14 August 2013
In this video, Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane reports on the violence that erupted in Cairo today. At least 40 people were reportedly killed when security forces launched an operation to remove two pro-Morsi sit-ins. (video: Al Jazeera)
Security crackdown kills scores in Egypt (Al Jazeera) Security forces have stormed two Cairo protest camps set up by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Muhammad Morsi. The event quickly turned into a bloodbath, leaving dozens dead. Conflicting reports have emerged over the number of people killed on Wednesday. Al Jazeera’s correspondent counted 94 bodies in Rabaa al Adawiya’s makeshift hospital, while some members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood say the death toll is was as high as 2,200, with about 10,000 injured. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the Brotherhood’s figure. Two journalists were also killed while covering the violence on Wednesday. Mick Deane, a cameraman for the U.K.-based Sky News channel, and Habiba Abd Elaziz, a reporter for the U.A.E.-based Xpress newspaper, died of gunshot wounds…
Coptic Church: Constitution’s Sharia provisions not all at odds with civil state (Egypt Independent) While the Salafi-oriented Nour Party has threatened to quit politics if articles on Islamic Sharia are modified, the Coptic Church declared that it had no objection in maintaining the second article of the document, which stipulates that Islam is the country’s official religion, that Arabic is its official language, and that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation. But Kamal Zakher, a Coptic writer, voiced reservations to Egypt Independent regarding Article 219 of the old constitution. “There is no objection to maintaining Article 2 of the 1971 constitution. The disagreement is not on the recognition of Islamic Sharia, but rather on its interpretation by various Islamic currents. Sharia respects our own religious laws and vows to protect them…”
Italian Jesuit seen as ‘icon’ of Syrian revolution (Al Monitor) Demonstrations were held in the Syrian city of Raqqa to demand the release of the Italian Jesuit priest, speculated to be held captive by Islamists affiliated with Al Qaeda. Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who in the 1980’s rebuilt the Syriac Catholic Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian north of Damascus, has been a consistent voice for interfaith dialogue and peaceful coexistence founded on mutual respect and understanding. But his messages soon came under threat as a result of the civil war that even now ravages Syria — his adoptive home since the late 1970’s, when he resigned from the Italian army to embark on a journey of contemplation eastward. He once observed: “Why do you grieve when shells hit the Umayyad Mosque? We have the old maps and plans and we will rebuild and restore it once the regime falls. The most important thing is that the dictator leaves; the rest is easy.” Now, this icon of the revolution, first ejected from the country for his harsh criticisms of the Assad regime, is believed to be a captive of the very forces battling the regime…
Assyrian monastery attacked in Turkey (AINA) A group of Muslims attacked the staff of the St. Abraham monastery on Sunday, 11 August, in the city of Midyat in southeastern Turkey. The attack started when the staff turned away the visiting group, explaining that visiting hours had ended for the day. The visitors then began to threaten and curse the Assyrians. A fight then broke out as they tried to batter their way into the monastery…
13 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Turkey Islam
The Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School teaches children from kindergarten through the eighth grade. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the Summer 2013 issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan writes about the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School and how it is changing the lives of some of Ethiopia’s poorest children. Below, he offers some further reflections.
While reporting on the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa, I was struck anew by the importance of civic education — especially in schools serving students from severely disadvantaged backgrounds.
The children of this school are among the city’s poorest. They mostly hail from the surrounding neighborhood, a slum and former leper colony called Kachene. The power education holds for these children is hard to overstate. Beyond literacy and access to a job market previously out of bounds, education provides them a sense of accomplishment, helping them to recognize the dignity that is their inalienable right.
Many of these children are the descendants of lepers. While leprosy is no longer the problem it used to be in Addis Ababa, their social standing has not improved; they are the lowest of the low in Ethiopian society, a marginalized group approaching India’s “untouchables.” They face numerous obstacles, many of them cultural in character. If the children are to have any hope of overcoming their stigmas, the first step is to learn to no longer give credence to them.
At the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School, a significant part of the educational program is dedicated to civics and moral education. In these classes, the children learn they have a right to dignity. In working to ensure others acknowledge this dignity, the first step is that they themselves affirm it, and learn to comport themselves accordingly. They are strongly discouraged from begging and urged instead to pursue paid labor. The faculty seeks to instill in the children confidence in their own talents and worth, and help them see themselves as being capable of supporting themselves.
By teaching self-respect and self-actualization, the school hopes to see these lessons filter back to the parents, many of whom also resort to begging out of a sense of hopelessness. This is seen as just one of the cycles that perpetuate the poverty and misery in Kachene, and one that the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School is trying to break through education.
Civic education also highlights the social dangers many of these children face, ranging from smoking at an early age to drinking, sniffing petroleum, child labor and even human trafficking and sex work. All these risks are present, to varying degrees, in Kachene. Once again, the teachers at the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School do all they can to protect the children by educating them and strengthening their sense of self-worth.
As I mention in my article in ONE, youth unemployment in Ethiopia is rife and the overall quality of education is falling. In a country where extreme poverty is stigmatized, the fact that these children are educated, some to university level, is significant, even if it may not always bring significant material benefits to the students and their families. However, through the conversations I had with many of the students and their parents, the lessons in civics, self-respect and dignity are every bit as transformative as literacy and numeracy — but these lessons will always bear rich fruit, regardless of the economic or social climate.
13 August 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Sisters Education Poor/Poverty
An Egyptian girl wants a closer look at Verbo Encarnado Sister María de la Santa Faz. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
Several years ago, we reported on the remarkable work being undertaken by a congregation of sisters in Egypt seeking to help some of the poorest children in the country:
Amira still does not talk much, except with her eyes. A year after the sisters took her in, the 3-year-old is still recovering from the hell that was her home. Now her brown eyes are full of life and her expressive eyebrows, lifting and furrowing, say what she cannot: that she has been rescued, that she is lucky and that somehow she knows it.
Amira is from the dusty Egyptian town of Dekhela, near the coastal city of Alexandria. Here, the sisters of the Verbo Encarnado (Incarnate Word) Congregation, who hail from South America, have set up two homes for girls who used to live on the streets.
Some of the girls, like Amira, have escaped abusive families. Others seek an education, while some just want regular meals and a warm bed.
While the congregation’s Egyptian community is based in Cairo, “the smaller towns are where people really need help,” says Father Maurizio, one of the founders.
Father Maurizio helped set up the mission in eight years ago and was the first priest from the congregation to live permanently in the country.
“We wanted to learn more about this part of the world,” he says. “We recognize the value of Islam, but we also wanted to help support the Christian community.”
Approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population is Christian, mostly Coptic Orthodox. Coptic and other Eastern Catholics number about 300,000 persons. Other Christians include Greek Orthodox and evangelical Protestants.
Whatever their faith community, most Egyptians live difficult lives far from the modern bustle of Cairo or the colonial grandeur of Alexandria.
The national average daily income is just over $10 a day. About 23 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Due to overpopulation, a weak economy and high unemployment, the challenges facing Egypt’s youth are daunting.
Sister María Guadalupe, the superior of the community in Egypt, says the situation in Dekhela is especially bad. The town is poor; there are few social services.
“These girls were living with their families in one room,” she says. “No bathroom, no kitchen, just one room. Sometimes there would be a bed and that’s all. So the girls were spending all their time in the street.”
Many families consider education for girls a luxury rather than a necessity, she says. While some girls complete grade school, many are kept at home where their mothers teach them household duties. Such traditional attitudes prevail in both Muslim and Christian communities.
Read morea about Building a Brigher Future in Egypt in the November 2004 issue of ONE.
13 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Education
In this 2008 photo, Jesuit Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, is pictured in Aleppo. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Jesuit Chaldean bishop discusses matters in Syria (Vatican Insider) “I was supposed to be going to the Rimini meeting, but it’s not the right time to be travelling.” Antoine Audo, Jesuit and Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, prefers to stay close to his people who are suffering. He thinks it is not the right time to be taking pointless risks in order to take part in conferences on the situation of Christians in Syria. While explaining the reasons behind this decision, he also told Vatican Insider about the conditions that people are experiencing in the martyred city, which, once one of the most flourishing parts of the Arab world, has had entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble. “Everybody tells me and the other bishops to move around discreetly without wearing bishops’ clothing in order to avoid being kidnapped,” he says. Bishop Antoine also expressed concerns about the missing Father Paolo Dall’Oglio…
Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church begins (RISU) “With this Divine Liturgy we, the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, begin our Synod,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said on 11 August during his homily in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv. The event will run until 18 August. The hierarch said that the central issue is the “new evangelization” — “to make a modern man see, how to share the faith, how we, the believers of the twenty-first century, can know the Word of God in today’s culture…”
Against growing turmoil, Coptic pope urges restraint (AllAfrica) Pope Tawadros II urged the Egyptian people on Tuesday to renounce violence and avoid bloodshed. “I call on everybody, with my utmost love, to protect the lives of Egyptians,” the pope posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday, adding, “I ask all Egyptians to use their heads wisely, practice self-restraint and avoid any violence, attacks or recklessness against humanity or property…”
Israel approves another 900 settler homes (Al Jazeera) Israel’s latest announcement of more than 900 new illegal settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem “threatens” talks with the Palestinians, a senior Palestinian official has said. The units in Gilo, near the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, are in addition to the 1,200 settlement homes approved by Israel on Sunday. “This settlement expansion is unprecedented,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said on Tuesday…
12 August 2013
Tags: Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Chaldean Church Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
Students at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Kerala, India, find time not only to study but also to dance. Read more about St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’ in the September 2005 issue of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
12 August 2013
Tags: India Children Sisters Kerala Orphans/Orphanages
In this 2008 photo, Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio laughs during a chat with Muslim shepherds in an ancient cave near the Mar Musa monastery in Syria. Father Dall’Oglio was reportedly captured by an Islamist group in Syria in late July. (photo: CNS/John Feister, St. Anthony Messenger)
Reports of missing Jesuit’s death unconfirmed (ANSAmed) The Vatican’s ambassador to Damascus on Monday said he could not confirm a report from Lama al Atassi, secretary general for the Syrian National Front, that the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio has been executed. “We are very worried about Father Dall’Oglio as for everyone here in Syria, where the situation is getting worse with every passing day and the picture is getting grimmer by the minute,” says Papal Nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari. Local news should be taken with a grain of salt, Archbishop Mario added. “You have to be careful because is also an information war, with reports constantly being retracted,” he said…
Syrian rebels destroy Orthodox church in Al Thawrah (AINA) The Antiochian Orthodox Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus was a landmark of Al Thawrah (also known as Al Tabqah). It was an impressive, modern structure with a large yard, surrounded by a high wall and well situated on a main street near the corniche — a well-landscaped area hugging the southern bank of Lake Assad which was popular with locals taking evening strolls. Its elegant dome and cross could be seen from a great distance. This church was under the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Aleppo, led by Metropolitan Boulos al Yazigi, who was kidnapped on 22 April of this year, along with the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of the same city, Metropolitan Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim…
Syriac Orthodox bishop: stop speculating about the kidnapped bishops (Fides) “Every week some politician or some journalist puts out some story on the two kidnapped metropolitan archbishops of Aleppo. But so far they have always been unverifiable deductions. The reality is that almost four months have gone by since their kidnapping and we do not who kidnapped them,” says Metropolitan Timotheus Matta Fadil Alkhouri, patriarchal assistant in the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. The latest unverified rumors even come from the United States, where Congressional Representative Charlie Dent has taken steps to gather information on the kidnapped bishops due to the insistence of the Syrian community in the city of Allentown. Anonymous sources close to the British diplomacy then attributed to the U.S. politician the claim that the two bishops are still alive and are hostages in Turkey, held by Islamist groups involved in a “plot” to move the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate from Damascus to Turkey, and influence the succession of the Syriac Orthodox patriarch, the 80-year-old Mar Ignatius Zakka I…
Syria refugees swell Christian community in Turkey (BBC) Syria’s Christians belong to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. However, chased away by the threat of violence, some are heading for neighboring Turkey, where they have been greeted with considerable enthusiasm. Driven by a deep and humble faith, Father Joaqim is a young man with a sense of destiny. He has returned from 11 years in Holland to revive his dying community in eastern Turkey. “Thank God our community is alive again,” he says, his face radiating out from the distinctive black cap of his Syriac Orthodox habit. “On Sundays our church is full with worshipers from the village.” Across the Tur Abdin, some of the long-abandoned villages are slowly coming back to life, not just with emigrant families from the Syriac disapora returning from Europe, but also with co-religionists from Syria, separated by an artificial border, returning to the bosom of their community in Turkey…
Bulgarian Orthodox metropolitan objects to Pope John XXIII monument (Sofia Globe) Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Yoanikii of Sliven has issued a statement objecting to reported plans for a monument to Pope John XXIII in the seaside town of Nessebur, saying that the move could create tensions between Orthodox and Catholics. John XXIII, pope from October 1958 to June 1963, was papal nuncio to Bulgaria from 1925 to 1935. The plan for a statue of him to be erected at the isthmus of the town was inspired, according to the municipality, by him having given the equivalent of half a million leva to feed Macedonian refugees. Pope John XXIII’s career also includes having acted to assist Jews seeking to escape the Holocaust, including Bulgarian Jews. Currently, he is on the path of beatification, reportedly expected to happen before the end of 2013, along with the late Pope John Paul II…
Lebanon grand mufti calls for release of all hostages (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanon Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani called Monday for the release of the recently kidnapped Turkish Airlines pilots in Beirut as well as the Lebanese who have been held hostage in Syria since May 2012. “The kidnapping of people, whoever the people might be, and regardless of the kidnappers, is an act that we denounce and reject, considering it the forced detention of innocents,” Qabbani said…
9 August 2013
Tags: Refugees Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Turkey
Each day the boys at the Malankara Boys’ Home pause on the lawn to pray before a statue of the Virgin Mary before going to school. (photo: Jose Jacob)
In the Summer issue of ONE, we take readers to a home for boys in India that is offering a new lease on life for those some consider “untouchable”:
A low building in the front houses a library, sick room, kitchen, pantry, work area and classroom. A path paved with red and black tiles, chipped and broken in places, leads to a four-story building where children study, sleep and play.
Between the two buildings — each in need of fresh paint — lies a small lawn with a statue of the Virgin Mary inside a large lotus, the national flower of India, fashioned out of concrete. Here, children pray before going to school.
In this home in 1996, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Archeparchy of Trivandrum began a plan to deliver children from a vicious circle of poverty, squalor and despair.
Seventeen years later, the Malankara Boys’ Home counts more than 175 extraordinary young men as success stories, part of a growing effort to spark a quiet social revolution among southern India’s Dalits.
Dalit, a Sanskrit term, denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of birth.
Although Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalit “harijan” (children of God), and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those people once identified as untouchable continue to lag behind socially and economically.
But thanks in part to Malankara Boys’ Home, that is beginning to change.
“Our children have brought hope to those who are dismissed as social scum,” says the Rev. Jose Kizhakedath, a priest of the archeparchy who started the home and guided its first seven years. It is a hope that is slowly but perceptibly changing the lives of some of Kerala’s young people most in need.
Read more about Reaching the Young ‘Untouchables’.
9 August 2013
Tags: India Children ONE magazine Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics
A Coptic Orthodox delegation visits Al Azhar University to celebrate Eid ul Fitr, the conclusion of Ramadan. (photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church)
Impact of pope’s message to Muslims for end of Ramadan (Vatican Radio) To find out more about the impact of this papal message on Christian-Muslim dialogue, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Archbishop Kevin McDonald, head of the English and Welsh bishops’ office for interfaith relations, who says the pope’s in-person message “has been very well received…”
Growing concern that Pope Tawadros II may be targeted by Islamists (AsiaNews) “We fear that Pope Tawadros II might become a target of Islamist reprisal,” said the Rev. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The Coptic pope, Father Greiche said, “used to go to Cairo’s St Mark Cathedral every Wednesday to meet with the faithful and hold a series of weekly readings. Since President Morsi’s ouster more than a month ago, he has been forced to hold those meetings in a monastery outside the city…”
Egyptian churches to choose representatives for the new constitutional assembly (Egypt Independent) Coptic Pope Tawadros II has chosen Bishop Paula of Tanta to represent the Coptic Orthodox Church in the 50-person constitutional assembly formed to amend the constitution, said a source within the church. The three main Egyptian churches — the Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical churches — will collectively nominate three representatives to the assembly. Forthcoming meetings will determine whether each distinct church will nominate one candidate or if the three churches will reach a united vision of the figures to be chosen…
Cyprus police advise bolstering security after string of church thefts (InCyprus) Police are advising churches to bolster security measures after a string of ecclesiastical thefts in Paphos this week. Six burglaries have been reported so far. According to a spokesman, churches are generally targeted because they lack sophisticated security systems. Speaking to The Cyprus Daily, Paphos Bishop Georgios described the recent surge in thefts against churches as unacceptable. “We have taken on board the advice from the police and in some cases CCTV systems and alarms have been installed in churches.” He added that the church had noticed a distinct increase in thefts during the summer period. “Cyprus is a tourist destination and it is very busy during the summer. Because we receive many visitors during this time it makes it easy for thieves to come in and look around before they decide to steal something…”
8 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Christian-Muslim relations Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Coptic Church Cyprus
Children gather in a makeshift classroom in the Al Waer neighborhood of Homs. (photo: Ziad Hilal, S.J.)
In the Summer issue of ONE, now online, we look closely at CNEWA’s efforts to help needy children. One of the pieces in the magazine, written by the Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., describes the struggles of children in Syria who have been scarred by war:
Recent events have deeply affected the children, and we have noticed changes through our follow-ups at school. When they play, they transform wooden boxes into imitation weapons and play war games, reflecting the reality that the children are also internalizing the patterns of the war around them. Confronting this, we had to work hard to redirect the children to regular games, such as football and other sports.
Most children live in a state of denial. They refuse to acknowledge their fears. Meanwhile, mothers report their children cannot sleep alone in a separate bed anymore, which speaks to their trauma. Some others report cases that required the assistance of a speech therapist and a psychologist to overcome communication troubles.
At the same time, many youth have lost their jobs and their income, their great potential going to waste.
Thus, we decided to join both priorities in one project, aiming to take the children out of the streets and to provide jobs to the displaced youth.
We started with one pilot project at St. Savior Convent in the Adawiyya quarter, where many displaced families found refuge. The project consisted of gathering around 60 children in the convent and, with the help of the youth, preparing some educational activities: theater, music and more. The children were from different religious groups, and the convent became a center for reconciliation — especially for the parents from all confessions, who were obliged to sit together to watch their children in a common activity.
Soon after, two additional centers adopting the same model opened in other quarters where displaced families settled. At present the project enrolls more than 600 children.
Read more on Saving the Children of War.
And to learn how you can help, visit our Syria Emergency Relief page or check out various ways to support children in need.
8 August 2013
Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Children War Emigration
Muslim worshipers attend Friday prayers during the holy month of Ramadan at the Data Darbar mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, on 2 August. (photo: CNS/Mohsin Raza, Reuters)
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is drawing to a close. The Jerusalem Post takes note:
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are to participate in processions, celebrations and cultural evenings to mark Eid ul Fitr, the end of the holy month Ramadan on Thursday. The celebrations are to continue through till Sunday. …
Ramadan can last either 29 or 30 days, depending on when the first moon of the next lunar month is sighted, and the dates often differ from country to country. Over 2.5 million worshipers prayed atop the Al Aqsa Mosque during the entire month of Ramadan, the Al Aqsa Foundation stated on Thursday.
Pope Francis has issued his own message to Muslims to mark Ramadan.
Earlier this week, CNEWA’s chief communications officer Michael J.L. La Civita appeared on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show to talk about the Catholic Church’s relationship to Islam. You can hear that interview at this link, beginning at about the 30-minute mark.
Ramadan, of course, carries its own customs and traditions, and that extends to the celebration of Eid ul Fitr. Two years ago, the Rev. Elias Mallon wrote about that in ONE:
While Muslims around the world celebrate Eid ul Fitr with early morning prayers, feasts and charity, communities in different parts of the world add their own flare to the holiday. Muslims in different countries — whether in the Middle East, Indonesia, South Asia or elsewhere — celebrate with culturally distinct cuisine, decorations, clothing and activities.
A new and popular Ramadan tradition is for Muslims to invite their non—Muslims neighbors to take part in the iftar or Eid ul Fitr. In some communities in Europe and North America, where Muslims are a religious minority, the iftar has become an important interfaith celebration. What better way to promote interreligious understanding around the world than by sharing the joy of the iftar and Eid ul Fitr?
Happy Eid ul Fitr to all our Muslim friends and neighbors!
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim Islam Ramadan