7 May 2013
A little boy looks on in the southern Egyptian village of Qenna, where the church remains the focus of the Christian community. (photo: David Degner)
Recent headlines have told again and again of Copts fleeing Egypt for other countries. In the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, writer Sarah Topol and photographer David Degner look at those who have chosen to stay and are trying to build a future:
With the growing influence of radical Islam, more and more Christians are considering their options. Atef Gamil knows many Christians who have already emigrated. He wants his 21-year-old son, Bishoy, to move to England when the young man finishes his medical degree in three years. But Bishoy Gamil has other ideas. He does not want to leave Egypt.
Discussions about migration are playing out across the Coptic community, says the Rev. Shenouda Andraos, the rector of the Coptic Catholic Seminary of St. Leo the Great in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Father Andraos says the church leadership continues to tell its flock emigration is not the solution.
“The church is trying to raise awareness that we must have a positive and effective role and we cannot leave the country — this is our homeland and we have to participate in building it. It is important we don’t become terrorized, that we continue to have hope in the future.”
Read more about The Men Who Stayed in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
6 May 2013
Tags: Egypt Emigration Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Church
Yesterday, churches that follow the Julian calendar marked Easter. In this image from 2004, a man shows off some Easter eggs at St. Clement Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. To read more about the Byzantine traditions of Ohrid, check out Answering the Macedonian Question in the July-August 2004 issue of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
3 May 2013
Haghia Sophia is known the world over for its complex and beautiful domed architecture. In this photo, a fish-eye lens lends a sense of scale to the structure. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Yesterday’s New York Times brought some news about controversial plans for one of the most famous and historically significant church structures in the world, the Church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey:
In 1921 an ecumenical service was held in six languages at St. John the Divine, New York City’s Episcopal cathedral, to call for the return of Byzantium’s most important monument to the Orthodox Church. Days after his 1453 conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, Mehmet II decided to turn the 6th century basilica of St. Sophia into a mosque. Some 500 years later, with the city under Allied occupation, Christendom wanted the building back.
Its prayers were never answered. As the Turkish Republic emerged from the ashes of empire, the new nation’s founding president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, ruled that a building over which two faiths squabbled should be made accessible to all: St. Sophia was turned into the Ayasofya Museum.
That solution not only silenced self-righteous voices in the West; it also helped establish Turkey’s credentials as a worthy custodian for its cultural heritage. Since restoration work in the 1930s, St. Sophia’s stunning mosaics of the Virgin Mary and Jesus have sat beside huge panels of Islamic calligraphy.
For some time, Turkey’s religious and nationalist right has demanded that Ayasofya be converted into a mosque again. Now a parliamentary commission is taking the request seriously.
Why this is a problem is easily illustrated by the restoration of St. Sergius and Bacchus, a 6th century church in Istanbul, after an earthquake in 1999. The undertaking should have been an occasion for scholarly investigation, but instead the floors were ripped up, the walls painted over and a dome added on top — without any consultation with conservationists.
The transformation of historical buildings invariably means finding subtle solutions to delicate problems: how to temporarily cover up figurative Christian art or provide all-weather protection to an open-air ruin. But the priority of the General Directorate of Foundations is to put buildings back into circulation, not to protect or extract their secrets.
You can read more at the Times.
Several years ago, we took readers to this legendary landmark for a closer look at its history and importance:
The Church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey has had a lasting impact on faith and worship. It is often simply called “the Great Church” because of its grandeur and its important role in the Byzantine Christianity.
An engineering marvel of late antiquity, Haghia Sophia stood unsurpassed in size and splendor for a thousand years. Even today it dominates the skyline of modern Istanbul -formerly Constantinople — which from 330 to 1453 was the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Time has faded Haghia Sophia’s splendor, but not diminished the majestic soar of its arches and domes.
Read more about The Great Church from the July 1997 issue of the magazine.
1 May 2013
Tags: Turkey Eastern Christianity Islam Byzantium Haghia Sophia
May is traditionally the month Catholics devote to Mary. The image above from 2010 shows a statue of the Virgin Mary that graces the Chaldean Church of the Mother of God in Southfield, near Detroit. For more on the Arab-Americans who have settled in that part of Michigan, check out Forging a New Detroit from the January 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Fabrizio Costantini)
30 April 2013
Tags: Catholic Chaldean Church Arab-Americans Detroit
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)
25 April 2013
Children play basketball outside of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ezraa, Syria. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
While we await word on the fate of the two archbishops abducted earlier this week in northern Syria — and offer our prayers — we plumbed through our archives and unearthed an interesting story from a gentler time about the ancient Christian villages of the plain of Houran in southern Syria.
In 2004, writer Marlin Dick and photographer Armineh Johannes spent a week in the Houran capturing in word and film the lives of these Christians who tilled the same soil as their Roman ancestors, inhabited Roman houses and worshiped in ancient Byzantine churches.
Christians and Muslims in one village, Ezraa, together venerate St. George, “the patron saint of the town’s Greek Orthodox church, built in 512, and the oldest functioning church in Syria,” the author writes. He continues:
Like their Muslim neighbors, Christians often refer to the church as “Khudr Ezraa,” or St. George of Ezraa, using its Arabic name.
“Islam and Christianity both revere Khudr,” says the village’s Melkite Greek Catholic pastor, Father Elias Hanout. “Muslims and Christians here all study together and work together. Today we have a better understanding of each other. We visit each other, attend each other’s funerals and weddings.”
What seemed like a matter of routine in 2004 is today, just nine years later, exemplary. The Houran now hosts some of the fiercest fighting between government forces and rebels. And the fate of its peoples, churches and mosques remains unknown. What we have left are words and pictures, and in my own case, the memories of a memorable visit in autumn 1998.
After I had spent a long day visiting CNEWA-supported projects in the area, an elderly parish priest and his wife welcomed me into their home. I recall fondly their delightful company, and I can still taste the anise-flavored arak, the sweet stuffed eggplant and the succulent tomatoes from their tiny kitchen.
May the Houran’s fields bring forth fruit once again, and God preserve its people.
24 April 2013
Tags: Syria Cultural Identity Unity Village life Houran
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.
Tags: Pope Francis Orthodox Byzantium