8 August 2016
The new Refugee Olympic Team arrives for the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on 5 August. In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world. (photo: CNS/David Gray, Reuters)
In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world.
Naming each of the team’s athletes from South Sudan, Syria, Congo and Ethiopia, Pope Francis said he had read some of the interviews with team members “so that I could get closer to your lives and your aspirations.”
“I extend my greetings and wish you success at the Olympic Games in Rio — that your courage and strength find expression through the Olympic Games and serve as a cry for peace and solidarity,” he said in the message, signed in late July.
The 2016 Summer Games marked the first time a refugee team officially participated in the Olympics. Team members marched under the Olympic flag and, in the event a team member wins a medal, the Olympic anthem was to be played instead of the national anthem of the athlete’s home country.
Pope Francis expressed his hope that through the team “humanity would understand that peace is possible, that with peace everything can gained, but with war all can be lost.”
“Your experience serves as testimony and benefits us all,” the pope told team members.
Yusra Mardini, 18, was the first member of the team to compete in Rio. The swimmer is ranked 41st among women swimmers competing in the 100-meter butterfly; Mardini finished first in her initial heat on 6 August.
Like tens of thousands of Syrians, Mardini fled her war-torn country through Lebanon and Turkey. She found a space on a rubber dingy to make her way to Lesbos, Greece, but the motor stalled. She, her sister and another woman — the only people on the boat who could swim — pushed the boat to shore.
From Greece, Mardini traveled on to Germany, where she was given official refugee status in March and continued her training as a competitive swimmer.
Five of the athletes — including Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, the team’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony — are South Sudanese refugees who were living in the huge Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
The national Olympic committees of the refugees’ host countries, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Olympic Committee chose the team members. The IOC provided the athletes uniforms and is covering their costs and those of the team’s coaches and staff.
8 August 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis renews his call for peace in Syria and denounces the lack of will from those with power to end the war. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope renews call for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his condemnation of violence and his call for peace in Syria on Sunday. The Holy Father’s appeals came following the Angelus prayer with the faithful gathered beneath the window of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace...
Is Syrian peace attainable? (Catholic Register) Pope Francis has put the full weight of his global pulpit behind a Caritas Internationalis campaign urging governments, especially in the West, to get on with the business of ensuring a negotiated peace in Syria. “Syria: Peace is Possible” launched July 5 with a video by Pope Francis urging the world community to work and pray for peace in Syria...
Attacks on Christians in Egypt raise alarms (USA TODAY) Residents in the southern Egyptian village of Naj al-Nassara watched in horror as their beloved Archangel Mikhail Coptic Church burned to the ground. “We heard deafening sounds of explosions and crackling as the interior of the church gave way,” said Salim Qamhi, a farmer in Naj al-Nassara. “The fire had eaten up everything — the wooden sanctuary, the icons, the pews and the books.” The fire in mid-July came amid a rash of recent attacks that have alarmed Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who blame the government for doing too little to protect them. About 10% of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population of 90 million are Christian — one of the oldest Christian communities in the world...
Erdogan backs return of death penalty following failed coup attempt (BBC) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told a vast rally in Istanbul that he would approve the return of the death penalty if it was backed by parliament and the public. He was speaking to a crowd of at least a million who had gathered in Turkey’s biggest city...
Caritas Lebanon reopens center for refugee women (Fides) A place to welcome, care for and accompany foreign women, who have often taken refuge in Lebanon and have been left alone or marginalized, with the risk of being victims of violence: this is the aim of the refuge called “The Oak,” a reception center reserved to women that Caritas Lubano has recently reopened, turning it into a comfortable, safe and welcoming place for women and their children...
Mercy, poor at center of Mother Teresa canonization events (Vatican Radio) The poor, the suffering and those who minister to them will be at the center of celebrations leading up to the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata at the Vatican. The main event — the canonization Mass — will begin at 10:30 a.m. 4 September, the Vatican announced on 5 August. A “family feast” for the poor, a musical, Masses and prayer vigils will precede her canonization, according to programs published by the Vatican and by the Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded...
Pope sends letter to Refugee Olympic Team in Rio (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a letter to the Refugee Olympic Team as they prepared to compete in the Olympic Games 2016 taking place in Rio de Janeiro, wishing each of them success in the competition...
5 August 2016
In this image from May, children at the Saint Gabriel Primary Government School in Ethiopia greet visitors. They are among thousands of young people who are contending with a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa. Learn how you can help the hungry hold on to life by
visiting this page. (photo: John E. Kozar)
5 August 2016
Refugees’ tents are damaged after Russian airstrikes hit the Etarib district of Aleppo, Syria,
on 4 August 2016. (photo: Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Religious freedom threatened by Turkey’s response to coup (The Catholic Register) Civil service purges and mass arrests in Turkey since a 15 July failed coup attempt are bad news for religious freedom in what has been one of the Muslim world’s most open and democratic societies, said Canada’s former ambassador for religious freedom...
UN considers role in “deeply flawed” humanitarian plan for Syria (The Guardian) The United Nations is considering overseeing a Russian proposal to create humanitarian corridors for civilians who wish to leave besieged Aleppo, despite strong opposition from aid organizations. Confidential documents seen by the Guardian detailing internal UN deliberations on the Kremlin’s proposal, described as “deeply flawed” by humanitarian agencies, reveal the contours of a debate inside an organisation that wants to provide assistance to suffering civilians in Aleppo but fears being seen as an accomplice in an onslaught that has left a quarter of a million civilians under siege....
World Vision manager charged with funneling funds to Hamas (The New York Times) The Palestinian manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision, a major Christian aid organization, was charged by Israeli prosecutors on Thursday with infiltrating the charity on behalf of Hamas and funneling about $43 million in the group’s funds over the past six years to the military wing of the Islamist militant group...
Catholics protest demolition of cathedral in India (Vatican Radio) Tension prevailed at Tarapet in the city on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday when the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) authorities faced resistance from the clergy and lay people for demolishing a portion of the Roman Catholic church St. Peter’s Cathedral as part of the road-widening project. The church was built more than 100 years ago and is of undisputed cultural and artistic value...
Weddings offer break from gloom in Gaza (AP) In a time with little to be joyous about in Gaza, weddings have emerged as welcome festivities that offer a break from the often morose mood in the strip. The coastal territory has faced three wars with Israel over the last decade and a stifling blockade imposed by both Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant Hamas group violently overran the territory in 2007. But for the happy couple and their families, a wedding is both a respite from daily hardships and a focal point in the lives of both the well-off and the poor...
4 August 2016
Bob Baker, shown here with his wife Dita, has been a generous donor to CNEWA for 16 years. (photo: courtesy, Bob Baker)
Many of the unsung heroes in CNEWA’s world are donors who never seek attention, but make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through their generosity. They are people like Bob Baker.
The San Diego Union Tribune profiled him a few months ago:
Sixty-three years ago, Bob Baker was a young Army corporal stationed at Outpost Harry during the Korean War when he embarked on what his commanders warned would be a suicide mission. When he ended up in the middle of a minefield during the night patrol for Chinese soldiers, he was glad that he made a deal with God. If he was able to come back alive, he would he would do whatever he was able to do.
“I told Him, if He spared me that night, I would go home, get married, have six children, become a success and do whatever he wanted me to do,” Baker said.
Bob Baker believes that God had a special plan for him, a plan that has guided him on his journey to helping others. Blessed with a beautiful family and the success of his business, the Bob Baker Auto Group, he has given back by generously supporting the Catholic Church, his community, plus programs for military veterans and the homeless.
He has also been a loyal friend of CNEWA for 16 years. Our development director, Norma Intriago, met him recently and recalls:
“Bob told us that, at one point, he wanted to become a priest but was told that because he came from a divorced family, he could not. Now he realizes that God had a different plan for him. He believes that everyone has value, and that God is there if you just listen. Just as God guided his life, his giving, God is there for everyone.”
Bob’s personal connection to CNEWA comes from his Christian Lebanese and Irish Catholic heritage. His paternal grandparents came from Lebanon and belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church. He struggled as a child, and at one point was destitute. So he is especially moved by CNEWA’s childcare initiatives, which assist needy children and orphans.
Faith and family are the pillars in Bob’s life, along with sharing those blessings with others through charity. As he explains, his guiding principle is simply this: “The main thing is to surrender to God and never give up.”
For his spirit of optimism, generosity and selfless giving — a genuinely Christian spirit that has changed countless lives, including many in CNEWA’s world — Bob Baker is truly a CNEWA hero.
4 August 2016
Tags: CNEWA Donors
Young sisters are seen joking and laughing as they walk near their convent in Bharanaganm, Kottayam, in the Indian state of Kerala. India is facing new challenges in trying to attract young people to religious life. Discover why some feel they are On a Mission from God in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
4 August 2016
Tags: India Sisters Kerala Indian Christians Vocations (religious)
An Iraqi Christian spruces up his shelter on 24 July with a cross and other Christian symbols at the the Ashti camp for internally displaced Iraqis in Ain Kawa, a Christian enclave of the Kurdish capital, Erbil. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)
Aid agencies brace for Mosul offensive (CNS) The upcoming military offensive to root out Islamic State militants from Mosul and surrounding villages will be a “huge challenge,” the United Nations says, as it expects about 1.5 million people to flee the warfare in a short amount of time…
Fallout from failed coup leaves Syria rebels in a lurch (The Wall Street Journal) Many of the top Turkish military and intelligence officials involved in programs to assist the rebellion, including the commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army responsible for borders with Syria and Iraq, have been detained for alleged involvement in the 15 July putsch…
UN: ISIS genocide of Yazidis is ‘ongoing’ (AP) The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is still committing genocide and other crimes against the Yazidi minority in Iraq, a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria said on Wednesday. The commission’s statement — released on the second anniversary of the initial ISIS attack on the Sinjar area in Iraq — urged action to prevent further death and suffering…
Indian delegation will head to Rome for canonization (UCanIndia) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian delegation to the canonisation of Mother Teresa at the Vatican in September, it was announced on Thursday…
Patriarch Kirill backs monument to Ivan the Terrible (The Guardian) The head of the Russian Orthodox church has backed what is planned to be Russia’s first monument to Ivan the Terrible, the controversial ruler who killed his own son…
3 August 2016
Tags: Syria Iraq India Turkey Yazidi
Arpineh Ghazaryan lives with her two boys in Gyumri, Armenia. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
In the Summer 2016 edition of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan writes about fatherless families in Armenia. Here, she reflects on a visit to one family in particular.
The long search for subjects for my story took me again to Armenia’s second biggest city of Gyumri, which seems to have consolidated all the issues challenging the country — it’s where the poor are even poorer than in any other province of Armenia, where every other child suffers from malnutrition, where the highest number of homeless people live, where the survivors of the 1988 devastating earthquake are still enduring its consequences...
Even 28 years after the earthquake, more than 4,000 people are still residing in what was intended to be temporary shelters — tin structures referred to as “domiks,” provided as part of the humanitarian aid; several generations have been born in them, lived, grown old. Meanwhile so much has changed in the city itself: beautiful new squares have been built, statues and monuments erected on almost every corner. But, sadly, nothing has changed in the domik districts, and only the presence of cell phones points to the fact that it is, actually, the 21st century.
Two years ago, when I was working on my piece about seniors living alone with no families, Shaken by the Earthquake of Life, it was beyond agitating to enter each home, listen to each story. Tears of frustration and fury, born from the sense of helplessness, were choking me — fury that two decades later, they still lived in extreme poverty in the domiks that were the earthquake legacy, while an Armenian official’s most basic housing costs a few million US dollars.
Injustice is so striking in this city in particular, where holes in the walls and the floors of these tin structures — by now in complete decay — are patched by tin cans in a futile attempt to protect residents from rat attacks.
The bitter sense of injustice and unshed tears kept choking me until I could no longer resist when I stepped into another house of poverty, famine and destitution, where 32-year-old Arpineh Ghazaryan resided with her two boys, their eyes mirroring a lost childhood and hunger and yearnings, yet full of so much warmth and love.
It was hard to write about seniors and their issues; it is, perhaps, an even harder task to write about children and their pain. This time, my search was for children who lost their fathers due to unemployment. The fathers went abroad as migrant workers, leaving their families behind — wives hoping one day their husbands would return home, children waiting for fathers, waiting for so long they no longer remember the faces they are waiting for.
Arpineh is raising her two boys as a single mother. Providing food is the biggest challenge, along with the fight against rats. During winter, when the temperature can drop to -22F, there is the additional challenge of trying to heat the 28-year-old rusty tin structure with cracks in walls.
“Sometimes, I just want to no longer be alive and free myself of these problems, and when they start asking questions, I feel completely lost,” says the beautiful young mother, too skinny and exhausted from hardship and lack of nutrition.
Questions were asked by the two fair-haired boys with eyes as deep as the sea, for whom the happy thoughts of toys and cartoon characters had long been replaced by concerns that are impossible to solve. They have the desperate desire to help their mother; they also have dreams of being equal to their classmates at school, dreams that just can’t come true.
Nine-year-old Artyom walked me out and gave me a warm hug by the door, concealing his tears behind my shoulder. He was silent for a moment — then, suddenly words burst out of him.
“I am so happy you came,” he said. “At least my mom was able to vent and feel a little better. If we had a house, perhaps, my mom would be smiling,” he added and gave me another hug, so that I would not see his tears. Meanwhile, my own tears were burning my eyes.
Every time I visit Gyumri, I feel broken. Solving its enormous issues seems an impossible task, and that’s the worst feeling. It makes me want to give up reporting, forget about being civilized, take all the seniors and children, all the mothers forced to put starving children to bed, take them all and break into the luxurious offices and houses of our officials and make them face these people, look them in the eyes, and confront the heavy challenges of the country under their rule.
Read more about Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. And visit this link to learn how you can help the suffering people of Eastern Europe.
3 August 2016
In this image from 2003, an Eritrean Orthodox bishop displays two Coptic-style crosses. The hand cross is used for blessings. To discover more about the Orthodox Church in Eritrea, read Ancient Church in a Young Nation from the November-December 2003 edition of the magazine.
(photo: Chris Hellier)
3 August 2016
Pallbearers carry the coffin of the Rev. Jacques Hamel on 2 August outside the cathedral in Rouen, France. Father Hamel was killed 26 July in an attack on a church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen; the attack was carried out by assailants linked to the Islamic State.
(photo: CNS/Jacky Naegelen, Reuters)
Thousands of mourners, including Muslims, turn out for funeral of murdered French priest (CNS) During the 2 August funeral Mass for the Rev. Jacques Hamel, killed a week earlier by men claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen stressed the need for forgiveness. “As brutal and unfair and horrible as (Father) Jacques’ death was, we have to look deep into our hearts to find the light,” he told the congregation of more than 1,500 at the Notre Dame Cathedral, while hundreds more watched the ceremony on a big screen outside in the rain...
Fighting rages in Aleppo (BBC) Intense fighting has continued around the Syrian city of Aleppo, where a rebel offensive is trying to break a government siege of rebel-held areas. Over the weekend, the rebels tried to reconnect an encircled area in the east with insurgent territory in the west. They set off a huge tunnel bomb underneath army positions in the strategic Ramouseh district. The army has been fighting back with the help of Russian air strikes to stop the rebels breaking through...
British jets bomb Saddam’s palace used by ISIS in Iraq (The Guardian) British fighter jets have bombed a former palace of Saddam Hussein being used as a training centre for Isis recruits in Iraq, according to the UK Ministry of Defense. A pair of RAF Tornados took part as a multinational squadron attacked the headquarters and training centre for foreign terrorist recruits, located close to the Tigris in Mosul...
U.S. will likely reach goal of admitting 10,000 refugees (International Business Times) While the U.S. acceptance rate of Syrian refugees has increased in recent months, the resettlement groups would like to see more done. America’s neighbor to the north has accepted almost 30,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015 and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a point of welcoming new arrivals in a public manner...
Aftermath of Turkey coup attempt delays reconciliation with Israel (The Jerusalem Post) Last month’s attempted coup in Turkey and its aftermath have pushed off normalization of Israeli-Turkish ties, since the requisite accord has not yet come before the parliament in Ankara...
Detroit imams send condolences to Archbishop (Archdiocese of Detroit) Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was moved this week to have received correspondences from local Imams on behalf of Michigan Muslims, expressing condolences for the death of Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed by terrorists in Normandy, France, on 26 July. “We are greatly saddened and troubled to hear of his tragic death and wish to express our sadness that so humble a servant of God was called to his Lord in such a cruel and violent manner,” wrote Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, co-chair of the Imams Council, in a letter sent to Archbishop Vigneron on behalf of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC)...
Pope Francis meets with refugees during audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with a group of 65 child refugees from Syria and Eritrea on Wednesday during his General Audience. The children are staying in the small town of Castelnuovo di Porto, north of Rome...