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Spring, 2014
Volume 40, Number 1
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In this 1996 image, children attend a festival in New York celebrating Greek heritage. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
  
21 July 2014
Sami El-Yousef




Palestinians flee following an Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza City on 9 July. (photo: CNS/Majdi Fathi, Reuters)

This morning, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, wrote an email to Msgr. John E. Kozar, president, about recent developments in Gaza. Mr. El-Yousef recently visited Gaza and shared a report on the status of Christians in the region.

Dear Msgr. Kozar,

The situation on the ground is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday was very ugly, leaving 50 people dead — including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens — as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. You will recall that Shajaia is home to one of the three Near East Council of Churches clinics that we support in Gaza, as well as home to the largest N.E.C.C. Vocational Training Center operating there. Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets.

This morning I spoke to Dr. Issa Tarazi, Director of N.E.C.C., and he said that the clinic was broken into, but given the intensity of the fighting, no one could get close to inspect the damage. They will not be able to get there until a formal ceasefire is reached.

I also spoke to contacts in both the Latin Church and the Greek Orthodox Church and they both opened facilities to receive those displaced, mostly from Shajaia. Luckily, so far, there has not been any human loss affecting Christians and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.

We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness. I will keep you posted with developments.

Regards,

Sami El-Yousef

To learn more about some of the N.E.C.C. institutions that CNEWA supports, read Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. To help Gaza’s suffering families, click here.



Tags: War Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict Palestinians Holy Land Christians
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11 July 2014
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




A Palestinian boy carries his belongings as he walks past the rubble of his family’s house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on 9 July. The Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing dozens of people in a military operation it says is aimed at quelling rocket fire against Israel. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

On 8 July 2014, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land issued a statement entitled, “Call for a Courageous Change.” The document is in response to the increasing violence that has followed upon the murder of three Israeli teenagers and the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager. The response of the Israeli government and the Palestinian organization Hamas has been to escalate the violence and revenge. Each side with some justification sees itself as the aggrieved partner seeking justice, which is often little more than blood vengeance. Each side — again with some justification — sees the other as the aggressor and occupier. As has so often been the case in the past, the conflict conceives itself as a battle of the righteous against the unrighteous and then feeds upon itself getting larger and more violent.

With clarity and courage, the commission analyzes what it sees to be the main forces driving the crisis. The commission also is very clear as to where it sees responsibility on both sides. The statement clearly mentions “the irresponsible language of collective punishment and revenge that breeds violence” and lays responsibility on “many in position of power and political leadership [who] remain entrenched, not only unwilling to enter into any real and meaningful process of dialogue, but also pouring oil on the fire with words and acts that nurture the conflict.”

Following in the path of Pope Francis, the commission in its statement attempts to “speak truth to power.” It recognizes that no side in this conflict is pure victim and no side is pure victimizer. The roles go back and forth. The statement’s critique of that common human trait to see where I am right and my opponent is wrong, while overlooking the instances where I am wrong and my opponent is right, traces its roots to the saying of Jesus, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own” (Matt 7:3). The commission’s “Call for a Courageous Change” also throws strong light on one of the major problems in the conflict — namely, the mutual demonization of the other.

The statement makes a very important point that is often selectively overlooked in the media: “We need to recognize that resistance to occupation cannot be equated with terrorism. Resistance to occupation is a legitimate right, terrorism is part of the problem.” Throughout the entire document, however, there is the constant call for non-violent solutions and the commission condemns violence regardless of the side from which it originates.

In a region where polarization has become a way of life, “Call for a Courageous Change” is a light shining in the darkness. However, in a region where both sides have become “comfortable” with polarization, one wonders how much impact the document will have.

Read the statement here.



Tags: Middle East Holy Land Israeli-Palestinian conflict Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land
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10 July 2014
John E. Kozar




A Christian woman who fled from the violence in Mosul, Iraq, holds her daughter as her baby sleeps on 27 June at a shelter in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)

I can think of only two words to describe it: total chaos.

