18 October 2012
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.
17 October 2012
Tags: Turkey Village life Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
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.
12 October 2012
Tags: India Health Care Multiculturalism Alcoholism
The Pontifical Mission promotes education by supporting community libraries in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Amman. Shown here, girls discuss reading material with Filipino Teresian Amabel Sibug at the Pontifical Mission Library in Amman. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
To read more about the Pontifical Mission libraries, click here.
10 October 2012
Tags: Jerusalem Middle East Jordan Bethlehem Pontifical Mission for Palestine
Children greet Msgr. Kozar on his visit to St. Anthony's Dayssadan, a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters. (photo: John Kozar)
CNEWA works for, through, and with the churches of the East to effect real change and positive works through local partners. When CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited India earlier this year, he met many individuals receiving assistance from our dedicated partners. The Preshitharam Sisters,one such group of caregivers, run St. Anthony’s Dayssadan, a home for children with physical disabilities:
The drama began the instant we arrived, when we were welcomed by all the children gathered at the front entrance to greet me with singing and clapping. Now, what I did not know was that about 80 percent of these beautiful children are not able to walk. They assembled there under their own incredible efforts. When the welcome ended they proceeded to crawl inside the building, down a long corridor (with the marble floor immaculately clean), then up a flight of stairs. I had tears watching them, as they demonstrated how they have overcome their disabilities. As I would easily discern, it is the result of the loving patience of the sisters, their devotion to teach these little ones how to overcome and to share with them the love of God for each of them. Let me tell you about three of these youngsters who typify the miracles taking place at this institution, which is supported by CNEWA.
One boy of about 15 — whose arms, hands, legs and feet are horribly contorted — demonstrated mobility by rolling himself down the long corridor, then amazingly up a long flight of stairs, all the while with a smile from ear to ear. I was choked up by his display of determination. His climbing up the staircase defied gravity, but not his human spirit.
Another special child was a 12-year-old boy, the only one presently confined to bed. He is recovering from surgeries that, hopefully, will reverse the ravages of a disease that form birth has eaten away at the bone structure in his joints. And because he is immobile, his condition is also complicated by bedsores. But do you know how this beautiful child welcomed me? He sang the most beautiful rendition, in perfect English, of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The three of us had tears.
Read more of Msgr. Kozar’s remarks here.
9 October 2012
Tags: India CNEWA Sisters Health Care Disabilities
Faithful celebrate Mass at a Roman Catholic church in Antakya, Hatay province. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2011 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague provides a window into the variegated Christian life of the Turkish city of Antakya, once known as Antioch:
To walk through Antioch today is to walk through a city that is both historically rich and religiously diverse.
With the great medieval bazaar on one side, with its tiny shops selling nuts, dried fruits, lingerie and cell phones, the old town forms what priests enthusiastically call an “ecumenical triangle.” Within short walking distance are the synagogue to the north, the Latin Catholic church to the west, the Orthodox cathedral to the east, and a scattering of ancient mosques in all directions.
By far the most impressive church is the Orthodox cathedral. With a high dome supported by sturdy limestone columns, it is discreetly hidden behind a narrow gateway so that you almost come upon it by chance. About 100 Arabic—speaking members of the Antiochene Orthodox community attend the evening Divine Liturgy on Ascension Thursday. Father Dimitri Dogum leads his small congregation in its ancient and haunting chant. …
Five minutes away, through a warren of alleyways, stands the Latin Catholic church. Its pastor, Father Domenico Bertogli, a Capuchin from Italy, has lived in Turkey for 42 years, and in Antioch for the last two decades.
Father Bertogli explains why so many different kinds of Christians live together peaceably. “Antioch is the place where we were first called Christians,” he says, “and it should not matter whether we call ourselves Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. Many of the young people tell me this. What matters is that we are Christians!”
Read more in Turkey’s Melting Pot.
5 October 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Unity Turkey Ecumenism Christian Unity
Bishop Amba Tadros visits Port Said, Egypt and distributes sweets during a feast before Lent. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2009, writer Liam Stack reported on the efforts by Coptic Orthodox Bishop Amba Tadros to bring a sense of renewal and hope to a community along the Suez Canal that has seen alternating periods of boom, bust and bombing:
When he was installed in November 1976, he was charged with creating an Orthodox ecclesiastical jurisdiction for a city that had never had one. Port Said was also missing most of its population. As the 1967 war began, the city was evacuated in the face of a massive Israeli aerial bombardment. Soon after, Egypt lost control of the strategically important Sinai Peninsula, which lies just east of the city.
For Egyptians, it was one of the darkest periods of the country’s modern history, and, in the middle of it all, Amba Tadros was building up the local church from scratch.
“Many homes and buildings had been destroyed by bombs, and people were living in shelters or on the streets,” says the bishop, now an elderly man. “Electricity and water were difficult to have all through the day.”
Over the course of the 1970’s, people began to trickle back to their homes, but most of the city was ruined in the war.
For men like Amba Tadros it was a challenging time. Some would have found providing physical and spiritual aid to the city’s displaced residents a crushing task. But local Coptic leaders say that something unexpected grew out of the ashes: renewed friendships among peoples of all faiths that was a harbinger of a citywide renewal.
Read more about Hope and Renewal in Suez in the November 2009 issue of ONE.
4 October 2012
Tags: Egypt Coptic Christians
A farmer brings peppers to sell at a wholesale market in Malatia, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Under the Soviet Union, Christians in Armenia were forced to practice their faith in secret. When Armenia declared its independence in 1991, the suppression of Christianity ended. Even so, some divisions, predating even Soviet communism, would still take time to mend.
In the January 2006 issue of ONE, John Hughes wrote on religious life in Armenia before and after independence:
“If you go to the left, you’ll find the Armenians,” explained a villager. “To the right are the Franks.”
The villager’s directions speak not only of a geographic divide, but a lingering theological and cultural divide that has survived despite 70 years of Communism.
In Dzithankov, Arevik, Lanchik and Panik — villages with large Catholic populations — there was a time when Armenian Catholic (“Franks”) and Armenian Apostolic Christians (“Armenians”) hardly mixed.
The two share the same rites and traditions, but Armenian Catholics maintain full communion with the Church of Rome. (The term Franks derives from the influence of French Catholic missionaries.)
In Arevik, 83-year-old Yeproxia Grigorian remembers when a “mixed marriage” would have caused scandal. It was practically forbidden for Franks to integrate with Armenians. But by the time her daughter Julietta married, only hardliners might have objected to a husband from the Armenian Apostolic Church, an ancient church to which 95 percent of Armenians belong. …
Julietta’s 13-year-old daughter, Armineh, is making up for the church-going opportunities denied her mother and her grandmother. And Armineh’s generation has only their elders’ recollections to connect them to the time when the church was divided by labels and lifestyles, even in a village of only several hundred.
“There was a time,” Julietta said, “when there was a big difference between Franks and Armenians. But there is one God.”
For the Catholic and Apostolic Christians of Dzithankov that one God is worshiped in St. Prkitch Church, which, since Armenia achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, both communities share.
For more, read A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics.
3 October 2012
Tags: Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist Soviet Union
The faithful celebrate the liturgy at the Church of St. Nicholas in Kampala, Uganda. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
“Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa,” noted Andrew Rice in his article appearing in the March 2006 issue of ONE. “According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But ‘all Africa,’ for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara.”
Rice described how an Orthodox Christian identity in sub-Saharan Africa — the Ugandan Orthodox Church — was shaped by colonialism in the 19th century, two African rebels and just a bit of confusion over a name:
[Anti-colonial rebel Reuben] Spartas was, in short, a man in search of a vehicle for his nationalist passions. As it turned out, that vehicle was to be a church. He was a devout man, but by the mid-1920’s Spartas had grown increasingly frustrated with what he saw as the established church’s compromises and inconsistencies. He and an army buddy, Obadiah Basajjakitalo — Metropolitan Jonah [of Kampala and All Uganda]’s grandfather — began exploring other religions. What happened next has taken on the air of a creation myth: Spartas supposedly ran across an entry for the word “Orthodox” in the dictionary. “Like another Archimedes,” a subsequent church leader wrote, “he ran out into the streets shouting: ‘I have found, I have found!’ ”
The real story is a bit more complicated, involving an iconoclastic early civil rights leader and a case of mistaken religious identity. Sometime in the 1920’s, Spartas got hold of a copy of a newspaper called the Negro World, which was published by Marcus Garvey, the West Indian progenitor of the “back to Africa” movement. Spartas learned that Garvey had championed the creation of an African Orthodox Church. Other than sharing a name, Garvey’s church had no relationship to mainstream Orthodoxy. But Spartas did not know that. In 1925, he wrote African Orthodox Church leaders in America, saying he wanted to join up and convert other Ugandans.
