4 May 2015
The Good Shepherd Sisters’ convent in Suez still displays heavy damage from the
August 2013 fire. (photo: David Degner)
Jahd Khalil writes about efforts to rebuild religious institutions in Suez in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. Below, he offers personal impressions from his trip there last winter.
Last Christmas season there were plenty of images in press coverage of Egypt of congregations praying in burned-out churches, but I only experienced the atmosphere and feelings of it on this recent trip to Suez. It was a few days before Epiphany, and it brought to light the gravity of the situation for this congregation and the implications of all the little things that were lost.
Franciscan Father Gabrail Bakheet was dressed in his white liturgical robes. While giving us a tour of the vestry, he pointed out that the diversity in vestments meant that so many had to be replaced. The congregation also had to sing hymns without hymnals. Christmas is one of those times when you reflect on family, friends and community, but there were so few people in the church that the hymns only highlighted that the scarcity of people. The many who once might have been signing these hymns just weren’t there. The US invasion of Iraq, the civil war in Syria, and general unrest across the Middle East have made religious life more difficult for Christians and other minorities. It felt quite lonely in that burned-out, cold church.
One thing that struck me while reporting this story is the amount of faith Christians have put in their government’s support for their communities. The Maspiro massacre — in which 28 people, mostly Christians, died while protesting for religious freedom — is not a distant memory. But there has been a willingness to overlook it in order to try and preserve what is left of the long Christian tradition in Egypt.
As they sat alone in their makeshift chapel, with seemingly nothing but their faith, Sister Amany quoted Psalm 127 to Sister Mariam. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain,” she said. “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”
I really admired the sisters’ perseverance and good spirits in the face of adversity and isolation. Here they were in one of the most densely populated countries on earth, but still alone in many ways.
Read more about life in Suez in “Out of the Ashes.”
4 May 2015
A Caritas volunteer interviews Anastasiya Stulova in the city of Sviatogorsk. The impact of the conflict in Ukraine has been devastating, leaving many families displaced. To learn more, read “Casualties of War” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
4 May 2015
In this image from October, Argentinian Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, leaves the Synod Hall at the end of a session of the Synod on the themes of family in Vatican City. He’s now making a pastoral visit to Iraq.
(photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Cardinal Sandri calls for support for Iraq’s Christians (Vatican Radio) The Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, was the homilist at Divine Liturgy in the Chaldean cathedral of Baghdad on Friday afternoon. The Liturgy and Cardinal Sandri’s participation in it were part of the Prefect’s three-day visit to the country, which began on Friday morning. He renewed his call — and the Holy Father’s — for assistance from the international community in favor of all those facing persecution in Iraq, and especially for the country’s suffering and sorely tried Christian community, thanking the UN’s High Representative for Iraq for his presence at the Liturgy...
Israeli group accuses military of “indiscriminate fire” during Gaza war (BBC) An Israeli activist group has accused the military of employing a “policy of indiscriminate fire” that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians during last year’s Gaza war. Breaking the Silence said the rules of engagement during the 50-day conflict were “the most permissive” it had seen...
Ethiopian Israelis: “A community crying out” (CNN) The clashes between Ethiopian-Israeli protesters and police over the weekend have drawn international attention to one of the most disadvantaged groups in Israel. Though the demonstrations were set off by the police beating of a uniformed Israeli soldier, captured on video, experts say the issues between the Ethiopian-Israeli community and the government are not new ones...
Minorities see Russian meddling in Ukraine (Al Jazeera) As the conflict between Moscow-backed separatists and Kiev’s forces rages on in eastern Ukraine, minority groups say Russia’s state-owned media have been trying to provoke dissent in the multicultural region of Transcarpathia, on the edge of the European Union...
CNEWA Canada marks 10th anniversary with appeal for Iraq, Syria (Catholic Register) As Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) Canada marks its 10th anniversary this year, it is making an urgent appeal for continued help for imperilled families under Islamic State siege in Iraq and Syria. “The best way we can celebrate the 10 years of success of CNEWA in Canada is to redouble our prayers and our financial support to aid those most in need,” said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, who hosts the CNEWA Canada offices in his diocese and chairs the CNEWA Canada board of directors, in a statement. “May we celebrate the Year of Mercy remembering our sisters and brothers in the East for whom we can be an agent of mercy with the help of CNEWA...”
1 May 2015
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East
Two nurses from the neonatal intensive care unit of the Italian Hospital care for newborns in Amman, Jordan. (photo: CNS/Mark Pattison)
In the Spring edition of ONE, writer Dale Gavlak reports on the plight of Iraqi Christian refugees who are seeking sanctuary in Jordan. One place they are receiving help: the Italian Hospital in Amman, which has long been supported by CNEWA.
CNS reporter Mark Pattison visited the hospital recently:
Dr. Khalid Shammas, medical director, said the refugees “come with different diseases. Some of them we are not familiar with.”
They also arrive with physical wounds or with psychological scars that come with being torn from their homeland.
