18 April 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew show solidarity with migrants and refugees during a meeting on the island of Lesbos on 16 April. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope visits Lesbos, returns to Rome with 12 Syrian refugees (CNS) Pope Francis’ five-hour visit to Greece ended with him offering safe passage to Italy to 12 Syrian Muslims, half under the age of 18. The Vatican had kept secret the pope’s plan to invite the members of three Syrian families to fly back to Rome with him on 16 April. Rumors began swirling in the Greek media a couple hours before the flight took off, but it was confirmed by the Vatican only as the 12 were boarding the papal plane...
Pope, Orthodox leaders listen to cries of refugees, urge help (CNS) Although their speeches were punctuated with policy appeals, Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders focused their visit to the island of Lesbos on the faces, stories and drawings of refugees. Pope Francis, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece spent more time 16 April greeting the refugees individually than they did giving speeches...
Pope, patriarch sign joint declaration on refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, released a joint declaration during their visit to the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday. The three leaders signed the joint declaration at the end of their visit to the Moria refugee camp. The declaration calls on the international community to respond with generosity and compassion to the tragedy of forced migration, calling it a ‘crisis of humanity’...
Jordan calls ambassador from Iran (AP) Jordan says it is recalling its ambassador to Iran for consultations, suggesting the decision is linked to continued tensions between Tehran and Jordan ally Saudi Arabia. Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said on Monday that Jordan took the step because of what he described as Iranian interference in the “internal affairs of neighboring countries, especially Gulf countries...”
Israeli troops report uncovering tunnel leading from Gaza (BBC) Israel’s military says it has uncovered and “neutralised” a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip several hundred metres inside Israeli territory. A statement said the tunnel had been constructed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas "in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks...”
Gripped by drought, Ethiopia drills for water (AFP) In the town of Wukro, surrounded by the rocky, arid mountains of the northern Tigray region, the government is investing longer-term efforts to ensure a supply of fresh water that will go far beyond the immediate needs of aid...
Christian, Muslim population growing in India (Indian Express) Christian and Muslim tribals remain one of the fastest growing demographic groups according to figures released by the Census department this week...
15 April 2016
Serop Ohanian, from the Karagheusian Center in Lebanon, paid a visit to CNEWA’s New York offices on 14 April. (photo: CNEWA)
Thursday afternoon, we welcomed to our New York offices someone who has been a partner with CNEWA in Lebanon for several years: Serop Ohanian, Field Director for the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation, an Armenian center for child welfare.
He was featured prominently in a 2013 story in ONE magazine, on Syrian Armenians seeking refuge in Lebanon:
In this image from 2014, Serop Ohanian, right, visits an educational program for Armenian Syrian refugee children at the Karagheusian Center in Bourj Hammoud in Beirut. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave, has seen its capacity stretched to bursting since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011...
...Plagued as they are by exile and upheaval, the Armenians’ shared experience of violence and displacement makes for a less precarious displacement today.
“There is a very strong relationship between the Syrian Armenians and the Lebanese Armenians,” says Serop Ohanian, Lebanon field director at the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Cooperation, an Armenian organization for child welfare.
“It’s normal for us in a crisis to say: ‘Let’s go live with our relatives in Beirut and if they don’t have an apartment, they will know someone through the church who will. We will manage somehow.’ ”
Helping them manage is a host of organizations, including CNEWA, church aid groups such as Caritas as well as international agencies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Karagheusian Center has had to extend its operating hours by four hours per day, take on four new staffers and reduce the summer holiday from one month to two weeks to meet the demand for its services.
Since then, he told us yesterday, the needs and demands have only grown. The clinic in Bourj Hammoud was originally seeing about 500 patients a month; that number has skyrocketed to 5,000. About 3,000 of those, he told us, are Syrian refugees. A facility that once had three doctors now has extended hours with seven.
Serop described a litany of concerns his center is trying to address — including chronic health problems among the refugees (high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory problems are paramount); stress and anxiety among children; and a rising rate of dropouts from high school. Through it all, his organization is doing an exceptional job under difficult circumstances. Lebanon, like so many places in the Middle East, has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees. But the Karagheusian Center is providing some sense of stability and urgently needed care.
