12 July 2017
Aida Yassin, a Lebanese widow, sits with her son, Eli; her daughter-in-law, Lina from Syria; and her grandson, Michael. (photo: Raed Rafei)
Raed Rafei explores the challenges Syrian refugees are facing in Lebanon in the current edition of ONE. Below, he describes one couple he met:
When I arrived to Zahleh on my reporting trip, I expected to hear the same resentful discourse toward Syrian refugees that I hear all over Lebanon. With refugees constituting more than one fourth of the Lebanese population, the public outcry over this irregular situation — one that has been continuing for several years now — is palpable everywhere.
In this pretty Christian town, people I talked to speak mainly of a stagnant economy and say that with refugees willing to earn very little, competition over jobs has been fierce. You see the impact everywhere. As in the central streets of Beirut, Syrian children, sometimes as young as five, beg on the streets. When I stopped for coffee at a random café, the waiter was expectedly Syrian. His story was one I had heard many times over. In Syria, he was a university student but because of the war, he had to abandon his studies and his country.
So when I finally met Eli and Lina, my encounter with the couple was heartwarming. Eli is a struggling Lebanese technician who supports his aging mother, Aida. Lina is a Syrian refugee who fled with her family from the bombing of her hometown in Syria. A couple of years ago, they met at a clothing shop in Zahleh and swiftly fell in love with each other. Today, they are married and have a child, Michael.
It was delightful to see that, despite the surge in racism against the Syrians among the Lebanese, love between people from these two neighboring countries was still possible. Relations between Lebanon and Syria have traditionally been very complicated. During the Lebanese 1975-1990 civil war, Syria was heavily involved in the conflict. People in Zahleh in particular still harbor animus feelings towards Syria because their city was placed under siege for weeks by the Syrian army during that period. It is true that since then, the proximity of Zahleh to the Syrian border has turned Syria into a vital trade partner and calmed the minds. But the conflict in Syria has strangled the city’s economy. And with the influx of Syrian refugees, relations between the two cultures entered a complicated new phase.
When I asked Eli and Lina if they heard disapproving comments from friends or neighbors about their marriage, they simply shrugged their shoulders. To them, their love story came about naturally. On my second visit to their modest home, I saw on the wall an assemblage of their photos in a frame decorated with hearts and the word, love. They looked like a happy young couple in the photos. I asked Lina about the new frame. She smiled and said it was a gift from Eli for Valentine’s Day.
Like all parents, Lina and Eli worry mostly about the future of their child. The brunt of the devastating war in Syria is still present, But, as Lina explained, the only focus today is on how to provide the best education for Michael, who is set to enter school next year.
Life, she said, goes on.
Read more about Hardship and Hospitality in Lebanon in the June 2017 edition of ONE. And meet Eli and Lina in the video below.
12 July 2017
Children pray together before their meal at the Little Prince Center in Artashat, Armenia. Learn more about this remarkable center and the work it is doing among the neediest people in the country in ‘This Is the Only Light’ from the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
12 July 2017
The powerful video above, shot from a drone after Mosul’s liberation from ISIS, shows the devastation of one of Iraq’s largest cities. (video: Radio Free Europe/YouTube)
Iraq celebrates victory over ISIS, but challenges remain (The New York Times) It is a moment for Iraqis to celebrate after nearly nine months of bloody warfare against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. But despite the flaring of hope for a new national unity, the government’s costly victory in Mosul and the questions hanging over its aftermath feel more like the next chapter in the long story of Iraq’s unraveling...
Kurdish leader sponsors referendum on independence (Fides) The referendum convened by the government of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan to sanction their independence from Iraq is a decisive step for the future of that region...
Copts keep the faith (Financial Times) In their 20 centuries of history since Saint Mark brought Christianity to Egypt, Coptic Christians have endured intermittent waves of persecution at the hands of Roman and Muslim rulers. But in modern times, there has been nothing like the scale of the threat posed by Isis, which declared the community in February to be its “primary target and favorite prey...”
Tension and violence reported among radicals in India (Fides) In the past few days, clashes and violent protests of the local Muslim community occurred in the Western Bengal state, after the provocation of a young Hindu extremist who on the social network Facebook had insulted Islam. After days of tension and violence, police managed to restore calm in the towns of Baduria and Basirhat, in the “North 24 Parganas” district...
Catholics and Anglicans share education projects for Syrians (Fides) The episcopal Church of Jerusalem, belonging to the Anglican Communion, signed a partnership protocol with Caritas Jordan on Tuesday, 11 July, to jointly set up a project regarding school assistance for children belonging to Syrian refugee families...
11 July 2017
At St. Rachel Day Care Center, day care program director Claudio Graziano provides a caring and nurturing envionment to the children of migrant workers in Jerusalem. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
In the current edition of ONE, Michele Chabin reports on something Found in Translation: the promise of young Christian refugees learning Hebrew in Israel. But that’s just the beginning. Here, she adds some additional thoughts.
