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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
10 June 2015
Ra’ed Bahou

Both locals and foreign-born students, including refugees from Iraq, gather for classes in English at CNEWA’s community center in Amman. (photo: CNEWA)

Ra’ed Bahou is regional director at CNEWA’s office in Amman.

The past few months have been very busy for the CNEWA community center in Amman. It continues to be an important venue for a wide array of people — locals, some foreigners and Iraqi refugees who are taking English language courses.

After the spring evaluation of the English lessons, the staff decided to hold the classes on Mondays and Wednesdays to have more time for library operational work and to help the locals. Classes serve all ages — from four-years-old to over 70. The staff organized families so they could learn together — grandparents, mothers, fathers, and grandchildren, all in one class; this is to accommodate the older people who have no experience of the English language at all.

The work with the Iraqis is very challenging; they come to the community center with all their problems, difficulties, physical and emotional struggles and anxieties. Despite this, though, they have a deep and solid faith that God is with them in their journey and they still maintain their joy and goodwill. The staff affirms and helps the refugees, giving counseling and support as they face their daily challenges.

The other activities are for the foreign-born children who took catechism lessons from the Teresian staff for their First Communion. Also the children’s catechism and junior choir continue to practice for the Mass; three young members of the choir are taking guitar lessons in order to be prepared to play in the Friday and Sunday Masses of the English language parish. And seven members of the junior choir are taking classes to prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.

To learn how you can help support CNEWA’s work in Jordan, please visit this page.

28 May 2015
Ra’ed Bahou

Over 30 people, including the young man pictured here, recently took part in a special day for Iraqi refugees with special needs. (photo: CNEWA)

Recently, Jordan received a large number of Iraqi refugees, especially from Nineveh plain. Through our encounters with them, we have learned more about their difficulties and sufferings, because they have been forced to leave their homes and their country. Now, they are facing significant challenges at various levels: financially, physically and psychologically.

Their enormous needs are difficult to meet; therefore, this situation invites us to reflect on Christ’s attitude toward the vulnerable and marginalized, the sick and wounded; it also invites us to feel solidarity with all our brothers and sisters who are suffering due to what happened to them. It invites us to go towards them, to participate and support them in their dignity. The church in Jordan, along with several humanitarian organizations, seeks to support and aid everyone according to their needs and abilities.

CNEWA in Amman would like to share with you a day we spent recently with our brothers and sisters, Iraqis with special needs. CNEWA, with the coordination of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, worked and prepared for this event for more than a month. The attendees were 31 people of different ages and disabilities. They were accompanied by the same number of parents.

This event was a huge success.

Four buses traveled from Amman to Madaba to the Sermig monastery, named “Gathering House — Bait Al-Liqa’.”

On arrival, they watched a short movie about the facility; it daily receives more than 100 children with special needs. The facility offers education and rehabilitation, and provides physical and speech therapy. After the movie, participants were divided into three groups to visit with the volunteers, who explained the different activities carried out by the house according to their needs. We were all really astonished, and were deeply moved when we saw the children’s handiworks of paintings, sewing, rosaries, and mosaics.

Later on, the groups participated in activities such as gardening, coloring and making flowers; another group helped in the kitchen. Everyone was happy and enjoyed the activities. They experienced the joy of being useful, and saw that even doing something simple can have great importance and value.

Bishop Salim Sayegh, who happily responded to our invitation, concluded the morning with the celebration of the Holy Mass. In his talk, he sent a message to all attendees, a message of joy in Christ, by saying: the Easter message is to rejoice! The young and innocent children need the adults’ joy, they need to nourish on the joy of Christ. “Your innocent children,” he said, “are unaware of the problems and worries you face, so they should always have the happy image of Christ in their lives!”

We then shared lunch in a spirit of joy and love.

During the evaluation of this day, participants expressed their joy, and expressed that they are not a burden on society, but they have a lot to offer and wish that there be more attention to their situation and that such events and activities to be repeated.

This was a very emotional event for all participants; they learned from each other, they learned to trust more in God and to be more patient and persistent.

It also allowed us to meet Jesus Christ through them. We can only hope they also met him through us.

