31 July 2014
Picture Caption: Rev. Vincent Pereira of the Archdiocese of Ottawa joins Episcopal Vicar Rev. David Neuhaus and parish priest Rev. Piotr Zelasko at the Mass for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
During our pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Catholic Women’s League members from Canada, we met a unique group of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. They make up a small but important community.
The leader of this community is Rev. David Neuhaus, the patriarchal vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics. Father Neuhaus has an interesting background. He grew up an Israeli Jew and was baptized Catholic at age 26. Four years later, he joined the Jesuits and became a priest.
Father Neuhaus spoke with us about the reality of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. After Israel became a state, people began to immigrate there in the 1950’s. You would assume that all these people were Jews. But the church in Israel began to notice that some of these people came to church on Sunday looking for a Mass!
Thousands of Catholics came to Israel with their Jewish spouses and families. They all spoke Hebrew. Father Neuhaus says this was something of an anomaly — Hebrew was the language always associated with the Jewish religion and Christians never used Hebrew.
The challenge at first was making Hebrew a Christian language — Mass, prayers, theology and catechism in Hebrew. Overall, that was quite successful.
The biggest difficulty has been transmitting the faith to Christian young people in a place where Jews are the majority. These children live fully immersed in secular Jewish society with no signs of Christianity anywhere. Many marry Jews and never come back to the church. So one of the church’s main focuses is children and youth ministry.
One of the aims of this church is to build unity among Arabic-speaking Christians and Hebrew-speaking Christians, and also to foster reconciliation among Christians and Jews. In its humble way, the vicariate is taking one step at a time to do just that.
This Hebrew-speaking vicariate also has a special outreach to the migrant population of Israel. Father Neuhaus is also the coordinator of the pastoral care for migrant workers and asylum seekers. This includes workers mostly from Asia, including Filipinos, Indians and people of other nationalities.
Many of these workers care for the children of the Jewish people, along with the elderly, the sick and the handicapped. The vicariate provides them with a space for community and Masses in their native languages. The children of these migrant workers end up going to school in Israel and learning Hebrew. These children also require support to nurture faith.
There are also asylum seekers who come from Africa — mainly Eritrea and Sudan. Unfortunately, Israel rarely grants refugee status to asylum seekers, so these people live in limbo. Good priests, nuns and pastoral workers do their best to care for this community’s needs.
During our visit, we joined the Hebrew-speaking community for Mass. For the Rev. Vincent Pereira, the chaplain of our pilgrimage, it was a unique experience to concelebrate Mass in Hebrew. There were three special things about the Mass:
During the sign of peace, it began with the presiding priest, since the priest represents Christ. He shook hands and it moved through the congregation from the front row to the back row. It was interesting symbolism — peace starts with Christ, and he spreads his peace to everyone.
Another detail was that they used matzo (traditional unleavened bread) instead of the regular white hosts that we use in North America for the Eucharist.
Finally, they gave us books and we sang with them and prayed the Mass parts in Hebrew. No, we didn’t learn Hebrew in a day — but we used books where Hebrew was transliterated into English to make it easier to follow. The music was beautifully performed by their seminarian Benny.
One thing that Father Neuhaus said stuck with me. I will try to take it to heart. He said that having a hard life doesn’t mean that you will not find someone who has an even harder life than you. So please reach out to them, open up and be generous towards those who have less than you.
Read more about the Hebrew-speaking vicariate in this article in ONE magazine.
