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July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
15 June 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

In this 2012 photo, a young Ethiopian woman plans to be smuggled to Israel — an elaborate process that would require dressing in a veil; crossing into Sudan, then Egypt, likely being arrested; claiming to be Eritrean as a cover story to prevent being sent home; and linking up with another smuggler and finding her way to Israel, where she has friends currently working as domestic servants. For more details, read The High Cost of Leaving, from the May 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

In a world in which it seems there are ultimately no secrets, we tend to believe that if we haven’t seen it blaring on the news, it just does not exist or at least does not exist near me.

On the other hand, we also have the expression “hidden in plain sight.”

Human trafficking is one of those things “hidden in plain sight” — an injustice against human life and dignity that afflicts far too many in our world, and in the world CNEWA serves.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines trafficking as “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a person of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person for the purpose of exploitation” — such as prostitution or involuntary labor. Human trafficking is also commonly referred to as “contemporary forms of slavery.”

Although human trafficking is relatively unknown to many people in Western Europe and North America, it is a huge problem. DoSomething, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) created to educate about human trafficking and to end it, estimates that:

  • There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world

    • 80% for sexual exploitation

    • 19% for forced labor

  • 600,000 to 800,000 people — 80% of whom are woman and 50% children are trafficked across international borders annually

  • Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking)

Even the United States is not immune to this scourge. In 2017, 8,524 cases of human trafficking were reported across the U.S. Of this, more than 6,000 were for sex trafficking and more than 1,200 for forced labor. It is certain the number of cases reported is a small percentage of the actual trafficking going on. In addition, although there are some who dispute the statistics, it is estimated that cities where the annual Super Bowl is held often experience a spike in prostitution, a large part of which is carried on by girls and women in sexual slavery.

If this is the case in the developed world — where there are laws forbidding trafficking and law enforcement agencies to enforce those laws — one can only imagine the situation in countries where the rule of law has broken down and the fabric of society is badly rent.

One of the major works of CNEWA is to help and support refugees in the Middle East. While there is a difference in international law between smuggling people (of their own free will) into target countries and trafficking people (against their will), the distinction often blurs in regions where there are large populations of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. In some places, the situation is so bad that people in order to survive sell themselves or their children into what is, for all practical purposes, slavery. Very often people who believe they are being smuggled end up being trafficked.

In CNEWA’s world and elsewhere, it’s important to note that women religious have been at the forefront in the battle against human trafficking and sexual slavery. Both at the United Nations and on the ground, women’s religious communities have not only pressed for laws and international conventions against trafficking, they have also put their lives on the line in preventing it, rescuing those who have been trapped in all forms of slavery and trying to eliminate the causes which would bring people to sell themselves or their children into slavery.

Sister Winifred Doherty, RGS, a Good Shepherd sister, has worked with people at risk of becoming victims of trafficking in Ethiopia. She was interviewed by CNEWA for our magazine, ONE, in 2012. Sister Winifred summed up the situation in Ethiopia and the challenges so many women are facing:

“I think in Ethiopia, particularly in the rural areas, the situation of young girls is still critical,” she said. “Lack of education, lack of opportunities for childhood, then being forced to deal with many negative cultural practices like female genital mutilation, kidnapping and forced marriage. These practices don’t help to empower and promote women. This cycle must be broken. The poverty, lack of education, lack of good economic environment — this still has deep influences on women and continues to keep them in poverty.

Having said that, I think we have to look at the more positive things that have happened, through our own services, through the help of CNEWA, and through NGOs and other religious organizations that continue to empower women. So I prefer to look at it from the positive aspect. Changes are happening and are continuing to happen.”

Tags: Migrants human trafficking

15 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

In recent message, Pope Francis urges justice, solidarity and compassion regardless of migration status. (video: Rome Reports)

What is the current state of the migration crisis in Europe? (The Guardian) Three years after Europe’s biggest influx of migrants and refugees since the Second World War, tensions between E.U. member states over how to handle irregular immigration from outside the bloc — mainly from the Middle East and Africa — are rising again…

Trauma forms the invisible ruins ISIS left behind on the Nineveh Plain (Crux) After the Islamic State was driven out of the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq in 2017, the scale of destruction left behind in a chain of historically Christian villages was staggering…

Iraq to rebuild Yazidi shrines in Sinjar (AINA) Iraq’s Ministry of Construction and Housing is rebuilding Yazidi shrines, administrative headquarters, and roads in Nineveh Province’s city of Sinjar, in what the ministry called a ‘major campaign,’ on Thursday…

