3 October 2017
Slewa Shamoon Aba displays a broken crucifix in the garden of his home. With the exit of ISIS, many Iraqi Christians are returning to their homes and villages and trying to rebuild.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the September 2017 edition of ONE, photojournalist Raed Rafei visits once-displaced Iraq Christians who are returning to home and having to make some Hard Choices:
Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qaraqosh served as a commercial hub for the entire region of the Nineveh Plain. Since the landmines were cleared and the area was declared safe in April, some 500 families have returned — a fraction of the pre-war population of 50,000.
Yet the simple fact that they are here tells a story of resilience, determination and faith.
In a once-bustling commercial neighborhood known simply as Al Souk (Arabic for “market”), locals have begun the mammoth task of clearing away rubble. With a shovel in hand and a black hat, Bahnam Matti, 72, removes detritus from what had been a clothes shop, now desolate with large holes in the ceiling. Every now and then, he pauses to wipe the sweat off his face with a pink towel placed on his shoulder.
Across the street, a woman in a bright red and blue dress sprays water from a hose on the entrance of her scorched restaurant. Others paint walls or cut wood panels, undaunted by the scale of destruction — scores of collapsed rooftops, smashed storefronts and hills of accumulated debris.
...Despite some shy rebuilding efforts by churches and homeowners, the estimated $70 million needed for the overall reconstruction of Qaraqosh still looms large. Several organizations have pledged to help with large finances, but substantial aid has not materialized yet.
The condition of Qaraqosh is not very different from that of most Christian towns in the Nineveh Plain, which typically report damage to 30 to 40 percent of structures — houses, schools, public institutions, churches, monasteries and hospitals alike.
But some towns, such as Batnaya, have been rendered completely uninhabitable, reporting 85 percent of buildings demolished under heavy aerial bombardment
Read more — and check out the video below.
2 October 2017
Students at the Father Roberts Institute in Lebanon study ecology in a greenhouse area. Learn how the church is serving these young people and others by Reaching the Margins in the
September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
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 Iraqi Christians Violence against 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.