13 August 2018
In this image from 2017, worshippers pray during Mass at St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Esqof, Iraq, which was damaged by ISIS militants. The Chaldean Catholic Church has concluded a synod in Baghdad offering thanks to God for those who have returned to Iraq after being displaced. (photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)
The Chaldean Catholic Church concluded a weeklong synod in Baghdad offering thanks to God for the return of numerous displaced Christians to their hometowns in the Ninevah Plain and for pastoral achievements in their dioceses.
The synod, held 7-13 August at the invitation of Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, brought together church leaders and participants from Iraq, the United States, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Canada, Australia and Europe to discuss issues vital for the church’s future both in Iraq and among its diaspora.
Patriarchs and other leaders proposed potential candidates for election as new bishops because several Iraqi clergy are nearing retirement age. Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service that no names would be made public until approved by the Holy See.
The final statement said a key discussion point focused on the need for “a larger number of well-qualified priests, monks and nuns” to work in Chaldean Catholic churches to “preserve the Eastern identity and culture of each country and its traditions.”
Synod participants decried the suffering experienced by Christians and other Iraqis over the past four years following the Islamic State takeover of Mosul and towns in the Ninevah Plain as well as the deterioration of Iraq’s political, economic and social institutions. They also praised the humanitarian efforts by the churches and Christian organizations to help those displaced to return home and re-establish their lives.
The synod expressed “sincere thanks to all the ecclesiastical institutions and international civil organizations that supported them during their long ordeal.”
Church officials and the international community have expressed growing concern that unless Iraq’s ancient religious minorities are supported in their rebuilding, many will seek a new life elsewhere.
Observers believe that 400,000 to 500,000 Christians now live in Iraq, compared to 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Chaldeans are the indigenous people of Iraq, whose roots trace back thousands of years.
The synod said that Iraqi Christians still aspire to see the government establish “a strong national civil state that provides them and other citizens equality and a decent living, as well as preserves them in an atmosphere of freedom, democracy and respect for pluralism.”
The religious leaders also expressed support for Cardinal Sako’s multiple efforts to encourage and build national unity in Iraq.
In addition, they urged Iraqi government officials to help the displaced to “rebuild their homes, rehabilitate the infrastructure of their towns and maintain their property” as most of the reconstruction efforts have been at the initiation of the church, international donors and foreign governments. They appealed to the international community to assist them in “a dignified and safe return.”
The synod called for an end to the war and Syria and in other Middle East countries. It also called on the U.S. and Iran to engage in diplomacy to resolve their differences and to avoid punitive measures, saying that “wars and sanctions only result in negative consequences.”
The church leaders offered Muslims warm wishes for the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday, 21-25 August, and expressed a sincere desire for them both to seek a “common life in peace, stability and love.”
10 August 2018
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Sister Odile, 84, helps young residents of the orphanage study in the basement of the church in Egypt. (photo: David Degner)
Sunday, the United Nations marks International Youth Day:
There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labor market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.
12 August was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999, and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.
From the very beginning, CNEWA has been at the forefront of efforts to help uplift, inspire and educate the world’s youth — and that mission continues every day around the parts of the world we serve.
We are working to give disabled children a brighter future in Armenia; we are helping displaced families from Syria start over in Lebanon; we’re helping young Ethiopians learn new skills.
And, as the image above shows, we’re also supporting sisters seeking to pass on the faith in corners of our world, such as Egypt, facing violence and persecution.
All these efforts and more are bringing hope and help to the next generation. You can be a part of that mission, too! Check out this page to learn how.
9 August 2018
Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Children Armenia
A child goes for a checkup at the Martha Schmouny Clinic in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the June 2018 edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on how CNEWA is able to evangelize through good works, often in surprising ways:
We exercise our baptismal mandate to live the Gospel of Jesus and to share his Good News with everyone. To be more concrete: CNEWA supports, through your generous contributions, many clinics and dispensaries, which serve everyone in need. Oftentimes these people are welcomed, embraced and tended to by the loving care of religious sisters and devoted lay associates.
