15 April 2015
A woman receives food in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on 9 April. The year-long conflict in east Ukraine has affected people’s everyday life in many ways including their economic and social life. (photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In rebel territory of Ukraine, relief for illness and pain is blocked (New York Times) In a cramped cardiologist’s office in southeast Ukraine, Tatyana Ivanovna, 76, begged for sedatives. Andrey Polyakov, her doctor, took time to listen, though he knew there was nothing he could do. In the past half-hour, he had turned down requests for antibiotics, hypertension pills and several other routine medicines that have all but disappeared from this separatist-held part of Ukraine. Even before the war, it was tough here in the Donetsk coal basin to navigate the aches and pains of old age on a meager pension. Now, it is a battle for survival, and looking grimmer by the day as fighting intensifies despite a shaky cease-fire…
Hope dwindling for Ukraine’s displaced (Al Jazeera) The otherworldly chant of the monks rose from the onion-domed chapel and seemed to emanate from the very cliffs themselves, drifting through the narrow apertures of the complex of caves that Orthodox monks had dug by hand here at the Sviatohirsk Monastery some 500 years ago to escape the temptations — and horrors — of the world. This peaceful scene stood in sharp contrast to the horrors the miner witnessed just two months ago. As mortars, shells and rockets screamed through the air early this February, Gontsov, his wife and his sons hid in their cellar in Chornukhinye, a tiny village on the front line of fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russian rebel forces in Debaltseve, a strategic rail hub town just a short walk down the road from their house…
More migrant deaths: J.R.S. calls on E.U. to take action (Vatican Radio) 400 migrants are feared dead after a boat capsized off Libya on Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous crossing in recent years, fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty. Echoing the Jesuit Refugee Service that has repeatedly called on E.U. leaders to put into action new policies, the U.N. refugee agency and other aid organizations say not enough is being done to save the lives of the rising number of refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe…
Churches call for an end to violence in Aleppo (Vatican Radio) The Council of Christian Confessions in Aleppo have released a statement calling for an end to the international arms dealing in Syria which has caused immeasurable damage and loss of life to civilians…
ISIS withdraws from Yarmouk camp, Nusra remains (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS fighters have largely withdrawn from a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus after expelling their main rival, several residents and a Palestinian official said Wednesday. This exit leaves the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front as the main group inside the camp…
Fierce clashes in Iraq as ISIS seizes villages near Ramadi (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS launched an offensive in Iraq’s western Anbar province Wednesday, capturing three villages near the provincial capital of Ramadi and forcing villagers to flee from their homes as fierce clashes were underway between the extremists and government troops, residents said…
14 April 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Refugees Migrants
The president of CNEWA, Msgr. John E. Kozar, has authorized the immediate release of $686,000 to assist the Christian community in the Middle East as part of CNEWA’s ongoing commitment to the region’s churches and their humanitarian and pastoral initiatives.
The aid targets those most in need, he stated, and will be administered by CNEWA’s partners on the ground. The funds represent a portion of CNEWA’s allocation from the voluntary collection taken up last autumn in dioceses across the United States. Support includes:
$100,000 to renovate and furnish church structures damaged during anti-Christian riots in Egypt in August 2013.
$15,000 to help the Daughters of the Sacred Heart in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, run a home for the care of elderly and disabled women, many of them displaced by ISIS.
$3,000 to support the Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena for the formation of novices. The sisters have lost their mother house in Mosul and many convents in northern Iraq. From their exile in Erbil, they are CNEWA’s primary partners in caring for the displaced.
$150,000 to assist parishes in Jordan hosting Iraqi Christian refugee families. Living in parish community centers, families delineate space with temporary dividers, and receive bedding, clothing, food and a caring ear from the parish community.
$50,000 to support the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. Staffed by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, the sisters serve impoverished refugee expectant mothers, Muslim and Christian, an increasing number of whom are Iraqi and Syrian.
$50,000 to help the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman, Jordan, provide counseling, tutorial services, catechesis and English classes to marginalized populations, especially Syrian and Iraqi Christian families. The center is administered by the Teresians, an international Catholic lay association.
$50,000 to provide additional support to the Italian Hospital in Amman for its treatment of refugees and the poor. The hospital is administered by the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, an Iraqi religious community.
