13 September 2016
Wadad Nagib rises at dawn, six days a week, to see off her three sons to their work as garbage collectors in an impoverished corner of Egypt near Cairo. (photo: Dana Smilie)
Some of the most heroic and inspiring figures we have met have been people who hold fast to their faith and their dignity, in spite of challenges most of us couldn’t imagine.
One of those is Wadad Nagib, a 46-year-old mother of six who lives in a corner of Egypt known as Garbage City — an impoverished Coptic Christian neighborhood that is home to the Zabbaleen, or “garbage people.”
As Sarah Topol reported for ONE:
To spend time with the Nagib family is to witness in microcosm the struggles of an entire class of people — and to realize that they are struggling not just to salvage what others discard, but also to salvage dignity and a way of life.
Mrs. Nagib’s husband collected trash for a living. Now too old to work, he has passed his route on to his children. And it seems, one by one, the Nagib children are carrying on the tradition.
Six days a week, Mrs. Nagib rises before dawn to see off three of her sons to their work as garbage collectors. At 5, the young men will have climbed into the family truck to head down the slopes to the city — a drive that takes two hours. There, they go from apartment to apartment along their route collecting garbage. By early afternoon, they head home, the truck loaded with trash.
While the young men rest, Mrs. Nagib and her daughters begin picking through the garbage bags with bare hands. They sort the debris into piles: aluminum cans, food waste, glass, etc. Later, the family will sell the recyclables.
Mrs. Nagib’s 3-year-old daughter plays barefoot in the trash heaps. Flies swarm around the mother and daughters. The sickly sweet stench of rotting waste fills the neighborhood’s narrow, unpaved streets.
“It’s not easy, but it’s what we have become accustomed to. All we want is security and God’s blessing,” Mrs. Nagib says. The slender woman wears a bright blue headscarf and small, simple earrings. As she gestures with her hands, she reveals a tiny tattoo of a cross on her right wrist, a common marking among Copts. “Maybe in the future things will get better.”
Read more about the Nagib family and the Zabbaleen here.
Last spring, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar paid a pastoral visit to Egypt and came away deeply moved:
How can garbage collectors and sorters who live surrounded by mountains of garbage in Cairo’s ghettoes be considered productive? How can they sing “Alleluia” at Mass on Epiphany? It is possible because so many of them look to the cross on their wrist for their cherished identity. They are not outcasts. They are not “second class.” They are brothers and sisters to Christ, and he is their Lord.
For their humility, their faith, and their tireless quest for dignity, they are also, to us, heroes.
To support our brothers and sisters in Egypt, visit this link.
13 September 2016
Main speakers at “Baptism by Fire” fundraiser included the Rev. Henri Boulad, S.J. of Egypt, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, and Carl Hétu, national director of
CNEWA in Canada. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
On 10 September 2016, more than 260 people attended the “Baptism by Fire” fundraising dinner in Canada in at the Madison Convention Center near Toronto. People from different parishes and different backgrounds attended — including local bishops and clergy. We gathered together for a common cause — supporting Christians in the Middle East, mainly in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.
The “Baptism by Fire” fundraising dinner drew more than 260 people at the Madison Convention Center in the Toronto area. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Toronto and CNEWA Canada, the event raised funds that will support CNEWA’s work in Syria and Iraq, and projects in Egypt run by keynote speaker, the Rev. Henri Boulad, S.J.
Some memorable quotes of the night:
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, addresses the crowd. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
- “The testimony of selfless love is the best gift you can give.” — Father Henri Boulad, S.J.
- “We pray for the Lord to bless those who are giving their lives in the Middle East.” — Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
- “We support people not because they are Christian, but because we are Christian.” — Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
- “We need to make sure there’s a future of Christianity in the Middle East.” — Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director
- Let’s be advocates for peace in the Middle East.” — Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director
If you’d like to lend your support, visit this link. You can also read more about CNEWA’s work supporting Christians in the Middle East in recent editions of ONE magazine, including this in-depth look at displaced Iraqis and this report on Cardinal Dolan’s pastoral visit to Iraq last spring.
Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director (center) with two of the event organizers, Kris Dmytrenko (left) and Daniel Torchia (right). (photo: CNEWA Canada)
13 September 2016
The Rev. Androwas Bahus leads an early morning liturgy at St. Peter and St. Paul Church in the city of Shefa-Amr, Israel. That was just the beginning of his long and eventful day. Learn more about A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
13 September 2016
Syrians celebrate Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) on 12 September 2016 in Aleppo. Syria is beginning its first full day of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States.
(photo: Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Calm in Syria as ceasefire begins (Al Jazeera) No deaths have been documented in Syria since a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US entered its first full day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). At least 14 violations were reported since the ceasefire took effect on Monday, but most parts of Syria remained relatively calm, the SOHR’s Rami Abdulrahman told Al Jazeera. “No one has died from gunfire over the past 15 hours,” he said on Tuesday at 12pm Damascus local time (09:00 GMT). “This is so far the most successful ceasefire to take place in the country...”
Thousands of Syrian refugees head to school in Jordan (Al-Monitor) To allow more Syrian refugee children access to education, the kingdom has taken several measures supported by international funding. One of them is that from now on, state schools are allowed to enroll Syrian children even if their paperwork is not in order, government spokesman Mohamed Momani told Agence France-Presse. Families can sort out their situations during the school year. Jordan has also created special classes for some 25,000 children ages 8-12 who had been deprived of schooling for the past three years or more. Falling behind has been one of the barriers that complicated many Syrian children’s education. These new “catch-up classes” will prepare children to join their age group in just one year...
Ukrainian rebel leader announces ceasefire (ABC News) Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday announced a unilateral cease-fire starting at midnight Wednesday, which could be a major step in solving the conflict that has raged for more than two years...
Syrian refugees living in fear as Lebanon tightens its laws (BBC) Faced with one of the most severe refugee crises in the world, Lebanon has been toughening up its policies towards Syrians who have fled there, leaving many in an increasingly vulnerable state. In one of the latest examples, authorities in the southern village of Kfarruman gave those who did not have a local sponsor 15 days to leave...
Hindu militants attack Christian church in India (Fides) For more than half an hour, a small Pentecostal Christian church packed with faithful was hit by a hail of stones organized by Hindu extremist militants who accused the Christians of proselytism, according to Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. The incident took place on Sunday, 11 September, in Siddharth Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India...
12 September 2016
A woman prays during the liturgy at the Armenian Catholic Center in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Vatican today announced the itinerary of Pope Francis, who will be visiting Georgia and Azerbaijan later this month. Read details here. To learn more about the faith in Georgia, check out Staying Power from the Autumn 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
12 September 2016
In this image from 2014, Jordan’s King Abdullah II meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Last week, the Muslim king called on Muslims to help Christians address challenges in the Middle East.
(photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
Jordan’s king: Muslims must help Christians address Mideast challenges (CNS) Jordan’s King Abdullah II told a visiting delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches that his country has become a model for coexistence, fraternity and moderation in the Middle East. “Christians in the Arab world are an integral part of the Arab social fabric, and protecting their rights is a duty of all,” the Muslim monarch told the delegation on 7 September. King Abdullah said Arabs, whether Muslims or Christians, face similar challenges in the Mideast, caught up in sectarian and other conflicts, adding that they also share a responsibility in addressing these challenges...
Syria ceasefire set to begin (CNN) When the sun sets Monday over Syria, the country’s war-weary residents will be watching to see if the fighting will stop for a full 48 hours, in line with a hard-fought ceasefire brokered Friday by the US and Russia...
A nation at war, Ukraine turns to the Lord (Catholic Register) With 10,000 dead in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, Russian tanks and missile systems massing on the eastern border, two million internally displaced Ukrainians, Crimea already under Russian rule and the Ukrainian Black Sea fleet sunk or stolen, the Rev. Peter Galadza is putting his trust in the politics of the beatitudes. Along with about 1.2 million other Ukrainian-Canadians, Father Galadza understands just how easily his country is sacrificed on the altar of power politics and strategic interests...
