2 October 2014
Displaced people fleeing violence in Iraq walk toward the Syrian border town of Elierbeh. Pope Francis opened a three-day summit on 2 October on the violence and persecution underway in the Middle East, saying arms trafficking was the root cause of many problems in the region. To help those Iraqis who have been displaced, please visit this page. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
1 October 2014
Local residents stand next to the debris of a house hit by a mortar shell from the Syrian side of the border in Alanyurt village near the Turkish-Syrian border on 29 September. A Syrian priest on a U.S. mission trip says amid ongoing death and destruction in the Middle East, the Catholic Church continues to provide spiritual and material support for those in need.
(photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
The military attacks on Syria are having a powerful impact on the lives of ordinary families:
After telling parishioners and students in the religious education program at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Parish about what is happening in Syria, Father Rodrigo Miranda was impressed that a 13-year-old girl was one of the first to respond.
“She came up to me and immediately asked: ‘What can we do to help?’” said Father Miranda, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
As the current pastor at the cathedral in Aleppo, Syria, Father Miranda is hoping that all Catholics would be just as quick to generously respond to the needs of fellow Christians in the Middle East.
For the past three years, he said, Aleppo has been embroiled in a violent civil war that has destroyed the once-thriving Syrian city that is home to about 2.5 million people. While the vast majority of inhabitants are Muslim, Father Miranda said there is a small contingent of Christians living in Aleppo. “A few years ago, I’d say maybe 15 percent of the population was Christian,” Father Miranda told The Anchor, newspaper of the Fall River diocese. “Now, I think it’s closer to 10 percent, if not less. We are clearly the minority within the community.”
He said that not only are Christians in the minority, they often find themselves caught in the middle of the warring factions on either side of the conflict. More than 70,000 people — mostly civilians — have been killed and more than 3 million Syrians have been displaced since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. In addition, some 1.1 million people have taken refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
“The problem is you have Palestinians on one side, Arabs on the other, and the Christians are stuck in the middle,” Father Miranda said. “Both sides have preconceptions about the other,” he added.
“People have their own beliefs and they don’t understand or appreciate the other’s style of life.” While “everyone receives some form of help from the United Nations,” Father Miranda said Christians must rely solely on the Catholic Church for support. “Our mission (in Syria) is to evangelize the culture,” Father Miranda said. “We are trying to bring Christ to the people. We go to the places where the church can’t go due to circumstances.”
Read more about what CNEWA is doing to help the men, women and children of Syria here. And to offer your support, visit this page.
30 September 2014
The tide of refugees fleeing air strikes in Syria is growing. In the image above, Syrian Kurdish refugees walk with their belongings on 29 September after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc. (photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
29 September 2014
Pope Francis greets emeritus Pope Benedict XVI during an encounter for the elderly in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 28 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the elderly in St. Peter’s Square — one that brought together again the pontiff and his predecessor. During the Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the plight facing many older men and women:
The wisdom and love of older people are instrumental for building the future, and they can even cheer up grumpy teenagers, the pope said.
“It’s very good for you to go visit an older person. Look at our kids. Sometimes we see them being listless and sad; (if) they go visit an older person, they become happy,” he said.
“Older people, grandparents have an ability to understand very difficult situations, a great talent. And when they pray about these situations, their prayers are strong and powerful.”
But there are many who instead prey on their fragilities, and the pope warned against the “inhuman” violence being waged against the elderly and children in areas of conflict.
Harm can also be waged quietly, he said, through many forms of neglect and abandonment, which “are a real and true hidden euthanasia.”
People need to fight against “this poisonous throwaway culture,” which targets children, young people and the elderly, on “the pretext of keeping the economic system ‘balanced,’ where the focus is not on the human being but on the god of money.”
While residential care facilities are important for those who don’t have a family who can care for them, it’s important these institutes be “truly like homes, not prisons,” the pope said, and that their placement there is in the best interest of the older person, “not someone else.”
The summer edition of ONE looked closely at this issue, with a poignant glimpse into the lives of the “new orphans” of Armenia and Georgia:
For Georgia, a society with a long, cherished tradition of multigenerational households that take care of their own from cradle to grave, the idea of a senior citizen with no money and no family used to be unthinkable. As part of the Soviet Union, Georgians were insulated by a state-run system of health care: doctors were plentiful and medicine was cheap. The question of who would take care of grandma or grandpa in their old age was never an issue.
Today, however, with widespread poverty pushing families apart — many emigrate to Russia, or abroad — it is becoming more common.
Tsiala Gogodze, 74, used to arrange tours and official visits for dignitaries when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. With a smattering of English to flavor her fluent Russian and Georgian, Ms. Gogodze laments the loneliness that gnawed at the seniors before they found the center and each other.
“You know what is horrible? No one needs people like us, not our relations, not anyone,” she says. “That is horrible.”
