27 March 2015
In this image from January, Iraqi refugees who fled their homes due to the violence of armed groups led by Islamic State are shown at the Arbat refugee camp in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Pope Francis today expressed his concern for displaced Iraqis living as refugees.
(photo: Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pope expresses concern for displaced Iraqis (Vatican Radio) A statement issued Friday by the Holy See’s Press Office says the Pope is particularly concerned about those from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, many of whom have found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. The press statement further says the Holy Father is praying for the victims and hopes that they will soon be able to return to their former lives in their homeland where for centuries they have lived in good relations with their neighbors. In this coming Holy Week these families particularly share in the injustice and sufferings of Christ, and as a sign of unity, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will return to Iraq to be with the expelled families and to pray with them during this time of suffering...
Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East dies (Vatican Radio) The Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, died on Thursday at the age of 79. He assumed his office in 1976. The Assyrian Church of the East issued a statement saying: “His Holiness had dedicated his entire life, to serving our Lord and our Holy Church. All his life he worked hard to be a spiritual father to us all. Heaven has welcomed him today and may he rest in peace...”
Pope creates new eparchy in India (VIS) On 26 March, the Holy Father erected the eparchy of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon of the Syro-Malankars, India, appointing Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas Aerath, OIC, as its first eparchal bishop. Bishop Aerath was previously apostolic visitor for the Syro-Malankars extra-territorial missions in India. The new eparchy extends along the northern part of India, covering 22 of the 29 states...
Christians and Muslims celebrate feast together in Lebanon (Fides) The Marian solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which Lebanon proclaimed a national holiday in 2010, has also seen this year celebrations in various parts of the country promoted by organizations of Christian-Muslim dialogue, starting from Ensemble Autour de Marie group. This year, in particular, Christians and Muslims gathered around Mary in the Shrine of Notre Dame de Nourieh and Notre Dame de Jamhour, for a liturgy of reflections and songs — some in Latin and Aramaic — and also saw the participation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lione, together with the Imam of the Mosque of Lione, Kamel Kabtane...
Chechnya threatens to arm Mexico if U.S. arms Ukraine (The Moscow Times) A Kremlin spokesman reminded Russia’s republic of Chechnya that it is illegal for Russian regions to send weapons abroad, after the Chechen parliament threatened to supply arms to Mexico for it to fight the United States. The Chechen parliament made the statement in response to a U.S. congressional resolution that called for sending lethal military aid to Ukraine...
26 March 2015
Sister Sara treats a patient at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
Name: Sister Sara
Order: Dominican sisters of St. Catherine of Siena
Facility: Mother of Mercy Clinic
Location: Zerqa, Jordan
Their patients are many. Their workdays endless. But for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena? Helping the needy who flock to Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan is a job that has to be done.
Sister Sara knows this well. The town struggles with poverty, crime and pollution. More than half of all residents in some neighborhoods live below the poverty line.
Ever since she arrived from Iraq to work in this busy facility 15 years ago, Sister Sara has helped provide health care to thousands. From local factory workers to Iraqi, Syrian and Palestinian refugees, everyone is treated regardless of creed or nationality.
But at its heart? Mother of Mercy Clinic is a sanctuary for poor mothers and children. Although the sisters specialize in prenatal and postnatal care, children of all ages receive treatment their families could never otherwise afford.
“The most lovely time to my heart is when working with these small angels for treatment and vaccinations,” Sister Sara explains. “A small kid named Wadi was afraid to come near me and used to run away. But I talked to him gently and provided him with chocolate. He asked me to visit them at their house and we did. When they moved, he invited me to visit again, insisting they have a spare room for me!”
In Jordan’s traditional culture, the sisters have gained the community’s trust. As Sister Sara points out, “A female patient told me that her parents are not afraid when she comes to the clinic by herself, as the nuns make them feel comfortable and secure.”
She remembers treating one 65-year-old diabetic. “He used to visit twice a week until he died. I will not forget his words, ‘I was lucky to come to the clinic. You have treated me with kindness and love. Your words encouraged me to bear my pain and suffering.’.”
