22 November 2016
In this image from 18 November, a boy comforts a child waiting for medical treatment at a makeshift hospital in Douma, Syria. The U.N. reports health services in Syria have been devastated by the ongoing conflict in the country. (photo: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)
UN: Syria health services ‘devastated’ by war (VOA) Top United Nations aid officials warned Monday that health care services in Syria have been devastated by bombings and the nearly six-year-old conflict. “Over half the country’s public hospitals and primary health care centers are either closed or only partially functioning,” the World Health Organization’s representative in Syria, Elizabeth Hoff, told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council via a video link from Damascus. “Almost two-thirds of all health professionals have left the country; domestic production of medicines has dropped by two-thirds and vaccination coverage rates have dropped by half,” she said...
U.S. strike destroys bridge, restricts ISIS (Reuters) U.S. forces backing Iraqi troops retaking Mosul from Islamic State carried out an air strike on a bridge spanning the Tigris river, restricting militant movements between western and eastern parts of the city, a U.S. official said on Tuesday...
In Jordan, a Syrian refugee camp withers (Reuters) Mohammad Othman’s bicycle route through the marketplace in the Syrian refugee camp of Zaatari was once a struggle against a tide of people. Now it’s an easy ride. So many residents have left for the West, or been forced back to Syria by Jordanian authorities, that Zaatari, once the fastest-growing refugee camp in the Middle East, has gone quiet...
Chaldean bishop: ‘Speak up about Middle Eastern Christians’ (CUA.edu) The perilous state of Christianity in the Middle East was the topic of discussion on 17 November as Chaldean Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat, eparch of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Detroit, addressed members of the Catholic University community. Speaking as part of a panel discussion organized by the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS), Bishop Kalabat explained the complexities of keeping Christianity alive in the Middle East, and the struggles of Christians who live there...
Coptic patriarch visits Kuwait (Herald Malaysia) The Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac, the spiritual leader of the Catholic Copts, the largest Egyptian Catholic community, made his first pastoral visit to Kuwait last week. Upon arriving at the airport, the patriarch said he was very happy to visit the country for the first time. “Thousands of different nationalities and faiths live in this state, known for its religious tolerance,” he said. “The Egyptian community is very well received in Kuwait. For many of them, it is a second home country...”
Awakening to the religious divide in Kerala (Asia Times) ”What was it like growing up? Did you ever sense a divide between the Muslims and Hindus?” My editorial assistant, a Kashmiri Pundit woman half my age, wanted to know. The truth is I had no sense of religion as I grew up. In Avadi, the ordnance factory township in southern India, religion took a backseat to national spirit. Every morning at school we took a pledge: “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters...”
21 November 2016
Children gather for religion class taught by the Rev. Androwas Bahus at St. Andrea the Apostle Melkite Catholic Church in Israel. To learn more, check out A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest from the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
21 November 2016
An event organized by the University of Edinburgh asked people around the world to light candles as a show of solidarity with the war-torn city of Aleppo. Over the weekend, the city was pounded by what has been described as the “heaviest bombardment” since the war began.
(video: Rome Reports)
Aleppo pounded by ‘heaviest bombardment’ since war began (CNN) Syrian regime forces pounded eastern Aleppo with airstrikes for a sixth straight day Sunday, bringing the death toll to almost 300 in the most intense bombing since the war began five years ago, rescuers say. Among the latest reported violence: a suspected chemical attack that killed four children and their parents. Two activist groups — the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights and Aleppo Media Center — said a barrage of barrel bombs struck their neighborhood, al-Sakhour...
Civilian exodus slows Iraq’s push to take control of Mosul (AP) Iraqi troops on Sunday fortified their positions in Mosul neighborhoods retaken from ISIS as their advance toward the city center was slowed by sniper fire and suicide bombings, as well as concern over the safety of civilians. The troops laid siege Sunday to the Al-Zohour neighborhood, about 5 miles from the city center. The arrival of the troops at the neighborhood’s fringes prompted hundreds of civilians to emerge from their homes waving white flags. The special forces later drove ISIS from two other neighborhoods...
Salesians remain in Syria, promoting reconciliation and forgiveness (CNA) Father Alejandro León is a Salesian missionary who has lived more than 13 years in the Middle East, and in Syria since 2011 — precisely when its civil war began. He has said that being there during the war is “a sign of mercy and the love of God,” even though it involves risking his own life and often being close to death...
Patriarch Kirill: ‘Western laws clash with moral nature of man’ (RT) In an exclusive interview with RT, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, shared his ideas on the difficult situations of Christians in the Middle East, the US presidential election, and European multiculturalism...
Indian bishops express sorrow over victims of train crash (Vatican Radio) “We are very saddened by this tragic incident,” says Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCI) commenting on Sunday’s train disaster near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The Indore-Patna train early Sunday Morning, derailed, perhaps due to a crack in the rails, killing at least 143 and injuring around 180...
At close of Year of Mercy, Pope issues new Apostolic Letter on mercy (Vatican Radio) Although the Extraordinary Jubilee Year has concluded, we are still living in a “time of mercy.” That was the message of Pope Francis in a lengthy Apostolic Letter, entitled Misericordia et misera, (“Mercy and Misery”), issued on Monday following the close of the Year of Mercy...
Christian refugees: When success means just being seen and heard and remembered (Aleteia) In Amman, we met Christian refugees from Iraq, and among them were doctors, and lawyers, and highly-trained professionals who, afforded a safe place to live, had discovered that a refugee’s reality is one stripped of a sense of purpose. To be together with their families, away from the threats of the murderous Islamic State is a blessing, to be sure, but the days can hang heavy, and you can lose sight of yourself — and of hope — when you have no way to work at your life’s calling...
18 November 2016
Our CNEWA team hits the road again this weekend: I’ll be visiting Sacred Heart Catholic Church and St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Church in Groton, Connecticut, accompanied by our development associate, Christopher Kennedy. Check the websites for Mass times.
I’ll be preaching at all the Masses this weekend, sharing the latest news about CNEWA’s vitally important work among the suffering displaced people of Iraq and Syria. How can you help your persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East? Join us this weekend and find out.
Hope to see you there!
18 November 2016
Mothers in a remote village in India bring their children forward for a blessing from Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara and Msgr. John E. Kozar. Read more about Msgr. Kozar’s visit and see some of his stunning photographs in Reaching the Unreached in India in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
18 November 2016
People inspect damage caused by an airstrike near Idlib, Syria, on 17 November.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
U.N. says Aleppo faces ‘bleak moment’ (Reuters) The besieged population of eastern Aleppo faces a “very bleak moment” with no food or medical supplies, winter approaching, and an increasingly fierce attack by Syrian and allied forces, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said on Friday. Although Russia and rebel groups both sounded positive about a U.N. humanitarian plan to get supplies in and the sick and wounded out of eastern Aleppo, neither has yet given final approval, he said...
Satellite images reveal damage to Mosul (BBC) Satellite images of Mosul have revealed extensive damage to the city’s buildings, infrastructure and archaeological sites following more than two years of occupation by so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The imagery, released by US geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor, shows how the jihadists have destroyed mosques, government buildings and historical areas. It also reveals damage caused by coalition airstrikes...
Turkey removes only Christian co-mayor (Fides) Among the victims of the “purges” wanted by the Turkish government apparatus is Februniye Akyol, the first Assyrian Christian to be elected co-mayor in Turkey, in the city of Merdin. Both she and the other co-mayor, the Kurdish Ahmet Turk, were removed and replaced with a “Qayyum” appointed by the central government...
Pope prays for peace with leader of Assyrian Church of the East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke on Thursday of the suffering of innocent victims caught up in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts, saying that nothing can justify such terrible violence. His words came as he met with the head of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Gewargis III, who was making his first visit to the Vatican since being elected as Catholicos-Patriarch in September last year...
U.N. joins efforts to help Ethiopian refugees (Andalou Agency) The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed an agreement in the capital Addis Ababa Friday to further strengthen their cooperation to meet the growing needs of refugees and their host communities in Ethiopia. UNHCR’s Clementine Nkweta-Salami and UNICEF’s Gillian Mellsop signed the agreement, which outlines key areas of collaboration in child protection, education, health and nutrition, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene. The agreement lasts until 2020...
17 November 2016
Kamil and Agnes Shehade created House of Grace in Haifa as a humble ministry to serve the poor, the disadvantaged and newly released prisoners. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
You would be hard-pressed to find a couple with a deeper commitment to the Gospel — and more zeal for caring for the less fortunate — than Kamil and Agnes Shehade, a heroic couple we profiled in 1998:
Where in the Israeli city of Haifa can the poor and disadvantaged go? To whom can newly released prisoners turn? How can drug addicts kick their habit? Many find help at the House of Grace, a unique community that gives hope and succor to those in despair.
Located on a busy road in central Haifa, the House of Grace is literally an oasis of calm in a sea of confusion. Building construction almost surrounds the compound. Trucks roll continually and workmen toil daily in the scorching sun.
The House of Grace was established by Kamil Shehade, an Israeli Arab and a member of the local Greek Melkite Catholic community. He and his Swiss-born wife, Agnes, are the pivot on which the House of Grace revolves, the core of stability that the large community of staff, residents and volunteers needs.
...Kamil firmly believes God prepared the ground for this apostolate. He had spent 10 years praying for guidance as to how to help his community. With the support of his bishop he had traveled to Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario, Canada, to learn more about the lay apostolate. He had already worked for many years as a volunteer social worker and was only too familiar with the severe social problems of Haifa’s impoverished Israeli Arab community. He was determined to do something and believed his own Greek Melkite Catholic community (which is the largest Christian community in Haifa) should be at the heart of it.
“Our idea was to help society to live the Gospel, through the church, from the church,” Kamil explains.
Kamil’s dream was to help local Arabs find solutions to their own problems.
“Why should the church abroad always do everything for us? Why not help ourselves?” he asked.
The House of Grace also reaches out to those beyond its little community:
In addition to its residents, the House of Grace helps literally thousands of poor families in the Haifa area, giving them food or Christmas parcels; perhaps helping them write letters, especially to government or municipal agencies.
“It is difficult for people in our community to ask for help,” says Elias. “We emphasize their dignity. We consider them part of a big family.”
...The House of Grace also helps finance the education of gifted pupils whose parents cannot afford the tuition fees of local church-run schools. In addition, about 230 college students both here and abroad receive some contribution, however small — on condition that they return to work in their home community.
Two years ago, Melodie Gabriel, from CNEWA’s Canadian office, wrote about a visit to the House of Grace:
Mr. and Mrs. Shehade had five children, who also lived with these former offenders. They grew up treating them as a part of their family — and, at times, even babysitters.
It is a difficult transition for those released from prison, as they are often ostracized by society and can easily fall back into negative behaviors. For many former prisoners at the House the Grace, it is the first time they are treated as human beings with dignity, rather than lowlifes or criminals. At the House of Grace, they are shown what a real “home” is like.
People of different faiths — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze — live together at the House of Grace. They celebrate each other’s feasts and learn one another’s traditions. Eventually, they begin to understand and respect each other, even if they don’t always agree — which is rare in a society where there exist many deeply held prejudices.
We heard from one House of Grace resident who says their ministry has given him a new lease on life. He is very thankful to the people who gave him support and helped him to look positively toward the future. He has since obtained employment in construction, and is now focused on building a better life for his family.
Kamil passed away from cancer in 2000, at the young age of 46. But his wife Agnes and his children have continued his work — as Melodie wrote, “living out the Gospel simply, with kindness and love, changing one life at a time.”
Kamil and Agnes Shehade remain heroes not only to us at CNEWA, but to so many others whose lives they have uplifted.
17 November 2016
A child plays with a balloon in Douma, Syria on 13 November. Pope Francis has called events unfolding in the war-torn country a veritable “workshop of cruelty.”
(photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)
Where there is no tenderness, there is cruelty and what is unfolding in Syria is a veritable “workshop of cruelty,” Pope Francis told governing members of Caritas Internationalis.
“I believe the greatest illness of today is cardiac sclerosis,” he said on 17 November, implying a kind of hardening of the heart that renders a person unable to feel compassion or be moved by another’s suffering.
An example of this, he said, is Syria and how so many parties are involved in the conflict, each bent on seeking its own interests and not the freedom and well-being of the people.
“Where there is no tenderness, there is always cruelty. And what is happening today in Syria is cruelty. There are intersecting interests, a workshop of cruelty,” he said.
At the meeting of the Caritas Internationalis’ representative council, Pope Francis also discussed the dangers of bureaucracies and his hope that Caritas would not be one.
“I would like Caritas not to be an institution that depends on the pope, the Holy See, Cor Unum, (the Pontifical Council for) Justice and Peace. No. It is a federation of diocesan Caritas (agencies) that are linked with the Holy See,” he said.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI issued new statutes for Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of 165 national Catholic charities, to place it under the supervision of Cor Unum. But Cor Unum will cease to exist 1 January 2017, when it is absorbed together with three other pontifical councils into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Caritas statutes will have to be rewritten to reflect the reorganization of the Roman Curia, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, told Catholic News Service after the papal audience.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, who will be prefect of the new dicastery, was scheduled to meet with Caritas representatives to discuss what kind of relationship the confederation would have with the new office.
The pope told the Caritas representatives, about 80 people gathered in the apostolic palace’s Sala Clementina, that he asked Cardinal Tagle whether he should read his written speech aloud or just sit and listen to what they had to say and have a “little dialogue.”
“We chose the second” proposal, the pope said to applause.
As is the usual practice, the audience was broadcast via closed-circuit audio feed so journalists could report on the proceedings as they unfolded. However, the last minute change in the nature of the meeting meant the Vatican cut off the audio feed after about 13 minutes. The Vatican later said the encounter was meant to be private.
An unidentified man from Aleppo, Syria, thanked the pope for his encouragement and underlined the importance of the church’s presence in the Arab-Islamic world.
An unidentified woman who covers Caritas efforts in the Middle East and North Africa said Pope Francis’ call to be a sign of tenderness to the people truly changed their hearts and minds and approach to their work, giving them greater courage in a sometimes “arid” world.
The pope told his audience that a “revolution of tenderness” was needed, especially in a world dominated by a “throwaway culture.”
Being tender and close to the people means holding them, embracing them and “to not be afraid of the flesh,” the pope said.
God chose to become flesh through his son so he could be even closer to humanity; the church, too, must be near the people and show this same love — this “tenderness of the Father,” he said.
The flesh of Christ today, he said, are people who are unwanted, exploited and victims of war.
“For this reason the proposals of spirituality (that are) too theoretical are new forms of gnosticism and gnosticism is a heresy,” he said. Gnosticism reflects an idea that a select elite can develop special powers and gifts through specialized knowledge that is hidden from most people.
17 November 2016
Iraqi civilians who fled Mosul wait for aid packages at the Khazir refugee camp on 16 November 2016. Bad weather has slowed the advance of troops battling to retake Mosul from ISIS.
(photo: Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Bad weather slowing advance inside Mosul (BBC) Iraqi forces have paused their advance into Mosul due to bad weather, a month after launching an offensive to retake the city from so-called Islamic State. A general said poor visibility was limiting the ability of aircraft to provide cover, adding that troops would secure eastern areas they had entered...
Meetings held between Lebanon’s new president and heads of churches (Fides) Yesterday, newly elected President Michel Aoun received the delegation of the Greek-Melkite Church, led by Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, and that of the Syrian Catholic Church, led by Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan...
President Barzani: Kurdistan to be multiethnic and multireligious (Fides) The Kurdish Peshmerga troops will not withdraw from lands they reclaimed from ISIS in the military campaign for the liberation of Mosul, explaining that this was agreed with the United States and Iraqi government. This is what Masud Barzani, President of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan said on Wednesday, 16 November, meeting the local media in Bashiqa, the city of Nineveh province liberated from the Peshmerga in the first week of November...
Bishops urged to bring more attention to Christian persecution in Middle East (CNS) Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour called on the bishops of the United States to bring wider attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East to their parishes and political leaders. Addressing the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on 15 November, the Maronite leader said he hoped that the new four-year strategic plan adopted by the conference earlier in the day would incorporate a robust advocacy for religious freedom in the rest of the world...
In Ukraine, mothers search for disappeared sons (Al Jazeera) Olena Dovhopola’s son, 31-year-old Serhiy, went missing in September 2014, just months into the war in Ukraine. Serving in the Ukrainian army, Serhiy went missing after fierce clashes with separatist rebels in the east of the county. He is one of an estimated 1,000 people, both soldiers and civilians, who have been declared missing — presumed dead or captured — since the beginning of the conflict in March 2014...
New research project looks refugee artisans (Phys.org) The impact of forced displacement on Syria’s traditional crafts and cultural heritage, and the people directly involved in it, is to be analysed in a new research project. Academics from the University of Plymouth will study the industries that have survived among refugee communities forcibly displaced to the neighboring state of Jordan since 2011...
16 November 2016
Children greet a visitor during lunchtime at the Bethlehem Day Care Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For more on Catholic education in Ethiopia, check out Breaking Barriers from the March 2007 edition of ONE and ‘It’s Not Just Talk and Chalk’ from the Summer 2013 edition.
(photo: Sean Sprague)