25 July 2013
Young men attend a shoemaking class at vocational training center in Minya, Egypt.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we visited a vocational school in Upper Egypt that was giving hope and opportunity to the handicapped:
The Jesuit Center for the Handicapped is one of several projects in the region funded by CNEWA. The center is dedicated to youths who would otherwise have few opportunities for an independent life.
The center, originally for boys, was founded in 1983. Since 1992, girls have also been admitted. There are now 40 students at the center and admission is equally divided by gender.
Students are bused from surrounding areas and they room at the center from Monday to Thursday. By having a three-day weekend in their villages, respect is paid to both Muslims, who pray on Fridays, and Christians, who worship on Sundays.
Minya’s population is about 20 percent Christian and 80 percent Muslim. Osama Iseq, the center’s director, said there are tensions between the two religious communities, fueled largely by Islamic fundamentalists.
“At first we had problems with bringing the students to the center,” he said. “There was one village we could not even get to because of anti-Christian feelings, but now there is no problem. Here Muslims and Christians get along. That students are eating, studying, living and working together is better than any discussion...
...The center’s two-year course provides vocational training in the morning and literacy and simple mathematics classes in the afternoon. When students are finished with the course, they read, write, do basic arithmetic and are prepared for an independent life with practical job skills.
But while the vocational school is relatively new, the Jesuits have a long history of being educators in Minya. On the same campus as the Center for the Handicapped is a primary and preparatory school founded in 1889. The Jesuit Fathers school also receives scholarship grants from CNEWA.
The 800-pupil school is run by five Jesuit priests and one brother, two of whom are Egyptians, two are Maltese, one is French and the other is Dutch. Also on staff are a number of Christian and Muslim teachers.
Jesuit Father Joseph Mizi, the school’s director, said the school is one of the best in the district even though it primarily serves the poorer children of the area.
Read more about efforts to take young people From Dusty to Dignity in the November 2002 issue of the magazine.
25 July 2013
Missio President Msgr. Klaus Krämer visits with CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar.
Msgr. Klaus Krämer, president of Missio, the German Catholic mission organization of the Pontifical Mission Societies, visited the New York offices of CNEWA this morning. A longtime collaborator with Msgr. Kozar, Msgr. Krämer was in the United States to meet with other Catholic agencies and help build what he called “Catholic solidarity.” He expressed his appreciation for his work with Msgr. Kozar — “We have a very good partnership,” he said — and spoke of a desire to consolidate efforts and build a worldwide network of charities devoted to serving the poor in Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Describing the work of Missio, Msgr. Krämer put it simply: “We invest in people.” Missio supports numerous programs and projects. One annual program, “Three Kings,” involves children caroling throughout Germany during the first week of January to raise money for poor children in the regions Missio serves. This immensely popular project raised €42 million last year. You can learn more about Missio — one of the oldest mission societies in the world, founded in 1822 — by visiting its UK website.
Msgr. Krämer himself has a colorful background. He was a lawyer before becoming a priest and served for several years as secretary to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. (Among other things, Msgr. Krämer is editing the writings of Cardinal Kasper and, while in New York, plans to meet with several publishers.)
When I asked him to sum up his organization’s message, Msgr. Krämer paused and thought for a moment.
“The Gospel is alive,” he said. “The church is not only a question of life in a parish, life in a country, it’s part of an international network. This is like a global village. The Catholic Church is one of the oldest and biggest global players. And this network of churches is something very unique. And it’s a challenge for us, as Catholics, to be in contact and to help. But it’s also a source that can encourage us in our own faith.
“We can see how alive the church is in other parts of the world and how they are dealing with their challenges, their problems. So we are not only giving. We are also receiving a lot from them. This is important for the life of the church. And it’s important for the whole world.”
25 July 2013
A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he runs to take cover in Aleppo’s Salaheddine neighborhood on 23 July. Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations, criticized the “persistent refusal” of Syria’s warring factions to negotiate an end to the country’s 28-month-long civil war. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)
Holy See: There can be no military solution to Syria (Fides) No more wasting time, exclude any military option, immediately start a negotiation: that is what Archbishop. Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations, asked yesterday during the open debate of the Security Council on the Middle East. The nuncio criticized the “persistent refusal” of Syria’s warring factions to negotiate an end to the country’s 28-month-long civil war, calling on the international community to act quickly to stop the conflict. “There can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict,” he said in his speech...
UN puts death toll in Syria at 100,000 (AP) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday raised the death toll in Syria’s civil war to more than 100,000, up from nearly 93,000 just over a month ago. Ban called on the Syrian government and opposition to halt the violence in the 2 ½ year civil war, saying it is “imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible...”
