23 January 2013
A local woodcarver sits outside his home in Kosmach. (photo: Petro Didula)
In 2004, we turned a spotlight on the Hutsuls, nestled in the Carpathian Mountains:
Tucked into the Carpathian Mountains in southwestern Ukraine, Kosmach is the center of the 500,000-strong Greek Catholic and Orthodox Hutsul community.
The 13th-century Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus — which includes parts of present-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine — is an essential chapter in Hutsul history. Many of those who survived the ruthless devastation of their homeland, peasants mostly, headed for the hills, seeking refuge in the Carpathians. ...
The Soviets frowned on tradition, particularly those traditions rooted in religion. But the Hutsuls took pride in their distinctive dress, dances and songs, says Vasyl Markus, editor of the Encyclopedia of the Ukrainian Diaspora and a professor at Loyola University in Chicago. Families continued to decorate Easter eggs, orpysanky, as well as practice embroidery and other examples of folk art. And unlike most parts of the Soviet Union, religious expression never really wavered. But that expression is not purely Christian.
“The Christian faith in the area is nuanced,” says Father Hunchak. “There is faith, but it is not exactly Christian, rather half-Christian, half-pagan … a mystical faith. In the Carpathian Mountains, there are people who know about trees, plants, nature.”
Read more about the Faith and Tradition of the Hutsuls in the November 2004 issue of ONE.
22 January 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church Belarus
Seniors play chess and backgammon in a Yerevan, Armenia, park. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Four years ago, we took readers to Armenia, for a glimpse at some of the challenges facing many of the elderly:
The income gap in Armenia has widened and poverty remains widespread. Armenia’s most vulnerable citizens, children, the disabled and the elderly, have experienced a decline — at times dramatic — in the quality of their lives.
Most senior citizens depend on pensions to survive. And though the average pension has increased by $10 over the last five years, the cost of living has risen, mitigating the effectiveness of any increase. Today a typical pension pays a third of what is considered necessary for the average person to maintain the minimum standard of living in Armenia.
“The problem with raising pensions is quite difficult,” said Anahit Gevorgian, who heads the Elderly Issues Division in the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues. “Paying higher pensions is impossible in a country with widespread unemployment.
“Today there is just 0.9 worker for every pensioner, when there should be at least two workers to pay for one person’s pension.” About 11 percent of Armenia’s citizens are 65 or older.
Read more about Pensioners in Crisis in the January 2008 issue of ONE.
22 January 2013
Pope Benedict XVI has raised the church jurisdiction for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain to the level of an eparchy, or diocese, and named Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, 58, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, to be the eparchial bishop. Bishop Lonchyna is pictured in a 2004 photo.
(photo: CNS /Daniele Colarieti, Catholic Press Photo)
Pope creates two Ukrainian eparchies (Vatican Radio) Two papal appointments in the past two days have given Ukrainian Catholics in France and the UK a greater sense of pastoral presence and stability. Pope Benedict XVI elevated the Ukrainian Apostolic Exarchate in Great Britain to the rank of Eparchy on Friday. He followed up on Saturday with an announcement, elevating the exarchate in France to the same rank...
Russians leaving Syria cross into Lebanon
(Associated Press) Four buses carrying Russian citizens escaping the Syrian civil war crossed into Lebanon on Tuesday, in the first evacuation organized by Moscow since the start of the conflict nearly two years ago. About 80 people, mostly women and children, were on the buses, according to an official from the Russian Embassy in Beirut who was waiting for the group at the Masnaa border crossing in eastern Lebanon. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media...
Pope: Divisions among Christians disfigure the church (L’Osservatore Romano) One of the gravest sins “that disfigure the Church’s face” is the sin “against her visible unity,” and, in particular, “the historical divisions which separated Christians and which have not yet been surmounted.” The Holy Father said this at the Angelus on Sunday, 20 January, in St Peter’s Square, speaking of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that is being celebrated from 18 to 25 January on the theme “What does the Lord require of us?,” from the words of the Prophet Micah...
