12 October 2018
Syrian refugee children greet visitors in the refugee camp of Zahleh, Lebanon, in January 2016. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the new edition of ONE magazine, arriving in mailboxes this week, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar offers some insight into our association’s mission:
When we communicate with our donors to express our thanks for their generous prayers and financial gifts, we often refer to the gratitude that ultimately comes from the “poor,” those who “suffer” and those who are “persecuted.”
These are broad categories and we might not appreciate the range of these beneficiaries of CNEWA’s good works and support. Let me elaborate a bit.
It is normal to focus on the material needs of the poor. We think of hungry and starving children; mothers desperate to feed or shelter their little ones; an elderly person without a place to call home; or victims of war, floods or other calamities forced to flee, always uncertain what tomorrow might bring.
We especially think of children who have been orphaned, those whose cries and hollow stares penetrate our hearts. We think of children who hunger for education and would give anything to be able to have a formal schooling environment. We think of the elderly, often those most easily forgotten or marginalized. Societies sometimes consider them expendable.
We think of those with special needs who find little or no acceptance in many cultures — those with physical and mental disabilities or social outcasts because of class structures. We think of those victims of religious bigotry or ethnic classification, or those “in the middle” and not accepted by either side. Social and economic exclusion is a reality for so many in our world.
We think of those who are really persecuted, even unto death. They are violated and taken away; they are sometimes killed, but always considered “second class.”
What I am describing is a canvas of the broken, fractured world in which CNEWA is privileged to serve. And in our humble way, with your most generous support and prayerful accompaniment, we do our best to serve those who are poor, those who suffer and those who are persecuted.
I am blessed with vivid memories from my many pastoral visits to those we serve. I’ve seen hungry children being fed and cared for at the hands of religious sisters and church-related programs in areas of conflict and oppression. I have seen the faces of desperate mothers who seek comfort for their ailing children — and find a loving and gentle hand extended by the church.
Check out more in our magazine. And watch the video below, in which Msgr. Kozar shares more of the ways in which CNEWA helps spread the joy of the Gospel to so many who are on the margins.
11 October 2018
Tags: CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar
Schoolgirls in Chandigarh, India, wear pink turbans on 11 October to mark International Day of the Girl Child. (photo: CNS/Ajay Verma, Reuters)
10 October 2018
Youth gather by the headquarters of Bethlehem's Terra Sancta Scouts. Learn more about Defining ’Christian’ in Palestine in the current edition of ONE, now available online. (photo: Samar Hazboun)
9 October 2018
Anna Marie, Natalie and Nitsa, three of the seven children currently living at the St. Barbara Mother and Child Care Center in Georgia, have become fast friends. Learn more about how the church is Confronting Abuse of Women in Georgia in the September 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
5 October 2018
Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa checks out the name badge of Nathanael Lamataki, a youth delegate from the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, as they leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican on 5 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
4 October 2018
Byzantine Catholic Archbishop William C. Skurla of Pittsburgh, center, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Bryan Bayda of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, right, and other prelates arrive for Pope Francis' celebration of the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican on 3 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
3 October 2018
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church Byzantine Catholic Church
Diana Babish poses with a puppy outside her animal shelter in Beit Sahour, West Bank.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
God gives everyone a mission, Diana George Babish said as she fielded a phone call about a dog who had been shot in Hebron. The mission God gave her is to take care of the abused and abandoned animals in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, she said.
“God is pushing me to do this work. I believe it is something sacred,” said Babish, who uses an image of St. Francis surrounded by animals for her online profile.
Babish, a Catholic, admitted that it is not an easy mission in a place where, traditionally, society gives little importance to treating animals with compassion and routinely considers government-approved shooting and poisoning of stray animals as the best solution to population control.
“It is very difficult for me with the culture here; it is a very closed mentality,” she said. She spoke to Catholic News Service as she was trying to coordinate the injured dog’s transportation to her animal shelter in Beit Sahour, a village adjacent to Bethlehem.
“They continue to poison and shoot dogs because they don’t consider their lives to be of value.”
Her day began with the rescue of a 3-week-old puppy who was being kicked around like a ball by a group of schoolboys.
A few years ago, she traveled to Assisi, Italy, and she said she continues to draw strength for her work from the pilgrimage.
“Until now the pigeons still stay on his statue,” she said. “If God did not want anyone to take care of animals, he would not have given that mission to St. Francis.”
Last year Babish, who is in her late 40s, quit her day job as a bank manager to dedicate herself full time to running the first animal shelter in the West Bank, the Animal and Environment Association—Bethlehem Palestine, which she established in 2013.
In addition to $13,700 she received in donations, Babish used $20,000 of her own money to build the shelter. Currently it is run solely on donations and other forms of assistance, some of which also come from Israeli animal rescue organizations and individuals. Many of the dogs and cats she has rescued have been adopted or are being fostered by Israelis. By early October, she had rescued more than 400 dogs and more than 100 cats from the streets of West Bank cities. Recently she sent 15 dogs for adoption to Canada.
Babish has many critics within Palestinian society, including members of her own family, who complain that she is working with Israelis and spending her efforts on animals rather than people. Some charge her with profiting from the donations she receives, she said.
Still, Babish brushes off the insults and accusations thrown at her.
“If we had vets here in Palestine who had the proper equipment and treatments to care for the animals, or people who would adopt the dogs, I would leave them here. But Palestinians don’t want street dogs, most only want pure-bred dogs,” she said. “We in the rescue community put aside politics for the well-being of the animals. I tell (my critics) God gives each one of us our mission, and there are a lot of organizations taking care of people. My mission is to take care of the animals, the most vulnerable beings in the world.”
It was close to 9:30 p.m. and she had not yet eaten her dinner. She was working out the logistics of how to take three puppies and one adult dog to their foster homes in central Israel, then take other animals to a veterinary clinic to be treated and neutered. She also was preparing travel papers for a cat who was to be flown to her new home in Sweden.
Babish has 11 board members, 13 general members and two workers who help her in the day-to-day work at the shelter. Slowly she is making inroads into changing societal views about animals and rescue, she said.
The reality of life as a Palestinian is never far, though, and Babish must have an Israeli travel permit to go into Israel. She and a driver make rounds in Israel several times a week.
“A lot of (Palestinians) start to see that animals are very important. I am raising awareness through Facebook, fighting animal abuse,” she said. Some of her posts have received 14,000 views, she said. “Step-by-step I am creating more soldiers to fight for the sake of animals.”
2 October 2018
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Saints
Some 500 members of the Fraternities of the Youth of Virgin Mary sing the group's anthem on 30 September at St. Joseph School in Cornet Chewan, Lebanon, during the annual commemoration of the Marian group. (photo: CNS/courtesy Congregation of the Youth of Mary)
Church youth groups provide an escape from life’s pressures and help in forming strong friendships, young Lebanese Catholics said at the annual meeting of their Marian group.
Under the theme, “Mary is Our Captain,” some 500 members of the Fraternities of the Youth of Virgin Mary met on 30 September at St. Joseph School in Cornet Chahwan, north of Beirut.
Celebrating Mass for the gathering, Maronite Bishop Michel Aoun of Jbeil urged the young people “to be like eagles,” to rise up above the world and to keep their eyes on Jesus.
“That’s how the Christian life should be,” he said.
“You were chosen by God to be a light. You can be a witness to others who don’t know Jesus,” Bishop Aoun said, noting the 3-28 October Synod of Bishops to discuss “young people, the faith and vocational discernment” at the Vatican.
After the Mass, Christine Zaghrini, 27, told Catholic News Service: “This group is my escape. It’s a place where I meet God.”
“With all the chaos and stress we face, it’s easy to ‘lose’ God. But I know that on the day we have our weekly meeting ... I can be refreshed in my faith,” said Zaghrini, who works in information technology.
“I feel the presence of the Lord when I’m with this group,” Zaghrini said. “The church listens to us. The church helps us,” and young people need its support, she said.
The Fraternities of the Youth of Virgin Mary has membership for young people, ages 20-35, in 17 regions throughout Lebanon, with around 1,200 members in 121 local groups. The organization also has groups for children, teens and adults over 35.
“I grew up in this group,” said Nassib Achkar, 25, a talent agent. “I have good friends here, and I found a special love and bond, like brothers and sisters.”
Working in the entertainment industry, Achkar often encounters atheists and people with little faith, he said.
“They are lost. Sometimes they make fun of me,” he said, noting that his faith is “something they can’t understand.”
“I feel I have a responsibility to be a witness. God put me in this profession for a reason, to help people to believe,” Achkar said.
Joe Allam, 26, in his first year as a seminarian, told CNS that the youth fraternities helped him to discover his vocation.
After all the spiritual retreats, “I could hear Jesus talking to me and inviting me to this road,” he said, noting that “when you are close to Jesus ... you become familiar with his voice.”
“Every young man and woman has to know that their church has a past, and the older generation should feel assured that the church has a future -- we are the future of the church,” Allam said.
Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Aoun was the Rev. Marcellino Assaf, who was ordained in September and heard his calling to the priesthood as a member of the Fraternities of the Youth of Virgin Mary.
