8 April 2019
A photo shows the father of Mousa Kamar, Youssef Kamar, right front, carrying the large wooden cross during the Good Friday procession on the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Kamar family)
For four decades, Mousa Kamar has taken his place at the head of the heavy wooden cross used during the Franciscan Good Friday procession on the Via Dolorosa.
Kamar, 55, can be seen every year at the front left of the cross, the same position where his father used to carry the cross. His grandfather also helped carry the front of the cross. The scores of old black-and-white pictures, color photographs and magazine photos Kamar has collected and uploaded onto his Facebook page attest to the long-held family tradition.
“We do this not only because it is the tradition, but because we are religious and we truly believe in it,” said Kamar, looking over some of the photographs scattered on a coffee table as he sat in his mother’s living room in Jerusalem’s Old City, near the ninth station of the cross. This is the home where he grew up and where his paternal grandmother was born.
It takes about 20 men to carry the 3-meter (3.3-yard) cross on Good Friday, and traditionally each position on the cross was taken by a representative of a different family. Kamar is the only one who has continued with the tradition. As the older generation died off, the younger members of the other families did not continue with the tradition, he said.
The cross, though still large and heavy, is smaller than the one used generations ago, he said.
Even in the pushing and shoving of the procession, which sees local Catholics and pilgrims packing the cobblestone streets of the Old City as they make their way along the Via Dolorosa, Kamar said he is able to find a space within himself where he can reflect on the significance of the moment and on the life of Jesus.
“When I am carrying the cross I remember Jesus, how he died for us and how he walked all this way by himself,” said Kamar. “We are 20 people carrying it, and he carried it by himself. Especially as we stop at each station and it is mentioned where he fell (or other detail), it makes me feel like I am following the footsteps of Jesus.”
Kamar’s parents had run a family grocery store near the eighth station of the cross, and Graciella Matulleh Kamar, today 83, recalled the pride she felt as she would stand in the doorway of their shop on Good Friday and watch as her husband carried the cross during the procession. Her husband, Kamar’s father, was killed during the 1967 war in which Israel took over control of Jerusalem from the Jordanians.
“After he was killed, I couldn’t watch the procession anymore. It was too painful,” she said.
Only when Kamar, at age 15, stepped in to fill his father’s place was she able to once again watch the procession, she said.
Kamar was 5 when his father was killed.
“Especially on Good Fridays, my mother would tell me about how my father carried the cross and that one day I would carry it, too,” he said. “The first time I carried it I couldn’t sleep the night before, I was so excited about carrying the cross and filling that space my father had had.”
Several years ago, Kamar’s oldest son, Youssef, 20, also joined the group of men carrying the cross, but during the procession, he steps aside to let others take their turn. More recently, Kamar’s youngest son, Ramez, 15, began taking part in the carrying of the cross. One of the pictures shows a 13-year-old Ramez at the end of the cross, his head barely peeping over the top of the cross among the crowd of men surrounding it. With his dark curly hair and full cheeks he looks just like his father did in earlier pictures.
“It was very exciting to be able to carry the cross,” said Youssef Kamar. “In the future maybe I and my (future) sons will continue the family tradition. Although this is a tradition, it also helps me feel closer to Jesus and what he went through before being crucified.
“It is also a burden and an honor to do this,” he added. “Since I was young, I heard stories about this family tradition and, since my father, and his father and his grandfather have done this, I think it is important to keep the tradition and to keep our religion alive.”
In preparation for the procession, Mousa Kamar spends Holy Week in prayer, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre every day after work and participating in the liturgical ceremonies, including the traditional veneration of the pillar of Jesus’ flagellation, the washing of the feet pilgrimage to the Cenacle, and holy hour on Holy Thursday at Gethsemane.
He said he uses the time to meditate and pray for Christian unity and a strengthening of Christian religious identity, which he feels is being lost.
“All week I am praying, preparing to carry the cross, linking how Jesus suffered for us to the Palestinian situation. He fought for us, sacrificed himself for us but, unfortunately, we are losing our Christianity. I always pray for that, that people will return to the foundations of Christianity,” he said noting that Christians in the Middle East are living a difficult reality with close to 50 percent of the Christian population having emigrated.
“We love Jesus and we feel we are a part of Jesus. Every corner, every stone in Jerusalem is directly about Jesus.”
8 April 2019
Meetings are taking place to discuss the fate of displaced Syrians trapped in a remote camp. The U.S. is urging Russia and Syria to deliver humanitarian aid to the camp. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
U.S. urges Russia, Syria to facilitate aid to remote camp (AP) The U.S. military says it is not preventing Syrians from leaving a remote displacement camp near an American base in Syria and is urging Russia and Damascus to help facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid…
Report: Trump plan would grant Jordanian citizenship to Palestinian refugees (The Jerusalem Post) President Donald Trump will push for Jordan to grant citizenship to one million Palestinian refugees as part of his “Deal of the Century,” according to the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar. Trump will also ask Egypt to grant citizenship to Palestinian refugees. Granting Palestinians refugees citizenship status from other countries may be a way for Trump to avoid establishing a Palestinian state. The report hints that a confederation of three states may be an option, where there would be a joint government between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority for specific and limited purposes…
Indian Christians look to Supreme Court for religious freedom (UCANews.com) Christian leaders and activists in India are pinning hopes on the Supreme Court to set aside guidelines made by a state court on individuals changing religion. India’s top court on 5 April postponed hearing a petition of Christian leaders that challenged the guidelines of Rajasthan high court, saying the directions violate religious freedom guaranteed in the constitution. The court postponed the hearing after the federal government said it needed more time to offer a response to the petition…
Some Russian Orthodox rebel against the digital revolution (AsiaNews) Since 3 April, the Russians have seen their pension card replaced by a personalized PIN number, needed to access electronic services. A part of the Orthodox faithful has rebelled against this measure, which in their opinion expresses the imminent advent of the apocalyptic times. The new law introduces the new rules for the use of state services, which provides a personalized PIN to access public administration. This is a simplification of procedures, part of the “digital revolution” announced by Putin after last year’s election for his fourth presidential term. The most observant Orthodox, who for some time have been protesting against the use of “satanic figures,” such as the tax code, speak of the imposition of the “electronic lager”…
Coffee award ’Cup of Excellence’ to be held in Ethiopia for the first time (Global Coffee Report) The Cup of Excellence (COE) will be held in Ethiopia for the first time in March 2020. The event is made possible through an ongoing partnership between the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the Ethiopia Coffee and Tea Authority, United States Agency for International Development, and Feed the Future Ethiopia Value Chain (FTFE-VCA). ”The competition finally came home, where the best natural coffee is produced,” says producer Zenabu Alem. “I look forward to entering my coffee in the competition…”
5 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Jordan Russian Orthodox
In this image from the March 2019 edition of ONE, altar servers enjoy a moment of prayer and contemplation at Mar Shemmon Bar Sabbae Church in Tbilisi, Georgia. (photo: Zvia Rostiashvili)
5 April 2019
Retired Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi blesses the body of Salesian Father Antony Thaiparambil at his funeral. Father Thaiparambil rescued about 80,000 homeless children from the streets of India. (photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCANews.com)
Former street children in India mourn their ‘father’(UCANews.com) Bimal Das is no more a street child, nor is he Christian. But the 30-year-old stood inside a New Delhi church and wept as he joined funeral prayers for Salesian Father Antony Thaiparambil. Das flew in from Kolkata to attend the funeral of Father Thaiparambil, who rescued him from a street in the eastern Indian city when he was barely six years old. ”I have not seen God, nor have I seen my parents. But if God is there, I am sure he looks like this man,” he said after the ceremony. The 84-year-old priest died in New Delhi of an age-related illness on 19 March. About 500 people including former street children attended his funeral officiated by Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi and retired Archbishop Vincent Cocessao of Delhi…
New schools and clinics for religious minorities targeted by ISIS (The Washington Post) For Iraq’s non-Muslim minorities, in particular Christians whose communities are the Trump administration’s top priority, the protracted pace of reconstruction could push them past a tipping point. Already, barely one-seventh of Iraq’s Christian population before the war remains in the country….
Syria’s refugees begin journey home (Foreign Policy) The families had made their way here from Jordan’s capital city, Amman, and from the Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps, where they’ve lived since the conflict in Syria sent them running for their lives. They are the lucky ones—survivors of a war that has killed over half a million people and, as of 15 March, has raged for eight terrible years…
Islamic banking in Ethiopia offers Muslim inclusion (Reuters) Ethiopia’s measured embrace of Islamic banking is offering entrepreneurial-minded Muslims a gateway to financial inclusion. Unlike conventional finance, sharia-compliant financial institutions do not charge interest on loans. Instead, they share in any potential profits or losses of the businesses they underwrite…
Pope asks anti-trafficking nun to write Way of the Cross (CNS) Pope Francis has asked an Italian nun, who has been on the frontlines in the fight against human trafficking, to write this year’s Way of the Cross meditations. Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti, 80, will prepare the texts for the evening service 19 April, Good Friday, at Rome’s Colosseum, Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, said…
Survival tales from the Kerala flood on fabric (The Hindu) One after another, saris with coloured borders lined with kasavu, replete with embroidered lilies and lotuses, are being unfurled at Tvam design studio. Woven in Chendamangalam, a small taluk in Paravoor, Ernakulam which was severely affected by the floods, these saris are cultural markers and tells the story of survival…
4 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Kerala Muslim
Melkite Archbishop Issam Darwich of Zahle, Lebanon, distributes Communion to Syrian refugee families at the Melkite Catholic archeparchy in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in this 2017 photo.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
Aside from humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees and concrete efforts to help them return to their homeland, the international community should work toward eradicating the roots of wars and violence, an archbishop from Lebanon told members of a political party holding the largest number of seats in the European Parliament.
Melkite Catholic Archbishop Issam Darwich of Zahle, whose diocese is near Syria’s western border, addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East and Syrian refugees on 3 April with the European People’s Party, a conservative and Christian democratic political party.
“Our situation is one of the deepest suffering and trauma,” said Archbishop Darwich, who was born in Syria.
“What is happening in the Middle East today is a chain of events against Christians, unfolding since 2011. All these actions send a message to Christians in the area that they don’t have a safe place anymore,” he said.
“The fact that they became minorities in these countries is not an excuse for anyone to neglect the critical situation they are passing through,” Archbishop Darwich said.
He stressed that Christians have always played a crucial role in the region and strive to foster peace, justice and democracy.
He also noted that Lebanon’s episcopal committee for Christian-Muslim dialogue, for which he serves as president, is “working hard so that religions would find new ways to present their respective creeds as partners allied and not as adversaries.”
“Religion must never be used to promote hatred or violence,” Archbishop Darwich stressed.
As for the refugee crisis, Archbishop Darwich underlined that eight years into the Syrian conflict, Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita and has the fourth-largest refugee population in the world.
More than 1.5 million Syrian refugees are living scattered throughout the tiny country among its existing population of about 4 million people. In addition, some 500,000 Palestinian refugees and thousands of Iraqi families dwell in Lebanon.
“The pressure of this situation on the Lebanese hosting community is felt in all sectors, including education, security, health, housing, water and electricity supply,” he said.
Archbishop Darwich noted that his diocese, located about 18 miles from the Syrian border, “had the leading role” in helping displaced Syrians.
“We supported and helped them since the beginning of their displacement to Lebanon till today, especially the Christian refugees, who were and still are invisible” to the international community because they do not live in camps, he emphasized. As a result, he added, the Christians “are always neglected from any support or help.”
However, the archbishop pointed out that the “tragedy of refugees is not restricted to a specific sect because all Syrians have suffered for almost eight years now of a new holocaust.”
Various Catholic agencies such as Caritas members, including Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Services, Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need have helped the Syrian refugees.
Archbishop Darwich’s diocese is in the Bekaa Valley and provides refugees with help that includes rent assistance, clothing, education, health care, social support and daily hot meals at the diocese’s St. John the Merciful Table.
While acknowledging the humanitarian role many European countries and international nongovernmental organizations have played “in reducing the impact of this long and ferocious war,” the archbishop pointed to the challenge of helping refugees return to their homeland.
Archbishop Darwich stressed that refugees’ return to Syria “cannot be realized unless the international community itself provides the means ... political and economic help in practical measures. Not only to put an end to their suffering, but also to assist them to contribute in the process of reconstruction.”
“I sincerely believe that the international community is expected to plan for eradicating the roots of wars and violence rather than dealing with their consequences, because great countries are known by great achievements and great deeds,” Archbishop Darwich said.
He added that the international community also must work toward putting an end to poverty, instability, occupation, oppression, fanaticism, fundamentalism and major wars.
“This is not wishful thinking,” the archbishop said. “This is a pure call for generalizing justice among the whole world, and for the implementation of U.N. resolutions. ... Otherwise, we will always have to encounter demand for financial and humanitarian aid, because cruelty produces cruelty, and suppression produces suppression in an endless circle of violence and injustice.”
4 April 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Melkite
A Daughter of Charity cares for orphans at the Crèche in Bethlehem. (photo: Samar Hazboun)
In the latest edition of ONE, writer Diane Handal reports on the exceptional work undertaken by three groups of religious sisters in the Holy Land. Below, she describes how her journey began, as she arrived in Israel.
I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport from Istanbul, awaiting the last leg of the trip: Tel Aviv to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The blue-and-white flag of Israel with the Star of David was everywhere as I walked toward passport control.
I took the shuttle bus down to Jerusalem with half a dozen other travelers. We drove by the green rolling hills of Ma’ale Adumim, about four miles from Jerusalem, an urban Israeli settlement and city in the West Bank. In 2015, the population was close to 38,000.
A religious sister from the Ukraine in a white habit with a red cross embroidered on her veil sat across from me and a young man from Vancouver sat beside me; it was his first visit to the Holy Land. The three of us departed at the Jaffa Gate only to find we were at the bottom of the huge wall and had to climb up to the actual gate with our baggage. I asked the driver why he left us below and his reply was that it would cost 50 more shekels (about $14) to be taken to the gate. The ride from the airport was $20. I wanted to scream.
The sister helped me carry my two bags and a stranger grabbed her bags and we trekked up together.
This was her second trip to the Holy Land and she said she was with the Russian church, which I believe was the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky.
Jaffa Gate was bustling with tourists and families who came to hear a classical music concert next to a huge Menorah with bright blue lights.
I dragged my bags to my hotel on one of the narrow winding stone streets of the Old City, and later went in search of a new shawarma place in the Christian Quarter, said to be better than my favorite in Bethlehem, Abu Ali.
I walked for a half hour through the narrow stone passages with their uneven steps that were slippery from the pouring rain. Merchants on both sides were standing in front of their stalls of pottery, religious artifacts, embroidered Palestinian dresses, jewelry, spices, fresh orange and pomegranate juice; some were using a broom to sweep the water back.
Every shopkeeper I asked sent me in a different direction. But eventually, I did find Maria’s and was greeted with “Ahlan wa Sahlan,” (Welcome) by Jack, the owner. He named the restaurant after his daughter Maria whom he had lost.
A young German couple from Berlin was sitting at a table. They had just come from Tel Aviv and were surprised by the high prices, even the hostels. They loved Jack’s shawarma, as did I.
The following day, I went to Bethlehem. It was cold, raining, and very windy. The sky was a steel gray, matching the wall that surrounds the city, only brightened by colorful graffiti. International graffiti artists include the anonymous Bansky, also a political activist and film director. His street art and subversive sayings combine dark humor with graffiti using a unique stenciling technique.
For Israelis, this is a security wall, which they claim protects them from Palestinian attackers trying to enter Israel.??For Palestinians, this is the reality: a concrete wall, stretching over 430 miles, a 25-foot high cement barrier representing what they see as apartheid.
I visited the Crèche (Holy Family Children’s Home) in Bethlehem, the only orphanage in the West Bank run by the Daughters of Charity.
When I walked into the nursery, about a dozen cribs lined the wall with colorful mobiles over each. My heart sank. Most of the babies were sleeping; a few were whimpering.
At the far right corner were two babies tucked under pink blankets who were 10 days old. Their mother had been sexually abused by male relatives and was in hiding for fear of being killed for ”dishonoring” her family.
In the middle of the cribs was a little baby girl whose mother was 14 years old; the mother had also been sexually abused by a family member. At the far left, a little baby named Nadia was lying on her stomach. She had brown hair and her big brown eyes darted back and forth. She had been left on the street by her mother.
My heart ached for these innocent babies, thinking of what lies ahead for each of them in this very conservative Middle Eastern culture where adoption is forbidden under Islamic law.
On the way to the checkpoint, I stopped at the Bansky Museum inside “The Walled Off Hotel,” which he owns.
The hotel offers guests “the ugliest view in the world,” a novelty. Looking out from the windows of the lobby or one of the rooms, one is forced to face “The Separation Wall.”
And then, it was on to the checkpoint and young heavily-armed Israeli soldiers checking papers and passports and, asking many questions.
Read more about sisters Seeing the Face of Jesus in the March 2019 edition of ONE.
4 April 2019
Tags: Jerusalem Daughters of Charity
The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Wednesday declared that the Holy See remains greatly concerned over violations of religious freedom around the world.
(video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Cardinal: Religious freedom continues to be violated around the world (Vatican News) The Holy See has expressed great concern over the continuing deterioration of the right to religious freedom around the world and urged for offsetting the trend especially by raising public awareness regarding the grave violations of the fundamental right. ”Despite so many efforts to promote and reinforce the fundamental human right of religious freedom, we are actually witnessing a continued deterioration, we might even say an assault, of this inalienable right in many parts of the world,” said Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Wednesday…
ISIS is alive and well in southern Syria (Foreign Policy) The world has been celebrating the Islamic State’s defeat since the final battle of Baghouz on 23 March. In February, President Donald Trump celebrated the United States’ alleged victory claiming that the group had been “100 percent” defeated. The United States and Britain have meanwhile moved on to debate stripping the citizenship of their nationals who joined the Islamic State. But contrary to Trump’s declaration, the terrorist group has not been vanquished, and it is currently regrouping near my hometown, Suwayda, in southern Syria—an area it has long terrorized while the government of Bashar al-Assad stood by in silent complicity…
Indian Christians see Hindu conspiracy in election move (UCANews.com) Tribal people who have converted to Christianity and Islam should not contest India’s general election in seats earmarked for tribal candidates, according to a traditional tribal group. Central Sarna Samiti, an organization of non-Christian tribal people based in Jharkhand state, petitioned state authorities on 31 March as campaigns continue for the April-May polls…
Egyptian policeman sentenced to death for killing Christians (Reuters) An Egyptian policeman found guilty of killing a Christian man and his son in a case that outraged the minority Coptic community was sentenced to death on Tuesday, judicial sources said…
3 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Egypt ISIS Persecution
Children greet visitors to a refugee camp in Zahleh, Lebanon. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, reflects on the resiliency and faith of the people we serve:
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.
Read it all and see more pictures in the March 2019 edition of the magazine.
3 April 2019
In this image from 2016, children in Aiga, Ethiopia, enjoy biscuits they received as part of a food program supported by CNEWA. A new report says more than 113 million around the world are in dire need of help because of food crises caused by war, climate change and economic downfall.
(photo: John E. Kozar, CNEWA)
Report: millions could be affected by food crises (Vatican News) In its annual report released on Tuesday, the Global Network against Food Crises warns that war, extreme weather and economic downfall in 2018 have left more than 113 million in dire need of help. The report points to conflict and insecurity as the two main causes of the desperate situation faced by 74 million people, or two-thirds of those affected worldwide in the past year…
In Aleppo, restored Armenian church holds liturgy (AFP) Armenians in Syria’s war-torn Aleppo packed their Forty Martyrs Cathedral Saturday for the first Mass in the centuries-old church since its restoration began more than a year ago. Established in the 14th century, it is among the oldest active Armenian churches in Aleppo, a northern Syrian city battered by four years of fighting between rebels and government forces…
Tribal Christians could hold the key to election in key Indian state (UCANews.com) Tribal leaders in India’s Jharkhand state say their people have emerged from political oblivion to become a decisive force in the upcoming parliamentary election. They plan to use their votes to respond to government policies that hurt them, said Catholic leader Prabhakar Tirkey…
Red Cross: hundreds of unaccompanied children flood Syria camp (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of unaccompanied children are living in a camp in northeast Syria, overwhelmed with people who fled the last battlefields of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said. The children are living without their parents at the al-Hol camp in the Hasakah province, which houses between 80,000 and 100,000 people…
Erdogen says he wants to revert Hagia Sophia into a mosque (Reuters) Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia should be re-titled as a mosque instead of a museum after Sunday’s elections, but did not say whether the status of the landmark site would be changed. Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the foremost cathedral in Christendom for 900 years before becoming one of Islam’s greatest mosques for 500 years until 1935, when it was converted to a museum…
2 April 2019
Tags: Syria Turkey Hunger
Zewdunesh Negese, Samrawit Tekle and Tsedale Mola discuss their Catholic faith. All are discovering ways to make marriages stronger. Read more about how they and other young Ethiopians are learning that Family Matters in the March 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)