29 April 2019
Adanech Sebro and Belay Tesema chat with visitors in their home in Wonji.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the current edition of ONE, journalist Emeline Wuilbercq reports on efforts by the Catholic Church to help build stronger families in Ethiopia. She offers some additional impressions below.
In January, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. National reconciliation and the peace agreement signed with Eritrea were mentioned during their exchange.
This visit was an opportunity to highlight the contribution of the Catholic Church in Africa’s second most populous country, which is considered one of the oldest Christian nations.
Despite the small number of Catholics — they represent less than 1 percent of Ethiopia’s estimated 105 million people, according to the 2007 census — the Catholic Church is highly respected. It supports health and education and administers a few hundred schools throughout the country.
But the presence of the Prime Minister at the Vatican was also very symbolic. He is a devoted Pentecostal, his father is a Muslim and his late mother was a Christian Orthodox. The visit underscored his tolerance and respect for other people’s spiritual beliefs — qualities that characterize many Ethiopians. This has always impressed me since I arrived in the country in 2015. Here, people from different religions live together peacefully. They respect one another. They even celebrate together major religious festivities. But, they mostly don’t interfere in each other’s practices and formalities.
For instance, in January, while I was reporting on a workshop on marriage and conflict resolution for Catholic families, the first couple I met in the town of Wonji were remarkably candid. They were willing to share their experiences to people from different religious backgrounds, in a very respectful manner.
Those who attended this carefully crafted workshop are expected to spread Catholic values — such as dialogue, patience, tolerance and spirituality — in their own communities and create a network of strong Catholic families that can live and prosper as one.
Conscious of the religious diversity in their country, Belay and Adanech, the main subjects for my story in ONE magazine, were sharing their experiences without imposing their beliefs. They were giving advice to their neighbors “as a family,” not specifically as Catholics. That shows how the Catholic community is willing to help and advise individuals from various backgrounds, all while following the words of Jesus Christ: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
That also shows the uniqueness of Ethiopia.
The respect for religious diversity is far from the global norm. But living together harmoniously is possible. Ethiopia offers the world a beautiful example.
Read more about why Family Matters in the March 2019 edition of ONE.
29 April 2019
Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics around the world celebrated Easter this past weekend — and many decorated their homes with psyanky. Learn more about the rich tradition surrounding these eggs and how they are made in The Colors of Easter in the March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Erin Edwards)
29 April 2019
The video above shows some of the thousands of Christians who gathered in Jerusalem Saturday to receive and pass on the 'Holy Fire' marking Orthodox Easter. (video: YouTube)
Huge crowds mark Orthodox Easter with ‘Holy Fire’ (The Times of Israel) Huge crowds of pilgrims on Saturday marked the “Holy Fire” ceremony at Christianity’s holiest site in Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of Orthodox Easter. Some 10,000 Christians holding candles squeezed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Thousands more crammed the square outside and surrounding streets to receive the flame, representing the resurrection of Christ, which passed from candle to candle and will be taken back to Orthodox churches worldwide…
India searches for ISIS suspects (The Daily Star) India’s elite counter-terror body National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out searches at the houses of three suspects in Kerala on Sunday in connection with a suspected Islamic State (ISIS) module in which 21 Indians are said to have traveled to Syria and Afghanistan and joined ISIS in 2016…
Indian election a battle for hearts and minds (UCANews.com) The ongoing general election in India will decide who will rule its 1.2 billion people for the next five years. But the run-up to the polls not only pitted political parties against each other but also divided Indian intelligentsia, sadly centered on a bigoted religious ideology…
Syrian refugees in Lebanon evicted (Al Jazeera) At least 50 Syrian refugees, including children, have been evicted from an informal settlement along Lebanon’s Litani River as part of an anti-pollution drive, bringing the total number of refugees forced out of the area this year to 1,500…
Sri Lanka bans face coverings (CNN) Any face covering that “hinders the identification of individuals in a way that threatens national security” is now banned in Sri Lanka, according to a statement from the country’s President. The move follows a series of bombings on Easter Sunday that killed more than 250 people and wounded at least 500 in Sri Lankan churches and hotels…
How social media and political division feed attacks on sacred spaces (The Washington Post) Inspired by the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and enabled by the largely unchecked freedoms of social media, individual extremists have launched a steady series of assaults on religious institutions around the world, the latest at a California synagogue…
26 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Muslim Persecution
In this image from several years ago, Macedonian worshipers greet Easter with lighted candles at St. Nikolai Church in Ohrid on Holy Saturday — which many there will observe this weekend.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Around the world, many Christians are still preparing to celebrate Easter this weekend. A few years ago, I posted this piece to help explain why:
At present the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches calculate the date of Easter differently than the Orthodox churches. This results in both sets of Christian churches often having different dates for Easter. The bishops believed that all Christians celebrating Easter on the same day would be a sign of Christian unity.
When I was asked to write on this, I thought that there were some deep theological differences involved. Research into the topic made me realize that I was in the exciting area of “things I thought I knew but didn’t.” To understand more, you have to start at the beginning — the very beginning.
I know that the Gospels are not in total agreement about the date of the Last Supper. The Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) see the Last Supper taking place on the first day of Passover, which began at sundown on Thursday. John, on the other hand, sees the Last Supper taking place on the evening before Passover, which according to John would have begun Friday at sunset. I was aware of a group of Christians in the early church called the “Quattuordecimans” (“Fourteeners”) who celebrated Easter on the 14th of Nisan, the same day Jews celebrated Passover. For the Quattuordecimans, Easter could fall on any day of the week. Most Christians, however, celebrated Easter on the Sunday after Passover. There were some controversies between the two groups. The Council of Nicea (325), however, settled the matter and decreed that Easter would be on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. The date of the equinox, with some slight astronomical inaccuracy, was determined as 21 March.
It would seem, then, that the question was solved in 325. What was the problem? The problem was not based on a deep, theological or mystical difference. The problem was based on an astronomical calculation: the length of the calendar year.
Read on to understand more about why there are two dates for Easter.
And to our Eastern and Orthodox siblings: Have a blessed and happy Easter this Sunday!
26 April 2019
Tags: Easter Eastern Catholic Churches
Both Christian and Muslim public prayers have been suspended in parts of Sri Lanka, and many Muslims say they fear reprisal attacks, following last weekend's suicide bombings reportedly carried out by a group linked to ISIS. (video: SkyNews/YouTube)
Sri Lanka fears new attacks as weekend prayers begin (CNN) The ongoing hunt for terrorist suspects in Sri Lanka, and fears of reprisal attacks, have cast a shadow over the country still reeling from the devastation of the Easter Sunday bombings. Sri Lankans of different faiths were being urged to pray privately amid fears of further attacks Friday, as the country’s prime minister told CNN that security forces were also working to pick up any terrorist “sleepers” — who could activate to initiate another round of attacks…
Daily life in war-weary Damascus (Bloomberg) The road to Damascus from the Lebanese border leaves nobody in doubt who has won the war that’s cast a dark shadow over the Middle East for eight years. “Welcome to victorious Syria,” a billboard says with a picture of a beaming President Bashar al-Assad superimposed over the country’s red, white and black flag. Instead of a frenzy of reconstruction and the promise of revival, Syrians have found themselves fighting another battle. Weary and traumatized from the violence, they’re focused on trying to survive in a decimated economy that shows no signs of imminent revival and with no peace dividend on the horizon…
New generation of refugees emerging in Jordan camp (Al Jazeera) Zaatari camp in Jordan near the Syrian border is home to almost 80,000 refugees — 40 percent of them aged under 11…
Indian archbishop seeks apology from pro-Hindu politician (UCANews.com) Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore has sought an apology from a pro-Hindu politician for describing Christians as dishonest and unpatriotic. Archbishop Machado, who heads the bishops’ council in Karnataka state, said K.S. Eshwarappa, a senior leader of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), should publicly apologize for his statement…
Orthodox mark Good Friday (The Times of Israel) Orthodox Christians from around the world marked Good Friday with a procession through Jerusalem’s Old City, retracing the steps Jesus is said to have taken on the way to his death. Thousands of pilgrims, many carrying wooden crosses and at least one wearing a crown of thorns on his head, visited the 14 Stations of the Cross marking the traditional sites of Jesus’s condemnation up to his crucifixion…
25 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Muslim Orthodox Damascus
A young woman holds candles during a vigil in Lahore, Pakistan, on 23 April 2019, in solidarity with the victims of Sri Lanka's Easter suicide bomb attacks. (photo: CNS/Mohsin Raza, Reuters)
At Mass a few weeks ago, I heard an unusual noise coming from the entrance of the church. Without thinking, I turned and found myself fearing the worst. An attack? After Mass I asked others if they felt the same way and, to my surprise, some did. How many of us are experiencing this type of fear in our places of worship? For most Canadians, the answer is not at all; the risk of this happening is still very slim, after all.
But it may not feel that way. This past Easter Sunday, the killings of innocent Catholics while celebrating Mass in Sri Lanka would certainly reinforce this fear. We could add to this the stabbing of a priest while celebrating Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal; just before that, the killing of innocent Muslims in a New Zealand mosque; and last year, the killing of innocent Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The list, regrettably, goes on.
Are these despicable acts of terror and inhumanity starting to have their effect on our sense of safety?
As we just celebrated the great feast of Easter — not just with chocolate bunnies but with the same spiritual vibrancy that millions of Christians still feel today — let’s remember that there is another way to fight this looming fear.
I’m refering to the Christians of countries such as Egypt who, over the past 10 years or so, have experienced the worst at the hands of well-armed and organized extremist groups that are determined to target minorities on specific feasts and in sacred spaces. Easter and Christmas, for example, are moments of particular worry for thousands of Christians in that country.
A few years ago, I traveled to Egypt and experienced how this drama plays out. One night, in a rural town, I joined a local Coptic Catholic community to celebrate Epiphany. To my surprise, I saw a small battalion of well-armed men coming to the church. They’re here to protect us, I was told. Somehow this didn’t reassure me.
I was in shock to hear that this happens all over Egypt: armed men come to Mass to protect the faithful. “How do you do it?,” I asked, referring to the heavy burden and fear on their shoulders. Their answer was very simple. “There is a level of fear, sure, but we’ve been practicing our faith, here, for more than 2000 years,” I was told. “We’ve lived through much worse and we have a mission given to us by Jesus.”
And there it is. Our journey is to follow Christ, wherever that may lead us. We shouldn’t be afraid when we are led towards people who are different from us; but, rather, we should follow the example of Middle East Christians and persevere in encountering others through dialogue, service and love, no matter what. Each day, these Christians offer inspiring works in the areas of healthcare, education and service to the handicapped, elderly, poor and so many more, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.
All are welcome. They know by experience that God’s compassion and mercy are the keys to fighting fear, building lasting relationships and, ultimately, bringing a lasting peace.
The terrorists can attack them, and yes, there will be broken families, pain, and horror, as in Sri Lanka this past Easter weekend. However, our Egyptian brothers and sisters can be witnesses that the faith will remain and love will prevail through forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion. It isn’t easy to do — but what an example to follow.
These values are the basis of CNEWA’s mission and this is why we have been working with Eastern Christians in the Middle East, India, northeastern Africa and Eastern Europe since 1926. They are the ones who started it all with great sacrifices and pain — but also with an amazing and deep commitment to Jesus.
So yes: in my parish earlier this month, for a short moment, I was distracted. But ultimately, I will keep my focus on the love of Jesus, which will help me to counter fear and to live in peace — no matter what.
25 April 2019
Tags: Egypt CNEWA Canada
Asma Aradeh, quality control manager, and Nawal Aradeh, project manager for SEP Jordan, pose for a photo at their workshop in Jerash, Jordan. Palestinian refugee women are turning their traditional embroidery handicraft into a successful international social enterprise business.
(photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)
The poorest of Jordan’s 10 camps for Palestinian refugees would seem to be the unlikeliest place from which to launch an international business, but SEP Jordan is no usual enterprise.
Here, 350 Palestinian refugee women -- and a few Syrians -- practice their traditional craft of embroidery, but with a modern twist.
Inside a bright canary yellow-colored building among the camp’s rabbit-warren of narrow alleyways, a beige tote bag is embroidered in an Islamic geometric pattern suggesting sun bursts of orange, pink and yellow, while another captures the colors of the sea in navy, light blue and tan.
Another woman edges a silken white beach tunic in turquoise embroidery, while a lavender cashmere scarf gets embellished with intricate needlework in mauve. Traditional Bedouin red and white and Palestinian black and white kaffiyeh scarves take on a new spin with multicolored embroidery accents.
SEP stands for Social Enterprise Project. Its founder and CEO, Roberta Ventura, is a former Italian stockbroker, who decided about five years ago that she “could no longer just stand and look at the situation in refugee camps deteriorating without private sector involvement.”
“When I see refugees, I see a huge untapped potential, like you and me, who had to leave their homes,” Ventura told Catholic News Service.
Nawal Aradeh, project manager, told CNS that her job with the company “completely changed my life, because it gave me the chance to generate an income at a time when my personal circumstances were dire.”
“It was absolutely necessary for me to help myself and my six children. I felt overwhelmed by how I was going to do it because there are few job opportunities in the camp,” explained Aradeh, a former teacher in her late 40s, dressed in a simple white headscarf and long black cloak.
Aradeh is a Palestinian refugee who was raised in Jerash, 30 miles north of the capital, Amman. Jerash is considered one of the largest and best-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside of Italy.
Yet it also has the impoverished Gaza Camp, where Palestinians fled during the Arab-Israeli wars. Aradeh and the other Palestinian refugee women participating in SEP Jordan grew up in Gaza Camp.
Selected out of hundreds of social enterprises, SEP Jordan was recognized for its groundbreaking work to improve the lives of refugees at an event in Vatican City hosted by Cardinal Peter Turkson last December.
The same month, SEP Jordan became one of 15 enterprises chosen by the Washington-based Laudato Si’ Challenge organization, inspired by Pope Francis, “to effectively and sustainably improve the lives of 10 million refugees, migrants and internally displaced people by 2020.”
Ventura emphasizes that SEP Jordan’s mission is to “bring thousands of refugees above the poverty line in a way which is driven by their talent.”
Raised a Catholic, she is happy to have quit her finance career to devote herself to working with the refugees, whom she considers artists of their handiwork craft. She also sees her new job as a type of calling.
Ventura and her economist husband, Stefano d’Ambrosio, have grounded the project on solid financial principles, so together with the women and a few men, such as regional manager Mahmoud Al Haj, SEP Jordan is the “first-ever private company ever to be set up in 50 years of the Gaza Camp’s existence,” she said. It is neither a nongovernmental organization nor a microcredit project.
“It helps that the women identify themselves with the brand, and they aren’t beneficiaries of aid. We are colleagues. They had enough of small microloans, fearing they could never pay them back,” Ventura said.
Asma Aradeh, 37, started as an embroiderer at the project and now heads up quality control. She, too, said the employment enabled her to move out of a decrepit, tin-roofed building where rain poured in during winter months and into a safe home for her family.
Besides the obvious economic advantages to the project, Asma Aradeh said it carries the added therapeutic value to their craft.
“Embroidering is relaxing and relieves stress. All the pressures are released when you are making each stitch,” Asma Aradeh, a mother of six, told CNS. “You feel a release from tension, tiredness, financial pressures and other things weighing you down psychologically and physically.”
However, SEP Jordan is not just a “feel-good” project; its high-quality craftsmanship caught the eye of award-winning Hollywood costume designer Jacqueline Durran, who employed some of the women to hand embroider costumes in the film, “Mary Magdalene,” starring Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix.
The movie portrays Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most important followers who also witnessed his crucifixion and resurrection. Durran said it was an “incredibly rewarding experience” working with the team of artists at SEP Jordan.
Their creations are also sold in high-end stores such as Harrod’s in London and in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad. A new shop featuring the quality goods has opened in Geneva, and SEP Jordan’s products are also sold at the Landmark Hotel in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
“When the women cross-stitch, they put their feelings and emotions within the threads of their piece,” said Asma Aradeh, summing up the feelings of those involved.
“That’s why every stitch tells a story. And there is a story really behind every piece,” she said.
25 April 2019
Tags: Refugees Jordan
A prelate swings a censer over the casket of a victim during a funeral Mass in Negombo, Sri Lanka on 24 April 2019, three days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island. (photo: CNS/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters)
India’s Latin-rite Church dedicates Divine Mercy Sunday to Sri Lanka bomb victims (Vatican News) India’s Latin-rite Church has pledged its closeness and solidarity with the victims of the terrorist bomb attacks in Sri Lanka on Sunday, dedicating Divine Mercy Sunday on 28 April as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Church and people of the island nation. Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), that comprises the country’s Latin-rite bishops, released a statement on Wednesday, inviting CCBI member dioceses and the major superiors of religious congregations to join the initiative…
Sri Lanka: Interreligious dialogue vital to healing process (Vatican News) Father Indunil Janakaratne is Undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which sent its condolences to President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka following the attacks. He underlined that interreligious dialogue has never been so vital. “Interreligious dialogue helps us to overcome these prejudices; interreligious dialogue also helps us to heal the wounds; interreligious dialogue helps us to build bridges,” he said…
Human chain in India honors Sri Lanka victims (UCANews.com) About 100 people including Muslims held hands to form a human chain in front of New Delhi’s Sacred Heart Cathedral to pay homage to the victims of suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed 359 people, mostly Christians. Leaders from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths joined hands on 23 April to express solidarity with families of victims of the Easter Sunday blasts…
USCCB names new head of ecumenical and interreligious affairs (USCCB) Rev. Walter Kedjierski of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York has been appointed as Executive Director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), based in Washington D.C…
Former Coptic monks sentenced to death for killing bishop (BBC) Two former Coptic Christian monks have been sentenced to death in Egypt over the murder of a bishop last year, officials have confirmed. Bishop Epiphanius, 64, was found dead in a pool of blood in July 2018 at a desert monastery north-west of Cairo. Authorities blamed the killing on unspecified “differences” between the monks and the bishop…
24 April 2019
Tags: India Egypt Interreligious Coptic Christians Persecution
In this image from 2016, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, leads benediction at the Al Bishara School in the Ain Kawa area of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. He remains inspired and deeply moved by the resilience and faith of those CNEWA is privileged to serve around the world. (photo: CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, offers a few thoughts on the power of the cross — and the spirit of Easter:
During a number of my pastoral visits, not only have I witnessed firsthand the extreme sufferings of war, famine, natural disasters and the like, I have witnessed and been uplifted by the resilience of the human spirit. The survivors of these disasters not only survive, they thrive — oftentimes as a result of their profound faith and, among Christians, their support of the church. CNEWA is honored and humbled to witness this in our role of accompaniment of the local church.
I think of the large numbers of refugees of every age who had to flee the ravages of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But I especially recall the courageous women who carried their babies and clutched the arms of their elderly mothers and grandparents as they fled persecution to an unknown land — and a very uncertain future. But, inspired by their faith and nurtured by the church, they carried with them an abundance of hope, which has led them to a new life. Even if “new life” has meant living in a refugee camp or a cramped apartment, they have maintained their hope and have joyfully expressed it in their prayers and liturgical celebrations. I have had the great joy of participating in some of these liturgical events and have come away uplifted and renewed in my own faith.
The prominence of the cross of Jesus has been visible everywhere: on the fronts of tents or humble shelters, worn around their necks, painted on the exteriors of gathering places or displayed in some other ways. It proudly proclaims their identity and their sense of hope.
You’ll want to read it all — and check out the inspiring and thoughtful video reflection he offers below:
24 April 2019
Women hold signs during a 23 April 2019, prayer vigil outside a Catholic church in New Delhi, India, in solidarity with the victims of Sri Lanka's Easter suicide bomb attacks.
(photo: CNS/Adnan Abidi, Reuters)
Tags: India Persecution