1 August 2014
Sister Muna Totah, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, treats Karim Nofal, 15, of Gaza, at St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem on 30 July. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
With close to a quarter of a million Palestinians rendered homeless by the continuing and intensifying fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, the Coordinating Catholic Aid Organizations met three times in as many days to organize action to confront the humanitarian crisis.
In addition to the current material needs — food, water, personal hygiene items, medicine and diesel fuel for generators — the Catholic aid associations from the Holy Land, U.S. and Europe are beginning to plan for the psychosocial needs of Gazans at the eventual end to the confrontation.
“We are talking about a massive number of people who will be in need of help, and of at least 200,000 children who will need intervention,” said Sami El-Yousef, regional director of the Jerusalem Office of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
CNEWA ran such a program after the Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2012, he said.
In addition, he said, lack of drinking water has become a critical issue with the bombing of Gaza’s only electrical power plant, which has left the area largely without electricity for pumping water and sewage treatment. Diesel fuel is urgently needed for generators while milk for young children is also in short supply, he said.
CNEWA had been supplying the Anglican Al Ahli Arab Hospital with fuel for the generator for intermittent power outages, but after the attack on the power plant in late July, the hospital was left without any fuel and had to shut down all operations, said El-Yousef, who received a phone call from the hospital in the middle of the night. The next day he was able to provide the hospital with funds to purchase more fuel. The hospital needs some 500-600 liters of fuel per day now because the generator is its only source of power, said El-Yousef.
The unsanitary conditions in the streets are also causing illnesses, and El-Yousef said many children are coming to the hospital with cases of malnutrition, diarrhea and fever. The hospital is also treating many of those injured, he said. Other clinics are located in dangerous areas and have been shut down almost from the start of the hostilities, he said.
“It is really desperate,” he said.
Though there are medicines available in Gaza, there is a shortage of medications in the hospitals because people and institutions have used up their credit lines, and cash to purchase them is not available, El-Yousef said. CNEWA has been able to give written financial assurances to the banks, enabling the hospital to make necessary purchases, he said.
“Every day the situation is getting worse and people are reluctant to move outside,” said El-Yousef.
Catholic Relief Services’ country representative in Jerusalem, Matthew McGarry, credited the “heroic” staffers in Gaza for their continued dedication in distributing aid kits to those most in need during lulls in the fighting. Several of the staff members have lost family members, and others are now homeless but have continued to work to provide for others, he said.
“They are a committed, selfless team,” he said. “They are doing God’s work.”
In the last week of July, CRS supplied 500 families with nonfood kits, which included things like cooking sets, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene kits, water storage buckets and solar powered lanterns. Staffers normally would have been able to distribute 500 packages per day but could not because of the precarious situation, McGarry said.
He said CRS was in the process of procuring and distributing another 2,500 such aid packages and was working to get medical relief supplies via the U.S. Agency for International Development.
McGarry said people were desperate, and on 30 July the staff halted distribution when dozens of people who had not been registered came to the distribution point demanding the packages. Their details were taken and CRS will look to see if they fit the CRS criteria: people whose homes have been destroyed and who are not receiving any other assistance, said McGarry.
He said staffers have been able to procure some of the supplies locally, which helps Palestinians, while other supplies came from USAID shipments through the Israeli border, in coordination with Israeli authorities, he said.
“The situation is increasingly desperate and catastrophic,” he said. “The numbers are so huge and the needs so enormous.”
To lend much-needed assistance to the suffering families of Gaza, click here.
1 August 2014
Tags: CNEWA Gaza Strip/West Bank Health Care Israeli-Palestinian conflict Relief
In this image from 2007, a child greets visitors to the ancient Muslim city of Harar in Ethiopia. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
In 2007, we paid a visit to a remarkable corner of Ethiopia:
Imagine our surprise when, as we approached the outer walls of this, one of the holiest cities in the Islamic world, we were greeted by a booming call to prayer — from an Orthodox church. Famously, there are more than 90 mosques and shrines in this walled city, which occupies an area less than a square mile. But there are churches, too. …
For much of its history, Harar was a world center of commerce and Islamic culture. Though eclipsed on the world stage long ago, Harar remains a vibrant, multicultural city.
Christianity came to Ethiopia early: In the year 330 — 29 years after Armenia, and some 60 years before Rome — the Ethiopian king of Aksum declared Christianity the official religion of the state. Ethiopia’s distinctive form of Christianity, particularly its links with Judaism, has helped forge a unique culture that has survived intact for more than 1,800 years.
