15 June 2012
A resident of the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, studies.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
It’s a fair question any donor might ask: “Where does my money go?” Well, this Friday, we offer a few answers. Here are five things that happen when you give to CNEWA:
Your gift ends up on the table of a family fleeing the violence of Syria.
About 240 Christian families have fled the embattled city of Homs, as the situation deteriorates by the day. A parish priest and religious sisters are sheltering them away from the violence. But for as little as $108, you can give a month’s worth of lifesaving aid to one family — aid that offers food and medicine to people in dire need right now.
It ends up helping support a sister in India.
Maybe she’s a novice, prayerfully awaiting her final vows. Maybe she’s working with orphans and needs textbooks or supplies. A gift from you will go into her hands, and be an investment in a more hope-filled future. In 2011, your generous gifts sponsored the formation of 507 novices studying in India! And for the next 60 days, one of our benefactors has agreed to match any gifts to sisters, dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000. Such a deal!
It will give schoolbooks and a warm meal to a child orphaned by AIDS.
Countless children have been left abandoned or alone by disease or war. CNEWA helps provide them with hope, and a future. Maybe it’s medical care. Maybe it’s food or shelter. Whatever the circumstances, your sponsorship invests in their future — and invests, really, in our future, too.
It helps bring an end to conflict by actually getting people to talk to one another.
Part of CNEWA’s mandate by the Holy Father is to encourage ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Your gift can support local churches in CNEWA’s world, bolstering their good works, building bridges and fostering understanding and closer ties with all believers.
Maybe best of all: somebody, somewhere, will pray for you.
And who doesn’t need prayers? All the people you help, and even the Holy Father himself, will raise grateful prayers to God for you. Also, on Christmas Eve, Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, will travel to Bethlehem on your behalf and celebrate Midnight Mass at the Basilica of the Nativity for your special intentions.
Giving to CNEWA is an investment in a better, more peaceful world. We connect you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build the church, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue, affirm human dignity and inspire hope.
8 June 2012
Tags: CNEWA Children Africa Donors Sponsorship
This icon of St. Ephrem the Syrian is one of many that
shows him in a popular pose, writing. (photo: Wikipedia)
Saturday 9 June marks the feast of St. Ephrem in the Latin church (it’s celebrated on 28 January in the East) and 17 centuries after his death, he continues to be a compelling and fascinating figure. As CNEWAs magazine once noted:
Often referred to as the Harp of the Holy Spirit, this
learned theologian and Doctor of the Church was born in Nisibis, Syria
(modern Nusaybin, Turkey) in the year 306. He spent much of his life in
preaching and writing hymns and poems dedicated to combating the heresies of
Gnosticism and Arianism. He was baptized by Bishop James of Nisibis — a man
who greatly influenced his life.
A poet and writer, Ephrem had a complex and artistic personality marked by a
strong tendency to be hot-tempered. But with tremendous self-control, he
dominated his fiery nature and devoted his life to asceticism.
Ephrem taught in Nisibis until the city was ceded to the Persians and he was
forced, with other Christians, to emigrate to Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey).
There, Ephrem continued his teaching at the famous School of Edessa whose
reknown, and even founding, has been attributed to him.
An aspect of Ephrems unusual personality is evident in the fact that,
although ordained a deacon, he never became a priest — avoiding consecration by feigning madness. Although no certain explanation can be found for this behavior, some biographers believe it was due to a feeling of unworthiness.
He was a prolific writer, and one of his hymns was translated and published
in the magazine in 1999:
HE CAME TO US IN HIS LOVE, THE BLESSED TREE, WOOD DISSOLVED
WOOD. FRUIT WAS ANNIHILATED BY FRUIT, THE MURDERER [ANNIHILATED] BY THE
IN EDEN AND IN THE INHABITED EARTH ARE PARABLES OF OUR LORD. WHO IS ABLE TO
GATHER THE LIKENESSES OF THE SYMBOLS OF HIM, ALL OF WHOM IS PORTRAYED IN ALL
IN SCRIPTURE HE IS WRITTEN; IN NATURE HE IS ENGRAVED. HIS DIADEM IS
PORTRAYED BY KINGS, AND BY PROPHETS HIS TRUTH, HIS ATONEMENT BY PRIESTS
HE IS IN THE ROD OF MOSES AND IN THE HYSSOP OF AARON AND IN THE DIADEM OF DAVID.
THE PROPHETS HAVE HIS LIKENESS, BUT THE APOSTLES HAVE HIS
You can read the complete hymn here.
30 May 2012
Tags: Syria Saints
Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA president, Archbishop George Bakhouny and Father Guido Gockel, vice president for the Middle East and Europe, visit with CNEWA staff in New York.
(photo: Erin Edwards)
With the crisis in Syria escalating by the day, a leading religious figure from the region paid us a visit today at our New York office.
