3 November 2016
A 15-year-old Iraqi Christian youth taking classes at the Pontifical Mission Community Center shows off his artistry next to his mother. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)
Editor’s note: Journalist Peter Jesserer Smith of the National Catholic Register recently completed a visit to Jordan with other Christian writers and journalists, and saw first-hand some of the important work CNEWA’s donors are supporting.
At the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman, Jordan, a man known simply as “Mr. Sami” teaches the fundamentals of English to a class filled with young and old alike. Both the teacher, a respected man in his 60’s, and his class share a common tragedy: they are all Iraqi Christian refugees who fled ISIS.
Most, like Mr. Sami, are from Mosul or the surrounding villages on the Nineveh Plain. They aim to find a better life in Australia, the U.S. or Canada — but they feel they can never return to Iraq. Mr. Sami says they no longer want to be subject to persecution, and no longer felt safe there.
Rafid, a young man who studied medical device technology at the university, said the Iraqi government failed to protect them from ISIS or other extremists. He did not have any confidence that would change. But he also said their lives were in legal limbo until they were resettled.
“We can’t work and stay here in Jordan,” he said.
Since the Christians primarily speak Aramaic, not Arabic, Mr. Sami helps them learn English so they can manage the transition of resettlement in another country.
“I also teach the Catholic catechism, and spirituality of our religion,” he said.
The members of the Teresian Association, a lay apostolate, run the Pontifical Mission Community Center, which serves the local population, as well as the refugee Christians. The center hosts public lectures, prayer sessions, Christian formation classes, and lessons in basic English and music.
One refugee named Nichole said she was taking guitar lessons from one of the Teresians.
“I want to sing to the Lord in the Church,” she said.
Jordanian Christian and Muslim students do homework together at the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)
The building’s basement rooms serve as a meeting place for the Christian refugees, both for socialization and prayer. Refugees support each other as they deal with the uncertainty of when their case will get processed through the United Nations refugee agency. Others try to call, but they say the answer is always the same: “Later, later, later.”
In the meantime, the Teresians sisters at the Pontifical Mission Community Center do what they can to help the Christian refugees, in addition to their mission of providing a library and community center for the local population. The center is a place where Christian and Muslim youth come to read or do homework together.
CNEWA funds the center’s work, and its mission to the community. But they need to increase their resources, so they can purchase more Arabic and English books, particularly for the Christian refugees.
“Our help is the only help for them,” Teresian Amabel Sibug said. “We’re trying to do all we can.”
Those who wish to support the Teresian Association can make a donation through CNEWA, and must specify they want their gift to support the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman.
3 November 2016
Rahel Zewde, 13, is sustained by CNEWA’s food program — and by her faith.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers.)
Heroism comes in many sizes and ages — and sometimes, it can be very young. Consider Rahel Zewde, for example, a 13-year-old girl from Ethiopia who every day battles hunger in a land blighted by drought.
Despite everything, though, she is nourished by her faith:
One student, 13-year-old Rahel Zewde, only rarely has the chance to eat meat — it is a luxury usually reserved for major religious celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter, she says, looking away shyly and biting the neckline of her thin green and black hoodie. She adds she “sometimes” eats breakfast.
Rahel lives close by with four younger brothers and her single mother — her father left them for another family — in a compound belonging to extended family. With the two main buildings bolted shut, Rahel’s family occupies a corner screened from the sun but open to the elements, and sleeps under sacking on the stone floor.
When Rahel returns from school, she collects water and firewood, and looks after her brothers when her mother is away.
Sustaining Rahel in this delicate balance is her faith. “I pray to Mary, and ask her to save me from bad things,” she says.
Rahel is one of many receiving help through CNEWA’s food programs — which to date have helped feed more than 8,000 children in 24 Catholic schools in the Horn of Africa.
Learn more — and learn how you can help children like Rahel here.
3 November 2016
Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena teach displaced children in Erbil, Iraq. Learn more about the deep roots and wide branches of the Church of Antioch in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE, devoted to the various Catholic Eastern churches. (photo: Raed Rafei)
3 November 2016
Iraqis living in Gokceli neighborhood, east of Mosul city center, pile on the back of a truck as they flee the area for Hazir camp during the operation to retake Iraq’s Mosul from ISIS
on 3 November 2016. (photo: Idris Okuducu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi troops inside ISIS-held Mosul for first time since 2014 (CNN) Iraqi forces have entered ISIS-held Mosul for the first time in more than two years and are battling ISIS militants on the front line, defense officials told CNN...
Rebel groups clash in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian rebel factions fought each other in besieged eastern Aleppo on Thursday, officials from two of the groups and a war monitor said, potentially undermining their efforts to fend off a major Russian-backed offensive. Rebel groups have been plagued by disunity and infighting throughout the 5 1/2-year-old conflict, for ideological reasons, over tactical differences or in disputes over territory...
Pope calls for peaceful encounter of religions (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday urged representatives of different religions to foster a peaceful encounter of believers and genuine religious freedom. Speaking to some 200 people gathered in the Vatican for an interreligious audience, Pope Francis reflected on the soon- to-end Year of Mercy saying that mercy extends also to the world around us, “to our common home, which we are called to protect and preserve from unbridled and rapacious consumption”...
Clashes at Western Wall (Fides) Riots between ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jews belonging to the “conservative” and egalitarian Judaism, occurred on Wednesday, 2 November at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City...
Sisters run orphanages after Ethiopia cuts back adoptions (Global Sisters Report) Though Catholics make up less than 1 percent of the population in Ethiopia, Catholic sisters have always had a strong presence in the country, especially in the area of children’s orphanages. The Missionaries of Charity sisters alone had 19 orphanages, including hundreds of children in their central orphanage in the capital of Addis Ababa. Many other congregations, including the Daughters of Charity, the largest congregation in Ethiopia, also had dozens of orphanages...
Bells toll once again to proclaim Alaskan community’s faith (OCA.org) It was literally music to the ears of many residents of King Cove, a remote Aleut fishing community of about 950 year-round residents on the Pacific side of the Alaska Peninsula, when the bells of Saint Herman Church were installed and rang for the first time several weeks ago...
2 November 2016
Last Friday, Philip Eubanks, a development associate for CNEWA, visited a parish in Whiting, New Jersey to speak about the association’s work in the Middle East.
(photo: courtesy St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church)
Driving South on the Garden State Parkway last Friday, I noticed that even the autumn air feels like summer the closer you get to the beaches. That’s an excitement I’ve noticed anytime I’ve come near the Jersey shore. Close by are pristine sands, the cool waters of the Atlantic, cedar shake homes, and gulls riding the waves of the air. Yet, what I was most excited for was a chance to meet the good people who call Ocean County home, those brothers and sisters looking to make a difference in the world.
One of those good people is a high school sophomore — a 15-year-old young woman named Gianna Brucato — who got in touch with us in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of persecuted minorities in the Middle East. In working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award, Gianna wanted to know what she could do to spread the word of what is happening some 6,000 miles away. That’s what brought me to her parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Whiting, New Jersey.
When I stepped into the large parish hall, I was greeted almost immediately with questions from eager parishioners who wanted to know: are the people safe? And what is CNEWA doing that’s making a difference?
It gave me an opportunity to share about our work with, for, and through the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq whose heroic resilience has kept displaced children and families educated and healthy on the Nineveh Plain. Or, how in Syria, we are working to ensure infants have something as crucial as milk, so that they are sustained through the ongoing crisis.
It gave us a chance to connect the family of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and its community with the many families abroad we work daily to uplift and support.
And all because a young woman committed to making a difference gave us a call! The truth is, when I was 15, I was a Boy Scout about to earn my Eagle. I’d learned CPR and how to tie knots and how to camp. But for the life of me, I must confess it wasn't until much later that raising awareness for people hurting in another country was on my radar as something anyone my age could or would want to do, let alone something I could have thought possible as a teenager. I remain deeply grateful for the witness of Gianna and for the support of our donors in Whiting, New Jersey.
We’re always looking for new parishes to visit and spread our message. If you and your parish are interested in having us visit, simply drop us a line. You can contact me, Philip Eubanks, at email@example.com or our development director, Norma Intriago, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Pat Papalia and Gianna Brucato welcomed Philip Eubanks to the parish.
(photo: courtesy St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church)
2 November 2016
An Iraqi man prepares a makeshift altar for the first Sunday Mass on 30 October at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh after the city was recaptured from ISIS militants.
(photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)
2 November 2016
A young displaced Iraqi leads his animals to safety on 1 November after escaping from the ISIS-controlled village of Abu Jarboa, near Mosul. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)
Iraqi troops secure foothold in Mosul (BBC) Iraqi forces are securing their foothold in the city of Mosul, moving from house to house to clear areas of Islamic State (IS) militants. Soldiers and special forces paused their advance on Wednesday, a day after pushing into the eastern outskirts. A BBC journalist says they are moving with caution, amid fears of ambushes, secret tunnels and booby traps...
Russia tells rebels to leave Aleppo by Friday evening (Reuters) Russia on Wednesday told anti-government rebels holed up in Syria’s Aleppo to leave by Friday evening, signaling it would extend a moratorium on air strikes against targets inside the city...
In news conference, Pope Francis speaks on immigration, refugees (CNS) In one of his briefest airborne news conferences, Pope Francis spent just over 40 minutes with reporters and answered six questions ranging from Sweden’s newly restrictive immigration policy to the role of women in the church. He also was asked about his experience with charismatics and Pentecostals, the roots of his concern about human trafficking, secularization in Europe and his meeting in late October with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Christians must never close their hearts to refugees and migrants, but governments have a duty to regulate the flux of newcomers as they allocate resources to ensure their integration into society, he said...
Vatican speaks out on human rights at U.N. (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, on Monday addressed the UN General Assembly on the promotion and protection of human rights. His intervention touched on a number of issues, including the “right to life of the unborn, of migrants in search of safety, of victims of armed conflicts, of the poor, of the elderly and the right to life of those facing the death penalty...”
Hindu groups criticize Vatican directive that bans scattering of ashes (News18.com) A Vatican directive barring Catholics from scattering ashes of the dead, a central practice among Hindus, has raised the hackles of Hindu organisations, who slam it as narrow-mindedness and an unnecessary restriction on the faithful from adopting best practices based in science only because its origins lie in other religions...
Russian Orthodox Church backs ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ (BBC) The Russian Orthodox Church has come out in support of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in the face of calls from hardline Christian activists for it to be banned. Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida says that while works like the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical might give rise to disputes and discussions, “it is not right to forbid an artist from drawing inspiration from the Holy Scripture...”
28 October 2016
A boy kicks a soccer ball in a class at the Al Bishara School, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ain Kawa, near Erbil, Iraq. The students and the Dominican Sisters themselves were displaced by ISIS in 2014. The sisters have established schools and other ministries among the displaced. Read more about how living conditions changed over time for this uprooted population — thanks to the heroic efforts of people such as the sisters — in Grace, published last year in ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
28 October 2016
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees
CNEWA will be visiting Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church in San Diego this weekend.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!
Our CNEWA team is visiting Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church in San Diego this weekend. I’ll be giving talks Saturday morning at 11, and Sunday afternoon at 12:45. I’ll also be preaching at the 9 a.m. Divine Liturgy on Sunday. My topic: bringing light and hope to the suffering peoples of the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. I’ll also be offering some updates on the latest encouraging news from Iraq.
If you can, please join us! Visit the parish website for more information.
28 October 2016
Celebrations break out in town as Iraqi government forces continue to advance toward Mosul, meeting fierce resistance. (video: Al Jazeera)
ISIS pushed out of town near Mosul as advance continues (Al Jazeera) Kurdish and Iraqi government forces have pushed ISIS out of the northern town of Fadiliya, which lies about two miles away from Mosul, the group’s last major urban bastion in the country…
Chaldean patriarch visits the liberated towns of the Nineveh Plain (Fides) His Beatitude Patriarch Louis Raphael I, accompanied by his auxiliary Bishop Basileo Salim Yado, visited the five Christian towns of the Nineveh Plain already released in the concerted military operations that aim at reconquering Mosul, the northern-Iraqi city that has become since June 2014 a stronghold of ISIS…
The bishops: Pray for corruption-free nation on Diwali (Fides) Catholic bishops in India have invited prayer for a nation free of corruption, violence and division on the occasion of Diwali, the festival of lights which is celebrated on 30 October. In their warmest greetings and felicitations “to the Hindu brethren throughout the world,” the bishops noted that the festival symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and good over evil…
Dozens missing after migrant boat sinks in Mediterranean, says Libyan navy (The Guardian) About 100 people are feared missing after a boat sank off the coast of Libya, amid mounting evidence that already dangerous conditions are worsening for migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea to get to Europe. General Ayoub Qassem, a spokesman for the Libyan navy, said on Thursday that a boat carrying 126 people from the port of Garabulli had sunk after being hit by high waves, and that only 20 people had been rescued…
Syrian rebels launch attack to break Aleppo siege (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian rebels, including extremists, counterattacked the army and its allies Friday aiming to break a weeks-long siege on eastern Aleppo, insurgents said. The assault, employing heavy shelling and suicide car bombs, was mainly focused on the city’s western edge. It included fighters from Jabhat Fatah al Sham, a former affiliate of Al Qaeda previously known as Al Nusra Front, and groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based pro-opposition monitor, said more than 15 civilians had been killed and 100 wounded by rebel shelling of government-held western Aleppo. State media reported that five civilians were killed…
NATO moving thousands of troops amid standoff with Russia (Vatican Radio) The NATO military alliance has finalized plans to deploy thousands of troops and military equipment to the Baltics and Poland in response to what it views as an increasingly aggressive and unpredictable Russia. After two days of talks, NATO defense ministers agreed to send as many as 4,000 troops and equipment into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland near Russia’s borders, despite warnings by experts that it could add to international tensions…
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Migrants Libya