12 December 2013
In this image from August, a Coptic Orthodox bishop surveys a damaged church in Minya, Egypt. (photo: CNS/Louafi Larbi, Reuters)
CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., appears in the pages of America magazine this week, writing about the struggle for democracy in Egypt — and how this is impacting Christians:
The situation of Christians in post-Morsi Egypt has grown rapidly and significantly worse. Pro-Morsi forces accuse the Coptic Christians of having staged a military coup against the democratically elected president. Although the number of Egyptian Christians is so small (estimates range between 5 percent and 15 percent of the population) that it would, practically speaking, be impossible for them to overthrow the government, nonetheless all over the country violent attacks on Christians and Christian institutions have reached an unprecedented level. On 17 August 2013, a list was published of 32 Christian institutions that had been attacked, looted or destroyed since Mr. Morsi’s removal. When the looting and destruction of Christian homes and businesses are also taken into account, the list is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The image of Patriarch Tawadros standing with General el-Sisi has become a rallying point for the pro-Morsi, anti-military demonstrators to focus attacks on Christians as the enemy.
Egypt is experiencing the worst of all possible situations; there is no clear good side and no clear bad side. The actions of the pro-Morsi supporters who attack Christians show quite clearly what their agenda may have been all along. Yet the military’s actions and the ferocity of its response to the pro-Morsi demonstrators make it very difficult to be sympathetic. In fact, that is a major problem: it is almost impossible to be completely sympathetic to either side. Each side has grievances and each side has committed atrocities. This has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for countries like the United States and the member states of the European Union to take a clear stand on what is happening and to support one group against the other.
The situation in Egypt highlights a very important fact that is crucial for the entire Middle East. Despite all the rhetoric, democracy alone is not and cannot be the answer. Since the advent of the Arab Spring, there has been a great deal of talk about democracy. Most of it has been shallow and naïve.
Read on to learn more.
Meanwhile, America’s editor, Matt Malone, S.J., draws a connection between this piece and one written six decades ago for the magazine by Senator John. F. Kennedy:
Nearly 60 years after J.F.K. wrote for these pages, America once again looks at a seemingly intractable problem in the Mediterranean region. Father Mallon’s analysis is, in fact, a faint echo of Senator Kennedy’s caution, especially when Father Mallon writes that “to expect democracy in the Middle East to emerge, develop democratic institutions and thrive in a decade or two is not only unrealistic; it is unfair.” Indeed, such a course would amount to something President Kennedy himself derided in a 1963 speech, an unsustainable “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” Still, there are many in the foreign policy establishment today who argue for such a “historically naïve” form of progress, says Father Mallon: “For many in the United States, democracy means ‘just like us.’ ”
12 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Egypt's Christians Democracy Arab Spring/Awakening
Bishop Borys Gudziak addresses protestors in Kiev and expresses solidarity with them. (photo: Bishop Ken Nowakowski)
Yesterday, Ukrainian authorities stormed the central square in Kiev, intensifying the standoff with protestors. After nine hours, security forces withdrew. The demonstrators remained.
We received an e-mail from Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop of New Westminister, Canada. He is in Kiev and following the protests in the city. He wrote:
Early Wednesday morning, 11 December 2013, Bishops Borys Gudziak of Paris, Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, Yaroslav Pryriz of Sambir-Drohobych and Bohdan Dzyurakh of Kiev went to Independence Square in Kiev to be in solidarity with those on the square as a result of the siege that was happening during night. They appeared on the stage, and spoke to the protestors, assuring them that the church stood in peace with them.
The bishops, who are members of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, also spoke directly to the military and special forces, urging them not to commit violence against their own people. The bishops led the people in prayer, blessed them and then went to the chapel tent that the Ukrainian Catholic Church erected. There, they celebrated Divine Liturgy. The chapel tent is on the spot where blood of the peaceful and unarmed students was spilled when special forces brutally beat these young defenseless people.
After the Divine Liturgy, the bishops went to the front lines, where the military was lined up, to urge them not to use violence against those on the squares and streets.
The Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church also released the following statement:
We are profoundly disturbed by the actions of the state security forces on the Maydan Square in heart of Kiev conducted under the cover of the night.
We condemn the action directed towards restricting civil liberties, especially the freedom of expression and peaceful civic manifestation of the citizens of Ukraine.
We declare our support and solidarity with all those on the Maydan Square who are standing with dignity and witnessing to the dignity of their fellow citizens and of the whole nation.
We strongly support the peaceful character of this civic gathering and declare our rejection of any type of violence.
We pray to God Almighty for peace, justice and the triumph of truth for our people.
In this time of great trial by the words of Jesus Christ that were proclaimed in all of our churches this past Sunday offer encouragement: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed!” (Lk 8:50)
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!
11 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada
The cover of Time magazine’s Person of the Year issue, featuring Pope Francis. (photo: CNS/Time Inc., handout via Reuters)
This morning, Time magazine named Pope Francis its Person of the Year—the third pope, following Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, to earn that distinction.
Pope Francis is not seeking fame or accolades, but being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year will make him happy if it helps attract people to the hope of the Gospel, said the Vatican spokesman.
“It’s a positive sign that one of the most prestigious recognitions in the international press” goes to a person who “proclaims to the world spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice,” said the spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.
The choice of Pope Francis “is not surprising, given the wide appeal and huge attention” to his pontificate so far, Father Lombardi said in a written statement on 11 Decemberr, shortly after Time announced it had named the pope for the annual feature.
“Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly — young and old, faithful and cynical — as has Pope Francis,” Time said on its website. “With a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church has become a new voice of conscience.”
Blessed John Paul II was named Person of the Year in 1994 and Blessed John XXIII in 1962.
Other past honorees include several U.S. Presidents, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. The magazine says the title goes to the person or idea that “for better or worse ... has done the most to influence events of the year.”
In explaining the choice, Time writer Nancy Gibbs notes:
Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly—young and old, faithful and cynical—as has Pope Francis. In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.
At a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge. The world is getting smaller; individual voices are getting louder; technology is turning virtue viral, so his pulpit is visible to the ends of the earth. When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church. …
For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is Time’s 2013 Person of the Year.
10 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Pope John Paul II
Children in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, such as 13-year-old Tiblets Gebray, suffer from chronic malnurishment and depend on outside support during lean years. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Pope Francis is helping to launch a “wave of prayer,” drawing attention to the plight of starving people around the world:
People must stand united against the scandal of hunger while avoiding food waste and irresponsible use of the world’s resources, Pope Francis said.
People should “stop thinking that our daily actions do not have an impact on the lives of those who suffer from hunger firsthand,” he said in a video message on 9 December, launching a global campaign of prayer and action against hunger.
Organized by Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based federation of Catholic charities, a global “wave of prayer” was to begin at noon on 10 December on the South Pacific island of Samoa and head west across the world’s time zones.
Pope Francis offered his blessing and support for the “One Human Family, Food For All” campaign in a video message released on the eve of the global launch.
With about one billion people still suffering from hunger today, “we cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist,” he said in the message.
There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, he said, but only “if there is the will” to respect the “God-given rights of everyone to have access to adequate food.”
By sharing in Christian charity with those “who face numerous obstacles,” the pope said, “we promote an authentic cooperation with the poor so that, through the fruits of their and our work, they can live a dignified life.”
In the Autumn edition of ONE, we reported on efforts to eradicate hunger among students in one corner of Ethiopia. There remains much to be done. To learn what you can do in that part of the world to answer the pope’s plea, visit our Ethiopia giving page.
9 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia Children Prayers/Hymns/Saints Hunger
Protesters gather around small bonfires lit throughout the main square in Kiev. (photo: Ken Nowakowski)
The dramatic standoff in Ukraine has intensified, with protesters yesterday toppling a statue of Lenin in Kiev and riot police taking to the streets.
A few days ago, Carl Hétu, national director for CNEWA Canada, received an email from Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop of New Westminister, Canada. He is in Kiev and described the scene:
It is out of this world. … It is cold, but hearts are warm. It is somewhat scary, yet one feels among family.
