4 April 2019
Melkite Archbishop Issam Darwich of Zahle, Lebanon, distributes Communion to Syrian refugee families at the Melkite Catholic archeparchy in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in this 2017 photo.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
Aside from humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees and concrete efforts to help them return to their homeland, the international community should work toward eradicating the roots of wars and violence, an archbishop from Lebanon told members of a political party holding the largest number of seats in the European Parliament.
Melkite Catholic Archbishop Issam Darwich of Zahle, whose diocese is near Syria’s western border, addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East and Syrian refugees on 3 April with the European People’s Party, a conservative and Christian democratic political party.
“Our situation is one of the deepest suffering and trauma,” said Archbishop Darwich, who was born in Syria.
“What is happening in the Middle East today is a chain of events against Christians, unfolding since 2011. All these actions send a message to Christians in the area that they don’t have a safe place anymore,” he said.
“The fact that they became minorities in these countries is not an excuse for anyone to neglect the critical situation they are passing through,” Archbishop Darwich said.
He stressed that Christians have always played a crucial role in the region and strive to foster peace, justice and democracy.
He also noted that Lebanon’s episcopal committee for Christian-Muslim dialogue, for which he serves as president, is “working hard so that religions would find new ways to present their respective creeds as partners allied and not as adversaries.”
“Religion must never be used to promote hatred or violence,” Archbishop Darwich stressed.
As for the refugee crisis, Archbishop Darwich underlined that eight years into the Syrian conflict, Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita and has the fourth-largest refugee population in the world.
More than 1.5 million Syrian refugees are living scattered throughout the tiny country among its existing population of about 4 million people. In addition, some 500,000 Palestinian refugees and thousands of Iraqi families dwell in Lebanon.
“The pressure of this situation on the Lebanese hosting community is felt in all sectors, including education, security, health, housing, water and electricity supply,” he said.
Archbishop Darwich noted that his diocese, located about 18 miles from the Syrian border, “had the leading role” in helping displaced Syrians.
“We supported and helped them since the beginning of their displacement to Lebanon till today, especially the Christian refugees, who were and still are invisible” to the international community because they do not live in camps, he emphasized. As a result, he added, the Christians “are always neglected from any support or help.”
However, the archbishop pointed out that the “tragedy of refugees is not restricted to a specific sect because all Syrians have suffered for almost eight years now of a new holocaust.”
Various Catholic agencies such as Caritas members, including Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Services, Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need have helped the Syrian refugees.
Archbishop Darwich’s diocese is in the Bekaa Valley and provides refugees with help that includes rent assistance, clothing, education, health care, social support and daily hot meals at the diocese’s St. John the Merciful Table.
While acknowledging the humanitarian role many European countries and international nongovernmental organizations have played “in reducing the impact of this long and ferocious war,” the archbishop pointed to the challenge of helping refugees return to their homeland.
Archbishop Darwich stressed that refugees’ return to Syria “cannot be realized unless the international community itself provides the means ... political and economic help in practical measures. Not only to put an end to their suffering, but also to assist them to contribute in the process of reconstruction.”
“I sincerely believe that the international community is expected to plan for eradicating the roots of wars and violence rather than dealing with their consequences, because great countries are known by great achievements and great deeds,” Archbishop Darwich said.
He added that the international community also must work toward putting an end to poverty, instability, occupation, oppression, fanaticism, fundamentalism and major wars.
“This is not wishful thinking,” the archbishop said. “This is a pure call for generalizing justice among the whole world, and for the implementation of U.N. resolutions. ... Otherwise, we will always have to encounter demand for financial and humanitarian aid, because cruelty produces cruelty, and suppression produces suppression in an endless circle of violence and injustice.”
4 April 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Melkite
A Daughter of Charity cares for orphans at the Crèche in Bethlehem. (photo: Samar Hazboun)
In the latest edition of ONE, writer Diane Handal reports on the exceptional work undertaken by three groups of religious sisters in the Holy Land. Below, she describes how her journey began, as she arrived in Israel.
I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport from Istanbul, awaiting the last leg of the trip: Tel Aviv to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The blue-and-white flag of Israel with the Star of David was everywhere as I walked toward passport control.
