Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
28 February 2018
CNEWA staff

The new Day Care Center run by Caritas Georgia, and supported by CNEWA, is teeming with activity.
(photo: Caritas Georgia)

Last week we received a brief update from our friends at Caritas Georgia, describing activities at their recently dedicated Day Care Center. (You may remember we posted about this event last year.) The winter has brought snow to Eshtia, Georgia, but in many other ways, it feels like a new springtime. Read on.

Greetings from Caritas Georgia!

After equipping the Center with all the necessary equipment, furniture and computers, in February 2018 we hired the Center staff.

Freshly fallen snow covers the ground around the new Day Care Center at Caritas Georgia, in the village of Eshtia. (photo: Caritas Georgia)

Currently we have 116 children registered in the Center, with seven project staff supervising them. Total number of project staff is 7. We also have a vocational workshop of weaving and felt. The girls from the village attend the Caritas Georgia Art Therapy Studio project, developing important job skills.

The children attend various classes:

  • Drama and Dance — 62 children
  • Georgian and English Language — 116
  • Computer class — 24
  • Music and singing — 25

On Sundays the children attend the catechism class led by Father Anton Antonyan.

We invite you to read more Caritas Georgia in A Letter From Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE.

Learning the Lord’s Prayer at the Day Care Center. (photo: Caritas Georgia)

28 February 2018
Greg Kandra

A woman kisses the Stone of Unction, or Stone of Anointing, representing where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial after the crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City on 28 February. The sacred site reopened Wednesday after being closed for three days over a dispute about taxes. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

28 February 2018
Greg Kandra

Tourists place candles outside the locked doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. The church, the holiest site for Christians, reopened on 28 February after a dispute over property taxes. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Church of Holy Sepulchre reopens (CNS) Christian leaders in the Holy Land announced they would reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 28 February after the Israeli government has set up a negotiating team to resolve a municipal dispute over property taxes...

Pope prays for Syria at General Audience (Vatican News) The Pope was greeting pilgrims and visitors from Syria, the Holy Land and the Middle East present at the General Audience on Wednesday, when he improvised yet another appeal for what he called that “martyred nation.” “We must pray for these brothers and sisters of ours,” he said, “and for all persecuted Christians”...

Ethiopian Jews threaten hunger strike (AP) Representatives for thousands of Ethiopian Jews announced Wednesday they will stage a mass hunger strike if Israel eliminates funding to allow them to join their families in that country. Hundreds gathered at a synagogue in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to express concern that Israel’s proposed budget removes the funding to help them immigrate to reunite with relatives...

Meet a family that has tattooed Christians in Jerusalem for 700 years (The Federalist) Buried in a maze of alleyways in the Old City of Jerusalem near Jaffa Gate stands a small shop with a sign that reads, “Razzouk Tattoo: Tattoo with Heritage Since 1300.” The Razzouk family has been tattooing for 700 years. When the family moved to Israel from Egypt, they brought their tattooing tradition with them. Ever since then, the Razzouks have been providing tattoos for Christians in Israel as certificates of their pilgrimage...

In Jordan, a classroom for refugees built by refugees wins architecture award ( The building, which has won a global architecture award, was constructed in Jordan’s Za’atari village and is designed to cope with high and low temperatures. It looks like a giant beehive — but this amazing structure is a school for refugees built by refugees. The dome was constructed as a classroom for children in the village of Za’atari, near the huge Syrian refugee camp of the same name in Jordan...

27 February 2018
Greg Kandra

Eritreans walk through Asmara, Eritrea, marking the Feast of Kidane Mehret on 25 February.
(photo: CNEWA)

Last weekend, hundreds of Eritrean Christians turned out to mark an important feast on the Ethiopian and Eritrean calendar.

Some background:

The Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox and Catholic churches have a tradition that after Jesus’s Ascension, his mother went to Calvary to pray to him for a favor. Jesus descended in a host of angels to ask what she wanted. Mary asked him to save anyone who would pray or do works of charity in her name. Jesus’s promise to do so is known as Kidane Mehret, the Covenant of Mercy, remembered on Yekatit 16 in the Ethiopian calendar. This usually corresponds to 23 February in the Western calendar; some churches celebrate the feast of Kidane Mehret on the nearest Sunday.

Friends and supporters of CNEWA may also recognize the phrase “Kidane Mehret” from the children’s home that bears that name in Addis Ababa — another reminder of God’s mercy at work in the world.

27 February 2018
Greg Kandra

Tourists stand outside the locked doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 26 February in Jerusalem’s Old City. Jerusalem’s mayor today suspended his plan to tax Jerusalem church properties, which had led to the church being closed. It’s not yet known whether this action will lead to the sacred site reopening. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Israel suspends plan to tax Jerusalem church properties (AP) Jerusalem’s mayor on Tuesday suspended a plan to impose taxes on properties owned by Christian churches, backing away from a move that had enraged religious leaders and led to the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said a professional team was being established to negotiate with church officials to “formulate a solution.” “As a result, the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks,” it said...

