16 July 2012
A young student takes notes at Bethlehem Day Care Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
In Ethiopia, CNEWA has long supported education at all levels. Seeing children, like the eager scholar pictured above, fully immersed in their education and keen to learn, helps us to know we are making a difference. Last fall, we shared a similar image out of Ethiopia: some very enthusiastic children outside of the Bethlehem Day Care Center, run by the Good Shepherd sisters.
11 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Sisters Education
Capuchin Franciscans take a break from a continuing education and formation program for catechists in Bhurat, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Through this blog, Msgr. John Kozar has shared countless stories and photos that make the world seem a lot smaller and bring you closer to the people we serve. Back in April, Msgr. Kozar shared some inspiring stories from his first pastoral visit to Ethiopia:
Another very inspiring experience on this day was a brief visit to a class being given to catechists, as part of their continuing education and formation program. And to me an amazing part of their story is that each of them has been chosen for this most important role by their respective communities. They must be men and women of great faith, willing to share their faith with others as catechists.
The big campus at Bhurat also includes a health clinic. Two sisters from India run it and do a superb job in offering first-rate healthcare in an environment of loving kindness. We ended our visit with a marvelous meal, which included the ritual roasting of coffee beans and serving of rich Ethiopian coffee. With us for the entire visit to this site were the elders, almost serving as our security team and “honor guard.” In fact, the honor was all ours.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s detailed blog series from his time spent in Ethiopia, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
29 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Seminarians Ethiopian Catholic Church
Parishioners pray during the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During Msgr. John Kozar’s first pastoral visit to the Ethiopia in April, he witnessed just how faithful the Ethiopian Catholic community is, despite being small in number:
My first exposure to the rich Ge’ez Rite would come at an early morning Divine Liturgy the following morning at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The bishop and most of the eparchy’s priests concelebrated the ancient liturgy. I was taken aback by the beauty of the liturgy, the amazing intricacy of the chanting, not just of the bishop and the priests, but all the many faithful who had assembled as well. The cathedral had a large of number of people for this ordinary weekday eucharistic liturgy, celebrated at 6:20 a.m. All of the faithful are farmers and some regularly walk great distances to attend.
Another impressive aspect of the cathedral is the outstanding paintings that adorn most of the walls. These are works of art in progress, as the bishop has commissioned an 80-year-old Orthodox priest-iconographer to paint the cathedral murals. After four years of labor, I would say this venerable priest is about 80 percent finished. He lives with the bishop and two other Catholic priests assigned there, together sharing their lives, meals and prayers. I had the honor to meet this outstanding artist and thanked him for his great gift.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s first blog post in his series from Ethiopia, A Warm Welcome.
12 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church Church
Lettegebriel Hailu and her niece discuss migrating to Israel. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Award–winning journalist Peter Lemieux reports from Africa and India for ONE. To read his full report on Ethiopian migrants, see The High Stakes of Leaving in our May 2012 issue.
I witnessed one of the most striking scenes from my reporting on the migration of young Ethiopian women to the Middle East when I interviewed Lettegebriel Hailu and her 16-year-old niece Mebrhit. The teenager was poised, against her family’s wishes, to set off for Israel to work as a domestic servant.
We sat on plush couches and neatly upholstered chairs in the foyer of the domestic abuse shelter that Lettegebriel runs in Addis Ababa. The smoky scent of freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee filled the air. The scene was comfortable, if not the conversation, as Lette translated her young niece’s answers to my questions.
The first part of the interview offered few insights into Mebrhit’s thinking. Like a teenager steeled to get her way, her replies were hushed and to the point. She seemed disinterested in the discussion at hand.
But when I asked Mebrhit about the logistics of traveling to Israel, for the first time she started to open up. And what she had to say must have sent shivers up and down her aunt’s spine.
There are two ways for migrants to leave Ethiopia for the Middle East. They can fly out of Bole International Airport with a legitimate travel visa — for tourism or work abroad — or they can go overland on the “desert route” and cross the border into a neighboring country, usually with the assistance of illegal traffickers. Some head to Djibouti then take a boat to Yemen and eventually make their way to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Others go through Sudan and continue by bus or by foot to their destination country.
If all goes according to plan, they arrive no worse for the adventure. But for even the most discerning and well-traveled migrants, let alone a 16-year-old girl from rural Ethiopia, that is one very big “if.”
According to Mebrhit and her friends who have already braved the passage from Ethiopia to Israel, she will follow her brokers’ instructions — from what to wear and how to behave, to where to go and what to do. She will travel from the Merkato in Addis Ababa to Sudan by bus. She will dress in Muslim attire, covering her face and traveling in slippers. From there, she will cross into Egypt on foot, claim Eritrean nationality and, says Mebrhit, “there’s an obvious place where you go to prison.” In jail, she will make a short telephone call.
Lette interrupts her translation: “She’ll be saying, ‘Send me this amount of money, otherwise I’ll spend the rest of my life in prison.’ Then by hook or crook, we’ll have to get her that money. Once she receives the money, she’ll be let go.”
By that point in the journey, Mebrhit will have memorized her new identity, that of a persecuted Eritrean. Her traffickers will have given her fake Eritrean documents — with a few years added to her age. She will have studied the details of her Eritrean village, the high school she supposedly attended, the names of fictitious family members and concocted stories that demonstrate a youth going nowhere. And on the buses and in jail, she will do deeper background research about life in Eritrea. After her release from prison, she will look to connect with another broker to get her to Israel.
As Lette knows well, the dangers of these overland journeys — not to mention what Mebrhit faces once in the destination country — lurk at every turn. In the desert, migrants are sometimes left miles from the border and told to walk the rest of the way with no food or water. Boats that traverse the Gulf of Aden can be overcrowded, shoddy and at risk of capsizing. Along the way, migrants may be passed from one broker to the next, each ready to exploit and extort the vulnerable migrant in his possession.
Mebrhit is too young to grasp the gravity of these life-altering risks. And Lette is essentially powerless to prevent Mebrhit from taking them. She and her family can only advise Mebrhit and support her in Ethiopia, if not her decision to make this journey.
“She doesn’t know more than we know,” says Lette. “And this is all the information we have. But her mind’s made up. So we’re really stuck.”
Lette and I squirmed in our cushioned chairs, hunting for a more comfortable position. But there was none.
12 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Middle East Migrants Women
A female member of Kunama village — a peaceful, nomadic people who eventually settled near the border with Ethiopia — can be identified by her jewelery.
(photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Representing CNEWA on a visit to Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2000, Sister Christian Molidor documented a unique group of people that had settled in Eritrea — the Kunama people. Lacking an alphabet and doused in many traditions, the group experienced hard times during the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Sister Christian visited a mobile clinic in the Kunama village:
One by one the women approached the hut with their children. Only three women could fit inside the hut, especially when each mother had several children. Using the posters, a lay catechist explained how polio can be a serious health threat, how to detect the virus and why immunization would help each child. The catechist also described rehabilitation exercises to be used if a child contracted the disease. Illiteracy and language differences did not prevent the women from understanding these facts.
When it was their turn to take the vaccine, some children took the drops with stoic courage; others screamed and their mothers had to hold them while the nurse poured the vaccine into their mouths.
After each child received the vaccine, the women and children remained around the hut visiting with one another, watching others arrive and just enjoying the day “away from home.”
The African sun is unbearably hot, but following tradition the Kunama women wear layer upon layer of flowing garments. Kunama villages are desolate and colorless; it is a small wonder the women wear such lovely, brightly colored clothing. All the women wear colored beads that identify them as Kunama. Some younger women wear jewelry — in their noses, their ears, around necks and ankles; all the children, male or female, wear at least one amulet around their necks. Christians wear crosses or scapulars.
For more, read Strange But Miraculous Medicine.
5 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Health Care Eritrea Women
Msgr. John Kozar completes morning exercises with students of Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Back in April, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited Ethiopia and had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved with CNEWA’s mission and spend time with those whose lives CNEWA has touched. In Addis Ababa, he visited Tekle Ghiorgis School and shared a moment of fun with the students there while learning about the history of the school:
Today, we returned to Addis Ababa. It was a very intense day of visiting, very poignant and emotionally very moving. Our first visit was to an impoverished area of this sprawling city, where we visited Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School. Talk about serving the poorest of the poor: this is it. These children, about 750 of them, come from the most abject of poverty and receive a completely subsidized education, plus a meal to sustain them. The school is situated on a precipice and the sisters there have creatively built classrooms from old shipping containers. Sister Bedainesh is the current director and does a superb job of making all these children feel so special. Her smile is infectious and radiates with all the beautiful children.
How about this for the background of this CNEWA-supported school: Forty years ago, the children of lepers lived in the local cemetery, as no one would let them live near to them. Two lay people decided to confront this gross injustice and actually began this school. They sought the help of a professional educator, a nun from Australia, who would assist them in establishing this marvelous outreach to the despised poor children. Today, it is a jewel and we at CNEWA are blessed to be sponsors of the children here. I did my best to share the love of all of you for these precious little ones. “Let the children come to me.”
Check out all of Msgr. Kozar’s blog posts from his visit to Ethiopia in his blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey ”.
21 May 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Catholic Schools
Children at the Meganese Catholic School, directed by the Capuchin Fathers, cheerfully greet CNEWA visitors. (photo: John E. Kozar )
If you have been following our blog over the last couple of months, you may have read the series of posts by our president, Msgr. John Kozar, from his pastoral visit to Ethiopia. We’ve been fortunate to share a selection of the beautiful pictures he took, such as the photo above from Meganese Catholic School. These images help capture the vibrancy he experienced during his pastoral visit. In Msgr. Kozar’s very first blog post from Ethiopia he described the scene at Meganese Catholic School:
Our next visit took us to the Meganese Catholic School, directed by the Capuchin Fathers. Talk about a welcome! Some 1,000 children encircled us, chanting happily and raising high their palm branches. Even the bishop was startled at this reception. The children were so warm and welcoming and responded to my every word and gesture.
The very large campus also includes a health clinic, agricultural components and other programs. We were accompanied by members of the parents association and community elders. Their enthusiasm for the school is obvious and they work hand in hand with the Capuchin Fathers on its administration.
For more from Msgr. Kozar’s Ethiopia visit, check out the rest of his blog posts.
10 May 2012
Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Africa Catholic education Catholic Schools
At the Galilee Retreat Center outside Addis Ababa, a sister enjoys a traditional Ethiopian meal with the country’s staple starch, injera bread. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Last month, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited Ethiopia. While there, he had the opportunity to meet with many local church leaders and religious, like the sisters he encountered at the Galilee Retreat Center:
Today, we headed about one hour out of Addis Ababa to the Galilee Retreat Center located on a cliff overlooking a beautiful crater lake. The setting is idyllic and filled with peace. I was privileged to concelebrate Mass with the Jesuit who directs this center, Father Joseph Pollicino, S.J., a Maltese national who has worked here and in Sudan for many years. A special treat was to be in the presence of about 20 sisters who were finishing their weekend retreat. Mass was particularly stimulating with the devotion of the sisters, their lovely singing and the peaceful manner of Father Joe. Coupled with this ambience was the captivating rhythm of the drumbeats of the young sister who put her whole heart into her percussion instrument, a beautifully decorated native drum. People come from all over to seek the tranquility of this retreat center. Many different types of spiritual programs are offered for youth, for religious men and women, for priests, for bishops and lay groups and interreligious groups.
After Mass, we enjoyed a wonderful meal with Father Joe and all the sisters.
Read more about Msgr. Kozar’s visit to Ethiopia in his blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
4 May 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Africa Cuisine
Many orphaned children, like the one shown above, are cared for at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, recently returned from a pastoral visit to Ethiopia. As usual, he returned with many beautiful images of the people and places he visited. One of those places is the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa:
The director is Sister Lutgarda Camilleri of the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, a Maltese national who has worked either at the orphanage or at the school next door for more than forty years. She is a dynamo: a combination of a grandmother that everyone would cherish and a religious sister who commands tremendous respect and can bring anyone to attention with a glance or a word of admonition. She also strikes me as a person with great savvy with the government authorities. You know the type: Give them a little grandmotherly charm and, if that does not work, look right into their eyes and tell them they are wrong. Case closed.
Sister Lutgarda and her crew of two other sisters, dedicated staff members and a rotating crew of volunteers provide amazing loving care to children as young as a few months and up to the age of 16. Many of those in her charge are street children brought here by police or child welfare officials. Sometimes, the officials show up at her doorstep with more than 20 at one time. Exasperated a little, but never overwhelmed, Sister Lutgarda welcomes them into the family.
For a closer look at Msgr. Kozar’s experience in Ethiopia, check out his series of blog posts from his trip, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
30 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Orphans/Orphanages
In this photo taken in 2000, a young man stands in a field of Meskel flowers in South Ethiopia. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
We all know that “April showers bring May flowers.” So as April ends, we offer a springtime glimpse at what tomorrow may bring.
Ironically, these particular flowers are most popular later in the year, near the fall.
Meskel flowers symbolize the feast day, Meskel, in Ethiopia. They are used to line the streets during the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which falls near the Ethiopian calendar’s new year in September. Last October, Gerald Jones, our regional director for Ethiopia wrote about this celebration.
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Christianity