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The Last Word

Perspectives from the president

The Advent and Christmas seasons announce a time of waiting, a time of hope, a time of peace, a time of joy. How wide is the chasm between that announcement and our lived experience in 2023?Are we not overwhelmed by darkness, multiple forms of evil and violence, the reality of sin and division?

In this year 2023, thanks to you — who have prayed with us and have engaged in the crises CNEWA seeks to address — we have made, and will continue to make, a difference for good. I pray we, together, will continue to be instruments of hope, peace and joy.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)

In my two visits this past summer to Ukraine, in June and August, I saw the horror of war and the heroic, resilient people of Ukraine in their resolve to win and to rebuild their country.

I remain in ongoing communication with our office in the Holy Land. I recall our team visit to Gaza in June 2022. CNEWA denounces the vicious attack of Hamas against Israel and stands in solidarity with the innocent victims of the Hamas massacre. We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself, within the parameters of proportionality, and we decry the massive loss of innocent human life in Gaza — the deaths of infants, children, mothers, fathers and the elderly, including members of the extended CNEWA family. We continue to work with our partners in support of the dignity of the traumatized Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and in the rebuilding of their communities, offering them humanitarian and psychosocial support.

Sami Tarazi, in black, a CNEWA projects assistant in Gaza, distributes food supplies in mid-November to those displaced by the Israel-Hamas war, a month after his parents were killed in the Israeli airstrike on the grounds of the Church of St. Porphyrios. (photo: CNEWA Jerusalem)

CNEWA continues to support the ethnic Armenians forced from their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. And we remain on the ground in our efforts to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking and offer protection to survivors, particularly in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

CNEWA continues to monitor the situation in the northeastern state of Manipur, India, where the violence between the Meitei people of the Imphal Valley and the Kuki-Zo people and tribes has killed or wounded hundreds, displaced tens of thousands and destroyed hundreds of homes, churches and temples.

At Christmas, we turn our gaze to Bethlehem. Here, we contemplate the scandal of the mystery of the Incarnation. Here, we see God’s reply to our darkness, evil, violence, sin and division. God’s definitive response is in Jesus, the child of Bethlehem.

Pope Francis, in his general audience on 7 December 2016, began a catechesis on Christian hope. People in darkness do not smile. Only hope restores a smile. In the presence of children, the pope notes: “A smile comes to us from within … a child is hope.”

However, in recent weeks and in the places I mentioned above, children bear no smiles. They have been traumatized: Armenian, Ukrainian, Israeli and Palestinian children, children who have been caught in the trap of human trafficking and the children of Manipur. Let us resolve to do all we can, with God’s grace, to restore the smiles of our children.

Families visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (photo: OSV News/CNS file, Debbie Hill)

In his audience, Pope Francis said: “We must be able to discern in life the way of hope which leads us to find God, God who became a child for us. He will make us smile; he will give us everything!”

I pray that Mary, the mother of Jesus, who “set out and traveled to the hill country in haste” (Lk 1:39), will impress upon us the urgency of this hour. May she, along with the quiet of St. Joseph, ignite in us a desire for more intense and interior prayer, the commitment to be informed regularly with the weapon of truth and, in this season of giving, to offer a most generous donation to the mission of CNEWA! Thank you.  

With my gratitude and prayers, 

Peter I. Vaccari

President, CNEWA

Read this article in our digital print format here.

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