22 September 2014
Ra’ed Bahou

CNEWA is partnering with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, such as Sister Antoinette, shown here on the left distributing clothes to Iraqi refugees. (photo: CNEWA)

In spite of the lack of resources, Jordanians are still receiving Iraqi Christian refugees. Our team in Amman has visited the many parish centers housing these families. Here is what we have learned:

  • At the beginning, the Jordanian government granted visas for 1,000 Christians to flee to Jordan in agreement with the churches. But now the door is open, and many more are arriving every day. There are seven church centers full of Iraqis with no room to accommodate more; therefore, many have no choice but to rent a house or stay on the streets, knowing that houses are not easy to find, and rents are very expensive even for locals. So, you find more than one family living in a house of two bedrooms — up to 20 people sharing the space and paying rent that exceeds $700 per month. Most of the rented houses are empty (cheaper than furnished); we saw Iraqis sleeping on a thin mattress or on the ground.
  • The centers, mainly the halls of the churches, are not designed to host people. All were designed to serve the parishioners’ multipurpose activities. It’s not a proper place to host a large number of people. Also, facilities (such as bathrooms) are not available in the halls. Most showers and kitchens were built outside. Refugees have to walk in an uncovered area and wait in line; it will only get worse when winter comes.
Many refugees are crowded into small spaces, with little privacy. (photo: CNEWA)

  • Parishes were so kind to receive the Iraqis at their churches’ halls — sacrificing the income they receive from renting out the halls, which helps pay for salaries and bills of the parishes. But the parishes still have to face unexpected expenses without any idea of how long this situation will last or how they will meet their expenses.
  • Most of the parishes are poor, especially the ones located in major centers like Ashrafiyeh and Zerqa. They don’t have enough resources to rehabilitate and maintain their facilities. During our visit, we noticed damages to infrastructure due to the humidity, with leaking roofs, broken windows, no bathrooms or showers. Parish centers also need water tanks, stoves, large refrigerators, kitchens, and kitchen supplies, heaters, blankets, mattresses, etc.
Sister Antoinette and parish volunteers help distribute mattresses — gifts from CNEWA’s benefactors — to newly arrived refugees. (photo: CNEWA)
  • Another issue facing the Iraqis hosted by churches is the matter of privacy, especially for the women who are sharing space with too many people, along with one or two bathrooms and showers.
  • All Iraqis who recently arrived — whether staying at centers or houses — are suffering from stress. They have lost trust in everyone. And they need everything, from personal items to food, medicines and medical treatment, milk and diapers for children. Many are worried about their relatives, who couldn’t leave Iraq, and they told us very depressing and heartbreaking stories about their fleeing from Da’ash (ISIS).
  • We asked the Iraqis how they felt about going back to Iraq, if it became peaceful and safe again. The answer was no, never.
  • When refugees arrive, they contact the United Nations. The U.N. starts gathering the individuals’ information in order to prepare a file, and then hands each family a refugee document — a separate document for each son and daughter older than 18. Their next meeting is to take place four to six months after they arrive. Those who were in the first wave will have their second meeting in December 2014.

CNEWA has responded to these needs with an initial disbursement of $72,500 in funds to five parish centers. Among other things, the funds are providing water, electricity, food, clothing, health care and psychological treatment to refugees.

The need remains great. Please visit our giving page to learn how you can help these refugees.

This young father was beaten and his leg smashed by ISIS before he was able to flee to Jordan.
(photo: CNEWA)

2 September 2014
Ra’ed Bahou

This Iraqi family, newly arrived in Jordan, includes two young children, with a third on the way. The father left his teaching job to flee Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)

Fleeing for their lives, Iraqi Christian refugees have started to arrive in Jordan from northern Iraq.

The first wave arrived on 13 August, and every day since then more continue to arrive at the rate of 30 to 40 a day; by mid-September, the total is expected to reach 1,000 people.

The government is granting visas for those refugees upon their arrival; transportation is arranged to take them to local churches and convents.

Five churches received the first waves of refugees. They are: Our Lady of Peace on the Airport Road (100 people), the Latin Church in Marka (45 people), the Roman Catholic Church in Marj Al Hamam (70 people), St. Charbel’s Parish (64 people), the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Aphram in Al-Ashrafiyeh (50 people). Other news arrivals are staying with their relatives until they manage to rent a house.

To respond to this crisis, CNEWA’s office in Jordan is coordinating with our partners — church leaders, clergy, religious women and others — to analyze the situation and draw a plan for the essential needs that may change from one day to another.

