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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
21 October 2019
Raed Rafei




Members of the Habib family stand outside a store they have recently rebuilt in Qaraqosh.
(photo: Raed Rafei)


In the current edition of ONE, reporter Raed Rafei revisits Iraq, two years after the defeat of ISIS, and writes of how Iraqi Christians are facing the future with Resolve. He has some additional reflections on the people he met:

It was a blazing hot August Sunday. The streets of Qaraqosh, the largest Christian enclave in Northern Iraq, were mostly empty. Compared to my last trip two years ago, there were some repaired and freshly painted homes here and there. But overall, despite the signs of improvement, heavy destruction caused by the liberation war from ISIS almost three years ago was still visible. Pockmarked walls, collapsed ceilings, piles of rubble, scorched buildings were common sights across this once thriving town.

The people I talked to during my visit to Iraq as a reporter were generally relieved to be back to their homes and felt relatively safe, but the weight of the economic crisis and uncertainties about the future were noticeable in their worried faces and resonated during the silent moments of our conversations.

As the sun started to set, I could see groups of people of all ages flocking to the Church of Saints Behnam and Sarah. Despite the difficult circumstances, it was heartwarming to see how elegantly dressed the men and women of Qaraqosh were for the Sunday Mass. To secure the area, the streets around the church were blocked for vehicles by the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian Assyrian military organization formed after the invasion by ISIS. The service was being held in a makeshift tent in the church’s courtyard because the main hall was still under reconstruction. The fallen bell tower was a stark reminder of the recent tragedy of displacement. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of hope witnessing how packed the area was and the disarming simplicity of returnees resuming age-old cultural traditions.

The next morning, reality hit again. Members of a Shiite militia supported by Iran had blocked roads leading to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, to protest attempts by the government to integrate them into the Iraqi army. This was a testimony to the fragility of the situation. A vibrant, well-built local man in his late 20’s came in his gym apparel to the monastery where I had spent the night. He was going to drive me out of Qaraqosh. On the road, he told me about his taxi business and a restaurant he owned and managed. Despite economic difficulties, he said he was trying hard since his return to Qaraqosh to rebuild a life for his wife and his young daughter. I was impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit in a country where most people rely on governmental jobs.

After driving for two hours under an intense sun through alternative dirt roads to bypass the blocked highway, I was able to reach my hotel in Erbil. That night, I received a call from my driver. With a desperate voice, he asked me if I could help him find work as a concierge in Lebanon. He said he wanted to apply from there for asylum in Australia where some of his family resides. I was surprised and perplexed by his unexpected call. Compared to all the people I had talked to, he seemed to be doing well.

I answered him, reluctantly, “I will see what I can do but I can’t make any promises.” I wanted to help but with Lebanon’s ailing economy overburdened by a large number of refugees, it would be very difficult for him to find a job there.

He said that sadly, no matter how successful he was, he felt that as a young Christian man, there was no future for him and his small family in Iraq.

Read more about the plight of Iraqi Christians in the September 2019 edition of ONE.



Tags: Iraqi Christians

11 October 2019
CNEWA Staff




Children enjoyed fun and games and much more at an annual summer camp in Armenia.
(photo: Catholic Ordinariate of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe)


While much of the world is getting ready for winter, some of our friends in Armenia this week shared with us this glimpse of summer.

Below is a video showing highlights of a summer camp that was supported, in part, by CNEWA.

As a report from the church puts it:

From June to August 2019, the Armenian Catholic Ordinariate of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe hosted about 833 participants in “Aghajanyan” Summer Camp in a wonderful campsite of Torosgyugh. The children come from Catholic communities of both Armenia and Georgia.

The report goes on to say the camp also welcomed children with disabilities. Daily activities included catechism classes, to “provide children with a solid foundation in a rapidly changing world of values and morals.” The camp also featured dance, handicrafts, language clubs and games.

The report explains just how important this project has become:

Every summer, our participants are living the dream of a place where everyone belongs and knows each other; becoming more self-confidence and reinventing themselves in new situations; feeling included with their peers in a caring community; lasting friendships and endless fun; trying new things and exploring new talents; and making forever memories.

CNEWA is proud to support this venture — and we’re pleased to share this video of highlights from a summer many young people will never forget.



Tags: Armenia

7 October 2019
Greg Kandra




In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, offers some thoughts on how so many of those we serve see the church as their family:

Having visited many Christian villages, refugee and displacement camps and isolated settlements in the Middle East, in relatively good times and in the worst of times, I have noted three very intertwined threads of daily life: one’s faith, one’s family and the local church. And each fortifies the other.

When times have been fairly stable and there was no war, oppression or persecution, the faithful found the church to offer the fullest level of comfort and security to the individual and to the family. The church was “family” to all. And the highest expression of being family was in the celebration of the Eucharist.

There’s much more in his essay. Read it all. And check out the video below for even more.



Tags: Iraq CNEWA ONE magazine

24 September 2019
CNEWA Staff




The September 2019 edition of ONE focuses on stories of home and family.

The familiar saying tells us “there’s no place like home” — and the new edition of ONE magazine, now online, brings that message beautifully alive.

In the September issue, you will discover how so many of those we serve seek to find a home — often, after fleeing war or persecution — and how they are able to find it. You will learn how Filipino migrants are finding a sense of welcome and family in Lebanon, thanks to a group of Jesuit priests. You will meet Iraqi Christians returning to their homeland, with renewed resolve and a sense of purpose. And CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, offers some thoughts on how the ultimate home, and ultimate family, for so many of those we serve is the church.

We invite you to check out those stories and much more in ONE. Meantime, check out a special preview below, from Msgr. Kozar.



Tags: CNEWA

23 September 2019
M.L. Thomas




A project CNEWA supports in India seeks to educate the slum children in Pune along with their parents, offering classes in everything from hygiene to moral values. (photo: CNEWA)

One of the many projects CNEWA has supported in the central Indian state of Maharashtra is helping to educate the slum children of Khadki in Pune.

This project has benefited 229 children. They belong to the migrant workers and slum dwellers. These children are less privileged and are also quite vulnerable. As Kofi Annan put it, “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.” But some situations prevent the slum children from this hope of education. Many of these children, because of their parents’ circumstances, are not enrolled in the schools.

The SEVA Social Service Society, under the Syro-Malankara Exarchate of Pune, has focused on these children to provide at least some schooling.

Under this program, the Exarchate provides basic education, nutritious food, vaccinations, and classes to help build character and values. The project has also helped the parents, by conducting classes for them on health and hygiene and making visits to their homes.

In this way, the church extends a hand to help the poor, downtrodden and the marginalized without regard to caste, creed, religion or gender.

CNEWA is privileged to be a part of this project and gratified to see so many children and families benefiting.

We remain deeply grateful to our donors for generously supporting these and so many other good works!



Tags: India

12 September 2019
Melodie Gabriel




Marie Rackley (left) of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada presents a check to CNEWA Canada’s Development Officer Melodie Gabriel (right). (photo: CNEWA)

Thank you to the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) for giving CNEWA Canada the opportunity to speak at their recent National Convention in Calgary.

During the convention, the C.W.L. of Canada presented a check to CNEWA for $16,346.13.

I was pleased to accept the donation and thank the Catholic Women’s League for their ongoing support. I was also able to update attendees on conditions in the Middle East. Christians are few but mighty in these countries and play vital roles in interfaith dialogue, health services and aid to those in need. We thank the C.W.L. for the hope they bring to Holy Land Christians through their prayer and donations — and by spreading the word about CNEWA.

Earlier this summer, CNEWA Canada organized its 6th annual Pilgrimage to the Holy Land for C.W.L. members and CNEWA Canada donors. During the trip, they visited two projects that help women and families in the Holy Land: Shepherd’s Field Hospital and Infant Welfare Center.

These Christian institutions can to do the good work they do because of the ongoing generous support of donors such as the Catholic Women’s League. Thank you!



Tags: Canada CNEWA Canada

5 September 2019
Magdy Samaan




Daughter of Charity Sister Naglaa stands with students in St. Vincent de Paul School.
(photo: Hanaa Habib)


In the current edition of ONE, Magdy Samaan described some of the remarkable work being done Reclaiming Lives in Cairo’s poorest quarter. Here, he offers some additional impressions:

To have your child admitted in a private foreign language school in Egypt, you have to do more than just pay the fees. Most of these schools are expensive, but they also set requirements for admission based on the parents’ social level and education.

They conduct an interview with the parents to make sure that they come from certain social classes. This deprives students from poor backgrounds from receiving good education. They are left with only one choice: to enroll in a government school, where education has deteriorated greatly in the past few decades.

This has created opportunities for private schools in Egypt. It has become like a market, where service varies greatly in the level of education and expenses.

But education costs Egyptian families an increasing amount of their shrinking income. Even those who go to government schools often need private tutoring, because the quality of education is not the best. Students coming from poor families, who can’t join a private school or afford private courses, have a hard time succeeding.

In the past, there was kind of equality in education. Public school used to be the main place for most Egyptians. Sons from poor families had the chance for social mobility through education. But nowadays it has become harder and harder for them to keep up with those who have more money and can afford better schools.

But then is the Saint Vincent de Paul School in Cairo. Children whose parents are poor — such as garbage collectors — are welcomed in the school. They even get help in paying the fees. Some get a discount; others have the fees waived. It can make a tremendous difference.

But it isn’t easy. The school seeks donations to support the students who can’t afford the fees. Sadly, not many people are willing to help.