Unfortunately, excellent care is expensive to provide. Medical equipment, drugs and supplies have to be imported. And because the sisters treat their poorest patients for free, the clinic depends on donations to meet its budget.
That’s why Sister Sara is so grateful to the donors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. But with their patient roster increasing, she and her fellow sisters need your help more than ever. As they serve the poor. As they serve humanity with compassion, the only way they know.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.
26 March 2015
Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas Aerath, of the Eparchy of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon of the Syro-Malankara Church, is surrounded by new Catholics he baptized recently in Punjab. To learn more about Catholic outreach in northern India, read Msgr. Kozar’s account of a recent visit there in the Winter edition of ONE. (photo: CNEWA)
26 March 2015
In this image from February, Ukrainian soldiers play football on the road leading to the embattled town of Debaltseve outside Artemivsk, Ukraine. The Holy See has urged the international community to work to ensure stability in Ukraine. (photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
U.S. strikes ISIS in Tikrit (The New York Times) American warplanes began airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit late Wednesday, finally joining a stalled offensive to retake the Iraqi city as American officials sought to seize the initiative from Iran, which had taken a major role in directing the operation. The decision to directly aid the offensive was made by President Obama on Wednesday, American officials said, and represented a significant shift in the Iraqi campaign. For more than three weeks, the Americans had stayed on the sideline of the battle for Tikrit, wary of being in the position of aiding an essentially Iranian-led operation. Senior Iranian officials had been on the scene, and allied Shiite militias had made up the bulk of the force...
Holy See: All parties need to work to implement Ukraine agreements (Vatican Radio) The Holy See reminded the international community of the need to “respect international legality regarding Ukraine’s territory and borders” as a “key element” for ensuring stability, both for Ukraine and the entire region. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, on Thursday addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council about the situation in Ukraine...
Police in India make arrests in gang rape of nun (AP) Police arrested two suspects Thursday in the gang rape of an elderly nun in a Catholic missionary school this month in a crime that focused attention on the scourge of sexual violence in India despite tough anti-rape laws introduced two years ago. The suspects were arrested after a nationwide hunt, one of them was found hiding in the western city of Mumbai and the second from West Bengal state, said a police officer said who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters...
Thousands of Copts to visit Jerusalem for Easter (The Cairo Post) About 5,000 Coptic Christians are planning to visit Jerusalem starting from April 2 to attend Easter celebrations, in violation of the Coptic Church’s policy, Youm7 reported. The church, under the late Pope Cyril VI, in 1968 established a policy of discouraging Copts from traveling to Palestine, after the 1967 annexation by Israel, as long as Egyptian Muslims would not be able to make the trip, Pastor Paulis Halim told Youm7...
Saving Gaza’s only grand piano (BBC) The only concert grand piano in war-ravaged Gaza has been rediscovered and brought back to life after years of neglect. It survived last year’s war with Israel — though only just — but was unplayable until a restorer arrived on a special mission from France, and paved the way for a rare concert...
25 March 2015
Tags: Iraq Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Coptic
Lunch is served in the traditional Indian manner at St. Antony’s English Medium School. To learn more about this school, read “Education as a Common Goal” in the September-October 2003 edition of the magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
25 March 2015
A peshmerga checkpoint stands beside pools of oil with damaged oil pipeline infrastructure, as Iraqi Kurdish forces push the frontline forward against ISIS forces 20 miles southwest of Kirkuk, Iraq, on 13 March 2015.These peshmerga units of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) faction have made significant gains against villages held by ISIS, in concert with an Iraqi government and Shiite militia attack further south to free Tikrit from ISIS control.
(photo: Scott Peterson/Getty Images)
U.S., Iraq considering airstrikes to liberate Tikrit (Wall Street Journal) Iraqi officials are considering asking a U.S.-led coalition to launch airstrikes to liberate the Iraqi city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants, according to a spokesman for the president, after a more than three-week offensive in the city stalled without foreign assistance. Khalid Shwani, a spokesman for President Fouad Massoum, said Iraqi military leaders were meeting with U.S. military officials to study whether to request the airstrikes...
