3 March 2015
A displaced Syrian girl finds temporary shelter at a school in Damascus, Syria, on 23 February. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)
Syrian families who have fled their homes after the Islamic State raided their villages are receiving aid from CNEWA.
Catholic News Service interviewed Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, who coordinates our regional emergency relief programs:
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association, upon learning about the Islamic State attacks, contacted Bishop Aprim Nathniel of the Assyrian Church of the East in Hassake, with whom the agency had collaborated on previous projects, said Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon.
“What we learned from Bishop [Aprim] is that so far, there are around 900 families that have been displaced from around 18 villages out of 35,” Mr. Constantin told Catholic News Service on 27 February from Beirut. “Another 200 families are expected to come as soon as the fighting cools down a little bit.”
He said most of the 900 displaced families have been temporarily settled in homes in Hassake abandoned by fellow Christians — Assyrians, Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox — who had earlier fled out of fear because Islamic State groups were very close.
“There were many individual houses that were vacant, so the bishop took the initiative to open these houses, knowing that nobody would mind,” Mr. Constantin said. Although the homes are furnished, the displaced families were in urgent need of food, heating fuel, gas for cooking and medication.
“It’s very important to reach out to them with something very basic to sustain them at least for a couple of weeks,” he said. As a first step, CNEWA arranged to send 900 food packages, enough for each family for that initial period.
However, delivering aid or money to Syria is complicated.
“It’s a very long process to buy food from the outside and send it to Syria. It’s not feasible, it takes too much time,” Mr. Constantin explained. Furthermore, transporting goods is perilous because there are daily raids by Islamic State along the only road that links Hassake to Qamishli.
Under such circumstances, he says it is more efficient to send money to purchase whatever is available locally, but due to the conflict, there is no banking system working in Hassake to send funds via bank transfer.
He said CNEWA was working with an Iraqi aid agency able to get the funds into Syria.
“Without this contact in Iraq we could not be so efficient,” he said.
As a first step, CNEWA sent around $36,000 to buy 900 food packages for $40 each. The agency determined from its work in Syria that $40 can sustain a family of five with food for about two weeks.
“It’s a top priority for us to help these people at this moment and then we can coordinate with other partners to see how more grants, more funding can be conveyed to them,” he added.
CNS has more details.
Meantime, the need continues to be urgent. Please keep these refugees and all who are seeking to help them in your prayers. And to learn how you can help, visit this link.
3 March 2015
Tags: Syria CNEWA Refugees Relief
Women in India have benefited from numerous initiatives of the village of San Joe Puram, including efforts to improve literacy, sanitation and water access. To learn more, read A Place of Promise — and Providence in the Winter edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
3 March 2015
Tags: India Village life Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Women Women in India
In this image from December, an Iraqi soldier prays along a dirt road en route to the front lines to battle the Islamic State. The Iraqi military has launched a massive offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State militants. (photo: Scott Person/Getty Images)
Iraqi forces launch offensive to retake Tikrit (Vatican Radio) Iraqi troops and militia fighters have launched an offensive to recapture the city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants. The military offensive is the largest since the militants took control of the city last year. The offensive is the first in a series of campaigns to try to reclaim large parts of northern Iraq from the Sunni extremists. Tikrit, the provincial capital of the Saladin province north of Baghdad, fell to the Islamic State last summer, along with Mosul and other areas in the country’s Sunni heartland…
Former general urges Lebanon to welcome refugees (Fides) Former general Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, has launched an appeal to the Lebanese authorities to welcome the entry of new refugees in Lebanon of Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syrians fleeing areas of the Syrian province of Jazira, under attack by the Islamic State…
Patriarch Tawadros to meet with families of slain Coptic Christians (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II will meet today, Tuesday, 3 March, with the families of 21 Coptic Christians killed in Libya by terrorists linked to the Islamic State, according to official sources of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. The meeting will be held in the village of Samalot, in the province where most of the victims came from. Yesterday, during a homily, the patriarch said that the martyrs of Libya “have enriched the church with their blood,” and with their martyrdom have confessed and testified faith in Christ before the world…
