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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
22 August 2011
Greg Kandra

If you’re curious about CNEWA, a great place to find information is at the top of this page, in the “About” section. But an in-depth history of the organization and how it began hasn’t really been available.

Until now.

We’ve just posted online the first chapter of “Catholic Near East Welfare Association: The Foundational Years” by Bishop John Gavin Nolan, who served as the National Secretary for CNEWA and President of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine from 1966 to 1987. We’ll be posting additional chapters every Monday.

As his successor, Msgr. Robert Stern, notes in his introduction:

In spite of continual interruptions of the work due to the responsibilities of his position, Bishop Nolan completed this first draft of a history of these foundational years…It is an eminently readable and captivatingly informative narrative.

For those who have not been privileged to know and work with its author, Bishop Nolan clearly stands out in the later history of CNEWA. A challenge for the future is to tell the comparably fascinating tale of his years of leadership!

Check out the link on our website for more, and we invite you to revisit every Monday, as more chapters are added and this remarkable story continues to unfold.


22 August 2011
CNEWA staff

Cover of September 2010 issue of ONE; Pope Benedict XVI views the Holy Land from Mount Nebo, Jordan, during his May 2009 pilgrimage.
(photo: Jamal Nasrallah/epa/Corbis)

Earlier today, we received some unexpected news: the Catholic Press Association failed to announce the winners in several categories at their annual awards ceremony, held in Pittsburgh back in June. In one such category, "Special Edition," ONE took 1st place for our September 2010 issue on Christians in the Middle East!

This brings our total up to 11 awards, tying our personal best. The rest can be found here.

The text of the award follows:

First Place

One Magazine, New York, N.Y., "Christians in the Middle East: Special Edition” by Communications Team
Simply outstanding. ONE was a compelling read which was hard to put down. Thoughtful and well researched, this issue never faltered.

Tags: ONE magazine

22 August 2011
Erin Edwards

“A Boy in Shadows” (photo: Nimer Nidal, age 13)

Nimer Nidal, 13, a student of photographer, Rich Wiles, at the Lajee Center in 2005 produced this photo as a part of a collaborative arts project entitled “A Window to Our World.” The Lajee Center, in the Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine, provides youth living in the camp with an opportunity for recreation, education and cultural activities.

To learn more about Rich Wiles’ work with the children in the Aida Refugee Camp check out our interview with him in the November 2010 edition of ONE. Diane Handal's story, Living in Limbo, also from the November 2010 edition, will provide more insight on the state of children living in Palestinian refugee camps.

Tags: Refugees Palestine Refugee Camps Palestinian Refugees

19 August 2011
Erin Edwards

A novice at the Transfiguration Convent in Tbilisi, Georgia, helps to care for a former nun who is now a resident in the hospice run by the sisters. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

Read the story Alternative Lifestyles from the September 2007 edition of ONE to learn more about the sisters of Tbilisi’s Transfiguration Convent.

Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Sisters Georgia Monastery

19 August 2011
Sami El-Yousef

CNEWA’s Regional Director for Palestine-Israel, Sami El-Yousef, describes his recent trip to Gaza, contrasting it in vivid detail to his previous visit.

As I recall my last visit to Gaza in March 2011, it was extremely tense for me; on 24 March, the day before we went, 50 Qassam rockets were launched into southern Israel. Upon our arrival, Israeli warplanes had already bombed several locations including one of Gaza’s electric generators near our hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel, the clerk gave us a customary warning:

“There may be shelling tonight by the Israeli army… if you hear loud explosions during the night, there is no need to panic and come running down to the reception area in your pajamas. Stay calm in your rooms and you will be all right!”

If we were not alarmed at that point, he gave us a good reason to worry. As we continued visiting the institutions later that day, everyone thought we were crazy to visit Gaza during “active wartime” and advised us to leave as soon as the Erez Crossing opens the following morning. Everyone expected an Israeli incursion; should that happen, the border would close and we would be stuck in Gaza until calm returns.

Not surprisingly, the next night was a sleepless one for me as I envisioned all of the “what if” scenarios. Moreover, Israeli F16 warplanes hovered in the skies and the occasional sound of shelling shook windows and caused widespread power outages. …

By noon, we made our way to Erez, bid goodbye to our driver and walked the lonely one-kilometer path inside the Erez terminal. Along the way, one more huge blast shook the whole building. All I could think of was the suffering of the brave people in Gaza and, in particular, the small Christian community that was left there. As we were driving to Jerusalem, I started to think of plans for a return visit as a show of solidarity.

That visit finally happened in July. After two attempts over a three-month period to secure a permit to reach Gaza, it was not until 18 July when we were told that the permit was ready and valid for the next two days. ... The memories of the last visit were vivid, and I was expecting to see the same scenes.

Once in Gaza, it was very clear that the most obvious effects of the war were no longer visible. Buildings shelled during the war of December 2008 that remained in ruins have since been knocked down and bulldozers were busily clearing in preparation for reconstruction. The streets were much cleaner and some were paved with recycled materials or laid with bricks. Four new shopping malls were opened and a series of chalets were constructed on Gaza beaches. Finally, we could not help but notice the number of brand new cars on the road. This is not the same Gaza I visited in March 2011!

Though my reflections are rather personal, I will attach a report generated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published this month, which highlights the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. After all, I do not want anyone to think that there is an economic boom going on in Gaza as a result of my account!

I was very happy to observe that Gaza is finally starting the long recovery from the war and public services are restored and open. In fact, Gaza’s beaches were full of people enjoying a dip in the Mediterranean. It was also a pleasant sight to see small children on the beach playing and swimming instead of collecting rubble from destroyed buildings.

Read the rest of the report here.

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank

18 August 2011
Greg Kandra

This is ONE-TO-ONE, the new blog for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). Take a moment, pull up a chair, and look around.

In these pages, you'll find stories, news, anecdotes, quotes, updates, photographs, videos, and links, all related to the work of CNEWA around the world. (If you're asking: "What, or who, is CNEWA?" just click the ABOUT tab at the top of the page.) This is also a place for discussion, so please be sure to register and join the conversation. Thoughts? Questions? Feedback? We want to hear what's on your mind.

We hope this little corner of the blogosphere will be lively, inspiring, and engaging, and let more people know about the remarkable work that committed men and women are undertaking around the world.

They're changing lives person by person — very often, one-to-one.

We'll be adding new material every day, so come back often. Bookmark us and tell your friends. If you check out the tabs above and to the right, you can also subscribe, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by — and we look forward to seeing you again soon!


18 August 2011
CNEWA staff

For decades, the Holy Land has been experiencing a Christian exodus, a faint trickle that over the years grew into a steady stream. However, recent figures indicate that this long-lamented leak may finally have been staunched. A recent article in the National Catholic Register discusses this issue at greater length, and for input even draws upon CNEWA’s Regional Director for Palestine-Israel, Sami El-Yousef:

Earlier this year, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told a group of bishops that, for the first time in many years, more Christians returned to the Palestinian territories and Jerusalem than departed.

Citing statistics from 2009 — the most recent available — Fayyad said the ratio of returnees to emigrants “is positive for the first time.” He credited improvements in Palestinian civic society, governance and infrastructure for much of the reversal. ...

Sami El-Yousef, who directs the Pontifical Mission-Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s Jerusalem office, traces much of the stability to the end of the intifada and the Holy Land’s economic recovery beginning in 2006-2005.

From then on, El-Yousef said, many Palestinians who had emigrated to the West began contemplating their eventual return.

The economic gains in Palestine-Israel, coupled with the world financial crisis “meant that it became better to be here than anywhere else,” the administrator said.

Many of the Palestinians who emigrated still had family and often property to return to, El-Yousef noted. Most were single or people with young children looking for a better, more secure life outside of the turbulent Middle East. ...

El-Yousef is convinced that most young Palestinian Christians would not contemplate emigrating — or would come back — if good jobs and affordable housing were more readily available.

A survey by the Catholic Aid Coordination Committee, a consortium of Christian aid organizations in the region supports his judgment. The study, conducted in 2010, concluded that that Palestinians between the ages of 14 and 35 still “have a great affinity to the land,” El-Yousef said.

“These young people said, ‘This is where I want to be, where I want to study and raise a family and be part of society.’”

The results were “a bit surprising,” El-Yousef added, because there is a popular belief that young Palestinians “can’t wait to graduate, study abroad and never come back.”

In reality, El-Yousef said, the new generation of young Palestinians are proud of their Christian and Palestinian identities, but want the aid organizations and churches to help them find jobs and apartments they can afford.

El-Yousef believes that if church-affiliated institutions — such as hospitals, clinics, social-service organizations and tourism-related enterprises—find a way to provide more jobs, Christian emigration could become a rarity.

“What these young people are saying is: ‘If we have decent employment and housing, why would we want to go anywhere else?’”

Read the full piece here!

Tags: Palestine Jerusalem Israel Holy Land

18 August 2011
Erin Edwards

The faithful at Ba’ta Mariam Church, on one of the Mariam feast days. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

In November 2010 writer Peter Lemieux brought us a story called “Relevant or Relic”, about Ethiopian life and culture. In one of Peter’s unpublished interviews, a source offered some insight on how women are treated in the country:

Women take a backseat to men in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and elders in general in society. “If a woman seeks counseling in the church, she’s sent to a man. In marriage counseling, they’re more concerned about you being submissive to [your] husband. You don’t talk about personal relationships or married life. You don’t disclose that. If you do, you’re likely to be discriminated against or viewed as different, not following the line,” says Halina Atlabachew.

That wasn’t the first time Peter Lemieux and ONE had looked at gender issues in Ethiopia. For more check out our May 2009 story, An Uphill Battle. In a multimedia feature, we also heard from two Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who have worked with women extensively in Ethiopia.

Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church

17 August 2011
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D

Dr. Maria C. Khoury contributed to a recent feature on Taybeh in the July issue of ONE called “A Town Named Good.” Besides being one of the town’s biggest boosters, Dr. Khoury is also the wife of the mayor (interviewed in our multimedia slideshow web feature) who, when he isn’t running the town, also happens to run the village’s celebrated brewery. Dr. Khoury wanted to spread the word about other things going on in her town and sent us the following:

Taybeh is becoming famous for its brewery, which boasts the first micro-brewed beer in the Middle East and the first Palestinian product to be sold in Germany under the Taybeh Brewing license. (If you don’t drink alcohol, there is a non-alcoholic label, with the flavor of barley and apple.) But beer isn’t the only rich spirit brewing in Taybeh; we also take pride in our town’s storied history. The village is mentioned as a place Jesus visited just before his crucifixion. Our oral history states that the modern name of Taybeh came from Saladin referring to the local people as Tayhbeen, meaning “good”; indeed, as Christians, we strive to follow the Gospels' message of “love thy neighbor.”

These last few years, Taybeh (known in the Bible as Ephraim) has experienced an amazing rehabilitation through the work of Riwaq, a Palestinian NGO dedicated to the preservation and restoration of historical architecture. Their effort to restore fourth-century Byzantine ruins and the Crusaders’ castle, “Boberiyah,” has inspired visitors to walk the paths of the historic village center to enjoy the public spaces, alleys, plazas and terraces, and find pleasure in the beauty of a village with 248 historic buildings and 30,000 olive trees. When you arrive in Taybeh, you will be in the highest mountain region in Palestine, with a brilliant view of the Dead Sea and the splendor of the ancient Judean valleys and hills.

Visitors to Taybeh can tour what we consider our local archeological treasure, the ruins of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, “Al Khader.” Guests can also visit the Olive Branch Workshop, a project of the Latin Church, and see the modern olive press donated to the village by the Italian Bishops conference. A must-see is the House of Parables, an old, traditional Palestinian home with cultural artifacts explaining biblical parables. The Stone School, created in 2007, reflects the efforts for preservation of cultural heritage of our small Palestinian village.

And, of course, making Taybeh famous since 1995 is the Taybeh Brewing Company, the only Palestinian brew house giving ongoing daily tours (six days a week; on Sunday, we rest!).

Finally, if you’re interested in visiting in the fall, don’t miss the village Oktoberfest: a two-day celebration that has on tap not only our beer but also our sense of fun and local pride. This year’s festival takes place on 1 and 2 October. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by, say hello, and raise a glass!

Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Palestine

17 August 2011
Erin Edwards

Local youth from Derbent in Russia, spend time at the shore of the Caspian Sea. Often identified with the legendary Gates of Alexander, Derbent claims to be the oldest city in the Russian Federation. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

Check out the November 2009 edition of ONE magazine to find out more about the remarkable history of this place in the story “Where Europe meets Asia.”

Photographer Justyna Mielnikiewicz has traveled and documented the Caucasus region extensively. Learn more about her work in the multimedia feature, A Photographer’s Perspective.

Tags: Caucasus

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