachevo. He attended Bishop Lach's Divine Liturgy of enthronement at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio on 30 June. (photo: CNS/Reen Nemeth, Horizons)
At 44, Bishop Milan Lach is the fifth bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma and the youngest bishop to head a diocese in North America.
He also is the third-youngest Eastern Catholic bishop to head a diocese and the first foreign-born bishop for an eparchy that comprises 12 states in the Midwest.
A native of Slovakia, Bishop Lach is among about a dozen bishops from other countries that Pope Francis has appointed to the United States.
He was enthroned recently as Parma’s bishop during a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, after having served as its apostolic administrator since 24 June 2017. He succeeds Bishop John M. Kudrick, who resigned in May 2016.
Bishop Lach, who is a Jesuit, has visited almost every parish and mission of the eparchy since his arrival to the United States last summer and has established pastoral priorities that include youth, evangelization, and parish reorganization.
Byzantine Catholic Bishop Milan Chautur of Kosice, Slovakia, who was present for the 30 June enthronement, said his “wish for all the faithful” in the United States is that they receive Bishop Lach “as a gift from the Slovak church.”
“After the fall of communism, we immediately turned to the Greek Catholic Church in America for material needs, to build churches again. We were liquidated for 18 years (under communism),” the 60-year-old prelate told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma.
But now, with the Slovak Eastern Catholic Church strongly re-established, there may be an opportunity to return the favor, he said.
“We sense that, compared with us, there is a certain crisis of vocations and in the spiritual life (in the United States),” he said. “So, just as we received material gifts after the fall of communism, now we can repay with spiritual gifts.”
Bishop Chautur, who is a Redemptorist, said he attended the enthronement because he realized the importance of maintaining a connection between the Byzantine Catholic churches in the United States and Europe.
“There are people who came (to the United States) 10 years ago or 100 years ago, and they still carry within them the Gospel they received from their forefathers,” he said.
At the same time, he acknowledged the mission of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S. is to minister and to be open to the diversity in American society.
“It is important to understand the roots (of the church), but it has to be open to everybody, all races, everyone is welcome,” he said. “The church has to fulfill its missionary vocation.”
The early Christians “didn’t stay in the ethnic ghetto, but they went to the whole world,” he said. “It is good to understand where we come from, but to spring up new offshoots. This was the foundation we have received, and now we need to build a new church, with new growth, open to everyone.”
Bishop Chautur, who ordained Bishop Lach a deacon in 2000 and a priest a year later, was one of three European bishops at the enthronement.
The other concelebrating Catholic bishops included Bishop Kudrick; Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey; Bishop John S. Pazak of Byzantine Eparchy Phoenix, Bishop Bohdan Danylo of the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat, also based in Parma; Bishop Nelson J. Perez of the Latin-rite Diocese of Cleveland; Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; Ruthenian Bishop Milan Sasik of Mukachevo, Ukraine; and Bishop Abel Socska of Nyiregyhaza, Hungary.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, presided at the enthronement, attended by 400 people. The liturgy also was livestreamed. He read the letter of the pope appointing Bishop Lach to Parma, as well as a message from the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.
Byzantine Archbishop William C. Skurla, metropolitan archbishop of Pittsburgh, was the main celebrant and homilist. He urged Bishop Lach in his homily to use his “energy to enliven the spiritual life of the church and protect it from the challenges of secularism and materialism which undermine the faith of our people.”
At the end of liturgy, Bishop Sasik presented Bishop Lach with an icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha, the Ruthenian bishop of Mukachevo who was martyred by the communists in the 20th century.
“I would like to express to the Holy Father my gratitude for his confidence in me as bishop of Parma. I will try my best to be the successor of the Apostles, to govern and serve,” Bishop Lach said at the end of the liturgy.
Bishop Lach told Horizons he intends to develop action plans in various areas of pastoral ministry and eparchial management to develop a more vibrant church.
“We are invited to be witnesses to the Gospel,” he said. “Our church must focus on evangelization, have a spirit of openness and prayer.”
His priorities include the “liturgy, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession,” which are “part of our Eastern theology,” he said. He underlined the need to offer more catechesis and faith formation to the faithful, and to nurture priestly vocations.
