Page 1


Summer 2016

God • World • Human Family • Church

Witness to Hope Fostering Vocations in India Accompanying the Church in Iraq Saving the Fatherless Children in Armenia Nurturing the Needy in Ethiopia



On a Mission From God India’s churches face recruiting challenges by Jose Kavi



United in Faith, Prayer and Love Scenes from Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s visit to Iraq from the editors


Surviving Without a Country in the Promised Land People brave perils to reach Israel by Diane Handal

24 28

A Letter From Gaza by Suhaila Tarazi Armenia’s Children, Left Behind Migration and social challenges threaten Armenian families text by Gayane Abrahamyan photographs by Nazik Armenakyan


4 34

Connections to CNEWA’s world Focus on the world of CNEWA a pictorial journey to Ethiopia by John E. Kozar

t Students exit a class at a seminary run by the Missionaries of St. Thomas the Apostle in Kottayam, Kerala.

OUR WEBSITE onemagazinehome.org OUR BLOG cnewablog.org


Volume 42 NUMBER 2



Nurture lives through kindness Fill hearts with comfort Renew souls with simple hope

24 Front: Sacred Heart Sister Sneha teaches children with special needs at Ashabhavan (“House of Hope”) in Kerala. Back: A mother and her child, both suffering from malnutrition, sit outside a health clinic run by the Daughters of St. Anne in Idaga Hamus. Photo Credits Front cover, Jose Jacob; pages 2, 15, John Mathew; page 3 (top), CNS/Paul Haring; pages 3 (upper left), 3 (far right), 6, 7 (top), 8, 10 (bottom right), 10 (right), Paul Jeffrey; pages 3 (upper right), 28-29, 31-33, Nazik Armenakyan; page 3 (lower left), Eman Mohammed; pages 3 (lower right), 4, 7 (bottom), 11, 24, 27, 34-39, John E. Kozar/CNEWA; page 5, Rick Snizek/Rhode Island Catholic; page 9, Courtesy Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil; page 10 (top left), Elise Harris; pages 12-13, Peter Lemieux; pages 16-17, Jose Jacob; pages 18-21, 23, CNEWA; pages 24-25, Shareef Sarhan; back cover, Petterik Wiggers. ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016 Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar

34 Editorial Staff Paul Grillo Deacon Greg Kandra Michael J.L. La Civita Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. J.D. Conor Mauro Timothy McCarthy 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 www.cnewa.org ©2016 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

That’s what you do when you give to CNEWA We’re grateful for your support

Please share our web address with family and friends via email, Facebook and Twitter In the United States: www.cnewa.org In Canada: www.cnewa.ca


to CNEWA’s world

A Plea for the Horn of Africa

CNEWA is issuing an urgent appeal to help the suffering men, women and children in the Horn of Africa — hundreds of thousands of whom are enduring the worst drought in decades. For a powerful firsthand account, please see Msgr. John Kozar’s essay on Page 34, which describes his recent visit to Ethiopia. The need is especially acute for children, nursing mothers, the sick and the elderly — vulnerable to malnutrition and death. An overwhelming majority of those who live in the Horn of Africa inhabit rural areas

Support for Syria In Canada, donations to CNEWA in support of its Syria emergency relief fund — which includes matching grants from the government — now total over $925,000. “We want to thank Canadians for their generosity to support those in the Middle East who are still searching for hope amid the turmoil that has changed their lives forever,” says Carl Hétu, CNEWA’s national director in Canada. “These funds will go a long way toward improving the quality of life of our brothers and sisters in need of support.”



and depend on agriculture and livestock to support their families. “The food needs here are critical,” Msgr. Kozar said in an interview with Catholic News Service during his pastoral visit to the region in May. CNEWA, he added, provides humanitarian aid through the local church. To help feed the hungry in this desperate corner of the world, please visit www.droughtcnewa.org. Readers in Canada visit www.droughtcnewa.ca.

Foundation Grants The Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities has awarded CNEWA two generous grants to support our work. A family foundation dedicated to the support of Catholic institutions worldwide, Raskob gave $50,000 to help feed malnourished families, provide medicines and support nutritional programs for school children in the Horn of Africa, which is combatting severe drought. Raskob has also given a $22,000 grant to purchase medicines and supplies for the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. The

pregnancy and pediatric care clinic was founded in 1982 by CNEWA and is now administered by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. Zerqa is home to tens of thousands of refugees from Iraq, Palestine, southern Asia and Syria. 90 Years, 90 Heroes In March, CNEWA marked the 90th anniversary of its founding by Pope Pius XI. To commemorate this event, we are paying tribute to some of the people who have been a part of our CNEWA family over these nine decades. Twice a week,

OUR WEBSITE onemagazinehome.org OUR BLOG cnewablog.org in a series entitled “90 Years, 90 Heroes,” our ONE-TO-ONE blog features profiles of those men and women who have made a difference in the lives of so many. A few of those we have featured thus far include: The Rev. Paul Wattson, S.A., now a candidate for sainthood, who once declared: “Real charity must go forth to extend its light and warmth to comfort others who are suffering.” Sister Maria Hanna, O.P., whose courageous work on behalf of displaced Iraqi families is defined by her credo: “We want to be with the people, to serve the people in the moment.” And longtime CNEWA donor Al Lagan, whose devotion to education made him a hero to countless children hungry to learn. To meet ordinary men and women who have done extraordinary things visit: www.cnewablog.org/ web/90heroes And subscribe to our new Instagram page, as well, for images and updated information about what is happening in CNEWA’s world: www.instagram.com/ cnewa1926

CNEWA Hits the Road Members of the CNEWA team traveled to different corners of the continent this spring to spread the word about our work. In April, CNEWA President John E. Kozar and External Affairs Officer the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., visited Providence, Rhode Island, for a diocesan convocation and priests’ study day. The topic was the current situation of Christians in the Middle East. With more than 150 priests in attendance, including Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and two other bishops, Msgr. Kozar spoke about his pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan (see Page 22 in this magazine). Father Elias added context and a historical perspective. Also in April, CNEWA’s Multimedia Editor Deacon Greg Kandra traveled to Illinois, where he was the keynote speaker at the Diocese of Joliet’s annual Peace Day. This year was devoted to the plight of refugees in the Middle East and around the world. We’re always eager to share our story and let others know about how they can make a difference in CNEWA’s world.