CNEWA is proud and privileged to work with them in this important mission. (You can read more about the Karagheusian association’s work here.) And check out A Refuge in Lebanon to discover how Syrians and Armenians are struggling to rebuild their lives in Lebanon.
Meantime, to support our work helping refugees in Lebanon, please visit this page to learn what you can do.
Members of CNEWA’s development team were among those who welcomed Serop Ohanian
to our offices. (photo: CNEWA)
15 April 2016
In this image from 2008, the Rev. Jose Thottakkara visits the home of some parishioners in Kerala, India. Read more about his growing ministry in A Priest with Global Reach in the
May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
15 April 2016
In the video above, the Vatican offers more details about the pope’s upcoming humanitarian visit to Lesbos to meet with refugees. (video: Rome Reports)
Cost of rebuilding Syria could approach $180 billion (RT) Rebuilding war-ravaged Syria may be as much as $180 billion, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. “Once hostilities end, many Syrian refugees will unlikely return unless schools and health clinics are rebuilt,” said Kim at a news conference at the start of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings, Thursday. Due to the plunge in oil prices, Kim expressed concern about who would fund the rebuilding of the basic Syrian infrastructure...
Vatican: Pope’s trip to Lesbos is humanitarian, not political (CNS) In a “humanitarian and ecumenical gesture,” not a political one, Pope Francis is to join Orthodox leaders in personally meeting with hundreds of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, the Vatican spokesman said. Releasing the detailed schedule for the pope’s trip on 16 April to Lesbos, Greece, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope and the Orthodox leaders wanted to draw attention to “a situation in which many people are suffering” and where a “solution worthy of the human person” still must be found...
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: Israel behaves as a theocratic state (Fides) Israel, “although it proclaims itself a secular and democratic state, it is really behaving more and more like a denominational Jewish military regime.” This is how the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, defined the current modus operandi of the Jewish state...
Chaldean Church establishes committee to monitor Christian property ownership (Fides) The Chaldean Patriarchate has announced the creation of an hoc committee to monitor sales and transfers of property ownership — houses and land — belonging to Christian citizens in Baghdad...
Peace activists call on church to update teaching (Vatican Radio) “We believe that there is no ‘just war.’ Those words are at the heart of a statement published on Thursday at the conclusion of an international conference looking at changes in church practice and teaching on non-violence and peacemaking. Organized jointly by the Catholic peace network, Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Council, the three-day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from conflict zones around the world...
14 April 2016
New York’s Cardinal Edward M. Egan presents CNEWA’s Peg Maron with the prestigious Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award in January 2002. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Some of the heroes in our CNEWA family have walked the halls here in New York. One of them was Peg Maron, a woman who worked in our communications department. Three years ago, on learning of her death, Michael La Civita wrote about a woman he described succinctly as “indomitable”:
Peg joined CNEWA in 1990 and quickly became known for her dogged determination to track down every fact, not leave any participle dangling, have every verb and subject agree and check my tardiness — despite the fact I was the “boss.”
Edith to my often cantankerous Archie, Peggy’s tenacious attention to detail and accuracy earned her the respect of all — even if her nimble ballerina stretches stunned patriarchs and prelates alike.
I never heard Peggy utter an unkind word. Her years of service to the church — as a member of Pax Romana and its successor, Pax Christi; involvement with the Grail and the liturgical movement of the 1950’s; friend and colleague of Eileen Egan, a founder of Catholic Relief Services; service as a Catholic school teacher in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s Kennedy Child Center; participation in the life of the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri at St. Boniface Church in Brooklyn and lastly as my partner in arms at Catholic Near East, CNEWA World and ONE magazines — will undoubtedly earn her a place with Providence. Her years as a dancer with Martha Graham, however, earned my respect.
I remember when I first realized what an unsung hero she was: the funeral Mass of her husband, circa 1992, in Brooklyn’s church of St. Jerome. As she followed his casket down the center aisle after the Final Commendation, she cast her eyes down, wrapped her arms tightly around her person and hunched her shoulders. She lumbered down that aisle as if the weight of the world would have crushed her. But it did not.
She was a woman of few words, little emotion and complete self-control. She had many credentials and enormous talent. The only way I could show her my affection was to tease — and she loved it. Whether it was accusing her of bathing in gin or mooning a patriarch, she would laugh so joyously, but rarely would a sound escape from her lips.
