Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
12 August 2015
CNEWA staff

Last week, Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, appeared on Canada’s Salt + Light TV to discuss the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and his recent meeting with Pope Francis. Check out the video below.

3 August 2015
CNEWA staff

The Summer edition of ONE is now available online. You can check it out at this link.

And Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s President, has a special preview below.

30 July 2015
CNEWA staff

Msgr. John Kozar, President of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, meets meets Ukrainian Christians, Jews and Muslims in Univ, Ukraine. (CNS photo/John E. Kozar, CNEWA)

Catholic News Service has just posted this report by Mariana Karapinka on Msgr. John Kozar’s recent visit to Ukraine:

It’s not often that Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainians from different ethnic backgrounds get together in Ukraine.

But when 37 young adults joined an immersion program, The Ark, for a week in mid-July to learn about one another’s culture, religion and history, they came away with greater understanding of respect for one another.

At one point when pork was served for dinner and Jewish participants could not partake, Muslim students shared their chicken dishes with them.

Seminar participant Alim Umerodzha, a Crimean Tatar activist and a Muslim, said diversity should be perceived as richness and not a reason for division.

“In every lecture and every conversation, I unexpectedly discover something that we have in common,” he said.

Such understanding is gratifying to Msgr. John Kozar, head of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which supports the program hosted by the Eastern Catholic Studite monastery in Univ and is sponsored by the Ukrainian Catholic University, the Federation of Polish Organizations in Ukraine, the Polish Consulate in Lviv, the Tkuma Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies and the nongovernmental organization Crimea SOS.

Msgr. Kozar visited the seminar during a pastoral visit to Ukraine, talking with participants and witnessing the exchange of ideas. The stop was among several he made in the country.

“Never undervalue the benefit of bringing two strangers or even two enemies together. Because the first thing that happens, they realize that they are not that much different and want the same things,” he told Catholic News Service.

“This program is not typical for CNEWA,” he added. “We usually accompany Eastern Catholic Churches” activities, help with some renovation and educational programs.”

Msgr. Kozar’s trip included visits with chaplains, Caritas Ukraine, communities displaced by the violence in eastern Ukraine, orphanages, seminaries and the village of Zarvanytsia, one of the country’s most revered pilgrimage sites.

The interfaith seminar is one of several activities confronting religious persecution and promoting interreligious tolerance in Ukraine. CNEWA and its Ukrainian partners received a $175,000 grant from the Canadian government’s Office of Religious Freedom for the program, which includes student exchanges among the regions, summer schools, panel discussions, lectures and media publications.

Myroslav Marynovych, who helped establish the seminar in 2006 as a summer school for young Ukrainians, including those who are Jewish and of Polish descent, said the seminar’s goal is to help students not only understand the past but understand and feel the pain rooted in ethnic and religious misunderstanding.

In 2014, after the Russian annexation of Crimea, seminar planners decided to accept Crimean Tatars, who are Muslim.

The seminar also allows participants to reflect on the challenges posed by the ongoing clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Seminar organizers specifically chose the Studite monastery to host the program. During World War II the monastery, with the help and encouragement of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, hid and saved more than 100 Jewish children from the Nazis.

Igor Shchupak, director of Tkuma Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust, said the monastery is a holy place not only for Ukrainian Catholics but also for Jews and Poles.

Participant Christina Shandrak, a Roman Catholic of Polish descent living in Lviv, admitted “there were many issues in the past among Poles and Ukrainians.”

“Some of them are still not resolved,” she said. “I feel personally that I have issues that I need to talk through with Ukrainian colleagues, understand and maybe to forgive.”

Vlada Haidenko, a Jewish student from Kryvyi Rih, was making her first trip to Western Ukraine to participate in The Ark program. She said she was eager to deepen her knowledge of the history and culture of the region.

“I learn a lot from other participants but also I’m very glad to share with others about our culture,” she said.

The participants learned about Kashrut, Jewish dietary laws, and participated in Shabat celebrations.In 2014, the seminar met during Ramadan, and many students were able to learn about Muslim fasting and other traditions.

Kiril Alfeyev, another Jewish student from the same town, said staying at the Studite monastery and seeing its many crosses, Christian icons, and statues seemed a bit strange at first, but that he became accustomed to the symbols of Christianity.

