28 June 2018
Hundreds of elderly Armenians who cannot afford to heat their homes during the harsh winters are being helped, thanks to CNEWA’s donors and Caritas Armenia. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
With the summer months bringing warmer weather, we were reminded recently of how some of those we serve struggle to survive the coldest of winters—and how CNEWA’s donors are making a dramatic difference in their lives.
We received a report from Gagik Tarasyan, executive director of Caritas Armenia, who wrote about one project that is literally saving lives among the most vulnerable, the poor and elderly. It is a winterization project, helping to provide shelter, warmth and health care. The needs are basic but urgent—the kind of things most of us take for granted—but the impact has been significant:
With this project we could assist the most vulnerable families ( 630 families, about 2,800 people) through paying their gas or electric bills; urgent provision of firewood to families who cannot afford electric or gas heating; provision of medication to sick people; emergency assistance in basic food and hygienic items for the most vulnerable families living in temporary shelters.
And he shared this profile of one elderly woman this project has helped:
Arevhat Oustjan was born in 1935 in Kirovakan. She was 20 years old when she married and moved to Russia with her husband. They were happy together but they didn’t have children. She was only 39 when her husband died. And she again moved to her native town after that. For 44 years, she has lived alone in her one room apartment. She grew old and developed a number of illnesses that don’t permit her to go outdoors. She has poor eyesight and her limbs are aching and swollen.
Her meager pension and welfare amount to just over $100 a month jointly. But she has many financial obligations. Her niece was battling breast cancer and she had taken a loan from the bank for the operation. Sadly, her niece died, but Arevhat must continue to pay off the debt and very little remains for her daily bread. She is so thankful to the project that supports her to make ends meet. She relies only on Caritas’ support for her daily living.
That includes keeping her home warm. Arevhat heats her house with gas heater. ”I suffered terrible winter colds at home,” she told us. ”Nothing was helpful against colds except heating. Especially in old age, heating is so necessary.”
The windows of the apartment are in poor condition, and the wind blows through them. Arevhat has to cover them with cotton cloths to keep the house warm. It was never enough. But the Warm Winter Project is now to heat her house. “Never mind that I can’t buy new windows,” she said. ”The main thing is that I don’t need to pay for heating. It’s a great help for me. The frosty and horrible winter is already in the past; I do not even want to remember the situation I had endured before. I was always jealous of the elderly who lived in warm houses in winter time, surrounded by the warmth and companionship of their children and their relatives. I am quite alone and I don’t have any of them. Now I have at least a warm apartment, for which I am very grateful to Caritas and the supporters who treat us with all their care,” she said.
Thank you to all who are making it possible for us to spread light and warmth to so many like Arevhat who have known only darkness and cold.
To learn more about CNEWA’s efforts to help the elderly and poor in Armenia, read ‘This Is the Only Light’ in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
27 June 2018
To continue their formation, the faithful gather for Saturday Mass in Gilgel Beles, Ethiopia.(photo: CNEWA)
Recently, we received the following update from Argaw Fantu, CNEWA's regional director in Addis Ababa:
The northwestern corner of Ethiopia bordering with Sudan is a vast low land area with very high temperature up to 50 degree Celsius (122 Fahrenheit!). This vast land surface is occupied by a tribe, the Gumuz people, one of the more than 85 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. These people are traditional worshipers of nature and very honest with their own strong ethical values — they don’t tolerate lies or stealing — but most of them have never encountered the Gospel or Christian teaching.
Now, that is beginning to change.
The area where they live is part of the vast pastoral territory of the new Bahir Dar-Dessie Eparchy. It a new area for evangelization, with very tough and challenging environment. It was the courageous Comboni Missionary Sisters who first set foot in the area called Mandura in 2000. They rented a house from an Orthodox priest and started visiting people — teaching reading and writing for kids under the shade of a large tree. They also taught hygiene to women and offered some simple advice on agriculture and farming. Slowly, they built rooms for kindergarten lessons. The Gumuz people at that time had no clue about the value of education. When the sisters started school for kids, they had to walk around in the villages to speak to parents and urge them to send their children to school.
A typical tukul, or mud hut home, of the Gumuz people. (photo: CNEWA)
Following in the footsteps of the sisters, the Comboni Missionary Fathers of the Heart of Jesus started a small mission station in Gilgel Beles in 2003; in 2011, they established an outstation of Gilgel Beles in Gublak.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Gilgel Beles and Gublak, part of an initiative supported by CNEWA. The Comboni Missionary Fathers are engaged in the pastoral activities in the areas. Most of the growing faithful are young people and women.
To support and encourage evangelization in the area, the missionaries have launched a strategy of ongoing training for catechists and coordinators. More than 100 catechists and coordinators were gathered recently in Gilgel Beles for a weekend of ongoing formation. They came from the chapels of Gilgel Beles and Gublak. The training involves a variety of participatory programs. They began the day with a rosary recited while walking around the church compound.
The weekend began by praying the rosary. (photo: CNEWA)
Lectures and classes filled the day Saturday, along with the celebration of the Eucharist. People took a break to escape the heat in the afternoon. Sunday included Mass, singing, teaching and a fraternal lunch. What a nice and creatively organized training program had it been!
The weekend of faith formation included classes taught by catechists. (photo: CNEWA)
I asked a group of young people to explain to me the difference between a catechist and a coordinator and what each does. They told me that a coordinator is the one who is able to convince people of the village to gather together for catechetical teaching, prayer and spiritual sharing. Once the coordinator does his job of gathering the community, the catechist comes in to teach catechumens — preparing them to receive sacraments — and leading the community in prayer and Bible sharing. I was amazed by how well the priests coordinated these activities.
Catechists and coordinators led discussions and shared insights with those who attended. (photo: CNEWA)
Father Isaiah, a Comboni Missionary from Kenya and a dynamic parish priest of Gublak, told me that villagers appreciate the regular visits of priests and sisters. Whenever a priest visits them in the villages and chats with them, they believe that he brings them good luck. What an amazing belief!
As a result of such enthusiastic and committed engagements of the missionaries — and their collaborative catechists and coordinators — Christian communities in the area are growing slowly but steadily. According to the recent figures, there are about 1,500 Catholics in Pawe, 1,500 in Gilgel Beles and Mandura, 1,000 in Gublak, 500 in Dibati. This makes a total of about 4,500 Catholic faithful in the area. The number of new catechumens is increasing, thanks to committed catechists and coordinators who accompany the dedicated missionary priests.
CNEWA, through its generous donors, participates in this precious evangelization mission of the church in this remote part of Ethiopia. In 2018, CNEWA committed to support formation training for youth leaders and catechists in Gilgel Beles and Gublak. How wonderful and rewarding it is to see the light of the Gospel being shared with these marginalized people!
With your support, we are able to make this happen. Thank you!
The faithful leave Mass at the close of the weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
13 August 2014
A man and three children flee violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar, Iraq, on 10 August. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
The website Aleteia has posted a comprehensive primer on the Islamic State, featuring important insight and context from — among others — CNEWA’s Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D:
ISIS or ISIL? Islamic State or Caliphate?
The bunch that’s wreaking havoc across parts of Syria and Iraq has not only caused death and destruction, they’ve caused a lot of confusion as well.
In an attempt to clear up some of that, Aleteia reached out to members of its Board of Experts and others in order to compile this primer on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, to use one of its several names. We are grateful for the assistance of Father Elias D. Mallon, external Affairs Officer of the New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, and William Kilpatrick, author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for The Soul of The West.
1. What or who is ISIS? How did it come to be?
ISIS consists of Sunni extremists, recruited from all over the Arab-speaking world and perhaps beyond. Its origins are connected with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a notorious terrorist born in Jordan.
“He ultimately went to Afghanistan as a jihadi in the late 1980’s,” Father Mallon says. “He founded the Organization for Tawhid (i.e. proclaiming the unity of God) and Jihad and ultimately in 2004 brought his organization under the leadership of al-Qaeda, where he declared total war on Shi’ites.”
“The Islamic State is the group that during the Iraq War was often referred to as ‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq,’ ” says an info sheet from the Archdiocese of Toronto. “The group claims it is an independent state with claims to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It was established in the early years of the Iraq War. … The group has targeted military and governments of Iraq and Syria, but has also claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. According to a study compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies, the Islamic State has plans to seize power and turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic state.”
Al-Zarqawi was killed by an American bomb in 2006.
“It appears that ISIS is an offshoot or development of al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq,” says Father Mallon. “However, al-Qaeda has repudiated ISIS for being too indiscriminately violent and, hence, risking the loss of popular support.”
“As an offshoot from al-Qaeda, ISIS follows the theology of the Wahabi sect of Sunni Islam, which began in eastern Arabia in the 1740’s,” says Father Pacwa. “Their passion is the oneness of God and the elimination of all shirk, or association of anyone or anything with God. The early Wahabis were disgusted by the honors shown to the Prophet Muhammad at his tomb in Medina, so they completely destroyed it. … Their catechesis in Arabia emphasized the absolute oneness of God and summoned all Muslims to join them in enforcing this doctrine, or die.”
ISIS is now led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who declared himself “Caliph” on June 29. If you find ISIS’s constant name changes disconcerting, you’ll feel the same way about Al-Baghdadi. Originally called Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarra’i, al-Baghdadi took his nom de guerre after the name of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr.
“Recently he has started calling himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al Husseini al-Qurayshi, the last two names being attempts to link his lineage with that of the Prophet and his tribe the Quraysh,” Father Mallon says. “If he is really descended from the Prophet, one would think that it would have been obvious in his name all along. Most recently, he is using The Commander of the Faithful Caliph Ibrahim, using the traditional and oldest title of the Caliph—Commander of the Faithful.”
2. Why do they exist?
Father Mallon outlines two reasons why ISIS exists:
Ideological: to spread Islam and Islamic rule across the lands of the classical Abassid Caliphate and further even into the Iberian Peninsula. As such, ISIS shows little understanding of the very checkered history of the Caliphate. In this, ISIS tends to be a type of romantic movement but an incredibly brutal one.
Practical: Many Sunnis in Iraq (and Syria) feel disenfranchised by either the Alawite rule of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus or the Shi’ite rule of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. I think many Sunnis look upon ISIS as the only effective opposition to, especially, the regime in Baghdad. I am not sure but I suspect that the loyalty does not go much deeper.
3. What is their aim? How likely are they to be able to accomplish it?
Their aim to re-establish the Caliphate and extend Islamic religious, political and military hegemony as far as they can, says Father Mallon. “To accomplish this they are prepared to violate traditional principles of Islamic warfare.”
4. Is this a global movement?
Yes and no, says Father Mallon. “It is global in that is appeals to a broad audience of Muslims who share the romantic idea of a Caliphate in which Muslims rule over everyone. It is not a global movement in that it is probably not sustainable in a number of ways. Not the least, opposition would come from an increasing desire for democracy in many Muslim countries. Democracy is the antithesis of the historically autocratic Caliphates. In addition, Shi’ites are in principle opposed to a Sunni Caliphate ruling over them.”
He adds: “Although ISIS uses the most brutal and savage methods, it would be a serious mistake to think of it as a primitive group. It has shown itself disturbingly sophisticated in its use of mass communications and social media. There are reports of a store in Istanbul and a website on which one can purchase t-shirts with the ISIS logo as well as the head band often seen on the foreheads of ISIS combatants as well as access ISIS propaganda.
“The New York Times estimates that ISIS is the wealthiest terrorist group in the world, having access to hundreds of millions of dollars,” Father Mallon says. “Most, if not all, ISIS’s wealth comes from plundered cities, banks and individuals. It seems it has carefully avoided becoming dependent on outside sources of financing which could easily be cut off.”
Check out the Aleteia website for much more.
11 August 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians
A few days ago, the Archdiocese of Toronto posted on its blog an excellent primer on the unfolding crisis in Iraq—complete with advice on how others can help. We post it below for your information and guidance.
QUESTION: What is happening in Iraq?