After a long courtship-by-letter, Spartas announced that he had left the Anglican Church and declared the establishment of a new church “for all right-thinking Africans, men who wish to be free in their own house, not always being thought of as boys.” In 1932, one of Garvey’s bishops traveled to Uganda and ordained Spartas and Basajjakitalo priests. The kabaka of Baganda donated a section of his personal estate at Namungoona to the new church, and within a few years, it claimed 5,000 members.
There was just one problem — the church was not really Orthodox. Spartas discovered this when a Greek expatriate in town came to baptize a child and told him he had the rituals all wrong. Worried correspondence with Alexandria ensued and, after some confusion, all links to Garvey’s church were severed, and Spartas traveled to Egypt to be ordained by Patriarch Christophoros II. The Ugandan Orthodox had Alexandria’s recognition. Acceptance would be longer in coming.
For more of this fascinating story, read Orthodox Africa.
2 October 2012
Tags: Christianity Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox
Despite his busy schedule, Father Jose is always available to his parishioners. (photo: Sean Sprague)
For decades, the people of Kerala have suffered from high poverty rates, exacerbated by high rates of unemployment. The Indian government’s Ministry of Labor and Employment recently released a report revealing that against India’s average rate of 3.8 percent, unemployment in Kerala currently hovers at 9.9 percent. Though lower than a decade ago, this is still very high in absolute terms.
In such an environment, people like Father Jose Thottakkara are a godsend. In the May 2008 issue of ONE, Jomi Thomas reported:
“Once priests start to think of themselves as sacrament machines, they lose the real sense of what they do,” said Father Jose Thottakkara, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest working in suburban Ernakulam.
A highly educated 44-year-old, Father Jose epitomizes a new, dynamic breed of priest. Founder and director of Naipunya International — a nonprofit agency of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly that places thousands of qualified young people in good jobs worldwide — the priest also leads more than 100 families at St. George Church, a suburban Syro-Malabar parish.
For a son of poor farmers, the priest has accomplished a great deal at a relatively young age. After some eight years of advanced education, he holds degrees in business management, economics, theology and world history. Complementing these studies, he undertook formal and on-the-job training in social work and management. In addition, he has received faculties to serve both Syro-Malabar and Roman Catholic communities.
Father Jose manages a tight schedule during the week. And while his responsibilities at Naipunya take up the lion’s share of his day, the families to whom he ministers remain close to his heart.
Read more about Father Jose in A Priest With Global Reach.
1 October 2012
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Economic hardships
Nikolay Vakulin and Melkonian Haykaz exercise in the yard of the shelter for elders run by Caritas Austria. In a 2007 Caritas Armenia survey, 76 percent of elderly respondents and 60 percent of other respondents considered adequate medical services to be unavailable in northern Armenia. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
Poverty and unemployment rates hover around 40 percent in northern Armenia. The only hospital in the vicinity is the Catholic-run Tiramayr Narek Hospital in Ashotzk. Thanks to support form CNEWA and Caritas Italy, the hospital serves some 30,000 patients from as far away as Gyumri (62 miles south) and Vardenis (124 miles southeast) and conducts about 1,800 complicated surgeries per year. In the March 2009 issue of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan discusses this institution:
Razmik Minasian, his face tanned from laboring in the sun, swiftly paces up and down a white sterile hallway in Tiramayr Narek Hospital in Armenia’s northernmost town of Ashotzk. Again and again, he looks worriedly at the closed door from where the cry of his 4-month-old son can be heard.
“Had we managed to get here earlier, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said as he approached his wife who sat nervously beside the door.
The Minasians live in Samtskhe-Javakheti, a predominantly Armenian region in southern Georgia near Armenia’s northern border. The couple made the three-hour journey to Tiramayr Narek because the infant’s temperature had reached a dangerous 104 degrees and the Catholic-run facility is the only one in the vicinity that offers quality care at little or no cost.
Read more in Armenian Winter.
Tags: CNEWA Armenia Health Care Caring for the Elderly Caritas