Due to the current priest shortage in the eparchy, Bishop Lach has been inviting priests from Slovakia to come and minister. Two Slovak priests are currently undergoing the visa application process; one of them is expected to arrive this fall.
Bishop Lach said the recruitment of Slovak priests is a short-term measure to try to meet the urgent need for priests: Two priests retired this past year and at least another four are expected to retire in the next 12 months.
He said he hopes prospective vocations to the priesthood will be nurtured and there will be American candidates for seminary soon. The eparchy currently has two men in seminary formation and a third who will be ordained a subdeacon in August.
Bishop Lach recently created an eparchial youth commission to try to jump-start more youth ministry efforts.
The bishop also said he will consider reorganizing parishes to shift already limited resources, both pastoral and financial, to support the new missions and prayer communities that have developed in the western part of the eparchy.
“Perhaps we will have fewer parishes, but they will be more open (to welcoming others) and more vibrant,” he said.
He said there is an urgent need to get the eparchy in stronger financial shape, which includes reducing costs across the board, and he has already reached out to the neighboring Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, to share resources.
In an interview with Horizons, Bishop Perez said it has been a “a great blessing” to share resources with the eparchy and to get to know Bishop Lach, whom he described as a “wonderful guy, young guy, very spiritual, very pastoral.”
“It’s a great celebration for all of us, Eastern rite and Latin rite,” he said of Bishop Lach’s enthronement. “We all gathered together in an incredible liturgy and a great moment of joy for the church.”
Read more about the Ruthenian Catholic Church at this link.
27 July 2018
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church
The video report above shows the aftermath of the attack by ISIL (ISIS) in Syria on Wednesday that left more than 200 people dead. (video: RT/YouTube)
Gruesome massacre in Syria is a reminder ISIS is far from dead (CNN) The militants went from home to home, killing families as they slept, before launching several suicide bombings on Wednesday, targeting a bustling vegetable market as well as government-held positions in the southern Syrian province of Suwayda. When the attackers ran out of ammunition, they detonated their explosive vests. By the day’s end more than 200 people were dead, and 180 wounded, in a gruesome massacre claimed by ISIS. The coordinated assault is a chilling reminder that ISIS is far from dead…
Reports: Ethiopian Prime Minister brings end Orthodox schism (AFP) Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has overseen the reunification of two feuding wings of the one of the world’s oldest Christian churches, his top aide said Friday. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church split in 1991 over the naming of a new patriarch after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) removed the Derg military junta from power. Abiy oversaw a reunification ceremony in Washington, attended by priests in flowing black and red robes, state media reported…
Indian Christians upset by call to abolish confession (UCANews.com) An Indian federal agency has proposed abolishing the sacrament of confession on grounds that Christian priests misuse it to blackmail and target women, but church officials believe the plan is unnecessary interference in religious affairs…
Lebanon welcomes Russian proposal on refugees (The Daily Star) Lebanese officials Thursday welcomed Russia’s proposal for the return of Syrian refugees, pledging to form a committee to oversee the return with General Security playing a key role, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions…
Russian Orthodox Church slams plan to continue selling beer at stadiums (Reuters) The Russian Orthodox Church has criticized a proposed plan for Russia to relax its ban on beer sales at sports stadiums after a regional official asked President Vladimir Putin to continue sales after the World Cup. Russia relaxed its 2005 ban on alcohol sales at stadiums for the football tournament this summer in line with football governing body FIFA’s regulations. Beer sales in the 11 host cities rose by up to 39 percent during the tournament…
26 July 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia
A clergyman and altar servers process during Mass in 2014 at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq. The upcoming synod for the Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad is expected to discuss issues vital for the church's future both in Iraq and among its diaspora community. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)
The upcoming synod for the Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad in August is expected to discuss issues vital for the church’s future both in Iraq and among its diaspora community.
Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service that the clergymen also will discuss during meetings from 7-13 August the election of new bishops as several Iraqi clergy are nearing retirement age. Proposals will be made for potential candidates.
Another concern, Archbishop Mirkis said, is the question of “vocations because there are presently only 15 seminarians in preparation to serve five Chaldean Catholic dioceses.”
Liturgical discussions will focus on the new translation of the Mass and developments to “adapt the Mass to the new communities living in the diaspora,” he said of Chaldeans now found in Australia, Canada, France and the United States.
