ONE Magazine Spring 2013

Page 1


Spring 2013

God • World • Human Family • Church

Let Us Be Protectors! Pope Francis in His Own Words

Heartbreak and Hope: Spotlight on the Middle East



“Let Us Be Protectors!” Pope Francis charts a course of unity and charity


10 16 22 28 32

The Men Who Stayed Egypt’s Copts hang on and hope text by Sarah Topol with photographs by David Degner

Crossing the Border Syrians seek refuge in Lebanon text by Don Duncan with photographs by Tamara Hadi The Promise of Palestine How youth programs build minds, bodies and spirits by Diane Handal Out of Iraq Families make a new home in Jordan by Cory Eldridge Hebrew Spoken Here Inside Israel’s Hebrew-speaking Catholic community by Michele Chabin



Connections Updates from the world of CNEWA


People Catholic in Cairo by Sarah Topol


Focus Images from the world of CNEWA by John E. Kozar



Volume 39 NUMBER 1


the editors As we were putting together this issue of ONE, we were reminded of an old Simon and Garfunkel song, “What a time it was…”



Benedict XVI had announced his resignation. Cardinals had gathered for the conclave. A dramatic moment in history was unfolding before our eyes as an Argentine Jesuit was elected bishop of Rome. Meanwhile, we continued to monitor events in the Middle East. To look at that corner of our world today is to see almost unimaginable suffering. War in Syria has led to a staggering humanitarian crisis. Christians in Egypt face a frightening and uncertain future. Simmering divisions in the land we call “holy” create more challenges and difficulties for people of all faiths.



Front: Pope Francis greets a boy after celebrating Mass at St. Anne’s Church, Vatican City. Back: In central Cairo, mourners attend the funeral liturgy of a man killed by troops during a protest march.

Editorial Staff Annie Grunow Deacon Greg Kandra Michael J.L. La Civita Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. J.D. Conor Mauro

Photo Credits Cover, pages 5 (top right), 6, 33, CNS/Paul Haring; page 2, Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis; pages 3 (top left), 10-15, back cover, David Degner; pages 3 (top center), 5 (top left), 16, 18, 20-21, Tamara Abdul Hadi; pages 3 (lower left), 23-26, Rich Wiles; pages 3 (lower right) and 30, Cory Eldridge; page 4 (top), Karen Di Paola; page 4 (bottom), CNEWA-PMP Jerusalem; pages 5 (bottom), 38-39, John E. Kozar; page 7, Franco Origlia/Getty Images; page 8, L’Osservatore Romano/ Reuters/Corbis; page 22, Steve Sabella; page 27, CNS/Paul Jeffrey; pages 28-29, Ali Jarekji/Reuters/Corbis; pages 31, 34, CNS/ Debbie Hill; 32, 35, Debbie Hill; page 37, Octavio Duran/Maryknoll Mission Archives.

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.

ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016 Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar

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 ©2013 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

Against this backdrop, in this enhanced edition of ONE, we have chosen to spotlight the Middle East and to lead off with some timely reflections from Pope Francis. His first words to the world, excerpted on Pages 6-9, underscore the vital work we at CNEWA have undertaken in his name. It is work we could not carry out without your generous and prayerful support. In the pages of this magazine, we invite you to discover the ways your support is changing lives — and we encourage you to visit us online at to learn how you can continue to make a difference to so many in urgent need. When you visit ONE online, you will also find exclusive multimedia features and videos that will continue to inform, engage and inspire. In this time of transition and change — for the Catholic Church, for the Middle East and even here at ONE as we redesign our magazine — we look at this moment in our world with wonder and hope. “What a time it was” indeed! It is our prayer that ONE — both in print and online — will be a valuable chronicle of that time.

connections from the world of CNEWA

CNEWA Raises Awareness in Rome community, including actors, artists, business leaders and regional and national politicians. “Almost every day, in an area of the world called the Middle East, people face forces far greater than the destruction of a hurricane,” Msgr. Kozar said in an address that referenced the hurricane that had devastated parts of the East Coast of North America last autumn.

In January, CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar cohosted a public forum and reception with the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches to raise awareness among the Italian community of the needs of the Eastern churches and some of the issues challenging Christian families, especially in Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Terrence T. Prendergast, S.J., chair and treasurer of CNEWA Canada, joined Msgr. Kozar in welcoming more than 100 prominent members of the Italian

“They face the storms of conflict, hostility, hatred, poverty, injustice and religious and political persecution. “At times, there is little hope of survival, let alone the opportunity to rebuild and to live in peace with hope.”

Read Msgr. Kozar’s full address at WWW.CNEWA.ORG/WEB/ ROMERECEPTION

An Update from Gaza since the March 2012 truce between Hamas and Israel. “Despite the harsh reality on the ground, I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit with all our partners.” Mr. ElYousef reported that CNEWA, through its operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, had: • P rovided funding to the Al Ahli Arab Hospital and to three mother-and-child clinics to purchase medicines and supplies. In early February, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, traveled to Gaza to visit partners in the region and to see firsthand how the emergency intervention in the area is faring 4

• A ssisted four institutions — the Rosary Sisters School, the Holy Family School, the Latin Patriarchate School and the Greek Orthodox Cultural Center — with repairing


structural damages during the conflict.


• Provided help to 48 families — 40 of them Christian — to repair their damaged homes. • O ffered medical assistance to some 150 patients in need of hospitalization. • P rovided counseling services and treatment to hundreds of women and children bearing the invisible scars of war.

You can read Sami El-Yousef’s full report online at WWW.CNEWA.ORG/WEB/ GAZAFEB

OUR WEBSITE OUR BLOG Life in a Refugee Camp for Syrian Families

Carl Hétu, CNEWA’s national director in Canada, traveled to the Holy Land in January and, in a blog post for ONE-TO-ONE, reported on the stark conditions in a refugee camp for Syrians he visited in Jordan. “Six months ago, there was only a handful of refugees, but today there

are over 100,000 registered people who have fled the war, the shelling and the violence that is unbearable for families. They are living in tents with barely the minimum to survive. … My only comfort is knowing that, thanks to generous North American Catholics, CNEWA is providing winter kits with heaters, blankets and food.”

Briefly noted… • T he Orthodox Church of America enthroned former archbishop of Washington Tikhon Mollard as metropolitan of All America and Canada on 27 January.

With the support of donors and its international partners, CNEWA has reached displaced families inside Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, working through the local churches. Read more about how Syrian refugees are faring in Crossing the Border by Don Duncan (Page 16).

visit our Syria giving page at WWW.CNEWA.ORG/WEB/ SYRIAJAN to learn how you can help.

Only on the Web Discover more about CNEWA’s world exclusively online: • Msgr. Kozar writes about Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy • International media coverage of CNEWA’s events in Rome • Msgr. Kozar speaks on CNEWA and the Eastern churches • Videos: reflections on the needs of the Middle East; and how to support religious sisters

• O n 31 January, the Chaldean Church elected a new patriarch, who took the name Mar Louis Raphael I. His enthronement followed on 6 March. • O n 9 February, Mar George Madathikandathil was consecrated Syro-Malabar Catholic bishop of Kothamangalam in Kerala, India. • I n a 10 February ceremony in the city of Damascus, Orthodox Metropolitan Youhanna Yazigi was enthroned as patriarch of Antioch and All the East. • B ulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Neofit was elected and enthroned patriarch on 24 February in the cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Sofia. • A bune Matthias, the archbishop of Jerusalem, was elected patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on 28 February.

Find these stories and more at WWW.CNEWA.ORG. For daily updates, check out CNEWA’s award-winning blog, ONE-TO-ONE, at CNEWABLOG.ORG.