“Most of the refugees are coming from the north of Iraq, from Mosul,” Shammas said. “They were in the middle, upper class. ... It is a big psychological trauma to them. They need psychological treatment. In Jordan, we don’t have many (who can provide it.)”
Sister Elizabeth said that at Christmas, the hospital took up a collection to give their patients a little bit of money.
“You know what they said? ‘We don’t need your money. Give us a future,’” she recalled.
Money is hard to come by, the hospital staff acknowledged. The charges to the private patients help pay for some of the charity care the Italian Hospital provides. But “we have to squeeze,” Sister Elizabeth said. “Sometimes we don’t know how we are going to pay the staff,” which numbers 130.
Read more about the challenges refugees are facing and how the Italian Hospital is trying to help.
The video below takes us inside this important facility and offers a glimpse at some of those being helped.
To learn how you can support Iraqi refugees, please visit our giving page. And remember to keep all our suffering brothers and sisters from Iraq in your prayers.
1 May 2015
Children socialize outside the Good Shepherd Sisters’ school in Deir el Ahmar, Lebanon. Read more about caring for children and refugees in Lebanon in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
1 May 2015
In this image from February, U.S. European Commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove conducts a news briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Gen. Breedlove said yesterday Russian-backed forces appear to be preparing for a new offensive in Ukraine.
(photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
NATO commander sees threat of offensive in Ukraine (The Wall Street Journal) NATO’s military chief said that Russia-backed forces appear to be “preparing, training and equipping” for a potential new offensive in eastern Ukraine, even as European leaders said the conflict there was entering a “political phase.” U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s top commander, said Thursday that the separatist forces have been using the relative lull in fighting since a cease-fire was signed in February to regroup. “These preparations are consistent with the possibility of an offensive,” Gen. Breedlove said at a Pentagon news conference. “And that is what we have seen through several of the previous pauses in eastern Ukraine...”
Cardinal: world community must not resign itself to the tragedy of the Middle East (VIS) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, spoke at the opening of the Symposium “Christians in the Middle East: what future?,” organised by the Sant’Egidio Community and the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, Italy. In his address, the cardinal remarked that many Christians in the East, hearing just a few days ago the story of Pilate’s famous gesture of washing his hands, “may have thought of the indifference and inaction to which the international community appears to have resigned itself before the tragedies that have for some years now been wearing away at Syria and Iraq.” He added, “it is also saddening to see the incapacity of leaders in Lebanon, even those who are Christians, to arrive at consensus on the new president on the basis of a line of conduct due less to conscience than to the weighty influences of the forces that compete for supremacy in the area...”
“Freedom Flotilla” reportedly set to sail for Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Three ships are expected to set sail for Gaza this summer as part of a humanitarian mission to Gaza, Ma’an News Agency reported Friday. Details of the mission, coined “Freedom Flotilla III,” remain under the radar. Berawi Zaher, coordinator of the international mission, told Ma’an that its details, including the ships’ departure time and fleet location, will not be released in an effort to hamper Israeli authorities from intervening and exerting international pressure to halt the execution of the mission...
Religious leaders call for calm during elections in Ethiopia (The Turkish Weekly) Leaders of seven Ethiopian religious institutions on Wednesday issued joint calls for peace and calm during parliamentary polls slated for 24 May. “The age-old culture of understanding, tolerance and peaceful co-existence in the face of diversity should be maintained in the political competition,” Zerihun Degu, secretary-general of the Ethiopian Interfaith Council, said at a meeting in Addis Ababa...
30 April 2015
Tags: Ethiopia Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East
Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, a leading Catholic authority on Islam, is now teaching a course on the Quran in Ohio. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press)
One of the leading Catholic authorities on Islam — someone, in fact, who may be familiar to readers of ONE — is now teaching a course about the religion. NPR has the story:
As a 12-year-old Catholic boy growing up in England, Michael Fitzgerald decided he wanted to be a missionary in Africa. Eight years later, he was studying theology and learning Arabic in Tunisia.
He went on to devote his priestly ministry to the promotion of interfaith understanding between Muslims and Christians, and became one of the top Roman Catholic experts on Islam. He has served as the archbishop of Tunisia, the papal nuncio — effectively a Vatican ambassador — in Cairo, and the Vatican’s delegate to the Arab League.
For years, Fitzgerald has been urging his fellow Christians to acquaint themselves with Islam and its holy book, the Quran. It has been a challenging mission at a time when many non-Muslims associate Islam with violence and when many Muslims think the West has declared war on their faith.
As a priest serving in Africa, Fitzgerald often was responsible for representing the interests of Christians in majority-Muslim states, but at the same time he demonstrated enough knowledge and appreciation of Islam that Muslims occasionally turned to him for insights into their own faith. “The more you understand a religion, the better it is,” Fitzgerald says, “whether it’s Christians studying Islam or Christians studying Christianity or Muslims studying Christianity. I think this helps in your relations.”
As a university professor in Uganda, his classes on Islam included some Muslim students.
