19 February 2015
On Monday, 16 February, Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury of the British Orthodox Church — a jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church — appeared on a BBC news broadcast to speak on the recent killing of Copts by the Islamic State in Libya. (source: British Orthodox Church YouTube channel)
Jerusalem’s Copts mourn Egyptian Christians beheaded in Libya (Jerusalem Post) Just days after Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, dozens of Coptic Christians attended a prayer service in Jerusalem’s Coptic Orthodox church located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday to mourn the victims…
Russian Orthodox patriarch extends condolences to Copts (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent condolences to the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Mr. Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and Pope Tawadros II over the murder of more than 20 Coptic Christians in Libya…
Ukrainian Orthodox Church patriarchates at odds over Ukraine conflict (AsiaNews.it) Representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate said they were “concerned” that Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, had given encouragement to the government to continue the fight in Donbass. In an interview, Metropolitan Filaret rejected the charges against him…
Indian bishops call for “concrete action” to back prime minister’s words (Vatican Radio) “Words to be followed by concrete action.” With this remark, the Catholic bishops of India responded to a statement by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who promised commitment on the part of his government to protect religious minorities…
Migration Congress recommendations released (Vatican Radio) The final document of the 7th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants was made public on Thursday, and called for those charged with the mission of teaching within the church to make an effort to broaden their knowledge and turn theory into practice at the local level. The full text of the document is below…
18 February 2015
Tags: India Ukraine Violence against Christians Copts Libya
Best friends Mariam and Demiana share a happy moment at the Good Samaritan Orphanage. (photo: Amal Morcos)
In the winter edition of ONE magazine, contributor Amal Morcos visits two child care institutions in Egypt helping vulnerable children. She offers some additional perspectives below.
Egyptians love to refer to their country as the “mother of the world.” But, if you are an Egyptian Christian orphan longing for the love of a parent, a combination of Islamic tradition, an unclear law and even international politics will make your chances of being legally adopted practically nil.
The Egyptian constitution — which states that it is “inspired” by Islamic religious law, known as Sharia — actually bans adoption.
Why Islam forbids adoption is not clear. Some believe it is in order to maintain a clear bloodline and to ensure rightful inheritance. Others believe it to be a reaction to Muhammad’s marriage to the former wife of his adopted son, which was a source of scandal in the community.
According to Atonement Friar Elias Mallon of CNEWA, “Islamic law sees three types of orphans: the fatherless (such as Muhammad), who ceases to be an orphan at puberty; the motherless; and the abandoned. “The first one is the one that gets the most attention. There is a great deal of material in the Quran harshly condemning oppressing or cheating the orphan. However, Islamic law is very complicated concerning who inherits what and whom one can marry or not marry. It is precisely here that it gets convoluted. “There is a type of acceptance of the orphan called kafalah, but this has nothing to do with what Western law considers adoption.
“In a traditional society with extended families this was not a problem since children were taken in. In a modern or at least urbanized society this is causing some problems. It has also come up before the European Court of Human Rights. There is also an inner discussion going on about adoption.”
But does Egypt’s law extend to Christians? This is where things get really murky. Those who support legal adoption in Egypt say the law does not explicitly prevent Christians from adopting. Adoptions by Christians do take place, arranged mostly by the churches. Some government officials are aware of this practice and turn a blind eye. Those who don’t fear Christians will adopt Muslims in order to raise them as Christians.
The legal stakes have been raised since two American couples were convicted by an Egyptian court in 2008 of trying to adopt children from a Christian orphanage and remove them from the country. Some observers believed Egypt’s government at the time, under Hosni Mubarak, staged the trial to show that Egypt was cracking down on human trafficking. (The U.S. government had criticized Egypt for not doing enough to prevent African migrants from trafficking into Israel.)
Since the revolution that toppled Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has had two governments. The president who was elected after Mubarak, Muhammad Morsi, led the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s leading Islamist party. He tried to pass a constitution that critics said “further disenfranchised” non-Muslims — especially Christians. After the military toppled Morsi in July 2013, Egyptian Muslims and Christians overwhelmingly endorsed a revised constitution in a referendum in January 2014. While the new constitution prohibits political parties to be affiliated with religions or religious movements, and grants greater freedom of expression, it remains to be seen whether the current government will move to improve the status of Egypt’s Christians, including her orphans.
