Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
11 May 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from March, a Syrian refugee widow, 25-years-old Hawla Shafi, who fled from the Syrian town of Raqqa, is seen with her children in front of an abandoned electric transformer building in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Raqqa has just been recaptured by the opposition forces.
(photo: Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.S.-led coalition lauds capture of ISIS town in Syria (AP) The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says the Kurdish-led Syrian opposition forces’ capture of a key town and nearby dam in eastern Syria from the militants undermines IS’s ability to defend its de facto capital, Raqqa. Thursday’s coalition statement says the fall of Tabqa and its dam the day before also denies ISIS “a key coordination hub” used by the group’s foreign fighters since 2013 to plan operations and attacks against the West...

Drought surging once again in Ethiopia ( The national, Risk Management Commission reported the number of people who are in need of urgent assistance has reached 7.7 million. The number is 31 percent higher compared to what it was six months ago...

Focolare Movement organizes events in India to strengthen interreligious dialogue (Fides) Promoting unity, peace and solidarity among young people belonging to different religions in India: this is the aim of a series of events that the Focolare Movement in India have organized in May, especially to strengthen the path of interreligious dialogue. The theme of the special week, celebrated by young Focolare people at an international level, was “Change your heart to change the world...”

Metropolitan Tikhon addresses World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington ( His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, offered welcoming remarks at the opening session of “Martyrs for Christ,” the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians that opened here on 10 May 2017. “This Summit takes place during the season of the resurrection of Christ, in which we celebrate the victory of the Life-giver over death and the destruction of corruption by the Divine Physician,” said Metropolitan Tikhon...

Russian found guilty for inciting religious hatred for playing ‘Pokemon Go’ in church (The Washington Post) A judge in Russia’s fourth-largest city has convicted a blogger who played ‘Pokémon Go” in a renowned Orthodox cathedral of inciting religious hatred and insulting the feelings of believers, the state RIA-Novosti news agency reported Thursday...

10 May 2017
Greg Kandra

A catechism class prays after celebrating the Divine Liturgy in Cairo. To learn more about how Christians are keeping the faith in Egypt, often under difficult circumstances, read Anxiety in Cairo in the current edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)

10 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II attend an ecumenical prayer service at St. Peter’s Church in Cairo on 28 April. The church was the site of a December 2016 bombing. In a letter to Pope Tawadros today, Pope Francis called for “unity in diversity.”
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope calls for unity in diversity in letter to Pope Tawadros II (CNS) In a letter to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, Pope Francis said he hoped that both their churches can continue along the path of true unity and communion. The bond between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church is a reminder “to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope wrote in a letter to the patriarch on 10 May...

Battle for Mosul: 400,000 Iraqis displaced in two months (Al Jazeera) More than 400,000 people have been displaced from western Mosul about two months into the Iraqi army’s battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to the UN. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, citing the Iraqi government, that 434,775 people have fled ISIL’s last stronghold in Iraq since Iraqi forces launched the western Mosul operation on 19 February...

Ethiopian cardinal calls for strengthening of families (Vatican Radio) His Eminence Cardinal Berhaneyesus, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, President of CBCE and AMECEA Chairman has called on parents to be a primary and reliable means of information for their children. He said that this post modern era is a challenging time for the youth to make an informed decision about their life and the path they want to choose. His Eminence said this in the speech he delivered at the national forum on building integral being of adolescents and youth organized by the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth and Sports in Addis Ababa...

Orthodox graffiti comes to Russia ( The Russian Orthodox Church and street art don’t tend to go hand in hand, but a recent collaboration between a provincial street artist and a priest has proven an exception to that rule. Last month, an artist who goes by “Rimrus” from the city of Volgodonsk in southern Russia, noticed that the wall surrounding an Orthodox church in his hometown was covered in graffiti, and he decided to do something about it. In a letter to a local priest, Rimrus suggested the church cover up the graffiti with its own street art and proposed a design. The priest immediately granted permission and even offered to provide paint to the artist...

9 May 2017
Greg Kandra

School feeding programs in Ethiopia have proven a highly effective means of supporting communities — helping to feed young people and give them energy to study. To learn more, read A Letter from Ethiopia in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

9 May 2017
Greg Kandra

In the video above, an Iraqi priest says Iraqis must learn to forgive “even those who led ISIS into our homes.” (video: Rome Reports)

Chaldean patriarch: ‘incendiary rhetoric’ fuels Islamaphobia (Fides) The Chaldean patriarch in a recent document condemned cases of preachers and self-proclaimed Muslim leaders who define Christians, Jews and Gentiles as “infidels” and instigate their followers to treat them with the same violent and discriminatory practices used against them by jihadists from ISIS...

