1 May 2013
Despite the war, the Trappist sisters have chosen to stay in Syria at the monastery they established. (photo: Monastery of Valserena)
An Italian news site this week takes a look at a group of Trappist nuns that has established a monastery in Syria. Despite the violence and war around them, they are determined to stay:
We are simply here, open and available, according to our Rule. We will have to see what happens. In the present state of things one cannot make predictions, but it is our intent to stay close to the population and they are grateful for the fact that we have not moved.
Visit Il Sussidiario for the full interview.
Last fall, AsiaNews profiled the sisters and saw them as a “sign of hope” for Syria:
Amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war, when the main noise has been the sound of bombs going off and the screams of those they wounded, there are still some places where the prevailing hatred is held at bay. One of them is a Trappist monastery in the small Maronite village of Azeir, located in western Syria between the cities of Tartous and Homs. Five Italian nuns from the Monastery of Valserena (in Pisa) call it home. Despite the fighting raging around them, they chose to stay in the country. “Despite our Italian nationality,” said Sister Monica, superior of the Mother House, “and the resources we might have because of it, we are part of this community and cannot leave at a time of trial. Its fate is our fate.”
In letters written over the past few months and posted on the monastery’s website, the nuns describe the tragedies of the war and the suffering endured by the residents of the villages that surround them.
For the sisters, the monastery is a tangible sign of hope. “A place where God is worshiped in his real presence, both Eucharistic and Ecclesial, through prayers and brotherly communion, is a blessing for all.”
However, “our neighbours are discouraged,” said one of the letters posted. “Even in our small village, civilians and young conscripts have been killed.”
“The country,” wrote another, “has become a battleground for adversaries that are bigger than Syria, people who came to fight in this land and this people to settle their own conflicts.”
In each post, the Trappist nuns call on all Christians to pray for the Syrian population that welcomed them.
Click here for the rest of the story.
30 April 2013
Tags: Syria Sisters Monastery Monasticism Trappist
A boy receives Communion at an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Temple Hills, Maryland. (photo: Erin Edwards)
A few years ago, the magazine visited a thriving community of Ethiopian immigrants in Washington, D.C.:
Ethiopians began immigrating to the District of Columbia and its suburbs in the aftermath of Ethiopia’s “Red Terror,” a violent political campaign in the late 1970’s led by the country’s ruling Marxist junta, or Derg, that led to the deaths of as many as 500,000 people.
The Derg targeted younger educated professionals, many of whom fled to Sudan and Kenya, or to Europe, before finding refuge in the United States in the 1980’s. After 1991, when the Derg collapsed and a transitional government was formed, the flow of people out of Ethiopia slowed. Yet, to this day relatives of former refugees settle in the United States.
Estimates of the number of Ethiopians in the Washington, D.C., area vary widely, with some suggesting as many as 250,000. Dr. Tsehaye Teferra, president of the Arlington-based Ethiopian Community Development Council, puts the number closer to 100,000. The community is scattered, with Ethiopians living in the Virginia cities of Alexandria and Arlington and the Adams Morgan and Shaw neighborhoods of the District of Columbia.
In 2005, the Ethiopian community in Adams Morgan tried unsuccessfully to designate 9th Street NW, between T and U streets, as “Little Ethiopia.” With or without the official designation, a short walk down either 9th or U streets shows that this stretch of the historically African-American neighborhood is unmistakably Ethiopian. Eateries such as Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant, Abiti Ethiopian Cuisine and Queen of Sheba Restaurant serve traditional stews of chopped and marinated beef or lamb, often with peppers, onions and spices, accompanied by — or served atop — injera, a soft, flat, spongy bread, to a diverse clientele.
Read more about this vibrant neighborhood in the March 2009 issue of ONE.
29 April 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity United States Ethiopian Orthodox Church Immigration
Camels rest beside the road to Petra. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
In 2002, the magazine took readers to the Holy Land and the ancient ruins of Petra:
The holy sites in Jerusalem and its environs have sometimes seemed at the very center of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But there is a part of the Middle East that is politically stable, quietly peaceful and where a landscape full of biblical stories can be found. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — which emerged out of the post-World War I division of the Middle East by Britain and France — a part of what Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land, has played a pivotal role in the ongoing struggle in the region.
