29 April 2013
Camels rest beside the road to Petra. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
In 2002, the magazine took readers to the Holy Land and the ancient ruins of Petra:
The holy sites in Jerusalem and its environs have sometimes seemed at the very center of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But there is a part of the Middle East that is politically stable, quietly peaceful and where a landscape full of biblical stories can be found. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — which emerged out of the post-World War I division of the Middle East by Britain and France — a part of what Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land, has played a pivotal role in the ongoing struggle in the region.
Within the desert kingdom’s boundaries can be found some of the best preserved traces of antiquity and significant evidence of early Christianity. With its awe-inspiring ruins, Petra, the ancient fortress city carved out of rock in the Valley of Moses, is the site of many of these archaeological treasures.
Participating in an exploratory dig in 1973, the noted archaeologist Kenneth W. Russell detected some previously overlooked ruins while supervising the excavation of a colonnaded street. He saw a semicircular foundation protruding from the soil and thought this might be part of a church. Intrigued, he revisited the site several times since his initial discovery.
In the spring of 1990, Russell returned to Petra to explore the site in depth. Both the size of the structure, with its semicircular apse, facing east, and surface materials including a portion of mosaic, helped him identify the site as a major Byzantine church.
Because of Russell’s untimely death in May 1992, he did not live to see the church unearthed. However, his friends, Pierre and Patricia Bikai from the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, followed Russell’s lead and the public can now view the church.
No one knows who brought Christianity to Petra, the “rose-red city, half as old as time” located in southern Jordan about halfway between the Gulf of Aqaba and the southern end of the Dead Sea. It is known, however, that the Nabateans, an Arab people who controlled the caravan routes from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and farther north, made this isolated and well-hidden location inside deep sandstone cliffs their capital…
Read more about Petra in Rose-Red City, Half as Old as Time.
29 April 2013
Tags: Holy Land Jerusalem Jordan Architecture Church
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In this October 2011 photo, Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter holds a press conference at CNEWA's New York office, discussing topics including hostilities between Israel and Lebanon. (photo: CNEWA/Erin Edwards)
Israel fencing off Lebanese village would violate U.N. resolution (Al Monitor) Recently, Israel began to build a fence around the northern part of Ghajar, a Lebanese village that it has occupied since 2006. Lebanese security forces revealed to Al Monitor that Israel had previously erected a barbed-wired fence around the northern Lebanese part of the village, to prevent — according to their claims — armed men from infiltrating the southern part of the village located in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Israel, however, is now intent on replacing this with a five-meter-high fence. This act ignores the 2006 United Nations Resolution 1701, which called for Israel’s withdrawal. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, in a press conference at CNEWA’s New York office in October 2011, had asked the world community to “commit itself to implementing” this resolution…
Eastern churches’ Holy Week begins with prayers for kidnapped bishops (Fides) The Christian communities in Syria are working together to plead for the release of the two bishops of Aleppo kidnapped — the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox Boulos al Yazigi — through prayer vigils, liturgical celebrations, demonstrations and sit-ins. Amid the chaos of civil war, Holy Week for the Eastern churches has begun…
Assassination attempt on Syrian prime minister sends warning to regime (Christian Science Monitor) The Syrian prime minister survived a bomb attack on his convoy this morning in a wealthy neighborhood of Damascus, though his bodyguard was killed and several others were injured in the blast. The attack in the upscale neighborhood highlights the increasing vulnerability of the Assad regime, as it is home to many government officials and several embassies — including the Swiss embassy, located only 100 yards from the blast, according to the Associated Press…
Cardinal Dolan prays for kidnapped archbishops in Syria (U.S.C.C.B.) “We join with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in ‘praying that they may return to their communities soon.’ The kidnapping of two men of peace is a sign of the terrible violence that is destroying the fabric of Syrian society. We will continue to work through all channels with the Holy See, the diplomatic and international community and all agencies of good will. I plead for their release and for a political solution that ends the violence and protects the citizenship rights of all Syrians, including minorities”…
Settlers burn Greek Orthodox church land in Jerusalem (IMEMC) On Sunday evening, 28 April, a group of extremist Israeli settlers set fire to lands that belongs to the Greek Orthodox church in Wadi Hilweh, in occupied East Jerusalem. On Saturday, three Palestinians, member of the Al Maghribi family, in Sheikh Jarrah, were injured after the settlers burnt the family’s land near their home, and the fire reached their residence…
26 April 2013
Tags: Lebanon Israel Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Separation Barrier
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In Eritrea, a young Orthodox monk — wearing a modern digital watch — chants from an ancient manuscript. To learn more about the Orthodox faithful in Eritrea, read Ancient Church in Young Nation from the November 2003 issue of the magazine. (photo: Chris Hellier)
26 April 2013
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In this photograph from November 2012, Coptic Pope Tawadros II conducts an interview in Cairo.
(photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Jordan calls on U.N. to act on Syria crisis (The Daily Star) Jordan on Thursday called on the U.N. Security Council to declare the exodus of refugees from Syria a threat to international security and to organize a visit to the region. Jordan fears that with more than 505,000 Syrian refugees now in the country it risks being overwhelmed and drawn into the crisis, diplomats said. Jordan’s U.N. ambassador Prince Zeid al Hussein said in a letter to the Security Council that the huge influx across the border since the Syria conflict erupted in March 2011 “threatens the security and stability of our country”…
Coptic Pope says Christians feel sidelined and neglected (Reuters) Egypt’s Christians feel sidelined, ignored and neglected by Muslim Brotherhood-led authorities, who proffer assurances but have taken little or no action to protect them from violence, Coptic Pope Tawadros II said. In his first interview since emerging from seclusion after eight people were killed in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians this month, the pope called official accounts of clashes at Cairo’s Coptic cathedral on 7 April “a pack of lies”…
Syrian bishops’ kidnapping raises fears (The Daily Star) The abduction of two Christian bishops in Aleppo earlier this week has heightened Christian fears and deepened sectarian tensions in Syria and the region, senior Christian leaders told The Daily Star on Thursday…
Separation wall to be built in Cremisan Valley (Society of St. Yves Press Release) The Israeli Special Appeals Committee for land seizure under emergency law released its verdict last Wednesday, in the case of the Cremisan Valley against the separation wall. The verdict ruled in favor of the proposed second route, which leaves the convent on the Palestinian side of the wall…
Knights of Columbus international headquarters mounts display of Russian icons (Connecticut Post) Orthodox Christians revere Russian icons as sacred devotional pieces. But to others around the world, they are magnificent treasures, collected and cherished for their beauty, artistry and history. Simply put: The appeal of Russian icons is international, extending beyond religious or ethnic background. With this in mind, the museum at the Knights of Columbus’ international headquarters in New Haven (where the organization was founded) has mounted “Windows into Heaven: Russian Icons & Treasures,” which will be on view for more than a year — through 27 April 2014. The exhibition has opened in time for Orthodox Easter on Sunday, 5 May…
25 April 2013
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Children play basketball outside of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ezraa, Syria. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
While we await word on the fate of the two archbishops abducted earlier this week in northern Syria — and offer our prayers — we plumbed through our archives and unearthed an interesting story from a gentler time about the ancient Christian villages of the plain of Houran in southern Syria.
In 2004, writer Marlin Dick and photographer Armineh Johannes spent a week in the Houran capturing in word and film the lives of these Christians who tilled the same soil as their Roman ancestors, inhabited Roman houses and worshiped in ancient Byzantine churches.
Christians and Muslims in one village, Ezraa, together venerate St. George, “the patron saint of the town’s Greek Orthodox church, built in 512, and the oldest functioning church in Syria,” the author writes. He continues:
Like their Muslim neighbors, Christians often refer to the church as “Khudr Ezraa,” or St. George of Ezraa, using its Arabic name.
“Islam and Christianity both revere Khudr,” says the village’s Melkite Greek Catholic pastor, Father Elias Hanout. “Muslims and Christians here all study together and work together. Today we have a better understanding of each other. We visit each other, attend each other’s funerals and weddings.”
What seemed like a matter of routine in 2004 is today, just nine years later, exemplary. The Houran now hosts some of the fiercest fighting between government forces and rebels. And the fate of its peoples, churches and mosques remains unknown. What we have left are words and pictures, and in my own case, the memories of a memorable visit in autumn 1998.
After I had spent a long day visiting CNEWA-supported projects in the area, an elderly parish priest and his wife welcomed me into their home. I recall fondly their delightful company, and I can still taste the anise-flavored arak, the sweet stuffed eggplant and the succulent tomatoes from their tiny kitchen.
May the Houran’s fields bring forth fruit once again, and God preserve its people.
25 April 2013
Tags: Syria Unity Cultural Identity Village life Houran
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Jasmine and sisters in their apartment in Amman, Jordan. (photo: CNEWA)
This past March marked the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. When the dust from the invasion appeared to have settled, an insurgency more powerful than the invasion whipped through Iraq, its turbulence destroying what remained. Anarchy reigned and those powerless to defend themselves were its victims. Everything changed for Iraq’s Christians. Today, fewer than 300,000 Christians remain, but they live in the north after fleeing their homes in Baghdad. This past Easter, many of the faithful attended liturgies in churches protected by armed guards.
But those are the ones who stayed. About 700,000 Christians (or 70 percent of the prewar number of Christians in Iraq) were forced to leave their homeland. Among them was a young Christian woman named Jasmine. Her story reflects the stories of thousands of Christians who are now living in limbo and need a sign of hope.
I met Jasmine last year. She had been living in Jordanian capital of Amman with her mother and two sisters after fleeing Iraq in October of 2011.
Extremists demanded she convert to Islam. They laughed at her for being Christian. They harassed her sisters, who are mentally challenged. Jasmine’s father died five years ago. The family is poor and her mother is sick — but Jasmine eventually saved enough money to move them to safety in Jordan.
Now Jasmine and her family are scraping by in a poor slum. The family dreams of moving one day to North America. As with so many other refugees, she is awaiting resettlement for a new life. But the process has been prolonged and even put on hold due to the war in Syria.
It is a harsh life, but she still has hope, thanks to CNEWA, which provides families such as Jasmine’s with food, shelter, medicine and pastoral care — enabling her family and many others to live in dignity in such tough conditions.
This can only be done with your generous support.
Many more families need help. Your prayers and sacrifices are very much needed.
Click here to learn how you can help.
25 April 2013
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Some of the women of CNEWA’s world are these sisters from the Society of Nirmala Dasi (“Servants of God”) in India. In this 2007 photograph, they share a light moment over a meal at Anugraha Sadan (“House of Blessings”) in Trichur. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Aleena Gichie is a charitable giving advisor for CNEWA in New York.
“In the church and in the journey of faith, women … have a special role in opening the doors to the Lord.” So observed our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. And it sure is true here at the Catholic Near East Welfare Association! Women make CNEWA work. So I want to take a moment to share my appreciation for the women of CNEWA.
First are the sisters who do God’s work in the places we serve. For example, Sister Belaynesh in Ethiopia. She runs a Catholic school that serves the poorest of the poor. But her children receive a quality education and free meals to sustain them, thanks to her careful stewardship. I marvel at how she stretches every penny into a nickel and every nickel into a dime for the sake of her children. Sister Belaynesh doesn’t have much, but she is creative. Some of her classrooms are built from old shipping containers.
There are also the women who work in the nine CNEWA offices around the world. Perhaps the best known was Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M., who has been a part of our family for many years. You probably saw her photos and stories in ONE magazine or read the emails she used to send. Sister Christian is now retired, but not without blessing us with her gifts — both on paper and in person. My prayers and gratitude are forever with her.
Eileen Fay is another wonderful woman of CNEWA. You may have had the pleasure of speaking with Eileen if you have ever called our New York office. She is a donor relations representative who has worked with us for more than 50 years. Eileen recently retired. Yet she didn’t leave us — she continues to support the mission of CNEWA by very generously volunteering three days a week.
Last but not least are the women who are reading this blog post — our donors! You deserve a special “thank you,” for you are the ones who make possible our great work. With your help, CNEWA and our partners, like Sister Belaynesh, are able to do far more good. God bless you and all of the women in our family. You are making it a better world for all!
To learn about some of the other great women working with CNEWA, check out this video. And to find out how you can help keep their work going, visit this giving page.
25 April 2013
Tags: CNEWA Education Sisters Donors Women
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In this photo from February, a Syrian refugee woman who asked not to be identified is pictured in the room where she lives in the Syriac Center of St. Gabriel Syriac Orthodox Church in Ajaltoun, Lebanon. When violence escalated in her hometown of Qamishli, she fled, carrying with her a statue of Mary, which she keeps in her room. (photo: CNS/Dalia Khamissy)
Syrian government faces intensifying religiously-motivated attacks (Fides) The recent destruction of the minaret of the Umayyad mosque in Aleppo and the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops symbolize “crossing a red line” in the Syrian conflict…
Plea for unity of Christians in Middle East (Vatican Radio) An urgent appeal for an end to the violence in Syria has been made by the Global Christian Forum, a broad ecumenical network of Christian churches, communities and movements which met earlier this month in Amman, Jordan...
Russian official begins visit to Lebanon (The Daily Star) Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov will begin a three-day visit to Lebanon Thursday with developments in Syria high on the agenda. Bogdanov will hold talks with Lebanese officials including President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, the source added. The Russian envoy will also hold meetings with Lebanese political and spiritual leaders…
Holy See’s permanent observer to UN issues call to eradicate poverty (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt places “the integral development of the human person at the center of all efforts to eradicate poverty” in a statement to the United Nation’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals…
Ukrainian Christian honored for saving ruined synagogue (Jewish Times) A Ukrainian Christian who saved a dilapidated rural synagogue was honored at an interfaith forum in Kiev. Boris Slobodnyuk of Satanov received the forum’s 2013 Crystal Noah Tolerance Award on Tuesday at the Kiev Interfaith Forum for guarding the 500-year-old Stanovskaya synagogue in western Ukraine and initiating renovation work there…
24 April 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Refugees Ukraine United Nations
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Catechism and Bible study are priorities for Indian-American Christian communities. (photo: Maria Bastone)
Indian Christians can be a rare sight in the United States — and several years ago, we looked at the ways many struggle to fit in:
Ask an Indian Christian how Americans react to this particular combination of nationality and religion and almost everyone has a story. Most stories are benign, some even comical with Americans’ inquiries ranging from curious to clueless.
“Many people want to know when I converted,” said Father Saji George, a 35-year-old Syro-Malankara Catholic priest in Hempstead, New York, explaining that most Indian Christians, particularly those from the southern state of Kerala, were born into the faith.
Susamma Seeley, a 29-year-old Syro-Malankara Catholic from Elmont, New York, is always a little shocked and amused when “people ask what tribe I’m from.”
Because most of India’s one billion people are Hindu, the country is internationally regarded as such. As a result, an Indian man named Samuel Abraham or an Indian woman dressed in a colorful sari carrying a Bible may elicit surprise among Americans.
Like other immigrants, Indian Christians have to work at establishing new homes for their faith and culture — much as Italian-Americans created Little Italy, observed patronal feasts and danced the tarantella at weddings.
Read more about the New World Children of St. Thomas in the May-June 2003 issue of our magazine.
24 April 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity United States Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Immigration Indian Christians
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A member of a Free Syrian Army walks past destroyed buildings and debris in Deraa on 17 April. Pope Francis is offering “intense prayers” for the safety and liberation of two Orthodox archbishops kidnapped in Syria, for effective responses to the humanitarian crisis created by the civil war and for peace in the nation, the Vatican spokesman said. (photo: CNS/Thaer Abdallah, Reuters)
Fate of clerics held in Syria is disputed (New York Times) A Christian advocacy group, L’Oeuvre d’Orient, which assists Middle Eastern Christians, posted a statement on its Web site that the two kidnapping victims — Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo — had been freed early Tuesday afternoon. The group, based in Paris, said the archbishops were staying in a Greek Orthodox church in Aleppo, the northern city that has been a combat zone since last summer. Despite the reports that the archbishops had been freed, there was no confirmation, and as the day progressed contradictory accounts emerged. Abdel-Ahad Steifo, a Syriac Orthodox member of the National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the main political opposition group, said in an interview on Al Jazeera that the archbishops were still being held by the kidnappers…
Pope offers prayers for Orthodox archbishops kidnapped in Syria (CNS) Acknowledging “conflicting reports” about two Orthodox archbishops kidnapped in Syria, Pope Francis prayed for them and for an end to the war in their country. At his audience, Pope Francis said the kidnappings were “another sign of the tragic situation the dear Syrian nation is living through with violence and weapons continuing to sow death and suffering.” The pope said: “While I keep the two bishops in my prayers so that they would return quickly to their communities, I ask God to enlighten hearts”…
Syria’s Christians threatened by ideology, geography (Al Monitor) Throughout the two-year-old Syrian civil war, the world powers as well as the Syrian parties involved have said that the country’s minorities, especially its Christians, face an existential threat. The tragedy of Syria’s Christians is linked to not only fundamentalist and ideological motives but also to geostrategic calculations. Wadi al Ouyoun and Wadi al Nasra, which have a million Christians and are the largest continuous Christian settlements in the Middle East, sit on the banks of the Orontes River. This region separates the Syrian Desert from Syria’s “green areas.” Military experts assert that whoever controls the area of the valleys would be able to split Syria in two, cut the road to Aleppo at either Homs or Hama and cut the Latakia-Tartus road on the coast. To put it even more simply, the experts say that whoever controls the Christian areas can control the war in Syria…
Iraqi violence sparks fears of a Sunni revolt (L.A. Times) Security forces for the Shiite-led Iraqi government raided a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on Tuesday, igniting violence around the country that left at least 36 people dead. The unrest led two Sunni officials to resign from the government and risked pushing the country’s Sunni provinces into an open revolt against Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite. The situation looked to be the gravest moment for Iraq since the last United States combat troops left in December 2011…
Iraqi refugees finally beat the odds (The Catholic Register) The Meera family have endured two wars, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution and a lot of bureaucracy, but with the help of a Catholic parish in Brampton, Ontario, the six Iraqi Christian refugees have fought their way into Canada. The Meeras arrived at Pearson International Airport April 8 after seven years living as refugees in the poor Jermannya neighbourhood in Damascus, Syria. The big surprise waiting for them at the airport was a noisy, excited welcoming delegation from St. Anthony of Padua parish, the Meera’s sponsors. “We never thought there would be that love, that support,” said the Meera patriarch, 57-year-old Habeeb Meera. The Meeras beat the odds over and over on their way to Canada…
Romanian U.S. eparchy expands to include Canada (Eparchy of St. George) The Holy See announced on 23 April that it has extended the jurisdiction of the Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St. George the Martyr in Canton, Ohio, to include Romanian Catholics in all of Canada. The Romanian Greek Catholic Church is one of the Eastern Christian churches in full communion with the Pope, which in 1948 was abolished by communists in Romania but continued to exist underground in Romania and in diaspora. Currently, the Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St. George in Canton is the only Diocese for the Romanian Greek Catholics outside of Romania, encompassing 21 parishes and missions as well as two monastic communities in the United States and Canada. To learn more about this church's history, see our profile of The Romanian Church United with Rome from the May 2006 issue of ONE…
Tags: Syrian Civil War Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Romanian Catholic Church
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