15 December 2014
In this image from 12 December, Iraqi Christian children look at a nativity scene that is displayed in a tent erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church, in Ain Kawa. The church has now become home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year. Click here to learn how you can help Christians suffering in Iraq. (photo: Matt Cardy / Getty)
12 December 2014
Nabilah Abdul Bassih sits with her son Marvin in their tent in the Martha Schmouny camp of Erbil, Iraq, in September 2014. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Autumn edition of ONE features several profiles of people who have fled ISIS, including the Bassih family:
Nabilah Abdul Bassih’s mobile phone rings and she breaks away from her conversation to answer. Her brow creases and her voice drops.
Since Nabilah, her husband and her four sons arrived at the Martha Schmouny camp for internally displaced Christians, beside St. Joseph’s Church in Erbil, she has been getting many such calls. The calls are from other people who were displaced by ISIS from the Christian town of Bartalla in the plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq.
Unlike most, the Abdul Bassih family did not get out in time during the mass exodus of Christians. They remained trapped in Bartalla, under virtual house arrest for over a month. It wasn’t until 15 September that they finally made it to Erbil. Initially, they were mobbed with people who had left Bartalla in early August, and then the calls started coming in.
Starving for information on their hometown, or in search of missing loved ones, people contact the Abdul Bassihs because the family, due to its recent arrival in Erbil, is seen to have the latest. “Did you see my house, is it intact?” “Have you seen my son when you were there?” “What have they done to the church?” These and more are the questions Nabilah faces daily. She answers as best she can but her preoccupation now is finding a place for her own family to stay. As all the available space for the displaced in Erbil has been used up, the Abdul Bassihs have had to move into the tent of a neighbor from Bartalla while the bishop finds them a tent for themselves. Until then, 12 people crush into the tent at night to sleep, six from each family.
The phone call ends. Nabilah hangs up and returns to breastfeeding her youngest child, Marvin, 14 months old.
“I feel deep sadness,” she says. “It was our bad luck to get caught in Bartalla with ISIS. It was so difficult.”
Visit this link to learn how you can help our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq during this difficult time. And please remember them in your prayers!
11 December 2014
Fireworks explode over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on 6 December, the Feast of St. Nicholas. Palestinian hopes for a tourism windfall following Pope Francis’ spring pilgrimage did not pan out because the Gaza war broke out shortly after his visit, Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ay’a told journalists. (photo: CNS/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)
Bethlehem is facing an unexpectedly bleak Christmas this year:
Palestinian hopes for a tourism windfall following Pope Francis’ spring pilgrimage did not pan out because the Gaza war broke out shortly after his visit, Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ay’a told journalists.
At the start of the year, the Bethlehem tourism sector had experienced a 19 percent increase in visitors and a 37 percent increase in overnight stays, the minister said in an early December briefing. During the outbreak of the war, there was a 60 percent cancellation rate, she said. It was the first decrease in the number of visitors in the past few years, which have, until now, seen a steady if slight increase, she added.
Overall, however, 2014 ended up with a 9.2 percent increase in visitors, and authorities are expecting 100,000 visitors for the month of December and 10,000-15,000 visitors on Christmas, she said.
“We were very optimistic the pope’s visit would attract many tourists from all over the whole world. We had hoped that when people saw the pope walking around Bethlehem and meeting Palestinians without a problem, it would give a good image of the people here and many would want to come visit,” said Ma’ay’a.
But soon after he left the war broke out, she said. By early December, that had caused a $30 million loss in revenue to the Palestinian economy, she estimated.
“We still hope more tourists will follow in his footsteps,” she said.
10 December 2014
In this image from 2008, Bishop Christo Proykov blesses marriage crowns during a wedding liturgy in Sofia, Bulgaria. To learn more about the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, check out the profile from our July 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
9 December 2014
Children in Gaza paint and draw in workshops to help them cope with the aftermath of last summer’s war. To learn more about their lives, read Shell-Shocked: Growing Up in Gaza in the Autumn edition of ONE. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)
5 December 2014
This January 2013 photo shows Maysoon Esso and her daughter Rana living in their apartment in Amman, Jordan. Five members of the Esso family had taken refuge in Jordan from northern Iraq about a year before. The father was still waiting to leave Iraq and join them. To support to those who have been displaced by violence in Iraq, click here. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
4 December 2014
Tags: Refugees Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees
Members of the Rifo family gather in their temporary dwelling in Sulimaniyeh, Iraqi Kurdistan.
(photo: Don Duncan)
The Autumn edition of ONE features as its cover story a dramatic glimpse into the lives of Iraqis who have fled from ISIS and settled in Kurdistan. It includes profiles of four different families, including the Rifos:
The Rifos are one of a dozen or so Chaldean families that have found shelter at the center in Sulimaniyeh. During the day, they sit in the common area, watching news on TV or discussing events back home, notably the ongoing war between ISIS and the Kurdish defense forces, known as the Peshmerga. For meals and at night, each family retires to its own room and lays out foam mattresses. There, they bed down for the night. In the Rifos’ area, there are six people, including the grandmother, sharing one room.
“The moment we crossed the checkpoint into Iraqi Kurdistan, I didn’t know if I should cry or if I should laugh,” recalls Ibtihaj Rifo of their nocturnal exodus. “The first thing I said to my family is: ‘We have become displaced people. Now we will be receiving food and aid from people. We will have to queue for the shower and the bathroom.’ ”
While this is true, the queues are shorter in Sulimaniyeh than in Erbil, the Kurdish city closest to the occupied Christian areas. For this reason, Erbil is currently the most overburdened and chaotic emergency response zone. Many families arriving to Erbil, like the Rifos, found no space to stay comfortably there and so they moved deeper into Iraqi Kurdistan, to Sulimaniyeh.
It’s been over two months since the Rifo family fled home and, like many others, they are still coming to terms with the trauma.
Continue reading their story at this link. Be sure to explore other profiles and features in the Autumn edition, as well.
And to help support families like the Rifos, please visit our giving page.
3 December 2014
People become emotional as more than 100,000 devotees fill the Chavara shrine on a hilltop at Mannanam, India, on 23 November, as Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara was canonized at the Vatican, along with Saint Euphrasia Eluvathingal, who also was from Kerala.
(photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
India is celebrating the canonization of two new saints:
More than 100,000 pilgrims thronged the Chavara shrine in southern Kerala state as Kuriakose Elias Chavara was canonized by Pope Francis on 23 November at the Vatican along with Euphrasia Eluvathingal, a member of the religious order founded by St. Chavara.
Thousands of people patiently waited in line for hours ahead of the live telecast of the canonization, which began at mid-afternoon local time, to pray at the tomb of St. Chavara, founder of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, a Syro-Malabar Catholic order.
“I wanted to celebrate this great day here,” Joseph Parayil, who had traveled more than 60 miles to be at the shrine to watch the ceremony, told Catholic News Service.
As Pope Francis pronounced the canonization of the two saints, even elderly women applauded as they watched the telecast on one of the dozen giant screens placed around the premises of the hilltop shrine.
St. Chavara lived at the shrine for 33 years until 1866.
Soon after the Vatican ceremony more than 100 priests concelebrated a Mass of thanksgiving for the pilgrims.
“Today the spirituality of India has reached the heavens. Father Chavara founded the first Indian religious congregation,” said Bishop Thomas Koorilos Chakkalapadickal of the Syro-Malankara Diocese of Tiruvalla during his homily.
Born in 1805, Chavara was ordained a priest in 1829. Two years later, he co-founded the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate, the first indigenous congregation. It now more than 3,000 professed members.
In 1866, Father Chavara also founded the Congregation of Mount Carmel, a women’s congregation with 6,500 members.
Oommen Chandy, Kerala’s chief minister and an Orthodox Christian, and Hindu ministers in his cabinet stood around St. Chavara’s tomb in front of the altar before the final blessing.
“With Father Chavara and Sister Euphrasia becoming saints, the entire Kerala society is being blessed today,” he told the pilgrims after the two-hour Mass.
Besides “setting off a spiritual renewal” among the Christians, Chandy reiterated that St. Chavara paved way for many social changes in Kerala.
By insisting that churches open “pallikoodam” (a school attached to church) to educate the low castes who were not allowed to enter schools at the time, the chief minister pointed out that “Father Chavara laid the foundation for the educational revolution of our state.”
Kerala is the most literate and educationally advanced state in India because of the work of the Catholic Church, which runs nearly half of the 15,000 private primary schools in the state. Catholics comprise less than 12 percent of Kerala’s population of 35 million.
Those attending the ceremonies were pleased by the canonizations.
“I am blessed and happy,” said Beeyar Prasad, a Hindu TV programmer. He delivered the concluding speech, describing St. Chavara’s legacy at Mannanam, during a rally concluding the celebrations that began with a rosary procession on the eve of the canonization.
“I am a lover of poetry and it is the beautiful poems and writings of Father Chavara that has made me his fan,” Prasad said.
“His writing on family life is relevant for every family whether Christian or Hindu,” he added.
2 December 2014
CNEWA provides displaced Syrian children with food, clothing and school supplies.
(photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)
Yesterday, we learned the United Nations World Food Program has suspended its voucher program, which feeds more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, because of funding shortfalls.
“For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter,” cites a World Food Program statement, “the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating.”
Syrian refugees living in camps and informal settlements depend on the assistance, as the host countries are overwhelmed by the enormity of need and lack the necessary resources. With winter settling in, the living conditions of the refugees are extremely precarious. Refugees lack proper housing, clothing and health care.
Yesterday, funding partners in Europe — including Kindermissionswerk — awarded CNEWA grants in the amount of $222,972 to assist CNEWA provide Syrian infants and school-age children with milk, diapers, winter clothing and school supplies.
Additional grants from Kindermissionswerk and Misereor, totaling $125,000, were also received for the needs of Iraqi children and medical supplies for CNEWA’s clinic in the Martha Schmouny camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
On this Giving Tuesday, give to CNEWA. Your gift will make a difference for innocent families devastated by war, power and greed.
1 December 2014
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kisses Pope Francis as they embrace during an ecumenical prayer service in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul on 29 November.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)