Famed graffiti artist Bansky leaves his mark in Gaza (Salon) Whenever a new piece by graffiti artist Banksy shows up in the world, people take notice. Now, thanks to Banksy, the world is once again looking squarely at Gaza after what feels like the first time since the Gaza war last summer…
2 March 2015
Tags: Lebanon Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Art Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
Pope Francis meets Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, third from left, during a private audience at the Vatican on 2 March. During his Sunday Angelus, the pope offered special prayers for the people of Syria and Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
20 February 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis
In this photo from the Winter edition of ONE, students pray at the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. To learn more about the school and the Armenian community, read “A Beacon of Hope in Jerusalem” in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
19 February 2015
Sonu Augustine plays with his daughter Nidhika in the yard of their home. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Winter edition of ONE features an interview with Sonu Augustine, who grew up in Kerala, India, but now lives with his family in Qatar. He is one of an estimated 400,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in the Persian Gulf region. In his conversation with reporter Don Duncan, he discusses the challenges of faith and culture in the Persian Gulf:
ONE: Does your existence far from the core of the Syro-Malabar Church make it harder for you to transfer your traditions to your children?
SA: We have to work assiduously to make sure that the children are growing up in our faith. Growing up in India means that there is a communal family structure. Grandparents live with the family, brothers and sisters are always nearby, and there are Christian neighbors and a parish with activities of all types. In Qatar, however, it is much different. Even if I go regularly to church here, Syro-Malabar Catholics do not have adequate access to services in our tradition in the Gulf. The children miss out.
ONE: So you have attended the Latin-rite Mass for want of the Divine Liturgy in the Syro-Malabar’s tradition?
SA: For a starving man, whatever food he gets is good food. When he has options, he will opt for the best food. It was a situation like that when I first got here.
Read the full interview here.
17 February 2015
Pope Francis greets new Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after presenting a red hat to him during a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 14 February. The pope created 20 new cardinals. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
17 February 2015
In the video above, Pope Francis offers prayers for the Coptic Christians slain over the weekend.
(video: Rome Reports)
Pope offers Mass for slain Copts (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered Mass Tuesday morning for the repose of the souls of the twenty-one Coptic Christians martyred for their faith in Christ. The Mass was attended by the Pope’s personal secretary, Abuna Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who is Coptic Catholic...
Statement by Coptic Orthodox Church (via Facebook and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church) The Coptic Orthodox Church headed by Pope Tawadros II lays in the hands of God - in this critical time — its innocent martyrs, assured that their great homeland will not rest until the evil perpetrators are justly punished for their evil crime...
Patriarch: slain Copts were “martyrs of the faith” (Fides) At the news of the massacre of 21 Egyptian Copts decapitated in Libya by jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Patriarch of Alexandria of Coptic Catholics, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, “offers his condolence to all the families of these martyrs who gave their lives for the faith, and at the same time expresses his gratitude to President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and all the institutions of the Egyptian government for giving an immediate response to this act of terrorism...”
Muslims and Christians condemn execution of Copts in Libya (L’Osservatore Romano) The barbarity shocked not only the Egyptian Christian community, but the more numerous Muslim authorities have also harshly condemned the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians who had had been held hostage for weeks by Libyan jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State. Video of the execution was broadcast on the internet throughout the day on Sunday...
Pope creates 20 new cardinals (L’Osservatore Romano) “The more we are ‘incardinated’ in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit”. This was Pope Francis’ recommendation to the 20 Cardinals created in the Ordinary Public Consistory held on Saturday, 14 February, in the Vatican Basilica. Benedict XVI was also present at the Consistory...