Within the desert kingdom’s boundaries can be found some of the best preserved traces of antiquity and significant evidence of early Christianity. With its awe-inspiring ruins, Petra, the ancient fortress city carved out of rock in the Valley of Moses, is the site of many of these archaeological treasures.
Participating in an exploratory dig in 1973, the noted archaeologist Kenneth W. Russell detected some previously overlooked ruins while supervising the excavation of a colonnaded street. He saw a semicircular foundation protruding from the soil and thought this might be part of a church. Intrigued, he revisited the site several times since his initial discovery.
In the spring of 1990, Russell returned to Petra to explore the site in depth. Both the size of the structure, with its semicircular apse, facing east, and surface materials including a portion of mosaic, helped him identify the site as a major Byzantine church.
Because of Russell’s untimely death in May 1992, he did not live to see the church unearthed. However, his friends, Pierre and Patricia Bikai from the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, followed Russell’s lead and the public can now view the church.
No one knows who brought Christianity to Petra, the “rose-red city, half as old as time” located in southern Jordan about halfway between the Gulf of Aqaba and the southern end of the Dead Sea. It is known, however, that the Nabateans, an Arab people who controlled the caravan routes from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and farther north, made this isolated and well-hidden location inside deep sandstone cliffs their capital…
Read more about Petra in Rose-Red City, Half as Old as Time.
26 April 2013
Tags: Jerusalem Jordan Holy Land Architecture Church
In Eritrea, a young Orthodox monk — wearing a modern digital watch — chants from an ancient manuscript. To learn more about the Orthodox faithful in Eritrea, read Ancient Church in Young Nation from the November 2003 issue of the magazine. (photo: Chris Hellier)
26 April 2013
In this photograph from November 2012, Coptic Pope Tawadros II conducts an interview in Cairo.
(photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Jordan calls on U.N. to act on Syria crisis (The Daily Star) Jordan on Thursday called on the U.N. Security Council to declare the exodus of refugees from Syria a threat to international security and to organize a visit to the region. Jordan fears that with more than 505,000 Syrian refugees now in the country it risks being overwhelmed and drawn into the crisis, diplomats said. Jordan’s U.N. ambassador Prince Zeid al Hussein said in a letter to the Security Council that the huge influx across the border since the Syria conflict erupted in March 2011 “threatens the security and stability of our country”…
Coptic Pope says Christians feel sidelined and neglected (Reuters) Egypt’s Christians feel sidelined, ignored and neglected by Muslim Brotherhood-led authorities, who proffer assurances but have taken little or no action to protect them from violence, Coptic Pope Tawadros II said. In his first interview since emerging from seclusion after eight people were killed in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians this month, the pope called official accounts of clashes at Cairo’s Coptic cathedral on 7 April “a pack of lies”…
Syrian bishops’ kidnapping raises fears (The Daily Star) The abduction of two Christian bishops in Aleppo earlier this week has heightened Christian fears and deepened sectarian tensions in Syria and the region, senior Christian leaders told The Daily Star on Thursday…
Separation wall to be built in Cremisan Valley (Society of St. Yves Press Release) The Israeli Special Appeals Committee for land seizure under emergency law released its verdict last Wednesday, in the case of the Cremisan Valley against the separation wall. The verdict ruled in favor of the proposed second route, which leaves the convent on the Palestinian side of the wall…
Knights of Columbus international headquarters mounts display of Russian icons (Connecticut Post) Orthodox Christians revere Russian icons as sacred devotional pieces. But to others around the world, they are magnificent treasures, collected and cherished for their beauty, artistry and history. Simply put: The appeal of Russian icons is international, extending beyond religious or ethnic background. With this in mind, the museum at the Knights of Columbus’ international headquarters in New Haven (where the organization was founded) has mounted “Windows into Heaven: Russian Icons & Treasures,” which will be on view for more than a year — through 27 April 2014. The exhibition has opened in time for Orthodox Easter on Sunday, 5 May…
25 April 2013
In this photo from February, a Syrian refugee woman who asked not to be identified is pictured in the room where she lives in the Syriac Center of St. Gabriel Syriac Orthodox Church in Ajaltoun, Lebanon. When violence escalated in her hometown of Qamishli, she fled, carrying with her a statue of Mary, which she keeps in her room. (photo: CNS/Dalia Khamissy)
Syrian government faces intensifying religiously-motivated attacks (Fides) The recent destruction of the minaret of the Umayyad mosque in Aleppo and the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops symbolize “crossing a red line” in the Syrian conflict…
Plea for unity of Christians in Middle East (Vatican Radio) An urgent appeal for an end to the violence in Syria has been made by the Global Christian Forum, a broad ecumenical network of Christian churches, communities and movements which met earlier this month in Amman, Jordan...
