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Winter, 2014
Volume 40, Number 4
  
25 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Children stand near mortar shells in the center of the Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) after it was freed from ISIS. After its defeat in Kobani, ISIS has now turned its attention to the city of Hassake. (photo: Esber Ayaydin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

There is no word about the fate of the scores of Syrian Christians — including women and children — taken into custody by ISIS the last few days.

“The situation is not yet clear,” said CNEWA’s Michel Constantin in an interview with the Catholic newswire, Aleteia. “There were around 150 persons who were kidnapped. Among them, 14 or 15 are children and women. Others are elderly, and others are young persons. This is not very precise because the conflict is still going on.

“ISIS militants are still holding some of the villages; others are under attack.”

Mr. Constantin, who as regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt coordinates CNEWA’s emergency response in Syria and Iraq, added that those who fled their homes sought safety in Hassake, a city of 188,000 people now surrounded by ISIS:

“The attention now is on the city of Hassake itself. The city is surrounded by ISIS militants, and the rural area around the city is all occupied by those fanatics. The people inside Hassake are afraid of a concentration of militants inside the city, so people are very afraid.”

CNEWA, he added, is rushing aid to the displaced now hunkered down in the city. To learn how you can help, click here.

Follow this link to read the rest of Aleteia’s breaking interview with Michel Constantin.



24 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




(image: Tele Lumiere)

More than 90 Syrian Christians, including women and children, have been captured by ISIS militants near the northeastern Syrian city of Hassake.

A number of accounts from Syria report heavy fighting that began over the weekend as ISIS attacked Christian villages along the Khabur River. The river flows into Hassake, a city of 188,000 people, many of whom are Assyro-Chaldean and Armenian Christians.

Hassake is now cut off.

A “mass exodus of people took place [to] Hassake” writes Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana in an email to aid partners, including CNEWA. Church of the East “Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel told me the church and community hall are overloaded with people.”

Syria Daily reports that “the jihadists struck along the Khabur River, moving southeast from Tal Shamiran all the way to Tal Hurmiz. Claims are circulating that churches were burned and villagers were kidnapped, with women and children separated from the men as the Islamic State seeks a prisoner exchange with local Kurdish groups.”

An ethnically diverse region, northeastern Syria is home to large numbers of ethnic Kurds, most of whom are Sunni Muslims, and Assyro-Chaldean and Armenian Christians. Many of the Christians are descendants of those who survived previous massacres. These include the genocidal murder of the Christian community in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, and the Simele Massacre of 1933, in which the Iraqi army systematically targeted northern Iraq’s Assyro-Chaldean Christians, perhaps murdering as many as 3,000 people.

“Those villages,” writes Archimandrite Youkhana of the 35 Syrian communities now under siege by ISIS, “were started by Assyrians who fled the massacre of August 1933. So far, they never use the term ‘village’ or ‘town’ for their settlements … [but] insist to say ‘camps’ to reflect the fact that they were settled temporarily.”

The villagers, he notes, “hope to one day return to Iraq.”

At present, writes CNEWA’s Michel Constantin, “all roads leading to Hassake are blocked by so-called Islamic State militants, and the only way to respond to the needs of the refugees is through Turkey or northern Iraq.

“We are establishing communication now to explore any possibilities of providing emergency relief to these new refugees.”

(image: Tele Lumiere)



Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Chaldean Church Assyrian Church Church of the East

9 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Syro-Malankara Catholic catechumens process toward a community event in a remote area of central India. To learn more about the growth of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches in India, check out “Reaching the Unreached in India” in the recent edition
of ONE magazine. (photo: John E. Kozar)




6 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




In 1996, the tenth-century Haghpat Monastery in northern Armenia was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. (photo: Michael J.L. La Civita)

The world of the Eastern churches is a labyrinth. Rich in history and culture, the development of these distinct churches dates to the age of the apostles, and mirrors the evolution of humanity these last two millennia.

From 2005 to 2012, CNEWA’s magazine, ONE, offered its readers a profile of each Eastern church, Catholic and non-Catholic. These 47 features offered the reader an objective account on the course of each church’s development and utilized lavish images to illustrate their vitality.

Now, a new portal gathers together these profiles and groups each church under its appropriate tradition. This organizational strategy adheres largely to the ancient concept of the pentarchy, the five principal episcopal sees of the church in the Roman world as defined by the Council of Chalcedon in 451: Rome, representing the church of the West, and the four Eastern patriarchal sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

The church in Armenia — the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301 — is listed separately. While the Armenian church developed independently, it did not evolve in isolation, rather it absorbed and imparted traditions, rites and elements from the entire Christian tradition, East and West.

We hope you enjoy this compilation!



20 January 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




In this 2008 file photo, Bishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, Eritrea, speaks during an interview at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. This weekend, Pope Francis appointed him metropolitan of the new Eritrean Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

On Sunday, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis, bishop of Rome, had created a new Eastern Catholic metropolitan church in the northeast African nation of Eritrea. The new Eritrean Catholic Church, carved from the four Eritrean eparchies (or dioceses) of the Ge’ez Catholic Church based in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa, will be sui iuris (meaning “of its own right”) and will be subject directly to the Holy See.

