ONE Magazine March 2017

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March 2017

God • World • Human Family • Church

Feeding Faith in Ethiopia

New Life in Ukraine Breaking the Cycle in India Kindling Hope in Gaza Complexities of Cairo



A Letter From Ethiopia by Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin



Breaking the Cycle Saving Kerala’s children from alcoholism and abuse text and photographs by Don Duncan


The Displaced Ukrainians struggle to start over text by Mark Raczkiewycz


‘God Wants Me Here’ tWeb Exclusive Christians keep hope alive in Iraq text and photographs by Paul Jeffrey


Anxiety in Cairo Christians confront challenges and change text by Magdy Samaan with photographs by David Degner


Where Hope Is Kindled A clinic helps Gaza’s most vulnerable text by Hazem Balousha


4 42

Connections to CNEWA’s world Focus on the world of CNEWA

t Gazan women bring their children to a Near East Council of Churches clinic in the neighborhood of Shajaia.



Volume 43 NUMBER 1



We see them as human beings, not statistics You offer them the gift called hope 6 Front: A young parishioner arrives at the Holy Savior Catholic Cathedral in Adigrat. Back: A girl attends a wedding ceremony in a rural village in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray. Photo Credits Front cover, pages 3 (lower right), 18-19, 20-21, 22-23, 23 (upper), Petterik Wiggers; pages 2, 39-41, Wissam Nassar; page 3 (top), CNS photo/ Paul Haring; pages 3 (upper left), 30-35, David Degner; pages 3 (upper right), 14-17, Ivan Chernichkin; pages 3 (lower left), 6-7, 9-11, Don Duncan; pages 4, 42-45, John E. Kozar/CNEWA; page 5, Nazik Armenakyan; page 12, Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images; pages 22, 23 (lower), CNEWA; pages 24-29, Paul Jeffrey; pages 37-38, Tamara Abdul Hadi. Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar Editorial Staff Paul Grillo Deacon Greg Kandra Michael J.L. La Civita Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. J.D. Conor Mauro Timothy McCarthy

18 ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016 CNEWA Founded by the Holy Father, CNEWA shares the love of Christ with the churches and peoples of the East. CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches to identify needs and implement reasonable solutions. CNEWA connects you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope. Officers Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Chair and Treasurer Msgr. John E. Kozar, Secretary Editorial Office 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195 1-212-826-1480 ©2017 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

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to CNEWA’s world

Beginning the Next 90 Years

This spring brings to a close the commemoration of CNEWA’s 90th anniversary. The past year has been a welcome opportunity for us to reflect on our roots — and the many branches of our family tree that have grown to touch so many corners of the world and impact so many lives. Throughout this year, we have turned a spotlight on some of those who have contributed so much to our mission. Our blog, ONE-TO-ONE, has featured a series titled “90 Years, 90 Heroes,” saluting some of the figures — many of them largely unknown — who have helped to bring the love of Christ to those in need. The Autumn 2016 edition of ONE magazine focused on “Answering the Call of the East,” with stories and

Building a School in Ukraine CNEWA is continuing its support of the resurgent Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, helping to provide education for needy children through the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará. These religious sisters, originally from Argentina, have developed houses for orphans, single mothers and elderly women. Responding to an urgent need to build a school in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, near Ivano-Frankivsk, CNEWA is providing $50,000 for its construction.



profiles about the Eastern churches that CNEWA is privileged to serve. Indeed, in this edition of this magazine, on Page 36, our president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, recalls in a personal way CNEWA’s deep connection and commitment to the Eastern churches. “In my pastoral visits to many areas of the world,” he writes, “I am humbled by the richness of these Eastern churches — in their liturgical celebrations, their cultures, their ancient traditions, their strong desire to persevere in the faith and their abiding sense of hope.” It is that very faith and hope we continue to cherish as we begin the next 90 years.

Empowering Gaza CNEWA has provided a grant to Al Ahli Hospital, the only Christianrun hospital operating in the Gaza Strip, to procure and install solar panels for its operating rooms. Both in times of war or peace, power outages have become commonplace in Gaza, among the most densely populated of cities in the world. Residents cope with fewer than eight hours of electricity a day. Once operational, the solar panels will provide much-needed power regularly.

In addition to supporting the hospital, CNEWA is partnering with the Y.M.C.A. and the Orthodox Cultural Center to provide another kind of power: work opportunities for unemployed Christian men and women so they can improve skills and provide incomes to support their families. CNEWA and Congress In late February, CNEWA was pleased to host a booth at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress — billed as the largest

OUR WEBSITE OUR BLOG annual gathering of Catholics in North America. The congress, held in Anaheim, attracted some 40,000 people, some from as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia. This year’s congress featured information, workshops, talks and liturgies representing a variety of cultures and languages. CNEWA development associate Debora Stonitsch, multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra, and external affairs officer Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., were able to meet a lot of CNEWA’s friends from around the globe and introduce new friends to its mission. If you would like CNEWA to visit your event or parish, please call toll free at 1-800-442-6392 (Ext. 504) or email Uplifting the Poor in Armenia Roughly a third of those living in Armenia — a former Soviet republic sandwiched between Georgia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus Mountains — live at or below the poverty line. This year, encouraged by Archbishop Rafael Minassian, the ordinary for Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe, CNEWA has stepped up its commitment for the works of the churches there, which support the poor in Armenia at every stage of life. More than 300 disadvantaged children and their families — many of whom are affected by severe unemployment — receive support from the Little Prince Day Care Center in Artashat, a program of Caritas Armenia located in western Armenia near Turkey. Also in Artashat, CNEWA is helping Caritas to provide 60 elderly pensioners with medical, social and nursery care. In the villages scattered in the northwest near Gyumri — many of

them devastated by the December 1988 earthquake — CNEWA is working with Caritas to help provide food for 150 vulnerable families. Finally, the archbishop commended a social program of the Armenian Apostolic Church intended to address

the many social and economic issues dividing up disadvantaged families in the region of Ashtarak. The “Santa Mariane Project,” he writes, “is the first initiative that raises great interest and enthusiasm among the residents of the community.”

Only on the Web


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There is more to discover about CNEWA’s world online: • Photojournalist Paul Jeffrey chronicles a recent visit to northern Iraq and the latest efforts to help Christians displaced by ISIS, at • Discover how a generous family made Christmas brighter for children in Ethiopia and view an exclusive video of their celebration at • View highlights of Msgr. Kozar’s recent pastoral visit to India at • Meet the 90 remarkable men and women who have been a part of CNEWA in our “90 Years, 90 Heroes” series at




Breaking the Cycle Saving Kerala’s children from alcoholism and abuse TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY DON DUNCAN



Children in Need


he streets of the town of Marayoor, in the east of the Indian state of Kerala, are festooned with bright silver bunting to mark the feast of St. Sebastian. When a soft breeze rushes through them, the streets glitter with the reflected light of myriad small, mirror-like flags. But on the street below the sparkling bunting, things are not so bright. Day laborer John, 28, who dropped out of school at an early age, faces another day with no work and nothing to do. “I quit school when I was 15 to take care of my family,” says John, as his two friends, Selvam and Anad, look on. They also dropped out of school young and likewise struggle to find work. John’s father, in the grip of alcoholism, would drink all his income, leaving John, his mother and his siblings next to destitute. So John, the eldest, took on the role of breadwinner. He left school to take work in the fields. “I find things very hard now because of having left school early,” he says. “I could have studied longer and I would have a much better life now.” Towns and villages all across Kerala feature displays of shimmering bunting for about ten days each January. But listless boys such as John, Selvam and Anad, however, remain a feature across Kerala every day. Alcoholism strongly afflicts Kerala, reputed to be the heaviest drinking of India’s 29 states.

A 2007 report by the Alcohol and Drug Information Center (ADIC)-India, estimated Kerala’s consumption at more than two gallons of pure alcohol per person per year. Other studies suggest rising consumption rates since then — part of a broader trend spanning several decades. In the last ten years, Kerala’s government has made a number of attempts to combat alcoholism — including, in 2014, announcing phased prohibitionary measures, restricting alcohol sales in hotels and limiting liquor license renewals, resulting in the closure of hundreds of bars and liquor distributors. The effects have been inconclusive, and recent election results have likely signaled a shift away from such heavy-handed measures. Primary knock-on effects of alcoholism — domestic violence, marital crisis and the premature deaths of men — are clearly detrimental to children. But secondary consequences, such as the squandering of family income and the perpetuation of negative behaviors, also disrupt the lives of Keralite youth and obstruct them from reaching their full potential. With no easy answers in sight, it has fallen to the church and its institutions to seek solutions for a problem that seems only to be growing worse.

says P.G. Gopalkrishnan Nair, chairman of the Child Welfare Committee (C.W.C.) office for Kerala’s Idukki district. The C.W.C. is a state-run office that intervenes and ensures the protection of children at risk. Gopalkrishnan Nair’s office has a caseload of about 600 per year, a figure on the rise, he says. Sitting at his desk in the small C.W.C. office located in the iconic Civil Station government building in Thodupuzha, the largest town in Idukki district, Mr. Gopalkrishnan Nair discusses cases and procedures with another member of the committee, Sister Melvy of the Sisters of the Destitute. Above them, an old ceiling fan spins with a creak and a wobble. Now and again, administrative clerks silently appear and disappear with letters to sign and documents to review. While alcohol abuse may be the largest factor endangering the welfare of children in Kerala, it is not their only source of strife. Children of migrant workers are particularly vulnerable. Their parents come from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu to the east, or from poorer northern Indian states, to work as pickers on the expansive tea and coffee growing estates of Kerala. Until about five years ago, this migrant population was typically made up of men arriving solo. But in recent years, they have


