16 August 2019
While the flooding in Kerala this summer has not been as serious as it was in 2018, landslides have caused significant damage and loss of life. (photo: CNEWA)
Since it began on 8 August 2019, the incessant rain has forced some250,000 people to take shelter in 1,639 relief camps. The death toll continues to climb — at least 200 have died by one account — and dozens are missing.
Due to heavy rainfall in the monsoon season, severe flooding affected many of the districts across the state. The heavy rain and massive landslides and wind caused extensive damage to houses and vast tracts of cultivated land. The upland regions of Kozhikode, Wayanad and Malapuram districts have been widely flooded and isolated. Heavy landslides occurred. Wayanad, Kozhikode, Idukki and Malappuram were some of the worst-hit districts due to flooding and landslides.
Malappuram district has seen a series of landslides due to heavy rains at Bhudanam, Kavalappara and Kottakunnu resulting in the death of 30 people and 29 missing at Bhudanam alone.
The weather updates show that heavy rain could persist until the end of the week. The flight operations at the Kochi international airport were shut for two days due to the runway being inundated.
Rescue teams— including the Army, Navy, and volunteers — have been working to provide relief and to rescue people hit by the deluge and landslips.
Last year, in August 2018, the flooding was widespread and affected the entire population, but this year the heavy damage has occurred in just a few areas. Also, after last year’s disaster, authorities learned to take timely precautions and warned people. The government was on full alert and made arrangements to rescue people and get them to safety before the flooding. As a result, most of the death toll was caused by unexpected landslides.
In the 2018 flood 15,000 houses were destroyed; the government has rebuilt only 7,000 so far.
In 2019, some 1,060 houses were destroyed and 11,286 houses partially damaged.
The basic needs — such as food, clothing, water, and other items for the people in the relief camps — are being collected at various parts of the state by different youth groups and associations, including church organizations. Collection centers are open at various locations by local groups. People have been generous.
Although it is a huge task to feed around 200,000 people, people from across the state are sending emergency materials. Nevertheless, needs may increase in the coming days.
The main need right now is to provide permanent shelters to the families who lost their land, livestock, agriculture and houses. The government has asked people and organizations to donate generously toward the Chief Ministers Relief Funds, to help rebuild and rehabilitate the damaged houses.
But for those who have lost everything, the coming days look grim.
Wayanad is a picturesque plateau nestled along the mountains of the Western Ghats, on the eastern portion of Kerala bordering Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. At last count, 12 people have died in this district; 6,000 houses were damaged.
In Malappuram, 55 people died and many are missing. A number of bridges and roads in many districts have been destroyed.
I myself spent much time these days mobilizing emergency materials to be sent to Wayanad and Malapuram. I have talked to a few priests to see if they have proposals for any specific needs at their respective areas. They plan to assess the situation once things settle down.
Please keep all the victims of this disaster in your prayers!
31 July 2019
The exclusive video above shows some of the remarkable work being done at the St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf in India. (video: CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, Anubha George writes about how children with hearing impairments are getting A Sound Education at a school in Kerala. But, as she writes below, sometimes it isn’t just the students who leave the school having learned a thing or two.
The visit to St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf in the southern Indian state of Kerala brought back memories. It was four years ago. A niece of mine was born premature, at 34 weeks. The neonatologist suggested tests pretty much every week, for her eyes and her hearing. Premature babies are more at risk of auditory problems.
Thankfully, there was no problem with her hearing. My visit to St. Clare reminded me of that time. Yet, it also taught me many things that I’m embarrassed to confess — things I had been judgemental about before. We felt relieved when my niece passed that audiometry test because we saw hearing impairment as a disability that would stop her from leading a “normal” life. But I met children at this school who lead fulfilling and happy lives. Some were partially hearing impaired, some fully. But there wasn’t a hint of self pity or a sense that something was lacking in their lives.