In order for the refugees to receive adequate assistance, our immediate support will be given directly to the hosting churches accommodating the refugees and providing them with water, electricity, fuel, furniture, etc. Consequently, this will increase the financial burden on those churches. Additional support will be be directed to the families themselves, as most who arrived in Jordan lack even the most fundamental personal needs, such as clothes, underwear, toothpaste, shampoo, soup, and other hygiene items.

Therefore, it is very important to provide each family with a small amount of cash so they can purchase what they need.

Sister Antoinette, center, visits a house now serving as a home to four families—17 people—all living together in a three-room furnished apartment. (photo: CNEWA)

Medicine and healthcare treatment are essential; many require immediate attention, as there are a number of elderly people, handicapped, children and pregnant women. According to the Italian Hospital, most of the health programs of other organizations have been out of operation since July 2014. CNEWA is now carrying the burden of helping both Jordanians and refugees (Iraqis, Syrians and Palestinians) through the Italian hospitals in Amman and Kerak and in other hospitals as needed.

In addition to physical needs, there are psychological ones. Even though some refugees feel more secure, many are still in shock. They do not accept the reality of being displaced from their homes. The children are often terrified. For example, a three-year-old Iraqi girl who recently arrived with her family is suffering frequent panic attacks. Many of these people will need psychological treatment and support. We will be continuying our coordination with the Franciscan Sisters and a psychological specialist. We will also be supporting catechetical programs and psychosocial treatment sessions designed to help these vulnerable families.

There are many questions still to be answered. How long will the refugees be able to stay in the church halls? How long will the churches themselves be able to host them? How long they will stay in Jordan before their resettlement papers are ready? How long will the organizations be able to provide support? From our experience, after a short period, each will start step back due to lack of financial support,leaving the vulnerable people hopeless and helpless.

CNEWA will be supporting churches and helping to bear some of the cost of hosting these Iraqis by providing funds for food, housing, basic furniture, blankets and other necessities, along with medical treatment and psychological support for families who have been so severely traumatized by ISIS. Can you help us help them? Visit our special Iraq giving page to learn how you can support our suffering brothers and sisters during this moment of crisis. And please keep them in your prayers!

22 November 2011
Ra’ed Bahou

His Beatitude Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, celebrates Mass marking the 100th anniversary of the Teresian Association at St. John Baptist de la Salle Church in Amman. A large picture of the Teresians' founder, St. Pedro Poveda, is seen on the right. (photo: CNEWA)

The Teresian Association celebrated its centennial in Amman last Sunday, 13 November, with a thanksgiving Mass attended by around 550 people, many of them friends, supporters and benefactors of the Teresians. Since the first members arrived here in 1985, these supporters have journeyed with them, through thick and thin, and made their evangelizing presence grace-filled and meaningful.

The presider for the Mass at St. John Baptist de la Salle Church was His Beatitude Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Among the seven concelebrants were Bishop Selim Sayegh, patriarchal vicar for Jordan and a long time friend and spiritual father of the Teresians here in Amman; the pastor of the parish in Jabal Hussein, Father Rifat Bader; and Father Paul Mankowski, S.J., who celebrates Masses in English at several churches in Amman.

The highlight of the Mass was the inspiring and challenging talk of Patriarch Twal, who began by explaining the theme of this centennial, “From Grateful Memory to Renewed Commitment,” quoting the present president of the Teresians, Dr. Loreto Ballester, who said that the centenary not only makes members look back at the past with gratitude, but also commit for the future. Furthermore, he noted that the charism of the Teresians is not meant to be kept, but is meant to be given in service to others.

The patriarch underlined three points: the vision that St. Pedro Poveda, the association’s founder, had received about the role of the laity in the church and in society 50 years before Vatican II; the importance of education for social transformation; and the lives of the early Christians as our role models. In line with the ideals of Pedro Poveda, he saw that to be modern today is to go back 2000 years and learn how these first Christians loved one another — how they were united and shared their material goods.

When talking of the “New Evangelization” called for by Pope Benedict XVI, he said that “new” refers to the context in which we live today. We live side by side with people from many races, cultures and religions, and this new scenario challenges us to be strong in our faith and to have a greater sense of belonging to the church and to this land. Finally, he reiterated his gratitude for what the Teresians do in Amman, Jerusalem and in the Holy Land as a whole.

The whole liturgy — animated by the wonderful performance of the Sacred Heart English Language Parish Choir — made this event a memorable day. To learn more about the community, visit their website. Or read about their work in the Holy Land feeding mind and spirit.

Tags: Patriarch Fouad Twal Amman Teresian Association