Syrian rebels capture Bosra from regime forces (AP) Syrian rebels on Wednesday seized an ancient town near the Jordan border that is a key government stronghold, ousting Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen from the region after four days of intense battles, opposition activists and rebels said. There was no immediate comment from the government on the fall of Busra Sham, a town in southern Syria classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic citadel, ruins and well-preserved Roman amphitheater. It was once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia and a stopover on caravan routes to Mecca, according to UNESCO...
A visit with the refugees of war-torn Syria (Archdiocese of Toronto) In part 1 of our interview with Carl Hétu, national director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), he described his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories with an international delegation of bishops. Following that visit, he traveled to neighboring Jordan and Lebanon to meet refugees from war-torn Syria. Hétu shared with us his first-hand account of their plight...
Aleppo’s Christians see regime as last hope (Al-Monitor) The conflict in Syria entered its fifth year this month, and many parts of the country and their inhabitants are hardly recognizable. This is true of the war-torn city of Aleppo, my hometown, with its mosaic of religious, social and ethnic groups who have all had to deal with the harsh realities and horrors of war on a daily basis...
Christians in India rally to protest nun’s rape (Indian Express) The Christian community on Tuesday took out a mammoth rally in protest against the rape of a 71-year-old nun in West Bengal and attacks on the Christian community and churches. According to estimates, 30,000-35,000 people, including sportspersons Dhanraj Pillay and Anjali Vedpathak, took part in the rally. A lot of people from as far as Talegaon and Lonavala were also among the crowd...
Armenian parliament endorses statement condemning genocides (Fides) On Tuesday, 24 March the Armenian Parliament voted a resolution condemning the massacres against the Assyrians and Greeks carried out in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. The resolution was supported by all political forces in Parliament , and won the unanimous favor of 117 MPs...
24 March 2015
Tags: Syria India Iraq Armenia
Hana Habshi adjusts the irrigation pipes in his apple orchard in Deir El Ahmar.
(photo: Laura Boushnak)
In 2012, we reported on ways CNEWA is helping bring water to parched corners of Lebanon:
“The presence of water gave us a means to stay here,” says 65-year-old Hana Habshi, a resident of the Maronite Catholic town of Deir El Ahmar. The once-bustling agricultural hub nestles on the slopes of the fertile Bekaa Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Beirut, where Mr. Habshi has lived and worked since the height of civil war in the 1980’s. But for the past decade, thanks to several irrigation projects, Mr. Habshi has returned to his hometown every summer to farm his family’s ancestral lands. “It helped us come back and live off the land again.”
Lebanon’s civil war — which ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990 — destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure, including its irrigation systems, and sounded the death knell for the Bekaa Valley’s agricultural economy.
Without reliable sources of water, and subsequent erosion, farmers could no longer cultivate the land that formerly nourished lush fields and bountiful yields. Desperate for work, inhabitants moved to Lebanon’s major coastal cities, such as Beirut, Saida and Tripoli. Some left the country altogether. The few who remained scraped by as sustenance farmers, growing crops that require little water such as wheat, hay and, in some cases, hashish.
Deir El Ahmar, like most settlements in the area, remains but a shadow of its former self. Its many empty homes and crumbling public buildings remind locals and visitors of a more prosperous past. Though municipal authorities register some 10,000 residents, in reality half as many actually live there — and only then in the summer months. In winter, the town’s population plunges to little more than 3,000.
However, in the last ten years, Deir El Ahmar has been slowly but surely bucking the trend. Locals attribute this reversal to one thing — water. Since 1999, when the town installed its first irrigation system drawing on natural spring water, residents such as Mr. Habshi have been trickling back to town and reviving their parched properties and the Christian identity of the town.
“Before it was all just trees and shrubs, but look what happens when water comes,” says Mr. Habshi, pointing to the surrounding hillsides and valley below.
Learn more in “Springs of Hope in Lebanon” from the January 2012 edition of ONE.
