15 April 2016
Serop Ohanian, from the Karagheusian Center in Lebanon, paid a visit to CNEWA’s New York offices on 14 April. (photo: CNEWA)
Thursday afternoon, we welcomed to our New York offices someone who has been a partner with CNEWA in Lebanon for several years: Serop Ohanian, Field Director for the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation, an Armenian center for child welfare.
He was featured prominently in a 2013 story in ONE magazine, on Syrian Armenians seeking refuge in Lebanon:
In this image from 2014, Serop Ohanian, right, visits an educational program for Armenian Syrian refugee children at the Karagheusian Center in Bourj Hammoud in Beirut. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave, has seen its capacity stretched to bursting since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011...
...Plagued as they are by exile and upheaval, the Armenians’ shared experience of violence and displacement makes for a less precarious displacement today.
“There is a very strong relationship between the Syrian Armenians and the Lebanese Armenians,” says Serop Ohanian, Lebanon field director at the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Cooperation, an Armenian organization for child welfare.
“It’s normal for us in a crisis to say: ‘Let’s go live with our relatives in Beirut and if they don’t have an apartment, they will know someone through the church who will. We will manage somehow.’ ”
Helping them manage is a host of organizations, including CNEWA, church aid groups such as Caritas as well as international agencies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Karagheusian Center has had to extend its operating hours by four hours per day, take on four new staffers and reduce the summer holiday from one month to two weeks to meet the demand for its services.
Since then, he told us yesterday, the needs and demands have only grown. The clinic in Bourj Hammoud was originally seeing about 500 patients a month; that number has skyrocketed to 5,000. About 3,000 of those, he told us, are Syrian refugees. A facility that once had three doctors now has extended hours with seven.
Serop described a litany of concerns his center is trying to address — including chronic health problems among the refugees (high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory problems are paramount); stress and anxiety among children; and a rising rate of dropouts from high school. Through it all, his organization is doing an exceptional job under difficult circumstances. Lebanon, like so many places in the Middle East, has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees. But the Karagheusian Center is providing some sense of stability and urgently needed care.
CNEWA is proud and privileged to work with them in this important mission. (You can read more about the Karagheusian association’s work here.) And check out A Refuge in Lebanon to discover how Syrians and Armenians are struggling to rebuild their lives in Lebanon.
Meantime, to support our work helping refugees in Lebanon, please visit this page to learn what you can do.
Members of CNEWA’s development team were among those who welcomed Serop Ohanian
to our offices. (photo: CNEWA)
15 April 2016
In this image from 2008, the Rev. Jose Thottakkara visits the home of some parishioners in Kerala, India. Read more about his growing ministry in A Priest with Global Reach in the
May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
15 April 2016
In the video above, the Vatican offers more details about the pope’s upcoming humanitarian visit to Lesbos to meet with refugees. (video: Rome Reports)
Cost of rebuilding Syria could approach $180 billion (RT) Rebuilding war-ravaged Syria may be as much as $180 billion, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. “Once hostilities end, many Syrian refugees will unlikely return unless schools and health clinics are rebuilt,” said Kim at a news conference at the start of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings, Thursday. Due to the plunge in oil prices, Kim expressed concern about who would fund the rebuilding of the basic Syrian infrastructure...
Vatican: Pope’s trip to Lesbos is humanitarian, not political (CNS) In a “humanitarian and ecumenical gesture,” not a political one, Pope Francis is to join Orthodox leaders in personally meeting with hundreds of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, the Vatican spokesman said. Releasing the detailed schedule for the pope’s trip on 16 April to Lesbos, Greece, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope and the Orthodox leaders wanted to draw attention to “a situation in which many people are suffering” and where a “solution worthy of the human person” still must be found...
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: Israel behaves as a theocratic state (Fides) Israel, “although it proclaims itself a secular and democratic state, it is really behaving more and more like a denominational Jewish military regime.” This is how the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, defined the current modus operandi of the Jewish state...
Chaldean Church establishes committee to monitor Christian property ownership (Fides) The Chaldean Patriarchate has announced the creation of an hoc committee to monitor sales and transfers of property ownership — houses and land — belonging to Christian citizens in Baghdad...
