11 October 2016
Fadia Matti shows her family album, containing memories of life in Qaraqosh before ISIS forced her family to flee. (photo: Don Duncan)
Some of the most inspiring heroes we have met over the years are those who have remained devoted to their faith, in spite of almost unimaginable obstacles.
Most recently, that includes the men, women and children who have been displaced by ISIS in Iraq.
We profiled a number of them two years ago, including the Matti family:
Mother of four and wife to Saaed, Fadia Matti reaches often for a roll of toilet paper that sits next to her. She uses the roll for tissues for her coughing or crying. Since arriving in the basement of an unfinished building in Erbil, she has developed respiratory problems, and a broken heart.
“I don’t believe what has happened,” she says of her family’s displacement from Qaraqosh in northern Iraq. She sits on one of the foam mattresses of the family’s new shelter, a small quadrant defined by plastic sheeting. “I cry once I remember [our home in] Qaraqosh: the churches, Communion, having parties and how we would sit with our neighbors and wait for Christmas and Easter. I am sitting here, but my mind is in Qaraqosh.”
Around Fadia sit her children: her daughter Inas, the eldest; 16-year-old son Nibras; 13-year-old daughter Aras; and Diana, 10, the youngest. Her husband Saaed comes into the enclosure, removes his boots and sits next to her.
Around them lie the accouterments familiar to refugees and displaced people the world over: piles of foam mattresses, plastic containers, basic gas stoves, plastic sheeting and imperishable foodstuffs.
The Mattis have ended up in perhaps the worst living conditions that Erbil has to offer for the arriving Christians. While others are housed in tents in the grounds of St. Joseph’s Church or in temporary structures in social centers or on floors above where the Mattis now live, the Mattis’ own living space is in the poorly-lighted basement. The open sewer for the entire building is nearby. A constant smell of refuse and excrement lingers.
“My children get sick. I take them to the doctor. They get well. And then they get sick again,” says Fadia of the endless cycle of ill health that comes with living in such substandard conditions.
“I was comforting my kids, telling them that tomorrow would be better,” she says, “but now I am crying because I think of what we left behind: the churches especially, but also our memories, the childhoods of my children and everything we had.”
But her concluding comments speak poignantly of the deep and unwavering devotion these suffering Christians still carry in their hearts:
&lduqo;I love Qaraqosh. It’s my spirit. It’s my soul,” says Fadia. “We hope we will go back and that Christianity will remain in Iraq. My hope is in God and in Our Lady. It is impossible that Christianity will disappear.”
You can learn what has happened to Christians in Iraq since then by reading Grace in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE and United in Faith, Prayer and Love in the Summer 2016 edition, chronicling the pastoral visit of CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, to Kurdistan.
The resilience of the Mattis and so many other heroic families continues to inspire the work we do around the world. If you’d like to learn how to help displaced families in Iraq, visit this page — and please, keep them in your prayers.
11 October 2016
In this image from last spring, children sing in a preschool for displaced children run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ain Kawa, near Erbil, Iraq. To see more and learn more, read United in Faith, Prayer and Love in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
11 October 2016
In the video above, Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad describes what he and other Christians have endured in Iraq. As the country prepares for the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, there have been disputes about who will control the territory. (video: Rome Reports)
Disputes over future control of Mosul (Fides) The preliminary phases to the military assault for the liberation of Mosul from jihadists of the Islamic State sees the increase of political, geopolitical and sectarian disputes about the future political and ethno-religious structure of the region among the various actors in the field, after the possible defeat of the Caliphate...
The rise of Syria’s White Helmets (The Economist) Operating across rebel-held parts of the country, Syria’s civil-defence team has grown from small, ragtag bands of untrained volunteers into a formidable search-and-rescue force. The group has rescued more than 60,000 people since 2014, when it began to keep count. Known as the White Helmets for the color of the hard hats they wear, the rescue workers were nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize...
Turkey extends state of emergency following failed coup (NPR) In Turkey, the sweeping crackdown that began after the failed coup attempt in July isn’t slowing down. A three-month state of emergency billed as a temporary measure has just been extended for another three months...
Israel shuts down access to Gaza, West Bank for Yom Kippur (AFP) Israeli authorities have barred Palestinians from entering the country from the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ahead of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday that begins on Tuesday evening, the army said. Such closures are often put in place for major Jewish holidays, but Israeli security forces are on especially high alert following an attack by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem on Sunday that killed two people...