$75,000 to assist religious sisters in Lebanon with their outreach to poor Lebanese nationals. The influx of more than a million Syrian and Iraqi refugees has devastated the poor of Lebanon, who have grown poorer with the loss of income and housing. Funds provide food, medicines, counseling services and other forms of assistance.
$93,000 to help Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza renovate its community center, which provided families a refuge during the aerial bombing of Gaza last summer. The Latin parish is the only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip. It serves the entire community, sponsoring a school, hosting a home for children with special needs run by the Missionaries of Charity, and offering other social services, such as post-traumatic stress disorder counseling.
$100,000 to provide medical care for impoverished families in Syria through CNEWA’s partners on the ground — religious communities of men and women.
Samir and Nevine Deshto, Iraqi Christian refugees, stand with their newborn daughter in the Italian Hospital in Amman. (photo: Nader Daoud)
Msgr. Kozar noted that portions of this disbursement supplement the agency’s commitment of more than $6.8 million to the peoples and churches of the Middle East in 2015. CNEWA’s Middle East program includes an array of aid from emergency relief for displaced Iraqi Christian families and support for formation programs for seminarians in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon to health care and schooling initiatives in Syria and Palestine.
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Middle East, with offices in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches. CNEWA is a registered charity in Canada and in the United States by the State of New York. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800.442.6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195. In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.
14 April 2015
Tags: CNEWA Middle East Christians Middle East Relief Eastern Churches
Marseille, 13 years old and autistic, has made friends and grown more comfortable socializing since coming to school at the Good Samaritan Orphanage. It is not uncommon in Egypt for children with special needs to be hidden at home out of fear that the community will stigmatize the family. To learn more about the work of this institution, read Egypt’s Good Samaritans, in the Winter 2014 issue of ONE. (photo: Amal Morcos)
14 April 2015
Tags: Egypt Children ONE magazine Orphans/Orphanages
Syrian opposition forces fire a rocket at a government building during the clashes in Aleppo on 13 April. (photo: Salih Mahmud Leyla/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syria rebels attack government intelligence center in Aleppo (New York Times) Syrian militants, including members of Al Qaeda’s local branch, attacked a government intelligence center in the northern city of Aleppo, damaging much of the building by blowing up a tunnel under it, activists said Tuesday…
Rebels attack Assyrian quarter in Aleppo, 40 killed (AINA) Syrian opposition forces launched a sustained attack on Aleppo beginning on Friday evening, 10 April, and ending on Saturday afternoon. The attack left massive destruction in eastern Aleppo, which is predominantly Assyrian and Armenian. Twenty people, mostly Assyrians, were killed. Opposition forces also used explosive drums at a popular market in central Maadi district in Aleppo, killing more than 20 civilians, including women and children…
Middle East Christians trapped by extremists forge alliances with former foes (Wall Street Journal) Throughout the Middle East, many Christians, under attack and without the protection of functioning states, face difficult choices amid the region’s roiling sectarian conflicts. Some are taking sides, others are taking up arms. In Iraq and Syria, for example, Christians fight alongside Kurds against Islamic State, even though some Christians accuse the Kurds of seeking to one day incorporate them and their land into Kurdish-controlled territories. Christians in Lebanon, meanwhile — long viewed as the region’s most empowered and assertive — “are 10 times weaker than they were in 1975,” said the Rev. Fadi Daou, a Lebanese Maronite Catholic priest…
I.O.C.C. assists Syrian families escaping bloodshed In Idlib (I.O.C.C.) As the security and humanitarian situation in Idlib, Syria, continues to deteriorate following escalated fighting this past weekend, International Orthodox Christian Charities, working in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, is providing emergency medical assistance, hygiene kits and personal care items to displaced Idlib families who have fled to the Syrian port city of Lattakia…
Fighting in Ukraine defies cease-fire (Al Jazeera) Fighting raged overnight and in the early hours on Tuesday on the outskirts of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine despite an agreement reached by the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers a day earlier. Heavy shelling was heard in Donetsk late Monday evening and in the early hours on Tuesday…
Russian Orthodox Church supports creation of Palestinian state (Fides) The Russian Orthodox Church “expresses its support for the demands and aspirations of the Palestinians to create their own state, in implementation of U.N. resolutions,” said Patriarch Kirill in a statement…
Divorce in Gaza comes at steep price (Al Monitor) In Gazan courts, judges permit female-initiated divorces in several cases, including a husband’s imprisonment, abandonment and sexual impotency. Another way to end marriage is divorce by khula, whereby a wife financially compensates her husband…
13 April 2015
Tags: Syria Ukraine Middle East Christians Palestine Patriarch Kirill
The Divine Liturgy is celebrated at the Easter Vigil in Sts. Peter and Paul Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Greg Kandra)
What can you say about a day that began with the Muslim call to prayer echoing through the streets and ended with an exuberant Catholic liturgy celebrating the Resurrection?
