28 October 2013
Coptic Christians chant prayers during a candlelight protest after dozens were killed during clashes with soldiers and riot police in October 2011. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
In the Autumn issue of ONE, Sarah Topol reports on young Copts persevering during a time of turmoil in Egypt. Here, she offers some reasons why they dare to hope.
You read a lot of stories about Christians fleeing Egypt — they make up roughly 10 percent of the country’s 85.3 million people, and are now the largest Christian population in the Middle East.
Since the revolution, Egypt’s economy has crumbled, the political system has in some ways become even more repressive and instances of sectarian violence have mounted. One might imagine every Christian would want to leave Egypt — or at least they would be depressed by their prospects in a country they have inhabited for centuries. And while feelings of concern, fear and anxiety continue — and there are young people who want to leave — the kids I spoke with in Cairo want to stay put. In reporting this story, I was struck by how positive the young people I spoke to were.
It shouldn’t have shocked me, because you see this phenomenon throughout history; time and again, young people have asked for change because they are too youthful to have been disappointed in the past. They have less to lose than their parents. And let’s face it — your early 20’s are the time for idealism.
But what made their optimism interesting to me is that these particular young people have been disappointed. In Feb 2011, president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and many thought they toppled a dictator. They believed there was a New Egypt on the horizon.
Instead, the transition has been turbulent. Ruled by an interim military government that prosecuted more civilians in military courts in 18 months in power than Mubarak did in his nearly 30-year reign, they then saw the election of Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi. Under his term, journalists have been intimidated, the economy has continued to fail, rolling blackouts have hit the country and protests against his term have ended in more violent clashes with security services. From inflation to security to trash collection, everything in Egypt seems to be stagnating, if not getting worse. Yet the young people I spoke with were trying to stay positive, though even they admit that’s not easy. But why?
The best answer I got was from Diana Maher Ghali, a 24-year-old who is expecting her first child this fall. She had this to say about their youthful optimism:
We believe that after the dawn there is light. That’s the rule of the world; it’s not dark all the time, and it’s not light all the time, and we feel this is our time to make a change.
We didn’t live under [Gamal] Nasser or [Anwar] Sadat. We didn’t live through all those wars. We didn’t live under the English occupation. This is our time to do something and this is our time to make history as young people.
If we don’t do anything, then our kids are going to blame us in the future for standing still and watching our country fall apart. I think we get our enthusiasm from this. We try to encourage each other. If we ever give up, it’s over. It’s always important to have hope that something will change, but it’s about taking action — not just sitting in your home.
Read more about Faith Under Fire in the Autumn issue of ONE.
28 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Cultural Identity ONE magazine Coptic Christians Copts
Children take part in the dedication of the new cathedral in Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Several weeks ago, CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar had a chance to visit Ukraine and take part in the dedication of a new cathedral. He writes about it in the new issue of ONE:
We came at the invitation of Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to participate in the consecration of the new Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Our Lord, located in Kiev, Ukraine, and to commemorate a historic religious event heralding the beginning of the church in Ukraine. Gathered with us for the formal celebrations were Cardinal Timothy Dolan, CNEWA’s chair and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Richard Smith, his counterpart in Canada; and a number of Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops from Canada and the United States.
But our primary reason for visiting Ukraine was pastoral — to demonstrate CNEWA’s abiding support for this church that is, in fact, relatively young. Let me explain.
I say “young” because even though the church has been present there for over 1,000 years, it was suppressed for generations — forbidden and driven underground until only 22 years ago. With the fall of communism and the end of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has risen from the underground. Today, it is a dynamic and vibrant church. It never lost the faith — in fact, despite thousands of bishops, priests, sisters and lay faithful being executed or sent off to labor camps in the countryside and into Siberia, the faith was heroically passed on to successive generations.
What amazed and moved me was that these brave and courageous people do not complain about their great sufferings. Nor do they not look for pity. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all. The consecration of the new cathedral was a dramatic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish — even in the worst of times.
Read more about his visit in the Autumn issue of ONE.
