20 March 2018
A refugee and her daughter walk to their makeshift home in Bechouat, Lebanon.
(photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
Our regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, recently sent us this uplifting note, describing how CNEWA’s donors are making a difference in the lives of refugees:
In Lebanon, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary is a small congregation, with just 30 sisters. They are engaged in aiding the poor and needy — as well as helping Syrian and Iraqi refugee families.
For the fifth consecutive year, through CNEWA funding the sisters run a program that aims at reaching and making a difference in the lives of displaced and refugee communities of children, youth and adults who have and still are suffering from the fallout of the wars in their countries, as well as the hard conditions they face living in Lebanon.
Through their social center, the sisters — assisted by a team of psychologists and specialists provide moral, social and spiritual support by organizing retreats, trips and camps for the most affected members of the family. This helps them overcome their trauma and anxiety about their future — giving them hope.
To date, more than 700 families have been screened, guided and given support by the sisters and social workers, benefiting somehow from the various programs and activities that are offered.
This is the story of one such family.
Mariam and Mirna are Chaldean Iraqi sisters, ages 20 and 18, who found refuge among the Lebanese community with their mother and younger sister, Mina. After being deserted by the father, they had no support system when they arrived in Lebanon.
Related: Sister Wardeh’s World
Welcoming the Stranger
The Franciscan Missionaries, through their social work, reached out to this family and followed-up closely to help them get settled, find jobs and schools, and most importantly, help them cope with their new environment. The mother and three daughters attended various retreats and summer camp, which helped boost their spirits and sustain their faith.
At the age of 18, Mariam suffered a dislocated jaw, causing difficulty with eating and speaking and also causing frequent headaches. The social workers’ intervention and the devotion of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary gave her a chance at a normal life; following several months of research and treatment, Mariam was able to undergo surgery to fix her jaw.
Mirna, to support her family, worked at a restaurant for less than a minimum wage salary, as she had no experience. The sisters guided her to pursue a learning program in food preparation and catering skills. Today, the family is settled in a small rented house in Jounieh, in the Kesrouan region; the mother works as a cashier at a grocery store, Mariam works at a bakery and Mirna still works at a restaurant — but with a much better salary. The youngest sister Mina attends the Syriac Catholic Angel of Peace School.
Social workers are following up with the family. The mother and her daughters continue to attend various activities and retreats sponsored by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
Thanks to the sisters — and the generosity of CNEWA’s donors — these women have a new start and a new life.
20 March 2018
A young Armenian Catholic in Georgia represents the hope and promise of people who hold fast to their identity and faith. Read about their Staying Power in the Autumn 2013 edition of ONE.
(photo: Molly Corso)
20 March 2018
Syrian civil defense volunteers search for victims following Syrian government air strikes on the Eastern Ghouta rebel-held enclave of Douma, on 20 March 2018. An air strike has reportedly killed more than a dozen children sheltered in an underground school in the region.
(photo: Hamza Al-Ajweh/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria: air strike kills children at school (BBC) An air strike has reportedly killed 15 children and two women sheltering in an underground school in Syria’s besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region. Rescuers said civilians had been hiding in the school to escape government and Russian raids on the town of Arbin...
Archbishop: young Christians and Muslims are engine to rebuild Iraq (Herald Malaysia) Rebuilding Iraq, after years of wars, extremism, divisions and violence culminating in the rise of the Islamic State, which is down but not yet out, must be based “on the young, who are the basis on which to build the future,” said Mgr. Yousif Thoma Mirkis, archbishop of Kirkuk, northern Iraq. The prelate recently met with a group of students from the University of Mosul who were lodged in his diocese when ISIS controlled the city...
Cardinal invites Christians to ‘Share the Journey’ with migrants this Easter (Vatican News) The President of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s worldwide humanitarian confederation, has released an Easter message urging men and women of goodwill to join the Caritas “Share the Journey” campaign that aims to reaches out to migrants, tackle prejudice by changing perceptions and help people open their hearts and their minds...
