1 April 2016
In this image from 25 March, Syrian refugee children play in front of a makeshift tent
in Izmir, Turkey. (photo: Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Amnesty International says Turkey forcing refugees back to Syria (South Africa Times) Amnesty International accused Turkey on Friday of illegally forcing groups of Syrians to return to their conflict-torn country, saying the alleged expulsions showed the “fatal flaws” in a migrant deal agreed with the EU...
Meet Iraqi refugees going back to Iraq (Time) A small but growing number of refugees are going back to their home countries in the Middle East — after life in Germany doesn’t work out...
Genocide call tangled up in politics in Canada (Catholic Register) Widespread slaughter, expulsion, kidnapping and rape of Christians, Yezidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in territory controlled by the Islamic State may well constitute a genocide, but the Canadian government will not join a growing international movement and formally call it a genocide before there is a proper, third party investigation...
Gaza child labor doubled in five years (Newsweek) Child labor has doubled in the Gaza Strip in the last five years as unemployment continues to rise and economic conditions continue to worsen in the coastal enclave, according to Palestinian government statistics. The number of children between the ages of 10 and 17 in the enclave currently working in Gaza now stands at 9,700, Reuters reported, citing figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics...
Egypt preparing document on protection of churches in Islam (Fides) The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, a body linked to the Egyptian Ministry for Religious facilities, will publish a vademecum within a month on the subject of “protection of the churches in Islam.” This was reported in recent days by Minister Mohamed Mokhtar, head of the department. The book in preparation — explained the representative of the Egyptian government — is intended to document that in Islamic societies reference to the Qur’an can be translated into a form inspired by the values of coexistence and respect among citizens of different religions...
Toronto art exhibit inspired by migrant crisis (Catholic Register) The exhibit, opening 2 April, is a collection of creative meditations on ongoing social issues of homelessness, migrant issues and refuge. Michael Stoeber, APT member and a professor at Regis College, said the theme was chosen as an initial reaction to the growing Syrian migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe, but looking around Toronto, the group realized these issues are also in their own backyard...
31 March 2016
Sister Arousiag Sajonian serves as superior of Our Lady of Armenia Convent in Gyumri, Armenia.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
Her first name means “Carrier of Light” in Armenian. And for more than two decades, Sister Arousiag Sajonian has been bringing light and hope to a troubled corner of Armenia — a land ravaged by earthquakes, wars and economic crises.
She was born and raised in the Middle East — “between Syria and Lebanon,” as she puts it — and entered the convent at age 19. A sister of the Immaculate Conception, she now serves as superior of Our Lady of Armenia Convent in Gyumri. CNEWA once described her order as a group of “no nonsense nuns” — and they are, to put it mildly, active. Sister Arousiag supervises an orphanage, a daycare center for the elderly, a vocational school and a summer camp program.
As she wrote in our magazine in 1997:
We have taught some 1,000 students on a weekly basis, preparing them for Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Reconciliation.
We have also visited the elderly and the sick and have organized public seminars. All these activities have been made possible through a vehicle donated by CNEWA, which has carried us back and forth from village to village.
Our classes and presentations were the first formal catechetical lessons offered to Armenian Catholics since the country was annexed by Soviet Russia in 1922.
This busy nun visited our New York office in 2012 and found time to sit down for an interview and described her long partnership with CNEWA:
Sister Arousiag: Every time I haven’t been able to get enough funds for a project, I’d write a letter to CNEWA and put on the top “S.O.S.” And I always received a positive response. Immediately.
ONE: What is the one message you’d like the world to hear about the work that you do?
Sister Arousiag: My message would be to share what they have with the least fortunate. Most of the time, they are people who don’t know how to get out of their situations. What we want is to teach them how to overcome — how they can have a more dignified life. That is very important: that we don’t pity them. We just help them to live a better life. That is something every human being strives for. They want dignity.
31 March 2016
Markian Surmach shows off some of the beautiful pysanky, or decorated eggs, he sells in his Ukrainian shop in New York City. See more examples of his work, and learn how they are created, in The Colors of Easter in the March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Erin Edwards)
31 March 2016
Children talk among the rubble in the city of Daraa, Syria, on 29 March.
(photo: Mahmod Abazid/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
U.N.: humanitarian help to Syria may lose momentum (AP) A supervisor of U.N. aid says efforts to get humanitarian help to besieged areas in Syria risk losing momentum several weeks into a partial cease-fire. Jan Egeland, who is leading a task force on humanitarian aid, said that “we are afraid now to lose some of the momentum that we got after the Munich meeting” in February, which set off a drive for better aid access and for the truce...
