9 April 2016
Students at the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena’s prefab school in Ainkawa, Erbil, on
7 April 2016. (photo: Elise Harris/CNA)
Elise Harris, with Catholic News Agency, is among those traveling with the CNEWA team and Cardinal Timothy Dolan to Iraqi Kurdistan this week. She filed this report:
Six hundred Christian children whose families fled ISIS violence in 2014 have lost their homes, schools, sometimes friends, sanitary living conditions and the stability of a normal life.
However, despite their many losses, there’s one thing they never left behind and which continues to grow stronger everyday: their faith.
When it comes to the question of how to persevere in the faith — and pass it on with terrorists just a few miles away — one woman named Carin has developed a unique form of catechesis that she is teaching to displaced Christian children in Iraq.
“I think that children have the capacity to worship Jesus, to contemplate,” Carin told CNA in a 7 April interview in Erbil.
Her classes aren’t intended to just teach the kids how to pray, but rather to provide them the opportunity “to meet with Jesus, to give and receive his love” on a personal level, she said.
A French native, Carin is a volunteer at a prefabricated school run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in the Iraqi city of Erbil, which provides education to 600 displaced Christian children and is sustained by funding from charitable organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
Most of the children attending the school are from either Mosul or Qaraqosh, the former Christian capitol of Iraqi Kurdistan, and are among the 120,000 families who fled Qaraqosh when ISIS attacked in August 2014.
9 April 2016
Shelters for internally displaced people in a camp in Iraqi Kurdistan are converted shipping containers. (photo: Tom Gallagher)
The National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Gallagher is traveling with the CNEWA team and Cardinal Timothy Dolan to Iraq. Late Friday, he filed this report for NCR on some of what he saw in the camps that are now home for displaced Iraqi Christians:
Our small delegation visited two camps, Ashty 1 and Ashty 2, located in Ainkawa, as well as a nearby health care clinic initially established by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
More than 5,500 people, mostly Christian, reside at Ashty 1 camp. The camp has more men than women, more than 2,000 children, 107 widows, 75 orphans and 185 disabled people.
A grade school serves 750 students. The camp has a workshop where women create small handcrafted mosaics and it has a small factory where sesame seeds are ground to make pastes and dips. A basketball court and soccer field provide space for recreation.
The camp’s church, located under a large tent a year ago, is now located at a newly constructed building that seats 800.
Some enterprising camp residents have created small businesses fixing shoes, selling food and drink items, and selling snow cones.
The camp’s director described the daily challenges people face. The main problem is potable water. Gas generators and chlorination are used to create clean water. For every 10 families, a septic tank is installed. The Kurdish government removes trash.
The homes are converted shipping containers, sitting on cinderblocks. They are cramped, airless spaces with two windows and a front door. One window contains a boxy air conditioner. The camp’s streets are made of hard-packed mud and stone and dust is constant. Families hang their washed clothing to dry on lines tied to their buildings.
Another challenge for the camp is new marriages. Since there is no more living space available, young couples are forced to live with their parents after marriage, which leads to inevitable conflict.
Some families add space by attaching a thin frame with fencing or tarps to the containers. After two years, the camp’s temporary housing is taking on the feel of permanent housing. There is no place to go, no home to return to, as the Islamic State group either continues to occupy their towns or has booby-trapped the towns with explosives, or the region otherwise remains too dangerous to return.
“If we did not believe in Jesus, half of us would commit suicide,” said the camp director when asked to describe the mental health of those in camp.
As we meandered through the streets of Ashty 1, Msgr. John Kozar, president of the New York City-based CNEWA, greeted people warmly and reassured them that they are not forgotten, that they are loved and that, as Christians, they are our brothers and sisters.
Read on for more, including details of how CNEWA is supporting people in the camps.
CNEWA’s President Msgr. John E. Kozar meets some of the residents of Camp Ashty 1 in Ainkawa, Iraq. (photo: Tom Gallagher)
8 April 2016
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan visited an elementary school in Erbil — and made some new friends — on his first day in Kurdistan (photo: courtesy, Kevin Sullivan).
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan is Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and is traveling with Cardinal Dolan and the CNEWA team to Iraq this week. He posted the following on his blog Just Love.
On the first day of a mission with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Cardinal Dolan I had an opportunity to visit both an elementary school and a university in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. Both were only built and opened within the past year to deal with the exodus of Christians fleeing the onslaught of ISIS around Mosul beginning in the summer of 2014.
These photos reflect the vibrancy of both sites as their very existence brings dignity and hope to those being educated at these schools. The Dominican Sisters operate the elementary school that is strongly supported by CNEWA and a number of other Catholic humanitarian and pastoral aid organizations. The University is a public university that CNEWA has provided assistance in the form of furnishings and a generator. It educates both Christian and Muslim students, men and women together for degrees in the humanities and business.
In addition, a festive gathering of prayer and theatre among hundreds of Christian youth — mostly Syriac Catholic — was held next to the university to open the Year of Mercy. It was led by the local Bishop who had fled with his people from Mosul. Msgr. Kozar, the head of CNEWA gave a very warm and inspiring talk to the youth.
View more of Msgr. Sullivan’s pictures from the trip at this link.
8 April 2016
In the picture above, from 2004, Ethiopian children gather on a rural hillside. Despite the hardships facing the country — including, today, a devastating drought — the people have managed to maintain their spirit and their traditions. Read more about that in Behold the Ethiopian in the July-August 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
8 April 2016
In this image from October, an internally displaced Ukrainian family stands in line as they wait for humanitarian aid at a distribution center in Kiev, Ukraine. The pope has called for aid to help the victims of war in Ukraine. (photo: CNS/Roman Pilipey, EPA)
Cor Unum releases statement on collection for Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has released a press statement concerning the collection for Ukraine announced by Pope Francis: “During the Regina Coeli of Sunday, 3 April, the Holy Father announced an extraordinary initiative in favor of those who are suffering the consequences of violence in Ukraine. To this end it, a collection is expected to be taken in churches in Europe on Sunday, 24 April...”
Vatican publishes pope’s exhortation on “The Joy of Love” (Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday published Pope Francis’ eagerly-awaited Apostolic Exhoratation on the family, drawing together almost three years of consultations with Catholics in countries around the world. The lengthy document, entitled ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ or The Joy of Love, affirms the Church’s teaching that stable families are the building blocks of a healthy society and a place where children learn to love, respect and interact with others...
Syrian refugees boost Turkish economy (Al-Monitor) The Turkish economy grew an average of 3% in the past four years, a rate that trails behind the country’s 50-year average of 4.5%. The slowdown is the result of both the weakening global economy and adverse political and economic conditions at home. Yet a much-needed booster has come from an unlikely quarter — the Syrian refugees...
In India, Jesuits set up a meeting of NGOs to be “closer to the poor” (Fides) To set up a national network of non-governmental agencies to improve and better coordinate the work of support and development among the poorest of society, the Indian Jesuits created the “Lok Manch,” after a meeting which brought together over 120 delegates in Delhi of 100 Indian organizations. As reported in a note sent to Fides, the forum intends to promote laws and policies in favor of the marginalized and vulnerable groups, encouraging the growth of a secular and democratic nation, which can promote the development, well-being and equality among all citizens...
Bamboo could be “green gold” for Ethiopia (CNN) Money really could grow on trees for a new industry in Ethiopia. Two-thirds of the bamboo in Africa is situated in the upwardly-mobile state, and it is hoped that “green gold” can power growth. “The farmer who has bamboo is rich, but he doesn’t know it,” says Adane Berhe, CEO Adal Industrial PLC, which is helping to build the new industry...
Gaza becomes perfect stage for parkour (CBS News) A war blasted hulk of an apartment building in Gaza becomes a perfect stage for parkour. It’s an extreme sport blending gymnastics with agility training developed for a military obstacle course. How many wars have these men seen? They all raise their hands to show three fingers. So the men on this parkour team call themselves “Three-Run Gaza,” for surviving three wars. And they cannot leave because Gaza is under a blockade. “Parkour makes us feel free,” said one of them men named Uday. “Nothing is holding you back...”
7 April 2016
Internally displaced Iraqi school children pose for a picture at Al Bishara School (Annunciation School), run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ainkawa, a suburb of Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. (photo: Tom Gallagher/NCR)
This week, CNEWA’s Chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is embarking on a pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, to visit with displaced Iraqis. The trip is already beginning to generate some press coverage, including this report from Catholic News Agency and an interview with the Cardinal in Crux.
You can read about the trip and what it entails right here.
And if you look to the sidebar on the left, you’ll see a widget we have just installed, “Journey to Iraq.” Consider this your one-stop spot for following the trip and picking up the latest news and developments over the next several days.
We hope to post news, photographs and possibly even video. So check back often.
Meantime, the latest post on the trip comes from National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Gallagher, who writes:
The first full day on the ground in the northern region of Iraq known as Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region recognized by the Iraqi government in Baghdad, is completed. Our small delegation visited a grade school, Al Bishara School — the Annunciation School — located in Ankawa, a largely Christian community on the outskirts of Erbil, that is run by the Dominican Sisters. After lunch, we visited a newly-established public university serving some 1,400 students seeking a bachelor’s degree, and attended a religious ceremony at a nearby Christian church celebrating the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.
The children at Al Bishara School were enjoying recess when we arrived. Like most kids the world over, they loved getting their pictures taken. They horsed around and pushed and shoved to get their picture taken. Pairs of kids would wait patiently for their turn. When they saw themselves on the digital camera screen afterwards, they smiled and laughed and elbowed each other. It could have been recess at any grade school in the U.S.
One of the highlights of the first day was an exclusive NCR interview with Dominican Sister Maria Hanna, superior general of the Dominican Sisters, who shared the harrowing story of exodus from the City of Mosul, just over 50 miles from Erbil, from the village of Bashiqa, some twenty minutes from Mosul, and from Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city of Iraq. It is a compelling story, which I will file soon.
Erbil is a city of contradictions.
Read on for more.
7 April 2016
Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam founded a home that cares for single mothers and their
children in India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
To many of the faithful in India, he is a saint: Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam, known as the “father of the poor.”
We profiled him in ONE magazine two years ago:
Mar Joseph died in Kenya in 1998 visiting a newly established house of Nirmala Dasi Sisters, a community he helped found in 1971. Translated from the Malayalam, the local vernacular, as the “Servants of God,” the Nirmala Dasi Sisters often serve as the primary agents of Mar Joseph’s works to serve the poor, the marginalized or those too feeble to care for themselves.
The community felt orphaned after his death, Nirmala Dasi Superior General Rosily Pidiyath recalls from the community’s tiny parlor in their motherhouse in Mulayam, near Trichur. The sisters are not alone. People cared for by the archbishop echo these sentiments, and hundreds will tell you they are alive today because he came forward to help when others had abandoned them.
Sixteen years after he died, Mar Joseph Kundukulam has left behind a remarkable legacy — a testament to a man who, even in death, continues to touch hearts and change lives.
As a young priest, Joseph Kundukulam was no stranger to charitable work. But his outreach to the poorest of the poor began in earnest when he was appointed pastor of St. Anne’s Church in Padinjarekotta, a suburb of Trichur. One day, a young woman carrying an infant asked the young priest for a place to stay. She was single, abandoned after the father of her child learned she had become pregnant. Her family had disowned her for her indiscretion. Father Joseph had to break the news that he had no shelter to offer.
Hours later, he found the young woman and her child still waiting for him. When he asked her what else she needed, she requested a small sum of money — little more than pocket change — to buy poison so she could kill herself and her child. Her request shocked the priest, who immediately worked with the parish to find some way to accommodate her.
He began to search for a more permanent way to help the young mother and others in her situation. Before long, he found a priest in Germany who offered him funds to start a new facility, on the condition the center be named after the patron saint of his parish in the heart of Europe. Since its founding in 1967, St. Christina’s Home has sheltered some 4,000 single mothers and their children, says the vice superior of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, Chinnamma Kunnakatt, who has been working in the center for more than a decade.
And because St. Christina’s Home focused on the care of mothers and their toddlers only, the young pastor founded Savio Home, which cares for children 5 years of age and older.
These were only the beginning.
Read on to learn more about his extraordinary legacy. We’ve written often about his work in India, and the lives that have been changed because of this man who, as one priest put it, was “a shepherd who smelled like his sheep.” To read about the order he founded, check out ‘Slumdog’ Sisters from the July 2011 edition of the magazine; House of Blessings from March 2007; and God’s Servants of Action from July 1994.
7 April 2016
Sandar Salem, administrator of a mobile clinic serving displaced Iraqis in Kurdistan, registers patients. To learn more about this CNEWA-supported clinic and its work, read Health on Wheels in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
7 April 2016
An ethnic Armenian soldier rests beneath a crucifix on 7 April at an artillery position near the Nagorno-Karabakh’s town of Martuni. In both the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals, crowds have been gathering to voice support for their respective militaries after four days of intense fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Emotions run high in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict (The Guardian) In both the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals, crowds have been gathering to voice support for their respective militaries after four days of intense fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. Amid an upsurge of patriotic feeling in Yerevan and Baku, Azerbaijan claimed on Wednesday that the terms of the ceasefire agreed to just 24 hours earlier had already been broken 115 times...
Catholicos to visit Nagorno Karabakh (Fides) The Catholicos of the Armenians, Karekin II, and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Aram I, will together in the coming days visit Nagorno Karabakh, the region with an Armenian majority, under Azerbaijan where in recent days the conflict between Azeris and Armenians violently exploded again...
Iraqi Kurdistan government will continue to pay salaries of some Christians displaced (Fides) The regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan has renewed, until the end of 2016, the commitment to pay the salaries of Christian civil servants and public employees who worked in Mosul, in the Nineveh Plain and other areas conquered by the Jihadists Islamic State, and now live as refugees in Erbil and other areas of the north-Iraqi autonomous region...
Cardinal Dolan visiting Iraq to show support for displaced Christians (CNA) This week Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, will travel to Iraqi Kurdistan in order to offer support to families displaced by extremist violence...
Early seasonal rains bring deadly flooding to Ethiopia (AllAfrica) Seasonal rains have come early to parts of Ethiopia, causing deadly floods in places. The state broadcaster, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation told the Associated Press news agency that 28 people have been killed in two remote regions of the country. The intense downpours caused flooding in the drought-stricken region of Afar. Five people were killed as waters rose across what is the lowest point in Ethiopia and one of the lowest in Africa...
Palestinian Christians bitter over destruction of church ruins in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Palestinian Christians Wednesday expressed anger over the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have handled the ancient ruins of a Byzantine church that were uncovered in Gaza City last week. They said that bulldozers removed the antiquities and continued with their work without supervision. They accused the two big Palestinian parties of seeking to obliterate Christian history and identity in the Holy Land...
6 April 2016
Students eat, study and socialize in a campus dining hall at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.
(photo: Petro Zadorozhnyy)
The Spring 2016 edition of ONE takes readers to Ukrainian Catholic University — the only one of its kind in the country. Writer Mark Rachkevych here reflects on what might be called the “UCU difference”:
After spending two full days with a Ukrainian photographer on the three campuses that constitute the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, my colleague said he regretted not attending the educational institution.
I immediately understood why.
He had attended a state-run university in town — UCU’s student body of 1,600 is a drop in the ocean of the city’s student population of 150,000 — where professors lectured and students were told what to write without dialogue or dialectic.
In the two days on campus, we were exposed to what hundreds of thousands of students experience in the more than 500 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. It brought back memories to me and enlightened my colleague.
Unjustifiably criticized by some critics in the U.S. who say that such institutions create a false sense of utopia, the atmosphere at UCU is one of intellectual exploration. Faculty and staff know the students by name. Pupils are in turn encouraged to grow and pursue goals that prize the process through the journey rather than the arrival at the finish line.
Education is enhanced by a rich student life that includes guest speakers, civic and spiritual activities, and extracurricular endeavors. In short, it’s what a university experience should be about so that upon graduation, students are ready to “go forth and set the world on fire,” to quote St. Ignatius.
On a more fundamental level, UCU provides students with a reference point of what is right and wrong, on what is good and evil. This is important in a society that is still healing from the inhumane policies of the Soviet Union that successive post-independence leaders haven’t quite extinguished. If someone grows up thinking that giving a teacher, doctor, or traffic police officer a petty bribe is the norm, they’ll never know that to build an open society, one needs to stop the pervasive practice of graft.
It’s important to instill meritocracy into students; UCU is run on an honor system with a zero tolerance policy regarding plagiarism and bribery.
This is what draws students of all backgrounds and faith to UCU. Here they get treated with dignity and respect. Once they graduate, they enter business, politics or civil society as responsible citizens; they become part of what UCU says is serving the community at large.
Graduates become leaders and role models for others. And people are drawn to them for the responsible way they behave and the examples they set by taking “ownership” of situations.
Take, for example, Anton Kukhliev who attended the university’s leadership summer school.
He came back to his town located 70 kilometers from occupied Donetsk in the war zone and successfully ran for city council on the ticket of a pro-democracy party where Soviet-era paternalism was the norm. He attracted three more candidates to his cause who also won spots in the 26-seat local legislature in October 2015.
These kinds of success stories are inspiring — and a testament that UCU is doing something right for its country and its society.
Read more in Where Change is on the Curriculum in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE.