22 April 2013
In this image from last November, a statue stands outside a destroyed church in Homs, Syria, Activists said the church had been bombed by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
(photo: CNS /Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
Reports from Syria and its Christian minority indicate that the situation in Syria is continuing to deteriorate. Today, sources in Syria report that the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi, and the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim, were seized by “a terrorist group” as they were “carrying out humanitarian work.”
Reuters reports that “a Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the two men had been captured when Ibrahim went to collect Yazigi after he crossed into rebel-held northern Syria from Turkey.”
CNEWA works closely with the Greek and Syriac Orthodox churches in Syria, partnering with its priests and religious to deliver aid to the families impacted by Syria’s ongoing civil war. Please pray for the safety of these shepherds and of their flock. Click here to learn how you can help.
19 April 2013
Tags: Syria Georgian Orthodox Church Syriac Orthodox Church
A Kisti girl dances a Chechen dance during an exhibition of Chechen-Kisti culture. Kists are ethnic Chechens who have lived in Georgia for several hundred years and inhabit the valley of Pankisi Gorge near the Chechen border. War in Chechnya brought thousands of refugees into the region. (photo: Justyna Mielkikiewicz)
Early reports indicate that the two suspects in the Boston marathon bombing have roots in Chechnya.
Several years ago, we profiled some of the cultures that make up the region:
The Caucasus is a place of imprecise boundaries and identities. The borders dividing its land and its people vary from indiscernible to impenetrable. Diaspora and migration further complicate matters. Its strategic location and valuable resources have made the Caucasus the object of desire for several empires. Accordingly, its many ethnic and linguistic groups have developed strong identities by adapting to change while adhering to tradition.
Broadly speaking, the Caucasus is the size of Spain. Anchored by the Caucasus mountain range, it lies between the Black and Caspian seas, with Russia to the north and Turkey and Iran to the south. Its mountains feature Mount Elbrus, which is located on the Russian side of the Georgian border. It was there that, according to Greek mythology, the gods exiled and chained Prometheus as a punishment for stealing fire. On that mountain, he was tortured every night by an eagle that pecked at his liver. Indigenous Georgian mythology features a similar tale. Mount Ararat, sacred to the Armenians but located across the border in Turkey, lies in the far south of the Caucasus. According to tradition, Noah’s ark rested on its slopes after the great flood. These myths and traditions have helped perpetuate the allure and significance of the Caucasus.
Geographers often divide the region by north and south. Today, the North Caucasus usually refers to the republics of the Russian Federation. These include Adygea, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Krasnodar Krai and North Ossetia. The independent nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are often referred to as the South Caucasus. Distinctions between east and west persist, too. There is a more Persian flavor in the east than the Turkish-influenced west. …
Militant Islam is also an ingredient in current conflicts, notably in Chechnya, where the struggle for independence from Russia has attracted radical Muslim fighters from throughout the world. For the United States and its allies, the geographic proximity of the Caucasus to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf commands attention. …
Most Chechens are Sunni Muslims. There is a large Sufi minority. Chechens have been seeking independence from Russia since the 19th century. A significant diaspora fuels the ongoing conflict. Chechens also share cultural, ethnic and linguistic ties to the predominantly Sufi Kist in Georgia and Ingush in Ingushetia (a Russian republic bordering Chechnya). …
The almost incomprehensible diversity of the Caucasus contributes to its persistent allure and mystery. Historically, the location of the Caucasus at the nexus of Asia and Europe has generated imaginative mythology and romantic exoticism. The struggle of its people to define their distinct identities reveals the complex syncretism that continues to shape these populations and this region.
You can find the full story, Where Europe Meets Asia, in the November 2009 issue of ONE.
18 April 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Russia Georgia Caucasus
An elderly couple dance at an event organized by a local social club in the Slovak village of Jakubany. To read how the village is holding on to its Greek Catholic heritage, check out Those Who Remain Behind in the January 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Andrej Bán)
17 April 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Village life Greek Catholic Church Slovakia
Sisters who belong to India’s Daughters of St. Thomas process at the beginning of the liturgy at their novitiate near Palai. The sisters, based in Kerala, have done extraordinary work in a region that is only about 20 percent Christian. Read more about them in Kerala’s Daughters from the November 2004 issue of ONE. To learn how you can help sisters like these, visit this page to support the good work of sisters. (photo: Sean Sprague)
16 April 2013
Tags: India Sisters Kerala
People comfort each other after explosions went off at the Boston Marathon on 15 April. (photo: CNS/Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters)
In the wake of yesterday’s bombing, Pope Francis sent a telegram today through his secretary of state to express solidarity and sympathy with the people of Boston.