Only on the Web


__ __ __ __ __

There is more to discover about CNEWA’s world online: • In an exclusive video, Msgr. Kozar shares images and impressions from his recent visit to drought-stricken Ethiopia • Meet some of the unsung heroes who have brought healing and hope to the poor in our “90 Years, 90 Heroes” series • Catch up on media coverage surrounding Cardinal Dolan’s recent pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan





Accompanying the Church

United in





n the midst of evil, how does one offer love? Being with those in need is a start. “I was raised with a high value on visiting people, especially when there was adversity,” wrote Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, upon his return from Iraqi Kurdistan in April. “A neighbor a block over had a fire; the next day we visited to see how they were doing and if they needed anything. Uncle Ed had eye surgery; we visited to make sure he was recovering. After my grandpa’s death, we visited my grandma a lot.” The cardinal visited Iraqi Kurdistan “because,” he continued, “the Christian community there is family, a family in a lot of trouble, with much adversity, and to visit them is a very good thing.” From 8 to 12 April, the cardinal, who chairs Catholic Near East Welfare Association, led a pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan to be with



The CNEWAConnection


90 years

Nearly two years into the displacement crisis facing Iraqi Christians of the Nineveh Plain, CNEWA remains deeply committed in helping them cope with what CNEWA’s Michel Constantin calls “a really bad, bad situation.” “Our strategy,” explained Mr. Constantin, who coordinates CNEWA’s emergency responses in Iraq, “is to sustain the facilities we set up. This includes three dispensaries and two mobile clinics serving 20,000 families, plus one school serving 680 students. For the coming year, we are raising funds to sustain the same level of services.” “We believe the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan is going from bad to worse,” he added. “The government doesn’t have enough funds to sustain the refugees. And they are, really, refugees — but because they are living in the same country they can’t receive that classification. They are considered ‘internally displaced people.’ ” This leaves them ineligible for some forms of international aid, including access to public housing and schools. You can help. Call:

1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).



the families displaced from their homes in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plain since August 2014. Just miles from the demarcation line separating these families from the forces of hate that have engulfed the region in a whirlwind of bloodshed, the cardinal and his delegation — which included CNEWA board member Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre and CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar — demonstrated CNEWA’s solidarity with the displaced and those committed to their care. The cardinal and his delegation visited the camps, neighborhoods and villages that now offer shelter to the displaced. Pastoral visits included stops to the Martha Schmouny Clinic in the Ain Kawa area of Erbil; Al Bishara School in Erbil, where the Dominican Sisters of

In the Media:

Some Highlights:


__ __ __ __ __



Sirius Radio

__ __ __ __ __



www.cnewa.org/web/ journeytoiraq




St. Catherine of Siena now teach more than 680 displaced students; a youth center in Ain Kawa for a “town hall” conversation with families and community elders; St. Peter’s Seminary, which forms priests for the Chaldean Church; a clinic in Dohuk offering care to hundreds of displaced persons each day; and a visit to displaced families hunkered down in the remote village of Inishke. With each visit, the delegation made time to listen, to counsel and to offer comfort. United in faith, the displaced and the delegation together offered prayers and celebrated the Eucharist in the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic traditions. The pastoral visit highlighted the efforts of parishioners, religious sisters, parish priests and bishops who have partnered with CNEWA in setting up nurseries, schools and clinics, apostolates of the church that not only heal and educate, but provide a source of hope. “One of my hopes for this pastoral visit,” said CNEWA’s Msgr. Kozar, “was to highlight CNEWA’s unique role in coordinating worldwide Catholic aid, on behalf of the Holy Father, and deploying that aid through the local church to those most in need.”



“The reality experienced during our mission was paradoxical,” said delegation member Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, “a combination of great sadness, loss, frustration and anger and also great faith, hope and life. “Both realities were pervasive,” he added, and often expressed by the same people.” “Pope Francis keeps saying that we priests must be with our people,” Cardinal Dolan said in his meeting with seminarians. “We just came from a refugee camp where we met a priest who slept outside on his mattress because he said he couldn’t sleep inside if his people were outside. “We’ve met with sisters and priests who walked with the people from Mosul as they were fleeing. That’s the model of the priesthood. That’s Jesus: To be with our people all the time, to be especially close to your people in the difficult times.” “Although these are difficult times,” Bishop Murphy added, “the church has always known difficult times. You lift me up. It is the strength of your faith that has brought you here, and it is that faith which gives me great hope for your future.” n



cnewa.org/web/ videojourney



Building the Church

On a Mission from God India’s religious communities take on vocation challenges by Jose Kavi




hen Sonate Kaippananickal visited his aunt in Delhi two years ago, it proved to be his life’s turning point. Then 15 years old, he went to the Indian national capital expecting a thrilling vacation. However, the tenth grader was shocked to find his aunt living and working in a slum. She and her family were members of the Santvana (“consolation”) Community, an association of the Catholic laity. She explained the community aims to present the Gospel to the multitudes who have not heard Christ’s message of salvation — especially the poor. To this end, they accompany those most in need. Sonate plunged into mission work among the slum’s residents. When, after two months, he Nirmala Dasi Sister Lovely Kattumattam assists a resident at Ashraya, an elderly care center on the outskirts of Mumbai.

returned to his home in Vellayamkudi, in the mountainous Idukki district of Kerala, Sonate had a clear vision of his future: He wanted to devote the rest of his life to Christ. “The Delhi slum experience inspired me to join mission works so I can help the poor and downtrodden,” says Sonate, now a first-year candidate of the Missionaries of St. Thomas the Apostle, a Syro-Malabar Catholic congregation that works exclusively in mission areas. Sonate, who hails from the SyroMalabar Eparchy of Kanjirapally, says he had many options to pursue his goal, but chose the Missionaries of St. Thomas because he wanted to do mission work within his own church. He now stands among the many Catholics — Latin, SyroMalabar and Syro-Malankara — whose missionary quest has helped the Indian church become selfsufficient in vocations.



The CNEWAConnection


90 years

Despite profound changes in Indian society, the Catholic churches there carry on fostering vocations of service to the Lord as priests, religious and laity. With support from its donors, CNEWA continues its longstanding support to build the church in India, providing assistance to 19 seminaries and 101 houses of formation, as well as aid for and formation of catechists and animators particularly active among tribal and other communities in the north of the country. Your generosity ensures the missionary impulse first fostered by St. Thomas the Apostle continues. Call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).

But recent trends raise questions about the future. Many religious congregations express concerns over both the quality and quantity of some called to service. Religious superiors speak of a new generation often lacking in discipline or missionary zeal. As a result, a number of congregations have begun looking for new ways to recruit young people — and finding new methods, as well, to form them for a life of sacrifice and service.




he desire to perform mission work motivated Biju Panthananickal to join the Missionaries of St. Thomas the Apostle. The senior candidate says he had wanted to be a priest as early as the first grade. His goal now, he says, is to win souls for Jesus. “I know it is not easy and I may face violence. I am not afraid of persecution. I am ready to die for Jesus,” asserts the young man from a farming family in Chempanthotty, a parish community of the SyroMalabar Archeparchy of Tellicherry in northern Kerala. Another senior candidate, Amal Irupanathu, says he also entered the community to work for Christ. Early in his life, his kindergarten teacher, a religious sister, had first predicted he would become a priest. “Her words have remained in my mind since then. I pray daily to Mother Mary to make me a priest,” says the younger of two sons of a watch shop owner in Ulikkal. These candidates must undergo training to become missionaries, studying at the novitiate attached to the congregation’s headquarters. Perched on a hill surrounded by rubber trees in Melampara, a village in the Christian-majority district of Kottayam, the congregation’s center lies less than a mile from Bharananganam, a pilgrimage site associated with St. Alphonsa — a Syro-Malabar sister and the first Indian woman to be canonized. The novitiate’s director, the Rev. Kurian Ammanathukunnel, M.S.T., says the community offers numerous opportunities for budding young missionaries. Since opening its first mission in 1968 in Ujjain, a Hindu-dominated region in central India, the congregation has grown to some 336 priests and more than 200 seminarians who work in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab and northeastern India. In addition to managing

