8 April 2013
Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga presides over the Sunday liturgy at St. Nicholas Church. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
In 2006, we took readers to Uganda, for a glimpse at Africa’s thriving Orthodox faith:
Kampala is a city of clamor. Uganda’s capital, a metropolis of 1.2 million, lies in the rolling highlands surrounding Lake Victoria. The acoustics of the place are such that sounds rise to wash over its green hills like a gentle tide. Climb one of them any Sunday and listen, and up will waft Uganda in all its varied devotion: a muezzin’s call to prayer, an Anglican hymn, the gravelly bark of a born-again preacher — “Ha-lle-luiah!” The Church of St. Nicholas stands atop a hill called Namungoona on the outskirts of Kampala, up a winding dirt road from an open-air evangelical congregation and a Catholic church shaped like a pagoda. St. Nicholas’s is prim and yellow, with a peaked roof and windows of brightly colored stained glass.
On a recent soggy Sunday, worshipers filed inside to the clank of a bell, taking care as they entered to kiss a gold-bound copy of the Gospels that lay on a pedestal near the door. At the front of the church, before icons of Jesus, Mary and the congregation’s patron saint, stood a gray-bearded man bedecked in white vestments and a jeweled crown. He was Jonah Lwanga, Metropolitan of Kampala and All Uganda, and crammed into the rows of wooden pews before him, singing heartily in the local language, Luganda, was one of the most unlikely congregations in a nation renowned for its religious diversity. They were African followers of the Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa. According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But “all Africa,” for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara. Orthodox missionaries sat out the 19th century’s “scramble for Africa,” when European Catholics and Protestants fanned out across the continent to save souls and build colonies. The story of how the Alexandrian Church came to have an affiliate in faraway Uganda, a country with no previous connection to the Orthodox world, is therefore not a tale of white men bearing the message of God to a dark continent. Rather, the Ugandan church traces its roots to two Africans who, rebelling against colonial rule, fled to a religion they felt was pure and politically uncompromised. This makes Uganda’s small community of 60,000 Orthodox Christians nearly unique within their home country. They found their faith on their own.
Read the rest in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
8 April 2013
Tags: Christianity Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox
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The above video report illustrates some of the violence that broke out near St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, and shares reactions from leaders and members of the public. (video: Al Jazeera)
One dead, dozens injured in riot after Egyptian Coptic funeral (Sky News) At least one person has died and more than 60 others have been injured in clashes outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo on Sunday, following a funeral for four Christians who were killed in sectarian clashes on Friday. Mourners, who were chanting against the Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, were pelted with stones and bottles as they left the funeral. The Copts inside the church complex responded in kind. Before long, people began throwing fire bombs. Black-clad riot police intervened, firing tear gas at the cathedral, witnesses said, but not before one person had been killed. “I consider all attacks on the church as an attack on me personally,” state television quoted Mr. Morsi as telling the pope…
Coptic Orthodox pope calls for wisdom and restraint (Fides) Following the assault against Copts outside of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II expressed his disapproval of the acts. Extending condolences to the families of Christians killed in recent violence, the patriarch has also also urged the Egyptian people to remain calm and continue to work towards national unity…
Unexpected wonders in Ethiopian rock churches (The Daily Mirror) Ethiopia, rich in culture and diverse natural wonders, is finally beginning to realize its potential as a tourist destination. One major attraction is the northern highlands — the traditional heart of the nation and its Orthodox Christian faith. The jewel in the crown is Lalibela, an incredible labyrinth of 11 monolithic churches, tunnels and catacombs carved out of the red volcanic rock. Many of the churches are freestanding; one is intricately shaped as a cross, while a few are still quite cave-like. Their construction is attributed to King Lalibela who reigned until 1221 and is said to have wanted to create a “New Jerusalem” after the old one was captured by Saladin. But how they were built has been lost in the fog of time…
Indian bishops reaffirm commitment to poor as Year of Faith focus (Fides) “There is an unbreakable bond between our faith and the poor,” the bishops of northeast India — a region troubled by social conflicts and inhabited by tribal people who often lack basic services — wrote in a joint pastoral letter reaffirming their commitment in favor of the poor and marginalized. The bishops of the region’s 15 dioceses met recently to take stock of the situation of the church issue a statement on the Year of Faith, appreciating and echoing the predilection for the poor that Pope Francis expressed at the beginning of his pontificate…
5 April 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Coptic Orthodox Church Ethiopian Christianity Indian Bishops
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A street vendor in Beirut sells ka’ak, a bread stuffed with spices. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
Several years ago, we took a bite out of Lebanon — looking at some of the unique foods of the land of cedars:
Although you can list the essential ingredients of Lebanese cooking on the fingers of two hands, the variations and combinations are beyond simple arithmetic. These 10 ingredients are: wheat, olive oil, lemon juice, rice, onions, yogurt, garlic, (sesame seed paste), lentils and chickpeas.
Every vegetable and every fruit has its season. Lebanon’s varied climate guarantees fresh produce all year long while greenhouses coax tomatoes, cucumbers and beans into maturity.
Following harvesting, the local wheat becomes bread, and bread is a daily purchase. During the war, there were many curfews but doctors and bakers were excluded. An increase in the price of bread often triggers civil unrest in the Middle East. Give us this day our daily bread is not only a line from the Lord’s Prayer, it is a cry for action.
Read more “Food for Thought” in the September-October 2002 issue of the magazine.
5 April 2013
Tags: Lebanon Beirut
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A man mourns the death of relatives while people search for casualties under the rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 March.
(photo: CNS/Ziad Rev, Reuters)
Aleppo Christians fleeing rebel-held areas in Syria (Fides) The conquest of the district of Cheikh Maksoud by the anti-Assad militia could mark the fate of Aleppo, the metropolis battered for months by a bloody civil war. “Father David Fernandez, a missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, confirms that neighborhood- is located on a hill overlooking Aleppo and is a strategic point for those who want to conquer the central area of the city, where there are also government buildings...
Kidnappers target Christians in Egypt (Associated Press) Ezzat Kromer’s resistance to his kidnappers did not last long. One of the masked gunmen fired a round between his feet as he sat behind the wheel of his car and said with chilling calm, “The next one will go into your heart.” The Christian gynecologist says he was bundled into his abductors’ vehicle, forced to lie under their feet in the back seat for a 45-minute ride, then dumped in a small cold room while his kidnappers contacted his family over a ransom. For the next 27 hours, he endured beatings, insults and threats to his life, while blindfolded, a bandage sealing his mouth and cotton balls in his ears. Kromer’s case is part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targeting Christians, including children, in Egypt’s southern province of Minya, home to the country’s largest concentration of Christians but also a heartland for Islamist hard-liners...
Building collapse near Mumbai kills dozens (BBC) At least 40 people have died, including 11 children, after a building under construction collapsed near the Indian city of Mumbai, police say. Dozens have been injured and many others are feared trapped beneath the seven-storey building in Thane. Police said the block was an illegal construction and building work was going on even though four floors were already occupied. Building collapses are common with poor construction practices often blamed...
A Bosnian Muslim welcome to Pope Francis (Lebanon Daily Star) The election of Argentine Pope Francis, the 266th Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church, deserves both our congratulations and our reflection for the future of Muslim-Christian coexistence and dialogue. As a survivor of genocide at the end of 20th century in Bosnia, I am very interested in the policy of the Vatican and the message of the Holy See, which speaks for the Catholic Church. While the political influence of the Vatican might be limited to public diplomacy, the spiritual influence has great significance for millions of Christians worldwide. Consequently, the pope has always had a great impact on global peace and security. Pope Francis.. may find in his two immediate predecessors important lessons that could guide his future relations with Muslims...
4 April 2013
Tags: India Syria Egypt Muslim Pope Francis
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Young Christian mothers look after their children at a home in the village of Deir Azra, Egypt. (photo: Holly Pickett)
As members of a religious minority, Coptic women in Egypt face discrimination and are subject to laws based on Islamic Sharia. Because of the difficulty of getting a divorce in the Coptic Orthodox Church, some Christian men and women convert to Islam in order to end their marriage — a decision that has far-reaching social and legal consequences for the family and sometimes the entire community.
In the September 2011 issue of ONE, Sarah Topol reported on these consequences:
Divorce on the grounds of conversion to Islam generally tears Christian families apart.
“Life was stable,” says 23-year-old Simone El Gohany about life a few years ago, before her father left her mother for a Muslim woman with whom he had been having an affair, converted to Islam and filed for divorce. “Now I feel like the family is fragmented: There is no family. Stability makes a huge difference.”
The divorce has devastated the lives of the young woman, her two younger sisters and of course her mother. Under Egyptian family law, the father receives custody of the children when he converts to Islam and files for divorce.
To keep her children, the mother sent each of her two youngest daughters to live with different relatives. She then moved to a cramped apartment in a low-income neighborhood in Cairo. As Simone El Gohany explains, Egyptian authorities can only remove children from their mother if they live in a residence belonging to one or both of the parents.
Since the divorce, the children’s father has made no attempt to contact the girls or his ex-wife. He does not pay child support, and Egyptian law does not require him to do so. Still, the children fear he will show up one day or another and demand the girls move in with him. As a result, the girls no longer attend school.
The father’s conversion has also stripped the two youngest daughters of their Christian identity. In the eyes of the Egyptian government, when a father converts to Islam, all his children under the age of 18 automatically “convert” as well. The girls’ government records have all been changed, identifying them as Muslim. Public schools require they attend classes on Islam. Now officially “Muslim,” they can never marry a Christian man since the church does not recognize mixed marriages.
Read more in Spotlight: Coptic Women.
4 April 2013
Tags: Egypt Islam Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic Christians Women (rights/issues)
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Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II's enthronement ceremony, pictured above, was held
at St. Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya in Cairo on 18 November. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Coptic patriarch will go to Rome to meet Pope Francis (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II of Alexandria has expressed his desire to go to Rome to meet Pope Francis. According to Egyptian media sources — such as the daily Al Masry al Youm — the head of the largest Christian church in the Arab world expressed this intention on Wednesday evening, after receiving Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel as a guest at the Cathedral of St. Mark. The Coptic Orthodox patriarch’s visit to the Apostolic See of Rome represent a very important event from an ecumenical point of view. Tawadros’s predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, had met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican 40 years ago, in May 1973…
Will Syria’s refugee crisis drain Jordan of its water? (Time) Now that spring has arrived in the Middle East, Syria’s estimated 1.2 million refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan can hope for relief from the snow, the rain and the bitterly cold nights of winter. But that relief will be as short-lived as the region’s balmy weather. Summer is fast on its way, and in Jordan in particular, life for Syrian refugees, and the border communities that support them, is about to get a lot worse…
In Syria, abandoned baby becomes family’s ‘gift from God’ (Daily Star Lebanon) A newborn baby abandoned on the street in the battleground Syrian city of Aleppo has been named “Gift from God” by the family who adopted her, even at the cost of an extra mouth to feed. In a city that has been devastated by fighting since July last year, where jobs have disappeared and prices for even basic goods have risen beyond most people’s reach, parents face impossible choices. Doctors say the abortion rate has increased as parents take fright at the prospect of having to fend for another child. Others have sent children to live with family members, or abandoned them altogether. Hibat Allah, as she is named in Arabic, was lucky to survive her abandonment in a rebel-held neighborhood of the city in December, her adoptive parents recall…
The story behind an Ethiopian Christian refugee who settled in Israel (Haaretz) He employs a staff of 12 Israelis, is the son of a high-ranking government official and wears brand-name sweaters. Meet Yohannes Bayu, refugee. “I’m one of the lucky ones,” says the Jerusalem resident, who is one of an estimated 170 people who have, in the course of six decades, been officially recognized by Israel as refugees. A Christian from Ethiopia, Bayu, 39, came to Israel after fleeing his native land in 1997, long before thousands of other Africans began walking across the Egyptian desert to make their way to the Jewish state…
3 April 2013
Tags: Refugees Ecumenism Coptic Orthodox Church Refugee Camps Water
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Archbishop Francis Chullikatt speaks at an interfaith prayer service at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn on 2 April. (photo: CNEWA)
Last night, dozens of lay people and clergy — including CNEWA’s Msgr. John E. Kozar — gathered at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn for an interfaith service dedicated to praying for peace in the Middle East, especially Syria.
Representatives of several faith traditions were there: Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants. The diversity was impressive and inspiring; a Druze cleric led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer, and the service ended with “Immaculate Mary” sung in Arabic. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt (shown above), the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, spoke eloquently of the urgent need for peace, and quoted both Pope Emeritus Benedict and his successor Pope Francis.
Among the prayers from the service was this, adapted from Maronite Evening Prayer:
O Lord, the night and the day are yours; you uphold the light and the sun. Through your power you direct the sequence of the seasons. You have brought the day to its close and called forth the night. Be for us that great day that never ends. In the evening, let your light shine in our hearts, and in the darkness of the night, enlighten us with the knowledge of your truth. And so, through all the days of our lives, we shall praise you, O God. To you be glory and may your mercy rest upon us, now and forever.
To learn more about the Maronite Church, click here.
3 April 2013
Tags: Unity Syrian Civil War Prayers/Hymns/Saints Middle East Peace Process Maronite
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A man holds an injured child who had just been pulled out from under rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 March. (photo: CNS/Ziad Rev, Reuters)
Israel issues warning to Palestine and Syria (Al Jazeera) Israel’s defense minister warned Palestinian fighters that the Israeli military will respond to any attacks in its territory, after a rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel and an attack from Syria. Moshe Yaalon said on Wednesday that the military will not hold back if attacked and will not allow its civilians or armed forces to come under fire “in any form”. “We shall not allow in any form the establishment of a routine of sporadic firing on our civilians or on our forces,” said Yaalon…
Report: Syria conflict drawing hundreds of jihadists from Europe (The Guardian) Hundreds of Europeans have travelled to Syria since the start of the civil war to fight against the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, the most comprehensive study of European foreign fighters to date has found…
Russian Orthodox leaders hope Anglicans will not allow female bishops, same-sex marriage (Interfax) The Moscow Patriarchate expects Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to adhere to the norms of Christian morals and the church system. “We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties coexist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's department for external relations, said during a meeting between Welby and representatives of the Orthodox churches who attended his enthronement…
Kerala is India’s divorce capital (Deccan Chronicle) Two decades ago, the state had a very modest divorce rate. But now, with the state capital being ranked the divorce capital of the country, and Kerala having the highest divorce rate in the country, family courts are flooded with divorce petitions. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, which came into force in 2006, has given women a legitimate ground for divorce they did not have before. But, like any law, it can be misused. According to Rakhi Ravikumar, a counsel who specializes in divorce petitions, a court will offer interim relief now only when it is convinced that the domestic violence plea is genuine…
2 April 2013
Tags: India Syrian Civil War Kerala Russian Orthodox Church Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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Pope Francis visits the excavated necropolis below St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 1 April. The necropolis is where St. Peter’s tomb has been venerated since early Christian times and where the first church dedicated to him was built. The tomb is two levels below the main altar of the modern basilica. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Yesterday, Pope Francis became the first pope to tour what is believed to be the burial site of St. Peter. CNS reports:
Kneeling before the tomb of St. Peter, Pope Francis repeated the three professions of faith the Gospels report the apostle making: “Lord, you are the Christ, the son of the living God,” “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” and “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, said Pope Francis made the three professions on 1 April while kneeling on the marble floor of the Clementine Chapel, facing a grill that allows visitors to see the back of what is believed to be St. Peter’s tomb.
“It was moving for us to hear the pope, who took these words of Peter and made them live again, because today it is his mission to continue the mission Jesus entrusted to Peter,” the cardinal told Vatican Radio.
Cardinal Comastri accompanied Pope Francis on a late-afternoon tour of the excavated necropolis where St. Peter is buried. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis was the first pope to tour the site, walking the path between mostly second-century burial vaults to the tomb.
Read more at the CNS link.
2 April 2013
Tags: Vatican Pope Francis Saints
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The Russian military's Orthodox chapel can be deployed wherever soldiers may be stationed. (photo: Russian Airborne Force)
Now, an unorthodox kind of church for Orthodox soldiers.
From the Guardian:
The Russian military unveiled an unlikely new weapon in its arsenal this month — an army of parachuting priests. The unit of chaplains, who have joined the Russian Airborne Force to train in parachute jumping and vehicle assembly, will operate out of flatpack churches that can be airlifted in to wherever soldiers may be stationed.
The church could be mistaken for a standard-issue army cabin, taking the form of a khaki-colored shed on wheels, were it not for the cladding of gilded icons and the majestic onion dome spire sprouting from its rooftop. The mobile prayer room has also been fitted with a “life-sustaining module”, which includes a diesel power source, an air-conditioning unit and a fridge, reported Russia Today.
The chapel is flown in as a kit of parts, delivered via the kind of airborne platform usually used to carry armored vehicles and other heavy military equipment, and is then assembled on the ground. Within, the gilded interior incorporates crucifixes, bells and icons, as well as a mini theatre — which can be extended sideways with additional wings, thus forming the cross-shaped plan of an Orthodox church.
The initiative has not gone without controversy in the Russian government, where debate rages over the cost of rearmament and rising military spending.
While the Russian army insists this is the first ever flying chapel in the world, Orthodox Christianity is not the first to bring mobile worship to the battlefield. The Israeli Defense Force launched a mobile synagogue initiative in 2011 to allow troops to pray more comfortably as they operate the Iron Dome anti-missile system in southern Israel. The UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (UKAWIS) has provided such mobile synagogues — which contain an ark, reader’s platform and washbasin — as “a source of spiritual sustenance [for the soldiers] as they carry the weight of Israel’s security on their shoulders”.
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church Priests Church
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