Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
11 June 2013
Greg Kandra

Mary Mathai and her son inspect their new home as it nears completion. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In India, there is an ongoing effort underway to move the poorest from humble huts into real homes:

A “roof over your head” is considered one of life’s basic necessities, and yet for many it remains out of reach.

“During the heavy rains, water would seep through the roof and fall on my face while I slept,” said Aleyama Luka, a widow from Wayanad, a district in northern Kerala.

“I would have to sit up all night sheltering the children under an umbrella.”

Poverty is not uncommon in Wayanad, a tiny hill area known for its spices and coffee. Though much of the local economy is tied to agriculture, the overuse of chemical fertilizers and insecticides and painful government-led economic reforms have devastated district farmers. In the period of a year, from May 2006 to June 2007, 101 farmers — all of whom faced bankruptcy — reportedly took their own lives.

But thanks to the Malabar Social Service Society (MASSS), an agency of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Kottayam, efforts are under way to improve the lot of tens of thousands of people in need throughout northern Kerala: needy children, senior citizens, tenant farmers, unskilled laborers, fishermen, artisans, tribals anddalits, the so-called “untouchables” of India. …

Employing professional social workers, MASSS selects beneficiaries for its many programs from research gathered by an extensive network of field animators, as well as from recommendations made by priests of the archeparchy. MASSS’s housing initiative is part of its overall sustainable development strategy that also includes giving selected beneficiaries access to savings accounts, credit and affordable housing.

Mary Mathai borrowed 3,000 rupees (about $75) toward the cost of her new family home and pays only a nominal interest rate of 1.2 percent.

“Our old mud house just melted away in the rains ... and we used to get sick,” she said. “We sleep so much sounder now. The house changed our outlook toward life.”

Read more about Changing Lives in Northern Kerala from the November 2007 issue of ONE.

Tags: India Kerala Economic hardships Homes/housing

11 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2011 photo, Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, talks with Catholic News Service in Washington. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)

Cardinal Koch in Ukraine: Goal of ecumenism ‘visible communion’ (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave a lecture on ecumenism at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, on 10 June. According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU), the cardinal focused on the discussion of one of the most painful and key issues of Orthodox-Catholic relations — the primacy of the bishop of Rome…

Chaldean patriarch calls for committee to promote dialogue (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis hosted a dinner last night at a hotel in the Green Zone in Baghdad, inviting political and religious leaders — including the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, the first to accept the invitation. In the context of this initiative, Patriarch Raphael Louis said he hoped to see the birth of a “committee” to boost the work of “frank and brave” dialogue and encounter between the country’s various souls: Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish…

Bulgarian Orthodox metropolitan of Western Europe resigns (Sofia Globe) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, has accepted the resignation of Simeon, Metropolitan of Western Europe, on grounds of poor health. Simeon, elected in 1986 as the first Metropolitan of the then-newly established Diocese of Western Europe, has been ill for some time and has been receiving medical treatment in the United States. It is expected that a replacement will be named in the autumn…

Clashes over church in Macedonia (Eurasia Review) At least two people have been injured in clashes between protesters and police that erupted over a church construction project in the Centar municipality of the capital Skopje. The clashes started on Monday when several hundred government supporters tried to push past a police cordon into a local government courtyard, angry over the opposition mayor’s alleged plan — which he denies — to demolish a church. Macedonian Orthodox Bishop Pimen came out with an appeal for calm. “My faithful people, is this the way we witness the peace of Christ? We demolish a municipality in an attempt to prevent the ‘demolishing’ of a church. Let us fill up the churches instead of municipal courts…”

St. Macrina Church in Anatolia holds first ceremony in 90 years (Hurriyet Daily News) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, officiated at the first religious ceremony in 90 years at St. Macrina Church in the Central Anatolian province of Nigde yesterday. About 200 people attended the liturgy, including Greek Deputy Agriculture Minister Maksimos Harakopulos and members of various associations from Argentina, Greece and Istanbul…