28 October 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Msgr. John E. Kozar Eastern Europe CNEWA Canada
In this 2010 photo, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem blesses the people of Madaba, a town south of Amman, Jordan. (photo: Joseph Zakarian)
Church of Antioch may break off relations with Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Pravoslavie) The Greek church news agency Romphea has reported the decision of the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Antioch regarding the issue of jurisdiction over the state of Qatar. Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch has warned Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem that if within two months he does not take steps to resolve the problem with Qatar, the Church of Antioch will have to break off relations with the Church of Jerusalem. Both local churches consider the state of Qatar to be their canonical territory…
Aid still a trickle as Syrians contend with hunger, disease (Washington Post) With more than five million people internally displaced, a suspected polio outbreak and starvation threatening, the United Nations and aid agencies say that just a trickle of the required assistance is getting into war-ravaged Syria as the harsh winter months loom. After more than two and a half years of conflict, the accounts of struggling civilians paint a portrait of abject human suffering amid what the World Health Organization has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis…
Vatican sends greetings to Hindus for Diwali (Vatican Radio) The Vatican has sent a cordial message of solidarity to Hindus as they celebrate the feast of Deepavali, also known as “the festival of lights,” or Diwali. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran writes: “Regardless of our ethnic, cultural, religious and ideological differences, all of us belong to the one human family.” The full text follows…
Christian book burning in Raqqa (Fides) The militia of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the faction that in several regions of Syria monopolized the armed insurrection against the regime in Damascus in recent days have organized a book burning of Bibles and Christian books in front of the Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Raqqa, the Syrian city which has been for months under the control of anti-Assad militias…
Israel agrees to release 26 more Palestinian prisoners (Al Jazeera) The Israeli government voted Sunday to release 26 long-held Palestinian prisoners as part of a United States-brokered deal that led to the resumption of Middle East peace talks in August. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the 26 prisoners, jailed for violence committed before a 1993 interim accord, would be released. However, the actual release of the prisoners will take place at least 48 hours after their names are published to give bereaved Israeli families the opportunity to appeal their release before the courts, which rarely intervene in such cases…
25 October 2013
Tags: Refugees Jerusalem Health Care Christian-Hindu relations Church of Antioch
The demands of life in the village of Ujmana include fetching water by hand. (photo: Molly Corso)
Photojournalist Molly Corso lives and works in Tbilisi, Georgia, and wrote about one community of Georgians in the Autumn edition of ONE. Here, she offers some personal insight into what it was like covering the story.
In my very blessed life as a foreign correspondent based in Georgia, I travel to a lot of villages. Georgian villages, Armenian villages, Azeri villages. Villages high in the mountains, villages built too low to survive flooding. I see villages that were once prosperous and villages that have been abandoned. But, regardless of where I am traveling there is one constant: villages in Georgia are heart stopping, spirit crushingly poor.
So, heading out to two Catholic Armenian villages in the southern region of Samtskhe Javakheti very early one morning in August, I had two expectations: the villages would be poor and the roads would be bad. I was not, however, prepared for the beauty of the region or the breathtaking generosity of the locals.
The road, once we turned off the main highway that connects the region with the capital (and the rest of the country), was little more than a stony country path. It was so bad, in fact, that some smart local had created an alternative route off to the side because driving through the field was smoother than trying to circumvent the potholes on the road.
Driving aside, the countryside was intensely beautiful, a scrub hard valley tucked in between sloping rock hills. There were neat stone farmhouses – very different from traditional Georgian homes – lining golden fields. The pungent odor of farm life was everywhere, following us as we skirted a pretty stream and crossed old stone bridges.
Once we turned off the main highway, very few people spoke Georgian although most – but not all – spoke Russian, so we could communicate even without known Armenian. But communication was not always easy, all parties trying to speak through an obviously foreign tongue. That was especially true of our first encounter with the locals. We pulled up beside a group of two men and a woman with a child to ask directions. The men spoke a smattering of Russian, enough to tell us we were on the right path to the village – and to ask us to take the woman and child with us. They clamored into the car and away we went. Very soon, however, it became clear they only spoke Armenian.
The lack of language, however, did not stop Peghekya, the woman, from inviting us for coffee and “some bread.”
“Some bread” ended up being an entire meal and the experience was repeated at nearly every home we visited the entire day. One of the poorest families we visited, two pensioners left to live out their old age alone in a crumbling farmhouse, wouldn’t let us leave without taking some homemade cheese (delicious!) and were deeply offended we would not stay for some homemade brandy.
