25 March 2014
Syrian Armenian Zvart Yeranossian, 28, sits in her home in Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave in the eastern suburbs of Beirut, in August. Syrian Armenians are fleeing their homes en masse, with many seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Read more in A Refuge in Lebanon, from the Winter 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)
Reports cite 80 dead in Kessab; churches desecrated (Asbarez.com) The Armenian-populated villages of Kessab, Syria, were the target of three days of brutal cross-border attacks from Turkey by Islamist armed bands, which have cost 80 lives and forced the civilian population of the area to flee to neighboring hills, with many seeking safe haven in the nearby cities of Latakia and Basit…
Russian, Ukrainian Foreign Ministers meet amid crisis (Vatican Radio) Leaders of the group of industrialized nations have suspended Russia from the G8 group over its controversial annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The announcement came after a G7 meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands, where Russian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers held talks…
Church official: Schism in Ukraine will fade without political support (Interfax) A Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate official believes the main reason of existing church schism in Ukraine is its political support. “I’m convinced that if the schism is deprived of political support, it will stop existing in a very short time,” deputy head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Nikolay Balashov said on air the Radonezh Orthodox radio station…
U.N. disturbed by imposition of mass death sentence in Egypt (U.N. News Center) The United Nations human rights office said today it is deeply alarmed by the imposition of the death penalty against 529 people in Egypt on Monday after a “cursory” mass trial in which the majority of defendants were not present in court. “The mass imposition of the death penalty after a trial that was rife with procedural irregularities is in breach of international human rights law,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told a news conference in Geneva…
The importance of contemporary Arab coffee culture (Al Monitor) Long ago, Arab cafes transformed into forums for political debate after politics in Arab countries became monopolized by the ruling regimes. Yet, with the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the cafes lost some of their political meaning for a while. Recently, they have begun to recover this status. Coffee is linked to nationalism in the Mediterranean basin. Anyone who has traveled to Greece, for example, knows that asking a waiter in a hotel or restaurant for “Turkish coffee” would result in a lengthy discussion clarifying that its proper name is “Greek coffee.” Similarly, if I dared, as an Egyptian, to ask for “Turkish coffee” in Lebanon, I would face stares of admonition for using the incorrect name for “Arabic coffee”…
24 March 2014
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians United Nations Ukrainian Orthodox Church
St. Piux X High School seniors Anna Johnson and Chris Cardillo meet with advisor Dennis Ruggiero. After a presentation by CNEWA at their Atlanta school, the students took part in a fundraiser for Syrian refugees. (photo: Michael Alexander)
Lindsay Wood contributes to The Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Attacks on minorities in Syria are continuing at a feverish pace as more people are forced to flee their homes and, in some cases, are being killed for their faith. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been displaced since 2011, report Syrian church officials, when civil war broke out between Syrian rebels and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Last fall, students at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta, Georgia, were stunned to hear about the plight of their brothers and sisters in the thick of the Arab Spring during a presentation given by Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
“I honestly had no idea what was going on,” St. Pius X senior Abby Barnett, 17, says. “Once we had the presentation, though, we started talking more about it in class. It was really eye-opening.”
News of church burnings, homeless children and abducted church officials concerned the school.
So they decided to do something about it.
St. Pius X’s student-led, anti-genocide group, STAND, enlisted the help of students at Marist School in Atlanta to host an ice skate-a-thon for Syrian students in need.
Nearly 50 students enjoyed the Marietta Ice Center last November, and raised about $400 to donate to CNEWA for Syrian children.
The money raised helped about 10 Syrian children receive backpacks, shoes, coats and other school supplies.
St. Pius X teacher and STAND advisor Dennis Ruggiero helped the group brainstorm on the best way to raise funds. Since Mr. Ruggiero and his family spend a lot of time playing hockey at the Marietta Ice Center, it seemed like a natural choice for the fundraiser. STAND co-presidents Anna Johnson, Darby Thomas and Kevin Quigley spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, school posters and announcements.
Senior and STAND member Chris Cardillo, 18, can’t ice skate, but says “it was still fun.”
Awareness was one of the main goals for the fundraiser, he adds. Before the CNEWA presentation, Chris didn’t know about the specifics of the conflict in Syria.
“It’s weird to think about because there’s so much [religious] tolerance in our country,” Chris says. “It made me appreciate it more because it’s something you take for granted when it’s the social norm. But when you hear about people who can’t practice their religion freely, it makes you appreciate that you can do that so easily here.”
Under the Syrian constitution, religious freedom was protected. As the civil war has intensified, so has pressure on ethnic and religious minorities, who are caught in the middle.
The conflict in Syria first began in March 2011 with peaceful protests against the Syrian president — inspired by similar calls in Tunisia and Egypt — that called for government and economic reform. The Syrian Army was called to disperse the protests, but caused an uproar among the people and a rebellion was formed. Opposing rebel forces are diverse and range from a Western-backed Free Syrian Army to a collection of individual Islamist and jihadist groups and the Kurds. But hundreds of smaller rebel groups occupy parts of Syria as well.
By July 2013, the United Nations announced the death toll to be at more than 100,000 people.
“I think the students were genuinely concerned about what’s going on,” Mr. Ruggiero says of the conflict in the Middle East. ”They were pretty shocked. I want my students to see that.”
The donations given by the students at St. Pius X High School will be sent to CNEWA’s centers in the northern region of Syria.
STAND co-president Anna Johnson, 18, said she hopes the money given to Syrian students will give them better tools to move forward with their lives and overcome adversity.
Anna says the presentation was also a “seed planting” for her classmates to take with them in college and beyond.
Msgr. Richard Lopez, professor of theology at St. Pius X High School, says he is proud of his students for representing the “essence of our religion — to help those in need.”
“Adolescents will embrace a cause,” Msgr. Lopez says. “Give them a reason to stand up against evil, they will.”
St. Pius X High School theology teacher Msgr. Richard Lopez helped raise awareness about the plight of Syrian Christians. (photo: Michael Alexander)
Interested in having CNEWA visit your school or parish? Contact Norma Intriago at email@example.com.
And to support our efforts to help suffering Christians in Syria, visit our Syria giving page.
24 March 2014
Holed up in their caves in Lalibela, an important center of pilgrimage in Ethiopia, hermits dedicate their lives to study and prayer. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we took readers on a journey to Ethiopia, and disocovered a country at a crossroads:
In Ethiopia, one can now discern tension developing between priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church — the historic church of the Ethiopian people — and the faithful. This tension reflects the evolution of Ethiopia from an agricultural society of subsistent farmers to an urbanized and industrial modern state.
In the past, the priest was the natural reference point and adviser. Today, however, Ethiopia’s young, urban Orthodox Christians no longer perceive the priest as the only source of wisdom; they turn increasingly to their own experiences to find answers to life’s complexities.Ethiopia is celebrated for its many monasteries, ancient foundations peopled with men who, in the footsteps of the early desert fathers, have fled the world to fast, pray and participate in the weekly celebration of the Qeddase, the eucharistic liturgy of the church.
Academics describe Ethiopian Orthodox spirituality, with its focus on interior prayer and the communal celebration of the Qeddase, as introspective and monastic. They contrast this with the more extroverted spirituality pervading Christian life in the West, where ministry exercises a more “apostolic” dimension.
Though Ethiopia’s monks have retreated from the world, they have not forsaken it. Historically, monasteries have played a significant role in the development of the Ethiopian nation, its culture and its identity, even participating in its often volatile political life.
Despite such power and influence, however, the laity understands that the role of a monk is contemplative. This traditional role is not reserved to those in monastic life alone, but extended to parish priests as well.
Read more about Ethiopian Orthodoxy at a Crossroads from the November 2007 issue of ONE.
24 March 2014
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church elected Bishop Naum of Stob, left, as the new metropolitan of Rousse. The post has been vacant since the election of Patriarch Neofit, right, in February 2013. (photo: Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit’s first ‘year of change’ (Sofia Globe) It was an eventful and significant year in the history of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church — not only because of the election of a new patriarch, not only because of the sudden and mysterious death of the influential Varna Metropolitan Kiril, but also primarily because the period has seen the emergence of processes and phenomena that will have a lasting impact in the future…
Egypt sentences 529 to death (Washington Post) An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 people to death, in the largest capital punishment case on record in Egypt, judicial authorities said Monday. The alleged supporters of ousted Islamist President Muhammad Morsi were convicted on charges of killing a single police officer, the attempted murder of two others, and attacking a police station in the Nile Valley city of Minya last August. Sixteen others were acquitted. The mass sentencing underscored the severity of an ongoing campaign by Egypt’s military-backed leaders to silence opposition here, eight months after a military coup ousted President Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader…
Pope Tawadros II laments Arab Spring as ‘winter’ (Fides) According to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, the “Arab Spring,” in reality, “was not a spring or even an autumn, it was a winter.” Pope Tawadros rejects any globally positive interpretation regarding the results caused by rebellions and conflicts that have devastated most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Egypt, since the end of 2010…
In show of strength, Hamas supporters flood downtown Gaza (Christian Science Monitor) Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters thronged the streets of downtown Gaza City on Sunday, a show of strength at a time when the Islamic militant group faces its deepest crisis since seizing power seven years ago. Hamas is dealing with a severe financial shortfall, caused by heavy pressure from both Israel and Egypt. But leaders stressed that the group remains opposed to Mideast peace efforts and is ready for battle against Israel at any time…
Russian troops capture Ukraine’s last land base in Crimea (Los Angeles Times) Russian troops stormed and captured the Ukrainian military’s last remaining land base in Crimea on Monday, a Ukrainian official said. “Russian military are in a hurry to claim that there are no longer any Ukraine army bases in the peninsula to prevent the U.N. General Assembly from declaring Crimea a demilitarized zone at its session on Thursday,” said Dmitry Tymchuk, a Ukraine defense expert. “The General Assembly may theoretically demand that both Russia and Ukraine withdraw their troops from the peninsula, but Russia can make an argument that there are no Ukraine troops in Crimea any longer and prevent the issue from being discussed…”
Simferopol Eparchy denies expropriating property of the Kiev Patriarchate (Pravoslavie.ru) The press service of the Eparchy of Simferopol and Crimea have officially denied allegations currently being spread in the press that members of the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, along with armed individuals, are claiming church property of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, in the village of Perevalnoye in Crimea…
21 March 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Crimea Bulgarian Orthodox Church
A woman cries as she holds a boy at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria, on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/ Hosam Katan, Reuters)
Two weeks ago, Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Beirut, spoke to a meeting of Aid to the Church in Need in Kaslik, Lebanon. He described the humanitarian crisis in Syria:
The latest estimates published by the UNHCR show that 6.8 million people in Syria are needy, 5.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 2.2 million seeking refuge in neighboring countries from a conflict that has reportedly killed over 130,000 people.
Some areas face food shortages, and even areas that have been spared large-scale violence like Damascus lack sufficient quantities of gasoline, heating oil and cooking gas. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that by the end of 2014 around 70 percent of the Syrian population will need emergency food help.
Harsh winter weather had made matters worse, and people lack winter clothes, blankets and fuel, with women and children particularly at risk.
In the large city of Aleppo, a battle zone for the past 18 months, the price of bread has climbed in some places more than 15-fold to 250 Syrian pounds ($3.50) a kilo, while it is estimated that half of public hospitals have been damaged by the conflict.
The Syrian displaced families in general and the Christians in particular are facing serious challenges to provide the basic necessities for their children. The need is further inflated when it comes to families who found refuge within their confessional communities and remained unknown — not registered with an international organization whose main activities are concentrated at the large refugee camps.
You can read the full text of his speech here.
And visit this page to learn how you can help our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria.
21 March 2014
“If I preach, first of all I preach to myself, then I preach to the people. … I am doing my best to be a good example,” said Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I in this interview conducted in the summer of 2009, in which he discussed his life, his role as patriarch and more. “I am happy, even though I am now an old man,” he said, “but still, thank God, trying to continue my work for the benefit of the church.” (video: Melthodhaye)
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch passes away (Manorama Online) The head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Mar Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch and all the East, has passed away in a German hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 81. Patriarch Ignatius Zakka was the 122nd reigning Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and All the East. He was enthroned on 14 September, 1980, in St. George’s Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus. A prolific author, he was known for his involvement in ecumenical dialogue. He was an observer at the Second Vatican Council before becoming metropolitan bishop of Mosul…
Emergency in Ethiopia for tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees (Fides) There are between 72,000 and 100,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled to the western Ethiopian region of Gambella, according to estimates by some humanitarian organizations operating in the area. Clashes between government soldiers and rebels loyal to former Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar have forced several hundred thousand internally displaced people and refugees in neighboring countries, primarily Ethiopia, to flee…
Crimea spurs breakaway threats by Bosnian Serbs (World Bulletin) Russia’s seizure of Crimea, which contains an ethnic Russian majority, has again stirred dispute over the principle of sovereignty, last tested when the West supported Kosovo’s secession from Bosnia neighbor Serbia in 2008 over Russian objections. As time goes by another sovereign state could appear on the world map — the Serb Republic. Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik sees Bosnia as “a non-viable state” and describes the Crimean referendum as “an example of respect for the U.N. Charter and the right of people to self-determination…”
Violence rocks Iraq as elections approach (Der Spiegel) With just six weeks to go before parliamentary elections in Iraq, sectarian violence has once again gripped the country. Car bombs have become a regular occurrence and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is under fire. Another war could erupt in the struggle over Kirkuk and oil. The Iraqi legislature can agree on nothing of importance and its lawmakers hate each other…
20 March 2014
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Crimea Syriac Orthodox Church Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pope Francis waves as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican
on 19 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Fortune magazine has just published a list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world — and the Bishop of Rome tops the list:
When a reformer sweeps through an institution more forcefully in just a year than any other in memory — and when that institution is some 2,000 years old and the largest organization on earth — he draws attention, admiration, and wonder. That’s why Pope Francis leads our inaugural list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, and why he was proposed more often by our nominators than any other candidate. Reforming the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, finally beginning to address the child sexual abuse scandal, shaking up the Vatican’s self-absorbed bureaucracy, setting a striking new tone through his personal example of modesty and inclusiveness — this is what a great leader does.
The magazine describes Pope Francis this way:
Just over a year ago, a puff of white smoke announced the new spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world. In the brief time since, Francis has electrified the church and attracted legions of non-Catholic admirers by energetically setting a new direction. He has refused to occupy the palatial papal apartments, has washed the feet of a female Muslim prisoner, is driven around Rome in a Ford Focus, and famously asked “Who am I to judge?” with regard to the church’s view of gay members. He created a group of eight cardinals to advise him on reform, which a church historian calls the “most important step in the history of the church for the past 10 centuries.” Francis recently asked the world to stop the rock-star treatment. He knows that while revolutionary, his actions so far have mostly reflected a new tone and intentions. His hardest work lies ahead. And yet signs of a “Francis effect” abound: In a poll in March, one in four Catholics said they’d increased their charitable giving to the poor this year. Of those, 77% said it was due in part to the Pope.
Visit the Fortune link to see who else made the list.
20 March 2014
Pope Tawadros II celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the monastery of Wadi Natrun, northeast of Cairo, to commemorate the second anniversary of Pope Shenouda III’s passing. (photo: Coptic Orthodox Church)
Egypt’s Coptic pope to visit Moscow (Turkish Press) Preparations are in full swing for an expected visit to Moscow by Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II — his first trip to Russia since taking the helm of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church in 2012, a church source said Wednesday…
Ukraine announces plans to withdraw military personnel from Crimea (Al Jazeera) Hours after a group of armed men supported by Russian forces seized control of the Ukrainian naval headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on Wednesday, Kiev announced plans to evacuate all military personnel from the peninsula, The New York Times reported. Ukrainian national security head Andriy Parubiy announced the move, which effectively concedes loss of the territory to Russia…
Former Lebanese president warns religious diversity dying (Arab Daily News) Amine Gemayel, the former president of Lebanon from 1982 to 1988 and the leader of Lebanon’s Kataeb party, warned this week the Arab world is experiencing a “crisis of religious pluralism” driven by “the rise of religious extremists,” which threatens “any community which does not constitute the majority…”
How the West gas shaped Georgia’s self-image (New Eastern Europe) In the past couple years, Georgia has been Europeanizing: policies, practices and laws have been adjusted to European Union standards to secure an Association Agreement (A.A.), a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (D.C.F.T.A.) and a visa-free regime. However, we can observe the Europeanization not only of Georgia’s policies, but also of its political culture. Although the Georgian and European political cultures still have little in common, the West has become a key point of reference in the debates on Georgian national identity…
Zaatari refugee camp: Now with girl scouts and a Safeway store (NPR) On a sunny afternoon in the dusty, overcrowded Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, a group of Syrian girls recites a familiar scout pledge and hope to change their future. In this desolate place, the troop’s weekly meetings are a time to forget the horrors that forced these girls to flee Syria with their families. This week marks the third anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict, and this unofficial girl scout troop is a sign these girls may spend their childhood in exile and their families are learning to cope with what may be a long-term stay…
19 March 2014
Tags: Ukraine Lebanon Georgia Refugee Camps Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
A Syrian girl in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp girl paints her vision of a perfect place to live.
(photo: CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)
With the number of Syrian refugees now soaring into the millions, CNS reports on one innovative effort to help the most vulnerable, the children:
As Syria’s civil war hurtles into its fourth year, hopes of returning home soon seem far off for the 2.5 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries, like Jordan. Syrians are soon expected to overtake Afghans as the largest refugee population in the world, according to the United Nations.
Top U.N. officials warn that the grinding conflict will leave a generation of 5.5 million children — in and outside Syria — physically and emotionally scarred. But American street artist Samantha Robison is working hard to change that.
A native of Washington, D.C., Robison and her team of international artists paint alongside the refugee children, encouraging them to remain strong and positive in Jordan’s Zaatari camp.
Covered in splashes of paint in every color of the rainbow, Robison encourages a 9-year-old Syrian girl named Zeinab to express her future dreams through painting on a recycled tent tarp.
“I am drawing a bird flying in the air. To me, it represents the freedom we want,” the enthusiastic child said as she drew.
Peaceful demonstrations protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted three years ago and were soon met by sniper fire from government troops before bursting into all-out civil war.
Robison said the young Syrian refugees at Zaatari remember the start of the conflict, but now look to the future.
“Yes, commemorate the three years, but also remember where they’ve come from and how much they’ve accomplished,” she said.
“Honor the human dignity and the next generation and the future of Syria. I think is where a lot of the energy needs to be focused,” she added, speaking of the children.
Read the rest.
And to learn how you can help needy children fleeing the war in Syria, visit our giving page.
19 March 2014
Syrian refugees collect food at the Bab al Salam refugee camp in Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border on 14 March. Catholic bishops of Syria called for a cease-fire in their country and for the pursuit of the Geneva peace talks to end the crisis. (photo: CNS/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)
Lebanon cannot bear brunt of Syrian refugee crisis alone, U.N. official warns (U.N. News Center) Massive international support is crucial as the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continues to rise and is on track to reaching 1.5 million by the end of this year, a senior United Nations humanitarian official stressed today. “It is imperative that the international community helps bear the brunt of the pressure on Lebanon,” Ross Mountain, the acting U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, told a news conference in Geneva…
Israel strikes Syria in Golan Heights (Al Jazeera) Israeli warplanes unleashed airstrikes Wednesday against Syrian army targets in response to a roadside bombing in the Golan Heights that wounded four soldiers the day before, the Israeli military said. Tuesday’s roadside bombing and Wednesday’s strikes are the most significant escalation between Israel and Syria since the Syrian conflict began three years ago, though neither country has expressed interest in entering a war…
What has become of Syria’s revolutionaries (Der Spiegel) The Syrian civil war has caused great suffering since the protests against President Bashar Assad began three years ago. We revisit some of those people we have met in our reporting…
Pope grants radio interview, remembers priests close to the poor (Vatican Radio) In a video interview with an Argentinean radio station, Pope Francis called for the adoption of a spirit of poverty and defended priests, who live and work in slums among the poor. The radio station, which broadcasts from the slums of Buenos Aires, projected the video interview on a large screen in the local parish on the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate. This poor neighborhood, located close to the soccer stadium, includes the same slums where Pope Francis, as archbishop, would celebrate the Eucharist, spend time among the poor and assign priests to serve…
Ukrainian government condemns persecution of clerics in Crimea (RISU) On 18 March, the director of the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Volodymyr Yushkevych, issued a statement decrying the persecution of clerics in the Crimea. The document calls “to stop the practice of terror and to ensure respect for rights and liberties…”
Pro-Russian forces capture Ukrainian naval base in Crimea without firing a shot (Christian Science Monitor) Pro-Russian forces overran Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Crimea today, ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine a day after Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty paving the way toward annexation. Russian troops and unarmed militiamen stormed the naval headquarters in the port city of Sevastopol, according to Reuters, and raised the Russian flag. No shots were reported fired, and unarmed Ukrainian servicemen were seen leaving the building in civilian clothing an hour later. Ukraine’s government in Kiev, which refuses to recognize Crimea’s annexation, took a firmer tone, vowing today not to withdraw its military from Crimea, according to The Washington Post…
Moscow moves to destabilize eastern Ukraine (Der Spiegel) It’s not only in Crimea where Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing with fire, but also in eastern Ukraine. The majority of the people in the economically powerful region speaks Russian and rejects the new government in Kiev…
Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees United Nations Crimea