I often hear people describe a child with hearing impairment as “deaf and dumb.” Sister Abhaya, the principal in charge at the school, told me that was incorrect on so many levels. She gave me an example. I’m an Indian. Let’s say I go to Germany for a visit. I know not a word of German. If I’m in a group where everybody is speaking German, I wouldn’t be able to understand a thing or contribute to the conversation. I would be “dumb.” Any one of us can be “dumb” in certain circumstances. But these children have their own language to communicate — one I don’t know, sign language.
I’ve made a promise to myself: I’ll never again use the word “dumb.”
I also came to realize — to my embarassment — that some things I disparage can change lives.
I’m not a fan of smart phones, for the way they can sometimes take over everything we do. But at St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf, I found that smart phones are crucial. They offer the students a lifeline. When the students use video to make a call, they can see people — they can read lips and communicate. On a video call, they can chat and share with their friends in sign language; they can see faces and read emotions.
My visit to the school was a revelation — and helped me discover that sometimes a school offers lessons not only to those in its classrooms, but to visitors from outside, as well.
Read more about the St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf in the July 2019 edition of ONE.
23 July 2019
Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomes the Rev. Ziad Hillal to CNEWA's New York offices.
We received a visit from an old friend this afternoon: the Rev. Ziad Hillal, S.J.
Readers may remember that Father Ziad wrote a Letter from Syria printed in ONE magazine in 2013, describing in vivid detail the humanitarian efforts of his Jesuit community, working (with support from CNEWA’s donors) to help Syria’s children who were trapped in the nightmare of the country’s civil war:
Caring for more than 3,000 displaced families and providing support to 2,000 children who need continuous care on all levels is indescribably heavy. And until now, few organizations have assisted us with our mission. I still remember how CNEWA took the initiative at the beginning of the harsh winter and provided 1,000 families with winter kits to help the children in our schools survive the cold and the poor housing conditions.
We have had some difficult cases of children who have lost one or both of their parents. One such child is a 12-year-old whom I will call “Rita.” Her father was shot in the head and has been in a coma since last year; her mother had a nervous breakdown and is being treated in a specialized center. Rita is currently living with her aunt, who is also displaced. Rita refuses to go back to school and she isolates herself from the world. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, along with a psychologist, are trying to support her morally and to assist her in her studies at home. However, she has thus far rejected these efforts to help her.
Maybe our efforts will not be enough to satisfy the huge needs of the displaced families and to relieve their sufferings. But what we are trying to do is simply shine a small spot of light on the shadow of violence.
Father Ziad left Syria in 2016. His ministry since then has taken him to Greece — where he worked with the Jesuit Relief Services to help refugees — and to France, where he is now living and has published a book about his experiences.
His life has been touched by tragedy in many ways. One close colleague, the Rev. Frans Van Der Lugt, S.J. was brutally killed in Homs in 2014; another, the Rev. Jacques Mourad, was kidnapped by ISIS and eventually released in November 2015. A third priest, the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, was kidnapped in 2013 and is still being held. His whereabouts are unknown.
Despite this, Father Ziad remains a figure of unflinching hope and zeal — and one who believes the greatest cause for his beleaguered and embattled homeland is the quest for peace.
“The message,” he said, ”is we have to stop the war in Syria. Immediately. To protect first the presence of our church and our people. The Christian people are the bridge between the West and the Middle East. We are also like a bridge between Sunnis and Shiites. And now if we lose our presence, I am afraid one day I will go to Syria, maybe my nieces or nephews will go there and say, our parents were in this church. It was our church but now we have nothing there. Only the stories. I am afraid for that.”
As he put it: “The only message for me is to stop the war in Syria and have the peace. If not, we will only lose again and again.”
You can watch a video we produced about his work below. Please keep him and all those working on behalf of victims of war and terror in your prayers.
22 July 2019
Salbi makes kufta with bulgur, a variant of the dish brought to Armenia by Syrian-Armenians. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
In the July 2019 edition of ONE, Gohar Abrahamyan reports on Syrian refugees who have found a new home in Armenia. The author offers some additional reflections below.