31 July 2014
Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Holy Land Catholic Holy Land Christians
In this image from 2006, Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga presides over the Sunday liturgy at St. Nicholas Church in Kampala, Uganda. To learn more about Orthodoxy’s growth in Uganda, read Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
31 July 2014
Tags: Africa Orthodox Church Patriarchate of Alexandria
Sister Gilbert Saliba, 79, visits Nidal Alawi, 11, of Gaza in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem on 30 July. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
In Jerusalem hospital, staff and family help Gaza trauma patients (CNS) St. Joseph Hospital specializes in head- and chest-trauma wounds. Jeries Ayyad, who was transferred from Gaza with the help of Caritas Jerusalem in cooperation with Israeli military, was one of 23 Gaza residents being treated at the hospital, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. Three more patients were expected to arrive later on 30 July. ”There is a moment when we see all the suffering that we ask, ‘Where is God?’ ” said Sister Gilbert Saliba, the hospital’s president. “But then we look at the cross and see Jesus Christ on that cross, and how he suffered a lot of pain and he is still living all this pain. And we know he wants to use our hearts, our eyes and our hands to be merciful to human beings…”
Catholic priest leads flock through the violence in Gaza (Vatican Radio) While more than 200,000 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes in Gaza since the conflict began, with the number growing daily, other inhabitants are staying put despite the almost constant bombardments. Among them is the Rev. Jorge Hernandez, pastor of Holy Family Church in Zeitun, where he cares for his flock while bombs continue to fly overhead and land too close to home. “Unfortunately, the resistance movement is situated near houses and in the streets. For us, this was a problem yesterday. At a certain point, we could not leave the house. Then the bombs fell. One house near the church was hit and there has been some major damage to our rectory and parish school,” said Father Hernandez…
In Gaza, 11 members of a Palestinian family are killed in a single strike (Washington Post) The Balatas, like many Palestinian families, disliked Israel but also sought to distance themselves from Hamas. For more than three weeks, as the conflict has stretched on, the Balatas’ lives have revolved around how to best protect their large family, extending over several generations, in one of the most war-torn enclaves in Gaza. Now, trapped between the ambitions of Israel and Hamas, they have paid a heavy price…
Patriarch Gregory III: ‘Christians and Muslims, we are each other’s best guarantors’ (AsiaNews) In his message for the end of Ramadan, the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch notes that Christians and Muslims built the Arab civilization together and pleads with “our Arab brothers to come together to save Islam” from the extremist currents that are invading it. “We must, can and want to stay together, Muslims and Christians, to build together a better world for our future generations and our common future…”
As persecution of faithful rises, so does the religious response (Christian Science Monitor) Two recent reports about the restriction of religion around the world have come to the same conclusion: It’s getting worse. In its latest report, the Pew Research Center reported hostilities involving religion have risen since 2007. More than three-quarters of the world population live in places with high restrictions on religion, up by 12 percent. And in its latest report on religious freedom, the State Department said that 2013 saw “the largest displacement of members of religious communities in recent memory.” The biggest problems are in just a few countries, such as the Central African Republic, Syria, and Iraq…
The Middle East Council of Churches calls upon the international community (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) The Middle East Council of Churches issued a statement condemning the wars and the violence in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, with a special mention to the Christians of Iraq…
How the Russia-Ukraine war is being fought by churches (World Religion News) The Russian occupation of Ukraine has been under way for almost half a year. With the battle raging between the two nations, both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches have begun a war of words to express their desires for the future. While tempers between the two churches have remained moderate since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke off from Moscow’s leadership in 1991, they have now reached a boiling point, with each taking a more active role in the war as the occupation wears on…
30 July 2014
Tags: Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Christian-Muslim relations
Father Adris Hanna celebrates the Eucharist at greater Stockholm’s Syriac Catholic Church. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
With the news these days full of stories of refugees, we were reminded of a story in ONE from three years ago, about refugees from the Middle East who had settled in Sweden:
On an early December morning, 33-year-old Ramiz Toma stops his taxi in front of a home in one of Stockholm’s posh residential neighborhoods. Mr. Toma waits a few minutes until his client, a well-dressed businessman, approaches the car and swiftly takes a seat in the back. Mr. Toma then drives off down the street, still white from the night’s snowfall, and heads to the airport.
After a short while, the man glances at Mr. Toma’s identity badge on the dashboard and breaks the silence. “Where are you from?,” he asks.
“I am an Iraqi Christian,” responds the driver.
“Christian?” replies the man with surprise.
Mr. Toma nods with a faint smile.
“I didn’t know there were Christians in Iraq,” the man continues.
Mr. Toma catches the man’s regard through the rearview mirror. He politely but briefly tells him that, though a minority, Christians have always lived in Iraq. The man says nothing. After a few moments, Mr. Toma turns up the radio and drives on.
Mr. Toma knows his employer, the largest taxi company in Stockholm, discourages its drivers from chatting at length with clients, especially about politics and religion.
After dropping off the client at the airport, Mr. Toma admits he had wanted to say much more about Iraq’s Christians — their ancient history, different denominations, the suffering they have endured since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, even the recent memorial service he attended at his church in Stockholm honoring a Christian woman brutally murdered in her home in Baghdad.
Mr. Toma first came to Sweden in 2000, when the country’s policy toward Iraqi refugees still ranked as the most generous in the world. Believing Sweden a promised land, thousands of Iraqis clamored for asylum at its embassy in Baghdad.
With support from his family, the 23-year-old managed to travel to Sweden and obtain refugee status. However, as do most refugees, the young man struggled at first to adjust to life in Sweden, facing the usual challenges of language and culture.
However, a much larger and more complex problem afflicts Sweden’s Iraqi population: an alarmingly high unemployment rate. According to a recent study, among Iraqis living in Sweden for ten or more years, 73 percent of women and 60 percent of men are unemployed. Some experts attribute the high unemployment rate to the fact that Iraqis in Sweden, particularly Christians, are often well educated. Many had once belonged to Iraq’s affluent middle class. As a result, they have difficulty either landing or settling for one of the mostly unskilled jobs available to them. …
“My faith is the foundation for everything that matters in my life. Just as Jesus showed us his love, we learn to view other people with love when we go to church and listen to his words,” he says.
Mr. Toma’s parents still live in Iraq. And during his first few years in Sweden, he thought for certain he would one day return there and reunite with them. But as the years passed, he planted roots and now considers Sweden home. To his surprise, he even feels more comfortable now among Swedes than he does among his compatriots back in Iraq.
“When I go to Iraq to visit my family, I can’t stand being there for more than a week. It’s not the same people,” he explains. “Everything has changed. Here in Sweden, maybe I haven’t yet been accepted as a Swede. But I feel accepted in Swedish society. And for that I am grateful.”
Today, more than 170,000 Iraqis or persons of Iraqi descent live in Sweden. Iraqis first began coming to Sweden in the early 1980’s during the Iran-Iraq war. Immigration, however, reached its peak in 2007, when Swedish authorities granted asylum to 85 percent of the 20,000 Iraqis who requested it.
Read more about A Nordic Refuge No More from the May 2011 issue of ONE.
30 July 2014
Tags: Iraqi Christians Cultural Identity Iraqi Refugees Sweden
The Basha family — Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid, 47; and Jamila, 44, pray on 27 July in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special liturgies for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Gaza’s Christians and Muslims grow closer in defiance of Israeli attacks (Middle East Eye) Without warning, an Israeli missile hit the house of the Palestinian Christian Ayyad family last Saturday. A memorial service for Jalila Ayyad, slain in the attack, was held on Sunday at St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church on Sunday. The church has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on. “The church has been our host for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed. Their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled. To the surprise of local journalists, both Muslims and Christians carried Jalila’s body to the grave…
Caritas Jerusalem: wholesale destruction in Gaza like WWII (Vatican Radio) Caritas Jerusalem is making a dramatic appeal for an end to the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza as the death toll climbs to more than 1300 people — overwhelmingly Palestinian. Caritas Jerusalem Director Father Raed Abusahliah says the conflict has also claimed its first Christian victim. You can hear Tracey McClure’s interview with the priest below…
Patriarch decries ‘mass cleansing’ of Mosul Christians (Catholic Herald) Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III traveled to Washington to meet United States government representatives to highlight the plight of Christians in Mosul. He spoke out about the “mass cleansing” of Christians from the Iraqi city by what he called “a bed of criminals…”
