25 January 2017
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, left, greets children at a school run by the Sisters of Destitute in the Ghaziabad Slums project at Deendayalpuri. (photo: CNEWA)
The current edition of ONE features some beautiful photographs of India, and this reflection by CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar:
Despite horrible conditions of poverty, neglect and abuse, the children there manage to smile. When I try to bring smiles on their faces, I am rewarded with the gentle and reassuring messages that they reflect back to me: Life is very difficult, but there is always reason to be joyful. That joy and those beaming faces seem to radiate in the programs that CNEWA is so privileged to support.
Being a priest who loves to engage — some would say “entertain” — the children, I find myself always more the beneficiary of loving joy, rather than the benefactor of good will. And the joy of these beautiful children is infectious, especially for their priests, sisters and other caregivers. Even the sisters who insist on discipline and good order cannot resist the power of those grinning little ones. And that only brings out the best in me — as I, too, am captivated by their joy-filled smiles and laughter.
Below, you can see more images from a recent trip to India, narrated by Msgr. Kozar.
25 January 2017
In the video above, a Lebanese Christian now studying in Rome describes the significance of Lebanon as a place of refuge for so many. Many Syrian refugees now in Lebanon are struggling simply to survive. (video: Rome Reports)
At Mosul’s front lines, perils abound (The New York Times) After three months of fighting, the battle to retake Mosul has entered a new chapter, but the Islamic State’s vast arsenal of car bombs and suicide vests is far from spent and most of the civilian population is still trapped...
Syrian refugee children reduced to selling on Beirut’s streets (The Guardian) As the crisis in Syria approaches its sixth anniversary, the UN says 93 percent of refugee households in Lebanon don’t have enough food. When families can’t afford the basics, sending children out to work is one potentially dangerous way they try to cope. They also exhaust savings, sell any land or property they might own in Syria, and fall into debt...
Dispute over St. Petersburg cathedral sparks charges of anti-Semitism (The Washington Post) Recently announced plans to transfer the ownership of St. Isaac’s Cathedral from the state to the Russian Orthodox Church have sparked protests in the city, and on Tuesday that dispute turned uglier, with comments from a prominent politician leading to allegations of anti-Semitism in Orthodox-majority Russia. Those comments were made by Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy chairman of Russia’s State Duma, during a news conference on Monday...
U.N.: New drought puts recovery of Ethiopia at risk (AfricaNews.com) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that new drought across parts of southern Ethiopia may put recovery efforts at risk, unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas. In a statement released on Tuesday, the U.N. Said pastoral communities in these regions could suffer consequences of last year’s El Niño climate phenomenon, already witnessing forage shortfalls and water scarcity...
Coptic bishop makes donation for restoration of mosque (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Bishop Takla, at the head of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Dishna, in the governorate of Qena, has offered a donation to finance the restoration of the historic mosque dedicated to Abd al-Rahīm al-Qenāwī. The symbolic gesture of the donation took place recently during a public meeting in the presence of some local sheikhs, some Coptic priests and many residents of the area surrounding the mosque, in a festive atmosphere and marked by the desire to show the harmony between the Muslim and the Christian component of the Egyptian people...
24 January 2017
Born without arms, Jilumol Thomas grew up cared for by the Sisters of the Destitute in a home supported by CNEWA. She now works as a graphic designer. (photo: CNEWA)
Jilumol Thomas has done more — and with far less — than most of us can imagine. This 23-year-old young woman has defied the odds again and again, and is continuing to show others a quiet heroism that comes from trust in God.
CNEWA’s regional director for India, M.L. Thomas, wrote to tell us about her recently:
Jilumol Mariott Thomas — “Jilu” to her friends — was born the second of three children of Thomas Nellanikkattu and Annakkutty of Karimannoor near Thodupuzha in Kerala, the southern state of India. Tragically, she was born without arms. When Jilu was just four years-old, her mother died. Jilu was taken to the Mercy Home run by Sisters of the Destitute at Changanassery, a small town in Kerala, India supported by CNEWA in its childcare program.
At the Mercy Home, Jilu got support in abundance from the sisters. They set up a canvas for Jilu and gave her color pencils. In time, she learned how to battle her physical shortcomings. She started practicing graphics on a computer. Earning high marks in school, she eventually graduated and secured a degree in Animation and Graphic Design from Media Village in Changanassery.
After earning her degree, she started working on some computer-related jobs for private organizations. She later served as an office assistant at a church-run hospital at Paimkulam.
But her dream was to make a career in graphic design. Bishop Mar Sebastian Adayanthrath, Bishop Auxiliary of the Syro Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamali, invited Jilu to join Viani Printing Press, run by the Archdiocese in Kochi city. A work space was specially created for Jilu at Viani by rearranging the computer table, mouse and keyboard; it was set up in such a way that she could work with her feet.
The little girl born without arms or hands is now reaching and touching many with her talent — and her spirit.
Someone once asked her, “When you cry, how do you wipe your tears?,” and she replied: “I have no hands to erase my tears. Let me meet everyone with laughter and a smile so that I never need to cry.”