• O n 12 March, in ceremonies in Cairo, the Coptic Catholic Church enthroned Ibrahim Issac as its new patriarch of Alexandria. OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF CNEWA


Let Us Be Protectors! Pope Francis charts a course of unity and charity


he March election of Cardinal

Here is some of what he has had to say

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos

in the early days of his pontificate. Pope

Aires, Argentina, as bishop of

Francis expresses his thoughts and

Rome sent shockwaves around the

hopes on a wide range of issues — from

world. Observers are taking a close look

ecumenism to Christian concern for the

at the new pontiff — the first to take the

poor — that are close to his heart, and

name Francis — and trying to discern

close to heart of CNEWA.

where he hopes to lead the church. The Holy Father has already sent out signals. 6


Pope Francis embraces a disabled boy prior to his first ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing at Easter.




e can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not build on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses; it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ — I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy — ‘Whoever does not pray to God,

prays to the devil.’ … When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, and when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord; we are worldly — we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord. 14 March first homily as pope


uring the election, I was seated next to the archbishop emeritus of São Paolo and prefect emeritus of the

Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also

“ THE MORE WE ARE FAITHFUL TO HIS WILL… THE MORE WE WILL TRULY WALK TOWARD UNITY.” the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man. … How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor! 16 March address to members of the media

Find out how you can share his message of hope.


he vocation of being a ‘protector’ is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension that is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one

another in our families; husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts! Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for


et us all be intimately united to our savior’s prayer at the Last Supper, to his invocation: ut unum sint. We call on our merciful Father to be able to live fully the faith that we have received as a gift on the day of our baptism, and to be able to give it free, joyful and courageous testimony. The more we are faithful to his will, in thoughts, in words and in deeds, the more we will truly and substantially walk toward unity. For my part I wish to assure, in the wake of my predecessors, the firm wish to continue on the path of

Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just. 22 March address to diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See


hrist is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world. Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the

“ CHRIST IS OUR PEACE AND THROUGH HIM WE IMPLORE PEACE FOR ALL THE WORLD.” creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are ‘Herods’ who plot death, wreak havoc and mar the countenance of men and women. Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of good will: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be ‘protectors,’ we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness! 19 March homily at papal inauguration

ecumenical dialogue, and I thank you, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, for the help it continues to offer in my name, for this noble cause. I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to bring my cordial greetings to the churches and Christian communities who are represented here. And I ask you for a special prayer for me so that I can be a pastor according to the heart of Christ. … I greet and thank cordially all of you, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions — firstly the Muslims, who worship the one living and merciful God, and call upon him in prayer. I really appreciate your presence, and in it I see a tangible sign of the wish to grow in reciprocal trust and in cooperation for the common good of humanity. 20 March message to representatives of various churches and other world religions


he church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of

road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found? 31 March Urbi et Orbi message


ollowing Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves ... to meet others, to go toward the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step toward our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort and help. There is such a great need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love! 27 March general audience



The Men Who Stayed Amid chaos, Egypt’s Copts hang on and hope


n June 2012, when it became clear Egypt’s new president would be Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Morsi, Atef Gamil decided he needed to start planning for the inevitable. The Coptic Christian real estate agent and father of three got his family’s paperwork together and headed to the Embassy of Georgia to apply for a visa. He also started to explore moving to Cyprus. Mr. Gamil

TEXT BY SARAH TOPOL photographs by David Degner worried the rising power of political Islamists would make life in Egypt even harder for the country’s Christian minority. He knew he had to think about his family. Mr. Gamil received the Georgian visa without a problem. And he was soon in contact with other Egyptians he knew in Cyprus. Then, he began

to think about his children. With one son halfway through medical school, a daughter about to enter college and an 11-year-old in primary school, he thought it might be unwise to uproot them. He decided to wait. He still is not sure it was the right decision. “There is a fear now when it comes to your personal life — like your family,” Mr. Gamil says, sitting in his small storefront office in

Shobra, a neighborhood in Cairo known for its mixed Muslim and Christian community. The yellow and pastel green walls are crumbling and adorned simply with a religious icon and a large photograph of his late father. “Before, tensions in society were controlled under the Mubarak regime, but now with new freedom comes fear for your children that things may get worse. “Politically, we thought when the former regime was gone things would improve and stabilize, but now we are going backward.” As he speaks, Mr. Gamil’s disappointment plays across his brown eyes. “Later I thought, ‘This is my country, this is where I grew up.’ It’s not fair,” he says, shaking his head.


wo years after the revolution that deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak, the idealism of the uprising and the unity of the opposition have disappeared. A new, more volatile Egypt has emerged. In the face of rising political Islam, increased violence

and religious prejudice, Egypt’s Christians, roughly 10 percent of the population, feel a heightened sense of insecurity in a country they have called their own for millennia. The country’s faltering economy and subsequent turmoil have affected all Egyptians, but Christians are feeling even more precarious about their prospects. “Copts, after the revolution, had very high hopes that they were coming out of a dictatorship where they longed for lost equality,” says Youssef Sidhom, editor in chief of Watany, a weekly Coptic newspaper. “But after the revolution, everybody is suffering from the absence of state, the lack of security and of course the shameful rise of violence. This affects both Copts and Muslims.” Salafis, extremist Muslims who eschewed politics under Mubarak, have risen to the fore in postrevolutionary Egypt. They have

become increasingly vocal about their vision for Egypt and have ratcheted up their anti-Christian rhetoric. “For Christians, the atmosphere is really threatening on a day-to-day level,” Mr. Sidhom adds. “In political bodies, in their media, in all of their talk shows — they don’t cease revealing their intentions that Egypt should be transformed into an Islamic state, and that they are coming back in order to put Egypt on the right ethical track via Islamic Sharia. They are saying this daily.” With the growing influence of radical Islam, more and more Christians are considering their options. Atef Gamil knows many Christians who have already emigrated. He wants his 21-year-old son, Bishoy, to move to England when the young man finishes his medical degree in three years. But Bishoy Gamil has other ideas. He does not want to leave Egypt.

BELOW, the faithful pack into St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo for a funeral liturgy for slain Christian protestors.

“ I think in the old days, it was hard to find a job if you were Christian,

but now it’s a problem for us all.”

Discussions about migration are playing out across the Coptic community, says the Rev. Shenouda Andraos, the rector of the Coptic Catholic Seminary of St. Leo the Great in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Father Andraos says the church leadership continues to tell its flock emigration is not the solution. “The church is trying to raise awareness that we must have a positive and effective role and we cannot leave the country — this is our homeland and we have to participate in building it. It is important we don’t become terrorized, that we continue to have hope in the future.” Bishoy Gamil and his friend Michael Girgis, a 24-year-old e-commerce investor, agree. “Even with all that is happening, Egyptians

are emotional and can’t leave Egypt easily — I love my friends, my people. It is hard to live in a new place,” Mr. Girgis says. Both young men act in their local church’s theater troupe, where they have found an outlet for their creative energies in postrevolutionary Egypt. Mr. Gamil, handsome and fashionable in his imported glasses, directs the two-dozen other troupe members. Together, they put on a new play every three months. “I believe everyone can play a part in Egypt’s revolution in their own way,” Bishoy Gamil says. “I express myself in the theater.” Soon after the revolution, the group worked on a production, called “Chaos,” about life in the country after the revolution. It is a sign of how little has improved that

the group is now rehearsing a sequel. Frequent clashes and demonstrations in downtown Cairo have shuttered parts of the city, striking at the heart of the country’s vital tourism sector and destabilizing the economy. Initially, the young men worried that putting on a political play that deals with the influence of Islam in a Christian community center would be too controversial — perhaps even get the church in trouble. But when they took their concerns to the center’s priest, Father Bishoy told them it was an important production and encouraged them to stage the show. “He said, no, you are talking about your country,” Mr. Girgis remembers. The show was a hit. They even took it to a theater festival.


or the Copts, an ominous symptom of the recent chaos is the rise in violence toward Christians. While Muslims and Christians live side by side in Shobra without incident, on television Bishoy Gamil and his friend see news programs about attacks on Christian communities and churches in the Egyptian countryside and even in the country’s capital. Father Andraos says the desire to blame Christians for the country’s problems is a leading cause of sectarian clashes. Recently, a group

In many places in Egypt, the church assists people affected by economic crisis by providing training in trades such as carpentry and metalworking.