Isaiah the prophet: the archaeological evidence (Haaretz) A 2,700-year-old seal impression on clay unearthed in Jerusalem this February piqued enormous interest, after its finder, the leading Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, said it may have been the personal seal of Isaiah the Prophet himself. Biblical scholars have been quarreling ever since...
Indian Jesuits release book to mark pope’s five years (UCANews.com) Marking Pope Francis' five years in office, two Indian Jesuits have compiled a book collecting reflections of more than 50 church leaders on how they have applied the Jesuit pope’s insights in their own lives. Jesuit Fathers Kuruvilla Pandikattu and Father Vadappur Jose, both professors at the Jesuit-run Papal Seminary in Pune city in western India, edited the book, Francis Effect...
19 March 2018
Villagers gather for a candlelit prayer service outside a house in a small village in Bhikkawala. Learn how “untouchable” Christians are celebrating their faith in spite of hardship in Caste Aside in the Summer 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
19 March 2018
People sit in a truck with their belongings in Afrin, Syria on 16 March.
(photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Pope Francis appoints new archbishop in India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday appointed a new archbishop in Bangalore, in southern India’s Karnataka state, and a new apostolic nuncio to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Pope appointed Bishop Peter Machado of Belgaum as the new Archbishop of Bangalore. At the same time he also accepted the resignation of Archbishop Bernard Blasius Moras who stepped down having reached the retirement age of 75 in 2016...
Turkish flag hoisted over Afrin, Kurd fighters flee (Vatican News) After nearly two months of fighting, Turkish-backed forces have taken complete control of Afrin in the north of Syria, after Kurdish resistance dissolved. In a nationally broadcast statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the news, adding that most of the Kurdish forces had fled the area...
Palestinians mark 100 days since Trump’s Jerusalem decision with protests (The Lebanon Daily Star) Thousands of Palestinian refugees took part in a Hamas-sponsored event Sunday in south Lebanon’s Sidon marking 100 days since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel...
Why Armenia can claim to be the first Christian nation (Herald Times Online) Strange as it may seem to Western Christians, Armenia can claim to be the first kingdom to officially convert to Christianity...
Ethiopian Airlines supports Ghanian Christian pilgrims (Business Ghana) The Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline group, has provided Seamless Connections for Ghanaian Christians seeking to go on Holy Pilgrimage to Israel. The Airline has been arranging Pilgrimage packages together with a Pilgrimage Company, One People Travels for Ghanaian Churches and passengers...
16 March 2018
This Friday, we look back at a colorful and poignant visit two members of our staff made to the Caucasus last year. It was a remarkable and revealing trip. They encountered places of great history and faith — but also great need.
Watch the video above for more.
Related: ‘This Is the Only Light’
16 March 2018
A woman prays before an image of the Virgin Mary in Adigrat, Ethiopia. To learn more about the abiding faith of Ethiopian Catholics, read A Letter from Ethiopia by Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin, bishop for the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
16 March 2018
Civilians fleeing the city of Afrin in northern Syria walk at the mountainous road of al-Ahlam while heading towards the check point in az-Ziyarah, in the government-controlled part of the northern Aleppo province, on 16 March 2018. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands flee twin offensives in Syria (BBC) As many as 50,000 people have fled separate offensives against rebel forces in northern and southern Syria in recent days, activists say. Russian air strikes reportedly killed 31 people in the Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus on Friday, after 20,000 people left the region...
Human trafficking called one of the ‘darkest, most revolting realities’ (CNS) “Human trafficking is one of the darkest and most revolting realities in the world today,” said Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, Vatican deputy ambassador. Vulnerable rural women and girls suffer “compounded marginalization” and are at a “cumulative disadvantage prior to being trafficked,” he said. “Their dignity and rights are not adequately respected before they’re trafficked, something that makes them more susceptible to much worse violations of their dignity and rights later...”
Palestinians call for ‘day of rage’ over Jerusalem recognition (Times of Israel) Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza are urging mass protests Friday to mark 100 days since US President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital...
Ethiopian-Israelis decry family separation (AP) Zemenech Bililin has not seen her sisters in more than a decade, since she immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with part of her family. Now a 19-year-old infantry soldier in Israel’s military, Bililin says she is outraged that she is fulfilling her duties as a citizen but the state is shirking its responsibility to bring her relatives to Israel. Bililin’s family is one of hundreds that have been split between Israel and Ethiopia over what they say is an inconsistent immigration policy, and whose fate hinges on an Israeli government decision over whether to allow for their reunification...