Students attend classes taught by the Daughters of Mary at St. Joseph’s Home for Children.

lcohol is at the root of at least 50 percent of all the cases we get before us,”



begun to bring their wives and families to work alongside them. The children of these migrant families live in substandard housing on the estates, Mr. Gopalkrishnan Nair says, and they are being either exposed to exploitative child labor practices or left unsupervised all day. The C.W.C. official says a culture shift is also responsible for much of their caseload — for years, Kerala has been moving away from a traditional, patriarchal, collective mode of living toward a society where the nuclear family, women’s careers and latchkey children are more and more prominent. Yet the environmental risks associated with alcoholism command special attention. Children are often witness or subject to addiction, domestic abuse, depleted resources and family separation. Under the financial and moral strain of addiction, fathers often seek ways to lighten their family burden, resulting in underage marriage or the surrender of children to government social services. In many cases, children replicate the behaviors they are exposed to when they themselves become adults, leading to self-perpetuating cycles of addiction and abuse. “It’s a spiritual crisis we have here,” says Sister Melvy between administrative tasks with Mr. Gopalkrishnan Nair at the C.W.C. “It’s all speed, busy schedules, separations, nuclear families earning money but with no life satisfaction. Mobiles, emails and networks are all omnipresent, but there is no real communication at the end of the day. A spiritual vacuum is emerging and it should be filled by some more important power; some say Jesus Christ, some say Allah, some say Krishna.”


eyond the C.W.C. lies a constellation of organizations positioned to catch Kerala’s



children if they fall. Services include a dedicated 24/7 helpline, public dormitories, children’s homes and self-empowerment groups. One of the easiest ways for a child — or an adult concerned for a child — to get help is to call the national toll-free number: 1098. This directs the caller to ChildLine, a state-funded national service that is implemented locally through NGO partners. “The main issue we get calls about is sexual abuse,” says Jose Scaria, the ChildLine district coordinator for Idukki, where the service has four offices that collectively field 1,200 calls a month. “The second most common problem people call with is physical abuse and then child marriage, child begging and missing children.” In the ChildLine office in Thodupuzha, Mr. Scaria and four coworkers gather at a table to discuss strategy and response. Call volume grows at a rate of 20 to 25 percent a year — not necessarily reflecting a growth of problems on the ground, he says, as much as an increasing willingness of women and children to speak up. In terms of residential care, the government runs 25 dormitories that offer children and youth from remote or abusive home environments space to live and complete school. The lion’s share of residential care consists of a network of 1,107 residential schools for children run by NGOs and church groups, a number that has been growing steadily over the past four decades, partly due to education initiatives led by the Catholic Church. “It is sad for us sisters to see the moment of separation when the children come here to study,” says Sister Mary Abraham, a Daughter of Mary who administers St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Pallanad, about 30 minutes from Marayoor.

It houses 125 girls and boys ages 6 to 9. “However, within a few weeks, we see the children settle and really excel in their newfound stability.” “My parents sent me here because my village has no school — only a nursery,” says 9-year-old Satheesh Panbiraj, who has attended St. Joseph’s for three years. Satheesh, born in the village of Tamalakuri, is one of the many children at St. Joseph’s belonging to Adivasi (or tribal) communities that enjoy special protection from the government of India. People from 35 recognized tribes make up 5 percent of the population of Kerala. They live on reservations designed to protect their unique cultures from destruction through exposure to the surrounding dominant culture. Adivasi tend to emphasize manual labor and subsistence, leading to poor school attendance rates. “Every morning before I start class, I go to each house in the village that has a child in school and coax that child to come to school with me,” says Marie Kutty Magalasseril, 38, the primary school teacher in the remote village of Vallakkallu, some 15 miles away from Marayoor by cross-country trek. “If I don’t do that, many of these children just won’t show up in class.” Ms. Magalasseril uses other strategies to increase attendance, including offering sweets as a reward at the end of class and promising to play games during class time. In addition to cultural apathy toward formal education, schools in z Sister Femily leads a self-help group for adults. u Young women complete homework in a study group.

“A spiritual vacuum is emerging and it should be filled by some more important power.”



The CNEWA Connection t Sister Femily and Sister Melvy visit the community in Marayoor.

tribal villages face severe resource limitations. Ms. Magalasseril is the only teacher in the school, for example, and the children have neither desks nor seats; class takes place with everyone seated on the floor. The school in the village provides education only up to age 9 and the nearest school available to older students lies 20 miles away. To access it, students are obliged to move, either to government-run residences or to a children’s home such as St. Joseph’s.

T Alcoholism has been one of the most serious problems in Kerala for generations. For a long time, the Indian state has ranked among the highest in per capita consumption of alcohol in the country. A few years ago, the government stepped in, enforcing a strict policy to refuse liquor licenses. This initiative has since been loosened, and its effects have not been well studied. Still, efforts to break the cycle of addiction continue. The church has been at the forefront of efforts to help those battling this disease. Pastors often refer people to support groups or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. CNEWA, meanwhile, has long been involved in supporting schools and homes that help the children coping with the damage and dysfunction of their parents’ addictions. CNEWA supports 56 child care institutions in Kerala and more than 100 outside Kerala that help to give these children a sense of stability, security and hope. To assist those working to break the cycle of addiction and abuse in India, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).



he alcohol problems facing Kerala — including the attendant domestic issues — are even more acute among tribal people, for whom the production and consumption of alcohol has been a longstanding part of their cultural tradition. Limited access compounds the challenge for those wishing to help Adivasi children. Many communities are geographically isolated and all are insular to varying degrees, suspicious of outsider contact. For Sister Femily Jose of the Sisters of the Destitute in Marayoor, it took three years to establish contact and trust with the tribal people in some 18 villages before she could create self-help groups there. “I gathered women in ten-day seminars where they learn to do things that can help them improve their lives,” says Sister Femily. “They learn how to make ornaments, chains, bracelets, candles, soap and how to make clothes.” Through her work, Sister Femily has found that a potent way to help children is to help their mothers. Empowering women leads to better protection of their children and directly increases the chances that those children will lead better lives.

At a self-help group meeting at the Cheruvadu village’s community hall, about a 15-minute drive from Marayoor, Sister Femily discusses microcredit with a group of 20 or so women. The majority of men in the community have drinking problems, Sister Femily says, and so women have started to do what they can to improve their family’s lot. After completing a three-month tailoring course with Sister Femily, Balamani Thankapan, 40, borrowed 10,000 rupees (about $150) on microcredit from the self-help group to buy a manual sewing machine. “I buy material and make clothes for me and my boy, Jayatheesh, who is 13,” she says. Soon, she began making clothes for others and before long Mrs. Thankapan was doing a brisk trade in shirts, earning $1.50 in profit on each shirt sold. Her earnings proved sufficient to underwrite a new, comparably sized loan to open a shop. This has provided Mrs. Thankapan with crucial economic independence; her husband, an alcoholic, routinely drank away the family’s income, leaving his wife and son with little on which to survive and subjecting them to physical abuse in times of stress. Mrs. Thankapan now earns 1,000 rupees ($15) a month thanks to profit from her store, shirt business and sewing classes she gives. With that money, she is able to feed her son properly and send him to school. Sister Femily has implemented the same self-help model in other places and in other contexts. In Marayoor, next to her convent, groups of schoolgirls study nightly around the shared light of a solar lamp. At these self-help study groups, initiated by Sister Femily, the girls aid each other with homework and encourage each other to study — an expression of

Protect at-risk kids in India so they can dream about a brighter day Please help today | 1-800-442-6392

academic support often absent at home. Such interventions targeting the state’s at-risk children have a goal beyond immediate protection and assistance; in the longer term, they aim to break the cycles of addiction and abuse that have plagued the state for decades. Underpinning this work is a belief in the “snowball effect” — that each child educated represents a future parent who believes in education; that each child spared the experience of parental alcoholism and domestic abuse will not grow up to abuse alcohol or women; that each empowered mother will lead to an empowered daughter; and that through this process of gradual, incremental improvement, Kerala will slowly leave behind those societal dysfunctions of which children are the ultimate victims. Mrs. Thankapan is one of those empowered mothers — and she sees her young son finally facing a future far better than she could have once imagined.

“My son is now studying at St. Mary’s School, run by the sisters,” she says with a broad smile. “After he finishes there, I want him to do a three-year degree in university, and then he could get a job as a policeman.” A regular contributor to ONE, Don Duncan has covered the Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The New York Times and Agence France Presse. DON DUNCAN HAS MORE ABOUT HIS VISIT TO INDIA ON OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:


u web/childcarevideo



Care for Marginalized

The Displaced Ukrainians struggle to start over by Mark Raczkiewycz


ataliya Menshykova never imagined fleeing her home would help fulfill a dream: running her own theater. Once an actress and theater director in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, she re-entered the theater in Lviv six months after arriving there in April 2014, intent on doing what she knows best. Eventually, she collaborated with a war veteran to establish a theater troupe consisting of other internally displaced Ukrainians. “Theater is a form of therapy, I want to help others. It’s better than giving to yourself.”