I’m talking about the tidal wave of violence that’s sweeping across Iraq, as the extremist group called ISIS battles for control of the country.

Thousands of Christian and Muslim families remain trapped
in the deadly crossfire.


Here at Catholic Near East Welfare Association, this has us completely alarmed. It’s why I hope you’ll click here to help them.

Only days ago, two sisters and three young Iraqi Christians disappeared, and it’s feared they’ve been kidnapped by militants. The extremists also shelled the city of Qaraqosh, where CNEWA supports an orphanage. And in ISIS-held areas, Christians unable to flee are now forbidden to display crosses and other religious symbols.

As for the thousands of families who’ve escaped, they have no idea if their homes still exist. Many are elderly. The majority are women and children. All live in fear of what tomorrow may bring.

As the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church has said, “We are losing our community.” He fears Christianity in Iraq will soon come “to an end.”

Pope Francis has urged us to pray for these victims of violence.
But they also need something else: your support.


At CNEWA, we’re committed to helping scores of nuns, priests and lay workers care for these displaced innocents — Christian and non-Christian alike. But I’m afraid their overwhelming situation is growing worse.

A simple donation, whatever you can give, will allow CNEWA
to help these terrified families.


Won’t you join us? With their world turned upside down, these families have never needed you more. So please help them. All you have to do is click here today.

Thank you and God bless you.

Donate HERE to support Iraq’s Christians and their neighbors

Donate HERE to support CNEWA’s work worldwide



Tags: Refugees Iraq Iraqi Christians Relief Iraqi Refugees
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8 July 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita




In this photo from January, Latin Patriarch Faoud Twal of Jerusalem leads an annual pilgrimage at the baptism site on the Jordan River. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

“We need your solidarity, your advocacy and yes, your material help,” said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem during his visit today with CNEWA.

“But we need you to be courageous, courageous to tell the truth.”

The patriarch is in the United States on a three-week journey that will include the priestly ordination of an Arab American man, who will serve the patriarchate as a pastor.

“For us, things have gotten worse since the pastoral visit of the Holy Father to the Holy Land in late May,” the patriarch said. “His gestures, his simplicity, his words moved our people,” he continued, “but the day after the pope prayed for peace with the patriarch and the presidents of Israel and Palestine, the Israelis announced the building of 3,000 more apartments for settlers.

“And now,” he said quietly, shaking his head, “the terrible deaths of those three young Israelis, the death of the two Palestinian men the Israelis say are responsible, the death of that boy in East Jerusalem, and now Gaza…” his voice trailed off as he thought about the cycle of tit-for-tat violence that has haunted Israelis and Palestinians for decades.

When the Holy Father visited the Holy Land, “he could not avoid the politics in our region. He had to meet with the refugees, Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian. He had to be clear that the drama of Syria cannot go on.

“Outsiders cannot decide Syria’s future,” the patriarch added. “Who appointed outsiders to police the Middle East? And why start with Syria?” There are other Middle Eastern regimes, he said, where extremists are harbored and Christians and other minorities, discriminated against.

The patriarch expressed his gratitude for the support of CNEWA and other organizations such as Caritas and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, solidarity he said that gives good witness to the followers of Jesus in the land of his birth.

“Our people, especially the refugees I meet, are conscious of their dignity,” the patriarch said softly. “They say, ‘help us find work, abuna [father], all we want is to keep our dignity, to keep our pride.’ ”

The patriarch ended his interview reminding readers: “Don’t be satisfied with what you read in the newspapers.” Dig deeper, he urged, there you’ll find the truth.

Click here to learn how you can help Middle East Christians reclaim that dignity cited by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.



Tags: Middle East Holy Land Israeli-Palestinian conflict Holy Land Christians
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3 March 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita




Msgr. John E. Kozar visits with a patient at the hospital run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Jal el Dib, Lebanon. (photo: Michael J.L. La Civita)

During this pastoral visit to Lebanon, Msgr. John Kozar and I have met many graceful people — graceful in the truest sense of the word.

