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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
23 January 2012
Erin Edwards

Sister Leema Rose makes her evening home visits to the sick and those struggling to make ends meet in Dharavi, a slum in the center of Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Yesterday, Al Jazeera reported that the Indian government is pushing forward with a plan to re-develop Mumbai’s largest slum, Dharavi. The plan could compromise the livelihoods of millions. In the July 2011 issue of ONE, Slumdog Sisters profiled the work of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters in Dharavi.

Already, local authorities, under pressure from powerful developers, are planning a large–scale development project for the area. Ironically, Dharavi’s now international notoriety as India’s worst slum has only intensified efforts to reclaim and gentrify the squatted government land.

In response, Father Pinto and other leaders have begun mobilizing the community, informing its members of their rights and advocating on their behalf. Though Father Pinto senses he faces an uphill battle, he refuses to stand by quietly and watch his parishioners, friends and neighbors forcibly displaced from or priced out of their homes.

“In 25 years,” the priest sighs despondently, “you’ll find a different face on Dharavi.”

Whatever the future holds for Dharavi and its residents, one thing remains certain: the Nirmala Dasi Sisters will continue to serve Mumbai’s destitute, abandoned and marginalized.

For more from the Al Jazeera story, check out the clip below.

Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty

20 January 2012
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York, addresses the conference, accompanied by Catholics and Muslims who work together in social service projects in the archdiocese. (photo: Bob Gore)

In a time when great media attention is given to conflicts between Muslims and others, I attended a conference yesterday that was a real eye opener.

The conference was entitled “Catholic-Muslim Social Service Partnerships: Lessons from Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island” and was sponsored by the Interfaith Center of New York. I represented CNEWA and gave a presentation of the history of Catholic-Muslim dialogue in the Archdiocese of New York. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York was there, along with several of his colleagues. The Muslim community was represented by Ms. Sarah Sayeed and her colleagues from the Interfaith Center and staff from several other groups, including the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in New York and the Islamic Society of North America.

It was amazing to see how many joint projects there are in New York City in which Catholics and Muslims work hand-in-hand. Catholics and Muslims attending the conference spoke of a wide variety of programs on interfaith dialogue, hunger relief, and youth development that they have successfully maintained for several years.

Personally, I found the conference to be immensely encouraging. After all the media coverage last year about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” and the demonstrations against it, one could easily believe that Muslims and Catholics in New York City have little or nothing positive to do with one another. Such a belief was conclusively proven wrong yesterday. While there are still problems, of course, and areas of misunderstanding that need to be discussed — and, hopefully, solved — Catholics and Muslims in New York City have a vibrant, deep and successful history of working together to address the needs and problems of the poorest people in our society.

Tags: CNEWA Muslim Interreligious Catholic

20 January 2012
Erin Edwards

Nohad El Shami, who attributes her miraculous recovery from a stroke to St. Sharbel, embraces a pilgrim’s head at the saint’s tomb. (photo: Sarah Hunter)

In the the July 2009 issue of ONE, Marilyn Raschka wrote about the reach and impact of one of Lebanon’s most celebrated religious men, Saint Sharbel. Sharbel is known for having performed numerous miracles, and continues to touch lives even today. Every year thousands of pilgrims travel to Saint Sharbel’s hermitage and tomb seeking the saint’s intercession. The most famous miracle attributed to him is that of Nohad El Shami, who credits the saint for healing her after a paralyizing stroke on January 22, 1993:

And so, on the 22nd of every month, Mrs. [Nohad] El Shami visits Sharbel’s hermitage, and with a group of pilgrims, she walks from there to the monastery and church — about a mile away — to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Afterward, she greets the pilgrims.

As the liturgy ended, the now 70-year-old, gray-haired mother of 12 walked outside and stood quietly. Pilgrims crowded around her, trying to get close enough so she could place her hands on their heads and shoulders. Parents lifted their children for her to touch.

Mrs. El Shami’s gentle smile reassured the infirmed among the pilgrims. Her peaceful demeanor affirmed the message written on a sign across from where she stood: “Shine on me, Father, that I may reflect your light.”

For more, read A Saint Without Borders.

Tags: Lebanon Saints

19 January 2012
Erin Edwards

Bishop Selim Sayegh meets with students at the Our Lady of Peace Center, a school for the developmentally disabled set up by the Latin Vicariate in Amman, Jordan.
(photo: Nicholas Seeley)

Today Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Selim Sayegh, the patriarchate vicar general for Jordan. This was in accord with Canon Law, which requires that bishops resign when they reach age 75.

We profiled Bishop Sayegh in our ‘Year For Priests’ series:

“The most [important] thing, for these poor children — for these angels, I call them — is to let them feel that they are loved,” say Bishop Sayegh. “They need love, and that’s it. And then they are happy. Spiritually, psychologically, they give us much more than we give them.”