Lebanon’s Christians react to crisis in Mosul (Al Monitor) The tragedy that befell the Christian population in Mosul has raised concern in Lebanon, leading to a state of alert on the ecclesiastical and official levels and daily meetings on the matter. The flurry began on 23 July, when church representatives concerned with the crisis in Iraq met in the headquarters of the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate in Beirut…
Islamic militants destroy historic mosque in Mosul (AP) Militants from the Islamic State group blew up a mosque and shrine dating back to the 14th century in Mosul on Sunday, local residents said, the latest casualty in a week that has seen a half dozen of the Iraqi city’s most revered holy places destroyed. Mosul residents said the Prophet Jirjis Mosque and Shrine was bombed and destroyed by the radical jihadist group. They spoke anonymously to The Associated Press for fear of reprisal. The complex was built over the Quraysh cemetery in Mosul in the late 14th century, and included a small shrine dedicated to Nabi Jerjis, the Prophet George…
Let me call you ‘brother’: Pope Francis takes ecumenism one step at a time (CNS) The only name Pope Francis wants divided Christians to call each other is “brother” or “sister.” The pope himself acknowledged that some people would be shocked by his decision to visit a Pentecostal church; while the Vatican has had an official dialogue with some Pentecostals and evangelicals since the 1970’s, by and large, Catholic-Pentecostal relations have not been easy…
29 July 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Holy Family School, an institutional partner of CNEWA, has transformed its classrooms into living space for displaced families. (photo: CNEWA)
Here are some of the latest heartbreaking statistics from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) regarding the conflict in Gaza:
1,065 Palestinians killed — including at least 795 civilians, of whom 229 are children and 118 are women
44 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians killed
6,233 Palestinians injured, of whom 1,949 are children and 1,160 are women
215,000 are displaced and in need of shelter, drinking water and food assistance
44 percent of the Gaza Strip, encompassing a 3-kilometer wide strip, is declared a no-go zone
The number of casualties is increasing daily and will increase even should hostilities end. It is estimated that hundreds more are buried under the rubble and it will take days or weeks to unearth the bodies.
The above statistics are appalling, but what is more difficult to comprehend are the personal stories from our friends and partners. The targeting of the Ayyad family home just yesterday was most disturbing. The first Christian victim was a 60-year-old woman, Jalileh Ayyad, who did not have enough time to flee; she was killed instantly when a missile hit her home.
Her 32-year-old son, Jeries, who was with her at the time, was critically wounded in the attack, suffering severe burns and shrapnel fragments on as much as 70 percent of his body. Doctors had to amputate both his legs to save his life. He will be brought to a Jerusalem hospital for extensive treatment so he will have a better chance of survival. His mother was buried in the Greek Orthodox cemetery in Gaza late yesterday afternoon.
The home of the Ayyad family, destroyed by an Israeli missile in the Shajaia neighborhood of Gaza City. (photo: CNEWA)
I received an urgent call two days ago from Suhaila Tarazi, director of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, explaining the urgency for medicines, medical supplies and, more importantly, fuel to operate the hospital’s generator. She reported the hospital had to make a painful decision to shut down their generator for 4 hours that afternoon in order to ration fuel. She was very upset not knowing what impact it will have on the patients’ treatment and recovery.
We immediately lobbied with our connections to ensure the hospital gets the fuel supply it needs to continue to save lives.
I will be remiss if I do not mention a member of our team in Gaza, George Anton, who leaves his young family on a daily basis and risks his own life to visit local institutions and individuals in order to assess the situation on the ground. He describes his personal experience and the stories of ordinary people affected by the war, the dozens of displaced families housed at the Holy Family Catholic Church, the hundreds of injured patients at the Anglican-run Al Ahli Arab Hospital and dozens of devout Muslim women and their children taking refuge at the ancient Greek Orthodox parish church of St. Porphyrios. Today, as he was describing to me the status of Jeries Ayyad, the building across the street from George’s home was shelled and he had to take cover immediately.
