26 September 2013
King Abdullah II speaks at the United Nations on 24 September. (photo: U.N./Marco Castro)
King Abdullah II, ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, gave an extraordinary speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2013. The king, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and his family have long been engaged in dialogue with Christians and other religious faiths. Although the number of Christians in Jordan is small, they have enjoyed freedom to practice their faith under this king and his predecessors.
In his speech, King Abdullah spoke of what a modern Arab state needs to be: free, with freedom of opportunity and equality for all its citizens. However, the stability of Jordan is being put under tremendous pressure by the large number of refugees entering its borders, including Christians from Iraq and war refugees from Syria. The king noted that the number of refugees in Jordan equals 10 percent of the entire population — and that percentage could rise to 20 percent. No country can easily absorb that amount of refugees. As a comparison, if the United States were required to take the same percentage of refugees, the number would exceed the present populations of New York and New Jersey.
Put bluntly, Jordan needs all the help it can get. As one of the few areas of stability in the region, it is also one of the few places where Arab Christians are free to live their faith. It is developing democratic institutions and could in the future be one model for democracy in the region. The refugee problem threatens all of this. Jordan has shown typical Arab hospitality in welcoming refugees. However, the country’s economy cannot bear the strain that this brings. If Jordan is to survive, the international community needs to help it with feeding, housing and, if necessary, resettling the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come there seeking safety.
You can read the full text of the king’s speech at this link.
26 September 2013
Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Jordan Iraqi Refugees United Nations
Recovering addicts attend a morning yoga class at the detoxification clinic in Kerala. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
In 2005, we turned a spotlight on a dark corner of Indian life, alcohol and drug addiction:
Not long ago, Vincent Njarekaden was driving on the back roads of Irinjalakuda. The rural district lies in the central Indian state of Kerala about 40 miles northwest of the port city of Cochin. Mr. Njarekaden is the camp coordinator of Navachaithanya, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center established in 1991 by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda.
As he passed a toddy shop, Kerala’s version of the neighborhood bar, Mr. Njarekaden recognized a former patient, Antu, walking in its direction. Mr. Njarekaden pulled over and summoned Antu to the jeep. “Where are you going?” Mr. Njarekaden asked. The former patient gestured toward the toddy shop.
Economists often cite Kerala as a model of human development in India. The state has achieved a literacy rate, standard of health and women’s empowerment to a greater degree than the country at large.
But there is a dark side to this progress: Unemployment in Kerala stands at about 35 percent, the worst rate of any state in India, according to India’s Labor Ministry. Kerala’s crime rate nearly doubles the national rate, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. A conference on suicide prevention, held in the state capital of Trivandrum in 2004, reported that there are more reported suicides in Kerala than in any other state.
But alcoholism is perhaps the state’s worst social malady.
“When there is high unemployment, it is not uncommon for many people to turn to alcohol,” said Dr. M. Prasanna Kumar, a health consultant in Trivandrum. …
Nearly every village has a toddy shop. They dot the rural byways like rest stops. The shops, typically dark wooden shacks, have good, cheap curries. But they are better known for their toddy, a pungent liquor made from coconut trees. Inside the shops, men — and only men — can be found sipping tall bottles after a day in the fields. Conversation is muted. The men drink purposefully. They are there to get drunk.
Six months ago, Antu attended a month-long detoxification camp at Navachaithanya. He had been sober for five months, he said, but had started drinking a month ago.
Antu recounted his story matter-of-factly; he did not seem ashamed of being caught by the camp administrator. He had spent the whole day climbing coconut trees, collecting fruit. And now he wanted a drink. Antu said he would probably drink four liter-bottles of toddy — which all told will cost him about two dollars, or half of his day’s pay — and then go home and pass out. He claimed he would not be hung over the following day when he woke up to climb more coconut trees. Scolded but undeterred, Antu resumed his walk toward the toddy shop.
Each month, about 50 men arrive at the center for the detoxification and rehabilitation camp. Most men come of their own will, Father Titus said. Others are referred by their families, employers or local police.
Read more about living One Day At a Time In Kerala from the July 2005 issue of ONE.
26 September 2013
Tags: India Kerala Indian Catholics Alcoholism
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter I has expressed disappointment with the international response to the Syrian crisis, saying that only the pope has made a solid statement against war. He believes that the profitable weapons trade explains the silence of most countries. (video: Rome Reports)
Maronite patriarch helps pope with Mass, thanks him for peace call (Daily Star Lebanon) The Maronite patriarch of Antioch assisted Pope Francis during a Mass Wednesday at the Vatican and thanked the pontiff for his recent calls for peace in the Middle East. A cardinal of the Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Peter was accompanied by a number of Maronite bishops and heads of monastic orders during the morning ceremony, according to the National News Agency. At the conclusion of the Mass, the patriarch thanked Francis for his efforts to promote peace in the region, and also spoke about the dispersion of Maronites throughout the world…
Chaldean patriarch speaks out against emigration (Daily Star Lebanon) The Chaldean patriarch arrived in Lebanon for a rare visit Thursday and urged Christians to not leave their homeland. Patriarch Louis Raphael of Babylon made the comments at Rafik Hariri International Airport, before heading to the Beirut suburb of Hazmieh for the holding of religious services. “Christians, wherever they are, should not emigrate, because this is considered a withdrawal from the scene and a loss of identity,” he said. “In countries of emigration, they are refugees and emigres, but here, they have an identity, a role and a history…”
Daily suicide bombings keep Iraqis in state of shock (Al Monitor) As suicide bombings become a daily occurrence, Iraqis contemplate their lives. Ali Wajih, a young Iraqi poet, told Al Monitor, “I’m no longer intimidated by death. … I talk about death and laugh with my friends. Haven’t I told you that death has become trivial?” Some Iraqi intellectuals criticize media outlets for disregarding the human aspects of the victims of bombings and acts of violence, simply counting them on a daily basis and following up on the government’s reactions and stated measures. This picture has become a daily routine in Iraq. Iraqis go about their lives expecting a car bomb to explode next to them at any time. They say goodbye to their families in the morning, and deep down inside they do not rule out the idea that this could be their final goodbye.…
Largest Syrian rebel groups form Islamic alliance (Washington Post) American hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s fractious rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed opposition coalition and announced the formation of a new alliance dedicated to creating an Islamic state. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group, which will further complicate fledgling U.S. efforts to provide lethal aid to “moderate” rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Others include the Tawheed Brigade, the biggest Free Syrian Army unit in the northern city of Aleppo; Liwa al Islam, the largest rebel group in the capital, Damascus; and Ahrar al Sham, the most successful nationwide franchise of mostly Syrian Salafist fighters. Collectively, the new front, which does not yet have a formal name but has been dubbed by its members the “Islamist Alliance,” claims to represent 75 percent of the rebels fighting to topple Assad…
In Kerala, ancient murals draw visitors (The Hindu) The murals in St. Mary’s Soonoro Church in Angamaly — a Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church — with its Biblical themes rendered in vibrant colors, continue to draw keen visitors. Though churches across Kerala have had a longstanding tradition of murals, the ones at Angamaly are particularly noted for their antiquity and the way they have weathered these years. The original church on this site is believed to have been consecrated in 409, though the present church was built in the 16th century… [Click to learn more about Jacobites or the larger Indian Orthodox Church to which they belong.]
25 September 2013
Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
In this image from last month, people walk around a destroyed Protestant church in Mallawi, Egypt. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in August were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
During his audience today, Pope Francis issued a call for Christian unity, and a plea to pray for those who are suffering:
The pope asked people to reflect upon whether they live out this unity or are they uninterested — preferring to be closed off from others, isolated within their own community, group of friends or nation.
“It’s sad to see a ‘privatized’ church because of egoism and this lack of faith,” he said.
It’s especially sad when there are so many fellow Christians in the world who are suffering or being persecuted because of their faith, he said.
“Am I indifferent or is it like someone in the family is suffering?” he asked.
He asked everyone to be honest with themselves and respond in their hearts: “How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted” and for those who are in difficulty for professing and defending the faith?
“It’s important to look beyond one’s own fence, to feel oneself as church, one family of God,” he said.
But throughout history and even today, people within the church have not always lived this unity, he said.
“Sometimes misunderstandings, conflicts, tensions and divisions crop up that harm [unity], and so the church doesn’t have the face we would want, it doesn’t demonstrate love and what God wants.”
“And if we look at the divisions that still exist among Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, we feel the hard work [needed] to make this unity fully visible.”
The world today needs unity, he said: “We need reconciliation, communion, and the church is the home of communion.”
Read the rest on CNS.
And, to learn how you can help Middle East Christians, visit this page.
25 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Violence against Christians Christian Unity Egypt's Christians
Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia speaks at the opening ceremony of the Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church on 24 September. (photo: Catholicosate of Cilicia)
Synod of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church commences (The Armenian Church) On 24 September in Etchmiadzin, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians and Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia presided over the opening of the Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Present at the meeting were 62 archbishops and bishops from the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan attended the opening ceremony…
Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo details the Syrian disaster (Fides) In a note sent to Fides Agency, Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, metropolitan of Aleppo of the Greek Catholics, has compiled a great deal quantitative data to lend an understanding of the scale of the disaster. According to the metropolitan archbishop, in Aleppo alone, “1,400 factories and shops were looted, demolished or burned, while across the country more than 2,000 schools have been devastated or put out of use…”
NGO documents violence against Copts (Daily News Egypt) The destruction of 30 houses of worship and over 60 Christian shops, homes and cars made August 2013 the “fiercest violent scene throughout Egypt’s contemporary history,” according to a new report by the Egyptian Centre for Public Policy Studies. The report found a systematic and organized surge in violence against Coptic Christians — mostly in Upper Egypt — since the 14 August dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa al Adaweya and Nahda Square…
Maspero Coptic group proposes amendments to Egyptian constitution (Ahram Online) The Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic youth movement, met on Wednesday with the 50-member committee charged with amending the constitution, to propose several amendments to the charter. According to union member Bishoy Tamry, the group proposed amendments to articles related to religious rights and issues. The activist told Ahram Online that the group “is against any religious article including Article 2,” which states “Islam is the main source of legislation.” The group also proposes that an article is included that states Egypt is a “civil state…”
Egyptian minister postpones dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood (Washington Post) An Egyptian minister said Tuesday that the government would “postpone” the court-ordered dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency. The statement comes after an obscure court issued a sweeping but legally questionable decision Monday to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and all related organizations and activities, which appears to grant the military-backed government expansive legal authority to go after the group’s finances and other assets and essentially criminalizes its political and social service work…
Interview with Patriarch Twal: Christians ‘go against the current’ (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) “We’re going against the current. It is a constant effort, but it requires the search for truth.” Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, was in Amman for a meeting between the leaders and representatives of the churches of the East, convened by the king of Jordan to reflect on the challenges that Arab Christians face today and which are a matter of grave concern for King Abdullah II. “The major urgency now is to set straight the religious discourse of so many imams who, from within their mosques, preach violence against non-Muslims…”
24 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Armenian Apostolic Church Patriarch Fouad Twal
A Bulgarian couple hold candles during their marriage ceremony at the Church of the Assumption in Sofia. For more on the Byzantine Catholics of Bulgaria, and how they are upholding their heritage, read Bearers of a Proud Legacy from the September 2004 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
24 September 2013
Tags: ONE magazine Bulgaria Byzantine Catholic Church
In the midst of all the disturbing news from the Middle East, there is some wonderful news from Kiev, Ukraine.
After more than a decade of construction, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was consecrated on 18 August 2013. This cathedral has become the main shrine for more than five million Ukrainian Greek Catholics throughout the world.
The festive ceremonies around cathedral’s consecration were also linked to the celebration of 1025th anniversary of the baptism of the Ukrainian people. The event brought to Ukraine’s capital more than 20,000 guests and pilgrims from all over the world. From the CNEWA family, Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, and Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, attended the ceremonies.
Here is Msgr. Kozar’s impression:
The consecration of the cathedral was a graphic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish, even in the worst of times. And the amazing encounter for me was that these brave and courageous people filled with faith do not complain about their great sufferings nor do they look for sympathy. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all.
The consecration of the cathedral was an event of high importance because it marked the revival and resurrection of the church that had been forced out of central and eastern parts of Ukraine four centuries ago and was later brutally repressed by the U.S.S.R.’s Communist regime from 1945 to 1989.
In the 20th century, the church produced hundreds of martyrs, 25 of whom were beatified by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ukraine in 2001. One of them, Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky, is buried in Winnipeg, Canada.
After two decades of independence, Ukraine still remains among the poorest countries in Europe. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has reestablished its parishes in western Ukraine, now has two main focuses: organization of its communities in central and eastern Ukraine and responding to the enormous social challenges faced by its people by implementing various social development and humanitarian initiatives.
Holy Resurrection Cathedral is functional now but far from finished. Funds are still needed to complete the interior and the surrounding complex, in which many of the church ministries will be based. To learn more about how you can help the Ukrainian church and its many ministries, please click here. To help fund the completion of Holy Resurrection Cathedral, use one of the following links: CNEWA or CNEWA Canada.
24 September 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church CNEWA Canada Ukrainian Catholic Church
In this 2012 photo, Syrian refugee Ferian, who fled to Lebanon to escape the conflict that claimed the lives of her three brothers, sits in an informal refugee camp in Al Four at the foot of the mountains on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)
Pope: ‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity’ (AsiaNews) The reality of migration, which in our time has reached unprecedented proportions, “needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner,” because “migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity” and “can not be reduced to mere economic growth, development, achieved, often without looking at the weakest and most defenseless.” The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner…
Egyptian NGO, Copts urge against guaranteed electoral quotas (Fides) The Egyptian Center for Development Studies and Human Rights — an NGO close to the Coptic Orthodox Church — has asked that the forthcoming elections be celebrated by putting aside the quota system of seats reserved for Christians. According to the organization, the practice of reserving seats in parliament to some social groups defined on the basis of religion contradicts the principle of equality among citizens that must be guaranteed by the new constitution, on which 50 members of a Constitutional Commission have been working since 8 September. Even Bishop of Minya of the Catholic Copts Botros Fahim Awad Hanna reported to Fides Agency his opposition to the system of quotas, which in his opinion “favors the division of the Country on sectarian basis…”
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned, and crackdown could broaden (Washington Post) An Egyptian court on Monday banned the Muslim Brotherhood and its vast social services network in what could be a devastating blow to the Islamist organization, which swept Mohamed Morsi to the presidency just last year and has fiercely resisted the military coup that ousted him in July. The far-reaching ruling appears to apply to any group remotely associated with the world’s oldest Islamist movement, granting temporary legal cover to the military-backed government of General Abdel Fatah al Sisi to broaden a crackdown that has already left the Brotherhood battered…
Nuns, orphans trapped in Syria’s Maaloula (France24) Nearly 40 nuns and orphans are trapped inside a convent in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula, where regime troops are battling rebel forces, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said Tuesday. The famed town, where residents still speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is thought to have spoken, has been the scene of clashes since earlier this month. “The Mar Takla convent is living through painful days because it is in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous,” the Damascus-based Patriarchate said in a statement…
Iraq clashes, attacks kill 25 (Daily Star Lebanon) Fighting between security forces and militants killed 25 people in Iraq on Tuesday, as the U.N. warned that sectarian attacks threaten to force more Iraqis from their homes. Violence in Iraq has reached a level this year not seen since 2008, when the country was emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict…
23 September 2013
Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War
Pope Francis wears a hard hat he received from a miner during a Mass outside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, on 22 September.
(photo: CNS /L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
During a visit to Sardinia Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of the plight of the poor:
Visiting an Italian region especially hard hit by the European economic crisis, Pope Francis blamed high unemployment on globalization driven by greed and said those who give charitable aid to the poor must treat their beneficiaries with dignity.
“We want a just system, a system that lets all of us get ahead,” the pope said on 22 Sept., in his first address during a full day on the Italian island of Sardinia. “We don’t want this globalized economic system that does us so much harm. At its center there should be man and woman, as God wants, and not money.”
Sardinia has an overall unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent, rising to nearly 50 percent among young adults.
Before speaking to a crowd of about 20,000 near the Cagliari city port, Pope Francis heard a series of speeches in greeting, including one from an unemployed father of three, who spoke of how joblessness “wears you out to the depths of your soul.”
In response, the pope discarded his prepared remarks and told his audience what he said “comes to me in my heart seeing you in this moment.”
Pope Francis recalled the struggles of his immigrant Italian father in 1930s Argentina.
“They lost everything. There was no work,” he said. “I was not born yet, but I heard them speak about this suffering at home. I know this well. But I must tell you: courage.”
The pope said he knew that his preaching alone would mean little to those in difficulty.
“I must do everything I can so that this word ‘courage’ is not a pretty fleeting word, not only the smile of (a) cordial church employee,” he said. “I want this courage to come out from inside and push me to do all I can as a pastor, as a man. We must all face this historic challenge with solidarity and intelligence.”
23 September 2013
Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria,
on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
U.S. faces tough challenges bringing aid to Syria (Associated Press) As the Syrian crisis rages and debate heats up over Syria’s chemical weapons, U.S. officials are fighting a quieter battle: The delivery of nearly $1.3 billion in assistance in a war zone so chaotic that ambulances are used for target practice and aid is halted by armed men at random checkpoints...
Syria’s tragedy, up close (Catholic Register) While diplomats shuffle between Geneva, Moscow and Washington, their plans to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control are having no impact on the war of attrition Syrians are fighting with rifles, rocket propelled grenades, tanks and bombing raids. As the violence that’s killed more than 100,000 Syrians wears on, Turkey is seeing more and more of the human toll in the form of refugees and wounded fighters....
Egypt bans Muslim Brotherhood (Associated Press) An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Egypt state TV said the court issued its ruling on Monday...
Thousands of Christians travel to Israel for Sukkot (JNS.org) More than 5,000 Christian pilgrims from 100 countries will descend on Israel this week as part of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s (ICEJ) Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) celebration. The festival begins 20 Sept. at the Oasis Hotel in Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea and will continue for the reminder of Sukkot at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. The weeklong celebration is expected to generate more than $16 million in revenue, and is the largest annual tourist event to Israel. “We are thrilled that thousands of Christians from all over the world will be arriving in Jerusalem this week to take part in our annual Feast gathering, despite the recent tensions in the region over the Syrian conflict,” Dr. Jürgen Bühler, the ICEJ’s executive director, said in a statement. “Their visit to Jerusalem is a timely message of solidarity with the people of Israel....”
Pope Francis: social communications is for bringing others to Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Pope Francis said the goal of the Church for its communications efforts is “to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes.” The Holy Father said we must examine if the communications of the Church are helping others to meet Christ...
In India, Kerala weddings go from spartan to splashy (Times of India) The caparisoned elephant at the entrance is the first shock. Then, you walk straight into Nala and Damayanti, the star-crossed couple from Mahabharata, in full Kathakali regalia waiting to usher you into the hall. This is after you have been welcomed by a percussion ensemble, and watched Mohiniyattam and Kathakali tableaux go by. At a big Christian wedding in the same city, the bride has decided to be Cinderella. She is dropped off by a pumpkin chariot in a white gown and gloves and various other Disney type props. Even Muslim nikaahs have been spiced up with ‘sufi nites.’ There used to be an old joke about Malayali weddings in Delhi. A friend of the groom, freezing in the January cold, steps out of the temple for a quick smoke before the rituals begin. He returns five minutes later — to find the wedding over. Stories like this are now history...