“It’s interesting to talk to other people, what their values, goals, and priorities are. We all live in one country and need to understand each other better,” he said.

For Mykola Asenishvili, an Orthodox Christian enrolled at Donetsk University, the program allows participants the chance to “pay attention to details and to learn more about the other.”

It’s that search for unity that is important to Shandrak, the young Pole from Lviv. “Differences are interesting but finding the common ‘spine or rod’ is more important,” she said.

“Being united, we will be able to build new country and write a new history,” participant Vlada Haidenko agreed. “No one would be able to split us.”

19 June 2015
CNEWA staff

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch John X Yazigi (L), Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai (C) and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II (R) light candles during a meeting of spiritual leaders at the Greek Patriarchate of Damascus on 8 June 2015.
(photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning, we received an unofficial translation of the final statement for the spiritual summit held at the Mariamite Church in Damascus on 8 June. The patriarchs sent a call to the world and to the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to hold on in their homelands and to preserve good relations with their compatriots the Muslims.

The full text of the document is below.

Statement of the Spiritual Christian Summit

  1. At the invitation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, the Patriarchs of Antioch attended a spiritual summit held at the Mariamite Church in Damascus on 8 June 2015. Present were: Patriarch Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch and head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon, Ignatius Ephrem II, patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem Melkite, Ignace Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Syriac Catholic Church, Msgr. Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, in addition to the heads of the different Christian communities in Damascus.

    As a result of the summit, the following statement was released:

    To our dear children in the Lord in the Antioch Churches

  2. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, for who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)

    We, first of all, thank the Lord who allowed us to come together, we the Patriarchs to whom was entrusted the care of the Christian people in the widespread Antioch, in Damascus, this blessed city that has embraced Paul the Apostle of all nations. We, from this Patriarchate which has long defended the righteous humanitarian causes over time, raise our voice and pray for you, so that in these calamities, “you live a life worthy of the Gospel,” not ashamed to bear witness of Jesus Christ who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.” We pray that you endure the hardships, relying on “God’s power”, fortified “with strength, love and insight”. There is no need, dear beloved, to remind you to pray for us, so that God helps us “cut in a straight line the word of truth” and glorify His Holy name in our works, while we accompany the Church in these crucial historical circumstances.

  3. We wish to tell you that: by our encounter, our joy is renewed, by our consultations it is deepened, by our cooperation it is increasing, to be testimonies of the Christian Antioch unity in the extent in which “the disciples were called Christians first” (Acts 11:16), and where God wanted us to be witnesses. For this reason, based on your full loyalty to your Churches, its beliefs and teachings, we invite you to come together and serve the poor with dedication, acquaint yourselves with the valuable thought of our Churches, discover its holiness, deepen your knowledge of the Antiochian heritage, pray for the “unity of Christians” and work to achieve this desired unity commanded by the Lord, with the hope that it will be attained in our world today, starting from Antioch.

    We also invite you to bear your countries in your thoughts and prayers, and to pray with persistence for peace to prevail, so that everyone could experience the true sense of happiness and live in dignity “as children of God.” Do not forget to work hard for the unity of your country, for its progress and the establishment of a civil state. Preserve the pluralism in all its richness without losing your distinctions. Strengthen your faith and bear witness of the “hope in you.” Don’t let your faith be the reason for divisions or from banning others.

  4. We invite you, dear beloved, to preserve the best relations with our Muslim brothers, our national partners, with whom we share this land and the trials and ordeals of violence and terrorism, consequences of takfiris who are trying to distort Islam. These same partners feel your pain. They are working with their religious authorities to eradicate the takfiri thought, the cause of the loss of thousands of lives. We, together with our partners, raise our voice and declare that it is time to confront the takfiri thought through a religious education calling for openness, peace, and freedom of belief.

