11 September 2012
On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's historic trip to Lebanon, veteran Vatican observer John Allen helps place this visit into its many contexts:
Quite often, how an event is framed beforehand determines judgments after the fact about whether it was a success or a failure. In the run-up to Pope Benedict XVI’s 14-16 September trip to Lebanon, which unfolds against the backdrop of ongoing violence in Syria, there seem to be four basic competing frames. …
First, there’s the official line from Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, asserting the pope is not traveling as a “powerful political leader” but as “the head of a religious community” whose mission is to confirm the Christians of the region “who serve the communities in which they live through the witness of their lives.” …
Second, there’s the frame proposed by Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit who lived in Syria for 30 years prior to being expelled in June for his advocacy of the anti-Assad uprising. On Tuesday, Dall’Oglio finished an eight-day hunger strike in Rome intended to raise awareness about the Syrian situation.
Dall’Oglio issued a statement Tuesday expressing hope that the papal visit to Lebanon, the closest Benedict is every like to come to Syria, will be an occasion for unmasking the “lies of the regime” under Assad, and for demanding that the Christian nations of the West stop “giving the regime the possibility of spilling more Syrian blood.” …
Third, there’s the frame offered by Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, who has suggested the papal trip should be a “line of last defense” stand in favor of Christian survival all across the Middle East.
As is well known, Christians today are estimated to represent no more than 5 percent of the population of the Middle East, down from 20 percent in the early 20th century. From 12 million today, the consensus estimate is that the Christian population of the Middle East will likely be 6 million in 2020. The decline is due to a number of factors, including lower birth rates, economic and political stagnation, and rising insecurity and the threat of Islamic radicalism. …
Finally, there’s a fourth frame suggested by Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian scholar based at St. Joseph University in Beirut: extolling Lebanon itself as a model for the Islamic future, one based on moderation, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. …
[Father Samir] published an essay Tuesday in advance of the pope’s trip pointing out that Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East where a citizen can convert from one religion to another “without the risk of being killed or severely marginalized.”
Read the rest at the National Catholic Reporter’s site.
10 September 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI
The Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan, is run by the Comboni Sisters. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Here at CNEWA, we are very familiar with the Comboni Sisters and their dedication to the sick. They are involved with institutions we support, such as the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. Today, the Catholic News Service reported on the tireless work of Sister Giacinta Niboli, a Comboni Sister, in Egypt. She has served Egypt’s sick for the past 60 years:
“We are here to help, we don’t speak about Jesus, but are teaching love through showing mothers to properly care for their children, wash them well, and take care of their eyes,” Sister Giacinta said.
She added that the dust and fine sand of the desert and mountains that surround Nazlet Khater are the source of what she calls the village’s most endemic malady: eye infections. Other common ailments, she said, include stomach illnesses and influenza.
“We used to get a lot of scorpion bites, but those have declined. I also used to deliver babies, but now I send mothers to the hospital in the city of Sohag, 21 miles away,” Sister Giacinta explained.
She quickly added: “Remember, I am almost 85.”
Sister Giacinta said she does not worry about what lies ahead in post-revolution Egypt, where anywhere from an estimated 4 to 12 million Christians live among more than 70 million Muslims.
“I love them all, and they love me,” Sister Giacinta said of the Muslim majority. “They tell me, ‘You are baraka,’” [the Arabic word for a blessing], she said.
For more, read Comboni Sister Nurses Egyptians for 60 Years.
4 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Jordan Health Care Comboni Sisters
Coptic Christians grieve during the funeral for seven victims of sectarian violence at Samaan el-Kharaz Church in Cairo, Egypt, last year. Thirteen people died and 140 were wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims initiated by anger over an arson attack on a church the week before. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
In this morning’s “Page One,” we highlighted an essay featured in America Magazine by David Pinault, a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University. The author described a recent visit to Egypt, his impressions of the country since the “Lotus Revolution,” and the declining number of Copts in Egypt since the onset of conflict. He described a conversation with a Cairo cab driver:
I told him the statistics: in 2011 and 2012, since the revolution’s onset, over 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt. “Well, I’m not going to leave,” Sami insisted. “Christ is testing us. I tell my friends to stay. Christ could end this suffering, this trial, at any time. How will you feel, I tell my friends, if you’re in Canada instead of Egypt when Christ returns?”