He’s Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop George Bakhouny of Tyre, Lebanon, who is making his first visit to the United States. Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president,met the archbishop during his visit to the Holy Land last year.
The archbishop described the situation in his homeland as “stressful” — the stream of refugees arriving from Syria is becoming a flood—but he repeatedly expressed the hope that a peaceful end to the crisis in Syria can be found. “We don’t want a military solution,” he said. “We want reconciliation.”
He said he sees the church’s role as being a “mediator,” to help facilitate “conversations” between factions.
Before departing, he wanted in a special way to express his gratitude, especially to the benefactors of CNEWA, for their prayers and generous support.
9 May 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Melkite Greek Catholic Church
A Syrian family arrives at an army checkpoint in northern Lebanon on 27 March.
(photo: CNS/Afif Diab, Reuters)
Over the last several weeks, we’ve brought you stories about the struggles of Syria’s Christians and the ongoing efforts to help them.
We’ve been gratified and moved by the amazing show of support from our readers and donors. Thank you! You can learn more about what CNEWA is doing in partnership with local churches in this recent update from Issam Bishara, our regional director in Lebanon.
But the need is still great. This report from the BBC shows what some people are facing — and why so many are fleeing:
Homs, a lively Syrian city once regarded as a place of peaceful co-existence, has borne the brunt of violence in Syria’s 14-month long uprising.
The neighbourhood of Baba Amr was its biggest target in a city activists now call the “capital of the revolution”.
Not a single building seems to have escaped the government’s ferocious assault. Structures still standing are peppered with shrapnel, blackened by fire, fingers of concrete.
Indiscriminate bombing ripped away entire floors of large residential blocks.
“No government likes to shell its own people,” says Homs Governor Ghassan Abdulal. “We had no choice. The armed groups were firing from civilian areas.”
Visit our website to learn how you can help provide lifesaving aid such as food and medicine to Syrian refugees.
4 May 2012
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA Middle East Christians Relief
A damaged church is seen in Homs, Syria, 30 March.
(photo: CNS/Shaam News Network, handout via Reuters)
After more than one year of unrest, the ongoing political crisis in Syria has caused tens of thousands to be caught in the crossfire between government and opposition forces. As a result, thousands of Syrians have fled their homes choosing to escape the violence. Many have migrated to neighboring countries, while others moved to safer and more stable areas in Syria.
The deteriorating economic conditions led by the conflict and the sanctions imposed on Syria have created high levels of unemployment and inflation. Since March 2011, the Syrian pound has depreciated against the U.S. dollar by nearly 65 percent. This has significantly affected Syrian families, who now find it difficult to pay for food, rent and fuel. The rise in prices is driving low-income Syrians deep into poverty.
Working in close collaboration with the local churches, CNEWA has been able to identify by name more than 1,770 displaced families living in dire economic situations, jeopardizing child nutrition and health:
- 400 families remain in Homs (despite the military actions), according to the Good Shepherd Sisters.
- 450 families left Homs and found refuge in Damascus, according to the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and the Good Shepherd Sisters.
- 920 families left Homs and found shelter in the cluster called the “Valley of Christians,” according to by the social service office of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
In response to this urgent humanitarian need, CNEWA’s regional office in Lebanon launched an emergency program for the aid of Syrian families. CNEWA is working through existing structures of the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Latin churches to reach the most needy.
The first phase of the program includes distribution of emergency kits containing food, hygiene items and baby milk.
CNEWA and other donor agencies have pooled resources to reach around 1000 needy Christian families in the Syrian cities of Homs, Valley of Christians, Tartous, Damascus and other locations on the Syrian/Lebanese border.
So far CNEWA received positive responses from:
- The Raskob Foundation (US)
- The Holy Childhood (Germany)
- Missio (Germany)
- The Archdiocese of Cologne (Germany)
To find out how you can help, visit this link.
And to read more about the unfolding crisis, check out these blog posts: The Faithful Who Are Fleeing the Holy Land and The Struggles of Syria’s Christians.
5 April 2012
Tags: Syria Middle East Violence against Christians CNEWA Pontifical Mission
Syrian refugees who fled the violence in Syria sit in their temporary home in Mafraq, Jordan. (photo: CNS/Majed Jaber, Reuters)
Today, Christians around the world observe Holy Thursday, commemorating the last supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. Today’s liturgy begins the commemoration of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. This period includes Good Friday and Holy Saturday and ends with Easter Sunday.
As was announced last week, Pope Benedict XVI has earmarked the Holy Thursday collection at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, for humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Please keep all Syrians in your prayers as Holy Week comes to a close. To learn how you can help support Syrian Christians through CNEWA, visit our website.
The CNEWA family wishes you all a blessed Easter!