Survivors of Syrian fighting describe harrowing flight from Qusayr (Los Angeles Times) Ibrahim, a dark-haired man with bandages across his abdomen, said he was injured in a rocket attack amid raging battles between rebel fighters and Syrian government troops backed by Lebanon’s militant group, Hezbollah. It took him three days to trek nine dangerous miles through rocky mountains to Lebanon, dodging soldiers he said were targeting the group of wounded he fled with. Their group, which would dwindle to only a few, split up as Syrian troops chased them…

Damascus hit by multiple suicide bombings (BBC) Two suicide bombers have blown themselves up in the center of the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing 14 people, Syrian state media says. At least 30 other people were injured in the blasts, in Marjeh Square. The explosions happened at a police building in the busy commercial district. The attack comes as regime forces prepare an assault to recapture the northern city of Aleppo after having retaken Qusayr from the rebels…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Chaldean Church Orthodox Cardinal Kurt Koch

10 June 2013
Greg Kandra

Ruth Girmay, founder of Addis Hope, shares a moment with the program’s children. (photo: Sean Sprague)

A few years ago, we profiled a remarkable effort to bring help and hope to children in Addis Ababa:

Gete and her son, Dawit, live in a makeshift hut in Shiro Meda, a slum on the edge of Ethiopia’s sprawling capital city, Addis Ababa. Both have H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Dawit’s father died of the disease five years ago. And though AIDS is not uncommon in Addis Ababa — one in six adults is thought to have it — those who suffer from the disease are stigmatized. Gete cannot use the communal clotheslines to hang her washing, as her neighbors believe — wrongly, of course — that her clothes might spread the disease. Children in the neighborhood will not play with Dawit.

But Dawit is not friendless. He is one of 58 children who attend the Shiro Meda Day Care Center, more than half of whom are H.I.V. positive. Here the children receive instruction, have a regular meal and play. Shiro Meda is one of three day care centers run by the Addis Hope Program, which serves over 200 of Addis Ababa’s poorest children.

Many are children of women who have been abandoned, raped or, in Gete’s case, widowed. While providing a refuge for preschool children (ages 4 to 7), Addis Hope also trains mothers in entrepreneurial activities.

The program was founded in 2001 by Ruth Girmay, a former teacher at the Nativity Cathedral School in Addis Ababa. Helping the less fortunate has been a constant of her life. The daughter of a retired Ministry of Agriculture administrator, she used to give what little spending money she had to beggars outside her church.

Ruth, 28, said a dream she had as a teenager about St. Francis of Assisi inspired her to devote her life to helping the less fortunate. At first, she rented a small room to take in 15 children, whose mothers were making ends meet by begging or prostitution.

Ruth, a Catholic, then turned to De La Salle Christian Brother Gregory Flynn, who helped solicit funds from donor agencies. Brother Flynn also helped her navigate the bureaucratic hurdles in establishing her program for children. It took two years for the Addis Hope program to receive the proper certification from the government.

There is a great need for such programs in Ethiopia, a country of 75 million, half of whom live below the poverty line according to the latest United Nations survey. More than 50 percent of school-age children do not attend school. AIDS accounts for 30 percent of all adult deaths, and two million children have been orphaned because of the disease.

Read more about Addis Hope in the July 2006 issue of ONE.

