17 November 2016
Kamil and Agnes Shehade created House of Grace in Haifa as a humble ministry to serve the poor, the disadvantaged and newly released prisoners. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
You would be hard-pressed to find a couple with a deeper commitment to the Gospel — and more zeal for caring for the less fortunate — than Kamil and Agnes Shehade, a heroic couple we profiled in 1998:
Where in the Israeli city of Haifa can the poor and disadvantaged go? To whom can newly released prisoners turn? How can drug addicts kick their habit? Many find help at the House of Grace, a unique community that gives hope and succor to those in despair.
Located on a busy road in central Haifa, the House of Grace is literally an oasis of calm in a sea of confusion. Building construction almost surrounds the compound. Trucks roll continually and workmen toil daily in the scorching sun.
The House of Grace was established by Kamil Shehade, an Israeli Arab and a member of the local Greek Melkite Catholic community. He and his Swiss-born wife, Agnes, are the pivot on which the House of Grace revolves, the core of stability that the large community of staff, residents and volunteers needs.
...Kamil firmly believes God prepared the ground for this apostolate. He had spent 10 years praying for guidance as to how to help his community. With the support of his bishop he had traveled to Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario, Canada, to learn more about the lay apostolate. He had already worked for many years as a volunteer social worker and was only too familiar with the severe social problems of Haifa’s impoverished Israeli Arab community. He was determined to do something and believed his own Greek Melkite Catholic community (which is the largest Christian community in Haifa) should be at the heart of it.
“Our idea was to help society to live the Gospel, through the church, from the church,” Kamil explains.
Kamil’s dream was to help local Arabs find solutions to their own problems.
“Why should the church abroad always do everything for us? Why not help ourselves?” he asked.
The House of Grace also reaches out to those beyond its little community:
In addition to its residents, the House of Grace helps literally thousands of poor families in the Haifa area, giving them food or Christmas parcels; perhaps helping them write letters, especially to government or municipal agencies.
“It is difficult for people in our community to ask for help,” says Elias. “We emphasize their dignity. We consider them part of a big family.”
...The House of Grace also helps finance the education of gifted pupils whose parents cannot afford the tuition fees of local church-run schools. In addition, about 230 college students both here and abroad receive some contribution, however small — on condition that they return to work in their home community.
Two years ago, Melodie Gabriel, from CNEWA’s Canadian office, wrote about a visit to the House of Grace:
Mr. and Mrs. Shehade had five children, who also lived with these former offenders. They grew up treating them as a part of their family — and, at times, even babysitters.
It is a difficult transition for those released from prison, as they are often ostracized by society and can easily fall back into negative behaviors. For many former prisoners at the House the Grace, it is the first time they are treated as human beings with dignity, rather than lowlifes or criminals. At the House of Grace, they are shown what a real “home” is like.
People of different faiths — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze — live together at the House of Grace. They celebrate each other’s feasts and learn one another’s traditions. Eventually, they begin to understand and respect each other, even if they don’t always agree — which is rare in a society where there exist many deeply held prejudices.
We heard from one House of Grace resident who says their ministry has given him a new lease on life. He is very thankful to the people who gave him support and helped him to look positively toward the future. He has since obtained employment in construction, and is now focused on building a better life for his family.
Kamil passed away from cancer in 2000, at the young age of 46. But his wife Agnes and his children have continued his work — as Melodie wrote, “living out the Gospel simply, with kindness and love, changing one life at a time.”
Kamil and Agnes Shehade remain heroes not only to us at CNEWA, but to so many others whose lives they have uplifted.
17 November 2016
Iraqi civilians who fled Mosul wait for aid packages at the Khazir refugee camp on 16 November 2016. Bad weather has slowed the advance of troops battling to retake Mosul from ISIS.
(photo: Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Bad weather slowing advance inside Mosul (BBC) Iraqi forces have paused their advance into Mosul due to bad weather, a month after launching an offensive to retake the city from so-called Islamic State. A general said poor visibility was limiting the ability of aircraft to provide cover, adding that troops would secure eastern areas they had entered...
Meetings held between Lebanon’s new president and heads of churches (Fides) Yesterday, newly elected President Michel Aoun received the delegation of the Greek-Melkite Church, led by Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, and that of the Syrian Catholic Church, led by Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan...
President Barzani: Kurdistan to be multiethnic and multireligious (Fides) The Kurdish Peshmerga troops will not withdraw from lands they reclaimed from ISIS in the military campaign for the liberation of Mosul, explaining that this was agreed with the United States and Iraqi government. This is what Masud Barzani, President of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan said on Wednesday, 16 November, meeting the local media in Bashiqa, the city of Nineveh province liberated from the Peshmerga in the first week of November...
Bishops urged to bring more attention to Christian persecution in Middle East (CNS) Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour called on the bishops of the United States to bring wider attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East to their parishes and political leaders. Addressing the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on 15 November, the Maronite leader said he hoped that the new four-year strategic plan adopted by the conference earlier in the day would incorporate a robust advocacy for religious freedom in the rest of the world...
In Ukraine, mothers search for disappeared sons (Al Jazeera) Olena Dovhopola’s son, 31-year-old Serhiy, went missing in September 2014, just months into the war in Ukraine. Serving in the Ukrainian army, Serhiy went missing after fierce clashes with separatist rebels in the east of the county. He is one of an estimated 1,000 people, both soldiers and civilians, who have been declared missing — presumed dead or captured — since the beginning of the conflict in March 2014...
New research project looks refugee artisans (Phys.org) The impact of forced displacement on Syria’s traditional crafts and cultural heritage, and the people directly involved in it, is to be analysed in a new research project. Academics from the University of Plymouth will study the industries that have survived among refugee communities forcibly displaced to the neighboring state of Jordan since 2011...
16 November 2016
Children greet a visitor during lunchtime at the Bethlehem Day Care Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For more on Catholic education in Ethiopia, check out Breaking Barriers from the March 2007 edition of ONE and ‘It’s Not Just Talk and Chalk’ from the Summer 2013 edition.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
16 November 2016
Wreckage of ancient artifacts, destroyed by ISIS, is seen in Nimrud in Mosul’s southeast, which was taken back by the Iraqi army three days ago. The ancient city, which contained the tombs of many Assyrian kings, is now ruined after the occupation of ISIS. It is no longer even possible to see a single remaining statue in the city, whose history has been erased.
(photo: Idris Okuducu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Troops in Iraq find traps, kids hurt, heritage destroyed (AP) Iraqi special forces pushed deeper into the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes but under attack by rockets and suicide bombers from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Troops have established a foothold in the city’s east, and earlier in the day, drove northward into the Tahrir neighborhood, where families left their houses to flee the fighting. Mortars from ISIS-held territory wounded at least five children trying to flee the fighting, who were evacuated by the troops...
Russia deploys aircraft carrier in new Syria offensive (The Independent) Russia has begun a major military campaign on rebel-held parts of Syria after the country’s biggest surface deployment since the Cold War docked at a naval base on the Syrian coast...
Kerala church offers money to those in need during financial crisis (Indian Express) With the PM’s demonetization announcement that sent shock ripples throughout the country, people have been running amok wanting to exchange the older currency with the new in-circulation Rs 2,000, or better yet a whole bunch of Rs 100 notes. Others have been waiting in long queues, starting from the wee hours of the morning till late night. In Kerala, however, a church has come to help the lesser privileged people in an unusual way. St Martin De Porres church in Ernakulam district in Kerala announced that it would give money out of their offertory box to people who are in dire need of the money, and expect nothing in return...
Communist leader in India asks Church for support (India-Christian Activist Network) At a ceremony to mark the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the communist leader of the southern Indian state of Kerala asked the church to help support his government’s welfare programs. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made the appeal while speaking at the 12 November function in the largely Christian town of Kottyam. “I don’t have any problem in getting the church to support us in these areas,” he said...
Walking with pilgrims to Ethiopia’s ‘New Jerusalem’ (CNN) From all corners of a nation they come, often walking for hundreds of miles barefoot: Ethiopian Orthodox Christians on a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Their destination is Lalibela in the north of Ethiopia. A town of approximately 20,000 people, Lalibela’s population swells five-fold in the first days of January, pilgrims converging to celebrate Genna (or Ledet) — Christmas according to the Ethiopian calendar...
Rare icon replica visiting Scranton (Scranton Times-Tribune) A rare replica of the Mary the Helper of Mothers icon is spending the month at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Scranton and the faithful are invited to see it. An icon in the Orthodox faith is a religious image or painting intended to give its viewer a spiritual experience. This image of the Blessed Mother, clothed and surrounded in gold and holding the infant Jesus, is meant to help women facing challenges conceiving, difficult pregnancies or hard childbirths, said St. Mary’s pastor, the Rev. Leonard A. Martin, S.J....