Read more about Ethiopia’s Forbidden City in the July 2007 edition of ONE.
1 August 2014
Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity Christian-Muslim relations Islam Ethiopian Christianity
A handout picture made available by the official government Syrian Arab News Agency in May shows Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III walking with a Christian and Muslim delegation during a visit to the old city of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/EPA)
With Syria buried in the news, hopes fade for ending world’s bloodiest war (Al Jazeera) Syria’s civil war is buried beneath the headlines these days, as Israeli forces pound the Gaza Strip, Ukraine struggles with the downing of a 300-passenger commercial jet, and much of Iraq is taken over by Al Qaeda-inspired extremists. Libya, meanwhile, is literally going up in flames. Even with 1,400 Gazans killed over the past few weeks, Syria has not lost its mantle as home to the world’s deadliest conflict. During a ten-day stretch in mid-July, a record 1,800 people were killed, as the death toll from three years of fighting climbs past 170,000…
Syrian city of Homs shows signs of life amid moonscape of devastation (The Guardian) In Damascus, the ministry of information, which controls visas and access for foreign media, is keen to approve trips to Homs, where developments broadly fit the official grand narrative of a return to normality, stability and the start of reconstruction — and of course the victory claimed by Assad. Opposition activists now living elsewhere reject the government’s upbeat narrative. “Homs is a city of horror,” said Razan, whose Sunni family was involved in the mass protests of April 2011 and suffered in the subsequent army offensive and repression…
Assyrians leaving Hassake for fear of ISIS (AINA) The Assyrian population of Hassakah, Syria is leaving the region because of threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report by the Adnkronos News Agency (AKI). Citing an official from the Assyrian Democratic Organization, AKI reports that the Christian Assyrian residents are abandoning their lands and homes because of fear that what happened in Mosul will happen here…
Israeli soldier captured, 50 Palestinians dead as cease-fire collapses (Al Jazeera) A 72-hour Gaza cease-fire crumbled only hours after it began Friday, with at least 50 Palestinians killed by Israeli shelling and Israel saying one of its soldiers may have been abducted. Israel also accused Gaza fighters of violating the U.S.- and U.N.-brokered truce by firing rockets and mortars…
Patriarch Fouad Twal: Truce will not help if Gaza remains a desperate prison (Fides) “The truce which has begun is a good thing, but it will not help if the conditions in Gaza remain those of a desperate land under siege, where only fear and frustration that feed hatred can grow,” said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in a conversation with Fides. According to the patriarch, the structural conditions that feed blind hatred, starting from the embargo, must be removed…
Iraqis living under Isis rule in Mosul begin to show resistance (The Guardian) Iraqis living under Isis rule in Iraq, where non-Sunni residents have been forced from their homes and tens of mosques have been deemed idolatrous and marked for destruction, have started to push back against the extreme interpretation of Islam being imposed on them. With at least 8,000 years of continuous habitation, Mosul is considered an archeological treasure, with many heritage sites belonging to all religions and sects. Dubbed “small Iraq”, people from a range of religions and ethnicities have lived side by side peacefully for centuries. This solidarity remains in evidence through in these difficult times…
31 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank War Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Picture Caption: Rev. Vincent Pereira of the Archdiocese of Ottawa joins Episcopal Vicar Rev. David Neuhaus and parish priest Rev. Piotr Zelasko at the Mass for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
During our pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Catholic Women’s League members from Canada, we met a unique group of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. They make up a small but important community.
The leader of this community is Rev. David Neuhaus, the patriarchal vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics. Father Neuhaus has an interesting background. He grew up an Israeli Jew and was baptized Catholic at age 26. Four years later, he joined the Jesuits and became a priest.
Father Neuhaus spoke with us about the reality of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. After Israel became a state, people began to immigrate there in the 1950’s. You would assume that all these people were Jews. But the church in Israel began to notice that some of these people came to church on Sunday looking for a Mass!
Thousands of Catholics came to Israel with their Jewish spouses and families. They all spoke Hebrew. Father Neuhaus says this was something of an anomaly — Hebrew was the language always associated with the Jewish religion and Christians never used Hebrew.
The challenge at first was making Hebrew a Christian language — Mass, prayers, theology and catechism in Hebrew. Overall, that was quite successful.
The biggest difficulty has been transmitting the faith to Christian young people in a place where Jews are the majority. These children live fully immersed in secular Jewish society with no signs of Christianity anywhere. Many marry Jews and never come back to the church. So one of the church’s main focuses is children and youth ministry.
