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8 June 2012
Greg Kandra




This icon of St. Ephrem the Syrian is one of many that shows him in a popular pose, writing. (photo: Wikipedia)

Saturday 9 June marks the feast of St. Ephrem in the Latin church (it’s celebrated on 28 January in the East) and 17 centuries after his death, he continues to be a compelling and fascinating figure. As CNEWA’s magazine once noted:

Often referred to as the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” this learned theologian and Doctor of the Church was born in Nisibis, Syria (modern Nusaybin, Turkey) in the year 306. He spent much of his life in preaching and writing hymns and poems dedicated to combating the heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism. He was baptized by Bishop James of Nisibis — a man who greatly influenced his life.

A poet and writer, Ephrem had a complex and artistic personality marked by a strong tendency to be hot-tempered. But with tremendous self-control, he dominated his fiery nature and devoted his life to asceticism.

Ephrem taught in Nisibis until the city was ceded to the Persians and he was forced, with other Christians, to emigrate to Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey). There, Ephrem continued his teaching at the famous School of Edessa whose reknown, and even founding, has been attributed to him.

An aspect of Ephrem’s unusual personality is evident in the fact that, although ordained a deacon, he never became a priest — avoiding consecration by feigning madness. Although no certain explanation can be found for this behavior, some biographers believe it was due to a feeling of unworthiness.

He was a prolific writer, and one of his hymns was translated and published in the magazine in 1999:

HE CAME TO US IN HIS LOVE, THE BLESSED TREE, WOOD DISSOLVED WOOD. FRUIT WAS ANNIHILATED BY FRUIT, THE MURDERER [ANNIHILATED] BY THE LIVING ONE.

IN EDEN AND IN THE INHABITED EARTH ARE PARABLES OF OUR LORD. WHO IS ABLE TO GATHER THE LIKENESSES OF THE SYMBOLS OF HIM, ALL OF WHOM IS PORTRAYED IN ALL

IN SCRIPTURE HE IS WRITTEN; IN NATURE HE IS ENGRAVED. HIS DIADEM IS PORTRAYED BY KINGS, AND BY PROPHETS HIS TRUTH, HIS ATONEMENT BY PRIESTS

HE IS IN THE ROD OF MOSES AND IN THE HYSSOP OF AARON AND IN THE DIADEM OF DAVID.

THE PROPHETS HAVE HIS LIKENESS, BUT THE APOSTLES HAVE HIS GOSPEL.

You can read the complete hymn here.



Tags: Syria Saints

1 June 2012
Greg Kandra






Those who like to follow events in the world of CNEWA can find frequent updates here at ONE-TO-ONE, on our website and in the online edition of our award-winning magazine ONE.

But if you want the full ONE experience, you really need to subscribe. Here are five great reasons to do that:

  1. Looks great on your coffee table! Our covers are the envy of the industry (kudos to graphic designer Daria Erdosy) and will impress anyone who might be sipping sherry in your living room — or, perhaps, biding time in your waiting room. If you’re a dermatologist or a dentist, why bore your patients with back issues of TV Guide, Field & Stream or Bicuspids Monthly? Let ONE enliven your coffee table.

  2. The print edition is conveniently portable! Unlike a computer, laptop or tablet, it can fold! In a pinch, it can also be used as a placemat or drink coaster. You can also use it to swat flies or discipline the dog. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

  3. No batteries required! Or electrical outlets. How much more convenient could that be?

  4. It’s made for easy sharing! Rip out pages, clip them, fold over corners into dog ears — you can do all that and more, and help spread the good news of the work that CNEWA is doing.

  5. Nothing beats reading it in print! You get the dramatic layouts, the eye-popping pictures, the gripping graphics, the acclaimed writing— all in one complete package that flows from page to page. No nettlesome clicking, scrolling or surfing. You can browse, revisit, highlight, make notes and then save the magazine for future reference or just pass it on.

But here’s the best part: a subscription to ONE helps support CNEWA and, every eight weeks, that support brings to your home stories that enlighten, inspire, uplift and inform. You’ll feel yourself drawn into the lives of those who are making a difference in places like India, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Eastern Europe. Share the prayerful life of a seminarian in Jerusalem, walk the alleyways with a sister in Mumbai orspend time with doctors caring for the poorest children in the Horn of Africa. Learn about the history and cultures of our brothers and sisters in the Eastern churches, and discover for yourself the ties that bind together all Christians into one church, one world, one human family, worshiping one God.

