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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
13 December 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Following the latest act of settler-associated vandalism at the 11th-century Monastery of the Cross, Father Claudio remains unflappable: “The first time, I forgive; the second time, I forgive; the seventh time, I forgive; the 75th, the 77th time I forgive.” (video: Melanie Lidman)

Jerusalem Orthodox Christian monastery vandalized (Jerusalem Post) “Price-tag” vandals targeted sites in Jerusalem and near Ramallah overnight Tuesday, spraying extremist graffiti and puncturing car tires. The words “tag mahir” (“price tag”), painted on the site, have become affiliated with the extreme fringe of the settlement and right-wing movements. Father Claudio, the superior of the Monastery of the Cross, said he discovered the graffiti on Wednesday morning after morning prayers. “This person needs to write outside. Okay. But he needs to come inside the Monastery. Sit with me, drink one coffee, and I will explain to him why I believe in Jesus and why that is my freedom [to believe],” Father Claudio said. “He needs to come face to face. And I will tell him, ‘Welcome.’ ... Let’s sit, and speak. This is the heart of the religions. ... I say to these people, ‘Hanukkah Sameach’ [‘Happy Hanukkah’].” This is the fifth price-tag attack against a Christian site this year, including the previous vandalism at the Monastery of the Cross and incidents at the Latrun Monastery, the Baptist Church in west Jerusalem and the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion...

Violence and terror in the ‘Valley of the Christians’ (Fides) About 150 thousand Christians live in fear in more than 40 villages in the so-called “Valley of the Christians” (“Wadi al Nasarah”) in western Syria. The valley, a historical stronghold of the Syrian Christians, received in recent months thousands of refugees from Homs and other cities and provinces. Today, Christians are under fire from Islamist militias who have settled in the Crusader fortress “Krak des Chevaliers,” built in the eleventh century by a Muslim emir, rebuilt by the Knights Hospitallers and today UNESCO world cultural heritage. From the hill on which the fortress stands, the militias have been firing for days at the villages below. Their targets are the barricades in the area erected by the Syrian army, but no thought is given to the Christian civilians in the line of fire...

Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers clash in Hebron (Al Jazeera) Five people have been injured in clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron, after a Palestinian teenager was shot by Israeli soldiers on Wednesday. Dozens of Palestinian youths were reported to have thrown stones and bottles at the soldiers early on Thursday morning, while Associated Press news agency reported that the Israeli soldiers had responded by firing tear gas on the youths. Five Palestinians were hospitalized after the clashes, reported Ma’an News Agency. Thursday’s clashes came ahead of the funeral for 17-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah, who was shot dead by an Israeli policewoman at a checkpoint in the city on Wednesday, for allegedly carrying a gun which later turned out to be “fake”...

Muslim Brotherhood struggles to retain political power (Der Spiegel) Little is known about the inner workings of the Muslim Brotherhood, though that is now changing. More and more members are leaving the organization, and they are taking their criticism public. They include young members who reject the Brotherhood’s hierarchical structures as well as older supporters like Tharwat al Gharbawi, a well-known attorney, who says that the Brotherhood’s authoritarian ideology always becomes more prevalent when the organization comes under pressure. “As long as the guidance office of the Brotherhood is dominated by hardliners, a compromise isn’t to be expected,” says Gharbawi. Now, the group’s support seems to be crumbling. More than 30 buildings owned by the Muslim Brotherhood were set on fire in the last two weeks, and the protesters are now chanting the same words they chanted before Mubarak was overthrown: “Down with the regime.” Most importantly, opposition leaders have set aside differences to unite in their opposition to Morsi and the Brotherhood...