Read more in Egypt’s Good Samaritans in the winter edition of ONE.
18 February 2015
Tags: Egypt Christian-Muslim relations Islam Orphans/Orphanages Christian
A young girl leads her visually impaired classmates to their house in San Joe Puram in Faridabad, India. (photo: John Mathew)
In the Winter 2014 issue of ONE, Jose Kavi reports on a Syro-Malabar Catholic institution providing care and education for children in northern India, with a special focus on girls with disabilities:
As with [ninth-grader] Diksha, [tenth-grader] Bhanu says life among the San Joe Puram children has given him a desire to help others. Both he and Diksha dote on Uma, a visually impaired girl in the tenth grade.
“Uma sings and studies well. We never consider her ‘blind,’ ” Bhanu says. He recalls Uma going on rides with them at a class picnic. “Most children were terrified and screaming, but Uma was cool. She is more courageous than us.”
Diksha was thrilled when she was asked to take notes for Uma. “We have become close friends,” she says.
Carmelite Sister Nancy George, the principal, is happy to see such developments among her students. She says village students vie with each other to help the children who reside at St. Joe Puram — they push wheelchairs, carry school bags and guide the visually impaired to various places in the school. The result, she believes, could help transform her country.
“We are creating a new generation that is sensitive and caring.”
Read more in A Place of Promise — and Providence.
18 February 2015
Tags: India Children Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Orphans/Orphanages Disabilities
A boy looks at his flooded home in the village of Mifol, Albania, on 3 February. Floods caused by heavy rains forced the evacuation of hundreds of villagers. (photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images)
Orthodox Church of Albania aids areas hit by flooding (Orthodox Church of Albania) The massive rainfalls at the beginning of February caused flooding in many parts of Albania. The area most affected was southern Albania, where many villages suffered severe damage to households and, in some cases, agricultural production and livestock. The Albanian Orthodox has responded by shipping boxes of food and clothing to the local areas affected…
Chaldean patriarch’s call for prayer for unity (Vatican Radio) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I urged prayer, reflection, discernment and examination of conscience in a message commemorating the beginning of the Lenten season. The patriarch lamented the sin of division and invited all Muslim brothers and sisters to join Christians in fasting for the intention of peace, stability and dignity…
‘Guantanamo of the East’: Ukraine locks up refugees at EU’s behest (Der Spiegel) Most migrants reach Europe through Italy or Greece. Many die on the way. A broad coalition, with voices ranging from Pope Francis to German President Joachim Gauck, is demanding better protection for refugees on Europe’s southern border and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, describes the route across the Mediterranean as the world’s deadliest. But when it comes to the eastern route, and the fate of migrants like Hasan Hirsi — who describes how Ukrainian security forces robbed, beat and tortured him — interest has thus far been limited…
Syrian army gains ground in Aleppo offensive (Al Akhbar) The Syrian army and its allied forces continue to fight in neighborhoods under the control of the opposition in the city of Aleppo, and to break the siege around the towns of Nubl and Al Zahraa in the city’s northern countryside…
War separates lovers in Aleppo (Al Monitor) Twenty-three-year-old Louay was not alone on Valentine’s night, but he wasn’t with his girlfriend, either. He and some lovesick friends gathered by candlelight for an intimate evening. Louay arranged candles in the shape of the letter R and told his friends about the last time he saw his girlfriend, Rama. More than 13 months have passed since Louay and Rama’s last meeting. In February 2014, regime forces closed the only crossing that connected the two parts of Aleppo — the eastern side under opposition control, and the western side under the regime. As a result, the city has been divided and families separated. All of Louay’s friends have their own love stories to tell, all marked by the same kind of suffering — a lost future, a divided country and a distant lover because of the raging war…
17 February 2015
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Aleppo Albania Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
Pope Francis greets new Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after presenting a red hat to him during a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 14 February. The pope created 20 new cardinals. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
17 February 2015
In the video above, Pope Francis offers prayers for the Coptic Christians slain over the weekend.
(video: Rome Reports)
Pope offers Mass for slain Copts (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered Mass Tuesday morning for the repose of the souls of the twenty-one Coptic Christians martyred for their faith in Christ. The Mass was attended by the Pope’s personal secretary, Abuna Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who is Coptic Catholic...
Statement by Coptic Orthodox Church (via Facebook and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church) The Coptic Orthodox Church headed by Pope Tawadros II lays in the hands of God - in this critical time — its innocent martyrs, assured that their great homeland will not rest until the evil perpetrators are justly punished for their evil crime...
Patriarch: slain Copts were “martyrs of the faith” (Fides) At the news of the massacre of 21 Egyptian Copts decapitated in Libya by jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Patriarch of Alexandria of Coptic Catholics, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, “offers his condolence to all the families of these martyrs who gave their lives for the faith, and at the same time expresses his gratitude to President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and all the institutions of the Egyptian government for giving an immediate response to this act of terrorism...”
Muslims and Christians condemn execution of Copts in Libya (L’Osservatore Romano) The barbarity shocked not only the Egyptian Christian community, but the more numerous Muslim authorities have also harshly condemned the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians who had had been held hostage for weeks by Libyan jihadists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State. Video of the execution was broadcast on the internet throughout the day on Sunday...
Pope creates 20 new cardinals (L’Osservatore Romano) “The more we are ‘incardinated’ in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit”. This was Pope Francis’ recommendation to the 20 Cardinals created in the Ordinary Public Consistory held on Saturday, 14 February, in the Vatican Basilica. Benedict XVI was also present at the Consistory...
Ethiopian cardinal: “A total surprise and a humbling experience” (Vatican Radio) Speaking just before the ceremony to Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa, the new Cardinal of Addis Ababa, Berhaneyesus Souraphiel described his nomination as a total surprise. “This nomination came as a total surprise to me... We did not know it. You see, in the former days these nominations were done through the Apostolic Nunciature. This time, this was done directly by Pope Francis himself. So it was a total surprise and a very humbling experience that the Holy Father has thought it fit to ask me to help him in his great responsibility of governing the universal Church,” Cardinal Berhaneyesus said...
Leaders seek to end fighting in eastern Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have agreed that fighting should end around a railway hub in eastern Ukraine where clashes continue despite a ceasefire accord...
Patriarch to Christians in India: churches are doorways to peace (The New Indian Express) Christian churches are the doorways to peace, said Patriarch of Antioch, supreme head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Ignatius Aphrem-II. Speaking after inaugurating the 40th annual celebrations at the Thuruthissery Valiyapalli at Nedumbassery on Monday, the Partriarch said, “a real Christian is a person who is able to love all human beings equally without any discrimination based on caste, creed or religion. Peace will reign only in a society that understands the love of God,” he said. The Patriarch was accorded a grand reception at the Thuruthissery Church...
13 February 2015
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ethiopia Muslim Coptic Christians
An Iraqi man carrying a cross and a Quran attends Mass at Baghdad’s Mar Girgis Church
on 20 July 2014. (photo: CNS photo/Ahmed Malik, Reuters)
In the Winter 2015 edition of ONE, we’ve just posted an online exclusive, wherein I look at at some of the challenges facing Muslims as they deal with Islamaphobia spreading through the West:
To be honest, the statement that “Islam is a religion of peace” is seen by many as less and less credible. This is not simply due to prejudices in the West, but to the actions of some Muslims themselves. While the West has played a devastating and regrettable role in destabilizing Iraq, in the past 10 years more than a million Christians have suffered; Christians have been killed, their assets have been plundered, and survivors have been forced into exile as refugees by Islamic movements in northwestern Iraq. ISIS’s aim to spread the caliphate around the world characterizes it as a religio-political ideology. Talk of the black flag of ISIS flying over the White House and other Western capitals does nothing to calm xenophobia in Europe and the West. Even paranoids can have real enemies.
Atrocities such as the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the Boko Haram in Nigeria and the recent slaughter of more than a 120 students in Peshawar, Pakistan, by the Taliban all have one thing in common: their actions are done in the name of Islam, using the Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad as justification and support. ISIS, Boko Haram and the Taliban are not small, isolated, fanatical splinter groups. They are not connected to Hinduism, Buddhism or any indigenous traditions. Rather, they are large and powerful Islamic movements. Their symbols are taken from Islam as is their supposed legal system. Often enough, their reading of the Quran and the Sunna is not weird or idiosyncratic, but straightforward and literal.
It is clear that many — indeed most — Muslims do not approve of such behavior and do not interpret the Quran in such exclusive and violent ways. Often without recognition from the West, Muslim scholars have done a great deal to counteract the ideology of ISIS. I totally agree with those Muslims who hold that these organizations are acting contrary to the values of Islam. However, it comes across as morally disingenuous to then absolve oneself simply by declaring that these movements are not Islamic. At times, some Muslim responses appear half-hearted — as if to avoid deeper, more disturbing questions. One sometimes gets the impression that the argument is: Because it has done these horrible things, ISIS is not Islamic.
There’s much more. Read the full essay in the online Winter edition of ONE.
13 February 2015
Young members of Jerusalem’s Armenian community socialize in the courtyard of the Cathedral of St. James. To learn more about this tiny group of Armenian Christians in the heart of the Holy Land, read “Living Here is Complicated” in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
13 February 2015
Ukrainians attend a funeral in Kiev on 2 February for a serviceman killed in the eastern Ukrainian conflict with Russia. (photo: CNS/Sergey Dolzhenko, EPA)
New accord raises hopes for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The United States and the European Union have expressed caution about a new Ukraine peace agreement reached during talks in Minsk between the Russian, Ukrainian, French and German leaders. Thursday's accord includes a ceasefire starting Sunday, followed by the withdrawal of weapons, the establishment of a demilitarized zone and the exchange of prisoners...
Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the U.S. issue appeal for prayers for peace (Pennsylvania Catholic Conference) The Ukrainian Catholic Bishops in the United States have issued an appeal to clergy, religious and faithful for meditation and fasting for Ukraine. In their letter, the bishops state “The bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine with Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk have asked their faithful to fast and to pray daily for various intentions, among them, for the President and elected officials of Ukraine, for the conversion of the aggressors, for the Ukrainian army, for those who protect citizens, for the souls of the deceased, and for unity and independence of Ukraine. Let us join them in holy prayer and fasting...
AP: High civilian death toll in Gaza strikes (AP) The Associated Press examined 247 airstrikes that — according to witness accounts and site visits — hit residential compounds, out of the some 5,000 Israeli strikes during the conflict. Its reporters compiled a detailed casualty count, determining 844 dead in those strikes. The review found that 508 of those dead — just over 60 percent — were children, women and older men, all presumed to be civilians. Hamas says it did not use women as fighters in the war, and an Israel-based research group tracking militants among the dead said it has no evidence women participated in combat...
Report: Islamic State plans to execute kidnapped Copts (Fides) The 21 Copts kidnapped in Libya in early January are in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State, who in an article published online foreshadow their execution by presenting it as a revenge against the alleged “violence” suffered in the past by Egyptian Muslim women on behalf of the Coptic Church...
In Armenia, towns without men as migrants leave to find work (The Washington Post) Winter is wedding season in Lichk because as soon as the snow melts, all the adult men here — and in the nine other towns served by its little church — leave to work in Russia. For years, these villages have been like countless others in former Soviet republics, where able-bodied men are lured to Russia by seasonal work and higher wages. But stiffer laws for foreign workers and Russia’s worsening economy are making many migrant laborers reconsider their annual journey. For the men of Lichk — and other Armenian workers, who as members of the Eurasian Economic Union don’t need special work permits in Russia — it has meant working abroad longer but sending less money home...
12 February 2015
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia Copts
Sister Terese Dorias is one of three sisters who helps care for the children at the Good Samaritan Orphanage in Cairo. To learn more about the remarkable work she and other sisters are doing, read ‘Egypt’s Good Samaritans’ in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Amal Morcos)
Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Orphans/Orphanages