Generosity is an important trait in the Caucasus — a part of the regional culture and a source of pride. But never, in a decade of living and traveling in Georgia, have I met people as gracious and rich of spirit as the Armenian Catholics in these villages. At our last stop, at a house in Ujmana, we asked one gentleman where this fountain of generosity comes from and he answered with a shrug, "It has always been like that here. Samtskhe Javakheti is a very kind place."
Truer words were never spoken.
You can read more on Armenian Catholics in Staying Power in the Autumn edition of ONE.
25 October 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Armenia Village life Georgia Armenian Catholic Church
A Syrian refugee boy flashes a peace sign along the border in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. More than a 1 million Syrian refugees are under 18, about 740,000 under 11, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Read more about the refugees in this story from the Catholic Register. And visit our Syria giving page to learn how you can help.
(photo: CNS /Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)
25 October 2013
In this image from 2012, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III attends Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on the waterfront in Beirut. At left is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch: ‘Syria is walking the way of the cross’ (Independent Catholic News) Bombs, kidnapping and financial extortion are among the problems facing Syria’s Christians, the leader of the country’s Catholics told a meeting in Westminster Cathedral Hall. Speaking to more than 300 benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregory III — the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church — said: “Syria is experiencing a lengthy, bloody way of the cross, stretching along all the country’s roads.” The patriarch, who is president of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria, added: “You may think that it is safe here or unsafe there, but at any moment you may be killed by bomb, missile or bullet, not to mention being kidnapped or taken hostage for ransom, or murdered...”
Syrian Orthodox bishop calls for “humanitarian corridor” (Fides) The Metropolitan Silwanos Boutros Alnemeh, of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Homs and Hama, has launched an appeal to institutions and international humanitarian organizations on behalf of the civilian population. About 3,000 people have remained besieged in the villages of Sadad and Hofar, in the region of Qualamun, about a hundred kilometers north-east of Damascus, where another front of the conflict between the government army and anti-Assad militias has opened. Those responsible for the siege, the bishop explains in his message, must “facilitate the departure of the population safely in any direction, both towards the monastery of Al-Attieh, and in the direction of the city of Homs, where we could welcome them.” Metropolitan Silwanos begs international organizations, recipients of his appeal, to avoid “statements that may compromise the safety of the residents of the besieged cities and residents in Syria...”
Canadian government to direct millions to aid Syrian refugees (Catholic Register) The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is directing $5.4 million of Canadian government funding to Syrian refugees who are living outside official refugee camps. More than half the Syrian refugees, including over four million displaced Syrians still inside Syria’s borders, aren’t in any of the refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. There are more than 2 million refugees who have made it out of the war torn country...
Church in Kerala celebrates feast with a Hindu flair (Catholic News Service) In the Christian heartland of Kerala, India, feisty church festivals are commonplace, but the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima at St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Kottekad remains unique. Emulating a typical Hindu pooram, or festival, when the deities are carried in procession to the temples on elephants to the accompaniment of traditional bands called “panchavadyam,” a portrait of Our Lady of Fatima was carried to the Syro-Malabar Catholic church on elephants on 20 October...
24 October 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees Kerala Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch
A child of the village of Sebeya enjoys an enriched biscuit. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
The Autumn issue of ONE magazine is now online. One of the stories offers a look at a program to feed hungry schoolchildren in Ethiopia, in places where the need is great:
In places like Sebeya, Awo and Alitena near the northern border with Eritrea, famine and death are never far from the doorstep.
“I already shiver when I think of the dry season months that are coming. For some schools, we are not sure we will be able to secure food on time,” says Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat, whose eparchy of the Ge’ez Catholic Church administers some 52 schools in the region. “This is how we live, in a continuous kind of uncertainty.”
It is July, the fields have been planted and this continuous kind of uncertainty reigns over them. Farmers like Gebremichael Gebru, 68, from the village of Sebeya, about 20 miles from Adigrat, look to the skies for the much needed rain. So far, it has not come. If none falls in the next month, says Mr. Gebru, the harvest will be ruined and his family will have a very hungry year.
One of the many consequences of this condition is fainting — children passing out in class because they have had no breakfast and have no lunch to eat. The task of concentrating on a blackboard overpowers them.
“We usually eat three times a day, but when food is short we only eat once a day,” says Gebremichael Gebru’s 10-year-old son, Teklit, who attends the local Holy Trinity School. “I have to go to school hungry sometimes. It’s very difficult.”
The family used to have more than two and a half acres of land. But in Ethiopia, where the state owns all the land and has very strong powers of eminent domain, the government took half of that land to provide space for housing for the village’s growing population.
“It’s not enough land for us,” says Mr. Gebru. “Now, as there is no rain, I plan to move from tillage to livestock. I’m not interested in cultivation anymore. It’s not sustainable.”
Sustainability is the current watchword of the Ethiopian government and its international development partners. The numerous terraces lining the surrounding hills, the small dams, reservoirs and canals that punctuate the landscape attest to this. But in Sebeya and other rural outposts, such infrastructure for irrigation and water preservation looks obsolete and resembles the debris of a former, defunct civilization where living off the land in comfort and dignity was possible.
In some corners of the country, sustainability is a dream and simply surviving can be a struggle.
But there is hope. Read what CNEWA and others are doing. And check out this link to learn how you can help.
24 October 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Catholic education Hunger
In this May photo, Coptic Pope Tawadros II celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. (photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church)
Pope Tawadros II discusses perpetrators of church attack (Daily News Egypt) During his weekly sermon on Wednesday, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, said: “We pray for those who were killed and injured as well as those who killed the happiness of the innocent.” Those comments are the Coptic pope’s first since the attack on a Coptic wedding at Virgin Mary Church in the Giza neighborhood of Al Warraq. “The door of repentance is still open for [the attackers], and we pray for Egypt so that God will protect it,” the pope said…
Pope meets with Jewish human rights group (Vatican Radio) In a meeting with a delegation from an international Jewish human rights organization on Thursday, the pope stressed that the problem of intolerance must be confronted. Several representatives from the United States-based Simon Wiesenthal Center met with Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina. He acknowledged the mission of the center, which is to fight every form of intolerance and to promote mutual understanding between cultures. The pope remarked that he has had several occasions in the past few weeks to restate “the church’s condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism…”
Muscovite builds record-breaking statue of Jesus in Syria (The Moscow Times) A bronze statue of Jesus Christ, taller than the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, has appeared in war-torn Syria. The statue, entitled “I Have Come to Save the World” was the brainchild of Yury Gavrilov, a 49-year-old Muscovite who runs an organization in London called the St. Paul and St. George Foundation. Patrons of the project include both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government. Despite the statue’s Russian connection, it was cast in Armenia and made by an Armenian sculptor, Artush Papoian. Syria’s ethnic Armenians have been fleeing the country in droves since the conflict began, to the extent that Armenia has built a new settlement called New Aleppo to house them, named after the war-torn northern Syrian city where the majority of Syria’s ethnic Armenian population lives. The statue is located on a mountaintop near the city of Sednaya…
Latin Patriarch opens conference on women in the Middle East (Fides) On 24 October, a conference organized by the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations began with a report by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal on the role of women in the church and society in the Middle East. The conference is taking place under the patronage of Queen Rania of Jordan and has as its theme the service rendered by women devoted to “life, dignity and the common good…”
In Ethiopia, IKEA shelters house refugees (Der Spiegel) The Swedish furniture giant IKEA had 13 newly developed huts erected on the Ethiopian savanna at the Kobe refugee camp last August. The precisely arranged row of Swedish-designed structures stands in stark contrast to the tents and barracks in other parts of the camp. It’s a test case for the company, and if the IKEA huts pass, they could soon offer refugees around the world a better home than conventional tents…
23 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Art Women Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
Father Kevin O’Connell baptizes a child at Sacred Heart Church in Amman. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
Two years ago, we profiled Filipino workers who were making a new start in Jordan:
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem established Sacred Heart parish in 1996 to serve Amman’s swelling Catholic migrant community.
Among the families are a scattering of Europeans and North Americans, most of whom work in the foreign embassies of the posh Jabal Al Weibdeh neighborhood that surrounds the church. A few wear bright salwar kameez, the traditional pajama-like trousers worn by men and women from the Indian subcontinent. The vast majority, however, are Filipino women.
“It was a little strange for me in church at first,” says Father Kevin O’Connell, who has led the parish since its inception 15 years ago. “You’d look out to an entire congregation of women.”
A congenial 67-year-old Jesuit priest from Boston, who wears slacks and sandals under his vestments, Father O’Connell, looks and acts the part of a wise, friendly grandfather.
He helps the choir and he holds the lease on a house where the choir rehearses and other church groups gather. Father O’Connell also oversees the Sacred Heart youth basketball team and helped a group of youngsters from the church secure a space in the Jesuit Fathers’ center where they can breakdance.
Most important, Father O’Connell spends much of his energy responding to the spiritual, emotional and material needs of his predominantly Filipino congregation and other Filipino migrants in the country.
“I understood that the first task was to give people a place where they could be at home,” says Father O’Connell. “For these people, just the ongoing, regular liturgy — with Filipino music, with people reading, with them being able to participate in whatever way they want — gives a strand of consistency and continuity. It’s their home. It’s their place. In most cases, there’s no place else they can gather.”
Though some have jobs at the Philippine Embassy or in international organizations, most are domestic workers. They live in their employers’ homes and work long hours. Many experience intense feelings of loneliness and homesickness. They often have families back home whom they miss desperately.
With few job opportunities in the Philippines and families to support, these women come to the Middle East, where jobs in the “care-giving industry” are plentiful. Motivated by the promise of comparatively high earnings, most of which they intend on sending home to their families, they often accept without complaint long hours, little personal time or freedom and substandard living accommodations.
Read more about Filipinos who are Far From Home in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
23 October 2013
Tags: Jordan ONE magazine Immigration Women Amman
In this photo, captured in February by frequent ONE magazine contributor Dalia Khamissy, members of a Syrian Christian refugee family in Lebanon conceal their faces out of concern for their safety and that of relatives still in Syria. Recently, Ms. Khamissy visited two families displaced by the war as part of a report for Al Jazeera, linked below. (photo: CNS/Dalia Khamissy)
For Syrians in Jordan, sanctuary comes at a price of humiliation (Al Jazeera) Syrians have long hosted refugees from conflicts throughout the Middle East; now they are dependent on the kindness of strangers. In the sprawling refugee camp in northwestern Jordan, Syrians find themselves feeling the pain and anxiety of displaced Arab populations from conflicts past — the Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis to whom their own country had once provided sanctuary. There are almost 550,000 Syrian scattered across Jordan, each with a tale of loss…
Islamist militias begin incursion in the Christian city of Sadad (Fides) Since Monday, the Christian city of Sadad, situated in a strategic area along the road that joins Homs to Damascus, has been at the center of the battle between the army of Assad and rebel militias dominated by Islamist groups. According to local sources, the raid took place in a similar way to that suffered a month ago in the historic Christian village of Maaloula. The biblical city of Sadad, cited in the Book of Numbers and the Book of Ezekiel, is 60 miles from Damascus and 40 from Homs. The city is home to two churches — dedicated to St. Sergius and St. Theodore, respectively — famous for their frescoes…
The Catholic Church coordinates humanitarian aid in Syria (VIS) The Catholic Church and the local churches in the region have been involved since the beginning of the crisis, in 2011, in the constant work of providing humanitarian aid to the population struck by the civil war in Syria. Pope Francis has paid particular attention to the evolution of the crisis and the aid work offered by charitable agencies, whom he received in audience during a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. “Helping the Syrian population, regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief”, said the pope on that occasion, “is the most direct way of contributing to the pacification and edification of a society open to all its components…”
Archbishop Chullikatt calls for all weapons to be silenced (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, has called for general and complete disarmament. Speaking a the First Committee of the 68th session of the General Assembly, the archbishop said that this moment in history offers a moment of opportunity to rid the world of chemical and nuclear weapons. “In the past few weeks, we have seen vivid action taken in the long struggle to rid the world of chemical and nuclear weapons. The recent U.N. Security Council’s unanimous resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons has historic importance. … The willingness of the world as a whole to move forward in a constructive manner to eliminate nuclear weapons has never been more evident…”
Qatar emir vows to help secure bishops’ release (Daily Star Lebanon) Qatar, having recently played a key role in freeing nine Lebanese pilgrims, reportedly vowed Wednesday to help win the release of two bishops abducted in Syria. Qatar News Agency said Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter expressed his “gratitude and appreciation” for the nation’s role in securing the weekend release of the nine Lebanese Shiite men held for 17 months by Syrian rebels…
Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Jordan Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter