13 August 2013
An Egyptian girl wants a closer look at Verbo Encarnado Sister María de la Santa Faz. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
Several years ago, we reported on the remarkable work being undertaken by a congregation of sisters in Egypt seeking to help some of the poorest children in the country:
Amira still does not talk much, except with her eyes. A year after the sisters took her in, the 3-year-old is still recovering from the hell that was her home. Now her brown eyes are full of life and her expressive eyebrows, lifting and furrowing, say what she cannot: that she has been rescued, that she is lucky and that somehow she knows it.
Amira is from the dusty Egyptian town of Dekhela, near the coastal city of Alexandria. Here, the sisters of the Verbo Encarnado (Incarnate Word) Congregation, who hail from South America, have set up two homes for girls who used to live on the streets.
Some of the girls, like Amira, have escaped abusive families. Others seek an education, while some just want regular meals and a warm bed.
While the congregation’s Egyptian community is based in Cairo, “the smaller towns are where people really need help,” says Father Maurizio, one of the founders.
Father Maurizio helped set up the mission in eight years ago and was the first priest from the congregation to live permanently in the country.
“We wanted to learn more about this part of the world,” he says. “We recognize the value of Islam, but we also wanted to help support the Christian community.”
Approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population is Christian, mostly Coptic Orthodox. Coptic and other Eastern Catholics number about 300,000 persons. Other Christians include Greek Orthodox and evangelical Protestants.
Whatever their faith community, most Egyptians live difficult lives far from the modern bustle of Cairo or the colonial grandeur of Alexandria.
The national average daily income is just over $10 a day. About 23 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Due to overpopulation, a weak economy and high unemployment, the challenges facing Egypt’s youth are daunting.
Sister María Guadalupe, the superior of the community in Egypt, says the situation in Dekhela is especially bad. The town is poor; there are few social services.
“These girls were living with their families in one room,” she says. “No bathroom, no kitchen, just one room. Sometimes there would be a bed and that’s all. So the girls were spending all their time in the street.”
Many families consider education for girls a luxury rather than a necessity, she says. While some girls complete grade school, many are kept at home where their mothers teach them household duties. Such traditional attitudes prevail in both Muslim and Christian communities.
Read morea about Building a Brigher Future in Egypt in the November 2004 issue of ONE.
12 August 2013
Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Education
Students at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Kerala, India, find time not only to study but also to dance. Read more about St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’ in the September 2005 issue of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
9 August 2013
Tags: India Children Sisters Kerala Orphans/Orphanages
Each day the boys at the Malankara Boys’ Home pause on the lawn to pray before a statue of the Virgin Mary before going to school. (photo: Jose Jacob)
In the Summer issue of ONE, we take readers to a home for boys in India that is offering a new lease on life for those some consider “untouchable”:
A low building in the front houses a library, sick room, kitchen, pantry, work area and classroom. A path paved with red and black tiles, chipped and broken in places, leads to a four-story building where children study, sleep and play.
Between the two buildings — each in need of fresh paint — lies a small lawn with a statue of the Virgin Mary inside a large lotus, the national flower of India, fashioned out of concrete. Here, children pray before going to school.
In this home in 1996, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Archeparchy of Trivandrum began a plan to deliver children from a vicious circle of poverty, squalor and despair.
Seventeen years later, the Malankara Boys’ Home counts more than 175 extraordinary young men as success stories, part of a growing effort to spark a quiet social revolution among southern India’s Dalits.
Dalit, a Sanskrit term, denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of birth.
Although Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalit “harijan” (children of God), and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those people once identified as untouchable continue to lag behind socially and economically.
But thanks in part to Malankara Boys’ Home, that is beginning to change.
“Our children have brought hope to those who are dismissed as social scum,” says the Rev. Jose Kizhakedath, a priest of the archeparchy who started the home and guided its first seven years. It is a hope that is slowly but perceptibly changing the lives of some of Kerala’s young people most in need.
Read more about Reaching the Young ‘Untouchables’.
8 August 2013
Tags: India Children ONE magazine Indian Catholics Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Children gather in a makeshift classroom in the Al Waer neighborhood of Homs. (photo: Ziad Hilal, S.J.)
In the Summer issue of ONE, now online, we look closely at CNEWA’s efforts to help needy children. One of the pieces in the magazine, written by the Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., describes the struggles of children in Syria who have been scarred by war:
Recent events have deeply affected the children, and we have noticed changes through our follow-ups at school. When they play, they transform wooden boxes into imitation weapons and play war games, reflecting the reality that the children are also internalizing the patterns of the war around them. Confronting this, we had to work hard to redirect the children to regular games, such as football and other sports.
Most children live in a state of denial. They refuse to acknowledge their fears. Meanwhile, mothers report their children cannot sleep alone in a separate bed anymore, which speaks to their trauma. Some others report cases that required the assistance of a speech therapist and a psychologist to overcome communication troubles.
At the same time, many youth have lost their jobs and their income, their great potential going to waste.
Thus, we decided to join both priorities in one project, aiming to take the children out of the streets and to provide jobs to the displaced youth.
We started with one pilot project at St. Savior Convent in the Adawiyya quarter, where many displaced families found refuge. The project consisted of gathering around 60 children in the convent and, with the help of the youth, preparing some educational activities: theater, music and more. The children were from different religious groups, and the convent became a center for reconciliation — especially for the parents from all confessions, who were obliged to sit together to watch their children in a common activity.
Soon after, two additional centers adopting the same model opened in other quarters where displaced families settled. At present the project enrolls more than 600 children.
Read more on Saving the Children of War.
And to learn how you can help, visit our Syria Emergency Relief page or check out various ways to support children in need.
8 August 2013
Tags: Refugees Children Syrian Civil War War Emigration
Muslim worshipers attend Friday prayers during the holy month of Ramadan at the Data Darbar mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, on 2 August. (photo: CNS/Mohsin Raza, Reuters)
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is drawing to a close. The Jerusalem Post takes note:
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are to participate in processions, celebrations and cultural evenings to mark Eid ul Fitr, the end of the holy month Ramadan on Thursday. The celebrations are to continue through till Sunday. …
Ramadan can last either 29 or 30 days, depending on when the first moon of the next lunar month is sighted, and the dates often differ from country to country. Over 2.5 million worshipers prayed atop the Al Aqsa Mosque during the entire month of Ramadan, the Al Aqsa Foundation stated on Thursday.
Pope Francis has issued his own message to Muslims to mark Ramadan.
Earlier this week, CNEWA’s chief communications officer Michael J.L. La Civita appeared on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show to talk about the Catholic Church’s relationship to Islam. You can hear that interview at this link, beginning at about the 30-minute mark.
Ramadan, of course, carries its own customs and traditions, and that extends to the celebration of Eid ul Fitr. Two years ago, the Rev. Elias Mallon wrote about that in ONE:
While Muslims around the world celebrate Eid ul Fitr with early morning prayers, feasts and charity, communities in different parts of the world add their own flare to the holiday. Muslims in different countries — whether in the Middle East, Indonesia, South Asia or elsewhere — celebrate with culturally distinct cuisine, decorations, clothing and activities.
A new and popular Ramadan tradition is for Muslims to invite their non—Muslims neighbors to take part in the iftar or Eid ul Fitr. In some communities in Europe and North America, where Muslims are a religious minority, the iftar has become an important interfaith celebration. What better way to promote interreligious understanding around the world than by sharing the joy of the iftar and Eid ul Fitr?
Happy Eid ul Fitr to all our Muslim friends and neighbors!
8 August 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Muslim Islam Ramadan
The wait is over: The latest edition of ONE, for Summer 2013, is now available online.
This issue throws a spotlight on children in need, with stories about a boys’ home in India and a school in Ethiopia, along with a moving letter from a Jesuit priest in Syria recounting efforts to help children heal from the trauma of war.
All that, plus the striking photography and world-class journalism that have made ONE, for the second year in a row, the most-honored magazine in the Catholic press.
Click here to read ONE online.
And, while you’re at it, check out our Facebook page and follow CNEWA on Twitter.
7 August 2013
Tags: CNEWA Children ONE magazine
In this image from 2005, an Assyrian Christian man kisses a cross before the liturgy at St. George Cathedral in Chicago. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Today marks Assyrian Martyrs Day, commemorating a tragic event recalled by thousands around the world. The Assyrian International News Agency takes note:
On this day, hundreds of innocent Assyrians were massacred under the rule of newly established Kingdom of Iraq. The Simele Massacre took place in August 1933 in Iraq.
Following Iraqi independence and the establishment of its political, social and economic system, the Simele Massacre was committed with the sole objective of ethnic cleansing. In August 1933 Iraqi forces massacred civilians in Simele and at the villages of Dohuk and Mosul. Nearly 3,000 civilians were killed and residential areas, destroyed. Men, women, children and elders were victims without any distinction.
The survivors of the 1915 atrocities under Ottoman-Turkish rule had once again been the victims of mass murder. Well-known lawyer Raphael Lemkin was inspired by these two events to coin the term “genocide.”
In 2005, we wrote about Assyrians settling in Chicago in a story called Assyrian Assimilation. And we explored the history of the Assyrians in Michael J.L. La Civita’s profiles of the Chaldean Church in 2005 and the Church of the East in 2009.
6 August 2013
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Chaldean Church Assyrian Church Church of the East
Singers Yana Grigorian and Svitlana Kukharuk take a break during choir practice at the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Lviv. Read about Armenian efforts to rebuild a sense of church and community in western Ukraine in Restoring Faith in the September 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)
5 August 2013
Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Eastern Christianity Armenian Apostolic Church
Orphans join in prayer at Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Read more about the work of the children’s home in Every Child Has a Name from the September 2001 issue of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
2 August 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Orphans/Orphanages
Muslims take part in prayers during the I’tikaf, a spiritual retreat in a mosque that is usually held during the last 10 days of Ramadan, at the Sanusi Dantata Memorial Jummu’at mosque in Abuja, Nigeria on 31 July. (photo: CNS Afolabi Sotunde, Reuters)
The Vatican today released the text of Pope Francis’ message to Muslims at the conclusion of Ramadan. The theme of the message is mutual respect through education. It says, in part:
What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal.
Turning to mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!
It is clear that, when we show respect for the religion of our neighbours or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions.
Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.
We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.
Read the entire message here.
For more on the observance of Ramadan, check out this essay from the September 2011 issue of ONE.
Tags: Pope Francis Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations Interfaith Ramadan