18 August 2016
A 5-year-old Syrian boy named Omran Daqneesh sits alone in the back of the ambulance after he was rescued from the Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo on 17 August 2016. (photo: Mahmud Rslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
This image has caused a sensation in social media, capturing the heartbreak and terror of what is happening in Aleppo. As The New York Times reported:
In the images, he sits alone, a small boy coated with gray dust and encrusted blood. His little feet barely extend beyond his seat. He stares, bewildered, shocked and, above all, weary, as if channeling the mood of Syria.
The boy, identified by medical workers as Omran Daqneesh, 5, was pulled from a damaged building after a Syrian government or Russian airstrike in the northern city of Aleppo. He was one of 12 children under the age of 15 treated on Wednesday, not a particularly unusual figure, at one of the hospitals in the city’s rebel-held eastern section, according to doctors there.
But some images strike a particular nerve, for reasons both obvious and unknowable, jarring even a public numbed to disaster. Omran’s is one.
Within minutes of being posted by witnesses and journalists, a photograph and a video of Omran began rocketing around the world on social media. Unwittingly, Omran — like Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned last September and whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach — is bringing new attention to the thousands upon thousands of children killed and injured during five years of war and the inability or unwillingness of global powers to stop the carnage.
Maybe it was his haircut, long and floppy up top; or his rumpled T-shirt showing the Nickelodeon cartoon character CatDog; or his tentative, confused movements in a widely circulated video — gestures familiar to anyone who has loved a child. Or the instant and inescapable question of whether a parent was left alive to give him a hug.
Watch a video of the boy’s rescue below.
17 August 2016
Tags: Syria Children War Aleppo
Sister Ferdos Zora teaches students in a preschool in Erbil run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
With summer nearing an end, a lot of kids are heading back to school. This image, from the Summer edition of ONE, shows schoolchildren in Erbil: displaced young Iraqis who fled ISIS, beginning life over in Kurdistan. CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar visited the region last spring with a delegation that included CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan:
Pastoral visits included stops to the Martha Schmouny Clinic in the Ain Kawa area of Erbil; Al Bishara School in Erbil, where the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena now teach more than 680 displaced students; a youth center in Ain Kawa for a “town hall” conversation with families and community elders; St. Peter’s Seminary, which forms priests for the Chaldean Church; a clinic in Dohuk offering care to hundreds of displaced persons each day; and a visit to displaced families hunkered down in the remote village of Inishke.
With each visit, the delegation made time to listen, to counsel and to offer comfort.
United in faith, the displaced and the delegation together offered prayers and celebrated the Eucharist in the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic traditions.
The pastoral visit highlighted the efforts of parishioners, religious sisters, parish priests and bishops who have partnered with CNEWA in setting up nurseries, schools and clinics, apostolates of the church that not only heal and educate, but provide a source of hope.
“One of my hopes for this pastoral visit,” said CNEWA’s Msgr. Kozar, “was to highlight CNEWA’s unique role in coordinating worldwide Catholic aid, on behalf of the Holy Father, and deploying that aid through the local church to those most in need.”
Want to help children such as these? Visit this giving page to learn what you can do.
16 August 2016
Tags: Iraq Children Iraqi Christians Sisters Education
Children flash victory signs as they play in Manbij, following its liberation from ISIS. (photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)
Friday, the northern Syria city of Manbij was liberated from ISIS, and residents celebrated by doing things that the militant group had forbidden.
From the BBC:
They have poured into the streets enjoying basic rights they had been denied for two years, including shaving off their beards and smoking.
US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters fought 73 days to drive IS out of Manbij, close to the Turkish border.
About 2,000 civilians being used as human shields were also freed.
Reuters news agency spoke to a resident of Manbij who described a spot where people were beheaded. “For anything or using the excuse that he did not believe [in God], they put him and cut his head off.
“It is all injustice,” he said.
“I feel joy and [it is like a] dream I am dreaming. I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it. Things I saw no one saw,” a woman said screaming and fainting, according to Reuters.
Another woman thanked the fighters that had set them free: “You are our children, you are our heroes, you are the blood of our hearts, you are our eyes. Go out, Daesh [Arabic name for IS]!”
The Washington Post noted:
Under the Islamic State, women were forced to cover their faces. But on Friday, some of them were photographed with lifted veils.
One woman set fire to a niqab, a veil that covers all of a woman’s face except the area around her eyes.