Writing about people who have lived through war, and suffering inconsolable pain and loss, is difficult.
It is even harder when the story involves the Armenians living in Syria, recalling the reason why the Armenians found themselves in Syria to begin with. It was in 1915, when the leaders of Ottoman Turkey decided to ”cleanse” that part of their empire of Christian Armenians living in their historical homeland for centuries. What followed were massacres, mass killings, rapes and murders that claimed the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. Those who survived starvation in the desert were able to start over in Syria and Lebanon.
A century later, more war and violence and targeted attacks had them fleeing once again.
I keep replaying this tragic history in my mind, filled with indignation at the historical injustice, as I meet just a few of the 20,000 Syrian Armenians forced to leave their homes because of the war.
I realize anew: no matter how terrible the war is, it does not kill what makes us human. Love and kindness are unconquerable.
One of those I meet during my visit is a woman named Salbi.
She used to work as a cook. In Syria, she earned a living to support her 7-year-old son. She played with him, taught him how to read and write.
Then, the hopes for the future were scattered by roaring explosions, and these people fled with the dust of the ruined buildings. They became exiles.
”It was November of 2012,” Salbi remembers, “and I said that we would spend the New Year in Armenia and then would go back; see how many New Years we have spent?” Her face reveals her sorrow over what was lost. “Before coming here, I had bought two pairs of shoes for my son, one pair was black and the other one was coffee-colored. I said we would take only one pair with us, and the other he would wear after we come back. Since then, how many pairs of shoes has he worn out? But I am still thinking, with all my heart, about those shoes.” She can’t forget what she left behind. “My dowry with the tablecloth embroidered by my mom, the childhood photos of my son were left there. All the things from my baby’s childhood stayed there. They are irreplaceable.”
I am crying. Salbi collapses. George, Salbi’s 14-year-old son, brings his mother some water, then hugs her and with his hand wipes away the tears on his mother’s wrinkled cheeks.
Both of them have health problems, both of them are weak; but, for now, they are so strong with each other. They are struggling together, arguing, laughing, crying together, bound together by a new life in Armenia.
Mother and son hug each other; they are far from their home, far from their dear things. But they know that they have what matters.
They have life. They have each other. That is their consolation.
That is their hope.
Read more about how Hope Takes Root in the current edition of ONE.
16 July 2019
Tags: Syria Refugees Armenia
Students at Fratelli enjoy a sports class. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
In the new edition of ONE, journalist Doreen Abi Raad profiles a place Where Education Is Alive, the Fratelli Center in Lebanon. She offers some additional impressions below.
To reach the Fratelli Center in Rmeileh, Lebanon, the exit from the coastal highway near the southern city of Sidon leads to a lovely, winding road dotted with all kinds of flowering trees.
I imagine that Syrian refugee children, living nearby in dire conditions, perhaps also admire the beautiful landscape on their way to and from the center on the bus provided by CNEWA.
Fratelli is a non-profit association jointly founded by the De La Salle Brothers and Marist Brothers in Lebanon in 2016 with the goal of organizing educational, social and cultural activities for poor and vulnerable children.
From the former Marist Our Lady of Fatima school in Rmeileh, abandoned during Lebanon’s civil war, the Fratelli Center serves more than 600 children and youth, Syrian refugees as well as poor Lebanese. Most of the students are Muslim. Teachers and volunteers are Muslim and Christian alike.
It’s morning recess time. Children are running, screeching, laughing, some kicking soccer balls, immersed in exuberant momentum. Yet there’s nothing chaotic: It’s simply blissful joy, every child’s face radiant with a smile.
Three young boys run to Marist Brother Andrés Porras, hugging him in unison, nearly knocking him over with their enthusiasm. “How are you today?” he asks the students, returning their hugs and encouraging them to speak in English.
“For me, these children are the daily presence of God, it is very transparent, how they share their happiness and look in your eyes with such pureness,” Brother Andrés says.
When it’s time to get serious at the ringing of a teacher’s handbell, the children quietly line up, ready to return to classrooms, still brimming with joy. They are so eager to learn.
