21 February 2017
Refugee Agnan Adnidihad fled Iraq and settled in Jordan, but hopes one day to join his daughter in the United States. (photo: Greg Kandra)
One of the heroic figures I’ve met during my time at CNEWA is this gentleman: Agnan Adnidihad, a 62-year-old former auto mechanic from Mosul, Iraq. I met him at the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan — a facility supported by CNEWA — in the spring of 2015, just a few months after he had fled Iraq. He had barely escaped with his life as ISIS swept in and took over.
As the translator explained when I spoke with Agnan: “They gave him three choices: convert, pay a tax, or be killed.” Agnan ran away, but was caught. They took everything he owned, all his money and papers, but he managed to escape and eventually made his way to Jordan.
When I met him, he was being treated for heart trouble and high blood pressure. The invasion and his escape had taken a terrible toll on him. He was looking to begin his life over somewhere else. “There is no hope for the future in Iraq,” he said. “They destroyed our homes, our work, everything.” His dream was to live with his daughter in the United States.
The one thing that sustained him, he told me, was his faith.
“Faith helps. I pray all the time. I pray to our Father in heaven and offer prayers for our Lady,” he said.
His story, of course, is just one of many. There are countless other refugees and displaced persons like Agnan Adnidihad around the world, fleeing persecution and even death.
I often tell people about Agnan when I visit parishes to talk about CNEWA’s work among refugees in the Middle East. We need to remember and pray for him and so many others like him — unsung heroes of our time who never give up hoping and praying. Despite everything, they still hold fast to their faith. It’s hard not to leave encounters with these people without feeling inspired and grateful — and deeply humbled.
You can watch my interview with Agnan Adnidihad here.
21 February 2017
The depiction of Titus’ Sack of Jerusalem includes a menorah being taken in the Arch of Titus in Rome. (photo: Creative Commons/Damian Entwistle)
The Vatican and Rome’s Jewish Museum are launching a unique exhibition later this year that is making history — and headlines.
From The New York Times:
This much is known: In 70 AD the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, looted the temple of its treasure — including a seven-branched solid gold menorah — and brought at least some of the artifacts back to Rome in a triumphant procession. Depictions of the victorious Roman army and its booty are carved on the Arch of Titus, near the Colosseum, built about a decade later to commemorate that military triumph.
What later happened to the menorah has been the object of intense speculation for centuries, giving rise to various, sometimes colorful, legends and scholarly hypotheses over its whereabouts.
Now, Rome’s Jewish community and the Vatican have teamed up to produce an exhaustive exhibition on the menorah, which in time became an enduring symbol of Jewish culture and religion, in a collaboration that leaders of the two communities described as a further step in solidifying their ties.
“This is a historic event,” Ruth Dureghello, the president of Rome’s Jewish community, said at a news conference on Monday. The menorah has connections to Rome, she added, “so such an important exhibit could only start here.”
Jews and Catholics have a long history of mutual suspicion and conflict, but relations between the two religions have been increasingly positive. In 1965, the Vatican issued “Nostra Aetate,” a landmark document that condemned anti-Semitism. Pope John Paul II, the first modern pope to pray in a synagogue, made an effort to improve the relationship, as have his successors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
The exhibit, “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” which includes about 130 artifacts, will open in May and will be presented at the Vatican Museums and at Rome’s Jewish Museum. The collaboration between the two institutions will finally transform longstanding dialogue into something “concrete,” Ms. Dureghello said.
21 February 2017
In the video above, Iraqi refugees who have settled in Lebanon explain how persecution has strengthened their faith. (video: Rome Reports)
Troops advance on western Mosul (Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces advanced into the southern outskirts of Mosul on the second day of a push to drive ISIL from the city’s western half, as the visiting U.S. defense secretary met officials to discuss the fight against the armed group. With aerial support from the US-led coalition, Iraqi police and army troops launched the offensive on Sunday, part of a 100-day-old campaign that has already driven the fighters from the eastern half of the city...
Eastern Ukraine ceasefire begins (CNN) A ceasefire aimed at ending the bloody fight between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists started Monday — but is already on shaky ground. The ceasefire is a renewed attempt to enforce the Minsk peace protocol — an agreement that has repeatedly failed since it was first partially implemented two years ago...
