18 August 2015
Young people are active in the faith, according to members of the congregation at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Tbilisi, Georgia. In addition taking part in weekly liturgy (as shown above), they attend formation classes supported by CNEWA to learn more about their
Armenian heritage. (photo: Molly Corso)
The last century or so has not been kind to Armenia or its Catholic minority, who form the Armenian Catholic Church. Sharing the distinct rites and traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church — while maintaining full communion with the bishop of Rome — this community of faith has contributed considerably to the vitality of the Armenian nation, invigorating monasticism, scholarship and social service even as terror has nearly destroyed it.
2015 marks the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. Although large numbers of Assyro-Chaldean and Greek Christians also suffered deportation or death at the hands of agents of the crumbling Ottoman Turkish Empire, the sheer number of Armenians affected astounds. By 1923, as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished.
The perpetrators did not make distinctions between Apostolic and Catholic Armenians. Their actions, however, decimated the tiny Armenian Catholic Church. In all, 7 bishops, 130 priests, 47 women religious and up to a 100,000 faithful died. Churches and schools were leveled. And while the post-Ottoman Turkish government distanced itself from the atrocities, the state appropriated abandoned properties and redistributed them to Muslim Turks.
Some of those who survived fled to Russian-dominated Armenia. Most survivors, perhaps a quarter of a million people, fled to Lebanon and Syria. There, from their place of exile, they re-established their communities and prospered, that is until war in Syria revisited them.
Sister Arousiag Sajonian leads catechesis programs at summer camps for youth in Tzakhkatzor, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 1928, surviving Armenian Catholic bishops gathered in Rome, where they agreed to transfer the patriarchate to Beirut. While historically the largest concentration of Armenian Catholics lived in Lebanon and in the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Damascus and Kamichlié, recent statistics provided by the church indicate upward of 400,000 Armenian Catholics living in Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.
While the tsars impeded the development of all Eastern Catholic communities in Imperial Russian lands, the Soviets were more brutal. In the 1920’s and 30’s, Stalin suppressed all Eastern Catholic churches. In Armenia and Georgia, party members shuttered Armenian Catholic village churches, arrested and shot parish priests and deported religious sisters. The Soviets wiped out all traces of Armenian Catholicism — or so they thought.
Catholic Armenians began to surface after a devastating earthquake in December 1988 flattened northern Armenia. And as the Soviet Union dissolved, these Catholics boldly petitioned for their churches to be reopened and for personnel to staff them.
The Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception were among the first to respond, sending a team of sisters to work with families and village communities in northern Armenia and southern Georgia. And in 1991, the Holy See created a bishopric for Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe, but the church is hampered by a lack of priestly vocations. Despite considerable resource shortages, however, the Armenian Catholic Church administers schools, camps and social service centers that offer help to all.
Read a full account of the Armenian Catholic Church from ONE magazine here.
18 August 2015
Israeli authorities uproot olive trees to build the separation wall near Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank on 17 August 2015. To learn more about the controversy surrounding the wall — and the people whose lives will be impacted by it — check out this post.
(photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
18 August 2015
CNEWA staffers Chris Kennedy and Norma Intriago, with the Rev. Phil Latronico, during CNEWA’s visit to the New Jersey Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference on 15 August. (photo: CNEWA)
Last weekend, CNEWA attended the New Jersey Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference in Washington Township, at the gracious invitation of the Rev. Phil Latronico, the conference chair. We were there to spread awareness about the work we do on behalf of Christians throughout the Middle East.
Our presence there was especially significant as it was the one-year anniversary of the escape of 120,000 Christians from the Nineveh Plain, as they fled the violence and terror of ISIS.
My colleague, Norma Intriago, had the chance to address the conference during Saturday’s liturgy. She spoke movingly about those who are caring for the displaced Christians — people like Sr. Maria Hanna, OP, the Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. She — along with 72 of her sisters — also fled the Nineveh Plain last August to the safety of Erbil, in Northern Iraq. There, with CNEWA’s help, the sisters immediately began ministering to their fellow displaced, providing emergency aid, healthcare and education.
As our visit was on the Feast of the Assumption, Norma also spoke of a story she heard from one of CNEWA’s church partners, of a mother and her four children, who fled ISIS in Syria for the safety of Lebanon. Unable to continue, she made an impossible choice — to leave her two youngest behind in the mountains so she could carry the rest of her family away from harm. Who else could comfort her and so many other mothers but Our Lady of Sorrows, who hears the prayers of so many who are desperate for help?
Norma concluded by asking for support and prayers for all those suffering in the Middle East, and especially for the caregivers like Sr. Maria Hanna, who face their own adversity and struggles while ministering to children and families in need.
The response by those at the conference was incredibly uplifting, and we’re so thankful for the new friends we made. In just a few hours, we were able to raise over $1,000 for those caring for people in some of the most troubled parts of the world. We’re especially grateful to Father Latronico, for his wonderful welcome and continuing support.
If you would like us to visit your parish or prayer group, please contact Norma Intriago, our development director, at email@example.com.
18 August 2015
Bodies of Syrians are seen after Assad regime forces bombed a marketplace inside residential areas in Douma Town of East Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 16 August 2015.
(photo: Motasem Rashed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians killed in fierce clashes in Ukraine (ABC — Australia) Ten people have reportedly been killed in eastern Ukraine in a flare-up in violence between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. Military and separatist sources said at least two Ukrainian soldiers and eight civilians were killed over the past day in several locations in the east of the country. It is thought to be the highest single day death toll in more than a month...
In Syria, UN “horrified” by attacks on civilians (BBC) The UN’s humanitarian chief has said he is “horrified” by the attacks on civilians taking place in Syria. Stephen O'Brien told reporters during a visit to Damascus that the targeting of non-combatants in the country’s war was “unlawful, unacceptable and must stop.” He was “particularly appalled” by government air strikes on a rebel-held suburb of the capital on Sunday...
Iraq’s summer of protest (Al Jazeera) For the past six weeks, thousands of Iraqis across the streets of Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and other cities have been protesting electricity cuts amid soaring temperatures, rampant corruption and the government’s mismanagement of basic services. They protestors, many of them young secular Iraqis, want government officials to be held accountable...
Church in Ethiopia works to promote family values (Vatican Radio) Series of workshops are being conducted for Pastoral Coordinators, Catechists, couples, laity councils, youth, Catholic students of Universitites, Catholic Life Community Movements and Young Catholic Workers on “Vocation and Mission of Families in the Church and in the Contemporary World.” According to the Rev. Hailegabriel Meleku, National Pastoral Coordinator, ‘Family’ is given great attention as the current situation of families is precarious in Ethiopia and the world. “All families have a mission to announce the Gospel of the family, the National plan of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat’s summer program is focused around the theme of the family, its vocation and their mission in the Church and the contemporary world,” he said...
Church leaders in India accuse authorities of tolerating crimes against Christians (UCANews.com) A parish church in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has been robbed, prompting Church leaders to accuse state authorities of allowing criminals to commit crimes against Christians with impunity. Thieves used the cover of darkness to break into St. Joseph Church in Ganj Basoda in Sagar diocese on 13 August and steal an unspecified amount of cash from the collection box, parish officials said. “This is the third theft or attempted theft from this church” in less than a year, parish priest Nitish Jacob told ucanews.com...
17 August 2015
This image from April shows a general view of the Crimesan landscape around the Christian village of the same name, near Bethlehem. (photo: Musa Al-Shaer, AFP/Getty Images)
After years of debate and dispute, the Israeli Supreme Court last month ruled to allow the building of a separation barrier through the historic Cremisan Valley.
From Vatican Radio:
Following a series of international appeals, the court in April blocked plans by the Israeli military to extend the wall through the valley which is home to two Salesian monasteries and a convent school. Under the latest court ruling, those religious buildings will remain on the Palestinian side of the wall, accessible from the town of Beit Jala, while land belonging to 58 Palestinian families will be cut off on the Israeli side of the wall. While Israel claims the construction of the barrier is necessary for security reasons, Palestinians say the move is aimed at confiscating fertile land for the expansion of two Israeli settlements.
Last week, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement condemning the move. The statement says in part:
We believe that peace can only be achieved by seeking justice for all. The separation of peoples through walls and barriers can only further divide and anger people and will not contribute to peace. We call on all leaders in the Holy Land to work for peace by seeking justice, and to show mercy and compassion to one another. We express our solidarity and support for the Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Faoud Twal, his auxiliary bishops, and all the suffering peoples of the Holy Land.
Furthermore, we hold all people of the Middle East in our hearts and prayers. We continue to pray for them.
Just this morning, CNEWA received word that the Israeli Defense Force arrived in the valley and, in preparation for the construction, began destroying olive trees belonging to five Palestinian families from Beit Jala.
Meantime, The Society of St. Yves has submitted a new petition to Israel’s High Court, seeking to have the whole planned route of the Separation Wall revealed before construction begins.
You can read more history and background on the wall here and here.
17 August 2015
Children attend a class in traditional Arab dance at the Centro Social Hondureño árabe.
(photo: Carina Wint)
Some might be surprised to learn there’s a thriving Arab population in the heart of Central America. We explored some of that phenomenon in 2006:
The Centro Social Hondureño árabe is Honduras’s largest and most opulent country club, boasting tennis courts, a fitness center, sushi bar, disco and other luxuries rare in this country that is one of the poorest in the hemisphere. But for all its glitter, the club’s chief distinction, suggested by its name, is that it was founded by and primarily for the country’s small but prosperous Arab-Honduran community.
“The community has always looked for forums to socialize, to maintain our bond, and this club is a consummation of that feeling,” said Lidia Abouid, the club’s supervisor.
On a recent summer day, only a couple of miles from the urban din of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s city of industry, scores of children could be found paddling in an Olympic-sized pool, cooling off after a morning of tennis and racquetball. The voice of the Lebanese chanteuse Fayrouz wafted over the grounds as the staff tidied the club’s three banquet halls: the Palestine, the Jerusalem and the Bethlehem.
Today, there are as many as 220,000 Arab-Hondurans. While they represent only 3 percent of the total population of 7.3 million people, they have had an outsized influence on the nation. They are most visible in business and only slightly less so in politics. Centro Social’s president, Juan Canahuati, a textile magnate with numerous other entrepreneurial activities, is considered the country’s top businessman. Coffee exporter and former Industry and Commerce Minister Oscar Kafati’s ancestors immigrated to Honduras in the late 19th century from Beit Jala, a Christian town adjacent to Bethlehem. Former President Carlos Flores Facusse’s mother came from Bethlehem.
Arab immigration to Latin America is not unique to Honduras nor are such success stories. To take just two prominent examples: former Argentine President Carlos Ménem (1989-1999) traces his roots to Syria; Mexico’s telecommunications titan, Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s third richest man, is of Lebanese descent.
Nearly all Arab-Hondurans claim Christian Palestinian origins, making the Arab-Honduran experience unique. Proportionally, there are more people of Palestinian descent in Honduras than any other Latin American country.
Arab Palestinians first came to Honduras in the 19th century, but the largest waves arrived after 1896, the year the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which then controlled
Palestine, first allowed emigration. Numerous factors motivated the early emigrants. In 1909, the Ottomans included in the military draft Christians and Jews, who were once forbidden to serve, but required to pay tribute instead. Economic incentives also drove Arabs abroad. Tourism and commerce, areas in which many Christians worked, declined during World War I. And increasingly Palestine’s Arab Christians found themselves competing with the growing Jewish population, largely secular Zionist immigrants from Europe, in their entrepreneurial activities. Just as today, there seemed to be more opportunities for enterprising Arabs abroad.
Read more about “Middle Eastern, Central American Style” in the September 2006 edition of ONE.
17 August 2015
Recruits of the Azov far-right Ukrainian volunteer battalion take their oaths during a ceremony in Kiev, on 14 August 2015. Two people were killed in another round of intense shelling between Western-backed Ukrainian government’s forces and pro-Russian fighters in the separatist east. Ukraine’s military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said one soldier was killed and six wounded in the past 24 hours of fighting across the mostly Russian-speaking war zone.
(photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)
Germany warns of new military escalation in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Germany’s foreign minister has warned that urgent Western-backed peace talks must be held to prevent “a new military escalation spiral” in Ukraine. Frank-Walter Steinmeier made the comments after reported intensified clashes in eastern Ukraine and renewed attempts by Kiev to show Russia’s military involvement in the conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists...
Airstrikes rain death on Syrian town (CNN) Airstrikes from Syrian government forces hit the rebel-held town of Douma on Sunday, killing as many as 82 people and wounding hundreds, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and aid groups. Graphic video purporting to show the immediate aftermath of the blast depicted massive plumes of smoke, bodies strewn on the street, and people frantically running for their lives...
Concerns raised over reports of ISIS using chemical weapons in Iraq (AFP) The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Monday voiced “serious concern” over reports that the Islamic State group has used chemical weapons in Iraq. “Recent reports of possible use of chemical weapons in Iraq by non-State actors are a matter of serious concern,” The Hague-based OPCW said in a statement...
ISIS enshrines a “theology of rape” (The New York Times) The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets...
Port project divides Christians in India (UCANews.com) A massive port project has divided Christians in southern India, with a Catholic archbishop opposing it and a Protestant Church of South India bishop backing it. Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum led a protest march 13 August against the proposed Vizhinjam port. If implemented, he believes the project will destroy the livelihoods of 50,000 fishermen and displace thousands of families covering 12 parishes in his coastal archdiocese. “We are not against development. But we want the rights of the poor fishermen to be protected,” the archbishop said while addressing some 3,000 protesters, mostly Catholics, in front of the Kerala state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram...
Ethiopian cardinal: Synod will be flexible with regional family situations (CNS) One of the leading voices among Africa’s bishops predicts a new flexibility in Catholic teaching at this October’s Synod of Bishops on the family, which he predicts will allow bishops in different parts of the world to adapt church teaching on the family to the region’s culture, political landscape and economic situation. “The Catholic Church is a universal institution, both human and divine,” said Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa. “It is not a European church, it is not a Canadian church or a U.S. church. It’s different. The issues families are facing in some parts of the world would be different than in other parts of the world...”
The secret Jews of Ethiopia (The Jerusalem Post) The first historical account of Jewish presence in Ethiopia came from a 10th-century Jewish merchant and traveler Eldad Ha-Dani. He recounts that when the Northern Kingdom tribes of Israel went to war against the Southern Kingdom tribe of Judah, the Danites, who were renowned as skilled warriors, refused to fight against their kinsmen and left Israel for Egypt. They continued their journey until they reached the land of Cush where they finally settled...
14 August 2015
Ethiopian children gather on a rural hillside. For a look at some of the rich and diverse traditions of the country and its people, read “Behold the Ethiopian” in the July-August 2004 edition of ONE.
(photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
14 August 2015
Syrian refugees bed down at parks and mosque courtyards in the Izmir province of Turkey. (photo: Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syrian refugees in Turkey: ‘Nothing for us here’ (BBC) Around 70,000 Syrian refugees are gathered in the port city of Izmir in Turkey, which has become a hub for human smuggling. Many are hoping to move on into the rest of Europe. Families are forced to live on the streets and say they have no other option but to resort to the sea route…
Iraqi Christians who fled ISIS living in limbo while in exile (Quantara.de) A year after tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled communities overtaken by Islamic State militants, their lives are on hold in exile: they won’t go back to Iraq, saying it’s not safe for Christians, but as refugees they’re barred from working in temporary asylum countries such as Jordan. Expectations of quick resettlement to the West have been dashed…
Seven Assyrian villages in northern Iraq hit by Turkish air strikes (AINA) The German public TV channel ARD reported yesterday that Assyrian villages in the Qandil mountains were hit by the recent Turkish air strikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The villages hit by air strikes were Sharanish, Baz, Barwary Bala, Hayes, Dawoodiya and Margerija. “The airplanes are over our heads,” said one displaced Assyrian. “They bomb the area and we do not know where we can escape to…”
Peshmerga ‘ready’ to advance on ISIS (Al Monitor) Fighting continues between Kurdish forces and ISIS, but the two sides seem to be in a holding pattern as the Kurds await commands from Baghdad and coordination with the United States to advance…
Dabke troupes dance on in Gaza (Al Monitor) Every Palestinian wedding in the Gaza Strip is characterized by the folk art of fadous bands, which are male-only groups that perform at wedding ceremonies and whose members play drums and sing traditional songs while marching. Hundreds of unemployed young men are joining these bands to break free from idleness and poverty…
13 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Cultural Identity Turkey
Bishop Amba Tadros, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Port Said, pays a visit to Marina House and distributes sweets following a pre-Lenten feast. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Egyptian Christianity is as old as Christianity itself, predating Islam and the Arab invasion of the country by six centuries. But for Egypt’s 8.85 million Christians, social inequity — exacerbated by anti-Christian violence with the arrival of the Arab Spring — is a fact of daily life.
Until the overthrow of longtime president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egyptian Christian leaders preferred not to call too much attention to the injustices or the occasional acts of violence. Most Christians, or Copts (a derivative of the Greek word, Aigyptios, meaning Egyptian), lived side by side with their Muslim neighbors, particularly in the country’s densely populated cities. Copts made accommodations in exchange for security and the freedom to worship. But the rise, and fall, of the Muslim Brotherhood has challenged that approach as more and more lay Copts demand full respect as citizens of a secular Egypt.
Despite the turmoil of the past 50 years or so, the Coptic Orthodox Church, which embraces more than 93 percent of all Coptic Christians, thrives. Churches are packed with young and old; ancient monasteries flourish with monks and nuns; social outreach programs touch the needy and catechetical programs instill values and a sense of identity for the young — who are increasingly emigrating to the West.
At the Church of Mary Queen of the World in Port Said, Egypt, Orthodox gather for liturgy on Sunday morning in the Angel Chapel. (photo: Sean Sprague)
St. Mark the Evangelist, disciple of St. Peter, brought the Gospel to the Egyptian city of Alexandria — second only to Rome in the ancient world — establishing a church among the Jewish, Greek and native Egyptian communities as early as the year 42. The church of Alexandria grew quickly. By the early third century, its reputation as the primary center of learning, biblical scholarship and theological exploration was unchallenged in the Christian world. The Alexandrian church was not confined to cosmopolitan Alexandria — many Christians, seeking solitary lives of prayer and contemplation, fled to the desert and uninhabited hinterlands south of the Nile Delta. It was in Egypt where Christian monasticism started, and eventually spread to Asia Minor and Syria in the fourth century and to the West in the early sixth century.
Debates regarding the nature and person of Jesus inflamed the Christian world, especially as they assumed an increasing ethnic, linguistic and political tone. Ecumenical councils were called to advance peace and unity, define orthodoxy and condemn heresy. Yet, the decrees, and the methods used to employ them, divided the church further.
Significant numbers of Alexandria’s Christians opposed the Council of Chalcedon (451). Over time they joined like-minded Syriac Christians and separated from the rest of the church. Today, this group of non-Chalcedonian churches (now called Oriental Orthodox) includes the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Malankara Syrian and Syrian Orthodox churches. It is generally agreed this schism reflected cultural, linguistic and philosophic differences more than differences in matters of faith.
For centuries, Egypt remained primarily Christian even after Muslim Arab tribes conquered it in 641. The Arabs retained the civil structures set up by the Romans, employed Coptic bureaucrats, sanctioned the development of a Coptic code of civil law, and later a code of canon law, and approved the construction and refurbishment of churches and monasteries. Conversion to Islam was gradual, and by the 12th century, Copts had declined in number and influence, fading into obscurity until the birth of modern Egypt 700 years later.
Click here for more on the Coptic Orthodox Church from the pages of ONE magazine.