24 April 2012
Children play at the Caritas camp held at the Samta Park Sanitarium in Nunisi, a mountain town in Georgia’s Karagauli region. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the November 2007 issue of ONE, Paul Rimple reported on the invaluable effect summer camps have on children in the Caucasus:
“Many of the children come from very troubled families — very poor,” said Zizi Inadze, a staff member who grew up on the streets and, like Mr. Biganashvili, received assistance from Caritas. “Some had never seen fish or butter before, and even others never had seen a toilet. I was so shocked to see kids using a bucket, I couldn’t believe it.”
The camps of Sister Arousiag Sajonian and Father Witold Szulczynski are different in structure, but their aim is the same. They offer disadvantaged children a quintessential childhood experience that is normally available only to the more privileged. And it is a testament to the camps’ success that so many former campers have returned, as adults, to help educate the next generation.
A mere two carefree weeks can have an outsized impact on the children’s lives, said Ms. Inadze, the former street child who now works for Caritas.
“Here at the camps, they learn to open up and share a sense of warmth. They receive love and attention.”
For more, read Kid’s Camps in the Caucasus.
23 April 2012
Tags: Children Georgia Caucasus Tbilisi
A retired priest sits near a painting of St. Lawrence at the Beit Afram home for the elderly in Taybeh. (photo: Rich Wiles)
As we shared on this blog, last night “60 Minutes” aired a segment on the dwindling Christian community in the Holy Land. This is a subject near and dear to our hearts here at CNEWA. As is true in every country where CNEWA operates, our work in the Holy Land relies heavily on our collaboration with the local churches of the region. In the July 2011 issue of ONE, we published an article profiling the all-Christian village of Taybeh, which is located in the West Bank, just north of Jerusalem:
“Taybeh is the only entirely Christian village in Palestine,” says 70–year–old Ne’meh Issa proudly. Born and reared in Taybeh, Mrs. Issa has spent her entire life in the village. As do most villagers, she feels strongly about Taybeh’s Christian identity. “It is pure Christian and exists peacefully next to Muslim villages and also Israeli settlements.”
Though small with only 2,000 inhabitants, Taybeh is in fact the last remaining entirely Christian settlement in Palestine. Everyone belongs to one of its three churches. About 1,160 villagers belong to St. George Orthodox Church, which was built between 1929 and 1932 near the site of a fourth–century church. Another 530 belong to Christ the Redeemer Latin Catholic Church, built in l971. And about 310 belong to St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church, built in l964.
For more, read A Town Named ‘Good’. In addition to the segment that aired last night on “60 Minutes,” CBS News posted some web extras online, including a video report about Taybeh. Check it out below!
20 April 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Palestine Palestinians West Bank
This image from 2007 shows how Eucharist and study are central in the lives of Coptic Catholic seminarians at St. Leo the Great, located in a Cairo suburb. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
Latest reports indicate that Egypt continues to be rocked by political turmoil and protest:
Tens of thousands of protesters packed Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square on Friday in the biggest demonstration in months against the ruling military, aimed at stepping up pressure on the generals to hand over power to civilians and bar ex-regime members from running in upcoming presidential elections.
We’ve reported extensively on the lives of Christians in that corner of the world. In 2007, the magazine profiled the Coptic Catholic Church, beginning with its very deep roots:
Egyptian Christians — known as Copts, a derivative of the Greek word Aigyptios, meaning Egyptian — are proud of their ancient roots. They received the Gospel from St. Mark the Evangelist, who brought the faith to the city of Alexandria, second only to Rome in the ancient Mediterranean world. There, he died a martyr’s death around the year 67.
The evangelist extended his apostolic activity beyond the city’s prosperous Jewish community. He called for the city’s Copts and Greeks to adopt “the way,” the early Christian description for discipleship in Jesus Christ.
Mark sowed the Christian seed on fertile ground. Centuries before the Arab advent in the eastern Mediterranean, and with it the rise of Islam, Egyptian Christianity blossomed. It provided the church with the philosophical foundation and theological vocabulary responsible for its explosive expansion in the Greco-Roman world, introduced the cenobitic and hermitic variants of monastic life and peopled the universal church with some of its greatest saints and scholars, including Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, Anthony, Macarius, Didymus, Athanasius, Arius, Cyril and Dioscorus.
19 April 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Africa
A Palestinian doctor examines a child at the N.E.C.C. Mother and Child Clinic in Gaza City.
(photo: Eman Mohammed)
Fares Akram is a journalist based in Gaza.
Two weeks before my wife, Alaa, delivered our second baby, I was at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, preparing to interview its directors and staff for the ONE magazine article
that features the role of Christian organizations and institutions in serving the poor of the Gaza Strip.
Having seen how tranquil the hospital is, with its unique services and peaceful garden, I thought of bringing my wife to deliver in that hospital. And yes, this plan worked out; it was there that our daughter, Celine, saw the light by Caesarean section. Alaa said that she most liked the way in which nurses treated her and how skillful the surgeon was.
Church-affiliated organizations and centers offer a wide set of services in Gaza, the coastal enclave controlled by the Islamic Hamas movement. However, these services are not widely renowned, and the reason could be lack of proper promotion.
But having been through many of these institutions, I have seen and experienced the unique services they represent, from vocational training centers to hospitals and clinics.
These organizations demonstrate great determination by continuing to work in such hard circumstances, challenging Israeli restrictions on Gaza, lack of sufficient funding and operating under the Hamas government.
In Gaza, there are many charities and NGOs to help people, especially after the 2007 siege increased levels of poverty and hardship, but the Christian charities are much older and offer services that address the essential needs of the people. Only the Mother and Child Clinic, run by The Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.), provides post-natal care for both mother and child.
During my reporting, I had come to see a mosque and a church embracing each other. It's even not easy to distinguish between the two structures. The church also hosts Myrrh Bearers Society of the Orthodox Church, the decade-old charity that struggles to achieve its goals despite low levels of support.
To read more of Mr. Akram's reporting on church-affiliated institutions in Gaza, see
Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of
11 April 2012
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Holy Land Health Care
Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud
1930 - 2012
(photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec)
Pope Benedict sent condolences to the people of the Middle East following the death of Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, who died on 7 April in a Rome hospital.
As CNS reports:
The 81-year-old cardinal was the retired prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the former patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, led the Latin-rite funeral Mass April 10 in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Daoud’s body was to be flown to Beirut for a Syriac-rite burial with the other patriarchs of Antioch.
In his homily, Cardinal Sodano said he had visited the ailing patriarch a few days before he died. He said Cardinal Daoud told him he was “offering to the Lord his suffering for the good of the holy church and above all for the unity of all Christians.”
In a condolence message to Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of Antioch, Pope Benedict called the cardinal a “faithful pastor who devoted himself with faith and generosity to the service of the people of God.”
The pope also assured the patriarch that during “these days, when we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord,” he was offering special prayers “for the peoples of the region who are living through difficult times.”
Cardinal Daoud was born Basile Moussa Daoud in Meskene, Syria, Sept. 18, 1930, and had served as archbishop of Homs, one of the cities now being most deeply affected by violence as the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reacts to efforts to oust him.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1954, he earned a degree in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University. He was elected bishop of Cairo in 1977 and archbishop of Homs in 1994.
The synod of the Syriac Catholic Church, one of the Eastern churches in communion with Rome, elected him patriarch of Antioch in 1998 and, following Syriac tradition, he took the name Ignace in honor of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
You can read more here.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.
To learn more about the Syriac Catholic Church, check out this profile from the March 2009 issue of ONE.
10 April 2012
Tags: Syria Patriarchs Syriac Catholic Church
In this photo taken in 2007, Georgian Orthodox Christians light candles during Easter celebrations at the Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition in Tbilisi, Georgia. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
This past Sunday, many Christians around the world celebrated Easter. The Orthodox churches in CNEWA’s world will celebrate Easter next Sunday, 15 April. Last November, our Education & Interreligious Affairs Officer Father Elias Mallon explored the reasons behind the two dates for Easter. You can read more about that here.
“Ultimately,” Father Elias concludes, “the most import issue is whether the common observance of Easter by all Christians would give significant witness to the world. If it would not, then the date or dates of Easter are immaterial.”
5 April 2012
Tags: Georgia Easter Georgian Orthodox Church Tbilisi
Syrian refugees who fled the violence in Syria sit in their temporary home in Mafraq, Jordan. (photo: CNS/Majed Jaber, Reuters)
Today, Christians around the world observe Holy Thursday, commemorating the last supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. Today’s liturgy begins the commemoration of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. This period includes Good Friday and Holy Saturday and ends with Easter Sunday.
As was announced last week, Pope Benedict XVI has earmarked the Holy Thursday collection at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, for humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Please keep all Syrians in your prayers as Holy Week comes to a close. To learn how you can help support Syrian Christians through CNEWA, visit our website.
The CNEWA family wishes you all a blessed Easter!
5 April 2012
Tags: Syria Refugees Pope Benedict XVI Easter
Christian pilgrims sing during the this year’s Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Dr. Bernard Sabella is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a works with the Near East Council of Churches, a frequent partner of CNEWA. He sent the message below to a number of friends and associates, and we reproduce it with his permission. He writes from Jerusalem.
The act of crucifixion and resurrection is that of a relationship most personal and general, at the same time. On a personal level, each one of us sees in the crucifixion and resurrection a narrative that speaks to one’s situation, affiliations, afflictions and expectations; on a more general level, Easter summarizes relationships and their history with the divine, faith within the church and the city and ways in which we reciprocate with others. Essential in both the personal and general relationship is the sense of hope that Easter engenders. Jesus Christ’s transition from life to death to life again is not only symbolic, as it takes on practical consequences — one of which is how the resurrection brings people together in faith, community and the hope for the life beyond.
Easter is celebrated in early spring, when Jerusalem and its environs are alive with a rich assortment of wild flora on the hills and valleys that surround the city. After a winter that has seen more than average rainfall, a blessing in a land afflicted by draught for a number of years, celebrating Easter is even more of an act of faith that transcends the mundane. The association of spring with Easter is an old one that is discovered again and again by younger generations as they marvel at the beauty of the wild colors of the hills.
In the city of Jerusalem, Easter celebrations take on communal expression. The Palm Sunday procession, which winds down from Bethpage on the Mount of Olives to St. Anne Church, just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, is religious in its nature. But seeing Palestinian Christians in the procession from Jenin, Zababdeh, Nablus, Ramallah, Aboud, Ein Arik, Bir Zeit, Jifnah, Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala as they chant Arabic hymns of praise and carry placards with the name of their locality combined with the name of Palestine is also a reflection of the communal nature of the procession. This affirmation of Palestinian Christian presence highlights the fact that, in spite of the dwindling numbers of Palestinian Christians and of the dire political situation, we Palestinian Christians remain part of our society and of the Palestinian landscape. This affirmation adds variety, steadfastness and hope.
Good Friday is another celebration in which personal reflection and prayer is joined to the communal outpouring of emotions on this holiest of days. As the Palestinian Christian faithful carry the heavy wooden cross on the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa on the road to Golgotha, they are commemorating not only the road taken by Jesus himself to Golgotha but also generations of local Christians who have carried the same cross successively year after year. Some of these Christians have left and they made Sydney, Chicago, La Calera, Santiago de Chile, San Pedro Sula, Montreal and other distant cities and towns their new homes.
And yet Easter Sunday restores both faith and hope. Whoever is in Jerusalem celebrates. The joy that shines forth in the egg hunt, in the special sweet delicacies of Ka’ek wa Ma’mul prepared and baked in family, in the new dresses and shoes worn by children and in the Easter Dinner that gathers the whole family is a sustaining joy. May this joy sustain also relationships between our Diaspora communities and those of us who remain steadfast in this land of the forefathers.
Blessed Easter — and as the Palestinian Christians greet each other: Christ has risen! Indeed he has! Al Masih Qam! Haqqan Qam!
4 April 2012
Tags: Palestine Unity Palestinians Easter
At the N.E.C.C. workshops in Gaza City, students learn to sew dresses. (photo: Eman Mohammed)
Since 2001 Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, preventing humanitarian aid and supplies from entering the territory. In 2010, Israel eased the blockade. But severe damage has already been done. Much of Gaza’s infrastructure still lies in ruins, the unemployment rate is astronomical and most residents rely on humanitarian agencies for the basics.
In the current issue of ONE, journalist Fares Akram profiles Christian-run social service institutions, such as the Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.). The N.E.C.C operates several vocational training programs in Gaza including an 11-month course in dressmaking. Many of the women who participate in the program go on to find work in the field:
Among this year’s students is Umm Musbah. In 2006, the mother of five graduated from a college in Gaza with a diploma in elementary education. For five years, she hunted for a job in her field without success.
“I decided to join this program to help my husband, who is a tailor,” Mrs. Musbah explains, as she sews a mauve dress at a wooden table in one of the workshops. “My husband can bring me the wives of his clients so we can do business together, improve our lives and guarantee our children’s future.”
She cites the program’s low cost as another factor in her decision. “The fees are not high, only 350 Shekels [$100], and they can be paid throughout the course.”
For more, read Behind the Blockade.
3 April 2012
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Palestinians Women
Egyptian protesters hold up a Coptic Christian cross in one hand and a copy of the Quran in the other hand in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.
(photo: epa european pressphoto agency b.v. / Alamy)
During Holy Week, CNEWA Canada has launched an appeal to support Egypt’s Christians who are experiencing a difficult period of transition. Their homeland is in turmoil and anti-Christian violence is on the rise. Yet, just as Christ persevered through his passion and death, they are not giving up.
Egypt’s Christians are determined to remain in the country and contribute to its renewal and resurrection. It is important that their message of peace and forgiveness is heard in the Egyptian landscape, especially during this time of unrest.
As a minority in Egypt, they are still playing an important role. CNEWA Canada invites you to be part of the efforts to strengthen the Christian community, especially their schools, seminaries and social service works, like health care clinics.
Tags: Egypt Africa Easter CNEWA Canada