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Volume 44, Number 1
  
20 November 2013
Greg Kandra




Father Jorge distributes blessed bread following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Honduras. (photo: Carina Wint)

In 2006, we visited a surprising corner of the world with a small but thriving Arab population — Central America:

Today, there are as many as 220,000 Arab-Hondurans. While they represent only 3 percent of the total population of 7.3 million people, they have had an outsized influence on the nation. They are most visible in business and only slightly less so in politics. Centro Social’s president, Juan Canahuati, a textile magnate with numerous other entrepreneurial activities, is considered the country’s top businessman. Coffee exporter and former Industry and Commerce Minister Oscar Kafati’s ancestors immigrated to Honduras in the late 19th century from Beit Jala, a Christian town adjacent to Bethlehem. Former President Carlos Flores Facusse’s mother came from Bethlehem.

Arab immigration to Latin America is not unique to Honduras nor are such success stories. To take just two prominent examples: former Argentine President Carlos Ménem (1989-1999) traces his roots to Syria; Mexico’s telecommunications titan, Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s third richest man, is of Lebanese descent.

Nearly all Arab-Hondurans claim Christian Palestinian origins, making the Arab-Honduran experience unique. Proportionally, there are more people of Palestinian descent in Honduras than any other Latin American country.

Arab Palestinians first came to Honduras in the 19th century, but the largest waves arrived after 1896, the year the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which then controlled Palestine, first allowed emigration. Numerous factors motivated the early emigrants. In 1909, the Ottomans included in the military draft Christians and Jews, who were once forbidden to serve, but required to pay tribute instead. Economic incentives also drove Arabs abroad. Tourism and commerce, areas in which many Christians worked, declined during World War I. And increasingly Palestine’s Arab Christians found themselves competing with the growing Jewish population, largely secular Zionist immigrants from Europe, in their entrepreneurial activities. Just as today, there seemed to be more opportunities for enterprising Arabs abroad.

But why Honduras?

Some researchers have suggested the earliest emigrants boarded ships without knowing their final destination. The choice of Honduras was not a choice at all; it was happenstance. But after conducting interviews in 1979 with many Arab-Hondurans, geographer William Crowley concluded that “many, and maybe the majority, of the early immigrants headed intentionally for Honduras.”

Most of the Arabs from Palestine who immigrated to Honduras were Orthodox. But until 1963, Honduras’s Orthodox community lacked a church, and by then many immigrants had joined the Catholic Church, the predominant Christian community in the country.

Today, the country’s only Orthodox parish, the Iglesia Ortodoxa de Antioquena San Juan Bautista in San Pedro Sula, serves more than 200 families. It is pastored by Father Jorge Faraj, a married priest whose grandparents came to Honduras from Beit Sahour, another Christian town near Bethlehem.

Father Jorge estimated that about 45 percent of Arab-Hondurans remain Orthodox, including a small number of Hondurans from Lebanon. “But I’m the only Orthodox priest, so it is difficult for me to serve the entire country,” he said.

While most Arab-Hondurans live in San Pedro Sula, there are also large numbers in Tegucigalpa and other cities. “These cities don’t have their own Orthodox parishes, and I can visit them only so often,” said the priest. “So, these people tend to attend Catholic churches. But then, they’ll come to San Pedro Sula for a visit, and they’ll always come to an Orthodox service here.”

Read more in Middle Eastern, Central American Style in the September 2006 issue of ONE.



Tags: Cultural Identity Palestinians Immigration Arabs

18 November 2013
Greg Kandra




A young couple is married in the church of the ancient Gelati Monastery in Georgia. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the church was built by King David the Builder in the 12th century. You can find more pictures of the monastery here, and read about Michael La Civita’s journey through the Caucasus here and here. (photo: Michael La Civita)



Tags: Cultural Identity Village life Eastern Christianity Georgia Eastern Europe

15 November 2013
Greg Kandra




In Ethiopia, school meals greatly improve concentration among students, such as Teklit Gebru of Sebeya. To read more about efforts to feed the hungry in Ethiopia, check out Hungry to Learn in the Autumn issue of ONE. And visit our Ethiopia giving page to learn how you can help. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)



Tags: Ethiopia Children Education ONE magazine Hunger

13 November 2013
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis meets with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of ecumenical relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, during a private meeting at the Vatican on 12 November. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis met yesterday with Metropolitan Hilarion. ANSA reports:

The senior Orthodox church official, whose post is similar to that of a foreign minister, is visiting Rome for a series of meetings including a conference Wednesday organized by the Vatican Congregation for the Family.

Tuesday’s meeting coincides with a similar session in Moscow between the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

It also comes only a few weeks before the pope is scheduled to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin on 25 November.

And Rome Reports has more about yesterday’s meeting:

(video: Rome Reports)



Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Christian Unity Russian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

12 November 2013
Greg Kandra




The Mother of Mercy Clinic provides a wide range of services to as many as 30,000 patients each year, with a special focus on prenatal and postnatal care. (photo: Steve Sabella)

In the Autumn issue of ONE, we take readers to the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Jordan, where healthcare workers care for the growing number of refugees:

Since early 2011, more than half a million Syrians have found refuge in a country with a population of barely more than six million. Hundreds of people arrive every day, many of whom come with severe injuries, long-term health issues or both. Many women arrive pregnant — some of whom, married at a young age, are barely more than children themselves.

Early in the crisis, the kingdom offered all Syrian refugees free health care in the public system. But as the demand for care grew, it came close to bringing the system to its knees. In March, Dr. Yaroub Ajlouni, president of the Jordan Health Aid Society, reported that the health system in northern Jordan — where many Syrian refugees live — was on the verge of collapse. Beds were unavailable in the public hospitals, intensive care unit spaces and incubators were full, drugs in short supply. Since then, Dr. Ajlouni and other aid workers say the kingdom has relieved some of the crowding, quietly scaling back the amount of health care refugees can access, implementing new restrictions and asking international organizations to carry more of the burden. The crisis has affected everyone.

Sister Najma says the Mother of Mercy Clinic sees few refugees — perhaps 10 or 15 a day — but demand for its services is constantly growing, and the clinic is struggling to keep up with the increase. Part of this is because space is limited, Mr. Bahou explains, and part of it is that the same economic factors squeezing Jordanians are also putting pressure on private health care providers. “It’s getting tight, because we cannot increase the budget anymore,” says Mr. Bahou.

“We’re trying to keep the budget as it is and absorb the higher cost of maintenance and utilities.

“We have many generous donors, but it’s not easy,” says Mr. Bahou. “We’re managing with the amount we’re receiving — we don’t have a problem — but it’s very tight. Every penny we spend, it should be used very reasonably.”

Things are not yet dire — the clinic is slated for renovation this year, funded in part by the U.S. Eastern Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. But Sister Najma says the pressure on the sisters is growing, and there is no room to treat more patients.

Read more about Overwhelming Mercy in the Autumn issue of the magazine.

And visit this page to learn how you can help support CNEWA’s work in Jordan.



Tags: Refugees Children Jordan Health Care Women

6 November 2013
Greg Kandra




A Free Syrian Army fighter walks inside a church in Aleppo, Syria, on 4 November. The following day, the Vatican embassy in Damascus was struck by a mortar round. No one was injured. Read more. (photo: CNS/Molhem Barakat, Reuters)



Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Vatican Aleppo Damascus

5 November 2013
Greg Kandra




Oseni Khalajian, a pensioner living in Eshtia, belongs to a community of Armenian Catholics descended from Armenians who fled to Georgia to escape the Turkish mass murder. (photo: Molly Corso)

The Autumn issue of ONE includes a memorable look at life in Armenia, and Catholics who have true staying power — those who kept the faith alive despite years of persecution:

Older generations, while they maintained their Catholic identity, are still struggling to come to terms with their faith after decades of pressure to abandon it. Built in 1886, when the first Armenian immigrants started to trickle out of Turkey and into Georgia, the church in Eshtia was turned later into a warehouse when the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin went to war against religion in the 1930’s.