Jilu credits her faith, her family, and the sisters who raised her for teaching her what is possible.
“There are people who discourage me,” she says, “but I learned many lessons from them regarding life. A bird sits on the branch of a tree with a firm belief that the branch will not break away from the stem. Similarly, the journey of my life is with full trust in my merciful God.”
24 January 2017
Iraqi soldiers inspect the debris on 22 January at St. George’s Monastery (Mar Gurguis), an historic Chaldean Catholic church on the northern outskirts of Mosul, which was destroyed by ISIS in 2015. The U.N. is racing to prepare emergency aid ahead of the battle for western Mosul.
(photo: AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images)
At Syria talks, a pledge to safeguard truce (AP) Syria talks in Kazakhstan between the Damascus government and rebel factions have concluded with Russia, Turkey and Iran striking a deal on a three-way mechanism to consolidate the country’s nearly month-old cease-fire...
U.N. ‘racing’ to prepare emergency aid ahead of battle for western Mosul (Reuters) The United Nations said on Tuesday it is “racing against the clock” to prepare emergency aid for hundreds of thousands of endangered civilians in Mosul with an Iraqi army offensive looming to oust Islamic State from the western half of the city. Iraqi officials said on Monday government forces had taken complete control of eastern Mosul, 100 days after the start of their U.S.-backed campaign to retake Iraq’s second largest city from IS insurgents who seized it in 2014...
‘Gaza infrastructure nearing collapse’ (The Jerusalem Post) Gaza’s infrastructure is on the verge of collapse, the Israeli NGO Gisha said in a detailed report it issued on Tuesday, which painted a bleak picture of the lack of basic utilities in the Hamas-controlled Strip. It described how Gaza’s 1.8 million residents lack regular supplies of electricity, drinking water and adequate telecommunication services...
Turkey’s beleaguered Christians aim to stay resilient (National Catholic Reporter) “People are naturally afraid, so many are staying away from the churches,” Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, apostolic vicar of Istanbul, told NCR. “But Christians and Muslims are united against this violence, and the police who’ve been guarding our churches are kind and considerate. Though no one knows what will happen, we’re talking together and sharing our concerns...”
Communist Kerala leader warns church on commercialization of schools (UCANews) The southern Indian Kerala state chief minister and communist leader has lambasted some private schools for corrupt practices and warned that the church, which has worked extensively in education, not to fall prey to the commercial education lobby. Pinarayi Vijayan spoke at the diamond jubilee of church-run Devagiri St. Joseph’s College in Kozhikode district on 17 January. He lauded the Christian service in education but warned that it is fast becoming a for-profit enterprise...
Pope tells media to reject prejudice, leave space for hope (CNS) At a time when the media seem to feed a “vicious cycle of anxiety” and a “spiral of fear,” Christians should respond with honest stories that identify problems and evil, but also inspire real solutions, Pope Francis said...
23 January 2017
Villagers in Izbet Chokor, Egypt, greet one another along the road that runs through the hamlet, which both Christians and Muslims have made their home. Learn how they are Finding Common Ground in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
23 January 2017
Government officials take part in the first session of Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on 23 January 2017. (photo: Aliia Raimbekova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syria’s warring sides kick off talks in Astana (Al Jazeera) A delegation of Syrian rebels attending a new round of talks in Kazakhstan’s capital will not hold direct talks with representatives of the government, according to opposition sources. The meetings in Astana, organised by Russia and Turkey, are aimed at strengthening a shaky ceasefire that has largely held despite incidents of violence across Syria...
U.S.-backed forces brace for ISIS’ last stand in Iraq (CBS News) CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that in some neighborhoods of eastern Mosul, there is a sense that things are returning to normal. Iraqi forces have managed to liberate the eastern half of the city right up to the Tigris River, which divides it roughly in half...
U.N.: Syrian child refugees struggle to get an education (Reuters) Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are struggling to get an education and many are being pushed into work or early marriage instead, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Monday. Around 187,000 youngsters — roughly half the school-age Syrian children in the country — are not going to classes, the agency said, as it launched a documentary on their situation...
Pope Francis calls for continued prayer for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis noted that we are currently in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has for its theme this year “Reconciliation — The Love of Christ Compels Us...”
Russian Orthodox phone goes on sale for $25,000 (RT) Why would you pay $25k for a phone that isn’t even a smartphone? Well, why wouldn’t you, if it was covered in gold leaf, had 18-carat gold buttons, and most importantly, had an Orthodox cross engraved on it? Moscow-based mobile phone company Gresso created 988 (the year Christianity was adopted in Russia) of the phones, ranging from $6,300 to $25,000, depending on how blinged-out the model is. There is a version with diamond encrusted buttons, for example...