Russian official begins visit to Lebanon (The Daily Star) Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov will begin a three-day visit to Lebanon Thursday with developments in Syria high on the agenda. Bogdanov will hold talks with Lebanese officials including President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, the source added. The Russian envoy will also hold meetings with Lebanese political and spiritual leaders…
Holy See’s permanent observer to UN issues call to eradicate poverty (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt places “the integral development of the human person at the center of all efforts to eradicate poverty” in a statement to the United Nation’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals…
Ukrainian Christian honored for saving ruined synagogue (Jewish Times) A Ukrainian Christian who saved a dilapidated rural synagogue was honored at an interfaith forum in Kiev. Boris Slobodnyuk of Satanov received the forum’s 2013 Crystal Noah Tolerance Award on Tuesday at the Kiev Interfaith Forum for guarding the 500-year-old Stanovskaya synagogue in western Ukraine and initiating renovation work there…
24 April 2013
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War United Nations
Catechism and Bible study are priorities for Indian-American Christian communities. (photo: Maria Bastone)
Indian Christians can be a rare sight in the United States — and several years ago, we looked at the ways many struggle to fit in:
Ask an Indian Christian how Americans react to this particular combination of nationality and religion and almost everyone has a story. Most stories are benign, some even comical with Americans’ inquiries ranging from curious to clueless.
“Many people want to know when I converted,” said Father Saji George, a 35-year-old Syro-Malankara Catholic priest in Hempstead, New York, explaining that most Indian Christians, particularly those from the southern state of Kerala, were born into the faith.
Susamma Seeley, a 29-year-old Syro-Malankara Catholic from Elmont, New York, is always a little shocked and amused when “people ask what tribe I’m from.”
Because most of India’s one billion people are Hindu, the country is internationally regarded as such. As a result, an Indian man named Samuel Abraham or an Indian woman dressed in a colorful sari carrying a Bible may elicit surprise among Americans.
Like other immigrants, Indian Christians have to work at establishing new homes for their faith and culture — much as Italian-Americans created Little Italy, observed patronal feasts and danced the tarantella at weddings.
Read more about the New World Children of St. Thomas in the May-June 2003 issue of our magazine.
23 April 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity United States Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Immigration
This icon of St. George, from a 14th century Constantinople workshop, is exhibited in the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens. (photo: Wikipedia)
At the Vatican today, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Feast of St. George, for whom he was named. The saint is a figure honored not only by Catholics and Anglicans — he’s the patron of England — but also by the Orthodox and even some Muslims. Little is known about St. George beyond the fact that he was a Greek who lived in Palestine shortly before the time of Constantine and that he was martyred for being a Christian.
In his homily, the pope spoke of suffering and persecution in the early days of the Church:
And so the Church goes forward, as one saint says — I do not remember which one, here — “amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of the Lord.” And thus is the life of the Church. If we want to travel a little along the road of worldliness, negotiating with the world — as did the Maccabees, who were tempted, at that time — we will never have the consolation of the Lord. And if we seek only consolation, it will be a superficial consolation, not that of the Lord: a human consolation. The Church’s journey always takes place between the Cross and the Resurrection, amid the persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. And this is the path: those who go down this road are not mistaken.
You can read the full text of the pope’s homily today at this link.
23 April 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Orthodox Byzantium
In the video above from October 2012, one of the two hierarchs kidnapped by gunmen yesterday — the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim — says religion can play a positive role in Syria. (video: Huffington Post)
Pope Francis offers prayers for kidnapped Syrian bishops (Vatican Radio) The Director of the Vatican Press Office on Tuesday released a statement on the kidnapping of the Orthodox bishops in Syria...
Prayers requested for kidnapped Syrian hierarchs (OCA.org) In a portion of a letter dated 22 April 2013 and signed by His Grace, Bishop Basil, Secretary of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to all member hierarchs, prayers were requested for two Syrian hierarchs who had been abducted earlier that day...
Israel: Syria used chemical weapons against its own people (CNN) The Syrian government is using chemical weapons against rebel forces, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence research departments said Tuesday. “In all likelihood they used sarin gas,” Brig. Gen. Itai Brun said Tuesday in a speech at a conference in Tel Aviv. This comes as a civil war between the government and rebels rages across Syria — which borders Israel. Analysts believe the Syrian government may have one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world...
Egypt’s street children, victims of political instability (Middle East Voices) Egypt’s street children had a lot to gain from the country’s revolution. However, change has come slowly if at all, and in many ways, their cause has been pushed off course. Increasing poverty, a growing shadow economy, and continued political instability, have proven challenges to the safety of these children...
On his feast, remembering St. George in Turkey (Catholic Herald) In fact George is not just Catholic, but also catholic in the widest sense: he is also revered by the Orthodox. He is even honored by some Muslims...
22 April 2013
Tags: Syria Egypt Turkey Orthodox
A protester opposed to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds up a crucifix and the Quran as demonstrators chant slogans against the political leader near Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 19 April. Many Coptic Christians have left the unrest in Egypt and sought refuge in the United States.
(photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Activists report record number of bodies found in Syria (CNN) The bodies of at least 566 people who were killed over a six-day period across Syria were found Sunday, according to Local Coordination Committees in Syria, an opposition group based in the country. That is the highest number of victims discovered in a single day since the war began in March 2011, LCC spokeswoman Rafif Jouejati said. At least 450 bodies were found in the Damascus suburb of Jadidat al-Fadel, LCC activist Abu Aasy said Sunday...
In Jordan, tensions rise between Syrian refugees and host community (Washington Post) More than 500,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan since the onset of the conflict in their country more than two years ago, according to the Amman government and the United Nations — a figure equal to nearly one-tenth of Jordan’s population. While 160,000 are housed in refu gee camps, the vast majority have been living in cities, where their presence is stoking tensions with an increasingly resentful host community and posing what Jordanian officials call one of the greatest crises the country has faced in decades...
Chaldean patriarch expresses hope during Iraqi voting (Vatican Radio) Iraqis went to the polls Saturday in their first provincial elections since the United States withdrew its military presence. Despite weeks of violence and bloodshed leading up to the elections, voting in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces took place in a state of relative stability and amid tight security. Reports of scattered violence during the first several hours of voting did not prove deadly and seemed not to dissuade voters. The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Archbishop Louis Raphael of Baghdad, said interest among Iraqi citizens in exercising their right to vote was good. “I think the situation is much better today because of the security, and the police and the army are controlling the city of Baghdad in which we are living,” he said...
Chechnya casts long shadow over bombings in Boston (The Telegraph) The publication of the images of suspects by the US authorities, followed by a shoot-out, man-hunt and the lockdown of parts of Boston during Friday were accompanied by revelations that the two suspected bombers — the brothers Jokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev — were of Chechen origin. Attention quickly turned to the restive Southern Russian republic of Chechnya, and the Islamist regional insurgency led by veteran fighter, Doku Umarov, in an attempt find motives for the marathon bombing. But what motivated two young men who had spent most of their lives in the US to attack a marathon in Boston? Did the bombers really have any direct connections to Chechnya, why did they decide to launch such a deadly attack, and how were they radicalized?...
In New York, finding refuge from the unrest in Egypt (New York Times) Ever since the 2011 revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and ushered in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, Copts — Egypt’s Orthodox Christian minority — have been flooding out of the country and into the United States. The New York area has been a major gateway for these new arrivals, and churches in Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City have had their rosters swell accordingly. Within a few months of the revolution, so many people had arrived from Egypt that the membership of St. Mary and St. Antonios had doubled, to about 1,000 families, and the church has not been quite the same since...
Indian bishops speak out against abuse of children (Fides) “What is the value of human life? What meaning does it have?” From this question one must start to seek answers to the sad phenomenon of violence and sexual abuse on minors, which in India reached a record of 48,338 cases in the last decade. This was stated to Fides Agency by the spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, commenting on the latest case of a 5-year-old girl in Delhi, kidnapped and raped repeatedly for 48 hours by two torturers, who were arrested by the police...
Tags: Syria India Iraq Egypt Copts