According to the Vatican Information Service announcement, “the seat of the new metropolitan church is Asmara, [the capital of Eritrea,] which is elevated to the status of metropolitan archeparchy.” This new metropolitan church, which will continue to utilize the Ge’ez rites and traditions it shares with its sister church in neighboring Ethiopia, includes the eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Seghenity, in addition to the Archeparchy of Asmara. The pope appointed Bishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.J., formerly eparchial bishop of Asmara, as the first metropolitan archbishop of Eritrea.

The Holy See also announced that the re-formed Ethiopian Catholic Church, led by Cardinal-designate Metropolitan Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel, C.M., will include a new jurisdiction, erecting the Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessie, and asking Bishop Lisane-Christos Matheos Semahun, the former auxiliary of Addis Ababa, to shepherd its 18,000 Catholics.

Click here to learn more about the Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholic churches, and their ancient Ge’ez rites and traditions. To learn more about the Eastern churches, visit this new feature we have created that gathers together the profiles written on all the Eastern churches featured in ONE magazine between 2005 and 2012.



Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia Eritrea Ethiopia’s Catholic Church Eritrean Catholic Church

6 January 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Jordanian clerics walk in a procession to the site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.
(photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)


My friend and colleague at The Priest magazine, Msgr. Owen Campion, recently invited me to write about the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

“Besieged! Why save the Middle East’s Christians?” is now available online.

An excerpt:

The traumatic events of last summer finally have earned Middle Eastern Christians some attention, if not quite the respect, of the strategic classes inside the Beltway: politicians, candidates, policy wonks and journalists. The headlines are dramatic, betraying a sense of hopelessness: “Beleaguered Christians Make Final Stand,” “The Middle East’s Friendless Christians,” “Christianity in Iraq is Finished.”

“Western countries ought to come together and offer refuge to the tens of thousands [of Christians] who want to leave Iraq,” one observer wrote in The Washington Post in September 2014.

“Yes, this would mean the end of Christianity in this part of the world, where its presence has often served as a bulwark against fanaticism. But it’s over anyway, whatever happens to the Islamic State. It’s time to face that fact and save the Christians themselves.”

But defending — indeed, saving — Christians in the Middle East is not just about saving Christians. It is about saving pluralism, or what remains of it, in the Middle East. It is about building prosperous civil societies. It is about saving the Middle East and civilization, where it first took root.

Read the rest over at “The Priest.”



2 December 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita




CNEWA provides displaced Syrian children with food, clothing and school supplies.
(photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)


Yesterday, we learned the United Nations World Food Program has suspended its voucher program, which feeds more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, because of funding shortfalls.

“For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter,” cites a World Food Program statement, “the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating.”

Syrian refugees living in camps and informal settlements depend on the assistance, as the host countries are overwhelmed by the enormity of need and lack the necessary resources. With winter settling in, the living conditions of the refugees are extremely precarious. Refugees lack proper housing, clothing and health care.

Yesterday, funding partners in Europe — including Kindermissionswerk — awarded CNEWA grants in the amount of $222,972 to assist CNEWA provide Syrian infants and school-age children with milk, diapers, winter clothing and school supplies.

Additional grants from Kindermissionswerk and Misereor, totaling $125,000, were also received for the needs of Iraqi children and medical supplies for CNEWA’s clinic in the Martha Schmouny camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

On this Giving Tuesday, give to CNEWA. Your gift will make a difference for innocent families devastated by war, power and greed.



17 November 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita




A doctor cares for a baby at CNEWA’s dispensary for refugees in northern Iraq.
(photo: CNEWA)


CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, has rushed an additional $382,011 in emergency funds to alleviate the suffering of desperate Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, funding partners in Germany have awarded CNEWA an initial grant of $124,522 to assist its work with displaced families in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“The situation for Iraq’s displaced families remains chaotic and fluid,” said CNEWA’s Michel Constantin, who, with colleague Ra’ed Bahou, has just returned from Iraqi Kurdistan. “Yet the coordination among our partners on the ground, led by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, is excellent,” added Mr. Constantin, who heads CNEWA’s emergency response team from Beirut.

“Priests and people from the Armenian, Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic and Orthodox churches are enthusiastically working together,” Mr. Bahou added from Amman, Jordan, “and are eager to do more to make a difference. But they need more support.”