Christians and Muslims meet to discuss violence against religious minorities in India (Christian Today) Fifty Christian and Muslim religious leaders gathered in India’s capital New Delhi to discuss “challenges for the freedom of religion and belief in India” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and to tackle ways on how to address the increasing violence against religious minorities in the Hindu-dominated South Asian nation. Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference’s office for Dalit and indigenous people, lamented how both Christians and Muslims are currently “facing physical, symbolic and structural violence” from Hindu extremists across the country...
Rabbi, imam nurture interfaith relationships in the wake of 9/11 (RNS) Like many Americans, New York University chaplains Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna remember exactly where they were on 11 September 2001. Both men say that day and its aftermath were pivotal in defining what they now see as their lives’ mission: to promote a vision for interfaith engagement based on personal relationships...
9 September 2016
In this image from 2015, Pope Francis stands between Jewish and Muslim religious leaders during a prayer service at the ground zero 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
As we mark the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks this Sunday, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias. D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., reflects on their legacy.
His thoughts appear in the current edition of the National Catholic Reporter:
On 11 September 2001, no one could have foreseen the Middle East of 2016, in which Iraq is close to being a failed nation; Syria is engaged in a suicidal civil war; and ISIS controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria, massacring Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks, as well as Sunni Muslims who don’t agree with them. The Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate under the so-called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has brought wanton destruction on a scale that has not been seen since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.
Self-described jihadis have carried off murderous attacks in the U.K., Spain, France, Belgium and Germany, bringing terror to countries that had not previously experienced it. Many European countries are being inundated with refugees. The world of September 2016 has little in common with that of September 2001.
While there are very few hopeful signs, there are, nonetheless, some important things that are happening and are often overlooked. In the Middle East, where Christians often simply ignored each other, there is now a new recognition of what the pope calls the “ecumenism of blood.” Threatened with extinction, many Christian churches are now working together, finding they have much in common that they may have overlooked before. The crisis in the Middle East, especially the refugee crisis, has brought an encouraging new era of cooperation between Francis and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.
Although it has unfortunately not received the coverage it deserves, the Muslim world has also reacted with shock and horror at what is being done in its name. Muslim leaders from Iraq to Morocco to France to Indonesia have been gathering to ask themselves what is happening to Islam and condemning the violence.
Perhaps the most impressive action on the part of scholars from every tradition in Islam was “A Common Word.” Addressed to all Christian leaders, the letter, published in 2007, calls Christians and Muslims to work together for peace. In a most powerful statement, the Muslim scholars proclaimed “our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.”
There’s much more. Read it all at the NCR link.
9 September 2016
Some of the children who attend the new Saint Rachel Center in Jerusalem show off their handiwork. The center — supported in part by CNEWA — cares for the children of migrants in Israel. Read more about it here. And for a deeper look into the lives of migrants in Israel, check out Surviving Without a Country in the Promised Land in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: St. James Vicariate)
9 September 2016
Patriarch Gregorios III addresses the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarchal Synod which opened yesterday in Liviv. (photo: ByzCath.org)
Kerry and Lavrov hold talks on Syria ceasefire (Al Jazeera) US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva to discuss a ceasefire deal for Syria. During the snap meeting, the two diplomats will hold talks on how to put an end to fighting in the wartorn country and further humanitarian aid for the Syrian people, according to the US State Department...
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Synod opens (ByzCath.org) The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarchal Synod opened today with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the historic St. George’s Sobor in Lviv. His Beatitude Sviatoslav, father and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was the main celebrant. Forty bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Ukraine, Western and Central Europe, North and South America and Australia were joined by His Beatitude Gregory III, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem...
Group looks for ways to protect Middle East Christians (CNS) It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Chicagoan Mary Jennett to see and hear daily about the hardship and persecution Christians face, especially in the Middle East. So Jennett decided to do something about it by attending a convention in Washington on 7-9 September organized by In Defense of Christians, a group trying to find solutions to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the preservation of Christianity in areas of conflict around the world...
Indian government to amend Christian divorce law (Indian Express) With most states on board, the Union law ministry has cleared a proposal to amend a 147-year-old legal provision that compels Christian couples to wait for at least two years for divorce. The period of separation is one year for other religions. The ministry has decided to reduce the waiting period from two years to one year in cases of divorce by mutual consent of Christian couples after taking note of a clutch of cases in the Supreme Court and high courts challenging the discriminatory provision in the Divorce Act, 1869...
World Vision lays off contractors in Gaza (Reuters) Christian aid group World Vision has laid off about 120 contractors in the Gaza Strip following allegations by Israel that the agency’s operations manager in the territory had diverted funds to the Islamist group Hamas...
8 September 2016
Since 1971, the Sisters of Saint Dorothy have been spreading the love of Christ to hearing impaired children at the Pope Paul VI Ephpheta School in Bethlehem. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Some heroes we have known do work that we can only describe as miraculous.
Consider the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, who have been gently but persistently breaking through the sound of silence. For nearly half a century, they have run the Pope Paul VI Ephpheta School for the Hearing Impaired in Bethlehem — a facility that takes its name, Ephpheta, from the miracle Jesus performed on a man who could not hear.
Today, not far from where that famous event occurred, the miracles continue. And the Sisters of Saint Dorothy are helping to make them happen.
Ephpheta was founded at the request of Blessed Pope Paul VI after his visit to the Holy Land in 1964. Supported almost entirely by CNEWA, Ephpheta admits children on the basis of need, not their parents’ ability to pay.
We described it all in our magazine in 1996:
Ephpheta is run by the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, a largely Italian community dedicated to spreading the love of Christ through fostering human and Christian development. Although engaged in many types of educational and social work, the sisters have specialized in educating the deaf.
...The first step began before Ephpheta opened its doors in 1971. The Sisters of Saint Dorothy have more than 100 years of experience educating the deaf. They have developed their own methods for teaching the deaf how to speak. But before Italian sisters could teach Palestinian children how to speak their native Arabic, these sisters had to learn Arabic themselves.
This was no small hurdle: Arabic ranks among the most difficult of languages and it contains guttural sounds not found in Western languages. Europeans and Americans who learn Arabic as adults usually have great difficulty mastering these sounds. Imagine having to master them well enough to teach them to a deaf child! But that is one of the accomplishments of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy.
Other than their hearing disability, the children served by Ephpheta are healthy children. Most are deaf from birth.
Ephpheta begins working with children when they are 18 months old, or as soon as their hearing disability is diagnosed. They come with their parents to Ephpheta once or twice a week for a preadmission program of testing and counseling.
Ephpheta’s formal program begins at age three. There are three kindergarten classes for three-to five-year-olds, followed by six primary grade levels. Each class has a maximum size of 12 to 14 children, so that each child may receive individual attention. Teaching a deaf child to speak and lip-read requires a huge investment of individual attention and care.
...One classroom contained musical instruments, and I wondered whether the deaf could be taught music. “A deaf child can be taught everything,” Sister Francesca told me, “even music.” I listened as one of the older girls played a tune on a small organ, reading from sheet music. “Learning music is important because it teaches a sense of rhythm,” Sister Francesca went on, “and normal speech is rhythmic speech.” Even if this deaf girl could not hear the music she was playing, her mastery of the rhythm of its short notes and long notes would help her perfect the rhythm of short syllables and long syllables in speaking.
The aim of Ephpheta is to prepare a deaf child for integration into normal schools and normal society. Consequently, Ephpheta does not teach sign language. Sign language only allows a person to communicate with others who know sign language. Ephpheta teaches speaking and lipreading so that a deaf child will be able to communicate with everyone and lead as normal a life as possible. The ultimate goal is to help each child develop his or her maximum potential.
CNEWA is proud to support the work of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, and to salute these determined heroes who are making what seemed impossible possible, one child at a time.