Syria’s not waiting for peace to rebuild, and Iran wants to help (Al Monitor) Taking full control of the capital city of Damascus and the surrounding area for the first time since the civil war broke out in 2011 has given the Syrian government new impetus. That success also allows it to approach reconstruction of infrastructure and cities…

Church in Orissa prepares to commemorate anti-Christian massacres (Fides) The Catholic Church in the Indian state of Orissa, in eastern India, is preparing to celebrate the solemn commemoration of the victims of the anti-Christian massacres of 2008…

Tags: Syria India Iraq Migrants Yazidi

14 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2017 photo, Syrian refugee children play on the grounds of the Fratelli Association in Rmeileh village, which provides refugees with educational services. (photo: Philip Eubanks)

Lebanon witnesses rise in Syrian refugee child labor over past year (Daily Star Lebanon) Aid groups say more and more Syrian children are joining the workforce as poverty intensifies among about a million refugees living in Lebanon — roughly a quarter of the country’s population…

In Iraqi Christian village, ‘In God we trust’ isn’t just a slogan (Crux) Once a thriving Chaldean Catholic community, Qaramlesh today is the shadow of what it used to be, but many are working against the clock to make it what it was before summer ends…

Egypt sees rise in disappearances of Coptic Christian women (Christian Today) The disappearance of a number of Coptic Christian women in Egypt in recent months has sparked fears that they are being targeted for human trafficking…

U.N. slams ‘excessive’ Israeli force against Palestinians in Gaza (Al Jazeera) The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a resolution adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries. The 193-member world body rejected the United States’ efforts to blame Gaza’s Hamas rulers for the violence that has killed more than 120 Palestinians in the past two and half months…

U.N. condemns European countries’ refusal to take in migrants (Vatican News) The chief of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says a bitter dispute over which European country should take in a rescue boat carrying hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean “profoundly shameful” for the European Union…

Christians in the Nineveh Plain host evening meal with Muslim neighbors (Fides) On Tuesday, a community iftar was hosted in the city of Bartella, about ten miles from Mosul, at the local community center of the Syriac Orthodox Church. This evening meal interrupts the daily fasting Muslims undertake during Ramadan…

Ukraine’s Greek Catholic chief sees ‘no choice’ but dialogue with Russia (Crux) “For us, for the simple people, for the Christians, reconciliation means not only prayer for reconciliation, but also effective acts of reconciliation, because that is how we construct a peace for the next generation,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, in an interview with a small group of reporters…

Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Refugees Iraqi Christians Palestinians

13 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this August 2017 photo, a man shovels the road in Qaraqosh’s main commercial street, heavily destroyed by fighting between Islamic State militants and Iraqi coalition forces. (photo: Raed Rafei)

In post-ISIS Christian town, heroism and paradox both abound (Crux) Over the centuries, the Middle East has always been a land where expectations tend to experience especially tough collisions with reality, so it probably should be no surprise that a massive effort to rebuild the Christian village which was the epicenter of a brutal ISIS onslaught in 2014 has, at its heart, three grand paradoxes. Qaraqosh — or “Baghdeda” to Christians, who make up 96 percent of the population and prefer to use the city’s Aramaic name to reclaim their Christian identity — was the largest Christian community on the Nineveh Plains, a swath of land that overlaps the border between Iraq and Kurdish-controlled territory…

Georgian Prime Minister Kvirikashvili resigns (The Daily Star) Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday amid a disagreement with the leader of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is a former prime minister and the ex-Soviet country’s richest man. “We’ve had some disagreements with the leader of the ruling party,” Kvirikashvili said in a televised statement. “I think there is a moment now when the leader of the (ruling) party should be given an opportunity to staff a new cabinet.” Kvirikashvili, 50, has been prime minister since 2015…

U.N. votes on condemning Israel over Gaza violence (Al Monitor) The United Nations General Assembly will vote Wednesday on condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza in a resolution fiercely opposed by the United States. At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March…

Can Jordan’s new prime minister reform the government? (Washington Post) Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II appointed former education minister Omar Razzaz as the new prime minister after protests rocked the country. And Razzaz has already made several concessions to the protesters over taxes. But more interesting is that Razzaz said a “new social contract” will be a top item on his government’s agenda…

Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Georgia

12 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro

A man pushes a cart loaded with lunch boxes through a flooded street after heavy rain in Mumbai on 9 June 2018. (photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images)