Theater, she says, is about people. “People need the theater. There’s a war in the country, yet the children grow older. They need … some kind of example. They need to understand there are people in the country they could take after.” Ms. Menshykova is one of the 10,000 people who have migrated to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine from Crimea and the villages and cities in Ukraine’s two easternmost regions, where a nearly three-year war has raged with Russian-backed separatists. Overall, about 1.7 million people have been

displaced to other parts of Ukraine — the largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II. In Lviv, most of the internally displaced persons, or I.D.P.s, have arrived with few belongings. Some are now adjusting to the fact they might not be able to move back to their homes for another five years, if ever. “Frustration is very high. There’s no clear end in sight. That’s what I hear over and over again,” says Barbara Manzi, head of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kiev.

A woman treks between checkpoints in eastern Ukraine, carrying her belongings on a sled.

Displaced people, she says, need help to “move on with their lives.” Moving on, however, is fraught with challenges. Some of the displaced need counseling as they or family members suffer from posttraumatic stress disorders. Many face unemployment or underemployment, and require legal assistance to restore identity and financial documents. Fitting in also is a struggle. “They speak Russian,” says Maksym Bondarenko of Caritas Ukraine, the charity of the Catholic churches in Ukraine headquartered

in Lviv. This alarms the local people, he continues, as it reminds them of the Soviet Union’s annexation of the region from Poland in the wake of World War II. “The I.D.P.s are thus associated with being proRussians.” A mother of two sons, Ms. Menshykova, 42, can attest to feeling as an outcast at times. “An elderly lady asked me why I came to Lviv,” she recounts, suggesting she should have remained in Crimea because “the Russians pay higher wages and eventually pensions.” Indeed, the Ukrainian government at times has made life more difficult for refugees — such as in February 2016, when it suspended social payments to some 600,000 displaced people, many of them pensioners and usually the primary breadwinner of their families. Ms. Menshykova’s theater, called Domus (Latin for “home”) is partly aimed at making people feel welcome. “We have plays for adults and children,” she says. “I want everyone to feel at home here.” In many ways, her story is that of so many displaced Ukrainians who are still struggling to fit in far from home. Yet, they are finding both help and hope through church institutions doing exactly what Nataliya Menshykova tries to do with her theater: help people feel at home.


or Nataliya Menshykova, the 682-mile journey to Lviv began in April 2014, a month after Russia annexed Crimea. “I love freedom,” she says, explaining why she fled. “I didn’t need to be ‘saved’ by someone,” she adds, referring to a narrative used to justify Russian

annexation. “My children are Ukrainian and so am I.” She packed two suitcases and a computer and took her two sons, now 23 and 14, to the only institution she trusted: the hospital where her younger son had been treated for a chronic heart disease. Two weeks after she arrived, Caritas gave her “immediate relief,” she says, paying her rent and supplying her family with food. Caritas also raised over $1,000 to hire a French surgeon to fly in and conduct a complicated, life-saving heart procedure for her son. Ms. Menshykova had met Maksym Bondarenko of Caritas at a roundtable discussion for Crimean refugees together with local social policy officials. Through a variety of programs, with mostly Western funding — through partners such as CNEWA — Caritas has provided assistance to nearly 300,000 people since April 2014, when the armed uprising in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine began. Last year, over $16 million was raised for outreach programs, which include acceptance and rehabilitation efforts. Displaced people who chose to relocate to Lviv and other western regions tend to have more “proUkrainian or pro-European views,” says Mr. Bondarenko of those impacted by the war in the east. “Those who choose western Ukraine … weren’t afraid to come here,” he says, alluding to the stereotypes of the region as home to “rabid nationalists.” Ms. Menshykova acknowledges that adjusting to life in Lviv was not easy. For six months she washed office floors. The average Ukrainian only earns about $200 a month, partly the result of the country’s economy shrinking by more than 15 percent since 2013. In that same period, Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, has lost more than




p “ People now are realizing their displacement isn’t temporary.” — Oksana Ivankova-Stetsyuk

two-thirds of its value relative to the U.S. dollar, and domestic prices have doubled. Churches have tried to help. Greek Catholic churches have for more than a year ended their liturgies with prayers for people who are suffering because of the war — especially the displaced — as a way to raise awareness of their plight. Caritas hopes to harness the influence of churches to further promote human welfare, especially in western Ukraine. The Rev. Serhiy Kulbaka, a Greek Catholic priest, reaches out to war veterans and displaced families suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. The jovial Father Kulbaka, 45, lives in a monastery in Lviv while serving a parish from a wooden church on the north end of the city. But his journey to this point has



“ People are fatigued, including priests.” — The Rev. Andriy Nahirnyak

been long and arduous — a journey of abduction, captivity and suffering that nearly cost him his life. He was the first priest to be taken captive in the Donbas war. A proRussian goup abducted him on 4 July 2014, when he was on his way to his small Greek Catholic parish in Donetsk. He feared for the safety of his parishioners left behind, and for his own life. A diabetic, he spent 12 days in solitary confinement, often blindfolded. “They asked me what would happen if I stop taking my medicine,” he recalls. “I said I would die, so they confiscated my drugs. They started only feeding me white bread, which causes blood sugar spikes.” Father Kulbaka says he endured mock executions for three consecutive days during the ordeal. At one point, a gun was fired

next to his ear while he was praying the Lord’s Prayer. He could feel the heat from the smoking barrel. He fainted. “Their goal was to humiliate, break and frighten me,” he explains. His captors finally released him on 16 July 2014. He says he was consumed by two emotions: hate and fear. “Had I been given an automatic rifle and my captors stood before me,” he says soberly, “I would’ve shot them all.” Taken to a Kiev hospital to recuperate, he was in a diabetic coma with a dangerously high blood sugar level. For three days neither his blood pressure nor sugar level would normalize. He then meditated upon his priesthood. At first he couldn’t find the strength to even pray, let alone “love or bless” someone. He


p “ What lies ahead, I don’t know. … This uncertainty is terrifying.” — The Rev. Serhiy Kulbaka

realized his emotions were eating away at him. “It was a different form of imprisonment,” he says. “So I forced myself to pray.” “It finally worked on the third day. … It was a miracle in a sense. My health started to vastly improve. When I reached this feeling of deliverance, of being in total serenity, my blood pressure and sugar level normalized.” After recovering at a monastery for three weeks, he traveled to Lviv. Last year, he suffered a stroke, which further debilitated him. Now, having regained much of his strength, he serves a new flock, focusing on displaced families. “I now harbor no negative emotions toward my captors — I would embrace them if I saw them. I pity them because I understand that their state of being wasn’t normal. I absolutely forgave them.

“ Dreams come true, but you have to formulate them carefully.” — Natalia Menshykova

God freed me from all this so I want to give back,” Father Kulbaka explains. “What lies ahead, I don’t know. Where will I grow old if I don’t go back [to Donetsk]? Where’s my parish, where’s my place? This uncertainty is terrifying,” he says. The protracted conflict has posed particular challenges to priests. Caritas Ukraine’s vice president, the Rev. Andriy Nahirnyak, says his aim is to serve every person, regardless of their attitude or social standing, and to “ensure our help isn’t interpreted as proselytizing.” As the war has lengthened, Caritas has adjusted its services’ timeframes. “Our assistance is more systemic now, geared toward more longterm efforts,” says the priest, who also heads the Greek Catholic Church’s social services department. “This war will be with us for many years to come in the form

of posttraumatic stress disorder. People are fatigued, including priests. The official position of the church is to be open, help and meet face to face.” Although Caritas already has a rehabilitation program employing psychologists, it also wants to involve teachers — often the best positioned to work with displaced children and parents experiencing stress from displacement or witnessing violence. Some of the displaced, such as the Didos family from Yenakieve in the Donetsk region, have chosen not to register as internally displaced. After shelling destroyed their neighborhood, Yevheniya, 30, and Andriy Didos, 31, fled to Lviv in August 2014. As with Nataliya Menshykova, they knew the city because one of their three children had received treatment there for a cleft palate.



The CNEWA Connection t Father Kulbaka celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Lviv. u The Didos family returned to their home in Lviv after church.

CNEWA has been active in Ukraine since the unraveling of the Soviet Union, of which the country was once an important component. Much of our funding support has been directed to the formation of young men and women — to serve as priests, religious and catechists — through the Ukrainian Catholic University and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Many of these same men and women, who now serve as leaders in parishes, eparchies and communities, are mobilized today to help those fleeing the instability and violence in southeastern Ukraine. And CNEWA is there, providing the help centers established by Caritas Ukraine and the Major Archeparchy of Kiev. Thanks to our benefactors, our support began in the earliest days of the conflict, in 2014, and includes food supplies, clothes and other essentials for those displaced by war. To learn more about how to help, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).



They also chose it for being open and sharing the “same values as we,” Mrs. Didos says. She occasionally attends Greek Catholic liturgies with new friends, despite her family’s Orthodox faith. “It’s not just about Easter Sunday, it’s about communion, family and God,” she adds. Still, they have faced discrimination. A former biology teacher, Mrs. Didos says realtors would often either refuse to rent to her family, or offer living space at above-market rates. “They think people from Donbas are brazen, and would inquire why my husband wasn’t fighting in the east,” she explains. Caritas has helped the family enroll one of their children in a day care center, has provided money for medicine and has offered counseling to help them adjust. A trained electrician, Mr. Didos now drives a taxi in Lviv. They live in a temporary shelter at a Jesuit Refugee Service house and have only three months left. About two-thirds of the displaced will remain so for the next five years, says Maksym Bondarenko of Caritas. Heorhiy Tuka, Ukraine’s deputy minister of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced People, provided similar estimates. And as the war stretches on, some may never return home. “The more people from the countryside get to urban areas, the less inclined they are to go back. Things change. It’s a matter of hope,” the U.N.’s Ms. Manzi says. Thus, what the displaced now face is a recalibration of selfidentification, according to Caritas rehabilitation expert and sociologist Oksana Ivankova-Stetsyuk.

This entails choosing a life strategy, she explains. “If, before, many hoped to return home soon, today they’re undergoing an existential crisis,” she says. “People now are realizing their displacement isn’t temporary, but is an indefinite displacement and they have to live here.” According to U.N. data, in 2016 many of the approximately 200,000 displaced people who did return home did so because they could not afford living in governmentcontrolled areas. For many, their savings had dried up and they could not find sustainable livelihoods. Some went back because fighting had subsided. Theater director Ms. Menshykova has no plans to return to Crimea. She says she’s attained everything she ever wanted in Lviv. Her wishes have become more modest after having co-founded her theater. “The wonderful gift I have now, I received from God and my mother,” she says. “I know how to love, and to love in general: nature, train stations at night, music, animals, dumplings, my country and even people. Dreams come true, but you have to formulate them carefully.”

Give young and old in Ukraine a way to keep hope alive Please help today | 1-800-442-6392

Mark Raczkiewycz is the Kiev correspondent for the New Jerseybased The Ukrainian Weekly. He is the former editor at large of the Kyiv Post in Ukraine, and his work has appeared in the The Financial Times, Bloomberg News and The Irish Times.


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Accompanying the Church

A letter from Ethiopia by Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin Editors’ note: Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin serves as bishop for the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, a region that regularly struggles with issues of drought and malnutrition.




reetings of peace and gratitude from the Eparchy of Adigrat. Our eparchy, which has 35 parishes and 3 missions, is vast in geographical size — more than 50,000 square miles bordering Eritrea and Sudan, covering the whole region of Tigray and part of Afar. The majority of the region’s population is Orthodox Christian, while we Catholics are a minority. However, the Catholic Church’s presence is notable for the pastoral, social and developmental ministries

it renders, as well as its ecumenical and interreligious witness. With a pioneering focus on modern methods, the church provides a quality education through its 52 institutions, from kindergartens to accredited colleges, serving more than 15,000 students every year of all ethnic groups and religious denominations without discrimination. Economically speaking, this is a poor part of Ethiopia. Still worse are the villages in Tigray’s Eastern Zone, where we have erected many

Students stay cool in the shade in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray.

parishes and rural schools. These villages are remote, poor and dry. The economy of the local communities is based on agriculture. Although the community is hard working, these areas experience recurrent droughts that lower productivity to a level that hardly sustains them for months, let alone for a year. The people live on a combination of their meager output, cereal assistance from the



The CNEWA Connection t School feeding programs have proven a highly effective means of supporting communities. u Youth pray at Holy Savior Cathedral in Adigrat. y Ethiopia’s drought has ended, but many ecological challenges remain.

Since 2013, CNEWA’s nutritional support program in northern Ethiopia has fed more than 8,000 children in 24 Catholic schools. But prolonged rain failure in many parts of the Horn of Africa over the past two years threatened millions of people with malnutrition — in Ethiopia alone, more than ten million people were in jeopardy. Northern Ethiopia, which borders Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan, is among the most vulnerable of areas. Our primary partner there, the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, encompasses much of this mountainous terrain, with its remote and often inaccessible villages and settlements. Building on our feeding program there, CNEWA released funds in three installments to support the eparchy’s efforts to feed families, utilizing alternative distribution centers to focus on the most vulnerable: children, nursing mothers, pregnant women and the elderly. Our team in Addis Ababa worked closely with the bishop and his team and identified those most vulnerable to malnourishment and death: 5,000 children living in the most remote and inaccessible districts of the eparchy; 2,500 children between 6 months and 5 years of age; more than 1,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers; and some 700 elderly people. This emergency mobilization has been most effective. Service providers are well organized and prudent, and critical needs are being met. For a full accounting see Lives are being saved. But, hunger remains, particularly in the remote and inaccessible mountainous areas, and the situation remains tenuous. To help feed more children and their families, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).



government and some “cash for work” income-generating developmental activities financed by non-governmental organizations. Educational and health services are poor, although the present government is working hard to reach out to those living in the remotest areas. Infrastructural development is part of the growth plan for the country, but implementation is still limited. Hence there are no adequate employment opportunities, yet. This situation creates a tendency among youth to migrate, further complicating their lot with the challenges of unregistered migration. Many parishes and schools along the frontier with Eritrea were hard hit during the Eritrean-Ethiopian border war in 1998. The loss of life, property, homes and livestock only worsened their living conditions. Efforts to rebuild the affected areas have been challenging. Last year, sub-Saharan Africa was hit with an unexpected El Niñoinduced drought — the worst in 50 years — which exacerbated the economics of the already-poor communities in many parts of the country. This affected the lives of communities and livestock, pastoral activities and education. Parish priests had to buy their provisions from distant markets and the transport to the market and back to their home parishes was and remains very challenging. Students were particularly vulnerable during this time, especially those who walk long distances through mountains and

“We had a good amount of rain. … Thank God, the spirit of the local communities is improving.”



valleys to travel between home and school. The recurrent droughts affect our eparchy almost on a regular basis, and for this reason we have well-organized school feeding programs for needy children — essential to help them to stay in school under such circumstances. Otherwise, they become exhausted, risking their very health. Last summer, which is the rainy season here in Ethiopia, we had a good amount of rain. Thank God, the harvest was relatively good. And now the spirit of the local communities is improving. q Sister Azalech Habte of the Daughters of St. Anne administers a health clinic in Idaga Hamus. y Students mass outside a remotely located Catholic school in Tigray. yy Youth from 14 parishes receive lunch at a summer program in Alitena.



We still face various challenges, however, largely due to the continuous presence of the military in border villages since the war. This has had significant social repercussions, contributing to questions of personal morality within local communities in general and the young in particular. Growing rates of H.I.V./AIDS, teenage pregnancy and abortion have become serious problems. Both governmental and nongovernmental organizations have intervened to begin addressing these problems. Among them, the Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat (A.D.C.S.) has undertaken various proactive pastoral and sociodevelopmental activities. Other serious challenges here are human trafficking and illegal migration, both of which impact the young. They make the reckless decision to migrate to Europe or the Middle East, and risk dying in the

desert, drowning in the seas or being kidnapped by human traffickers for ransom or organ harvesting. Thus we try to prioritize youth catechesis and family evangelization through the A.D.C.S. We have appointed a coordinator who works with youth of the eparchy, university students and young workers. In this way, we can organize catechism, conferences and retreats, choir programs, sports and recreation, festivals, concerts, classes and numerous other constructive, community- and identity-building activities. On the first Sunday after Christmas, our annual “Family Day,� we have in every parish a program focusing on the life of the families. We celebrate the Divine Liturgy, hold discussion groups, share problems, perform skits and plays, create posters and other crafts and honor those families celebrating

milestones — for example, those celebrating their 25th or 50th jubilee of married life. Other pastoral and social challenges remain. Urbanization and modernization and the growth of digital media have brought a strong global secular influence. An education gap grows between generations. Poor infrastructure and transportation widen the cultural and socioeconomic fissures between urban and remote areas. Tight budgets limit the formation of parish priests and the ability to address local priorities. Parishes lack resources for decent gathering places — such as community centers in many remote parishes — or even enough copies of the Bible. We strive to improve all of these situations, resources permitting. And we give thanks to God, as we appreciate deeply the support of the worldwide church. n

Walk with Ethiopia’s priests as they nourish the poor Please help today | 1-800-442-6392



Web Exclusive

‘God Wants Me Here’ Christians keep hope alive in Iraq text and photographs by Paul Jeffrey



Care for Marginalized


hen the mobile clinic rolls into Sharafiya, patients come from all over the village to wait their turn. Men line up on the left side, women on the right, of a social hall belonging to the parish of the Church of the East. A portrait of CatholicosPatriarch Mar Addai II overlooks the room, where a portable divider separates the two lines and physicians attend to each side. Outside, two pharmacists dispense medicines out of a converted van. The health team’s monthly visit to this Assyro-Chaldean village in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq treats the common aches and pains of residents, including the hundreds of displaced families who arrived after ISIS swept across the Nineveh Plain in 2014. The health professionals admit, however, that their treatment often falls short. “Our patients are displaced, and so psychological problems are the most common thing we deal with. They tell us about back pain, for example, or neuralgia. But they are often suffering from psychological problems, and healing won’t come as long as they are displaced,” says Dr. Sally Mekha, a team member who herself fled Mosul when ISIS attacked. “What pill can I give them that will solve their problems? There isn’t one. We can listen to them and encourage them, but if there is no security for them to return home, there’s not much we can do.” Ahlam Ibrahim, a displaced Chaldean Catholic, fled from Tesqopa in 2014. Although ISIS was driven from her home late last year, she continues to rent a small apartment in Sharafiya.

“If the mobile clinic didn’t come here, we wouldn’t have medicines, because none of us can afford to buy them from a pharmacy,” Ms. Ibrahim says. “We are far from the fields where we can earn our living, and most of what we have goes into paying the rent every month. “There’s little for us here, but we’re not ready to go back yet, either. I can rebuild my house, but I can’t do it without some sense of security that ISIS won’t return.” The mobile clinic, a lifeline to many, is one of many initiatives of the Christian Aid Program NohadraIraq (CAPNI), an organization based in Dohuk. Since 2014, CAPNI — which CNEWA helps suppport with funds — has focused on responding to the humanitarian crisis generated by ISIS.

The Rev. Emanuel Youkhana is an archimandrite of the Church of the East and the executive director of CAPNI. He previously served congregations in the Dohuk area destroyed by the government of President Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s — including many displaced members. When Kurds of the region rose against the government in 1991, Abuna Emanuel became a spokesperson for the local Christian population, helping journalists and church leaders from abroad to understand the plight of religious minorities. As a result, President t Yusef Gorges, a 66-year-old displaced Iraqi Christian, waits to see a physician with the mobile clinic. q Mobile clinic pharmacist Aodeshu Yanan fills prescriptions in Sharafiya.



The CNEWA Connection

From the first days of ISIS’ invasion of northern Iraq in 2014, CNEWA has reached out to provide support to Christians and other minorities who have been, at times literally, running for their lives. Some 120,000 Christians fled the historic home of Iraqi Christianity, the Nineveh Plain, with many settling in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since then, over nearly two and a half years, CNEWA has worked with the churches of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon — including those displaced by ISIS — to address the needs of these people. Through the generosity of our donors and benefactors, CNEWA has been able to provide 1,500 newly displaced and poor families with much-needed milk, diapers, winter clothing and heating fuel. We have been able to fund improvements to three Catholic schools in Iraqi Kurdistan, benefiting more than 1,700 children. More than 81,000 people have received lifesaving medical care from three health clinics and a mobile clinic established, equipped and sustained by CNEWA donors. Donors have also helped the Don Orion Fathers and the Young Women’s Christian Association to develop self-help projects for Iraqi refugees who have settled in Jordan, with scores of families learning how to grow and market vegetables and earn a livelihood. With our partners in the region, such as Abuna Emanuel and CAPNI, we have been able to accompany these men, women and children as they try to rebuild their lives and, in the process, sustain hope. More than 3,000 children and teenagers in Iraq have been able to attend spiritual retreats sponsored by our supporters, and hundreds more have benefited from trauma counseling. But our work is only beginning. To help our displaced brothers and sisters in Iraq, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).



Hussein blacklisted him, and in 1994 a grenade was thrown into his family’s home. No one was injured, but Abuna Emanuel responded by moving his family to Germany. For most of the year, however, he remains in Iraq. “God wants me here,” he says. “I am a priest, so I must be present in order to be a voice for the voiceless, and a bridge between the persecuted church here and the sister church in Europe and beyond.” Abuna Emanuel helped found CAPNI in 1993, including in the organization’s name the word Nohadra — the Assyro-Chaldean name for Dohuk. CAPNI focused initially on helping Christians in the region return home and rebuild their churches and villages, but it also assisted other religious minorities, including Yazidis, at a time when separate international embargoes harmed both Iraq and the autonomy-seeking Kurdish region. The archimandrite and his colleagues secured sponsorships for Iraqi families and students from churches abroad; helped rebuild churches, schools and irrigation canals; and helped farmers restart their harvests. Beyond material aid, CAPNI supported the promotion of AssyroChaldean culture and identity. “Whether in stable times or times of crisis, we have always supported the catechism of the native churches, whether they are Catholic or Orthodox or Church of the East. We ask the priests how we can help,” Abuna Emanuel explains. “We promote our Assyrian identity. We are not just Christians; z Abouna Emanuel Youkhana greets an army officer outside a damaged Syriac Orthodox church in Mosul. { Sister Anahid, a Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena, administers a primary school in Dohuk.

“We will continue to serve the whole community, being witnesses to the Lord.” we are an ethnic community with our own native language and heritage. We provide resources to keep our ethnic identity as Assyrians alive, whether it’s by printing books or training teachers of the Assyrian language.” While CAPNI serves as a bridge between Iraq’s vulnerable Christians and the international Christian community, he adds, this relationship goes beyond financial support. “Moral support is just as important as material support,” he says. “When you are isolated in a very remote village in the mountains of Kurdistan, and a delegation from the Lutheran Church in Germany comes to visit you, to listen to your story and support rebuilding your church and community, the people realize they are not alone. “They may speak different languages, but the fact that others travel so far to accompany them and pray with them, that gives a lot of moral encouragement.”


fter the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, amid the social and political disintegration that quickly followed, CAPNI gained

access to villages in the Nineveh Plain. Although the region had been under government control, Abuna Emanuel says the administration had invested little in maintaining the infrastructure of a region with a non-Arab and non-Muslim majority. CAPNI helped villagers to rebuild — work that coincided with the arrival of Christians fleeing sectarian violence in places like Baghdad and Basra. The newly displaced found safety in the small villages that stretch across the Nineveh Plain, where CAPNI provided income-generating projects and cultural promotion. But in 2014, ISIS swept across the region. “Almost overnight, the population of Dohuk went from 1.3 million to 2 million,” Abuna Emanuel explains. “Many of the displaced arrived with just the clothes on their backs. “We diverted all our resources to helping the displaced — Christians and Yazidis, as well as Muslims — with food, shelter, clothing and other life-saving resources. The dimensions of the disaster went beyond anyone’s ability to respond adequately, but thanks be to God for the agencies and churches

around the world that immediately supported our work.” As the region tried to absorb the displaced, CAPNI sought out niches of solidarity where its resources could do the most good, satisfying the greatest needs. Its initiatives include administering a hospital in Sinoni, a Yazidi enclave in the Sinjar region. “We are a Christian organization, supported by Christian funds from Christian churches, but most of our work there is with Yazidis, simply because they are the most vulnerable. This response stems from our Christian faith, not from sectarian values,” Abuna Emanuel says. Other needs take a variety of forms. For instance, many Arabicspeaking families with schoolage children have taken refuge in villages where instruction is in Kurdish or Assyro-Chaldean. Through a network of 80 small buses, weaving through camps and villages, CAPNI helped more than 3,100 students to attend classes in Arabic in 2016 — often in newly established schools, such as one in Dohuk run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.



The transportation is free, says Nelson Toma, CAPNI’s director of student transportation, but other costs — particularly schoolbooks — remain too high for some families. Coupled with the slow but steady emigration of Christian families from the region, student numbers are slowly declining. CAPNI also opened seven “ChildFriendly Spaces” around the region, with more planned for 2017. These offer children an escape from their cramped homes and an opportunity to play games, sing and practice basic Assyro-Chaldean language skills. The mobile clinic and a social worker make frequent visits to check on the children. In each location, about one in five children served come from the host community. Robena Eshaya, CAPNI’s officer in charge of programs serving women and children, says this shared environment helps build friendships and eases tensions in crowded neighborhoods. Nevertheless, she says, there remains a great deal of trauma among the displaced children.



“Children are very sensitive, and from the beginning their drawings were all about the guns and dark skies. They told stories about how they saw the ISIS fighters when they fled their homes. But now if you look at their faces they are smiling and happy. And today their drawings are hopeful, very different from before,” Ms. Eshaya says. Aber Yussef sends her children to the nearby Child-Friendly Space. The former resident of Tesqopa now lives in a modular housing unit in the village of Bakhtme. She speaks highly of the program. “It’s great. Before the space opened up, the children were spending all their time in our one small room or playing in the street. But now they are learning everything — math and English and Arabic,” Mrs. Yussef says. “Tomorrow my daughter has an exam at school in the Assyrian language, and the tutors in the Child-Friendly Space have helped her prepare, because I don’t know how to write in Assyrian.”

As ever it has, CAPNI also provides livelihood assistance, helping the displaced learn new skills so they can better support themselves. Saeed Elyas Seno, a Yazidi displaced from Bashiqa, is currently learning how to fabricate windows and doors from Kheralla Mohammed Hussain, a Muslim displaced from Mosul and a trainer in the program. There’s no tension between the two men. Both agree there will be no shortage of work when ISIS is finally cleared out and reconstruction begins. Seham Sarih, CAPNI’s community development officer, echoes this sentiment. “We’re hoping to expand this training soon. Many of the houses and much of the infrastructure in the villages is damaged, so these skills will be widely needed.” Ms. Sarih delights in the fact that a Christian organization is supporting a Muslim and a Yazidi working together. “It’s not usual for here,” she says.

x Young displaced students from a variety of faiths and backgrounds sing together in Arabic in Dohuk. u Saeed Elyas Seno stands with his wife, Ekhlas Jomaa, and their four children by their temporary home.

“The trainer has a good heart and is very tolerant. He’s really engaged in a kind of peace building in his shop.” CAPNI also sponsors classes on the Kurdish language — so the displaced can negotiate better in the markets of Dohuk — and provides training for farmers who fled their lands as ISIS approached. Some are ready to return, but their worries about renewed sectarian violence are joined with fears of what they might unwittingly harvest from the soil. “Our fields became a war zone between ISIS and the Peshmerga,” says Sabah Ibrahim, referring to the Kurdish fighters who helped drive out ISIS. “There are still landmines there. We need help in removing them. Otherwise, the land is ready and we’re eager to work it.”


ichel Constantin, the Beirut-based regional director for Catholic Near East Welfare Association — a partner of CAPNI — says Christians in Iraq face tough choices. “They are proud of their culture and roots, but at same time they feel they are doomed because of whom they are,” he says. “It’s hard to tell them they must stay in order to preserve a Christian presence in the Middle East. “They are desperate. They believe that leaving for the West has become too slow or even impossible, so the only choice left to them is to make their life in Iraq viable. That’s a big task, and it means we’re talking about not just short-term emergency assistance, but long-term ways of making quality education and medical services available.” CAPNI’s motto from the very beginning has been “to keep hope

Help Iraq’s displaced families remain strong

alive,” and Abuna Emanuel says this remains the principal goal of the organization. “Every Sunday we continue preaching sermons of hope, telling people not to give up, and in our gatherings we try to explain that our identity as Eastern Christians cannot survive in the Diaspora. But in the end those are just words,” he says. “As long as people were in their caravans and their homes were under control of ISIS, they were okay. All they could do was wait. But now their homes in the Nineveh Plain have been liberated, and so they are asking me about their chances to go back. Have we been talking about real hope, or was it just an illusion?” After more than two years of waiting, Abuna Emanuel says people are willing to wait another year or so to see what happens. Once ISIS is completely gone, he says, the Gulf States will help Arab Sunni areas to rebuild. But he predicts it will be up to the international community to help the Nineveh Plain, as there will be little interest in Baghdad in funding work in non-Arab, non-Muslim communities. He says the church must be present, not just because it’s where Christians are, but because the Christians and Yazidis

and other minorities remain the most vulnerable. In a landscape where Sunni-Shiite tensions may continue to produce violence that affects other groups in turn, Abuna Emanuel says it’s more important than ever for Christians to remain. “For 2,000 years we have played a positive role toward the communities around us, building bridges when others want to build walls. In a time when hate speech is common, we can build peace,” he concludes. “As a native church with deep roots in the community and the land, with good relations with all our neighbors, we will continue to serve the whole community, being witnesses to the Lord.” Paul Jeffrey is a U.S. photojournalist who covers humanitarian crises around the world. His work has appeared in National Catholic Reporter, The Washington Post, America and The Guardian.


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Accompanying the Church

Anxiety in Cairo

Christians Confront Challenges and Change

text by Magdy Samaan with photographs by David Degner




hen gunfire sounded near her home, Ragaa Anwar reached out frantically to her only son. Again and again, she dialed Mina’s phone, but he never answered. Mina, a 29-year-old Coptic Christian, had been caught in the crossfire between the military and supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood when violence erupted in his neighborhood of Ain Shams in northern Cairo. The loss weighs heavily on Mrs. Anwar. She speaks to pictures of Mina hung throughout her house beside icons. Every year, she visits where he is buried; she knocks on the tomb and calls for him, but again there is no reply. “I can’t believe my son was taken from me. I feel as if he will knock on the door and come back,” Mrs. Anwar says. In July 2013, the Egyptian army deposed President Muhammad Morsi. Most Copts, together with more secular Muslims, rallied behind the coup for fear of the Islamist project of the Muslim Brotherhood. The organization’s supporters, however, orchestrated protests and sit-ins in Rabaa and Nahda squares in Cairo. Forty days later, the army and police dispersed the sit-ins, killing hundreds. Because of the government’s iron hand in Cairo’s main squares and downtown districts, the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters took their activities to the outskirts — to neighborhoods of the capital city where they have strong presence. One such suburb, Ain Shams, has a significant population of Coptic Christians, and tensions between the two groups have grown more pronounced.

After Mina’s death, his family could not bear to live in Ain Shams any longer, deciding to relocate to an area further north. “I can’t stand seeing them every day,” says Emad Anwar, Mina’s father, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood. “When I see them I want to take revenge, but I have nothing in my hand to do it with.” Mr. Anwar had sought justice, but the case was closed and nobody was charged. Coptic Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 82 million, have continued to support the former leader of the coup, President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, hoping he will promote a secular government and quell sectarianism. So far, this bet has not brought about stability. Despite good-will gestures such as his historic visit to St. Mark’s Cathedral — the seat of Pope Tawadros II of the dominant Coptic Orthodox Church — and instructing the army to rebuild around 65 churches attacked by mobs after the Rabaa massacre in August 2013, the main concerns of the Coptic people, the lack of justice and equality, remain. The deterioration of the economy has also brought more bad news for Egypt’s people.

“They tell us that Sisi will not protect us forever. Prices are increasing every day and if you helped Sisi in the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood will return for you,” Mr. Anwar said. Since 2011, the Egyptian economy has foundered. The Egyptian pound has lost more than two-thirds of its value in the past six years. Half of this decline occurred after the government’s decision in November 2016 to float its currency, previously pegged to the U.S. dollar. Since the change, prices have doubled while most household incomes have remained the same. The Anwar family was able to cover its needs when both Emad and Mina worked. But now, with only one income and inflated prices, the family feels destitute. This year, Mrs. Anwar says, the family will not be able to visit the cemetery because they don’t have enough money to rent a cab to take them there. “The prices of everything are increasing,” she says, “and we have nothing.”


n addition to Khosos, the Anwar family’s new home district includes neighborhoods such as Izbet al Nakhl and Marg — relatively new, low-income areas whose inhabitants have moved to Cairo

t Ragaa and Emad Anwar hold a picture of their late son, Mina. u Spectators view the site of a bombing in Al Botroseya Chapel.



The CNEWA Connection t A catechism class prays after celebrating the Divine Liturgy. u New construction accommodates the growing parish in Izbet al Nakhl.

“For decades,” writes CNEWA’s Michel Constantin, regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, “CNEWA has accompanied the local churches in Egypt — especially the Catholic — to help bridge the gap with the dominant Coptic Orthodox and Muslim communities through the support of distinguished social services.” “These works of the church reach out to all those in need,” he adds, “without any distinction.” Our activities in Egypt focus on those marginalized from society, including support for people with special needs, refugees and displaced persons, illiterate families and those who, uprooted from their villages, collect garbage — squatting in illegal and dangerous housing in the nation’s teeming cities. “Moreover,” Mr. Constantin writes, “we help the churches improve the formation of their priests and religious so those who serve in difficult and even dangerous areas are equipped to take on the challenges with love and prayer. Our church leaders,” he concludes, “are catalysts in making peace.” To join us in support of Egypt’s dynamic churches, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).



looking for a better life. Communities of Copts have found a ready home within these areas, particularly in Izbet al Nakhl. Chaotic whorls of noise and action greet those exiting the Izbet al Nakhl metro station. Tuk-tuks — also known as auto rickshaws — block the exit, fruit and vegetable vendors hawk their goods and a continuous stream of bodies presses in and out of the metro. The tall minarets of a huge mosque pierce the sky. On the other side of the street, a dome topped with a cross distinguishes another large building as a church. In between the mosque and the church is a busy street, where people pass every day on their way to the metro, the transportation hub of the district. Near the northernmost end of the Cairo Metro system, Izbet al Nakhl was a rural area until 1986, when an extension of the Metro first reached it. Tall buildings grew rapidly out of the farm fields, often without government planning. To this day, most of the streets are hard-packed dirt, riddled with bumps. The tuk-tuks contribute to noise and crowding, but prove indispensable for negotiating the uneven, narrow streets. For most residents of Izbet al Nakhl, sectarianism is not a core issue. Instead, most regard the struggle to earn a living as their main concern. Yet, Christians do worry about the future. The parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation Coptic Catholic Church has grown with the neighborhood. The Rev. Youhanna Saad says its first Divine Liturgy, 18 years ago, had only four attendees; now, the church serves more than

600 families. Through his close relationship with the tight-knit community, Father Saad understands the concerns within his congregation. “There is a state of anxiety of the future and a feeling of fear because of the economic situation and increasingly sectarian incidents against the Copts,” Father Saad says. As it is the only Catholic church in a large area, buses bring families from a wide radius every Friday and Sunday to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. After the Friday liturgy, parishioners of all ages — but from one common economic background — come together to share an inexpensive breakfast of beans and falafel. The church acts not only as a place of worship, but also a site for activities such as nursery school,

elder or youth meetings, Sunday school and programs to assist people with special needs. But the congregation continues to grow, outstripping the building’s capacity and prompting Father Saad to seek a license to turn a new building nearby — currently a service center — into a more ample church.

sons, Samy and Shoukry, and their families relocated along with him. Although he traded a more idyllic setting for the traffic and pollution of a major metropolis, Mr. Hanna feels safer in the neighborhood of Mo’asasat al Zakat, where about 90 percent of residents are Christian, he says. Mr. Hanna had a good relationship with his Muslim neighbors in his village near Minya in Upper Egypt. But after President Morsi’s ouster, and the violence that followed, a Muslim mob burned and looted some 20 Christian homes in the village, including Mr. Hanna’s store. Mr. Hanna left behind the life to which he was accustomed, a difficult adjustment at his advanced age. In his first year in Cairo, he felt alienated.

“Nobody pays the bill except the poor, and especially the Christians.” “The situation is normal for us as Christians,” says Raof Rateb, 53, a local shopkeeper. “But regarding making a living, we don’t feel secure. The rising of prices is horrible.” Saad Hanna, 72, a retired civil servant, decided two years ago to move to the city from his village in southern Egypt. His two married



“I was like a plant uprooted from its green land and planted in the desert,” he says. Moreover, the retiree feels the burden of the economic difficulties acutely. He describes how Egyptians’ purchasing power has changed since he was first employed in 1973. “I used to get E£12.5 and it was enough to buy almost 90 lbs. of meat,” he says. “Now my pension is E£2,300 and it pays for only 55 lbs. of meat.” “Nobody pays the bill except the poor, and especially the Christians,” Mr. Hanna says. “The Coptic people have paid the biggest price since the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser,” adding that little has changed since. Even still, he says, Copts were correct to support President Sisi. “The county was on the verge of being lost. There was no easy choice.”