Tags: Syria Egypt Jerusalem Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians

11 December 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Raghad Al-Hussein, a 30-year-old refugee from Syria, holds her newborn child inside their makeshift shelter in the village of Jeb Jennine, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, on 22 November. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

UNHCR: Syria Refugees number ‘more than 500,000’ (BBC) The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) says it has accounted for 509,559 refugees so far, primarily in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and that many more have yet to come forward. More than two million people are also thought to be internally displaced within Syria. Lebanon is playing host to most refugees, with 154,387 Syrian refugees either registered or in the process of being registered there. Jordan has received 142,664, while there are in 136,319 in Turkey, 64,449 in Iraq and 11,740 in North Africa, the agency says. “Syrian refugees arriving during recent bad weather reached Jordan with soaked clothing and mud-covered shoes due to heavy rainfall,” U.N.H.C.R. chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. Since the beginning of November, 3,200 new Syrian refugees have been registered every day in the region, although some of these are thought to be people who had been in the host countries for some time but had not sought help…

Egypt opposition groups reject Morsi’s overture (Los Angeles Times) Egypt’s main opposition groups rejected President Mohammed Morsi’s weekend move to ease political tensions as the country braced for fresh protests and the military was given authority to arrest civilians ahead of this week’s referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution. On Sunday, President Morsi rescinded most of the decree he issued last month that gave him near absolute authority by declaring his office free from judicial oversight. At the same time, he rebuffed key opposition demands to delay a constitutional referendum set for Saturday and to order the writing of a new charter that protects civil rights against the influence of Shari’a, or Islamic law. Holding a referendum now “risks pushing the country toward violent confrontation,” said a statement from the main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, which is led by Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed al Baradei and senior politicians. “We are against this process from start to finish”…

Syria rebels press forward in Aleppo (Al Jazeera) Syrian rebels have taken full control of a sprawling military base that they stormed two days ago in the country’s north, killing at least 35 government troops in the fighting, anti-government activists say. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the battle for Sheik Suleiman base, near the city of Aleppo, ended on Tuesday after rebels took over the main compound and warehouses at the site. The rebels first entered the base on Sunday afternoon, after weeks of fighting with soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. SOHR said that 64 government troops were also injured in the assault…

Opponents describe abuse by Morsi’s supporters (New York Times) Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi captured, detained and beat dozens of his political opponents last week, holding them for hours with their hands bound on the pavement outside the presidential palace while pressuring them to confess that they had accepted money to use violence in protests against him. “It was torment for us,” said Yehia Negm, 42, a former diplomat with a badly bruised face and rope marks on his wrists. He said he was among a group of about 50, including four minors, who were held on the pavement overnight. “I thought I would die.” To critics of Islamists, the episode on Wednesday recalled the tactics of the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, who often saw a conspiracy of “hidden hands” behind his domestic opposition and deployed plainclothes thugs acting outside the law to punish those who challenged him. The difference is that the current enforcers are driven by the self-righteousness of their religious ideology, rather than money…

Iraq urges release of Palestinians in Israel jails (Daily Star Lebanon) Iraq’s prime minister has called on the international community to demand an immediate release of Palestinian and Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails. Nouri al Maliki’s statement on Tuesday came at the start of a two-day conference in Baghdad dedicated to the fate of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Iraq agreed to host the event after holding an Arab League summit in March. Al-Maliki assailed what he called the international community’s double standards as it backed the region’s Arab Spring uprisings against “autocrats and tyrants” but ignored the issue of jailed Palestinians…

Russian government continues restoration of Kosovo holy sites (Russian Orthodox Church) In 2010-2011, the Russian government contributed $2 million U.S. dollars to UNESCO to finance the restoration of Orthodox holy sites in Kosovo, in compliance with the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo and within the UNESCO international action on humanitarian aid to the Republic of Serbia. Restoration efforts began in 2012 at four monuments of Orthodox architecture included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites — the Decani Monastery, the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery, the Gracanica Monastery and the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš in Prizren. The work is carried out according to operating schedule and should be completed in the first half of 2013…

Tags: Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Russia Kosovo

6 December 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

A refugee child's drawing depicts the violence from which hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled. The drawing was made in a psycho-social support group in Kamid al lawz, a town in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Clashes over Syrian war continue in northern Lebanon (Lebanon Daily Star) Fighting intensified Thursday between opponents and supporters of President Bashar Assad in northern Lebanon, as sniper shots left people ducking for cover in downtown Tripoli, raising concern that the fighting might take over the whole city. Fighters exchanged rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire in the city for a third day while rockets fired from Syria landed in nearby Lebanese border towns. Security sources told The Daily Star on Thursday that the death toll rose to eight from the fighting between the neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen, whose residents largely support Assad, and Bab al Tabbaneh, where residents oppose the embattled Syrian leader…