  5. In these times of adversity, terrorists are exerting their hideous acts in the name of God. In times of fear, violence, kidnapping, murder, displacement, people are being forced to change their religion by individuals who do know neither God nor His mercy. By killing you, your murderers do not realize that they have brought eternal misery to themselves and defectiveness to their countries. In the midst of all this, do not forget what the Lord has promised “Fear not, little flock, for your Father desires to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Yes, dear beloved, in these times of adversity, where “desolation” prevails, where people are being “driven as sheep to slaughter,” remain strong, do not despair. Be strong and hold on to the Grace which complements each deficiency. Commit to “refinement of your soul” based on purification, forgiveness and love. Impersonate the Gospel’s mores. Trust in the Lord who conquered evil and death, as He will not “turn his face away from you.” He is your companion along the paths of displacement and migration. He is your support in poverty and hunger. He is your consolation in times of tribulation when grievance prevails and qualms in God’s care for his loved ones overwhelm you. He is your peace in your ordeal; He is the Light who leads you in darkness of this world. He is your Resurrection from every despair and death. He is your victory against the evil and his malice.

  6. In these times of adversity, rally around the Church, the extension of Jesus Christ in the world. Accompany your Churches, as we are all bound by the spirit of pastoral responsibility and committed to double our efforts in solidarity with the people of good will, to take further and necessary initiatives to maintain our presence in our homelands and look after the needs of your families and your well being and secure the future of our youth who are our vital and promising strength. We express our thanks and appreciation to all the volunteers who are dedicated to serve with love in our institutions. Gather around the Church and pray its martyrs who have fallen in defense of their faith to intercede for you. Pray for all those persecuted and abducted, especially for Mgr Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim from Aleppo, and all the abducted priests, especially Fr. Jack Mourad, who was the last one to be kidnapped. Sustain each other and carry the burdens of one another. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Look after the poor in their torment, as they are God’s beloved. Care for the widows and the orphans. Share your bread with the hungry. Ease the pain of the displaced and refugees. Assist your Churches in its relief and social work. Generously dedicate your time and effort for the “young brothers of Jesus.”

  7. And to our children in Syria, who fell in the grip of terrorism, manipulated by the forces of this world to fragment their country, displace them and expel them from their land, we confirm our commitment to the unity of this country and to the right of its people to live safely, freely and with dignity. We call on the world to work seriously to find a political solution to this senseless war that has ravaged Syria, to reach a solution that guarantees peace and the return of the abductees, the refugees and the displaced and the right of the Syrian people to decide their fate, away from any external interference.

    For Iraq, suffering from the scourge of successive wars which uprooted generations and generations from their ancestors’ land, as it happened last year in Mosul and the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain who have been witnesses to the horrors that reminded the world of the brutality of past centuries’ wars and which continues to destroy ancient civilizations.

    As for Lebanon, the country, the message, we ask for faithfulness to this country alone, to a sense of dedication to work for its unity, serve the best interest of its people and elect a President for the Republic who restores the Constitutional Institutions’ role, building a nation in which its people can rejoice.

    For our beloved ones in Palestine, the heads of the Church promise that they will remain the focus of their attention and will not back from defending them and their righteous cause, no matter how much the world tries to weaken it through wars and conflicts.

  8. We ask the international community to assume its responsibility and stop the wars on our lands, find peaceful and political solutions to the existing conflicts and work seriously on repatriating the displaced and refugees to their homes and properties, protecting their rights as citizens.

    We are the people of this land, deep-rooted in its earth, watered by the sweat of our fathers and ancestors. We declare that we are here to stay in our land, to build it with our partners in citizenship. This land has been entrusted to us; we have shed our blood to defend it, sanctifying it by the blood of our martyrs.

    We invite all those who pretend to care about our destiny to help us stay rooted in our land, to take care of it, preserve it and benefit from its resources and not facilitate the looting of our heritage and resources, the destruction of our civilization and the expatriation of our people, by forcing them to migrate. We raise our voice and demand the end of war on our land and the support of the foundations of stability in the entire region.

  9. Dear beloved, at a time when man is being killed in the name of God, we are required, more than ever, to learn that “Love is stronger than death.” Killing in the name of God is stabbing God in His essence. Our faithfulness to Jesus who said “Blessed are the peacemakers, they are called the sons of God,” makes it imperative to be messengers of peace in this East. Our role is to face every thought or ideology that sanctifies violence, killing and revenge. Our faith in God cannot but be translated in love and peace to all, in defense of our land and churches, respecting the freedom of God’s children, while maintaining diversity and differences.

