Posts Tagged ‘CNEWA’

Resolving conflicts in the Middle East: a Cristian and a Muslim girl playing chess…

I took this picture at CNEWA library in Amman, Jordan. A Muslim and a Christian girl were peacefully playing together. (Amman, Jordan 4/2010)


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Father Guido Gockel and I recently accompanied a group of CNEWA’s benefactors on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and I blogged about it on ONE-TO-ONE. If you’ve never seen the Holy Land, take a look:

CNEWA Staff and Benefactors in Jericho

As if modern Magi, we are looking for the birthplace of Jesus, but unlike them we are not following complicated astronomical trajectories. Our comet and guiding star is a Palestinian named Tony and instead of slow camels we are using a much faster and reliable Hyundai minivan. Read more.

Bedouins in Jericho

The Magi Move On

When the Magi reached the grotto of the Nativity, I’m sure they left their camels just outside it. When our group arrived at Bethlehem’s Nativity Square, a Palestinian policeman asked us to move our car quickly. Our guiding star, Tony, could not hover above the grotto or even nearby. Read more.

Experiencing the Real Holy Land

One has to go through the same checkpoints Palestinians have to cross in order to understand why they feel imprisoned in their own land. And when you look in the eyes of Israeli soldiers, you find out that many of them are young men and women perhaps scared of the huge responsibilities given to them. They wear it like a suit many sizes too large, and it shows clearly.Read more.

Hope and Comfort in a Divided City

Early in the morning, after crossing the New Gate and entering the Christian Quarter, after only a few steps on the uneven cobble stones, we saw the emerald-green iron gates of CNEWA’s office in Jerusalem (known locally as the Pontifical Mission). Read more.

A Trip Cut Short

We waited for Father Guido at the Altar of the Crucifixion and at 7 a.m. sharp he arrived, escorted by a Franciscan priest. This altar is cared for by the Franciscans. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and other Eastern churches care for other sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Read more.

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The Circle Closes

This is the story of three people. They lived in different places. They never met one another before. Yet one day, the circle closed and these individuals connected in the strange way that only God allows.

Baghdad, Iraq
17 June 2010
8:00 p.m.

The darkness of night was slowly painting the buildings and streets of Baghdad. The lampposts on the sidewalks were off. There hadn’t been electricity for days.

Da’ad stood by the window and held the youngest of her three daughters. Her right hand played nervously with the cross on her necklace. Her husband, Sami, had asked her several times to remove it.

It’s not safe to show that we are Christians,” he warned.

Da’ad wouldn’t listen. She had always been proud of her faith, and she had no intention of denying it.

The dark ink of night had now taken over. Da’ad felt certain — something terrible had happened to her husband. The factory where he worked closed at 6:30 for security reasons. Sami was an hour and a half late.

Her phone rang at 10:20. As Da’ad listened, tears ran down her face. Then, she told her daughters — get ready to leave. Da’ad grabbed the small amount of cash she kept in a drawer and a photo of Sami.

The next bus for Syria was at 11:00.

Iraqi refugees in Damascus

Damascus, Syria
19 June 2010
8:00 a.m.

Sister Marie was called in a hurry. Four people had just arrived from Iraq. She opened the convent door and saw a woman and three girls with no luggage. The woman held a photo of a man with a beautiful smile. Sister Marie had seen this before.

“He was shot in the back after work,” explained Da’ad, trying not to sob.

“The man who did it was our neighbor. I know his family. They are Muslims, but we’ve had dinner together. The man shot my husband and then called me to say my daughters and I would be next.”

Da’ad looked straight into Sister Marie’s eyes.

Tell me why,” she demanded. “I can’t understand why.”

Sister Marie hugged Da’ad for the longest time. She could only offer the family accommodations for a few days. The convent was already full of refugees. Nor did Sister Maria have money to rent an apartment for them. Since Iraqi refugees began pouring into Damascus, rents have skyrocketed.

The only option was to call the office of CNEWA.

Wichita, Kansas
13 July 2010
3:00 p.m.

Pauline hadn’t opened her mail yet. She’d spent the morning volunteering at the soup kitchen at her parish, as she has done on many mornings since she retired and her husband passed away. When Pauline finally sat down at the kitchen table to sort through what the mailman had left, one envelope captured her attention. It had the familiar red papal seal.

Pauline opened it and read the story of Da’ad, Sister Marie and the apartment they couldn’t afford to rent. Immediately, Pauline opened her checkbook and wrote a generous check for Da’ad and her children. A sentence in the letter convinced her it was the right thing to do: “Whenever you do for the least of brothers, you do it for me.”

This is the work of CNEWA. Connecting people. Closing circles. In a way that only God allows.

*Based on a story of a family from Iraq and a religious sister in Syria. Names have been changed for privacy.

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Today, my post is titled the same way as my blog. Recently, one of my readers and dear friends asked me why I had chosen this title. So I told him a little story…

Do you remember when I was in India?  At one of the schools I visited, the little girls put on a performance of traditional dance. It was so beautiful and I could tell they’d worked so hard. Then I learned that a few months earlier, children at another school had tried to prepare a similar performance for CNEWA staff who were coming to see the school.

Weather delayed the tour, and our staff didn’t arrive until it was very late. The school was deep into a rolling blackout—common in these poor rural villages. They didn’t have power and probably wouldn’t for another three days. The children were so disappointed! How could they welcome their special guests with the dance if no one would be able to see them? But Thomas, my friend and the Regional Director of  CNEWA India, had an idea. He rolled his SUV up to an open space, and flipped on his headlights. It wasn’t as bright it might have been, but it was enough.

The children danced and sang, and in the end, everyone was so proud of each other. Thomas told me how special that night was for him and for the children.

It’s such a good example of what I hope to be doing at Catholic Near East Welfare Association. We’ve all heard the stories. Children are hungry, adults are unemployed, there isn’t enough medicine—and what can we do? None of us by ourselves can make a real difference. But still, I can light my candle. And you can light yours too. And together, you and me and everyone else holding our candles high can really show God’s light to the world.

Better to light one candle than curse the darkness.—Chinese Proverb

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Thanks again for the photos—I hope Supriya likes them!

I’ve just received word that in Supriya’s school, there are 60 children who don’t have sponsors. My heart goes out to these little ones.

I want to introduce you to Kavitha.

Kavitha is  Supriya’s classmate and is just six years old. She loves to paint and dance and sing–what an artist!

Her parents sent her to this school to get a better life than they could give her. Though they work hard as laborers, it’s not enough to meet the family needs.

Kavitha needs a sponsor in order to continue her education.

Now meet Sreekanth.

Sreekanth is a year older than Kavitha and Supriya, and he needs a sponsor too!

When he grows up, he wants to be a doctor and save lives. Will you help him reach his goals?

Like most of his schoolmates, his parents are laborers who work hard. But in this part of India, things are so tough, they can’t support Sreekanth or his brother and sister.

I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m making it my personal mission to ensure that all of these kiddos have a sponsor—and quick! First, I’ll start with Kavitha and Sreekanth.

Can you help me?  I know some of my blog readers already sponsor CNEWA children. That’s wonderful!  Can you sponsor one more?  Or can you tell a friend about them?

I know I’m being bold. But, please, dig deep. I know together we can do this.

Sponsoring through CNEWA is easy. All it takes is $28 a month to provide Kavitha or Sreekanth with food, education, medical care — and put smiles on their faces.

So if you or someone you know wants to put a smile on the face of Sreekanth or Kavitha, please e-mail me directly: smile@cnewa.org.  I’ll help you get started in the sponsorship process.

And in the coming weeks, I’ll introduce you to more boys and girls who need support!

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A few months ago, I told you about a very special little girl named Haymanot. But have I told you how she’s impacting my life at work?

Haymanot is my inspiration. Everyone has hard days at work, and I’m no different. But I’m lucky. I’ve seen my work in action with Haymanot and her family. I know how crucial every dollar CNEWA raises is to the needy families we are assisting. So I don’t complain.

Haymanot never complains, either. Instead, she thanks me for the opportunity to work hard in school. She doesn’t see her small house as cramped, like we might. Instead, she remembers the slum where she used to live and her heart sings. Look at her beaming smile here: a new pack of markers.

Haymanot is a beautiful little girl facing too many obstacles. So when I’m at work, thinking about what the children really need, I think of her.

A warm bed, a good school, enough to eat. The support of a family. And, thank God, that includes me.

Did you know I have started to sponsor another child? I haven’t heard anything about her yet, but she’s a little girl in India just starting school. Hopefully, I’ll get a letter from her soon!


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There’s an excited young priest in Mekele, Ethiopia, with a big job. He’s the chaplain to the Christian students at a huge public university and he runs a youth center and a library. Every day, he changes lives. But he wants to do more… He wants to start a youth athletic program to give the kids self-confidence, healthy bodies, strong friendships, and a safe and happy place to spend their time.

One problem: no sports equipment!

He sent us a plea for help. And we knew just the person to ask. One of our donors, Dennis, has a soft spot in his heart for athletic programs for needy kids. Last year, he gave four schools in Ethiopia the chance to set up athletic programs with a generous gift of soccer balls and volleyballs. So we asked, fingers crossed, and prayed he would help us.

And he did! He filled the entire request in one wonderful moment. Now, the kids in Mekele will have soccer balls, volleyballs, table tennis and nets—even uniforms. Thank you, Dennis!

Dennis is funding a program though CNEWA’s office in Northeast Africa. Let me know if you want to help too!


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