Opposing camps clash in Cairo (Der Spiegel) Late into Wednesday night, followers of President Mohammed Morsi battled on the streets of Cairo with opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood leader. For hours, the two camps fought in front of the presidential palace, with both sides throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. People were savagely beaten and several cars were set on fire. At least five were killed in the overnight clashes and some 450 were injured. On Thursday morning, the Egyptian army was deployed in front of the presidential palace, including several tanks and other military vehicles, to protect the compound…

King of Jordan visits West Bank in support of Palestinian statehood (Washington Post) Jordan’s King Abdullah II paid a rare visit to the West Bank on Thursday in a show of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s successful bid for the United Nations’ recognition of a Palestinian state. The Jordanians spoke out sharply against Israel’s latest plans to build thousands of new settler homes in response to the Palestinian move, including initial plans to revive a contentious project east of Jerusalem. The project, known as E1, would separate the West Bank from east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital, and drive a big wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank. “The settlement policy is not only rejected from our side as Arabs and Palestinians, but also by the whole world,” said the king’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh…

Ethiopian prime minister willing to reopen dialogue with Eritrea (Al Jazeera) Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s prime minister, has said that he is willing to hold talks with neighboring Eritrea, with whom Addis Ababa fought a border war that ended in 2000. If Desalgen follows through with Wednesday’s statement, it will be the first time a leader in Addis Ababa has held talks with Issaias Afeworki, the Eritrean president, since the end of the conflict which left at least 70,000 people dead. The two countries remain at odds over the flashpoint town of Badme, awarded to Eritrea by a U.N.-backed boundary commission, but still controlled by Ethiopia. “The most important thing for us is to fight poverty ... to have regional integration. If we two do that, it will be much more productive,” Hailemariam added. Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year struggle, that is considered among the continent’s longest and most bitter…

Bishop Zaki cautions church leaders on referendum boycott (Fides) The new Constitution, for which President Morsi seeks a popular referendum on 15 December, “divides the country” and fails to properly represent the diverse interests of the nation, says Bishop Adel Zaki, O.F.M., apostolic vicar of Alexandria in Egypt. Nevertheless, the bishop adds that it is not appropriate that church leaders give direct indication to boycott the referendum. “Churches must enlighten consciences and encourage discernment based on principles of justice and safeguard the common good,” warns Bishop Zaki, “but then everyone has to choose according to their conscience, in full freedom. Churches cannot ask Christians to boycott the referendum”…

The precarious state of religious freedom in Ethiopia (Nazret) A statement issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last month expressed “deep concern about the increasing deterioration of religious freedoms for Muslims in Ethiopia.” According to the USCIRF Statement, “since July 2011, the Ethiopian government has sought to impose the al Ahbash Islamic sect on the country’s Muslim community, a community that traditionally has practiced the Sufi form of Islam. The government also has manipulated the election of the new leaders of the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC). Previously viewed as an independent body, EIASC is now viewed as a government-controlled institution. The arrests, terrorism charges and takeover of EIASC signify a troubling escalation in the government’s attempts to control Ethiopia’s Muslim community and provide further evidence of a decline in religious freedom in Ethiopia.” The ruling regime has produced no evidence to support its claims of subversion, terrorism and other allegations of criminality by those protesting official interference…

Tags: Egypt Lebanon Ethiopia Syrian Civil War Palestine

29 November 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

A demonstrator smothers a tear gas canister in a puddle of water during 25 November protests in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo. Hundreds were injured in protests following Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's claim to new powers that shield his decisions from judicial review. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Egypt’s courts will not be ‘blackmailed’ (L.A. Times) Egypt’s highest court has indicated it will soon rule on whether to dissolve the constitutional assembly, which has been boycotted by liberals and non-Muslims because of its preference for Shari’a, or Islamic law. Anticipating this, the assembly announced it was rushing to deliver a final draft of the new constitution to President Morsi on Thursday, days before the court is expected to make its decision. The rapid-paced maneuvering between the court and Morsi spoke to a dramatic test of wills over which side would shape the charter and the nation’s political future…