On 11 December 2016, Cairo witnessed the deadliest attack on Copts in recent memory, when a suicide bomber inside Al Botroseya Chapel killed 29 parishioners. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. President Sisi reassured the Copts that the state is on their side against terrorism, declaring three days of mourning and encouraging Muslims to band together with their Christian neighbors. While the attack raised fears among the Coptic community, the families of the victims received those offering comfort with strength and grace at a memorial liturgy. “Look around you. If this were the wedding of Verena, would there be that number of people?” says Emad Amin, who lost his wife, Madlen Tawfiq, and his 19-year-old daughter, Verena. Mr. Amin adds: “I don’t know why they were killed. Is it because they are Christians or because of

President Sisi or because of ISIS? I don’t know!” “My store is in a poor area. We have no problem; we live together in peace,” says Remon Magdy, 34, a merchant. Mr. Magdy lost his mother, Sabah Wadie, and his niece, Demiana, in the attack. “After the bombing, many Muslims came to us to say, ‘We are sorry.’ I told them, ‘You have no fault in what happened.’ ”


enowned as one of the most beautiful, cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world in the first half of the 20th century, Cairo integrated people from different nationalities and religions into Egyptian society — where they could live, work and worship freely. This tolerant face of Cairo has gradually faded. Much of the country’s Jewish population left the country in the 50’s because of state persecution amid the Arab-Israeli x The bombing in December left 29 dead and dozens injured. z Scouts commemorate a young girl killed in the blast.



conflict. Many of those who remained later faced expulsion — along with foreign-born Egyptian citizens who lost their citizenship — amid a wave of Arab nationalism intensified by events such as the Suez Crisis. And for a variety of reasons that often relate to economic mismanagement and a restrictive and heavy-handed state, many middle-class Egyptians, including Copts, have emigrated since the 60’s. Meanwhile, Egypt has witnessed the steady growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and other more militant Islamic groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Islamic Jihad. From a population of about two million in the 50’s, Cairo has expanded to some 23 million, growing in uncontrolled spurts. Among other factors, high rural unemployment has driven millions to Cairo in search of a better life. As a result, it has become one of the most polluted and congested cities in the world, ringed by unplanned districts where newcomers carry with them various, relatively isolated rural cultures, creating enclaves and slowing assimilation. Nowadays, Muslims and Christians in Cairo enjoy a mostly peaceful relationship. The megacity keeps its people busy with other daily crises. Moreover, the shared memory of a highly cosmopolitan city does live on in the old neighborhoods, old movies and other cultural relics. The central Cairo neighborhood of Al Zaher is one of those areas. Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Lebanese, Syrians and others lived peacefully alongside Egyptians. Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox and Syriac Catholic churches still stand, but very few of their people remain. This neighborhood serves as a reminder of the Cairo that once was — and one that may yet take root again. El Nahda Association for Scientific and Cultural Renaissance was established in 1998 in Al Zaher as a

Help Egypt’s Christians survive the storms of change Please help today | 1-800-442-6392

Jesuit initiative for Christians and Muslims interested in the artistic, civic and cultural life of Egypt. The association established its headquarters on the site of the former Studio Nassibian, where many of Egypt’s earliest movies were made. The studio was defunct by the 80’s and later burned down. Today, the site once again bustles with activity. In one area, a theater troupe holds auditions; in another, children gather to watch cartoons. “When I learned about El Nahda I asked my friends about it. Everybody spoke highly about it,” says Ahmed al Daemi, a 27-year-old Arabic teacher who hopes to earn a spot on the troupe. El Nahda was first licensed in 1998 as a non-profit organization. As its activities increased, it faced constraints due to limited options for funding. The Rev. William Sedhom, S.J., the organization’s leader, now seeks to reincorporate as a for-profit company to better fund its activities. Father Sedhom blames political and economic difficulties for causing sectarian tensions. “Most sectarian crises happen in places with a high percentage of poverty and illiteracy,” he explains. El Nahda is seeking to prevent those crises before they begin, with

a mission of inclusion and peaceful coexistence. “The activities here are open to all,” the priest says, suggesting that what people are discovering at El Nahda is an Egypt of possibility and promise — a place where all are welcome and made to feel, almost literally, at home. “Even when some people come with worries that they are going to a Christian association,” he explains, “they are surprised when it’s as though they are in their own house.” Based in Cairo, Magdy Samaan is a Middle East correspondent for The Telegraph. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy and a number of other journals. YOU CAN READ MORE ON OUR BLOG AT: inegypt AND WATCH OUR EXCLUSIVE VIDEO REPORT AT:

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Responding to Human Needs

Where Hope Is Kindled A clinic helps Gaza’s most vulnerable by Hazem Balousha


hadia Daher had thought her days of childbirth were behind her. Five years have passed since the delivery of her ninth child. The 39-year-old now suffers from a painful chronic illness that she thought affected her chances of ever having children again. But “God’s will is stronger than humans’ will; I am pregnant now.” Mrs. Daher lives with her husband and seven of their children — four daughters and three sons — in a small two-room apartment in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaia. Their other two daughters, both married, live with their husbands. Shadia Daher’s husband works as a construction worker and receives wages equivalent to about $10 a day. “We receive food aid from a local civic organization,” she says, as the family’s income is “barely enough to live on.” Nevertheless, Mrs. Daher is able to receive regular health care — including primary care in addition to pre- and post-natal services — through a CNEWA-supported clinic operated by the Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.) in Shajaia. “I have visited this clinic for many years,” she says, adding that this clinic has provided care through all of her pregnancies. She regards it as a place of “care and respect.” The Shajaia facility is one of the three N.E.C.C.-administered clinics



providing medical services in densely populated, marginalized and impoverished areas of Gaza, considered one of the most densely settled population centers in the world. The council has a second clinic in the Al Daraj neighborhood and a third clinic in Khirbet al Adas, in the city of Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Women in the Gaza Strip have long struggled for access to adequate health care in Gaza, but conditions worsened as a result of the blockade imposed on the region since 2007. As conditions deteriorate, shortages of food, medicine and other essentials have become the rule rather than the exception. Moreover, hundreds of women are deprived of traveling beyond the territory to receive adequate care for more serious needs. According to international and local reports, the current situation in the Gaza Strip is the worst and most severe its population has seen — particularly among women, who bear a heavier burden. Although considered the weakest link in wars and crises, women and children, particularly in Gaza, are dauntless sources of strength, hope and love. And institutions such as the clinics of the Near East Council of Churches work to shoulder some of their immense burden, to help keep that hope kindled.


n the Gaza Strip, the narrow coastal tract of land where poverty and unemployment are highest among the Palestinian territories, the physical and mental health of women and children suffer most from the effects of both poverty and unemployment. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (P.C.B.S.), women make up approximately 50 percent of the overall population in the Palestinian territory, and more than half are married. Women become widowed at about nine times the rate of men. A report prepared by P.C.B.S. reveals widespread poverty across the Palestinian territories, growing still more acute among families with a woman serving as head of household. Health care services are provided in Gaza by three main parties — the government, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and hospitals and health clinics run by charitable organizations. The three clinics of the council offer care to the poorest of the poor in areas otherwise lacking access to health and medical services. Among many other services, the clinic in Shajaia offers its patients affordable pharmaceutical care.



The CNEWA Connection t A young child receives a checkup at the clinic administered by the Near East Council of Churches in Shajaia. u The clinic offers care to mothers and infants of all backgrounds.

The Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.) is a part of the Middle East Council of Churches, an umbrella body of the Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and evangelical Protestant churches that fosters ecumenical and interfaith relationships, and witnesses to the Gospel through its many social service activities. These include counseling for those with special needs, health care for mothers and their children, vocational training, community improvement and infrastructure development. Founded in 1949, the N.E.C.C. has long maintained close ties to CNEWA, especially with our Jerusalem-based team. Thanks to our generous donors, CNEWA has assisted the council in its many works in Gaza, especially its health care facilities for mothers and their children, counseling activities and vocational initiatives. Of Gaza’s two million people, fewer than 1,500 are Christian. Most belong to one of the oldest parishes in the world, an Orthodox church of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Gaza’s only Catholic parish, dedicated to the Holy Family, includes a few hundred people. While tiny, the Palestinian Christian community of Gaza is dynamic and responsive to the great needs of the people. In addition to the activities of the N.E.C.C., works include the Al Ahli Arab Hospital — Gaza’s only Christian hospital — the schools of the Latin Patriarchate and the Rosary Sisters, the social service works of the Myrrh Bearers Society and the person-to-person care administered by priests and religious of the parishes. The need remains great — especially for the children. Help those who are suffering by calling: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).



