The Blessing of Water
A new reservoir was recently completed in Abou Kamha, a small village of about 800 people in the southern region of Hasbaya, near Lebanon’s border with Israel. Engineers from CNEWA’s Beirut office designed the reservoir and supervised its construction.
Built on a tributary of the Hasbani River, the new dam irrigates roughly 100 acres of agricultural fields, benefiting some 200 farmers and their families. Farmers, most of whom are Greek Orthodox or Maronite Catholic, grow olive and fruit trees as well as a variety of vegetables.
The original dam was destroyed during the war between Hezbollah and Israel in the summer of 2006. Lack of water devastated food production, depriving the village’s farmers of their only source of income.
Motivating Knights and Ladies
CNEWA continues its program to assist in the formation and education of members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Earlier this spring, Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General, and Brother David Carroll, F.S.C., Under Secretary General, addressed members of the U.S. Southeastern Lieutenancy in Mobile, Alabama.
On 5 April, Brother David spoke on pilgrimage and the history of the order. The next day, Msgr. Stern spoke to members of the responsibilities of knights and ladies to work for peace and justice.
India Office Matures
CNEWA’s regional office in Ernakulam, Kerala, is now a registered charitable organization under Indian law. The Indian government approved the office’s application for legal identity as well as for currency registration, which allows it to receive and disburse foreign currency. This legal status also gives CNEWA India the freedom to raise funds throughout India and to process those funds directly.
The evolution of CNEWA’s India office opens a door of opportunity: By far the single largest country program of the agency, CNEWA’s new legal status enables its local churches to participate in CNEWA’s mission to advance the works of the Eastern churches.
Visit to Gaza
CNEWA’s regional office in Jerusalem led a delegation of Catholic social service agencies to Gaza on Tuesday, 18 March, in a gesture of solidarity during Holy Week. The visit marks the first since Hamas took control of the territory last June.
The delegation first stopped at a pre- and neonatal care clinic run by the Near East Council of Churches, where health care professionals expressed alarm about a growing number of malnutrition cases among mothers and children.
“The population lacks basic food, medicine and fuel as a result of the Israeli military siege on Gaza, creating a serious humanitarian crisis,” said Maher Turjman, our regional director for Palestine and Israel.
Subsequent stops included a visit to the Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox parishes, the Rosary Sisters’ School and the local YMCA. The needs of these institutions, already strapped for funds, have only intensified since internecine clashes broke out in Gaza last year.
“Despite all the hardship, the people we spoke to did not seem desperate. They have a tremendous capacity for coping,” Mr. Turjman said.
Promoting Interfaith Dialogue
Islamic scholars from Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Syria and Tunisia met with CNEWA’s Chorbishop John Faris, Deputy Secretary General, and Michael La Civita, Assistant Secretary for Communications, on 3 April to discuss CNEWA’s work in the Middle East, the agency’s role in promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue and its educational efforts in North America.
The delegation was invited to the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
The U.S. program, which is committed to promoting interfaith dialogue throughout the Near East and North Africa, introduced the delegation to various aspects of religious life in the United States, including the historic origins of religious freedom through immigration, religious education and the impact of religion on politics and the media.
Toronto Round Table
CNEWA Canada’s national secretary, Carl Hétu, spoke on the growing Iraqi Christian refugee crisis at a round table in Toronto on 16 April.
Hosted by Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto and Catholic Charities, the round table assembled over 25 representatives from Catholic agencies across the Archdiocese of Toronto to address issues related to the sponsorship, resettlement and integration of Iraqi refugees in Canada. All participants agreed to step up efforts to assist new arrivals as well as to press the government to expedite asylum procedures for Iraqi Christians in particular.
“Thanks to Archbishop Collins, Canada’s Catholics are better poised to urge the government to reach out and support Iraq’s Christian refugees,” said Mr. Hétu. “Targeted by extremists on account of their religion, a disproportionate number of Christians have fled their homes,” he added.