21 August 2019
Flash floods in Kerala have wiped out houses, leaving many families homeless and in desperate need. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic Near East Welfare Association has received an urgent request for aid from a partner on the ground in flood-ravaged Kerala, India.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy (diocese) of Palghat reports that torrential rains have triggered landslides in the hilly areas of the Palakkad District, burying houses, people, livestock and patches of agricultural lands in mud several feet deep. CNEWA’s regional director in Kerala, M.L. Thomas, adds that flash floods have ravaged the lower regions of the district, destroying houses and agricultural lands located along its rivers and streams.
“Raging floodwaters have caused massive mudslides in the hilly areas,” he writes. “Farm lands have been wiped out and houses have disappeared. It is heartbreaking to watch.”
Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat has asked CNEWA for monies to help clean and restore dozens of homes for the poorest families affected by the flooding and landslides, as well as funds to assist in helping more than 117 subsistence farmers clear their devastated plots — most of which are fewer than 2 acres — and reclaim them for vegetable cultivation and the keeping of livestock, such as pigs and goats and chickens.
CNEWA is asking our generous donors to help our suffering brothers and sisters in southern India in their hour of need.
Many residents of Kerala depend on livestock and agriculture for their livelihood — and these have been wiped out by the flooding. (photo: CNEWA)
“Their livelihoods have been shattered,” Mr. Thomas writes, “and measures need to be taken to restore their lives as soon as possible.”
Click here to help people affected by floods in Kerala.
In the United States, urgent donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800-442-6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195.
In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.
Since the torrential rains began on 8 August, more than a quarter of a million people have been displaced and housed in temporary shelters, including in parish community centers. The death toll continues to climb — at least 200 by several accounts — as bodies are recovered from homes buried in mud.
The flood devastation has left many Kerala residents trying to salvage whatever they can of their homes. (video: CNEWA)
“While we are not an emergency relief organization,” says CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, “I urge our friends and benefactors to do what they can to help us as we accompany the churches of Kerala respond to these real human tragedies. “Helping the poorest of the poor — right now through the Eparchy of Palghat — is a beautiful expression of how we stand in solidarity with the Eastern Catholic churches.”
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the subcontinent of India, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and Eastern Europe. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to displaced families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.
CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States by the State of New York and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued.
21 August 2019
Tags: CNEWA Kerala
A statue of Our Lady of Consolation is surrounded by pilgrims during a candlelight procession and vigil Mass outside the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio on 14 August 2019. (photo: CNS/Katie Rutter)
With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double.
For nine days, climaxing on the evening of 14 August, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music.
“We feel that we’re like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people,” said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq.
His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey.
“We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn’t want to deny our faith,” Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, “and it’s sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
In recent decades, however, war and terrorism has caused hundreds of thousands of these Christians to flee their homeland.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce estimates that 160,000 Chaldeans now reside in the Detroit metropolitan area.
“My mother says, ‘Even if someone paid me a million dollars, I wouldn’t go back,’” said Martha Yousif, niece of Markos, whose parents fled Iraq in 1997.
“You can’t guarantee (you will) come back safe,” she related.
“Many things I faced -- bombing. In front of my clinic, even,” said Syrian Orthodox Christian Nawar Awbawyvalsheikh, a physician and native of Mosul, Iraq.
“Terrorists. They came to our building to kill us and American soldiers saved us,” she recalled.
These exiled Christians began traveling two hours from Detroit to the Carey shrine about two decades ago. Many were drawn by stories of miraculous healings, others by a devotion to Mary. All are reliving an Iraqi tradition of visiting shrines and holy sites for pious practices and celebration.
“We have a lot of feasts we call them ‘shera,’ (with) a lot of people camping, music, dancing, food, and we end it with Mass and procession,” said Friar Raad, who was born in Mosul.
“When I’m here, I feel like home,” he said.
The nine days of celebration in Carey are marked by a constant line for confessions, regular blessings by clergy and several Masses daily, often in Aramaic.
At dusk on 14 August, the pilgrims carried candles and processed with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation from the basilica to an open field, called Shrine Park. There Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo presided over an outdoor Mass for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption.
“It breathes a lot of new life into me and I think the friars that come here love to do this,” said the Rev. Father Thomas Merrill, a Conventual Franciscan, the shrine’s rector. He was joined by dozens of fellow Conventual Franciscans to help care for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.
“The people are so hungry for anything that is faith-based and so hungry to practice their Catholic faith and receive the sacraments,” Father Thomas said.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation was established in 1875 by a priest from Luxembourg and has welcomed regular waves of pilgrims, often immigrants.