Armenian Catholics, however, went to great lengths to maintain their identity and faith. Villagers tell tales about elders baptizing the communities’ babies in secret, and Dr. Ovsepian remembered celebrating Christmas.

“During the time of the Communists, people were also religious,” Father Antonian recalls. “I remember well the holidays like Christmas — which were celebrated.”

But for men like Vano Gasparian, a local born in 1955, being an Armenian Catholic was part of his identity, even if he grew up knowing little about the faith.

“Catholics remained Catholics,” he says, adding, however, that for the older generations it can be a difficult transition from a culture that promoted atheism to a life of faith.

“For the young, they believe with their whole soul,” he says. For the older generations, “for us, it is harder.”

Read more in the Autumn issue of ONE.



Tags: Cultural Identity Armenia Village life Georgia Armenian Catholic Church

4 November 2013
Greg Kandra




A young Ethiopian girl is shown in one of many photographs captured by Sister Christian Molidor during her travels for CNEWA. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

In the Autumn edition of ONE, we devote several pages to the remarkable photographs of Christian Molidor, R.S.M., who worked for CNEWA for many years and died this past summer. Michael J.L. La Civita pays tribute to her life and work in the video below.



4 November 2013
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch answers questions at Aid to the Church in Need’s UK office. (video from Aid to the Church in Need)

Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch discusses life in Syria (Byzcatch.org) John Pontifex interviews Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch at Aid to the Church in Need’s UK office. The Patriarch, who is the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, was visiting the UK as the guest-of-honour at Aid to the Church in Need’s Persecuted but never forgotten events in London and Glasgow. In this interview he talks about what life has been like for Christians in war-torn Syria...

Mursi trial begins in Egypt (Vatican Radio) Egypt on Monday began the trial of ousted president Mohamed Mursi. It is the second time in just over two years that an overthrown president has been in court in Egypt. The trial is not being aired on state television and journalists were barred from bringing their telephones into the courtroom set up in a Cairo police academy. The now-banned Muslim Brotherhood has said it will not abandon street protests to pressure the army,which toppled Mursi on 3 July, to reinstate him. Speaking to Vatican Radio the Chief press spokesman, of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Cairo, Fr. Rafic Greiche says he hopes the trial will help turn a page for the Egyptian people...

Pope Francis prays for deceased cardinals and bishops (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday, 4 November celebrated Mass in remembrance of all the cardinals and bishops who died during the past year. During the Mass, which was held in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope reminded us that we are all in the merciful hands of God who will grant heavenly rewards to the just and the righteous...

Chaldean patriarch reflects on his ministry (Asia News) “Remember always that you are priests!” Therefore, “I invite you to think of the wonderful mission to which you are called” within “the One, Universal, Holy and Apostolic Church,” said Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako I in a letter to the Chaldean clergy, published on 31 October and recently sent to Asia News. His Beatitude talks about the ten years of his episcopate, his nine months at the helm of the patriarchal see and the coming final celebrations of the Year of Faith. For this reason, he has decided to address for a second time, after his first letter in May, all the bishops, priests, religious and nuns of the Chaldean community in order to invite them to “prayer and introspection” under the protection “of the Virgin Mary...”



30 October 2013
Greg Kandra




The staff here will be on retreat the rest of this week. But before we left, we wanted to remind you to check out the newest issue of the magazine. The Autumn issue of ONE is now online. The print edition should be arriving in your mailbox any day now.

For a preview, check out the brief video below from Msgr. Kozar. And then visit us at this link for more. See you next week!



Tags: Egypt CNEWA Ethiopia Jordan ONE magazine





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