The role of the deacon in Mass and the sacraments as well as the use of liturgical music are on the agenda as well.
Archbishop Mirkis said the situation of each Chaldean Catholic diocese in the Middle East and abroad will be examined. The Chaldean leaders are seeking ways to augment the spiritual formation of the Chaldean community to increase its vibrancy and vitality in the face of challenges, he explained.
Observers believe that 400,000 to 500,000 Christians now live in Iraq, compared to 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Iraq, whose roots trace back thousands of years.
Read more about the Chaldean Catholic Church in this profile from ONE.
26 July 2018
Tags: Iraq Chaldean Church
In this image from last summer, a displaced Iraqi boy fills a bottle with water in Jada, Iraq. Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako has issued a letter to his flock, asking them to promote harmony in their country. (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters) Caption
Iraqi cardinal appeals for citizens to come together (Vatican News) Recently appointed Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako issued an appeal in a heart-felt letter to the citizens of Iraq this week. In his letter he asks for help from the people in order to promote harmony, unity and partnership in their country…
Death toll from ISIS attack in Syria climbs to 216 (AP) The death toll from coordinated attacks by Islamic State fighters on a usually peaceful southern Syrian city and surrounding countryside has climbed to 216, a local health official said Thursday, in the worst violence to hit the area since the country’s conflict began. Mass funerals were held in the city of Sweida on Thursday, a day after the wave of attacks that began in the early hours of the mourning and lasted for hours. The city was the scene of several suicide bombings, including one at a busy vegetable market that left a scene of devastation and set in motion the coordinated assaults…
Caste bias alleged at Indian relief camp (The Hindu) A group of people belonging to the Dalit community have alleged that they faced caste discrimination at a relief camp at Pallippad panchayat in Alappuzha district. Fifty-six members of the community, belonging to 23 families, registered a complaint with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and District Collector S. Suhas, stating that members of the Christian community had humiliated them at a relief camp functioning at Anjilimoodu L.P. School. Mr. Suhas has ordered a probe into the complaint…
Thousands of Syrian refugees want to remain in Lebanon (The Daily Star) At least 30,000 Syrian refugees who fought against the Syrian army hope to remain in Lebanon, a representative of Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday…
Russian Orthodox patriarch hopes anniversary will bring peace to Ukraine (RT) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed hope that the forthcoming 1030th anniversary of Christianization of the Kievan Rus, and planned celebrations for the event, will help to overcome strife in Ukraine…
25 July 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS
A woman participates in an outdoor prayer session at the Trippadam Center for Women. To learn more about this institution and the women it benefits, read A Refuge to Mend and Grow, from the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
25 July 2018
Tags: India Sisters Health Care Women
The Musa family fled Bashiqa, Iraq, in 2014 in the face of ISIS attacks. The family lived in Dohuk, Iraq, for three years. (photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Relief Services)
In Iraq, the threat to Assyrians remains (AINA) Thanks to the generosity of donors around the world, Christians are returning from internal exile, determined to keep their faith alive, despite extraordinary challenges. But we must not be complacent about the fundamental political problems threatening the existence of a religiously, racially and culturally diverse Iraq…
Priest in Gaza: ‘people living in fear of a new war’ (Vatican News) As tension continues to erupt in violent clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza, the living conditions in the Gaza Strip continue to deteriorate. A Catholic Parish Priest speaks of the desperation of the people, of the dwindling Christian community, and of the widespread fear of a possible new war…
Deadly attacks hit Syrian villages, city of Suweida (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS militants killed about 100 people in a series of attacks on government-held parts of southwestern Syria Wednesday, official sources said…
Award given to priest and builder of bridges between Islam and Christianity (AsiaNews) The Rev. Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and internationally renowned scholar, is this year’s recipient of the special award of the Stephanus Foundation for Persecuted Christians. The Foundation, through its chairperson Michaela Koller, decided to honor Father Samir because of his service to the spiritual heritage of Arab Christians…
24 July 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Interreligious
