23 April 2012
A retired priest sits near a painting of St. Lawrence at the Beit Afram home for the elderly in Taybeh. (photo: Rich Wiles)
As we shared on this blog, last night “60 Minutes” aired a segment on the dwindling Christian community in the Holy Land. This is a subject near and dear to our hearts here at CNEWA. As is true in every country where CNEWA operates, our work in the Holy Land relies heavily on our collaboration with the local churches of the region. In the July 2011 issue of ONE, we published an article profiling the all-Christian village of Taybeh, which is located in the West Bank, just north of Jerusalem:
“Taybeh is the only entirely Christian village in Palestine,” says 70–year–old Ne’meh Issa proudly. Born and reared in Taybeh, Mrs. Issa has spent her entire life in the village. As do most villagers, she feels strongly about Taybeh’s Christian identity. “It is pure Christian and exists peacefully next to Muslim villages and also Israeli settlements.”
Though small with only 2,000 inhabitants, Taybeh is in fact the last remaining entirely Christian settlement in Palestine. Everyone belongs to one of its three churches. About 1,160 villagers belong to St. George Orthodox Church, which was built between 1929 and 1932 near the site of a fourth–century church. Another 530 belong to Christ the Redeemer Latin Catholic Church, built in l971. And about 310 belong to St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church, built in l964.
For more, read A Town Named ‘Good’. In addition to the segment that aired last night on “60 Minutes,” CBS News posted some web extras online, including a video report about Taybeh. Check it out below!
20 April 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Palestine Palestinians West Bank
This image from 2007 shows how Eucharist and study are central in the lives of Coptic Catholic seminarians at St. Leo the Great, located in a Cairo suburb. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
Latest reports indicate that Egypt continues to be rocked by political turmoil and protest:
Tens of thousands of protesters packed Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square on Friday in the biggest demonstration in months against the ruling military, aimed at stepping up pressure on the generals to hand over power to civilians and bar ex-regime members from running in upcoming presidential elections.
We’ve reported extensively on the lives of Christians in that corner of the world. In 2007, the magazine profiled the Coptic Catholic Church, beginning with its very deep roots:
Egyptian Christians — known as Copts, a derivative of the Greek word Aigyptios, meaning Egyptian — are proud of their ancient roots. They received the Gospel from St. Mark the Evangelist, who brought the faith to the city of Alexandria, second only to Rome in the ancient Mediterranean world. There, he died a martyr’s death around the year 67.
The evangelist extended his apostolic activity beyond the city’s prosperous Jewish community. He called for the city’s Copts and Greeks to adopt “the way,” the early Christian description for discipleship in Jesus Christ.
Mark sowed the Christian seed on fertile ground. Centuries before the Arab advent in the eastern Mediterranean, and with it the rise of Islam, Egyptian Christianity blossomed. It provided the church with the philosophical foundation and theological vocabulary responsible for its explosive expansion in the Greco-Roman world, introduced the cenobitic and hermitic variants of monastic life and peopled the universal church with some of its greatest saints and scholars, including Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, Anthony, Macarius, Didymus, Athanasius, Arius, Cyril and Dioscorus.
19 April 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Africa
A mother and child visit the site where their new home will be built in the village of Podiyattuvila, Kerala. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Last month, CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar visited with some of the people and projects that CNEWA supports in India. Among those he met were the people of the village of Podiyattuvila, who were on the path to home ownership for the first time. Msgr. Kozar writes about his experience in the most recent issue of ONE:
It is with a sense of gratitude that she invited me to see what was, block by block and bucket by bucket of cement, becoming her home. She, her husband and neighboring helpers and parishioners are the contractors and builders. A humble gift of $1,800 made all this possible. CNEWA is assisting in building five such houses.
Your charity as a donor allows CNEWA to bring such dignity to countless suffering poor in India and many other countries. And perhaps the greatest expression of gratitude from the poor, besides the smiles and the obvious quiet pride, is the promise of prayers.
Read more about Msgr. Kozar’s experiences in India in the magazine and on the blog.