Below is a video report on the liberation of Manbij:
12 August 2016
Tags: Syria ISIS
In this image from May, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, left is seen Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar mosque and university, and Archbishop Georg Gaenswein at the Vatican. The French cardinal said terrorists want to make peace-loving Christians and Muslims believe that it is impossible for them to live side by side; it is up to Christians and Muslims to prove them wrong.
(photo: CNS/Reuters pool via EPA)
Terrorists want to make peace-loving Christians and Muslims believe that it is impossible for them to live side by side; it is up to Christians and Muslims to prove them wrong, said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said he was in France 26 July when 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel was brutally murdered in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the murder.
Writing 12 August in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Tauran said, “Obviously, these crimes threaten the credibility of interreligious dialogue, but we must continue to meet, to speak and to work together when possible so hatred does not prevail.”
In a multicultural, multireligious society, ignorance breeds problems, he said. “In order to live together we must look at those who are different from us with esteem, friendly curiosity and a desire to walk together.”
When tensions arise or outrageous acts are perpetrated, the cardinal wrote, they must be studied as “providential lessons from which people must draw the necessary wisdom to open more reasonable and more courageous paths.”
As now-retired Pope Benedict XVI taught, he said, dialogue deepens only when both dialogue partners know and practice their own faith and are willing to try to explain it to the other.
“Dialogue cannot be based on ambiguity,” the cardinal said, so “an event like that of 26 July 2016, pushes us to deepen our spiritual life and nourish it with prayer and study.”
Christians and Muslims, he wrote, “can — rather, we must — work together and promote religious instruction,” especially in societies that appear to be trying to drive religious faith to the margins of social life.
“By killing Father Jacques, those who conceived of this despicable act had one precise goal: to demonstrate that peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Christians is impossible,” Cardinal Tauran said. “But we have demonstrated and we believe that we must join forces in the name of God to work together for harmony and unity in a spirit of sincerity and mutual trust.”
11 August 2016
Arpine Ghazaryan cuts her son’s hair. She lives with her two boys in Gyumri, Armenia — just one of many families in the country who are now fatherless. Discover why, and what is being done to help them, in Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer edition of ONE.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
10 August 2016
In this image from December 2015, a refugee prays Christmas day at a camp in Calais, France. Iraqi Christians appear divided about whether they will be able to return home after ISIS militants are flushed out of the battle-scarred Ninevah Plains region. (photo: CNS/Stephanie Lecocq, EPA)
Iraqi Christians appear divided about whether they will be able to return home after Islamic State militants are flushed out of the battle-scarred Ninevah Plains region. They say their safety must be guaranteed at all costs.
“If the liberation of the Ninevah Plains region is successful, infrastructure is rebuilt and there is security, I would want to be among the first to return,” said Fadi Yousif, who teaches displaced children in the Ashti II camp for displaced Christians in Ain Kawa, near Irbil. “It’s my home. I love that place. But what is absolutely essential is that we have real security there.”
Housed in an unfinished concrete building, Yousif and other displaced people live in containers that take the place of homes lost to the Islamic State. He said his home region would be a different place from what he remembers due to the dispersal of friends and family abroad because of the long wait to rid the area of the Islamist extremists.
“About 60 percent of my friends are now living in exile, whether in neighboring countries or Europe. My mother, father and two sisters are now in Lebanon. I have a brother in Jordan. My uncle is in the United States. Only another brother and I are still in Iraq,” he said. It was unclear whether Yousif’s family would regather in Iraq following the liberation.
Um Fadi, a 37-year-old Chaldean Catholic mother, also is concerned about safety. She and her family of six live in Ashti II.
“I swear, I never saw something like this except in a horror film. But I actually witnessed people being killed and saw dead bodies with my own eyes,” she said of her escape from the Islamic State’s assault on her village of Qaraqosh two years ago.
“Of course, we are frightened to return. What are we going back to? The houses and churches have been bombed. My children, particularly my youngest son, is very frightened about the idea of returning there,” Um Fadi told Catholic News Service.
Other Christians like, Saif Haney, told CNS they will never go back home because they heard that Islamic State militants used their family houses as execution dens.
Some Iraqi Christian political leaders are calling for the inclusion of armed Christian militias to participate in the liberation of Mosul and the Ninevah Plains, their ancestral homeland, alongside U.S.-led coalition forces, Iraqi troops and Kurdish fighters.