24 March 2015
In the video above, a coalition of nations — led by the Holy See — released a statement calling to support the human rights of Christians in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)
Syrian Christians feel fortunate to have escaped ISIS (The Los Angeles Times) As Islamic State militants closed in on her village, Asmar Jumaa, an Assyrian Christian, couldn’t shake a terrifying thought. “I remembered what they did to the Yazidi women,” said Jumaa, 22, recalling the fate of thousands of female adherents of the ancient sect kidnapped last summer when the Sunni Muslim extremists swept through northern Iraq. “I didn’t want that to happen to us.” She and eight family members, mostly women, were among several thousand Assyrian Christians who fled in late February as the militants advanced into dozens of largely Christian villages along the Khabur River in eastern Syria...
NATO commander: West should consider arming Ukraine (Voice of America) NATO’s military commander is again calling on the West to consider sending defensive weapons to Ukraine, to help it offset Russia’s continued support for the pro-Russian rebellion in Ukraine’s east. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, speaking Sunday, told a Brussels conference that he does not think “any tool of (the) United States or any other nation’s power should necessarily be off the table...”
Family in Gaza lived for months with unexploded bomb in their home (The Independent) When the Nassir family were finally rid of an unwanted household item they had been stuck with for more than seven months, there were huge cheers and bursts of music. The unexploded bomb, 10ft long, weighing more than a ton, and delivered by an Israeli warplane, had been the talk of Gaza’s Beit Hanoun neighborhood. The family was one of 40 households in Gaza sharing their residence with explosive devices because they had nowhere else to live...
India’s oldest woman dies at 112 (NDTV) Kunjannam Antony, the oldest woman in the country, died at the age 112 in Thrissur today, her family said. She was admitted to the hospital last night and died of old age related ailment this morning, they said. In 2014, the Limca Book of Records had recognised Kunjannam Antony, a spinster, as the oldest woman in the country. Relatives of Kunjannam also have with them the Baptism certificate issued by the Vicar of Our Lady Rosary (Catholic) Church at a nearby church, recording that she was baptised on May 20, 1903...
23 March 2015
Tags: Syria India Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank
Sunday night, the CBS News program “60 Minutes” presented a powerful report on the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iraq by ISIS. (We covered this issue extensively on the Autumn edition of ONE. Check out Don Duncan’s report on the “Exodus” from last year.)
As correspondent Lara Logan notes:
There are few places on earth where Christianity is as old as it is in Iraq. Christians there trace their history to the first century apostles. But today, their existence has been threatened by the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State. More than 125,000 Christians — men, women and children — have been forced from their homes over the last 10 months.
The Islamic State — or ISIS — stormed into Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, last summer and took control. From there, it pushed into the neighboring villages and towns across this region, known as the Nineveh Plains, a vast area that’s been home to Christians since the first century after Christ. Much of what took almost 2,000 years to build has been lost in a matter of months.
Watch the report below for an intimate and sobering glimpse at what is unfolding in that corner of the world. Please keep all those involved in your prayers. And remember to visit our giving page to learn how you can help ease the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and support CNEWA’s work there.
23 March 2015
Traditional embroidery remains popular in some of Ukraine’s villages. (photo: Petro Didula)
In 2011, we reported on efforts of aging Ukrainians to preserve disappearing traditions in the country’s villages:
Though a widow living on her own, Mrs. Palykh–Tomkiv has three sisters living nearby, 61–year–old Daryna Palykh, 70–year–old Iryna Tomkiv and 80–year–old Olha Tomkiv. The sisters survive their parents as well as two brothers and a sister.
On the feast day of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God, the family gathers at Iryna’s home. “Glory to Jesus Christ,” she says, using the traditional greeting in the village to welcome visitors, who include several relatives from the area and two nieces from Lviv.
Iryna has earned a reputation in the region for her exceptional embroidery skills. Her elaborate needlework adorns almost every item in the house, including napkins, tablecloths, pillowcases, curtains, wall décor and icons.
“It is nothing compared to scores of her embroidery done primarily for the church, especially those seven embroidered liturgical vestments,” exclaims her younger sister, Daryna.
Read more about “What’s Next for Ukraine’s Villages” from the March 2011 edition of ONE.