When I first came to Georgia, everyone wore black.
In 2001, in Tbilisi, in the winter, when the skies were gray and the electricity was usually off, life was a monochrome of black figures moving in a mass of grayness.
But every once in a while, usually pinned to the jacket of a woman of a certain age, there would be a stab of red and a cool pool of blues and greens caught up in a delicate swirl of silver.
The deep, rich colors evoked a sense of distant, exotic places — like India or the Middle East — some place far from the drabness of post-Soviet anything, some place where the spices were more vibrant than any painter’s palate.
In short, someplace very different than Georgia in the waning days of the Shevardnadze government.
The small brushes of brilliant hues that broke through the black were actually quintessentially Georgian, however — a form of ornament-making the Georgian artisans perfected centuries ago.
But back then enamel jewelry — like so many of Georgia’s ancient arts — was not popular. The extreme poverty that blanketed the country at the time forced valuable metals to the forefront; a good gift was anything with a smidgen of gold, not some ornamental throwback to Georgia’s past.
Those who were actively working to rekindle, revive, restore Georgia’s great artistic traditions were a minority in a country where the majority were just focused on getting by.
So, as it was with so many things of that time, it fell to the Georgian Orthodox Church to task artists, like Davit Kakabadze, to relearn the art of enamel — and to restore it to its original purpose, which was to give an image to the haunting history and traditions of the Church.
And now slowly, over the past ten years or so, enamel jewelry and enamel icons have been making a measured comeback. Today, they are everywhere, for sale for as little as a few dollars in downtown shops or for thousands in galleries and gala charity auctions.
The intricate designs can be traditional swirls of color or modern takes; shops sell them in all shapes and styles, even pendants made up to look like sunflowers or popular cartoon characters.
They are still as breathtaking as when I first noticed them — rich, vibrant colors caught up in a pattern of swirls or a delicate mosaic. Women wear them in oversized rings, necklaces, brooches and beautiful little crosses.
The bright bits of enamel are now known to be a pleasing, unique gift for birthdays or baptisms, according to Yulia Abranova at the Chaldean Church.
They are also — at the Chaldean Church and at Caritas Georgia — known to be a deceptively powerful way to help troubled youth inch out of poverty.
Five days a week, teenage boys and girls hunch over tiny bits of silver, making beautiful jewelry using the method and skills their ancestors developed thousands of years ago.
They design icons, pendants and rings; select colors and patterns; and spend hours painstakingly honing their craft — developing a skill they can use to earn a living long after they leave.
The art form they are learning, not long ago dismissed as a simple ornament that was less valuable than Russian or Armenian gold, is now appreciated as a priceless part of Georgian culture and folk art. And, a valuable commodity in the growing souvenir trade.
I received my first piece of Georgian enamel jewelry several years ago — a beautiful blue, green and gold cross that was technically a gift for my infant daughter on her baptism day. An American friend gave it to her, and when my husband saw it, he was shocked — stunned, really — that a foreigner had actually paid money for something Georgians thought so little of.
My reaction to it must have struck a chord: he gave me a piece of enamel jewelry that year on my birthday. The tiny splashes of bright colors lying in my jewelry box, shining against the dark velvet, never cease to captivate my daughter.
She loves to take them out, feel the cool surface with her fingers, run a nail around the swirling patterns.
Read more and see more pictures in “Crafting a Future” in the Winter edition of ONE.
20 February 2015
In this photo from the Winter edition of ONE, students pray at the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. To learn more about the school and the Armenian community, read “A Beacon of Hope in Jerusalem” in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
20 February 2015
People living in war-torn eastern Ukraine struggle to feed themselves and their children as provisions become increasingly scarce. The World Food Program says it is scaling up its emergency operation in the region to help the nearly 190,000 people displaced by the conflict. (video: The Guardian)
Retreating soldiers bring echoes of war’s chaos to a Ukrainian town (New York Times) As violence continued to plague eastern Ukraine on Thursday, demoralized Ukrainian soldiers straggled into the town of Artemivsk, griping about incompetent leadership and recounting desperate conditions and gruesome killing as they beat a haphazard retreat from the strategic town of Debaltseve…
Pope Francis tells Ukrainian bishops to stay out of politics (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis has called on Catholic bishops in Ukraine to stay out of political debates and focus their energies on caring for their people and in reaffirming Christian values. Speaking Friday to various Catholic prelates of the country, Francis said he understood that “recent historical events that have marked your land are still present in the collective memory.” But, the pope said, those events are not for bishops to respond to. Instead, he said, “there are also sociocultural and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution…”
Church speaks out against Dalit discrimination (Fides) The Catholic Church in India is calling on the government to end legalized discrimination against Dalit Christians. Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi says it is time to re-introduce for Dalit Christians the same benefits enjoyed by Hindu Dalits, denied for six decades to Christians…
No information on fate of Christian leaders abducted in Syria in 2013 (Interfax) Two Christian leaders abducted in Syria nearly two years ago have still not been found, Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East said at a meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Moscow…
Iraqi Christian men fight to keep Islamic State away from homes (The Daily Signal) Since the summer, some 30,000 Christians have fled the Nineveh Plains. Without official government support, and with minimal equipment primarily funded through donations, the young Christian men — most in their early to mid 20’s — feel a responsibility to defend their own…
19 February 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Iraqi Christians Dalits
In Trichur, India, the Congregation of Samaritan Sisters Generalate, led by Mother Rose Cornelia and the Mistress of Novices, Sister Sophia, greet visitors. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Pope Francis has proclaimed 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life. It’s a time for celebrating the work of the religious orders — sisters, brothers, priests — who’ve made their lives a consecration to God and his people.
No one embodies this devotion more than the sisters. They’re the driving force behind most of the initiatives CNEWA donors graciously support. Today, ONE-TO-ONE begins a series of profiles to introduce you to some of these remarkable women and their vital work.
In the countries where CNEWA works, sisters serve in schools, hospitals, orphanages and other works that help people in need. Many sisters work in places where family structures have disintegrated. So, for the children they help, the sisters create that environment — a structure for those who don’t have a family. They feed, house, clothe, educate and care for them so they’re not alone.
In crisis areas, sisters provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care and even psychological help to displaced people. They often have to improvise, and don’t always have the resources they need. But they never discriminate in terms of religious or cultural background. They don’t turn people away.
When you become a novice, you learn about the church’s and your religious order’s practices, which strengthen your relationship with God. Sisters also learn how to minister by working with those already doing it, through hands-on learning in the field as well as through formal education. You live with other sisters. You share your prayers. You share your meals and other aspects of the community’s daily life and ministry.
It’s about simplicity. You give your life to a religious community that professes belief in God and practices works of mercy. From that base, you go out and serve the wider world.
You also learn from the Gospel to treat others as you would be treated — which fits in with the total mission of the church, especially under Pope Francis. It’s not about ritual and bureaucracy. It’s about emphasizing the religious and humanitarian aspects of what we do as a church.
The sisters bring that into everyday life. During the days and weeks ahead, ONE-TO-ONE will show you how they do it. For the church to be alive, we need religious women to continue the faith. Through times of crisis and periods of calm, faith is what endures.
To support the work of sisters around the world, please visit this page.
And be sure to read our first profile, about a young sister in Ethiopia, who is teaching skills that are changing lives.
Brother Gerard Conforti, F.S.C., has a background in education and financial management in New York and Michigan. After working in the Middle East at Bethlehem University, he was invited to join Catholic Near East Welfare Association in New York, where he now serves as Chief Administrative Officer.
19 February 2015
Sister Elizabeth Endrias assists a trainee at the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne Vocational Training Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Name: Sister Elizabeth Endrias
Order: Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne
Facility: Women’s Promotion Center
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
It’s a small building, filled with the sounds of life. Whirring sewing machines. Scissors snipping through fabric. Voices filled with hope for the future.
At the Women’s Promotion Center in Ethiopia’s capital city, teenage girls and women learn the skills of making clothing—from fabric cutting to sewing to embroidery. They are among the poorest residents of this poor country. And their training serves one purpose: survival.
A group of nuns from the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne runs the center. The sister in charge, Sister Elizabeth Endrias, is 24 years old. But the program she’s developed is intensive. “Training takes from ten months to two years,” she explains. “This year we have thirty trainees in dressmaking and seven in embroidery.”
With resources limited, the school has begun charging a modest fee. For the poorest students, however, money is never a barrier. “In this case we intervene, inquire about their difficulties,” Sister Elizabeth says. “And when we find it necessary to support them, we offer them free education to complete their studies.”
She remembers the day one teenager arrived with her father. “He had the desire to help his daughter in her training. He told me the extent of their poverty but willed to pay.”
The father paid for two months, but grew ill and passed away. “Imagine the challenge facing this 18-year-old girl,” Sister Elizabeth says. “We not only exempted her from fees, but also gave back to her mother the two months payment that her father had paid.”
That young seamstress—her name is Hanna—plans to start a dressmaking business to support her family. “Sister Elizabeth is very special for me,” she says. “She rescued me from losing this opportunity after the death of my father. I am very grateful to her.”
For the women who fill the center each day, Sister Elizabeth and her fellow nuns are role models. Her supervisor, Sister Weineshet, explains that all have wide-ranging abilities. “If they work with women, not only their religiosity is needed,” she says. “They need to be equipped with a holistic knowledge of women, their needs and challenges.”
At Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we’re proud to support the sisters’ important mission. And as they help improve the lives of women who have so little, one thing is certain: the good sisters will be grateful if you can help too.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.
19 February 2015
Sonu Augustine plays with his daughter Nidhika in the yard of their home. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Winter edition of ONE features an interview with Sonu Augustine, who grew up in Kerala, India, but now lives with his family in Qatar. He is one of an estimated 400,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in the Persian Gulf region. In his conversation with reporter Don Duncan, he discusses the challenges of faith and culture in the Persian Gulf:
ONE: Does your existence far from the core of the Syro-Malabar Church make it harder for you to transfer your traditions to your children?
SA: We have to work assiduously to make sure that the children are growing up in our faith. Growing up in India means that there is a communal family structure. Grandparents live with the family, brothers and sisters are always nearby, and there are Christian neighbors and a parish with activities of all types. In Qatar, however, it is much different. Even if I go regularly to church here, Syro-Malabar Catholics do not have adequate access to services in our tradition in the Gulf. The children miss out.
ONE: So you have attended the Latin-rite Mass for want of the Divine Liturgy in the Syro-Malabar’s tradition?
SA: For a starving man, whatever food he gets is good food. When he has options, he will opt for the best food. It was a situation like that when I first got here.
Read the full interview here.
19 February 2015
On Monday, 16 February, Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury of the British Orthodox Church — a jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church — appeared on a BBC news broadcast to speak on the recent killing of Copts by the Islamic State in Libya. (source: British Orthodox Church YouTube channel)
Jerusalem’s Copts mourn Egyptian Christians beheaded in Libya (Jerusalem Post) Just days after Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, dozens of Coptic Christians attended a prayer service in Jerusalem’s Coptic Orthodox church located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday to mourn the victims…
Russian Orthodox patriarch extends condolences to Copts (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent condolences to the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Mr. Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and Pope Tawadros II over the murder of more than 20 Coptic Christians in Libya…
Ukrainian Orthodox Church patriarchates at odds over Ukraine conflict (AsiaNews.it) Representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate said they were “concerned” that Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, had given encouragement to the government to continue the fight in Donbass. In an interview, Metropolitan Filaret rejected the charges against him…
Indian bishops call for “concrete action” to back prime minister’s words (Vatican Radio) “Words to be followed by concrete action.” With this remark, the Catholic bishops of India responded to a statement by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who promised commitment on the part of his government to protect religious minorities…
Migration Congress recommendations released (Vatican Radio) The final document of the 7th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants was made public on Thursday, and called for those charged with the mission of teaching within the church to make an effort to broaden their knowledge and turn theory into practice at the local level. The full text of the document is below…
18 February 2015
Tags: India Ukraine Violence against Christians Copts Libya
Best friends Mariam and Demiana share a happy moment at the Good Samaritan Orphanage. (photo: Amal Morcos)
In the winter edition of ONE magazine, contributor Amal Morcos visits two child care institutions in Egypt helping vulnerable children. She offers some additional perspectives below.
Egyptians love to refer to their country as the “mother of the world.” But, if you are an Egyptian Christian orphan longing for the love of a parent, a combination of Islamic tradition, an unclear law and even international politics will make your chances of being legally adopted practically nil.
The Egyptian constitution — which states that it is “inspired” by Islamic religious law, known as Sharia — actually bans adoption.
Why Islam forbids adoption is not clear. Some believe it is in order to maintain a clear bloodline and to ensure rightful inheritance. Others believe it to be a reaction to Muhammad’s marriage to the former wife of his adopted son, which was a source of scandal in the community.
According to Atonement Friar Elias Mallon of CNEWA, “Islamic law sees three types of orphans: the fatherless (such as Muhammad), who ceases to be an orphan at puberty; the motherless; and the abandoned. “The first one is the one that gets the most attention. There is a great deal of material in the Quran harshly condemning oppressing or cheating the orphan. However, Islamic law is very complicated concerning who inherits what and whom one can marry or not marry. It is precisely here that it gets convoluted. “There is a type of acceptance of the orphan called kafalah, but this has nothing to do with what Western law considers adoption.
“In a traditional society with extended families this was not a problem since children were taken in. In a modern or at least urbanized society this is causing some problems. It has also come up before the European Court of Human Rights. There is also an inner discussion going on about adoption.”
But does Egypt’s law extend to Christians? This is where things get really murky. Those who support legal adoption in Egypt say the law does not explicitly prevent Christians from adopting. Adoptions by Christians do take place, arranged mostly by the churches. Some government officials are aware of this practice and turn a blind eye. Those who don’t fear Christians will adopt Muslims in order to raise them as Christians.
The legal stakes have been raised since two American couples were convicted by an Egyptian court in 2008 of trying to adopt children from a Christian orphanage and remove them from the country. Some observers believed Egypt’s government at the time, under Hosni Mubarak, staged the trial to show that Egypt was cracking down on human trafficking. (The U.S. government had criticized Egypt for not doing enough to prevent African migrants from trafficking into Israel.)
Since the revolution that toppled Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has had two governments. The president who was elected after Mubarak, Muhammad Morsi, led the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s leading Islamist party. He tried to pass a constitution that critics said “further disenfranchised” non-Muslims — especially Christians. After the military toppled Morsi in July 2013, Egyptian Muslims and Christians overwhelmingly endorsed a revised constitution in a referendum in January 2014. While the new constitution prohibits political parties to be affiliated with religions or religious movements, and grants greater freedom of expression, it remains to be seen whether the current government will move to improve the status of Egypt’s Christians, including her orphans.
Read more in Egypt’s Good Samaritans in the winter edition of ONE.
18 February 2015
Tags: Egypt Christian-Muslim relations Islam Orphans/Orphanages Christian
A young girl leads her visually impaired classmates to their house in San Joe Puram in Faridabad, India. (photo: John Mathew)
In the Winter 2014 issue of ONE, Jose Kavi reports on a Syro-Malabar Catholic institution providing care and education for children in northern India, with a special focus on girls with disabilities:
As with [ninth-grader] Diksha, [tenth-grader] Bhanu says life among the San Joe Puram children has given him a desire to help others. Both he and Diksha dote on Uma, a visually impaired girl in the tenth grade.
“Uma sings and studies well. We never consider her ‘blind,’ ” Bhanu says. He recalls Uma going on rides with them at a class picnic. “Most children were terrified and screaming, but Uma was cool. She is more courageous than us.”
Diksha was thrilled when she was asked to take notes for Uma. “We have become close friends,” she says.
Carmelite Sister Nancy George, the principal, is happy to see such developments among her students. She says village students vie with each other to help the children who reside at St. Joe Puram — they push wheelchairs, carry school bags and guide the visually impaired to various places in the school. The result, she believes, could help transform her country.
“We are creating a new generation that is sensitive and caring.”
Read more in A Place of Promise — and Providence.
18 February 2015
Tags: India Children Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Orphans/Orphanages Disabilities
A boy looks at his flooded home in the village of Mifol, Albania, on 3 February. Floods caused by heavy rains forced the evacuation of hundreds of villagers. (photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images)
Orthodox Church of Albania aids areas hit by flooding (Orthodox Church of Albania) The massive rainfalls at the beginning of February caused flooding in many parts of Albania. The area most affected was southern Albania, where many villages suffered severe damage to households and, in some cases, agricultural production and livestock. The Albanian Orthodox has responded by shipping boxes of food and clothing to the local areas affected…
Chaldean patriarch’s call for prayer for unity (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I urged prayer, reflection, discernment and examination of conscience in a message commemorating the beginning of the Lenten season. The patriarch lamented the sin of division and invited all Muslim brothers and sisters to join Christians in fasting for the intention of peace, stability and dignity…
‘Guantanamo of the East’: Ukraine locks up refugees at EU’s behest (Der Spiegel) Most migrants reach Europe through Italy or Greece. Many die on the way. A broad coalition, with voices ranging from Pope Francis to German President Joachim Gauck, is demanding better protection for refugees on Europe’s southern border and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, describes the route across the Mediterranean as the world’s deadliest. But when it comes to the eastern route, and the fate of migrants like Hasan Hirsi — who describes how Ukrainian security forces robbed, beat and tortured him — interest has thus far been limited…
Syrian army gains ground in Aleppo offensive (Al Akhbar) The Syrian army and its allied forces continue to fight in neighborhoods under the control of the opposition in the city of Aleppo, and to break the siege around the towns of Nubl and Al Zahraa in the city’s northern countryside…
War separates lovers in Aleppo (Al Monitor) Twenty-three-year-old Louay was not alone on Valentine’s night, but he wasn’t with his girlfriend, either. He and some lovesick friends gathered by candlelight for an intimate evening. Louay arranged candles in the shape of the letter R and told his friends about the last time he saw his girlfriend, Rama. More than 13 months have passed since Louay and Rama’s last meeting. In February 2014, regime forces closed the only crossing that connected the two parts of Aleppo — the eastern side under opposition control, and the western side under the regime. As a result, the city has been divided and families separated. All of Louay’s friends have their own love stories to tell, all marked by the same kind of suffering — a lost future, a divided country and a distant lover because of the raging war…
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Aleppo Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Albania