I pondered this apocalyptic thought as we skirted Tahrir Square, the scene of recurrent confrontations between demonstrators and Egypt’s military, and passed the blackened ruins of the Institute of Egypt. French scholars had founded the Institute after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion in 1798; its archives held centuries-old maps, books and manuscripts — a priceless treasure. But in December 2011, when government forces on nearby rooftops shot at demonstrators in the street, protesters retaliated by throwing firebombs at the soldiers. Some of the projectiles fell short; the resultant fire destroyed most of the building and much of the collection. In January 2012, Sami told me, Muslim and Christian volunteers collaborated in salvaging charred volumes from the ruins.
But what lingered in my mind was the assessment published in the Arabic-language newspaper al-Ahram by the Egyptian poet and commentator Kamal ‘Arafah. He compared the destruction of Cairo’s Napoleonic Institute to the ancient burning of the Library of Alexandria and the Mongols’ obliteration of Baghdad’s learning centers in the 13th century. Labeling Egypt’s fire-bombers “Mongols of chaos,” ‘Arafah added, “I felt pain when I saw in the videos and pictures the cries of Allahu akbar (Allah is great) and La ilaha illa Allah (there is no god except Allah) coming from young men and women while the Institute of Egypt was burning — young men and women who were ignorant of the extent of the loss bleeding from the heart of Egypt.“
When I mentioned ‘Arafah’s commentary to Sami, he said he, too, found disturbing the linkage of religious sloganeering and violence. He returned to what we had been discussing earlier, Salafist persecution of the Copts: “I’m staying. I’m not leaving my country. I’m not going to do what the Salafists want me to do.” He added that in the aftermath of recent attacks on Christian churches, when he and his Coptic friends assemble for prayer, they have the feeling, “We’re ready to be martyrs. We’re ready to be with Christ, to live with Christ.” Not martyrs in any violent sense, he insisted, but in the sense of giving witness.
For more, read Ready To Be Martyrs.
30 August 2012
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Africa Coptic Christians
Young Syrian refugees walk through a camp in Anbar province west of Baghdad, Iraq, 19 August.
(photo: CNS/Ali al-Mashhadani, Reuters)
While violence and urest escalate in their homeland, many Syrians are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Recently the Catholic News Service reported on the plight of women and children fleeing the violence in Syria:
“Families are trying desperately to stay together,” but not always succeeding, [Caroline] Brennan added. Sometimes, men “stay home trying to protect their land, or they’re fighting — or worse, they’ve been kidnapped. The women are left to lead the family. They think: What is happening to the people they love in this world?“
But she also told of a Syrian husband and father named Faizad.
“He came across the border, but his wife and (most of their) children weren’t allowed to make it. But then he has a son he has to care for. He (the son) cries at night, he misses his mom,” Brennan said. Workers can tell from the boy’s drawings that he has seen “people with guns killing innocent people,” she added.
“This is a humanitarian crisis at its heart,” she said.
There are “huge social needs of the people, especially children and mothers,” said Vivian Manneh, a 20-year CRS veteran currently serving as a regional program manager for the Middle East. “Kids are starting to think, ‘What is going to happen to us? Where are we going to be?’ There are lots of psychosocial needs, lots of basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter.”
For more, read Syrian Refugees Flood Neighboring Countries.