Some Copts seek asylum in Australia (ABC.net) Military vehicles run over Coptic protesters, dismembering and mangling 27 people in the worst massacre of Christians in the country’s history. Firebrand preachers shout incensed anti-Christian messages from the pulpit and mobs attack Coptic churches, businesses and homes. This is now a daily routine for Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East...
Refugee family shares story of fleeing persecution (CNS) The Sharifs were living contentedly in Pakistan when life turned into a nightmare in 2012. An al Qaida-related group called BLA targeted Amir Sharif, a Catholic and a well-known professor at a university in Quetta. He was told to embrace Islam or leave the country...
More refugees looking to Canada for asylum (Catholic Register) Canada can expect to see more asylum seekers crossing its border with the United States as enforcement toughens at the U.S.-Mexican border and President Donald Trump continues to issue executive orders to restrain refugee arrivals, Catholic refugee advocates have told The Catholic Register...
16 February 2017
A family poses inside their home in an Indian slum neighborhood served by the Sisters of the Destitute. To learn more, read ‘My Great Hope Is the Sisters’ in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: John Mathew)
15 February 2017
In this image from 2016, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis meet at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. Also pictured are Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, right, greeting Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Chaldean Patriarchate condemns statements seeking revenge on Sunni Muslims (Fides) Mr. Ryan Salem — who yesterday appeared in a television program to assert that Iraqi Christians are also present in Mosul to fight and take revenge on Sunni Muslims — “has nothing to do with the Christ’s moral teachings, messenger of peace, love and forgiveness,” and cannot “make such statements involving Christians,” as it “does not represent them in any way” This is what the Chaldean Patriarchate said yesterday evening...
Catholic theologian urges closer ties with Russian Orthodox (CNS) A prominent Catholic ecumenist has urged a better understanding of the Russian Orthodox Church. “Those suspicious of the Russian Orthodox stance should go and see what’s happening,” said Barbara Hallensleben, a consultor with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “Of course, nationalist and ideological tendencies are always at work. But a lot of people in Russia are promoting Christianity — and by creating relations, we can strengthen church life and proclaim the faith with them,” said Hallensleben, who hosted anniversary commemorations of Pope Francis’ 2016 meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill...
Displaced Syrians dream of return (Reuters) In Aleppo’s Jibreen shelter, home to refugees who have been unable or unwilling to return to their houses or flee further afield, the inhabitants of Qalayah, one of the villages from that area, swear they will one day recover their land. “We raised sheep and had land. We sold everything when we left. God willing we shall return. It’s our village, we can’t leave it,” said a lean man in his 40’s, traditional headdress worn over a long robe, who identified himself as Abu Mohammed...
How to tackle repetitive droughts in the Horn of Africa (Al Jazeera) Drought mitigation strategies in the Horn of Africa include both short-term approaches, such as distributing food to those affected and long-term approaches such as planting drought-tolerant crop varieties that can withstand insufficient rainfall, or diversifying one’s crop and income base so that there is something to fall back on when drought strikes...
U.S. diplomat says he expects Russia to meet its commitments on Ukraine (Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that the United States was ready to work with Russia if it found common areas for cooperation, but said Moscow had to adhere to commitments made over Ukraine. “As we search for new common ground we expect Russia to honor its commitment to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate violence in Ukraine,” Tillerson told reporters after meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov...
Kerala plans to attract Christians to ancient sites (UCANews.com) The southern Indian Kerala state government’s tourism department has initiated a plan to attract visitors to ancient Christian sites but church officials were irked that were not consulted...
15 February 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Ethiopia Russian Orthodox
Volunteers, many of them Muslim, help to repair a Chaldean church damaged by ISIS in Mosul.
Young Muslim volunteers help repair church in Mosul (Fides) About 30 young people, belonging to an organization of civilian volunteers, mostly Muslims, cleaned and tidied the Chaldean church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in Drakziliya, in Mosul on the left bank of the Tigris River and now under the control of the Iraqi army...
Refugee camp teachers struggle to help displaced Syrian children (ABC.au) Refugee camp administrators say they fear for the future of Syria’s children as the civil war enters its sixth year. Many kids in refugee camps across Syria are learning to read and write in leaky tents with little more than tables and chairs for them to sit on...
Catholic group in India calls for release of kidnapped priest (Asia News) The All India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest lay Catholic organization in India, is calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use his influence and that of his government to negotiate with the countries of the Middle East free the Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen on 4 March 2016...
