15 December 2014
Norma Intriago, Deacon Greg Kandra, Rev. Charles Magano and Christopher Kennedy are shown during CNEWA’s visit to Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Merrick, New York, on 14 December.
Last weekend, a group from CNEWA visited Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Merrick, New York, at the kind invitation of the pastor, Father Charles Mangano. We were there to help spread the word about the work we do — specifically CNEWA’s efforts right now in Iraq and Syria.
My colleagues Norma Intriago and Chris Kennedy, supported by parishioners Deb Johnson and Joe Gioello, had a wonderful chance to meet the good people of the parish — answering questions, passing out copies of ONE magazine and providing brochures and prayer cards. We also set up a display and a couple tables in the vestibule to offer even more information.
Parishioner Deb Johnson, works with CNEWA staffers Norma Intriago and Christopher Kennedy to set up our display in the church vestibule. (photo: CNEWA)
On top of that, I served and preached at all the Masses for the weekend. It was Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of “rejoicing.”
As I mentioned in my homily:
This Sunday, we turn with greater expectation and joy toward the East and the place where Christ was born.
As you look East, look as well on the people of the East, in the land we call Holy. Tradition tells us that the wise men, the Magi, who first paid homage to the Christ child, were from Persia, the land we now know as Iraq. These people were among the first to hear that salvation had come into the world.
Twenty centuries later, their descendants — despite bloody and brutal persecution and against incredible odds — still hold fast to that bright promise of the first Christmas.
I concluded by asking people to help our brothers and sisters in the Middle East to remember the message of the angels at Christmas: “Do not be afraid” — and to offer them during this holy time of year the priceless gift of hope.
Deacon Greg Kandra, CNEWA’s multimedia editor, preaches the homily during Mass at Curé of Ars Catholic Church (photo: CNEWA)
We always find these parish trips uplifting and rewarding, and are grateful for the new friendships we make and the partnerships we develop with many of the people we meet. The commitment and faith of those we encounter are truly humbling. So many people want to do something, but don’t know where to turn. One parishioner clasped my hand after Mass. “I pray a rosary every day for those people in Iraq,” he said, adding “thank you for coming here and spreading the word and giving me another way to help.”
If you’d like us to visit your parish — to speak at Masses or to prayer groups — just drop us a line at the address below. Our development director, Norma Intriago, will be happy to coordinate a visit.
Meantime, thank you to Father Charles and all the staff at Curé of Ars for making us all feel so welcome!
15 December 2014
In this image from 12 December, Iraqi Christian children look at a nativity scene that is displayed in a tent erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church, in Ain Kawa. The church has now become home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year. Click here to learn how you can help Christians suffering in Iraq. (photo: Matt Cardy / Getty)
15 December 2014
The video above describes an exhibit in Jerusalem tracing the footsteps of Christians in the Middle East over the last millenium. (video: Rome Reports)
Moscow condemns US aid to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Russia has condemned legislation passed by the United States Congress authorizing $350 million in military aid to Ukraine’s government, which has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east...
Leader of Ukrainian Greek Catholics says his Church could be banned (Vatican Radio) Twenty-five years after its legalization in the former Soviet Union, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church says his Church is faced once again with the possibility of being outlawed in parts of Ukraine...
Governor proclaims 25 December a public holiday in Kirkuk (Fides) The governor of the province of Kirkuk, Kurdish Necmettin Karim, proclaimed 25 December a public holiday, to express the solidarity of institutions and the whole society towards Christians, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. On that day all public institutions of the province, including schools will observe a day of rest...
Hamas marks its anniversary with a parade through Gaza (AFP) The Islamic militant group Hamas staged a show of strength to mark its 27th anniversary Sunday, with a military parade through Gaza including a flyover by a drone...
Exhibit charts history of Christians in Middle East (Rome Reports) The exhibition “Christians of the East,” hosted by the French Institute in Rome, is composed of 60 photographs, picked among over 20.000 from the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem. Some are over a century old, and they reflect the diversity of Christians that have proven over the years that coexistence is possible...
12 December 2014
Nabilah Abdul Bassih sits with her son Marvin in their tent in the Martha Schmouny camp of Erbil, Iraq, in September 2014. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Autumn edition of ONE features several profiles of people who have fled ISIS, including the Bassih family:
Nabilah Abdul Bassih’s mobile phone rings and she breaks away from her conversation to answer. Her brow creases and her voice drops.
Since Nabilah, her husband and her four sons arrived at the Martha Schmouny camp for internally displaced Christians, beside St. Joseph’s Church in Erbil, she has been getting many such calls. The calls are from other people who were displaced by ISIS from the Christian town of Bartalla in the plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq.
Unlike most, the Abdul Bassih family did not get out in time during the mass exodus of Christians. They remained trapped in Bartalla, under virtual house arrest for over a month. It wasn’t until 15 September that they finally made it to Erbil. Initially, they were mobbed with people who had left Bartalla in early August, and then the calls started coming in.
Starving for information on their hometown, or in search of missing loved ones, people contact the Abdul Bassihs because the family, due to its recent arrival in Erbil, is seen to have the latest. “Did you see my house, is it intact?” “Have you seen my son when you were there?” “What have they done to the church?” These and more are the questions Nabilah faces daily. She answers as best she can but her preoccupation now is finding a place for her own family to stay. As all the available space for the displaced in Erbil has been used up, the Abdul Bassihs have had to move into the tent of a neighbor from Bartalla while the bishop finds them a tent for themselves. Until then, 12 people crush into the tent at night to sleep, six from each family.
The phone call ends. Nabilah hangs up and returns to breastfeeding her youngest child, Marvin, 14 months old.
“I feel deep sadness,” she says. “It was our bad luck to get caught in Bartalla with ISIS. It was so difficult.”
Visit this link to learn how you can help our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq during this difficult time. And please remember them in your prayers!
12 December 2014
Displaced Syrian children sit on a tarp after heavy rains in the Bab al Salam camp on the border with Turkey on 11 December. (photo: Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope urges Syriac Catholic bishops to coordinate efforts to meet needs (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with the patriarch, bishops and faithful of the Syriac Catholic Church on Friday, urging them to coordinate their efforts with the other churches in the Middle East and seek to meet the humanitarian needs of the people affected by the violence and unrest in the region…
Maronite priest suggests bombing Islamic State may prove counterproductive (ChristianToday) A senior priest and Arab Christian from the Middle East has called on the West not to attempt to defeat Islamic State by bombing. He predicts the organization will instead destroy itself from within. The Rev. Michel Jalakh from Beirut, secretary general of the Middle East Council of Churches and a Maronite Catholic, says it would be more productive to reach out to the region’s Christians who speak Arabic and have lived as neighbors and friends of Muslims for centuries. At grass-roots level, he said, the existence of Islamic State has not damaged Christian relations with Muslims, and most Muslims oppose it…
The silent deaths of refugees in Arsal (Al Akhbar) The security situation in Arsal made everyone forget that there are 80,000 refugees living there in a harsh climate and poor medical conditions. In a month and a half, 18 refugees have perished, including 12 children, but this has garnered little media attention. These same security conditions had led international organizations to abandon the town in August, leaving behind innocent people dying silently one by one…
In exile, Syrians build the country they never could under regime (Al Jazeera) For six years, Fadi Hallisso faithfully followed all the steps required to become a Jesuit priest. He gave up his career as a civil engineer in Syria. He spent two years of his novitiate in Cairo, reflecting deeply on his calling, including a month spent in silence. He took three vows, pledging poverty, celibacy and obedience. But last spring, he quit. His country was imploding. His native Aleppo had been destroyed. Though the 36-year-old feared that leaving his order would be his life’s regret, he decided to dedicate himself instead to the volunteer relief initiative he had started earlier with a few friends — another Syrian studying to become a Jesuit priest and a Syrian businesswoman — also living in Lebanon…
In tense West Bank city, she secretly meets Israelis to talk peace (Christian Science Monitor) Amid a sea of demure Palestinian young women in high heels, she wears jeans and Converse sneakers. In a city where many people support Hamas’s brand of armed resistance against Israel, she secretly meets with Israelis to talk about peace. “I think it’s better than doing nothing,” says Haya, a university student with fluent English. “And I might be president one day, and I will change everything. Because our president is not doing anything.” Haya was born in 1993, the year the Oslo Accords were signed. They laid out a framework for establishing a sovereign Palestinian state by the time she would be five years old. Now she is 21, and she has yet to know what it is to be a citizen. But she knows all too well what it is to live under Israeli occupation…
For some in New Delhi, no church for Christmas (The Times of India) Having lost their church temporarily to a mysterious fire 11 days ago, regulars to St. Sebastian’s are now looking for alternative venues to celebrate Christmas. The 13-year-old church, most of the parishioners of which are Syro-Malabar Catholics, was ravaged by fire on 1 December and sealed the following day…
Crimea leader makes a surprise visit to India (Al Jazeera) Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, but the meeting between the two long-standing allies was overshadowed by an unannounced guest: Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov. The bizarre episode reveals the subtext of an otherwise anodyne visit: a Russian leader looking to provoke his adversaries at any opportunity and an Indian prime minister playing both sides of the standoff between Russia and the West…
11 December 2014
Tags: Syria India Refugees West Bank Syriac Catholic Church
Fireworks explode over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on 6 December, the Feast of St. Nicholas. Palestinian hopes for a tourism windfall following Pope Francis’ spring pilgrimage did not pan out because the Gaza war broke out shortly after his visit, Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ay’a told journalists. (photo: CNS/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)
Bethlehem is facing an unexpectedly bleak Christmas this year:
Palestinian hopes for a tourism windfall following Pope Francis’ spring pilgrimage did not pan out because the Gaza war broke out shortly after his visit, Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ay’a told journalists.
At the start of the year, the Bethlehem tourism sector had experienced a 19 percent increase in visitors and a 37 percent increase in overnight stays, the minister said in an early December briefing. During the outbreak of the war, there was a 60 percent cancellation rate, she said. It was the first decrease in the number of visitors in the past few years, which have, until now, seen a steady if slight increase, she added.
Overall, however, 2014 ended up with a 9.2 percent increase in visitors, and authorities are expecting 100,000 visitors for the month of December and 10,000-15,000 visitors on Christmas, she said.
“We were very optimistic the pope’s visit would attract many tourists from all over the whole world. We had hoped that when people saw the pope walking around Bethlehem and meeting Palestinians without a problem, it would give a good image of the people here and many would want to come visit,” said Ma’ay’a.
But soon after he left the war broke out, she said. By early December, that had caused a $30 million loss in revenue to the Palestinian economy, she estimated.
“We still hope more tourists will follow in his footsteps,” she said.
11 December 2014
Indian sex workers attend a rally for their rights in Kolkata, India, on 8 November. Pope Francis addresses the plight of victims of sex trafficking and modern-day slavery in his message for World Peace Day. (photo: CNS/Piyal Adhikary, EPA)
Shi’ite pilgrims flock to holy city in Iraq (Reuters) From across Iraq and neighboring states, millions of Shi’ite pilgrims are heading this week to the city of Kerbala for a religious ceremony that authorities say radical Sunni fighters are targeting for attack...
Report: Pakistani terrorists doing charity work in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) The Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is now reportedly engaged in charity work in Gaza. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor has found evidence that the Pakistani group’s charity arms — Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) — are active in the Gaza Strip. Tufail Ahmad, director of the South Asia Studies Project at MEMRI, told The Jerusalem Poston Wednesday that “the move by Lashkar-e-Taiba to establish a footprint in Gaza seems to be part of a well-thought-out jihadist strategy from Pakistan”...
Vatican releases pope’s message for World Day of Peace (CNS) When shopping and when interacting with people on city streets, everyone can help fight the evil of modern-day slavery, Pope Francis said in his annual message for the World Day of Peace on 1 January. “Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers,” the pope said. “Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply an economic — act.” But with the Global Slavery Index estimating there are nearly 30 million people worldwide living in slave-like conditions, Pope Francis said, “We are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself”...
Nuns face off against sex traffickers (CNS) Leaving their habits behind and disguised along with police in regular clothes, a small group of three or four nuns raid brothels in Kolkata, India, at night, snatching young women and girls as young as 12 from the clutches of their captors. In four years, “we have put 30 traffickers in jail,” Sister Sharmi D’Souza, a member of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, told journalists at a Vatican news conference 10 December. She and a number of other religious women attended the event that presented Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message, which urged everyone to fight modern forms of slavery...
Governor pays tribute to India’s Christians (The Free Press Journal) Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao paid glowing tributes to the Christian community in India saying that in spite of being numerically small the community has made significant contributions to the socio-economic progress of the nation. “We are proud of you (Christian community) for enriching India’s social, cultural, economic and political life. The idea of India is difficult to imagine without you,” said the Governor...
10 December 2014
Tags: India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim
In this image from 2008, Bishop Christo Proykov blesses marriage crowns during a wedding liturgy in Sofia, Bulgaria. To learn more about the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, check out the profile from our July 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
10 December 2014
In this November photo, residents walk past tents for displaced Syrians at Bab al Salam camp in Azaz, Syria, near the Turkish border. (photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)
U.N. resumes food aid for Syrian refugees after cash injection (Al Jazeera) The United Nations World Food Program is restarting its aid program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees scattered across the Middle East — days after shutting down the crucial service due to insufficient funds. On Tuesday, the agency said that a fundraising drive since 1 December had raised $80 million…
Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III: Let us help to grasp the ‘signs of the times’ (Fides) Syrian Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom “since ancient times.” And today, faced with the situation in the Middle East, the first task of the pastor is to spiritually contextualize this, said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III of Antioch…
Senior Palestinian official dies after clash with Israeli forces in West Bank (Washington Post) A Palestinian cabinet member in charge of opposing Jewish settlements died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli forces at a protest march in the West Bank, officials said, touching off outrage from the Palestinian leadership and an appeal by a U.N. envoy for a full Israeli probe. The death of Ziad Abu Ein sharpened tensions after a recent wave of terrorist attacks and clashes set in motion by showdowns over a contested holy site in Jerusalem. The full details of the incident were not immediately clear. Some witnesses said Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister. Other reports said he was struck by an Israeli soldier’s rifle butt…
Trapped Palestinian students demand Gaza crossings reopen (Al Monitor) Approximately 1,500 Palestinian students enrolled in foreign universities are stuck in Gaza, and are protesting for the reopening of the Rafah or Erez crossings…
9 December 2014
Tags: Syria Refugees Palestinians Hunger Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
Children in Gaza paint and draw in workshops to help them cope with the aftermath of last summer’s war. To learn more about their lives, read Shell-Shocked: Growing Up in Gaza in the Autumn edition of ONE. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)