That marked Saturday, my first full day in Amman, Jordan. To call it memorable would be an understatement; this was a day that I will not, cannot forget — and it is for days like this that I wanted to make this particular trip.
I’m here, really, by chance. I was invited to represent CNEWA as part of a group of a dozen other bloggers and journalists to take part in a tour sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board. In addition to visiting some famous sites — the Dead Sea, Bethany, Petra — we would be in this corner of the Holy Land during one of the most sacred times of the year, as Catholics and Orthodox here together celebrate Easter (according to the Julian calendar). Later in the week, I’ll get a firsthand look at some of the projects CNEWA has been supporting over the years — notably at the Italian Hospital in Amman — and get to meet some of the people we’ve writing about in ONE magazine and on this blog. The opportunity was impossible to resist.
Friends and family, when they heard about this trip, were baffled — and a little alarmed. “Aren’t you scared? Isn’t it dangerous? What are you thinking?” But the fact is: Jordan remains one of the most safe and secure countries in the Middle East; tensions and wars rage around her borders, but Jordan remains stable. (Local businesses are doing their part: Our hotel, as do many in the region, requires that everyone entering pass through a metal detector, submit bags to be x-rayed, and consent to be lightly frisked. It’s like going through security at the airport, every day.)
So… after arriving Friday afternoon and settling in, I awoke early to the unfamiliar but haunting sound of the Muslim call to prayer. I rolled over and looked at my cell phone. It was a little after 4 in the morning. I had slept fitfully anyway — a 10-hour flight and seven-hour time difference will do that to you — so I decided to get up and, answering the call, pray Morning Prayer. I clicked on my breviary on my iPad and began my day.
Our group spent most of this first day on a bus, driving two hours north of Amman to visit the ancient city of Umm Qais, overlooking the borders of Syria and Israel. The day was cold and rainy; we couldn’t see far (though we were told, on a clear day, you could actually spot the Sea of Galilee many miles to the north). Umm Qais was also known at one time as Gadara, and it is believed by some scholars to be the region where Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, drove demons from a man and into a herd of swine.
From atop the rolling hills of Umm Qais, a visitor can see the Golan Heights of Israel in the distance (photo: Greg Kandra)
The cold steady rain had a very different effect on our group, though. It drove us from the open air and into the bus.
Unquestionably, the highlight of the day came in the evening, when we experienced two Easter Vigils, from two very different Catholic traditions.
The Easter Vigil begins in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Amman. (photo: Greg Kandra)
Our evening began at St. Peter’s, a Latin Catholic Church in Amman, where we arrived in a space full of flickering candles as the deacon stepped into the ambo. He took a breath. And in the hushed silence, he cried out the first phrases of the ancient chant that I know so well, the very chant I had proclaimed just a week earlier at my parish in Queens: “the Exsultet,” or Easter Proclamation. “Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven … exult, let angel ministers of God exult. Let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph…”
Every note was familiar to me. I knew it by heart. But I had never heard this before: The deacon was chanting the proclamation in Arabic. This moved me in a way I hadn’t expected; here was the universal church, our faith, unfolding before me. What I had sung in a parish in Queens was now being sung in this parish in Amman — and in countless other churches large and small, in languages ancient and new, throughout the world. I found myself blinking back tears. To be a part of this moment was an extraordinary gift.
The deacon chants the Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet, in Arabic. (video: Greg Kandra)
After a little while into the Mass, we had to leave to head to another vigil, this one Sts. Peter and St. Paul, a Melkite Greek Catholic Church a short drive away.
This was only my second experience of an Eastern liturgy; it included copious amounts of sprinkling, singing, processing, chanting and incense.
The Rev. Nabil Haddad incenses the congregation. (photo: Greg Kandra)
I found it spellbinding and beautiful. One of the writers on our trip, David Rupert, a Protestant, captured the essence beautifully on his blog, describing the view of an outsider who nonetheless felt a sense of belonging and kinship:
I walked into the Melkite Greek Catholic church in downtown Amman, Jordan, graciously invited by others. The Sts. Peter and Paul Church was small, with probably 150 people already gathered. We were late. The service was led by the Rev. Nabil Haddad, a gracious man who is working at bridging the gap in the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian world as the leader of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center.
I resisted the urge to find a way to make my way outside. I was so out of my element. This was a different culture, a different faith expression in a Middle Eastern tradition. And the service was in Arabic. To an outsider it was nonsense. Chants. Singing. Repetition. Kneeling. There was no music except for the melodic, hypnotic voices of chants that seemed to bring in a mix of Gregorian, Semitic and Arabic influence. I irreverently imagined a Jew in a vestment singing from a minaret. It was disruptive and disquieting. But as the service continued, it was powerful.
Across the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, believers are becoming a smaller and smaller slice of the population, losing the baby war. And they are oppressed and tormented and killed in some places. Yet, they survive and even thrive because of their love for each other and for God.
So here I am, standing among Christians who have been in the area for more than a thousand years. I am unworthy, ignorant, and just a little shocked. Who do I think I am? I have no idea what these people have to endure on a daily basis. and yet they embrace me and call me “brother.”
After the liturgy, we had a chance to spend time with Father Haddad and some of his flock. He’s a longtime friend of CNEWA, and was delighted to meet someone from the agency. He promised to get in touch the next time he visits New York.
I rode back to our hotel weary but grateful — and stirred by so many emotions. Several days back, overwhelmed with a thousand details demanding my attention — getting through the Triduum, finishing our taxes, ironing out all the details for this particular trip — I told my friend and editor Elizabeth Scalia that maybe I should back out of the Jordan trip. It was getting to be too much.
“You know,” she told me, “maybe you should look at what God has for you in the trip. There is a gift somewhere.”
After my experience Saturday night, I realize: She was right.
13 April 2015
Tags: Middle East Jordan Holy Land Holy Land Christians Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Altar servers spread incense as Pope Francis celebrates a 12 April liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. To learn more about the history of the churches of Armenia, and how they developed in the wake of the World War I-era massacre, read the profiles of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church in ONE. (photo: CNS/Cristian Gennari)
13 April 2015
Tags: Pope Francis Armenia Turkey Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
Pope Francis greets Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and All Armenians during a 12 April liturgy marking 100 years since the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. (photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)
Term ‘genocide’ angers Turkey, while pope says memory leads to healing (CNS) Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Pope Francis said atrocities from the past have to be recognized — not hidden or denied — for true reconciliation and healing to come to the world. However, Turkey’s top government officials criticized the pope’s use of the term “genocide” — citing a 2001 joint statement by St. John Paul II and the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church — in reference to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during their forced evacuation by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18. Turkey rejects the accusation of genocide, and the government called its ambassador to the Holy See back to Turkey…
Newest doctor of the church: St. Gregory of Narek (Vatican Radio) On Sunday, Pope Francis proclaimed the great Armenian St. Gregory of Narek a doctor of the universal church. The solemn proclamation took place during the introductory rites at the beginning of a Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey…
Northern Iraq’s displaced get own radio station (Fides) Radio Al Salam (“the radio of peace”), a station at the service of the refugees in northern Iraq, began broadcasting on 5 April in Erbil. “This radio station is for all those who were forced from their homes, for all the refugees,” said the Rev. Pascal Gollnisch, a French Catholic priest with L’Oeuvre d’Orient, in Radio Al Salam’s inaugural broadcast…
Gazans’ unpaid salaries cause rise in social tensions (Al Monitor) The Gaza government employee salary crisis is placing severe strain on those affected. The main victims are the employees who find themselves unable to meet their families’ food needs, as debts keep accumulating and creditors demand repayment…
Syria rebels shut Aleppo schools after bloody regime raid (Daily Star Lebanon) Schools in rebel-held areas of Syria’s Aleppo city will be closed for at least a week after bloody air raids on civilian areas, activists said Monday. On Sunday, an airstrike on a school in the city’s opposition-controlled east killed five children, three women teachers and a man. The rebel education authority in Aleppo called on schools and teaching centers to suspend their classes until the end of the week, according to a statement distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…
10 April 2015
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
A parishioner lights votive candles at a Sunday morning liturgy at the Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. This Sunday, Pope Francis and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX will concelebrate a liturgy commemorating the massacre of Armenians by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the World War I era. For more about Jerusalem’s Armenian community, read about how ‘Living Here Is Complicated’, in ONE’s Winter 2014 issue.