For some patients, of whatever religious background or faith, this might be the only expression of love and human dignity they experience. And whether spoken or unspoken, it is done in the name of Jesus.
In hundreds of schools supported by CNEWA, the church — through priests, sisters, brothers and lay staff — offers a refuge from the realities of hatred, bigotry and disrespect. For a few hours each day, youngsters learn that God loves all of us and wants us to be at peace with each other. And oftentimes the lessons learned at these schools are long lasting, even life changing.
This is part of the future for many areas of CNEWA’s world. These are the fruits of this form of evangelization.
Read more. Want to know how you can support this wonderful work? Check out this link.
7 August 2018
Tags: Iraq CNEWA
A volunteer assists a young visitor at the Emili Aregak Center in Gyumri, Armenia. Learn more about how this center has become A Source of Light for so many children in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
6 August 2018
As summer temperatures climb, young people in Israel play in a water fountain on 3 August near the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Abir Sultan, EPA)
3 August 2018
An Iraqi father and his children are shown at the Saint Anthony Community Health Centre in Lebanon, supported by CNEWA. (photo: Carl Hétu)
CNEWA Canada has just launched a campaign to help Middle East Christians, and national director Carl Hétu this week offered some thoughts on the current situation on the blog for the Archdiocese of Toronto. An excerpt is below.
What is the current situation for Christians in the Middle East?
Daily life for Christians in the Middle East has been difficult. Things took a turn for the worse in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq by the U.S., Great Britain and their allies. Iraq spiraled into internal tribal conflict and anarchy. Christians were stuck in the middle — often being victims of threats, kidnapping, torture and assassination. As a result, approximately 1.2 million Christians were forced to leave the country since 2003. Some 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq today. The unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict has also caused economic and political hardships. Only 55,000 and 1,100 Christians remain in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively. In Syria, the civil war has practically destroyed the country. Christians have certainly not been spared from the violence. The Christian population has gone down to 1 million from 2 million since 2011. More are fleeing. In Egypt, attacks on Christians are common. We believe that some 400,000 have left the country in the last seven years. Christians live in greater security in Jordan and Israel; but there has been a recent rise in internal tensions.
How does your most recent trip to Lebanon in April compare to your last visit to the region?
The Lebanese people seem anxious, tired and increasingly frustrated. The population of Lebanon is 4 million. There are more than 1.3 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, plus 500,000 Palestinian refugees, in the country. The impact on the local economy and social services is overwhelming. Local aid organizations are exhausted and lacking in resources to support refugees but also there is an increasing number of Lebanese people who are getting poorer, losing their jobs and in need of support. It’s a very alarming and potentially volatile situation.
Visit this link to learn more — and to discover what’s being done and how you can help.
2 August 2018
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians CNEWA Canada Persecution
The Adi-Harush refugee camp shelters some 12,000 people. Learn how they are patiently waiting for a better future — and how the church is trying to give them hope — in This, Our Exile in the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
1 August 2018
CNEWA's president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, visits the Home of Faith in Kerala, India, which cares for children with disabilities. Read Msgr. Kozar’s reflections on how CNEWA evangelizes in the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
31 July 2018
Svetlana Hovhannisyan lives in a cabin outside of Gyumri with her five sons. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
In the current edition of ONE, journalist Gayane Abrahamyan how some families are struggling to care for children with disabilities in Armenia—and how a CNEWA-supported facility is giving many a new sense of purpose and hope:
For 15-year-old Artyom Hovhannisyan, every movement is a victory. Confined to a wheelchair in a city without ramps, the boy depends on his mother to carry him from place to place. Even at home, he has very limited space to maneuver; in fact, their dwelling barely warrants “home.”
Artyom’s mother, Svetlana, rears her five sons alone in a wooden cabin — a temporary structure erected following the devastating earthquake of December 1988. What was to be temporary, however, has become permanent, and stands badly in need of repair. The floor and ceiling have been rotting for years. Holes in the faded walls have been papered over with the boys’ drawings, diplomas and various certificates.
When she smiles, the lines on her face reveal years of concerns — years spent tending a small plot of land to try and feed her children while living on a monthly pension of about $90.