A Jahalin Bedouin man and his son are seen in a tent in Khan al Ahmar, West Bank, on 17 June. Israel's Supreme Court ruled in May in favor of demolishing the village, home to about 190 Jahalin Bedouin people. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
U.N. denounces grave ‘assaults’ on fundamental rights of Palestinian people (U.N. News) From arbitrary detentions and deliberate deprivation, to attacks against civilians and forced displacements, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed “acute concerns” on Monday over the current human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…
Advancing technology unearths ‘lost city of ancient Israel’ (Al Monitor) A team of Israeli and American researchers is using cutting-edge technology to explore and document an obscure and inaccessible but increasingly significant archaeological site in central Israel…
Copts celebrate first liturgy in new church in seven years (Sight) Seven years after their previous church was closed by local authorities because of “security reasons”, the Coptic community in the Egyptian village of Kom El-Loufy, 250 kilometres south of Cairo, held a first Divine Liturgy in their new church on Sunday. The 1,600 Copts from the village in Minya governorate were marking the completion of the first stage of building of their church, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Martyr Abanoub al Nahisi…
Joy as two patriarchates of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church unite (Borkena) Sources close to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church say the Holy Synods in Ethiopia and the United States reached agreement to unite which may mean that Abune Merkorios could return home soon after over two decades. An agreement has been reached which means that there will no longer be two patriarchates hereafter; the two holy synods will unite to form a single one which was the case for millennia before TPLF took control of power in Addis Ababa in 1991…
Israel shoots down Syrian fighter jet over Golan Heights (Al Jazeera) The Israeli army said it shot down a Syrian fighter jet that allegedly crossed into the occupied Golan Heights as heavy fighting continued between the Syrian military and the last rebel holdouts in the country’s southwest…
Christians in India observe Martyrdom Day (UCAN India) Christians of different denominations across India remembered those killed for their faith with prayers on 22 July. Christian groups, mostly Pentecostal and Protestant churches, observed Indian Christian Martyrdom Day praying for those killed mostly by Hindu hardliners…
23 July 2018
Tags: India Egypt Israel United Nations Ethiopian Orthodox Church
In this 2016 photo, the Al Ahli Arab Hospital provides care in Gaza. ONE magazine published a letter from the hospital’s director in the pages of its Summer 2016 edition. (photo: CNEWA)
Writing for National Catholic Reporter, Patrick Whelan, a pediatric specialist at UCLA, and lecturer at the Keck School of Medicine, describes the medical crisis he witnessed on a recent visit to Gaza:
Traveling to Tel Aviv, I sought out a pharmacy to obtain for my son, Olivier, some melatonin, a natural supplement that helps with jet lag and is widely available without a prescription in the United States. I discovered that, though it has no adverse side effects, melatonin requires a prescription in Israel that must come from an Israeli doctor; the pharmacist would not provide it to a physician like me from abroad.
This level of concern for our own health stands in stark contrast to the devastating health effects I observed during a June 7-8 visit to Gaza where residents have been living under severe Israeli economic sanctions for the past 11 years.
It is only with extreme difficulty that residents can enter or leave Gaza, and only with the permission of the Israeli government. The Erez Crossing is a looming building that once processed thousands of people traveling every day to work in Israel. But when my son and I arrived just before 9 a.m. on a Thursday, for an hour-long trip through Israeli customs, the terminal was virtually deserted.
Later, some Israeli friends told us that Palestinians had been replaced with other day laborers — Filipina women staffing hospitals and nursing homes; Romanian and Chinese workers staffing numerous construction sites; and Thai farmworkers being brought in to pick crops. Meanwhile, unemployment in Gaza is more than 40 percent, with 80 percent of the population receiving some kind of international economic assistance.
The Gaza side of the Erez Crossing was very bleak, with high concrete walls topped by barbed wire. We were bussed from the crossing to a security checkpoint with uniformed men from the Palestinian Authority. There we met our host, Nahed Wehaidi, the Gaza director of American Near East Refugee Aid — a relief organization founded after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War to provide aid for refugees in the Middle East. His negotiations allowed us through a third checkpoint, maintained just a few yards away by Hamas, the political party that is the de facto government of Gaza.
The purpose of our visit was to tour four hospitals and clinics, accompanied by a group of seven public health doctors and aid workers from American Near East Refugee Aid.
