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14 June 2016
Guests listen to a presentation about Middle East Christians during the reception organized by 17-year-old Christopher O’Hara at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City. (photo: CNEWA)
Editors note: Earlier this month, CNEWA hosted a special fundraising reception at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City, to raise awareness about CNEWA’s work in the Middle East. What may be most surprising, though, is that this event was the brainchild of a 17-year-old young man from Long Island, Christopher O’Hara. Here, he shares his story.
I am a junior in high school, and I came to be involved in CNEWA in a rather unusual way. I spent a month last summer in rural Tibet studying Chinese and living with a local family. When I returned home, I was looking forward to spending the rest of my summer reading at the beach. But on one of those first quiet days, I ended up having a long and detailed conversation with a good friend of my parents, who wanted to tell me about an incredible organization she had been involved with, CNEWA. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The more I listened, the more I thought this was something I needed to look into. I did some research on CNEWA, and I could not have been more impressed. My parents’ friend put me in contact with Lauren Lozano, a development associate at CNEWA.
In my conversations with Lauren and her colleagues Norma Intriago and Philip Eubanks, we discussed how someone in my position could raise awareness and funds for CNEWA. At the same time we were having these conversations, the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq was exploding, and I thought the subsequent lack of international response was appalling. The professionals at CNEWA informed me of the real threat facing Christians in the Middle East, and I decided that my focus would be on their charitable operations in that region. I reached out to faculty and administration at my school, Chaminade High School, but I wanted to do more. It became clear that I should organize — with the help of my family and friends — a fundraising event. I told the people at CNEWA my idea, and we were off and running.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon, Chris O’Hara (Christopher’s father), Christopher O’Hara and Norma Intriago meet during the reception. (photo: CNEWA)
The staff at CNEWA is exceptional. They spent hours and hours helping me plan and organize a reception for roughly 100 people in New York City. I was astounded by the level of effort and detail required to pull off an event like this. Thankfully, Norma and Philip were there for me every step of the way, and the event was a tremendous success.
Looking back at that night, I realize how truly blessed I am. The night opened on a high note when the owner of our venue, Dean Poll, came over to tell me he was so impressed with what he had learned about CNEWA that he decided to donate the room, the food and the refreshments. It was an unimaginably generous act, and set a great tone for the evening. The steady stream of family, friends, and supporters of CNEWA that followed made an already great night even better.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon explains the severity of the crisis in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon had the full attention of those gathered as he explained the magnitude and severity of the crisis and the importance of maintaining a Christian presence in the Middle East. I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce Father Elias and to address the audience after his remarks.
Christopher O’Hara speaks at the conclusion of the fundraiser. (photo: CNEWA)
It is an experience that I will never forget, but I hope that it is just the beginning a long and lasting relationship with the work of CNEWA.
The event at Gallagher’s was just the beginning. We’ve established a CrowdRise page to help Christopher O’Hara continue raising funds for CNEWA. Visit this link to contribute.
If you would like CNEWA to visit your parish or organize a presentation about our work, please contact our development director Norma Intriago at email@example.com.
14 June 2016
Tourists and Christian pilgrims visit the tomb where it is believed Christ was buried inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on 17 April. For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was laid to rest after his crucifixion.
The project, which began in early June, is expected to take up to one year to complete and will include sorely needed damage repair and reinforcement of the structure.
The work is being carried out by experts from the National Technical University of Athens.
The project came together when the three principal churches overseeing the tomb under the 19th-century Status Quo agreement overcame enduring differences in a place where rights over every section of the church has been jealously guarded for centuries.
The Status Quo agreement was put in place by the Ottoman rulers in 1852 and preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of the various Christian holy sites. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it governs the responsibilities of the principal churches — Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic — as well as the Ethiopian, Syriac and Coptic churches.
“There wasn’t any friction on this issue,” said Franciscan Father Athanasius Macora, who is responsible for supervising the agreement on the part of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. “There was good chemistry between the three heads of the churches and they agreed to it right away.”
However, the term “right away” is relative as the heads of the principal churches first brought up the issue of a very conservative “consolidation” of the edicule in 2000.
The current Edicule of the Tomb was built by the Greek Orthodox community in 1810, two years after a devastating fire. It has been encased in metal scaffolding since the
British Mandate period in the mid-20th century because of concern for its stability.
Though many church-connected professionals have expressed concern over the structure since 2000, it took the shutting down of the tomb for four hours by the Israeli Police in February 2015 because of safety concerns — a blatant violation of the Status Quo agreement — to get the churches to act on their earlier discussions. An agreement to carry out the work on the tomb was signed in March.
“The idea is to strengthen the structure and try to bring to get it back to its pristine state,” Father Macora said. “It is important that the work goes well. If all goes well, it will enhance the relationship (among the churches). If it doesn’t go well, it will not help their relationship.”
The tomb today is surrounded by a white perimeter wall, but the work on its exterior walls is taking place in the evening so pilgrims can continue to visit the interior of the tomb, he said.
All three churches are contributing to pay the $3.4 million price tag for the project. Jordanian King Abdullah also made a personal contribution for the restoration. Until 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located, was under Jordanian control and the king continues to play a role in the safe guarding of Christian and Muslim holy sites.
“The tomb is the heart of the shrine. It is the most important reason why people are coming to visit the church and ... everyone knew the (the restoration) needed to be done,” Father Macora said. “There is no reason it could not be done. It is important that the work be done in a way which respects the rights of other communities.”
He noted that despite the often-cited disputes among the churches, relations have improved since the 1960’s and though they have reached a plateau since then, fewer conflicts emerge today.
“There have been sporadic outbreaks and there will be outbreaks in the future, but they are significantly less than in the past,” Father Macora said.
Cleaning work has also been undertaken on some of the mosaics in the church and work remains to be done on the floor around the tomb, which cannot begin until the restoration of the tomb is complete, he said.
This is not the first time the three denominations came together for a restoration project. In 1997, they cooperated to restore and decorate the great dome above the tomb with the financial support of the late Catholic philanthropists George and Marie Doty, seemingly ushering in a new era of cooperation.
Three years ago in Bethlehem, restoration and renovation work also began at the Church of the Nativity with the Palestinian Authority given the role of intermediary between the churches. The wooden roof of the church has been repaired and work is underway on wall mosaics.
14 June 2016
In this picture from 10 June, a Syrian woman carries her child on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij, held by ISIS. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S.-backed forces in Syria appeal for aid (Reuters) U.S.-backed forces waging an offensive against the ISIS-held city of Manbij in northern Syria appealed for international assistance for those fleeing the fighting on Tuesday as the forces tightened their encirclement of the city...
Russian Orthodox Church won’t attend historic synod on Crete (Associated Press) The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday that it will not go to a historic meeting of all of the world’s Orthodox churches because churches have walked out. The meeting on the Greek island of Crete due to start Sunday would be the first in more than a millennium. Orthodox Church leaders have not held such a meeting since the year 787, when the last of the seven councils recognized by Orthodox and Catholics, was held...
Will Egypt’s Copts get to build more churches? (Al Monitor) Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Magdi al-Agati told Al-Monitor that the ministry is finalizing a draft law — known in the media as the “unified houses of worship law” — governing the construction of churches, which will be referred to the parliament for approval in its first legislative four-month term ending at the end of September. According to Article 235 of the Egyptian Constitution, “In its first legislative term following the effective date of this constitution, the parliament will issue a law to regulate the construction and renovation of churches, in a manner that guarantees the freedom to practice religious rituals for Christians...”
Pope Francis sets up committee to help war victims in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has decided to set up a committee to oversee the distribution of money to Ukrainians who are affected by the conflict in the east of the nation. The money was collected by Catholic churches across Europe on Sunday 24th April in response to a personal appeal by the Pope...
Vatican UN observer speaks out on migrant rights (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s representative to the UN in Geneva has spoken at the Human Rights Council about the need for consistent policies to protect migrants, especially the most vulnerable children, women and elderly people...
Orthodox Metropolitan issues statement on Orlando shootings (OCA.org) On Monday, 13 June 2016, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon issued an Archpastoral Letter to the hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America and a Public Statement in the wake of the tragic shootings that occurred in Orlando, FL on Sunday, 12 June...
Gaza: Resistance through poetry (Middle East Monitor) The spirit of Gaza is the spirit of Mu’in Bseiso: beautiful, poetic, tortured, strong, undying, and loving and although confined by ever-shrinking spaces, always resisting. I am writing this, not only as a nod of gratitude to Gaza’s great poet for the way he influenced me and several generations of Palestinian and Arab intellectuals in Gaza and elsewhere, but to denote a fact that seems to escape many of us: Gaza is also an abode of poetry...
13 June 2016
Tamás Fekete tends to in his paprika field in Homokmégy, Hungary. Read more about the role of this staple of Hungarian cuisine in the pages of the September 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Jacqueline Ruyak)
13 June 2016
Tags: Cultural Identity Farming/Agriculture Hungary Cuisine
Pope Francis greets people as he visits the headquarters of the World Food Program in Rome on 13 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch Bartholomew to W.F.P.: hunger a spiritual challenge (Vatican Radio) The World Food Program’s leadership and executive board took 12 and 13 June to reflect on the organization’s past, present and hoped-for partnerships on hunger with religious and spiritual leaders and communities of different traditions from all around the world — including Pope Francis, who addressed the W.F.P. leadership on Monday morning at the organization’s headquarters in Rome. Among the leaders asked to contribute was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople…
Patriarchs issue statement on two-year anniversary of ISIS occupation (AINA) A joint statement on the ISIS occupation of Assyrian villages in north Iraq has been issued by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III. The statement calls the actions of ISIS a “criminal act which amounts to an ethno-religious genocide…”
‘Bricks of hope’ to defeat the scourge of child labor (Fides) Although the Indian government and institutions provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group between 6 and 14 and prohibits their involvement in the working world, the phenomenon of child exploitation continues to be one of the worst plagues in the country. Recent investigations have revealed that in India there are about 60 million hidden boy and girl workers…
Pope Francis decries Orlando massacre and prays for victims (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is shaken and saddened by the “homicidal folly and senseless hatred” that has left at least 50 people dead in an attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida…
Egypt government upholds anti-blasphemy law against campaign (Fides) The Egyptian government has no intention to cancel or modify the law that punishes blasphemy. The counselor and representative of the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, Ayman al Rafah, responding to questions from the parliamentary committee on the presentation of a bill to abolish the controversial criminal article, says that the so-called anti-blasphemy law protects aspects of the life of the various religious communities that are not taken into account by other articles of the criminal code, does not undermine the freedom of thought and still represents a guarantee with respect to the phenomena and acts capable of unleashing sectarian hatred…
Georgian Orthodox Church will not participate in Pan-Orthodox Council (OCP Media Network) The Georgian Orthodox Church has decided not to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council, because there are certain issues which it finds unacceptable, announced the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II, reports RIA-Novosti. Earlier the Georgian Orthodox Church made public the eleven point agenda of the meeting of the Holy Synod, clarifying the reasons why it is not participating in the council, including “the failure to restore eucharistic communion between the Antiochian and Jerusalem churches,” and “that the recommendations of the Georgian Church on the necessity of amending a number of documents were not taken into account…”
9 June 2016
Tags: India ISIS Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Georgian Orthodox Church Syriac Christians
Sister Najma greets visitors at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Some of the most dedicated heroes in CNEWA’s world are religious sisters — and some of our closest collaborators over the years have been the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who serve the people of the Middle East.
One particularly dedicated woman is Sister Najma, the administrator of the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. The sheer volume of people they serve is astonishing:
Run by the sisters and funded by CNEWA, the clinic offers a range of services to Jordan’s needy. While the staff treats injuries and common ailments, it focuses on prenatal and maternity care — a major demand in a country with a young and growing population. With only two doctors, two laboratory technicians and a handful of nurses and staff, Mother of Mercy manages to see between 100 and 130 patients a day. Patients of all creeds and ethnicities come from Zerqa — a sprawling, poverty-ridden city populated mainly by Jordanians of Palestinian ancestry — and from the impoverished industrial areas that surround it. They also travel from more distant northern cities, such as Mafraq, Jerash and Irbid. They are drawn by the clinic’s reputation for treating patients with respect, and by the affordable cost of its care.
“Some groups or families, they come here and they don’t pay, because they’re poor. Sometimes we just charge them small amounts of money,” says Sister Najma. “There are a lot of poor people in Zerqa. There are poor immigrants, some of whom are from Bangladesh, and some from Egypt. Egyptian workers come as well,” she adds.
And Sister Najma never seems to tire of helping those in need:
Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable.
“We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality. We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”
And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims... People come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.
“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.
“Our mission here is for everyone,” she adds. “If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include ‘religion’ in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here. Just the name and the age is what we need to know.”
If you’d like to help Sister Najma and others like her in their mission in Jordan, check out this giving page.
9 June 2016
Anna Valavanal (left) and her sister, Irin, visit the Deivadan sisters and residents in Thankamany, India. Read about the Fearless Grace of the Deivadan Sisters in the July 2010 edition of ONE.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
9 June 2016
In Tel Aviv, an Israeli couple looks towards people gathering at the restaurant targeted during a shooting attack on 9 June 2016. (photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images)
Israel imposes travel restrictions after Tel Aviv attack (The New York Times) Israel suspended thousands of travel permits to Israel for Palestinians, sent two battalions of soldiers to the West Bank and blockaded a town there on Thursday, a day after gunmen killed four people in a crowded restaurant district of Tel Aviv. The assault on a cafe serving chocolate in the Sarona shopping complex on Wednesday, just as a nine-month wave of stabbing and shooting attacks appeared to have ebbed, was particularly brazen as it was very close to Israel’s military headquarters...
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch meets president of Iraqi Kurdistan (Fides) A delegation composed of nine Syriac Orthodox, Syrian Catholic and Chaldean Bishops, led by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, was received today Tuesday, 7 June by Masud Barzani, President of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the presidential Palace in Erbil...
Syro-Malabar Church gets first married deacon (Vatican Radio) In a historic development, Joice James, a father of four has been conferred with permanent diaconate by Card. Alencherry, of the Syro-Malabar Church at a ceremony held on 6 June. Though the Church has conferred deacon status on laymen in the past, it is for the first time that a permanent diaconate is being conferred on a married man after the Syro-Malabar Church became an independent Church...
Russian Orthodox official comments on upcoming council (Tass) In the recent days, Orthodox Churches, one after another, keep refusing to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council on 17-26 June in Crete. The Bulgarian Church was the first to announce that, followed by the Church of Antioch (Syria). But with absence of at least one of 14 Local Churches, the Council loses the status of pan-Orthodox, and its decisions become not mandatory for those absent. Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for relations with society and media Vladimir Legoyda has shared with TASS his view of what is going on...
Egypt becomes hotspot for Eritreans headed to Europe (Albawaba.com) Cairo has long been home to a small community of Eritrean refugees fleeing war, oppression and traffickers, but local activists say the number of new arrivals has soared over the last year. In the past, most Eritreans who came to Egypt registered asylum claims with the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and waited years for a shot at resettlement to Europe or the United States...
New monument found in Petra (National Geographic) An enormous monument has been hiding in plain sight at the World Heritage site of Petra, according to a study recently published in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Archaeologists Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow, and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, used high-resolution satellite imagery followed by aerial drone photography and ground surveys to locate and document the structure...
8 June 2016
Iraqi refugee women who fled ISIS in their homeland pose for a photo in Amman, Jordan, in early June. The Chaldean Catholic women sent the hand-sewn mantle to Pope Francis and asked him to pray for them and for peace in their country.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman)
Iraqi refugee women who fled Islamic State group violence in their homeland have appealed to Pope Francis for help, sending a hand-sewn mantle and imploring him to pray for them and for peace in their country.
The ivory colored mantle with an oriental yellow-gold braid was designed and sewn by more than a dozen Chaldean Catholic women, who as refugees are unable to work in Jordan.
The papal mantle and an accompanying letter were sent to the pontiff via diplomatic pouch from the apostolic nunciature in Amman, the Jordanian capital, in early June and was expected to arrive at the Vatican by mid-month.
“One of the most precious items is the vestment of a priest, bishop or pope serving at the altar during the most sacred of times, the Mass,” said the Rev. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman.
“This has been made with hearts of love and with a special touch by refugees who suffered, forced to flee to maintain their Christian faith,” Father Bader told Catholic News Service. "The design uses the Arabic checkered ‘keffiyeh’ of the region, but made with yellow threads, resembling gold, the color of the Vatican.”
“Oh, Holy Father, we appeal to you to mention us in your prayers and to mention our country, Iraq, so that the Lord would reinstate peace there and in all the countries that seek peace, protect people from the evil and injustices prevailing in the world, and lead the sinners — who conduct evil deeds — into the right path in life. May the Lord touch their hearts with love and mercy,” said the refugees’ letter accompanying the mantle.
“From this basis, we would like to present to you this mantle in the hope that you would wear it when you celebrate Holy Mass and pray for us. It is a symbol of our love to you and a testimony of our appreciation for you,” said the letter made available to CNS.
The women wrote that they sewed the mantle from the “remains of altar cloths,” explaining that they wanted to produce “something useful and beautiful to glorify the Lord from whatever is rejected and detested" by the militants.
The mantle is one of the first products of the Rafidian or Mespotamian project begun on behalf of the refugees by an Italian priest, the Rev. Mario Cornioli, the Rev. Zaid Habbaba of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Salesian Sisters with support of the nunciature in Amman. Italian women living in Amman also assisted.
Father Cornioli, sent by the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem to work with Iraqi refugees in Jordan, said the women wanted to create a special gift for Pope Francis because of they understand he feels “very near” to them. They also want to remind him of their “difficult situation” after being forced to flee the Islamic State group in 2014 after being told renounce their Christian faith, join the militants, pay a protection tax or be killed, he said.
The women learned to sew in Jordan, opening a new possibilities for them, Father Cornioli said. “They have once again found their smiles while being and working together,” he said.
The priest said that the project has grown with the women sewing items to be sold in Italy. “This helps them to earn some money and so they can help themselves and their families,” Father Cornioli explained, citing examples of Iraqi Christian refugees with dwindling funds after quickly leaving their homes with few possessions.
“Now they are in Jordan with a something that gives them dignity, a valuable skill which perhaps can be useful if they are resettled in another country,” Father Cornioli said.
8 June 2016
Syrians help a wounded woman after a helicopter belonging to the Syrian army carried out barrel bomb attacks on Beyan hospital and a bazaar in Aleppo, Syria, on 8 June 2016.
(photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syria denounces distribution of aid packages (The Jerusalem Post) Amid recurrent claims by the Syrian regime accusing Israel of supporting rebel factions fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, the local council of Quenitra claimed that Israel was supplying food aid to opposition-held areas in the southern governorate. In a statement issued on Wednesday, Quneitra’s local administration council said that it “strongly denounces the distribution of aid packages with Hebrew captions which were supplied by the Israeli enemy...
Russian Orthodox Church to gather Holy Synod prior to Council meeting (TASS) The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) will gather in Moscow prior to the Pan-Orthodox Council the Holy Synod to decide how to act in conditions of some local churches’ refusal to take part in the Council on 17-26 June in Crete, Greece, a senior ROC official said Tuesday. “We will monitor what is going on in local churches, will attentively listen to voices from local Orthodox churches, and I think we will need to hold one more session of the Holy Synod to understand how to act in such a situation,” Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion told TASS...
Iraq’s child soldiers (Al Jazeera) The child soldier posed for the camera, holding a machine-gun and wearing black clothes and army boots. He refused to give his name or his age, but it was obvious from his appearance — his facial hair barely grown — that he was only a teenager. The boy fights along with Hashd Al Ameriat — a shia militia. The child soldier was fighting against Daesh (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, a city 40 kilometres west of Baghdad, where fierce battles have been taking place between Daesh, the Iraqi Army, and the “Popular Mobilisation Forces” — militias allied with the Iraqi government...
Deadly bombings in Turkey show terror has come home (TIME) For Turkey, war is coming home. The string of deadly attacks throughout the country over the last year has continued this week with two attacks in two days — the bombing in Istanbul on Tuesday, and a day later a car bombing in Midyat in southeastern Turkey, killing at least three. In Istanbul, which has now been hit four times since January, the blasts have begun to erode the sense of normality in this cosmopolitan city of 14 million...
Report: Christian refugees being quizzed on “Bible trivia” (Haaretz) Refugees applying for asylum in Britain based on a claim that they have converted to Christianity and face religious persecution are being grilled by immigration officials on their knowledge of the Bible, Britain’s Guardian news website has reported, citing findings contained in a report released on Tuesday that was prepared by an unofficial group of British members of parliament. Refugees have been asked, for example, what the Ten Commandments are and how many books there are in Bible, the Guardian reported, and refugees who don’t answer the questions correctly are being denied asylum in the United Kingdom...