Indian archbishop reports ‘boom of vocations’ in the Year of the Faith (Fides) “The new vocations… are an injection of hope for the local Church. And from the people who live the Year of Faith with enthusiasm, joy, confidence in the future,” said Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. Additionally, Father Faustine Lucas Lobo, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in India, who went to Kandhamal in past weeks, confirms to Fides: “Catholics and vocations to the priesthood and religious life are growing, thanks to the work of the Church,” and the local faithful are “filled with missionary zeal”…

Maronite patriarch reaffirms need for Christian-Muslim dialogue (EWTN) Now also a cardinal, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter says he feels more responsible for improving Muslim and Christian dialogue in the Middle East. The church leader said he feels “the great responsibility to move forward in building communion with Muslims and Christians in a very divided and conflictive Middle East.” One of the six cardinals Pope Benedict XVI created on 24 November, Patriarch Bechara Peter is the only one representing Arab Christians in the Vatican…

Extremist Hungarian politician claims Jews are a ‘security risk’ (Der Spiegel) During a Monday evening debate over Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Márton Gyöngyösi, deputy parliamentary floor leader for the Jobbik party, demanded that “all Jews living in Hungary be registered” and that “Jews, particularly those in parliament and the government, be evaluated for the potential danger they pose to Hungary.” In a comment directed at Zsolt Németh, a state secretary in the Foreign Ministry, he said: “I think you owe Hungary such a compilation”…

Catholicos seeks peace with Jacobites (The Asian Age) Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church on Sunday extended an olive branch to the Jacobite faction in the church, saying, “There is no reason for those having the same faith and liturgy to stay apart.” Addressing a mammoth gathering of the faithful at the centenary celebrations of the catholicate, the pontiff said: “I am all for unity in the Malankara Church. I don’t know why it’s still a far cry, and who all are blocking it”…

Hamas leader revives talk of reunion with P.L.O. (New York Times) On the eve of the United Nations vote on whether to declare the Palestinian Authority a nonmember state, the leader of Hamas revived a long-percolating proposal for his militant party to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, the group that, with Israel, signed the Oslo Accord, which Hamas has long derided. Speaking at an academic conference here by video link from his new base in Doha, Qatar, the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, called on Wednesday for the politically divided Palestinians to unite through new P.L.O. elections that would rebuild the organization “on a correct basis that includes all Palestinian forces.”

Tags: Egypt Palestine Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Indian Bishops Hungary

21 November 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on 20 November. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

Pope Condemns escalating Gaza conflict, calls for truce (CNS) Pope Benedict XVI condemned escalating hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, saying hatred and violence are never an appropriate solution to problems. He called for greater efforts to promote a truce and peace negotiations. “I am following with great concern the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” the pope said at the end of his general audience on 21 November. “Hatred and violence are not the solution to problems. ... I encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who are seeking to establish a cease-fire and to promote negotiations,” he said…

Christian leaders in the Holy Land: Support Palestine’s UN membership (PNN) A statement signed by 100 Holy Land Christian community and church leaders urges widespread support for UN membership for Palestine. “We believe the Palestine Liberation Organization’s initiative to enhance Palestine’s status in the United Nations to an Observer State is a positive, collective and moral step that will get us closer to freedom. This is a step in the right direction for the cause of a just peace in the region. We fully endorse this bid, just as we supported Palestine’s application for full membership of the United Nations a year ago.” Signatories include Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel…

Catholic and Muslim cooperation promotes justice (VIS) “Catholic and Muslim cooperation in promoting justice in the contemporary world” was the theme of the eighth Colloquium of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Center for Interreligious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation (ICRO). The meeting was held in Rome from 19 to 21 November under the joint presidency of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and of Mohammad Bagher Korramshad, president of ICRO. A communique released today explains how the theme was divided into four subheadings, “from the point of view of Catholics and of Shi’i Muslims: (1) The concept of justice; (2) Justice for the human person; (3) Justice for the different constituents of society; and (4) Justice for the entire human family.” The English-language communique goes on: “Both sides expressed their awareness of and concern for current challenges, including the economic crisis, the environmental issue, the weakening of the family as a basic institution of society and threats to world peace”…

Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Church to install fifth bishop (Tribune-Democrat) The Right Reverend Gregory Tatsis, who is to be consecrated as the fifth bishop of the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., said he finds Johnstown to his liking. His ordination and installation will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Christ the Savior Cathedral. He replaces Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko, who died of cancer in March 2011. The celebrant and ordaining bishop is Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, representing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople…

Egyptian Christian churches withdraw from creation of new constitution (Egypt Independent) On Saturday, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Pachomius, at that time the acting Coptic Orthodox pope, announced that the Egyptian churches were officially withdrawing their three members from the Constituent Assembly. Speaking at a press conference, Bishop Pachomius said that “the Egyptian churches [have] sensed discomfort at the trends that prevailed [while] drafting the constitutional provisions. The constitution ... in its current form does not meet the desired national consensus and does not reflect the pluralistic identity of Egypt, [which has been] entrenched across generations.” He added that the constitution in its current drafted form contradicts Egypt’s heritage and violates the rights and freedoms that Muslims and Christians have both fought for through the ages…

Tags: Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Christian-Muslim relations

13 November 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Boys play with old tires in "the field," a squatters camp on land where a sports stadium is set to be built. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

In our September 2003 issue, contributor Peter Lemieux reported on struggle and joy in Ethiopia. Of the above picture, captured in the course of his reporting, he had this to say:

An area of wasteland in the Bole section of Addis Ababa, “the field” had long been designated by the government as the site for a future sports stadium. Squatters have lived on the grounds for more than 10 years, having migrated from the countryside to the city in search of a better life. Their dreams have not been realized. Most of the villagers are unemployed and have nothing more than huts scrapped together from trash and mud to show for their efforts. Some mothers even resort to renting their baby to beggars for a pittance [to help them win sympathy]. Yet ironically, even though many living in the field are beggars, they are still willing to give to a beggar. …

“The field” is adjacent to the Bethlehem Day Care, a program run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. The Day Care Center this year alone is enrolling more than 160 children in the CNEWA needy child program — many of whom live in “the field.”

To read more — and view more photos — check out A Flicker of Candlelight Amid the Darkness.

Tags: Ethiopia Children Sisters Health Care Poor/Poverty

5 November 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2004 image, Bishop Tawadros speaks to children in his museum of Christianity in El-Karma Center, King Mariout, Alexandria. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Since the passing of Pope Shenouda III in March, the question of succession has commanded much of the attention of the Coptic Orthodox Church. As reported in today’s Page One post, the long period of uncertainty has finally reached an end. The election process is complete, and as of 18 November, Pope Tawadros II will be installed as the new patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.

Upon hearing the news, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of expressing his congratulations and high hopes:

I was filled with joy on learning of your election as pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, and I gladly extend to you and to the clergy and faithful of the Coptic Orthodox Church my good wishes and prayerful solidarity, asking the Lord to pour out his abundant blessings upon the lofty ministry you are about to assume. I am confident that, like your renowned predecessor Pope Shenouda III, you will be a genuine spiritual father for your people and an effective partner with all your fellow-citizens in building the new Egypt in peace and harmony, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East. In these challenging times it is important for all Christians to bear witness to the love and fellowship that binds them together, mindful of the prayer offered by our Lord at the Last Supper: that all may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21).

To read the full statement, visit the Vatican Radio site. To read about some of the fine work Pope Tawadros II pursued as bishop, check out Sean Sprague’s Oasis of Hope, from the April 2004 issue of ONE.

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Patriarchs Coptic Orthodox Church Egypt's Christians Egypt's Bishops

18 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Azaduht Babek, right, and Canik Capar harvest tomatoes in Vakifli, Turkey. (photo: Sean Sprague)

The history of Turkey’s Armenian population is dotted with tragedy, particularly in the period from the late 19th century through the early 20th. Of the most atrocious of those years, Sean Sprague writes:

Between 1915 and 1918, as part of their strategy during World War I, Ottoman Turkish forces displaced, incarcerated or exterminated the empire’s Armenian citizens. Churches, monasteries and schools were leveled or appropriated. In less than four years, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of their own government, though Turkey disputes the events. Survivors fled the country or took refuge in Istanbul.