Russian Orthodox Church, Vatican to work closer on Christians’ persecution (Pravmir.com) The Russian Orthodox Church plans to strengthen its cooperation with Vatican on the issue of monitoring persecution of Christians in the Middle East and other regions, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion said on Sunday...
East Africa food prices reach record highs due to drought (Reuters) Drought in East Africa has sent prices of staples such as maize and sorghum soaring, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday, warning that a sharp increase in food prices could lead to renewed hunger in the region. Prices of staple cereals have doubled in some markets, reaching record and near-record levels in swaths of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, FAO said...
14 February 2017
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan greets displaced Iraqis after the eucharistic liturgy in Erbil.
(photo: Paul Jeffrey)
One of the more energetic and visible advocates for CNEWA’s work among the persecuted and the poor has been the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. His support has been tireless and, indeed, heroic.
In his capacity as CNEWA’s chair, the cardinal has visited a number of regions we serve, to meet those who are facing challenges and difficulties far removed from his work in New York City.
Just last year, he traveled with CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre to Erbil, where he met some of the Iraqi Christians who have been displaced by ISIS — men, women and children who have been literally running for their lives.
He spoke about that visit in an interview with the National Catholic Register:
What I saw was this blend of terrible sadness, and yet amazing charity and hope. Sadness, because these people who had come from Mosul or the plains of Nineveh — their families go back centuries and centuries, some to the time of St. Thomas the Apostle — had to abandon their homes in a couple of hours’ notice and couldn’t bring anything. They brought their children, obviously, and they brought their elders. The priests and nuns accompanied them on the [10-hour] walk, and they made it safely there. All these people want to do is go back home.
What’s hopeful is that they still have an extraordinarily vivid faith — their resilience is nothing less than profound. What’s moving as well is the remarkable charity and hospitality with which the Christians of Kurdistan have welcomed them.
So, we toured a number of camps. There would be thousands of these people in the refugee camps, which are actually rather secure and safe and where the local Christians have opened up schools, medical dispensaries and pharmacies. The people there will be the first to say that they are well taken care of — so, thanks be to God — because of a lot of international Christian support, and, yes, some support from the Kurdistan government and the Iraqi government.
At least they have these secure makeshift caravans, which we would call “trailers,” to live in. And the camp seems to be secure, and their needs and health and food are taken care of, as well as the education of their children. So the charity that has been shown them is remarkable.
Last summer, ONE published a photo essay, chronicling the cardinal’s visit. As we noted then:
“Pope Francis keeps saying that we priests must be with our people,” Cardinal Dolan said in his meeting with seminarians. “We just came from a refugee camp where we met a priest who slept outside on his mattress because he said he couldn’t sleep inside if his people were outside.
“We’ve met with sisters and priests who walked with the people from Mosul as they were fleeing. That’s the model of the priesthood. That’s Jesus: To be with our people all the time, to be especially close to your people in the difficult times.”
That closeness to people is emblematic of Cardinal Dolan’s priesthood. And again and again during that visit, it was striking to see how eagerly he embraced those he met — and how joyfully the people in the camps reached out to embrace him and make him feel welcome. In the true spirit of CNEWA, he seeks to accompany others in their struggles, sorrows and hopes.
When the Register asked what spiritual lessons he took from his trip, he offered an answer that beautifully encapsulates so much of CNEWA’s own mission:
We learn, first of all, that our faith is indeed as Jesus said: our “pearl of great price.” We tend to take it for granted, but these are people who literally have lost everything, rather than give up their faith. So, first of all, we learned the primacy of faith. We learned that we need to ask ourselves: Are we prepared to live our faith in such a way as we are ready to die for it? Because these people are. They will give up anything but their faith. As one lady said, “They can’t take our faith away from us.”
No. 2, we learn the importance of solidarity. This is the lesson of St. Paul in Corinthians come alive: When one member of the body suffers, all suffer. So we are suffering with them, and we cannot be callous to their suffering. So that solidarity is a second lesson.
Thirdly, we learn the importance of hospitality and charity, in that, even though it’s a long-range hospitality, we’re all at home in the Church. I said to them, “You know I don’t understand your language, we look different from you, we have come from a nation far, far away — and yet, I feel at home with you, because we are members of the household of the faith, and we are one.”
