29 September 2017
Sisters Luma and Montaha, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, visit Qaraqosh’s Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah, damaged by ISIS. The church was built in 2008. Read more about Iraqi Christians returning to their homes in the Nineveh Plain in Hard Choices, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
29 September 2017
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians
Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj greets the Rev. Thomas Uzhunnalil, rescued after being held hostage in Yemen, in New Delhi on 28 September. (photo: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images)
Freed Salesian priest arrives in India (UCAN India) Indian Salesian Father Thomas Uzhunnalil — who was released over a fortnight ago after his 18-month-long captivity in Yemen — arrived in New Delhi on 28 September and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Father Uzhunnalil arrived in the Indian capital following two weeks in Rome where he was taken after his release from suspected Islamic militants who abducted him 4 March 2016…
Assyrian to head Syrian parliament for first time in decades (AINA) A Christian legislator was Thursday elected speaker of parliament in predominantly Muslim Syria for the first time in decades. Hammudeh Sabbagh, a 58-year-old Syriac Orthodox Christian graduate in law and member of President Bashar al Assad’s Baath party from Hassake province in northeast Syria, won 193 votes out of 252 cast, state media reported…
Christians should return to Iraq as full citizens, cardinal says (Catholic Philly) Christians don’t want to be a “protected minority” in the Middle East; they must be full citizens with full rights and the opportunity to contribute to a just and lasting peace, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. The return of Christians to Iraq’s Nineveh Plain “must be the first and urgent objective of our efforts,” the cardinal said. “That will allow the Christian community to then face the other challenges that awaits it in being fully active and generous in building up the common good of the entire nation…”
The sea was a breath of fresh air for isolated Gaza; now the water stinks (Washington Post) Some 100,000 cubic meters of raw or partially treated sewage have flowed into the sea each day since early summer, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to cut the power supply to Gaza amid a worsening feud with Hamas, the militant movement that controls the enclave. The power shortage means that sewage treatment plants can’t function. The pollution is so bad that Israel has shut down neighboring beaches for safety reasons and called on the Palestinian Authority to find a solution…
Palestinians slam U.S. Israel envoy’s ‘ignorance’ (Al Jazeera) The United States ambassador in Tel Aviv has angered Palestinians with a comment downplaying Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank, the second such spat in a month. In a video interview with Israeli news site Walla broadcast in full on Friday, ambassador David Friedman said the Jewish state is “only occupying 2 percent” of the West Bank. “Israel is internationally recognized as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied east Jerusalem,” said Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat…
28 September 2017
Tags: Syria India Iraq Middle East Christians Priests
Students conduct class in sign language at the Father Roberts Institute for Deaf Children, north of Beirut. Read more about this school and other institutions working to assist Lebanon’s most vulnerable in Reaching the Margins, from the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
27 September 2017
Tags: Lebanon Education Catholic Disabilities Caring for the Elderly
Palestinian Christians Najwa and George Saadeh pray in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Following the death of her daughter at the hands of Israeli soldiers, Najwa says she has drawn strength from her faith to pursue reconciliation. For more on families who have suffered tragedies working diligently to create a better world, read Love as a Healing Balm, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nadim Asfour)
26 September 2017
Tags: Middle East Christians Palestine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Holy Land Christians
Ismaeel Maiatah, a Bedouin Christian, grazes his sheep on the outskirts of Ader, Jordan. Read more about the deep roots of this community in Jordan’s Christian Shepherds, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
25 September 2017
Tags: Middle East Christians Jordan Cultural Identity Holy Land Christians Bedouin
Sister Luma Khudher reflects near the stoup of the damaged Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah in Qaraqosh. Read more about Iraqi Christians returning to rebuild their homes in the Nineveh Plain — and contemplating their identity and future — in Hard Choices, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
22 September 2017
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Cultural Identity Iraqi
Students join hands to perform the dabke, a folk dance native to the Levant, at the Father Roberts Institute for Deaf Children north of Beirut. Check out the September 2017 edition of ONE to learn how CNEWA is Reaching the Margins and helping those most in need in Lebanon. (photo: Don Duncan)
21 September 2017
Tags: Lebanon Education Disabilities Caring for the Elderly
Syrian Christians celebrate the Divine Liturgy at Jesus the King Chaldean Catholic Church in Hassake, in late May. (photo: Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas)
The new edition of ONE features a Letter From Syria by the Rev. Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas, a priest of the Chaldean Church. He describes the challenges his people are facing today — and the deep faith that sustains them:
I have vowed to stay with my parish and those displaced from other areas. I have struggled. However, with the support of the patriarch and my bishop, Antoine Audo, S.J., of Aleppo, who has helped provide material, medical and humanitarian support, we are helping to provide, as much as possible, the basic needs for the displaced Christian families remaining in our part of Syria.
