7 November 2016
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, greets children after celebrating Mass on 6 November at Holy Family Church in Gaza City. The cardinal said his pastoral visit reinforced the importance of Christian hope, especially for those living in very insecure circumstances.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)
Battle for Mosul becomes urban combat (NBC News) As Iraqi forces struggle to secure the gains they made over the past week on Mosul’s eastern edge, the fight against ISIS has quickly morphed into close-quarters urban combat. With it, casualties among Iraq’s troops and civilians are spiking...
Displaced Syrians fear returning to their homeland (AP) Syria’s government says people who fled rebel zones that have since been retaken by the military are now welcome to return. But that’s not how it worked out for one refugee family that came to check out the state of their home: They found another family had moved in. That’s just one of many hurdles keeping away those displaced in Syria’s war...
Cardinal: faith reassures Christians in Gaza (CNS) English Cardinal Vincent Nichols said his pastoral visit to Holy Family Parish in Gaza reinforced the importance of Christian hope, especially for those living in very insecure circumstances. “It is very encouraging to witness the faith of the community of Christians living in that enclosed space and also in the midst of a huge Muslim community majority,” said Cardinal Nichols, Westminster archbishop and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. “They live day by day, and their faith is a reassurance for them”...
Pope Francis raises awareness about scourge of human trafficking (Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis spoke out against human trafficking, in an address to members of RENATE: Religious in Europe Networking against trafficking and exploitation). The group is in Rome for their 2nd European Assembly, which took place on Sunday. The theme of this year’s assembly was “Ending Trafficking Begins with Us”...
Patriarch: do not delay in forming government in Lebanon (Fides) The economic and social emergencies that mark the present situation of Lebanon do not allow any delays or postponement in the formation of a government that would help the country. This is what was strongly emphasized by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, during his homily yesterday, Sunday, 6 November, six days after the election of former general Michel Aoun for the office of President of the Lebanese Republic, vacant for almost two years and a half...
Nobel laureates to meet in Delhi to discuss children’s issues (Vatican Radio) Nobel laureates and eminent leaders around the globe will meet in the Indian capital New Delhi next month to discuss why children suffer the most in conflicts though they don’t cause them, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi said on Thursday. “Children are never responsible for any wars, conflicts or violence, yet they are the worst sufferers in any such hideous situation. This is completely unacceptable,” he said while announcing a global initiative for children...
4 November 2016
In the video above, a priest from Aleppo says Christians are the targets of many attacks
in the city. (video: Rome Reports)
Humanitarian pause begins in Aleppo (The New York Times) A temporary halt in fighting announced by Russia to allow Syrian rebels and residents to leave the besieged eastern parts of Aleppo went into effect on Friday, with activists reporting a relative calm in the city. However, by early afternoon, state media said seven mortar shells from the rebel-held side of the city hit one of the corridors opened for those wanting to leave eastern Aleppo. The State TV said a correspondent for a pro-government station was wounded by shrapnel...
Iraqi forces push deeper into Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi special forces recaptured six districts of eastern Mosul on Friday, a military statement said, expanding the army’s foothold in the Islamic State bastion a day after its leader told his jihadist followers there could be no retreat. An officer in the elite Counter Terrorism Service, which has spearheaded the Mosul offensive, said its troops had launched a major operation against the militants who are now almost surrounded in their last major urban redoubt in Iraq...
Why Christianity’s holiest shrine is guarded by two Muslim families (The Washington Post) Two Muslim families were entrusted by a presumably weary Arab potentate to be the gatekeepers of the church. The Joudeh family keeps the key, while the Nuseibeh family opens up the church door every morning and locks it in the evening. In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Adeeb Joudeh, the current keeper of the key — an old, cast-iron object that’s a foot long — considered his family’s hereditary task to be a metaphor for religious tolerance...
The human tragedy unfolding in Gaza (The National) Gaza has experienced three wars in the past decade, each more devastating than the last. I last visited Gaza in 2009, six months after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. I found an enclosed territory and population struggling to adapt to Hamas rulers and recovering from devastated homes and lives. The 2014 conflict, that killed more than 2,250 Palestinians — hundreds of them children — and left thousands permanently injured, along with the deaths of 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians, still reverberates in Gaza; another war, just around the corner, is always feared...