The Rev. M.J. Joseph, pastor of St. Alphonsa Church, leads a prayer service in a Dalit village.

schools, they administer homes for people with special needs, such as AIDS, focusing on uplifting the poorest of the poor. Village development, he adds, such as improving agriculture and helping farmers, is another concern. Yet, the 64-year-old priest says they may not draw enough men to manage all these apostolates. While the community still recruits 60 to 65 young men each year, Father Ammanathukunnel worries about the capacity of the newcomers. It is not unusual for about 20 boys to leave the novitiate after the first year. Another 20 to 30 leave after the mandatory “mission experience” in the third year, the director says. He knows the reasons. Over the years he has seen fewer young Catholics from the Christian heartland of India, the southwestern state of Kerala, coming forward with genuine intention to work in missions. “They do not value sacrifice or serving others, unlike in our times,” he explains. Becoming a priest or sister has come to be viewed as “something below dignity” for many, he says, as Kerala’s society has changed over the last 20 years. Increasingly — even as they remain devoted members of the church — parents regard religious vocations as unsuitable for their children. Other religious communities of men and women share the missionary’s concerns about this trend. The Rev. Francis Kilivallickal, superior general of the Congregation of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, says only a few candidates express the desire to work in difficult and challenging missions. Most, he explained, simply lack commitment and mission orientation.


hile some of the male congregations worry about the quality of their candidates, congregations of women worry also about quantity. Some have reported a drop in the number of young girls opting for religious life. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart, founded more than a century ago, receive some 100 candidates from its 11 provinces every year. Superior General Sister Little Tresa Thevarakattil recalls when she entered the community in 1969, she was one of more than 200 candidates. The sister says vocations from Kerala declined after more girls, seeking financial stability for their families, took to nursing as a career. Moreover, she adds, some parents refuse to send their children to the missions, fearing attacks on priests and sisters in northern India, where most Catholic missionaries work.

“ I pray daily to Mother Mary to make me a priest.” The Sisters of the Destitute face a similar situation. Sister Cristal Panackal, the community’s vocation director, says they receive an average of 20 candidates from their six provinces. However, only half of them take the first vows. Some also find religious life too severe. Sister Sebi Rose, superior general of the Sisters of St. Martha, says their new members find it hard to adjust to rules and regulations. “Our families were strict and we were taught to respect parents and elders. We also learned to share and to love each other,” says Sister

Sebi, the fourth child in a family of ten. The new generation comes from families of one or two children, she adds — leading to a less robust understanding of the value of sharing or helping. Recruitment efforts face internal hurdles, too, according to the Rev. Paul Achandy, prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, a Syro-Malabar congregation of men. Parish priests and their eparchies, he says, no longer encourage their people to become missionaries. “Getting vocations has become a challenge now,” says Father



Achandy, as recruitment for other callings has become more aggressive. Whereas boys used to come to them to become members, he says, “now, we have to work hard to get vocations.” When vocations began to dwindle, religious communities began to appoint full-time vocation promoters. The Rev. Robin Manianchira, who promotes vocations for the Missionaries of St. Thomas, says he has devised a three-phase program. The tall, clean-shaven priest first visits high schools in Kerala during school breaks to talk to students about the congregation. If some boys show interest, he contacts their families. If parents also agree, the priest visits the family and invites the boy for a one-day program in December at the community’s center. He also checks with the boys’ parish priests about their character and family background.

Those who demonstrate an interest in religious life, and accept it, spend the first three years at the novitiate. During this period, they study English and prepare for high school exams, as Sonate Kaippananickal and others presently do.

To offset the decline in the numbers of young men entering from Kerala, some congregations are now accepting candidates from the missions. While some have a sizeable number of non-Keralite members, a few — such as the Missionaries of St. Thomas — have

only just begun to warm up to the idea. At the beginning of 2016, more than 150 of the Sacred Heart sisters’ nearly 3,800 members were from outside Kerala. Sacred Heart sisters work in Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Namibia, Switzerland and the United States, in addition to India. Sister Deepmala Kujur from Chhattisgarh, in central India, had first taken notice of the Sacred Heart sisters after being fascinated by their “umbrella dress.” She decided to join the convent, she says, to fulfill her innate desire to serve and care for others. The junior sister from a tribal community says she has learned to adjust to a new environment and culture through prayer. She now even enjoys cassava pudding and fish curry, popular Kerala dishes. “I am learning Malayalam and I like it,” she says. Adjusting had come with its share of difficulties, however. She had felt homesick after entering the community’s novitiate in Kerala, and returned home after a few months. However, she soon realized she was wasting time she had intended to spend helping others, and returned. Ashrita Beck, the third of seven children of a farmer in the town of Rourkela, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, has now completed two years as a Sacred Heart sister. She says she had to overcome a lot of objections from home. “By becoming a nun I could serve lot of people,” she explains. She now works toward a degree in theology at the Missionary Orientation Center, close to the community’s mother house in Manganam near Kottayam. z Sister Julie Kolambel chats with a resident of a tribal village in Bastar. t Snehagiri sisters help villagers to organize in preparation for a local governmental assembly.

Give future priests and sisters the solid foundation they’ll need to serve communities in need Please help today www.vocationcnewa.org

Sister Ashrita agrees language, food and culture differ significantly, but she remains enthusiastic. “I am ready to adjust with everything,” she says. Sister Little Tresa Thevarakattil and other superiors admit they harbor concerns about the faith and commitment of their candidates from outside Kerala, consisting mainly of young first- or secondgeneration Catholics. In response to such concerns, some congregations experiment with ways to instill missionary zeal among their new members. The Congregation of St. Theresa has introduced social orientation and social analysis programs. “We take them to villages and social service centers so they can see how the poor live, and feel empathy for them,” Sister Little Tresa explains. In another innovation, the community now regards a daily holy hour in the chapel as an integral part of formation. “They experience their calling in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Kilivallickal says. These and other methods have already made a profound difference in young people and, the superiors hope, they will also make a difference in India. Sister Sebastina Mary, superior general of the Assisi Sisters of Mary



Immaculate — nicknamed the Green Garden Sisters — has seen it for herself. Founded in 1965 to work exclusively among leprosy patients in Kerala, her community has shifted to caring for those with cancer and AIDS since the near eradication of Hansen’s disease in Kerala. The superior says when girls first arrive, “they lack commitment and dedication.” But prayer and discipline gradually bring about change, transforming their lives and, she believes, their hearts. This proactive approach has planted the seeds for a new generation of missionaries to grow and flourish. “After staying with us for a few months, they are all fired up to help others and work for the less privileged.” Jose Kavi writes about social and religious issues in India from New Delhi.


__ __ __ __ __

cnewablog.org/web/ vocations



Responding to Human Needs

Surviving Without a Country in the

Promised Land

Migrants brave perils to reach Israel — only to confront new challenges by Diane Handal



The neighborhoods surrounding the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station host large migrant populations.

Editors’ note: For privacy and security, ONE has concealed the names of the subjects interviewed for this article.


smeret, a 26-year-old Orthodox Christian, has journeyed far in four short years. From her homeland in the Horn of Africa, in a land that won its independence shortly after her birth, she trekked west, eventually reaching Khartoum, Sudan. She then traveled north to the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. And finally,

through great perils and sacrifices, she arrived in Israel. Under the yawning shadow of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station — a seven-story structure famously seen as an eyesore — migrant workers, asylum seekers and others from abroad struggle to eke out an existence, often after risking their very lives to reach Israel. A petite, shy woman with short, red-tinted hair and a warm smile, Asmeret speaks English and Hebrew in addition to her mother tongue of Tigrinya. Although her linguistic skills have aided her difficult transition, they could not spare her the indignity and pain facing so many vulnerable people caught in human trafficking. Before leaving home, Asmeret had worked in an office internship, but received no salary. For support she relied upon her father, who served in the army. When he contracted malaria and died at age 46, she was left with nothing. It was then she decided to leave in search of a better life. In Khartoum, she spent a year cleaning houses. One family provided her with a roof, but she was not treated well, she says. Her family, aware of her difficult lot, eventually sent word of a man in Israel who would pay for smugglers to take her to Sinai, on one condition: she must agree to marry him. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, people who use such methods face a constellation of risks — including arrest, deportation, extortion, kidnapping, rape, torture and murder. Despite these dangers, she traveled on the back of a pickup truck alongside Bedouins to Sinai, and walked across the border to Israel. There, she spent two months in a camp for asylum seekers.

Once in Tel Aviv, Asmeret married the 29-year-old man who had paid for her trip. “But he was not a good man,” she says. “He was jealous and he beat me.” For three years she stayed with him. In that time, he never worked and took for himself whatever money she made. She eventually gave birth to a daughter. But her situation deteriorated; she endured heart problems, a miscarriage and an increasingly violent husband, who one day came to her work in Haifa with a knife and threatened to kill her. The police took Asmeret to a women’s shelter, where she spent the next six months with her daughter. “In the women’s shelter, the social worker was very supportive,” she says. “They gave me a fourmonth program on how to care for my child.” Soon, she began looking for day care for her daughter so she could eventually return to work. This, too, presented a challenge. “In Israel, there is very good care of children from 3 to 18, but nothing before the age of 3; everything is private and extremely expensive,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, S.J., the Latin patriarchal vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics, in a recent interview with the Franciscan Media Center. This has led to the practice of “warehousing,” where migrants’ children younger than 3 years of age are placed under the supervision of one untrained babysitter — in some cases resulting in deaths, with causes ranging from lack of feeding to raging fevers to suffocation. It is an utterly neglectful environment, says Father Neuhaus, who through the St. James Vicariate seeks to build bridges within Israeli society, promoting peace and justice.




Together with CNEWA and a number of mostly European Catholic donors, Father Neuhaus has founded a few child care centers to serve Israel’s marginalized communities, especially asylum seekers and migrant workers. At one of these institutions, Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center, Asmeret employs the skills she learned in the child care program — feeding, playing with and caring for babies. Today, she lives in a rented room with her daughter, a friend and her friend’s daughter.

mong Israel’s immigrant population, asylum seekers are distinguished from migrant laborers. The former arrive chiefly from Africa, with stories of having fled oppression and war in hopes of finding safety and a new life. Migrant workers reach Israel from many nations — some from Sri Lanka and India; some from Latin America, South America and Eastern Europe; and others from Lebanon. But the majority hails from the Philippines — a group consisting mostly of single mothers.

Christians, and about 8,000 people from Sudan, most of whom are Muslim. However, the best available estimates are complicated by “nationality swapping,” according to European Union border agency Frontex. The organization noted, in spring 2015, “Ethiopians are often advised by human smugglers to claim Eritrean nationality … to avoid possible return to Ethiopia.” A 2014 Danish Immigration Services report also drew attention to this issue, suggesting preferential

Seeking asylum in Israel is difficult, she says. And money is tight and living conditions, cramped. “Ten people use one bathroom.” But, she adds, “my faith has helped me.” The young woman attends the eucharistic liturgy offered at the center every Friday and Saturday. Despite the challenges of life on the margins of Israeli society, immigrants such as Asmeret still carry hope in their eyes — through faith, perseverance and the efforts of those who fight to help them secure a better life.

For all their varied traits and origins, many of these migrant workers are Catholics. According to the vicariate, there are some 60,000 Catholic migrant workers in Israel — more than twice the average number in the 1990’s — most of whom live in Tel Aviv alongside tens of thousands of asylum seekers. Father Neuhaus says asylum seekers in Israel number around 45,000; approximately 35,000 people come from the Horn of Africa, many of whom are Orthodox

treatment for Eritrean asylum seekers may contribute to the trend. Those fleeing the Horn of Africa generally travel through Sudan to Sinai and into Israel, says Father Neuhaus, as this is an easier and less dangerous route than traveling by boat on the Mediterranean to Europe. Kiflom, 40, is another who took this route to Israel. Beneath a face framed by long, dark sideburns, a gold chain bears a cross beneath his shirt, a symbol of his Christian faith and identity.



“This is not my country. It’s like I don’t have a country; I was born here but I don’t feel I belong.”

Kiflom speaks Arabic, English, Hebrew and Tigrinya. He is married with three children. His eldest son, 14, remains in the Horn of Africa, and keeps asking to join his father. With his wife, who works in the daycare center of the vicariate, Kiflom has two other children — a son, who is 4 years old, and a daughter who is 2 years old. “I opposed the government and they tortured me. I was imprisoned for three years. Detectives came in and put cables around my legs and beat me,” he recounted, cringing.

“My mother wanted to visit me in prison and I said no,” he says, as he worried this might put other family members at risk. “I had to sign an apology form to the government to be set free,” he says. “For three months after, I hid in the trees. At night, I went back to see my family. It was not my choice to leave my family; I had to save my life. It was very difficult for me to leave,” says Kiflom. “I ran to Sudan on foot, two hours to the border.”

Asmeret cares for children at the nursery in the Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center. Migrants gather to celebrate Mass in Rehovot, Israel. Filipinos attend a Saturday Mass celebrated in Tagalog at the center in Tel Aviv.

There, family members who had sought refuge in Italy sent him enough money to pay smugglers to get to Sinai by car.



The CNEWAConnection


“I am a person with a family with no country.”

90 years

Thanks to its benefactors,

CNEWA has stepped up its

support for a program of the Latin Patriarchal Vicariate of St. James that coordinates pastoral and social services for tens of

thousands of Christian migrants

in the state of Israel. The program mainly helps students of the

migrant and asylum-seeking

communities — especially those enrolled in Hebrew-speaking schools — with Christian formation in Hebrew.

Consequently, the vicariate has been able to offer catechism

classes, develop youth groups,

establish two child care facilities and help assist immigrants economically.

Want to continue CNEWA’s

vital work with the Christians of the Middle East?

Call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).

“At the border with Israel they told me I owed another $2,200. The smugglers had phone cards and told me to call my relatives. I did,” he says. They held him hostage until the money came. Finally, Kiflom crossed the border and requested asylum. “The Israeli soldiers cut my clothes off, put me in a car and sent me to the camp,” he says.



Once in Tel Aviv, he cleaned in hotels and applied for refugee status. Through the St. James Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, he gradually found his moorings — he and his family now live in a building adjacent to a recently renovated daycare center, where his wife teaches and his children are enrolled. “God be blessed. I saved my life.”


nna is 14 years old and sports a black knit hat with big white letters — YOLO. When she bought it she had no idea of their meaning: You only live once. “But, I really like it,” Anna says of both the sentiment and the aesthetic. “My dream is to be a fashion designer.” Anna was born in Tel Aviv. Her mother, from the Philippines, moved first to Saudi Arabia to work as a caregiver. After a divorce, she moved to Israel, where she has lived now for 20 years. Anna’s mother works three days a week as a caregiver and sells Filipino food in a kiosk in a mall on other days. She sends money back home to her elderly parents. Many Filipinos, largely single mothers, are caregivers to Israel’s elderly, sick and disabled. Anna, who speaks several languages, including English and Hebrew, attends school with 23 students — four Africans, three Russians, one German, two Israelis and the rest, Filipinos. Anna lives with her mother, aunt and cousins in three rooms.

“I don’t like to leave my house, my mother, even for a week. I feel loved and comfortable beside her. I like her cooking,” she says. Anna’s days are full. At Our Lady Woman of Valor, she attends catechism class in Hebrew with Father Neuhaus, learning the Gospel and the church’s history. She receives tutoring after school in English and math. On Saturday, she goes to a Scouts program and Mass at night with her mother in Jaffa. On Sundays, she attends the church youth program with a group of other teens. Administering this youth program is Katrin Straub, 35, the in-house social worker at Our Lady Woman of Valor. “We do handicraft workshops, picnics, cinema visits and lessons in crocheting baskets from the Eritrean women in the group,” Ms. Straub says. “I really love this community and the diversity of the job. We work together to improve society,” she adds, connecting the program to the broader scope of her support work. “Mental health issues often arise through the stress of migration. We’ve had suicide attempts, panic attacks and posttraumatic stress disorder.” Although she does not provide therapy herself, she directs and encourages immigrants to seek help, providing resources and working to destigmatize mental health issues. “It is very powerful and positive to be in such a good supportive environment,” she says.

Ms. Straub began work in May 2015 at the Tel Aviv center, helping this Hebrew-speaking immigrant community spiritually and emotionally. She speaks German, English and Hebrew. “I do a lot of bridge-building — between priests and sisters and Israeli society, between Israeli society and NGOs, between parents and children.” A German Catholic married to an Israeli Jewish architect, she has become an embodiment of interreligious and cultural encounter. Father Neuhaus says the biggest challenge is that teenagers, such as Anna, assimilate early and easily into secular Israeli Jewish society as they enter high school or complete army service. “Within a generation we could lose all of our children to assimilation,” says Father Neuhaus. To those fully immersed in a secular Jewish environment, he adds, belonging to a church can seem almost irrational. Efforts such as the vicariate’s youth group and summer camp seek to counter this by providing young people with a strong grounding of faith early in their lives. In addition, Our Lady Woman of Valor provides religious education with Hebrew texts from first Communion through confirmation, after-school programs, prayer groups and catechism classes for adults and children — all part of serving this Hebrew-speaking Catholic community. While Anna has been socialized via the language, values and customs of Israel on one hand, and on the other hand formed as a Catholic of Filipino origin, she struggles with the larger issue of her own identity — complicated further by adolescence. “This is not my country. It’s like I don’t have a country; I was born here but I don’t feel I belong,” Anna says.

Be the hands of healing for young and old across the Middle East Please help today www.mideastcnewa.org

“The Philippines is not my country. I don’t have roots. I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t think I can change it,” she adds. “Israelis say ‘Filipinos go home’; in another school, teachers say it, too.” Neighbors, she says, at one time sent a letter to her school, urging them not to take on African, Russian and Filipino students. Asmeret echoes Anna’s concerns. “Israel makes refugee life as hard as possible,” she says. “Everyone is on edge. The community feels threatened and we are just trying to survive.” The young mother says she wants to leave and start over somewhere in Europe. She hopes to pursue an education, perhaps in early childhood education, to build a future for herself and her daughter.



For Kiflom, his hopes remain rooted in Israel, and his dream — to find his place and national identity — is still a work in progress. “I am a person with a family with no country. My vision is to get a country and serve my country. [Then] people will say, ‘This is my son.’ ” Formerly with the Associated Press, Diane Handal covers the Middle East for ONE. READ MORE ABOUT THE PLIGHT OF MIGRANTS IN ISRAEL ON OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:

__ __ __ __ __

cnewablog.org/web/ migrants



Responding to Human Needs

A letter from


by Suhaila Tarazi Editors’ Note: Suhaila Tarazi directs the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, operated by the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem. CNEWA has long supported the hospital, which today proclaims itself a “haven for peace in the middle of one of the world's most troubled places.”


was born in Gaza, in Palestine, to a Greek Orthodox middleclass family. I had my elementary and secondary education in Gaza public schools and later left for Egypt for further studies, where I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree. When I was young I was sent by my parents to join Girls of Light, a Christian program at the Baptist church, to study the Bible and learn more about Jesus. During the course, I was very much inspired by the life of Lillian Trasher, an American missionary in Assiut,



Egypt, who founded the first orphanage there. She was known as “the Nile Mother.” The essential message I learned from her story was from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” I started my work at Al Ahli Arab Hospital, the only Christian hospital in Gaza, which belongs to the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem. This was during the first intifada (uprising) in 1987, when Palestinians fought Israeli occupation, which brought with it violence, fear,



strikes, kidnappings and killings of innocent people. At the sight of all those atrocities, I seriously thought of leaving my job and my country to join my family in the United States. At this time, God sent a message to me through a Catholic woman whose parents were Palestinian refugees who had fled Jaffa in 1948. She had come from Vienna to work in Gaza with a U.N. organization. She eventually lived in the neighborhood and we became friends. We spent hours talking about the misery of the Palestinians in general, and the people of Gaza in particular. I changed my mind and decided not to leave my people in such circumstances, but to remain in Gaza to keep our Christian presence in the land of Jesus.

predominantly Muslim male society — to shoulder the burden of the most difficult tasks and responsibilities. But after wrestling with this, and with God’s help and guidance, I finally accepted the challenge. In 2006, Hamas won parliamentary elections in Gaza, which the international community described as transparent and legitimate. Since then, Israel has engaged in three brutal wars in Gaza — the most recent in August 2014, which lasted 51 days and killed thousands of innocent people, mainly women and children. The war destroyed homes; ruined cultivated lands and uprooted orchards; and damaged infrastructure, ruining water pipes and sewer networks.

Without them, we would not have succeeded.) During this time, an Israeli air raid bomb changed its course and fell near my house, causing considerable damage to the backyard. There was a deafening sound and I just stood frozen in one of the rooms, not knowing exactly what to do or what really happened. Dust filled the house. Most of the windows were shattered, and a glass shard sliced my upper lip. Some neighbors came to check if I was there and one of them rushed me to the hospital, where I received sutures. Over the past several years I have been invited to address various audiences in different countries and cities, to speak about our work and

“Christians should not be uprooted from the Middle East.”


n 1994, following the signing of the Oslo Agreement, the newly constituted Palestinian Authority arrived in Gaza. Never before had the Gazans enjoyed such peace and tranquility. Everyone hoped to witness an era of reconciliation, which would bring an end to the Israeli occupation. Unfortunately, this hope faded and proved to be false. Israel imposed restrictions on the Palestinian economy, prohibited the freedom of movement, confiscated land, built new settlements and constructed a separation wall — all of which have had a devastating effect and have left no hope for some for the establishment of a Palestinian state. During that time of political instability, the hospital board offered me a promotion to become its director. No one in my family liked the idea; Gaza was in a state of chaos and total unrest. It was not easy for a Christian woman — in a



The war has also greatly harmed Gaza’s vulnerable health system, which had not functioned well beforehand. Many services and specialized treatments are not available to Palestinians inside Gaza. There is a lack of medicine for cancer treatment, drugs for cardiovascular diseases, life-saving antibiotics and kidney dialysis products. Working in such dire conditions is too much for any human to cope with. Hundreds of the displaced were taking refuge in safer areas and we had our share of them at the hospital. They filled whatever little space we could find; they sat in the gardens and slept in the open. Our staff spared no effort in alleviating their suffering; I even hired extra help to give some staff a break. We offered them meals and water and blankets. (I have to record here my deepest gratitude to all of our donors, including CNEWA, for their support and generosity.

life in Gaza. Each time I sat to write down my ideas, the same bleak pictures kept coming to my mind. I had always hoped that I could utter, at least once, something positive or cheerful to talk about, but that has been simply impossible. I remember one day when a person from Germany decided to organize a benefit concert for the children of Gaza. He asked me to write a short letter to the parents that he could read during the concert. I cried my heart out bitterly as I was writing it. I listed a few ways the children could make use of the money he would raise and my heart ached just at the thought of what their priorities would be. Then I thought to myself: There, you have children who are privileged to enjoy listening to beautiful music, while here, in the forgotten city of Gaza, all our children know and hear are the drums of war!

Be the hands of healing for young and old across the Middle East Please help today www.mideastcnewa.org


year and a half has elapsed since the war ended. And little of the money pledged from donor countries to rebuild Gaza has been received. The suffering in what many call the world’s largest open-air prison continues and it seems the rights of Gazans do not matter. According to several reports issued by the United Nations, Gaza will be “uninhabitable” by 2020. For us Christians, all this suffering, depression, melancholy and despair should not sadden us, but render us more mature to confront the horror of the occupation and serve the needy. When I look into the eyes of our children wandering in the rubble, or when I see their stare on television screens, expressing their angry feelings to reporters, I know that nonetheless there is hope. Palestine will never be forgotten; it will remain deeply anchored in the conscience of the world. … I pray



that justice will eventually be done. As with many, I am pained to see the Christian presence in Gaza and the Holy Land rapidly vanishing. Christians emigrate in search of freedom, safer living and better working conditions. If this continues at the current rate, soon there will be no church in Gaza. There will always be holy sites and tombs to visit — but there will be no living stones, no living body of Christ. Christianity in Gaza and the Holy Land could become a memory without the presence of vibrant living communities. As Christians, we are the salt of the earth, an essential part of the foundations of this area and we ought to question the passivity of some influential leaders. Contrary to what many in the West believe, the effects of the so-called Arab Spring have done more damage than any person could have ever imagined. Christians should not be

p Suhaila Tarazi, left, meets with patients at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital. PREVIOUS Children and their grandmother stand in their home in Beit Hanoun, which suffered heavy damage in the 2014 war.

uprooted from the Middle East; they should be regarded as a stabilizing factor to help prevent extremism and fundamentalism. This truly and genuinely depicts our daily life. Please understand we need no pity, we need action. Our cross is heavy, and the only one helping us carry it is Jesus. FOR ANOTHER GLIMPSE AT LIFE IN GAZA, CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO: onemagazinehome.org/ web/videogaza




Care for Marginalized

Armenia’s Children, Left Behind by Gayane Abrahamyan with photographs by Nazik Armenakyan




n a chilly and damp room, 12-year-old David does his homework near a pile of books. “Do you know what I want to become,” the fair-haired boy asks, looking up from his assignment. “An archaeologist, in order to study animals that are extinct.” “But there are also other things I want,” he adds, “but won’t have.” The dreams of David, and those of his 9-year-old brother and 26-year-old sister, are varied and often changing, but they all hold one element in common — the return of their father. David last saw his father seven years ago; he had given David a kiss goodbye at the door as he left for Russia in search of work. He has not returned since. “He makes telephone calls, but I don’t speak to him. I think he doesn’t even remember me,” the boy says, trying to hide his tears. Many men in the northern Armenian town of Tashir leave the country to work abroad; unemployment tops 50 percent in the region. Many who work in Russia provide the minimum means of subsistence for their families back home, but some never return. As a result, women are left behind to shoulder the burden of running households and rearing children on their own. David’s 49-year-old mother, Tatyana Dilbaryan, wears a smile, but the lines on her brow mask the difficulties she endures. The question lingers: Why has it come to this? “I don’t know the answer. Perhaps he saw that I managed to do everything myself,” she says of her husband. “I raised livestock, worked in the fields, did everything for my children,” says Tatyana, still smiling despite a welling of tears in her kind eyes. “We are good. We’ll get through this, my children will grow up and everything will be alright.” Optimism such as hers, however, is in short supply in Tashir and

elsewhere in northern Armenia, where many children grow up fatherless. Although the small town nestled high in the mountains has an official population of about 9,000, in fact the community currently consists of fewer than 5,000 people. Once home to the Molokans — a Russian sect exiled to the region by the tsars in the late 18th century — the area today is populated largely by Armenian Catholics, who share the rites and traditions of the larger Armenian Apostolic Church but remain in full communion with the bishop of Rome. The town, with its surrounding Alpine-like meadows and fields, was once an important center of cheese production when Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union. Today, the only evidence of this legacy remains a halfruined, dilapidated cheese factory. Traditional cheesemaking in Tashir is preserved in the form of several small creameries owned and operated by families. Such enterprises provide few jobs, however.

p Immaculate Conception sisters greet children at Our Lady of Armenia Education Center in Tashir. t Tatyana Dilbaryan rears her three children alone.

“This town has become a town of elderly people and women — poor, alone, struggling to make ends meet,” says Lida Gasparyan, who works as a teacher at one of the town’s three schools. “My husband also goes abroad for work. Every time I close the door behind him, I feel as if the walls of the house are collapsing on me. The entire burden falls on my shoulders, and the worst thing is that you never know whether your husband will return or not,” says Mrs. Gasparyan, adding: “It is twice as difficult for the children.” The underlying conditions causing these trends are structural and deep. Nevertheless, in this difficult environment, some do as much as they can to ease the burden of those left behind.



The CNEWAConnection


90 years

In May, Pope Francis welcomed a gathering of sisters to the Vatican and exclaimed, “What would the

church miss if there were no more religious?” In Armenia, the

religious sisters not only help uplift broken families and impoverished

communities, but they inspire men and women to live lives of service to the poorest of poor —

especially its abandoned women and children.

CNEWA encourages the works of the Armenian Sisters of the

Immaculate Conception and the charity of the local Catholic

community, Caritas Armenia,

funding social service activities

around the country to give solace

and support to both young and old as they endure social and economic hardships.

To support this important work in Armenia, call:

1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).


or many Armenians, leaving home has become a last resort to deal with their unemployment. Officially, 18.5 percent of Armenians are unemployed, but studies suggest significantly higher rates of joblessness. This is borne out in the number of Armenians who live at or below the poverty line;



around a third of all Armenians in the small nation (who number about 3 million) live in poverty. In the country’s northern provinces of Lori, Gegharkunik and Shirak, nearly half of the population, 46 percent, lives in poverty. Of the half a million residents of Lori and Shirak, up to 60,000 people, mostly men, go abroad every year for work. Typically, this migration pattern is seasonal, as most return to their families for the winter and leave again in spring. But about 10 percent of those who depart each year never return. According to the United Nations, since 1992, when Armenia achieved independence from an unraveling Soviet Union, about 1.1 million people have emigrated from the country. For years, those Armenians working abroad have provided remittances — the money wired back home by individuals working abroad — worth about $4 billion annually, which exceeds the budget of the Armenian government. Such findings mainly consider the effects of labor migration on the country’s economy; left unaddressed is its impact on families. “No one speaks about other impacts,” says Aharon Adibekian, who heads Sociometer, an independent center for social studies in Yerevan. “According to a very approximate estimation, labor migration has caused divorces in about 10 percent of the labor migrants’ families.” The negative effects of this, he adds, fall disproportionately upon former wives and their children. Mr. Adibekian focuses his studies on the two major cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor, where social ills are acute and poverty, high. Many migrants from these cities do not return. Although individual reasons for this will always vary, the underlying social conditions remain a constant. “Conditions here are so awful that after living in Russia and

elsewhere for several years people no longer want to come back. “Even missing their children,” the sociologist concedes, “does not bring them back.”


mid this climate of abandonment, Armenia’s tiny Catholic Church offers help — providing day care centers for children and supporting programs to assist their parents procure food, clothing and an education. From the entrance of Our Lady of Armenia Education Center in Tashir, one can hear the clamor of children halt abruptly, as those standing around tables begin to pray while the scent of dinner fills the room. For a majority of children who gather here, this is the only hot meal of the day. “At home we often have nothing to eat, but the meal here is very delicious,” says 14-year-old Mikael, whose father died in Russia, leaving his mother, 38-year-old Rima Ghazaryan, alone to care for two boys. “It’s been difficult with the boys,” says his mother. “I was afraid they would be brought up the wrong way without their father.” The center, Mrs. Ghazaryan says, has done much to ease her fears. “It’s a great support. Here they give children the right direction. “I don’t know what I would do without this center,” she says. It is due to the center that Mrs. Ghazaryan has time to work in order to earn some money to support her family. z LEFT Gyulizar Araqelyan stands with her three school-age children. z RIGHT Samvel Sukiasyan embraces his two sons. u Arpine and her two sons live with her extended family.

“The displacement of heads of households ‘has simply changed the model of our families.’ ”



Show Armenia’s abandoned women and children that they’re no longer alone Please help today




Sister Hakinta Muradyan, an Armenian Sister of the Immaculate Conception, directs the center. She has a reputation as a woman supportive of everyone in Tashir. She understands the difficulties each of the 26 children at the center face. She knows what they like to eat, what their marks at school are, why they are sad or happy — she lives by the emotions of all these children. “There are lots of problems in this town,” says Sister Hakinta. “Sixty percent of the children have no fathers around. They are either dead or haven’t returned from abroad.” Their mothers, she adds, struggle to stay out of poverty. “We have tried to take at least this care off their shoulders,” the sister says. It is through such efforts that Tashir becomes a “paradise” in the summer, when the center runs a camp for some 250 children. “I very often say that this center is Tashir’s paradise. I do not exaggerate. This is a rare bright spot where children learn, experience proper human interrelations, where they see justice and receive maternal affection and care,” says Samvel Sukiasyan, a father of two boys, who has reared his children alone since his wife left — an unusual reversal of roles.



“I don’t know what I would do without this center. I do everything for my boys, but I can’t give them maternal affection,” Mr. Sukiasyan says, adding that they enjoy the center so much it can be difficult to convince them to go home. “My sons have totally changed; they grow up here as responsible and righteous people.” Children often arrive after school. There, they complete their homework, then are assembled into different groups — language, dance, song, handicrafts, religion and physical education. Importantly, the children also receive a free meal. Recent studies indicate one child out of five in Armenia suffers from malnutrition. According to the Ministry of Health, this figure rises to one out of three in northern Shirak and Lori, as well as southern Syunik. Tatyana Dilbaryan, whose son David dreams of being an archaeologist, speaks of the center in glowing terms. “They assist us in every matter, not only in social issues, be it food, clothing or even medicines, but also in helping provide the right education and training to our children. “David used to be so reserved,” she says of her son. “After his father left, he felt abandoned and guilty.

But after he started attending this center he changed, everything has changed.”


igration has also affected many families in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri, alongside other, older problems. During the Soviet era, Gyumri was Armenia’s largest industrial city, where about 70 percent of the population was employed in more than 50 factories. A devastating earthquake in 1988 destroyed almost the entire city, killing 17,000 people in Gyumri alone. Today, nearly 28 years after the earthquake, more than 4,000 people still live in the shabby metal huts, or domiks, first designed as temporary housing for those left without shelter by the earthquake. “The social issues present throughout the country are doubled in Gyumri,” says Vahan Tumasyan, who for the past seven years has headed the Shirak Center, advocating for earthquake survivors’ rights and implementing humanitarian aid projects. “I know everyone who lives in these settlements and about 60 percent of these families have no fathers. Men have left for Russia and elsewhere to work; some still maintain ties with their families, and others don’t. They feel they’ve finally left behind inhuman conditions.” Over the past two decades the population of Gyumri has dropped dramatically. According to official data, the city has a population of 123,000, roughly half of its preearthquake level. But according to Artashes Boyajyan, head of the Armenian Studies Center of Gyumri, the real figure does not exceed 70,000. The displacement of workers and heads of households has “simply changed the model of our families,” Mr. Boyajyan says. “This is not just a social crisis; this is also the disruption of the family model, a

Sister Hakinta helps with homework at the Our Lady of Armenia center.

serious psychological crisis that affects our children.” This crisis weighs heavily on 14-year-old Susanna, a bright, cheerful girl whose voice nevertheless wavers when she discusses her parents. They had made the decision ten years ago that her father had to work in Russia to support their four children. He left and never returned. She describes her last contact with her father — a phone call. “I asked my dad whether he remembered me and whether he would recognize me if he saw me. He did not say anything. We haven’t spoken since. I don’t want to; he’s left my mom alone,” Susanna says, hugging her mother, 48-year-old Gyulizar Araqelyan. Mrs. Araqelyan’s eldest daughter is now married, while her other three children are of school age. In order to provide for their food needs she has enrolled them in a boarding school where they receive two meals a day. “Every time I take my children to that school, I cry. Why should I rely on school food? Why shouldn’t my children be at home? I don’t know what else to do,” says the emaciated woman, who suffers from a chronic kidney disease and is unable to work for long hours. The main source of the family’s income is the state allowances for the children that total $100 a month. Susanna spends much of her day at the Little Prince Center, where she attends classes in cooking, painting, theater and sewing, and even receives counseling and social support. “The center has become a sort of new home. We learn so many things that we couldn’t learn either at school or at home,” says Susanna, showing off certificates of merit she has received for good grades. Founded in Gyumri in 2009 as an initiative of Armenian Caritas, the

charity of the Catholic Church in Armenia, the Little Prince Center provides comprehensive care and support for 12- to 18-year-olds of vulnerable families. “It is very important to help these children overcome their feeling of being miserable, their low selfesteem. Getting food here or attending different groups is just the formal part of it,” says the center’s coordinator, Anna Martirosyan. “We work in different ways to help them feel more integrated in society, help them trust in their own abilities and strength, because all of them have a need for that.” Little Prince centers operate also in other towns of northern Armenia where there are similar problems — Tashir, Vanadzor, Gavar. They provide assistance to more than 235 children and their families. In the midst of the crisis afflicting these cities, these programs may appear as little more than a drop in the ocean. Yet, these life-affirming

drops offer something few other sources provide — hope. “When Susanna comes home from the center with a smile on her face, I know she is not hungry and that she has been in a positive environment, so my heart is at peace,” says her mother, Gyulizar Araqelyan. “I know that not everything is hopeless yet, and that there will still be a bright day someday.” Gayane Abrahamyan’s reporting has appeared in The Atlantic, EurasiaNet and ArmeniaNow.


__ __ __ __ __

cnewablog.org/web/ armenia




on the world of CNEWA

A pictorial journey to Ethiopia


ne of the most prominent outreaches of Catholic Near East Welfare Association is serving the needs of children. We have made a concerted effort to be as responsive and timely as possible, especially when there are wars, natural disasters or economic realities that threaten the very lives of these little ones. Recently, I was extremely blessed to have visited children in Ethiopia. This is a large country. Overwhelmingly rural, Ethiopia has limited infrastructure and is suffering through a severe extreme drought, and fears of the resultant famine that could follow. My primary objective was to demonstrate the loving solidarity of CNEWA with the poor children of Ethiopia, with their parents, their teachers, their church leaders and those who minister to them.



Most of my visit was concentrated in the extreme northern reaches of the country bordering Eritrea. This is a vast mountainous area that has very challenging “roads” to reach remote villages; in many instances there are no roads at all, only dangerous mountain footpaths. After a tortuous two-hour, nailbiting trip in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, our director of programs, Thomas Varghese, and I arrived in a remote village named Aiga, where we stopped at the humble parish school of St. Michael. There, the children warmly greeted us with songs and prayers and welcomed us lovingly into their classrooms, which have only the barest hint of outside natural light for the classes. After visiting with each of the classes, we went outside the school, where they lined up to receive their “CNEWA” biscuits: a two-biscuit

pack that would sustain them as the school day went on and would give them enough energy to walk home to their mountain dwellings. Most of the children walked over steep mountain trails for two or three hours each way to come to school. This simple nutritional supplement means the difference between these beautiful children coming to school or staying at home. There were two very touching moments for me as they were enjoying their biscuits. The first came when I saw many children only eating one biscuit and wrapping up the other one to take home to be shared with others in their family; and the second was when a little girl offered me one of her biscuits. Tears came to my eyes at this gesture of kindness and generosity. What a demonstration of the Christian values that they learn in school and practice in their humble homes.

t Msgr. John E. Kozar visits the students at St. Gabriel School in Saesa. u A local resident greets the Rev. Abraha Hagos with a gift of goat milk.

There was a huge irony to this visit: We were there to document the effects of the drought and the fearful reality of famine, but once we arrived we encountered torrential rains. For the record, these horrific downpours did not end the drought or diminish the fear of famine. In fact, they have brought an entirely new catastrophe — devastating floods with the loss of life, both human and livestock, and more irretrievable loss of soil. And so the hunger continues. But the powerful faith of these suffering souls endures in these most difficult of times. Their participation in the faith life of the church in their remote villages was evident at liturgical celebrations. One such celebration was a mountaintop funeral liturgy in Aiga. Some 500 mountain dwellers from far and wide came to pray for

the eternal reward of the departed. Not only did some of them walk over dangerous mountains footpaths — some traveling for up to seven hours each way — but they carried the body on their shoulders for about ten kilometers, or six miles.

to endure in their faith. And in these very difficult times of drought, hunger and now the deluge, their needs are even greater. Please continue being generous and know how much the poor of Ethiopia love you and remember you in their prayers.

I was also privileged to visit some of the poor in their mountain homes. With a gentle traditional greeting — kissing my hands — they warmly welcomed us into their homes and immediately offered us their provisions for the day: bread, goat’s milk and coffee. For them, it was an honor to have a priest visit them. For me, it was an honor to be in the presence of holy people. I noticed that the cross was prominent, both in their homes and around their necks.

May God bless you.

Your gifts to CNEWA allow these children and the faithful of Ethiopia

Msgr. John E. Kozar



onemagazinehome.org/ web/videoethiopia



A Pictorial Journey

THIS PAGE: School food programs provide students with nutritionally dense biscuits daily. TOP RIGHT: Women prepare coffee and snacks at a clinic operated by the Daughters of St. Anne. BOTTOM RIGHT: Students collect their daily meal at the Mariam Tsion School in Saesa.





A Pictorial Journey



THIS PAGE: Students attend class at St. Michael School in Aiga. TOP LEFT: A child naps in a home between Saesa and Idaga Hamus. BOTTOM LEFT: Priests lead the community in prayer during a mountaintop funeral.



CNEWA a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195 • 1-212-826-1480 • cnewa@cnewa.org 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9 • 1-866-322-4441 • www.cnewa.ca

Nourish the hungry in the Horn of Africa and fill their basket with hope Please help today

www.droughtcnewa.org | www.droughtcnewa.ca

Profile for CNEWA

ONE Magazine Summer 2016  

The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)

ONE Magazine Summer 2016  

The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)

Profile for cnewa