Around her cabin, about six miles from Gyumri, the second-largest city in Armenia after its capital of Yerevan, temporary settlements dot the landscape — a collection of small iron and wooden buildings erected nearly 30 years ago to shelter the suddenly homeless. Over the years, their inhabitants have left the settlement, moving to new buildings in the city. Now, only Ms. Hovhannisyan and her five sons remain. The eldest, 18 years old, will soon leave to join the army, adding another source of concern as Armenia’s army remains on guard.
But for now, Ms. Hovhannisyan finds solace and a sense of order by tending the earth. She has cleaned the stones from the garden and neatly organized them near a fence. She has planted trees, tilled the soil and sowed flowers.
“I am not afraid of work,” she says. “I will do everything. But when my eldest son will be called to the army, I don’t know what I’m going to do, because he is my only help with Artyom.”
She also receives tremendous help and support from the Emili Aregak Center, which helps care for her son.
Inside the glass-covered building, everybody is busy — they sing in one of the rooms, play in another, do exercises in a third, hold discussions in the fourth. Alive and vibrant, this unique space offers children and young adults with special needs and physical challenges room to move and room to live with sun and space in abundance.
“Everything is interesting here,” Artyom says happily. “I have participated in pottery classes. I have many good friends who help me.”
The center has changed Artyom’s life. The view beyond his window is now wider, brighter and full of hope.
“It is so good here. Everyone is joyful, everyone is nice and I love them a lot.”
Read about how the center has become A Source of Light to so many in the June 2018 edition of ONE.
30 July 2018
In this image from 2016, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan celebrates a liturgy in a displaced-persons camp in Ankawa, Iraq. Last week, he presided at a synod of Syriac Catholic bishops, who issued a statement lamenting the plight of persecuted Christians.(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Syriac Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting in Lebanon for their annual synod, lamented the plight of their “tormented and persecuted” faithful.
In their final statement from the 23-27 July gathering, with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan presiding, the bishops noted that they have “raised their voices high in front of the world, denouncing the calamities” which have especially affected the Syriac church, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
They characterized the situation as “a catastrophe that repeats the tragedy of genocide that took place with their ancestors a hundred years ago.”
“This grave violation of their civil rights has shaken their human, societal and cultural being, especially as they have experienced the tragedies of the displacement of thousands of families,” the bishops said.
The prelates also said they addressed the issue of the migration of thousands of Syriac Catholic families from the region and “the sense of shared responsibility and the urgent need to pursue the spiritual, pastoral and social service of those displaced.”
Regarding Syriac Catholics who settled in Europe, the Americas and Australia, the bishops encouraged them to continue to live their traditions and heritage and “to love their new countries, to be faithful to them and to be creative in various fields,” while stressing “their constant quest for spiritual service despite challenges and difficulties.”
The prelates “renewed their support and solidarity with all the tormented and persecuted” Syriac people who suffer “the pain of displacement, migration and uprooting, assuring them that the Church will remain with them.”
Likewise, they also discussed the return of the displaced to their villages in the dioceses of Syria and Iraq, countries which have been “plagued by disturbances and futile wars in recent years.”
The Syriac Catholic bishops also underscored concerns regarding specific areas in the Middle East.
They stressed the need for solidarity among the Iraqi people, for dialogue and acceptance of the other and for security, peace and stability to be restored to Iraq.
Regarding Syria, they called for an end to the country’s seven-year civil war and for all parties “to work together for the return of normalcy” in the country.
The Syriac Catholic bishops maintained that “Jerusalem is a city for all followers of the three religions” and affirmed “the right of the Palestinian people to return to their land and to achieve a lasting peace in the two-state solution.”
They expressed their confidence “in the wise leadership” of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the government of Egypt and congratulated Lebanon for peaceful parliamentary elections on 6 May, reiterating an earlier call that the Syriac Catholic community be represented in the new government.
Typically, the Syriac Catholic bishops meet in October. However, this year’s synod was scheduled to follow the first Syriac Youth International Convention, also held in Lebanon. More than 400 youth from 15 countries worldwide attended.
Tags: Lebanon Syriac Catholic Church Persecution