The bishop says he never once entertained a doubt about his vocation in the roughly 63 years since that fateful moment. Today, he serves as the patriarchate’s vicar general for Jordan. And yet despite his many achievements, Bishop Sayegh considers his work with Our Lady of Peace Center his most meaningful endeavor.

“The only time we see him smile is when he joins the activities of the center,” Mr. Dayyat adds playfully.

Bishop Sayegh discusses his work in Jordan in this video from our ‘Year For Priests’ series.

The Holy Father also announced Bishop Sayegh’s replacement today: Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham of Tunis, Tunisia.

Tags: Children Jordan Disabilities Amman

18 January 2012
Erin Edwards

A woman waits for healthcare in Palestine. This is an unpublished photo from the January 2005 story, The Ties That Bind by Ben Cramer. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently met with church leaders in the United Kingdom to discuss the plight of Christians in the Holy Land and issues affecting the ongoing peace process. This comes on the heels of the Holy Land Coordination Meeting, which we’ve also covered on this blog:

“Having worshipped in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, I have seen the struggle of the Palestinian people in the very basics of living but also their deep desire for a negotiated peace between the peoples who share the land. I urge everyone to grasp this opportunity,” said the Right Reverend David Arnott.

“Last week as part of the Holy Land Coordination, where we shared our faith with the Christian communities, we witnessed the effects of occupation and insecurity on the people of this land. There is an urgent need for strong and creative leadership in order to address the core issues of this long conflict. The people’s desperate yearning for peace needs to be fulfilled and this meeting today with President Abbas reinforced our determination,” said Archbishop Patrick Kelly, who was representing the international affairs department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Today also marks the start of the The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Benedict had these words for those participating in this week of prayer:

“By his teaching, his example and his paschal mystery, the Lord has shown us the way to a victory obtained not by power, but by love and concern for those in need. Faith in Christ and interior conversion, both individual and communal, must constantly accompany our prayer for Christian unity.”

We at CNEWA ask that you remember the people of the Middle East in your prayers this week. To learn how you can support Middle East Christians, visit our website.

Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Palestine Health Care Palestinian Refugees

17 January 2012
Erin Edwards

Youth from all religious communities participate in an urban dance workshop in Beirut.
(photo: Spencer Osberg)

In the July 2010 issue of ONE, Spencer Osberg photographed and wrote about life for youth living in Beirut, Lebanon:

Mr. [Muhammad] Ayoub belongs to a declining but active group of Lebanese youth committed to remaining in and improving their country. He and two friends founded Nahnoo as college students, organizing small outreach projects that brought together youth from Beirut’s disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“Even with the divisions, you have the same problems; you share the same goals and dreams. So why don’t you work together?” he says about the organization’s mission.

Today, Nahnoo coordinates some 60 volunteers, who tutor and mentor youth across the city. It also holds workshops for young people, aimed at teaching them the importance of tolerance and how to express themselves and solve their problems without violence. The workshops often include activities involving critical thinking, which, Mr. Ayoub says, help youngsters to better understand the complexity of the situations they encounter and that people may have different perspectives.

For more, read Lebanon’s Urban Youth.

Tags: Lebanon Children Beirut

13 January 2012
Carl Hétu

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal preaches about the significance of the Holy City of Jerusalem.
(photo: Marcin Mazur/CCN)

This burning question has dominated the thoughts of a few of us participating in the annual Holy Land Coordination meeting, led by a number of bishops from Europe and North America.

Following World War II, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine, which had been governed by Great Britain under a mandate from the old League of Nations. The General Assembly in November 1947 decided to divide Mandate Palestine into three parts: a Jewish state, an Arab state and a separate political entity, a corpus separatum, the city of Jerusalem.

Since the 1967 war, things changed dramatically with the Israeli occupation of the Old City, East Jerusalem and all of the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority, as it now attempts to form an independent state, claims East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel claims that an undivided Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state.

Despite these claims, facts on the ground are fast determining who retains rights to which lands.

One claim comes from many Orthodox Jews, who believe the city and territories surrounding it are theirs according to ancient biblical texts. The Israeli media has reported that some who advocate this point of view are growing increasingly intolerant. They have reported random acts of violence directed at anyone, even Jewish Israelis, who claim otherwise. Archaeology, some argue, has become politicized as diggers try to find out who was in Jerusalem first. But many argue this will only serve some and will deny others; they believe that the city needs to be shared by all the communities who call it the Holy City.

In a meeting with the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Naomi Tsur, she acknowledged that there is a certain intolerance and impatience from some Jewish Orthodox communities, but she believes that people of the city need a common plan. Her dream is to have a “green” pilgrimage city that could unite all peoples to advocate an environmentally clean city.

Her plan is impressive and would be a real success in any city of the world, but Jerusalem isn’t any city.

During his homily last Wednesday, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal stated that, because of its history and nature, Jerusalem belongs to the world not to one country or one people or one religion. Actually, Jerusalem belongs to all people of faith, he said. This city has to succeed in showing the world that it is possible for Christians, Jews and Muslims to live together in a just world. He called for our prayers and action to help this holy city live up to its religious vocation in the interest of peace.

Tags: Holy Land Unity Interreligious Middle East Peace Process Discrimination

13 January 2012
Erin Edwards

A Sudanese girl walks with her Egyptian friend, left, at the private school, Yed el Hesshan, in Alexandria, Egypt. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In the September 2009 issue of ONE, Liam Stack wrote about life for Sudanese refugees in Alexandria, Egypt. While Alexandria provides a better life for many, these refugees still face some challenges:

Sudanese families must also meet the additional expense of enrolling their children in private schools. Under Egyptian law, non- Egyptian students do not have guaranteed access to public schools.

Fortunately, the vicariate goes to great lengths to fill the gap, locating and paying for suitable private school programs for Sudanese children in Alexandria. Last year, it put 113 Sudanese children through school, from kindergarten through the last year of high school, at a cost of $25,626.

Father Jal keeps a record of every student supported by the vicariate — as well as his or her school registration and receipts — in a crisp manila folder in his desk. It bulges with slips of paper.

“The public schools are cheap, but they are for Egyptian children,” explained the priest. “[The vicariate] has some places in those schools, but only a few.”

Among the private schools where children are placed is Yed el Hesshan, located near the seashore in downtown Alexandria. A high wall encloses an adjacent schoolyard where children play games, sing songs and talk about the popular American show “Hannah Montana.” It could be anywhere in the world.

To learn more, read Alexandria’s Struggling Sudanese.

Tags: Egypt Refugees Africa Sudan

12 January 2012
Erin Edwards

Useyin Karimov, born in 1921, shows his Soviet army medals. (photo: Petro Didula)

This photo was originally published in the March 2009 issue of ONE in a story that described the painful history of Crimea in the 20th century:

“Soviet soldiers came and forced five or six families, each with lots of kids, onto a truck,” recalled Khatidzhe Zhurayeva, a Crimean Tatar. “At first, we didn’t believe they were really sending us away for good. But when we finally reached the border, one old man pulled himself up so he could see where we were. When he saw, he started to cry. And then all of us began crying.“

The beauty of the sun-drenched Crimean peninsula belies its recent gloomy history. Connected to the European mainland by tiny strips of land, the Crimea juts into the Black Sea from its northern coast and is home to a bewildering number of ethnic groups, including Armenians, Greeks, Karaim, Tatars, Russians and Ukrainians...

...By the dawn of the 20th century, the Crimea’s Tatar community consisted of some 250,000 people. Numbers vary for the Crimea’s Karaim, who forbade intermarriage and refused converts, but probably they did not include more than 15,000 people.

While most Karaim and Tatar men of fighting age served the Soviet Union as members of the Red Army or as anti-Nazi partisans, a minority aided the Nazis. As punishment for this collaboration, Stalin in 1944 deported to Soviet Uzbekistan all the peninsula’s Tatars — regardless of age or state of health. Nearly half of those deported died of exposure, malnutrition and disease. The Karaim, who after World War II numbered just 6,357 souls, eventually assimilated with the Slav population or immigrated to Israel or elsewhere.

For more, read An Ethnic & Religious Patchwork.

Tags: Ukraine Crimea

12 January 2012
Greg Kandra

A child from the Aida Refugee Camp rides his bike next to the Israeli Barrier Wall seperating Israel and the West Bank. (photo: J Carrier)

Monday, Pope Benedict XVI used his annual State of the World address to express his hopes for a new round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Yesterday, the Holy See’s website offered some analysis from someone who knows the situation intimately:

Father David Neuhaus is no newcomer to the problems of a Holy Land in conflict. From a Jewish Israeli family, Father Neuhaus is now a Catholic priest who cares for the Hebrew speaking Catholic community in the Holy Land. He tells Philippa Hitchen Christians must keep up their hope that political leaders will find a solution to the decades-old conflict and that religious leaders and educators should be more aware of their own role in creating a peaceful world.

“We certainly need to be aware of the very important role we can play in speaking responsibly…we are certainly people who are educating other people. What we need to be aware of is that the words that come out of our mouths create worlds. And those words need to be poised, prudent, wise and of course when it comes to us as Christian leaders, evangelical — full of respect and love for others, hope.”

Father Neuhaus also speaks of the growing polarization of Israeli society over the Jewish identity and democracy of the State.

You can hear the interview with Father Neuhaus here.

We’ve reported extensively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the pages of our magazine. One article, Living in Limbo, describes life in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem — a camp that CNEWA’s President Msgr. John Kozar visited just last month. Read his account of that visit here.

Tags: Palestine Bethlehem Palestinian Refugees Separation Barrier

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