9 October 2012
In this 2009 image, students pause from physical education at the Latin School in Zerqa, Jordan, which receives support from the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: Nader Daoud)
This past Sunday, the Western Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invited CNEWA’s Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., and me to address their annual meeting in Palm Springs, California. In my remarks, I looked at some key questions concerning the region:
”Is there a future for Christians — indeed for any minority — in this new Middle East? What role will religion play,especially Islam, in governing these peoples? And, is Islam compatible with the so-called democratic aspirations expressed by the reformers leading the “Arab Spring?”
CNEWA works closely with this chivalric order dedicated to supporting the church in the Holy Land, and Msgr. Kozar and I are blessed to be members.
To read the speech, click here. And please, let me know what you think.
17 September 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Christianity Islam Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
The Zabbaleen are descendants of migrant farmers from Upper Egypt who first came to Cairo in the 1940’s in search of employment. They began working in the garbage trade, collecting, sorting and recycling to earn a living. (photo: Dana Smillie)
The September edition of ONE can now be viewed on our website. Give it a look. One of our features this month comes from award-winning journalist, Sarah Topol. Topol profiles a family in Egypt’s Zabbaleen or “garbage people” community:
The Nagib family lives in Manshiyat Naser — also known as Garbage City — an impoverished Coptic Christian neighborhood nestled in the jutting desert cliffs that rise above Cairo’s bustling streets. Called Zabbaleen, or “garbage people” in Arabic, most hail from the rural province of Assiut, 250 miles to the south. For generations, the Zabbaleen have served as Cairo’s de facto garbage collectors, earning a meager living hauling away city dwellers’ trash and recycling anything salvageable.
To spend time with the Nagib family is to witness in microcosm the struggles of an entire class of people — and to realize that they are struggling not just to salvage what others discard, but also to salvage dignity and a way of life.
Mrs. Nagib’s husband collected trash for a living. Now too old to work, he has passed his route on to his children. And it seems, one by one, the Nagib children are carrying on the tradition.
Six days a week, Mrs. Nagib rises before dawn to see off three of her sons to their work as garbage collectors. At 5, the young men will have climbed into the family truck to head down the slopes to the city — a drive that takes two hours. There, they go from apartment to apartment along their route collecting garbage. By early afternoon, they head home, the truck loaded with trash.
For more, read Salvaging Dignity.
14 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa ONE magazine
Pope Benedict XVI greets officials during a welcoming ceremony at Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut, 14 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
“Lebanese Hope Pope’s Visit Will Reduce Tensions and Promote Peace” (Vatican Insider, La Stampa) The civil war in Syria is having a terrible effect on the Lebanon and people in Beirut say they fervently hope Pope Benedict XVI’s visit can help to reduce tensions in the land of the cedars, stop the war in Syria, and advance peace throughout the Middle East.
“Maronite Patriarch Calls for a Christian Spring” (Vatican Radio) “The language of hatred and violence, both regionally and internationally, will never bring about a new Spring, only the opposite” says Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros al-Rai.
“Pope Arrives in Lebanon” (Vatican Information Service) “The successful way the Lebanese all live together,” said the pope, “surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various Churches, all members of the one Catholic Church in a fraternal spirit of communion with other Christians, and at the same time coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions.”
“Pope Calls for a Halt to Weapons to Syria” (The New York Times) On the airplane to Lebanon, the pope called for a halt to weapons to Syria, calling the import of arms a “grave sin,” according to a Reuters report on the pope’s remarks to reporters. It was not immediately clear whether the pope was faulting the Syrian government or its opponents, or condemning in general terms, the rapid militarization of the conflict.
“Lebanese of all Faiths Hope Visit Heralds Peace” (The Daily Star Lebanon) “The pope can try to ease any religion’s collective tension,” said Sawsan Darwaza, a theater and film director who said she was very supportive of the visit even though she is not Christian.
13 September 2012
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Middle East Synod
Workers hang a poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Beirut 12 September in preparation for his
14-16 September visit to Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Beirut tomorrow, among those greeting him will be CNEWA’s own president, Msgr. John E. Kozar.
Msgr. Kozar will be participating in the pontiff’s pastoral visit to Lebanon, where he will deliver his “apostolic exhortation,” a document that concludes the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in the Vatican in October 2010. Before he left for Lebanon, Msgr. Kozar sat down with the National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Gallagher to discuss the papal trip to Lebanon, the situation of Christians in the Middle East and CNEWA’s role in the volatile region.
“I want be there,” Msgr. Kozar said, “as this exhortation unfolds, as he [the pope] shares his insights. I would imagine that he really wants to show not only to Christians in the Middle East and others there, that the presence of the church is something to be cherished. To be cherished not only by its own membership, but by others of other faiths, such as Muslims, that the church historically has great gifts to share.”
Read the entire interview here.
And stay tuned for more on the pope’s trip to Lebanon. ONE-TO-ONE will feature news from the journalists traveling with the pope, as well as firsthand accounts from Msgr. Kozar, who will be blogging as the trip unfolds.
