17 April 2018
Cardinal Timothy Dolan shares a joyful moment with displaced Syrian children in Lebanon. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
CNEWA’s Michael J.L. LaCivita, traveling with our contingent in Lebanon, filed these wonderful images today. He wrote:
Cardinal Dolan greets young children in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Retired Bishop William Murphy meets young people in Lebanon. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Today, in the city of Zahle in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley — the Jerusalem of the Greek Melkite Catholic world — members of CNEWA’s board of trustees visited more Syrian families displaced by war.
Archbishop Issam Darwich mingles with his flock. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
The bishops also met with members of the local community, whose lives have been upended by the arrival of “cheap unskilled labor,” who have taken their jobs.
But Zahle’s “pope,” Greek Melkite Archbishop Issam Darwhich, leads by example, and has reached out to Christian and Muslim refugees alike, bringing with him hundreds of volunteers to help feed, clothe and house these innocents.
The proof is in the pudding — as these pictures illustrate. Devout Muslim families have opened their hearts and homes to the cries of “Abuna!” (Father!) and “Sayydna! (Excellency!), Regardless of the crosses around their necks.
You can follow more of the cardinal’s trip here and here.
16 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA
Internally displaced Syrians wait in line for food 15 April at a camp outside Damascus. The United States, France and Britain launched airstrikes 14 April against Syria, with the stated aim to punish President Bashar Assad for an alleged chemical attack against civilians. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
13 April 2018
Bekele Haile, Tigist Zeleke, Zeritu Bulti and Fita Tulu minister to prisoners outside of Addis Ababa. Learn about the way lay ministers are bringing faith and hope to prisoners in Ethiopia in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
12 April 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Catholic
A Syrian child evacuated from Douma reacts upon arrival 11 April in Aleppo, Syria. Lebanese Cardinal Rai appealed to world leaders to stop the war in Syria and to work for comprehensive peace through diplomatic means. (photo: CNS/Aref Tammawi, EPA)
Maronite Catholic Patriarch and Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter appealed to world leaders to stop the war in Syria and to work for comprehensive peace through diplomatic means.
“As the great powers are beating the drums of a new war against Syria, we regret the absence of a language of peace from the mouths of senior officials in our world today,” he said, in an address 12 April directed to the international community.
In reference to the stance of world leaders toward Syria, the cardinal said, “Most tragically, their hearts are devoid of the slightest human emotion toward the millions of innocent Syrians who have been forced to flee their land under the fire of war, its crimes, destruction, terror and violence.”
“We appeal to the conscience of the great powers and the international community to work to end the war and to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace through political and diplomatic means — not military,” the church leader stressed.
“The people of the Middle East are entitled to live in peace and tranquility. The declaration of war is very weak,” he said, adding that peacebuilding is the ultimate in heroism. “Among the great powers, you will remember that we all know how to start wars, but we do not know how they end.”
Noting that Lebanon has hosted more than 1.1 million refugees, or nearly half of its population, “at a time when most European countries have closed their doors,” Patriarch Bechara Peter continued: “We ask today, did these countries which are beating the drums of war bear a fraction of the hardship due to the displacement of the Syrian population?”
The patriarch’s appeal came amid threats of military retaliation against Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in the Ghouta region.
U S. President Donald Trump has said that “missiles will be coming.” But on the morning of 12 April, Trump tweeted, “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”
Opponents of unilateral U.S. action schedule an emergency closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council 12 April, and Britain also scheduled an emergency Cabinet meeting, the Associated Press reported.
11 April 2018
Tags: Syria United States Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Syrian Conflict
Sister Noora Sabah prays with children preparing for First Communion in a church in a displaced persons camp in Ain Kawa, near Erbil. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
In the March 2018 edition of ONE, Sister Clara Nacy, superior general for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, writes of life among the displaced in Iraqi Kurdistan:
During the years of displacement, our sisters worked at every camp for internally displaced persons. We led Christian catechism programs and activities. With the help of CNEWA and other organizations, we were able to distribute different items — such as clothing, mattresses, milk and diapers, etc. We felt that it is our responsibility to help our people. We ourselves were displaced, also, which helped us understand the needs of displaced families; we knew what they were going through.