In 2002, she was honored for her work for the Church with the Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, and she received it with characteristic generosity and grace:
On learning of her award, Mrs. Maron stated: “I am extremely grateful to be so honored for my small part in the work of the church. But I was never alone; I was always part of a community whose members worked side by side to improve the lives of those who had been entrusted to them. I would hope this award recognizes their contribution no less than mine.”
14 April 2016
Young Syrians present their ID cards as they arrive to vote in a parliamentary election on 13 April at a polling station in the government-held side of the northern city of Aleppo. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
More shelling in Aleppo mars peace talks (ABCNews) Syrian troops exchanged fire with rebels in the contested northern city of Aleppo on Thursday in a renewed bout of fighting that could further mar peace talks underway in Geneva. The fighting came a day after Syrians in government-held parts of the country voted for a new parliament…
Patriarch: Priests should not arrange exodus of Christians from Iraq (Fides) The church as such, and especially priests, should in no way be involved directly in operations and programs to plan and organize the exodus of Iraqi Christians to foreign countries, and anyone who continues to ignore such reprimand will take responsibility for his choices even in front of patriarchal authority. This is how the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans warned pastoral workers, and especially the patriarchal clergy, from getting involved directly in the organization of the expatriation of Iraqi Christians who continue to leave their country, following the migration routes that from the Middle East lead to Europe and America…
Israel allows taxis into Gaza for first time in nine years (Middle East Monitor) For the first time in nine years, the Israeli authorities have allowed the entry of taxis into the Gaza Strip, PalSawa.com reported on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by Fu’ad Homeid, chairman of the spare parts, vehicles and heavy equipment association, six out of 36 taxis entered into Gaza on Wednesday…
In Ethiopia, severe drought leaves millions relying on emergency aid (CBC) There is an eerie silence in the desert landscape of Ethiopia’s eastern rim, the lands stretching toward neighboring Somalia and the Gulf of Aden beyond it. It’s more of an absence, really, and it takes a while to put your finger on it. Then it hits. No livestock. If you do see them, they’re few and far between, their ribs sunken, just like the dry riverbeds snaking across the savannah. Ethiopia is currently in the grip of its worst drought in 50 years, and more than ten million people are relying on emergency food aid provided by the government and international aid agencies…
Ukraine’s parliament elects new government (The Washington Post) Following months of political gridlock over stalled reforms and accusations of corruption, Ukraine’s parliament approved Thursday a new government led by a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko…
Arrests in India in connection with fireworks blasts at Kerala temple (The New York Times) Thirteen people have been arrested in connection with the explosions that killed more than 100 during a fireworks display at a temple in southern India over the weekend, The Press Trust of India said on Tuesday. T. F. Xavier, a police superintendent for Kerala, the state where the disaster occurred, said seven of those arrested were officials at the Puttingal temple in the coastal district of Kollam, which hosted the fireworks display to celebrate the start of the new year on the Hindu calendar…
14 April 2016
Tags: Syria Iraq India Ukraine Ethiopia
A child receives Communion from a young priest at the Church of St. Nicholas outside Kampala, Uganda. Orthodoxy has found fertile ground in Uganda. To discover more, read Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
13 April 2016
Tags: Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox
A woman displaced by terrorism listens as a delegation of Catholic leaders talks with residents of a camp for internally displaced families in Ainkawa, Iraq, on 9 April. To read accounts of the journey to Iraq of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and representatives from CNEWA, visit this link.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
13 April 2016
The damaged St. Sarkis Church in Sadad, Syria, is seen in 2013. Hundreds of Christian families are returning to Sadad, more than two years after their city was overrun by terrorists, a local official said. (photo:CNS/EPA)
Christians returning to Syria (CNS) Hundreds of Christian families are returning to Sadad, Syria, more than two years after their city was overrun by terrorists, a local official has said. Suleiman al Khalil, the mayor of Sadad, told Russian media on April 6 of the influx of Christians returning to the city after Russian forces defeated the al Nusra Front, reported Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples...
