13 September 2013
In Lebanon, strong coffee sweetened to taste is served in the traditional manner. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
In 2002, we introduced readers to some of the customs surrounding food and dining in Lebanon:
Coffee is a household essential. It is served if a visitor has stopped by just to say hello and it is also served following a meal. The serving of coffee signals “time to leave” so gracious hosts delay serving it. And no guest would leave before receiving it.
At weddings, coffee is served sweet, but it is also served unsweetened at funerals to show grief.
When at home, guests are asked how they prefer their coffee — the answers reflect the amount of sugar to be added. For the sake of ease, the Lebanese will often serve a pot of unsweetened coffee and include a tiny sugar bowl on the tray as cups are passed around to the guests. With the last sip, guests will put down their cups and say, which is a very short version of the above proverb.
Excavations in Beirut have unearthed coffee cups that date to the 16th century. The Arabic has been westernized to coffee and the word comes from the Red Sea port of Mocka, in Yemen.
Coffee still plays an important role in trade and business in Lebanon. There is no such thing as a business meeting without coffee being served. The big brew in the little cup accompanies the exchange of pleasantries that kick off the meeting.
In times past, it was considered disrespectful to refuse a cup of coffee. It was like refusing a handshake. There are Lebanese who do not drink coffee, but it is still considered good manners to give an explanation for one’s refusal. There is no decaffeinated Lebanese coffee, so refusing coffee in the evening is acceptable.
Read more Food for Thought.
12 September 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity
Copts attend a liturgy at St. Simon the Tanner Church, carved out of a cave in Egypt. (photo: Dana Smillie)
The popular web site Amusing Planet this week paid a visit to one of the most unusual churches in the world, the “cave church” of the Zabbaleen in Egypt:
Egypt is a Muslim-majority country, but the Zabbaleen are mainly Coptic Christians. Christian communities are rare in Egypt, so the Zabbaleen prefer to stay in Mokattam within their own religious community, even though many of them can afford houses elsewhere.
The local Coptic Church in Mokattam Village was established in 1975. After the establishment of the church, the Zabbaleen felt more secure in their location and only then began to use more permanent building materials, such as stone and bricks, for their homes. Given their previous experience of eviction from Giza in 1970, the Zabbaleen had lived in temporary tin huts up till that point. In 1976, a large fire broke out in Manshiyat Nasir, which led to the beginning of the construction of the first church below the Mokattam mountain on a site of 1,000 square meters. Several more churches have been built into the caves found in Mokattam, of which the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner is the largest, with a seating capacity of 20,000. In fact, the Cave Church of St. Simon in Mokattam is the largest church in the Middle East.
In our magazine, we profiled the life of the Zabbaleen last year:
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.
Devout Christians, most residents in Manshiyat Naser attend services at St. Simon the Tanner, a Coptic church carved out of the face of a cliff dominating the neighborhood.
Though some parishioners wish the church could do more for the community, the parish offers relief. For instance, it provides material assistance to orphans, widows and disabled persons. And it runs a nursery school, which enrolls some 500 boys and girls from the neighborhood.
Read more about Salvaging Dignity in Cairo in the September 2012 issue of ONE.
11 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Cultural Identity Village life Coptic Christians Copts
Young seminarians practice chanting in Ge’ez in Ziway. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In 2009, we paid a visit to the town of Ziway, Ethiopia, for a look at the local Orthodox seminary at a time of transition in the country:
Life in Ziway carries on much as it has for centuries. At the monastery, signs of traditional life abound. One priest shovels sun-baked cow patties onto a horse-drawn cart. Adolescent deacons in training sit in pairs near the lake shore studying Scripture. And huddled on wooden benches beneath a small grove of shady trees, some 20 young seminarians practice chanting. Their drones drown out the chirping birds.
The seminarians are guided by debteras, a class of learned men unique to the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches. Debteras command respect: They function as catechists and participate as cantors in the celebration of the Qeddase, the eucharistic liturgy.
The seminarians and debteras chant in Ge’ez — the ancient liturgical language of the Ethiopian and Eritrean churches — which few people know.
Little about an Ethiopian Orthodox priest’s formation and rural lifestyle has changed over the centuries — at least until recently. Most Orthodox priests receive an education almost identical to that of the generations of priests before them. And most lead lives with their families in the countryside, surviving on subsistence farming and their parishioners’ meager offerings.
But as traditional agrarian Ethiopia develops and its increasingly better educated people leave their villages for the cities, many within the Ethiopian Orthodox community worry that its priests will no longer be relevant to the faithful they serve.
Read more about these seminarians in As It Was, So Shall It Remain?, in the September 2009 issue of ONE.
10 September 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Priests Orthodox Ethiopian Orthodox Church Seminarians
Mustafa Abu Bekir, 23, is carried by a family member as they enter Turkey from the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate on 9 September. (photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
The crisis in Syria has raised more concerns about refugees, many of whom have fled to neighboring countries.
From Catholic News Service:
Tanil Kahiaian, a refugee from the Syrian city of Aleppo, said he is doing what he can for the others fleeing his country. He, his wife and two children escaped the Syrian war almost a year ago, and since he has watched “tens of thousands” pour into neighboring Turkey as he did.
“It is so difficult for me to see this, their poverty. I am donating clothes from my work,” Kahiaian told Catholic News Service 8 September from near his home in Istanbul’s Kumkapi district.
Kahiaian said he considered himself among the fortunate refugees here, because he came with money, was being lodged by Istanbul’s Armenian Orthodox community, and was able to quickly get a job with an Armenian clothing firm in Turkey because of his numerous languages.
“I speak Turkish and I am doing for them a lot of business in Turkish clothes with Arabic countries. But the people on the border have nothing,” he said. “If there are [air] strikes on Syria, their numbers will be more.”
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees announced 3 September that more than 2 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries in search of security since the conflict began in 2011. About a million are reportedly children.
Turkey’s government is providing basic needs and some education to an estimated 200,000 Syrians in 20 different humanitarian camps along its 560-mile border with Syria. But as many as 260,000 other Syrians are living in other areas in Turkey, including Istanbul, where they often depend mostly on help from private aid groups, according to the U.N.
“We are getting more and more [Syrians] by the day,” said a Christian aid group official in Istanbul, who requested anonymity due to Turkish laws that officially forbid — but tolerate — religious institutions from performing humanitarian work in the country.
Read more about the plight of Syrian refugees at this link.
And visit our Emergency: Syria page to learn how you can help.
9 September 2013
Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Emigration Refugee Camps Aleppo
Lebanese and Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace in Syria at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa on 7 September. (photo: CNS/Hasan Shaaban, Reuters)
An estimated 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Saturday for the historic Vigil of Prayer for Peace, led by Pope Francis. Countless more joined the bishop of Rome in prayer around the world.
Pope Francis concluded his homily with these words:
Is it possible to walk the path of peace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken.
This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow — I think of the children: look upon these … look at the sorrow of your brother, stay your hand and do not add to it, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! … Never again war!
“Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love.” Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation — these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.
Read the entire text of the homily at this link. You can watch an excerpt of the pope’s homily below.
6 September 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Middle East Peace Process Prayers/Hymns/Saints
In this image from last fall, a refugee child from Syria stands outside a makeshift shelter in the village of Jeb Jennine, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
The Catholic News Service (CNS) has established a special page on its website devoted to news and information about the crisis in Syria.
Along with the latest headlines from the Middle East and the Vatican, the site also has video, interviews and resources that can guide readers thorugh the sometimes complicated details of this critically important story.
Visit the page, titled “Praying for Peace in Syria,” and check back often. It’s updated several times a day. Saturday, it will feature a livestream of the pope’s prayer vigil at this link.
6 September 2013
Children at Our Lady of Armenia summer camp pose for the camera. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 2007, we paid a visit to central Armenia, and met children at a flourishing camp:
Diramayr is a refuge for Armenian orphans living in state orphanages as well as children invited by social workers and the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, an Armenian Catholic community that sponsors the camp.
For Sister Arousiag, who returned to the land of her ancestors in the summer of 1990, the camp strengthens the emotional well-being of children scarred by abandonment and poverty and deepens their exposure to their Armenian culture and heritage.
“I like to think that here the children are camping with Christ,” Sister Arousiag said. “Many of the kids had never been to church before coming here.”
Religious devotions and catechism constitute a significant portion of the day at Diramayr. Days begin and end with prayer, while catechism class is a daily feature. Sunday mornings are reserved for the celebration of the Soorp Badarak, the Divine Liturgy.
Because few Armenians belong to the Armenian Catholic Church (just 220,000 of its 2.9 million citizens), most of those who attend the camp nominally belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the historic faith community of the Armenian people. The two churches share the same culture, liturgy and traditions (only full communion with the Church of Rome distinguishes Catholic from Armenian Apostolic Christians), thus sparing the camp from religious discord.
Sister Arousiag said she would not let a child’s religious background become an admissions factor. “How can I turn down a needy child just because they aren’t Catholic?”
Summer camp would not be summer camp if the campers had their heads stuck in their Bibles or catechisms all day. Children study languages (French or English), art and computers and also have plenty of time for sports and outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing. They also take day trips to nearby Lake Sevan and visit the ancient historical monuments that dot Armenia’s countryside.
While most of the day is scheduled, the campers also have free time to horse around in the playground or chat with their friends.
Read more about the Kid’s Camps in the Caucasus from the November 2007 issue of ONE.
6 September 2013
People walk near destroyed buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor, Syria, on 4 September.
(photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
U.S. orders diplomats out of Lebanon (AP) The State Department on Friday ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon due to security concerns as the Obama administration and Congress debate military strikes on neighboring Syria. In a new travel warning for Lebanon, the department said it had instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to depart Lebanon. The step had been under consideration since last week when President Barack Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government for its alleged chemical weapons attack last month that the administration said killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus. “The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains,” the department said...
Divisons remain over Syria at G20 summit (Vatican Radio) World leaders are continuing their discussions on the final day of the G20 Summit in St Petersburg, Russia. Divisions still remain on what sort of action to take on Syria. President Barack Obama told G20 leaders the United States has high confidence that Syrian forces used chemical weapons and underlined the need to uphold an international ban on the use of such weapons.But Russia, China and the EU are still opposed to a military solution...
Vatican’s Foreign Secretary meets with diplomats to discuss Syria (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Secretary for Foreign Relations Archbishop Dominque Mamberti has met with world ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to discuss Pope Francis’ initiative calling for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Saturday 7 September. In a briefing for journalists about Thursday’s meeting, Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, denied “in the most complete manner” that Pope Francis had telephoned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Fr. Lombardi was responding to reports in Italian media which he described as “devoid of foundation”...
Cardinal McCarrick: no strikes in Syria; don’t repeat mistakes of Iraq (CNS) Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said he opposed U.S. military intervention in Syria, adding that he was “not in favor of going to war to make peace.” “We made the mistake in Iraq. I hope we don’t make the mistake again in Syria,” he told Catholic News Service 5 September after visiting some of the nearly half-million refugees who had fled to Jordan, Syria’s southern neighbor. When asked what was worst, either allow Syria to use chemical weapons and do nothing or go in with limited military strikes, he quickly responded: “Neither is the proper answer”...
Archbishop Pendergast heartened by aid projects in Ethiopia (Catholic Register) Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast returned from a recent visit to Ethiopia pleased with how money is being spent in projects being funded by Canadian Catholics. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had launched campaigns to raise funds to avert food crises in both the Sahel Region and the Horn of Africa in recent years. Prendergast was part of the delegation formed so Canadian Catholics can see what is being done with their money. “Ethiopia was considered the safest option and, though (D&P) has had involvement there for many years, no one had visited,” he said...
5 September 2013
Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in their country, cross the border into the Kurdish region of northern Iraq on 4 September. (photo: CNS/Haider Ala, Reuters)
The USCCB president and chair of CNEWA Cardinal Timothy Dolan has written to President Obama on the worsening crisis in Syria.
His letter says, in part:
As our nation contemplates military action in Syria, we want to assure you and your Administration of our prayers. We know that the situation in Syria is complex and appreciate the patience and restraint that your Administration has exercised to date. We affirm your decision to invite public dialogue and Congressional review of any possible military action, and want to contribute to that discussion from our perspective as Catholic pastors and teachers.
We join you in your absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. These indiscriminate weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations. With you we mourn for the lives lost and grieve with the families of the deceased. At the same time, we remain profoundly concerned for the more than 100,000 Syrians who have lost their lives, the more than 2 million who have fled the country as refugees, and the more than 4 million within Syria who have been driven from their homes by the violence. Our focus is on the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and on saving lives by ending the conflict, not fueling it.
We have heard the urgent calls of the Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Francis, and our suffering brother bishops of the venerable and ancient Christian communities of the Middle East. As one, they beg the international community not to resort to military intervention in Syria. They have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences. Their concerns find a strong resonance in American public opinion that questions the wisdom of intervention and in the lack of international consensus.
We make our own the appeal of Pope Francis: “I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.”
Read the entire text at the USCCB website.
5 September 2013
Pope Francis exchanges a gift with Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, during a private audience at the Vatican on 5 September.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)