On Friday, we traveled to the Armenian village of Anjar, which lies in the Bekaa Valley some 34 miles from the walls of the Syrian capital of Damascus and just miles to the Syrian frontier. The visit to Anjar entailed a drive along the international highway connecting Beirut to Damascus. Stunning scenery competed with smog and car exhaust. Climbing, twisting and turning gave way to a descent into the Bekaa and a mass of humanity shopping, planting, driving, walking.

Anjar was a welcome relief. A drive lined with palms and young geraniums revealed a well-planned town designed by the French military for Armenian refugees in 1939.

“It feels like Palm Springs!” I told the laughing mayor. But Palm Springs it is not.

Anjar is overwhelmed with Syrian refugees — Armenian Syrians and non-Armenians alike.

Evidently, the neighboring village of Majdel Anjar is a hotbed of Sunni extremists. Reportedly including immediate family members of one participant in the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

CNEWA, through its Beirut office of the Pontifical Mission, has deep roots in Anjar, having provided support to its Catholic school and boarding house for orphaned boys founded by Cardinal Gregory Peter Agagianian (1895-1971), former Armenian Catholic patriarch and prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. Today, CNEWA partners with the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Cooperation, a lay group that provides a host of services — especially health care — to the Armenian Community throughout Lebanon, Syria and Armenia.

I felt as if the little oasis, with its clinics, its schools, its churches, its restaurants and its palm trees, was as fragile as the tender leaves sprouting from the fruit trees in its fields.

Just as we were leaving, the pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Armenian Catholic parish, Mekhitarist Father Mesrob Topalian, grabbed my arm and said: “Don’t forget us, Michael, and pray for us — especially for the children.”

As I left, another visitor took my place: the 75-year-old sister who runs the parish school, a resident of Anjar who arrived as a penniless refugee from Turkey at 4 years of age.

I looked back as they waved and offered blessings in French as the bells of the newly dedicated church tolled.

“Life goes on,” I thought, “until passion and ideology and fear and hate appear on the doorstep.”

Our drive back to Beirut was rather quiet.

On Saturday, our team, led by Msgr. Kozar, visited the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross at their hospital in Jal el Dib. Led by Mother Marie Makhlouf, these are tough women doing some of the most thankless work throughout the Middle East.

In this image from 2010, Mother Marie Makhlouf greets a young man in one of centers operated by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Jal El Dib, Lebanon. (photo: CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

They care for the poorest of the poor: children and adults who are profoundly physically and mentally handicapped, those with mental illnesses, substance abusers and the abandoned.

And they do it with tenderness and compassion. You know it when you see it and when you hear it.

As the sisters took us through their facility that clings to a cliff high above Beirut, beds shook loudly, voices screeched, patients applauded raucously and scores sought their attention.

Things quieted down only when one sister pulled out her rosary, and the elderly and broken men struggling to cope with life and its troubles joined her in praying this familiar Catholic devotion — in Arabic.

Having visited the sisters before, I knew that they have a hard time finding the resources to feed and clothe the 1,000 or so forgotten souls entrusted to them.

But as I pondered this, half listening to the hospital’s rehabilitation therapist, Msgr. Kozar was busy creating commotion from one room to the next. Hugging, laughing, blessing and taking portraits of the patients, he connected with almost every one we visited, focusing on the individuals entrusted to these good sisters and their staff, and the desire of each patient to communicate. The joyful atmosphere roused me from my thoughts.

“Somehow they do it,” I said to myself, and then I thought about Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, especially its final and bloodiest stage in spring 1990, when Christian militia shelled Christian militia and an embargo prevented even bread from getting into the enclave. I asked one sister, “how did you do feed your patients in 1990, when bread did not exist?”

She looked at me over her glasses, and said, “I don’t know how we did it, and I pray we never come to that again.”

And with that she lovingly patted the head of an abandoned boy with autism and cradled him to her side.

Ah, to be this graceful and loving in the face of real adversity and real enemies.