One of the aims of this church is to build unity among Arabic-speaking Christians and Hebrew-speaking Christians, and also to foster reconciliation among Christians and Jews. In its humble way, the vicariate is taking one step at a time to do just that.
This Hebrew-speaking vicariate also has a special outreach to the migrant population of Israel. Father Neuhaus is also the coordinator of the pastoral care for migrant workers and asylum seekers. This includes workers mostly from Asia, including Filipinos, Indians and people of other nationalities.
Many of these workers care for the children of the Jewish people, along with the elderly, the sick and the handicapped. The vicariate provides them with a space for community and Masses in their native languages. The children of these migrant workers end up going to school in Israel and learning Hebrew. These children also require support to nurture faith.
There are also asylum seekers who come from Africa — mainly Eritrea and Sudan. Unfortunately, Israel rarely grants refugee status to asylum seekers, so these people live in limbo. Good priests, nuns and pastoral workers do their best to care for this community’s needs.
During our visit, we joined the Hebrew-speaking community for Mass. For the Rev. Vincent Pereira, the chaplain of our pilgrimage, it was a unique experience to concelebrate Mass in Hebrew. There were three special things about the Mass:
During the sign of peace, it began with the presiding priest, since the priest represents Christ. He shook hands and it moved through the congregation from the front row to the back row. It was interesting symbolism — peace starts with Christ, and he spreads his peace to everyone.
Another detail was that they used matzo (traditional unleavened bread) instead of the regular white hosts that we use in North America for the Eucharist.
Finally, they gave us books and we sang with them and prayed the Mass parts in Hebrew. No, we didn’t learn Hebrew in a day — but we used books where Hebrew was transliterated into English to make it easier to follow. The music was beautifully performed by their seminarian Benny.
One thing that Father Neuhaus said stuck with me. I will try to take it to heart. He said that having a hard life doesn’t mean that you will not find someone who has an even harder life than you. So please reach out to them, open up and be generous towards those who have less than you.
Read more about the Hebrew-speaking vicariate in this article in ONE magazine.
31 July 2014
Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Holy Land Catholic Holy Land Christians
In this image from 2006, Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga presides over the Sunday liturgy at St. Nicholas Church in Kampala, Uganda. To learn more about Orthodoxy’s growth in Uganda, read Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
31 July 2014
Tags: Africa Orthodox Church Patriarchate of Alexandria
Sister Gilbert Saliba, 79, visits Nidal Alawi, 11, of Gaza in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem on 30 July. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
In Jerusalem hospital, staff and family help Gaza trauma patients (CNS) St. Joseph Hospital specializes in head- and chest-trauma wounds. Jeries Ayyad, who was transferred from Gaza with the help of Caritas Jerusalem in cooperation with Israeli military, was one of 23 Gaza residents being treated at the hospital, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. Three more patients were expected to arrive later on 30 July. ”There is a moment when we see all the suffering that we ask, ‘Where is God?’ ” said Sister Gilbert Saliba, the hospital’s president. “But then we look at the cross and see Jesus Christ on that cross, and how he suffered a lot of pain and he is still living all this pain. And we know he wants to use our hearts, our eyes and our hands to be merciful to human beings…”
Catholic priest leads flock through the violence in Gaza (Vatican Radio) While more than 200,000 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes in Gaza since the conflict began, with the number growing daily, other inhabitants are staying put despite the almost constant bombardments. Among them is the Rev. Jorge Hernandez, pastor of Holy Family Church in Zeitun, where he cares for his flock while bombs continue to fly overhead and land too close to home. “Unfortunately, the resistance movement is situated near houses and in the streets. For us, this was a problem yesterday. At a certain point, we could not leave the house. Then the bombs fell. One house near the church was hit and there has been some major damage to our rectory and parish school,” said Father Hernandez…
In Gaza, 11 members of a Palestinian family are killed in a single strike (Washington Post) The Balatas, like many Palestinian families, disliked Israel but also sought to distance themselves from Hamas. For more than three weeks, as the conflict has stretched on, the Balatas’ lives have revolved around how to best protect their large family, extending over several generations, in one of the most war-torn enclaves in Gaza. Now, trapped between the ambitions of Israel and Hamas, they have paid a heavy price…
Patriarch Gregory III: ‘Christians and Muslims, we are each other’s best guarantors’ (AsiaNews) In his message for the end of Ramadan, the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch notes that Christians and Muslims built the Arab civilization together and pleads with “our Arab brothers to come together to save Islam” from the extremist currents that are invading it. “We must, can and want to stay together, Muslims and Christians, to build together a better world for our future generations and our common future…”
As persecution of faithful rises, so does the religious response (Christian Science Monitor) Two recent reports about the restriction of religion around the world have come to the same conclusion: It’s getting worse. In its latest report, the Pew Research Center reported hostilities involving religion have risen since 2007. More than three-quarters of the world population live in places with high restrictions on religion, up by 12 percent. And in its latest report on religious freedom, the State Department said that 2013 saw “the largest displacement of members of religious communities in recent memory.” The biggest problems are in just a few countries, such as the Central African Republic, Syria, and Iraq…
The Middle East Council of Churches calls upon the international community (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) The Middle East Council of Churches issued a statement condemning the wars and the violence in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, with a special mention to the Christians of Iraq…
How the Russia-Ukraine war is being fought by churches (World Religion News) The Russian occupation of Ukraine has been under way for almost half a year. With the battle raging between the two nations, both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches have begun a war of words to express their desires for the future. While tempers between the two churches have remained moderate since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke off from Moscow’s leadership in 1991, they have now reached a boiling point, with each taking a more active role in the war as the occupation wears on…
30 July 2014
Tags: Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Christian-Muslim relations
Father Adris Hanna celebrates the Eucharist at greater Stockholm’s Syriac Catholic Church. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
With the news these days full of stories of refugees, we were reminded of a story in ONE from three years ago, about refugees from the Middle East who had settled in Sweden:
On an early December morning, 33-year-old Ramiz Toma stops his taxi in front of a home in one of Stockholm’s posh residential neighborhoods. Mr. Toma waits a few minutes until his client, a well-dressed businessman, approaches the car and swiftly takes a seat in the back. Mr. Toma then drives off down the street, still white from the night’s snowfall, and heads to the airport.
After a short while, the man glances at Mr. Toma’s identity badge on the dashboard and breaks the silence. “Where are you from?,” he asks.
“I am an Iraqi Christian,” responds the driver.
“Christian?” replies the man with surprise.
Mr. Toma nods with a faint smile.
“I didn’t know there were Christians in Iraq,” the man continues.
Mr. Toma catches the man’s regard through the rearview mirror. He politely but briefly tells him that, though a minority, Christians have always lived in Iraq. The man says nothing. After a few moments, Mr. Toma turns up the radio and drives on.
Mr. Toma knows his employer, the largest taxi company in Stockholm, discourages its drivers from chatting at length with clients, especially about politics and religion.
After dropping off the client at the airport, Mr. Toma admits he had wanted to say much more about Iraq’s Christians — their ancient history, different denominations, the suffering they have endured since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, even the recent memorial service he attended at his church in Stockholm honoring a Christian woman brutally murdered in her home in Baghdad.
Mr. Toma first came to Sweden in 2000, when the country’s policy toward Iraqi refugees still ranked as the most generous in the world. Believing Sweden a promised land, thousands of Iraqis clamored for asylum at its embassy in Baghdad.
With support from his family, the 23-year-old managed to travel to Sweden and obtain refugee status. However, as do most refugees, the young man struggled at first to adjust to life in Sweden, facing the usual challenges of language and culture.
However, a much larger and more complex problem afflicts Sweden’s Iraqi population: an alarmingly high unemployment rate. According to a recent study, among Iraqis living in Sweden for ten or more years, 73 percent of women and 60 percent of men are unemployed. Some experts attribute the high unemployment rate to the fact that Iraqis in Sweden, particularly Christians, are often well educated. Many had once belonged to Iraq’s affluent middle class. As a result, they have difficulty either landing or settling for one of the mostly unskilled jobs available to them. …
“My faith is the foundation for everything that matters in my life. Just as Jesus showed us his love, we learn to view other people with love when we go to church and listen to his words,” he says.
Mr. Toma’s parents still live in Iraq. And during his first few years in Sweden, he thought for certain he would one day return there and reunite with them. But as the years passed, he planted roots and now considers Sweden home. To his surprise, he even feels more comfortable now among Swedes than he does among his compatriots back in Iraq.
“When I go to Iraq to visit my family, I can’t stand being there for more than a week. It’s not the same people,” he explains. “Everything has changed. Here in Sweden, maybe I haven’t yet been accepted as a Swede. But I feel accepted in Swedish society. And for that I am grateful.”
Today, more than 170,000 Iraqis or persons of Iraqi descent live in Sweden. Iraqis first began coming to Sweden in the early 1980’s during the Iran-Iraq war. Immigration, however, reached its peak in 2007, when Swedish authorities granted asylum to 85 percent of the 20,000 Iraqis who requested it.
Read more about A Nordic Refuge No More from the May 2011 issue of ONE.
30 July 2014
Tags: Iraqi Christians Cultural Identity Iraqi Refugees Sweden
The Basha family — Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid, 47; and Jamila, 44, pray on 27 July in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special liturgies for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Gaza’s Christians and Muslims grow closer in defiance of Israeli attacks (Middle East Eye) Without warning, an Israeli missile hit the house of the Palestinian Christian Ayyad family last Saturday. A memorial service for Jalila Ayyad, slain in the attack, was held on Sunday at St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church on Sunday. The church has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on. “The church has been our host for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed. Their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled. To the surprise of local journalists, both Muslims and Christians carried Jalila’s body to the grave…
Caritas Jerusalem: wholesale destruction in Gaza like WWII (Vatican Radio) Caritas Jerusalem is making a dramatic appeal for an end to the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza as the death toll climbs to more than 1300 people — overwhelmingly Palestinian. Caritas Jerusalem Director Father Raed Abusahliah says the conflict has also claimed its first Christian victim. You can hear Tracey McClure’s interview with the priest below…
Patriarch decries ‘mass cleansing’ of Mosul Christians (Catholic Herald) Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III traveled to Washington to meet United States government representatives to highlight the plight of Christians in Mosul. He spoke out about the “mass cleansing” of Christians from the Iraqi city by what he called “a bed of criminals…”
Lebanon’s Christians react to crisis in Mosul (Al Monitor) The tragedy that befell the Christian population in Mosul has raised concern in Lebanon, leading to a state of alert on the ecclesiastical and official levels and daily meetings on the matter. The flurry began on 23 July, when church representatives concerned with the crisis in Iraq met in the headquarters of the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate in Beirut…
Islamic militants destroy historic mosque in Mosul (AP) Militants from the Islamic State group blew up a mosque and shrine dating back to the 14th century in Mosul on Sunday, local residents said, the latest casualty in a week that has seen a half dozen of the Iraqi city’s most revered holy places destroyed. Mosul residents said the Prophet Jirjis Mosque and Shrine was bombed and destroyed by the radical jihadist group. They spoke anonymously to The Associated Press for fear of reprisal. The complex was built over the Quraysh cemetery in Mosul in the late 14th century, and included a small shrine dedicated to Nabi Jerjis, the Prophet George…
Let me call you ‘brother’: Pope Francis takes ecumenism one step at a time (CNS) The only name Pope Francis wants divided Christians to call each other is “brother” or “sister.” The pope himself acknowledged that some people would be shocked by his decision to visit a Pentecostal church; while the Vatican has had an official dialogue with some Pentecostals and evangelicals since the 1970’s, by and large, Catholic-Pentecostal relations have not been easy…
29 July 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Holy Family School, an institutional partner of CNEWA, has transformed its classrooms into living space for displaced families. (photo: CNEWA)
Here are some of the latest heartbreaking statistics from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) regarding the conflict in Gaza:
1,065 Palestinians killed — including at least 795 civilians, of whom 229 are children and 118 are women
44 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians killed
6,233 Palestinians injured, of whom 1,949 are children and 1,160 are women
215,000 are displaced and in need of shelter, drinking water and food assistance
44 percent of the Gaza Strip, encompassing a 3-kilometer wide strip, is declared a no-go zone
The number of casualties is increasing daily and will increase even should hostilities end. It is estimated that hundreds more are buried under the rubble and it will take days or weeks to unearth the bodies.
The above statistics are appalling, but what is more difficult to comprehend are the personal stories from our friends and partners. The targeting of the Ayyad family home just yesterday was most disturbing. The first Christian victim was a 60-year-old woman, Jalileh Ayyad, who did not have enough time to flee; she was killed instantly when a missile hit her home.
Her 32-year-old son, Jeries, who was with her at the time, was critically wounded in the attack, suffering severe burns and shrapnel fragments on as much as 70 percent of his body. Doctors had to amputate both his legs to save his life. He will be brought to a Jerusalem hospital for extensive treatment so he will have a better chance of survival. His mother was buried in the Greek Orthodox cemetery in Gaza late yesterday afternoon.
The home of the Ayyad family, destroyed by an Israeli missile in the Shajaia neighborhood of Gaza City. (photo: CNEWA)
I received an urgent call two days ago from Suhaila Tarazi, director of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, explaining the urgency for medicines, medical supplies and, more importantly, fuel to operate the hospital’s generator. She reported the hospital had to make a painful decision to shut down their generator for 4 hours that afternoon in order to ration fuel. She was very upset not knowing what impact it will have on the patients’ treatment and recovery.