You can walk past a building a dozen times, but until you knock on the door and step inside you have no idea what you’ve been missing.
That’s exactly how I felt when CNEWA asked me to write a feature about the St. Rachel Day Care Center in Jerusalem, which is housed in a prefabricated building on the grounds of a monastery I hadn’t known existed.
The Rachel Center, which receives vital funding from CNEWA, cares for the children of some of Israel’s African and Asian migrant workers and asylum-seekers. Were it not for the center, the parents — including several single mothers — would be unable to work and feed their families.
Touring the center, from the babies’ nursery to the playrooms where the older children congregate after school, I was struck by three things: the cleanliness; the high ratio of adults to children; and the fact that everyone, from the sisters to the Catholic lay people, were speaking to the children in Hebrew, the predominant language of Israel.
Why Hebrew? Unless they learn Hebrew, these children — most of them born in Israel — will struggle in school and be unable to integrate into the country they call home.
The fact that — except for the ethnic makeup of the children and the Christian atmosphere — St. Rachel is indistinguishable from any other top-notch Israeli child care center is remarkable given the horrible conditions most migrant/asylum-seeker’s children are forced to endure in makeshift childcare centers that receive neither Israeli government funding nor inspections.
Several years ago, I visited one such center in south Tel Aviv, where most Israel-based migrants and asylum seekers live. It left such a sad impression on me that I remember every detail to this day.
There were dozens of infants and toddlers in the two-room preschool but only three caregivers for up to 80 children. They didn’t have the time to change all of the children’s dirty diapers or clean them if they were sick. Bottles were propped up on towels because there weren’t enough adults to hold all the babies while they ate.
The center had almost no toys, so the TV on the wall was the only thing that kept the children occupied — that, and an occasional group of volunteers who took the older children out to a nearby playground.
At St. Rachel the rooms are immaculate and there are so many wonderful toys and building blocks to play with. There is a library full of beautiful children’s books, plus dance classes and a safe playground with a soft floor to protect against injuries. There is healthy food, music and singing and laughter, all in a Christian setting.
A parent told me that “living in a foreign country, especially without any legal status, can be demoralizing.” But knowing that her baby was being so well cared for at St. Rachel “has given me peace of mind,” she said. “It’s given me the world.”
Read more in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
11 July 2017
Abba Berhanu Woemago chats with a student outside the Abba Pascal Catholic Girls’ School in Soddo, Ethiopia. Learn why Ethiopian Catholic schools are at the Head of the Class in the
June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
11 July 2017
In this image from January, residents of Mosul celebrate the partial liberation of their city from ISIS control by taking a selfie in front of Iraqi security forces. Six months later, the country’s prime minister has declared the city completely liberated, and expressed hope that Christians will return. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Iraq’s prime minister: we hope Christians return soon to Mosul (Fides) After the liberation of the city of Mosul, from the militia of the self-styled Islamic State that had conquered the city in June 2014, the hope is “that all displaced people and the sons of religions, nationalities and creeds come back, including Christians in particular, to their homes in Mosul.” This is what Iraqi Prime Minister Haider at Abadi said on Monday 10 July, to a delegation of Christians in Mosul...
Syrian truce survives first day (The New York Times) Representatives of Syria’s warring parties gathered in Geneva on Monday for the seventh round of peace talks, as a limited truce, negotiated by their big-power backers, appeared to be holding for a full day in southwest Syria, according to local residents and human rights monitors...
U.N. official: Gaza may already be ‘unlivable’ (The Times of Israel) e Gaza Strip may already be “unlivable,” a United Nations official warns, after a decade of Hamas rule and a crippling Israeli blockade. Robert Piper, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the West Bank and Gaza, tells AFP in an interview to mark a new report on living conditions in Gaza that all the “indicators are going in the wrong direction...”
Indian’s Supreme Court stays government ban on cow slaughter (AP) India’s top court on Tuesday stayed for three months a ban introduced by the Hindu nationalist government on the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter. The Supreme Court approved a lower court ruling that said people have a basic right to choose their food...
Eritrean capital, once known as ‘Little Rome,’ becomes a World Heritage site (The New York Times) The capital of Eritrea has been designated a World Heritage site by Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization. The capital, Asmara, is sometimes called “Africa’s Miami” because of its many Art Deco buildings. The city flourished when Eritrea was an Italian colony, from 1889 until World War II, and it became a paradise for Italian architects, who could try out their boldest ideas there, away from Europe’s conservative cultural norms. In the 1930’s, nearly half of Asmara’s residents were Italian, earning the capital another nickname, “Little Rome...”