Bees bring hope to Palestine (Vatican Radio) On the West Bank, near Ramallah, honey production has become one of the basic economic resources for a group of women...
7 October 2016
A woman pauses on her way home in an Armenian village. Caritas Armenia, a longtime partner of CNEWA, seeks to help that country’s elderly. You can read a firsthand account and learn more about the challenges facing the region’s elderly in Shaken by the Earthquake of Life, both published in recent issues of ONE magazine. (photo: courtesy Caritas Armenia)
7 October 2016
Tags: Armenia Poor/Poverty Village life Caritas
Syrian refugees arrive at a refugee camp in early May at the Jordan border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)
U.N. to make aid delivery to Syrian refugees on Jordan’s border (Reuters) United Nations aid agencies will make their first deliveries of relief in two months to thousands of Syrian refugees stranded on Jordan’s northeastern border with Syria, the world body said on Thursday. More than 75,000 people, mostly women and children, have been stuck for months in makeshift camps in a no-man’s land on the Syrian side of the border, after fleeing central and eastern Syria…
Maronite archbishop: Aleppo is divided like a new Berlin (Vatican Radio) Daily life in the fiercely contested Syrian city of Aleppo becomes worse by the day. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo said nowhere is safe in the Syrian city which he called a “new Berlin.” The archbishop described how the residents of Aleppo are living with death on a daily basis as a result of the frequent bombardments and shelling, saying they celebrate at least ten funerals every day for those killed by the fighting…
A million children in Syria sign appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) More than one million children in Syria have been signing a petition calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the Syrian civil war…
Kidnapped Christians released in Egypt (Christian Today) Four Coptic Christians, including a child, who were kidnapped on Monday in the Egyptian town of Manfalout in Assiut, have returned home safely after a ransom was paid, according to the independent Cairo newspaper Watani…
Evidence of ancient Assyrian church discovered in Kazakhstan (The Astana Times) The ancient city of Ilyn Balik is well known from pilgrims’ travels. Recent excavations in Usharal village have uncovered an ancient city and cemetery with eight Nestorian gravestones and the markers prove Christianity was present in Kazakhstan long before Western imperialism…
6 October 2016
Tags: Syria Egypt Jordan
Atsede Gebetsadik attended the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa — a school serving the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia — and has now returned there to teach. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
One of the institutions CNEWA has supported is the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. As we reported in 2013:
The school, run by the Daughters of Charity and supported by CNEWA, is located in the middle of Kachene, the poorest neighborhood of Addis Ababa. It is the only school in the city targeting the poorest of the poor and one of the very few that is financially accessible to them.
Many of the students are orphans, or have lost one parent. A high proportion of people in the neighborhood are blind. Most of the adults get by on a precarious income earned through begging or occasional labor such as weaving baskets, selling grilled corn on the street or cleaning car windows. The daily worries of the children attending the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School go beyond spelling tests and times tables.
“These children are exposed to many risks due to the poverty they live in,” says Assefa Teklewold Worka, the children’s physical education teacher. “They are exposed to tobacco, alcohol or sniffing petroleum from a very early age. They are also at risk from the various diseases that the slum they live in can bring — and, in some cases, from trafficking and coercion into sex work.”
Despite these dangers, many of the school’s students are trying to stay in the game — to get a better education and, they hope, a better life.
In fact, they are playing to win.
One of those who has won is a young woman named Atsede Gebretsadik — a graduate of the school who has returned there as a teacher. She is managing to give back some of what was given to her — and in an interview, she imparted this simple, beautiful message:
“Teaching is a really difficult profession because what you are doing is creating people’s minds,” she says. “It’s not just talk and chalk, it goes further — into the homes of these children. We realize that yes, we are poor, but we challenge this poverty with education.”
That kind of heroic spirit is continuing to make a difference in the lives of many of those CNEWA serves around the world — and Atsede Gebretsadik is a living reminder that it pays off.
To offer your support for young people like Atsede in Ethiopia — many of whom are battling not just poverty but also drought — visit this giving page.