In the first grade classroom for Syrian refugee children, a colorful poster of “Fratelli Class Rules” is prominently displayed. The rules include: ”I will be honest and kind…I will respect myself and others…I will not be a bully…I will do my best…I come to school to learn.” The students indeed are doing their best, listening to their teacher with rapt attention and confidently reciting arithmetic drills in English.
For Fratelli’s afternoon basic literacy and numeracy program for youth, 16-year-old Zahra arrives with a sweet smile, after working in agriculture from 6 am to noon with her father, to help support her family. They fled to Lebanon from Idlib, Syria in 2012.
Zahra expected that with no fear of war, everything would be better in Lebanon. But life in her adopted country has been very difficult, she admits with a mature resolve. Her family lives in poverty; she missed out on school for several years, and she must work to help out financially.
Thanks to Fratelli, Zahra has restarted her education, opening a path for a better future. Ever since she was young, Zahra dreamed of being a pediatrician.
Zahra hopes to return to her homeland someday. But she would like her country to be as it was before the war.
For now, Zahra considers Fratelli “my second home.”
“Or to be honest, it is my main home. It’s the place where I feel free,” she says, adding that the teachers “are like a family to me.”
Read more about Fratelli in the July 2019 edition of ONE.
28 June 2019
Tags: Lebanon Refugees
The July 2019 edition of ONE is now online.
Looking for some great reading this summer? The new edition of CNEWA’s award-winning magazine ONE is now online.
In the July 2019 edition, readers can visit a remarkable school in Lebanon; meet Syrians finding a new home with ancient roots in Armenia; discover how some of Egypt’s poorest residents are reclaiming dignity, even when living among garbage; and rediscover how each of us has a vocation.
It’s a rich and inspiring collection of stories and we’re pleased to share them with you this summer.
Check out the video preview from our president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, below. And click here to read more online.
27 June 2019
Tags: ONE magazine
CNEWA-Pontifical Mission marked 70 years of service to the church of Jerusalem with Mass at the chapel of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre. (photo: CNEWA)
On 18 June 2019, our Jerusalem team marked 70 years of service to the peoples of the church of Jerusalem with a celebration of the Eucharist at the chapel of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre. Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, presided. The solemn Mass was dedicated to all those who have served CNEWA-Pontifical Mission.
A special assembly was held after the liturgy. Regional Director Joseph Hazboun offered words of welcome to the guests, which included Mar Gabriel Dahho, Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Jerusalem; Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land; representatives of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Galilee and Jerusalem and the Syriac Catholic Church; priests, religious sisters, representatives of local Catholic aid organizations; and directors of partner institutions. The program included a short film highlighting the work of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission, a bagpipe performance of the Palestinian National Anthem by the Melkite Greek Catholic Scout Troop in Jerusalem and a Dabke dance performance by Siwar Association for Culture and Arts.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Scout Troop performed the Palestinian National Anthem on bagpipes after the liturgy. (photo: CNEWA)
The event marked, to the day, Pope Pius XII’s establishment of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, an ad hoc committee founded to coordinate and deliver worldwide Catholic aid for Palestinian refugees displaced by the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. Placed by the pope under the direct administration of CNEWA, the Pontifical Mission’s activities have been expanded under succeeding pontiffs to include care for all those displaced by war and migration throughout the Middle East, as well as the support for the pastoral and humanitarian works of the churches of the region.
In collaboration with local Christian institutions, aid through our Jerusalem office has reached thousands of families, especially the most vulnerable, such as children and youth, the sick and the elderly, all of whom need basic services, especially in areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip where resources are very limited. Over the years, the agency has also supported programs that help preserve Palestinian culture and heritage, and helped fund educational and formation initiatives for children, especially underserved communities in Palestine and Israel, including the children of migrants from Africa and Asia.
CNEWA-Pontifical Mission’s enduring presence in the Middle East is a tangible sign of the Holy Father’s sincere concern for the needy, the dispossessed, the refugee and the underprivileged.
To learn more about CNEWA-Pontifical Mission’s activities in the Middle East, please visit here.
24 June 2019
Tags: CNEWA Jerusalem CNEWA Pontifical Mission
CNEWA’s ONE magazine took home top honors from the Catholic Press Association at its annual awards last week.
CNEWA’s flagship publication, ONE, took home top honors at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, last week.
The magazine was named Magazine of the Year (Mission Magazine category) at the Catholic Press Association Awards, and won 26 others in a wide range of categories including writing, photography, blogging and design.
In addition, the magazine’s publisher, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received the prestigious Bishop John England Award, which annually honors a publisher who has been a staunch defender of press freedom.
In one magazine category, Best Layout or Article Column, CNEWA’s graphic designer Paul Grillo swept all the awards — and also won second place in the All Member Awards for Graphic Artist/Designer of the Year.
Citing the overall quality of the magazine, the judges praised the “great work” of the staff, cited the “excellent” layouts, singled out the “beautiful, informative coverage” and made a point to underscore the “exceptional journalism” that has become a hallmark of the publication.
The judges included faculty from Spring Hill College, Loyola University, Marquette University and media professionals and journalists from around the country.
A complete list of the awards can be found below, with links to the winning stories:
Magazine/Newsletter of the Year (Mission Magazines)
Best Layout or Article Column (Mission Magazines): This, Our Exile by Paul Grillo
Best Feature Article (Mission Magazines): For I Was in Prison by Don Duncan
Best Reporting on a Special Age Group: Windows to the World by Mark Raczkiewycz
Best Writing — In-Depth: Confronting Abuse of Women in Georgia by Molly Corso
Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature: This, Our Exile by Petterik Wiggers
Best Single Photo, Color: Thoroughfare in Mai-Aini refugee camp by Petterik Wiggers
Best Electronic Newsletter: “Discover ONE Online”
Graphic Artist/Designer of the Year: Paul Grillo
Best Blog — Group or Association: One-to-One by CNEWA Staff
Best Layout or Article Column (Mission Magazines): ‘For I Was in Prison’ by Paul Grillo
Best Coverage — Immigration:
Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan by Dale Gavlak
This, Our Exile by Emeline Wuilbercq
A Refuge in Lebanon by Doreen Abi Raad
Best Feature Article (Mission Magazines): This, Our Exile by Emeline Wuilbercq
Best Writing — In-Depth: A Source of Light by Gayane Abrahamyan
Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature: Windows to the World by Ivan Chernichkin
Best Layout or Article Column (Mission Magazines): A Letter From Iraq by Paul Grillo
Best Coverage — Ecumenical/Interfaith Issues:
Defining ‘Christian’ in Palestine by Samar Hazboun
‘For I Was in Prison’ by Don Duncan
Healing the Forgotten by Anubha George
Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: Healing the Forgotten by Anubha George
Best Cover, Color: ONE magazine, June 2018 by Paul Grillo and Nazik Armenakyan
Best Online Content Not Published in Print: CNEWA Connections by Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.
Best Essay (Mission Magazines): A Letter From Iraq by Sister Clara Nacy
Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: Confronting Abuse of Women in Georgia by Molly Corso
Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Solidarity: Signs of Hope by Magdy Samaan
Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Life and Dignity of the Human Person: Windows to the World by Mark Raczkiewycz
Best Story and Photo Package: This, Our Exile by Emeline Wuilbercq and Petterik Wiggers
Best Writing — In-Depth: A Refuge to Mend and Grow by Anubha George
Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature: For I Was in Prison by Don Duncan
5 June 2019
Tags: CNEWA Catholic Press
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak speaks to his flock in Philadelphia after his enthronement. (photo: CNEWA)
I had the privilege of representing CNEWA yesterday at the enthronement ceremony of Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, as he became head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia — and, consequently, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the United States.
More than 1,000 people from around the world — including CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York — came to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for this important day.