10 July 2017
These Iraqis in a refugee camp in Erbil are among the many thousands who have been displaced in recent years. A new interactive report by CNEWA gives what amounts to a definitive snapshot of Christianity in the region. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The migration of Christians in the Middle East over the last several years — owing to the war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, and ongoing political upheaval in the region — has had a profound impact on the region. The cultures and countries that are the very cradle of Christianity are seeing the faith disbursed and displaced. But hard and reliable statistics on this movement of peoples have been elusive — until now.
Drawing on diverse statistics and resources, CNEWA has compiled what amounts to a definitive snapshot of Christianity in the region today.
It is available as a multimedia presentation at this link.
We encourage you to visit the site and see for yourself how recent events have affected parts of CNEWA’s world — and, indeed, will continue to affect all of us who care about our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.
10 July 2017
Shilpa Joy provides physical therapy to youth at the Home of Peace. (photo: Don Duncan)
The current edition of ONE features an inspiring glimpse into the lives of young Indian men and women who experienced the profound positive impact of Catholic institutions. One of them is Shilpa Joy:
Shilpa Joy’s job as a therapist requires her to deal with many people every day, something she would never have imagined when she arrived at the sisters’ doorstep, a child escaping a violent home plagued by alcoholism.
“At the children’s home, I learned to adapt, live and work with many different kinds of personalities. I came to understand other people and see how the many other children are. Living with these different types of people helped me to get out of my childhood introversion,” she says.
Recently, Ms. Joy started a new job at the Home of Peace — a center dedicated to children with disabilities, run by the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy — a stone’s throw away from her home with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Indeed, the sisters have welcomed her to live with them once more, temporarily, as she searches for an apartment.
At work in the Home of Peace, Ms. Joy makes use of all her professional skills, providing physical and speech therapy. She also has to adapt constantly to the very specific and sometimes acute needs of the children at the home.
In the home’s physical therapy room, a sort of gym adapted to special needs, one boy works on his balance by sitting on a large ball. Another boy, who wears a prosthetic lower leg, practices walking on the treadmill. At a nearby table, Ms. Joy performs stretches and exercises with another boy who suffers from cerebral palsy.
“Now, I can cope with all kinds of personalities or with difficult people or situations. I have learned, at the children’s home, how to cope with such things.”
After work, she goes back to her accommodations with the sisters. There, she serves as a sort of role model and counselor to the children in the home. She helps the girls with their homework and she urges them to strive for great things.
“I try to share my own experience with them,” the young woman says. “It is a way of trying to motivate them to go further, to study further and to have a happy, fulfilled life.”
Read more about The Secret of Their Success in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
10 July 2017
In the video above, Iraqi forces are seen declaring victory over ISIS in Mosul.
(video: ABC News/YouTube)
Iraq’s prime minister arrives in Mosul, declares victory over ISIS (The New York Times) Dressed in a military uniform, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived here in Mosul on Sunday to congratulate Iraq’s armed forces for wresting the city from the Islamic State. The victory marked the formal end of a bloody campaign that lasted nearly nine months, left much of Iraq’s second-largest city in ruins, killed thousands of people and displaced nearly a million more...
The continued suffering of civilians in Mosul (Vatican Radio) Iraqi forces slowly advanced Monday to retake the last patch of ground in Mosul where Islamic State militants are holding on to a tiny sliver of the Old City. The operation comes a day after the prime minister visited the soldiers to congratulate troops on the hard-fought battle...
Turkey says for now it will not expropriate Christian churches around Mardin (Fides) Turkey declares that it has not yet implemented any measure to expropriate 50 Christian churches and monasteries scattered around Mardin, in the Turkish southwestern Tur Abdin region, to transfer its full control to Diyanet, the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs, a body directly linked to the Prime Minister...
A 700-year-old Christian tradition thrives in Jerusalem (CNA) In the Old City of Jerusalem it’s hard to escape the ancient history that’s still alive within its walls. A simple smartphone search can send you on a walk to a centuries-old shop, bring you to the steps of a millennium-old Church, or lead you past the 3,000 year-old Temple Mount — all bursting with people and energy. But it's only within the stone walls of Razzouk Ink that the modern pilgrim can have that history etched onto his or her body for the rest of their lives...
7 July 2017
Some Christian families, such as the one shown above, have moved back to their home village of Tel Eskof, Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on the uncertain future facing Iraqi Christians:
More than 130,000 Christians in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq fled to what amounted to a “foreign” land in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan. They became refugees in settlement camps. What has happened to those who settled in these camps and what does the future hold for the displaced?
Having visited Kurdistan recently, I have seen firsthand some of the liberated towns and cities previously held by ISIS. I can personally attest to the devastation of some towns and villages, the desecration of holy places and objects, the total theft of or destruction of all personal property. But the basic structures remain. However, I want to share with you an ongoing dilemma confronting Christians and other displaced people. It is the emotion-filled question: Should I return to my “liberated” town, village or city?
Read more and see more images here.