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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
19 April 2013
Annie Grunow

A Kisti girl dances a Chechen dance during an exhibition of Chechen-Kisti culture. Kists are ethnic Chechens who have lived in Georgia for several hundred years and inhabit the valley of Pankisi Gorge near the Chechen border. War in Chechnya brought thousands of refugees into the region. (photo: Justyna Mielkikiewicz)

Early reports indicate that the two suspects in the Boston marathon bombing have roots in Chechnya.

Several years ago, we profiled some of the cultures that make up the region:

The Caucasus is a place of imprecise boundaries and identities. The borders dividing its land and its people vary from indiscernible to impenetrable. Diaspora and migration further complicate matters. Its strategic location and valuable resources have made the Caucasus the object of desire for several empires. Accordingly, its many ethnic and linguistic groups have developed strong identities by adapting to change while adhering to tradition.

Broadly speaking, the Caucasus is the size of Spain. Anchored by the Caucasus mountain range, it lies between the Black and Caspian seas, with Russia to the north and Turkey and Iran to the south. Its mountains feature Mount Elbrus, which is located on the Russian side of the Georgian border. It was there that, according to Greek mythology, the gods exiled and chained Prometheus as a punishment for stealing fire. On that mountain, he was tortured every night by an eagle that pecked at his liver. Indigenous Georgian mythology features a similar tale. Mount Ararat, sacred to the Armenians but located across the border in Turkey, lies in the far south of the Caucasus. According to tradition, Noah’s ark rested on its slopes after the great flood. These myths and traditions have helped perpetuate the allure and significance of the Caucasus.

Geographers often divide the region by north and south. Today, the North Caucasus usually refers to the republics of the Russian Federation. These include Adygea, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Krasnodar Krai and North Ossetia. The independent nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are often referred to as the South Caucasus. Distinctions between east and west persist, too. There is a more Persian flavor in the east than the Turkish-influenced west. …

Militant Islam is also an ingredient in current conflicts, notably in Chechnya, where the struggle for independence from Russia has attracted radical Muslim fighters from throughout the world. For the United States and its allies, the geographic proximity of the Caucasus to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf commands attention. …

Most Chechens are Sunni Muslims. There is a large Sufi minority. Chechens have been seeking independence from Russia since the 19th century. A significant diaspora fuels the ongoing conflict. Chechens also share cultural, ethnic and linguistic ties to the predominantly Sufi Kist in Georgia and Ingush in Ingushetia (a Russian republic bordering Chechnya). …

The almost incomprehensible diversity of the Caucasus contributes to its persistent allure and mystery. Historically, the location of the Caucasus at the nexus of Asia and Europe has generated imaginative mythology and romantic exoticism. The struggle of its people to define their distinct identities reveals the complex syncretism that continues to shape these populations and this region.

You can find the full story, Where Europe Meets Asia, in the November 2009 issue of ONE.

Tags: Cultural Identity Russia Georgia Caucasus

18 January 2013
Annie Grunow

Iconographer Eliseea Papacioc works on an icon in her studio in the village of Bradetu, Romania. (photo: Andreea Câmpeanu)

Last year, we visited Romania and met an extraordinary Romanian Orthodox nun whose specialty is iconography:

Iconography did not come easily to Sister Eliseea. In the beginning, she struggled with the authenticity of her writing. “Once I understood that these icons should only be made with never-ending prayer, I realized I could not write them, because I could not pray. And I was a nun,” she admits.

“Your prayer becomes the icon, and the icon becomes prayer again for the one who has it in his home and prays in front of it. It’s all mystery, a real and continuous link to God,” she explains, as she sits in her workroom’s red armchair and sips a cup of tea.

Now, when Sister Eliseea writes, she prays nonstop. She follows a simple daily routine, which begins and ends in prayer. Each morning, she wakes up at dawn and reads from the Psalms. “That’s where I get all my sap, all my spirit,” she says.

Read more about A Romanian Renaissance, and see examples of her work, in the January 2012 issue of ONE.

Tags: Sisters Prayers/Hymns/Saints Icons Romania

8 January 2013
Annie Grunow

Two generations come together for a Chrism ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, Brazil. (photo: Izan Petterle)

Did you know that the largest Melkite Greek Catholic community in the world is in Brazil? We took readers to the cathedral in São Paolo two years ago:

Located in the Paraíso (Portuguese for paradise) neighborhood in the heart of South America’s largest city and steps from its busiest thoroughfare, Paulista Avenue, the imposing Byzantine–style cathedral seems an unlikely landmark.

Yet, the cathedral and the Arab parishioners who built it have defined Paraíso since the 1940’s when construction began. By then, many of São Paulo’s Arab Christian immigrant families were living in the working–class neighborhood. In subsequent decades, the Arab community steadily grew, at times in sudden bursts, when emigrants fled conflict in Lebanon, Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East in search of a better life in the New World. Hearing about the opportunities in Brazil — often from relatives or friends already in Paraíso — São Paulo quickly became a preferred destination.

Today, the cathedral serves as the seat of the bishop of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, spiritual home to an estimated 400,000 people &mash; the largest Melkite Greek community not only in the Americas but in the world.

Though Paraíso remains the center of Brazil’s Melkite cultural and spiritual life, its demographics have changed dramatically in recent years. Social success and economic prosperity among first– and second–generation Melkite Arab–Brazilians have prompted most to choose more affluent residential communities in São Paulo and its sprawling suburbs.

Read more about Paradise in Brazil in the July 2011 issue of ONE.

Tags: Melkite Brazil

13 December 2012
Annie Grunow

CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar caught this charming smile during his visit to the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Ethiopia in April 2012. Established to provide shelter for abandoned children, the home is run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, an order of nuns from Malta, under the leadership of Sister Lutgarda Camilleri. You can read about Kidane Mehret in this article from the September 2001 issue of our magazine. The school underwent improvements, partly through the generosity of CNEWA's donors, in 2003 and 2009. (photo: Msgr. John Kozar)

Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Children Sisters Msgr. John E. Kozar

10 December 2012
Annie Grunow

Michael prepares a cup of flowers for the dinner table as his mother prepares lunch for the family in their small apartment in Amman. (photo: Bryan Denton)

George Jaqamon and Elham Hanania live with their two sons, Michael and Johnny, in the Jabal Webdeh neighborhood of Amman, Jordan. Both are of Palestinian origin. Elham was born and lived much of her life in Bethlehem. George, who was a barber, is unemployed. He works part time as a driver and takes tourists to places like the Dead Sea and Petra. His wife Elham works at the Terra Sancta School located just a few minutes from their house. Making ends meet for the young family is difficult, as the cost of living in Amman has increased dramatically.

Read their story and learn more about the Christians of Jordan in this report from the September 2006 issue of ONE.

Tags: Palestine Jordan

19 November 2012
Annie Grunow

Kirti Lawrence, a resident of the Ashraya Home, prays the rosary. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Kirti Lawrence, a 72-ear old retired schoolteacher, lives in the Ashraya Home, a home for the elderly in Mumbai run by the Nirmala Dasi Sisters. But she is not only a recipient of their good works. She tutors children living with H.I.V./AIDS at the nearby Anugraha Home, an orphanage also run by the sisters.

To read more about Ms. Lawrence and the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, check out Peter Lemieux’s July 2011 article in ONE.

You can learn more about Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai where the sisters live and work, from these past One-to-One posts in December 2011 and January 2012.

Tags: Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Thomas Christians Mumbai Nirmala Dasi Sisters

16 November 2012
Annie Grunow

A woman in traditional Ukrainian clothing embroiders a rushnyk, a decorative towel that will be draped around an icon, as her granddaughter looks on. (photo: Petro Didula)

In this 2004 photo, a woman teaches her granddaughter a skill that will help keep Ukrainian traditions alive. To read more about Ukrainian identity, check out this May 2005 article about the major political events that had recently occurred in Ukraine.

Tags: Ukraine

15 November 2012
Annie Grunow

A priest and devotees of the Ge’ez Catholic Eparchy of Emdibir gather after celebrating the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John Kozar)

Monsignor John Kozar visited Ethiopia earlier this year and met people from the many faiths represented in that east African country. In his blog, he wrote about one such visit:

My first exposure to the rich Ge’ez Rite would come at an early morning Divine Liturgy the following morning at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The bishop and most of the eparchy’s priests concelebrated the ancient liturgy. I was taken aback by the beauty of the liturgy, the amazing intricacy of the chanting, not just of the bishop and the priests, but all the many faithful who had assembled as well. The cathedral had a large of number of people for this ordinary weekday eucharistic liturgy, celebrated at 6:20 a.m. All of the faithful are farmers and some regularly walk great distances to attend.

Read more about his visit, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”

Tags: Ethiopia Msgr. John E. Kozar Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church

14 November 2012
Annie Grunow

Cristian Atkinson Abutridy, whose background is Palestinian, celebrates his nephew’s birthday in a Palestinian restaurant in Santiago, Chile in October 2011. (photo: Tomas Munita)

Did you know that Chile is home to the world’s largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East? From the July issue of ONE, Aaron Nelson writes:

The estimated number ranges from 450,000 to a half million. Most are Christians who either hail from or trace their lineage back to the towns of Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem.

The first wave of Palestinians arrived after the Ottoman Turkish government, which then controlled much of the Middle East, allowed emigration in 1896. These early immigrants held Turkish passports; still today, turcos (Spanish for “Turks”) remains a common derogatory term for Arabs in Chile.

Large numbers also migrated to Chile during World War I and, later, when the 1948 war in Palestine erupted. Mass immigration from Palestine then slowed to a trickle in the second half of the 20th century.

During the same period, however, the Chilean government granted asylum to numerous Palestinian refugees. Most recently, in April 2008, it resettled 117 Palestinians — all Sunni Muslim — from the Al-Waleed refugee camp in Iraq, near the Syrian border.

For the first Palestinians, life in Chile was bittersweet. Acceptance in society did not come easily. At the time, native-born Chileans often discriminated against immigrants, particularly those from areas of the world other than northern and Central Europe.

Nevertheless, they flourished in their adopted country. The new arrivals quickly found their way in the workforce as craftspeople, farmers and merchants. By the early 20th century, dozens of Arabic-language newspapers circulated and numerous Arab social clubs were established.

“Family and faith were central to the identity of the immigrants,” says Professor Eugenio Chahuan, codirector of the University of Chile’s Center for Arabic Studies.

To learn more about the Palestinian community in Chile, read the full article, Yo Soy Palestino, in the July 2012 issue of ONE magazine.

Tags: Palestine Chile

9 November 2012
Annie Grunow

Two members of a folk group, Kecera, sing traditional songs at a seniors’ club in
Jakubany, Slovakia. (photo: Andrej Bán.)

In late 2008, ONE contributor Jacqueline Ruyak visited the Slovakian village of Jakubany and wrote about life in this Rusyn Greek Catholic village for the January 2009 issue of ONE.

She writes:

Jakubany has a rich cultural heritage, including distinctive folklore, music, dance and dress. Villagers developed traditions in relation to their deep, historical relationship with the forests, pastures and mountains that surround the community.

To read more, and see more images from this lovely village, check out the full article!

Tags: Slovakia Ruysn

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