I took the shuttle bus down to Jerusalem with half a dozen other travelers. We drove by the green rolling hills of Ma’ale Adumim, about four miles from Jerusalem, an urban Israeli settlement and city in the West Bank. In 2015, the population was close to 38,000.
A religious sister from the Ukraine in a white habit with a red cross embroidered on her veil sat across from me and a young man from Vancouver sat beside me; it was his first visit to the Holy Land. The three of us departed at the Jaffa Gate only to find we were at the bottom of the huge wall and had to climb up to the actual gate with our baggage. I asked the driver why he left us below and his reply was that it would cost 50 more shekels (about $14) to be taken to the gate. The ride from the airport was $20. I wanted to scream.
The sister helped me carry my two bags and a stranger grabbed her bags and we trekked up together.
This was her second trip to the Holy Land and she said she was with the Russian church, which I believe was the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky.
Jaffa Gate was bustling with tourists and families who came to hear a classical music concert next to a huge Menorah with bright blue lights.
I dragged my bags to my hotel on one of the narrow winding stone streets of the Old City, and later went in search of a new shawarma place in the Christian Quarter, said to be better than my favorite in Bethlehem, Abu Ali.
I walked for a half hour through the narrow stone passages with their uneven steps that were slippery from the pouring rain. Merchants on both sides were standing in front of their stalls of pottery, religious artifacts, embroidered Palestinian dresses, jewelry, spices, fresh orange and pomegranate juice; some were using a broom to sweep the water back.
Every shopkeeper I asked sent me in a different direction. But eventually, I did find Maria’s and was greeted with “Ahlan wa Sahlan,” (Welcome) by Jack, the owner. He named the restaurant after his daughter Maria whom he had lost.
A young German couple from Berlin was sitting at a table. They had just come from Tel Aviv and were surprised by the high prices, even the hostels. They loved Jack’s shawarma, as did I.
The following day, I went to Bethlehem. It was cold, raining, and very windy. The sky was a steel gray, matching the wall that surrounds the city, only brightened by colorful graffiti. International graffiti artists include the anonymous Bansky, also a political activist and film director. His street art and subversive sayings combine dark humor with graffiti using a unique stenciling technique.
For Israelis, this is a security wall, which they claim protects them from Palestinian attackers trying to enter Israel.??For Palestinians, this is the reality: a concrete wall, stretching over 430 miles, a 25-foot high cement barrier representing what they see as apartheid.
I visited the Crèche (Holy Family Children’s Home) in Bethlehem, the only orphanage in the West Bank run by the Daughters of Charity.
When I walked into the nursery, about a dozen cribs lined the wall with colorful mobiles over each. My heart sank. Most of the babies were sleeping; a few were whimpering.
At the far right corner were two babies tucked under pink blankets who were 10 days old. Their mother had been sexually abused by male relatives and was in hiding for fear of being killed for ”dishonoring” her family.
In the middle of the cribs was a little baby girl whose mother was 14 years old; the mother had also been sexually abused by a family member. At the far left, a little baby named Nadia was lying on her stomach. She had brown hair and her big brown eyes darted back and forth. She had been left on the street by her mother.
My heart ached for these innocent babies, thinking of what lies ahead for each of them in this very conservative Middle Eastern culture where adoption is forbidden under Islamic law.
On the way to the checkpoint, I stopped at the Bansky Museum inside “The Walled Off Hotel,” which he owns.
The hotel offers guests “the ugliest view in the world,” a novelty. Looking out from the windows of the lobby or one of the rooms, one is forced to face “The Separation Wall.”
And then, it was on to the checkpoint and young heavily-armed Israeli soldiers checking papers and passports and, asking many questions.
Read more about sisters Seeing the Face of Jesus in the March 2019 edition of ONE.
4 April 2019
Tags: Jerusalem Daughters of Charity
The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Wednesday declared that the Holy See remains greatly concerned over violations of religious freedom around the world.