Bishoy Gamil rehearses a play about the revolution in the community center of his parish in Cairo. of angry youths dressed in black confronted riot police in Cairo; they called themselves the Black Bloc and became a popular foil to the Muslim Brotherhood government on the streets. Father Andraos says the media accused the anonymous mob of being a Christian militia. “This is laughable,” Father Andraos says. “But when there are accusations directed against Christians, that is when fear arises. People speak about leaving, they worry. It has nothing to do with the truth and incites the Islamist groups.” As Mr. Gamil explains, there has always been injustice in Egypt in his lifetime: Copts often mention the lack of Christians in high posts in the government or in the army,

which is why many Coptic Christians have thrived in the private sector. Yet, pointing out specific personal discrimination “is a subtle problem,” Mr. Gamil says. The church has been providing many social and charity activities for its flock, especially after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat began to encourage Islamists as political allies in the 1970’s and Christians suddenly felt unwelcomed. The church began creating its own clubs — such as a football club and the theater troupe. However, many say this kind of separation complicates the process of fully integrating communities of Muslims and Christians. “The church did something that is considered a very cherished service to its congregation by founding church clubs and church social buildings,” Mr. Sidhom explains. “But the negative aspect of this is that it led to separating them

from the mainstream of society.” He thinks it is up to the Christian community to demand their rights and integrate into civil society in the new Egypt. Men like Atef Gamil understand the need to try to integrate. But every time he tries, he says he is rebuffed, as with the football club. “Anyone who tries to leave the enclosed circle gets crushed, in terms of getting jobs or getting children into clubs outside of these,” Mr. Gamil explains. He says the Coptic Church cannot take the lead in creating political change in Egypt, but the church leadership continues to provide spiritual support for the community, through charity, clubs and religious services. “When it comes to religion, it’s a religion of peace and love,” Mr. Gamil says. “These are the teachings and guidance of Jesus Christ. But the



For decades, CNEWA has focused its efforts in Egypt by assisting and supporting the local churches. Needy children have been housed, fed and schooled. Sudanese refugees have been rescued and comforted. Blind children have

been taught to read, and substance

abusers have been given treatment. CNEWA has built and equipped dispensaries and clinics for urban and rural parish communities. Parish halls have been renovated and churches, restored. Religious sisters and seminarians have been formed, and lay catechists have furthered their education. Quietly but effectively, CNEWA has done all this and more. To learn how you can help, call 1.800.442.6392.

219, which reads: “The principles of Islamic Sharia include general evidence, foundational rules, rules of jurisprudence and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community.” The article has critics worried, fearing that the specific mention of Sunni doctrines could lead to legislation that could include more controversial aspects of the Islamic penal code applied to society at large. It is a possibility that has many worried about the future of civil liberties — especially regarding the rights of Christians and women in Egypt. Already, the courts are being flooded with an alarming number of cases of people accused of insulting Islam.


gypt’s new Coptic Orthodox pope and patriarch of Alexandria, Tawadros II, has been vocal about the rise of radical Islam. His predecessor, Shenouda III, was elected in 1971, and was

church is in a very sensitive situation because if it involves itself in politics people could accuse it of being sectarian and think it is against Islamists.” The trend started by Sadat — and continued under Mubarak — has only gathered speed after the revolution. Islamists have gained dominant positions in government and written a constitution built around Islamic law. Egypt’s new constitution, passed in December 2012, states Sharia is the basis of all legislation — a similar article was in the last constitution. However, one of the more controversial articles is Article

Copts mourn after identifying a victim of sectarian and political violence.



seen as more accommodating to the government. But Pope Tawadros II, who was enthroned in November 2012, has openly criticized the new constitution. “The constitution, the base for all laws, must be under the umbrella of citizenship and not a religious one,” Pope Tawadros told the Associated Press in a recent interview. “Subsequently, some clauses were distorted by a religious slant, and that in itself is discrimination... because the constitution is supposed to unite and not divide.” The political turmoil has cast a shadow over the economy as well. Beyond the rising intolerance, the fact remains that in postrevolutionary Egypt, whether you are Christian or Muslim, it is not easy to find a job. The shrinking economy is hurting everyone. Father Andraos says the state of the economy concerns the men in his congregation. “Daily expenses have risen 200 percent. This has affected the entire society,” he says.

“The church is trying to raise

awareness that we must have a positive and effective role…” “The poor classes have become even poorer — this impacts everyone, including Christian families. These are problems that are getting worse day by day.” Michael Girgis is among those young men who have university degrees but who have been unable to find stable work in the unstable economy. He dabbles in e-commerce from his living room, he says, but he struggles to get by. “I think in the The church remains the focus of Christian communities in villages such as Qenna in southern Egypt.

old days, it was hard to find a job if you were Christian, but now it’s a problem for us all.” In the last two years, Egypt’s economy has contracted sharply, with foreign currency reserves down to just $13.6 billion in February 2013, dropping $1.4 billion from the previous month, imperiling imports like fuel and food. In January, the country’s central bank said their $15 billion in reserves was only enough to cover three months of imports. With so much instability from all sides and no end in sight, these men are trying to be optimistic about the future. But there is a persistent sense of anxiety, especially among

those who have decided to stay in the country, hoping and praying that things will improve. Atef Gamil is still weighing his options. He is not sure what will happen to his children if he stays in Egypt or what kind of opportunities, if any, they will have. “It is difficult to guess,” he says wearily. “Only God knows the future.”

Journalist Sarah Topol covers events in the Middle East from Cairo. For another perspective on the crisis in Egypt, read her interview with Maryknoll Father Douglas May on Page 36.


The Azar family shares a one-bedroom house with two other Syrian refugee families in the village of Al Qaa in Lebanon.


the Border Fleeing war, Syrians find refuge in Lebanon


lthough she has only moved a few miles down the road, Hayat Qarnous wakes up to a world vastly different from the one she knew just a few weeks ago. Back then, she was living in Rableh, a village on the Syrian side of the Syria-Lebanon border and once the center of a quiet farming community. But since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, it has been anything but peaceful. “War is like fire,” she says, sitting in her newfound refuge in Al Qaa, a Lebanese village just across the border from Rableh. “A fire eats everything before it. So does war. There is no peace anywhere.” It is this lack of peace, and its consequences, that have pushed more than a million Syrians to flee their homeland since the beginning of the conflict. About 320,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon and registered with United Nations aid agencies there. But many observers believe equal numbers of Syrians have not registered with the authorities in Lebanon; among these are an estimated 10,000 Christians.

BY DON DUNCAN photographs by Tamara Hadi Lebanon, with its relatively large number of Christians — more than 30 percent of the population — is a natural choice for Christian Syrians seeking refuge. Beyond religion, most of the Syrian Christian refugees have chosen Lebanon for more pragmatic reasons. Many have family living in Lebanon, either as citizens or as laborers who have migrated to work in construction or farming since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990. Others come to Lebanon, as in Mrs. Qarnous’s case, because it is the closest border to cross to safety. “The journey between Rableh and Al Qaa used to take five to ten minutes before the war,” she says from a makeshift room she and her husband now inhabit in the hall of the Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Al Qaa. “Now it takes four hours.” The trip is difficult and dangerous. Civilians have to navigate a complex landscape of warring factions, shelling and random attacks in order to arrive safely. Even after that,

hunger, poverty and exposure to the elements await many of them in Lebanon. The United Nations estimates that four million people in Syria, some 20 percent of the population, are in need of medical attention; a recent survey of Syrian refugees in Lebanon by Doctors Without Borders found that 50 percent live in substandard housing and 52 percent cannot afford treatment for chronic illness. The poorest usually end up settling close to the border, often in UNHCR-administered refugee camps. Christians tend to avoid the camps because it requires registering as a refugee with UNHCR, something they are scared to do because many of them think the United Nations is not neutral. They fear appearing on a United Nations list may have dire consequences if and when they return to Syria. “There are almost 140 Christian Syrian refugee families living in Al Qaa now,” says the Rev. Elian Nasrallah, pastor of its Melkite Greek Catholic parish. “Of them, only three to five families have registered with the UNHCR. They prefer not to have


ABOVE, the Azar family prepares dinner in an empty lot in Al Qaa. BOTTOM RIGHT, Father Elian Nasrallah celebrates the Divine Liturgy in St. Elias Greek Catholic Church in Al Qaa. BOTTOM LEFT, since the Syrian civil war began, the Sahel al Alma School in Jounieh, north of Beirut, has adapted to an influx of Syrian children, who now comprise the majority of students.

“A fire eats everything before it.

So does war. There is no peace anywhere.” aid where they perceive political forces involved. They accept the aid of the church, but the needs of the Syrians are much higher than what we can provide.” St. Elias Greek Catholic Church in Al Qaa is fuller these days as the village’s new Syrian occupants fill up the empty pews. Father Nasrallah chants as he walks among the congregation, which is roughly split by gender; men occupy the right side, women the left. With the help of CNEWA and its operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission, Father Nasrallah has been able to distribute food to the refugees and help them find places to live. “They have an urgent need for stoves, fuel, covers and mattresses,” notes the priest, adding that the area, as with much of Lebanon, experienced an exceptionally harsh winter and spring. On top of this, the parish also runs a medical clinic, which offers gynecological, cardiac and laboratory test services to the refugees. Still, the outlook remains grim. “Nothing suggests peace is coming,” he says. “They are losing their country now. They talk of how their country is destroying itself.”


ome refugees have begun to move deeper into Lebanon. Many make their way to Christian-dominated towns, like Jounieh, just half an hour north of Beirut. As they face an indefinite and uncertain future, their thoughts have moved beyond mere survival to other concerns, like schooling. Before the Syrian war started in 2011, about 10 percent of the students at the public Sahel al Alma School, a primary and junior high

school in Jounieh, were Syrian. Since then, that number has risen to 70 percent. The school is an example of how Lebanese society has adjusted to the refugee crisis. The government is allowing the students to attend public schools for free, as Lebanese students do, and is providing help to purchase books. Other aid has come from CNEWA, via Sister Sonia Samra, a Syrian member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Jounieh. “They lack sports clothes, uniforms, the annual registration fee [of about $70],” she says. “With the help of CNEWA, we could provide these things.” As in many schools throughout Lebanon, the classes are in French. That has been a major obstacle for Syrian children. Typically, they only speak Arabic. The teachers have made some adjustments — first delivering instruction in French and then in Arabic. Most of the Syrian children have had to go down a grade or two to be able to keep up with lessons. “The children weren’t aggressive or angry when they arrived,” says school administrator Amale al Hawa of the new Syrian students. “But they were quiet and unable to chitchat with the others. We noticed that, in most cases, they were closed in on themselves.” Such is the case of 14-year-old Nour al Hassan. She has the body and gait of a girl but a depth and darkness in her face that suggests a young woman who has been through a lot — and she has been. With her father, Ammar, her mother, Shams, and her siblings Issa, 13, Moussa, 10, and Battoul, 5, they fled their home village of Al Houla north of the Syrian city of Homs early

one morning last September. The shelling had become just too much to bear. Still, Nour misses home. “The most difficult thing about being here is that I left everything behind,” she says. “My friends, my family, my grandparents, everyone I love. I left them there and we are alone here.” After school, Nour and her siblings walk down the hill, pass through a chicken coop to a shack their parents have rented from a Lebanese landlord for the exorbitant price of $300 a month. When the temperature drops, they make do with blankets received from neighbors and an electric heater that barely works. Their landlord forbids them from using too much electricity.


ebanon has a delicate relationship with Syria. In precolonial days, it was all the same country, known as Greater Syria. At the end of the Lebanese Civil War, the Syrian army remained in Lebanon, ostensibly to “safeguard the peace.” This military presence ended after the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which prompted a mass mobilization of Lebanese in protest of Syria’s military presence. Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon in April of the same year. Today, the issue of Syria and its role in Lebanon is at the heart of the Lebanese political landscape. Another layer exists in this complex political and humanitarian arena: the Armenians. Victims of mass deportation and murder in Ottoman Turkey during much of World War I, Armenians sought refuge throughout the Middle East.


“With the help of CNEWA,

Father Nasrallah has been able to distribute food to refugees.” Today, significant numbers of Christian Armenians live in Iran, Lebanon and Syria with smaller communities in Iraq and Jordan. As an already-displaced, vulnerable population, they are adept at negotiating the shifting sands of politics and remaining as neutral as possible in conflicts. Such is the case of Armenians today in Syria. For many Armenian-Syrians, the Armenian quarter of Beirut, called Bourj Hammoud, is a natural destination. That is where Bedros

Koujikian and his wife, Rana, found themselves after they fled Aleppo five months ago. In Bourj Hammoud, they knew they would find family and sympathetic members of the Armenian community to help them. They also found a series of Armenian aid institutions and church bodies that could help them keep hunger and the elements at bay. “Of course I can’t cover my expenses here as the cost of living in Lebanon is huge compared to Syria,” says Mr. Koujikian in his

cramped and nearly windowless two-room apartment in Bourj Hammoud. His brother in Qatar and his sister in France have been sending him money. “But,” he explains, “my brother is getting married and will want to establish his own family. I will have to find another way to cover expenses.” For now, he has found occasional work repairing cars in the Beirut suburb of Daora, and he sometimes gets aid from a New York-based international relief and education Flooded with Syrian Christian refugees, Al Qaa’s Greek Catholic church is often filled to capacity.



Five-year-old Battoul al Hassan stands outside her family’s temporary home in Jounieh, Lebanon.

organization for Armenians that has a local center in Bourj Hammoud. Since Syrian Armenians began to stream into Bourj Hammoud — they now number some 500 refugee families — this center of the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation has had to expand its mission. A place that originally provided care to children now offers assistance to mothers and families. “We have more than 300 families registered with us,” says Zaven Teghlian, a Lebanese-Armenian who works at the center as a social worker. “They come for vaccinations, general medical check ups, the dental clinic, the ophthalmology clinic and gynecological care.” For other kinds of aid, there are various church missions, like that of the Armenian Catholic Church, headed by Bishop Jean Teyrouz. Together with help from CNEWA and other agencies such as Caritas, the church has been able to provide food, clothes, heating appliances, fuel and rent assistance to ArmenianSyrian refugees arriving in need. Recently, the bishop received an email from a colleague in Damascus.

The colleague had sent testimony from Christians in his parish, as they face an ominous new threat: kidnapping. “A fear of leaving your home to go to work, to school, to the church, is settling in,” read the email. While the bishop says he and the church are not eager to encourage emigration, he recognizes that all signs from inside Syria show that it is not yet the time to go back. Meanwhile, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon and Syria, Issam Bishara, fears history may be repeating itself. “I think in the back of the mind of each one of the Christian families in Syria, there is something that reminds them of the incidents that took place in Iraq not very long ago,” he says. “We know very well that the Christian families in Iraq were targeted because they were Christian. The fear is not only for now while there is fighting. The fear is also, ‘who will take over,’ if and when the regime falls?” As the Syrian conflict enters its third year, many families who have fled to Lebanon are beginning to make plans to set down roots in

Lebanon. Others hope to move to a more stable country, in Europe or North America. In her cold shack in Jounieh, Shams al Hasan says she will not return to Syria unless the regime falls. She knows that might never happen. “Besides,” she says sadly, “there is no more Syria. Syria is now a place of shadows.”

Journalist Don Duncan events in Lebanon.


They dream of a better life.

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The Promise of Palestine

How youth programs help build minds, bodies and spirits “


represent Palestine and I feel that I have to represent all girls in Palestine. But I feel equal with boys; we play together, we cooperate with each other,” says Ranea Jaylata, who has played girls’ soccer in Jericho for eight years at the Baladna Club. At 18 years of age and a senior in high school, Ranea is tall and lean — and blessed with a maturity that belies her youth. “If I lose, it is nothing,” she says. “The most important thing is I played and competed and participated. I am strong. I have the spirit of competition and teamwork.” Teamwork is essential for the Baladna Club, where the soccer team 22

BY DIANE HANDAL is a mix of girls from government schools, the Franciscan-run Terra Sancta School, and schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees. Of the 20 seniors in Ranea’s high school class, one girl is Christian and the rest, Muslim. “We are all together. There are no differences,” says Ranea. “We are one big family.” Ranea’s dark brown hair is streaked with blond highlights and pulled tightly back in a ponytail, enhancing her high cheekbones. Her tanned skin contrasts starkly


with her bright red T-shirt, sprinkled with Arabic writing. She is one of eight children: six girls and two boys. Ranea’s father is a driver and her mother is a kindergarten assistant. The family lives in a two-story, stone-gated house in Jericho. Through the Baladna Club, Ranea is developing not only a sense of teamwork, but also a sense of her self. And that is exactly the point. Yusra Swaity, president of the Baladna Club, wants the girls “to reach the point of believing in themselves — to teach these girls to live their lives, build their character, be a part of a team and become leaders.”