This remains a great challenge in Egypt. Seeing the good that Saint Vincent de Paul School accomplishes should inspire more people to support this kind of schooling. As one of the sisters told me, “If we all shut the door in front of them, where shall they go?”

Read more about the lives of Egyptians trying to get a good education in the July 2019 edition of ONE. And for an intimate glimpse of life in Egypt, check out the video below.



Tags: Egypt

20 August 2019
Haimdat Sawh




We got to meet some of the eager students at Meki Catholic School in Ethiopia, who are fortunate to receive a quality education, thanks to the generosity of CNEWA’s donors.
(photo: Haimdat Sawh/CNEWA)


A highlight of our visit to Ethiopia was the Meki Catholic School.

Meki Catholic School is located in the east-central region of Ethiopia, about 92 miles south of Addis Ababa. My CNEWA colleagues Argaw Fantu, Christopher Kennedy and I met with Abba Yisehak Gebrekirstosin, a 2007 alumnus of Meki High School who now serves as the school director. Argaw commented that the “fruit of the land (Abba Yisehak) is now serving others.” What a testament to the quality of education of the Meki Catholic School! After completing his minor seminary at the Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Meki, Abba Yisehak was a seminarian at Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Addis Ababa. However, as he walked us through the school grounds, he declared that being director of the Meki Catholic School was his greatest honor and challenge thus far.

Serving students from kindergarten through high school, the school had recently moved to new grounds to accommodate a growing student body of 2,628 students. Most of the students were in kindergarten through eighth grade, and less than half of them seemed able to make it to high school. However, the students in grades 10 to 12 work hard on completing their studies and taking the National Exam. Almost 200 students were preparing to go to university, a challenging feat from those often coming from families with limited resources and funds. Even about a dozen students were attending the minor seminary, which Abba Yisehak fondly recounted was his own pathway more than a decade ago.

In order to attend Meki Catholic School, students take an entrance exam during the summer, and those who qualify are accepted — which was about 10 percent of students taking the exam for entry into all grade levels. However, as is common in Ethiopia, Meki Catholic School is not free, a challenge for many students who excel academically. Recent long-standing droughts have devastated crop yields in Meki, a region that relies heavily on agriculture. Through community organizers and outreach, Meki Catholic School tries to reach these students to provide them with assistance for education and nutrition. In particular, CNEWA directly assists 108 of these students, though many more could use help in this impoverished region. Ultimately, Meki relies on donor support to offer access to education to the children of low-income families — children who have the potential to succeed and bring development to their region and help break it out of the cycle of poverty and missed opportunities.

Haimdat Sawh and Christopher Kennedy meet with Abba Yisehak Gebrekirstos, director of Meki Catholic School, Ethiopia. (photo: Haimdat Sawh/CNEWA)

Abba Yisehak thanked the team from CNEWA for our generous support. I felt much gratitude for the kindness and hospitality of our host. Indeed, throughout the entire trip, I experienced the incredible friendliness of the Ethiopian people and their beautiful and sincere expressions of faith. I saw throughout my journey not only the poverty and suffering, but also the joy and hope of these strong-willed people.

How can I sum up my thoughts at the end of all this? I knew that coming here, I would face many surprises, but I have had my horizons stretched far more than expected.

God never calls us to stay in our comfort zone!



Tags: Ethiopia

19 August 2019
Haimdat Sawh




Driving to Debre Berhan offered a glimpse at daily life in parts of Ethiopia.
(photo: Haimdat Sawh)


Every day, the boy comes through the rusty iron gates into the courtyard of the school. Wearing thick black glasses and carrying a long white stick, he silently shuffles, leaving small clouds of dust with his measured steps. He carefully feels his way until he takes his place in line behind the other students dressed in blue uniforms. They all wait for their turn to enter the large corrugated metal structure where religious sisters dressed in their habits are doling out their daily meal. The sisters hand out fragrant stews heated in giant pots, along with bread rolls — all offered with a gracious smile. For many students, such as this blind orphan, this may be the only meal they have that day, made possible by the Divine Sisters School Feeding Service.

I am still in awe that I got to meet and talk to people such as the students at the Debre Berhan School, people impacted by the work of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). I’ve been working as a development officer for CNEWA for several months; this was my first programmatic mission trip. When I remember all that needed to get done to prepare for this trip -- rounds of vaccinations, updating my passport, packing lists, writing letters and thank you cards, learning about Ethiopia -- I am overwhelmed. But I am so happy that God does not require us to be able; he just wants us to be available and faithful. Little did I grasp just how much I would grow.