Peace activists call on church to update teaching (Vatican Radio) “We believe that there is no ‘just war.’ Those words are at the heart of a statement published on Thursday at the conclusion of an international conference looking at changes in church practice and teaching on non-violence and peacemaking. Organized jointly by the Catholic peace network, Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Council, the three-day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from conflict zones around the world...
14 April 2016
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan embraces Dominican Sister Marie Therese in Ain Kawa, Iraq, on 9 April. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Update: Earlier today, the cardinal discussed his trip to Iraq in a televised interview. Click here to watch.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of CNEWA, writes about his trip to Iraq in the latest edition of Catholic New York:
I first returned from a visit to Kurdistan, an autonomous region within the nation of Iraq. Why did I go? Well, for one, because my brother bishops there invited me to come. Two, because the Christian community there is family, a family in a lot of trouble, with much adversity, and to visit them is a very good thing.
They have asked, “Does anyone know of our plight? Have people forgotten us!” I wanted to visit them and answer, “yes” and “no.”
You know of their sorrows. ISIS has as their mission to exterminate the ancient tiny Christian minority, who have been there since the time of the apostles, long before Islam. There, Christian communities are small in size, but big in faith, tradition, worship, education, and charity.
They only want to be left in peace, in their villages, to raise their families and practice their religion. Fanatics have slaughtered them, and driven them from their homes.
Now they are called IDPs — “internally displaced persons.” They walked days from their homes in Mosul and their villages in the Plains of Nineveh, to sanctuary in Erbil and Dohuk, two major cities in Kurdistan, where they have been welcomed heroically.
One renowned agency that is helping the local Church care for them is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), headquartered here in New York. Bishop William Murphy and I are board members. Along with Monsignor John Kozar, the president, we went to visit these affected people in Kurdistan.
Were we saddened by what we saw? You bet we were! Brave people, tens of thousands, given hours to flee their homes (or have their throats slit, or convert to Islam). They knew there were Catholics and Orthodox Christians relatively safe in Kurdistan, so they walked the two-day journey there, carrying their babies, a few sacks of possessions, propping up their elders, accompanied by their priests and religious sisters.
To see their tears, their anguish, their situation, and to hear their plea over and over, “We just want to go home!” saddened us for sure.
But we were also deeply moved by our visit. The Christians in Kurdistan, often in partnership with Islamic neighbors, have welcomed them. They have camps for them, with food, medical care, clothing, blankets, and schools. Priests, nuns, and devoted lay leaders have embraced them. This charity inspired us.
As did their faith.
Read the complete column at this link. And you can also read it in Spanish here.
14 April 2016
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
The Dominican Sisters arrive for a liturgy at the Syriac Catholic Al Bishara Church at Aishty 1 Camp for internally displaced Christians in Ain Kawa, Iraq. Sister Maria Hanna, second from right, is the superior. (photo: NCR/Tom Gallagher)
Tom Gallagher, one of the journalists accompanying CNEWA Chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan to Iraq this week, interviewed several sisters who were displaced when ISIS invaded their home of Qaraqosh. He posted their dramatic account of their flight to Erbil in this morning’s online edition of NCR.
After the shelling on the five or six Christina villages, people fled, and now Christians in Qaraqosh were leaving for Erbil and other areas.
Sr. Maria Hanna, the Dominican’s superior, spoke by phone to Mosul’s Syrian-Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche. He assured the sisters that the Kurds were going to protect them, not to be afraid, not to panic and that, “Whatever you hear, don’t believe it.” Mouche had been assured in meetings with the Kurdish leaders that the Peshmerga were going to protect them.
In the early hours of August 6, 2014, after morning Mass, Qaraqosh received three shellings that killed two children and one young woman. Within three hours of the killings, the whole community of Qaraqosh left town-- except the sisters
That evening they had dinner and evening prayer. Sister Maria then gathered them and said, “Well it looks like a dangerous situation and I will leave to your choice if you want to go to Ankawa, to Erbil. You can do it. Some of us will stay, but if you want to go, you may.” None of the sisters left.