Report: Turkey shooting Syrian refugees on border (Newsweek) Turkish border guards have shot 16 refugees, including three children over the last four months as they flee violence in Syria, The Times reports. Citing London-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the newspaper detailed incidents such as the killing of a man and his child, when crossing the border near the Syrian town of Ras alAin, earlier this month...
Blasphemy cases rising in Egypt (AP) In the past three years, prosecutions on charges of insulting Islam have risen dramatically. From three such cases in 2011, there were 21 cases in the courts in 2015, around half targeting Christians, according to Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights...
Only 26 Jews remain in Cochin, India (Haaretz) These are just two of the seven synagogues in the coastal state of Kerala. (Another one, the striking Parur synagogue, is located 25 kilometers away on another Jew Street.) Despite these symbols, one thing Kerala does not have much of anymore is Jews. Today, there are only 26 Jews left in Cochin — though some don’t speak to, or even recognize, the others...
Pope to release document on family (CNS) The Vatican has set 8 April for the release of “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis’ reflection on the family and family life. The document, subtitled “On Love in the Family,” will be released at a Vatican news conference with Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna and Giuseppina and Francesco Miano, a married couple who participated in both the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family. “Amoris Laetitia” is what is known as a “postsynodal apostolic exhortation,” a document addressed to the whole church reflecting on themes of church life and faith that have been discussed at a gathering of the Synod of Bishops...
30 March 2016
A priest displays his cross tattoo, which Copts receive at baptism. See more pictures from Egypt, and read about the faith of Christians there, in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
30 March 2016
Syrian refugees are seen at Fiumicino Airport in Rome on 29 February. The United Nations is urging countries around the world to accept nearly half a million Syrian refugees.
U.N. Chief urges countries to take in more Syrian refugees (The New York Times) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Wednesday for countries around the world to accept around half a million Syrian refugees, criticizing political leaders who have responded to the migrant crisis by demonizing asylum-seekers. Opening a one-day ministerial conference in Geneva convened by the United Nations refugee agency, Mr. Ban called for “an exponential increase in global solidarity” in urging countries to accept about 480,000 Syrians over the next three years...
Aid to besieged areas of Syria has reportedly increased since cease fire (AP) A new report says the United Nations and partners delivered badly needed medical and food supplies to about 150,000 people in besieged areas of Syria after a cease-fire that started last month led to a drop-off in fighting. U.N. convoys delivered supplies to people in 10 of 18 areas under siege and to thousands in other, hard-to-reach areas after the 27 February cease-fire, according to the monthly report made available Tuesday. By comparison, less than 1 percent of areas designated as besieged received food aid in all of 2015, according to the U.N.’s humanitarian office...
Child labor rising in Gaza (Reuters) Child labor has risen sharply in Gaza, where youngsters toiling in garages and on construction sites have become breadwinners for families feeling the brunt of the Palestinian enclave’s 43 percent unemployment rate...
Doubts over new government in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Ukraine’s prospects of forming a new government, which is vital to get billions of dollars in crucial international assistance, were thrown into fresh doubt on Tuesday...
Reports: Turkish government “expropriates” churches (Fides) In the context of the military operations carried out in southern Turkey against Kurdish positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the government in Ankara ordered the expropriation of a large area of the historical center of Diyarbakir, even confiscating all the churches of the city which stands on the bank of the Tigris River. This is what local sources reported, relaunched by Agos, the Turkish-Armenian bilingual newspaper published in Istanbul...
29 March 2016
The Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., has worked to ease the suffering of those who remain in Homs, Syria, especially the children. (photo: John E. Kozar)
It is impossible to read about the work of the Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., a longtime partner of CNEWA, and not be moved. He has worked tirelessly in Syria to help that country’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, during a period of devastating war and upheaval. He wrote about it for ONE in 2013:
Starting February 2012, we realized the new status quo was likely to persist and we had to deal with this new reality, assisting the thousands of families living in temporary shelters in the relatively safe areas of the city. Our first priority was to take care of the hundreds of children who transformed the streets into their only playground and school, putting them at the mercy of the snipers, the shelling and the street violence. I still remember one of the children hiding behind a wall and calling me to take cover from a sniper. The children of Homs became experts in the art of escaping violence, but unfortunately many were not as lucky as I was on that day, and they paid with their lives on the streets.
Recent events have deeply affected the children, and we have noticed changes through our follow-ups at school. When they play, they transform wooden boxes into imitation weapons and play war games, reflecting the reality that the children are also internalizing the patterns of the war around them. Confronting this, we had to work hard to redirect the children to regular games, such as football and other sports.