My journey to Ethiopia started on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, but my heart was clear and bright with my mission to share the love that had changed my life and a desire to perform every action with joy. With this clarity, I joined my colleague Christopher Kennedy at Newark Liberty International Airport to begin our journey to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Upon arriving in Addis Ababa, we were warmly greeted by Argaw Fantu, regional director for CNEWA in Ethiopia. He became our tireless guide, mentor, driver and unwavering friend. On this extraordinary and transformative trip, we learned to “flex” our taste buds (reacquainting myself with injera, the traditional bread of Ethiopia, and the inspiring and frequent coffee ceremonies) and “flex” our patience, while being stuck in mind-numbing, seemingly no-rules traffic. What I was unprepared for was how much my heart would have to “flex” during one intense week!

We greeted students at a lunch program. We listened to them singing and jamming on the keyboard, watched them playing table tennis. We participated in five coffee ceremonies, spent more than 30 hours in a Land Cruiser, and endured one tire blowout traveling to and from our destinations. I gazed out the window of our vehicle while traveling back to the hotel, taking in the realities and mulling over the different places we visited and every child, brother, and sister we met. I saw countless homeless wandering the streets during the ride back; I watched small shanty towns slip by amid miles and miles of stunningly beautiful mountainous landscapes and villages. Children fill the streets, trying to earn some money. I noticed that shoe shining is popular with kids. I saw kids anywhere from 5 to 19 doing what they can to make money. Also, you see many kids playing soccer, sometimes right in the middle of the highway — no joke! — amid flocks of goats and sheep bleating as they are herded to the marketplace.

As the long hours continued in the traffic, I was stirred by the harsh reality of souls fighting to survive. It is easy to take what we have for granted, to get caught up in the constant demands of our work, our family, our many activities, and lose sight of our ideals. As I sat down to reflect, my eyes brimmed with tears.

I pulled out my journal and began to write.

Coming up: One of the most inspiring stops on our trip was to the Meki Catholic School in rural east-central Ethiopia.

Transportation in Ethiopia may involve a vehicle with a little horse power.
(photo: Haimdat Sawh/CNEWA)




Tags: Ethiopia

16 August 2019
M.L. Thomas




While the flooding in Kerala this summer has not been as serious as it was in 2018, landslides have caused significant damage and loss of life. (photo: CNEWA)

Since it began on 8 August 2019, the incessant rain has forced some250,000 people to take shelter in 1,639 relief camps. The death toll continues to climb — at least 200 have died by one account — and dozens are missing.

Due to heavy rainfall in the monsoon season, severe flooding affected many of the districts across the state. The heavy rain and massive landslides and wind caused extensive damage to houses and vast tracts of cultivated land. The upland regions of Kozhikode, Wayanad and Malapuram districts have been widely flooded and isolated. Heavy landslides occurred. Wayanad, Kozhikode, Idukki and Malappuram were some of the worst-hit districts due to flooding and landslides.

Malappuram district has seen a series of landslides due to heavy rains at Bhudanam, Kavalappara and Kottakunnu resulting in the death of 30 people and 29 missing at Bhudanam alone.

The weather updates show that heavy rain could persist until the end of the week. The flight operations at the Kochi international airport were shut for two days due to the runway being inundated.

Rescue teams— including the Army, Navy, and volunteers — have been working to provide relief and to rescue people hit by the deluge and landslips.

Last year, in August 2018, the flooding was widespread and affected the entire population, but this year the heavy damage has occurred in just a few areas. Also, after last year’s disaster, authorities learned to take timely precautions and warned people. The government was on full alert and made arrangements to rescue people and get them to safety before the flooding. As a result, most of the death toll was caused by unexpected landslides.

In the 2018 flood 15,000 houses were destroyed; the government has rebuilt only 7,000 so far.

In 2019, some 1,060 houses were destroyed and 11,286 houses partially damaged.

The basic needs — such as food, clothing, water, and other items for the people in the relief camps — are being collected at various parts of the state by different youth groups and associations, including church organizations. Collection centers are open at various locations by local groups. People have been generous.

Although it is a huge task to feed around 200,000 people, people from across the state are sending emergency materials. Nevertheless, needs may increase in the coming days.

The main need right now is to provide permanent shelters to the families who lost their land, livestock, agriculture and houses. The government has asked people and organizations to donate generously toward the Chief Ministers Relief Funds, to help rebuild and rehabilitate the damaged houses.

But for those who have lost everything, the coming days look grim.

Wayanad is a picturesque plateau nestled along the mountains of the Western Ghats, on the eastern portion of Kerala bordering Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. At last count, 12 people have died in this district; 6,000 houses were damaged.

In Malappuram, 55 people died and many are missing. A number of bridges and roads in many districts have been destroyed.

I myself spent much time these days mobilizing emergency materials to be sent to Wayanad and Malapuram. I have talked to a few priests to see if they have proposals for any specific needs at their respective areas. They plan to assess the situation once things settle down.

Please keep all the victims of this disaster in your prayers!



Tags: Kerala





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