We immediately lobbied with our connections to ensure the hospital gets the fuel supply it needs to continue to save lives.
I will be remiss if I do not mention a member of our team in Gaza, George Anton, who leaves his young family on a daily basis and risks his own life to visit local institutions and individuals in order to assess the situation on the ground. He describes his personal experience and the stories of ordinary people affected by the war, the dozens of displaced families housed at the Holy Family Catholic Church, the hundreds of injured patients at the Anglican-run Al Ahli Arab Hospital and dozens of devout Muslim women and their children taking refuge at the ancient Greek Orthodox parish church of St. Porphyrios. Today, as he was describing to me the status of Jeries Ayyad, the building across the street from George’s home was shelled and he had to take cover immediately.
Our churches and church institutions in Gaza continue to be that beacon of hope despite all of the misery. Holy Family School, the Greek Orthodox parish and the Greek Orthodox Cultural Center have all opened up their facilities to hundreds of displaced families, giving them food, clean water and above all a safe roof over their heads. The Al Ahli Arab Hospital continues to open up its facilities in this emergency crisis to anyone needing medical treatment, free of charge. Incarnate Word Father Georges Hernandez continues to risk his life every day by making home and hospital visits. The Missionaries of Charity continue to call Gaza home despite the various offers for evacuation.
Despite all of the suffering, the Christian mission is certainly at its best. These brave souls — who are personally risking their lives — continue to comfort the injured and displaced, and provide assistance to the weak and marginalized with the Gospel in their hearts.
Thank you for your generous financial and moral support. Please know that your support and prayers for the people of Gaza, especially the women and children, are priceless and help to keep hope and faith alive.
29 July 2014
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Violence against Christians War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Relief
Smoke rises from Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike on 29 July. Violence escalated the previous night after an attempted unofficial truce for the three-day Eid ul-Fitr holiday crumbled. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)
What is causing the wave of violence that seems to be overwhelming the Middle East right now? I explore that question and more this week in the pages of The Dialog, the newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington:
“The situation on the ground [in Gaza] is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday [July 20] was very ugly and left 50 dead (including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens) as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. … “Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets. …
“The Latin and Greek Orthodox parishes have opened facilities to receive those displaced mostly from Shajaia. There has not been any human loss affecting Christians, and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.
“We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness.”
In just a few sentences, Sami El-Yousef, regional director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Palestine and Israel, describes the madness engulfing much of the Middle East, and the role of its Christian community as menders of the body and soul — even as some of its own members flee their homes.
What accounts for this wave of violence? Is there any hope?
The artificial geopolitical construct that is the Middle East, with its national borders drawn arbitrarily by the British and French after World War I, is collapsing. This is irrevocably and indiscriminately affecting the lives of millions ofpeople every day: Arab and Israeli, Jew and Christian, Muslim and Mandaean, young and old, male and female, urban dweller and shepherd, rich and poor.
In Iraq and Syria, the largest states created from the smoldering remains of the Ottoman Turkish Empire nearly a century ago, the powder kegs once controlled by strongmen have exploded, unleashing violent forces so extreme even Al Qaeda has repudiated the bloodletting.
Iraq, once awash in cash thanks to its oil reserves, is unraveling, its people exhausted by more than 30 years of constant war.
Syria, once the bedrock of regional stability, has disintegrated, its people maimed and displaced. Meanwhile, extremist Sunni Muslim militias have overrun vast swaths of territory and proclaimed a caliphate, an empire akin to those that once dominated the region for centuries. They have targeted minorities: As the extremists drive Christians from their homes and monasteries, they rob them of their few remaining possessions. If captured, members of the ancient Gnostic and synchretic sects of northern Iraq are executed.
In reports that sound eerily similar to the death marches of Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans by Turkish soldiers 100 years ago, residents in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul describe an exodus of Christians walking on foot in the summer heat, among them the elderly and the disabled.
“We’re providing people with shelter, food and water; people don’t have anything left and they can’t travel without the money to buy tickets,” Chorbishop Yosip Benjamin told the Telegraph as Mosul’s last remaining Christians gathered in the town of Tel Keif.
Read more about all this in The Dialog And to learn how you can help those who are so much in need right now, especially in Gaza, please visit our giving page.
Tags: Syrian Civil War Middle East War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees