20 February 2015
People living in war-torn eastern Ukraine struggle to feed themselves and their children as provisions become increasingly scarce. The World Food Program says it is scaling up its emergency operation in the region to help the nearly 190,000 people displaced by the conflict. (video: The Guardian)
Retreating soldiers bring echoes of war’s chaos to a Ukrainian town (New York Times) As violence continued to plague eastern Ukraine on Thursday, demoralized Ukrainian soldiers straggled into the town of Artemivsk, griping about incompetent leadership and recounting desperate conditions and gruesome killing as they beat a haphazard retreat from the strategic town of Debaltseve…
Pope Francis tells Ukrainian bishops to stay out of politics (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis has called on Catholic bishops in Ukraine to stay out of political debates and focus their energies on caring for their people and in reaffirming Christian values. Speaking Friday to various Catholic prelates of the country, Francis said he understood that “recent historical events that have marked your land are still present in the collective memory.” But, the pope said, those events are not for bishops to respond to. Instead, he said, “there are also sociocultural and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution…”
Church speaks out against Dalit discrimination (Fides) The Catholic Church in India is calling on the government to end legalized discrimination against Dalit Christians. Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi says it is time to re-introduce for Dalit Christians the same benefits enjoyed by Hindu Dalits, denied for six decades to Christians…
No information on fate of Christian leaders abducted in Syria in 2013 (Interfax) Two Christian leaders abducted in Syria nearly two years ago have still not been found, Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East said at a meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Moscow…
Iraqi Christian men fight to keep Islamic State away from homes (The Daily Signal) Since the summer, some 30,000 Christians have fled the Nineveh Plains. Without official government support, and with minimal equipment primarily funded through donations, the young Christian men — most in their early to mid 20’s — feel a responsibility to defend their own…
19 February 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Iraqi Christians Dalits
In Trichur, India, the Congregation of Samaritan Sisters Generalate, led by Mother Rose Cornelia and the Mistress of Novices, Sister Sophia, greet visitors. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Pope Francis has proclaimed 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life. It’s a time for celebrating the work of the religious orders — sisters, brothers, priests — who’ve made their lives a consecration to God and his people.
No one embodies this devotion more than the sisters. They’re the driving force behind most of the initiatives CNEWA donors graciously support. Today, ONE-TO-ONE begins a series of profiles to introduce you to some of these remarkable women and their vital work.
In the countries where CNEWA works, sisters serve in schools, hospitals, orphanages and other works that help people in need. Many sisters work in places where family structures have disintegrated. So, for the children they help, the sisters create that environment — a structure for those who don’t have a family. They feed, house, clothe, educate and care for them so they’re not alone.
In crisis areas, sisters provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care and even psychological help to displaced people. They often have to improvise, and don’t always have the resources they need. But they never discriminate in terms of religious or cultural background. They don’t turn people away.
When you become a novice, you learn about the church’s and your religious order’s practices, which strengthen your relationship with God. Sisters also learn how to minister by working with those already doing it, through hands-on learning in the field as well as through formal education. You live with other sisters. You share your prayers. You share your meals and other aspects of the community’s daily life and ministry.
It’s about simplicity. You give your life to a religious community that professes belief in God and practices works of mercy. From that base, you go out and serve the wider world.
You also learn from the Gospel to treat others as you would be treated — which fits in with the total mission of the church, especially under Pope Francis. It’s not about ritual and bureaucracy. It’s about emphasizing the religious and humanitarian aspects of what we do as a church.
The sisters bring that into everyday life. During the days and weeks ahead, ONE-TO-ONE will show you how they do it. For the church to be alive, we need religious women to continue the faith. Through times of crisis and periods of calm, faith is what endures.
To support the work of sisters around the world, please visit this page.
And be sure to read our first profile, about a young sister in Ethiopia, who is teaching skills that are changing lives.
Brother Gerard Conforti, F.S.C., has a background in education and financial management in New York and Michigan. After working in the Middle East at Bethlehem University, he was invited to join Catholic Near East Welfare Association in New York, where he now serves as Chief Administrative Officer.
19 February 2015
Sister Elizabeth Endrias assists a trainee at the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne Vocational Training Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Name: Sister Elizabeth Endrias
Order: Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne
Facility: Women’s Promotion Center
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
It’s a small building, filled with the sounds of life. Whirring sewing machines. Scissors snipping through fabric. Voices filled with hope for the future.
At the Women’s Promotion Center in Ethiopia’s capital city, teenage girls and women learn the skills of making clothing—from fabric cutting to sewing to embroidery. They are among the poorest residents of this poor country. And their training serves one purpose: survival.
A group of nuns from the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Anne runs the center. The sister in charge, Sister Elizabeth Endrias, is 24 years old. But the program she’s developed is intensive. “Training takes from ten months to two years,” she explains. “This year we have thirty trainees in dressmaking and seven in embroidery.”
With resources limited, the school has begun charging a modest fee. For the poorest students, however, money is never a barrier. “In this case we intervene, inquire about their difficulties,” Sister Elizabeth says. “And when we find it necessary to support them, we offer them free education to complete their studies.”
She remembers the day one teenager arrived with her father. “He had the desire to help his daughter in her training. He told me the extent of their poverty but willed to pay.”
The father paid for two months, but grew ill and passed away. “Imagine the challenge facing this 18-year-old girl,” Sister Elizabeth says. “We not only exempted her from fees, but also gave back to her mother the two months payment that her father had paid.”
That young seamstress—her name is Hanna—plans to start a dressmaking business to support her family. “Sister Elizabeth is very special for me,” she says. “She rescued me from losing this opportunity after the death of my father. I am very grateful to her.”
For the women who fill the center each day, Sister Elizabeth and her fellow nuns are role models. Her supervisor, Sister Weineshet, explains that all have wide-ranging abilities. “If they work with women, not only their religiosity is needed,” she says. “They need to be equipped with a holistic knowledge of women, their needs and challenges.”
At Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we’re proud to support the sisters’ important mission. And as they help improve the lives of women who have so little, one thing is certain: the good sisters will be grateful if you can help too.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.
19 February 2015
Sonu Augustine plays with his daughter Nidhika in the yard of their home. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Winter edition of ONE features an interview with Sonu Augustine, who grew up in Kerala, India, but now lives with his family in Qatar. He is one of an estimated 400,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in the Persian Gulf region. In his conversation with reporter Don Duncan, he discusses the challenges of faith and culture in the Persian Gulf:
ONE: Does your existence far from the core of the Syro-Malabar Church make it harder for you to transfer your traditions to your children?
SA: We have to work assiduously to make sure that the children are growing up in our faith. Growing up in India means that there is a communal family structure. Grandparents live with the family, brothers and sisters are always nearby, and there are Christian neighbors and a parish with activities of all types. In Qatar, however, it is much different. Even if I go regularly to church here, Syro-Malabar Catholics do not have adequate access to services in our tradition in the Gulf. The children miss out.
ONE: So you have attended the Latin-rite Mass for want of the Divine Liturgy in the Syro-Malabar’s tradition?
SA: For a starving man, whatever food he gets is good food. When he has options, he will opt for the best food. It was a situation like that when I first got here.
Read the full interview here.
19 February 2015
On Monday, 16 February, Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury of the British Orthodox Church — a jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church — appeared on a BBC news broadcast to speak on the recent killing of Copts by the Islamic State in Libya. (source: British Orthodox Church YouTube channel)
Jerusalem’s Copts mourn Egyptian Christians beheaded in Libya (Jerusalem Post) Just days after Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, dozens of Coptic Christians attended a prayer service in Jerusalem’s Coptic Orthodox church located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday to mourn the victims…
Russian Orthodox patriarch extends condolences to Copts (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent condolences to the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Mr. Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and Pope Tawadros II over the murder of more than 20 Coptic Christians in Libya…
Ukrainian Orthodox Church patriarchates at odds over Ukraine conflict (AsiaNews.it) Representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate said they were “concerned” that Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, had given encouragement to the government to continue the fight in Donbass. In an interview, Metropolitan Filaret rejected the charges against him…
Indian bishops call for “concrete action” to back prime minister’s words (Vatican Radio) “Words to be followed by concrete action.” With this remark, the Catholic bishops of India responded to a statement by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who promised commitment on the part of his government to protect religious minorities…
Migration Congress recommendations released (Vatican Radio) The final document of the 7th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants was made public on Thursday, and called for those charged with the mission of teaching within the church to make an effort to broaden their knowledge and turn theory into practice at the local level. The full text of the document is below…
18 February 2015
Tags: India Ukraine Violence against Christians Copts Libya
Best friends Mariam and Demiana share a happy moment at the Good Samaritan Orphanage. (photo: Amal Morcos)
In the winter edition of ONE magazine, contributor Amal Morcos visits two child care institutions in Egypt helping vulnerable children. She offers some additional perspectives below.
Egyptians love to refer to their country as the “mother of the world.” But, if you are an Egyptian Christian orphan longing for the love of a parent, a combination of Islamic tradition, an unclear law and even international politics will make your chances of being legally adopted practically nil.