The lower church contains three display cases full of crutches and mementos left by those healed or those who want to thank Our Lady of Consolation for a favor received.
“(The Chaldean people have) suffered a lot. They go through a lot of problems. God and the Virgin Mary saved them to come over here and live peacefully,” Markos told CNS.
“Anytime you’re in need of something, you ask for it, she always (provides), especially here,” said Rafa Kattoula, whose family has made a pilgrimage to the shrine for over 40 years.
Expressing gratitude for Mary’s intercession, Kattoula concluded: “We’ve asked and we come and we receive from her.”
Watch a video of the procession below.
Thousands of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics and other pilgrims converge on the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, for a vigil and procession to honor Mary.
(video: Katie Rutter/CNS/YouTube)
21 August 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians Chaldeans
Kerala continues to struggle to recover from the devastating monsoons that have afflicted the country. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
India’s monsoon season on track to become deadliest ever (The Express) India’s monsoon season runs from June to September and is dominated by stifling humidity and relentless rain. According to the Times of India, more than 1,000 people throughout India have been killed as a result of the weather since May. Last year, the death toll was 1,211, setting 2019 monsoon season on course to become one of the deadliest in India’s history…
Catholic pilgrims attacked on way to Marian shrine in India (UCANews.com) Indian police have arrested six suspected members of a hard-line Hindu group for attacking 40 Catholics taking part in a 280-mile pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in Velankanni town in Tamil Nadu state. The attackers were accused of blocking the pilgrims on a public road on 18 August, beating them up and verbally abusing them, said Santhalingam, an inspector at Natrampalli police station in Vellore district. A Marian statue the pilgrims were carrying in a decorated hand-pulled cart was destroyed in the attack, he told ucanews.com on 21 August...
What ‘victory’ looks like: a journey through shattered Syria (The New York Times) Picking our way around the ruins of the Damascus suburb of Douma, it took a little while to realize what was missing. There were women carrying groceries, old men droning by on motorbikes and skinny children heaving jugs of water home. But there were few young men…
Religious sisters are painting icons, the light of Christ, in Ukraine (National Catholic Reporter) With God’s help and the support of many people, it was possible to build the monastery church by 2014, where there was a wonderful opportunity for me to test the theory of the need to “paint with the heart.” We sisters decided to use our own talents and skills to paint the church, and I was given the responsibility of directing the painting of icons in our monastery church. I will not say that the responsibility was easy — but it was a ministry to which God called me…
In a first, women to drive Kerala government vehicles (Gulf News) Gone are the days when the post of a driver in Kerala state government departments and state owned public sector undertakings could be filled only by a male. The state cabinet, on Wednesday, decided to open this post for women also…
Egypt will reopen historic Cairo palace after $6 million restoration (CNN) Egypt is just months away from reopening the Baron Empain Palace after a $6m restoration project on the historic Cairo building. The Baron Empain Palace, also known as “Le Palais Hindou” or the Hindu palace, was built by Belgian millionaire Baron Edward Empain in 1911, in the Heliopolis district of the Egyptian capital...
20 August 2019
Tags: India Egypt Ukraine Ukrainian Catholic Church
We got to meet some of the eager students at Meki Catholic School in Ethiopia, who are fortunate to receive a quality education, thanks to the generosity of CNEWA’s donors.
(photo: Haimdat Sawh/CNEWA)
A highlight of our visit to Ethiopia was the Meki Catholic School.
Meki Catholic School is located in the east-central region of Ethiopia, about 92 miles south of Addis Ababa. My CNEWA colleagues Argaw Fantu, Christopher Kennedy and I met with Abba Yisehak Gebrekirstosin, a 2007 alumnus of Meki High School who now serves as the school director. Argaw commented that the “fruit of the land (Abba Yisehak) is now serving others.” What a testament to the quality of education of the Meki Catholic School! After completing his minor seminary at the Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Meki, Abba Yisehak was a seminarian at Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Addis Ababa. However, as he walked us through the school grounds, he declared that being director of the Meki Catholic School was his greatest honor and challenge thus far.
Serving students from kindergarten through high school, the school had recently moved to new grounds to accommodate a growing student body of 2,628 students. Most of the students were in kindergarten through eighth grade, and less than half of them seemed able to make it to high school. However, the students in grades 10 to 12 work hard on completing their studies and taking the National Exam. Almost 200 students were preparing to go to university, a challenging feat from those often coming from families with limited resources and funds. Even about a dozen students were attending the minor seminary, which Abba Yisehak fondly recounted was his own pathway more than a decade ago.
