29 May 2012
Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, meets Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on 21 June 2007. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
The pope sent a message today to a leading religious figure in the Middle East, and made special note of the struggles still unfolding in the region:
Pope Benedict XVI has sent a message celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Mar Dinkha IV, catholicos patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.
The Assyrian Church’s historical homeland is in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East, but in recent years has spread across the world due to emigration. In his message, Pope Benedict recalled several ecumenical highlights between the two Churches, including the 1994 Common Declaration on Christology and the establishment of a Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Pope Benedict took the occasion to also express his “solidarity with the Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, praying that effective forms of common witness to the Gospel and pastoral collaboration in the service of peace, reconciliation and unity may be deepened between the Catholic and Assyrian faithful.”
You can read the pope’s complete message here.
And for more on the Assyrian Church of the East, check out Against All Odds: the Assyrian Church.
25 May 2012
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Patriarchs Assyrian Church
In this photo taken in 2003, a woman eats at a soup kitchen run by Caritas Georgia, a social service agency of the Catholic Church in Tbilisi, Georgia. (photo: Dima Chikvaidze)
CNEWA serves the elderly in all of its regions, including Georgia:
“About a year ago, a young man came up to me,” Ms. Rodnova explained.
“He asked me if I lived alone or had any family.” As a lone pensioner, he told her, she was eligible for membership in a soup kitchen run by Caritas Georgia, a social service agency of the Catholic Church receiving support from CNEWA.
Since then, Ms. Rodnova’s entire pension has been spent on a daily subway ride that takes her across town to the large building that houses one of Caritas Georgia’s soup kitchens. The ride is worth it, she said.
“I am not hungry anymore. It’s a long ride across town, but without it I don’t know how I would survive,” she added.
To learn more about our efforts in conjunction with Caritas Georgia, read Human Touch Offers Pensioners Respite from the July 2003 issue of ONE.
24 May 2012
Tags: CNEWA Georgia Caring for the Elderly Caritas
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Cairo on 23 May.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Today, Egyptians went to the polls for the second day in a row to vote for their first-ever, freely elected president. This comes on the heels of the extreme turmoil of the ‘Arab Spring,’ which has reverberated throughout the Middle East.
Today, The New York Times spoke with voters on this second day of historic elections:
Among the many aspects of the race still shrouded in suspense are the future powers and responsibilities of the next president. A political deadlock prevented the drafting of a new constitution, paving the way for a power struggle between the new president, the elected Parliament and the self-appointed military council. The military council has said it will unilaterally issue an interim constitution before leaving power, but it has not yet done so. It was unclear how elected leaders might respond.
For now, most Egyptians were thinking of simple hopes. “I just want a president,” said Ines Mohamed, 40, a housewife waiting to vote. “I want this to end well, to stop all the chaos, to end the bleeding of corruption.”
For some perspective on the situation in Egypt, read “Arab Spring or Arab Awakening?,” a blog post written by our Education and Interreligious Affairs Officer, Rev. Elias Mallon, back in February. Last month, our office in Canada launched a campaign to help support Egypt’s Christians during this rocky time. To learn more, visit our website.
22 May 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa Arab Spring/Awakening
In this photo taken in 2008, students attend class at the school of St. Charles Orphanage in Beirut, Lebanon. (photo: Sarah Hunter )
In this month’s CNEWA Connections, Gabriel Delmonaco writes about an event he attended in Maryland that helped raise funds for Education and Opportunities for Lebanon (EOL). Through a partnership with CNEWA, EOL — “an all-volunteer board of dedicated individuals... with an interest in helping the children of Lebanon” — has been a lifeline of support for youngsters in that country. Below is some information about St. Charles Orphanage, which EOL has supported in the past:
The St. Charles Orphanage has been caring for neglected and needy children in Lebanon for over 125 years. Currently home to 75 orphaned children, the St. Charles Orphanage also has 500 primary students, 250 technical students, and 100 kindergarten children from very poor families. The small staff, run by Sister Josephine Haddad, cares for the areas neediest children, regardless of religious background, providing hot meals, education, shelter, healthcare and other community services.
Visit our website for more from this month’s CNEWA Connections.
18 May 2012
Tags: Lebanon Children Middle East Catholic education Catholic Schools
Miriam Ishak, a 25-year-old Coptic woman, says she experiences harassment and discrimination in her hometown of Samalut, Egypt, because she is Christian. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Independent Catholic News recently reported about a Parliament meeting that focused on the plight of Christian women in Pakistan and Egypt:
At a well-attended meeting in Parliament on Tuesday evening, chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool, Peers and MPs heard first-hand accounts about the plight of the persecuted church in Pakistan and Egypt — and in particular about the plight of Christian women, whom Lord Alton said faced “double persecution — both on account of their beliefs and their gender.”
The charity Aid To The Church In Need presented parliamentarians with copies of their new report: Christians and the Struggle for Religious Freedom, looking at persecution of Christians in 13 countries, with an introduction asserting the importance of religious freedom; and with copies of Christian Women in Pakistan and Egypt: A Briefing. The speakers included Mrs Asiya Nasir, a Christian woman who is a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly. The meeting also heard from a Pakistani Catholic woman and two Archbishops.
To learn more about the plight of Coptic women in Egypt, read Spotlight: Coptic Women from the September 2011 issue of ONE. Photographer Holly Pickett shared with us some of the difficulties faced by these women, such as Miriam Ishak (pictured above):
Miriam Ishak, a 25-year-old Coptic woman, says she experiences harassment and discrimination in her hometown of Samalut, Egypt, because she is Christian. She says she and her fiance will move to Kuwait after they get married. As members of a religious minority, Coptic women in Egypt often face discrimination. Because of the Coptic Church’s strict divorce laws, some Coptic men and women convert to Islam in order to divorce their spouses, a decision that has far-reaching social and legal consequences on the family and sometimes the entire community. In numerous instances, a Coptic woman’s conversion to Islam has sparked sectarian violence.
14 May 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa Coptic Orthodox Church Women (rights/issues) Discrimination
A Muslim mother receives care for her newborn at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, which is run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. (photo: John E. Kozar )
Yesterday, many of us in the U.S. celebrated the mothers in our lives for Mother’s Day.
With the help of CNEWA, one place where mothers are getting a lot of support is Jordan. At the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, mothers receive care both before and after their children are born. The clinic, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, serves predominantly Muslim patients. It’s here where young women get the help they need in taking the first steps to begin motherhood. CNEWA has supported the clinic for many years. In 2011, the clinic saw an increase of 4,159 new patients.
To learn more about the clinic, check out Mothering Mercies, an article from the May 2009 issue of ONE.
11 May 2012
Tags: Children Jordan Health Care CNEWA Pontifical Mission
Next month, CNEWA Canada will co-sponsor the premiere of a new documentary on the troubles facing the Holy Land, as seen through the people at Bethlehem University. The Vancouver Sun offers a preview:
The population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories is less than 11 million. But ongoing violence and anger in the region continues to create global military tensions and tear holes in the hearts of billions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and non-religious people.
Canadian Roman Catholics are offering their perspective on this land of what Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller calls “intolerance” and “fear” in a new documentary, titled Across the Divide. It premieres in Vancouver on June 3, 2012. See the preview of Across the Divide, which captures the dramatic time when a Catholic University in Bethlehem is caught in a gut-churning crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.
Shot on location in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and edited in Canada, Across the Divide offers a glimmer of hope for the divided region through the heroic actions of staff and students at Bethlehem University, which has 3,000 students, most of whom are Christian (30 per cent) or Muslim (70 per cent). The film captures the drama of a campus that, like the lives of its students, bears the scars of what the Canadian Catholic leaders call the “intractable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This film presents the story of Bethlehem University, caught in the middle of a sad reality of injustice, violence, intolerance and fear that dishonour the Holy Land, a land that should be a wellspring of hope and faith,” says Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.
“By watching this film, viewers will take a positive step toward building a future of political and religious peace and justice in the region,” adds Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and executive producer of the documentary.
Rosica adds: “Across the Divide tells the remarkable, provocative story of the first Catholic institution of higher learning in Palestine... Against all odds, Bethlehem University has become a school of justice and peace in the Holy Land, and a real bridge among many different groups of people: Arab and Israeli, Christian, Muslim and Jew. In a part of the world that has known so much conflict, animosity, monologue and despair, the Catholic Church’s presence through Bethlehem University has offered a model of peace, friendship, dialogue and hope for the world.”
To learn about the film and its premiere, check out this link. And for more on Bethlehem University, read The Perseverance of Bethlehem University from ONE magazine.
9 May 2012
Tags: Holy Land Canada CNEWA Canada Bethlehem University Media
A Syrian family arrives at an army checkpoint in northern Lebanon on 27 March.
(photo: CNS/Afif Diab, Reuters)
Over the last several weeks, we’ve brought you stories about the struggles of Syria’s Christians and the ongoing efforts to help them.
We’ve been gratified and moved by the amazing show of support from our readers and donors. Thank you! You can learn more about what CNEWA is doing in partnership with local churches in this recent update from Issam Bishara, our regional director in Lebanon.
But the need is still great. This report from the BBC shows what some people are facing — and why so many are fleeing:
Homs, a lively Syrian city once regarded as a place of peaceful co-existence, has borne the brunt of violence in Syria’s 14-month long uprising.
The neighbourhood of Baba Amr was its biggest target in a city activists now call the “capital of the revolution”.
Not a single building seems to have escaped the government’s ferocious assault. Structures still standing are peppered with shrapnel, blackened by fire, fingers of concrete.
Indiscriminate bombing ripped away entire floors of large residential blocks.
“No government likes to shell its own people,” says Homs Governor Ghassan Abdulal. “We had no choice. The armed groups were firing from civilian areas.”
Visit our website to learn how you can help provide lifesaving aid such as food and medicine to Syrian refugees.
8 May 2012
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Middle East Christians CNEWA Relief
The Holy Family School celebrates its 12th commencement ceremony. (photo: Sami El-Yousef)
In many reports and blogs on Gaza, the tone is often negative, reflecting the very difficult circumstances in Gaza — for instance, the gas shortage or the usual challenges associated with the blockade. But this time, I want to write about a very joyous celebration: the 12th commencement ceremony at the Holy Family School in Gaza. I was privileged to attend this along with his Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal.
This was no ordinary ceremony, as the 17 graduates — including three Christians — started their schooling in 2000, just as the second intifada was beginning. There has not been a stretch of quiet since they started their studies; they’ve had to contend with closures, travel restrictions, a blockade, a full-fledged war, violence and counter-violence, and swift and forceful Israeli air strikes. In short, these young men and women have not had a normal childhood or education. Yet, sitting there for the celebration, I couldn’t help but marvel: it was a grand, festive event with speeches full of hope and big dreams, just like any other commencement ceremony anywhere else in the world. Despite the bleak political situation, the valedictorian was full of energy and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
Between each speech, there was a performance by the school’s Dabkeh team, featuring traditional Palestinian dance. It was the largest I have ever seen, with some 50 members of all ages. The team was fully synchronized and disciplined. It was a great joy to watch. These students were proud to be performing for us all — as if they were passing on a message that, despite all the difficulties of these past 12 years, they learned how to have fun and how to keep the culture alive.
Congratulations to the class of 2012! May the future be kinder to you than the past.
The school's Dabkeh team honors the graduates with a performance. (photo: Sami El-Yousef)
4 May 2012
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Education
A damaged church is seen in Homs, Syria, 30 March.
(photo: CNS/Shaam News Network, handout via Reuters)
After more than one year of unrest, the ongoing political crisis in Syria has caused tens of thousands to be caught in the crossfire between government and opposition forces. As a result, thousands of Syrians have fled their homes choosing to escape the violence. Many have migrated to neighboring countries, while others moved to safer and more stable areas in Syria.
The deteriorating economic conditions led by the conflict and the sanctions imposed on Syria have created high levels of unemployment and inflation. Since March 2011, the Syrian pound has depreciated against the U.S. dollar by nearly 65 percent. This has significantly affected Syrian families, who now find it difficult to pay for food, rent and fuel. The rise in prices is driving low-income Syrians deep into poverty.
Working in close collaboration with the local churches, CNEWA has been able to identify by name more than 1,770 displaced families living in dire economic situations, jeopardizing child nutrition and health:
- 400 families remain in Homs (despite the military actions), according to the Good Shepherd Sisters.
- 450 families left Homs and found refuge in Damascus, according to the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and the Good Shepherd Sisters.
- 920 families left Homs and found shelter in the cluster called the “Valley of Christians,” according to by the social service office of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
In response to this urgent humanitarian need, CNEWA’s regional office in Lebanon launched an emergency program for the aid of Syrian families. CNEWA is working through existing structures of the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Latin churches to reach the most needy.
The first phase of the program includes distribution of emergency kits containing food, hygiene items and baby milk.
CNEWA and other donor agencies have pooled resources to reach around 1000 needy Christian families in the Syrian cities of Homs, Valley of Christians, Tartous, Damascus and other locations on the Syrian/Lebanese border.
So far CNEWA received positive responses from:
- The Raskob Foundation (US)
- The Holy Childhood (Germany)
- Missio (Germany)
- The Archdiocese of Cologne (Germany)
To find out how you can help, visit this link.
And to read more about the unfolding crisis, check out these blog posts: The Faithful Who Are Fleeing the Holy Land and The Struggles of Syria’s Christians.
Tags: Syria Middle East Violence against Christians CNEWA Pontifical Mission