“I said to the students ‘I’m not here to teach you anything — I’m here to help you to learn, and to understand your own religion better,’” Fitzgerald says. “‘I said ‘You don’t have to agree with me, but if you contest what I’m saying to you, then you have to have good arguments, not just, “Oh, our parents have always said this” — that’s not enough.’”
Now retired, the archbishop has turned his attention to writing and lecturing; this spring, he is a guest instructor at John Carroll University, a Jesuit institution in Cleveland, where he is teaching a course on the Quran to a small group of undergraduate and graduate students.
In his class he often highlights differences between Christianity and Islam, though in such a way as to encourage respect for distinctive Muslim approaches.
“In our ceremonies we read the scripture — the Gospel is read,” he said in a recent classroom session. “In Islamic prayer, it is not read, it is recited. The imam has to know the Quran. So it’s very good to become a ...,” and then Fitzgerald wrote the word hafiz on the blackboard, explaining that it means someone who has memorized the Quran from start to finish.
Read more about his class at NPR.
30 April 2015
Raghad, a refugee from Mosul, Iraq, feeds her 4-year-old son Rami at St. Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Church in Jordan. Meet Iraqi refugees and learn how CNEWA is trying to help them in “Finding Sanctuary in Jordan” in the Spring edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
30 April 2015
In this image from last summer, residents near Kramatorsk, Ukraine, carry empty buckets and bottles to have them filled with potable water. The World Bank this week reported that Ukraine’s economy is in ruins and faces years of recession. (photo: CNS/Valentina Svistunova, EPA)
Pope urges Catholics to spread culture of justice, peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday urged Italian Catholics to spread a culture of justice and peace, support families in difficulties and show solidarity with the world’s poorest and most needy. His words came during an audience with two Catholic associations, the Community of Christian Life in Italy and the Missionary League for Italian Students...
Ukraine’s economy “in ruins” (The Telegraph) Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia has left the country facing years of recession as the country struggles to break ties with Moscow and implement structural reforms, the World Bank has warned. The Washington-based organization cut its 2015 growth forecast to -7.5 percent, following a contraction of 6.8 percent in 2014. Last October, it forecast that the Ukrainian economy would shrink by 1 percent this year, while the International Monetary Fund has forecast a contraction of 5.5 percent this year...
Court sentences 71 to life imprisonment for destroying church in Egypt (Egypt Daily News) The Giza Criminal Court sentenced, on Wednesday, 71 people to life on charges of attacking and burning a Church in Kerdasa. The court also sentenced two minors to 10 years in prison. They are charged with burning the Kafr Hakim Church in the village of Kerdasa on 14 August 2013, in the post-Rabaa Al-Adaweya dispersal violence. They are also charged with joining an illegal group, possession of weapons, and attempted murder...
Toronto Ethiopians rally against ISIS brutality (Catholic Register) Close to 1,000 Ethiopian immigrants — a mix of Orthodox, Protestant and Muslim — gathered in the late afternoon and evening of 28 Apri in Dundas Square to mourn together the death of two Ethiopian migrant workers murdered 19 April in Libya by Islamic State militants. The Ethiopians also came to appeal to Canadians and the international community to do more to protect vulnerable Ethiopian migrants under attack in Yemen and South Africa and subject to grave risks as they try to reach Europe in rusted, leaky boats crossing the Mediterranean...
29 April 2015
Sister Najma and Sister Sara greet visitors to the Mother of Mercy Clinic, Zerqa, Jordan.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
The 29th of April marks the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th-century Dominican nun whose short life — she died when she was just 33 — was marked by determination, mysticism and unwavering faith. She was also known for her tireless works of charity:
The mystical communion that was at the heart of St. Catherine’s spirituality inspired her to reach out to the poor and suffering of Siena. When the Black Death swept through her city, she had no hesitation in caring for the victims. She worked as a nurse. She dug graves for those who died of the plague and then buried them properly herself. She accompanied prisoners who were condemned to death to the place of execution waiting with them and praying for them to the end.
In our own day, the courageous and sacrificial spirit of St. Catherine lives on in the order that bears her name, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, based in Iraq. Today, they are caring for the displaced, the frightened, the sick, the orphaned — their brothers and sisters who have fled ISIS.
As we have reported, these generous sisters are the face of Christ to so many who are suffering — and the sisters themselves, despite fleeing their convent in Qaraqosh last summer, are now reaching out to help others in Iraq.
They are also serving refugees who have sought sanctuary in Jordan, at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, where many of the patients are young mothers and newborns:
Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable.
“We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality.
“We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”
And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims... People come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.
“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.
“Our mission here is for everyone,” she adds. “If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include ‘religion’ in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here. Just the name and the age is what we need to know.”
St. Catherine must surely be proud.
To assist the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and other courageous sisters in their mission, visit this giving page. And — this day in particular — join them in prayers of praise and thanksgiving to St. Catherine, whose life and work has inspired so many good works in CNEWA’s world.