In order to attend Meki Catholic School, students take an entrance exam during the summer, and those who qualify are accepted — which was about 10 percent of students taking the exam for entry into all grade levels. However, as is common in Ethiopia, Meki Catholic School is not free, a challenge for many students who excel academically. Recent long-standing droughts have devastated crop yields in Meki, a region that relies heavily on agriculture. Through community organizers and outreach, Meki Catholic School tries to reach these students to provide them with assistance for education and nutrition. In particular, CNEWA directly assists 108 of these students, though many more could use help in this impoverished region. Ultimately, Meki relies on donor support to offer access to education to the children of low-income families — children who have the potential to succeed and bring development to their region and help break it out of the cycle of poverty and missed opportunities.
Haimdat Sawh and Christopher Kennedy meet with Abba Yisehak Gebrekirstos, director of Meki Catholic School, Ethiopia. (photo: Haimdat Sawh/CNEWA)
Abba Yisehak thanked the team from CNEWA for our generous support. I felt much gratitude for the kindness and hospitality of our host. Indeed, throughout the entire trip, I experienced the incredible friendliness of the Ethiopian people and their beautiful and sincere expressions of faith. I saw throughout my journey not only the poverty and suffering, but also the joy and hope of these strong-willed people.
How can I sum up my thoughts at the end of all this? I knew that coming here, I would face many surprises, but I have had my horizons stretched far more than expected.
God never calls us to stay in our comfort zone!
20 August 2019
An Indian family tries to salvage what is left of their home, as floodwaters sweep through Kerala. The country is continuing to be battered by heavy rains, causing severe flooding and landslides.(photo: CNEWA)
20 August 2019
Tags: India Kerala
In this image from 2018, a damaged church in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, is marked as unsafe because of the danger of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices. This portion of the city was heavily damaged in 2016 and 2017 when Iraqi forces combated ISIS fighters. Reports indicate ISIS is gathering new strength in Iraq and Syria. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
ISIS is regaining strength in Iraq, Syria (The New York Times) Five months after American-backed forces ousted the Islamic State from its last shard of territory in Syria, the terrorist group is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at an allied-run tent camp, American and Iraqi military and intelligence officers said. Though President Trump hailed a total defeat of ISIS this year, defense officials in the region see things differently, acknowledging that what remains of the terrorist group is here to stay…
India expels nun who worked with the poor (UCANews.com) The Indian government has refused to renew the visa of an elderly Spanish nun who had worked for the country’s poor for five decades. Sister Enedina, 86, from the Daughters of Charity congregation, had her visa renewal refused on 11 August and was then told she had 10 days to leave the country. The nun, who trained as a medical doctor, had helped poor people in the country’s east since the mid-1960s. She flew out from New Delhi on 20 August on a flight to Spain…
Kerala struggling to recover from floods (Al Jazeera) More heavy rain is expected in many parts of India, bringing a threat of floods. Monsoon rains have been falling for weeks. More than 270 people have been killed and approximately half of the victims were in the southern state of Kerala…
Former Greek Orthodox patriarch wants to go home (Haaretz) In a spacious private room at Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem, an 80-year-old man lies tethered to an oxygen tank, handicapped and very ill. For a short time, he was one of the most important and powerful people in Jerusalem, but he will be remembered as the tragic protagonist of a scandal that has yet to die down, nearly a decade and a half after it first came to light. The man is Irenaeus I, the 140th Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was ousted from his position 14 years ago when he reportedly sold strategic church properties to the Ateret Cohanim settler organization…
19 August 2019
Tags: Syria India Iraq ISIS
Driving to Debre Berhan offered a glimpse at daily life in parts of Ethiopia.
(photo: Haimdat Sawh)
Every day, the boy comes through the rusty iron gates into the courtyard of the school. Wearing thick black glasses and carrying a long white stick, he silently shuffles, leaving small clouds of dust with his measured steps. He carefully feels his way until he takes his place in line behind the other students dressed in blue uniforms. They all wait for their turn to enter the large corrugated metal structure where religious sisters dressed in their habits are doling out their daily meal. The sisters hand out fragrant stews heated in giant pots, along with bread rolls — all offered with a gracious smile. For many students, such as this blind orphan, this may be the only meal they have that day, made possible by the Divine Sisters School Feeding Service.
I am still in awe that I got to meet and talk to people such as the students at the Debre Berhan School, people impacted by the work of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). I’ve been working as a development officer for CNEWA for several months; this was my first programmatic mission trip. When I remember all that needed to get done to prepare for this trip -- rounds of vaccinations, updating my passport, packing lists, writing letters and thank you cards, learning about Ethiopia -- I am overwhelmed. But I am so happy that God does not require us to be able; he just wants us to be available and faithful. Little did I grasp just how much I would grow.
