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July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
  
28 March 2019
Michel Constantin




On the road outside Rableh, Syria, visitors see the extent of the damage from years of war.
(photo: CNEWA)


We received the following report a few days ago from our regional director in Beirut, Lebanon, Michel Constantin:

To better assess and evaluate the current situation in Syria — now that the regime’s forces have regained control of more than 75 percent of the country and secured the major cities and rural areas — CNEWA-Pontifical Mission visited our partners so as to touch base with the beneficiaries of our aid and the volunteers who are work on behalf of the church.

Our plan was to visit three areas: the capital of Damascus; the central city of Homs and Tartus on the coast; and finally, Aleppo, where we were asked to participate in a special synod of the churches organized locally to discuss the challenges facing the Christian community there, once the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, the visit to Aleppo was canceled for security reasons. On the same day we were scheduled to travel there, heavy shelling targeted downtown Aleppo. Nevertheless, we were able to follow the work of the meetings and we were updated on the findings and recommendations.

What follows are our impressions and findings:

Military attacks continue to decrease, especially since the areas under the opposition or the extremists are now very restricted to one area in the northwest of the country (Edlib and the surrounding area, controlled by the extremist militia of Al Nusra) and the northeast (east of the Euphrates River under the Kurdish militias supported mainly by the United States). However, this stability should not be confused with long-term peace, which some question as doubtful. Some observers fear fragmentation and the ethnic cleansing of areas that fall either to government or Kurdish control. This could spin out of control, for example, should both parties face each other in battle around Deir Ezzor. This is particularly dangerous, as each side is backed by different outside powers.

The territorial defeat of ISIS does not mean it will cease to exist. Rather, it is likely to adapt its strategy, continue underground, and use more guerrilla and terrorist tactics. The problem in Syria is not just ISIS, but the lack of inclusive governance and equal opportunities in the country. These are the root causes that enabled ISIS to grow. The organization is not a cause but a consequence of the underlying political situation. As a result, the defeat of ISIS will not lead to the end of the conflict in Syria. If the root causes are not addressed, the conflict is likely to continue. In addition, new conflicts and new extremist groups might arise.

On the other hand, in the aftermath of the war and with the absence of a clear and united opposition, any political process without a clear strategy carries risks. A power vacuum — or political, ethnic or sectarian tensions — could become a source of renewed conflict, which may lead to the further destabilization of the region.

Socially and economically, the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria — and the resulting rupture of socioeconomic ties inflicted on the nation’s economy — has seriously damaged the infrastructure. It has reversed or significantly slowed not only the development of Syria itself, but also of its neighbors — first of all Lebanon and Jordan — as well as Turkey. This has exacerbated the situation in these states and has created new risks.

The streets of Homs are showing signs of life. (photo: CNEWA)

Conditions need to be created for the return of refugees and the restoration of life-support systems. These can bring not only humanitarian or economic dividends, but also political and strategic ones. But despite the improvement of the security situation in many areas, international experience shows that the absence of fighting is rarely the trigger for return of the displaced people. Numerous other factors are involved. These include:

Loss of human capital. The number of people lost to injury, death or emigration is staggering, and it will create permanent hardship for generations of Syrians. The decrease in the quality and quantity of public services — due to international sanctions on one hand and the absence of the qualified staff on the other — is clearly shown in schools, universities and especially in hospitals and other medical services. It is important to mention that more than 90 percent of available services in the country are public services. Moreover, many on the ground are saying that the highly qualified personnel who left Syria for other countries during the war were often granted citizenship rights. This means they were integrated into the society and the economy, and it makes their return to Syria unlikely, if not almost impossible

Security and socioeconomic conditions. Economic sanctions against Syria and its ally Iran impact directly the situation for Syrians on the ground. For there to be any improvement, sanctions must be eased, if not lifted altogether, reported local church leaders. The severe shortage of basic supplies, such as electricity, fuel and gas, has made it difficult to produce and export products for external markets, cutting off Syria from the flow of cash and imports. Until there is a change in the status of sanctions, post-conflict life will be much harder on the remaining population and will delay the return of the more than 5.6 million Syrians registered as refugees outside the country.

During our visit, we were in contact with school teachers and other civil servants who reported that their salaries have lost most of their purchasing power, falling more than 800 percent, from $600 per month before 2011 to $72 in 2019. And when we inquired regarding the need to continue with some emergency activities, we were told that sometimes even buying a bottle of vegetable oil would represent a challenge. More seriously, others informed us that some people lost their lives because they were not able to pay for the cost of dialysis treatment, which costs on average $25 per session.

Access to property and assets. Law No. 10 of 2018 established the concept of “renovation zones,” which put conditions on residents who want to return to their properties. They must present their deeds or proof of ownership within a certain short time period, or risk losing everything. Knowing that already many deeds were lost, the public perceived this step very negatively and many consider it a threat. There is much uncertainty.



Tags: Syria ISIS

22 February 2019
Michel Constantin




Families line up to receive medical care and food at the dispensary. (photo: CNEWA)

Lebanon is now witnessing a new phenomenon, according to our local church partner, the Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary: Families and the elderly are approaching the dispensary for bread.

A member of the CNEWA Lebanon field staff writes:

I just came back from the field from Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary in Nabaa where I had a meeting with the staff to follow-up on the health project CNEWA has been supporting. I was shocked at the sight of elderly women and men as well as families approaching the center asking for bread. A staff member told me that they are witnessing a new phenomenon, one they have not seen before, even during the war. Many well-known workshops in the area of Nabaa-Bourj-Hammoud are closing down and laying off workers. It is forcing families—who were barely able to cover their living expenses—to seek bread.

Through its local church partner, the Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary, CNEWA for two years has supported the poor population of the area with food portions and medical aid; in 2018, 309 extremely poor families were provided with nourishment for five months.

The Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary (also known as “Dispensaire Intercommunautaire”) is run by the Assembly of Female Religious Congregations. It was originally founded in 1968 by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary to serve those in need in a variety of ways — socially, medically and culturally. The Assembly took charge of the dispensary in 1973 and has been running it since. The dispensary is located in Nabaa-Bourj Hammoud, known to be poor districts of East Beirut with mixed communities. The residents are predominantly Christians displaced from Mount Lebanon and other parts of the country during the civil war. There are also a large number of foreign workers (Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Sri-Lankan, Filipino, etc.) seeking shelter in cheap, small apartments. These areas are densely populated, characterized by rates of high illiteracy, delinquency, unemployment, drugs and prostitution.

Hanna Issa's wife receives bread at the dispensary. (photo: CNEWA)

One of the beneficiaries of CNEWA’s program has been Hanna Issa. He and his family have been supported with food and medical aid which helped them to overcome their dire economic condition. Hanna, 55, is married and has a 13-year-old daughter. He used to work in a shoe workshop in the area of Bourj Hammoud. Due to the difficult economic situation, the workshop went into bankruptcy and had to close down, laying off dozens of workers. Hanna tried hard, but in vain, to find a job to provide for his family. But through CNEWA, Hanna and others in similar circumstances were kept afloat and did not drown in despair.

Others have not been so fortunate. Deteriorating economic and social conditions in Lebanon have led to a shocking increase in the number of acts of self-immolation—most offered in protest against the crushing economic conditions.

It is a reminder to us of how circumstances have changed so suddenly for so many. Tragically, a growing number of Lebanese hunger for more than bread; they crave human dignity and hope. CNEWA is privileged to help in any way we can, thanks to the support and generosity of our donors.



Tags: Lebanon

19 December 2016
Michel Constantin




Syrians try to get warm as they wait to be evacuated from the east part of Aleppo on 19 December 2016. Temperatures have dropped below freezing in the region.
(photo: Aref Watad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Editor’s note: we received the following email this morning from Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, who has been in touch with our partners on the ground in Syria. He offers the latest information we have on what is happening in Aleppo.

The humanitarian situation is catastrophic; the weather is extremely cold. Over 15,000 people had gathered in a square in east Aleppo on Sunday for buses to take them to rebel-held areas outside the city. Many had spent the night sleeping in the streets in freezing temperatures. In the evenings, it can go to –5C [23 Fahrenheit]. They have access to very little food, fuel, water and medical supplies. The situation on the ground remains grim as people wait.

As for the Christian communities (which are in west Aleppo, in the areas primarily controlled by the Syrian army): they find themselves in a better security situation because combat and military activities have been reduced.

During the last few weeks, the situation of the Christians in Aleppo has been extremely difficult. Some convents were directly hit with shelling. At present the families are in great need for heating fuel and food.

With our partners on the ground, CNEWA is trying hard to support the neediest fragile families with emergency supplies, especially providing 2,000 children with milk components every month through the Marist brothers. We are also providing medical support through the Maronite Archdiocese of Aleppo and the Saint Vincent de Paul association.

At present, we are expecting some direct funds to help the neediest families before Christmas; we are working with the Besançon Sisters to try and keep some 750 families warm.

Of course, all of what we do is not enough. Any emergency donation should be directed to accompany the poor families through the harsh winter with winterization items.

To support the suffering people of Syria during this difficult time, please visit this link.



20 September 2016
Michel Constantin




Imad Abou Jaoude poses for a “selfie” with another CNEWA hero, Sister Maria Hannah, O.P., during a visit to Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)

Imad Abou Jaoude, a young civil engineer, joined CNEWA in our Beirut office in January 2000 as a part-time project coordinator when CNEWA was assisting the displaced population of Lebanon, mainly Christians. They had been forced to flee from their villages during the Lebanese civil war between 1975 and 2000. With his engineering background, Imad mainly worked on technical issues related to the implementation of infrastructure projects.

Year after year, and with time, the mandate and the priority of the office were changing enormously, especially after the eruption of the war in Syria and the catastrophe of Iraq in 2014. This young enthusiastic engineer, Imad, feeling the importance of CNEWA’s presence to this vulnerable population, decided to join us full time and dedicate all his efforts and knowledge to helping us.

In 2014, only three weeks after the brutal offensive against the Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, and despite all danger encountered, Imad was very excited to join me in my first trip to Iraq. I still remember how we flew over Mosul only a few thousand feet above ISIS militants, within range of their rockets. For security reasons, our plane had to circle Erbil’s airport for almost an hour before we were allowed to land.

Thanks to Imad’s efforts, CNEWA is playing a leading role in responding to the needs of more than 150,000 displaced persons. With his engineering expertise, he effectively helped establish dispensaries and schools; with his very human touch he conveyed to all who needed it a spirit of solidarity and hope — truly a hero to many.



Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees CNEWA Relief

28 June 2016
Michel Constantin




In this image from 2013, worshipers leave Sunday liturgy in the village of Al Qaa in Lebanon. The village in on high alert today, after it was attacked by suicide bombers Monday. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)

Lebanon’s northeastern village of Al Qaa, a Lebanese Christian village, was in a state of alert Tuesday as security forces expanded search operations after eight suicide bombers attacked the village yesterday — Monday, 27 June 2016. The bombers killed five and wounded over 30 people in the latest violent spillover of the five-year-old Syrian war into Lebanon.

A first wave of attacks involved four suicide bombers who struck after 4 a.m., killing five people, all civilians. The first bomber blew himself up after being confronted by a resident, with the other three detonating their bombs one after the other as people arrived at the scene. A second series of attacks, involving at least four assailants, took place in the evening. Two of the bombers arrived on motorcycles, hurled explosives and then blew themselves up outside Mar Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church — which has received support from CNEWA — as residents were preparing the funerals of those killed earlier.

Security sources said they believed Islamic State was responsible for the bombings but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

These events have revived fears of a return to the violence that had targeted the Lebanese army and Hezbollah areas in the past.Lebanon has been repeatedly jolted by militant attacks linked to the war in neighboring Syria. The last suicide attack to rock Lebanon was on 12 November 2015, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up on a busy street in the Burj al Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut’s southern suburbs, killing 47 people and wounding over 200 others. The attack was claimed by ISIS.

Local TV footage showed yesterday Al Qaa’s residents holding rifles calling on the government to support the Christian village in defending itself as hundreds of ISIS militants are holed up on the eastern outskirts of the town.

ISIS hopes to force Christian community to leave the village; by controlling Al Qaa, the fanatic militants will be able to create a corridor to the Mediterranean, as the Lebanese Army explained in a communiqué earlier.

ISIS had urged its followers to launch attacks on “nonbelievers” during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began in early June.

The area of Masharih al Qaa — a predominantly Sunni area near Al Qaa — is home to a large number of refugees who have fled the war in Syria.

Al Qaa is located about 30 miles north of the city of Baalbek, where Hezbollah holds sway, and about 90 miles from Beirut. It is a Christian village of 15,000 residents, mainly Melkite Greek Catholics — under the jurisdiction of the Melkite Greek Catholic bishop of Baalbek — situated several miles north of Ras Baalbek, next to the eastern border with Syria’s Homs district, in the Hermel area. Al Qaa and Ras Baalbek are the only two villages with a Christian majority in the predominantly Shiite region, where Hezbollah enjoys wide support.

For decades, this rural agrarian village has been lagging behind the rest of the country, having received less assistance from either the government of Lebanon or local NGOs. Consequently, it suffers from a high rate of poverty, limited economic and educational opportunities and dire health conditions. Around 80 percent of the inhabitants subsist on agriculture and thus are considered very vulnerable and poor, with unstable incomes. The remaining minority is engaged either in small businesses or in the army. During the Lebanese war, for security reasons, the majority of the Christians left the village for safer areas.

The village is poor in its supply of water. As one of the consequences of the civil war in 1976, the major source of water to Al Qaa coming from the Shiite village of Labweh was cut. CNEWA assisted in rehabilitating the village artesian well in 2013.

Due to the intense presence of Syrian refugees presently living in the village of Al Qaa — around 20,000, compared to 140 Christian families — the water supply represents a serious challenge to the local community, especially for irrigation.

CNEWA is coordinating with the Melkite Greek Catholic parish priest of Al Qaa, the Rev. Elian Nasrallah, and has spoken to him this morning, ensuring that he was safe.

Father Elian Nasrallah, a good friend of CNEWA and a long time partner in several projects, is not only an active priest of 28 years in his remote parish in Al Qaa, but also has been very vigorous and creative in finding ways to improve the educational growth and social development of his parishioners. What Father Nasrallah has been doing in his parish is a work of mercy. In his poor community, he keeps the youngsters off the streets and in schools, teaches them different skills, entertains them with music, theatre and sports activities, strengthens their spiritual lives and allows them to have fun, all the while providing impoverished families access to health services.

Since the 80’s, Father Elian has worked to create a stronger Christian community in a neglected region surrounded by a Muslim majority, where no economic, educational or health opportunities are available. In the village’s multipurpose hall, the father used to gather youth and provide activities — computer skills; technical formation; art, theater and music classes, including a choir; sports activities; summer camps; spiritual formation; and various other activities. He also provides the existing families with access to health services through the village dispensary, supported by CNEWA.

Following the huge influx of Syrians finding shelter in the village, and through funds from CNEWA’s generous donors, the father was able to extend his hands to the poor refugees and has provided them with basic emergency aid, including blankets, mattresses, food packages, fuel for heating, medical support and even education to young Syrian children.

Read more about the flight of Syrian refugees to Al Qaa in Crossing the Border from the Spring 2013 edition of ONE.



Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Melkite

2 May 2016
Michel Constantin




A health worker carries a girl, who has been rescued from the wreckage, after a barrel bomb attack on a medical center in Aleppo, Syria last week.
(photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Last week, CNEWA was able to talk over the phone with the Maronite priest, the Rev. Elias Adas, who is running a health facility in Aleppo, and he confirmed that at present only 35,000 Christians remain in Aleppo out of around 200,000-250,000 before 2011.

He added that the last six days, all Christian quarters were subject to heavy shelling by Islamic militants — namely Suleimanyyeh, Azizeh and Midane. The Christians, along with all inhabitants of Aleppo, are living in very difficult conditions, with no electricity (mostly one hour per day) and inflation causing soaring costs for food and basic needs . He added that due to lack of employment and with very low salaries, all inhabitants of Aleppo are in need for support to be able to survive.

He assured us that the dispensary which he is running is still operational and is providing services to all needy patients.

‘Christian Today’ reports that the Syrian Christian neighborhood of Sulaymaniyah in Aleppo was attacked and at least eight children were killed.

Nuri Kino, founder of Demand for Action (ADFA), a group working to protect minorities in the Middle East, said: “Turkish forces fighting together with the so-called opposition have been fighting the regime’s army for a couple of days now, heavy fighting. But what people could not see coming was the attacks against Christian neighborhoods...Kurdish neighborhoods have also been attacked. Both the Christians and the Kurdish are seen as the enemy, it’s a mess.”

Speaking to Asia News over the phone from Aleppo, Armenian Sevag Tashdjian said: “Islamic terrorist groups supported by Turkey,” who “cross Turkish-Syrian border trafficking arms, ammunition and stolen goods” are responsible for recent deaths. Tashdjian continues “We woke up under the bombs, it is Turkey’s gift.” He added, “Entire neighborhoods have caught fire and we went under the bombs to bring relief to sick and elderly trapped in their homes and take them to safety, to safer underground shelters.”

The few open shopkeepers closed their doors, and for the first time in five years of conflict, “anger has overcome fear.” It must be said that the Aleppo Armenians are the group who paid the highest price so far in the war, with the destruction of the ancient churches (including the Church of the 40 Martyrs, a 17th century architectural jewel). The churches were destroyed by explosives placed in underground tunnels carved from areas controlled by pro-Turkish Islamic terrorists.

Islamic terrorists have launched a series of heavy bomb attacks from areas not under government control on Armenian districts of Aleppo, in clear violation of the ceasefire. The bombs killed 17 Armenians including 3 children and a woman, and have sparked a series of fires that are still raging due to the lack of water, causing extensive destruction and damage to property.

Zarmig Boghigian, the editor of the local Armenian newspaper “Kantsasar,” said “The fighting is very close to the Armenian neighborhoods.” She added: “There are terrible clashes involving rocket fire. They are so close that the population here can see gas shells fired by [rebel] fighters.” Ms. Boghigian confirmed that rebel fire at the weekend seriously damaged a clinic run by an Armenian charity and an Armenian school in the predominantly Christian Nor Kyugh district.

Residents of the city’s Armenian district stated their belief that the attack was deliberately timed for the 101th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide — an anniversary that had been observed at churches in the neighborhood the previous day. The biggest indicator of this belief is that unexploded bombs were found with the message “Martyr Enver Pasha” written on them, which notes one of the leaders of the Young Turk movement who perpetrated the Armenian genocide.

Residents charge that Islamic forces in Aleppo are receiving assistance from Turkey, and blasted Syria’s President Assad for his failure to protect the Christian minority.



8 January 2016
Michel Constantin




In the video above, the situation in three besieged villages in Syria is described as “extremely dire.” Activists say civilians have died because of a lack of food and medicine in rebel-controlled Madaya, near Damascus, or have died trying to escape. The Syrian government is finally allowing aid convoys into the area. (video: BBC/YouTube)

CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, this morning sent us this report about the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Madaya, Syria:

The village of Madaya is a part of the east Ghouta region, along with Zabadani and Serghaya. This cluster of villages has witnessed fierce combat between the different fragments of the opposition on one hand, and the Syrian regular army supported by the Iranian guards and Hezbollah fighters on the other.