Finally, on Sunday, before spending a lovely afternoon at the home of our regional director, Michel Constantin, his wife Lynn and three children, Peter, Sasha and Mark, we joined Msgr. Kozar in celebrating the Eucharist with the Filipino migrant community in the old church of the Maronite parish of Mar Elias, the largest Catholic parish in the Middle East.

No one knows the true number of Filipinos — almost all of whom are women — living and working throughout the Middle East. “With few job opportunities in the Philippines and families to support, these women come to the Middle East,” we reported in ONE magazine in 2011, “where jobs in the ‘care-giving industry’ are plentiful. Motivated by the promise of comparatively high earnings, most of which they intend on sending home to their families, they often accept without complaint long hours, little personal time or freedom and substandard living accommodations.”

Reporter Nicholas Seeley had also spoken with a local pastor:

“I understood that the first task was to give people a place where they could be at home,” said Jesuit Father Kevin O’Connell, who pastors the large Filipino community in Amman, Jordan. “For these people, just the ongoing, regular liturgy — with Filipino music, with people reading, with them being able to participate in whatever way they want — gives a strand of consistency and continuity. It’s their home. It’s their place. In most cases, there’s no place else they can gather.”

Very much at ease with the Filipino congregation, who spilled outside the doors of the lovely stone church, Msgr. Kozar addressed them directly throughout the liturgy, reminding the women that God hears the prayers of the poor and that “we who are poor always have our God-given dignity.” And he praised them for being a model to the rest of the world in their compassionate response in caring for one another after Typhoon Yolanda devastated the islands last November and killed more than 6,200 people.

Michel and I heard many a sniffle. The Filipinos, as they left Mass, asked Msgr. Kozar to come back next Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that!

After the final blessing, as Msgr. Kozar greeted each and every worshiper personally, Michel and I chatted with a young German man, who, with a number of his friends, has committed ten months between high school and college to volunteer with the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross and their hospital in Jal el Dib. Clearly moved by the singing and participation in the liturgy, and the homily directed to the migrant workers, he said that when he returns to Bonn, he will look back on “all of this as if it were a dream.”

I asked him if he was worried that the dream would vanish. He looked at me, showed me the chaplet of St. Charbel he now wears on his right wrist, and said, “I’m now half Lebanese … anything could happen.”



Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Refugees Beirut Maronite
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14 January 2014
John E. Kozar




Children gather in a makeshift classroom in the Al Waer neighborhood of Homs. (photo: Ziad Hilal, S.J.)

“Evil appeared in an unprecedented way.”

That is how Father Ziad Hilal described the nightmare that is now Syria when he wrote to us. His Letter from Syria in the summer issue of ONE painted a stark portrait of a world torn apart by war — and of the innocent children he is desperately trying to save.

CNEWA, with the generous support of its donors, is making a difference in the lives of those children and so many others. To learn what we have been able to do, we invite you to read the latest report compiled by our regional offices in Amman and Beirut. To learn how you can help, you can also visit our Syria giving page.

“Hope is what CNEWA has helped us provide,” Father Hilal wrote. “I believe it has been a lifeline from God — helping us and guiding our efforts to glorify the name of the Lord.”

Thank you to all who have made this lifeline possible!



Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War CNEWA Refugees Violence against Christians
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21 October 2013
Bob Pape




Bob Pape is director of major gifts for CNEWA.

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure to visit with the Golden Lions of St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta, Georgia, at the invitation of Msgr. Richard Lopez, a longtime friend of CNEWA. He had asked if I could speak to the students about the current situation faced by our brothers and sisters in Syria and CNEWA’s efforts to assist.

Entering the school, I had the feeling that I was in a very special place for students to learn and grow, to develop their unique talents and to strengthen their faith. Enthusiasm and positive attitudes abound not only among the students, but the faculty as well. The motto of the school is Domini Sumus — “We are the Lord’s.” I was reminded of this phrase throughout my visit.

I met with a large group of students in the auditorium. They were most welcoming, polite and respectful. I asked them if they had an opinion of Pope Francis and their response was overwhelmingly favorable. This reaction gave me a glimpse into just how well the Holy Father must have been received during World Youth Day in Brazil. I next gave a brief history of the Eastern churches. I simply tried to present the idea that Christianity has its original roots in the Middle East and the church of the Apostles.

I spoke about the current plight of the Christians in the Middle East in general — specifically, the suffering of the Christians in Syria. The students were very receptive. I tried to present the information in a way that would break down some of the misconceptions and stereotypes that seem to be ever present when the topic of Christians in the Middle East is discussed. For example: “Aren’t all Arabs Muslims?” — or, put another way, “Is there such a thing as an Arab Christian?”

When I reached the topic of the current state of the civil war in Syria, I realized how difficult it is to explain exactly who is fighting and why. I did the best I could. One point I was able to make clear, though, was the suffering endured by Syrian Christians who are caught in the middle of the conflict. When you start mentioning the number of Christians who have been killed, injured and displaced by the violence, you realize the magnitude of this crisis. I also wanted the students to be aware of the toll the violence has taken on the children of Syria in terms of physical injury, hunger, homelessness and lack of consistent education.

After I explained the work of CNEWA in assisting Christians in Syria, we got into a discussion of how students in Atlanta can help those suffering in Syria. Many good ideas were mentioned and the power of prayer was clearly mentioned as a way each of the students could help. This was very gratifying to hear.

I urged the students never to doubt that life can and will improve for our brothers and sisters in Syria, and even reminded them of Pope Francis’ direction: “Don’t let yourself be robbed of hope!” But I think I was the one who came away with the strongest feeling of hope. I was uplifted by the hope found in these young people who embrace their faith in their daily lives and who understand the need to get involved to help others. I was inspired by the hope that comes from knowing that the future of our faith is in good hands — such as those of the students of St. Pius X, who will grow up to be genuine witnesses to our faith throughout their lives. I thank the Golden Lions for giving me hope.

If you’d like someone from CNEWA to pay a visit to your church or school, drop me a line: rpape@cnewa.org.

And if you want to help the suffering Christians of Syria, visit this link.



Tags: Syrian Civil War CNEWA Middle East Christians Middle East Violence against Christians
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26 September 2013
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




King Abdullah II speaks at the United Nations on 24 September. (photo: U.N./Marco Castro)

King Abdullah II, ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, gave an extraordinary speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2013. The king, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and his family have long been engaged in dialogue with Christians and other religious faiths. Although the number of Christians in Jordan is small, they have enjoyed freedom to practice their faith under this king and his predecessors.

In his speech, King Abdullah spoke of what a modern Arab state needs to be: free, with freedom of opportunity and equality for all its citizens. However, the stability of Jordan is being put under tremendous pressure by the large number of refugees entering its borders, including Christians from Iraq and war refugees from Syria. The king noted that the number of refugees in Jordan equals 10 percent of the entire population — and that percentage could rise to 20 percent. No country can easily absorb that amount of refugees. As a comparison, if the United States were required to take the same percentage of refugees, the number would exceed the present populations of New York and New Jersey.

Put bluntly, Jordan needs all the help it can get. As one of the few areas of stability in the region, it is also one of the few places where Arab Christians are free to live their faith. It is developing democratic institutions and could in the future be one model for democracy in the region. The refugee problem threatens all of this. Jordan has shown typical Arab hospitality in welcoming refugees. However, the country’s economy cannot bear the strain that this brings. If Jordan is to survive, the international community needs to help it with feeding, housing and, if necessary, resettling the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come there seeking safety.

You can read the full text of the king’s speech at this link.