Syrian refugees’ pain over separation from family (BBC) A family resettled in Wales after fleeing Syria have spoken about their pain at being separated from their sick daughter and a seven-year-old grandson...
15 March 2018
Pope Francis kisses the hand of a man during a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem in this 2014 file photo. (photo: CNS/Abir Sultan, EPA)
Editor’s note: Friday 16 March marks the 20th anniversary of “We Remember: Reflections on the Shoah,” the Vatican document on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, or Shoah. This commentary on the document was written by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
It has been 20 years since the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews released the historic document “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah”; an important step in the relationship between Catholics and Jews and an act of repentance on behalf the Catholic faithful — clergy and laity alike.
Though reception of the document varied within the Catholic and Jewish communities upon its release, ranging from fierce criticism to felicitous reception, it was recognized for what it was — an advancement for Catholic-Jewish relations through Catholic acknowledgment of the deficiencies of people of faith and cultural ambivalence toward European Jewry during the Second World War. This statement is by no means a final repentance or a complete reconciliation between our two communities, but it is a solid starting point for the growth of Catholic-Jewish spiritual friendship and mutual concern.
The history of Christian-Jewish relations is wrought with tension, demeaning rhetoric and flat out anti-Judaism. However, since the Second Vatican Council and the promulgation of “Nostra Aetate” (Declaration on the Relationship of the Church with non-Christian Religions) with special attention to paragraph 4, the church has been intentional in building friendship based on mutual trust and respect with the Jewish community. For relationships to flourish and dialogue to bear fruit, we, as Catholics and people of faith, must acknowledge the grim reality of our past in the hope of a more fruitful future.
Related: Seeking Interfaith Harmony
Remembering the Holocaust
In 2001, the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, at the then-National Conference of Catholic Bishops, produced a companion teaching tool to the Vatican document titled “Catholic Teaching on the Shoah: Implementing the Holy See’s ‘We Remember.’ ” It was developed to “help Catholic educators begin developing curricula and other educational programs on the Holocaust.” The Shoah’s relevance to Catholic education is and will continue to be integral. It is a difficult subject to speak about, to teach about, and to learn about. It is equally difficult to understand how a Christian culture could perpetrate such atrocities, and what this history means for our current cultural context. However, it is necessary.
“The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable” was published in 2015 by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of “Nostra Aetate.” Like “We Remember,” this document is another effort at offering practical insights regarding theological and pastoral progress between Catholics and Jews, outlining the historical and current realities between Christians and Jews.
Though much has been done to enhance Catholic-Jewish relations, it is unacceptable that anti-Semitism is a thread which continues to be woven in American society. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently released its annual report of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. The report states that there was a 57 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, rising from 1,267 in 2016 to 1,986 in 2017.
In our increasingly polarized society where bigotry feeds upon humanity’s basest qualities, we must be diligent in returning to our institutional memory of the Shoah. “We Remember” is a tool to nurture our memory to, in the words of St. John Paul II, “play its necessary part in the process of shaping a future in which the unspeakable iniquity of the Shoah will never be possible again.”
As the church has made major strides in moving beyond the sin of anti-Semitism, I implore all the faithful to take stock of our lives and our relationships with our Jewish brothers and sisters and to reflect upon, learn from and pray for the continued growth of Catholic-Jewish friendship.
May our fervent prayer be that of St. John Paul, offered on the occasion of the promulgation of “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah” 20 years ago. “May the Lord of history guide the efforts of Catholics and Jews and all men and women of goodwill as they work together for a world of true respect for the life and dignity of every human being, for all have been created in the image and likeness of God.”
Read the full document “We Remember: Reflections on the Shoah.”
15 March 2018
A child sleeps in a suitcase in Beit Sawa, Syria on 15 March. Today marks the seven-year anniversary of the Syrian civil war. The United Nations estimates that some five million people have fled the country as a result. (photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)