There was a great atmosphere in the cathedral, and no wonder: Metropolitan Borys has demonstrated in the last 20 years that he is driven by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. He has inspired so many, in many corners of the world. I am reminded in particular of the remarkable work he has done at the Ukrainian Catholic University, where he was one of the founders.
In his very humble and moving speech after the liturgy, he spoke brilliantly of his vision for the church. He warned people not to be too distracted with all the glory of the celebration, with its fine vestments. Yes, it is a grand day, he said, and we should celebrate. But, he added, the church is about finding Jesus and promoting his teachings.
The metropolitan also asked a good friend in a wheelchair to come and join him for part of his talk. He alluded to the humanitarian and theologian, the recently deceased Jean Vanier, saying that he is a model of what the church should be. He explained how Jesus is found in the poor, in the handicapped, in the marginalized. The church is to serve them, he said, and he invited everyone to join him and the Lord in this great work.
Metropolitan Borys was clearly moved by the day and by the task ahead. I was humbled to be there for this moment. I left the cathedral uplifted and inspired — more committed than ever to continue CNEWA’s work with Ukrainian church leaders such as him in Ukraine, in Canada and in the United States.
For more, read Prayer and Protest, Borys Gudziak’s first-person account of the 2013 Kiev uprising in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE.
10 May 2019
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Some of the girls at the Abune Endreans Children's Home in Ethiopia pray during Mass.
Recently, we received an encouraging update from Argaw Fantu, our regional director in Addis Ababa, about a home for children that CNEWA is supporting in Ethiopia:
The Apostolic Vicariate of Harar, in the eastern Ethiopia, was erected in March 1937. Since then, the Catholic Church has become more visible with its social development services — providing education, emergency services during times of food shortage, and potable water for the vast rural population.
For a variety of reasons, family life in this part of the country can sometimes be unstructured and lead to poverty. Some of the children are semi-orphans. The Catholic Church in eastern Ethiopia is striving to help young girls and children through boarding facilities and the guidance of Capuchin priests.
The Abune Endreans Children’s Home in Dire Dawa is one of these initiatives. It has helped many girls to grow, become self-reliant, and contribute to the good of others. Several weeks ago, CNEWA’s staff from Addis Ababa had an opportunity to visit this home and meet the children, their guardian Capuchin community and Abune Angelo Pagano, OFM, Cap, the Apostolic Vicar of Harar.
The girls are receiving a good education, following a well-organized schedule for study and chores. Older girls are in charge of assisting and training younger ones. This kind of program, we learned, allows children to grow — being responsible for each other and becoming caretakers of one another.
Abba Wondwossen Wube helps some students during class. (photo: CNEWA)
We met two girls who recently went to university for their higher studies after successfully completing secondary education. They were at the home during their semester break. They said that the home is everything for them. Though they have left the home to study, they said they really missed the family atmosphere. That is why they came during their break to stay with their “sisters.”
Abba Wondwossen Wube, OFM, Cap, recently assigned to be in charge of the home, said that the girls in this home are very special. On Saturdays, they are caretakers of the parish church compound; he said that they like singing and serving in the church. They feel very responsible for each other.
In the past, many girls have passed through this home. A few of them are now supporting it in whatever ways they can. For example, as Abba Wondossen put it,”one of the former resident girls of this home, who now lives in the United States, comes every summer and covers the annual school fees of many girls. Some others at one time bought a washing machine for the home. At another time, some former residents helped repair the kitchen. When I see these things, I feel proud of my Church.”
CNEWA is a longtime supporter of Abune Endreas Children’s Home. Currently 48 girls are being served there. CNEWA covers many of the larger expenses for maintaining the home, and we sincerely thank our donors who have made all this possible. The visit was very touching. Looking around the area and reflecting on the changing landscape of the vicariate, we witnessed the significant effort of the Catholic Church to help these young girls through this facility and others. Our partners are really navigators through these waves of challenges. Thank you, indeed!
Some of the young ladies pose for a portrait. (photo: CNEWA)
Tags: Ethiopia Education