Syria safe zones on hold (The Guardian) Russian-backed plans for de-escalation zones in Syria are on hold as the US, France and the UK seek further detail on how exactly the agreement will be enforced. The deal, jointly signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Kazakhstan last week, agreed the establishment of four zones intended to halt conflict between government forces and rebels in key areas, and would potentially be policed by foreign troops...

Iraqi leader: 75 percent of all Iraqi Christians have fled (Christian Post) As many as 1.5 million Christians, or close to 75 percent of all followers of Christ in Iraq, have fled the country since 2003, according to an Iraqi Christian lawmaker. “The number of Christians living in the country now stands at between 500,000 and 850,000,” Josef Sleve told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday. “This means that over the past 14 years, some 1.5 million Christians have emigrated to other countries...”

Jordan’s king vows to protect Arab Christians (World Watch Monitor) King Abdullah II of Jordan said that he will protect the existence and identity of Arab Christians, when last week he met the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is on a 12-day tour of the Middle East. King Abdullah II spoke of Jordan as a model of harmonious coexistence between Christians and Muslims. Jordan used to be one of the most open and religiously free countries in the Middle East...

Priest kidnapped in Yemen pleads for help in video (CNS) Indian Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped in Yemen more than a year ago, in a video message pleaded for the Indian government and the Catholic Church to do more to secure his release...

Syrian refugees in Lebanon struggle after eviction (Reuters) Sitting in a dimly lit room with his three-year-old son on his lap, Taha points to the boy's lips where a rat had bitten him twice while he was sleeping in the night. With a look of hopelessness, Taha, a refugee from Syria, explains how he and his family of seven now live in a horse barn in the Bekaa Valley after last month they were served eviction notices to leave their camp by the Lebanese army. Taha and his family are among an estimated 10,500 Syrian refugees ordered to leave the makeshift camp, with the Lebanese military citing security reasons as the refugees were camped near the Rayak air base...

Indian women pray for peace (Vatican Radio) Around 450 Catholic women from the eight districts of eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh India, during a three-day convention, organized a candle light prayer rally on 6 May to pray for peace...

8 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Natalia Menshykova fled her home in the Crimean capital of Simferopol and, like countless others, started life over in Lviv. She now runs a small theater company. Read more about her and Ukrainians who are The Displaced in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)

8 May 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2016, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III meets with children as they take part in a day of activities and prayers at a church in Damascus.
(photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)

Pope accepts resignation of Greek Melkite Patriarch (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham, from his pastoral office. A letter from the Holy Father to the Patriarch-emeritus and all the Melkite bishops explains that His Beatitude presented his resignation during the course of a special audience with the Holy Father in February, and that the Holy Father has decided to accept the resignation...

Syria will abide by ‘de-escalation’ plan (Reuters) Syria’s foreign minister said on Monday that his government would abide by the terms of a Russian plan for “de-escalation” zones so long as rebels also observed it. Walid al-Moualem told a televised news conference that rebels involved in the process must help clear areas they control of jihadist factions, including the former Nusra Front, and that the deal’s guarantors must help them do this...

ISIS reportedly infiltrates refugee camp at Jordan-Syria border (NBC News) Officially, [the camp] is located in a demilitarized zone. However, the pilot of the Jordanian military helicopter used during a recent NBC News visit wouldn’t fly over it for fear of being shot down by ISIS cells in the camp. Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, commander of Jordan’s army in the area, told NBC News that militants there “have whole weapons systems ... small arms, RPG’s, anti-aircraft.” He added: “They consider the camp a safe haven. We consider it an imminent threat...”

Survivors talk of life under ISIS (The Sun) Survivors of the brutal Mosul siege have told of the terror of living under the shadow of an ISIS regime which mercilessly punished anyone caught flouting their archaic laws. Those caught smoking or drinking faced death while even those caught wearing the ‘wrong kind’ of trousers would be thrown into jail for months on end...

Russian priest maintains war cemetery outside St. Petersburg (RT) Properly burying enemy soldiers is paramount, as victory is meaningless without the victor’s benevolence, Orthodox Priest Father Vyacheslav, who helped organize one of Europe’s largest German military cemeteries outside of St Petersburg, told RT...

5 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Saeed Elyas Seno stands with his wife, Ekhlas Jomaa, and their four children by their temporary home in Kurdistan. Displaced Iraqis such as Senos — driven from their homes by ISIS — are struggling to remain hopeful. Read some of their stories and why they believe ‘God Wants Me Here’ in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)

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.


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: CNEWA Middle East Christians

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