Our churches and church institutions in Gaza continue to be that beacon of hope despite all of the misery. Holy Family School, the Greek Orthodox parish and the Greek Orthodox Cultural Center have all opened up their facilities to hundreds of displaced families, giving them food, clean water and above all a safe roof over their heads. The Al Ahli Arab Hospital continues to open up its facilities in this emergency crisis to anyone needing medical treatment, free of charge. Incarnate Word Father Georges Hernandez continues to risk his life every day by making home and hospital visits. The Missionaries of Charity continue to call Gaza home despite the various offers for evacuation.
Despite all of the suffering, the Christian mission is certainly at its best. These brave souls — who are personally risking their lives — continue to comfort the injured and displaced, and provide assistance to the weak and marginalized with the Gospel in their hearts.
Thank you for your generous financial and moral support. Please know that your support and prayers for the people of Gaza, especially the women and children, are priceless and help to keep hope and faith alive.
29 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Violence against Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Relief
Smoke rises from Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike on 29 July. Violence escalated the previous night after an attempted unofficial truce for the three-day Eid ul-Fitr holiday crumbled. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)
What is causing the wave of violence that seems to be overwhelming the Middle East right now? I explore that question and more this week in the pages of The Dialog, the newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington:
“The situation on the ground [in Gaza] is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday [July 20] was very ugly and left 50 dead (including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens) as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. … “Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets. …
“The Latin and Greek Orthodox parishes have opened facilities to receive those displaced mostly from Shajaia. There has not been any human loss affecting Christians, and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.
“We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness.”
In just a few sentences, Sami El-Yousef, regional director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Palestine and Israel, describes the madness engulfing much of the Middle East, and the role of its Christian community as menders of the body and soul — even as some of its own members flee their homes.
What accounts for this wave of violence? Is there any hope?
The artificial geopolitical construct that is the Middle East, with its national borders drawn arbitrarily by the British and French after World War I, is collapsing. This is irrevocably and indiscriminately affecting the lives of millions ofpeople every day: Arab and Israeli, Jew and Christian, Muslim and Mandaean, young and old, male and female, urban dweller and shepherd, rich and poor.
In Iraq and Syria, the largest states created from the smoldering remains of the Ottoman Turkish Empire nearly a century ago, the powder kegs once controlled by strongmen have exploded, unleashing violent forces so extreme even Al Qaeda has repudiated the bloodletting.
Iraq, once awash in cash thanks to its oil reserves, is unraveling, its people exhausted by more than 30 years of constant war.
Syria, once the bedrock of regional stability, has disintegrated, its people maimed and displaced. Meanwhile, extremist Sunni Muslim militias have overrun vast swaths of territory and proclaimed a caliphate, an empire akin to those that once dominated the region for centuries. They have targeted minorities: As the extremists drive Christians from their homes and monasteries, they rob them of their few remaining possessions. If captured, members of the ancient Gnostic and synchretic sects of northern Iraq are executed.
In reports that sound eerily similar to the death marches of Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans by Turkish soldiers 100 years ago, residents in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul describe an exodus of Christians walking on foot in the summer heat, among them the elderly and the disabled.
“We’re providing people with shelter, food and water; people don’t have anything left and they can’t travel without the money to buy tickets,” Chorbishop Yosip Benjamin told the Telegraph as Mosul’s last remaining Christians gathered in the town of Tel Keif.
Read more about all this in The Dialog And to learn how you can help those who are so much in need right now, especially in Gaza, please visit our giving page.