At the Baladna Club in Jericho, a member of the girls’ soccer team practices. OPPOSITE, two 6-year-old students attend class in Tasanoh Elementary School in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem.


rs. Swaity says she strives to make sure the girls respect each other as equals whether they come from refugee camps or the city. “No one is better than the other,” she points out. And Ranea epitomizes Mrs. Swaity’s mission. “I believe in myself. I believe that I did something,” the teenager says, the

make a difference in the lives of Palestinian youths. These programs provide formative opportunities to learn, grow, work together and play together. Life under military occupation can be frustrating and dispiriting for young people; these clubs try to raise spirits, offer a sense of community and purpose, and provide stability and hope. CNEWA

girls’ teams have traveled to Dubai, Jordan, Qatar and Singapore. But funds are limited to pay coaches and tutors, buy uniforms and arrange transportation, says Mrs. Swaity, and the resources available are less than ideal. The girls practice on a field of sand — not the soft beach sand one envisions, but compacted sand that is almost as hard as cement. If you

“Religion does not set us apart. We are equal and united…” fall on such a field, you can easily break a bone. Indeed, Mrs. Swaity says that has happened on more than one occasion. But what seems unbreakable is the team’s spirit. Ranea says she not only loves the game, but dreams of entering professional soccer and representing Palestine internationally. “I want to go to university and be a famous player and represent Palestine

The Baladna Club stadium has adopted the slogan “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the title of a famous Rodgers and Hammerstein song.

rhinestones in her tiny, blue-flowered earrings sparkling in the sun.


he Baladna Club is one of 20 youth centers supported by CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Founded in 1999, the club has 120 members — Christians and Muslims, boys and girls from both public and private schools. Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, believes support for such programs as Baladna is an innovative effort to 24

also set up the initial training to teach 20 nongovernmental organizations how to write proposals, plan strategically, find resources and, most importantly, think realistically. “For three years, we provided grants of $35,000 and encouraged them to work together,” says Mr. ElYousef. “We hope to do a rerun once this gets off the ground.” To members and organizers, it seems clear that despite its modest beginnings, Baladna is making a difference. The club is a member of the National Football Federation, and under its guidance two separate


outside of the country,” she says, exuding confidence — and with good reason, as she also excels in her studies. “I would love to have a role in raising the Palestinian flag high up.”


nother student who shares Ranea’s dreams is Kamal Mage. He is a junior at the Latin Patriarchate School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Kamal, 17, whose black, shortcropped hair is bookended by slight sideburns, is in the debate club of another program supported by CNEWA: AFKAR for Educational

and Cultural Development. His rectangular, fashionable glasses magnify the intensity in his dark brown eyes as he describes teenage problems in the West Bank: smoking, alcohol abuse and getting through Israeli military checkpoints. Growing up, Kamal lived 30 minutes from school in Jifna. “I would leave Kamal Mage and Razan Abu Kissik plan for a debate club meeting in the courtyard of the Latin Patriarchate School in Ramallah. home at 6:30 a.m. and see the soldiers walking, driving around, threatening us. I was in fifth grade then and I couldn’t come to school for six months,” he says. His experience at AFKAR has helped him better understand the world around him. Through the debate club, “we’ve learned nothing is perfectly black or white. We learn how to see other views. And we strengthen our opinions by absorbing more information.” Odeh Zahran, the general director of AFKAR, in his mid-40’s with broad cheeks and a cleft chin, describes the group’s makeup. Six schools participate, public and private. “Each school is represented by six students, Muslims and Christians,” says Mr. Zahran. “They are all Palestinians,” he continues, emphasizing that religious distinctions are not made. Kamal agrees. “Everyone should be free in his religious life.” Mr. Zahran claims Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” as his motto. “It fits well with my mission,” he says, of choosing the road less traveled — and that has made all the difference. “AFKAR’s role is to expose students to critical thinking,” he says. He sees his mission as training future leaders and decision makers. And he believes

that these young people can make a difference. Razan Abu Kissik, 16, is Kamal’s classmate. “In general,” she says, “people in the region have a closed mindset. By debating, we learn to open many minds and spread ideas — to change the way people think.” Through CNEWA’s support of AFKAR, these students are taught to look at the whole picture; they develop the skills needed to research and deliberate both sides of an argument. Razan says she has benefited from the debate club by learning to research more, to read news from a variety of sources and to incorporate a cosmopolitan way of thinking into the Palestinian culture. “We teach patience, independence and self-esteem,” says Mr. Zahran. “Students in 10th and 11th grade go through a learning process rather than a teaching process. They practice freedom of thought and expression, and respect for human rights.” At the Friends School, also in Ramallah, one third of the students are Christian and the rest, Muslim. “But religion does not set us apart,” says 16-year-old Rahaf Jhawaja. “We are equal and united,” she says. “I am president of the Student Council,” Rahaf adds, neatly pinning back her dark hair, “and throughout the 10th and 11th grade we try to

participate in patriotic events ... to show support for our society.” Being in the debate club can be a transformative experience for some members, such as Nour Judeh, 16, a classmate of Rahaf’s with thick, dark brown curls cascading down to her navy blue V-neck school sweater. “I am more diplomatic now,” says Nour, “understanding the other side, learning how to defend the position after researching, socializing. “Cross-examining is a challenge,” she admits, “in not offending others while upholding your point.” Another girl in the debate club, Raghad Saqfalhait, 16, believes communication skills are a necessary part of one’s life. “We have the politics of expressing our opinions. We don’t have weapons,” she says. “We don’t have anything to use to fight,” says Raghad spreading her arms across the wooden table to emphasize her point. “But, we have our souls. We have our communication skills. We have everything that would be perfect in society.” Being in the debate club, says Raghad, has taught her to think “outside of the box” and to discover a completely different perspective by seeing the whole picture. It is a picture that is increasingly complicated and challenging — a


ABOVE, the Siwar Dabke Troupe trains every Friday and Saturday in Jerusalem and often incorporates a variety of props into performances. BELOW RIGHT, Nour Joudeh, a member of the debate club at the Friends School in Ramallah, studies in the library. BOTTOM LEFT, Fayez al Masri is head coach of the girls’ soccer team at Baladna Club.

The girls practice on a field of sand … If you fall, you can easily break a bone.

But what seems unbreakable is the team’s spirit. mosaic that includes war, emigration and separation from loved ones. Many of the students have family in Jordan, Kuwait, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. “I understand why people emigrate. We lack resources here,” she says, but adds, “we can’t all just move and leave everything behind. Nothing comes easily. We should focus on our problems so that we can improve them.” Nour hopes to do her part. She wants to study international relations, human rights and journalism.


hile Baladna helps kids develop their bodies and the debate clubs at the Latin Patriarchate and Friends schools in Ramallah strengthen their minds, another program supported by CNEWA, the Jerusalemite Youth Cultural Forum, aims to develop artistic talents. It also seeks to protect traditions by instilling pride in their culture. More than 100 high school and university students participate in activities that include drama, dancing and handicrafts, says the director, Mahmoud Bidoun. Mr. Bidoun describes his mission in exotic terms. He sees it as “wanting to save our culture through embroidery. We save the old embroidery; we add new colors, new designs.” Iman al Abbasi, 15, has learned the dabke, an Arab folk dance native to the Levant. “It helps me to express my frustrations with the occupation. The political situation frightens me,” says Iman. “The checkpoints in Bethlehem and Ramallah are not only annoying but nerve-racking,” she says. Giving an example, she adds: “If we want to enter the Old City,

as Muslims we are not allowed on certain days.” Shahd al Khateeb, 16, dances the dabke with Iman. A white cotton hijab outlines her round face and pale pink lips. She is a sophomore, and all 40 of her classmates are Muslim. Her teacher is a Catholic. Shahd learned about the program through a classmate on Facebook. “I think the program is an amazing idea,” she says. “It helps to represent our culture to other cultures, to deliver our message through dancing, drama and the arts.” Iman has traveled to Kuwait and played the cello with the band in front of Jordan’s Queen Rania. In Dubai and Turkey, she participated in Taekwondo tournaments. “We learned how to be one hand, one body, one team, one soul — and I want to carry this for my family and friends and those who come after me,” says Iman.

“I want to save Palestine and the Palestinian traditional heritage,” she says. “I know more now about my country. It is fun to learn about the history of Palestine.” She adds that it is also important, as this knowledge can help to preserve their ways and values in the face of an uncertain political future. “This is our culture and we have to be there to save it and not forget about it,” she says. Shahd agrees. “I want to teach people about our way of life. And then, the vision about us will change,” she explains, “and others will see that we are a peaceful people — hopeful and ambitious. “I want to show all peoples our culture.”

Journalist Diane Handal covers events in the Middle East.

The young people of Palestine need hope—and help. You can make a difference.


