30 June 2016
In this image from December, Syrian refugees Reemas Al Abdullah, 5, Sawsan Al Samman and Aya Al Abdullah, 8, wait to be served at a dinner hosted by Friends of Syria, at the Toronto Port Authority. The Canadian government says thousands of sponsors have stepped forward to welcome Syrian refugees — so many, in fact, that the government can't keep up with the demand. (photo: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
The New York Times today throws a spotlight on Syrian refugees who have found a new home — and a warm welcome — in Canada:
One frigid day in February, Kerry McLorg drove to an airport hotel here to pick up a family of Syrian refugees. She was cautious by nature, with a job poring over insurance data, but she had never even spoken to the people who were about to move into her basement.
“I don’t know if they even know we exist,” she said.
At the hotel, Abdullah Mohammad’s room phone rang, and an interpreter told him to go downstairs. His children’s only belongings were in pink plastic bags, and the family’s documents lay in a white paper bag printed with a Canadian flag. His sponsors had come, he was told. He had no idea what that meant.
Across Canada, ordinary citizens, distressed by news reports of drowning children and the shunning of desperate migrants, are intervening in one of the world’s most pressing problems. Their country allows them a rare power and responsibility:
They can band together in small groups and personally resettle — essentially adopt — a refugee family. In Toronto alone, hockey moms, dog-walking friends, book club members, poker buddies and lawyers have formed circles to take in Syrian families. The Canadian government says sponsors officially number in the thousands, but the groups have many more extended members.
...Much of the world is reacting to the refugee crisis — 21 million displaced from their countries, nearly five million of them Syrian — with hesitation or hostility. Greece shipped desperate migrants back to Turkey; Denmark confiscated their valuables; and even Germany, which has accepted more than half a million refugees, is struggling with growing resistance to them. Broader anxiety about immigration and borders helped motivate Britons to take the extraordinary step last week of voting to leave the European Union.
In the United States, even before the Orlando massacre spawned new dread about “lone wolf” terrorism, a majority of American governors said they wanted to block Syrian refugees because some could be dangerous. Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has called for temporary bans on all Muslims from entering the country and recently warned that Syrian refugees would cause “big problems in the future.” The Obama administration promised to take in 10,000 Syrians by 30 September but has so far admitted about half that many.
Just across the border, however, the Canadian government can barely keep up with the demand to welcome them.
Read more. And to learn more about how the Canadian sponsorship program works, check out this sidebar.
30 June 2016
Sister Wardeh Kayrouz, right, works in Lebanon, offering support to refugees who have fled
Iraq and Syria. (photo: Amal Morcos)
For decades, Sister Wardeh Kayrouz has been a voice for the voiceless — offering hope and help to countless refugees seeking sanctuary. She began her long relationship with CNEWA working in our Amman regional office. Today, she continues to partner with CNEWA in Lebanon, aiding so many who are fleeing violence, terror and war.
From a 2008 profile:
Sister Wardeh and her community, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, have dedicated their lives to helping families secure food, housing, work and other basics. In 2002 the sisters stepped up their efforts and forged a partnership with CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission.
An energetic woman with large, round wire-rimmed spectacles, she counsels a growing number of Iraqi families, administers a convent school and teaches catechism classes.
“When they live the word of God, they strengthen their faith, helping them better handle the bad situations they have here,” Sister Wardeh said.
...A social worker by training, Sister Wardeh counsels families struggling with domestic violence and the pain associated with it. Families have come to trust her and rely on her for guidance. She often finds herself at their homes, listening to their fears, holding their hands and helping them cope with their situations.
“Poverty brings out every type of problem between children and their parents. They have no money to go anywhere or do anything. There is no work. Women and their husbands argue over whether they should have left Iraq. They are home all day long, all the time,” Sister Wardeh said.
We revisited her two years ago, for a fresh look at Sister Wardeh’s world, and reported on retreats she is offering for refugees as a way to help them heal from the wounds of war:
It was her own experience with war in Lebanon that led her to her vocation. Born and reared in the town of Bcharri, the legendary mountainous stronghold of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics, she completed a degree in sociology and became a teacher and a principal in her village.
In 1976, just as Lebanon’s civil war set in, Bcharri became a flash point for fighting between Maronite and Palestinian militias. During the war she met a religious sister named Beatrice who transported the dead and wounded with her car.
“Sister Beatrice used to say, ‘It is not I who am doing this, but God is doing it through me,’ and I was greatly affected by this.” Sister Wardeh eventually took her vows at age 27.
“My family lost everything in the war,” she says.
“My father and mother used to pray and they came back to the church and were able to cope with their loss and move on with their lives.