The Egyptian constitution — which states that it is “inspired” by Islamic religious law, known as Sharia — actually bans adoption.
Why Islam forbids adoption is not clear. Some believe it is in order to maintain a clear bloodline and to ensure rightful inheritance. Others believe it to be a reaction to Muhammad’s marriage to the former wife of his adopted son, which was a source of scandal in the community.
According to Atonement Friar Elias Mallon of CNEWA, “Islamic law sees three types of orphans: the fatherless (such as Muhammad), who ceases to be an orphan at puberty; the motherless; and the abandoned. “The first one is the one that gets the most attention. There is a great deal of material in the Quran harshly condemning oppressing or cheating the orphan. However, Islamic law is very complicated concerning who inherits what and whom one can marry or not marry. It is precisely here that it gets convoluted. “There is a type of acceptance of the orphan called kafalah, but this has nothing to do with what Western law considers adoption.
“In a traditional society with extended families this was not a problem since children were taken in. In a modern or at least urbanized society this is causing some problems. It has also come up before the European Court of Human Rights. There is also an inner discussion going on about adoption.”
But does Egypt’s law extend to Christians? This is where things get really murky. Those who support legal adoption in Egypt say the law does not explicitly prevent Christians from adopting. Adoptions by Christians do take place, arranged mostly by the churches. Some government officials are aware of this practice and turn a blind eye. Those who don’t fear Christians will adopt Muslims in order to raise them as Christians.
The legal stakes have been raised since two American couples were convicted by an Egyptian court in 2008 of trying to adopt children from a Christian orphanage and remove them from the country. Some observers believed Egypt’s government at the time, under Hosni Mubarak, staged the trial to show that Egypt was cracking down on human trafficking. (The U.S. government had criticized Egypt for not doing enough to prevent African migrants from trafficking into Israel.)
Since the revolution that toppled Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has had two governments. The president who was elected after Mubarak, Muhammad Morsi, led the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s leading Islamist party. He tried to pass a constitution that critics said “further disenfranchised” non-Muslims — especially Christians. After the military toppled Morsi in July 2013, Egyptian Muslims and Christians overwhelmingly endorsed a revised constitution in a referendum in January 2014. While the new constitution prohibits political parties to be affiliated with religions or religious movements, and grants greater freedom of expression, it remains to be seen whether the current government will move to improve the status of Egypt’s Christians, including her orphans.
Read more in Egypt’s Good Samaritans in the winter edition of ONE.
18 February 2015
Tags: Egypt Christian-Muslim relations Islam Orphans/Orphanages Christian
A young girl leads her visually impaired classmates to their house in San Joe Puram in Faridabad, India. (photo: John Mathew)
In the Winter 2014 issue of ONE, Jose Kavi reports on a Syro-Malabar Catholic institution providing care and education for children in northern India, with a special focus on girls with disabilities:
As with [ninth-grader] Diksha, [tenth-grader] Bhanu says life among the San Joe Puram children has given him a desire to help others. Both he and Diksha dote on Uma, a visually impaired girl in the tenth grade.
“Uma sings and studies well. We never consider her ‘blind,’ ” Bhanu says. He recalls Uma going on rides with them at a class picnic. “Most children were terrified and screaming, but Uma was cool. She is more courageous than us.”
Diksha was thrilled when she was asked to take notes for Uma. “We have become close friends,” she says.
Carmelite Sister Nancy George, the principal, is happy to see such developments among her students. She says village students vie with each other to help the children who reside at St. Joe Puram — they push wheelchairs, carry school bags and guide the visually impaired to various places in the school. The result, she believes, could help transform her country.
“We are creating a new generation that is sensitive and caring.”
Read more in A Place of Promise — and Providence.
18 February 2015
Tags: India Children Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Orphans/Orphanages Disabilities
A boy looks at his flooded home in the village of Mifol, Albania, on 3 February. Floods caused by heavy rains forced the evacuation of hundreds of villagers. (photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images)
Orthodox Church of Albania aids areas hit by flooding (Orthodox Church of Albania) The massive rainfalls at the beginning of February caused flooding in many parts of Albania. The area most affected was southern Albania, where many villages suffered severe damage to households and, in some cases, agricultural production and livestock. The Albanian Orthodox has responded by shipping boxes of food and clothing to the local areas affected…
Chaldean patriarch’s call for prayer for unity (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I urged prayer, reflection, discernment and examination of conscience in a message commemorating the beginning of the Lenten season. The patriarch lamented the sin of division and invited all Muslim brothers and sisters to join Christians in fasting for the intention of peace, stability and dignity…
‘Guantanamo of the East’: Ukraine locks up refugees at EU’s behest (Der Spiegel) Most migrants reach Europe through Italy or Greece. Many die on the way. A broad coalition, with voices ranging from Pope Francis to German President Joachim Gauck, is demanding better protection for refugees on Europe’s southern border and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, describes the route across the Mediterranean as the world’s deadliest. But when it comes to the eastern route, and the fate of migrants like Hasan Hirsi — who describes how Ukrainian security forces robbed, beat and tortured him — interest has thus far been limited…
Syrian army gains ground in Aleppo offensive (Al Akhbar) The Syrian army and its allied forces continue to fight in neighborhoods under the control of the opposition in the city of Aleppo, and to break the siege around the towns of Nubl and Al Zahraa in the city’s northern countryside…
War separates lovers in Aleppo (Al Monitor) Twenty-three-year-old Louay was not alone on Valentine’s night, but he wasn’t with his girlfriend, either. He and some lovesick friends gathered by candlelight for an intimate evening. Louay arranged candles in the shape of the letter R and told his friends about the last time he saw his girlfriend, Rama. More than 13 months have passed since Louay and Rama’s last meeting. In February 2014, regime forces closed the only crossing that connected the two parts of Aleppo — the eastern side under opposition control, and the western side under the regime. As a result, the city has been divided and families separated. All of Louay’s friends have their own love stories to tell, all marked by the same kind of suffering — a lost future, a divided country and a distant lover because of the raging war…
17 February 2015
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Aleppo Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Albania
Pope Francis greets new Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after presenting a red hat to him during a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 14 February. The pope created 20 new cardinals. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
17 February 2015
In the video above, Pope Francis offers prayers for the Coptic Christians slain over the weekend.
(video: Rome Reports)
Pope offers Mass for slain Copts (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered Mass Tuesday morning for the repose of the souls of the twenty-one Coptic Christians martyred for their faith in Christ. The Mass was attended by the Pope’s personal secretary, Abuna Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who is Coptic Catholic...
Statement by Coptic Orthodox Church (via Facebook and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church) The Coptic Orthodox Church headed by Pope Tawadros II lays in the hands of God - in this critical time — its innocent martyrs, assured that their great homeland will not rest until the evil perpetrators are justly punished for their evil crime...
Patriarch: slain Copts were “martyrs of the faith” (Fides) At the news of the massacre of 21 Egyptian Copts decapitated in Libya by jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Patriarch of Alexandria of Coptic Catholics, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, “offers his condolence to all the families of these martyrs who gave their lives for the faith, and at the same time expresses his gratitude to President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and all the institutions of the Egyptian government for giving an immediate response to this act of terrorism...”
Muslims and Christians condemn execution of Copts in Libya (L’Osservatore Romano) The barbarity shocked not only the Egyptian Christian community, but the more numerous Muslim authorities have also harshly condemned the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians who had had been held hostage for weeks by Libyan jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State. Video of the execution was broadcast on the internet throughout the day on Sunday...
Pope creates 20 new cardinals (L’Osservatore Romano) “The more we are ‘incardinated’ in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit”. This was Pope Francis’ recommendation to the 20 Cardinals created in the Ordinary Public Consistory held on Saturday, 14 February, in the Vatican Basilica. Benedict XVI was also present at the Consistory...
Ethiopian cardinal: “A total surprise and a humbling experience” (Vatican Radio) Speaking just before the ceremony to Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa, the new Cardinal of Addis Ababa, Berhaneyesus Souraphiel described his nomination as a total surprise. “This nomination came as a total surprise to me... We did not know it. You see, in the former days these nominations were done through the Apostolic Nunciature. This time, this was done directly by Pope Francis himself. So it was a total surprise and a very humbling experience that the Holy Father has thought it fit to ask me to help him in his great responsibility of governing the universal Church,” Cardinal Berhaneyesus said...
Leaders seek to end fighting in eastern Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have agreed that fighting should end around a railway hub in eastern Ukraine where clashes continue despite a ceasefire accord...
Patriarch to Christians in India: churches are doorways to peace (The New Indian Express) Christian churches are the doorways to peace, said Patriarch of Antioch, supreme head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Ignatius Aphrem-II. Speaking after inaugurating the 40th annual celebrations at the Thuruthissery Valiyapalli at Nedumbassery on Monday, the Partriarch said, “a real Christian is a person who is able to love all human beings equally without any discrimination based on caste, creed or religion. Peace will reign only in a society that understands the love of God,” he said. The Patriarch was accorded a grand reception at the Thuruthissery Church...
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ethiopia Muslim Coptic Christians