Dr. Eman Saad, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology, says the Shajaia clinic provides health care for pregnant women from the second month of pregnancy until delivery, and then offers care for the mother, in addition to postnatal and early pediatric services for the child — including medical and laboratory tests, fetal ultrasounds and both health and psychological counseling for pregnant women. The clinic even makes an effort to follow up with patients periodically, and uses calls and text messages to remind patients of appointments. During emergencies, such as pregnancies with complications, Dr. Saad says the clinic transfers patients to hospitals capable of addressing a broader array of needs — such as surgical intervention and other specific medical treatments unavailable at the clinic. According to Dr. Saad, anemia has become highly prevalent, present in about three quarters of pregnancies she serves. Other common concerns include fetal kidney disorders caused by the contaminated water pumped to Gaza homes, used for drinking, cooking and hygiene. She adds that many pregnant women of large families suffer from chronic stress. Moreover, the political instability and frequent military interventions put the Palestinian families, particularly women, under societal and economic pressure. “I provide consultations and advice for pregnant women to help them remain healthy and successfully give birth to healthy babies,” Dr. Saad says. “However, I

“God’s will is stronger than humans’ will.” cannot say that I completely succeed in my mission, because of the very difficult political and economic situation Gaza’s population suffers.” Yasmeen Abu Saada, 20, expects to deliver her second baby in a matter of weeks. She has been married for three years. She says she visits the clinic regularly to receive primary care. This time, however, she has come for a consultation concerning her next pregnancy; she hopes to fulfill her husband’s desire to also have a baby boy. “I started receiving health care at this clinic after becoming pregnant for the second [current] time, because doctors and midwives provide special health services, medical treatment and psychological support for mothers and their children,” Mrs. Abu Saada says. Mrs. Abu Saada lives with her husband and child in the home of her husband’s family, sharing a

residence with the families of her three brothers-in-law. Her husband works on a donkey-pulled cart, bringing home about $10 a day. “My husband’s income is not enough to raise a family and live independently, so we live together with his parents, sharing their house and expenses,” she says. “My father-in-law is the family’s main breadwinner, so we suffer no food shortage.” Mrs. Abu Saada married at a young age. She grew up in a family of nine members, and she left school at age 15. She believes that an ideal family includes four or six children, with an equal number of males and females. “Of course we cannot predict the future. The economic situation is difficult, but we should build a family and live in peace, and God will definitely provide us with livelihood and enable us to get food and drink,” Mrs. Abu Saada says.


ccording to the P.C.B.S., Palestine has an extremely young population; children make up 42.7 percent of the population in the Gaza Strip and 47.6 percent of the West Bank. About half of the Palestinian population is below the age of 20. Children in the Gaza Strip carry the effects of the deteriorating economic situation in their health and well-being. As unemployment rates rise, so do the rates of infectious diseases among children due to dwindling access to clean food and water. Dr. Mustafa Za’anin, a child nutrition specialist, diagnoses and treats dozens of children through the N.E.C.C.’s clinic. The volume of patients generally increases in the winter months because of cold weather and poor heating. Dr. Za’anin says a “lack of awareness” of healthy practices further contributes to these problems. “There is strong evidence



that the prevailing poverty and unemployment in Gaza are the main reasons [for this unawareness],” he says, “in spite of the advice offered by various clinics for families.” But a more complete picture involves many interrelated factors, he says. Disease spreads more widely and rapidly among larger families, especially those struggling with malnutrition, he says. “Moreover, weak infrastructure, contaminated water and environmental pollution, particularly in impoverished and remote neighborhoods from the center of the city, cause severe infections and diseases.” But poor health does not strike the poor and uneducated alone. Shadia Daher sits with her family after the birth of her tenth child, Mahmoud, in early February.

Samira Abu Muheisen, 25, a mother of 7-month-old twins Muhammad and Rawan, has come to the Shajaia clinic to treat the twins’ coughs, which have been interrupting their sleep. After examining the children and listening to Mrs. Muheisen’s concerns, Dr. Za’anin prescribes a treatment and advises her to continue breastfeeding her twins and to keep them warm until their health improves. Mrs. Muheisen has been married for two years. She lives in a house with the twins and her husband, who works at a governmental school and receives a monthly salary of about $300. A third of their income goes to rent, while the rest is spent on daily needs. A university graduate, Mrs. Muheisen has had little success

finding a job due to lack of opportunities and gender discrimination. Overall unemployment among adult women in Gaza stands at about 60 percent, compared with at about 36 percent among men. Yet among those with high levels of education, the two sexes face opposite outcomes — unemployment falls to about 29 percent for men and rises to just above 61 percent for women. “We live in a house with no adequate ventilation, electricity or heating, due to frequent power outages. I exert my greatest efforts to maintain my twins’ health, against winter colds and flu,” she explains. “I would like to have a big family of at least six kids. For now, I have a son and daughter.” She hopes to

continue growing her family, and to maintain parity between sexes. “I also look for a job, to help my husband in housekeeping.”


e receive a large number of cases daily that exceeds the clinic’s capacity. Nevertheless, we check up our patients and treat the most needy,” says Asma Abu Hassan, the clinic supervisor. “We serve tens of thousands of patients monthly; hundreds of patients daily come to our clinic for treatment. We serve the largest possible number of them.” The administrator puts the pressure on the clinic into context. “The clinic has a small medical team of four doctors in different specialties and seven nurses, in addition to a laboratory technician and a

Send Gaza’s struggling families the life-sustaining care they need Please help today | 1-800-442-6392

pharmacist,” she says. “So the clinic’s team works at the maximum capacity.” According to the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, an average of 4,500 babies are born every month in the Gaza Strip — translating to about 150 every day, or about one every ten minutes. Children in the Gaza Strip suffer from diseases and epidemics caused by environmental pollution, lack of potable water, overpopulation and poor hygiene caused by frequent power outages and a lack of clean water. Dr. Rami Tarazi, a dermatologist at the Shajaia clinic, says about four out of five patients he treats at the present moment suffer from scabies, which spreads rapidly among patients in the densely populated area. “Scabies tends to transmit easily through direct physical contact. Moreover, lack of awareness among the population sometimes leads to disease transmission to the same persons more than once. Overpopulation impedes halting the disease’s spread.” He adds that official organizations tend to be negligent of these matters. ‘‘Today, for instance, I have treated 43 patients up to this moment; among them, 25 suffered from scabies.”

Dr. Tarazi says in areas such as Shajaia, many families keep livestock such as donkeys and horses in their houses, which increase bacterial, fungal and viral skin diseases among the population. The people of Gaza face a health crisis so broad and multifaceted, it can seem insurmountable. Still, Ms. Abu Hassan maintains a positive attitude, focusing on those immediately before her. “We are trying hard to serve people here and offer our best, in order to keep the family intact — physically and psychologically.” Hazem Balousha is a journalist based in Palestine. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HEALTH CARE IN GAZA, VISIT OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE AT:

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on the world of CNEWA


ringing our 90th anniversary to a close, I pause to share some personal reflections with you about who we are and what we do as Catholic Near East Welfare Association.


My first observation is that in general the Catholic Eastern churches — which CNEWA is privileged to accompany — are not well known or are mischaracterized in the West. It is common to hear people refer to them as “Orthodox” or “non-Catholic” or “not in union with the pope” — all of which are wrong. In fact, these churches only reinforce the “catholic” nature of our church, demonstrating how universal we are as we celebrate the variety of communities, rites and traditions that make up the Catholic Church.


In my pastoral visits to many areas of the world, I am humbled by the richness of these Eastern churches




— in their liturgical celebrations, their cultures, their ancient traditions, their strong desire to persevere in the faith and their abiding sense of hope. Although small in number in most instances, and regardless of the political and geographical challenges that dominate their surroundings, they endure. One remarkable feature with these churches is that, despite all odds, they continue to be blessed with vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Some are so blessed

that they reach out in a universal missionary spirit and share their wealth of priests and sisters with countries and continents, such as North America, lacking in their own priestly and religious vocations. And their missionary presence in their home countries is often heroic. They are fearless in sharing the presence of Christ in war, in horrible conditions of suffering, and even in the face of persecution. They reflect so well the face of Christ to all. And here I emphasize “all.” In the best of our Catholic tradition, these churches reach out to everyone. And at CNEWA, as we seek to accompany them, we assist these Catholic Eastern churches in extending the arm of Christ’s love and mercy to all — to our Orthodox family members, to other Christians, to Muslims, to Hindus and to all peoples of good will.

p Members of a tribal village in India welcome Msgr. John E. Kozar during his pastoral visit in late 2016.

heightens my celebration of the resurrected Christ at Easter. In such a profound way, they are the embodiment of being “Easter people.”

Your prayerful support and your financial gifts help us to accompany these Catholic Eastern churches and to maintain the faith of so many who suffer and are persecuted.

In the West, we can learn by the good example of our Eastern brothers and sisters how important it is to pray, especially in a liturgical context. Their sense of dignity, serenity and holiness, as demonstrated so well in their Eucharistic celebrations, is a reminder for us that the actions taking place in our liturgies are not merely symbolic, but intimately link us with Christ.

Here in North America, the roots of our churches and countries are very young compared to the Eastern churches. Imagine: Many of these churches were founded by the apostles in the very early years of the church! Languages and cultures are dramatically different than ours. We tend to forget the world is larger and older than McDonald’s and Starbucks; but our Eastern siblings remind us that the church has deep roots and extends over all the earth.

May God reward your generous gifts and your missionary hearts. And may the Lord bless those we are privileged to serve.

In so many of my visits I have experienced the power of the cross — and how those who suffer and are persecuted find such consolation in it. For me, their veneration of the crucified Christ

We hope that in this anniversary year you have enjoyed reading about and seeing some of the wonder and awe that is the Catholic Church, the presence of Christ amongst us all.

t A student greets Msgr. Kozar at a school for children with special needs in Koonammavu, a suburb of Cochin, in Kerala.

Msgr. John E. Kozar


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For 90 Years

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk greets a parishioner in Zarvanytsia.

Children line up for a school-provided meal at the Mariam Tsion school in Ethiopia.



Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, meets with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Msgr. Kozar on their visit to India.

Children perform at the Terra Sancta School in Bethlehem.

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