Family is a crucial part of Georgian culture, and the expectation that one’s family will always be there runs deep in the national psyche. Without family to look after them, or visit with them, many of the seniors who now visit the center had no one to talk with them or even care about them.
26 September 2014
Tags: Armenia Georgia Pope
With their country undergoing continuing air strikes targeting ISIS, some Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries. Here, a number of refugees wait at the Turkish border near Sanliurfa,
on 24 September. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
25 September 2014
An Iraqi family that fled ISIS gathers at a table in one of the refugee centers in Jordan. To read a full report on the flood of refugees pouring into Jordan, visit this link. (photo: CNEWA)
24 September 2014
A cross atop a temporary building in downtown Erbil, Iraq, marks the office of Syriac Catholic Archbishop Boutros Moshe of Mosul — one of more than 130,000 Christians displaced by ISIS who are now seeking refuge in Erbil. To learn more, read the latest report on the refugee situation.
23 September 2014
The book of the Gospels is seen during during an ecumenical prayer service for Middle Eastern peace in Washington on 9 September. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
What does it mean to defend Christians in the Middle East? This week, National Catholic Reporter explores that question — and gets some answers from CNEWA:
As many minority Christians in the region — already buffeted by decades of social marginalization and political instability and experiencing a historic bottoming out of their ranks — now face barbaric forms of persecution in places like Iraq and Syria, the questions have taken on a newfound significance. The issue has become all the more important here in America, where the effort to raise public awareness of their plight is still in its nascency (and susceptible to political opportunism), and the nation is, again, on the brink of war.
Interviews with experts — and the words of Middle East Christians themselves — suggest two answers. The first has to do with the legacy of Christians in the region.
“The center of the church in its formative years was in the area we now call the Middle East,” said the Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s Michael La Civita. He called the Christian presence in the Middle East “absolutely vital” to the development of both Eastern and Western civilization.
“So many of the great works of our classical Greco-Roman heritage would have been lost, but they were preserved by the Eastern churches, by the monasteries,” La Civita said. “The monks were scholars, they preserved books, transcribed them into Copt, Syriac and Armenian,” ancient languages still spoken by Middle East Christians today. “With the advent of Islam, the various Muslim courts appropriated the services of these Christians. They gave to the Muslim Arabs geometry and astronomy, and classical philosophy, all of which then the Muslim Arabs brought back to us, through Sicily and Spain.”
Asked what the loss of the Christian presence would mean to Christianity, La Civita said: “Culturally, liturgically, it would be a great loss to the church of Christ if its Eastern roots were severed. It would be a tremendous loss — a tremendous loss.”
There’s much more. Read it all at the NCR link.
22 September 2014
Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA
In Jordan, a young refugee from Iraq proudly shows the emblem he painted on the wall in his cramped shelter: the Arabic letter for “N,” meaning Nazarene, or Christian. Back in his home in Iraq, it is the letter ISIS painted on houses to designate the homes of Christians, marking them for persecution or punishment. Thousands of refugees from Iraq, like this little boy, have found shelter in parishes in Jordan — but their struggles are far from over. Read the latest report
from our CNEWA staff. (photo: CNEWA)
19 September 2014
Armenian Katarine Hoveian, 91, has lived alone for 25 years. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
Pope Francis today met with the president of Armenia. The Summer edition of ONE includes a poignant look at some of those citizens the president serves, notably the elderly:
Since the earthquake, the population of Gyumri has dropped by about half. In 1988, some 220,000 people lived in the city. But by 2011 — due to the earthquake and the country’s economic collapse after it achieved independence from an unraveling Soviet Union — Gyumri’s population declined to 121,500. Many are convinced the actual number of people living in the city is less than 90,000.
According to the United Nations, Armenia is among the world’s “aging” nations. Pensioners constitute some 14 percent of the country’s 2.9 million people. In Gyumri, the average age is trending upward as more and more of the young and capable pursue employment abroad, usually Russia.
“Imagine how things stand with the frail elderly if men leave their children to go find jobs to earn their living, if unemployment is 40 percent in the city during the summer, and rises to 60 percent in the winter due to fewer seasonal jobs,” says Sister Arousiag Sajonian of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
“If the young cannot survive, how can seniors?” asks Sister Arousiag, who arrived in northwestern Armenia soon after the earthquake. She later founded the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center in Gyumri, which since 2011 has also included a center to care for the elderly.
Observers say pensioners in northern Armenia are left alone with no caretakers for a variety of reasons. Some may have lost their children in the earthquake. Others lost their children to emigration. But alone in Gyumri exists the phenomenon of orphaned children brought by the Soviets to work in factories — orphans such as Ophelia Matevosian — who never married or created families and remain alone.
Read more about those Shaken by the Earthquake of Life in the Summer edition of ONE.