29 July 2014
Tags: Syrian Civil War Middle East War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees
Catholic sisters light candles spelling “peace” in Arabic in front of the altar during Mass in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 27 July. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special Masses for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
29 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Sisters Israeli-Palestinian conflict Catholic Middle East Peace Process
Christian refugees march against persecution by Islamic State fighters outside the U.N. compound near the airport in Erbil, Iraq, on 24 July. (photo: CNS/Sahar Mansour)
Iraqi Christians brave heat to demand help from United Nations (The Catholic Transcript) Iraqi Christian refugees braved temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit to demand that the United Nations intervene to protect them from persecution by Islamist militants…
Forced from Mosul, centuries-old Christian community vanishes (Al Monitor) According to accounts by displaced Christians, at the beginning of its rule, ISIS managed to provide intermittent electricity and water services and regulated traffic at intersections. In an attempt likely devised to win hearts and minds, they even provided free public transportation at times. For local Christians, however, everything began to change dramatically around 14 July, with a campaign to identify Christian properties. Militants painted the letter “N” for “Nasrani” (Arabic for “Christian”) on properties owned by Christians and designated them as the “Islamic State’s estate…”
Iraq Catholic leader says Islamic State worse than Genghis Khan (Reuters) The head of Iraq’s largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who ransacked medieval Baghdad…
A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in Gaza (Der Spiegel) Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip triggered a bloody war. Brutal images of dead and injured Palestinians have circulated widely, but a cease-fire still appears to be a long way off…
Eid offers no respite for war-weary Palestinians in Gaza (Christian Science Monitor) Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, is usually marked joyously. This year the only thing that seemed to elicit cheer in Gaza was rockets fired at Israel…
Palestinians say they were waiting to evacuate when U.N. shelter was hit (Los Angeles Times) Hundreds of people were crammed into a United Nations-run elementary school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday when the converted shelter was hit by a series of explosions. At least 15 people were killed and more than 120 injured, according to local health officials…
In D.C., Syrian defector displays photos of regime’s crimes (Washington Post) A Syrian defector who smuggled out thousands of photos of mutilated corpses, showed some of those images in Washington on Monday and said they depicted prisoners who were tortured and killed by the security services of Syrian President Bashar al Assad…
Patriarch to France: We want to stay in our land (Daily Star Lebanon) Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Tuesday rebuked France’s offer to welcome Iraq’s Christians, saying the minority group is instead seeking international effort to help them remain in their land…
28 July 2014
Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Catholic Near East Welfare Association has launched a campaign to rush emergency assistance to tens of thousands of Christians forced to flee their homes in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Ordered by ISIS extremists of the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate to convert, pay a special tax or die, Mosul’s Christians have instead fled to the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain — some just a few miles from Mosul — or to the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
“These Christian families have arrived with only their clothes, having fled the city on foot, forced to leave everything behind in Mosul,” said CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, Ra’ed Bahou. “At ISIS checkpoints, militants then stole whatever dollars they had in their pockets, even their passports and identification papers.”
Christian families have found refuge in churches, convents and monasteries, he added. With Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul and the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena — who themselves are homeless — the clergy, religious and villagers are trying to provide the basics. But the refuge, especially in the villages of Alqosh, Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), Bartella and Tel Kaif is tenuous at best, as ISIS has cut the electricity and water supply, and has announced its intentions to overrun the region. “These villages are in the hands of God,” Mr. Bahou said, “as ISIS says their next ‘gift’ will be the villages of the Nineveh Plain.”
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, announced CNEWA will rush support to the bishops, clergy and religious, “who in the frenzy are courageously providing water, food, mattresses and medicines to their flock,” wherever their flight takes them.
“We are witnessing, at the hands of extremist thugs, the eradication of a cradle of Christianity in the cradle of civilization,” Msgr. Kozar said. CNEWA’s emergency support will provide the “shepherds of this flock to tend their sheep, with the basics they need for survival now,” he continued. “We will help them even if their flock is dispersed, providing for their well-being, body and soul.”
Fewer than 150,000 Christians remain in Iraq from a high of more than a million before 1991.
An agency of the Holy See, Catholic Near East Welfare Association works throughout the Middle East, with offices in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to religious caring for orphaned and abandoned children; caring for displaced or refugee families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; offering formation and catechetical programs for children and young adults; supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders; and assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the elderly and disabled.
CNEWA has been active in Iraq for more than 50 years, but redoubled its efforts among the vulnerable Christian population in 1991.
A religious charity registered in the State of New York, all contributions are tax deductible. Donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org, by phone at 800.442.6392, or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195.
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees