In the endless struggles between Jews and Muslims in Israel and the West Bank, in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and other places where they are a minority population, Christians are suffering terribly. They are in a no-win situation. Politically, they don’t count to the powers-that-be; economically, they are in dire straits. In some places, they are not even allowed to self-identify as Christian. This is a source of deep concern to Pope Benedict XIV and should be to us as well.
The internal resources of the Eastern churches themselves are not able to keep up with the pastoral, educational and social services needs of their people, especially in the places that are experiencing violence. The Eastern churches need our assistance.
Fortunately, there is a way for us to help: the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a pontifical agency established in 1926 in Rome by Pope Pius XI with administrative offices here in New York City at the Catholic Center. Its mission is to assist the Eastern Churches, to work for church unity, and to raise consciousness here in the West about the churches and peoples of the East. CNEWA works with the local churches to address their needs. This is how CNEWA describes its activities.
“From training priests to serve the people of God in India to providing clean water systems to war-damaged villages in Lebanon – from providing job opportunities to unemployed Palestinians to caring for orphaned children in Ethiopia – from providing health care to the poor in Iraq to awarding scholarships for Orthodox priests to study in Catholic universities in Rome, CNEWA connects generous North Americans with those in need living in some of the remotest parts of the world.”
So what can we as individuals, as parishes or as parish-based religious education programs do through CNEWA? We can sponsor a child’s future, help a man answer God’s call to priesthood, help men and women who wish to join religious life. And more. It is so easy.
For example, just $28 dollars per month (you can send a check or have the money charged automatically to a credit card) will make you as an individual or a team of people the sponsor of a boy’s or girl’s room, board, health care and education. The sponsor(s) receives a profile and a photo of his, her or their child annually along with a progress report. Sponsors may even write to their children. $28.00. That’s fewer than three movie tickets, about half of what it costs to fill a gas tank…but for a child in a country served by CNEWA it goes so very, very far. By the way, you’ll be interested to know that your money goes through the Church’s own diplomatic channels. Local Governments have no access to those funds.
When you join with CNEWA, you also receive a wonderful magazine, One. There’s also a terrific on-line newsletter for all to read and learn from.
Most of us Christians trace our faith to Rome. However, there are the great ancient Churches: the churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. These Eastern churches are found in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, parts of India and also Western Europe. Of course, the mother church of us all is Jerusalem, as Pope Paul VI stated. So we truly are brothers and sisters to these Eastern churches. What we do for them through CNEWA is all in the family.