Tags: Syrian Civil War Refugees Jordan United Nations Iraqi Refugees
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17 September 2013
Michael J.L. La Civita




In 2004, Father Elias Hanout greeted children in front of the now destroyed St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the town of Ezraa, which sits in the Houran plain in southern Syria.(photo: Armineh Johannes)

Southern Syria is a fascinating place. When I visited there in 1998, Roman ruins in basalt littered the rural and village landscapes. Matriarchs hung their laundry from Corinthian capitals to carved posts. Ruined columns served as tables to hold platters of salads and grilled meats. Ancient churches, crude perhaps but ancient nevertheless, served their Melkite Greek Catholic and Orthodox parishioners as they had for 1,500 years. Attending a liturgy in Ezraa’s simple Melkite Greek Catholic church dedicated to the prophet Elias, I marveled at the cavernous vaults that sheltered Christians from the scorching sun and oppressive heat for more than a thousand years. Today, St. Elias is no more. The civil war in Syria is destroying people, villages, a way of life and humankind’s patrimony.

In an interview yesterday with our partners Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Bishop Nicholas Antiba of Basra and Houran noted that his flock were gathering around the center of his eparchy in Khabab, fleeing their villages — many of which developed in former camps of the Roman Legion — devastated by war. Sadly, the sixth-century basilica of St. Elias is one of them. Just nine years ago, ONE magazine visited Ezraa, reporting on its Christian community centered on its ancient Byzantine churches.

Lina Farah, 31, sits in the courtyard of her family home, which is made of black basalt and added to with concrete. The rooms all look onto the courtyard, which has a grape arbor.

“No house is ready to be lived in without being renovated in some way,” she says. Small-town life means “neighbors visit all the time. There’s no such thing as making an appointment. People just drop by.”

Ms. Farah helps out with catechism classes — this time on a Friday — next to Ezraa’s Melkite Greek Catholic church.

“People hold social gatherings like giving congratulations or condolences on Fridays, since people with jobs are busy during the week,” she says. Friday and Saturday make up the official weekend in Syria.

Satellite dishes rise above some old houses and women pace the roofs hanging laundry and chatting on cellular phones. …

Father Elias Hanout, of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Ezraa, points out the Greek inscriptions and religious symbols carved into the beige and dark gray stones of the church, which has withstood earthquakes and other disasters since it was built in the first part of the sixth century.

Today’s atmosphere of coexistence between different faith communities, he says, is buttressed by the hope that flight by Christians from Syria’s southern countryside might be tailing off.

Sadly, little did Father Hanout know that war would come to Ezraa, destroy his church and scatter his community. It is all but a memory now.

Pray for Syria. To learn how you can help, click here.



Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Cultural Identity Village life Melkite Greek Catholic Church
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3 July 2013
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




Students relax on the grounds of Bethlehem University. (photo: Steve Sabella)

Yesterday, I was privileged to meet with an unusual group of “ambassadors” at the United Nations Church Center. These “ambassadors” consisted of eight students and (very recent) graduates of Bethlehem University in Palestine. (CNEWA was one of Bethlehem University’s cofounders and Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, serves on the university’s International Board of Regents.) The young Palestinians — male and female, Christian and Muslim — were working mostly in the field of business and economics. They came from different parts of Palestine. Two of them were from Hebron/Khalil, a town that has seen a great deal of conflict between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. These were students who had to overcome incredible obstacles to study and graduate. Nevertheless, their enthusiasm and energy were palpable.

While in New York, the contingent was meeting with a variety of ambassadors and United Nations agencies. Sponsored by, among others, Caritas Internationalis, CNEWA and Catholic Charities, they also met with members of the U.N. Israel/Palestine Working Group, whose members include not only Catholics but also Lutherans, Presbyterians and Mennonites. They also visited Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

After several days of meetings in New York, the group will break up and individual members will spend the summer in different places around the United States, including Washington, D.C., Seattle and Tucson. They’ll have a chance to experience life in the United States — and give folks in the United States a chance to meet firsthand some Palestinians. Almost all of the students spoke of an “image” that Americans have of Palestinians that does not correspond to the reality. They expressed the desire that their stay in the United States would help Americans to realize that Palestinians are not terrorists or radical extremists.

Seeing their idealism and their youth certainly made me believe that these “ambassadors” can make a real difference in helping Americans better understand Palestinians. And, once they return to their homeland, perhaps they may help Palestinians better understand Americans.



Tags: Palestine United States United Nations Palestinians Bethlehem University
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