My journey to Ethiopia started on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, but my heart was clear and bright with my mission to share the love that had changed my life and a desire to perform every action with joy. With this clarity, I joined my colleague Christopher Kennedy at Newark Liberty International Airport to begin our journey to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Upon arriving in Addis Ababa, we were warmly greeted by Argaw Fantu, regional director for CNEWA in Ethiopia. He became our tireless guide, mentor, driver and unwavering friend. On this extraordinary and transformative trip, we learned to “flex” our taste buds (reacquainting myself with injera, the traditional bread of Ethiopia, and the inspiring and frequent coffee ceremonies) and “flex” our patience, while being stuck in mind-numbing, seemingly no-rules traffic. What I was unprepared for was how much my heart would have to “flex” during one intense week!
We greeted students at a lunch program. We listened to them singing and jamming on the keyboard, watched them playing table tennis. We participated in five coffee ceremonies, spent more than 30 hours in a Land Cruiser, and endured one tire blowout traveling to and from our destinations. I gazed out the window of our vehicle while traveling back to the hotel, taking in the realities and mulling over the different places we visited and every child, brother, and sister we met. I saw countless homeless wandering the streets during the ride back; I watched small shanty towns slip by amid miles and miles of stunningly beautiful mountainous landscapes and villages. Children fill the streets, trying to earn some money. I noticed that shoe shining is popular with kids. I saw kids anywhere from 5 to 19 doing what they can to make money. Also, you see many kids playing soccer, sometimes right in the middle of the highway — no joke! — amid flocks of goats and sheep bleating as they are herded to the marketplace.
As the long hours continued in the traffic, I was stirred by the harsh reality of souls fighting to survive. It is easy to take what we have for granted, to get caught up in the constant demands of our work, our family, our many activities, and lose sight of our ideals. As I sat down to reflect, my eyes brimmed with tears.
I pulled out my journal and began to write.
Coming up: One of the most inspiring stops on our trip was to the Meki Catholic School in rural east-central Ethiopia.
Transportation in Ethiopia may involve a vehicle with a little horse power.
(photo: Haimdat Sawh/CNEWA)
19 August 2019
Father Al Khoury celebrates the liturgy at Our Lady of Paradise Cathedral in São Paulo, Brazil — home to the largest Melkite Greek Catholic community in the world. Read about this Paradise in Brazil in the July 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Izan Petterle)
19 August 2019
Tags: Melkite Greek Catholic Church Melkite
Kurdish fighters in Qamishli, Syria, take part in a military parade in March. Groups representing Syriac Christians in northeast Syria are appealing for prayer, fearful that Turkey plans to make good on its numerous threats to invade the region with its military forces. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
Christians in northeast Syria appeal for prayer for safety (CNS) Groups representing Christians in northeast Syria are appealing for prayer, fearful that Turkey plans to make good its numerous threats to invade the region with its military forces…
Residents rebuild, again, after flooding in Kerala (UCANews.com) Unusually heavy rain in the first 14 days of August caused massive landslips and flash floods, particularly in the hilly areas of the state, killing 100 people and destroyed 1,115 houses, the state government said. ”The destruction is less than last year,” said the Rev. George Vettikattil, who heads the relief operations of Kerala’s Catholic dioceses that help people like Velayudhan…
Russian Orthodox Church takes mission to drug addicts (AsiaNews.it) On 20 August, the first free private rehabilitation center for drug addicts will be inaugurated in Moscow, organized by the Orthodox Church at the Church of the Most Holy Life-giving Trinity in Kozhevniki, a central district near the “Paveletskaja” train station. The news was released by the Moscow Patriarchate Synodal Department for Charity…
In Jerusalem, a glimpse into life in a segregated city (Al Jazeera) Jerusalem, which hosts sites holy to all three monotheistic faiths, is at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. While Palestinians aspire to make it the capital of their future state, Israel says it wants total sovereignty over the city. The film A Rock and A Hard Place was born out of that historical development back in 2017. I wanted to explore why so many people worldwide are so attached to the city of Jerusalem…
16 August 2019
Tags: Syria Jerusalem Kerala Russian Orthodox Church
CNEWA has long partnered with Caritas Georgia to help those in need in Georgia. In this image, Caritas Georgia provides jars of soup for neighbors to bring to bedridden friends. Learn more about how a Human Touch Offers Pensioners Respite in the July-August 2003 edition of our magazine. (photo: Dima Chikvaidze)
Tags: Georgia Caring for the Elderly Caritas