15 November 2016
Sister Mary James Clines, R.G.S., served some of the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia.
For many years, some of the most dedicated heroes in CNEWA’s world were the Good Shepherd Sisters caring for the poor and destitute in Ethiopia. One of those we came to know and admire was Sister Mary James Clines, R.G.S.
Writing for our magazine in 1999, she described the sisters’ mission:
It was not until 1971 that the first Good Shepherd Sisters arrived in Ethiopia. Three years later, the Province of Ireland assumed support for the sisters, generously providing personnel and funds.
The first task of the three sisters who began the mission was to become familiar with the most deprived areas of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
“Everywhere we saw sad, downtrodden women — carrying water and firewood, caring for malnourished children, lining up outside hospitals and clinics,” Sister Mary Teresa Ryan recalls. “Equally visible were the city beggars, street children, handicapped persons and prostitutes.”
Following their constitution, the sisters resolved “to help bring about change in whatever condemns others to live a marginalized life.”
In 2003, photojournalist Peter Lemieux reported on the sisters’ work and said they were providing a “flicker of candlelight amid the darkness” among those poorest of the poor in Ethiopia — through education, a day care center, and health care in the midst of a growing AIDS epidemic. All this was geared toward trying to provide families with a sense of hope:
Since 1976, sisters at the Good Shepherd Day Care Center have been trying to help families in the Gotera section of Addis Ababa. During her recent evaluation of the program, Sister Enatnesh realized that in more than 25 years, the sisters “started by helping the mothers in a cooperative, then continued to help the children, and now we are continuing to help their grandchildren. “That’s really depressing. You want to see improvement — you help somebody and then they can go on by themselves. To keep helping the same families over and over is depressing.”
But in the struggle there is joy. Joy that so many children have passed through the center. Joy in seeing the children clean, happy, in uniform and at play in the school compound. “At school, they have a day off from their situation,” Sister Enatnesh said.
Equally, Sister Mary James added, “The highlight of my day is when I can be at the day care center.
“The children hold and kiss your hand. And when I look in their eyes...I see hope.”
Dwindling vocations eventually compelled the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to leave Ethiopia. But Sister Mary James Clines, now retired and living on Long Island, has left behind a remarkable legacy. As she said in an interview in 2009:
“We have always emphasized the need for education and are gratified that many of the children who began in our day care program or who benefitted from our education fund or training programs are now employed,” she said. “Considering an overall unemployment rate of 50 percent in the country, our work has made a difference.”
It is work CNEWA has been privileged to support — and that continues in so many different ways today. To be a part of our ongoing work in Ethiopia, visit this link.
15 November 2016
Sister Jannetta Aldegheri from the Sisters of Saint Dorothy greets a young friend at the Pope Paul VI Ephpheta School for the Hearing Impaired in Bethlehem. To learn more about the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, check out this profile. And read The Miracle of Ephpheta in our magazine to learn more about this remarkable school. (photo: Steve Sabella)
15 November 2016
Italian Cardinal-designate Mario Zenari has been nuncio to Syria since 2008. He will be one of 17 new cardinals consecrated by Pope Francis at a Vatican consistory on Saturday 19 November. The Vatican’s Secretary of State says this is a sign of the Pope’s closeness to the people of Syria.
(photo: CNS/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)
Humanitarian agencies call to protect civilians in Mosul (Vatican Radio) Innocent civilians in the embattled city of Mosul are being caught in the crossfire and isolated from the outside world. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Iraq is calling for greater protection of civilians trapped inside of Mosul. Since the military offensive began on 17 October to recapture city from ISIS, more than 50,000 people have fled. The number of displaced civilians has increased drastically over the past week, totaling more than 20,000 compared to just 6,000 the previous week...
Syria’s new cardinal a sign of Pope’s closeness (CNA) Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said that Francis’ decision to give a red hat to the longtime papal envoy to Syria is a sign of the Pope’s closeness to the Church and people on the ground amid the country’s dire situation...
Muslim attacks on Christians in Egypt on the rise (The Independent) Attacks against Christians have intensified as mistrust between Christians and Muslims deepens. Today, community leaders and human rights activists say the smallest of matters are setting off violence, often pitting neighbor against neighbor. At a time when President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s government is jailing its opponents and struggling to revive a sinking economy, the violence adds a new layer of populist frustration: Christians strongly supported Sissi’s rise, expecting him to protect them after the former army general led a coup that toppled the Islamists...
Jewish-Muslim alliance formed against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia (RNS) The day after president-elect Donald Trump appointed a man accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as his chief strategist, two of the nation’s largest Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups formed an unprecedented partnership to fight bigotry...
Turkey rebuilds mosques in Gaza (Andalou Agency) Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency Foundation has rebuilt nine mosques destroyed during Israel’s military onslaught on the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2014, an official statement said on Tuesday. The Religious Affairs Directorate announced in a statement the mosques in Gaza were now ready to be used by the Muslim community...
Icon reproduction enshrined in historic Chicago cathedral (OCA.org) His Grace, Bishop Paul and a number of clergy and faithful were present as a reproduction of the Wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God was enshrined in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago on Wednesday, 9 November 2016...
14 November 2016
Sister Mater Domini embraces Lolla, the youngest child at the St. Aloysius Gonzaga School in the village of King Mariut near Alexandria, Egypt. To learn more about this oasis of hope in Egypt, read City of Charity from the May 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
14 November 2016
The image above, from a 2015 BBC video, reportedly shows ISIS militants destroying some of the ruins of Nimrud in Iraq, near Mosul. Iraqi troops retook the town over the weekend.
Iraqi troops enter town where ancient ruins were destroyed (ABC News) Iraqi troops entered a town south of Mosul on Sunday where Islamic State militants destroyed artifacts at a nearby ancient Assyrian archaeological site, while special forces fended off suicide bombers during a cautious advance into the northern city. The push into Nimrud was the most significant gain in several days for government forces, potentially opening up the area for teams to assess the damage done to the famed ruins just outside the town...
Syrian rebels reportedly losing Aleppo battle (AP) Syrian government forces regained control Saturday of areas they lost over the past two weeks to a rebel offensive on the edge of the northern city of Aleppo, ending a major attempt by insurgents to break the siege on eastern parts of the city, an activist group and pro-government media said...
Joint initiative between Vatican and Al Azhar to begin in 2017 (Fides) A coordination committee linked to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Center for Dialogue of the University of Al Azhar, the most authoritative academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, has started the first joint initiative between the two institutions after the resumption of direct dialogue: a seminar study on problems related to the presence of religious communities in the context of civil society...
Syrian refugees regret move to Gaza (AP) Like millions of Syrians, Wareef Hamedo fled the civil war in his homeland in search of safety and security. But in a decision he now regrets, he chose to go to Gaza. Hamedo’s family is among 12 Syrian households that found refuge in Gaza after the civil war erupted in 2011 and are now trapped in the war-battered territory, ineligible for most social services granted to Palestinians but also unable to travel abroad...
Identity crisis at an Indian Catholic church (NPR) It’s a familiar battle in any immigrant community: The older generation fears extinction, while the young people rebel against stagnation. But to this church, this faith, that fear of loss is twofold. The Syro-Malabar community is Indian and Catholic in equal measure. Parents worry that if their children lose their faith, they will also lose an intrinsic part of their culture...
10 November 2016
Mahinder Singh sits with neighbors on charpai (cots of woven ropes) in their tiny village in Gangapar, India. (photo: John Mathew)
We never cease to be humbled by those we serve who persevere in the face of difficulties and discrimination.
One of those people is Mahinder Singh:
Mahinder Singh’s life has been fraught with hardship. His troubles began in 1947, when Britain — which had occupied the Indian subcontinent for generations — divided its colony into India and Pakistan, causing a migration of people considered the most extensive in recorded history. Major riots flared among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The ensuing violence killed roughly a million people, including Mr. Singh’s son and many of his relatives.
Born more than 90 years ago to a Sikh family of farmers in the Okara district of present-day Pakistan, Mr. Singh became one of the estimated 14.5 million people forced to abandon their ancestral homes and cross the new border after the partition. Complicating matters further, Mr. Singh is a Dalit.
A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically.
The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.
Mr. Singh is a Christian. “I have wandered all my life for happiness,” he says, “and finally found peace in the Lord.” But the challenges he faces are many:
Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender.
But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.
...Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
You can read more about Mr. Singh’s witness in Caste Aside from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE magazine.
For decades, CNEWA has worked to improve the quality of life for Dalits throughout India.
Want to help us help them? Take a moment to visit this link.