30 March 2012
Tags: Syria Refugees Pope Benedict XVI Easter
A Syrian refugee girl looks out from a tent at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Boynuegin 24 March. (photo: CNS/Osman Orsal, Reuters)
With the situation in Syria worsening by the day, Tom Gallagher of the National Catholic Reporter this week interviewed by e-mail CNEWA’s Issam Bishara, regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Based in Beirut, Bishara offered a comprehensive assessment of what is happening to Christians in the region:
NCR: What is the current situation at this time for Christians in Syria, who make up about 10 percent of the 2.5 million population?
Bishara: The majority of Christians in Syria are not concentrated in one specific geographical area, but are rather dispersed all over the country, which makes their security situation more critical. However, at present and with only the exception of the Christians of Homs, the majority of Christians remained in their communities and in their homes. But as we knew from different sources related to the church, the Christian families started looking for a contingency plan consisting of finding a safer place for their families in case the uprising and the military events escalated all over Syria, with the same scenario as Homs.
Christians in Syria are in a difficult spot because if they support the protestors, they could be targeted by Assad’s government forces, and if they support Assad, and his regime falls, they could be retaliated against by a new Islamist regime. So what are Christians currently doing during this conflict?
During this conflict, the majority of church leaders from different confessions and rites expressed their concern toward the escalation and violence and the repercussions on the minorities, and called their communities to remain calm and to avoid taking sides in this conflict, whether against the regime or against the protesters.
But the general feeling among the Christian communities is a deep concern based on the reality that where the Arab Spring has flourished, political life has become more fanatic and less tolerant of recognizing equal rights for Christians. Even Tunisia, where the former regime was based on a complete secular approach and tradition for more than 50 years, turned into an Islamic-dominated government, and just yesterday, large demonstrations there were calling for the establishment of a full Islamic state.
Have Christians been specifically targeted by Assad and his government forces?
No. On the contrary, the regime is still providing protection to the Christian communities in almost all places where the regime is still controlling the ground. But the problem occurred especially in Homs after the protestors and the Islamic groups had controlled a part of the city (Bab Amro Quarter) where around 200 Christians were killed. The other concern is related to terrorism, which can target anyone and any place and especially Christian military officers and their communities.
The city of Damascus is important historically and has religious significance for Christians. The city has also been a city tolerant of religious minorities. Is this still the case or have things changed for the worse for Christians during this conflict?
Damascus and Aleppo, the two largest cities of Syria, remained relatively well-secured and controlled by the Syrian regular forces, and all Christians in those cities are still enjoying their freedom and practicing their faith as regular.
On Feb. 24-25, the ancient St. Virgin Mary Church was damaged in the fighting in Homs. Can you tell us more about that?
St. Mary Church of the Holy Belt is located in the downtown of Homs, or what is so-called “the Old City,” and is considered the siege of the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Homs. The majority of churches and Archbishoprics of other confessions are also concentrated in the same surrounding (Hamidiya, Boustan el Diwan, etc.), and this quarter was subject to military confrontations between the militias and the government forces, and most of the time militiamen were using the churches and the Christians as shields to protect themselves from shelling. It is also important to mention that some icons inside the churches were damaged on purpose by the militias.
With so much fighting going on, many people are leaving their homes in order to find refuge in safer areas. Is this the case with Christians, especially those Christians in and around Homs? If so, where are Christians going to seek refuge?
Despite the difficulties of getting accurate statistics from the field, our updated information estimates that before the military escalations in Homs, the Christians used to number around 1,500 families (all rites). At present and after two weeks of the withdrawal of the militias from Bab Amro, the security situation is still very critical, especially with all the sniper fire on the civilians and the army on one hand and the acts of pillage on the other hand.
A religious sister told us this morning that the 500 families who left their houses during the battle and found shelter in Tartous and Damascus found their houses and properties completely stolen or even confiscated.
The families who decided to remain are in danger, are living in fear and poverty. Most of them cannot go outside their dwellings because of sniper fire, and of course none of them have any kind of income; the only reason they stay in Homs is to preserve their properties and because they have no other place to go to.
There’s much more at the NCR link. And you can read more about Syria’s Christian Valley in the January 2011 issue of ONE.
28 March 2012
Tags: Syria CNEWA
A Syrian boy and other refugees who fled the violence in Syria are seen at a temporary shelter in a school in the Wadi Khaled area of northern Lebanon 7 March.
(photo: CNS /Jamal Saidi, Reuters)
Yesterday, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has decided that the Holy Thursday collection at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, will be used to offer humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. The situation in Syria has resulted in the exodus of Christians from the region. Many are finding refuge in surrounding Middle East countries like Turkey and Lebanon. Earlier this month the Catholic News Service interviewed Ra’ed Bahou, our regional director for Jordan and Iraq, about how what's happening in Syria reflects a changing Middle East:
“The same pattern like in Iraq is re-emerging, as Islamic militants are now kidnapping and killing Christians in Syria,” said Issam Bishara, vice president of the Pontifical Mission and regional director for Lebanon and Syria. “Christians are concerned about the repercussions of the events taking place in the region. They fear that the experiences of Iraq and Lebanon — which took place against the backdrop of a civil war — could play out again in their own lands. These concerns haunt the Syrian Christians.”
“We lost Christians in Iraq; if we lose (them) in Syria what will happen to Christians in the Middle East?” said Ra’ed Bahou, the Pontifical Mission’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq. “Christians are leaving the region, and we have to work to reduce this loss. Time is not with us. (Syria) is the last castle of Christianity in the Middle East. If they start emigrating from Syria, it is the beginning of the end of Christianity in this area.”
In a March 7 telephone interview with Catholic News Service, Bahou said there are no official statistics, but an estimated 200 Christians were among the recent wave of Syrian refugees entering Jordan. He said many of those same refugees earlier had fled Iraq for Syria.
“They are refugees from one country to another. It is everywhere now, not just in Jordan. Also in Lebanon and Turkey. This population movement is also creating a changing Middle East,” Bahou said.
For more read, Syrian Christians Fear Persecution. To learn how you can help Syrians, visit our website.
26 March 2012
Tags: Syria Refugees Middle East Pope Benedict XVI
In this photo taken in 2010, a farmer rides through Wadi al Nasarah (Arabic for Valley of Christians), near Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Though much of Syria is in turmoil and many Christians are fleeing, we reflect today on Wadi al Nasarah, a group of about 40 Christian villages. In the January 2011 edition of ONE, Sean Sprague told the story of a flourishing valley of Christians holding onto its ancient Christian roots:
“We were traditionally farmers, harvesting our olives and growing grain crops and keeping animals. But these days, very few of us Christians are involved in that kind of work. We have prospered and have received a good education, going to university in the towns, so we either work in tourism or are professional people,” she continues.
Ms. Nehme’s generation is not the first to have left its rural roots: Her father is an electrician; her mother teaches at a local school.
Syria is a cradle of Christianity. The word Christian was first coined in the ancient Syrian city of Antioch — which has been a part of Turkey since the borders were redrawn in 1939. The apostles Peter and Paul settled there, nurturing a church that eventually emerged as the center of Christian thought in the eastern Mediterranean. Antiochene theologians, from both the Greek– and Syriac–speaking communities, played leading roles in the Christological controversies that eventually divided the early church, differences that are now understood as cultural and linguistic.
For more, read Syria’s Christian Valley.
19 March 2012
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Farming/Agriculture
In this 6 January 2010 photo, Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Orthodox patriarch, blesses the congregation during a Divine Liturgy celebrating Christmas at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. (photo: CNS/Asmaa Waguih, Reuters)
A lion of the universal church died on Saturday, 17 March.
Shenouda III, pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark, led some 15 million Coptic Orthodox Christians — most of whom live in Egypt — since his election in 1971.
Not since the earliest days of the Egyptian church has one man impacted the Christian community of the region more than Pope Shenouda III. Picking up where his predecessor, Pope Kyrillos VI (1959-1971), left off, Pope Shenouda III spearheaded a revival in catechesis, particularly among youth, that spawned a resurgence in monastic life, renewed liturgical life and stimulated theological learning and Scripture study.
The pope also ended centuries of near isolation of the Coptic Orthodox Church, strengthening relations with other churches with which it maintains full communion — the Armenian Apostolic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Malankara Syrian and Syriac Orthodox churches. He also reached out to other churches, particularly the Anglican, Byzantine Orthodox and Catholic churches. In May 1973, Pope Shenouda III and Pope Paul VI issued a joint statement that put to rest the Christological discord that divided the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches since the fifth century.
“He who is God eternal and invisible,” declared the popes, “became visible in the flesh, and took upon himself the form of a servant. In him are preserved all the properties of the divinity and all the properties of humanity, together in a real, perfect, indivisible and inseparable union.”
Egyptian Christianity is as old as Christianity itself, predating Islam and the Arab invasion of the country by six centuries. Despite 15 centuries marked by periods of persecution and peace, the Coptic Orthodox Church (which today accounts for up to eight million of Egypt’s 80 million people) thrives. Churches are packed with young and old; ancient monasteries flourish with monks and nuns; social outreach programs touch the needy and catechetical programs instill values and a sense of identity for the young — who are increasingly emigrating to the West.
Pope Shenouda III responded by setting up jurisdictions and establishing hundreds of parishes throughout Europe, North America and Oceania. Today, perhaps as many as four million Copt Orthodox Christians live outside Egypt, all of whom today are joining with their families back home in mourning the death of their beloved papa.
Tags: Egypt Patriarchs Coptic Christians Coptic Orthodox Church Monasticism