ANSWER: In June 2014, the Islamic State (IS), formerly called ISIS — Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIL Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, had seized a large section of the country’s northern region including the city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Since the takeover, the militant group has given Christians an ultimatum: Convert, Flee, or Die. Christians were given up to July 19, 2014 deadline to choose. For those Christians who did not comply with the decree by 19 July, Isis warned that, “there is nothing to give them but the sword.”
QUESTION: How is this related to the symbol ﻥ?
ANSWER: This symbol ﻥ is the letter ’N’ in Arabic, used by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) to identify who is a Nazarene — another word for Christian. It has been drawn on doorways and in front of houses in captured Iraqi cities, allowing militants to quickly assert where the loyalties of the inhabitants lie.
QUESTION: Who is the Islamic State?
ANSWER: The Islamic State is the group that during the Iraq War was often referred to as “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” The group claims it is an independent state with claims to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It was established in the early years of the Iraq War and pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2004. The group has targeted military and governments of Iraq and Syria, but has also claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. According to a study compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies, the Islamic State has plans to seize power and turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic state.
QUESTION: How many Christians live in the Mosul region?
ANSWER: As of July 2003, about 35,000 Christians lived in the city of 2 million people. This number had dwindled to approximately 25,000 by the time of the Islamic State takeover, and only a few hundred Christian families remained in the city until recently.
QUESTION: What is the significance of Mosul?
ANSWER: Mosul is the ancient city of Niniveh, one of the holiest cities for Middle Eastern Christian groups. The city of Nineveh is mentioned in the Bible in Genesis, 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jonah, Nahum, Zephaniah, and Matthew. Along with its Biblical connection, the city reportedly contains the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Jonah. The Islamic State destroyed a mosque built upon the burial site on July 24, 2014 because the militants claimed the mosque had become a place for apostasy.
QUESTION: What happened in Qaraqosh on 6-7 August?
ANSWER: The Kurdish forces abandoned their posts in Qaraqosh, Tel Eskof and Qaramlesh after a violent confrontation with IS. The largest concentration of Christians in Iraq was forced to flee for their lives. Less than 10,000 Christians (out of 100,000) remained in Qaraqosh and surrounding villages; the remaining 90,000 have left at night by foot, buses and private cars towards Erbil and other cities.
QUESTION: Where are the Christians now?
ANSWER: Most Christians in Mosul have fled 55 miles to the east, to the city of Erbil, the capital and largest city of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Erbil’s governor, Nawzad Hadi, has pledged to protect fleeing Christians and other minority groups. According to the United Nations, the territory is currently home to more than 2 million refugees and internally displaced people from Iraq and Syria.
QUESTION:What about local efforts?
ANSWER: Cardinal Collins has invited prayers as well as financial support for those who wish to join in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East. In addition, more than two-thirds of our 225 Catholic churches have been involved in refugee sponsorship over the last several years. Some 820 refugees from the Middle East, many Iraqi Christians, have been sponsored by churches in the Archdiocese of Toronto, making us the largest Canadian private sponsor of refugees from the region.
QUESTION: Are Catholic groups assisting Christians in the Middle East?
ANSWER: Yes. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is a papal agency providing humanitarian and pastoral support for Christians all over the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Northeast Africa and India. They have offices in Jerusalem, Beirut, Lebanon and Amman, Jordan that work in Iraq and Syria with local dioceses and bishops and religious to provide humanitarian relief and ongoing support. Visit this link for more information. (In Canada, you can donate at this link.) The Archdiocese of Toronto will channel any funds collected through this papal agency.
For those parishes or individuals wishing to offer financial support, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has launched an emergency aid appeal. Those wishing to contribute may do so in the following ways:
Online through the Archdiocese of Toronto website.
By phone through the Development office: 416-934-3411
Through the parish, making cheques payable to:
Name of Parish — Iraqi Christians (Parishes may use humanitarian relief envelopes and are asked to gather funds and send one parish cheque to the Development Office, made out to: Archdiocese of Toronto — Iraqi Christians)
6 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Relief
A contact sent us the following message:
Date: August 6, 2014
Subject: Report from Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq
This report was sent to us by Ms. Christina Patto, VP Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq. Here what she wrote:
Here is our report and some of our testimony concerning the events happening now in North of Iraq.
It is a tragic situation, nobody can imagine how terrible it is, as much as I write to you and send you reports it will not be enough to describe the suffering of people.
For Zummar and Sinjar: they are under Da’esh control, thousands of Yazidis died in the last two days, they are facing a real genocide. Till yesterday (45) children died of thirst. Some families throw their children from the top of Sinjar mountain in order not to see them die from hunger or thirst, or not to be taken by the terrorists. (1500) men were killed in front of their wives and families, (50) old men died also from thirst and illness. More than (70) girl and women (including Christians) were taken, raped and being captured and sold. More than (100) families are captured in Tel afar airport.
There is about (50) Christian families in Sinjar. The terrorists were able to control the Syriac church there and cover the Cross with their black banner. Till now we do not know anything about those Christian families.
For Nineveh Plain:
As a reason to the continuous bombing on Telkeif, Deacon (Lujain Hikmat Nano) died, most of the families left their houses and would leave one member of the family in the house, but this tragic led to an exodus from Telkeif. the same thing happened in Shekhan and the surrounded villages (shekhan center, Karanjo, Dashqotan and Ein biqri).
Ba’ashiqa: an exodus from there because there was boming and battles near Ba’ashiqa as the terrorists are trying to control that area too. Ba’ashiqa Monastory is being evacuated from the inhabitants and from IDPs.
Ein Sifni: an exodus of the Yazidi families which forced the christian families to flee too.
Mosul Falls are now under the control of the terrorist, these fall are about (10-15 Km) from Ein sifni.
Batnaye and Tellisquf: also an exodus because of the threats and bad circumstances they are going through.
Our Dorm, the empty houses in the villages, the halls of the churches, school and mosques are full of IDPs and in very bad conditions. I cannot give you the exact number of those families. Also it is very hard to describe their needs in food baskets only, on one can imagine this tragedy, one may cry to see those people in this situation.
Concerning Zakho and Center Duhok: Till now they are under the KRG control.
pls excuse my chaotic writing and expression, we are all in a bad situation.
So, according to my above report, you can decide what kind of aid you can offer.
Please help us support these families suffering violence beyond comprehension, and please keep them in your prayers.
6 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Yazidi Iraqi
From the Daily Star:
Jihadists have launched fresh attacks on Christian areas in north Iraq, sparking a new wave of displacement, the country’s Chaldean patriarch and witnesses said Wednesday.
Towns shelled in the past few days by Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants include Tal Kayf, Bartella and Qaraqosh, according to Christian sources.
The towns are among many in the area where thousands of Christians who were forced to abandon their homes in the main northern city of Mosul last month had found refuge.
Some of them are less than 50 kilometers away from Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Chaldean patriarch Louis Raphael I said at least one man had been killed by mortar fire, naming him as Lajin Hekmat, an employee of the main church in Tal Kayf, just north of Mosul.
Read the full story here.
23 July 2014
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Iraqi
An Iraqi Christian woman fleeing the violence in the Iraqi city of Mosul sits inside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chaldean Church in Telkaif, Iraq, on 20 July. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Editors’ note: We received the following report this morning from Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana, an Iraqi-born priest of the Assyrian Church of the East now based in Germany. His report, which he has given us permission to post, provides a wide-ranging and comprehensive view of the tragedy now unfolding in northern Iraq, with some details that have gone largely unreported. It makes for sobering, heartbreaking reading.
We can only echo his words at the conclusion: Please keep Iraq’s suffering church and people in your prayers. The needs now are greater than ever. To learn what you can do for our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq, visit this link.
- - -
Greetings from Duhok, Iraq.
I enclose for your information the attached report, which I hope will help bring a deeper understanding of the current crisis in Iraq.
I would like to share with you the following information/points:
First: All Mosul churches and monasteries — about 30 — have been seized by ISIS. The cross has been removed from all of them. Many of them are burned, destroyed and looted. Many others are being used as ISIS centers. The following are a few examples:
Mar Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Al Shurta district (east side of Mosul): ISIS installed loudspeakers and is converted to mosque for prayers.
