27 August 2013
A man prays during the Sunday liturgy at the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in the Maadi suburb of Cairo on 25 August. (photo: CNS/Dana Smillie)
As the situation in Egypt grows more troubled by the hour, people in the country countinue to be sustained by faith. Catholic News Service reports this morning on the country’s long and deep Christian heritage:
The Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary sits in a tiled courtyard a few miles outside Cairo, on the left bank of the Nile as the river bends south toward Upper Egypt.
The structure’s front doors overlook the famed river, which Egyptian Christians who pray and worship here are convinced transported Mary, Joseph and their small boy, Jesus, to safety from persecution back home.
“In those times, this was a dock area from where the boats took off for Upper Egypt. The Holy Family came here from Palestine and got on one,” explained one of the church’s five priests, from an office overlooking the water.
Like the priest, many Copts — the name for Egypt’s indigenous Christians — trace their religion all the way back to Jesus who, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew, sought refuge in their country from the wrath of Herod the Great 2,000 years ago.
Coptic tradition holds that Christ stayed in Egypt for three years and that later, around the year 42, St. Mark the Evangelist also came to evangelize in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, before being martyred there.
Christianity continued to spread among the locals called “Copts,” a derivative from the Greek word for Egypt, and by the third century, Christianity was the country’s dominant religion. By the time the newer religion of Islam arrived in Egypt in the middle of the seventh century, Egyptian Christianity had already provided the church with some of the world’s major Christian saints and had introduced new forms of monastic life.
“The history of the Coptic Church is both glorious and tragic,” wrote Otto F.A. Meinardus in his authoritative book on Egyptian Christianity, “Christians in Egypt.” …
Tension between Egypt’s Copts and Muslims has long been a problem, but recently it has dangerously spiked, first since President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow by popular revolt in 2011, and even more so since the military’s July 3 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
Morsi was aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members the Egyptian military is now pursuing.
Violence has surged even further since 14 August, when security forces raided two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, which killed hundreds of people, most of them protestors.
Church leaders and independent human rights groups have recorded attacks on dozens of churches, schools, buildings, homes and other institutions belonging to Christians. Some non-Christian institutions have also come under attack in the violence, including government and security offices.
And visit this page to learn how you can help CNEWA to help Egypt’s Christians.
27 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Coptic Orthodox Church Egypt's Christians
Men make homemade masks for protection against chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Zamalka in Syria on 23 August. Pope Francis denounced the atrocities in Syria, calling again for all sides to end to the fighting. (photo: CNS/Hadi Almonajed, Reuters)
Aleppo Christians fear Iraq-style ethnic cleansing (Al Monitor) It would be accurate to describe some areas of Aleppo as “Christian,” although this by no means implies any sort of self- or externally imposed segregation or discrimination. Residents of other faiths are found, and get along in those areas. Christians have enjoyed a large degree of social and religious freedom under the current regime. It is this unique identity and way of life that will most likely be the first victim of a rebel victory. With some rebel groups being largely made up of extremist Islamists and Al Qaeda affiliates, it is not such a stretch to deduce that Christians in Syria may suffer the same fate as they did in Iraq. For these reasons, one is likely to find young Christian men in Aleppo taking up arms and manning checkpoints to defend themselves…
Prayer and fasting for missing Jesuit in Syria (Fides) At the monastery of St. Moses the Ethiopian in Syria, 27 August, the eve of the liturgical feast of St. Moses, will be marked by prayer and fasting for the release of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio and for peace in Syria. This was reported to Fides Agency by Father Jacques Mourad, head of this historic monastic community of Syrian Catholics, re-founded in 1982 by Father Dall’Oglio. Over the years, the monastery opened its doors to accommodate members of other Christian denominations and launched a joint ecumenical spiritual community, which promotes dialogue between Christianity and Islam…
Syrian bishop warns intervention could spark ‘world war’ (AINA) A Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop on Monday warned that an armed intervention in Syria could unleash a “world war,” while the Vatican’s official newspaper called for more “prudence” from Western powers. “If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned,” Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Vatican radio. “We hope that the pope’s call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting,” he said…
Chaldean patriarch to Kurdistan Christians: Don’t sell your homes (Fides) Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I urged Christians of Iraqi Kurdistan to “cling to their villages” and not to sell the houses and lands passed down from their fathers. Iraqi Kurdistan, traditionally considered a safe place for Christians, has become just “the last stop” in Iraq for many seeking to emigrate abroad…
Indian diocese works to fight human trafficking (Fides) Human trafficking, mainly of women and girls, is one of the most serious violations of human dignity and human rights. Alarmed by the increase in cases of trafficking and exploitation of tribal girls, the Diocese of Ranchi in Jharkhand, northeastern state of India, has initiated a program aimed at protecting health, economic and social integration of the most vulnerable individuals. The project covers 30 villages in the district of Bero, about 20 miles west of Ranchi…
26 August 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Iraqi Christians Emigration Indian Catholics human trafficking
Iconographer Ian Knowles works on a new icon for the shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain, in Anjara, depicting the risen Christ surrounded by scenes from his life. (photo: Nicholas Seeley)
The Summer issue of ONE takes us back to school, to learn about the art and spirituality behind creating icons:
The instructor is patient, demonstrating the basics again and again — how to draw a line with a brush, how to mix the paint, how to find a face in a sheet of white. “Move the paper so it’s easier to draw,” he explains. “Work to your strengths, and know your weaknesses — which is a good spiritual principle! Because what you’re doing is learning spiritual life, really — in a very practical way.”
The teacher is Ian Knowles, a British iconographer who has been working in churches and convents in the Holy Land since 2008. As an artist, he creates extraordinary, vivid images. Though hewing fast to traditional styles and techniques, his pieces can feel strikingly modern, alive with spiritual purpose. It is this, as much as brushwork and technique, that he is attempting to pass along to his students.
“The purpose of the icon is prayer,” he says. “What you need as you paint Christ is to be with him, to experience him.”
Slowly, in a few places, the holy countenance begins to come to life on paper.
It is October 2012, and this is the first class of the Bethlehem Icon Center, an initiative to train students from Palestine in the ancient art of iconography. It is a project at once modest and ambitious. The classes are small and the curriculum, highly specific. But by helping students reach a high level of craftsmanship, the center’s founders hope to create something lasting and profound: not just the seed of a local craft industry, but an expression of the Holy Land’s ancient Christian culture and its role in the development of Christian art.
“Empowering local Christians, finding a way for them to rediscover their artistic, religious tradition in a very specific way — that’s exciting,” says the Rev. Timothy Lowe, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America and the rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, which is a partner of the center, along with Mr. Knowles.
Read more about Prayers in Paint in the Summer issue of ONE.
26 August 2013
Tags: Palestine Christianity Bethlehem ONE magazine Icons
Civilians watch as workers remove debris and search rubble for casualties at building hit by shelling in the Bustan al Qasr district of Aleppo, Syria, on 21 August.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
U.N. says snipers fired on weapons inspectors in Syria (New York Times) United Nations inspectors heading toward the site of a suspected chemical attack in Syria came under fire “multiple times by unidentified snipers” as they sought to cross into rebel-held territory on Monday, the United Nations said, and the first car in their convoy was hit. While there were no immediate reports of injuries, “the car was no longer serviceable,” so the inspectors “returned safely back to the Government check-point,” the United Nations said in a statement in New York, urging the combatants to cooperate with their effort to establish what happened in the attack last Wednesday. “The team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle,” the statement said...
Pope Francis renews calls for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in Syria. “It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.” The Holy Father called on the International Community to do everything in its power to help the “beloved Syrian nation” find a solution to the ongoing conflict. At the end of his remarks, Pope Francis lead all those listening in a prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace...
Patriarch: Christians pay highest price in Mideast conflicts (Vatican Radio) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter says Christians always pay the highest price when conflicts erupt in Middle East countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The cardinal also said that outside countries, especially in the West but also elsewhere, are helping to foment these conflicts...
Egyptian military using religion in propaganda campaign (New York Times) The Egyptian military has enlisted Muslim scholars in a propaganda campaign to persuade soldiers and policemen that they have a religious duty to obey orders to use deadly force against supporters of the ousted president, Muhammad Morsi. The effort is a signal that the generals are worried about insubordination in the ranks, after security forces have killed hundreds of their fellow Egyptians who were protesting against the military’s removal of the elected president — violence by the armed forces against civilians that is without precedent in the country’s modern history. The recourse to religion to justify the killing is also a new measure of the depth of the military’s determination to break down the main pillar of Mr. Morsi’s support, the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Ethiopian nun who may be Jerusalem’s best-kept musical secret (The Guardian) From a small, spartan room in the courtyard of the Ethiopian church off a narrow street in Jerusalem, a 90-year-old musical genius is emerging into the spotlight. For almost three decades, Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù has been closeted at the church, devoting herself to her life’s twin themes — faith and music. The Ethiopian nun, whose piano compositions have enthralled those who have stumbled across a handful of recordings in existence, has lived a simple life, rarely venturing beyond the monastery’s gates. But this month the nonagenarian’s scribbled musical scores have been published as a book, ensuring the long-term survival of her music. And on Tuesday, the composer will hear her work played in concert for the first time, at three performances in Jerusalem. Guebrù may even play a little.
23 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Jerusalem United Nations
In a grove near the West Bank city of Nablus, women sort olives then remove stems and leaves. To learn more about the life of a Palestinian olive farmer, check out Olive Offerings, from the January 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Ahikam Seri)
23 August 2013
Tags: Palestine Farming/Agriculture Palestinians
Grafitti is seen on the walls of an annex of the Chaldean Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Cairo on 18 August. The writing in red reads: “Dog of Israel.” The message in black calls Egypt’s army chief a traitor. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, especially in the impoverished south, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in the last week were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
‘Death to Christians’ a mantra among extremists in Egypt (Our Sunday Visitor) As the war continues to rage, Copts find themselves not only as collateral damage, but as targets of a powerful political group intent on pandemonium. Nuns were paraded through the streets like prisoners of war. In a kind of reverse Passover, Christian homes were marked for destruction. And it doesn’t look like peace will be coming soon for Egypt’s ancient Coptic Church, the primarily Orthodox community that makes up about 10 percent of the population. “The situation for Copts in Egypt is really tragic, and I fear it will only get worse,” reports Sophia Jones, a Cairo-based correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor. “Coptic homes have been marked with X’s before they are burned, dozens of churches have been destroyed, as well as businesses and Coptic orphanages.” Pope Francis called for “peace, dialogue and reconciliation” in Egypt, and includes in his prayers "the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering.” Besides prayer, Catholics also can help Egyptian Christians via the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Its website specifically accepts donations in support of Copts…
U.N.: Syrian child refugees count hits one million (Vatican Radio) The number of Syrian children living as refugees has reached one million, while another two million have been displaced within the country or recruited as fighters. This latest number comes from the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF. The U.N. said that the number of children living as refugees now accounts for half of all Syrians driven abroad by the conflict…
Russia urges Syria to cooperate with chemical weapons inquiry (New York Times) Russia urged President Bashar al Assad’s government on Friday to allow United Nations investigators to examine evidence of a suspected chemical weapons attack this week, joining the United States in seeking a full accounting of what happened early Wednesday in the Damascus suburbs. “The Russian side called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the U.N. chemical experts,” according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Russia, which has supported Mr. Assad throughout the conflict, has accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate the government. The Syrian government has denied any involvement. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, said at a diplomatic forum in Seoul on Friday that he could “think of no good reason why any party, either government or opposition forces, would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter…”
Twin blasts kill at least 27 in northern Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Two explosions killed at least 27 people and injured hundreds Friday in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, according to the Lebanese health minister. Ambulances rushed to the scene, and heavy black smoke covered the sky. Preliminary estimates from the health minister reported around 350 people injured in the explosions. The blasts went off near two mosques, which were filled with people on the Muslim day of prayer. A gun battle then broke out nearby between Jabal Mohsen, which supports Syria’s President Bashar al Assad, and the anti-Assad group Bab al Tabbaneh. Tripoli has seen clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, a Shiite sect to which Assad belongs…
22 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians
In this photo from May, a boy displaced by fighting in Syria attends a class in the governorate of Idlib, Syria. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)
Issam Bishara, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, has compiled a brief report on the state of displaced Syrian Christians — both inside Syria and abroad. An excerpt:
In a communication sent to Agenzia Fides, the Syriac Orthodox Church claimed that over 90 percent of the Christians of Homs have been expelled by militant Islamists of the Farouq Brigades, who went door to door confiscating homes and forcing Christians to flee without their belongings. Jesuit sources in Homs say most Christians left on their own initiative to escape the conflict between government forces and insurgents. In either case, the Christian population of Homs has dropped from a pre-conflict total of 160,000 to about 1,000.
Though most of the news is tragic, it is important to recall Pope Francis’ urging: “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!” As Mr. Bishara details, there is still cause for hope, as even now people are giving witness to Christ’s love and helping those people experiencing desperate need. For instance:
4,800 displaced Christian families in the area of western Homs and Wadi al Nasara (“Valley of Christians”) have received food and other essentials — hygiene products, winter kits, etc. — in addition to school supplies for around 1,480 students
350 displaced Christian families in Al Hassake were provided food packages
1,000 families isolated in the war zones have been fed
To read the rest, click here. To find out how you can help, follow this link.
To read a Syrian Jesuit’s firsthand account of the great efforts underway to help those affected by the war — especially children — read the Rev. Ziad Hilal’s Letter from Syria, appearing in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE.
22 August 2013
Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Relief
Father Dario Escobar prays in the Hermitage of St. Hawqa in Lebanon’s Qadisha Valley. To learn more about the life of a hermit in Lebanon, see Marilyn Raschka’s Heading for the Hills, from the January–February 2002 issue of our magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
22 August 2013
Tags: Lebanon Prayers/Hymns/Saints Priests Hermit
Startling images from Syria, but use of chemical weapons unclear (New York Times) Scores of men, women and children were killed outside Damascus on Wednesday in an attack marked by the telltale signs of chemical weapons: row after row of corpses without visible injury; hospitals flooded with victims, gasping for breath, trembling and staring ahead languidly; images of a gray cloud bursting over a neighborhood. But even with videos, witness accounts and testimonies by emergency medics, it was impossible to say for certain how many people had been killed and what exactly had killed them. The rebels blamed the government, the government denied involvement and Russia accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate President Bashar al Assad’s government. Images of death and chaos poured out of Syria after what may be the single deadliest attack in more than two years of civil war…
Experts say ‘little doubt’ of chemical weapon attacks in Syria (Der Spiegel) Experts are convinced that the hundreds of people who died in attacks in Syria on Wednesday were the victims of chemical weapons. It is yet to be confirmed, however, exactly what was deployed and whether the Assad regime is indeed responsible. Stefan Mogl, a chemical weapons expert with Spiez Laboratory of the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection, says that after viewing the videos he is left with little doubt: “The combination of symptoms indicates a nerve agent.” Such a thing would be very difficult to simulate, Mogl says. What’s more, many of the victims were children, making it even less likely the scenario could be faked. And the number of people affected by the attack also seems hard to explain by anything other than by the use of chemical weapons…
U.N. chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Syria (Al Jazeera) United Nations inspectors arrived Sunday in the Syrian capital of Damascus on a mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons, as Syrian officials vowed to fully cooperate with them. Their arrival comes after months of refusals by Syria’s government to let the teams into the war-ravaged country, where more than 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began in 2011. The United Nations team’s mission will be limited to investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in three areas, in particular the 19 March attack in Khan al Assal that President Bashar al Assad blames on rebels. The other two sites have been kept secret…
Monastery near Jerusalem defaced in suspected ‘price tag’ attack (Haaretz) Police are investigating a fire bomb attack Monday night on the Beit Jamal Monastery near Jerusalem in the latest “price tag” incident, Israeli shorthand for pro-settlement hate crimes. Perpetrators threw a fire bomb into the entrance hallway and sprayed the monastery walls with the words “price tag,” “death to the Gentiles,” and “revenge.” Footage from security cameras shows fire burning for several minutes, but no vegetation or wooden furniture caught fire and it died out. The Beit Jamal Monastery is known for its good relations with Israelis, who visit to buy its ceramics…
Decade of violence threatens to uproot Iraq’s remaining Christians (Al Monitor) With the rise of internal disputes and religious extremism, Iraqi Christians are fleeing Iraq at alarming rates. This fall, Rafael Aichoa, an Iraqi Christian in his 40’s, will emigrate to Australia, joining the rest of his brothers and relatives. Aichoa realized that his connection to his ancestors’ land had completely come to an end late last year, when he discovered his parents’ mutilated bodies. Unlike Aichoa’s family, Saad Touma, a young Iraqi Christian, succeeded in escaping from his captors in the winter of 2008. Now, along with the rest of his family, Touma is preparing to leave the relatively safe Iraqi Kurdistan Region for Turkey as a prelude to permanent migration to Europe. Like thousands of other Iraqi Christians, Aichoa and Touma fear that the circle of violence in Iraq will widen to include all parts of the country. In the face of repeated targeting, nearly 700,000 Christians emigrated from Iraq, out of a total Christian population estimated at 1.4 million in 2003, according to international reports based on church records and civic organizations. Ablahad Afraim, the head of the Chaldean Democratic Union Party, believes that the number of Christians remaining in Iraq is less than 400,000…
Kidnappings, forced conversions and violence against Christians in India (Fides) Episodes of violence have troubled the Christian communities in India in recent days. Police in Chennai, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, are looking for the parents who attacked their 23-year-old daughter over her conversion to Christianity and her desire to become a nun. A few days before, in the state of Rajasthan, the mother of a Christian pastor was severely beaten by Hindu extremists who had threatened to kill her and cut her to pieces if she did not convert to Hinduism…
21 August 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Jerusalem Indian Christians
(photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec)
Next Wednesday, 28 August, Msgr. Kozar and the staff of CNEWA’s New York office will celebrate Mass for the special intentions of our donors. Over the past several months, we have asked our friends and benefactors to submit their prayer intentions and have been humbled by the hundreds of prayer requests received. If you have a special prayer intention that you would like included at this Mass, please submit it by email to email@example.com.
We are grateful to have this opportunity to pray for our donors and their intentions. Without the prayers and support we receive from our generous friends, we would not be able to fulfill the mission entrusted to us by the Holy Father. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to pray for you.
Tags: CNEWA Donors Prayers/Hymns/Saints