6 October 2016
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education
Bells call Georgians to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Tblisi, Georgia. To learn more about the ancient church of Constantinople, and how it is thriving today, read Out of Byzantium in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
6 October 2016
Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Georgia
Children play in water from a burst pipe after an air strike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 September. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)
In Syria, Eastern Aleppo faces ‘total ruin’ in a matter of months (BBC) Rebel-held eastern Aleppo in northern Syria may face “total destruction” in two months, with thousands killed, the United Nations Syria envoy has said. Staffan de Mistura told reporters that he was prepared to personally accompany Al Qaeda-linked jihadists out of the city if it would stop the fighting…
Syrian forces seize half of rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian government forces seized around half of a key opposition-held neighborhood in Aleppo on Thursday in a new advance against rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said…
Holy See: World cannot ‘lose resolve’ in migration crisis (Vatican Radio) The permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, on Wednesday addressed the executive committee meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…
Russian Orthodox Church: Collaboration more important than ever (Asia News) Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov, secretary for relations between Christians from the Moscow Patriarchate, hopes cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics will result in “peacekeepers” and “moral reference points” in a world marked by armed conflicts, terrorism, persecution, consumerism, materialism. He also speaks of the difficulties among Orthodox churches. Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba catalyzed the growth of fraternal relations between Moscow and Rome…
Israel halts yacht trying to break Gaza embargo (The New York Times) Their chances of reaching the shores of Gaza were never high: Thirteen women on a yacht hoping to breach the years-old sea blockade of the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal territory enforced by the Israeli Navy. Naval officers boarded the yacht, the Zaytouna-Oliva, at dusk on Wednesday in international waters, after it had spent eight days at sea. It was searched and redirected toward the southern Israeli port of Ashdod…
Sheptytsky Institute moving to new location (Catholic Register) Canada’s premier center for university-level studies of Ukrainian Catholic theology, tradition and liturgy is moving from Ottawa to Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College. The Andrey Sheptytsky Institute will move from Saint Paul University, where it has operated since 1990, on 1 July 2017. Toronto classes will begin next September. It will offer master’s and Ph.D. programs in Eastern Christian spirituality and doctrine, liturgy, church history and ecumenism…
5 October 2016
Tags: Syria Israel Eastern Christianity Christian Unity Migrants
A young student in Ethiopia offers a warm greeting as he begins another school day. CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar paid a pastoral visit to the Horn of Africa earlier this year. See more images from his trip and learn more about the challenges this part of the world faces in this pictorial essay from the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
5 October 2016
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Africa Horn of Africa
Pope Francis reflected on his recent trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan in his general audience Wednesday. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope reflects on trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on his recent apostolic voyage to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Holy Father said: “This visit complemented my visit to Armenia in June, and fulfilled my desire to visit all three nations of the Caucasus to confirm the Catholic community and to encourage all the people in their journey toward peace and fraternity.” He concluded his address with the prayer, “May God bless Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and guide his holy people in those countries…”
Four Copts, including a child, kidnapped (Fides) Four Coptic Christians, one of whom is a 9-year-old boy, were kidnapped on 3 October in the city of Manfalut, in the province of Assiut, about 220 miles south of Cairo…
Syrian government forces advance on Aleppo (Al Jazeera) Syrian government tanks crossed the frontline in the battleground city of Aleppo for the first time in four years, as a Russian-backed offensive to retake the rebel-held east escalated on the ground. Pro-government forces were “gradually advancing” after street battles on Tuesday in the divided city’s rebel-controlled neighborhoods, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…
The refugee camp at the foot of the Washington Monument (NPR) Sabrina Chang, 30, didn’t know much about the global refugee crisis. “I think I could spit out headlines that I’ve seen, but that’s about it,” she says. But then she found herself — for a moment — in refugees’ shoes. Chang visited Forced From Home, a touring interactive exhibition hosted by Doctors Without Borders, the medical aid group. The exhibit is a re-creation of a refugee camp, about the size of half a school gymnasium, with a store, a hospital and places to sleep. It began its run in New York last month and is at the foot of the Washington Monument until 9 October, then moves to Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh…
India announces day of interfaith prayer in response to Kashmir crisis (Fides) “We announce a major national prayer to be held on Sunday, 16 October 2016: all the bishops, all the priests, religious and laity, will animate Masses, liturgies, vigils and prayers for the good of the nation. We call on all men and women of good will to join us and pray for our beloved country, invoking God’s blessing on our population.” This is the appeal launched by Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and president of the interreligious Episcopal Conference of India, in response to the Kashmir crisis and the escalation on the border region with Pakistan…
Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Caucasus