Tags: Ethiopia Children Health Care Orphans/Orphanages HIV/AIDS

10 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian children attend a class at a new school that opened in the Al Zaatri refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on 4 June. Some 500,000 Syrian refugees have sought shelter in Jordan from the civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad and rebel fighters trying to overthrow him. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Cardinal: Lebanon will ‘pay cost’ of Syrian conflict (France24) “Where do the refugees go? The Christians go to Christian homes in Lebanon, the Druze go to Druze homes in Lebanon, the Alawites go to their relatives [in Lebanon],” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. More than 500,000 Syrians fleeing the conflict have sought refuge in Lebanon, which is increasingly being sucked into the war…

U.S. considers taking in Syrian refugees (Los Angeles Times) Two years into a civil war that shows no signs of ending, the Obama administration is considering resettling refugees who have fled Syria, part of an international effort that could bring thousands of Syrians to American cities and towns. A resettlement plan under discussion in Washington and other capitals is aimed at relieving pressure on Middle Eastern countries straining to support 1.6 million refugees, as well as assisting hard-hit Syrian families…

Palestinian descendants start to reclaim village (Al Jazeera) A dream long nurtured by hundreds of thousands of Palestinians made refugees during the establishment of the state of Israel has become a concrete reality at a small makeshift camp atop a windswept hill. Today, all that remains of the village of Iqrit, close to Israel’s border with Lebanon, is a Catholic church on the hill’s brow. But in 1948, the village was home to 600 Christian Palestinians…

Syria troops ‘preparing for Aleppo assault’ (BBC) Syrian government forces are reported to be preparing for a major offensive on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo and its surroundings. A Syrian security source said it would start “in the coming hours or days.” On Sunday, they retook the last remaining rebel-held villages in the strategically important area, which lies between the Lebanese border and the central city of Homs…

Amman, Christian Arab media discuss peace, justice and human rights (AsiaNews) Today, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, in collaboration with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, has begun a two-day conference on justice, human rights and the Arab media. Guests include Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem…

Cleric fights to save rural Romania from fracking (ENCA) For months, 50-year-old Father Vasile Laiu has been one of the most outspoken opponents to plans by United States energy giant Chevron to drill for shale gas in rural eastern Romania. Clad in his black cassock, Father Laiu has joined thousands of locals in street protests against a project he says “threatens man, nature and future generations”…

Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War United States Palestinians Patriarch Fouad Twal

7 June 2013
Greg Kandra

A Lebanese family dances at an engagement party. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

We began this week with a story about Iraqi refugees finding a new home in Toronto. We thought we’d end with another image from that part of our world. Those refugees from Iraq are joining a growing number of people from the Middle East in Canada. In 2004, for example, we visited Lebanese immigrants who had settled in Montreal:

You will find them bowed in churches, whispering praise to “Allah” (God).

You will find them animated in cafes and bars, smoking water pipes and exclaiming “haram” (it’s a shame) over the latest injustice in the Holy Land or some bad call during a European soccer match.

You will find them seated in restaurants before plates of lamb sausages and salads, pounding their fists on tables and crying “mish maouleh” (impossible) in response to some devilishly tall tale.

You will find them frenzied near altars, elbowing their way to capture the perfect photograph of a loved one exchanging marriage vows and begging “lazza choue” (pardon me).

You will find them bellies bared in dance clubs, twisting their torsos and asking “in jeid?” (really) over the reported affection of some member of the opposite sex.

They are everywhere. They are Lebanese and they have found a home in Montréal.

That the most distinct people of the Middle East have found refuge and new life in the most distinct of Canada’s great cities should come as no surprise. The urbane, gregarious and multilingual Lebanese seem a natural fit for Québec’s cosmopolitan center, whose denizens fiercely protect their Francophone patrimony.

Read more about the Lebanese of Montreal from the September 2004 issue of ONE.

Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity ONE magazine Canada Immigration

7 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian refugees wait to receive aid and rations at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, 4 June. Some 500,000 Syrian refugees have sought shelter in Jordan from the civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad and rebel fighters trying to overthrow him. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed,  Reuters)

U.N. says half of Syria’s population will need aid by end of year (The Guardian) The United Nations has launched the largest emergency appeal in its history — $5 billion — warning that half the population will need humanitarian aid by the end of the year. The civil war in Syria has led to the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world amid a conflict in which hospitals, schools and water and sanitation infrastructure have been targeted. But some fear that the appeal will not be enough, as aid agencies have struggled to keep pace with the three-year crisis that has left more than 80,000 people dead…

Patriarch: Millennium of Russian presence on Mount Athos in 2016 (Interfax-Religion) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has proposed rebuilding the Ksilurgu Monastery, the oldest Russian monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, by 2016, when the 1,000 years of the Russian presence on Mount Athos will be celebrated. “In three years, we will celebrate the 1,000 years of the Russian presence on the Holy Mount Athos,” the patriarch said in Ksilurgu, addressing monks…

With Golan fence, Israel closer to surrounding itself with barriers (Washington Post) Fearful that the Syrian civil war, jihadist terrorists or Lebanese Hezbollah fighters will spill into Israel, the country’s military engineers are rushing to complete their latest “smart fence,” this one in the occupied Golan Heights. When the 45-mile fence is finished in the coming months, Israel will have taken another big step in surrounding itself with barriers. But some Israelis worry that the fences are a metaphor for weakness as much as they are for strength and that the barriers have increased a sense of isolation…

Church denies Israeli municipality use of its property for festival (WAFA) The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem said Tuesday that it would not allow the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem to use church property in the Old City for a festival of lights because of Israeli police mistreatment of Christians during their holidays. A statement by the church spokesman Issa Musleh said the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III has told the municipality of its objections to the use of its property in any way for the festival, which he said “does not reflect in any way the true identity of Jerusalem”…

Egypt-Ethiopia water dispute escalates after threatening remarks (Los Angeles Times) A battle over water has turned into a war of colorful rhetoric between Ethiopia and Egypt over the flow of the Nile, which begins in the African highlands but keeps Egypt from being swallowed entirely by desert. An ambitious Ethiopian dam project is diverting Nile waters that Cairo says will reduce the river’s northward flow. The Egyptians have stumbled into crisis mode: At a meeting hosted by the Egyptian president this week, several politicians, unaware TV cameras were rolling, suggested sabotaging or threatening to bomb the dam…

Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Israel Separation Barrier

6 June 2013
Greg Kandra

The Azar family shares a one-bedroom house with two other Syrian refugee families in the village of Al Qaa in Lebanon. (photo: Tamara Hadi)

The current issue of ONE features a look at refugees from Syria and Iraq, and ongoing efforts to help them. This morning, the Vatican released a document on refugees:

Catholic laity have an obligation to root out traces of xenophobia in their hearts and recognize refugees as their brothers and sisters — children of God whose dignity must be protected, said a new Vatican document.

“Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons,” a document of pastoral guidelines for providing material and spiritual assistance to people forced to leave their homes was published June 6 by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable activity.

Since the mid-1980s, the document said, the debate surrounding refugees and other asylum seekers has become “a forum for political and administrative election purposes, which fed hostile and aggressive attitudes among the electorate.”

In effect, countries are focused more on deterring newcomers from reaching their shores than they are on offering protection and a welcome to suffering people fleeing situations that threatened their lives and dignity, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the council for migrants and travelers, told reporters.

From a Catholic point of view, he said at a Vatican news conference, “every policy, initiative or intervention in this area must be inspired by the principle of the centrality and dignity of the human person.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of Cor Unum, said being Christian means trying to meet both the material and spiritual needs of refugees and displaced people, who “ask us for a commitment of love that first of all restores their dignity as persons made in the image and likeness of God.”

“Along with bread, they need love that nourishes their spiritual dimension,” Cardinal Sarah said, and that love is precisely what gives witness to “the love with which Christ loves us and saves us.”

How can you help give witness to “the love with which Christ loves us”? Visit our Syria Emergency Relief page to learn more.

Tags: Syria Refugees Migrants

6 June 2013
Greg Kandra

In the video above, John Klink, president of the International Catholic Migration Commission, talks to Catholic News Service about Pope Francis’ special awareness of migrants’ problems.
(video: CNS)

Vatican calls for less restrictive policies toward migrants (Business Ghana) The Catholic Church on Thursday called on the international community to adopt a less restrictive approach on migration and to show more compassion towards the plight of refugees and displaced people. Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, the top Vatican official on such matters, lamented that “ever more often, the political debate at national and international level” focuses on “restrictive measures.” “It seems that the issue is mainly about how to keep away asylum-seekers and displaced people. Instead of considering the reasons why they were forced to leave, the sole presence of refugees or deported people is seen as a problem,” Veglio said...

Pontifical council predicts summer will aggravate Syrian crisis (VIS) The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” called a meeting, from 4-5 June, of the Catholic charitable agencies that are working to combat the crisis in Syria. Testimonials confirm the extent of the tragedy: almost seven million people who need humanitarian assistance, more than 4.5 million forcibly displaced persons, and an ever-increasing number of persons seeking security outside of the country’s borders. A more careful analysis of the needs in this area have revealed that, with the onset of summer, the risk of epidemics in the affected population — with pregnant women, children, the elderly, and the disabled in particular jeopardy — will certainly increase along with shortages of medicines and aid...

Pope warns priest-diplomats against careerism (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday spoke to the members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which is dedicated to training priests to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See. In his address, the Holy Father reminded the students that they must cultivate a deep spiritual life in order to attain the “inner freedom” that is necessary for their future work. He also warned against ambition, and once again denounced careerism, which he called “a leprosy”...

Chalden Synod begins in Baghdad (Fides) On Wednesday 5 June the Synod of the Chaldean Church convened by the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I Sako began in Baghdad. The beginning of the assembly was also attended by Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq...

Tensions surround construction of new dam in Egypt (Fides) The construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam which is currently under construction on the Blue Nile is creating tension between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. According to a report published by a committee composed of experts from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, in fact, the dam built by Ethiopia will deprive Egyptians of 12 billion cubic meters of water a year...

Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Vatican Chaldeans

5 June 2013
Megan Knighton

Msgr. Kozar speaks with Joseph Hester, Esq., of New York City. (photo: CNEWA)

Msgr. John Kozar and the CNEWA staff welcomed local members of the CNEWA family to our New York office this morning.

After celebrating Mass for our guests, Msgr. Kozar hosted a reception that focused on CNEWA’s work in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Msgr. Kozar shared his reflections and stories of his recent trip to the region, and highlighted the agency’s work and goals for the peoples and churches there.

Thank you to everyone who attended this morning — and thank you, especially, for supporting our good works in the Horn of Africa!

Msgr. Kozar shares his reflections of his pastoral visit to the Horn of Africa. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: CNEWA Africa Donors CNEWA Canada CNEWA Pontifical Mission

5 June 2013
Greg Kandra

A boy displaced by fighting in Syria attends a class in the governorate of Idlib, Syria, on 27 May. The Vatican has reiterated its call for negotiations and putting an end to violence in Syria, saying that children are suffering the most. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)

Pope Francis today spoke poignantly about the ongoing suffering of the people in Syria:

Christians must help the people of Syria because “where there is suffering, Christ is present,” Pope Francis told representatives of Catholic aid agencies working in Syria and with Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

“How much suffering, how much poverty, how much pain; and it’s Jesus who suffers, who is poor, who is thrown out of his country,” the pope said on 5 June during a meeting with the representatives who were holding a coordinating meeting at the Vatican.

Pope Francis said it is part of “the Christian mystery” that when the faithful see what is going on in Syria, “we see Jesus suffering in the inhabitants of the beloved Syria.”

“We cannot turn our backs on situations of great suffering,” he told participants at the meeting he convoked. “The weapons must be silenced.”

The meeting was held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving. The pope wanted the aid agencies to “respond to the continuing deterioration of the already serious humanitarian situation in the country and among the refugees,” said Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, council secretary.

Read more.

Visit this page to learn how you can help those suffering in Syria.

Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War War Relief

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