2 November 2018
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014. Looking on is Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina. CNEWA works on behalf of the Holy Father to help build bridges and heal wounds of division.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
You don’t need a post-graduate degree to notice our world right now is torn apart — and hatred and division are a big part of it.
Whether it’s violence in Pittsburgh or vandalism in the Holy Land or threats of military action against migrants, we find ourselves living in a world increasingly on edge — wary, angry, suspicious of anyone considered to be “The Other.” Whether they are Muslims fleeing war or Jews trying to worship in peace, they too often find themselves to be targets of brutality and hate.
And in this troubled world stands CNEWA.
One of the things that has struck me during my time with CNEWA is how faithfully, even courageously, this association has worked not only to build bridges with those of other faiths and traditions, but to try and heal the wounds brought about by hate, war and persecution.
It is intrinsic to who we are.
From our earliest days, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has worked to “create and sustain a friendly interest in the religious and moral life” of those we serve — and to promote unity. It is written into the name of our magazine, ONE, seeking to create a sense of unity with those who also dwell in our broken world.
More than that, we have also enthusiastically engaged in dialogue with “The Other” — whoever that may be. While we always work through the local church, the local church reaches out to the many, Christian or not.
But this is who we are.
We see in the faces of those who are poor, abandoned, hungry and rejected the face of Christ.
We see in them fellow children of Abraham, our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.
We see in those who are forgotten the people we need to remember — the battered person left by the side of the road, the wounded neighbor we can’t ignore. We can’t forget the words Jesus spoke when he told the lesson of the Good Samaritan, the foreigner who treated a stranger with love: “Now go and do likewise.”
When I visit parishes around the country to talk about CNEWA, I often tell the story of the Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq. During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, her convent offered shelter to her terrified Muslim neighbors in Mosul. She summed up her work plainly but powerfully. “We don’t help them because they’re Christian,” she said. “We help them because we are.”
This is who we are. This is part of our mandate and mission.
We are the ones who journey with those who have been brutalized, victimized, neglected, persecuted.
As I read the stories of all the troubles afflicting our world right now — and they fill the headlines again and again and again — I take solace and hope from the work CNEWA is doing. Work of healing. Work of hope.
It is work that sees beyond barriers and boundaries, beyond even personal beliefs and creeds. It is work that proclaims the Gospel and that lives it by remembering Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”
It is a commandment that is so often lost in our world right now.
It shouldn’t be. We need to reclaim it, and proclaim it. It is so essential to the times in which we live.
And CNEWA is a vital part of that. This is a subtle but enduring part of who we are and how we work — an urgent reminder to a dispirited, broken and downcast world that dialogue is possible, that hope endures, that love can transcend hate.
What a privilege to know that, to speak that, to believe that, and to be a part of that.
This is who we are.
We are CNEWA.