“The disaster did not tear us apart, it united us,” she continues. “I want everyone to know that you can lose everything, but you can still have hope in life.”
To lend your support to the heroic work of Sister Wardeh and others in Jordan, visit this giving page.
30 June 2016
Nirmala Dasi Sister Lovely Kattumattam assists a resident at Ashraya, an elderly care center on the outskirts of Mumbai. To learn more about religious communities facing new challenges in India, read On a Mission from God in the Summer edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
30 June 2016
A relative of a victim killed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in Turkey is seen during a funeral in the capital on 29 June. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
Turkish police make arrests in connection with airport bombing (NBC News) Turkish police arrested 13 people in connection with the deadly attack on Istanbul’s airport, officials said Thursday. More than 40 people died and over 200 were injured when assailants with guns and explosives hit the airport on Tuesday. Officials have said the coordinated assault on Ataturk airport bore the hallmarks of ISIS, but there has been no official claim of responsibility...
U.S. bishops speak out against Turkey attack (CNS) Following the June 28 terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in Turkey, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Chicago’s archbishop issued statements emphasizing the need to find comfort in faith and show support the suffering with prayer and generosity. The attack left over 40 people dead and over 230 injured. “Evil tests our humanity. It tempts us to linger in the terror of Istanbul, Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino (and) Orlando,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops...
Report: Airstrikes hit convoys carrying militants out of Falluja (CNN) Coalition airstrikes targeted two ISIS convoys leaving Falluja over two days, destroying about 175 vehicles carrying militants out of the city, the spokesman for the U.S. coalition said Thursday. Col. Chris Garver said Iraqi security forces destroyed other vehicles...
Refugees encounter a foreign word: welcome (The New York Times) Across Canada, ordinary citizens, distressed by news reports of drowning children and the shunning of desperate migrants, are intervening in one of the world’s most pressing problems. Their country allows them a rare power and responsibility: They can band together in small groups and personally resettle — essentially adopt — a refugee family. In Toronto alone, hockey moms, dog-walking friends, book club members, poker buddies and lawyers have formed circles to take in Syrian families. The Canadian government says sponsors officially number in the thousands, but the groups have many more extended members...
Coptic priest shot dead in North Sinai (Middle East Online) The Egyptian branch of ISIS claimed responsibility for a shooting attack that killed a Coptic priest in the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday. The jihadist group said a “squad” of its gunmen killed the 46-year-old priest for “combating Islam,” in a statement posted on social media accounts. At least one unidentified gunman killed an Egyptian priest in a city in North Sinai on Thursday where authorities are battling a jihadist insurgency, security officials and the Coptic Church said...
Ethiopian drought: ‘Life is very difficult... I’ve lost everything’ (Irish Independent) The unforgiving effect of El Nino has resulted in over 10.2 million people in Ethiopia in need of food aid. The country is experiencing the worst drought in three decades. Those who were already vulnerable before the climate change phenomenon are the worst affected. When crops failed last year, only those who could afford it had reserves. Leaving many people with nothing. Especially those who rely on working on farms for income...
In Syria, starving instead of fasting (The New York Times) Among the litany of calamities incubated by the Syrian civil war — the rise of the Islamic State, a refugee crisis that spans the world, a death toll of about 400,000 — the international community seems to consider the slow grind of life behind a blockade a second-order problem. But starving civilians to gain a military advantage is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, and wasting away under siege can be just as traumatic as barrel bomb attacks and public beheadings...
29 June 2016
School food programs in Ethiopia provide students with nutritionally dense biscuits daily.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
In the Summer 2016 edition of ONE, CNEWA’s President Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on a recent visit to drought-ridden Ethiopia:
Most of my visit was concentrated in the extreme northern reaches of the country bordering Eritrea. This is a vast mountainous area that has very challenging “roads” to reach remote villages; in many instances there are no roads at all, only dangerous mountain footpaths.
After a tortuous two-hour, nail-biting trip in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, our director of programs, Thomas Varghese, and I arrived in a remote village named Aiga, where we stopped at the humble parish school of St. Michael. There, the children warmly greeted us with songs and prayers and welcomed us lovingly into their classrooms, which have only the barest hint of outside natural light for the classes.
After visiting with each of the classes, we went outside the school, where they lined up to receive their “CNEWA” biscuits: a two-biscuit pack that would sustain them as the school day went on and would give them enough energy to walk home to their mountain dwellings. Most of the children walked over steep mountain trails for two or three hours each way to come to school. This simple nutritional supplement means the difference between these beautiful children coming to school or staying at home.