Most children live in a state of denial. They refuse to acknowledge their fears. Meanwhile, mothers report their children cannot sleep alone in a separate bed anymore, which speaks to their trauma. Some others report cases that required the assistance of a speech therapist and a psychologist to overcome communication troubles.
At the same time, many youth have lost their jobs and their income, their great potential going to waste.
Thus, we decided to join both priorities in one project, aiming to take the children out of the streets and to provide jobs to the displaced youth.
His concluding thoughts:
As a priest, I would like to say our role as a church is to push people toward hope, which should never be abandoned — no matter how unbearable circumstances may seem.
Hope is what CNEWA has helped us provide. I believe it has been a lifeline from God — helping us and guiding our efforts to glorify the name of the Lord.
Read more in his Letter from Syria: Saving the Children of War from the Summer 2013 edition of ONE.
29 March 2016
Ivlita Kuchaidze, center, has survived famine, war and neglect over her 93 years in Georgia — but today lives in poverty, depending on charity to survive. Read her remarkable life story in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
29 March 2016
A general view taken on 27 March 2016 shows part of the remains of the Arc de Triomph (Triumph Arc) monument that was destroyed by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in October 2015 in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. (photo: Maher Al Mounes/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria retakes Palmyra from ISIS, finds ruins in better shape than expected (Slate) Syrian forces, backed by lots of Russian air strikes and Lebanese militias, managed to drive the Islamic State out of Palmyra on Sunday in what was seen as a big victory for President Bashar al-Assad. Retaking the ancient city that is known for its 2,000-year-old ruins ended a three-week push by the government to retake the UNESCO world heritage site that had been in the hands of ISIS since May...
Some West Bank Christians denied permits to enter Jerusalem (CNS) Nicola Sansour’s voice had a tinge of sadness as he recounted how his family planned to celebrate Easter this year. They planned to attend Holy Week services at Beit Jalla’s Annunciation Parish, purchase new clothes for the three small children, decorate eggs and attend the parish Easter egg hunt. His wife, Nivine, 34, would gather with his mother and sisters to make the traditional stuffed semolina “mamoul” Easter cookies. But this would be another year in which he and his family would not be able to celebrate the holiday with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher — a mere three miles from his home...
Pope washes feet of refugees on Holy Thursday (CNS) In a moving gesture of brotherhood and peace, Pope Francis washed the feet of several refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Copts. Gestures, like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, “speak louder than words,” he said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper 24 March. Coming together, he added, is another gesture meant to show a desire to live in peace as brothers and sisters despite people’s different cultural and religious backgrounds...
Kidnapped Indian priest’s whereabouts unknown (Vatican Radio) The Indian government said it was still actively trying to rescue a Salesian priest kidnapped in Yemen in early March amid unconfirmed reports that the missionary had been crucified on Good Friday...
Killing of lawyer heightens tensions between Ukraine and Russia (Vatican Radio) Tensions are rising between Kiev and Moscow as a Ukrainian lawyer of an alleged Russian special forces soldier was found dead after disappearing in the middle of the soldier’s trial...
24 March 2016
Elias Kayrouz, right, works to help refugees in Lebanon, many of whom are Muslim.
(photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
In 2014, writer Diane Handal caught up with one Lebanese Maronite villager in the Bekaa Valley who volunteers to help Syrian refugees, most of whom are Muslim.
Here is some of her interview with Elias Kayrouz:
ONE: What has your work as a volunteer working with Syrian refugees taught you?
EK: Through working with the Syrian refugees, I have come to know hardship. Some of them say: “You can’t help us; we need more.” That makes me feel down — even frustrated — but at the end of the day, you can only do so much.
ONE: What is your personal advice to others in helping Muslims, bridging the differences and exposing biases?
EK: I think to myself: When I lay my head on my pillow, what would make me feel more at peace — if I work against other people and feed into the negativity, or if I help other people? Which would help me sleep better at night?
I advise everyone to think deeply about this.
ONE: Do you have any words to share about your philosophy on how this sectarian conflict can be resolved?
EK: We are one. All we need is for people to see how Muslims and Christians treat each other as human beings.
Think about the animal kingdom: The strong animals kill the weak ones. If this is how human beings live, the strong keep killing the weak, there will be no progress — just the law of the jungle. For me, doing good differentiates me from the animals. Over time, maybe I will help other people because of my example.
I do good in order to differentiate myself from the animals. I am sorry to put it so simply, but it is the truth.
Read the full interview here.