Fighting in Syria goes on despite ‘pause’ (BBC) Fighting continued in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area in Syria during the first daily five-hour “pause” ordered by the government’s ally Russia. Activists said there were government air and artillery strikes, while Russia said rebels shelled a “humanitarian corridor” meant to let civilians leave. As a result, there were no UN aid deliveries or medical evacuations...

Thousands of police dispatched to Gaza (Al Jazeera) The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has called for the dispatch of 3,000 policemen from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, a senior PLO leader has told Anadolu Agency. “The move is aimed at establishing control over Gaza’s [Hamas-run] police stations,” Wasil Abu Yousef, a senior member of the PLO’s authoritative Executive Committee, said Monday...

Thousands venerate slain nun on first feast day ( Thousands of Catholics gathered at the tomb of a beatified Indian nun to mark the anniversary of her murder, with leaders projecting her as inspiration for persecuted Christians in the country. Six Catholic bishops joined some 200 nuns and 1,500 Catholics on 24 February at the tomb of Blessed Rani Maria on her first feast day since she was beatified as a martyr last November in a step that took her closer to canonization...

Ethiopia affirms open door refugee policy (Xinhua) Ethiopia has reaffirmed its open-door policy for refugees that are flocking into the East African country mainly from its unsettled neighboring countries. The Ethiopian refugee agency (ARRA) said Monday that even though the country presently shelters more than 900,000 refugees, it will maintain its open door policy towards refugees and “continue to receive new arrivals from several of its neighbors, notably from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Yemen”...

26 February 2018
Greg Kandra

A rare snowfall covers St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 26 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

26 February 2018
Greg Kandra

A tourists prays outside the locked doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on 26 February in Jerusalem’s Old City. Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced on 25 February they were closing of the doors of the church. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Church of the Holy Sepulchre closes over tax demands (CNS) Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign ... against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced on 25 February they were closing of the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for an undisclosed period of time...

Air strikes continue to batter Syria (Vatican News) Rescuers said incendiary bombs caused fires to break out in several areas leaving entire districts shrouded in smoke. The severity of the bombardment has made it impossible to ascertain how many people were killed or injured...

Report: Attacks against India’s Christians doubled in 2017 (CNA) Compared to 2016, attacks against Christians in India by Hindu extremists more than doubled in 2017, amid efforts to label the religious minority a danger to the state. The persecution ranges from threats and physical violence to destruction of church property, but false allegations against Christians have also increased...

A quiet Jerusalem neighborhood gets a U.S.embassy, and a spotlight (The New York Times) For what may be the most visible foreign policy step the United States has taken since President Trump took office, the American Embassy set to open in Jerusalem in three months is a bit hard to spot. The ambassador’s new quarters — really, a provisional office until a full-fledged embassy building is erected — will be located in the United States Consulate General, a low-lying, fortress like compound. It is half-hidden down a steep incline off a quiet, residential street a few miles south of the Old City. Not much can be seen from the road, apart from a large American flag flying from the rooftop...

23 February 2018
Greg Kandra

In the video above, Msgr. Kozar describes visiting the “unreached” in the northern half of India.
(video: CNEWA)

This Friday, we travel with Msgr. John E. Kozar to India, where with words and pictures he recounts a visit he made a few years ago. As he described it in the pages of ONE:

By way of a little background, CNEWA’s work in India focuses on assisting and accompanying the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches. These churches trace their heritage to the time of St. Thomas the Apostle. As mission-minded churches, its members reach out all over the world, dynamically serving as proclaimers and evangelizers.

But we have concentrated much of our support for these churches in the south — specifically in the state of Kerala. Thanks be to God, the churches in Kerala have flourished; many young men are drawn to the priesthood, and young women, though perhaps in slightly fewer numbers, are becoming sisters. Little by little, the church in southern India is becoming more and more self-sufficient.

But now the great call of these churches is to reach out to the real mission territory of India: The spiritual sons and daughters of the Apostle Thomas have undertaken a new missionary thrust to evangelize the “unreached” in the northern half of India.

Check out the video for an intimate glimpse at life in this corner of the world.

23 February 2018
Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service

Worshipers pray at St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Eskof, Iraq, which was damaged by ISIS militants. Iraqi Catholic leaders are urging Christians to remain steadfast in this Lenten season as they encounter challenges of ISIS’ legacy in their historic lands.
(photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)

Iraqi Catholic leaders are urging Christians to remain steadfast in this Lenten season as they encounter challenges of the ISIS’ legacy in their historic lands.

In a Lenten pastoral letter, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad urged Iraqi Christians to pursue unity with other Christians at this sacred time with “open hearts.”

“Many Christians today live in a crisis of faith and intellect because of the circumstances of war, instability, migration and the dominance of social media on the details of their daily lives,” he wrote in the letter, released on 21 February.

Many Chaldean Catholics lost their homes, properties and other possessions as they fled ISIS militants in the summer of 2014. Many are destitute, still living in camps for the internally displaced or sheltering abroad.

“However, these challenges should not discourage their determination and dissuade them from renewing their faith and deepening it, to witness of the Lord and his church,” the patriarch said, calling on Christians to “increase within themselves strength, confidence and enthusiasm.”

Patriarch Sako also repeated his appeal to fellow Iraqis from different religious backgrounds to recognize Christians as “part of the national fabric of Iraq and to stop their decline, for Christians have had a historical presence in this country, where they have a role and a message.”

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah estimates that between “40-45 percent of the Christians have returned to the some of their ancestral villages, particularly Qaraqosh.”

But he and other Catholic leaders told Catholic News Service there are many challenges to those Christians hoping to return home after the ISIS occupation and expulsion.

“There are problems with Bartella. Although Bartella is not far from Qaraqosh, the Shiites have been imposing themselves and using the force of Iran to take over territory, etc. The Christians of Bartella are very upset by this situation,” Archbishop Mirkis told CNS by phone.

“Maybe the Americans and Baghdad government are not very aware of what is happening in these villages,” he said.

“The Christians of Bartella tell me: ‘We cannot go back. We don’t dare to go back.’ So, these people are still sheltering in Irbil or in the camps for internally displaced people in Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah,” Archbishop Mirkis said of the northern Iraqi cities providing Christians with refuge.

“Qaraqosh is a little bit better. There, houses are being repaired. Now, the people are returning, but many houses are burned and are completely destroyed. These Christians cannot afford the prices to reconstruct the houses,” he said.

The archbishop and his dioceses have been helping displaced Christians with material and spiritual support as well as providing transportation for hundreds of their university students. Many Christian supporters claim Christian organizations have been the sole sponsors of reconstruction efforts, without help from the government.

But Father Emanuel Youkhana told CNS that so far, the planned “return, reconstruction and rebuilding movement did not meet our expectations and hopes. Thousands of families are hesitating and/or unable to return, and they are still displaced in Kurdistan.”

The archimandrite, a member of the Assyrian Church of the East, heads the Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, CAPNI. He spoke to CNS by phone and email.

23 February 2018
Greg Kandra

A rescue worker carries an injured girl amid destroyed buildings on 21 February in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)

Christian leader, bishop add to outcry over Syria (CNS) A Syrian Christian political leader has joined the growing ranks of international condemnation over violent attacks in Syria’s northwestern area of Afrin and the Damascus enclave of Eastern Ghouta. “The struggle is no longer in the Syrian people’s hands, it is a regional and an international conflict with colliding interests. What is happening in Afrin and Ghouta is tragic,” Bassam Ishak told Catholic News Service by phone...

As conditions in Gaza worsen, Israel turns to the world for help (VOA) Four years ago, Israeli forces and Hamas militants fought a 50-day war. The fighting caused heavy damage to many buildings, roads and other infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Now, Israel fears a humanitarian disaster along its border. The country is appealing to the world to provide support for a series of development projects in Gaza...

U.S. Envoy visits Beirut, mediating Lebanon-Israel dispute (The Jerusalem Post) A senior US diplomat met Lebanon’s foreign minister on Wednesday in Beirut as part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve tensions between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters. Disputes over Israeli construction of the border wall, Lebanon’s start of oil and gas exploration at sea and the growing arsenal of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah have caused a spike in tensions between Lebanon and Israel, both friends of the United States that regard each other as enemies...

Ukraine, four years after the Maidan (Brookings Institute) Ukraine finds itself in a low-intensity but still very real war with Russia. Russia seized Crimea and has prosecuted a conflict in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. While President Petro Poroshenko and his governments have implemented serious reforms, the pace has slowed markedly. Many are particularly frustrated that more has not been done on the anti-corruption front...

Preserving Chaldean culture in Saskatoon (CTV) Efforts of a community in Saskatoon to preserve one of the oldest languages in human history are paying off. The number of people in the city of Chaldean descent and speaking the language of the same name has grown roughly 50 times in the last three decades, according to Kaesir Istifo, one of the members of Saskatoon’s Chaldean community. Istifo immigrated to Saskatoon from Baghdad following the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s. He refers to himself as Chaldean, a tribe from Iraq with roots dating back to 10th Century B.C. The group’s language, also called Chaldean, has roots in Aramaic. Aramaic was the language spoken during the time of Jesus Christ in what was then referred to as the Mesopotamia region...

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