There were two very touching moments for me as they were enjoying their biscuits. The first came when I saw many children only eating one biscuit and wrapping up the other one to take home to be shared with others in their family; and the second was when a little girl offered me one of her biscuits. Tears came to my eyes at this gesture of kindness and generosity. What a demonstration of the Christian values that they learn in school and practice in their humble homes.
Read more in the magazine. And watch the video below for more of Msgr. Kozar’s impressions from that trip. If you’d like to support CNEWA’s work in Ethiopia, and help the hungry hold on to life, visit this giving page.
29 June 2016
Relatives of one of the victims of the 28 June suicide attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport mourn on 29 June in front of a morgue in Istanbul. The bombings killed dozens and wounded more than 200 as Turkish officials blamed the carnage at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. (photo: CNS/Osman Orsal, Reuters)
Pope prays for victims of Istanbul attack (CNS) Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying for peace and for the victims of a terrorist attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in Turkey. “Yesterday evening in Istanbul, a heinous terrorist attack was made that has killed and wounded many people. Let us pray for the victims, their families and for the dear Turkish people,” the pope said 29 June after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square...
Pope Francis: Saints Peter and Paul link East to West (Vatican Radio) The Church of Rome was founded on the faith of Saints Peter and Paul, the two Apostles from the Holy Land whose feast day is celebrated 29 June: that’s what Pope Francis recalled during his midday Angelus address on this Rome holiday. The entire universal Church, he said, considers the two patron saints of Rome “two pillars and two great lights which shine not only in the Rome sky, but in the hearts of believers of the Orient and the West...”
Patriarch issues statement after assassination attempt (AINA) Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church issued a statement on the assassination attempt on his life last week. On 19 June, while the Patriarch was leading a commemoration service for the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One, a suicide bomber attacked the service but was stopped by the Assyrian Sutoro military forces in Qamishli, Syria...
Lebanese army raids refugee camps after suicide bombings (The Wall Street Journal) Lebanon’s army raided Syrian refugee camps and politicians called for a border clampdown, a day after a series of suicide bombings in the predominantly Christian border town of Qaa. Lebanese forces descended on camps in the northeast on Tuesday, arresting more than 100 people for not having legal papers and confiscating motorcycles, state media said. Several bombers had arrived in Qaa on such vehicles on Monday...
Patriarch urges longterm repatriation for solution in Middle East (CNS) Poor, destitute refugees now comprise half the people living in Lebanon, according to Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. They are attractive targets for terrorist recruiting, and their continued presence threatens to drown Lebanon’s identity, he said. A permanent solution to the refugee crises throughout the Middle East requires lasting peace and the repatriation of refugees, not resettlement to third countries, he added...
Patriarch Rai: To save the Middle East, save Lebanon (Aleteia) Look to the Lebanese model for solutions to the turmoil in the Middle East, says the head of the Maronite Church. Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Lebanon-based Patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites, spoke with Aleteia Monday while on a pastoral visit to the United States...
Kerala diocese introduces blood donation as an offering (The News Minute) A Latin Catholic Diocese in Thiruvananthapuram district has introduced blood donation as an offering in church. The diocese made the announcement on 14 June, World Blood Donation Day. “Blood donation is one of the greatest offerings, so we decided to introduce it,” said Father Valsalan Jose, parish priest of Kochupally church Kamukincode, Neyyattinkara...
28 June 2016
Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, has been an outspoken advocate for reconciliation in his homeland. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During a time of turmoil and violence in his homeland, Lebanon’s Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai — Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch — has been a heroic voice calling for reconciliation. It was a subject he addressed during his visit to CNEWA yesterday, and it’s one he’s made a hallmark of his ministry to the people of Lebanon.
He was enthroned as Patriarch of Antioch and all the East on 25 March 2011, the Feast of the Annunciation. Fittingly, his name “Bechara” means “annunciation.” That day, he served as a kind of herald to the people of Lebanon, both Christian and Muslim, announcing a message of “communion and love,” the very words he chose for his patriarchal motto.
In his homily, the patriarch did something bold for a Catholic leader, quoting from the Quran and its account of the annunciation. He noted the esteem in which Muslims hold Mary, and he sought common ground:
For the sake of “communion and love” we work together in the countries of the Middle East and with you the representatives of the leaders of our brother and sister countries, and we work to preserve and strengthen our relations of solidarity with the Arab world, and to establish a sincere and complete dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters and build together a future in common life and cooperation. For one single destiny links Muslims and Christians in Lebanon and the countries of the region in which, a culture particular to all of us, was built up by the diverse civilizations which passed one after another in our lands and thus we have a common patrimony in which we all shared in its creation and now work at its cultural development. We accompany with anxiety the uprisings and protests which are taking place here and there in our Arab countries. We regret the victims and the wounded and we pray for stability and peace.
As an emissary of hope and healing in the world CNEWA serves, the patriarch has been a great supporter of our shared mission to uplift those who are suffering and to accompany those in need. In Lebanon today, that includes an overwhelming number of refugees, many fleeing war and terror in Iraq and Syria; they now make up roughly half the country’s population.
Visting Syria three years ago, the patriarch issued a passionate plea for peace:
“Here in Damascus we say together: ’Enough of war and violence! Enough of the killing and destruction of homes and landmarks! Enough uprooting and suffering inflicted on innocent citizens! … We preach together the Gospel of peace, we work hand in hand for reconciliation, the promotion of human rights and dignity. … Every drop of innocent blood that is shed is a tear from the eyes of Christ.”
To assist the patriarch and support the work of CNEWA in Lebanon, visit this page.
28 June 2016
Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI during a 28 June ceremony at the Vatican marking the 65th anniversary of the retired pope’s priestly ordination. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)
Pope Francis had warm words for his predecessor today, marking marking the 65th anniversary of Benedict’s ordination to the priesthood. CNS has details:
In his first public address in almost a year, retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sincere gratefulness to Pope Francis, saying that his goodness “from the first moment of your election, in every moment of my life here, touches me deeply.”
“More than the beauty found in the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected,” Pope Benedict said 28 June.
Pope Benedict also conveyed his hope that Pope Francis would continue to “lead us all on this path of divine mercy that shows the path of Jesus, to Jesus and to God.”
Pope Francis led a Vatican celebration for the 65th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s priestly ordination. The two were joined by the heads of Vatican offices and congregations and several guests, including a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Those gathered gave Pope Benedict a standing ovation as he made his way into the Clementine Hall and took his seat to the right of the pope’s chair.
A few minutes later, Pope Francis entered the hall and made a beeline for his predecessor, who respectfully removed his zucchetto before greeting him. Pope Francis has made no secret of his admiration for the retired pontiff, often comparing him to a “wise grandfather at home.”
During his return flight to Rome from Armenia 26 June,, Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict for “protecting me and having my back with his prayers.”
For more, check out the CNS video of the event and the remarks below.
28 June 2016
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI
In this image from 2013, worshipers leave Sunday liturgy in the village of Al Qaa in Lebanon. The village in on high alert today, after it was attacked by suicide bombers Monday. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
Lebanon’s northeastern village of Al Qaa, a Lebanese Christian village, was in a state of alert Tuesday as security forces expanded search operations after eight suicide bombers attacked the village yesterday — Monday, 27 June 2016. The bombers killed five and wounded over 30 people in the latest violent spillover of the five-year-old Syrian war into Lebanon.
A first wave of attacks involved four suicide bombers who struck after 4 a.m., killing five people, all civilians. The first bomber blew himself up after being confronted by a resident, with the other three detonating their bombs one after the other as people arrived at the scene. A second series of attacks, involving at least four assailants, took place in the evening. Two of the bombers arrived on motorcycles, hurled explosives and then blew themselves up outside Mar Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church — which has received support from CNEWA — as residents were preparing the funerals of those killed earlier.
Security sources said they believed Islamic State was responsible for the bombings but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
These events have revived fears of a return to the violence that had targeted the Lebanese army and Hezbollah areas in the past.Lebanon has been repeatedly jolted by militant attacks linked to the war in neighboring Syria. The last suicide attack to rock Lebanon was on 12 November 2015, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up on a busy street in the Burj al Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut’s southern suburbs, killing 47 people and wounding over 200 others. The attack was claimed by ISIS.
Local TV footage showed yesterday Al Qaa’s residents holding rifles calling on the government to support the Christian village in defending itself as hundreds of ISIS militants are holed up on the eastern outskirts of the town.
ISIS hopes to force Christian community to leave the village; by controlling Al Qaa, the fanatic militants will be able to create a corridor to the Mediterranean, as the Lebanese Army explained in a communiqué earlier.
ISIS had urged its followers to launch attacks on “nonbelievers” during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began in early June.
The area of Masharih al Qaa — a predominantly Sunni area near Al Qaa — is home to a large number of refugees who have fled the war in Syria.
Al Qaa is located about 30 miles north of the city of Baalbek, where Hezbollah holds sway, and about 90 miles from Beirut. It is a Christian village of 15,000 residents, mainly Melkite Greek Catholics — under the jurisdiction of the Melkite Greek Catholic bishop of Baalbek — situated several miles north of Ras Baalbek, next to the eastern border with Syria’s Homs district, in the Hermel area. Al Qaa and Ras Baalbek are the only two villages with a Christian majority in the predominantly Shiite region, where Hezbollah enjoys wide support.
For decades, this rural agrarian village has been lagging behind the rest of the country, having received less assistance from either the government of Lebanon or local NGOs. Consequently, it suffers from a high rate of poverty, limited economic and educational opportunities and dire health conditions. Around 80 percent of the inhabitants subsist on agriculture and thus are considered very vulnerable and poor, with unstable incomes. The remaining minority is engaged either in small businesses or in the army. During the Lebanese war, for security reasons, the majority of the Christians left the village for safer areas.
The village is poor in its supply of water. As one of the consequences of the civil war in 1976, the major source of water to Al Qaa coming from the Shiite village of Labweh was cut. CNEWA assisted in rehabilitating the village artesian well in 2013.
Due to the intense presence of Syrian refugees presently living in the village of Al Qaa — around 20,000, compared to 140 Christian families — the water supply represents a serious challenge to the local community, especially for irrigation.
CNEWA is coordinating with the Melkite Greek Catholic parish priest of Al Qaa, the Rev. Elian Nasrallah, and has spoken to him this morning, ensuring that he was safe.
Father Elian Nasrallah, a good friend of CNEWA and a long time partner in several projects, is not only an active priest of 28 years in his remote parish in Al Qaa, but also has been very vigorous and creative in finding ways to improve the educational growth and social development of his parishioners. What Father Nasrallah has been doing in his parish is a work of mercy. In his poor community, he keeps the youngsters off the streets and in schools, teaches them different skills, entertains them with music, theatre and sports activities, strengthens their spiritual lives and allows them to have fun, all the while providing impoverished families access to health services.
Since the 80’s, Father Elian has worked to create a stronger Christian community in a neglected region surrounded by a Muslim majority, where no economic, educational or health opportunities are available. In the village’s multipurpose hall, the father used to gather youth and provide activities — computer skills; technical formation; art, theater and music classes, including a choir; sports activities; summer camps; spiritual formation; and various other activities. He also provides the existing families with access to health services through the village dispensary, supported by CNEWA.
Following the huge influx of Syrians finding shelter in the village, and through funds from CNEWA’s generous donors, the father was able to extend his hands to the poor refugees and has provided them with basic emergency aid, including blankets, mattresses, food packages, fuel for heating, medical support and even education to young Syrian children.
Read more about the flight of Syrian refugees to Al Qaa in Crossing the Border from the Spring 2013 edition of ONE.
28 June 2016
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Melkite
Lebanese army soldiers and forensic experts inspect the site where suicide bomb attacks took place 27 June in the village of Qaa. (photo: CNS/Hassan Abdallah, Reuters)
Suicide bombers strike predominantly Christian village in Lebanon (CNS) Suicide bombers attacked a predominantly Christian village in northeast Lebanon twice in one day, and residents called on the government to support them, saying ISIS fighters were holed up on the outskirts of town. Two separate sets of four suicide bombers attacked the village of Al Qaa on 27 June; the first attack killed five people in addition to the bombers. About 30 people were injured in the two incidents, the second of which occurred near St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church as people were preparing for the funerals of the people killed in the first bombing…
Pope to patriarchate: ‘God’s mercy is a bond uniting us’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, with whom he held a private audience on Tuesday in the Vatican, calling the mercy of God ‘the bond uniting us’. The delegation came to Rome following the conclusion of the weeklong Pan-Orthodox Council, which was held on the Greek island of Crete…
A new church for displaced Christians dedicated in Iraq (Fides) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I inaugurated a large church dedicated to Mary Mother of Perpetual Help on Monday, 27 June, in Ain Kawa — a Christian-majority suburb of the city of Erbil, where many Christians sought refuge from ISIS after fleeing their villages in the Nineveh Plain. The new, large church building was funded with the offerings of the faithful…
Catholic agencies second only to UN in providing aid to Iraq and Syria (Catholic Register) Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) Canada National Director Carl Hétu reports Catholic aid agencies contributed $150 million in 2015 to help the people of Iraq and Syria. “This is quite amazing,” said Mr. Hétu, who attended the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches at the Vatican from 14 to 16 June as a representative of CNEWA. This was the highest level of aid going into the Middle East from any group after the United Nations, Hetu said. This Catholic response, organized, planned and working with and through the churches of region went to help “all of the people in the Middle East,” not only Christians…
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Iraqi Christians Ecumenism ISIS