A subscription costs just $24 a year. Visit this link to start your subscription and start welcoming CNEWA’s world into yours.



Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine

1 June 2012
Greg Kandra




An Ethiopan woman works at a farmer’s market in Addis Ababa. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

In Ethiopia, opportunities for women are often limited, which leads some to seek a better life by migrating to the Middle East. Peter Lemieux explores that in the May issue of ONE:

Many experts do not believe poverty and lack of economic opportunity, alone, fully explain the root causes of migration to the Middle East.

“The main reason is economic, but I don’t think the economic need is greater now than before,” says Lettegebriel Hailu, executive director of the Family Service Association, which assists victims of domestic violence in Addis Ababa. “However, the information now is more accessible than before. I think they hear more about immigration.

“And the competition is not the same. When I was growing up, it was ‘go to church, serve your family, go to school, be good and disciplined, respect your neighbor.’ Today, youngsters want to become rich first of all. They want to dress up. They want a beautiful house. They want to earn a good salary and enjoy the good life. There’s no patience like before. They just want to be independent.”

Ms. Lettegebriel is currently designing a program that will help prepare migrants before they leave. It will provide information about life in the Middle East and the perils migrants may encounter. It will also offer training in basic skills required of domestic workers.

“They have to know what they will face there,” explains Ms. Lettegebriel. “Some don’t know how to wash a glass, make a bed, operate modern kitchen appliances, cook or speak English, let alone Arabic. They have no idea. For those who are sensible, they might change their mind. For those who still want to go, at least they’ll have skills and a sense of the consequences, and know how to seek help if they find trouble.“

Read more in the article The High Stakes of Leaving.



Tags: Ethiopia Africa ONE magazine

31 May 2012
Greg Kandra




Workers at Orient Spice Company clean raw turmeric before processing. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Trading in spices helped bring Christianity to India nearly two millennia ago, and the country continues to depend on spices for much of its livelihood. Many of the workers in processing plants are women, such as those shown above, who do the hard work of cleaning raw turmeric. Photojournalist Peter Lemieux looks at the spice trade in the May issue of ONE:

Since the 14th century, Cochin has served as the hub of the coast’s spice trade.

At first glance, the city’s spice industry today resembles that of a bygone era. A large safe harbor dominates the cityscape. A dense concentration of processing and warehousing facilities crowds the waterfront. Countless traders and middlemen walk the streets, going about their day-to-day business.

A timeworn port city, Cochin also represents Kerala’s melting pot, with its diverse religious communities, global marketplace and world-class tourist attractions. As always, its spices reach markets all over the world. In the past 20 years, exports to the United States in particular have doubled and now constitute the largest share leaving Cochin’s port.

But on closer look, it becomes clear how much the business has adapted to the modern world. Traders now sit in offices glued to their computer screens, monitoring up-to-the-second fluctuations in global prices. The ticker list of spices is lengthy and includes many new hybrid varieties, each offering something special — brighter color, greater flavor, a longer shelf life. Advanced technologies in processing, packaging and shipping have also transformed the business.

“Fifteen years ago, there were no quality standards in India for spice export. Any low quality item could be shipped,” explains Bobby Jacob Markose, owner of Orient Spice Company, over the hum of his spice grinders pulverizing raw turmeric. “But that phase is out. Technology is here now. ’Food Safe’ is the motto. Cleaning, grinding and steam sterilization are the facilities that can be sustained now.”

You can read more in the article Kerala’s Spice Coast.



Tags: India Kerala Indian Christians Thomas Christians

30 May 2012
Greg Kandra




Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA president, Archbishop George Bakhouny and Father Guido Gockel, vice president for the Middle East and Europe, visit with CNEWA staff in New York.
(photo: Erin Edwards)


With the crisis in Syria escalating by the day, a leading religious figure from the region paid us a visit today at our New York office.

He’s Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop George Bakhouny of Tyre, Lebanon, who is making his first visit to the United States. Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president,met the archbishop during his visit to the Holy Land last year.

The archbishop described the situation in his homeland as “stressful” — the stream of refugees arriving from Syria is becoming a flood—but he repeatedly expressed the hope that a peaceful end to the crisis in Syria can be found. “We don’t want a military solution,” he said. “We want reconciliation.”

He said he sees the church’s role as being a “mediator,” to help facilitate “conversations” between factions.

Before departing, he wanted in a special way to express his gratitude, especially to the benefactors of CNEWA, for their prayers and generous support.



Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Melkite Greek Catholic Church

29 May 2012
Greg Kandra




Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, meets Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on 21 June 2007. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The pope sent a message today to a leading religious figure in the Middle East, and made special note of the struggles still unfolding in the region:

Pope Benedict XVI has sent a message celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Mar Dinkha IV, catholicos patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.

The Assyrian Church’s historical homeland is in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East, but in recent years has spread across the world due to emigration. In his message, Pope Benedict recalled several ecumenical highlights between the two Churches, including the 1994 Common Declaration on Christology and the establishment of a Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.

Pope Benedict took the occasion to also express his “solidarity with the Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, praying that effective forms of common witness to the Gospel and pastoral collaboration in the service of peace, reconciliation and unity may be deepened between the Catholic and Assyrian faithful.”

You can read the pope’s complete message here.

And for more on the Assyrian Church of the East, check out Against All Odds: the Assyrian Church.



Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Patriarchs Assyrian Church

16 May 2012
Greg Kandra




From left, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Msgr. John Kozar and Msgr. Robert Stern spoke to CNEWA staff members yesterday at a luncheon. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Yesterday, CNEWA staff members had a chance to catch up with an old friend: Msgr. Robert Stern, CNEWA’s president emeritus. He joined us for a luncheon for the CNEWA family hosted by CNEWA’s President Msgr. John Kozar — and he was there to greet another familiar face who dropped by, CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Msgr. Stern spoke a bit about what he’s been up to since he retired last fall — sorting through his many papers, traveling and getting used to life away from the office — and offered his continued prayers and heartfelt warm wishes to all of his extended CNEWA family.



Tags: CNEWA

15 May 2012
Greg Kandra




Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai visits St. Sharbel Maronite Church in Warren, Michigan on Sunday, 13 May. (photo: Detroit Free Press).

A recent visitor to CNEWA is now paying a visit to metropolitan Detroit, bearing a message of peace and unity that made headlines in the local press:

To the beat of Arabic drums and horns, one of the Mideast's most prominent Christian leaders strolled on a red carpet Monday into a Lebanese center in Dearborn as the crowd cheered.

The visit by Lebanese Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72, to a Shia Muslim center illustrated how his four-day visit to metro Detroit this week has brought together metro Detroit's diverse Lebanese-American communities.

"He's a great example for humanity," Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad, who is of Lebanese descent, said after meeting Rai.

Wearing a black cloak over a red robe with a golden cross hung around his neck, Rai beamed as he entered the Bint Jebail Cultural Center, a place named after a southern Lebanese town where many Dearborn residents have ancestral roots. A crowd quickly formed around him, taking pictures and lining up to shake his hand.

Elected last year as the spiritual leader of the Maronite Catholic community, Rai is touring North America to visit Lebanese-American communities.

Michigan has about 58,000 residents of Lebanese descent, but they come from various religions, sects and regions that at times have clashed. Tensions in Lebanon among various groups can spill over into metro Detroit. Christian-Muslim relations are tense of late in parts of the Arab world.

You can read more at the link. And you can check out our own coverage of the patriarch's visit to CNEWA last fall here, including a video of part of his talk. And for more on the Lebanese-American community of Dearborn, Michigan, read Forging a New Detroit in the January 2010 issue of ONE.