18 April 2012
Tags: India CNEWA Kerala Homes/housing
Markian Surmach, owner of Surma in New York City, shows off some of the store’s pysanky. (photo: Erin Edwards)
We’re still in the Easter season, so how about some eggs?
We showcase some of the remarkable and intricate designs of psyanky — traditionally decorated chicken or goose eggs — in the March issue of ONE:
“Things have certainly changed, but this store remains the same,” says Markian Surmach, the owner of Surma — a family-run shop in the heart of New York City’s historic Ukrainian neighborhood on the Lower East Side. “Just look at it,” he says, pointing to Taras Schevchenko Place across the street, where the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art recently built a state-of-the-art facility. The steel-and-glass building occupies the full length of the city block, casting a long shadow over Surma’s modest storefront in a prewar walk-up building.
For nearly a century, Surma has served the city’s Ukrainian community, selling products from the homeland, such as traditional embroidered clothes and accessories, artwork, antiques and Ukrainian-language book and newspapers.
“They find their culture, and they find themselves here,” says Mr. Surmach. “People come to the store in search of a simpler and less complicated way of life.”
Before getting lost in Surma’s labyrinth of authentic Ukrainian treasures, patrons pass by a small glass showcase near the entrance. Inside, dozens of pysanky, or traditionally decorated chicken and goose eggs, shimmer on display. Radiant red, yellow and orange eggs intersperse with others dyed cooler hues of blue, green and violet. Intricate Christian and ancient pagan symbols adorn the surfaces.
As with most Slavs of Eastern Europe — Croats, Czechs, Poles, Rusyns and Slovaks — Ukrainians have cultivated the art of egg decoration to commemorate Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
However, pysanky are also an intricate string in the collective fabric of Ukrainians and people of Ukrainian descent around the world. The designs serve as a living record and reminder of a shared, idyllic agrarian past.
“They’re not just eggs,” explains Mr. Surmach. “They have meaning. They represent a culture that respected the world around them.”
Read more here.
17 April 2012
Tags: Ukraine Eastern Europe Easter
A children’s choir performs at the Ethiopian Orthodox parish in Temple Hill, a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. (photo: Erin Edwards)
In 2009, I had the opportunity to visit with and learn from members of the Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C. Washington is home to the largest group of Ethiopians outside of the country itself — pretty remarkable. You can imagine the amount of culture, history and tradition that flows through the city. From the Ethiopian restaurants to the Orthodox churches, there were many moments in which I felt as though I was in Ethiopia.
Check out my interviews below with some of the young women I met while in D.C. For more, read the accompanying article by Vincent Gragnani, America’s Horn of Africa in the March 2009 issue of ONE.
16 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Children dressed in traditional Bavarian garb dance for Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff's 85th birthday celebrations in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican 16 April.
(photo: CNS/Gregorio Borgia, pool via Reuters)
Today is Pope Benedict XVI’s 85th birthday. The Holy Father’s celebrations included Bavarian song and dance as an homage to his native country. Representatives from the Lutheran church and the Jewish community in Bavaria also gathered to wish him well. Join us in wishing Pope Benedict XVI a very happy birthday! Ad multos annos! To many years!
13 April 2012
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope
In this image from 2001, Ruthenian Greek Catholics celebrate the paschal mystery in the village of Tichy Potok in Slovakia. (photo: Jacqueline Ruyuak)
Today is Good Friday for some Christians in the East and this Sunday, 15 April, marks Easter. We explored date discrepancy on the blog post earlier in the week. Holy Week celebrations not only occur on different dates, but the rituals may also be different, depending on the particular church and region. Despite these differences for these high holy days, the deep meaning remains universal.
In the March/April 2001 issue of the magazine, journalist Jacqueline Ruayk wrote about her Easter experience in the small village of Tichy Potok in Slovakia:
Despite the early morning chill and fog, the day turns bright and glorious. By late morning, one corner of the churchyard, crowded with baby carriages and parents, has become a nursery al fresco. All, even the babies, are dressed in their finest for the Easter Divine Liturgy.
After the liturgy, the parishioners file through the left arch of the iconostasis, where the priest uses myrrh to make the sign of the Cross on their foreheads. Then an altar boy places tiny cubes of blessed bread into their hands as they exit.
Our pew is last when Adriana invites us to join her in receiving a blessing from her priest husband. Outside parishioners mill about, exchanging Easter greetings – “Christos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!” – and bread, a token that all will meet again in heaven. There are Jozef, Lubomira and shy Slavko, Anna and Maria and the mayor’s secretary and other villagers whom we have met during the weekend.
There is more, though. Led by young men and women carrying banners and icons, everyone files through the village to the cemetery. There the priest, handsome in white silks, offers prayers at a central cross. Below, the village lies in sunshine, the river a glittering thread. Pastures, still empty, reach up the mountainsides just turning green with the spring. And just like that it is time to say good-bye to Tichy Potok and its generous people, who have made this a memorable Easter.
For more, read Easter by the Quiet Stream.
12 April 2012
Tags: Eastern Christianity Greece Easter Greek Catholic Church Ruthenians
Residents of Palai Girls’ Town in Kerala perform onstage. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During his trip to India last month, CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar had the opportunity to visit CNEWA-supported institutions and projects, like Palai Girls’ Town in Kerala. Here’s what Msgr. Kozar experienced upon visiting the girls home:
Guess what kind of welcoming reception greeted us as we entered the rather large compound: A large, beautifully bedecked marching band made up of about 35 girls who live at this orphanage. They led us into a large and immaculately clean auditorium where we were given the ceremonial bouquet of flowers. A special treat of this visit was to meet the founder of the congregation, Father Abraham, and the sisters’ superior general, Mother Virmala. Father Abraham is 98 years old and is still sharp in mind, albeit limited in mobility. What an honor to be in his presence!
The girls also presented some absolutely professional-grade dancing entertainment. They were dressed in classical Indian garb, displaying intricate moves, and were well disciplined in their every move. The superior told me they have won a number of competitions. There are about 175 girls at this institution and CNEWA has been a major donor in support of the wonderful programs offered to the girls. In many of these “orphanages,” the girls are not necessarily orphans in the traditional sense, but are nonetheless in need of some type of support. Some have lost a parent; others have parents who cannot care for them. Some have been abandoned; others have parents too involved with caring for the ills of another family member.
For more of Msgr. Kozar’s impressions from his visit to India, check out all of his blog posts from his India visit.
11 April 2012
Tags: India CNEWA Kerala Msgr. John E. Kozar
In this photo taken in 2009, Ethiopian women carry firewood up a hill in the Eparchy of Emdibir. (photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
Throughout rural Ethiopia, women and girls carry out many of the domestic chores — which are almost always strenuous physically and very time consuming. It is not uncommon to see women, like the two pictured above, walking up hills and side roads with heavy buckets or baskets filled with food, water, or any other common necessity strapped to their bodies. Norma Intriago, a fundraiser in CNEWA’s development office, saw this first hand during a visit to Ethiopia in 2009:
“We saw women and girls working, fetching/collecting water, often walking miles to do so. [Some would] carry firewood (like the women in Gabriel’s photo) for cooking, transporting food & goods to sell at the market and caring for children. It was quite common to see a young toddler carrying her infant sibling on her back. I was stunned with all the responsibility that befalls women and girls in Ethiopia and [other parts of] the underdeveloped world, leaving little time, if any, for an education and healthcare.
CNEWA has worked with Catholic schools throughout Ethiopia for many years. To learn how you can help, visit our website.
10 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Women Ethiopian Catholic Church
In this photo taken in 2007, Georgian Orthodox Christians light candles during Easter celebrations at the Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition in Tbilisi, Georgia. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
This past Sunday, many Christians around the world celebrated Easter. The Orthodox churches in CNEWA’s world will celebrate Easter next Sunday, 15 April. Last November, our Education & Interreligious Affairs Officer Father Elias Mallon explored the reasons behind the two dates for Easter. You can read more about that here.
“Ultimately,” Father Elias concludes, “the most import issue is whether the common observance of Easter by all Christians would give significant witness to the world. If it would not, then the date or dates of Easter are immaterial.”
Tags: Georgia Easter Georgian Orthodox Church Tbilisi