Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
2 December 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita

CNEWA provides displaced Syrian children with food, clothing and school supplies.
(photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)

Yesterday, we learned the United Nations World Food Program has suspended its voucher program, which feeds more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, because of funding shortfalls.

“For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter,” cites a World Food Program statement, “the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating.”

Syrian refugees living in camps and informal settlements depend on the assistance, as the host countries are overwhelmed by the enormity of need and lack the necessary resources. With winter settling in, the living conditions of the refugees are extremely precarious. Refugees lack proper housing, clothing and health care.

Yesterday, funding partners in Europe — including Kindermissionswerk — awarded CNEWA grants in the amount of $222,972 to assist CNEWA provide Syrian infants and school-age children with milk, diapers, winter clothing and school supplies.

Additional grants from Kindermissionswerk and Misereor, totaling $125,000, were also received for the needs of Iraqi children and medical supplies for CNEWA’s clinic in the Martha Schmouny camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

On this Giving Tuesday, give to CNEWA. Your gift will make a difference for innocent families devastated by war, power and greed.

2 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian refugees conduct a silent protest on 22 November in Athens, Greece, calling on the government to provide assistance. Greece has seen a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers from Syria over the past year. (photo: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

‘Dire situation’: W.F.P. cuts food vouchers for Syrian refugees (CNS) Today, citing a lack of funding, the World Food Program announced it was suspending food vouchers for more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees, a move its president called “disastrous for many already suffering families.” The agency says it needs $64 million just to support the refugees through the month of December. The move prompted an outcry and appeals from groups working with the refugees, who noted that winter weather will make the situation worse. Catholic Near East Welfare Association is working with local churches to help offset the need for food…

An Orthodox view of pope and patriarch’s Turkish encounter (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey, which concluded on Sunday, came exactly 35 years after the setting up of a joint international commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The principal purpose of the three-day visit was to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world…

Millions of children in India endure chronic malnutrition, work (Fides) In India, about 72 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition. In addition to the risk of death, malnutrition causes delays in physical and mental growth. There are also 13 million young workers, 75 percent of whom perform very dangerous jobs, such as 18 hour days working in mines…

Palestinians prepare push for U.N. resolution on statehood (Al Monitor) The Arab League has agreed to submit a draft resolution calling for recognition of the state of Palestine as Palestinians gear up for a diplomatic showdown at the U.N. Security Council…

Ukraine crisis: New ceasefire agreed for Luhansk region (BBC) Ukrainian and pro-Russian rebels have agreed to a new ceasefire in part of eastern Ukraine, set to begin on Friday, international observers say. The deal only affects forces facing each other in the Luhansk region. Separate ceasefire talks are under way in Ukraine’s neighbouring Donetsk region. Heavy fighting has raged at the Donetsk airport in the past three days…

Tags: Syria India Refugees Palestine Ecumenism

2 December 2014
Hazem Balousha

A journalist based in Palestine, Hazem Balousha wrote about the trauma of children after the recent war in Gaza for the Autumn 2014 edition of ONE. Here, he offers some further impressions.

One of the toughest moments for a Palestinian father from Gaza in the 50-day of Israeli war was to see children become victims of bloodshed — and then follow the reaction of their parents as they experienced fear and thus lost ability to live as normal a life as much as possible.

Covering the recent war in Gaza was especially difficult for me because I am a father of two young children.

I spent my time patrolling between the cities of the Gaza Strip, moving from street to street and among destroyed buildings, meeting those harmed by the the bombardment and people who were displaced from their homes.

I met groups of children and their families, each individually, and every moment as I met one of them I was horrified at their tales, thinking about my children and my moral and physical ability to protect them from the war and alleviate their fear and anxiety.

I tried to deal intelligently with the children during the interviews with each of them; I treated each one as I do my own children.

I met with 12-year-old Nesma al Haddad, as well as with 14-year-old Tamer al Nakhla individually before I later met with 10-year-old Wissam Abu Shaqfa. Each tried to hide the feelings of fear, despite their psychologist’s advice that it is better to show feelings of fear than to hide them.

A smile never left the face of the energetic Nesma all the time I spent talking and listening to her; meanwhile Tamer was a shy loner, despite being the eldest among his brothers.

Wissam — who used to be a funny and active boy both at home and among his friends, according to his parents — turned out to be silent, spending most of his time sitting at home alone. His parents said that he was traumatized after witnessing not only the loss of his uncle but also his close friend Yousef during the recent 50 day war.

Some wounds will take a long time to heal.

1 December 2014
CNEWA staff

A sister walks among families in the basement of an unfinished building in Erbil now used as a shelter for displaced Christians. (photo: Don Duncan)

We recently received the following urgent appeal from Sister Maria Hanna, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq:

After four months of exile there are no signs of hope that the situation here in Iraq will be resolved peacefully. Unable to think or make decisions, everything is vague and we feel as if we have been living a nightmare. Christianity in Iraq is bleeding; so many families have left, and many are leaving to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, preparing themselves for second immigration and an uncertain future. We do not know how long these families will be able to tolerate the burden and survive financially.

The conditions remain the same for those of us in Iraq. Many still are forced to stay in unfinished buildings on construction sites. In one place, a mall has been remodeled to accommodate families, with the hall divided merely with partitions. Although they are better than tents, they resemble dark, damp cages with no ventilation. Most difficult of all is the lack of privacy.

There have been some attempts to provide containers and rent houses and flats, but this is not enough, as the number of displaced people increases each day. Many come from cold, mountainous places. Psychologically, people are tired, worried, confused and irritated — who would blame them? They are jobless, their children do not attend school and young people are still waiting to start their academic year. Some tried to register at Kurdish universities, but they were not accepted. All this is causing tremendous strain on the families, and the result is abuse and relationships that are unhealthy. The problems are totally overwhelming, and it seems as if our efforts are amounting to nothing.

People have been stripped of their dignity and unjustly deprived of all their money and possessions. What money people do have cannot be withdrawn from banks as the central government has frozen their accounts. Moreover, some people desperately look for work, ready to labor for minimum wage.

Despite this, things would be much worse if it were not for the aid we have received from you and the many benefactors who have contributed what they can.

Thank you. Indeed, we are so grateful to you, and we have tried to help as many people as we can with these donations. Our focus has not been on the refugee centers and camps only, as refugees at these centers are supported by the organization and the church. Rather we are trying to help those families who rent houses, but cannot support themselves. So we help them by providing bedding and clothing.

As for our community, we are extremely exhausted with concern for the family and friends we have who are unjustly forced to leave us. Everyday we hope that tomorrow will be better, but our tomorrows seem to bring only more tears and hardship. “Out of the depths we cry to thee, O Lord! When will you rescue us?”

We desperately count on your prayers, and we need you carry us to Jesus like the men who brought the paralytic to Jesus.

God bless you,

Sr. Maria Hanna, O.P.

Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena — Iraq

This comes at an especially difficult time in the region, amid reports today that the United Nations is cutting food aid to refugees:

From Reuters:

A lack of funds has forced the U.N. World Food Program to stop providing food vouchers for 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, the agency said on Monday.

“Without WFP vouchers, many families will go hungry. For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter, the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating,” said WFP, which needs $64 million to support the refugees for the rest of December.

Please visit our giving page to help our brothers and sisters during this hour of great need. Please remember them in your prayers.

Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees Relief

1 December 2014
Greg Kandra

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kisses Pope Francis as they embrace during an ecumenical prayer service in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul on 29 November.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

1 December 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis, left, attends a Divine Liturgy with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, right, in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul on 30 November. The liturgy marked the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the ecumenical patriarchate. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope, Orthodox leader pray for peace in Ukraine amid new battle (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians have called for peace in Ukraine and urged all sides to seek dialogue based on international law to resolve the conflict. Click here for more of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Turkey…

Ukraine crisis: New battle rages at Donetsk airport (BBC) Ukraine says its troops are still holding Donetsk airport despite an intensive assault by pro-Russian rebels “backed by Russian special forces.” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said “heavy fighting” was raging at the airport’s old terminal. He denied an earlier report that the terminal had been blown up…

Crimean Tatars fear Russian annexation (Washington Post) Crimea’s Tatars have bitter memories of the 1944 deportation that tore them from their native peninsula. With Russia again in control, some here say pressure is building once more. Russian security forces have searched the homes of leaders of the Muslim minority group for banned books. Young Tatar men have been kidnapped off Crimean streets. Tatar activists are sitting in jail. A few have been killed. Some Tatars say they now fear to venture out of their houses…

1.7 million Syrian refugees face food crisis as U.N. funds dry up (The Guardian) A funding crisis has forced the United Nations World Food Program (W.F.P.) to suspend food vouchers to more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, leaving hundreds of thousands of displaced families facing a “disastrous” winter and increasing the risk of further instability in the region…

US strikes target Islamic State forces in Syrian towns of Raqqa and Kobane (Christian Science Monitor) U.S.-led airstrikes pounded positions of the self-styled Islamic State in and around the Syrian city of Raqqa, which the group considers its capital, today. The group cemented its control over the city and the northern Syrian province of the same name in August, and it has since served as a model — or a horrifying warning, depending on your point of view — of the kind of government they’d like to bring to the whole region…

Gaza’s pregnant women suffer (Al Monitor) With the high number of wounded individuals during the last Israeli offensive against Gaza, doctors were often unable to attend to pregnant women giving birth or experiencing complications before and after deliveries…

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

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