Msgr. Kozar has announced these funds will target those most in need served by our local church partners, who with our team have prioritized the needs as follows:

  • $178,022 to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena to provide 1,922 children in 13 displacement centers in Iraqi Kurdistan with milk and diapers for three months as well as winter clothes and shoes
  • $95,000 to the Italian Hospital in Amman and the Mother of Mercy clinic in Zerqa to help cover medical costs due to the surge of Iraqi and Syrian refugees
  • $62,261 for medicines and stipends for volunteer doctors and other health care providers, also displaced from their homes, serving the sick in Erbil
  • $36,150 to help the Good Shepherd Sisters feed and clothe 155 refugee children in Lebanon for a three-month period
  • $21,100 to help six parishes in Jordan accommodate Iraqi refugees over a three-month period, securing supplies such as refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, water tanks, solar water heaters and space heaters
  • $20,000 to enable these six parishes in Jordan defray added electricity and fuel expenses through the end of the year
  • $25,000 to provide these Iraqi refugee families with funds to secure clothes, blankets, mattresses and bedding as well as personal items
  • $31,500 to allow 150 refugee families in Jordan to purchase food stuffs through the end of 2014
  • $15,000 to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary for catechism and formation programs, as well as counseling sessions for those suffering withpost-traumatic stress disorders
  • $12,000 to provide 260 sickly Armenian Syrians living in Beirutwith medical care over a three-month period
  • $10,500 to help the Little Sisters of Nazareth provide basic care to refugees living in the Dbayeh Refugee Camp northeast of Beirut.

Msgr. Kozar noted this latest distribution of funds supplements prior disbursements on behalf of Iraqi displaced families, including $267,500 since August for setting up clinics in the Kurdish cities of Erbil, Dohuk and Zahko; nursing formula and warm clothing for newborns and toddlers; food, mattresses and personal hygienic items for families displaced to Amman; and counseling for those impacted by post traumatic stress disorders. Since January, Msgr. Kozar noted, $598,109 has assisted more than 8,000 displaced Syrian families seeking refuge in Armenia and Lebanon, as well as those hiding in so-called safe zones within Syria.

“Many of the families we spoke to said they have very little rights and no access to public services within Kurdistan,” said Mr. Constantin, noting that as Arab speakers, they “feel they would have more rights and will be easier for them to cope in a strange country like in Jordan or Lebanon, rather than in Kurdistan.”

Returning to their villages seems more and more remote, he added. “Many families and religious sisters informed us that the experience of liberating Tel Eskof village following the air raids of the coalition against ISIS was a real disappointment. A few families decided to return back to that village to find their homes were seriously destroyed by the raids and those houses that escaped destruction were mined by the fanatic militants before their withdrawal.

“It is noteworthy to mention that a week ago a 16-year-old boy died when he tried to enter his house mined in Tel Eskof. This situation has made the return to their homes almost impossible.”

To learn how you can help, please visit this giving page.



10 November 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita





It is no secret: This has been a time of tremendous turmoil for so many in the Middle East.

War this summer in Gaza left thousands dead, an overwhelming majority of them civilians. At the same time, violence exploded in Iraq, as radical Islamic jihadists — from their base in Syria — began their assault of Iraq, targeting Christians and other minorities. Hundreds of thousands of people found themselves literally running for their lives, fleeing to mountain refuges, or to Erbil, Baghdad, Amman and Beirut.

The autumn edition of the magazine brings vividly to life the hardship and the hope of so many who live in the land where Christianity first began.

You’ll meet the men, women and children, priests, sisters and care providers, people whose lives have been turned upside down, and yet still hope even as they cope with a new reality most would call a nightmare. You’ll see how the generosity of good people like you has been deployed; how through CNEWA, aid is reaching those most in need, and making a difference.

Let us know what you think! And spread the word!



10 November 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita




The Monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was built by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, in the sixth century. The monastery marks where Moses is said to have encountered the Lord in the burning bush and received the tablets of the Law. To read more about this unique holy site — which houses some of the most important treasures of the early church — see ONE’s profile of the Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai.
(photo: Jean-Luc Manaud/Getty Images)


St. Catherine’s Monastery denies the news of an Islamist attack (Fides) St. Catherine’s Monastery, located in the region of Sinai, has denied reports of alleged assaults carried out by Islamist groups, put into circulation in recent days by Christian media and blogs....

The Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox: may the Churches unify the dates for the Easter celebration (Fides) A new appeal to all Christian Churches so that they celebrate the solemnity of Easter on the same date has been launched by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Tawadros II...

To counter rise of Islamic State, Jordan imposes rules on Muslim clerics (Washington Post) Jordanian authorities have begun a campaign to coax — and, when necessary, pressure — Muslim clerics to preach messages of peaceful Islam from their pulpits. The main targets are Jordan’s more than 5,000 imams, including lay clerics and those on the government dole, who give the traditional sermon that follows Friday prayers...

The video of an Israeli cop shooting Arab citizen that has rocked the country (Washington Post) [T]he grainy black and white tape of police shooting a man in the Galilee early Saturday has lit a fuse in Israel, sparking praise and condemnation, and begging bigger questions about police conduct, allegiance to the state and who, really, is an Israeli and who is not...

The furniture of Christian homes put up for sale in the markets of Mosul (Fides) In the markets of Mosul entire areas are now occupied by the furniture and the tools looted in the houses abandoned by the Christians. The looted goods are put on sale at bargain prices...







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