The Ukrainian [Greek] Catholic Church has set up a little tent chapel with priests on hand and prayers being offered, very near the spot where the students were brutally clubbed by the Special Forces last weekend. There are tens of thousands out throughout [Independence] Square and the streets.
Keep us all in your prayers.
6 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Eastern Europe Kiev
In 2007, Sister Christian Molidor captured the image above: A family left homeless by the December 2004 tsunami settles in to a new house, thanks to CNEWA’s generous donors. To discover more ways to help families in need in India today, check out our giving page. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
5 December 2013
Tags: India CNEWA Homes/housing
In 2004 image, two women — a Muslim and a Catholic sister — take notes during class at Bethlehem University. The Catholic school serves both Christians and Muslims and promotes interreligious understanding. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Over the next couple weeks, the “little town of Bethlehem” will figure prominently in songs and liturgies. But several years ago, we visited a leading university there, which revealed a different aspect of the town:
Founded by the Holy See and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the university serves Christians and Muslims alike and offers degrees in such fields as arts and sciences, business administration, nursing, education, social work, hotel management and tourism.
It does so against the tense political backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose flare-ups often have forced the university to suspend operations. While the current intifada has not produced closings on the scale seen from 1987 to 1990, it has had a tremendous impact on the school.
“The past few years have been a struggle,” says Brother Vincent Malham, F.S.C., Bethlehem University’s President and Vice Chancellor since 1997.
“The closures and curfews and checkpoints make it difficult for our students and staff to get here.”
And the devastation of the Palestinian economy has slashed the availability of jobs. “In Bethlehem, once a relatively affluent Palestinian city, unemployment is at least 50 percent,” Brother Vincent says.
Even so, the university continues to grow in numbers and in academic offerings, Brother Vincent adds. As such, Bethlehem University must be seen as one of the great successes of recent Palestinian history.
Bethlehem University’s origins date to Pope Paul VI’s 1964 visit to the Holy Land. He believed Palestinians would be well-served by a university and that such an institution also would help stem Christian Palestinian emigration. The pope asked the De La Salle Christian Brothers to run the project.
It was a natural choice: In 1680, John Baptist de la Salle founded his congregation to educate the poor, who typically did not have access to education. (Today, about 7,000 brothers and their colleagues run schools in more than 80 countries.)
At first, the university occupied a few rooms in a Bethlehem elementary and secondary school for boys.
“We were pioneers, but we had great teachers who were creative,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sfeir, a student in the 1973 inaugural class and now a professor of education at Bethlehem University.
Read more about The Perseverance of Bethlehem University in the November 2004 issue of ONE.
And to support CNEWA’s work in Palestine, visit this giving page.
4 December 2013
Tags: Education Interreligious Catholic education Bethlehem University Catholic-Muslim relations
In this image from 2004, a man displays a three-bar cross — commonly used by Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the Slavic churches — before police during a protest in Kiev. (photo: Petro Didula)
The dramatic news out of Ukraine these days reminds us of events we chronicalled in the magazine nearly a decade ago, following the so-called “orange revolution.”
We reported in 2005 on the intersection of religion and politics in the public square during that historic standoff and the complicated history behind the protests in Ukraine, all growing out of the election that pitted reformer Viktor Yuschenko against Prime Minister Viktor Yankyovych:
Though both Mr. Yuschenko and Mr. Yanukovych are Orthodox, they drew their support from different confessional groups. Ukraine’s Catholic community, which accounts for about 13 percent of the country’s 48 million people (5 million Greek Catholics and 1 million Latin, or Roman, Catholics), supported Mr. Yuschenko and his pro-Western tilt. Meanwhile, the largest Orthodox community — the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which accounts for about 25 percent of the population — supported Mr. Yanukovych, an advocate for close ties to Russia. The two Orthodox communities independent of Moscow — the larger Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church — supported Mr. Yuschenko’s presidential bid.
“The ecclesiastical authorities are not supposed to take a stand in this crisis,” Father Oleksandre Hoursky told the International Herald Tribune. But then, like many clergy involved, he went on to ignore his own advice. “The church supports good against evil, the protection of human rights and the end of any injustices, and the state abuse of power,” the Roman Catholic priest continued.
Even Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who heads the country’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, weighed in on the crisis. “At the root of the crisis remains an immoral regime,” he said, “that has deprived Ukrainian people of their legitimate rights and dignity.”
Read more about Forging Ukraine, and the history that led up to the orange revolution, in the May 2005 issue of ONE.
3 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Sister Bincy Joseph assists the girls with their homework. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2008, we profiled an orphanage in India offering refuge and hope:
Mother Mary Home for Girls lies in the remote and beautiful valley of Wayanad, nestled between hills covered in dense tropical vegetation. To Arya, Athira and the other girls, all of whom were born to poor, broken families, the orphanage must have first appeared as an oasis. Coconut and fruit trees abound. Milk cows and chickens wander the home’s four acres, donated by a local parish of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
Mother Mary Home opened its doors on 30 May 2004, initially welcoming just seven girls, including Arya and Athira. It has since grown rapidly. Three Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate, a religious community of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, run the home. Founded in 1962 by Father C.J. Varkey to share “the redeeming love of Jesus irrespective of caste, race and religion,” the community includes more than 700 professed sisters in more than a 100 communities throughout India, Italy, Germany and the United States.
The sisters administer not only orphanages and schools, but run and staff health care facilities, homes for the elderly, a rehabilitation center for people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and function in a number of pastoral and social apostolates, including family counseling and prison ministry. …
In most cases, said assistant director Sister Jean Mary Koottuemkal, the girls are from the most dysfunctional of families, families with a history of domestic abuse, murders and suicides. She recalled one situation where two sisters saved their mother from being murdered by the father. Both parents are unstable and unable to rear their children. Some girls, she continued, cannot return to their village. In one such case, a girl was born out of wedlock. Another girl’s mother committed suicide. In India — especially its traditional south — many ostracize families with circumstances such as these.
Sister Jean Mary emphasized that Kerala, while largely rural, is densely populated, as much as three times the rest of India. And up to a third of the state’s population live below the poverty level.
Most of the parents of the girls at Mother Mary Home work as day laborers at local quarries, brick factories or large rubber estates. Wages are abysmally low, the work, seasonal and hunger, common. Parents often find it necessary, Sister Jean Mary said, to send their children out to work to supplement their meager incomes. The parents of these girls are so socially and economically marginalized that they never bothered to obtain birth certificates for their children.
Read more on A Place to Call Home in the March 2008 issue of ONE.
And visit this page to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of India’s young people.
2 December 2013
Tags: India Children Sisters Education Orphans/Orphanages
Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, at the Vatican in late March. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
On Saturday, Pope Francis sent a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to mark the feast of the Patron of the Church at Constantinople, St. Andrew the Apostle. As part of the message, Pope Francis underscored the difficulties many Christians are facing in the Middle East:
Our joy in celebrating the feast of the Apostle Andrew must not make us turn our gaze from the dramatic situation of the many people who are suffering due to violence and war, hunger, poverty and grave natural disasters. I am aware that you are deeply concerned for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain in their homelands. Dialogue, pardon and reconciliation are the only possible means to achieve the resolution of conflict. Let us be unceasing in our prayer to the all-powerful and merciful God for peace in this region, and let us continue to work for reconciliation and the just recognition of peoples’ rights.
Your Holiness, the memory of the martyrdom of the apostle Saint Andrew also makes us think of the many Christians of all the churches and ecclesial communities who in many parts of the world experience discrimination and at times pay with their own blood the price of their profession of faith. We are presently marking the 1700th anniversary of Constantine’s Edict, which put an end to religious persecution in the Roman Empire in both East and West, and opened new channels for the dissemination of the Gospel. Today, as then, Christians of East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation among Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting the contribution which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture.
You can read the full text here.
Tags: Pope Francis Middle East Christians Ecumenism Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I