Caritas India offers climate change survival classes (UCAN India) As India continues to be struck by natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, a church group is pitching in with others to help prepare villagers for when calamity strikes. Since April, dust storms and rains across the northern and eastern part of the country have killed 278 people, 223 of them in the first fortnight of May…

Iraqi shepherd determined that Christianity not only survive, but thrive (Crux) Officially speaking, there’s no index of the moral heroes of Catholicism in our time. There would be plenty of candidates, clergy and religious lay men and women, all over the world who put their lives on the line in every imaginable way to serve the planet’s most marginalized and suffering people. Somewhere near the top of the list, however, would have to be Archbishop Bashar Warda, leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq…

Iraq’s favorite lake dries up in sign of worse to come (Al Monitor) Karbala’s Lake Milh hasn’t seen a lot of visitors in the last few years. Once a popular picnic destination for Karbala residents, the lake’s water has dwindled, leaving most of it a desert with nothing but derelict fishing boats and dead animals…

Debunking four myths surrounding the Palestinian protests (Vice) Over the past ten weeks, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the “March of Return,” mass nonviolent demonstrations to protest Israel’s illegal siege. Throughout, Israel has responded with violent force. In order to legitimize its resort to overwhelming force, Israel has sought to cast doubt on the popular character of the demonstrations in Gaza and to present them as a threat to its security. A number of myths about the Gaza protests have consequently gained widespread traction…

Noah’s Ark and the Assyrian relief (AINA) A team of archaeologists is searching Turkey’s Mount Cudi (also called Judi Dagh) for the resting place of Noah’s Ark. While their investigations have not turned up any new evidence of the fabled ship, they have discovered an ancient Assyrian relief, carved into the stone of the mountain…

Hungary & Ukraine inaugurate orphanage amid concerns (Vatican News) Anita Herczegh, the wife of Hungarian President János Áder, and Ukrainian First Lady Marina Poroshenko came to the St. Michael Center in Rativci with a mission: They want to ensure that orphans in what is Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region can grow up in family homes at a time when Ukraine faces war and hardship…

Tags: India Chaldean Church Palestinians Hungary

11 June 2018
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2015, Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia presides at a liturgy during the annual Knights of Columbus convention in Philadelphia. Hundreds turned out to pay tribute to him this weekend as he plans to retire. (photo: CNS /Knights of Columbus)

Syrian orphans who fled war find new home (AP) Nearly 50 children orphaned by the Syrian war escaped the hell that was their hometown of Aleppo after they appeared in a distressing video and appealed for their lives as government forces moved in under a hail of fire. In the year and half since, the children and their instructors have been uprooted twice more: once to escape similar bombardment in another rebel stronghold and again when they fled a town that has been overwhelmed by people seeking shelter from Syria’s war…

Gaza students do well at Catholic-run school (CNS) Though it can be “devastating” to hear about the situation along the border, the Rosary School students interviewed — all Muslims, as are the majority of the students at the school — said it was clear to them they can help the Palestinian cause by getting an education and contributing to society in the future…

Hundreds turn out to bid farewell to retiring Ukrainian Catholic archbishop ( For 17 years, [Archbishop] Stefan Soroka has presided over a 100,000-member national church in transition. He has led the nation’s Ukrainian Catholics as membership has declined and immigrants from Ukraine have helped to replenish the pews, all while coping with health challenges that include a heart condition and cancer. Earlier this year, he decided to follow his doctor’s advice and resign from his duties. On Sunday, a crowd of more than 600 filled the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Northern Liberties to honor him and say goodbye…

Lebanon installs electronic gates at refugee camp (Middle East Monitor) The Lebanese army has installed electronic gates at the entrances to the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon, residents say according to a report by The New Arab. The gates, which are placed at four main entrances and smaller exit points, are the latest measure to ramp up security at the Palestinian refugee camp…

Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Ukrainian Catholic

8 June 2018
Greg Kandra

Msgr. John Kozar visits St. Anne’s Orphanage in Trichur, India. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)

Tags: India Sisters

8 June 2018
Greg Kandra

Russian planes have reportedly attacked the rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria. The video above shows how some displaced Syrians are living in the region after settling in makeshift camps. (video: Doctors Without Borders/YouTube)

Pope names two new bishops for India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Friday made two appointments in India. He nominated the Rev. Fulgence Aloysius Tigga as Bishop of Raiganj Diocese in the eastern state of West Bengal, and the Rev. Dennis Panipitchai has been appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Miao Diocese, in Arunachal Pradesh state, northeast India…

Syria: Russian warplanes bomb rebel-held area, dozens dead (Al Jazeera) Air attacks believed to have been carried out by Russia on a village in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province killed at least 44 people overnight, inflicting the highest death toll in a single attack on the region this year, a monitoring group said on Friday…

Putin: Russia has no plans to pull out of Syria (Al Jazeera) President Vladimir Putin says Russia has no plans to pull its military out of Syria, but isn’t building permanent facilities there. The troops “will stay there for as long as it is to Russia’s advantage, and to fulfill our international responsibilities,” Putin said during his annual televised call-in show on Thursday…

Gaza anti-blockade protest on ’Jerusalem Day’ (AP) Palestinians burned tires and Israeli troops fired heavy volleys of tear gas Friday to push back large Gaza crowds from the area of the fence separating the blockaded territory from Israel. It was the latest in a series of protests against the decade-long blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. Friday’s march also coincided with the annual “Jerusalem Day,” instituted by Iran to protest against Israeli rule of the holy city. Israel and Iran have been arch enemies since Tehran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution…

Tags: Syria India Russia Indian Bishops

7 June 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Pope John XXIII visits Regina Coeli jail on 26 December 1958. (photo: Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images)

In many of the places where CNEWA works, there are prisons. Most have appalling conditions; many are places where hope is in short supply. The March 2018 issue of ONE, CNEWA’s magazine, chronicles the work of prison chaplains in Ethiopia who are seeking to change that. While this story is, of course, unique, it is replicated by committed Christians all over CNEWA’s world — and, in fact, the whole world — who are responding to the Gospel mandate to visit the imprisoned.

This story offers us an opportunity to reflect on where that mandate originates, and why it matters so much.

To begin with, prisons appear several times in the Bible. In the New Testament, John the Baptist is imprisoned and ultimately executed by Herod. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John are imprisoned several times as is Paul. In fact, in his letter to the Ephesians Paul describes himself twice as a “prisoner of the Lord.” However, perhaps the most important appearance of prison is in Matthew 25. In his description of the Last Judgment, Jesus harshly condemns those who are “on the left side of the Son of Man.” He condemns them: “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). This is one of the harshest statements of Jesus in all the Gospels. When he explains why these people are cursed, he notes they did not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick. These are actions which we would expect of a follower of Jesus, especially after he makes them quite literally the linchpins of salvation. What is interesting is that Jesus not only includes visiting the sick but also visiting the imprisoned. The seriousness of this cannot be overlooked. Visiting the imprisoned is for Jesus here a condition for salvation.

Since the time of Jesus, prisons have evolved — though, to be honest, rarely improved. In the ancient world, a prison was basically the place where criminals where held until they we executed, sold into slavery, etc. Imprisonment itself was not the punishment but merely the place where one was held before punishment.

In the Middle Ages, imprisonment itself became a punishment. The ability to execute and imprison people was a sign of power and authority and many a nobleman had a dungeon in his castle where people were held in the most degrading conditions. In the 18th and 19th centuries in England and among the Quakers in Pennsylvania a new concept of the prison evolved. These reformers saw imprisonment not merely as a punishment but as rehabilitation. Prisons became “correction facilities,” where the criminal would repent, reform and return to society as a productive, law-abiding citizen. While a noble idea, it didn’t get very far; centuries later, prisons are horrible places where a “correction facility” far too often releases people who arefrequently no better — and often worse — than when they were initially incarcerated.

Recent popes have been increasingly concerned with the plight of the imprisoned. After years as “prisoner of the Vatican,” the first pope to leave the Vatican was Pope John XXIII. On 26 December 1958 the pope’s first excursion out of Vatican City was a Christmas visit to the prisoners at Regina Cœli, the notorious Roman prison on the Gianicolo. Since that time, popes have regularly visited the imprisoned. Pope Francis has made Holy Thursday the traditional day for such a trip, traveling outside the Vatican to celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy and wash the feet of prisoners. He is modeling for us what Christ taught — and embodying in a powerful and modern way the very message of Matthew 25.

We are privileged to follow that example in our own work. Supported by CNEWA, prison ministers — very often lay people — are bringing hope and a future to people who otherwise would not have it. Based on a deep conviction that people can change, that grace is more powerful than sin and goodness more powerful than evil, prison ministers help the imprisoned turn their lives around and ultimately return to society.

Tags: Ethiopia Pope

7 June 2018
Greg Kandra

Deacon Kevin Mundackal recites prayers during his 5 May ordination to the priesthood at St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church in Somerset, N.J. He is the first U.S.-born priest to be ordained for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/Ed Koskey Jr., The Catholic Spirit)

Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

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