18 October 2019
Students attend class at Bethlehem University. Learn more about what makes this school so distinctive in A Letter from Bethlehem in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
18 October 2019
Tags: Bethlehem University
Migrants from the Philippines are starting over in Jordan, with support from the local church.
(video: Nader Daoud)
The current edition of ONE features a look at migrants from the Philippines making a new home in Jordan, with the help and support of the Catholic Church. Journalist Dale Gavlak here offers some additional impressions of the people she met:
It seems that you almost can’t go anywhere in the western part of the Jordanian capital, Amman, without running into a guest worker from the Philippines.
They are everywhere. Although I’ve had the pleasure of knowing some who have worked for friends, I felt a whole new world open before me as I got to know two very special Filipina women with the Teresian Association who provide support and counsel to their many fellow country people navigating work and family challenges in Jordan.
Indeed, the Teresians are like “godmothers” to the Filipino community, says Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman.
I recall first meeting Elisa Estrada when she welcomed me at the front door of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church. Her lovely, warm, and engaging smile immediately put me at ease. I’m sure she has this same calming effect on everyone she meets. Afterwards, scores of us joined hands all across the aisles to say the Lord’s Prayer.
“For all the people in the church, you just hold their hand and I ask, ‘Jesus, put your hands in my hands. Whatever the person needs, provide that,’“ Elisa says.
At the end of the service, we enjoy a delicious communal lunch featuring Filipino specialties at the Pontifical Library Cultural Center, where I am introduced to many Filipinas working in Jordan. It’s also a festive celebration of the parish priest Father Gerald’s birthday, including song and heartfelt prayer and thanks.
“I have baked thousands of cakes to celebrate the gift of life because these domestic helpers are unable to bake their cakes in the households where they serve,” says Elisa of celebrations involving birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. “It’s the time that I can share the beauty of life. By using the illustration of the cake as well, I have an opportunity to speak.”
She points to the ingredients needed to make a cake. Taken individually, she says, they won’t taste good. ”It the same with us, if we work together, if there is unity, life will be beautiful,” Elisa says.
“I always tell Jesus, when I face somebody, please put your words in my mouth and open their heart. I ask Him, “When I speak, make it no longer me, but You speaking through me,” she explains.
Sharabeth Rosqeta, 35, from Cabaruan Quirino Isabela, Philippines, says she sought work in Jordan because her family is poor.
“We are 10 children, and I’m the youngest. I come to the Center every Friday because it’s a big help for me and I learn a lot. I was baptized here at the age of 23 with confirmation and communion following,” Sharabeth says. “I have been able to learn more about my faith and Jesus.”
The other Teresian, Amabel Sibug, has taught Sharabeth to play the guitar as well as how to budget her finances effectively.
“We celebrate as a family. This is the most important thing that they feel: I belong,” says the energetic Teresian. ”Welcome to the family, we are glad that you have come to share your life with us where we can learn to love and to pray, as well as to be strong and to lean on each other,” says Amabel.
”For us, the gift of our vocation is that we give up everything to share the love of Jesus,” Elisa adds. “Thanks to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for sponsoring us for our activities. “
Read more about those making a new home In a Land of Refugees in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
18 October 2019
While Turkey has agreed to a pause in its offensive, Syrian Kurdish fighters are accusing the Turkish military of violating the terms of a truce. (video: DW News/YouTube)
Kurds accuse Turks of violating truce (The New York Times) The leadership of the Syrian Kurdish fighters accused the Turkish military and its proxies on Friday of violating the terms of a truce in northern Syria that was brokered a day earlier by Vice President Mike Pence, raising questions about the feasibility of the cease-fire and whether the Americans can enforce it…
Armenia backs Christians in northeast Syria (Armenian Weekly) The Armenian government is working to assist ethnic Armenians in danger of being caught in the wake of the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria, which is now entering its first week. Authorities in Yerevan were quick to formally condemn the Turkish assault, which has been dubbed “Operation Peace Spring” by the Turkish military…
Chennai becomes first in India to get ’intelligent flood warning system’ (The New Indian Express) Tamil Nadu is all set to deploy an ‘intelligent flood warning system’ in Chennai, which will enable officials to get area-wise inundation details during the monsoon. The technology, called CFLOWS, is India’s first integrated coastal flood warning system...