3 November 2016
Rahel Zewde, 13, is sustained by CNEWA’s food program — and by her faith.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers.)
Heroism comes in many sizes and ages — and sometimes, it can be very young. Consider Rahel Zewde, for example, a 13-year-old girl from Ethiopia who every day battles hunger in a land blighted by drought.
Despite everything, though, she is nourished by her faith:
One student, 13-year-old Rahel Zewde, only rarely has the chance to eat meat — it is a luxury usually reserved for major religious celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter, she says, looking away shyly and biting the neckline of her thin green and black hoodie. She adds she “sometimes” eats breakfast.
Rahel lives close by with four younger brothers and her single mother — her father left them for another family — in a compound belonging to extended family. With the two main buildings bolted shut, Rahel’s family occupies a corner screened from the sun but open to the elements, and sleeps under sacking on the stone floor.
When Rahel returns from school, she collects water and firewood, and looks after her brothers when her mother is away.
Sustaining Rahel in this delicate balance is her faith. “I pray to Mary, and ask her to save me from bad things,” she says.
Rahel is one of many receiving help through CNEWA’s food programs — which to date have helped feed more than 8,000 children in 24 Catholic schools in the Horn of Africa.
Learn more — and learn how you can help children like Rahel here.
3 November 2016
Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena teach displaced children in Erbil, Iraq. Learn more about the deep roots and wide branches of the Church of Antioch in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE, devoted to the various Catholic Eastern churches. (photo: Raed Rafei)
3 November 2016
Iraqis living in Gokceli neighborhood, east of Mosul city center, pile on the back of a truck as they flee the area for Hazir camp during the operation to retake Iraq’s Mosul from ISIS
on 3 November 2016. (photo: Idris Okuducu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi troops inside ISIS-held Mosul for first time since 2014 (CNN) Iraqi forces have entered ISIS-held Mosul for the first time in more than two years and are battling ISIS militants on the front line, defense officials told CNN...
Rebel groups clash in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian rebel factions fought each other in besieged eastern Aleppo on Thursday, officials from two of the groups and a war monitor said, potentially undermining their efforts to fend off a major Russian-backed offensive. Rebel groups have been plagued by disunity and infighting throughout the 5 1/2-year-old conflict, for ideological reasons, over tactical differences or in disputes over territory...
Pope calls for peaceful encounter of religions (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday urged representatives of different religions to foster a peaceful encounter of believers and genuine religious freedom. Speaking to some 200 people gathered in the Vatican for an interreligious audience, Pope Francis reflected on the soon- to-end Year of Mercy saying that mercy extends also to the world around us, “to our common home, which we are called to protect and preserve from unbridled and rapacious consumption”...
Clashes at Western Wall (Fides) Riots between ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jews belonging to the “conservative” and egalitarian Judaism, occurred on Wednesday, 2 November at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City...
Sisters run orphanages after Ethiopia cuts back adoptions (Global Sisters Report) Though Catholics make up less than 1 percent of the population in Ethiopia, Catholic sisters have always had a strong presence in the country, especially in the area of children’s orphanages. The Missionaries of Charity sisters alone had 19 orphanages, including hundreds of children in their central orphanage in the capital of Addis Ababa. Many other congregations, including the Daughters of Charity, the largest congregation in Ethiopia, also had dozens of orphanages...
Bells toll once again to proclaim Alaskan community’s faith (OCA.org) It was literally music to the ears of many residents of King Cove, a remote Aleut fishing community of about 950 year-round residents on the Pacific side of the Alaska Peninsula, when the bells of Saint Herman Church were installed and rang for the first time several weeks ago...
2 November 2016
An Iraqi man prepares a makeshift altar for the first Sunday Mass on 30 October at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh after the city was recaptured from ISIS militants.
(photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)
2 November 2016
A young displaced Iraqi leads his animals to safety on 1 November after escaping from the ISIS-controlled village of Abu Jarboa, near Mosul. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)
Iraqi troops secure foothold in Mosul (BBC) Iraqi forces are securing their foothold in the city of Mosul, moving from house to house to clear areas of Islamic State (IS) militants. Soldiers and special forces paused their advance on Wednesday, a day after pushing into the eastern outskirts. A BBC journalist says they are moving with caution, amid fears of ambushes, secret tunnels and booby traps...
Russia tells rebels to leave Aleppo by Friday evening (Reuters) Russia on Wednesday told anti-government rebels holed up in Syria’s Aleppo to leave by Friday evening, signaling it would extend a moratorium on air strikes against targets inside the city...
In news conference, Pope Francis speaks on immigration, refugees (CNS) In one of his briefest airborne news conferences, Pope Francis spent just over 40 minutes with reporters and answered six questions ranging from Sweden’s newly restrictive immigration policy to the role of women in the church. He also was asked about his experience with charismatics and Pentecostals, the roots of his concern about human trafficking, secularization in Europe and his meeting in late October with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Christians must never close their hearts to refugees and migrants, but governments have a duty to regulate the flux of newcomers as they allocate resources to ensure their integration into society, he said...
Vatican speaks out on human rights at U.N. (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, on Monday addressed the UN General Assembly on the promotion and protection of human rights. His intervention touched on a number of issues, including the “right to life of the unborn, of migrants in search of safety, of victims of armed conflicts, of the poor, of the elderly and the right to life of those facing the death penalty...”
Hindu groups criticize Vatican directive that bans scattering of ashes (News18.com) A Vatican directive barring Catholics from scattering ashes of the dead, a central practice among Hindus, has raised the hackles of Hindu organisations, who slam it as narrow-mindedness and an unnecessary restriction on the faithful from adopting best practices based in science only because its origins lie in other religions...
Russian Orthodox Church backs ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ (BBC) The Russian Orthodox Church has come out in support of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in the face of calls from hardline Christian activists for it to be banned. Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida says that while works like the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical might give rise to disputes and discussions, “it is not right to forbid an artist from drawing inspiration from the Holy Scripture...”
28 October 2016
CNEWA will be visiting Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church in San Diego this weekend.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!
Our CNEWA team is visiting Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church in San Diego this weekend. I’ll be giving talks Saturday morning at 11, and Sunday afternoon at 12:45. I’ll also be preaching at the 9 a.m. Divine Liturgy on Sunday. My topic: bringing light and hope to the suffering peoples of the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. I’ll also be offering some updates on the latest encouraging news from Iraq.
If you can, please join us! Visit the parish website for more information.
27 October 2016
Issa Nesnas received help from CNEWA in his youth—and now helps others as a CNEWA donor.
(photo: Greg Kandra)
I first met Issa Nesnas last winter, during a visit to meet CNEWA donors in California. To my surprise, it turns out that CNEWA had helped him during a time of need in his youth. Born and reared in Jerusalem, he received scholarship help from CNEWA to study in the United States. Not only that, but our magazine profiled his remarkable family in the 1990s. Issa has come a long way from Jerusalem; he now works for NASA in California, where he lives with his wife and three young children. He continues to give generously to CNEWA and believes in the philosophy of “paying it forward” — giving back in gratitude to those who gave to him.
I contacted him recently and asked if he’s share some of his story. He graciously agreed, and sent us the email below.
I was born on Christmas Day 1970 in Jerusalem, to Antoine and Eileen Nesnas. I grew up with two siblings: my older sister, Nayla, and my younger brother Nasri. I attended Collège des Frères, a Christian Brothers’ school in the Old City from kindergarten through 12th grade. Both my paternal and maternal ancestries can be traced back well over 400 years to the city of Jerusalem.