UK bishops call for peace in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Catholic and Anglican bishops in England and Wales have met with the Israeli ambassador to Britain, calling for increased efforts to bring lasting peace to the Holy Land. In their meeting with Ambassador Daniel Taub on Wednesday, Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ department for International Affairs, and Bishop Michael Langrish, who heads the Church of England’s efforts for Midde East peace, said conflict between Israelis and Palestinians “has for far too long been an open wound,” frustrating the aspirations of both communities to live in dignity, peace and security...”
Metropolitan Hilarion: the West is moving to a kind of dictatorship (Interfax) Modern Western states move to absolute dictatorship, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion believes. “Nowadays state sets a principle of secularity, independency from any outside authority that is authorized to point out to violations of morals or rights,” the metropolitan writes in his article published in the Pravoslavnaya Beseda magazine. People are declared the only source of authority in a democratic state, and people should realize this authority through free will of citizens participating in elections and referendums...
24 July 2013
A mother and child pause for a picture at the Godano Institution, a home for abused girls and women. The women attend classes, learning to sew and work as beauticians. Last year, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited and wrote about his experience. Read his moving account of “the Church”s Priority.” (photo: Cody Christopulos)
24 July 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Education Women (rights/issues)
This image from last year shows destruction in Homs after clashes between the Syrian army and rebels. (photo: CNS/SANA handout via Reuters)
Red Cross: Syria blocking aid to Homs (Al Jazeera) Syrian authorities are blocking access to the Old City of Homs, where trapped civilians are in dire need of food and medical supplies, the Red Cross said. The International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.), in a statement issued on Wednesday, warned of possible “tragic” consequences if aid does not arrive in Homs soon. The agency revealed last Friday that it was negotiating a humanitarian pause to be able to enter Homs, where President Bashar al Assad’s forces have been conducting a heavy offensive against rebels, with air and artillery strikes…
Lombardi: Pope Francis brings attention to the poor (Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See Press Office and director general of Vatican Radio, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., has been to World Youth Days under three popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. He said each pope has his own individual style and way of speaking to young people. “We recall the popes of the World Youth Day, obviously. Every one of them has his style, his way of speech, his different relation to the young people,” Father Lombardi said. “At the time of John Paul II, there was the problem of East and West maybe for some of the World Youth Days, then [with Pope Benedict XVI] there was the problem of the digital generation in Madrid and so on. We see now that Pope Francis brings the attention to the urgent needs of the world of today — the poor, hunger, justice, human spiritual development,” he explained…
Celebrations mark 1025th anniversary of Christianity in Russia (Voice of Russia) Today, on 24 July celebrations are starting in Russia that are dedicated to the 1025th anniversary of Christianity in Russia. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill will lead the service in the country’s main cathedral — the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The 1025th birthday of Russian Christianity will be marked by church services and cross processions not only in Russia, but also in Belorussia and Ukraine…
23 July 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II World Youth Day
A girl attends the Divine Liturgy at the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, Brazil. This week, hundreds of thousands of young people are expected to take part in the visit of Pope Francis to Brazil for World Youth Day. Check out our archives to read more about the Greek Catholic Paradise in Brazil. (photo: Izan Petterle)
22 July 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Melkite Greek Catholic Church Melkite World Youth Day Brazil
Pope Francis carries a bag as he boards a plane at Fiumicino airport in Rome on 22 July. He is making his first trip abroad as bishop of Rome to join more than 300,000 young people in Brazil for World Youth Day. (photo: CNS/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)
19 July 2013
Tags: Pope Francis World Youth Day Brazil
Father Elias Koucos presides over the liturgy at Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, Utah.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
Three years ago, we visited the Greek Orthodox community in the heart of Mormon-dominated Utah:
From the summit of Ensign Peak in Utah, a mountain Mormons believe sacred, the visitor takes in a panoramic view of the rugged but splendid geography of this unique southwestern American state. To the west, one glimpses the Great Salt Lake and desert; to the south, one looks down upon the Salt Lake Valley, which cradles the state capital, Salt Lake City, and its sprawling suburbs; and to the east, one’s vision is blocked by the Wasatch Mountains, a forbidding, craggy wall towering thousands of feet above the valley. It was through these mountains that the Latter-day Saints first entered the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1847 after their long, difficult flight from religious persecution across America’s heartland. Mexican territory at the time, they and their followers nonetheless adopted the valley as their homeland, referring to it as “Mormon Zion,” and began settling what is today Salt Lake City.
A half-century later, the first Greek immigrants arrived in Salt Lake City. They did not come by handcart and oxen-pulled wagons, as did the original settlers, but by railroads built with immigrant labor in the decades before their arrival. Attracted to Utah with promises of jobs on the railroads, most of these Greeks soon began laying railroad tracks themselves. …
The precise number of Utahans of Greek descent is difficult to assess. In the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly 12,000 state residents reported to be of Greek ancestry. Approximately 1,000 active families, or about 4,000 people, belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake. While small compared to the larger Greek-American enclaves in the eastern United States, Utah’s Greek-American community is thriving. According to the 2000 Census, Utah ranks ninth in the nation with respect to the percentage of the population claiming Greek ancestry.
Today, the Greek Orthodox Church is the binding force for Utah’s Hellenic community. Father Matthew Gilbert, pastor of Holy Trinity Cathedral, describes the parish as very active, with no shortage of activities, especially for the youth. Still, says the priest, himself “Greek” by marriage, passing down the faith to the next generation remains a challenge.
“The hardest thing is the spiritual aspect. It’s nice to dance and to play basketball. We have Greek schools, dance programs, Orthodox Christian camps in the summer, Greek camp, Sunday school. We offer everything imaginable, but it’s up to individuals to cultivate their spiritual life. It’s always easier to cultivate the fun things, but a spiritual life is difficult. It takes a lot of work. Being baptized is the easy part. The rest is commitment.”
Read more about Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion from the July 2010 issue of ONE.
18 July 2013
Tags: Eastern Christianity United States Orthodox Church Orthodox
In this image from 2010, a woman and her grandson pose in the village of Aklaimi, Wadi al Nasarah, in the “Valley of the Christians,” near Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)
The New York Times this week reported on the devastation civil war has brought to the Syrian city of Homs:
Little by little, the central Syrian city of Homs is losing its infrastructure and its landmarks. The national hospital lies in ruins. Rebel-held neighborhoods stretch for blocks without an intact building. Many government offices are closed. The silver-domed mosque of Khalid bin al Waleed — named for an early Islamic warrior particularly revered by Sunnis — stands pockmarked and perforated.
Abandoned cars rust beneath piles of rubble and downed wires.
Homs was an early bellwether of what Syria would become. One of the first cities to rise up in rebellion, it was home to mass demonstrations. As protests turned to armed revolt, the city began to split, largely along sectarian lines, with much of the Sunni majority supporting the uprising and members of President Bashar al Assad’s Alawite sect joining pro-government militias. Now, after more than a year of siege, bombardment and clashes, which have intensified recently as the government has renewed its assault on rebel strongholds, Homs may well be the site of the most concentrated destruction in the country.
But less than three years ago, that part of Syria was very different. We visited the region’s nearby villages in 2010:
Looking out at the idyllic countryside, with its gently rolling hills painted in hues of olive green and gold, its ancient villages and stone churches, it is no wonder why so many natives faithfully return at least once a year.
One such émigré is Lamaan Nahas. On vacation, she is visiting her home village of Alkaimi with her aging mother and three children. Mrs. Nahas left Syria 17 years ago and now lives in San Francisco, California, with her husband, children and, for the past year, her mother. She loves San Francisco and her life there, she says, but she misses her home in the Valley of Christians. Her mother, her gray hair pulled in a bun, smiles broadly, visibly happy to be back home, even if for just a short stay.
As we talked, a couple of girls approached a nearby fountain fed by a natural spring with large plastic jugs brought from home. As they filled them with the fresh cool water, they giggled with delight. The valley has many natural springs and it is not uncommon for each village to have one nearby. Though all homes in the valley are equipped with modern plumbing and electricity, locals often prefer to collect their drinking water from these springs.
Despite the lack of opportunity, many of the region’s remaining residents are clearly happy to live in such a beautiful environment.
Read more about Syria’s Valley of the Christians in the January 2011 issue of ONE.
17 July 2013
Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War War Village life
Msgr. Kozar visits with children at St. Anthony’s Dayssadan, a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters in India. (photo: CNEWA)
Last year, CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar traveled to India and wrote about his experience visiting a home for children:
The place is the St. Anthony’s Dayssadan, a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters. The director of the facility is Sister Tessy, and she is accompanied by six other caring and loving sisters. …
When I walked around to give each of them some candy — as has been the custom during all of our pastoral visits with children — I became very much aware of their physical challenges, as some of them could not put out their hands to accept the candy. Their joy in welcoming me prompted one of them to ask me to pray for all of them. Their response to my blessing was to sing together a lovely hymn, alluding to how God watches over us all. What a powerful life lesson for me.
The sisters here are saints, completely devoted to the care of these special children. I feel that this visit with the sisters and His little ones, was the perfect way to put it all into perspective. God loves everyone: the poor, the disadvantaged, those with special challenges. And we are privileged and have the honor of reaching out to the needs of so many in India. As much as we might do in helping them, we receive infinitely more as we experience their courage, their kindness, their patience, and especially their FAITH. Yes, above all they are filled with faith. Their trust in God watching over them, with a little help from our CNEWA family, is the great equalizer. It not only keeps them going, but it also brings joy and happiness to their lives.
Read more from Msgr. Kozar’s journey In the Footsteps of St. Thomas.
Tags: India Children Sisters Indian Christians Msgr. John E. Kozar