23 June 2014
Palestinian refugee Mohamad Yaser, 6, from the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, West Bank, plays music with the "Sounds of Palestine" program at the Bethlehem Live festival on Star Street on 20 June. The festival brings attention to the neglected street and raises awareness about its needs in the municipality. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Residents of Bethlehem gathered to make a little noise — and get some attention — last week.
Sitting outside their childhood home on Star Street, three sisters and their cousin chatted as they watched a small parade of children dance past, following a variety of clowns and jugglers and two giant dancing puppets.
An actor dressed as a caveman, hunched over and stomped through the crowd while clutching a walking staff in one hand and a stone in another; he brought smiles to some faces and sent even some of the older boys scurrying with fright.
Along the side of the stone road, vendors sold traditional olive wood crafts, homemade Palestinian delicacies, thin traditional shrak bread, protest posters, clothes, designer jewelry and the prerequisite popcorn, hot dogs and ice cream.
“When we were young, this street was always full and lively. Children were in the streets. There were shops and offices here,” recalled Marlene, 60, one of the three Catholic women who asked that their last name not be used. Antoinette, 77, the oldest and unmarried sister, still lives in the house where they grew up. “But since the intifada, everything closed. Now usually the street is always empty. Seeing all these people here reminds us of the good days.”
Though on the face the Bethlehem Live Festival is a cheerful street festival — originally intended to bring attention to the neglected street and raise awareness about its needs — it also focuses on faith, justice and culture, said Elias D'eis, project manager for the festival.
Workshops and panels such as nonviolence and nonlinear leadership were part of the festival schedule. An art gallery exhibited works by local artists, and an open-mic cafe allowed young local artists and performers to be seen and heard. Eight international bands were to perform on nights of the festival.
D’eis said Bethlehem Live aims to empower local small nongovernmental organizations, artists, youth and community committees to take action in defining their future and addressing some topics that affect them daily but also relate to the global community. The project was initiated in 2013 by the Holy Land Trust, a nonprofit peacebuilding organization in Bethlehem.
There are more than 128 closed shops on Star Street because tourists are not coming here,” D’eis said. “Our responsibility as a community organization is to work for the future, to help the community remember this is their city and to show them their social responsibility.”
20 June 2014
An icon by Ian Knowles, written directly on concrete, adorns one of the segments of the Israeli separation wall near the Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint in Bethlehem. Read more about Prayers in Paint in the Summer issue of ONE. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
19 June 2014
Tags: Palestine Bethlehem Art Icons Separation Barrier
In this photo from 2009, two years before Syria’s civil war, youth in Aleppo participate in a dance workshop hosted by an organization that uses sports to bridge sectarian divides. To learn more about this scene, read Lebanon’s Urban Youth, from the July 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Spencer Osberg)
18 June 2014
Tags: Lebanon Unity Art Dialogue Youth
A pilgrim prays in the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Recently, pilgrims to this holy site included Pope Francis, who used his visit as an opportunity to invite the presidents of Israel and Palestine, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, to participate in a subsequent “invocation for peace” at the Vatican. (photo: Paul Souders)
17 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Jerusalem Israeli-Palestinian conflict Pilgrimage/pilgrims Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Students gather in front of St. John’s Lower Primary School, where Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam had his early education. To read about the late archbishop’s many humanitarian initiatives, which continue to provide stability and care to their communities and change lives in India, read Remembering India’s “Father of the Poor,” from the Spring 2014 issue of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)
16 June 2014
Tags: India Poor/Poverty Indian Christians Indian Bishops
In this image from 2004, Sister Nahla tends to a patient at the Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital
in Mosul. (photo: Philip Toscano-Heighton)
Mosul’s remaining Christians have cleared out, according to news reports, but CNEWA’s partners on the ground, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, are staying put.
The sisters, who run our maternity clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, and whose various apostolates are supported thanks to our generous benefactors, are safe for now.
A report last week noted:
Following the takeover of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by Islamic extremists this week, an estimated 500,000 civilians poured out of the city, fleeing bullets and burning wreckage. Yet, in all the chaos, one group remains resolute in its determination to stay in Mosul: the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, a congregation of Iraqi sisters that has witnessed generation upon generation of war and carnage.
Sr. Donna Markham, former prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, spoke with the sisters in Mosul by phone three days after the extremist group ISIS, also known as ISIL, took the city. They told her the militants had left and were marching toward Baghdad, which they had promised to take next.
Still, the sisters are far from safe. In addition to reports that there is no electricity in post-siege Mosul and that water supplies are low, the sisters also face the burden of living in a region that has become increasingly hostile to Christians.
In 2004, we profiled these committed and courageous sisters, as they endured the US-led invasion and its aftermath:
As war approached last spring most Iraqis sealed their windows and stored food and water.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena also made special housing arrangements and collected necessities, but not for themselves.
As they had done 12 years earlier, the sisters prepared a safety net for the people of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and surrounding villages, many of whom are still suffering from the fallout of the second war between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the United States.
Before the fighting began, the sisters went door-to-door collecting food, which they stored and then distributed during the war to those who came to the convent looking for help. They also distributed food and medicine purchased with help from CNEWA.
The sisters offered refuge to all in village churches, particularly in Kerakush. There, Christians and Muslims slept together as bombs pounded nearby Mosul for several nights in a row, said Sister Shirine Hanoush from the motherhouse in Mosul, where she has served as a sister for 40 years.
“Christian and Muslim families would share the same space. Everyone would pray together,” she said. People came from all over the country, knowing the northern villages were safer than the cities. “This was a very challenging experience for the sisters,” said Sister Shirine, “but it has made us more devoted to our work and faith.”
To read more, check out In the Shadow of War from the January 2004 issue of ONE.
And to help the sisters in their work, and support Iraqis in this hour of need, visit this page.
13 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Dominican Sisters
This image from 2011 is a reminder of the suffering and grief of the Iraqi people. Nasrin Abdul-Ahad Aziz, 53, had lost several family members as result of ethnic and sectarian violence in Iraq. Her husband Tali Mati Nasser sits to the left. (photo: Safin Hamed/Metrography)
The news this week out of Iraq is sobering and alarming. As the crisis deepens, we were reminded of a story from three years ago, about Iraqi Christians seeking refuge in the northern part of the country — a region that has now been overrun by insurgents, amid reports of hundreds of thousands fleeing the area for safety.
In 2011, this was a glimpse of life in Iraq:
Mosul serves as the nerve center for the region’s extremist activities. Though historically a Sunni metropolitan area, the city and its surrounding villages were for centuries also home to an array of vibrant minority communities, including Christians, Kurds, Turkomans, Mandaeans and Yazidis. And until the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, these diverse groups coexisted more or less peaceably with one another and the Sunni majority. But as militant groups gained control of the city in the war’s aftermath, violence against these communities escalated.
Most Christians have left in recent years. In 2008 alone, more than 2,600 Christian families fled the city following a string of violent attacks on the community.
Salam Talia and his family know all too well the hardships of living in a post-Saddam Hussein Mosul.
“In Mosul, a cleric pointed at both Christians and Kurds, calling them infidels,” says the young man. “But the Kurds are powerful and able to protect themselves. We are not.”
Fearing for their lives, the family kept a low profile in the city for years. They never disclosed their Christian identity and actively disguised it. The family refrained from attending church. Mrs. Talia and her daughter-in-law began to cover their heads, following Muslim practice. And while a student at Mosul’s fine arts academy, Salam Talia expressed interest in Islamic calligraphy, often choosing passages from the Quran as the subjects of his paintings.
These efforts, however, were in vain. Salam Talia narrowly escaped two separate kidnapping attempts. And while he was riding a university bus, a roadside bomb blew up the bus driving directly behind his. Finally in November 2007, tragedy struck the family. The eldest son, a police officer, died in an Al Qaeda attack on a police station. Just weeks later, extremists raided the daughter-in-law’s family home, slaughtering the young woman, her parents and a brother. Devastated and terrified, the Talia family hastily moved to Hamdaniya.
Read more about A New Genesis in Nineveh in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
And to help support Iraqi Christians during their hour of need, visit this page — and please, keep them in your prayers.
12 June 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees
A Holy Child of Miracles statue in St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Mexico City is dressed in the national team colors for the World Cup. Parishioners ask for miracles and that Mexico advance deep into the soccer tournament. (photo: CNS/David Agren)
The World Cup begins today and the church’s most famous fan, Pope Francis, sent his good wishes to all who are following the sport:
As the World Cup was about to kick off, Pope Francis called on fans and competitors to celebrate the event as an opportunity to promote dialogue, respect and peace.
He also warned against all forms of discrimination on the sidelines, in the stands and on the field: “Let no one become isolated and feel excluded! Watch out! ‘No’ to segregation, ‘no’ to racism!”
The pope made his comments in Portuguese in a video message aired on Brazilian television on 11 June, the eve of the start of the world soccer championship in Brazil that runs until the final match 13 July.
“It is with great joy,” the pope said, that he could greet all “soccer lovers,” organizers, players, coaches and fans who will be following the matches on television, radio and the Internet.
The World Cup “overcomes linguistic, cultural and national barriers,” said the pope, a lifelong soccer fan who actively rooted for the San Lorenzo team in his native Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“My hope is that, beyond just a celebration of sport, this World Cup can turn into a celebration of solidarity among peoples.”
Read more of what the pope had to say at the CNS link.
11 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis
A child of Ambo, Ethiopia whose isolated village has not been spared by AIDS. To learn of efforts there to battle this disease, read the article Ambo’s Hope in the March 2005 issue of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
10 June 2014
Hilda Ajrab watches her brother, Henry, who, like her son, is a drug addict.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
In 2004, we looked at the personal, often painful war being waged on drug addiction in Palestine:
Hilda Ajrab peers warily out her front door and down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City. It is from this street — the street down which Christ carried his cross — that narcotics first entered her home and consumed her world.
Mrs. Ajrab steps back into the house, checks her watch and asks her husband, Emil, “Shouldn’t he have called by now?”
The couple are waiting for their regular Friday afternoon call from their son, Johnny, a heroin addict who is spending a year as an inpatient at a rehabilitation center.
It is the only chance they get to speak to him these days.
Johnny is one of the few addicts to have the opportunity to try to get clean in a place far away from the drug playground the Old City has become in recent years.
A study of drug abuse among Palestinians in Jerusalem has found what Mrs. Ajrab and the community at large have long known — drug abuse is rising precipitously.
While hashish has been readily available in Jerusalem’s Arab population centers since before 1980, the far more addictive heroin (here known as “coke”) has become an easily obtained drug of choice in the last 20 years.
Many blame this uptick in drug abuse on a society weakened by years of conflict with Israel.
Read more about Fighting a Modern Plague in the May-June 2004 issue of ONE.
Tags: Palestine Health Care Bethlehem