8 October 2013
For Syrian refugees in Jordan, a new sense of home (New York Times) (slideshow)
Egyptian attacks escalating amid stalemate (New York Times) The lethal conflict between Egypt’s military-backed government and its Islamist opponents escalated on Monday, with an expansion of attacks against government targets, signs that the authorities have failed to secure the streets and that both sides refuse to back down. Three brazen attacks across the country included a drive-by shooting near the Suez Canal that killed six soldiers, a car bomb that killed three police officers and wounded dozens near the Red Sea resorts area, and the first rocket-propelled grenade launched in the struggle, exploding near an elite enclave of the capital and damaging a satellite transmitter…
Life goes on in Damascus, despite civil war (Der Spiegel) During dinners with politicians and professors, or in conversations in the narrow streets of the old city, everyone, without exception, expressed fear of the rebels. They worry that the rebels will be accompanied by fundamentalists, who will bring with them Sharia law. All the people we spoke with said that they distrust the West because the reasoning there is too simplistic and countries there set moral standards they fail to live up to themselves. And most said that while they don’t support Assad, they want to preserve their way of life. “Just look at what’s happening in Egypt and Libya,” said one man…
Christians march to denounce acts of intimidation by extremist settlers (Fides) A spontaneous march of Christians in Jerusalem was held on Monday, 7 October, through the streets of the Holy City to denounce the frequent desecration perpetrated by groups of extremist Jewish settlers against Christian places of worship. A group of more than 100 Christians, starting at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, then walked to Latin Catholic and Anglican cemeteries, desecrated in recent weeks with racist graffiti…
Patriarchs: Let us create a joint committee for dialogue (Fides) Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Church of the East, and Louis Raphael I, patriarch of the Chaldean Church, have come together in agreement regarding the creation of a “joint committee” as a tool to tackle together the difficulties shared by the two sister churches…
8 October 2013
Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Violence against Christians Christian Unity
In Astoria, Greek Orthodox priests and faithful celebrate the annual feast of St. Irene Chrysovalantou. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Several years ago, we toured Astoria, New York, and discovered a thriving Greek enclave:
Officially, Piraeus is Greece’s third largest city, after Athens and Thessalonica. But don’t tell that to Greek-Americans in the New York area. For them, the “third city of Greece” is, in fact, Astoria, a neighborhood on the northwestern edge of the Borough of Queens.
Once home to singer Tony Bennett, stage star Ethel Merman and television’s Archie Bunker, Astoria at its height as a Greek-speaking enclave in the 1970’s boasted an estimated 300,000 Greek-Americans — more than the number of Greeks living in Piraeus.
Economic advancement, marriages, retirement, death and, to a lesser degree, assimilation, have contributed to the decline in the number of Astoria’s Greek-Americans. About 40,000 Greek-Americans remain in this traditionally working-class neighborhood of row houses and apartment buildings. But even as young urban professionals — fleeing Manhattan’s escalating housing costs — and other immigrant groups replace them, Astoria retains its Greek flavor, thanks almost entirely to the abundance of Greek restaurants and cafes, butchers and bakers, churches and clubs.
“We’ve given the area a different color,” said Spiro Svolakos, 53, who came to Astoria almost 30 years ago. “We’ve made it a restaurant town.”
Dutch and German immigrants first settled in the farthest northwestern reaches of Long Island in the early 17th century. Early residents called the settlement Hallet’s Cove, but in the early 19th century renamed it after John Jacob Astor to lure America’s first millionaire to invest there. Waves of other immigrants soon followed. The late 19th century brought Czechs, Irish and Italians, groups that founded Astoria’s Catholic parishes, schools and social clubs. Greek immigrants joined them.
In the 1920’s, new immigration laws — based on nationality — significantly curtailed Southern European immigration to the United States. But after the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which ended the national-quota system, tens of thousands of Greeks, many of them from the island of Cyprus, streamed in. Most settled in the New York area, including Astoria, which quickly became the hub of local Greek-American life and a home away from home.
“As soon as you arrived in Astoria, you had your deli, your fish market, your butcher,” recalled Eugene Bouzalakos, who came to Astoria in 1979. “You didn’t even have to speak English. The schools spoke Greek, the church people spoke Greek. You didn’t miss Greece because you had everything.”
...” One thing about Greeks,” said Maria Bouzalakos, ”they like to see people eat.“
“And if there are four of us eating, I set a table for five,” added her husband, Eugene. “Always, someone comes. If not, I have set a place for Christ.”
“I go to Greece a lot, and I lament to them how they’ve sold their heart and soul for the euro,” said butcher John Gatzonis.
“They have given up their religion and have become Europeans,” he said, recalling a recent trip to Greece when he saw most Greeks disregarding the traditional period of fasting preceding the feast of the Dormition of Mary in August.
“If one wants to see a Greek now, you don’t go to Greece, you go to North America or Australia,” he said. “I’ve evolved, but to some extent I’m the same Greek I was in 1956.”
The family meal is one of those traditions preserved by many of Astoria’s remaining Greek-American families.
In all eastern Mediterranean cultures, “the meal time, the dinner time is a sacred time,” said Father George Anastasiou of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
“Christ instituted the Last Supper as a meal. To eat with your family is sacred. You can see that to this day in Greek culture. We don’t have that American style of eating. We all order six, seven, eight dishes, and it becomes a familial thing.”
Read more about Discovering New York’s Greek Enclave in the November 2007 issue of ONE.
7 October 2013
The haunting melodies of the Armenian liturgy are chanted by a Bourj Hammoud choir. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Several years ago, we profiled Armenians who had settled in Lebanon:
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. Yet inflation and regional economic challenges have affected even this affluent quarter.
“I have difficulty earning a living today; there is no work here,” says Armenak Kaiserian, who has run a shoe repair shop in Bourj Hammoud for 40 years.
In the narrow streets of Bourj Hammoud, traffic is so dense even the most intrepid drivers hesitate to venture there. Casting a rather somber pall on the area, five-story buildings border the narrow streets; drying clothes, hanging on lines along balconies, compete with webs of electric and telephone cable. Although it is hard to imagine, everyone in Bourj Hammoud can distinguish his or her own wires among the mess.
Read more about Lebanon’s Little Armenia in the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.
7 October 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
Ecumenical Bartholomew I led the closing celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, beginning with a solemn doxology, in St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade on 5 October. (photo: Serbian Orthodox Church)
Orthodox Christians mark 1,700th anniversary of Edict of Milan (Yahoo! News) Eight Orthodox Christian leaders, dignitaries from other faiths, politicians and thousands of others on Sunday celebrated the anniversary of the Edict of Milan, which established toleration for Christianity in the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called in a sermon for more religious freedom and reconciliation, flanked by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Patriarch Kirill of Russia, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and their counterparts from Albania, Cyprus, Poland, Slovakia and other smaller Orthodox churches…
Kidnapped Italian Jesuit reported alive in Syria (Vatican Insider) “Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is alive and is being treated well by his kidnappers, who are members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) extremist group,” says anti-regime activist Khalaf Ali Khalaf, reporting on information received from Al Qaeda-affiliated sources close to the extremist group…
Chaldean Patriarchate prohibits unauthorized sale of church property (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has formally prohibited the sale of land and houses belonging to the patrimony of the church without permission “of the high ecclesiastical authorities.” The restrictive provision was made public in a statement on 5 October and makes explicit reference to the Holy See as a last resort call to grant licenses for the sale of properties belonging to the church…
Dozens killed in clashes as Egyptian identity politics turns violent (Christian Science Monitor) Large crowds gathered nationwide to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel. Supporters of former president Muhammad Morsi, ousted in a 3 July military takeover, also rallied in support of their leader and the democratic process they believe he embodies. In the capital, 30 anti-coup protesters were killed during pitched battles with the security services. Marching through the streets of west Cairo’s Dokki district, protesters shouted “we are not real… all this is photoshopped” in reference to the common refrain that Muslim Brotherhood supporters fabricate attendance numbers for the weekly demonstrations that have followed Mr. Morsi’s ouster…
At least 66 people killed in a day of bloodshed in Iraq (Washington Post) A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims passing through a mainly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad and another detonated his explosives inside a cafe north of the capital, the deadliest of several attacks across Iraq on Saturday that killed at least 66 people. The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, are part of the deadliest surge in violence to hit Iraq in five years. The accelerating bloodshed is raising fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that brought it to the edge of civil war in the years after the 2003 United States-led invasion…
Israelis, Palestinians intensify talks despite skepticism (Daily Star Lebanon) Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a new round of talks on Monday, picking up the tempo of their meetings at the request of the United States in the face of widespread skepticism that they will ever reach a deal. The two sides resumed direct peace negotiations in late July after three years of stalemate and have conducted a series of discussions far from the gaze of the media over recent weeks, without any outward hint of the slightest breakthrough…
4 October 2013
Tags: Iraq Egypt Ecumenism Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
A little boy shows Pope Francis where to sit during a lunch break in Assisi on 4 October. (photo: Catholic TV/Vatican)
On Friday, Pope Francis paid a pastoral visit to Assisi, home of the saint whose name he took, and spoke of how Christians must strip themselves of worldliness:
The pope offered this message in the same hall in which St. Francis, about 800 years ago, undressed himself and laid his fine clothes at his wealthy father’s feet, renouncing his riches and inheritance in favour of a life of poverty consecrated to God.
The pope once again put aside his prepared speech and began his impromptu remarks by debunking a notion that had circulated in the press in recent days: that he would imitate St. Francis by divesting the bishops, the cardinals and himself, as well. However, he said, today serves as a good occasion to invite the church to strip itself of worldliness.
All of the baptized comprise the church and all have to follow Jesus, who stripped himself and chose to be a servant and to be humiliated on his way to the cross. “And if we want to be Christians, there is no other way,” he said.
Without the cross, without Jesus and without stripping ourselves of worldliness, he said, “we become pastry shop Christians … like nice sweet things but not real Christians.”
“We need to strip the church,” he said. “We are in very grave danger. We are in danger of worldliness.”
The Christian cannot enter into the spirit of the world, which leads to vanity, arrogance and pride, he continued. And these lead to idolatry, which is the gravest sin.
The church is not just the clergy, the hierarchy and religious, he said. “The church is all of us and we all have to strip ourselves of this worldliness. Worldliness does us harm. It is so sad to find a worldly Christian.”
“Our Lord told us: We cannot serve two masters: either we serve money or we serve God. … We can’t cancel with one hand what we write with another,” he remarked. “The Gospel is the Gospel.”
The pope acknowledged the local poor who were gathered with him, saying: “Many of you have been stripped by this savage world that does not give work, that does not help, that does not care if children die of hunger … that does not care if many families do not have anything to eat or money to bring bread home.”
Referring to the hundreds of refugees who died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa Thursday, the pope lamented the large numbers of people who die trying to escape dire conditions in their home countries.
It is ridiculous that a Christian would want to follow a worldly path, he continued. “The worldly spirit kills. It kills people; it kills the church.”
The pope then asked the Lord to bestow upon Christians the courage to strip themselves of the spirit of the world, which he called “the leprosy, the cancer of society and the cancer of the revelation of God and the enemy of Jesus.”
He concluded: “I ask the Lord that he gives us all the grace to strip ourselves.”
4 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Assisi
In this 24 September photo, Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, right, greets Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia at the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin prior to the commencement of the first synod of the Armenian Apostolic Church in six centuries. (photo: Catholicosate of Cilicia)
Armenian Apostolic Church faces modern hurdles (New York Times) As church leaders gathered in Etchmiadzin last week for a rare bishops’ conference, they seemed to be ready to put differences aside as they confronted a new set of challenges: entrenched secularism at home, assimilation of followers in the large Armenian diaspora abroad and general disaffection with organized religion. “The church is in dire need of renewal,” Catholicos Aram I, the leader of the Lebanon-based faction of the church, said in an interview as he strolled across the campus here of the Mother See. “And by renewal, I mean the church has to be responsive to the needs and expectations of the people.” He added, “The church has to respond to the challenges of the present-day world…”
Christians under threat in Syria as Islamist extremists gain influence (Washington Post) When radical Islamists tore down a cross and hoisted a black flag above a church in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah last week, it underscored the increasingly hostile environment for the country’s Christians. Although Syria is majority Sunni Muslim, it is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, home to minorities including Christians, Druze and Shiite-offshoot Alawites and Ismailis. But the country’s conflict, now in its third year, is threatening that tapestry. While the primary front in the war has pitted Sunni against Shiite, Christians are increasingly caught in the firing line…
Muslim Brotherhood protest in Cairo challenges military rule (Al Jazeera) Defying a security crackdown, thousands of supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Muhammad Morsi marched in Cairo Friday toward Rabaa al Adawiya square, the site of their former protest camp, which security forces crushed in August, a Reuters witness said. At least one Muslim Brotherhood supporter died from a gunshot wound in Cairo after clashes broke out Friday in several cities throughout the country at pro-Morsi rallies, according to multiple sources…
Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church holds regular session (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill greeted the Holy Synod members, offered reflections on the 1025th anniversary of Christianization of Kievan Rus and introduced them to the agenda of the session, which focused heavily on pastoral formation and education…
Churches targeted by extremists in Karnataka (Fides) There has been a surge in anti-Christian violence in the state of Karnataka. The Evangelical Fellowship of India, which brings together thousands of evangelical Christian communities, said that religious services and prayer meetings of ecclesial communities over the last two months have been targeted, pastors beaten and Christians arrested. In recent episodes, Hindu fundamentalists attacked and looted a church in Mandya district in Karnataka…
3 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Armenian Apostolic Church
Migrants are seen on a rescue boat as they arrive with a group that includes Syrian refugees at the port of Pozzallo, Italy, on 17 September. More than two million refugees have fled Syria’s civil war, with some landing in Italy. To learn how you can help, visit our Emergency: Syria page. (photo: CNS/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters)
3 October 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees Syrian Civil War Migrants Italy
Rou’a, 10, from Daraya, plays on a swing with her cousin Abdullah, 2, at an informal refugee settlement in Talabaya in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The camp is home to some 55 families who fled to Lebanon from their homes in Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)
Flow of refugees destabilizes Lebanon (Der Spiegel) The flood of refugees is destabilizing an already weak and war-torn Lebanon, which borders Syria to the north and the east, and Israel to the south. The front between Sunnis and Shiites runs right through the heart of this tiny state, making Lebanon the focal point of a conflict that threatens to engulf the entire region. The Shiite Hezbollah militia uses Lebanon as a base for its struggle against the “Zionist enemy” — and since this spring, the group has been launching military operations here against the predominantly Sunni rebels in Syria…
Activists on all sides in Egypt feel the chill (Los Angeles Times) In Egypt, where nearly three years of political upheaval first toppled a tyrant, then ushered in and tossed out an Islamist government, and finally propelled a military man to power, activists of all stripes — many of them part of the country’s intellectual elite — are feeling the chill. To some, an increasingly authoritarian political climate is reminiscent of the bad old days under Hosni Mubarak. Back then many of those who dared dissent simply vanished into the maw of the security services, sometimes never to emerge. These days, though, the official dragnet extends far beyond the Brotherhood. Criticizing the army, the mere questioning of government policy, or expressing views that could be construed as sympathetic toward dead and detained Islamist “terrorists” has become a dangerous game…
Syrian Armenians move to disputed territory (AINA) Azerbaijan on Wednesday accused Armenia of resettling Syrian refugees in a disputed territory the two have been fighting over for decades. Azerbaijan’s United Nations ambassador said the rival neighbor had started a “very dangerous process” by moving Syrian Armenians into Nagorny Karabakh. Armenia says it has accepted more than 10,000 ethnic Armenians. But Armenia’s U.N. envoy said claims they have been moved into Nagorny Karabakh are “lies and distortion.” Azerbaijan’s U.N. envoy Agshin Mehdiyev said, in a news conference: “We have information that they already started it — settlement of Syrian refugees in occupied territories — and of course it is a very dangerous process with unpredictable consequences…”
University students in Gaza hit hard by blockade (Al Monitor) The siege surrounding Gaza has affected hundreds of university students. Many studying in universities outside of the strip have been unable to enroll for the new semester because of the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The blockade imposed on Gaza in the last two months has led to deteriorating economic conditions and the unemployment of tens of thousands of workers, the two student councils at Islamic University — male and female students have separate councils — have protested and suspended classes…
Mufti of Russia: Dialogue is the only road to peace in Syria (AsiaNews) The vice president of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rushan Abbyasov, says we must defend the Christian presence in Syria, and calls for “dialogue and prayer” as a way out of the crisis in Syria. The religious leader condemns both foreign military intervention as well as attacks against Christians in the Middle East…
2 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia
Philip Deeb and Philip Massamiri read from a prayer book during services at St. Ephrem Maronite Academy near San Diego. Christian immigrants from the Middle East have found a new home in Southern California — and have managed to maintain their faith and traditions. Read about it in East Goes West in the January 2004 issue of the magazine. (photo: Lyon Liew)
2 October 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Cultural Identity United States Emigration Maronite Christians
Eleven-year-old Syrian refugee Mohamad Zarzur, who survived the battle of Idlib, poses for a photo in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. He hopes one day to return to a peaceful Syria. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)
Interfaith hospital on Turkish border helps Syrians save themselves (CNS) Two international aid organizations — the German Catholic Malteser International and the Turkish Muslim International Blue Crescent Relief — have come together to launch a 28-bed mobile hospital in the southern Turkey border town where locals say the normal population of 88,000 has nearly doubled with the influx of refugees. The doctors, nurses and support staff at the new hospital, which opened on 13 September, are all Syrian…
Fighting breaks out in another historic Syrian village (Fides) Following the violence in Maaloula, the war has spread to Sednaya, a village in the north of Damascus known for its historical, cultural and religious heritage. Sednaya is characterized by a large presence of churches and monasteries and a local community that speaks Aramaic. The village is under constant threat of Islamist militias that organize raids to terrorize the civilian population…
Beirut: Syrian refugees adapt to makeshift lives (Al Jazeera) The Lebanese government estimates that 1.2 million Syrians have come to Lebanon since the uprising began in March 2011. The refugees span the entire social and economic strata of Syrian society. Some are rich, some are poor; many are from the towns and villages that have been pummeled by government airstrikes and artillery fire. Others have escaped the urban combat in Idlib, Aleppo or the Damascus suburbs. Four refugee families from Syria reveal a cross-section of this emerging society, sharing many concerns…
Syrian schools start new year — a return to some normality for kids (Los Angeles Times) Despite a raging civil war, schools opened last month across the capital and elsewhere in government-controlled swaths of Syria, where officials have long boasted of a comprehensive and free public education system. In Damascus, more than 800 schools opened their doors to about 500,000 students, said Atef Hassan, a veteran teacher and official at the Ministry of Education. Administrators insisted on starting fall classes on time despite the daunting challenges facing Syria’s battered educational infrastructure…
Nearly 1,000 Iraqis killed In September (Boston Herald) Sectarian bloodshed has surged to levels not seen in Iraq since 2008. More than 5,000 people have been killed since April, when a deadly government raid on a Sunni protest camp unleashed a new round of violence that showed Al Qaeda in Iraq is still strong despite years of U.S.-Iraqi offensives against the terror group. At least 979 people — 887 civilians and 92 soldiers and national policemen — were killed in September, a 22 percent increase from the previous month, the United Nations mission in Iraq said Tuesday…
Tags: Iraq Refugees Syrian Civil War Education Health Care