10 April 2015
Tags: Pope Francis Jerusalem Armenia Armenian Catholic Church
Palestinians gather at Gaza City’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on 9 April in a protest demanding protection of Palestinian refugees and ending the clashes at Yarmouk Refugee Camp. (photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Palestinians in Syria are left to their fate (The Guardian) “We are being killed here, Yarmouk camp is being annihilated,” said Ahmad, a resident of the Palestinian camp just a few miles from the center of the Syrian capital who was given a pseudonym to protect his identity. Yarmouk, once a bustling southern suburb of Damascus of 200,000 people, has been starved for two years in a relentless siege by Bashar al Assad’s regime, which has also blocked water supplies for months, a tactic that activists say constitutes the use of water as a tool of war. Now the remaining 18,000 residents, many of whom suffer from ailments, are mired on the front line of the battle against ISIS, which has seized the majority of the camp…
After Damascus move, ISIS attacks rivals near Aleppo (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS has bolstered its forces north of Aleppo, where it is attacking rivals as part of a broader push beyond its eastern strongholds, a rebel leader and an activist group said…
Palestinian Christians resist Israeli conscription (Al Monitor) In 2012, Israel began a conscription campaign and established a forum to recruit Christians into Israeli military service, led by Orthodox Rev. Gabriel Nadav, who enjoys the support of the Israeli government. Conscription attempts face vigorous resistance by political blocs and Christian religious authorities. The archbishop of Sebastia of the Greek Orthodox, Atallah Hanna, told Al Monitor, “We as Christians are an integral part of the components of the Palestinian people. Based on our national, religious and moral faith, we refuse the recruitment of our children in an army that practices oppression and injustice…”
Pope Francis receives president of Georgia in audience (VIS) This morning Pope Francis received in audience Giorgi Margvelashvili, president of Georgia. The cordial discussions involved the development of bilateral relations, with particular reference to the positive contribution of the local Catholic community in the fields of charitable activity and education…
India’s social progress ranking below neighbors (Vatican Radio) India has a low rank of 101 among the 133 countries measured for their social progress, even below some immediate neighbors such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, indicating the level of meeting basic human needs and well-being, among other factors. Conducted by Social Progress Imperative, a US-based non-profit organisation set up in 2012, the index is seen as a measure of relationship between income inequality and social progress by using the commonly deployed Gini coefficient on income inequality…
9 April 2015
Tags: Syria Israeli-Palestinian conflict Georgia Palestinians Aleppo
Girls smile during art class at Don Bosco youth center in Istanbul. (photo: CNS/Elie Gardner)
Some Iraqi and Syrian refugees are making a new start in Turkey. Catholic News Service notes:
Basima Toma teaches English to about 40 children at the Don Bosco youth center.
A young Iraqi boy stands at the chalkboard with a plastic ruler in his hand and spells out the words W-I-N-T-E-R, S-P-R-I-N-G, S-U-M-M-E-R, A-U-T-U-M-N.
Toma and her family have been in Istanbul long enough to see each of these seasons come and go, more than once. In 2012 Toma, her husband and four children left their home in Baghdad.
Toma and her family are Chaldean Catholics. In Baghdad, as Christian-owned businesses were targeted and destroyed, Toma worried more and more for her children’s safety. One of her daughters was the only Christian in her classroom.
“Now I don’t fear for my children,” Toma says. “I put my head on my pillow and am not afraid when they are not with me.”
“Here we don’t ask anyone what religion they are or what political party they belong to,” said Salesian Father Andres Calleja Ruiz, head of the Don Bosco youth center. “We just want to help them.”
Read more at the CNS link.