Assad invites delegation from Russian Orthodox Church to visit Syria (Fides) Syrian President Bashar al Assad has invited a “high-level delegation” of the Russian Orthodox Church to visit Syria, at a time when the Syrian government army seems to have reversed the destiny of the conflict with militias jihadist rebels, returning to recover large areas of the country thanks to military support received from Moscow...
Syria holds parliamentary elections (The Washington Post) Even as Syrian peace talks were scheduled to resume Wednesday in Geneva, President Bashar al-Assad took a major jab at the process: voting in parliamentary elections denounced as a farce by the opposition...
Pope’s visit to Lesbos comes at time of fear for refugees (CNS) Pope Francis’ trip to Lesbos, Greece, on 16 April comes at a frightening and critical time for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants waiting and wondering where they will end up, said members of Catholic aid agencies. Maristella Tsamatropoulou, spokeswoman for Caritas Hellas, the Catholic charity in Greece, said when rumors started swirling that Pope Francis would join Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on a visit to refugees, “we believed it immediately because our Pope is spontaneous; he’s a force of nature...”
Indian leader calls for equal Dalit rights (UCANews.com) Christians and Muslims in India have welcomed comments by the head of an eastern state favoring quotas for Dalit religious minorities in government jobs and educational institutions, a right enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts. “The time has come to give quotas to low-caste Muslims and Christians who have long been deprived of this right because of their religious affiliations,” Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said...
Saddam Hussein’s palace to become a museum (The Telegraph) The large mansion in Basra, southern Iraq, will become the first museum to open in the war-torn country in several years after serving as a mess hall for the British army during the war, according to National Geographic. The British pulled out from Basra in September 2007...
12 April 2016
Sister Maria Hanna serves as the mother superior of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in northern Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena who serve the displaced people of Iraq are among the most selfless women we’ve encountered — and also, among the most heroic.
Their mother superior is Sister Maria Hanna, who fled with dozens of her sisters from their convent in Quaraqosh when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in August of 2014. They settled in Erbil, some 50 miles away, to begin serving others in the same boat:
Throughout this trauma, a backbone of support for the displaced Christians has been the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, some 73 of whom were also exiled from their convents across the plain. Led by Sister Maria Hanna, mother superior, the community initially administered to the displaced from their convent in Ainkawa. As families were moved from Ainkawa to Kasnazan, it became clear a second, satellite convent was required.
“We want to be with the people — to serve the people in the moment,” says Sister Maria. “If they move someplace else, we move with them.”
...The leitmotif evident across all the communities of displaced Christians living in towns across Iraqi Kurdistan is resilience. From the seemingly hopeless ashes of shock and despair of last autumn, green shoots of hope sprout. From Erbil to Dohuk to Suleimaniyah, the Christians, frequently marginalized from public services by the Kurdish authorities, are building their own structures of support and care. The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have been crucial to the slow but steady emergence of this infrastructure from the chaos of displacement.
Within weeks of their exile, Sister Maria Hanna and her community realized children needed special help in this crucial time.
“Children in the displaced families are the real victims,” she says. “They are really crushed by the situation. Entire families had to suddenly all live together in one room or tent and the children were not allowed to speak, to express fear or frustration. They couldn’t play. They couldn’t shout. Often they had to bear witness to domestic problems caused by the displacement.”
Responding to this need, the Dominican Sisters established a kindergarten and an orphanage in Ainkawa, filling in for institutions abandoned back home. These efforts have eased the burden on families — especially the children themselves, starving to learn and play.
“One of the boys was so excited to be going to kindergarten that, the night before the first day back, he slept the whole night with his backpack on,” Sister Maria Hanna says. “He did not want anything to come between him and his learning!”
In 2014, CNEWA’s Michael La Civita hailed her as one of the Catholics of the Year in Our Sunday Visitor:
Sister Maria Hanna has served during a tumultuous moment in Iraqi history. Her term has coincided with a decade-long ordeal that has included invasion, war, sectarian strife and persecution. Sister Maria Hanna has made a difference. She has mobilized her own exiled community, organizing volunteer relief committees and working with partners, such as Catholic Near East Welfare Association, to assess the needs of the displaced, assist those with special needs, counsel those in shock and treat those who are ill.
Read more about Sister Maria Hanna and her order in Grace, from the Summer 2015 edition of ONE.