14 February 2017
Two young men take a break in the wood workshop of Caritas Georgia. To learn more about the skills being developed at Caritas, read A Letter from Georgia in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Antonio di Vico)
14 February 2017
Members of Free Syrian Army encounter a flock of sheep in Aleppo during ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ on 10 February 2017. A study released Monday says Syrian helicopters dumped banned chemical weapons on residential areas of Aleppo last year.
(photo: Muhammed Nour/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Holy See calls to protect civilians from terrorist attacks (Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, on Monday said “it is the obligation of the international community, in accord with the U.N. Charter, to protect civilians and their critical infrastructure from the brutality and barbarity of terrorist groups...”
Report: Syria used chemical attacks in Aleppo (The New York Times) Syrian military helicopters systematically dumped canisters of chlorine gas, a banned weapon, on residential areas of Aleppo at least eight times late last year in the final weeks of the battle to retake the city from rebels, Human Rights Watch said in a detailed study released Monday...
ISIS counterattacks as Iraqi forces prepare for Mosul push (AP) The Iraqi army has been moving troops around Mosul ahead of an expected push to retake its western half from the Islamic State group in the final decisive battle for the city, a commander said Tuesday. “We are preparing ... to launch a big operation in order to liberate the rest of Mosul,” said Brig. Walid Khalifa, deputy commander of the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division...
Hardliner elected new leader of Hamas in Gaza (Al Jazeera) Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement has chosen Yahya Sinwar, freed in a 2011 prisoner swap with Israel after more than 20 years in jail, as its new chief in the Palestinian enclave following an internal election, sources close to the group said. Sinwar will be a key decision-maker for Hamas and a member of the executive leadership that draws up policies, including towards Israel...
Violence flares in Ukraine (The Guardian) Since the war started in 2014 more than 300 shells have fallen on the grounds of the factory, the largest coking plant in Europe, which sits on Ukrainian-controlled territory just a few miles from the frontline with Russia-backed separatists. The big guns have been mercifully quiet for months, but the past fortnight has seen a new flurry of violence, linked in Kiev to a Russia apparently newly emboldened by the election of Donald Trump in the U.S...
Archeologists plan to excavate site linked to Ark of the Covenant (Times of Israel) One of the few remaining unstudied major biblical sites, where according to the Bible the Ark of the Covenant was kept for two decades, will be excavated by archaeologists this summer for the first time. Organizers hope the anticipated study of Kiryat Ye’arim (also transliterated as Kiriath Jearim) will shed light on the site’s significance during the Iron Age, the period associated with the biblical account of King David...
13 February 2017
Opposition fighters backing Turkish troops drive past stones blocking a road on the outskirts of the Syrian town of al-Bab on 12 February 2017. Turkish troops backed by Syrian rebel fighters have entered the center of the ISIS bastion of al-Bab and will soon capture it, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday. (photo: Rafat Ahmad/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish troops enter ISIS stronghold in northern Syria (AP) Turkey’s president said Sunday that his troops and allied Syrian fighters have reached the heart of the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab in northern Syria and will eventually join the effort to recapture Raqqa, the extremists’ de-facto capital in Syria. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ISIS fighters have begun deserting al-Bab, which has been under attack for weeks...
Hezbollah urges Lebanon plan for return of Syrian refugees (AFP) The head of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement on Sunday urged the government to coordinate with Damascus to help refugees to return now that “large areas” of Syria are “safe”...
Ukraine turns a blind eye to ultra rightist militias (The Washington Post) Despite Kiev’s pledge to rein them in, rogue militias continue to fight against Moscow-backed separatists. When war erupted in 2014, Ukraine’s army was on its knees after decades of corruption and neglect. So the top brass joined forces with volunteer battalions to counter the pro-Russian insurgency. But these informal groups proved difficult to control, with some committing heinous abuses. Almost all have been incorporated into Ukrainian state forces...
Canada’s churches consider court action over refugees (Catholic Register) As the storm over the fate of refugees intensifies in the United States, Canada’s churches are deliberating whether or not to take the federal government to court to pull Canada out of its Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S...
Using art to heal: battling cancer in Gaza (Al Jazeera) Aya Abdulrahman was informed by her doctors that she would be dead by the end of 2014. At 21, she had seven malignant tumors. “Your daughter has two months left to live. You cannot do anything. Go home,” the doctor told Abdulrahman’s mother. The painful news, however, did not stop her from pursuing her dreams. Since childhood, all Abdulrahman wanted to do was become an artist and leave her mark on the world through art...
Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees Turkey ISIS