Ethiopian cardinal: “A total surprise and a humbling experience” (Vatican Radio) Speaking just before the ceremony to Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa, the new Cardinal of Addis Ababa, Berhaneyesus Souraphiel described his nomination as a total surprise. “This nomination came as a total surprise to me... We did not know it. You see, in the former days these nominations were done through the Apostolic Nunciature. This time, this was done directly by Pope Francis himself. So it was a total surprise and a very humbling experience that the Holy Father has thought it fit to ask me to help him in his great responsibility of governing the universal Church,” Cardinal Berhaneyesus said...
Leaders seek to end fighting in eastern Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have agreed that fighting should end around a railway hub in eastern Ukraine where clashes continue despite a ceasefire accord...
Patriarch to Christians in India: churches are doorways to peace (The New Indian Express) Christian churches are the doorways to peace, said Patriarch of Antioch, supreme head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Ignatius Aphrem-II. Speaking after inaugurating the 40th annual celebrations at the Thuruthissery Valiyapalli at Nedumbassery on Monday, the Partriarch said, “a real Christian is a person who is able to love all human beings equally without any discrimination based on caste, creed or religion. Peace will reign only in a society that understands the love of God,” he said. The Patriarch was accorded a grand reception at the Thuruthissery Church...
13 February 2015
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ethiopia Muslim Coptic Christians
Young members of Jerusalem’s Armenian community socialize in the courtyard of the Cathedral of St. James. To learn more about this tiny group of Armenian Christians in the heart of the Holy Land, read “Living Here is Complicated” in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
13 February 2015
Ukrainians attend a funeral in Kiev on 2 February for a serviceman killed in the eastern Ukrainian conflict with Russia. (photo: CNS/Sergey Dolzhenko, EPA)
New accord raises hopes for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The United States and the European Union have expressed caution about a new Ukraine peace agreement reached during talks in Minsk between the Russian, Ukrainian, French and German leaders. Thursday's accord includes a ceasefire starting Sunday, followed by the withdrawal of weapons, the establishment of a demilitarized zone and the exchange of prisoners...
Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the U.S. issue appeal for prayers for peace (Pennsylvania Catholic Conference) The Ukrainian Catholic Bishops in the United States have issued an appeal to clergy, religious and faithful for meditation and fasting for Ukraine. In their letter, the bishops state “The bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine with Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk have asked their faithful to fast and to pray daily for various intentions, among them, for the President and elected officials of Ukraine, for the conversion of the aggressors, for the Ukrainian army, for those who protect citizens, for the souls of the deceased, and for unity and independence of Ukraine. Let us join them in holy prayer and fasting...
AP: High civilian death toll in Gaza strikes (AP) The Associated Press examined 247 airstrikes that — according to witness accounts and site visits — hit residential compounds, out of the some 5,000 Israeli strikes during the conflict. Its reporters compiled a detailed casualty count, determining 844 dead in those strikes. The review found that 508 of those dead — just over 60 percent — were children, women and older men, all presumed to be civilians. Hamas says it did not use women as fighters in the war, and an Israel-based research group tracking militants among the dead said it has no evidence women participated in combat...
Report: Islamic State plans to execute kidnapped Copts (Fides) The 21 Copts kidnapped in Libya in early January are in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State, who in an article published online foreshadow their execution by presenting it as a revenge against the alleged “violence” suffered in the past by Egyptian Muslim women on behalf of the Coptic Church...
In Armenia, towns without men as migrants leave to find work (The Washington Post) Winter is wedding season in Lichk because as soon as the snow melts, all the adult men here — and in the nine other towns served by its little church — leave to work in Russia. For years, these villages have been like countless others in former Soviet republics, where able-bodied men are lured to Russia by seasonal work and higher wages. But stiffer laws for foreign workers and Russia’s worsening economy are making many migrant laborers reconsider their annual journey. For the men of Lichk — and other Armenian workers, who as members of the Eurasian Economic Union don’t need special work permits in Russia — it has meant working abroad longer but sending less money home...
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia Copts