Ethiopia opens its secretive Imperial Palace for the first time (CNN) For more than a century, the secretive imperial palace complex has stood over Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, closed off to everyone but the country’s leaders and the troops who protected them. Almost hidden from view on a wooded bluff, its forbidding 40-acre compound was unknown even to some of those living beneath it. Behind its walls, plots were hatched, conquests planned and dark deeds executed…
17 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey
Displaced Syrian families, who fled violence after the Turkish offensive against Syria, sit in a bus on their way to camps in Iraq. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)
Like so many around the world, we are watching what is unfolding in Syria with concern and prayer. I am reaching out at this moment to let you know we are in close contact with our partners in the region and getting regular updates from the local churches.
Mercifully, our partners on the ground remain reasonably safe and the activities of the churches we support continue to serve those in need. Be assured: We at CNEWA stand with our suffering brothers and sisters during this crisis —and stand ready, as well, to help in whatever way we can.
The headlines hour by hour tell of a country in turmoil, of a fluid theater, as Turkish troops move in from the north. Reports tell of thousands of people fleeing, seeking safety wherever they can. Some of those in harm’s way are Christians. They cannot be forgotten.
Last Sunday during the Angelus, Pope Francis focused the prayers of the world on “beloved and tormented Syria.” He noted that the many innocent people “forced to abandon their homes due to military actions” were “also many Christian families.” The Holy Father called for dialogue and urged the international community to work for effective solutions to the crisis.
I can only echo his plea for peace.
I invite you to join the Holy Father and all of us at CNEWA in praying for the men, women and children of Syria who are facing this moment with uncertainty, but with unwavering faith. I’ve been humbled and uplifted by so many I’ve met from this troubled corner of the world, who have held fast to the faith of their ancestors with courage and hope. They have never forgotten the consoling words of Scripture that remind us: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:22).
On behalf of all those we are privileged to serve, thank you for your prayers and continued support.
17 October 2019
Tags: Syria CNEWA
Displaced Syrians who fled violence after the Turkish offensive against Syria receive aid on 15 October 2019, at a camp on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq. Humanitarian concerns are growing as people caught in the crosshairs of the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria try to flee for safety, and groups are scrambling to aid them. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)
Humanitarian concerns are growing as people caught in the crosshairs of the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria try to flee for safety, and groups are scrambling to aid them.
“There are big concerns about what is going on in northeastern Syria with the Turkish military aerial assaults and ground operations,” the Rev. Emanuel Youkhana told Catholic News Service by phone from northern Iraq, bordering the area.
Father Youkhana, a priest, or archimandrite, of the Assyrian Church of the East, runs Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq (CAPNI), a Christian program for displaced Iraqis around the city of Dohuk.
The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has reported that so far 1,000 Syrians have fled over the border into northern Iraq.
“The numbers are increasing,” Father Youkhana said. “CAPNI staff are on the border of Fishkhabur, and they are set up now in the camps to assist those fleeing.”
Fishkhabur is a town on the northwestern edge of Iraqi Kurdistan, principally inhabited by Chaldean Catholic Assyrians and some Kurds.
Karl Schembri, a spokesman for the Norwegian Refugee Council, described the situation to CNS: “The situation for many of the people is utter chaos: fear gripping the entire area, not know what is going to happen next, where the next attacks will be. A lot of ... displacement happening, the latest figures speak of around 200,000 people because of the fighting. There have been displacement camps that have closed down with people evacuated to other areas, which are hopefully safer.”
“Where can (we) go except here?” Omar Boobe Hose, a refugee from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, which has seen heavy, fighting told the Associated Press. “We can’t go to Turkey, because they are our enemy, and the other side is also our enemy, the Syrian (government) side. Where can we go? We have only here. There are no other places for Kurds.”
About 50,000 Syrian refugees are expected to cross into northern Iraq over the next six months, according to the UNHCR. The migration is spurred by the Turkish military operation, which is using Syrian militants from Islamic State and al-Qaida as part of its ground troops fighting Kurdish and Syriac Christians of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The Syrian Democratic Forces were, until recently, America’s ally in fighting Islamic State in Syria and ending its territorial caliphate there. The forces lost about 11,000 fighters waging war against the terror group. The U.S. troop pullback and Turkish offensive has raised fears of an Islamic State resurgence.
UNHCR said it so far has aided some 32,000 of the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting and Turkish bombardments in Syria’s northeast, mainly in Hassakeh, Qamishli, and Tal Tamer, by meeting basic needs.
But it also has mobilized protection teams to provide “psychological first aid and psychosocial support” to the many who were forced to leave “their homes without papers and other belongings” due to the suddenness of the Turkish military assault. “Families have also been separated,” the UNHCR reported.
Nearly all foreign aid workers reportedly have been evacuated because of security concerns, and there are fears that local staff could face reprisals, either at the hands of Turkish-led forces or its Syrian allied troops.
Schembri said the withdrawal of workers “is putting lives in danger, because there are at least 100,000 displaced (Syrians) due to previous fighting in the Syrian crisis who were completely dependent on humanitarian aid. So they depend on aid agencies for water, food, medical aid and shelter. Most of these services have been suspended because of the uncertainty and lack of safety for aid workers. Every day that passes without these aid services resuming is putting lives at risk in itself, not to mention the fighting that has already killed civilians.”
Bishop Georges Khazen, apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latin-rite Catholic Church, said the United States “has betrayed the Kurdish people” and insisted that Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria will lead to a new exodus, forcing Christians and other minorities out.
“Jihadis (Islamist militants) operate and fight under the auspices of the Turkish army. They (the Turks) claim they want to repatriate Syrian refugees to places where other peoples and communities already live,” Bishop Khazan told AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary news agency. He said the Turkish military’s goal “is ethnic cleansing.”
“These wars do not solve problems; on the contrary, they lay the foundations for other, bigger ones,” he said, voicing his fear that Turkey’s interference in Syria will not stop with the so-called safe zone it is trying to establish for 2 million Syrian refugees from other regions who now live in Turkey.
Siban Sallo, a local Yazidi activist and journalist, reported that more than 500 Yazidis had been displaced in eight out of 15 Yazidi villages extending across Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey. Three Syriac-Christian villages in the vicinity also emptied out after the conflict began.
In a bipartisan vote on 16 October, the U.S. House of Representatives condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
The resolution asked the U.S. to support communities that have been displaced by the conflict with humanitarian assistance and called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to immediately halt military action in the region. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington would impose further sanctions on Turkey if a cease-fire in northeastern Syria is not established.
17 October 2019
Smoke rises over the Syrian city of Ras al Ain on 16 October 2019, as seen from the Turkish border city of Ceylanpinar. Humanitarian concerns are growing as people caught in the crosshairs of the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria try to flee for safety. (photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
Pence arrives in Turkey as U.S. seeks to halt Syria offensive (The Washington Post) Vice President Pence arrived Thursday in Turkey’s capital on a mission to persuade President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt a military offensive in northeastern Syria that has set off a hasty U.S. troop withdrawal and posed political problems for the Trump administration. Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were scheduled to meet with Erdogan, the State Department said Monday. The United States and other Western allies have reacted with alarm to the Turkish military operation, aimed at beating back Kurdish militants from Turkey’s border region and creating a zone where Syrian refugees could be resettled, Ankara says…
Turkish offensive sends new wave of refugees to Iraq (The Washington Post) As foreign powers jostle for control of northeast Syria, a new wave of refugees is trudging into Iraq, fearful, uncertain and worn out. Aid groups said Wednesday that more than a thousand Syrians had crossed the Iraqi border in the days since U.S. troops pulled back and Turkey moved in to push Kurdish-led forces from its southern frontier. Should the violence worsen, humanitarian agencies are preparing to receive as many as 50,000 people by January…
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox teens attack Palestinians in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox teens rioted on Wednesday overnight in central Jerusalem, attacking Palestinians that drove by them and vandalizing their vehicle. Seven were arrested by police on suspicion of causing property damage…
Archbishop urges dialogue between Pakistan, India (Vatican News) A Catholic bishop of Pakistan has expressed concern over the confrontation between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir and wishes the leaders of both the nuclear-armed nations take on the path of dialogue to save humanity. ”Atomic weapons will never be needed or used if world leaders remain firm in their commitment to build global peace,” Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore said last week, during a ceremony to commemorate the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt, 800 years ago in Egypt 1219…
16 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Turkey
A shoe is seen amid broken glass at the site of a car bomb blast in Qamishli, Syria, on 11 October 2019. Church bells have been ringing in Qamishli and elsewhere in northeastern Syria, signaling the alarm to Christians and others of the ongoing Turkish military operation having a devastating humanitarian impact on civilians. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
Church bells have been ringing in Qamishli and elsewhere in northeastern Syria, signaling the alarm to Christians and others of the ongoing Turkish military operation that is having a devastating humanitarian impact on civilians.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have escaped,” said Yerado Krikorian, communications assistant for the Catholic aid agency Caritas Syria, which is working around the clock to aid those displaced by Turkish bombing and shelling.
“They need water where they have fled, and so Caritas is distributing badly needed water bottles and other essentials to those displaced in shelters throughout the Hassakeh region,” Krikorian told Catholic News Service by telephone from Damascus.
Caritas Syria is the country’s branch of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s international network of charitable agencies.
The A’louk water station, supplying water to nearly 400,000 people in Hassakeh, is out of service, according to UNICEF. The organization and Syrian government are is trying to get it fixed.
Meanwhile, UNICEF warns that some 70,000 children have been displaced since hostilities escalated on 7 October, but it expected that number to more than double as a result of ongoing violence. As of 15 October, the United Nations estimates that at least 160,000 people have been displaced, but 400,000 are in need of humanitarian aid as the Turkish military and its allied Syrian rebels, including Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, press deeper into northeastern Syria, battling Kurdish and Syriac Christian forces.
Christians and other religious minorities said they feel particularly vulnerable as Turkish artillery targeted a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Qamishli, the largest city in northeastern Syria. News reports said Christians, Ayeda Habsono and her husband, Fadi, were severely wounded in the attack that hit their house. Several other residents also were injured. Christians and Yazidis have been victimized by Islamic State militants in recent times.
Humanitarians complain that they are being denied safe and unimpeded access to civilians due to Turkish shelling and airstrikes as well as uncertainty as to who is in control over certain areas, forcing many aid organizations to relocate to northern Iraq. Hospitals, schools and churches have been bombed. They have also decried targeted killings of civilians, including that of a Kurdish female politician, by Syrian militants working with the Turks.
Observers point to the danger of NATO member Turkey using proxy forces to carry out atrocities, deemed as war crimes.
David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, condemned Turkey’s offensive, designed to
clear out the native population of Kurds, Christians and Yazidis to put 2 million Syrian refugees from other regions and now sheltering in Turkey into a so-called “safe zone.”
“The so-called safe zone is becoming a death trap,” Miliband warned. “And the winners of this are Islamic State and the Assad government.
“The northeast was one of the most stable parts of Syria,” he said, before U.S. President Donald Trump announced in early October that he was withdrawing U.S. troops.
Trump has since called for an immediate end to Turkey’s moves against the Kurds in Syria and has sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Middle East. The U.S. is “simply not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion of Syria any longer,” said Pence.
Alarmed by the military onslaught on “beloved and martyred” Syria, Pope Francis called on “all the actors involved and the international community” to commit themselves “sincerely to the path of dialogue to seek effective solutions” to the crisis.
The pope said on 13 October that dramatic news was emerging about the fate of the populations forced to abandon their homes because of military actions. “Among these populations there are also many Christian families,” he said.
16 October 2019
Tags: Syria Caritas
In this image from 2016, children in Aiga, Ethiopia, enjoy biscuits they received as part of a food program supported by Catholic Near East Welfare Association. To mark World Food Day, 16 October, Pope Francis issued a message calling on the world to “realize that what we are accumulating and wasting is the bread of the poor.”(photo: John E. Kozar, CNEWA)
Pope’s message for World Food Day: wasting the bread of the poor (Vatican News) Pope Francis sends a message to the FAO Director General, Qu Dongyu, for World Food Day, observed on 16 October, expressing his concern for the “distorted relationship between food and nutrition.” The pope begins his message by referring to the theme for this year’s World Food Day: “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World”. The Pope notes that “despite efforts made in recent decades, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is yet to be implemented in many parts of the world…”
Turkey urges Kurdish fighters to lay down their arms (The New York Times) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey called on Wednesday for Kurdish fighters battling his troops in northeastern Syria to lay down their weapons and withdraw from the border area “this very night.” Resisting Western pressure to halt the operation, Mr. Erdogan also requested international support for his country’s battle against Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists but who had been allied with the United States against the Islamic State…
A look inside Egypt’s most embattled minority, Christians in ’Garbage City’ (The New York Post) Enormous bags of trash litter the streets and fill every nook and cranny, and the ambient scent is correspondingly pleasant. Pictures of Coptic popes and Jesus and Mary cover the walls, often next to hand-painted scenes from Mecca. Emaciated cats lounge about. If any place epitomizes the decrepitude and magic of the Egyptian capital — presenting both qualities in equal and abundant measure — it is this place called Garbage City...
Heavy rainfall warning issued for Kerala (The Times of India) A low pressure formation in the Arabian Sea will bring intentness rains and thunderstorms to Kerala for the next couple of days…
Jerusalem opens natural spring, but not to Palestinians (Haaretz) Police allowed a natural spring in southern Jerusalem to be opened to visitors on Tuesday, but on the explicit condition that Palestinians not be allowed to enter the site…
15 October 2019
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Kerala Turkey
Rahel cares for her daughter, Lydia, in their home in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the current edition of ONE, Emeline Wuilbercq writes about Ethiopians Breaking Free from their addiction to khat, with help from the Catholic church. Here, she adds some background to the story.
In Ethiopia, it is not always easy to talk to women. They are rather reserved, sometimes secretive, and it takes time before building a relationship of trust.
In the countryside, as in the cities, their lives are hard: even though early marriages are forbidden, they still take place. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced. A lot of girls do not go to school because they have to help their family at home.
They face many challenges, but they keep it to themselves. When they meet foreign journalists, they do not necessarily want to confide in them during the first exchange.
But sometimes, the unexpected happens.
When I talked with Rahel (her name has been changed), I honestly did not expect to discover such a frank woman, with a strong personality, when I first met her in the Abune Andreas Girls’ Home boarding school in Dire Dawa.
I remember this cheerful woman who was trying to help me and my colleague, Petterik, find someone to help us in Harar. Her English was perfect, and she felt at ease conversing with us. Little did I know at that time that she would become the main subject for my story about khat addiction.
A few days later, when we returned from Harar to Dire Dawa, Petterik and I decided to call her again and she welcomed us to her new apartment. She immediately felt the urge — or need — to confide in us. Was it because she felt isolated from those around her or that she had not yet dared to speak to her neighbors since she moved in?
During our discussion, we learned that she never received the support she needed when she decided to separate from her husband, a man whose khat addiction was becoming too troublesome. He would keep spending money on the green leaves while his wife and daughter were struggling to make ends meet.
This was an added challenge as Rahel, a young orphan girl, had already struggled throughout her teenage years. But with the help of the local Catholic church, she was able to become the strong mother she is today.
Since her husband didn’t listen to her advice, she decided to temporarily separate from him, and to raise her beloved daughter alone.
On the day that we met, she was happy to talk with people who could understand her, as she considered Ethiopians to be too conservative. “Backwards,” she even said. I quickly understood why she was using this strong word.
Rahel told me that her friends had turned their backs on her; in Ethiopia, the fault for a broken marriage rarely comes from the husband, and some think she should have given him another chance before leaving the house. But the only thing that mattered to her was that her daughter could grow up in a healthy environment surrounded by loving people — even if losing her friends was the price she had to pay.
One can only admire Rahel’s journey and the sacrifice she has made for her daughter. I’m glad that she decided to speak out. I hope her friends will read her story to understand her decision.
Learn more about Rahel’s journey in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
15 October 2019
Following a Mass near Thrissur, India, pilgrims carry a statue of St. Mariam Thresia on 13 October 2019. She was among five people canonized by Pope Francis at the Vatican that day.
(photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
Among the five people canonized over the weekend, one was a religious sister from Kerala who founded a congregation in India.
From Vatican News:
A religious and mystic, Sister Mariam Theresia was born in Puthenchira, in southern India’s Kerala state, on April 26, 1876. Belonging to a once rich and noble family with extensive landed property, the future pioneer of the family apostolate grew up in piety and holiness under the loving guidance of her saintly mother, Thanda. In her intense love for God, the 8-year old girl gave herself up to austere, penance, fasting and prayer. She wanted to be conformed ever more to the likeness of the suffering Christ to whom she also consecrated her virginity at an early age.
In imitation of Jesus, she helped the poor, nursed the sick, visited and comforted the lonely people of her parish.
She was also blessed with the stigmata but kept it secret to avoid attention. She received several mystical gifts like prophecy, healing, an aura of light, sweet odor and frequently had ecstasies and levitations. Her entire existence was tormented by demons and she offered her sufferings for the remission of the sins of the world.
Thresia and three companions who joined her led a life of prayer and austere penance and continued to help families, visiting the sick, the poor and the needy irrespective of religion or caste. This ministry led her to establish the new Congregation of the Holy Family on 14 May 1914.
Sister Thresia died on 8 June 1926, at the age of 50, and was declared Blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2000.
Pope Francis in February authorized a decree recognizing a miracle through her intercession, which cleared her for sainthood, and in July the Pope decided on 13 October as the canonization day.
Since then, the sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Family have been preparing intensely for this great day, said Sister Udaya, the Superior General of the Congregation. In Rome for Sunday’s canonization, she explained to Vatican news that they are concentrating more on spiritual preparation and works of charity for the family than external preparation.
Hear an interview with Sister Udaya at the link.