Christian candidates attracting attention in Jordan election (Fides) There are more than 40 Christians who will present themselves as candidates in the parliamentary elections for the renewal of the Lower Chamber, scheduled for tomorrow in Jordan, according to Father Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media...
Georgian patriarch visits Russia, seeks stronger ties (Reuters) Georgia’s Patriarch Ilia, on a rare trip to Russia on Monday, said religion was the strongest tie still binding the two countries that fought a short war in 2008 and said he was optimistic about future relations of the two post-Soviet states. One of the most prominent Georgians to visit Russia since the war, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church received an award from his Russian Orthodox counterpart, Patriarch Kirill — a move analysts said used the politically powerful churches to help improve the countries’ ties. Ilya is due to meet President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday...
17 January 2013
Tags: Syria Lebanon Ukraine Jordan Russia
Violette Elias squeezes pomegranates to make molasses at her orchard in Kafarchakna, Lebanon. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)
Did you know that in some traditions the forbidden fruit in Eden wasn’t the apple, but the pomegranate?
We take a closer look at the fruit and its history in the current issue of ONE:
For Middle East Christians, pomegranates frequently appear as a motif in iconography and sacred art. Patterns woven in liturgical vestments as well as Christian metalwork often prominently feature the fruit.
According to tradition, the pomegranate — broken or bursting open — symbolizes the fullness of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. During Christmas, families in the Middle East decorate their homes with likenesses of bursting pomegranates.
Orthodox Christians often add pomegranate seeds to koliva, a dish of sweetened boiled wheat. Used primarily in memorial liturgies, koliva symbolizes the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom. And for some Eastern Christians, the pomegranate — not the apple — is the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
Muslims, too, believe pomegranates grow in the gardens of paradise, though they are not associated with evil. Pomegranates appear in the Quran on three occasions, as examples of the good things God creates.
For Jews, pomegranates, with their numerous seeds, symbolize fertility. According to tradition, each pomegranate contains 613 seeds — the same number of mitzvoth, or commandments of the Torah. It is also believed Moses received a pomegranate as proof of the Promised Land’s fertility. On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, many families celebrate with pomegranates.
Inhabitants of the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Persia have prized pomegranates for millennia. Ancient Egyptians regarded the pomegranate as a sign of ambition and prosperity. In ancient Persia, the fruit symbolized fertility.
In ancient Greek mythology, the pomegranate plays a key role in the explanation of the seasons. According to legend, Hades, the god of the underworld, kidnapped Persephone — the daughter of Zeus, the father of gods and men. He took her to the underworld, where she lived as his wife.
Fate dictated that anyone who consumed food or drink while in the underworld must spend eternity there. Knowing the laws of fate, Persephone declined all food and drink. But, Hades tricked her into eating four pomegranate seeds. As a result, when Zeus commanded Hades to return Persephone, she was forever condemned to spend four months out of every year in the underworld. Persephone’s mother, Demeter, goddess of the harvest, grieved over her daughter’s punishment and refused to allow any crops to grow during those four months, a period which became winter.
The use and importance of pomegranates in traditional cuisine varies widely in the Middle East and nearby regions.
Read more about Lebanon’s Fruitful Trade — and discover a recipe for using pomegranates — in the November 2012 issue of ONE.
15 January 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Farming/Agriculture
Father John Ariekal leads a congregation of Dalits in Pappala in prayer. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the current issue of the magazine, we visit India and meet the Christian Dalits, the “untouchable” caste facing discrimination and fighting for equality:
The highest caste, the Brahmin, traditionally pursued religious vocations and served as priests and spiritual leaders. They also made, upheld and taught the law. Ranked second is the Kshatriya caste, to which warriors and the military elite belonged. Next in rank is the Vaishya caste, which traditionally included cattle herders, merchants, traders and some artisans. Ranked fourth is the Shudra caste, made up of artisans, farmers and laborers.
At the very bottom of the caste system are the Dalits, below more than 3,000 sub-castes. Considered subhuman and “untouchable” until the 19th century, Dalits were treated as slaves to upper castes — denied even the most basic civil, political, economic and social rights.