The first visit was Al Ahli Arab Hospital — the only Christian hospital in Gaza — first built in 1882 and operated for 30 years until 1982 by the Southern Baptist Convention in the U.S. The hospital and its clinics are currently sponsored by the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
The head of Ahli Arab, Suhaila Tarazi, who is from South Carolina, along with Jehad al Hesi, chief of pediatrics, spent an hour telling us about the malnutrition and related illnesses that they had been treating. The halls were packed with mothers and children. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East estimates that the number of daily medical consultations at their own 22 facilities across Gaza is 113 patients per doctor per day.
Every provider we met seemed overwhelmed. Their distress is in part a result of a January decision by the Trump administration to withhold $65 million of a $125 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. According to Tarazi, Ahli Arab recently had to drop the number of patient beds from 80 to 50 because of a lack of resources.
We visited an outpatient clinic in Gaza City — sponsored by the Middle East Council of Churches — that focuses on prenatal care, family planning and early childhood development. It was packed with women in dark-colored abayat and veils. Issa Tarazi, the executive director, took us to meet a group of girls who were in a program to help diminish the psychosocial impact of post-traumatic stress related to the conflicts. Thirty smiling teenagers insisted on performing a dance for us, to very loud music, proudly showing off their preparation.
The children of Gaza, Tarazi told us, are still suffering the consequences of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict that, according to UNICEF, killed more than 500 children and injured almost 3,400 — nearly a third with permanent disability. More than 1,500 children were orphaned. Tarazi said things got worse during two months of weekly protests that began in March against the Israeli blockade, with at least 125 people killed and thousands more injured. The Israeli Defense Forces have publicly stated that they are shooting to wound rather than to kill. A June 9 story in the Los Angeles Times documented the wave of lower extremity amputations of young people as a result of gunshot wounds to the legs that had overwhelmed medical facilities — which lack the kind of vascular surgery capability to which gunshot victims have access in most trauma centers in the United States.
At the Ard El Insan Clinic, the chief of pediatrics, Adnan al Wahaidi, said he had evaluated two children just that morning with rickets, a form of malnutrition almost never seen today in the U.S. He introduced me to one of the children — Jamal, a 2-year-old boy with the worst bowed legs of vitamin D deficiency that I had ever seen. Jamal waddled around one of the exam rooms, kicking a ball to the best of his ability, which al Wahaidi artfully returned.
One of the doctors told me they had seen many children with bullet wounds to their lower extremities — with treatment limited to cleansing the wounds, sterile bandages, antibiotics and only ibuprofen and Tylenol for pain relief. One couldn’t help but notice bullet holes on the walls of the clinic, which doctors described as being “on the front lines” during the Israeli Defense Forces’ invasions of December 2008 and July 2014.
At Al Quds Hospital, a major trauma unit run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, we were ushered into the palatial office of hospital chief Khalil Abou Foul, a trauma surgeon trained in Libya. A delegation of their doctors sat with us while he explained what the hospital was up against.
He took us into the operating areas and we all donned surgical boots for a visit to the cardiac catheterization laboratory. The doctors were very proud of all their equipment and the chief of interventional cardiology came out of a procedure to shake hands and tell us about their clinical capabilities — for people with insurance. He said they sometimes had to plan a month in advance for certain procedures in order to procure the necessary supplies; he had recently missed an international meeting because he could not get an exit pass in time.
Our last stop was to 1,600-year-old Orthodox St. Porphyrius Church, named for a fourth century bishop who demolished pagan temples and introduced Christianity. The caretaker of the church showed us a baptismal font made of white stone that dated to the construction of the church around the year 402, in which generations of his own family had been baptized. But the number of Christians has been falling as the level of distress in Gaza has been rising, he said.
Gaza City was itself a prosperous port in the spice trade, dating long before the time of Jesus. Now, with no functioning stoplights, hundreds of horse and donkey-drawn carriages driven by children, and only four to six hours of electricity available every day, there was a sense of disorder and economic desperation everywhere we went.
The most striking thing to me was the lack of hostility toward Israel in our conversations with the doctors, nurses, and the staff of that ancient church. Contemplating our visit, reconciliation seemed not only possible but essential.
For now, my inability to obtain melatonin from an Israeli pharmacy pales in comparison with all the reasons that Palestinian parents in Gaza have for losing sleep at night.
An infant receives a checkup at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital. (photo: CNEWA)