However, far from gone, Armenians maintain a small but important presence in the nation — especially in and around Istanbul, and the province of Hatay, in the south. Sprague describes Vakifli, the last remaining Armenian village of Hatay:

The village of Vakifli somehow managed to avoid the atrocities that afflicted most Armenian communities a hundred years ago. Yet, by the mid-20th century, the village no longer had adequate pastoral support or an Armenian school, and most families sent their children to Istanbul for their education. Few of these children ever returned, except on holidays.

Today, the bucolic village is largely a tourist destination for Armenians and Turks alike. The local community is largely prosperous, either catering directly to tourists or running lucrative organic farms that struggle to keep up with growing demands for their fresh tomatoes, apricots, plums, citrus fruits and other produce.

Read more in Rising from the Ruins, from the November 2010 issue of ONE.

Tags: Turkey Village life Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church

17 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2005 photo, a man surveys his banana plantation — part of the small farm he went on to run after completing Navachaithanya’s detoxification program. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are serious problems all over the world, and India is no exception. According to a literature review published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, a 2009 study found that 14.2% of the population surveyed in southern, rural India indicated a hazardous level of alcohol use on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).

To help people suffering from addiction in Kerala, in 1991 the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda established Navachaithanya, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

“Alcohol has always been a problem here, it’s not just recently,” said Syro-Malabar Bishop James Pazhayattil of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda. “Several years ago, people approached me about the problem in our community and we started Navachaithanya.” Since then, the center has treated more than 8,000 men for alcoholism or drug addiction, though alcohol is by far the area’s larger problem. ...

The Navachaithanya compound is up a slight hill, off the main road in the town of Aloor, and includes a seminary and a convent as well as the detoxification center. The accommodations are ascetic. During their stay the men sleep in bunks with thin mattresses, in crowded rooms where the heat can be stifling. There is no air-conditioning and little shade to be found in the central courtyard.

The campers receive medical treatment at a nearby clinic. Dr. V. J. Paul, who runs the clinic, treats campers with a combination of the classic Western detoxification cocktail — such as thiamin hydrochloride and sodium valproate — and local herbs and oils common to the local practice of Ayurvedic medicine. (Dr. Paul employs a different regimen to treat smokers.) Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic system of healing that originated in India some 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, remains popular throughout India. Shops containing herbal and other plant extracts are more common than modern pharmacies.

Throughout the day, campers participate in discussions and exercise groups as well as prayer sessions. Most of the campers are Christians, but Hindus and Muslims also take part and are not compelled to join in the Catholic services.

“I have no problems being here,” said Razia, a 25-year-old Muslim camper who is trying to quit smoking. “My father told me about this place and sent me here. I’ve been here for three days, and I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable for being Muslim.”

Read more in Paul Wachter’s One Day at a Time in Kerala, from the July 2005 issue of ONE.

Tags: India Health Care Multiculturalism Alcoholism

16 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Students receive a well-rounded education in St. Joseph’s School in the village of
Welkite, Ethiopia. (photo: John Kozar)

Education has always been a priority of the Catholic Church, and some of the greatest minds in the world have benefited from this dedication — such as philosopher René Descartes, who famously studied under Jesuits.

On his pastoral visit to Ethiopia in April, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar remarked on the continued importance of Catholic schools to the nation:

Historically, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (the rites and traditions of which are shared with Ge’ez Catholics) accounts for about half of the Ethiopian population. But evangelical Protestants are making significant inroads among Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians; their numbers have tripled in the last 15 years and now account for about 17 percent of the population. Muslims make up about a 30 percent. So, the Catholic Church here is extremely small.

But what the Catholic Church lacks in numbers it more than makes up in terms of social service outreach. Hundreds of Catholic schools — which are open to Catholic, Orthodox and Muslims students — are found everywhere and contribute greatly to the moral fiber and educational achievements of this great country. Although the Catholic Church (Latin and Ge’ez) is not formally recognized by the government as a religious entity, it nonetheless receives great respect at every level. The government has donated land to the church to open schools, clinics and hospitals, and contributes to the salaries of teachers.

You can read his full blog post here.

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