While I was growing up, my parents both had to work to support our family. My dad worked at the American Consulate in Jerusalem, while my mother worked at the Pontifical Mission for Palestine [CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East] for more than three decades, starting at the age of 19. (In fact, it was 36 years in all, which included assisting both the late Helen Breen and Carol Hunnybun for the visit of Pope Paul VI to Jerusalem in 1964). Through her time there, many directors served in that office. In the mid-1980’s, when I was in the ninth grade, the Rev. Andre Weller was in charge there. He was an unassuming figure with a genuine care for people. During that time, personal computers started to hit the market and the Pontifical Mission had just acquired their first personal computer. I recall that computer laying there with its nylon cover for many months on end.
My parents had the great foresight to buy us a small computer, which was a substantial purchase for a family of modest means. To ensure that their investment was fruitful, they enrolled my siblings and me in a Palestinian summer camp that focused on early computer education, which had yet to reach the high school and college curricula. We eagerly embraced these unique but rare opportunities. Armed with this knowledge, I offered Father Andre help with setting up their computer and tailoring it to their needs. t that time, personal computers had few applications. The main purpose was to automate the office’s accounting system. His agreeable response reflected his trust in my abilities, which invariably left me with a sense of confidence.
I knew very little about accounting; however, I was adept at writing computer programs. So I started to work on programming their accounting system during my free time. I recall spending numerous hours working on that. It took many months and I was making good progress. It was through that experience and interaction that I got to work with and later know Father Andre quite well.
Father Andre appreciated my effort through the many volunteer hours that I spent helping with the computers in the office and he wanted to help me. There was one thing that I critically needed: a scholarship to study engineering and pursue my dream of becoming a robotics engineer. At the time, I also did not fully comprehend how grants and scholarships in the U.S. worked.
Unbeknownst to me and to my parents, Father Andre discussed this situation with Msgr. Robert Stern upon one of his visits to CNEWA headquarters. Msgr. Stern, whom I got to know quite well during my undergraduate years in New York, was another formidable man who was intent on helping people. Together and with others, including Brother Robert Wise, a Christian Brother at my high school in Jerusalem, they tried to work out an arrangement for me that would allow me to lump together enough financial resources to attend Manhattan College. These included small contributions from Manhattan College, from my family, and from my student work. However, the primary contribution would come from CNEWA’s newly established scholarship fund through the generous endowment of an Aramco retiree, Ollie DeVine. With the help of several players, one of whom I only met a couple of years ago, the fund was established and I became the first recipient of this scholarship.
Ollie was a gracious man with whom I exchanged monthly letters and pictures when I started at Manhattan College in the fall of 1988. We were both eager to meet one another. A meeting in New York City was arranged for November of 1988 but later postponed to January. Sadly, Ollie passed away in December and we never got to meet in person. But over the years, I held on to the letters and pictures that he sent me. It is these gestures — his willingness to help — that were transformative in my life. I dedicated my doctoral dissertation to Ollie and his legacy.
Perhaps my initial request for help with a scholarship was a little unusual. But the fact is that the people at CNEWA and those who support them made it happen. It is a testament to their dedication to creating solutions to help people in need. This left me in awe. Those people enabled my journey and I will always be indebted to them. What they have done helped change my life in very profound ways.
The people I met along this journey and the genuine kindness and caring that I experienced throughout left the deepest impact on me. That made me very determined to give back, with the hope that it would make a positive impact on others.
I felt blessed and fortunate, but it also inspired me to reciprocate. I felt the need to do something in return that would help others. Once your life gets touched by others, it changes you to the core.
I think people should know that the work that CNEWA does touches so many lives in the most fundamental way. It connects potential donors to people who are in need and who are victims of political misfortunes. The aid that CNEWA offers helps people get up on their feet and improve their living conditions.
We are all part of the human fabric: people of different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and religions. Our lives are intertwined. Bombs and wars only sow seeds of anger and hatred, wreak havoc on the lives and livelihood of people for generations to come, create schisms and misunderstanding among cultures and never solve a problem at its core. Justice, kindness, education, and positive interaction will promote better understanding of our diversity and lead to more harmony, peace and prosperity in our world.
27 October 2016
A Bedouin is ordained to the diaconate in Jordan. To learn more about the enduring faith of Christians in that corner of the world, check out the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE and the story Where It All Began, a look at the Church of Jerusalem. (photo: John E. Kozar)