Around 9 p.m., they received a call from a brother of one of the sisters who used to work with the Peshmerga and he warned his sister, and all the sisters, that it was too dangerous to stay, that the Peshmerga have already have left and withdrawn their troops. “You should leave at this moment,” her brother said.
Sister Maria immediately called Archbishop Mouche and told him that she had news from a trusted source about the urgency to leave and asked the archbishop what he thought. “I’m sitting here with my priests in the garden and everything is beautiful and there is nothing to fear,” Mouche said. “I have information from political sources that there is nothing to fear.”
Fifteen minutes later, the sisters received another call from the same brother. “Leave at this moment. You are in great danger,” he said.
At 10:30 p.m. Sister Maria gathered all the sisters again, as Qaraqosh was in chaos. The phones were not working anymore, so they couldn’t contact Archbishop Mouche. The sisters decided to leave.
Sister Maria started gathering the sisters, including some Franciscan sisters, who didn’t have any means of transportation. Other Dominican sisters were on vacation or visiting families, some were in other villages.
By 11 p.m. the sisters went to their rooms to pack small bags of whatever they would need for two days because there was no place in the van for big suitcases. They thought they would be back after a few days’ time.
Before midnight, they went to the church and prayed in front of the Eucharist. She left one Host at the church and she prayed, “Lord please protect this house and this village.”
Thirty-five sisters, four families and two orphans squeezed themselves into two vans and two small cars and left Qaraqosh.
They came upon other Christians walking, some on donkeys and some on bicycles. “It was a river of people, thousands of people walking slowly out of Qaraqosh,” said Sister Maria.
Read it all.
And read more about Sister Maria Hanna, who was featured Tuesday as part of our “90 Years, 90 Heroes” series.
14 April 2016
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees
New York’s Cardinal Edward M. Egan presents CNEWA’s Peg Maron with the prestigious Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award in January 2002. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Some of the heroes in our CNEWA family have walked the halls here in New York. One of them was Peg Maron, a woman who worked in our communications department. Three years ago, on learning of her death, Michael La Civita wrote about a woman he described succinctly as “indomitable”:
Peg joined CNEWA in 1990 and quickly became known for her dogged determination to track down every fact, not leave any participle dangling, have every verb and subject agree and check my tardiness — despite the fact I was the “boss.”
Edith to my often cantankerous Archie, Peggy’s tenacious attention to detail and accuracy earned her the respect of all — even if her nimble ballerina stretches stunned patriarchs and prelates alike.
I never heard Peggy utter an unkind word. Her years of service to the church — as a member of Pax Romana and its successor, Pax Christi; involvement with the Grail and the liturgical movement of the 1950’s; friend and colleague of Eileen Egan, a founder of Catholic Relief Services; service as a Catholic school teacher in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s Kennedy Child Center; participation in the life of the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri at St. Boniface Church in Brooklyn and lastly as my partner in arms at Catholic Near East, CNEWA World and ONE magazines — will undoubtedly earn her a place with Providence. Her years as a dancer with Martha Graham, however, earned my respect.
I remember when I first realized what an unsung hero she was: the funeral Mass of her husband, circa 1992, in Brooklyn’s church of St. Jerome. As she followed his casket down the center aisle after the Final Commendation, she cast her eyes down, wrapped her arms tightly around her person and hunched her shoulders. She lumbered down that aisle as if the weight of the world would have crushed her. But it did not.
She was a woman of few words, little emotion and complete self-control. She had many credentials and enormous talent. The only way I could show her my affection was to tease — and she loved it. Whether it was accusing her of bathing in gin or mooning a patriarch, she would laugh so joyously, but rarely would a sound escape from her lips.
In 2002, she was honored for her work for the Church with the Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, and she received it with characteristic generosity and grace:
On learning of her award, Mrs. Maron stated: “I am extremely grateful to be so honored for my small part in the work of the church. But I was never alone; I was always part of a community whose members worked side by side to improve the lives of those who had been entrusted to them. I would hope this award recognizes their contribution no less than mine.”
