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June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
5 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Russian President Putin’s special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari attend a signing of a memorandum to establish de-escalation zones in Syria during peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on 4 May 2017.
(photo: Aliia Raimbekova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Russia reaches deal for Syria safe zones (The New York Times) Russia, Iran and Turkey signed a memorandum on Thursday to create four “de-escalation zones” in Syria, to reduce bloodshed in a war now in its seventh year, but many questions remained about the plan...

Pope Francis to meet Donald Trump at Vatican later this month (CNS) President Donald Trump will visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis 24 May as part of his first foreign trip as president. White House officials said the visit will be part of a trip that will include stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia before Trump attends a NATO meeting in Brussels 25 May and the G7 summit in Taormina on the island of Sicily 26-27 May...

Mass evictions burying refugees in Lebanon in debt (Voice of America) Driven from their homes in Syria, thousands of refugees in Lebanon are once again in search of shelter. An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 refugees are on the move amid what is likely to be the biggest mass eviction of its kind in Lebanon since the war began...

Iraq, U.S. In talks to keep troops in Iraq after ISIS (AP) Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government...

Ukraine increasingly feels the east is lost to Russia (AP) Long unthinkable after years of fighting and about 10,000 deaths, Ukrainians increasingly are coming around to the idea of at least temporarily abandoning the region known as the Donbass, considering it to be de facto occupied by Russia...

Ethiopian mosque site offers example of religious tolerance (The Daily Sabah) The Ethiopian religious site of Teru Sina, which features unique architectural characteristics, provides a successful model of religious tolerance with its opportunities for religious learning and socializing. Religious pilgrimages to the shrine of Shaykh Awel reportedly take place twice a year, and it is not only Muslims who honor the Sufi saint, but Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as well...



1 May 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, you can learn more about the remarkable fundraiser arranged by students in Westchester, New York last weekend — a benefit concert which netted more than $15,000, with all proceeds going to support CNEWA’s work among the people of Syria. (video: CNEWA)

It sounded like a nice idea that might raise a little money and get some attention.

It got a lot more than that.

Last Friday, a remarkable fundraiser by a group of New York teenagers known as Relief United drew a crowd of some 300 people to a park in Westchester, New York — and, at last count, raised more than $15,000 to support CNEWA’s work with the people of Syria.

This was beyond anything we expected. As I told someone Friday night: “This is incredible.” You can see a video report of the event above.

Local media turned out to cover the concert and talk with the kids behind it.

From WABC-TV:

Really making a difference in the world is an ambitious idea seven teens from Westchester are truly committed to.

“Even the smallest person can make a change,” a teen said.

Motivated by the disturbing images and headlines coming from Syria, the longtime friends organized a picnic and benefit concert at Kingsland Point Park Friday to raise money for Syrian refugee families, hospitals, and schools.

“We look at it on TV and we talk about it, but what are we doing?” said Michal Kozlowski, a student. “So I got together with a bunch of my friends and this started with a little dance in a little church and it’s just expanded.”

“I don’t like to think of it as us helping Syrians, because that makes them seem so distant and far away from us,” said Gibran Mourani, a student. “I like to think of it as teenagers helping teenagers, families helping families.”

Some of the teenagers who supported the event pose for a snapshot with CNEWA development associate Phillip Eubanks and multimedia editor Greg Kandra, who are kneeling in the front.
(photo: Chris Kennedy)


As we first reported last month, the benefit began a long way from Westchester:

“It started at World Youth Day in Krakow,” says Michal Kozlowski, a junior at Regis High School in New York City. “One of my friends I met there is from Syria and he started telling me about his brother, who lives under ISIS. He was speaking from the heart about what he had to do just to survive. Then Pope Francis spoke to us and said, ‘The leaders of today dream in their comfy couches but they don’t get out of that couch and make that dream a reality.’ The crowd roared and I thought: ‘I’ve got to do something.”

That planted the seed, which eventually grew into Friday’s event:

“Hopefully,” Michal says, “this can have an impact similar to what I had at World Youth Day. We want to organize energetic youth under a common, good goal to do something good.”

“This is something we feel passionate about,” adds Nick Sinopoli, another junior from Regis working with Michal on the project. “It’s something we can do to make a real difference in the world.”

In addition to music and food, the fundraiser offered opportunities to write notes to Syrian refugees, provided information about CNEWA and our work in the region, and even gave kids a chance to have their names tattooed on their arms (with a Sharpie) in Arabic.

Teenagers who attended had a chance to have their names written on their arm in Arabic.
(photo: Chris Kennedy)


It was something all of us who were there will remember for a long time. And we remain both humbled and grateful to the hardworking kids (and their parents and teachers!) who made this event possible — and all those who took part, who will be making such a difference in the lives of so many in Syria.

Our thanks go out to Michal Kozlowski, Lilly McHale, Nick Sinopoli, Michael Gauguin, Gibran Mourani, Jane Singman and Joe Gullotta, and to their supportive parents.

Michal Kozlowski, joined by some of the teenagers who helped organize the Relief United benefit concert, speaks to the hundreds of friends and supporters who attended the event in Westchester on 29 April. (photo: Greg Kandra)



Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA

1 May 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis’s visit last weekend to Egypt — where he was joined by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew of Constantinople — brought together for the first time the heads of the churches of Rome and Constantinople with the leaders of the church founded in Egypt by St. Mark the Evangelist: Theodoros II, Orthodox pope and patriarch of Alexandria; Tawadros II, Coptic Orthodox pope and patriarch of Alexandria; and Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)



Tags: Egypt Ecumenism Eastern Christianity Africa Egypt's Christians

1 May 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis speaks to Egyptian Catholics during Mass on Saturday 29 April.
(video: CNS)


True faith means loving others to the extreme, pope tells Egypt’s Catholics (CNS) The only kind of fanaticism that is acceptable to God is being fanatical about loving and helping others, Pope Francis said on his final day in Egypt. “True faith,” he told Catholics, “makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost...”

Pope to Egypt’s priests and seminarians: be sowers of hope and dialogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday told Egypt’s priests, religious and seminarians to be sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue, despite the many difficulties they face...

Pope in Egypt: Catholics and Copts recognize shared baptism (Vatican Radio) In a common declaration, signed by Pope Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II, Catholics and Copts declare for the first time that they will recognise each other’s sacrament of baptism...

Turkey sacks 4,000 more officials in crackdown (BBC) The Turkish government has sacked almost 4,000 more public officials in what appears to be the latest purge related to a failed coup last July. They include more than 1,000 justice ministry workers, a similar number of army staff and more than 100 air force pilots, officials said. In a separate decree, Turkey banned TV dating shows — a move previously mooted by the government. Earlier on Saturday, Turkey blocked the online encyclopedia Wikipedia...

Caritas India helps farmers avoid migration (Vatican Radio) Caritas India has started the Agrarian Prosperity Program (APP) in several northern Indian villages to provide the villagers with alternative sources of income and to check economic migration. Caritas introduced farmers to new techniques such as organic farming, a system to preserve indigenous seeds besides intensifying activities to save water such as renovation and construction of check dams, ponds, tanks and wells...

Student-run Relief United raises funds for Syria (WABC) Really making a difference in the world is an ambitious idea seven teens from Westchester are truly committed to. “Even the smallest person can make a change,” a teen said. Motivated by the disturbing images and headlines coming from Syria, the longtime friends organized a picnic and benefit concert at Kingsland Point Park Friday to raise money for Syrian refugee families, hospitals, and schools...

New York high school students raise $15,000 for CNEWA’s work in Syria (Fios1news.com) Seven school students brought the community together Friday night in Sleepy Hollow to raise money for people struggling throughout Syria. As more than 300 people came out to support, the students say they well exceeded their goal of $5,000 in donations, crossing $15,000 in eight months...



28 April 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis walks with Egyptian Prime Minister Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, right, as he arrives at the international airport in Cairo 28 April. The pope was making a two-day visit to Egypt.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope arrives in Cairo to begin Egypt visit (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Egypt to begin an Apostolic Journey to the country. The Pope touched down at Cairo International Airport this Friday afternoon where he was met by the Apostolic Nuncio to Cairo, Bruno Musaro and a representative of the President of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah Al Sisi...

Pope brings to Cairo a message of peace (The New York Times) Francis, a politically savvy pontiff, will attempt a balancing act. He is expected to highlight the plight of Christians after recent violence in Egypt, while also continuing his mission to reach out to Muslims. Since December, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has signaled its intent to wage a sectarian war in Egypt by killing Christians in their homes, businesses or places of worship...

A hidden church in Cairo pins its hopes on good will from the Pope’s visit (The New York Times) For the past decade, a small Coptic Catholic congregation in a gritty north Cairo suburb has been trying to build a new church in the teeth of official resistance — a common tale in Egypt, where the law panders to old prejudices...

Panel accused of whitewashing Israeli discrimination against Christians (Al Monitor) A panel of experts created by Congress to defend religious freedom is being accused of whitewashing Israeli discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities. In an unprecedented public dissent against the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the only Middle East Christian on the panel is accusing the panel of a “continuing and glaring refusal” to hold Israel to account since the commission’s founding in 1998...

The Eritreans heading to Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) The disputed border town of Badme is where war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998. It lasted for two years and devastated both countries. In 2002, a Hague boundary commission ruled that Badme was part of Eritrea. It was a ruling that both countries initially accepted. But Ethiopian troops continue to occupy the town. Nowadays an uneasy standoff exists between the two country’s armies along the still-contested border a few kilometres north of Badme, at the tip of Ethiopia's Yirga Triangle, which juts into Eritrea. But now there are others moving along the border: Eritreans who travel through the region’s hills, trying to keep out of sight of their own military, to escape into Ethiopia...



27 April 2017
Greg Kandra




Some New York teenagers have formed a charity called Relief United, which is hosting a fundraiser to help Syrian refugees Friday evening in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
All proceeds will go to CNEWA.


If you’re in Westchester County, New York, Friday — stop by and say hello!

An ambitious effort to raise funds for the people of Syria, called “Project Syria LIVE,” kicks off tomorrow evening. As we reported earlier this month, it’s the brainchild of a high school student, Michal Kozlowski, who reached out to other teenagers in his community to create a volunteer group known as Relief United:

The fundraiser for refugees will take place at Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow, NY from 5:30pm — 10:00pm and will provide a fun night for the community which will include a “Battle of Bands” comprised of local bands and other talented youth from local high schools along with special guests such as “Voice” finalist, Amanda Ayala. The evening will also feature speakers and exhibits highlighting the plight of the displaced, with a special focus on teenaged refugees. Admission is $15 and can be purchased at Relief United’s online Eventbrite, reliefunited.org. Tickets at the door will cost $20. A variety of food trucks will also be onsite to ensure a fun, well fed evening. 100 percent of donations and profits will go directly to CNEWA.

You can read more about the project here.

While the high school students are running this event, all proceeds will go directly to CNEWA and projects and programs we support to help Syrian refugees. Representatives from CNEWA will be there Friday evening — and we hope you’ll join us. (If you can’t make it, visit Relief United’s web page to learn how you can donate and lend your support.)

We’ll be posting updates on social media, so be sure to visit this blog, our Facebook page and Instagram.

Michal Kozlowski, left, and Nick Sinopoli are among the high school students organizing Project Syria LIVE, a fundraiser for CNEWA being held in Sleepy Hollow, New York on 28 April.
(photo: Greg Kandra)



Tags: Syria Refugees Relief United

27 April 2017
Greg Kandra




A man cleans a statue of Mary inside a Christian souvenir shop on 27 April ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to Cairo beginning on 28 April. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)



27 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from January, children wave Iraqi flags to celebrate the partial liberation of their city as they climb on top of armored military vehicles in Mosul, Iraq. Life in parts of the city has returned to normal, but the battle to liberate the rest of Mosul continues.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)


‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus (BBC) An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report. A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said...

Defiance and dreams of peace in east Mosul (Irish Times) After an operation to retake the city began last October, Iraqi forces declared the eastern half of Mosul liberated in January, allowing normal life to return — insofar as possible in a city ruined by months of war...

Organ trafficker preys on Syrian refugees (BBC) Some refugees beg on the streets — particularly children. Young boys shine shoes, dodge between cars in traffic jams to sell chewing gum or tissues through the windows, or end up exploited as child labour. Others turn to prostitution. But selling an organ is one way to make money quickly...

Egypt’s Coptic Christians under siege ahead of Pope Francis’s visit (ABC.net) While Egypt’s Copts, the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East — thought to make up about 10 per cent of the country’s population of 90 million — have said they largely appreciate Pope Francis’s anticipated message of peaceful religious co-existence and respect, the community faces deep and intrinsic problems...

Indian community in New Zealand celebrates Christian and Hindu holidays together (Indian Weekender) In what can be termed as an excellent example of religious harmony in New Zealand, and more so, shining a bright light on India’s age-old diverse traditions, last weekend, Keralites in Christchurch celebrated Easter, a Christian festival, and Vishu, a Hindu festival, together...



26 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis speaks to the TED 2017 audience in Canada about his vision for the world and his hope for the future. (video: TED/YouTube)

Pope Francis yesterday became the first pontiff to deliver a TED talk (you can watch it above) speaking by video to an audience in Canada:

While searching for a connection today often means looking for Wi-Fi, Pope Francis said real connections between people are the only hope for the future. “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said in a video talk played 25 April for 1,800 people attending TED 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and posted online with subtitles in 20 languages.

“How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us,” the pope said in the talk that TED organizers had been advertising as that of a “surprise guest.”

Pope Francis spoke to the international conference about combating the current “culture of waste” and “techno-economic systems” that prioritize products, money and things over people.

“Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough,” he said. “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face.”

Many people in the world move along paths “riddled with suffering” with no one to care for them, the pope said. Far too many people who consider themselves “respectable” simply pass by, leaving thousands on “the side of the road.”

“The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people,” he said, the greater the responsibility one has to act and to do so with humility. “If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

“There is a saying in Argentina,” he told his audience: “‘Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.’ You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”

You can read more here.

TED is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution. The main conference is held every year in Vancouver. Past speakers have included a wide range of prominent public figures, including Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, and Bono. As its website describes itself:

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.



26 April 2017
Greg Kandra




Members of a tribal village in India welcome CNEWA's president Msgr. John E. Kozar during his pastoral visit in late 2016. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)







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