11 September 2012
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Msgr. John E. Kozar Beirut
On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's historic trip to Lebanon, veteran Vatican observer John Allen helps place this visit into its many contexts:
Quite often, how an event is framed beforehand determines judgments after the fact about whether it was a success or a failure. In the run-up to Pope Benedict XVI’s 14-16 September trip to Lebanon, which unfolds against the backdrop of ongoing violence in Syria, there seem to be four basic competing frames. …
First, there’s the official line from Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, asserting the pope is not traveling as a “powerful political leader” but as “the head of a religious community” whose mission is to confirm the Christians of the region “who serve the communities in which they live through the witness of their lives.” …
Second, there’s the frame proposed by Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit who lived in Syria for 30 years prior to being expelled in June for his advocacy of the anti-Assad uprising. On Tuesday, Dall’Oglio finished an eight-day hunger strike in Rome intended to raise awareness about the Syrian situation.
Dall’Oglio issued a statement Tuesday expressing hope that the papal visit to Lebanon, the closest Benedict is every like to come to Syria, will be an occasion for unmasking the “lies of the regime” under Assad, and for demanding that the Christian nations of the West stop “giving the regime the possibility of spilling more Syrian blood.” …
Third, there’s the frame offered by Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, who has suggested the papal trip should be a “line of last defense” stand in favor of Christian survival all across the Middle East.
As is well known, Christians today are estimated to represent no more than 5 percent of the population of the Middle East, down from 20 percent in the early 20th century. From 12 million today, the consensus estimate is that the Christian population of the Middle East will likely be 6 million in 2020. The decline is due to a number of factors, including lower birth rates, economic and political stagnation, and rising insecurity and the threat of Islamic radicalism. …
Finally, there’s a fourth frame suggested by Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian scholar based at St. Joseph University in Beirut: extolling Lebanon itself as a model for the Islamic future, one based on moderation, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. …
[Father Samir] published an essay Tuesday in advance of the pope’s trip pointing out that Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East where a citizen can convert from one religion to another “without the risk of being killed or severely marginalized.”
Read the rest at the National Catholic Reporter’s site.
10 September 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI
The Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan, is run by the Comboni Sisters. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Here at CNEWA, we are very familiar with the Comboni Sisters and their dedication to the sick. They are involved with institutions we support, such as the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. Today, the Catholic News Service reported on the tireless work of Sister Giacinta Niboli, a Comboni Sister, in Egypt. She has served Egypt’s sick for the past 60 years:
“We are here to help, we don’t speak about Jesus, but are teaching love through showing mothers to properly care for their children, wash them well, and take care of their eyes,” Sister Giacinta said.
She added that the dust and fine sand of the desert and mountains that surround Nazlet Khater are the source of what she calls the village’s most endemic malady: eye infections. Other common ailments, she said, include stomach illnesses and influenza.
“We used to get a lot of scorpion bites, but those have declined. I also used to deliver babies, but now I send mothers to the hospital in the city of Sohag, 21 miles away,” Sister Giacinta explained.
She quickly added: “Remember, I am almost 85.”
Sister Giacinta said she does not worry about what lies ahead in post-revolution Egypt, where anywhere from an estimated 4 to 12 million Christians live among more than 70 million Muslims.
“I love them all, and they love me,” Sister Giacinta said of the Muslim majority. “They tell me, ‘You are baraka,’” [the Arabic word for a blessing], she said.
For more, read Comboni Sister Nurses Egyptians for 60 Years.
4 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Jordan Health Care Comboni Sisters
Coptic Christians grieve during the funeral for seven victims of sectarian violence at Samaan el-Kharaz Church in Cairo, Egypt, last year. Thirteen people died and 140 were wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims initiated by anger over an arson attack on a church the week before. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
In this morning’s “Page One,” we highlighted an essay featured in America Magazine by David Pinault, a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University. The author described a recent visit to Egypt, his impressions of the country since the “Lotus Revolution,” and the declining number of Copts in Egypt since the onset of conflict. He described a conversation with a Cairo cab driver:
I told him the statistics: in 2011 and 2012, since the revolution’s onset, over 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt. “Well, I’m not going to leave,” Sami insisted. “Christ is testing us. I tell my friends to stay. Christ could end this suffering, this trial, at any time. How will you feel, I tell my friends, if you’re in Canada instead of Egypt when Christ returns?”
I pondered this apocalyptic thought as we skirted Tahrir Square, the scene of recurrent confrontations between demonstrators and Egypt’s military, and passed the blackened ruins of the Institute of Egypt. French scholars had founded the Institute after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion in 1798; its archives held centuries-old maps, books and manuscripts — a priceless treasure. But in December 2011, when government forces on nearby rooftops shot at demonstrators in the street, protesters retaliated by throwing firebombs at the soldiers. Some of the projectiles fell short; the resultant fire destroyed most of the building and much of the collection. In January 2012, Sami told me, Muslim and Christian volunteers collaborated in salvaging charred volumes from the ruins.
But what lingered in my mind was the assessment published in the Arabic-language newspaper al-Ahram by the Egyptian poet and commentator Kamal ‘Arafah. He compared the destruction of Cairo’s Napoleonic Institute to the ancient burning of the Library of Alexandria and the Mongols’ obliteration of Baghdad’s learning centers in the 13th century. Labeling Egypt’s fire-bombers “Mongols of chaos,” ‘Arafah added, “I felt pain when I saw in the videos and pictures the cries of Allahu akbar (Allah is great) and La ilaha illa Allah (there is no god except Allah) coming from young men and women while the Institute of Egypt was burning — young men and women who were ignorant of the extent of the loss bleeding from the heart of Egypt.“
When I mentioned ‘Arafah’s commentary to Sami, he said he, too, found disturbing the linkage of religious sloganeering and violence. He returned to what we had been discussing earlier, Salafist persecution of the Copts: “I’m staying. I’m not leaving my country. I’m not going to do what the Salafists want me to do.” He added that in the aftermath of recent attacks on Christian churches, when he and his Coptic friends assemble for prayer, they have the feeling, “We’re ready to be martyrs. We’re ready to be with Christ, to live with Christ.” Not martyrs in any violent sense, he insisted, but in the sense of giving witness.
For more, read Ready To Be Martyrs.
30 August 2012
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Africa Coptic Christians
Young Syrian refugees walk through a camp in Anbar province west of Baghdad, Iraq, 19 August.
(photo: CNS/Ali al-Mashhadani, Reuters)
While violence and urest escalate in their homeland, many Syrians are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Recently the Catholic News Service reported on the plight of women and children fleeing the violence in Syria:
“Families are trying desperately to stay together,” but not always succeeding, [Caroline] Brennan added. Sometimes, men “stay home trying to protect their land, or they’re fighting — or worse, they’ve been kidnapped. The women are left to lead the family. They think: What is happening to the people they love in this world?“
But she also told of a Syrian husband and father named Faizad.
“He came across the border, but his wife and (most of their) children weren’t allowed to make it. But then he has a son he has to care for. He (the son) cries at night, he misses his mom,” Brennan said. Workers can tell from the boy’s drawings that he has seen “people with guns killing innocent people,” she added.
“This is a humanitarian crisis at its heart,” she said.
There are “huge social needs of the people, especially children and mothers,” said Vivian Manneh, a 20-year CRS veteran currently serving as a regional program manager for the Middle East. “Kids are starting to think, ‘What is going to happen to us? Where are we going to be?’ There are lots of psychosocial needs, lots of basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter.”
For more, read Syrian Refugees Flood Neighboring Countries.
29 August 2012
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Middle East War
Women and their children sign in at the lobby of the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Greg Tarczynski)
The Mother of Mercy Clinic, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care. The clinic offers impoverished mothers and babies health care during a crucial period for mother and child:
In an examining room at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, Dr. Ibrahim Ghabeish puzzles over a patient’s condition. Somehow Salah, a 3-day-old infant, has contracted dysentery. The infection is relatively common among adults in Zerqa; usually it is contracted by consuming food that has been contaminated by dirty water. But how could an infant, whose only nourishment is his mother’s milk, get infected? After questioning the child’s 25-year-old mother, Maha, Dr. Ghabeish put together a likely scenario.
“The child’ mother was cutting up carrots washed in contaminated water,” he explained. “When Salah started to cry, she brought him to be nursed without washing her hands. She must have transferred the disease when she prepared to nurse him.”
Established in 1982, Mother of Mercy Clinic offers a wide range of general heath care services to thousands of patients — over 26,000 in 2008 — regardless of creed or origin. The clinic, however, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care, giving priority to needy mothers and their infants.
To learn more about the clinic, read our article in the May 2009 issue of ONE, Mothering Mercies. To learn how you can help support the work of the Mother of Mercy Clinic, visit our website.
27 August 2012
Tags: Children Middle East Jordan Health Care
A first–year design student takes a break from studying at Notre Dame University in Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec)
In the current issue of the magazine, we profile the largest Catholic University in Lebanon, Notre Dame University. The school works to develop scholars and better world citizens:
“Our core mission,” says Dr. Eid, “is based on the premise of forming wise citizens in Lebanon. We need to cultivate certain conditions to provide learners with opportunities and spiritual values.”
”N.D.U. is as diverse as Lebanon,” declares Dr. Eid. Though the main campus’s student body is mostly Christian, the North Lebanon and Shouf campuses enroll significant numbers of Druze and Muslim students.
As part of N.D.U.’s mission, faculty and staff on all campuses promote dialogue among students of different religions and sects.
For more, read Where Dialogue Is on the Curriculum. And, take a look at our interviews with Notre Dame students in the video below!
Tags: Lebanon Education ONE magazine Dialogue