Out of Iraq

Fleeing war, families struggle to redefine home in Jordan BY CORY ELDRIDGE


hen news came to the Armenian Club in Baghdad that a U.S.hosted basketball camp would be held for the city’s elite high school players, there was no doubt Joseph Najarian would represent the club. He was considered to be one of only two quality players on the high school squad — “the other guys were there to fill spots,” he says — and at 16, he was the youngest member of the club’s premier team. Like the NBA players he watches obsessively, Joseph moves with a graceful lope. He is not particularly tall, but he is long, with stretched arms and legs and lithe fingers. Even his eyelashes are long. His skill comes from practicing four

days a week for four hours on the rubber floor at the club’s gymnasium. To explain Joseph’s obsession with the sport, his father and coach, Daron, says simply: “Basketball is in the blood.” (Like nearly all refugee families from Baghdad, they requested their real names not be used.) At the camp, for five days in the heat of an Iraqi July, he faced new opponents and a new, very regimented, very American style of drills. Competing against the 50 best teenagers in the city was a joy. At the end, he received two certificates for his participation. One was signed by the camp directors. The other bore not one but two seals of the American eagle and the words “United States of America”

arching over the top, similar to the design on a diploma. It also carried the signature of the U.S. ambassador. A month later, a text message came to Joseph from an unknown number. In Arabic it said: “We know you are working with the Americans. If you don’t stop, we are going to kill you.” “I thought they were just kidding with me,” he says. “That it was nothing. That it was a joke.” The reaction from his father told him otherwise. A month later another message arrived. Joseph stopped going to school and, worse, playing ball at the club. Then his father found a threatening letter left at their apartment. Joseph is 18 now, living in Amman, Jordan, with his family, working at a

sandwich shop for a kind-hearted Muslim man willing to pay him and his brother under the table. He does not go to school and he does not play much basketball. “It’s strange here,” he says. “No friends, no family.” His mother puts it bluntly. “We lost everything. Our friends, our jobs, our schools, our relatives.” All the family wants now is to immigrate to the United States, ironically the country the Najarians hold responsible for destroying their country, but a place where Mr. Najarian has family. Like nearly all Christian refugees in Jordan, they never expect to return. The exodus of Iraqis has slowed since the difficult days of 2004 to

An Iraqi girl, one of an estimated 450,000 refugees in Jordan, waits in a car outside a shopping mall in Amman. 2008. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says a total of about 30,000 Iraqis are registered in Jordan. In 2011, 7,000 new arrivals registered with the agency. Last year it was half that. Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, says hard numbers are difficult to come by in the Middle East, and the number of registered and unregistered refugees is likely much higher. UNHCR doesn’t release numbers on religious affiliation, but Mr. Bahou believes about 30,000 Iraqi Christians live in Jordan, mostly in Amman. He

expects that number to remain constant — a slow trickle in, a slow trickle out and no real change overall. While the violence after the U.S. military’s surge did abate, life never became anything close to safe. In October 2010, Muslim extremists attacked Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, and the hours-long event left 58 parishioners, priests and police dead. The slaughter cast a long pall over all the country’s Christians. Iraqis regularly describe that event as the defining moment for them, when everything suddenly and irrevocably changed.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT, Father Mansour Mattosha is the only priest in his Syriac Catholic parish. Altar boys celebrate the liturgy for the fast of Nineveh at the Chaldean parish in Amman. Joseph Najarian has had scant opportunites to play basketball since moving to Amman in 2011.


n a new but poor neighborhood with wide main streets and side roads packed with the haphazard dwellings of a developing slum, the Rev. Mansour Mattosha, pastor of Amman’s Syriac Catholic parish, walks up four flights of stairs to visit a parishioner — his niece. Even before 2003, Amman hosted many Christian communities. Now, among Catholics alone there are Chaldean, Latin, Melkite Greek and Syriac parishes, as well as Coptic, Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Protestant parishes. Relations among the parishes are good. The overwhelming attitude among the faithful is: “We’re all Christians, and there’s too few of us to bicker.” Most of these parishes can be found in one part of central Amman, called Hashami Shamali, where many Iraqi refugees live. Father Mattosha comes here several times a week to visit 20 or so families. His is one of the smallest congregations, and he serves it alone. When he arrived, there were about 200 Iraqi families in the parish, as well as the original 50 Palestinian families who established the parish in 1948. Now, the number of Iraqi families has dwindled to about 80; the rest have left for U.N.-sponsored locations from Germany and Sweden to the 30

United States and Canada to Australia and New Zealand. Extended families who used to live in the same village, often on the same block, have ended up in multiple countries. Fleeing the violence and instability of Iraq has been a mixed blessing, making the refugees feel more secure but also more isolated. There are only about 150,000 Syriac Catholics worldwide. Before the invasion, nearly a third of Syriac Catholics lived in one village in Iraq, Qaraqosh. This was the heart of the Syriac Catholic Church. It is where Father Mattosha and most of his parishioners call home. “Many talk about going back,” he says, “but they are tired, they despair. So they never do.” Over his cassock Father Mattosha wears a black coat and black scarf to protect against the cold. At the top of the stairs, he knocks on the door and his niece, Maysoon Esso, answers, letting him into a reception room meagerly warmed by a propane heater. Her youngest son, Majdi, and her daughter, Rana, greet Father Mattosha with kisses to his finely shaved cheeks. The four chatter in Aramaic, the native language of most Iraqi Christians. The room is sparse but pleasant. Most of the decorations are religious,


featuring a long banner of the Virgin Mary, icons on each wall, photographs of Pope Benedict XVI, a nail hung with two rosaries, and a clock adorned with an icon. The only nonreligious items are two photographs of a young man on an end table, and a calendar above the couch with the same man’s picture printed on it. His name, it turns out, is Roni Esso, Maysoon’s son. Eighteen months earlier, Roni, 25, drowned during a family picnic. Shortly after that, his mother left Iraq with five of her eight surviving children. Maysoon still wears black in mourning. Roni’s death did not make the family leave. But it made staying harder. The real reasons they left, the reasons that secured their refugee status and a $350 monthly stipend from UNHCR, were the repeated threats to the family’s oldest son, Ivan. The 29-year-old worked for the electricity company, and the work took him daily outside of Qaraqosh for jobs in and around the northern city of Mosul. That made him an easy target, and threats were common. One day, he narrowly escaped serious injury from a car bomb. The threats kept coming. Soon after, the Essos paid a driver $1,000, and Maysoon and the five

children, aged 12 to 29, left for Amman with a few belongings. Two married daughters remain in Iraq, along with a son who does not want to leave. Also left behind was Maysoon’s husband, Kyriakos, who is working to repay the debt incurred in the course of their escape. The apartment they rent belongs to a kind Jordanian man who took pity on them and keeps the rent low.

a priority. Healthcare, in general, receives a lot of attention from CNEWA. Two congregations of Dominican sisters were brought from Iraq to administer the Italian Hospital, a respected medical facility in Amman, and a mother-and-child clinic in Zerqa, a city near Amman. “When an Iraqi goes to the Italian Hospital or our clinic and he sees that the management is Iraqi, there

The makeshift church shows how impermanent the presence may be. The glassed-in vestibule holds a shrine to the Virgin Mary, a plaster statue of Jesus with broken and taped-up hands and a two-page brochure from UNHCR. The chapel comprises the reception and living rooms of what was once an apartment. Once the liturgy begins, the seating spills into

For adults who cannot work and do not have money to spend, all they have left is church. Life in Amman is safe but tedious. Iraqis aren’t permitted to work and the UNHCR stipends are near subsistence level. Father Mattosha says most families arrive with $5,000 to $10,000, which needs to last an indefinite time. Though money sometimes comes from family abroad, there is little cash left for entertainment beyond TV and the internet, which gives them a vital connection to friends and family. Maysoon’s oldest boys find irregular work, but she and her daughter, as with most Iraqi adults, stay home and wait for a call regarding their next move. The younger children can attend school. Majdi is excelling in her studies. CNEWA’s Ra’ed Bahou says local churches have made a point to open parochial schools to Iraqi students. After the trauma many families experience, though, it is not uncommon for children to be kept at home because of a persistent but abstract fear, say officials at UNICEF, the U.N.’s agency for children. At summer Bible camps CNEWA supports for Jordanian and Iraqi children, one of the most important activities is art therapy. Mr. Bahou says psychological trauma is poorly understood among refugee families, and helping identify and counsel children with problems has become

is something to that,” Mr. Bahou says. “It’s not that it’s more friendly, but they are familiar with each other.” Many know each other from attending weekly religious services. Maysoon attends a catechism class that gathers 100 women each week. The attraction is as much social as spiritual. Many families attend several churches. The Najarian family goes to services at Chaldean, Coptic and Latin churches because they are nearby, even though the family is Armenian Apostolic. For adults who cannot work and do not have money to spend, all they have left is church.


n one Tuesday night, around 200 members of the 5,000-strong Chaldean community in Amman arrive outside a five-story apartment building in Jabal Weibdeh, an old hilltop neighborhood known for its elegant homes and galleries. The parishioners, most of whom travel to the posh district to attend the Divine Liturgy, walk down a long flight of steps from the road to the garden on the bottom floor. Most go straight to a shrine of Our Lady of Iraq, stand on the paver stones, lower their eyes for a moment, then kiss their hand and caress the statue’s brow.

the vestibule, the former pantry and the bedroom. After the service, the apartmentturned-church clears quickly and the congregants breathe in the brisk, fresh air in the garden. The high walls obscure the distinct hills of Amman. The small clusters of people speak the Chaldean dialect of Aramaic. For a moment, the scene does not sound or feel Jordanian. Then it comes time to leave. They walk up the stairs and return to a place that is not their own. None of them wanted to come here. Few will ever go back home.