Through it all, we drew strength from prayer, both individually and as a community. Believing God is always with his people, we trust he will never leave them alone, no matter what happens. We never felt abandoned, seeing the hand of God in all the organizations that have helped us care for the displaced families. People of good will were always around, showing God’s loving care. Our sisters appreciated very much this support and encouragement as we carried on our ministry…
We sisters have our own struggles, of course. We have asked different speakers to help us cope with the situation, spiritually and psychologically. We are grateful to all those who have risked their lives and have come to show solidarity and offer their knowledge.
Deep down, we believe our main help is the Risen Lord around whom we gather in every Eucharist. This unites us with the Christ and enables us to endure. Sharing with one another our difficulties gives us the opportunity to reflect and support one another. We have lost much, but we still have each other. And that is of great help.
Read more of her Letter from Iraq in the current edition of ONE.
10 April 2018
Tags: Iraqi Christians Sisters
A wounded Syrian receives aid at a hospital 7 April in Damascus after a suspected chemical weapon attack in Douma. (photo: CNS/SANA via EPA)
On Sunday, Pope Francis condemned the use of chemical weapons following reports of a deadly attack in Syria:
“There is no good and bad war, and nothing, nothing can justify the use of such instruments of extermination against defenseless people and populations,” the pope said 8 April before concluding Divine Mercy Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
A suspected chemical weapon attack occurred late 7 April when Syrian army warplanes allegedly flew over and bombed the eastern town of Douma, located 15 miles north of the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to the Reuters news agency.
The Syrian American Medical Society Foundation reported 42 victims were killed in the attack while hundreds of people, “the majority of whom are women and children, were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”
Pope Francis prayed “for all the dead, for the wounded, for the families who suffer” and called for world leaders to abandon the use of war as a means of gaining peace and stability.
“We pray that political and military leaders choose the other way: that of negotiation, the only one that can lead to a peace that is not that of death and destruction,” the pope said.
We join our prayers with the Holy Father’s — holding close in our hearts the suffering people of Syria, who have endured so much for so long. We recall the words of the Rev. Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas, patriarchal vicar for northeastern Syria, who wrote in our magazine last year:
Our faith always calls for peace, but politics and bad politicians are always setting fires and disturbing the situation. I try to stay away from political discussions. My mission is to take care of my parish, to help my parishioners and to try and enrich the parish with fruitful spiritual activities.
While Syria’s many Christian communities face many and varied challenges right now, there is only one thing we all truly need: peace.
During this Easter season, a time of renewal and hope, we pray to the Prince of Peace to uplift and console the Syrian people, and bring them the peace they so urgently desire.
To learn more, and offer your prayerful support, please visit this page. Thank you and God bless you.
9 April 2018
Tags: Syria Syrian Conflict
The Rev. Jaison Koonamplakkal leads the Mary Matha Major Seminary in India. Read about The New Priests in that country — and the challenges facing the seminaries — in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
6 April 2018
Tags: India Priests Indian Catholics
Two students take a break during class at St. Anne’s Secondary School in Boditi, Ethiopia. Discover more about their education — and the young religious sisters who are teaching them — in The Habit of Learning in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
5 April 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education
Children line up to serve a First Communion Mass at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of St. Gregory, Ader, Jordan. Check out the March 2018 edition of ONE to read how catechists and religious sisters are Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
4 April 2018
Eritrean Catholic refugees Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, look at olive branches 23 March at Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
A refugee’s life is one of constant uncertainty and confusion.
Yet in their faith the refugees have found strength and refuge, said Father Rafic Nahra, priest of the St. James Vicariate, which ministers to the asylum seekers and migrant worker community in Israel.
Late 2 April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended a U.N. deal that would have sent thousands of asylum seekers in Israel to Western countries rather than to Africa. The deal had been announced hours earlier, but its reversal did not surprise the refugees.
“The refugees are fearful but, unfortunately, they are used it,” Father Nahra said. “They have already left their country, crossed the Sinai, crossed a lot of dangers and faced a lot of problems. Uncertainty has become part of their life.”
Sitting in the courtyard of the Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in late March, two Catholic Eritrean refugees, Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, said they do not feel certain of their future.
“If our country was good, nobody would want to leave. But because it is a dictatorship, everybody wants to leave,” said Kflom, who has been in Israel for six years. “Of course, I am worried they might send me (to Rwanda).”
Both men fled during compulsory military service in Eritrea, which kept them away from their families for years. In the army, they said, people become like slaves to the commanders. Some men are forced to serve in the army until their 60s. There is no time limit to the service; people cannot decide when to leave.
Neither had intended to come to Israel. Kflom was kidnapped by members of the Rashaida Bedouin tribe, who took him and his friends from Sudan into the Sinai Desert, where he was brutally tortured for four months until his family was able to pay $19,000 in extortion money. He was released at the border with Israel.
During his captivity, his childhood prayers sustained him, he said.
Now, early every Saturday morning, Kflom walks with his wife and young son to the pastoral center for a traditional three-hour Eritrean Mass.
“I pray to God to help me,” he said. “Life is very difficult. You can’t look forward to your future. You don’t have permission to live here. You can't organize your life here. I am always under a lot of stress.”
Netanyahu has said he wants to deport 20,000 refugees — whom he maintains are mainly economic migrants — by the year 2020. If his original deportation plan is implemented, the deportation process will require single adult males to choose between a financial incentive for “voluntary deportation” to a third African country or indefinite incarceration.
Israel is not alone in struggling with a deportation policy. Countries such as Australia, Germany and Greece have implemented similar deportation policies, including financial incentives for refugees to leave or face incarceration. Following the October 2016 European Union declaration of “safe zones” in Afghanistan, other countries began to deport Afghan refugees. France will be debating a controversial migrant deportation bill in April.
“If you are married or not married, it won’t make a difference,” said Daniel, whose wife will give birth to their first child in mid-April. “They say they won’t deport someone who is married, but they are making a lot of pressure so you will go to another place.”
Without hesitating, Daniel and Kflom said they would choose incarceration over deportation to Africa.
“To sit in jail is nothing for me. I have been through worse,” said Daniel. “You do not know what an African country is. There is no democracy there, no one to look after us. Someone can take you and kill you and no one will know. It would be easier to return us to our country. So why are they sending us to Rwanda? It shows you that they know there is a problem with our country, and our lives are in danger if they send us back there.”
African refugees began reaching Israel via the Sinai Desert in 2005, and by 2013, there were 60,000 African refugees in Israel. As the numbers of refugees grew, the
government began taking measures to prevent or discourage them from reaching Israel. In 2013, Israel completed work on a border fence with Egypt and, since last year, the flow of refugees stopped.
Today an estimated 38,000 adult refugees remain in Israel, the large majority from Eritrea and about 20 percent from Sudan; smaller percentages come from other African countries.
According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, of the more than 13,700 applications for asylum submitted by Africans, only 10 people have been given refugee status in Israel. Some 200 Sudanese refugees from Darfur also have been granted humanitarian status.
Father Michael Gropse, director of the Tel Aviv pastoral center, said when the refugees come to weekly Mass, their prayers are in earnest.
“I can really feel their prayer of hope,” he said. “They are always asking for God’s guidance. But in their daily life, they are afraid, sometimes, to go out and be caught by the immigration police. But still their faith and hope is strong, and every Saturday I see it when they attend Mass.”
“In Eritrea, I grew up in the Catholic Church,” said Daniel, kicking around a soccer ball with a friend’s young son as he waited for an afternoon prayer study to begin at the pastoral center. “The moment I come here, I forget about everything until I leave, then reality hits me again.”