(video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Cardinal: Religious freedom continues to be violated around the world (Vatican News) The Holy See has expressed great concern over the continuing deterioration of the right to religious freedom around the world and urged for offsetting the trend especially by raising public awareness regarding the grave violations of the fundamental right. ”Despite so many efforts to promote and reinforce the fundamental human right of religious freedom, we are actually witnessing a continued deterioration, we might even say an assault, of this inalienable right in many parts of the world,” said Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Wednesday…
ISIS is alive and well in southern Syria (Foreign Policy) The world has been celebrating the Islamic State’s defeat since the final battle of Baghouz on 23 March. In February, President Donald Trump celebrated the United States’ alleged victory claiming that the group had been “100 percent” defeated. The United States and Britain have meanwhile moved on to debate stripping the citizenship of their nationals who joined the Islamic State. But contrary to Trump’s declaration, the terrorist group has not been vanquished, and it is currently regrouping near my hometown, Suwayda, in southern Syria—an area it has long terrorized while the government of Bashar al-Assad stood by in silent complicity…
Indian Christians see Hindu conspiracy in election move (UCANews.com) Tribal people who have converted to Christianity and Islam should not contest India’s general election in seats earmarked for tribal candidates, according to a traditional tribal group. Central Sarna Samiti, an organization of non-Christian tribal people based in Jharkhand state, petitioned state authorities on 31 March as campaigns continue for the April-May polls…
Egyptian policeman sentenced to death for killing Christians (Reuters) An Egyptian policeman found guilty of killing a Christian man and his son in a case that outraged the minority Coptic community was sentenced to death on Tuesday, judicial sources said…
3 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Egypt ISIS Persecution
Children greet visitors to a refugee camp in Zahleh, Lebanon. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, reflects on the resiliency and faith of the people we serve:
During a number of my pastoral visits, not only have I witnessed firsthand the extreme sufferings of war, famine, natural disasters and the like, I have witnessed and been uplifted by the resilience of the human spirit. The survivors of these disasters not only survive, they thrive — oftentimes as a result of their profound faith and, among Christians, their support of the church. CNEWA is honored and humbled to witness this in our role of accompaniment of the local church.
I think of the large numbers of refugees of every age who had to flee the ravages of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But I especially recall the courageous women who carried their babies and clutched the arms of their elderly mothers and grandparents as they fled persecution to an unknown land — and a very uncertain future. But, inspired by their faith and nurtured by the church, they carried with them an abundance of hope, which has led them to a new life. Even if “new life” has meant living in a refugee camp or a cramped apartment, they have maintained their hope and have joyfully expressed it in their prayers and liturgical celebrations. I have had the great joy of participating in some of these liturgical events and have come away uplifted and renewed in my own faith.
The prominence of the cross of Jesus has been visible everywhere: on the fronts of tents or humble shelters, worn around their necks, painted on the exteriors of gathering places or displayed in some other ways. It proudly proclaims their identity and their sense of hope.
Read it all and see more pictures in the March 2019 edition of the magazine.
3 April 2019
In this image from 2016, children in Aiga, Ethiopia, enjoy biscuits they received as part of a food program supported by CNEWA. A new report says more than 113 million around the world are in dire need of help because of food crises caused by war, climate change and economic downfall.
(photo: John E. Kozar, CNEWA)
Report: millions could be affected by food crises (Vatican News) In its annual report released on Tuesday, the Global Network against Food Crises warns that war, extreme weather and economic downfall in 2018 have left more than 113 million in dire need of help. The report points to conflict and insecurity as the two main causes of the desperate situation faced by 74 million people, or two-thirds of those affected worldwide in the past year…
In Aleppo, restored Armenian church holds liturgy (AFP) Armenians in Syria’s war-torn Aleppo packed their Forty Martyrs Cathedral Saturday for the first Mass in the centuries-old church since its restoration began more than a year ago. Established in the 14th century, it is among the oldest active Armenian churches in Aleppo, a northern Syrian city battered by four years of fighting between rebels and government forces…
Tribal Christians could hold the key to election in key Indian state (UCANews.com) Tribal leaders in India’s Jharkhand state say their people have emerged from political oblivion to become a decisive force in the upcoming parliamentary election. They plan to use their votes to respond to government policies that hurt them, said Catholic leader Prabhakar Tirkey…
Red Cross: hundreds of unaccompanied children flood Syria camp (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of unaccompanied children are living in a camp in northeast Syria, overwhelmed with people who fled the last battlefields of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said. The children are living without their parents at the al-Hol camp in the Hasakah province, which houses between 80,000 and 100,000 people…
Erdogen says he wants to revert Hagia Sophia into a mosque (Reuters) Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia should be re-titled as a mosque instead of a museum after Sunday’s elections, but did not say whether the status of the landmark site would be changed. Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the foremost cathedral in Christendom for 900 years before becoming one of Islam’s greatest mosques for 500 years until 1935, when it was converted to a museum…
2 April 2019
Tags: Syria Turkey Hunger
Zewdunesh Negese, Samrawit Tekle and Tsedale Mola discuss their Catholic faith. All are discovering ways to make marriages stronger. Read more about how they and other young Ethiopians are learning that Family Matters in the March 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
2 April 2019
In this image from February, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of the al-Azhar mosque and university in Egypt, sign documents during a meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Christians and Muslims in India are now using a statement on human fraternity signed at that meeting to strengthen interreligious dialogue and tolerance. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In India, Christians and Muslims take lessons from pope’s UAE document (UCANews.com) Muslims and Christians in India are working to popularize a document on human fraternity released during Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United Arab Emirates in February. The “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” focuses on religious tolerance, cross-faith dialogue and world peace, and it transcends all faiths, Delhi Minority Commission chair Zafarul-Islam Khan said at a conference in the Indian capital on 29 March…
East Jerusalem Arabs targeted in another hate crime (The Times of Israel) Police opened a probe into a suspected hate crime targeting a Palestinian section of a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where residents woke up Monday to discover 12 vehicles had been vandalized. The tires of 12 cars belonging Palestinians in Pisgat Ze’ev were slashed. One vehicle’s window was smashed and another was graffitied with the Hebrew phrase “Jewish blood is not cheap, Jews wake up…”
In exhortation, pope says church needs gifts of young people (CNS) The life of a young person and the vocation to which God calls each one is “holy ground” that pastors and parents must respect, nurture and encourage, Pope Francis wrote in a new apostolic exhortation. ”Christus Vivit” (“Christ Lives”), the pope’s reflections on the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, is a combination letter to young people about their place in the church and a plea to older members of the church not to stifle the enthusiasm of the young, but to offer gentle guidance when needed…
Youth of India await synod document (Vatican News) ”Christus vivit”, the Latin for “Christ is alive”, is the title of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation dedicated to young people. The document, that was released at a press conference in the Vatican on Tuesday, 2 April, is the fruit of the world Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”, held in the Vatican in October 2018. The Rev. Amarnath Dinesh Roy, Director of the Youth commission of the Indian Archdiocese of Bangalore. Sister Carmel Ann of Vatican News contacted Father Roy on the phone to know about what his and the young people’s expectations are regarding the Papal Document…
How football is helping refugees in Lebanon (The Guardian) The Barça Foundation, of Barcelona FC, runs a program called FutbolNet here and I joined them on one of their trips. They train coaches to deliver a sports-based curriculum, with the values the football club prides itself on at the core. In the Bekaa Valley they have been working with the Cross Cultures Project Association since 2016 to host sessions for 1,300 children in six different parts of the valley every Friday, Saturday and Sunday — and 70% of them are refugees…
1 April 2019
Tags: India Lebanon Refugees Muslim Abu Dhabi
The kids approve! Youngsters from the Father Roberts Institute for the Deaf, north of Beirut, give a cheerful thumbs up to a visitor. (Photo: Chris Kennedy)
As a Catholic organization, we aim to be humble in our work — you won’t see CNEWA’s name stenciled on massive crates of relief supplies, or on warehouses or schools.
Sometimes, though, it’s nice to be recognized for our efforts — as we were today by Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. We received their coveted rating of 4 stars!
“CNEWA’s exceptional 4-star rating sets it apart from its peers and demonstrates its trustworthiness to the public,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “Only a quarter of charities rated by Charity Navigator receive the distinction of our 4-star rating. This adds CNEWA to a preeminent group of charities working to overcome our world’s most pressing challenges.”
To our wonderful donors: thank you for your ongoing and generous support. This news demonstrates our commitment to sound fiscal management, accountability and transparency. Your trust is crucial to us, and we never take it for granted.
You can see our detailed rating here.
1 April 2019
Chorbishop Benyamin Beth Yadgar meets with members of the Assyro-Chaldean community in Tbilisi. (photo: Zviad Rostiashvili)
In the March 2019 edition of ONE, Chorbishop Benyamin Beth Yadgar writes of his ministry to the Assyro-Chaldean community in Tbilisi, Georgia:
Most of the Assyrians and Chaldeans living in Georgia are descendants of refugees from Iran. They came to Georgia at the beginning of the last century, as life had become very difficult for them. People died of hunger, exposure, and unbearably difficult conditions. In spite of the obstacles, however, thousands of refugees managed to reach Transcaucasia. I know how important faith was for them. My long suffering people proved it with their lives and sacrifices.
In the life of every Assyrian and Chaldean, wherever they find themselves, no matter what fate has thrown at them, there has always been something unshakable. These strong people resisted pressure, oppression, violence, cruelty and injustice. And what made them survive, what enabled them to endure, was something far stronger than a sense of national self-preservation. It was — and it remains — their Christian faith.
They have prevailed because of the Gospel.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Assyrians and Chaldeans in the revived and independent Georgia were grateful to live in a country with deep Christian traditions, and they gradually regained hope for a peaceful existence. But these hopes were sobered by the realities and results of life after 70 years of Soviet rule, during which society was in a severe informational vacuum. At that time taboos and prohibitions were an integral part of life. These extended to all spheres of social and state activity, including the practice of religion.
Information about religion was scarce and, in most cases, unreliable. While the Communist Party no longer openly persecuted the church, it mocked clergy and actively discouraged religion and the practice of faith. Decades of this numbing activity made clear the priority of our mission: to reaffirm, reassure and support those holding on to their Christian faith. We learned that it was vital to hold frequent meetings, conversations on religious topics and to help explain Christian doctrine, so that the faith did not remain something distant or merely a part of history. And so we began working to make Christianity an integral party of daily life — a code of conduct, a way of living rooted in love.
The primary objective for our mission has always been, and will continue to be, to live and witness the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ, through Scripture; we draw together communities for the celebration of sacraments and feast days; we foster love and charity among the people; we teach the faith, ethics and morals of the church; and we support the practice and preservation of our cultural heritage.
Read more in his Letter from Georgia.
1 April 2019
Tags: Georgia Chaldeans Assyrian Church
Pope Francis visited with migrants during his weekend trip to Morocco. (video: YouTube/CNS)
Moroccan archbishop describes fruits of visit of Pope Francis (Vatican News) With the papal visit to Morocco concluded, Archbishop Cristobal Lopez Romero of Rabat spoke to Vatican News about the impact of Pope Francis’ visit and his hopes for the future of the small Moroccan Church. Archbishop Lopez Romero said he is grateful to God for all of the graces which the Pope’s trip brought to the Church in Morocco. He thanked all of the State and Church Authorities who worked to ensure the success of the visit and highlighted 3 topics addressed by the Pope as being of particular interest to Moroccans…
Pope visits Muslim training center, migrants in Morocco (CNS) Moving from ideals and principles to concrete examples, Pope Francis met in Morocco with Muslim men and women studying to be prayer leaders and preachers and with dozens of migrants assisted by Caritas. A religious faith respectful of others and care for migrants were key themes in Pope Francis’ speech at his arrival ceremony in Rabat on 30 March. After meeting privately, Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI went on to the school the king founded to counter violent strains of Islam by training imams and “murshid,” men and women preachers and spiritual guides…
Pope in Morocco: protect ’multi-religious’ Jerusalem (Al Jazeera) Pope Francis has joined Morocco’s King Mohammed VI in saying Jerusalem should be a “symbol of peaceful coexistence” for Christians, Jews and Muslims on the first day of a visit to the North African country…
Indian priest says he was abducted at gunpoint by police (UCANews.com) Church officials in India’s Jalandhar Diocese have disputed a police claim that currency worth about US$1 million in unaccounted cash was recovered from a Catholic priest. Father Antony Madasserry, superior general of the Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus, was arrested along with five others on 29 March after 66.5 million Indian rupees in cash was recovered from three of his vehicles, police said in a statement. The entire police “story is false and misleading,” diocesan spokesman Father Peter Kavumpuram told ucanews.com...
India’s Church urges faithful to pray and vote ’judiciously‘ (Vatican News) India’s Catholic Bishops are urging their faithful to exercise their sacred duty and right to vote in the upcoming general election “judiciously” for the good of the country by choosing leaders who listen to the people and respond effectively to their anxieties and needs…
Tags: India Pope Francis Muslim