Syriac Catholic church in the old part of Mosul was looted and set on fire.
Mar Gewargis (St. George) monastery is looted.
Mar Thomas (St. Thomas) Syriac Catholic historical and old church was looted after the doors were broken. Now it is guarded by ISIS.
In addition, Mar Behnam (St. Behnam) Syriac Catholic monastery in the ancient Assyrian town of Nimrod is been controlled by ISIS.
For more information about Mar Behnam monastery, visit this link.
The religious Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs in Mosul have been destroyed. This is according to the ISIS Sharia. This destruction is endangering very ancient sites, such as the prophet Jonah’s tomb, which, according to many reports, was looted last week. The Shiite mosques (named “Hussayniya” in Arabic) are being demolished as well.
Second: All non-Sunni communities are being targeted by ISIS. In addition to Christians, this includes Yazidi (a very ancient religion) and Shiites.
Indeed, Yazidi had fled Mosul a couple of years ago (starting 2004 — 2010). They fled to Yazidi towns/townships/villages in Nineveh Plain, Duhok and Erbil. I doubt there were any Yazidi left in Mosul before 10 June. The Shiites in Mosul city and Nineveh governorate can be categorized as follows:
Turkman Shiites who were in Mosul city, Mosul west suburbs (Rashidiya, Gubba and Sherkhan) and in the big city of Telafar (North East of Mosul towards Syrian borders). Turkman Shiites were targeted and forced to flee. Their houses have been seized and many of them destroyed. In Talafar, Turkman Sunnis joined ISIS to persecute their fellow Turkman Shiites. Hundreds of Turkman Shiite families from the above-mentioned places, where they lived for centuries, fled towards Erbil in their way to be evacuated to Shiite provinces south of Iraq. The Iraqi central government (headed by Shiite and a Shiite Prime Minister Al Maliki) is facilitating this evacuation. A governmental flights program is ongoing to fly from Erbil airport to Najaf (Major Shiite city in the south of Baghdad) airport to evacuate these families and to be resettled in Shiite provinces. Another route is ongoing for the same purpose where convoys of buses and vehicles are evacuating these families through Erbil to Kirkuk to Sulemaniya and down to Khaniqin and then to southern provinces. This long route is because the road from Kirkuk to Baghdad is blocked.
Shabak Shiites are in Nineveh Plain, mainly from Mosul to Bartilla. Most of their townships are under Peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] protection but there are few of their villages (between Bartilla and Mosul), which are under ISIS control or in the front line to ISIS. The Shabak Shiites of these ISIS-controlled villages fled. The Shabak Shiites who were living in Mosul fled as well. They fled to Shabak towns in Nineveh Plain and dozens of them fled seeking settlement in Shiite provinces south of Iraq. The same like Shiite Turkmans. The Turkman and Shabak Sunnis are not targeted.
This reflects how deep the sectarian conflict is and how long it will take to recover — if any recovery is to come. Can anyone really expect the Turkman and Shabak Shiites who are fleeing to Shiite provinces in southern Iraq — leaving their roots, existence and economy of a couple of centuries in — will return to Talafar and Mosul? Personally, I doubt it. What political impact does it have upon the Iraqi political and administrative structure? A big question.
The current situation reflects how the Iraqi structure was a fragile one. Is there really a common Iraqi people feeling that they are one people and one country?
The situation is clearly a deep social and political crisis. It is not a security or military battle between ISIS and Iraqi Army. The solution, if any exists, can only be achieved through reviewing and restructuring Iraq to convince all. This applies for Christians as well. The question and challenge is how to convince Christians that they have a future in Iraq. The nice words and sympathy statements are not enough. There should be deeds and practices.
According to a majority of Iraqi Christian politicians and people, the starting point is to grant the province (governorate) status for Nineveh Plain where the intensive Christian, Yazidi and Shabak demography exists.
The public relations statements — such as: we are all Iraqis and all Iraq is ours — are like a person who is issuing bank checks but he doesn’t have a bank account.
Third: Last night, ISIS tried to take over a medicine factory northeast of Mosul and west of Telkeif. There was a confrontation with Peshmerga who control and protect the area. ISIS terrorists were forced to go back after a short fighting. However, hearing the sound of the guns was enough to cause Christian families of Telkeif and Batnaya to escape and flee to the north in direction of Alqosh. The Peshmerga checkpoint nearby Alqosh prevented them and asked them to go back simply because there was no threats and no battles field. They went back to their homes. This reflects the fear and horror of the people.
Fourth: Yesterday, there was a bishops’ meeting in Erbil. It was headed by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I to discuss the situation. In addition, there was a meeting of all Christian political parties for the same purpose. The parties called upon a demonstration for tomorrow in Ain Kawa and to go to the United Nations office there, demanding that the International community protect the Iraqi Christians.
Fifth: The following is a summary from my visit last week to Qaraqosh (Hamdaniya), Bartilla and Bashiqa. In Qaraqosh I met Mr. Anwar Hadaya, the Christian member of Nineveh Governorate Council; Bishop Jerjis Qas Mousa, Syriac Catholic Patriarchal Vicar; and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Saliba Shamoun. In Bartilla, I met Mr. Monther, President of Syriac Community Council of Bartilla; board members of the council; and Father Jacob of the Syriac Orthodox Church. The council is the acting body and reference for the Syriac community of Bartilla. In Bashiqa, I met Syriac Orthodox Father Daniel and his church committee.
I will try to summarize the information that I learned from the people I met:
The major Christian town in the region. It has 45,000 to 50,000 inhabitants, 97 percent of them Christians. They confirmed the majority (almost 80 percent) of the inhabitants returned to Hamdaniya after they fled it because of the confrontation between ISIS and Peshmerga.
They confirmed the confrontation was initiated by ISIS, as it thought occupying Hamdaniya will lead to a fast and dramatic fall of other Christian and Shabak (Shiite) townships of Karmles, Bartilla and surrounding villages, and reaching Bashiqa (mixed Christian, Yezedi and Shabak town).
The current security situation is calm but the fear and horror is there as well. The suffering of the people includes the basic needs of daily life, such as:
Hamdaniya, Karmles, Bartilla, Bashiqa and surrounding villages were connected to Iraqi Electricity Network coming from Mosul. Now it is been cut by ISIS. They do not have electricity. The generators are not providing enough hours and the price is too high because the diesel is very expensive.
The above-mentioned towns were provided from Salamiya water station (a huge one on Tigris). The main pipe was connected from Salamiya to Hamdaniya and from there was pumped to Karmles, Bartilla, Bashiqa, etc.
Salamiya is currently controlled by ISIS, who cut the water from this region.
They told me that at first they were in contact by telephone with the Iraqi staff at the Salamiya water station. The Iraqis were providing them with water for one or two hours every day. But then the Islamic princes instructed the staff to cut off the water completely. The princes spoke over the phone and insulted the Christians who were calling the Iraqi staff. They told them: You don’t deserve to drink water.
So, there is no drinking water at all. The alternatives are the wells. However, the possible alternatives are different from one town to the other. For Hamdaniya, the alternative is to dig water wells and connect them to the existing pump station.
Of course, ISIS is not providing the hospital of Hamdaniya with medicine. There is a huge shortage and great need for medicines.
There are no salaries paid to the governmental offices, simply because there is no Iraqi government in Mosul. Islamic State does not pay Hamdaniya, nor other regions that are not under ISIS control.
Indeed, we also learned from sources inside Mosul that ISIS sorted out the lists of governmental offices staff and will not pay for any non-Muslim staff, even if that person shows up at work. We don’t think there are Christians to stay in Mosul and work in Islamic State offices. In addition, the banks are closed and the people do not have access to their cash. The private sector is almost paralyzed. All of this together makes the challenges of life very hard on the people.
The cleaning and other services have totally collapsed. The machinery and vehicles are not working. In addition, the coworkers from the surrounding Sunni villages are not working as their villages are controlled by ISIS and are not able (even if we suppose they like) to come to Hamdaniya.
The tendency to migrate is there, and is expected to increase. Many families are not migrating now because they don’t have their cash in hand as it is in the banks. In addition, they are waiting to sell their properties before they depart. The properties market is frozen for now.
The future scenario
Depends on the political agreements/disagreements between Iraqi political powers. So far, the indicators are for more and deeper conflicts and disagreements between Shiites on the one side, and Sunnis and Kurds on the other side. However, it is not expected ISIS will try to expand the control to Nineveh Plain for the following reasons:
the Peshmerga will prevent such attempts
the Iraqi military pressure on ISIS in Tekrit will push ISIS to avoid such battles against Peshmerga
the region is not an Arab or Sunni region to accept or cooperate with ISIS
In addition, many Sunni powers are in opposition to [Prime Minister] Al Maliki are in Erbil. This reduces the tension of Sunni areas against Kurdish and Peshmerga controlled regions.
The suffering is the same. Shiite Shabaks of Bartilla had already seized land and properties of Christians. The Iranian council was a regular visitor to Bartilla. All Shiite political parties have centers in Bartilla. This created a Sunni position against Bartilla.
The poverty is everywhere in Bartilla. However, hundreds of Shiite Shabaks from Mosul, Bartilla and surrounding villages fled to south of Iraq to the Shiite provinces of Najaf, Karbala, etc. This plan to flee the Sunni region and to be hosted in southern Shiite provinces is a clear solid indicator on how deep the conflict is, and how long it will take. No one is expecting the Shiites of Mosul and Nineveh Plain, now fleeing to the south of Iraq, will return.
Water needs of Bartilla
The alternative in Bartilla is to install units to purify the water they can get from the existing wells. They asked for two units to be installed in two of the wells they have in the church property. Lacking the drinking water, electricity, medicines, etc., has increased cases of disease.
Bashiqa and Bahzany
The same problems: Some 210 displaced Christian families from Mosul are hosted by the church. This is good but it is an extra burden upon the church, whose resources are limited. The solution of the water problem in Bashiqa is to provide a tanker to transport the water from the existing wells.
Keep Iraq’s suffering church and people in your prayers.
Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana
15 June 2012
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians War Iraqi Refugees
A resident of the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, studies.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
It’s a fair question any donor might ask: “Where does my money go?” Well, this Friday, we offer a few answers. Here are five things that happen when you give to CNEWA:
Your gift ends up on the table of a family fleeing the violence of Syria.
About 240 Christian families have fled the embattled city of Homs, as the situation deteriorates by the day. A parish priest and religious sisters are sheltering them away from the violence. But for as little as $108, you can give a month’s worth of lifesaving aid to one family — aid that offers food and medicine to people in dire need right now.
It ends up helping support a sister in India.
Maybe she’s a novice, prayerfully awaiting her final vows. Maybe she’s working with orphans and needs textbooks or supplies. A gift from you will go into her hands, and be an investment in a more hope-filled future. In 2011, your generous gifts sponsored the formation of 507 novices studying in India! And for the next 60 days, one of our benefactors has agreed to match any gifts to sisters, dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000. Such a deal!
It will give schoolbooks and a warm meal to a child orphaned by AIDS.
Countless children have been left abandoned or alone by disease or war. CNEWA helps provide them with hope, and a future. Maybe it’s medical care. Maybe it’s food or shelter. Whatever the circumstances, your sponsorship invests in their future — and invests, really, in our future, too.
It helps bring an end to conflict by actually getting people to talk to one another.
Part of CNEWA’s mandate by the Holy Father is to encourage ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Your gift can support local churches in CNEWA’s world, bolstering their good works, building bridges and fostering understanding and closer ties with all believers.
Maybe best of all: somebody, somewhere, will pray for you.
And who doesn’t need prayers? All the people you help, and even the Holy Father himself, will raise grateful prayers to God for you. Also, on Christmas Eve, Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, will travel to Bethlehem on your behalf and celebrate Midnight Mass at the Basilica of the Nativity for your special intentions.
Giving to CNEWA is an investment in a better, more peaceful world. We connect you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build the church, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue, affirm human dignity and inspire hope.
Tags: CNEWA Children Africa Donors Sponsorship