This area is strategically important for its location. It is very close to the Lebanese border, and also to the Syrian capital of Damascus. Located near the Beirut-Damascus highway, who controls the area controls the smuggling of arms and other items.

Two years ago, the Syrian government made a strategic decision to besiege all villages and towns bordering Lebanon in the hands of the opposition. They were successful in recapturing all villages of the so-called Qalamoun area. As a result, the fighters of the opposition were pushed either to Lebanon or to the Ghouta villages, mainly Zabadani and Madaya. Supporters of the opposition also sought refuge in there.

Syrian government and Hezbollah sources have stated that scores of trucks containing humanitarian aid are scheduled to be sent to Zabadani in January. The first wave of trucks carrying medical and food stuffs were sent to Madaya. But, militant groups allegedly confiscated them and sold them to the inhabitants at a very high price.

Yesterday, the United Nations said it had received “credible reports” of people dying of starvation and said that the Syrian government had agreed to allow aid convoys into the besieged cities of Madaya, Foah and Kefraya.

There are conflicting reports of how many people have died. The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres puts the number at 23 since 1 December. One activist says it could be as high as 41. The UN statement Thursday provided only one confirmed death, that of a 53-year-old man on Tuesday whose “family of five continues to suffer from severe malnutrition.”

Sources add that this is a partnership between the WFP, the International Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and that aid would be enough to sustain 40,000 people for one month.

Finally, the situation is extremely difficult. The inhabitants are suffering, especially now in winter. The cold is another killing agent to be added to the mines besieging the town and thwarting aid efforts.

We contacted some leaders from the local church and they all stated that the only intervention right now is exclusively by the Red Cross and the United Nations. A church initiative is not possible at present because the political and military situation is very delicate.



7 July 2015
Michel Constantin




A Franciscan priest, the Rev. Dhiya Azziz, was kidnapped from Syria over the weekend.
(photo: Vatican Radio)


This morning, two Catholic priests from Homs told me of the abduction of the Rev. Dhiya Azziz. He is a member of the Custody of the Holy Land, an apostolate of the Franciscans charged with the care of Catholics in the Holy Land since the visit of St. Francis to the region in the Middle Ages. The kidnapping took place on Saturday 4 July, while he was in his parish of Yacubiyeh, a village in Syria’s Idlib province, more than 56 miles northeast of Latakia.

The Franciscans are asking for prayers, and released this communique yesterday:

“Some militants of an unknown armed brigade, perhaps connected with Jahbat al-Nusra, came to take him away for a brief interview with the Emir of the place. From that moment we do not have any more news and we are unable to trace his where abouts at the present moment...We are doing everything possible to locate the place of his detention and secure his release. We entrust him to the prayers of all.”

The whole area is under the control of different Islamic armed brigades, including Jabhat al-Nusra — which is affiliated with al Qaeda and is considered the most powerful and predominant force. They also mentioned that another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Francois Murad, was abducted and killed in the same region in June 2013.

Father Dhiya’s kidnapping is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian religious since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

In 2013, militants kidnapped the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, S.J., in Raqqa, a group of Greek Orthodox nuns in Qalamoun to the west of Homs, and the Greek and Syriac Orthodox bishops of Aleppo. The nuns were eventually returned to their convent unharmed, but Father Paolo and the bishops remain missing.

In 2014, a Dutch priest the Rev. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., was murdered in Homs. The priest served in Syria for more than four decades. He was involved in interreligious dialogue and had built a spirituality center that housed children with mental disabilities.

The same year, another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Hanna Jallouf, was kidnapped together with as many as 20 people from his parish in Qunaya, a neighboring village of Yacubiyeh — the two are less than a mile apart.

In February, the Islamic State kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria.

And in May, the Rev. Jacques Mourad was kidnapped at gunpoint from a monastery southeast of Homs.



7 July 2015
Michel Constantin




Iraqi refugees line up to receive food and supplies in Beirut. (photo: CNEWA)

Iraqi refugees came to Lebanon because they had no other choice. They were uprooted from what was normal and familiar — from schools, homes and lands. More importantly, they have all witnessed the horror of war. They fled in large numbers from the bombing and destruction that ravaged their homeland, seeking refuge in Lebanon and neighboring countries. So far, an estimated 1.8 million Iraqis, fleeing ISIS, have been forced to leave their homes in fear for their lives.

As a result, a new wave of around 1,500 Iraqi Christian refugee families — including about 500 children who were pulled up from their schools and were at risk of being a lost generation — entered Lebanon in 2014, settling in densely populated areas of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

From their first day in Lebanon, the Syriac Catholic Church has mobilized resources and staff to offer emergency assistance to these refugee families. So far, 1,080 Christian Iraqi refugee families have been screened, identified and supported through different local and international donors. They are provided with food and non food items, shelter, and other basic needs.

Iraqi children are able continue their education in a school run by the Syriac Catholic Church
in Lebanon. (photo: CNEWA)


To rescue the lost generation who already have lost one year of their school life, the Rev. Firas Dardar, from the Syriac Catholic Church, opened a school to educate the Iraqi children. He hired two floors in an old private five-story building school which provides education to Lebanese students in Nabaa, a densely populated Beirut suburb. Monday through Thursday, they are taught the Iraqi curriculum which Father Dardar brought from Iraq. It includes classes in English, Arabic, science, mathematics, civic education, sports and drawing activities. Fridays are specialized for catechetical studies.

CNEWA’s Beirut office, thanks to its donors, is supporting the local church with emergency aid: mattresses, blankets, food and non-food packages to these Iraqi families. In an attempt to save the future of these children and preserve their Christian faith and hope, CNEWA will support their catechetical studies and education.

Despite the huge efforts exerted by the Syriac Catholic church to support these needy families, much is still needed. Many times, they still fall short of funds. To support CNEWA’s important work in Lebanon, and to aid these families, visit this giving page.

And please keep all our brothers and sisters in the Middle East in your prayers.



1 July 2015
Michel Constantin




This CNEWA-supported dispensary in Erbil, Iraq, helps meet the medical needs of
displaced Iraqis. (photo: CNEWA)


After the ISIS attack on Mosul and the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq — displacing thousands of Christians and Yazidis, forcing them into camps all over the Kurdish area of Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Zakho — there was an urgent need to intervene and provide medical support and attention to these people.

In September, just three weeks after the displacement, the situation was miserable. CNEWA representatives who visited the region were shocked at what they saw, especially when it came to the medical care of the refugees. The only existing dispensary was a tent placed on the side of a street, with families waiting in line outside under the sun to get their medicine or their injections. This terrible situation moved CNEWA to install a prefab dispensary in Erbil, which has been successful through the support of its local partners.

The Dohuk dispensary consists of ten rooms, including a waiting room, two quick checkup rooms, two doctors’ rooms, a lab, two small operating rooms, a pharmacy and a storage. All are connected by a middle corridor. The building is a prefab steel structure. The rooms are properly air conditioned and furnished.

A dentist cares for a patient in the new Erbil dispensary. (photo: CNEWA)

In early May, the dispensary received around 55 patients per day in addition to about 20 chronic patients; this adds up to about 420 patients per week, and that number is expected to increase to around 700 patients per week. The dispensary is under the supervision of a committee representing all communities — Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox. It is managed and operated by the Rev. Aphrem Philippos, representing the committee; two sisters from the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine, who have great experience in similar projects; and a doctor.

On the first week of May, the dispensary got the blessing of both Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and Msgr. John Kozar, who visited the facility as part of a pastoral visit.

Cardinal Sandri greets the staff at the dispensary. (photo: John E. Kozar)



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees Relief





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