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Caring for the Smallest Among Us

by Michael J.L. La Civita

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For decades, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has been a champion in caring for needy children throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Working through its partners in the field — priests and sisters, bishops and caregivers of the Eastern Catholic churches — and strengthened by the generosity of its benefactors and friends, CNEWA has touched the lives of countless children suffering from abandonment, persecution, poverty and war.

Yet, the needs of children in the areas served by CNEWA are increasing. Political volatility and civil war rock the Middle East. Indigent poverty and massive social changes shake Northeast Africa and India. And in Armenia and Georgia, the lack of social service safety nets has devastated the most vulnerable of their citizens: children, the handicapped and the aged.

Regardless of the violence, the instability, the poverty and the sickness, the churches are in the thick of it all, doing what Pope Francis said is necessary “to encounter the living God ... to tenderly kiss Jesus’ wounds in our hungry, poor, sick and incarcerated brothers and sisters.

“To touch the living God,” he continued, “we do not need to attend a ‘refresher course,’ but to enter into the wounds of Jesus, and to do so, all we need to do is go out onto the street.”

The men and women who lead the child care initiatives of the Eastern Catholic churches have pressed CNEWA to help them respond to the growing needs of these children and of their families — needs CNEWA is compelled to address. And they have made some helpful suggestions about how CNEWA can do just that. Hence the changes to the association’s needy child program outlined by CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, in letters to benefactors.

“We are shifting our program from a one-to-one ‘adoption’ approach,” he wrote, “to one that will focus on all the needy children cared for by the various child care initiatives of the local Eastern Catholic churches. While your ongoing regular support for the child or children you have come to know will continue, your generous gifts will also assist more children cared for by the church.”

Msgr. Kozar added: “In some of the areas where we serve, local authorities now prohibit the transmission of photographs while others limit the personal information of children. As a Catholic agency committed to accountability, transparency and the protection of children, we must respect these new realities.”

In this summer edition, ONE includes three profiles of needy child initiatives conducted by CNEWA’s partners. Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School stands on a bluff in the sprawling Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and educates the poorest of the poor. Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal rushes emergency care to Syrian children displaced by the horrific civil war that has engulfed his nation. And near the tip of the Indian subcontinent, the Malankara Boys’ Home provides boys — some of whom once wandered the streets — with shelter, care and schooling.

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