14 April 2016
Young Syrians present their ID cards as they arrive to vote in a parliamentary election on 13 April at a polling station in the government-held side of the northern city of Aleppo. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
More shelling in Aleppo mars peace talks (ABCNews) Syrian troops exchanged fire with rebels in the contested northern city of Aleppo on Thursday in a renewed bout of fighting that could further mar peace talks underway in Geneva. The fighting came a day after Syrians in government-held parts of the country voted for a new parliament…
Patriarch: Priests should not arrange exodus of Christians from Iraq (Fides) The church as such, and especially priests, should in no way be involved directly in operations and programs to plan and organize the exodus of Iraqi Christians to foreign countries, and anyone who continues to ignore such reprimand will take responsibility for his choices even in front of patriarchal authority. This is how the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans warned pastoral workers, and especially the patriarchal clergy, from getting involved directly in the organization of the expatriation of Iraqi Christians who continue to leave their country, following the migration routes that from the Middle East lead to Europe and America…
Israel allows taxis into Gaza for first time in nine years (Middle East Monitor) For the first time in nine years, the Israeli authorities have allowed the entry of taxis into the Gaza Strip, PalSawa.com reported on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by Fu’ad Homeid, chairman of the spare parts, vehicles and heavy equipment association, six out of 36 taxis entered into Gaza on Wednesday…
In Ethiopia, severe drought leaves millions relying on emergency aid (CBC) There is an eerie silence in the desert landscape of Ethiopia’s eastern rim, the lands stretching toward neighboring Somalia and the Gulf of Aden beyond it. It’s more of an absence, really, and it takes a while to put your finger on it. Then it hits. No livestock. If you do see them, they’re few and far between, their ribs sunken, just like the dry riverbeds snaking across the savannah. Ethiopia is currently in the grip of its worst drought in 50 years, and more than ten million people are relying on emergency food aid provided by the government and international aid agencies…
Ukraine’s parliament elects new government (The Washington Post) Following months of political gridlock over stalled reforms and accusations of corruption, Ukraine’s parliament approved Thursday a new government led by a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko…
Arrests in India in connection with fireworks blasts at Kerala temple (The New York Times) Thirteen people have been arrested in connection with the explosions that killed more than 100 during a fireworks display at a temple in southern India over the weekend, The Press Trust of India said on Tuesday. T. F. Xavier, a police superintendent for Kerala, the state where the disaster occurred, said seven of those arrested were officials at the Puttingal temple in the coastal district of Kollam, which hosted the fireworks display to celebrate the start of the new year on the Hindu calendar…
14 April 2016
Tags: Syria India Iraq Ethiopia Ukraine
A child receives Communion from a young priest at the Church of St. Nicholas outside Kampala, Uganda. Orthodoxy has found fertile ground in Uganda. To discover more, read Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
13 April 2016
Tags: Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox
Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., greets a child during a visit to a camp for internally displaced families in Ainkawa, Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
CNEWA board member Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre has been traveling with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the CNEWA team during the pastoral visit to Iraq. This morning, he posted some of his impressions on the web page for Long Island Catholic:
Sunday was a long day but filled with moments that touched our hearts. In the town of Dohuk, Catholic Near East (CNEWA) built, equipped and funds a dispensary that serves refugees from Syria and displaced person (IDP) from within Iraq. The doctors and staff nurses and pharmacists are first rate. The people are the victims of ISIS, which here is called Daesh. The hope they all expressed was to go home and rebuild their lives.
At the two refugee camps we visited we heard the same hope time and time again. One camp was the creation of local Christian groups with help from CNEWA and other Catholic agencies. A second was a government of Kurdistan initiative that included Muslims, Yzidis and Christians. The Christians would take my pectoral cross, kiss it and place it momentarily on their foreheads.
This same gesture was repeated after the Mass we concelebrated in the Chaldean Rite in the village of Inishke. The refugees participated in the liturgy and we shared a meal with them after. They were so proud of being able to offer us a true banquet from their limited means and it was delicious.
13 April 2016
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York visits a displacement center in Dawodiya, Iraq, on
10 April 2016. (photo: Elise Harris/CNA)
CNA’s Elise Harris had a chance to interview Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop William Murphy as they completed their pastoral visit to Iraq:
As he leaves Iraqi Kurdistan, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said what struck him most during the visit were the people’s faith and hope, despite violent persecution.
“These people from an earthly point of view don’t have much, but my, oh my, their sense of resilience and hope were simply astounding,” Cardinal Dolan said in an interview with CNA.
“Do they mourn the past? Yes they do, but they’re about the present and they’re about the future, and that’s a sentiment that will never leave me.”
Cardinal Dolan is the Archbishop of New York and chair of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
He was joined by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, a CNEWA board member, for a three-day visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he toured projects aimed at helping refugees and met with families, Church leaders, priests and religious who were displaced as a result of the 2014 Islamic State attacks.
The trip included visits to the Kurdish capital of Erbil, and to the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk. It concluded with a Mass celebrated by Syriac-Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, in which representatives of several other rites were present, including the Latin and Chaldean rites, as well as the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Both Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy spoke to CNA in a sit-down interview on the last day of the trip to share their thoughts and reflections about what they had seen and experienced.
What are your impressions after spending these days here in Iraq?
Cardinal Dolan: I would find my impression would be on both sides. First of all there’s an impression of sadness and sobriety in what these people have gone through. They’ve lost their homes, their homes that have been in their families for centuries, centuries and centuries, alright. They’ve lost a sense of security, they’ve lost in many ways a sense of stability that is so necessary for human existence. So there is an undeniable sense of sadness and somberness. But then I jump ahead to the other side of the spectrum to say that they haven’t lost their sense of hope. They haven’t lost their faith. We’ve heard people cry out in anguish, but they always have a sense of hope.
And I can’t get over it.
I mean look, you were at the liturgy yesterday. You talk about joyful, reverent, grateful prayer and praise, trusting in God. Of all people you’d think they would be almost dour in Mass. You’d wonder if some of them would be tempted not to come anymore because they were so crushed. We have our parishes at home for Sunday Mass where sometimes there’s a sense of heaviness and people don’t seem interested, and we’ve got prosperity, we’ve got peace, we’ve got stability. These people from an earthly point of view don’t have much, but my oh my, their sense of resilience and hope were simply astounding. And I see it in the priests, I see it in the sisters, I see it in the lay leaders, I see it in my brother bishops. Do they mourn the past? Yes they do, but they’re about the present and they’re about the future, and that’s a sentiment that will never leave me.
Is there a specific moment that was particularly moving for you?
Bishop Murphy and I have shared a number of them, and when we process this it’s amazing that we both have felt the same thing. One would be the desire of people just to go back home. Just to go back home. They’re not saying ‘take us to America.’ They’re saying ‘we just want to go back home, can you help us get back home?’ And number two, the second I think, would be that sense of hope and promise. They’re so resilient that their kind of making the best of what they’ve got. They have this trust in God and they say ‘we wanna go back home, we don’t know how long we’re going to be in exile, but let’s make the best of it. Let’s tend to the basics of faith, education, healthcare, food, shelter, protecting our kids. That’s basic civilization, that’s basic solidarity and they’re doing it magnificently.
As a journalist I sometimes find that people read the news and move on. How can we convince people to continue to be interested and invested in what’s happening here?
Bishop Murphy: One of the things is [that] I’ve been doing blogs each day. They’re not as long as a column, but you get them out. Everybody who’s on that website will see this regularly. Another thing we did was last year, we announced that in the middle of the summer, July-August, that weekend would be Middle East weekend. So we did what we Catholics do and took up another collection (laughs). But we were able to get some more money out of that, and I think we just need to take opportunities like that and call the attention of people to it. Then some people respond and you’ll find some groups will respond. As Abraham Joshua Heschel said: you start it with one, then another, then a third and fourth, and before you know it you have a movement. And I think we should really be encouraging those who catch on to this. To start to do some things on their own that would be helpful. We can’t be the only voice, for example, in Washington. We can be a voice, but we’re just the bishops. Take the decision on Christian genocide. What made the difference there? It wasn’t the fact that the names of x-amount of bishops were there, it was the fact that all of the sudden, people picked up on it. I’m not saying that’s changing things radically, but it’s another force for good.
Read the full interview here.