20 January 2017
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Russian Orthodox ISIS
Members of the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy attend the liturgy at Fasilides Bath during the annual Timkat Epiphany celebration on 19 January 2017 in Gondar, Ethiopia. Timkat is the Ethiopian Orthodox festival which celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. During the festival, Tabots — or models of the Ark of the Covenant — are taken from churches around Gondar and paraded through the streets to Fasilides Bath. (photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)
20 January 2017
In this image from last May, people visit the ancient historical site of Syria’s ravaged Palmyra following its recapture by regime forces from ISIS. Syria’s antiquities chief said today that ISIS militants have destroyed part of the ancient theater in the city and ruined other parts of the historic site. (photo: AFP/Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
Syria confirms ISIS has destroyed ancient ruins in Palmyra (BBC) Militants from ISIS have destroyed part of the Roman Theater in the ancient city of Palmyra. Syria’s antiquities chief said the tetrapylon — a group of four pillared structures which were mainly modern replicas — has also been ruined. The jihadists recaptured the UNESCO-listed archaeological site in December from government troops...
‘I went to Aleppo to study; I left in a convoy of refugees’ (The New York Times) One summer day I joined a group of young women in an upscale neighborhood of western Aleppo. We walked through a market carrying banners critical of the regime. A few minutes later, pro-Assad militiamen arrived in several cars and began circling us. We ran. A girl and I who sought refuge in a house in an alley were arrested...
Russian Orthodox believers take icy plunge on Epiphany (Reuters) Hundreds of thousands of Russian Orthodox believers took a plunge into sub-zero waters across Europe on Thursday to wash off their sins as part of Epiphany feast day celebrations. The annual 19 January commemoration of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River saw more than 150,000 people dip into several ice holes across Moscow, Tass news agency said...
Lebanon prime minister calls for billions in foreign aid to help refugees (Reuters) Lebanon’s prime minister called on Thursday for “adequate and substantial” foreign investments worth nearly $10 billion to address the Syrian refugee crisis and upgrade the country’s crumbling infrastructure. At least 1 million people fleeing neighboring Syria’s war have poured into Lebanon since the conflict began in 2011, making up a quarter of the small country’s population and seriously straining its public services...
Priest from Diocese of Orange to head USCCB ecumenical office (CNS) The Rev. Alfred Baca, a priest of the Diocese of Orange, California, has been named the new executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Father Baca, pastor of St. Columban Parish in Garden Grove, California, since 2015, will assume his new post 1 July...
19 January 2017
Tags: Syria Ecumenism Russian Orthodox ISIS
Msgr. Richard Lopez helped raise awareness about the plight of Syrian Christians among high school students in Atlanta. (photo: Michael Alexander)
One of CNEWA’s dedicated supporters is a priest in Atlanta, Georgia, Msgr. Richard Lopez. We first met him in 2014, when he was teaching theology at an Atlanta high school and helping raise awareness about the plight of Christians in the Middle East:
Students at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta, Georgia, were stunned to hear about the plight of their brothers and sisters in the thick of the Arab Spring during a presentation given by Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
“I honestly had no idea what was going on,” St. Pius X senior Abby Barnett, 17, says. “Once we had the presentation, though, we started talking more about it in class. It was really eye-opening.”
News of church burnings, homeless children and abducted church officials concerned the school.
So they decided to do something about it.
St. Pius X’s student-led, anti-genocide group, STAND, enlisted the help of students at Marist School in Atlanta to host an ice skate-a-thon for Syrian students in need.
Nearly 50 students enjoyed the Marietta Ice Center last November, and raised about $400 to donate to CNEWA for Syrian children. The money raised helped about 10 Syrian children receive backpacks, shoes, coats and other school supplies.
...Msgr. Richard Lopez, professor of theology at St. Pius X High School, says he is proud of his students for representing the “essence of our religion — to help those in need.”
“Adolescents will embrace a cause,” Msgr. Lopez says. “Give them a reason to stand up against evil, they will.”
Since then, Msgr. Lopez has retired, but he continues to support the work of CNEWA in whatever ways he can. We asked him what motivates him. He responded in an email that was both poignant and powerful:
I guess the first reason for my motivation would be that anything that happens to the Body of Christ happens to us. It remains a mystery to me how Christians in the West who live in such comfortable security should not be outraged about the abuse of other Christians in the Middle East. That outrage should lead to active charity and active political involvement. I think the fact that over the years I had Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian Christian students and often heard first hand accounts of their relatives suffering motivated me to do something for those being persecuted.
I believe as Christians we have to honor the pain, the suffering, and the death of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East by active involvement in their recovery and restoration. They are literally the “roots” of our religion. Their shrines, their churches, their monasteries, indeed in some cases their language, belong to the earliest days of our faith. How can we stand by and let that glorious patrimony be destroyed? They have endured and kept the faith under periodic persecution and discrimination for 1400 years and kept that faith under pressures we have been spared. God have mercy on us if we do nothing to save and honor them.
We remain grateful to people such as Msgr. Lopez who continue to spread the word about our work — especially among the young — and who remember our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are so often forgotten.
19 January 2017
Children welcome a visitor in the village of Garora, on the outskirts of Dehli. CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar visited India recently. See more of his images and read his impressions here.
(photo: John E. Kozar)