The Vatican text:
His Eminence Cardinal Sean O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston
Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of violence perpetrated last evening in Boston, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes me to assure you of his sympathy and closeness in prayer. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, His Holiness invokes God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. At this time of mourning the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State
Yesterday, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, traveling in the Holy Land, sent his own message:
The Archdiocese of Boston joins all people of good will in expressing deep sorrow following the senseless acts of violence perpetrated at the Boston Marathon today. Our prayers and concern are with so many who experienced the trauma of these acts, most especially the loved ones of those who lives were lost and those who were injured, and the injured themselves.
The citizens of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are blessed by the bravery and heroism of many, particularly the men and women of the police and fire departments and emergency services who responded within moments of these tragic events. Governor Patrick, Mayor Menino and Police Commissioner Davis are providing the leadership that will see us through this most difficult time and ensure that proper procedures are followed to protect the public safety.
In the midst of the darkness of this tragedy we turn to the light of Jesus Christ, the light that was evident in the lives of people who immediately turned to help those in need today. We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and chair of CNEWA, posted the following statement on his blog:
While we wait for additional details, my thoughts and prayers are certainly with those who died, with the families who lost loved ones, and with those who are injured. Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us!
We join our prayers with those of the world, and ask God’s mercy on all the suffering, the grieving, and the deceased.
15 April 2013
Tags: Pope Francis United States Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
An Egyptian girl wants a closer look at Verbo Encarnado Sister Maria de la Santa Faz. Sister belongs to the Verbo Encarnado (“Incarnate Word”) Congregation, serving Egypt’s neediest children. Read more about the great work they’re doing in Building a Brighter Future from the November 2004 issue of ONE. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
12 April 2013
Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Education Poor/Poverty
Palestinian children look out from the window of their home in Dheisheh refugee camp. To learn more about the lives of these children, check out Growing up Under Occupation in the January 2006 issue of ONE. (photo: Steve Sabella)
11 April 2013
Tags: Children Israeli-Palestinian conflict Refugee Camps Palestinians Occupation
Retired priests at St. Joseph’s Home in Chalakudy make time for recreational activities. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India has taken a pro-active approach to caring for its retired priests, as we first reported in 2009:
The church has invested in facilities for its aging priests, building modern and well-equipped residences, such as St. Paul’s Home, and phasing out deteriorating ones, such as St. Joseph’s Home in the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda, which will be replaced by the Vianney Home in Puliuilakunnu.
The new residences provide retirees with modern amenities, comfortable living quarters, community support and various recreational activities. These retirement homes have even launched web sites. In caring for its elders, the church has made its position clear: retired clergy deserve the same dignity and respect they earned and enjoyed during their lifetime of service to the community and to the church.
Read more about Redefining Retirement in the March 2009 issue of ONE.
10 April 2013
Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Caring for the Elderly
The Soorp Badarak, or Divine Liturgy, is celebrated daily by the Mekhitarist community of Armenian Catholic monks. A seminary is now flourishing in a land that suffered under decades of Communist oppression. Read more about it here. (photo: Onnik Krikorian)
9 April 2013
Tags: Armenia Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist Monasticism
A young student poses for a picture at a Jesuit-run school in Minya, Upper Egypt. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we profiled some ambitious Jesuit-run schools in Egypt:
The Jesuits have a long history of being educators in Minya. On the same campus as the Center for the Handicapped is a primary and preparatory school founded in 1889. The Jesuit Fathers school also receives scholarship grants from CNEWA. The 800-pupil school is run by five Jesuit priests and one brother, two of whom are Egyptians, two are Maltese, one is French and the other is Dutch. Also on staff are a number of Christian and Muslim teachers.
Jesuit Father Joseph Mizi, the school’s director, said the school is one of the best in the district even though it primarily serves the poorer children of the area. Built in the 1880’s, the school was disguised so it would not look like a church. Today, it looks like any other school building, but the spire looks surprisingly like the minaret of a mosque. …
Christians make up about only 6 percent of the population, but with their many outstanding schools they have made a significant impact on the country. The Jesuits, by working with disabled persons and the very poor, are helping the nation’s most underprivileged to shine.
Read more about schools taking children From Dust to Dignity in the November-December 2002 issue of the magazine.
Tags: Egypt Education Interreligious Catholic education