Tags: Unity United States Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Multiculturalism Maronite Catholic

11 May 2012
Greg Kandra






Next month, CNEWA Canada will co-sponsor the premiere of a new documentary on the troubles facing the Holy Land, as seen through the people at Bethlehem University. The Vancouver Sun offers a preview:

The population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories is less than 11 million. But ongoing violence and anger in the region continues to create global military tensions and tear holes in the hearts of billions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and non-religious people. Canadian Roman Catholics are offering their perspective on this land of what Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller calls “intolerance” and “fear” in a new documentary, titled Across the Divide. It premieres in Vancouver on June 3, 2012. See the preview of Across the Divide, which captures the dramatic time when a Catholic University in Bethlehem is caught in a gut-churning crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Shot on location in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and edited in Canada, Across the Divide offers a glimmer of hope for the divided region through the heroic actions of staff and students at Bethlehem University, which has 3,000 students, most of whom are Christian (30 per cent) or Muslim (70 per cent). The film captures the drama of a campus that, like the lives of its students, bears the scars of what the Canadian Catholic leaders call the “intractable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This film presents the story of Bethlehem University, caught in the middle of a sad reality of injustice, violence, intolerance and fear that dishonour the Holy Land, a land that should be a wellspring of hope and faith,” says Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.

“By watching this film, viewers will take a positive step toward building a future of political and religious peace and justice in the region,” adds Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and executive producer of the documentary.

Rosica adds: “Across the Divide tells the remarkable, provocative story of the first Catholic institution of higher learning in Palestine... Against all odds, Bethlehem University has become a school of justice and peace in the Holy Land, and a real bridge among many different groups of people: Arab and Israeli, Christian, Muslim and Jew. In a part of the world that has known so much conflict, animosity, monologue and despair, the Catholic Church’s presence through Bethlehem University has offered a model of peace, friendship, dialogue and hope for the world.”

To learn about the film and its premiere, check out this link. And for more on Bethlehem University, read The Perseverance of Bethlehem University from ONE magazine.



Tags: Holy Land Canada CNEWA Canada Bethlehem University Media

26 April 2012
Greg Kandra




An Iraqi woman prays the rosary with a child on her lap in front of a statue of Mary at her house in Irbil, Iraq, 11 Sept. (photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)

With more attention being devoted to the plight of Christians in the Holy Land — this “60 Minutes” piece is just the latest example — the Catholic Courier newspaper in Rochester recently spoke with some experts on the region, including our own Michael La Civita:

The Holy Land is the birthplace of Christianity, yet it also is the very place Christianity is most in danger of disappearing, experts say.

“To think that there may be no Christians in the place where it all began is a rather arresting thought,” said Mark Schnellbaecher, regional director in the Middle East and Eastern Europe for Catholic Relief Services, the overseas aid agency of the U.S. Catholic bishops.

Attacks on Christians in the Middle East have increased dramatically in the last few years, Schnellbaecher said, pointing to Iraq as an example. Although always a minority, Iraq’s Christian community had been stable and protected during the reign of Saddam Hussein. After the U.S.-led invasion toppled the dictator in 2003, militant Islamic political movements that had been repressed under Hussein “came up like mushrooms after a spring rain,” he said. Members of these movements kidnapped and killed many Christians, and the survivors fled Iraq in droves.

“To watch the dispersement of one of the most ancient Christian communities before your eyes is just sad,” said Schnellbaecher, who is based in Beirut. “These are the kinds of things that normally happen over centuries, and here it’s happened in the course of a decade. I think it is certainly possible in my lifetime there won’t be any Christians in Iraq.”

The dire situation facing Iraqi Christians is being replicated in other Middle Eastern countries, he added. This is true in Syria, which seems to be on the brink of civil war, and in Egypt, where extremist Muslim groups have forced Christians to live in fear since the 2011 revolution ousted former President Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak.

“Everyone looks to Iraq, and they see what happened to the Christian community — it’s been decimated — and they sort of wonder, is that our fate as well?” Schnellbaecher said.

And Christians are not the only ones facing violence, hostility and displacement in the Middle East, where other religious minorities also are under attack, said Michael La Civita, vice president of communications for Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency providing humanitarian support to the people of the Middle East, northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

“It’s open season on these smaller groups,” La Civita said.

Many times, religious differences are not the only reasons for hostilities, he added. Christians in many Middle Eastern countries, for example, tend to be well-educated members of the upper middle class, so anti-Christian violence is sometimes fueled by economic factors, La Civita said. These factors by no means justify such violence, he said, but they do help explain its origins.

“There is sometimes a social or economic or political reason for the violence that ensues. You have to put everything into its proper context and really look at what’s the source of some of these problems,” he noted.

Read more at this link.



Tags: Holy Land Christianity Emigration





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