Cory Eldridge is a writer and photographer based in Jordan.

Help Iraqi refugees hold on to their Christian faith. Visit to find out how.



Inside Israel’s Hebrew-speaking Catholic community BY MICHELE CHABIN


n 1990, when Michal Reich’s parents no longer felt they had a future in post-revolution Romania, they decided to move to Israel. Although they were practicing Catholics, her paternal grandfather was Jewish, and under Israel’s “Law of Return” policy, people who can prove they had at least one Jewish grandparent are entitled to settle there. Determined to succeed in Israel, Michal Reich, then 13, attended a regular state school, where the language of instruction was Hebrew. At 18, she performed mandatory Israeli military service. “Most of the soldiers knew I was a Christian and no one had a problem with it,” she recalls. A petite woman with dark hair, Michal sits in her small Jerusalem apartment with her newborn daughter Josephine nestled in her arms, nursing. While Mrs. Reich, now 34, integrated almost seamlessly into mainstream Israeli society, finding a spiritual home proved more difficult. Unlike the majority of indigenous Holy Land Christians, she did not speak Arabic. She understood 32

the Romanian prayers at her parents’ church, but most of the worshipers were foreign workers with no roots in Israel. “I went to a lot of churches, but it wasn’t until six or seven years ago that we discovered the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel,” Mrs. Reich says, smiling at her husband, Doro, who is also from Romania. “The services in Jerusalem are unique. They’re small and intimate and the people are modest and unassuming, even if they’re professors. “We care about each other like a family,” she says. By any measure, it may be one of the most distinct cultures in all of Israel. With just 500 active members, including children, Israel’s Hebrewspeaking Catholic community is so small that many Catholics around the world, and most Israelis, do not know of its existence. It endures as a vibrant contradistinction: Catholics celebrating their faith in a country that is overwhelmingly Jewish, worshiping in Hebrew, marking Jewish feasts and traditions, and honoring many local customs. Yet they are undeniably, proudly Catholic.


Michal Reich and her husband, Doro, sit with their children, Benny and month-old Josephine, in their home in Jerusalem.


he community was born in 1955. That year, a group of Catholics in Israel founded a pious association called the Work of St. James to help Hebrew-speaking Catholics live their faith in a Jewish society. “The church began to realize there were thousands of Catholics in Israel who were not Arabs and not expatriates, who belonged to and integrated into Hebrew-speaking, Jewish Israeli society,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, Latin patriarchal vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics. Some were married to Jews, while others were from Catholic branches of predominantly Jewish families. A smaller number were Jews who, like Father Neuhaus, had converted to Catholicism. Regardless of their backgrounds, most “strongly saw themselves as Jewish historically, ethnically and culturally, and at the same time Catholic,” he says.

But between the 1950’s and the 1980’s, the community dwindled dramatically, largely due to emigration and assimilation. “Some people felt it was impossible to live a Catholic life without being an Arab,” Father Neuhaus explains, noting that many Catholic institutions in the Holy Land, including schools, hospitals and rest homes, are designed to serve the Arab community. Assimilation was and remains an even more ominous threat. “It’s our biggest challenge,” the Jesuit admits, sitting in the beautiful old stone house in downtown Jerusalem that serves as a church and living quarters for the vicar and his support staff. “Our faithful are predominantly integrated into secular Israeli Jewish

the Latin Church and a deep feeling of belonging to the global church. “It makes sense that they have a special body that takes care of their needs,” says Bishop William Shomali, auxiliary bishop and patriarchal vicar for Palestine. “Hebrew isn’t just a language; it’s a culture. When someone lives in Israel, in a Jewish context, he reads Israeli newspapers and is part of the majority. At the same time, Hebrew-speaking Catholics are a distinct minority.”


hile members of the community come from a variety of backgrounds, all find unity in the most familiar form of Catholic worship, the Mass in the Latin rite, celebrated in Hebrew in six communities across

Israel. As Father Neuhaus explains, it is the same Mass prayed around the world, but “with minor concessions to the particularity of praying in Hebrew.” On Sundays, for example, the liturgy begins by lighting two candles representing the Old and New Testaments, signifying “their intimate unity.” The music is inspired by both Christian and Jewish traditions rooted in the region. Readings from the Old Testament, including the Psalms, are heard in their entirety, rather than selected verses, and Jewish feasts and days of commemoration are mentioned. “Needless to say, praying in Hebrew brings out very forcefully the resonances in the liturgy with the biblical texts, particularly of the Old

“ The challenge is to live the unity of the Body of Christ despite the divisions of politics, violence and war.” society and the pull toward secularism is very strong.” Although it is open to new members, the community does not engage in missionary activity out of respect for the local population and Israeli law. Nor does it recruit from among the country’s thousands of Messianic Jews — Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah — who have their own congregations. To help reinvigorate the community and recognize its uniqueness, in 1990 the Holy See designated it a vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This official recognition gave the St. James Vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Catholics representation in official matters of Jesuit Father David Neuhaus, pictured speaking with reporters at the Vatican in 2012, serves as Latin patriarchal vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics. OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF CNEWA


Testament,” Father Neuhaus says, after celebrating a weekday Mass at the Jerusalem chapel. One of the challenges is to continue making the faith resonate, especially among the young. In most Catholic communities around the world, “even the children who stop coming to church return to get married and to baptize their children,” Father Neuhaus notes. “With us, it’s completely different. Once our children stop coming to church, we never see them again. “The church,” he adds, “becomes invisible in their lives.” The community offers a five-day summer camp and a three-day spring retreat. It has also created a set of

three Hebrew-language catechism books that weave together both Catholic and Jewish teachings and traditions. Before Mass, teachers in the community offer classes in religious education. To make the church relevant to children — and to recall Jesus’ life as a Jew — the community offers a retreat on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and hosts a big get-together on Sukkot, the feast of the Tabernacles. “We are aware these are events that were celebrated by Jesus and they punctuate the time of the society in which we live,” Father Neuhaus says.

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ebrew-speaking Catholics are acutely aware that some Jews and Arabs — including Christians — may misunderstand their motives. They are fearful, too, of religious extremists, who on occasion have desecrated church properties. The community tries to maintain a low profile and to keep outward Christian symbols to a minimum. “We know that external signs of Christianity, and particularly the cross, arouse warm feelings of belonging among Christians, but that is not always the case with Jews, who might have vivid and traumatic memories of European anti-Semitism,” Father Neuhaus says. Complicating matters further, Israeli and Palestinian Arab Christians often do not understand how Catholics can support the state of Israel. The Arab Christian community “is a traumatized community” because of the displacement of so many Palestinians, Father Neuhaus notes. “We live in a country full of friction, we on the Israeli Jewish side and many of our Catholic brothers and sisters on the Palestinian side, so this friction is present in the church as well. “The challenge,” he concludes, “is to live the unity of the Body of Christ despite the divisions of politics, violence and war.” The community is also engaged in less-controversial outreach — to Israel’s Christian migrant population. While the children hail from various countries, many were educated in Israel. Hebrew is often the only language they can read. These children have access to Hebrew catechism books and religion classes. A small number are able to attend the five-day summer camp. “All of this takes up an enormous part of our energy and resources,” Father Neuhaus notes, sounding a bit weary. Resources are limited. Many members of the vicariate are working class and barely scrape by.

