2 November 2018
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014. Looking on is Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina. CNEWA works on behalf of the Holy Father to help build bridges and heal wounds of division.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
You don’t need a post-graduate degree to notice our world right now is torn apart — and hatred and division are a big part of it.
Whether it’s violence in Pittsburgh or vandalism in the Holy Land or threats of military action against migrants, we find ourselves living in a world increasingly on edge — wary, angry, suspicious of anyone considered to be “The Other.” Whether they are Muslims fleeing war or Jews trying to worship in peace, they too often find themselves to be targets of brutality and hate.
And in this troubled world stands CNEWA.
One of the things that has struck me during my time with CNEWA is how faithfully, even courageously, this association has worked not only to build bridges with those of other faiths and traditions, but to try and heal the wounds brought about by hate, war and persecution.
It is intrinsic to who we are.
From our earliest days, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has worked to “create and sustain a friendly interest in the religious and moral life” of those we serve — and to promote unity. It is written into the name of our magazine, ONE, seeking to create a sense of unity with those who also dwell in our broken world.
More than that, we have also enthusiastically engaged in dialogue with “The Other” — whoever that may be. While we always work through the local church, the local church reaches out to the many, Christian or not.
But this is who we are.
We see in the faces of those who are poor, abandoned, hungry and rejected the face of Christ.
We see in them fellow children of Abraham, our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.
We see in those who are forgotten the people we need to remember — the battered person left by the side of the road, the wounded neighbor we can’t ignore. We can’t forget the words Jesus spoke when he told the lesson of the Good Samaritan, the foreigner who treated a stranger with love: “Now go and do likewise.”
When I visit parishes around the country to talk about CNEWA, I often tell the story of the Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq. During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, her convent offered shelter to her terrified Muslim neighbors in Mosul. She summed up her work plainly but powerfully. “We don’t help them because they’re Christian,” she said. “We help them because we are.”
This is who we are. This is part of our mandate and mission.
We are the ones who journey with those who have been brutalized, victimized, neglected, persecuted.
As I read the stories of all the troubles afflicting our world right now — and they fill the headlines again and again and again — I take solace and hope from the work CNEWA is doing. Work of healing. Work of hope.
It is work that sees beyond barriers and boundaries, beyond even personal beliefs and creeds. It is work that proclaims the Gospel and that lives it by remembering Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”
It is a commandment that is so often lost in our world right now.
It shouldn’t be. We need to reclaim it, and proclaim it. It is so essential to the times in which we live.
And CNEWA is a vital part of that. This is a subtle but enduring part of who we are and how we work — an urgent reminder to a dispirited, broken and downcast world that dialogue is possible, that hope endures, that love can transcend hate.
What a privilege to know that, to speak that, to believe that, and to be a part of that.
This is who we are.
We are CNEWA.
2 November 2018
Indian homeless children watch a movie on a cellphone on the roadside in Mumbai, India. The final document from the recent Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment called for the church to meet young people in the digital sphere.
(photo: CNS/Divyakant Solanki, EPA)
2 November 2018
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas spoke to an interfaith gathering in New Delhi last week and called for unity as a way to end religious violence in India (photo: AsiaNews).
U.S. Accuses Russia of blocking aid to Syrian refugee camp (CNN) The US military accused Russia on Thursday of blocking the delivery of critical aid to the Rukban refugee camp in Syria, a desert camp that the United Nations has described for months as in a “desperate” situation. ”Russia has again refused to support a UN delivery of humanitarian assistance from Damascus to the Rukban internally displaced persons camp despite US security guarantees,” US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, told CNN in a statement…
Indian bishop calls for unity to end religious violence (UCANews.com) An Indian bishop has asked religious leaders to come together to foster peace amid increasing religion-based violence, especially against religious minorities and weaker groups. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, was speaking at a 27 October interreligious gathering in New Delhi marking the 300th anniversary of the death of Sikh religious leader and social worker Bhai Kanhaiya (1648-1718)…
Lebanon’s forgotten refugee camp (The World) The Dbayeh refugee camp in Dbayeh town is a Palestinian Christian camp established in 1951, when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rented the area prior to Lebanese government restrictions on Palestinian land rights. Currently, the camp is home to around 520 families. Fifty of those families are Syrians who came to Lebanon after the civil war broke out in their country in 2012…
Untold story of Kerala flood: a deluge of digital volunteers (GulfNews.com) While rains were lashing Kerala in August, submerging many parts of the state in the worst such incident in nearly a century, a largely untapped trait of Keralites was surging above the waters — an outpouring of voluntarism in the digital domain…
Ethiopia swears in first woman Supreme Court chief (NPR) Ethiopia swore in its first female Supreme Court chief on Thursday, part of a wave of appointments of women to top government positions backed by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed…
31 October 2018
Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia Palestine
Hindus light candles in clay lamps in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights. Read more about this holiday here. (photo: Khokarahman via Wikimedia Commons)
Christians and Hindus to defend the vulnerable in society (AsiaNews) In a statement commemorating Diwali, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said: “Attentiveness and cooperation are needed, not only to defend the legitimate place and rights of the vulnerable in society, but also to cultivate a culture of care and concern in their regard…”
US-backed Syria force suspends anti-ISIS attacks after Turkey strikes (Al Monitor) A Kurdish-led force backed by a U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday it was suspending operations against the Islamic State group after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria…
Ancient Assyrian sculpture up for sale at Christie’s — but should it ever have left Iraq? (AINA) A 3,000-year-old Iraqi artifact goes on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York this week, where it is expected to fetch more than $10 million for its American owners. However, the Iraqi government has demanded a halt to the sale of the two-meter frieze taken from an ancient Assyrian palace…
Coptic Church gears up for a new fight at Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre (Haaretz) A dispute between the Coptic and Ethiopian churches reared its head last week. The incident involved the forcible dispersal by the Israel Police of a quiet protest by a few Coptic monks, who were objecting to renovations by the Israel Antiquities Authority at St. Michael’s, a chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre…
30 October 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Interreligious Ethiopian Orthodox Church Coptic Church
Students at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia sing and pray together after breakfast. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
CNEWA’s regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu, forwarded us a report from the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia — a CNEWA-supported facility that is working wonders with young people.
Some highlights of the report:
Entrusting ourselves in the hands of God, we began the new scholastic year (2017-18). In spite of the political disturbances, we carried on our good work. Regular and fulltime teaching started by the end of September, as it took time to reach all our students, perhaps because of the political unrest throughout the country.
This year the teachers had the opportunity to attend a workshop held in our Catholic mission school. Though it was difficult for only two sisters to see to the running of the residential school—with the political unrest every now and then and other problems—nevertheless, with God’s grace, everything became possible. May God bless those we are privileged to serve!
As soon as all the children arrived we had an opening ceremony with the Holy Eucharist. Abba Tesfaye, our parish priest, offered the Mass, invoking God’s blessing on the school. This was followed by Bunna (coffee) ceremony.
We were happy to have the visit of our Bishop Abraham Desta along with Abba Gobezayehu, Abba Tesfaye and some visitors from abroad. They took time to go around the school and interact with the children. At the end, we met together to share some concerns of the school.
There were several visitors during the year — students from different universities and friends. All expressed appreciation for the work being done.
Ex-students: Most of our former students are well-settled in life. One of our ex-students who is married and is working for a government organization was happy to give a talk to the students on causes and prevention of HIV. Another two students doing their research on the foundation and development of the school had a lot to share as a part of their research. It was also a joy to meet five of our ex-students from Hawassa Universitym, who visited the school along with their colleagues. These five have completed their graduation this year and hope to be employed in the near future.
Volunteers: We thank a couple from Poland who occasionally gave their services by teaching the children music. They also gave a short training to the teachers on how to operate the braille printer. Another group of youngsters from Shashemane spent time with the children every Saturday. They taught them hymns and games.
Christmas Celebrations: This year, the celebrations, were extra colorful with a beautiful decorated tent. New dance costumes added flavor to the show. Many friends, some ex-students, and relatives of children who are not too far away attended. Our children are always happy and excited when they get an occasion to exhibit their talents such as acting, music, dance, acrobatics, reciting poems,etc. Thanks to the efforts of the music teacher, some of the boys were able to handle the key board and perform well, to the delight of the audience.
Day of the Differently Abled: This is what the children are — talented and intelligent. On this special day, we created an atmosphere to make them feel that they are indeed able and not disabled. Through a short program, they showed that they are gifted and on a par with any sighted person.
Maintenance: The school is 37-years-old. No doubt the buildings and furniture need maintenance and replacements. With the help of our benefactors, we were able to purchase some furniture, water tanks, mattresses, blankets, two sets of sweaters and other necessary items. A lot of maintenance was also done. Here I need to mention Luigi, a volunteer from Italy, who worked hard to get our electrical system in order. We look forward to re-arranging our water system by replacing the old rusted iron pipes with fiber pipes. We hope this will solve our perennial water shortage problem.
Tree Planting: Bunna (coffee) is the specialty of Ethiopia. Our teachers were very eager to plant coffee saplings in our school garden. They continue to water and nurture their respective coffee plants. All praise to you, God, for our beautiful green garden!
Outings: What a joy to go out for a picnic! We went often with our children to a beautiful park. They looked extra-smart this year in their new school T- Shirts, which had this printed on the front: “Disability is Not Inability.” May they continue to enjoy their childhood and their dignity.
Our staff too had a great day at Hawassa Lake. IThey cooked their lunch and had a sumptuous meal. All felt a bond of togetherness as they sang, ate and had a boat ride together. Let us keep up the joy of togetherness!
Graduation: This year, we bade farewell to 12 students who completed their elementary education in the residential setting. On the day of their farewell, for the first time, to the amazement of the parents and staff our 12 children dressed in blue graduation gowns and walked elegantly in the midst of the audience. All were filled with joy to see these students in their new attire. All the best, dear students, God bless you!
For the first time, students donned gowns for their graduation.
(photo: Shashemene School for the Blind
A Word of Thanks: We — the students, staff and sisters — owe a deep debt of gratitude to our many kind and generous benefactors, both individuals and groups, without whom our work would not have been possible.
My heart-felt thanks to all those who helped us economically and morally, encouraging and strengthening us during the past year.
May God bless you!
Sister Ashrita Mendes, Shashemane School for the Blind
CNEWA remains grateful to all who have helped so many of the young people at Shashemane — truly bringing light to their darkness. What a difference you are making in so many lives.
On behalf of all of them, and the people who serve them in Ethiopia, we can only echo this heartfelt sentiment from Sister Ashrita: "Thank you! May God bless you!"
30 October 2018
A group of Sikhs gathers for a candlelight vigil in the Queens borough of New York on 29 October to pray for the victims of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
(photo: CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters)
30 October 2018
Tags: India Jews
Holy Land church leaders have raised concerns about recent incidents of vandalism in a cemetery adjacent to a Salesian monastery west of Jerusalem. (photo: Crux/Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
Holy land cemetery vandalism concerns church leaders (CNS) Holy Land church leaders expressed concern in the wake of two separate incidents involving the Christian community that occurred over a one-week span. Monks of the Salesian Monastery at Beit Jamal west of Jerusalem discovered the evening of 16 October that their cemetery had been vandalized, including broken crosses and damage to tombs…
Thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in desert near Jordan risk starvation (Haaretz) Tens of thousands of Syrians stranded in a desert camp near the Jordanian border are at risk of starvation amid dwindling supplies and the approach of winter, while regional powers trade blame over who is responsible for this latest humanitarian catastrophe in Syria’s civil war. Desperately needed aid deliveries to the besieged Rukban camp have repeatedly failed or been postponed, including a UN convoy which was supposed to go in on Thursday but has now been indefinitely delayed…
How caste discrimination during and after Kerala flooding affected dalits (The News Minute) One would expect that in the face of such a huge disaster, people would come together across communities to fight the forces of nature. However, during the rescue operations itself, there were reported cases of caste discrimination…
Russia vows ’to act’ if Georgia and Ukraine join NATO (The Express) In a clear sign of the country’s unease in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu voiced concern at what he described as the “militarization of the European continent”…
Pope Francis emphasizes importance of truth in journalism (Vatican Media) Pope Francis has sent a message to the Italian news agency SIR (Servizio Informazione Relgiosa/Religious Information Service) in time for the thirtieth anniversary of its publication. The agency was founded in order to help better communicate information relating to both religious and world affairs to the Italian Catholic Church…
29 October 2018
Tags: Syria Jerusalem Kerala Refugee Camps
Pope Francis accepts letters of credential from Seyed Taha Hashemi, Iran's ambassador to the Holy See, during a private audience at the Vatican on 29 October. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
29 October 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, left, and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman stand for a moment of silence to honor the victims of a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on 28 October. Pope Francis at his Sunday Angelus prayed for those affected by the attack inside the Pittsburgh synagogue. (photo: CNS/Oded Balilty, pool via Reuters)
Pope prays for victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting (Vatican News) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and especially to the Jewish community there. Eleven people were killed, and several others were wounded, on in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. A suspect was taken into custody after the attack…
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv stand with Pittsburgh (The Jerusalem Post) ome 500 Americans and Israelis gathered Sunday night to sing somber songs in Hebrew and English at Jerusalem’s Zion Square in a candle-lit vigil in memory of the 11 victims of Saturday’s massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh organized by The Meeting Place Dialogue Group, The Jerusalem Movement and the Hartman Institute Hevruta program…
Anti-Christian violence reaches record highs in parts of India (AsiaNews) Anti-Christian violence is reaching record levels in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, a study by Violence Monitor reveals. According to the monthly survey of anti-minority incidents in India, 25 cases of religious intolerance were reported in September, 20 of which in Jaunpur, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, near the sacred city of Varanasi. The high number of cases is worrying, activists say, noting that with more than 200 million inhabitants, Uttar Pradesh is the country’s most populous state…
Synod document: listen to, support, guide young people (CNS) The Catholic Church and all its members must get better at listening to young people, taking their questions seriously, recognizing them as full members of the church, patiently walking with them and offering guidance as they discern the best way to live their faith, the Synod of Bishops said. While the synod’s final document spoke of friendship, affection, sexuality and “sexual inclinations,” those issues were not the center of concern in the lengthy final document, which was released on 27 October...
Amnesty India bank accounts frozen (Vatican News) The bank accounts of human rights watchdog Amnesty International in India have been frozen, effectively stopping its work, after the government’s financial crime investigating agency carried out a 10-hour raid at the group’s Bengaluru office on Thursday…
The revolutionary history of Ethiopia’s Jews (Haaretz) The Jewish community in Ethiopia, labeled in the past as Falasha or Beta Israel, is perceived in Israel as a traditional-religious community which, while in Ethiopia, conducted its life in isolation from its inimical neighbors and from the processes unfolding around it, with all its aspirations focused on immigrating to Israel. A new study, which I conducted, reveals that men and women in this community were political activists and members of Marxist underground movements during the revolutionary years and civil war in that country (from the 1970s until 1991)…
26 October 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Israel Jews
Members of CNEWA’s staff in Jerusalem paid a visit to leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church to show solidarity and support after yesterday’s clash at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
We first reported on this story Thursday, via the Associated Press:
A scuffle between Israeli police and Coptic priests at a major Christian holy site in Jerusalem on Wednesday drew condemnation from Egypt and churches in the Holy Land.
Police and Coptic priests wrangled outside a contested chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
The Copts were protesting the start of restoration work by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, which both the Ethiopian and Egyptian Orthodox churches claim.
Friday morning, our Jerusalem office sent us the photo above with a note:
[CNEWA’s] director and staff, along with the Rev. Ibrahim Faltas and the staff from the Custody of the Holy Land, visited the Coptic Orthodox Church and His Excellency Anba Antonius, to show solidarity with him and his clergy.