Although that may not happen, Christian political leaders such as Yousif Yaqoob Matti want to see Christian defense forces built up to protect Mosul and the Ninevah Plains after their liberation. They said this is necessary because although many Christians would prefer to have an international force, such as U.N. peacekeepers in the area, this is unlikely to happen.
“The battle for the Ninevah Plains against Islamic State will be complex, but the military forces involved must perform as one, unified entity,” Matti told CNS.
“After the liberation, demining efforts will take place and electricity, water and other necessary infrastructure will need to be rebuilt. It is hoped that after four months, people may be able to return safely.”
Bahman Maalizadeh of the North Carolina-based Norooz Foundation has traveled to Mosul’s frontline villages ahead of the offensive. His and other nongovernmental organizations have provided badly needed food and medicine to displaced Christians and Yezidis.
“There is a small Christian force left to protect so many lands,” Maalizadeh told CNS. “It is so important for the international community to help these forces to not only protect the land, which they have, but once the area is liberated, to provide security to ensure that Christians can return home.”
A man who identified himself only as John, a Syriac Catholic from Hamdaniyya, is Um Fadi’s neighbor in Ashti II camp. Although he and his family are desperate to forget the past and to leave Iraq, that might not be possible.
“We can’t leave Iraq, but we want to. Although Kurdistan has been kind to us, there is really no work here, so we have run out of money,” he told CNS. “We have to have a future for ourselves and our kids, so we need to go somewhere else. We don’t see that happening in Iraq because so many wars and conflicts have erupted here.”
He and his family have already been displaced already twice: They had to flee the capital, Baghdad, for safety to Hamdaniyya and then escape to Ain Kawa following the Islamic State takeover of their area.
“Frankly, money isn’t the objective. The only thing we want in life is what everybody else wants,” he told CNS. “It’s to be able to live in your own home without any concern about what can happen to your kids. I want my children to grow up that way, feeling secure.”
9 August 2016
Migrants gather to celebrate Mass in Rehovot, Israel. The challenges many migrants in Israel face are significant. Check out the Summer 2016 edition of ONE to learn more about people Surviving Without a Country in the Promised Land. (photo: CNEWA)
8 August 2016
The new Refugee Olympic Team arrives for the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on 5 August. In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world. (photo: CNS/David Gray, Reuters)
In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world.
Naming each of the team’s athletes from South Sudan, Syria, Congo and Ethiopia, Pope Francis said he had read some of the interviews with team members “so that I could get closer to your lives and your aspirations.”
“I extend my greetings and wish you success at the Olympic Games in Rio — that your courage and strength find expression through the Olympic Games and serve as a cry for peace and solidarity,” he said in the message, signed in late July.
The 2016 Summer Games marked the first time a refugee team officially participated in the Olympics. Team members marched under the Olympic flag and, in the event a team member wins a medal, the Olympic anthem was to be played instead of the national anthem of the athlete’s home country.
Pope Francis expressed his hope that through the team “humanity would understand that peace is possible, that with peace everything can gained, but with war all can be lost.”
“Your experience serves as testimony and benefits us all,” the pope told team members.
Yusra Mardini, 18, was the first member of the team to compete in Rio. The swimmer is ranked 41st among women swimmers competing in the 100-meter butterfly; Mardini finished first in her initial heat on 6 August.
Like tens of thousands of Syrians, Mardini fled her war-torn country through Lebanon and Turkey. She found a space on a rubber dingy to make her way to Lesbos, Greece, but the motor stalled. She, her sister and another woman — the only people on the boat who could swim — pushed the boat to shore.
From Greece, Mardini traveled on to Germany, where she was given official refugee status in March and continued her training as a competitive swimmer.
Five of the athletes — including Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, the team’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony — are South Sudanese refugees who were living in the huge Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
The national Olympic committees of the refugees’ host countries, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Olympic Committee chose the team members. The IOC provided the athletes uniforms and is covering their costs and those of the team’s coaches and staff.
5 August 2016
In this image from May, children at the Saint Gabriel Primary Government School in Ethiopia greet visitors. They are among thousands of young people who are contending with a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa. Learn how you can help the hungry hold on to life by
visiting this page. (photo: John E. Kozar)
4 August 2016
Young sisters are seen joking and laughing as they walk near their convent in Bharanaganm, Kottayam, in the Indian state of Kerala. India is facing new challenges in trying to attract young people to religious life. Discover why some feel they are On a Mission from God in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
Tags: India Sisters Kerala Indian Christians Vocations (religious)