Beyond those necessities of food, health care and shelter, our presence as priests and religious helps give hope to the people of God, where it is lacking. As shepherds — men and women who have left everything and followed Christ — our faith and trust in Christ binds us to the people. We have reopened education centers and provided recreational and pastoral activities for children in the summer.
We are still here.
Jesus Christ remains our inspiration. We are strengthened by his grace. Despite the circumstances, we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, honor the Virgin Mary and pray to Christ, asking for peace from the King of Peace. As a priest, I have given my life to serve the Lord and his people. Some have become martyrs in order to free their homeland. Yet, we continue to live in hope. As Jesus Christ said: “Take courage, I have overcome the world.”
Read more and see more images in the September 2017 edition of ONE.
19 September 2017
Sister Anahid, a Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena, administers a primary school in Dohuk. Read more about efforts to keep hope alive in Iraq in ‘God Wants Me Here,’ a web exclusive story from our March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
18 September 2017
U.S. Army veteran Rocio Villanueva, 31, from Escondido, California, prays on the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem while touring the Holy Land with the Heroes to Heroes program on 11 September. The program brings wounded veterans to the Holy Land to tour with wounded Israeli veterans. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, U.S. Army veteran Rocio Villanueva fell onto the stone of the unction where tradition holds that Jesus was laid out after his crucifixion and touched her head to the smoothed surface.
Injured during a tour of duty in Iraq and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the 31-year-old engineering specialist and mother of four was raised in a Catholic home but had slowly lost touch with her faith. After almost a week in the Holy Land as part of the second group of women veterans participating in the Heroes to Heroes program, Villanueva felt a spiritual renewal.
“Since the third day I got here I felt a healing in my heart. At the Church of the Annunciation (in Nazareth), I felt so good and able to speak to God,” said Villanueva, a member of St. Mary Catholic Church in Escondido, California.
“My family has been able help me physically, but with the part I have inside of me, it has been really hard to open up. I had so much anger in my heart and was so sad, I could cry about anything. Here I felt my heart open up. I went to confession and I felt that God was talking to me through the priest,” she said.
Since its founding six years ago by Judy Isaacson Schaffer, a Teaneck, New Jersey, marketing and sales professional whose father and grandfather served in the military, Heroes to Heroes has taken 14 groups of U.S. veterans — including those who served in Vietnam — to meet with their Israeli counterparts and visit holy sites. It is a peer-support program with the goal of helping achieve spiritual healing and preventing suicide.
Villanueva’s group was in the Holy Land 5-12 September. Participants visited Bethlehem, were baptized in the Jordan River and joined in the Israeli memorial ceremony commemorating the 9/11 attacks in New York and elsewhere.
With 22 U.S. veterans committing suicide every day, Schaffer said she recognized the need to reach out to those veterans suffering the most from PTSD, just as her father had volunteered with veterans from earlier wars. Because less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces — a small fraction of whom are women — many veterans feel isolated when they return, she said.
The peer-to-peer encounter with Israeli veterans, some of whom have also experienced traumatic injuries, as well as discussions within their own group allow the U.S. veterans to see that it is possible to move forward from their challenging experiences, Schaffer explained.
Participants are asked to stay in contact with members of their group for a year after the visit.
Most of the veteran services available in the U.S. are geared towards male veterans, and perhaps because of this lack of institutional and communal support, more women veterans commit suicide than men, Schaffer said.
In addition to combat trauma, some women have also been victims of military sexual trauma, she said.
“I will never get over (the trauma), but I can get past it,” said U.S. Army veteran Rory Shaffer, 42. A mother of three, Shaffer served twice in Iraq and was severely injured in a blast which killed three of her friends. She also witnessed the suicide of another friend while on combat duty.
“Within my household, I have support but the rest of my family just thinks I should get over it,” Shaffer said. “I have been suffering. I was not expecting that one-third of the group would say this group saved their lives.”