29 August 2012
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Middle East War
Women and their children sign in at the lobby of the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Greg Tarczynski)
The Mother of Mercy Clinic, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care. The clinic offers impoverished mothers and babies health care during a crucial period for mother and child:
In an examining room at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, Dr. Ibrahim Ghabeish puzzles over a patient’s condition. Somehow Salah, a 3-day-old infant, has contracted dysentery. The infection is relatively common among adults in Zerqa; usually it is contracted by consuming food that has been contaminated by dirty water. But how could an infant, whose only nourishment is his mother’s milk, get infected? After questioning the child’s 25-year-old mother, Maha, Dr. Ghabeish put together a likely scenario.
“The child’ mother was cutting up carrots washed in contaminated water,” he explained. “When Salah started to cry, she brought him to be nursed without washing her hands. She must have transferred the disease when she prepared to nurse him.”
Established in 1982, Mother of Mercy Clinic offers a wide range of general heath care services to thousands of patients — over 26,000 in 2008 — regardless of creed or origin. The clinic, however, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care, giving priority to needy mothers and their infants.
To learn more about the clinic, read our article in the May 2009 issue of ONE, Mothering Mercies. To learn how you can help support the work of the Mother of Mercy Clinic, visit our website.
27 August 2012
Tags: Children Middle East Jordan Health Care
A first–year design student takes a break from studying at Notre Dame University in Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec)
In the current issue of the magazine, we profile the largest Catholic University in Lebanon, Notre Dame University. The school works to develop scholars and better world citizens:
“Our core mission,” says Dr. Eid, “is based on the premise of forming wise citizens in Lebanon. We need to cultivate certain conditions to provide learners with opportunities and spiritual values.”
”N.D.U. is as diverse as Lebanon,” declares Dr. Eid. Though the main campus’s student body is mostly Christian, the North Lebanon and Shouf campuses enroll significant numbers of Druze and Muslim students.
As part of N.D.U.’s mission, faculty and staff on all campuses promote dialogue among students of different religions and sects.
For more, read Where Dialogue Is on the Curriculum. And, take a look at our interviews with Notre Dame students in the video below!
23 August 2012
Tags: Lebanon Education ONE magazine Dialogue
A mother and child receive care at the Shepherd’s Field Hospital (photo: PMP-CNEWA Jerusalem)
CNEWA Canada is very excited to partner with the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada for a joint venture called “Velma’s Dream,” named after outgoing C.W.L. President, Velma Harasen. The Catholic Women’s League is a national lay association of women and is the largest organization of Catholic women in Canada — with over 1,300 councils across Canada.
Last week, CNEWA Canada National Director Carl Hétu visited the Annual National Convention for the C.W.L. held in Edmonton, AB, Canada, from 12 to 15 August 2012. He was invited to speak to 950 delegates on the topic of Christians of the Middle East. He inspired and challenged them to bring hope to these Christians, who are a minority and caught in the midst of power struggles. We can help them keep the light of Christ burning in the Holy Land by being in solidarity with them, since they are part of the family of the Catholic Church.
Carl also gave the Catholic Women’s League an update on a project they are supporting in Holy Land — the education program of the Infant Welfare Center in Jerusalem, which works at getting youth who have dropped out of school back into the classroom. The project has now been fully funded, meeting its goal thanks to the generosity of women and councils across Canada. The funds will be sent this September for implementation.
During the National Convention, the C.W.L. approved the funding of a second project. This new dream is to support the Beit Sahour Cooperative Society in the Bethlehem area, to provide affordable quality health care for poor families — especially pregnant women and newborn babies through the Shepherd’s Field Hospital.
Another example of their generosity is that approximately $2,500 was collected at Masses during the National Convention to go towards this second project. What a wonderful witness of solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land. Carl enjoyed his time spent at the Annual National Convention and in Edmonton. To all the wonderful ladies of the Catholic Women’s League, we say: “Thank you!”
To support Velma’s Dream, visit our website by clicking here.
23 August 2012
Tags: Holy Land Health Care Donors CNEWA Canada
Dr. Yousef Zaknoun, director of The Cardinal Martini Leadership Institute at Bethlehem University, accepted the Sciat vt Serviat Award on behalf of the university.
(photo: Bethlehem University)
Last month, at its General Assembly in São Paulo, Brazil, The International Federation of Catholic Universities presented its prestigious Sciat vt Serviat Award to Bethlehem University for its “remarkable commitment … in building a sustainable society in the Holy Land.” From the university’s website:
Designed to enhance the mission of IFCU and of Catholic universities across the globe, the Sciat vt Serviat Award rewards creative initiatives that represent a significant and inspiring contribution to Catholic university culture. Dr. Yousef Zaknoun, Director of The Cardinal Martini Leadership Institute at Bethlehem University, was among the 300 participants at the IFCU International Assembly in São Paulo, Brazil on Thursday, 26 July 2012 when it was announced that Bethlehem University was this year’s recipient of the Sciat vt Serviat Award. ...
Bethlehem University is the third such institution to receive the Sciat vt Serviat Award, being singled out for “the social commitment of its Faculty Members and Students in favor of the Interreligious Dialogue and Peacebuilding.” This is evidenced by the engagement of all students in an interreligious dialogue class during their fourth year of study; the prominent voice of Bethlehem University faculty, staff, and students at the “Christians in the Holy Land Conference” last summer at Lambeth Palace in London; the leadership of Bethlehem University faculty in the international discourse around the Christian presence in the Holy Land, such as through Kairos Palestine; and countless other initiatives.
For the rest of the story, complete with a photo album, click here.
Bethlehem University bears the distinction of being the only Catholic university in the Holy Land. CNEWA played a significant role in its founding by Pope Paul VI in 1973, and maintains a permanent endowment for its continued operation. To read more about Bethlehem University, see Paul Wachter's The Perseverance of Bethlehem University, from the November 2004 issue of ONE, or George Martin's Preparing Palestinians for a New Millennium, from the October 1998 issue.
21 August 2012
Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Education Catholic education Bethlehem University
A resident of a home for girls hugs a sister from the Verbo Encarnado (Incarnate Word) community, which runs the child care facility near Alexandria, Egypt.
(photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
In the November 2004 edition of ONE, we featured a story about the work of the Verbo Encarnado sisters in the Dekhela neighborhood of Alexandria, Egypt. The sisters established homes for girls escaping turbulent and unstable homes for the comfort and security offered by the congregation:
The national average daily income is just over $10 a day. About 23 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Due to overpopulation, a weak economy and high unemployment, the challenges facing Egypt’s youth are daunting.
Sister María Guadalupe, the superior of the community in Egypt, says the situation in Dekhela is especially bad. The town is poor; there are few social services.
“These girls were living with their families in one room,” she says. “No bathroom, no kitchen, just one room. Sometimes there would be a bed and that’s all. So the girls were spending all their time in the street.”
For more, read Building a Brighter Future.
20 August 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Sisters Africa
A resident of the Divine House in Zahle, Lebanon, takes a break from playtime.
(photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
CNEWA has been helping children in Lebanon for many years, primarily through our needy child sponsorship program. During his pastoral visit to Lebanon last winter, Msgr. John Kozar met some children who have benefited from CNEWA’s support at the Blessed Sacrament Orphanage:
We were warmly greeted by the present superior, Mother Francoise Doueihy, and a number of the other sisters. As we tried to meet everyone present, the grand entrance into the hall filled with singing, smiling and happy girls between the ages of 5 and 16. They welcomed us with some songs and dances, dressed patriotically in the colors of Lebanon: red, white and green, especially green, representing the famous cedars of Lebanon.
What a loving and lovable group of young ladies. I shared with them that the children of North America sent them their love and their prayers and they offered the same to all of our children back home. We had some real fun taking photos with all of them. Their radiant faces truly expressed the presence of Jesus on their faces and in their hearts. What a wonderful visit.
Interested in sponsoring a child? Visit our website for more information.
Tags: Lebanon Children Education Orphans/Orphanages