Bishop Aoun told the young people it is every Christian’s vocation “to be a message of life and love.”
Families and work “should be a means to gain the kingdom of God, so that God is the only constant in your life,” he said, noting that through Mary’s help, “everything you do can lead you to God.”
Especially with the synod happening in the same month, it is good to see Lebanese youth “gathering with such joy and enthusiasm,” Msgr. Ivan Santos, charge d’affaires of the Vatican Embassy in Lebanon, told Catholic News Service.
“They are the hope of Lebanon,” he said.
Msgr. Santos urged the young people to follow Pope Francis’ call to pray the rosary each day in October.
“Young people, you are the answer for the church and for your country,” he said.
1 October 2018
Tags: Lebanon Beirut
A sister cares for a young patient at Maison du Sacre Coeur, a Catholic institution that serves the needs of specially challenged children in Haifa. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In an address to the participants of the Seminar on Ethics in Health, Pope Francis stressed the importance of forming a bond of humanity between health care workers and their patients. The conference, from 1-5 October, is sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and led by Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Bochatey of La Plata, Argentina, and the Health Consensus Foundation, an Argentina-based organization comprised of local and international health care providers, according to the conference website.
From Vatican Media:
Pope Francis based his speech around 3 key words: miracle, care and trust. These three words are very valuable in a world in which health in general “and particularly in Latin America, is living through an era marked by the economic crisis”, said the Pope.
With regards to the first word, “miracle,” the Pope said, “Those responsible for the institutions will tell me, and rightfully so, that we cannot perform miracles.” But, he explained, a miracle is not doing the impossible. A miracle is looking at an ill, helpless person and seeing a brother.
The Pope explained that, “we are called upon to recognize the immense value of every person’s dignity, as a human being, as a son of God.”
The second word: “care.” Because curing an ill person does not simply involve applying pharmaceuticals. “We know that when someone who is terminally ill is in serene, human company, they perceive this solidarity,” the pope said. “Even in these difficult cases, when the person can feel such love, respect and acceptance, the value of their being becomes their capability to give and receive love, not their productivity.”
The final word is “trust.” Pope Francis’ first example is “the trust the ill person has in themselves, that they will get better.” Of no less importance is the worker, who must be able to work in a serene atmosphere, in trusted surroundings. ”Placing yourself in the hands of someone else, especially when your life is at risk, is very difficult” said Pope Francis.
“We must fight to keep this deeply human bond whole” said Pope Francis. “No aid institution alone can take the place of a human heart, nor that of human compassion,” he said, quoting Pope Saint John Paul II.
28 September 2018
Tags: Health Care
A Bedouin family picks cherries in an orchard in Deir El Ahmar. (photo: Laura Boushnak)
In 2012, we visited a corner of Lebanon that was flourishing, thanks to a reservoir and irrigation system CNEWA helped to provide:
The presence of water gave us a means to stay here,” says 65-year-old Hana Habshi, a resident of the Maronite Catholic town of Deir El Ahmar. The once-bustling agricultural hub nestles on the slopes of the fertile Bekaa Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Beirut, where Mr. Habshi has lived and worked since the height of civil war in the 1980’s. But for the past decade, thanks to several irrigation projects, Mr. Habshi has returned to his hometown every summer to farm his family’s ancestral lands. “It helped us come back and live off the land again.”
Lebanon’s civil war — which ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990 — destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure, including its irrigation systems, and sounded the death knell for the Bekaa Valley’s agricultural economy.
Without reliable sources of water, and subsequent erosion, farmers could no longer cultivate the land that formerly nourished lush fields and bountiful yields. Desperate for work, inhabitants moved to Lebanon’s major coastal cities, such as Beirut, Saida and Tripoli. Some left the country altogether. The few who remained scraped by as sustenance farmers, growing crops that require little water such as wheat, hay and, in some cases, hashish.
Deir El Ahmar, like most settlements in the area, remains but a shadow of its former self. Its many empty homes and crumbling public buildings remind locals and visitors of a more prosperous past. Though municipal authorities register some 10,000 residents, in reality half as many actually live there — and only then in the summer months. In winter, the town’s population plunges to little more than 3,000.
However, in the last ten years, Deir El Ahmar has been slowly but surely bucking the trend. Locals attribute this reversal to one thing — water. Since 1999, when the town installed its first irrigation system drawing on natural spring water, residents such as Mr. Habshi have been trickling back to town and reviving their parched properties and the Christian identity of the town.
“Before it was all just trees and shrubs, but look what happens when water comes,” says Mr. Habshi, pointing to the surrounding hillsides and valley below.
Read more about Springs of Hope in Lebanon in the January 2012 edition of ONE.