Parishioners sing a hymn during evening Mass in the Church of Sts. Simeon and Anne in Jerusalem. As much as they want to, it is hard for them to donate money. Due to its own financial constraints, the Latin Patriarchate has given its Hebrew-speaking vicariate “almost nothing,” Bishop Shomali says. “So far, they’ve had to manage things themselves by fundraising. We have to help them but lack the money to do so. At the very least, we can introduce them to various Catholic organizations.” The community is dependent on the generosity of benefactors, and has received some support from collaboration with CNEWA and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a chivalric order of the Catholic Church that supports the Latin Patriarchate. It also receives small sums from Catholic aid associations for

specific projects. The vicariate receives no money whatsoever from the Israeli government. While the community’s members are extremely grateful for everything they have — and some have very little by Israeli standards — they dream of a time when their church will be able to offer more, especially for young people. In her ground-floor home in the southern city of Beersheva, Mariana Assy, a 40-year-old mother of four, hopes that some of the Arabiclanguage Christian texts she used as a schoolgirl in the Christian Arab town of Fasuta, in the north, will one day be translated into Hebrew. Seated in her cheery living room, Mrs. Assy explains that her children have never learned to read or write in Arabic. “We moved from the north to the south to find work before the children were born,” Mrs. Assy, a teacher says. Her husband, Raphael, is a chemical engineer. Until relatively recently, she explains, “there was no Arabic-

language school in Beersheva” — though there is now a Hebrew-Arabic academy — “which left only Hebrewlanguage schools. “Our children know some Arabic, but don’t understand enough to attend Arabic services,” she notes. “And anyway, there is no Arab Catholic church in Beersheva.” Nearby, in her tiny apartment on the 14th floor of a run-down building, Mariana Rashed, an Arab Catholic teacher originally from the north of the country, breaks into a smile at the mention of the catechism class she offers the community’s youth. “If we had the money we would use it to develop ourselves,” she says. “I’d start with more educational opportunities, of course. Maybe rent a bigger place to hold services. You can be sure we wouldn’t use it to build a bell tower or a cathedral!”

Contributor Michele Chabin lives and works in Jerusalem.



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Catholic in Cairo A priest talks about the challenges of life in Egypt


he Rev. Douglas May grew up in a small town near Buffalo, New York, but now serves as a Maryknoll missionary in Cairo, where he has worked for more than two decades. He is the only United States-born, Englishspeaking priest in Egypt. He provides pastoral care for several communities in the Cairo area. He also works as the international coordinator for the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation and the Center for Arab-West Understanding, a nongovernmental organization that fosters dialogue between Christians and Muslims and sociopolitical pluralism in Egypt and in the Middle East.

BY SARAH TOPOL — not persecution — has gotten worse for many Christian men in the workplace, in the military and in the street. Catholic men of the various churches do not necessarily have “male communities.” Parishes are very male dominated in general without forming communities. ONE: Can you tell us more about the Catholic community in Egypt and its relationship to the Coptic Orthodox Church? Father Douglas May: Catholics in Egypt are often considered the “original Protestants,” heretics and the “bastard children of Rome” by

most Christians, especially Article 2, which states that Islam is the religion of the country and that the principles of Islamic law are the principal source of legislation. Christians and “secular” Muslims are opposed to this. Many Christians old enough to remember yearn for the days back in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s — before Anwar Sadat — when religion was not the focus of how a person was accepted or lived. You can spend several hours with people from this era and still not know for sure who is Muslim and who is Christian. Christians now feel tolerated at best, but not accepted as equal citizens with equal rights. Their lot is a bit

“Christians now feel tolerated at best, but not accepted as equal citizens with equal rights…” Most Egyptian Christians are Coptic Orthodox. Egyptian Catholics belong to seven distinct churches in full communion with the bishop of Rome: Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Latin, Maronite, Melkite Greek and Syriac. I exchanged emails with Father May to get his views on what is happening in Egypt, particularly in the Catholic community. Here is a portion of that exchange. The full interview is available online at ONE: How do you see the situation for Christian men in Egypt after the revolution? Is there anything specific to the Catholic male community that you have witnessed? Father Douglas May: The situation of religious discrimination 36

some of the Coptic Orthodox priests and hierarchy. Catholic baptism and other sacraments are not considered valid in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Ecumenical relations were quite poor during most of the 40-plus years of Pope Shenouda III, but things may improve under the new Coptic Orthodox pope, Tawadros II. At the lay level though, Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants get along quite well. ONE: How has the community responded to rising influence of Islam and the new constitution? Father Douglas May: Extremist Islam and Muslims are seen as a threat while moderate Islam and Muslims are not. The new constitution has been rejected by


like that of Black Americans before the civil rights movement, or perhaps Jews in Germany before Hitler rose to power. Most are nervous and many want to leave Egypt. ONE: Is there anything you would like to add about the situation for Catholics in Egypt? Father Douglas May: The Catholic churches of Egypt and the Middle East have an advantage in that they, through the Vatican, are networked with the rest of the world — especially with the West. They also have a more “global” point of view than most Orthodox churches. In addition, the papal nuncio in Egypt is the Holy See’s ambassador to Egypt and the Vatican’s

Maryknoll Father Douglas May works as an administrator and physical trainer at Our Lady Queen of Peace Home for Mentally Handicapped Children in Cairo.

representative to the Arab League headquartered in Cairo. Most Muslim countries have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, which gives the Catholic Church a voice beyond the boundaries of specific country. For example, the Vatican has also been seen as one of the most consistent voices defending the rights of Palestinians, which is an important issue among the Egyptian Muslim community. CNEWA and its magazine, ONE, help in transmitting news, too. ONE: Finally, what is it like to be the only United States-born priest in Egypt?

Father Douglas May: I could easily become fat-headed as I am a “big fish in a small pond.” There is another dual-national American priest in Egypt who is the Coptic Catholic bishop of Luxor. He acquired U.S. citizenship due to his years as pastor of the Coptic Catholic parish in Los Angeles. My expatriate communities include Catholics from 22 countries who speak English as a first, second or third language. Many of them work for various government and nongovernment agencies or for multinational corporations. We give each other moral support during this difficult time in Egypt. When I write articles and do

interviews from Egypt or in the United States, I can offer a unique perspective as an American “outsider” who is quite integrated into Egyptian social and religious circles along with listening to various opinions on Middle East issues from my eclectic expatriate communities. I treasure the friendships I have formed with many locals who have become my “family” here. I often say to Americans who think I’m nuts for being here: “Egypt may have all the sand in the world, but the desert is back in the U.S.” Egyptian Christians also strengthen my faith as they do not take their Christianity for granted as many Christians do in the West.




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Sister Soldiers Make no mistake: They are heroes.


any of us probably have some favorite stories of the influence of religious sisters in our education and formation, especially if we were privileged to attend a Catholic school or participate in a religious education program. In my own personal list, I would have to include some embarrassing anecdotes taken from my book of juvenile escapades. But let me now offer a testimonial about the thousands of religious sisters whom I have met serving in areas where CNEWA is presently active. 38


So many religious sisters in Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine and other CNEWA venues are the “foot soldiers” and the “front line” of the Eastern Catholic churches. They are often the only sustained contact the poor have with Christ and his church. Sometimes, they are the first evangelizers who share the Good News of Jesus; sometimes they are the mother figure a child has never known; sometimes they are a nurse at a clinic, not only dispensing

medicine and bandages, but healthy measures of tender loving care; sometimes they offer a cup of rice to a starving mother and child; sometimes they welcome a refugee. And always, they are present. In the midst of war, famine, insurrection, terrorism, ignorance, abandonment or any form of persecution or oppression, the sisters offer their heroic witness. Make no mistake: They are heroes. Your generous and regular gifts to CNEWA allow the sisters to carry out their missionary mandate and to

Help a hero help others

continue to reflect Christ to the poor. They live every day the challenge already shared with us by our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, when he encourages us to lend a special hand of love to the poor. On behalf of these humble and faithful heroes, I offer their heartfelt thanks for your loving support. And better yet, they promise you their prayers. You could not ask for a better return on your investment. May God continue to bless you always,

Msgr. John E. Kozar

Your gift will support new sisters in the church, and ensure their work continues In Canada, call 1-866-322-4441 or visit In the United States, call 1-800-442-6392 or visit

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