The Dalits’ untouchable status dictated where they could live, work, worship, eat, collect water and even walk or sit in public places. They could only socialize and marry within their caste. They were prohibited from receiving an education, including learning to read and write. And for centuries, they were required to hide themselves in the event members of Brahmin caste approached, so as not to pollute their purity.
India gained independence from British rule in 1947, and in 1950 the Constitution of India took effect. The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on caste or tribe, specifically enumerating the groups historically oppressed, including Dalits, in the provisions “Scheduled Castes” and “Scheduled Tribes.” About a quarter of India’s 1.2 billion people belongs to one of these scheduled castes and tribes.
The Constitution also stipulates for “Reservation,” a system of affirmative action that sets aside a certain number of positions in government and enrollment slots in public universities for members of the scheduled castes and tribes. Yet despite legal protections and reservation, caste-based discrimination persists throughout the subcontinent.
“It’s very hard to be a Dalit,” says Dr. Simon John, chairman of the Backward People Development Corporation and a Christian who lives in Pathanamthitta, a predominantly non-Dalit area in the central Travancore region of Kerala. “I don’t face the first degree of untouchability as my father faced. They don’t ask me to step aside. Nowadays, they just ignore you. They don’t recognize your presence wherever you are. I face it at the higher levels, because of my family tradition, my education and where I live. But still my problem is the passive attitude, off-hand comments, non-recognition of my existence in my student days, my work days and even at present.
Read more about India’s Christian Untouchables in the November 2012 issue of ONE.
14 January 2013
Tags: India Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics
A Rosary sister greets a Bedouin child in the abandoned ruins of old Smakieh.
(photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
Last year, we visited the Christians of Jordan’s Kerak plateau, and found a resilient group of people held together by faith:
In the cramped living room of his house in the Jordanian village of Smakieh, 90-year-old Ghasan Hijazine sits among a small army of children, grandchildren and extended family, reminiscing about his childhood.
In those days, he says, people lived in byut sha’ar (literally “houses of hair” in Arabic), or tents made of camel hair, which were pitched on the dusty, wind-beaten hillsides surrounding the village.
“People lived off farming. If they grew something, they ate it. If not, they didn’t eat,” says the elderly man, who apparently does not remember that period with much affection.
Mr. Hijazine bears the scars of a troubled past: He has no hands and only one leg. He lost his limbs laying mines on the Israeli border in the 1960’s. His ice-blue eyes, however, are still bright and full of laughter.
The Hijazine clan is Christian, as are all residents of Smakieh and the nearby village of Hmoud. The two villages represent the last entirely Christian settlements in Jordan. Located on the Kerak plateau, one of Jordan’s poorest areas, neither area has enjoyed a golden age.
Life was hard, continues Mr. Hijazine. People were poor and often cold and hungry. They eked a meager existence from farming small plots of land and keeping livestock.
“I didn’t have a childhood,” adds his wife, Teresa.
Every few months, a priest from Kerak — the regional hub — would visit Smakieh. He would live, eat and pray with the people in their tents. The priest also served as their doctor and educator.
Those days, however, have long passed.
The Hijazines now live in a modern house of cinderblock and plaster. They also expect all their grandchildren to leave the village to attend university when the time comes.
Though Mrs. Hijazine dresses in a somewhat traditional manner, wearing a black headscarf over long, thick braids, she embraces modern- day conveniences, cooking time-honored recipes with a gas stove.
As do most Jordanians, the Christians of the Kerak area express pride about their tribal past. But nostalgia for the old days is hard to find on the Kerak plateau. For generations, these villagers have struggled to achieve a better life, a fight that often has meant leaving behind tribal customs. Now, young and old have their eyes fixed firmly on the future. They want to talk about the Internet, not about camels and sheep; about college degrees, not tents and traditions.
Read more about the Kerak plateau in A Bridge to Modern Life from the May 2012 issue of ONE.
14 January 2013
Young Syrian refugees stand outside their tents after heavy rain on 10 January at the Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian border town of Mafraq. Snow, driving rain and howling winds in early January compounded the already desperate situation for Syrians.
(photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Syrian government warplanes pound Damascus suburbs (CBS News) Syrian activists say a regime attack on Damascus’ rebellious suburbs has killed at least 45 people, including eight children. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that 24 of the dead, including all eight children, were killed by government air strikes and artillery in eastern Ghouta district on Sunday...
Jordanian archbishop opens churches to welcome refugees (Fides) In front of the humanitarian catastrophe that looms over the refugee camp of Zaatari — where snowstorms and freezing rain in recent days have swept away hundreds of tents — Archbishop Maroun Laham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, opens the doors of churches and parish complexes to accommodate Syrian refugees...
Indian bishops speak out against rape, support “dignity of women” (Fides) As another episode of gang rape shakes the nation — the victim, a 29 year-old a woman in Punjab, raped by six men in Amristar — the Bishops of India reaffirm “the sanctity of life and the necessity of an effort in the field of education, to combat this practice that degrades the dignity of women...”
CNEWA launches Rome event for Eastern Catholic churches (Vatican Radio) Many Catholics today are surprised when they hear that their Church is made up of a myriad of ancient rites and not just the Latin one. Many of these 22 rites stem directly from the lands where Jesus lived. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is trying to raise awareness among the faithful that the Church’s rich tapestry of eastern traditions is an historically important source of strength for the Universal Church. But, these ancient churches need our help. That’s why the President of CNEWA, Monsignor John Kozar is co-hosting with the Pontifical Congregation for Eastern Churches a special event and pilgrimage in Rome this week. He and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation, are hoping to introduce Italians, mostly Catholics, to the reality of the eastern rite churches...
A Vatican artist from Russia (Kuwait Times) After Michelangelo and Raphael, the Vatican’s latest official painter is something of an unusual choice-an ebullient Russian woman with a pet owl who is a regular at the court of cardinals and popes. An Orthodox believer in the heart of Roman Catholicism, Natalia Tsarkova paints her classical-style portraits in a flat filled with Vatican memorabilia by the walls of the Holy See. “I like the atmosphere here, I feel needed,” Tsarkova told AFP in an interview in a studio with several unfinished works and back copies of the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano...
9 January 2013
Tags: Syria India CNEWA Jordan Russian Orthodox
One wall of the newly discovered chapel in Turkey has a cross-shaped window. (photo: Myra-Andriake Excavations/the New York Times)
Earlier this week, the New York Times had this intriguing piece of news:
In the fourth century A.D., a bishop named Nicholas transformed the city of Myra, on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey, into a Christian capital.
Nicholas was later canonized, becoming the St. Nicholas of Christmas fame. Myra had a much unhappier fate.
After some 800 years as an important pilgrimage site in the Byzantine Empire it vanished — buried under 18 feet of mud from the rampaging Myros River. All that remained was the Church of St. Nicholas, parts of a Roman amphitheater and tombs cut into the rocky hills.
But now, 700 years later, Myra is reappearing.
Archaeologists first detected the ancient city in 2009 using ground-penetrating radar that revealed anomalies whose shape and size suggested walls and buildings. Over the next two years they excavated a small, stunning 13th-century chapel sealed in an uncanny state of preservation. Carved out of one wall is a cross that, when sunlit, beams its shape onto the altar. Inside is a vibrant fresco that is highly unusual for Turkey.
The chapel’s structural integrity suggests that Myra may be largely intact underground. “This means we can find the original city, like Pompeii,” said Nevzat Cevik, an archaeologist at Akdeniz University who is director of the excavations at Myra, beneath the modern town of Demre.
Mark Jackson, a Byzantine archaeologist at Newcastle University in England, who was not involved in the research, called the site “fantastic,” and added,“This level of preservation under such deep layers of mud suggests an extremely well-preserved archive of information.”
Check out the Times link for more. And you can read more about St. Nicholas himself here.
9 January 2013
Tags: Turkey Architecture Saints
Civilians and Free Syrian Army fighters gather at the site hit by a missile in Aleppo’s al Mashhad district on 7 January. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman)
Apostolic Nuncio to Israel discusses property issues in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) The apostolic nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lanzarotto, says the Holy See is hoping soon to reach a satisfactory conclusion to its ongoing talks with Israel on fiscal and property issues related to Catholic institutions in the Holy Land…
Jordanian refugee camp devastated by storm (Fides) The storms of snow, wind and freezing rain that struck the Hashemite Kingdom have had devastating effects on the refugee camp of Zaatari, in the Jordanian desert, where 50,000 refugees who fled from the Syrian civil war are crammed in an intolerable situation. “The storms,” reports to Fides Agency Wael Suleiman, director of Caritas Jordan, “have destroyed at least 500 tents in the camp”…
Report: violence in Syria may trigger mass exodus of Christians (Voice of Russia) Syria’s ongoing turmoil has turned the country into a dangerous place for Christians, says an international missionary organization called Open Doors. According to its World Watch List 2012, the situation in embattled Syria is getting worse for Christians. Syria has moved up to place 11 from 36 on Open Door’s list of least Christian-friendly states, since the conflict broke out more than a year ago. According to the report, many Syrian Christians are facing violence against them, many have been kidnapped or murdered, while churches have been severely damaged or demolished. The estimated Christian population in the country stands at around 10 percent…
Bishops’ pilgrimage to Holy Land nears end (Vatican Radio) The pilgrimage of solidarity by bishops from North America and Europe to Christian communities in the Holy Land is in its final stages…
8 January 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Jordan
Egyptian Muslims and Christians celebrate Coptic Christmas Eve in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 6 January. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Egypt’s Christians worried about rise of Islam (Washington Post) Christians were worried about their safety on Monday as they marked the first Christmas under Islamist rule, with Coptic Pope Tawadros II urging worshipers “not to be afraid” and some complaining that their lives had gone from bad to worse in the nearly two years since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak...
Bishop of Amman: peace a shared value for Christians and Muslims (Vatican Radio) “When you love you have to share. It’s not in terms of a Christian value but it’s in terms of Arab values. Sharing and being generous and opening the door to others is an Arab value and we are proud of it. The main thing that we share with our brother Muslims here is peace and security for Jordan. When we see what is happening in Syria and Iraq we pray to Almighty God to keep us safe and secure here.” This is the message of Bishop Maroun Elias Lahham, Bishop of Amman and Apostolic administrator of the diocese of Tunis, speaking with Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick who is accompanying bishops from Europe and North America on their annual pilgrimage of solidarity with the Christians of the Holy Land...
Indian Christians encouraged to oppose death penalty and chemical castration for rapists (Fides) In a note sent to Fides Agency, the “Catholic Secular Forum” (CSF), a Catholic lay movement based in Mumbai, said that “death penalty and chemical castration are not the position of the Church.” In a memorandum sent to the Indian government, Christian movements urge the government to make sex education compulsory in public schools, in order to avoid the emergence of deviant sexual behavior in young people...
Syrian archbishop: “Palestinian refugees on exodus, just like the Holy Family” (Fides) During the Christmas period “it is not uncommon these days to see Palestinian families wandering the streets of Damascus. Parents carrying their children, followed by older children carrying parcels and bags. Tears to the eyes of women, anger in the eyes of men, the sadness of children’s eyes.” In a message sent to Fides Agency, the Archbishop of Damascus of the Maronites, Samir Nassar, outlined the double tragedy of the Palestinian refugees overwhelmed by the Syrian civil war, comparing their painful exodus to that lived by Jesus, Mary and Joseph...
PHOTO GALLERY: Theophany 2013 (OCA) On the first weekend of January 2013, parishes across the Orthodox Church in America celebrated the Great Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord by blessing water — outdoors as well as indoors — in commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ...
Tags: Syria Egypt Jordan Muslim Copts