  10. From this Mariamite Church, we pray the Mother of God, the mother of us all, our trusted advocate, to save us and our homelands from all adversities surrounding us, and help us be at her image, as people who bear witness to Christ in our darkest moments. May God bless you and may you remain bearers of His witnesses in this land. Your vocation is to remain “the salt of the Earth” and the “small yeast that permeates the dough.” Do not underestimate this call for the salvation of the world. Trust that with you and through you the Gospel of Jesus Christ will remain vital in our Church of Antioch.

Unofficial translation from the original Arabic text by Lara Cordahi, CRS, Lebanon.

17 June 2015
CNEWA staff

Seminarians pose for a picture at the Capuchin seminary in Eritrea. (photo: CNEWA)

This week, representatives from ROACO — aid agencies (including CNEWA) working with the Congregation of the Eastern Churches — are gathering in Rome. Today, those at ROACO welcomed Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, metropolitan archbishop of the newly created Eritrea Catholic church joining 23 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome.

CNEWA Canada’s National Director Carl Hétu notes:

Archbishop Tesfamariam gave us a general overview of his new church challanges. His church has four eparchies with a population of 164,480 parishoners in this small country of five million just north of Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.

The church works in difficult condition,s since most of its population lives poor rural areas. They have developed many pastoral programs to attend to their needs, in particular helping women who are left to raise the children alone.

The archbishop implored the aid agencies not to forget about them and to help the church grow and keep its seminary program alive. There are now 45 seminarians in formation for the priesthood, and the novitiate has consecrated over 350 women religious, who are playing an important pastoral role all over the country.

Also speaking to ROACO today were representatives from the Ethiopian Catholic Church: the newly named Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel and the Bishop Conference Secretary General, the Reverand Hagos Hayish.

Ethiopia’s Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel speaks to the ROACO. (photo: CNEWA)

As with its neighbor, Eritrea, Ethiopia is predominantly rural and poor. This small church, which represents less than 2 percent of the Ethiopian population, is certainly among the most dynamic. It is renowned for its pastoral and humanitarian programs that, through Catholic schools, form young Ethiopians into a workforce based on Christian values. There are also efforts underway to improve the agriculture system, so farmers can improve their way of life.

Also the Ethiopian Catholic Church has responded with an impressive program for refugees, welcoming more than 600,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Ethiopia has the most refugees of any African country-posing social and economic challenges.

Much needs to be done. The church is appealing to aid agencies to continue their support, particularly in lay formation, university chaplaincy and education.

To learn more about the churches in the Horn of Africa, read our profiles of the The Eritrean Catholic Church and The Ethiopian Catholic Church. CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar wrote about his own journey to the region in 2012. You can read those reports here.

Finally, to support CNEWA’s efforts on that part of the world, please visit this giving page.

1 June 2015
CNEWA staff

CNEWA is helping house the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraqi Kurdistan — who, like the refugees they serve, were displaced by ISIS. (photo: Don Duncan)

NEW YORK — CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, has released $849,200 to aid Christians in the Middle East. “The funds address a broad spectrum of needs across a broad area of the region,” he said, “and reflect the vast scale of the challenges facing Middle East Christians.”

CNEWA’s aid supports initiatives as diverse as post-trauma counseling, medical care, formation of sisters and priests, and renovation of church institutions. Always, programs are administered by CNEWA’s personnel in the region, who partner with the local churches and their priests, sisters and lay professionals. These funds represent the second portion of CNEWA’s allocation from the collection taken up last autumn in most U.S. dioceses. Support includes:

$161,000 to renovate or furnish church institutions — such as socio-pastoral centers, schools, vocational training centers, schools for children with special needs and orphanages — destroyed during anti-Christian riots in Egypt in August 2013.

$100,000 to house the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, many of whom now live in shipping containers in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since being displaced from their convents by ISIS, the sisters have faced great hardship and loss, including the deaths of 12 sisters.

$15,000 to assist Iraqi men and women study theology at Babal College in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. As the Iraqi Christian community is dispersed further, proper theological formation is necessary to help these communities maintain their rites and traditions.

$80,000 to assist parishes in Jordan hosting Iraqi refugee families. Living in parish multipurpose centers, families carve out whatever private space they can with temporary dividers, while parishioners distribute bedding, clothing and food.

$12,000 to support counseling services at Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. Administered and staffed by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Mother of Mercy maternity clinic serves impoverished refugee expectant mothers. These funds will help the sisters employ a social worker, which is needed to help serve an increasing number of refugees.

$45,000 to support counseling assistance, tutorial services, catechesis and English classes for marginalized populations, especially Syrian and Iraqi refugee families, at the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman.

$20,000 to provide additional medical care to refugees at Amman’s Italian Hospital.

$45,000 to host summer Bible camps for impoverished children in Jordan. Run by parishes and congregations of sisters, summer Bible camps offer refugee children (Syrian and Iraqi) as well as impoverished Jordanian children a respite from the drudgery of poverty. Camps provide counseling, catechesis and recreation.

$48,000 to assist refugees in Jordan who need complicated medical tests and procedures identified by our health care partners, e.g., radiology, urology and ophthalmological procedures, endoscopies and cardio vascular tests.

$50,000 to provide schooling for Iraqi refugee children in Catholic schools in Jordan.

$133,200 to help the churches’ outreach to the poor in Lebanon, devastated by an influx of more than a million refugees.

Funds will assist a dispensary sponsored by various religious communities of women in Naba’a with hospital fees, medical tests and food and hygiene packages; the Little Sisters of Nazareth and their work with poor children living in Dbayeh; schooling and hospital expenses for nearly 300 people cared for by the Archeparchy of Zahle; and medical care offered by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross.

$80,000 to help the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches in Lebanon care for nearly 1,600 Iraqi families who have fled ISIS, providing food and hygiene packages.

$20,000 to cover medical care costs of Gaza’s seniors, whose needs are identified by Gaza’s parish priests. Ahli Arab Hospital, administered by the Anglican Church, provides care for those whose medical needs have been exacerbated by war.

$40,000 to rush essentials to Syrian Christians fleeing ISIS in the northeastern Syrian city of Al Hasakah. Monies will purchase milk and diapers, food packages, medicines and other essentials to families who have fled their villages south of the city.

Most of these funds supplement CNEWA’s 2015 budgeted commitment of more than $6.4 million for the peoples and churches of the Middle East. CNEWA’s Middle East program includes basic support for displaced Iraqi and Syrian families; formation programs for seminarians in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon; youth formation initiatives in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Syria; health care support across the region, especially pre- and post-natal care; and various social service efforts for the poor and the indigent.

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Middle East, with offices in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches. CNEWA is a registered charity in Canada and in the United States by the State of New York. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at; by phone at 800.442.6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195. In Canada, visit; send your gift to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.

22 May 2015
CNEWA staff

We were blessed to receive a letter and check in the mail earlier this month, from the Very Reverend Brian J. Welding, rector at Saint Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh. The seminarians wanted to collect alms during Lent to support displaced Iraqi Christians suffering persecution.

The letter reads in part:

I’m grateful to send you a check in the amount of $725.13, which was gathered from the 15 seminarians, our Bishop and 3 priests who reside at Saint Paul Seminary. Please use the funds for these Christians with whom we feel a spiritual and prayerful bond, acknowledging their suffering and beautiful witness to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Please also know of our gratitude for the charitable work of CNEWA, and give our greetings to our dear friend and fellow diocesan priest, Monsignor John Kozar.

Our hearts are full of prayers of thanksgiving for this generous and thoughtful gift — and the seminarians should know that those who will benefit from this act of charity will also be lifting them up in prayer. The Lord hears the cries of the poor!

If you’d like to learn how you can help, visit this link. And, when you can, please remember our brothers and sisters in Iraq in your prayers.

13 May 2015
CNEWA staff

A young Iraqi refugee living at the Ashty camp displacement center in Iraq greets a visitor.
(photo: John E. Kozar)

Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, has just returned from making a pastoral visit to Iraq and Egypt, where he saw first-hand some of the challenges facing Christians fleeing persecution in that troubled part of the world.

Next week, Msgr. Kozar will share his insights and experiences in a special evening at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York.

We invite you to join us for this important event, in an effort to raise awareness and funds to aid Christian families in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and beyond. It will be an opportunity to learn more about the crisis facing the people of the Middle East — and how you can help. The problems of our suffering brothers and sisters in that region right now are urgent, and the needs are great. Donations will be greatly appreciated.

When: Wednesday 20 May 2015 — 6:30 pm
Where: Seminary of the Immaculate Conception
           440 West Neck Road
           Huntington, NY
The evening will include light refreshments.

To learn more, please contact Norma Intriago at

Msgr. Kozar and others pose for a picture with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena in the tent church at the Kasnasan displacement center in Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)

8 May 2015
CNEWA staff

Members of the Rifo family gather in their temporary dwelling in Sulimaniyeh, Iraqi Kurdistan,
in September 2014. (photo: Don Duncan)

Yesterday, CNEWA’s Communications Director, Michael J.L. La Civita, spoke at a conference, “The Islamic State’s Religious Cleansing and the Urgency of a Strategic Response,” hosted by the Hudson Institute in New York. He placed the present crisis in context:

Long before there was ISIS, civil war in Syria, an Arab Spring, Al Qaeda, the U.S. invasions of Iraq, civil war in Lebanon, and the Israeli-Arab conflict, Middle East Christians were on the move. Whether hiding from persecution by Jewish leaders, Roman emperors, Persian forces, Byzantine bishops, Muslim Arab invaders or Ottoman bureaucrats, the region’s Christians demonstrated agility, tenacity and the will to survive. As they moved from place to place — leaving behind their ancient centers of Antioch or Edessa — Middle East Christians preserved their identities, their cultures, their languages, their rites and their unique approaches to the one Christian faith. They reestablished their monasteries and convents, churches and schools from Beirut to Baghdad, prospering in the modern era even with the rise of ideological fanaticism and its destructive twin, intolerance. But the sixth day of August 2014 will be forever seared into the psyches of all Middle East Christians. For on that day, maniacal extremists upended the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqi Christians, forcing them to flee their homes, leaving behind everything in a matter of minutes.

The human cost of the displacement of the Middle East’s Christians is tremendous. Although they may account for only about 5 percent of the region’s population — about 15.5 million people — Christians dominate the region’s middle classes, exercising prominence in the tourism industry, commercial and skilled labor sectors, and the civil service. And as they flee the extremists rapidly taking hold in the region, moderates from other communities follow, leaving behind those who cannot leave — the poor, the uneducated, the elderly and the infirmed — and those who stand to gain by fanning the flames of hate.

...The flight of Christians from the region is arduous and painfully slow. While hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes in Iraq and Syria, most exist in a sort of limbo, hunkering down with friends and family in safer areas of Lebanon, Syria’s Valley of the Christians, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or Iraqi Kurdistan. Some 12,000 Syrian Armenian Christians have found refuge in Armenia, but few others have acquired the coveted visas necessary to emigrate to the Americas, Europe or Oceania, where most Middle Eastern Christians now live.

Just a few months into their exile, the Rifo family was not yet able to accept the possibility of emigration.

“We all agree that this is something we don’t want to think of,” said the matriarch of the family, Ibtihaj. “We will go back to our houses, even if the house is destroyed. Returning home is the only possibility we are thinking of and we don’t want to think of any other possibility.”

Her husband Nabil had different thoughts.

“Even if we go back to our houses, we have lost our sense of security,” he said, adding that some of his non-Christian neighbors and colleagues were responsible for the looting of abandoned Christian houses. Others joined ISIS.

“Will we ever return to normal?”

There is much more. Read the full speech at this link.

23 April 2015
CNEWA staff

Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from ISIS militants in Mosul pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)

Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, will be making a pastoral visit to Iraq and Egypt next month to see first-hand some of the challenges facing Christians fleeing persecution in that troubled part of the world. Just days after his return, Msgr. Kozar will share his insights and experiences in a special evening at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York.

We invite you to join us for this important event, in an effort to raise awareness and funds to aid Christian families in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and beyond. It will be an opportunity to learn more about the crisis facing the people of the Middle East — and how you can help. The problems of our suffering brothers and sisters in that region right now are urgent, and the needs are great. Donations will be greatly appreciated.

When: Wednesday 20 May 2015 — 6:30 pm
Where: Seminary of the Immaculate Conception
           440 West Neck Road
           Huntington, NY

The evening will include light refreshments.

To learn more, please contact Norma Intriago at

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