27 February 2012
Until eighth grade, an equal number of boys and girls attend the Catholic school in Meki, Ethiopia. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Ethiopia is struggling to give both boys and girls equal opportunities for education — an issue journalist Peter Lemieux explored in the pages of ONE in 2009:
If growing up in Ethiopia these days were a race, these children would appear to be off to a good start. But a closer look reveals an unfair contest, one that favors the boys.
While Meki Catholic School makes every effort to maintain gender balance — an equal number of boys and girls make up its primary grades — the number of girls enrolled in the school’s secondary classes drops sharply. For the girls fortunate enough to remain in school, the harsh reality of Ethiopia’s tradition of gender disparity hits harder than a stiff headwind in a 50-yard dash.
Against a metal fence enclosing the school grounds, Messeret Yohannes, an 18-year-old senior, discusses the future with her girlfriends. All expect to go to college. And all hope to become professionals either in accounting, banking, education or medicine. Given the school’s outstanding achievements, high aspirations such as theirs are certainly realistic. From among the graduating class, 94 percent are expected to attend college, compared to 30 to 35 percent nationally.
“I want to be a lawyer or maybe go into business,” says Messeret, whose voice grows bolder and more confident as the boys move out of eavesdropping distance.
As with other students at the school, most of these girls hail from families who make their living from subsistence farming and small trade. When asked to explain why women make up less than 20 percent of their senior class, the girls begin talking all at once. Cutting through the chatter, Messeret takes the lead and speaks for the group. “That’s the economic part of it,” she asserts.
“The drop-off happens throughout the country at the high school level, not just at our school,” adds the school’s popular headmaster, Brother Betre Fisseha, F.S.C.
“It’s the legacy of the Ethiopian social and cultural tradition. Girls are burdened with a big part of the families’ work, especially in rural areas. If their parents need help fetching water, herding animals or taking care of younger siblings, the girls go home. This obstructs the continuity of their education, particularly following elementary school.”
Read more in An Uphill Battle.
23 February 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Catholic education Women (rights/issues)
Father Francis Eluvathingal performs a wedding ceremony at the Jyotis Care Center in Navi Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
For the January 2012 edition of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on how migrants from Kerala, India have built a church community in Mumbai. Father Francis Eluvathingal, a principal leader in this community, spoke with us about his vocation via Skype. Check it out below.
22 February 2012
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Priests
A procession during Holy Week in Jerusalem taken in 1988. (photo: Paul Souders)
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a time of preparation for the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is also a time for reflection and sacrifice. What will you be doing this Lenten season?
CNEWA actually has a Lenten Giving Plan that may interest you. Check it out on our website.
21 February 2012
Tags: Jerusalem Middle East Easter
In this image from November 2008, students at the Don Bosco Institute attend a welding class in the Rod el Farag neighborhood of Cairo. Some students, including those pictured here, are workers who came back to the school to enhance their skills. (Photo: Shawn Baldwin)
The economic conditions in the years following the global financial crisis have left many in need of work. In the face of widespread deleveraging and downsizing, the best that most people can do is focus on honing the skills that will make them marketable, or even able to start their own business. ONE contributor Liam Stack covered a school dedicated to this very pursuit - Egypts Don Bosco Institute - in his January 2009 article, Building Persons, Forming Good Citizens:
To ensure students can compete in Egypt’s rapidly changing economy, the school’s three-year curriculum focuses on vocational skills consistently in high demand. Most graduates secure employment in their respective trades upon leaving the institute, an accomplishment in which the whole Don Bosco community takes great pride.
“Almost every day we receive faxes from different mechanical and electrical firms asking us to recommend students for jobs,” said Don Riccio, headmaster. “Within two or three months of graduation, all of our students are working.”
In line with the charism of their founder, St. John Bosco — the Industrial Revolution-era Italian priest who used education to help impoverished children secure a better life — the Salesians believe education should both enrich the mind of the student and also serve as a steppingstone to a better life. In turn, a higher employment rate contributes to society’s overall economic development and benefits all members of society.
You can find the full article here.
17 February 2012
Tags: Egypt Education Employment
Sister Bellegia Shayaf, the mother superior of St. Thecla’s Convent in Maaloula, holds an orphaned girl. (photo: Mitchell Prothero)
Over the years, we have featured many stories on Christian life in Syria in the pages of ONE. With the ongoing violence and bloodshed in Aleppo, Homs and elsewhere, this beautiful image of a nun holding one of her orphaned charges from the ancient village of Maaloula serves as an important reminder of what is at stake for Syria’s Christians. Taken in 2007, this unpublished photo is from the story Echoes of Jesus From Syria’s Mountains in the May 2008 edition.
16 February 2012
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Village life
Scanned letter from an Eritrean child, dated March 18, 1986.
Recently, we received a small package in the mail that reached out and grabbed our hearts. It was an example of how love extends beyond our lifetime and is carried forward, sometimes by complete strangers.
To Whom It May Concern:
Today, I purchased a file cabinet at an estate sale at the home of a married couple in Orlando, Florida. (I learned both are now deceased.) When I brought the cabinet home and began to clean it, I found that some of the hanging files had items in them. The correspondences filed under “Orphans” touched me deeply.
I can just imagine how wonderful it was for the two young children pictured in the files to have had such loving and caring parent-sponsors, and how richly rewarding it was for the couple to be part of the children’s lives.
I simply could not discard, the photos and letters, I am therefore forwarding the file’s contents to you with the hopes that you will be able to, in turn, forward them to the two individuals, who are now adults, possibly with families of their own. What treasured memories the contents will surface for them!
Everything happens for a reason in God’s clearly defined plans for us. It was meant for me to find the file and to send it to you to forward to the beneficiaries of the couple’s generosity.
Lovingly in Christ,
A caring heart performing a random act of kindness.
The accompanying correspondences date as far back as 1983. Can you imagine how deeply this family must have loved and cherished their relationships with these children whom they had never met? The physical distance was greater than 8,000 miles, but the emotional connection was so strong the donors kept their letters and photographs for 29 years!
I wish it were possible for us to locate these now-grown children. Sadly, too much time has passed and there just aren’t enough resources to even begin such a quest. But while I am unable to locate the recipients of this family’s love, I can share their story of love with you.
May God bless this caring heart for this “random act of kindness” to remind us that love — especially God’s love — transcends both time and distance.
Beth Clausnitzer is CNEWA’s Director of Donor Services.
15 February 2012
Tags: Children Africa Eritrea Sponsorship
Hana Habshi sits in the unfinished St. Charbel’s Maronite Catholic Church in the village of Deir El Ahmar, Lebanon. (photo: Laura Boushnak)
In the January 2012 issue of ONE, Don Duncan reported on water scarcity in Lebanon and how CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission, is helping to remedy the problem as well as empower the beneficiaries, such as Hana Habshi pictured above:
The project has jump-started the local economy and is helping to revitalize Deir El Ahmar. Residents have pooled money to build a new church dedicated to St. Charbel. Still under construction, the Maronite church stands on a once desolate lot. Now, a lush, landscaped lawn and garden cover the grounds. On summer afternoons, locals often gather on the cool lawn in the shadows of the church to relax and take refuge from the sun’s sweltering rays.
“Water has brought us back to the lands,” says Mr. Habshi. “It has breathed life back into the community, and now it assures the completion of our church. What’s more, now I can afford to move back from Beirut and retire here.”
The reservoir is just one of many water projects the Pontifical Mission has spearheaded in Lebanon since 1993, when it became a key nongovernmental partner in the country’s post-war reconstruction. In the early days, the agency focused on restoring damaged water systems in rural communities, to ensure clean drinking water as well as to irrigate farms. In recent years, projects also include water collection and sewage treatment.
For more, read Springs of Hope in Lebanon featured in our January 2012 issue.
14 February 2012
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Middle East Water Church
Seminarian Philip Chasia and his wife, Mercy, stand outside their one-room house near the campus of the Orthodox Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School in Nairobi, Kenya.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
On St. Valentine’s Day, we not only remember the Roman martyr, but we often think of the powerful emotion of love. For Kenyan Philip Chasia, love is not only what he feels for his wife. A seminarian at the Orthodox ecclesiastical school in Nairobi, he also feels love for God and his vocation:
All seminarians receive a stipend during the nine months of the year they are enrolled in classes. The sum is paltry, especially for the married seminarians who must support wives and children in addition to themselves. (Orthodoxy permits married priests on the condition they marry prior to ordination.) Because the school does not offer seminarians any part-time job opportunities — something many would like to see changed — the stipend serves as the only source of income for most of them during the academic year.
The administration “should try and find a way to assist married seminarians, or they should just take single men,” suggested Mr. [Philip] Chasia, who pays 2,000 shillings (about $29) a month in rent for the thin, metal house he shares with his wife. Utilities are extra.
“Because once you have a wife or child at home, you are the one who has to do everything for your family. My wife just finished high school. To work, she needs more education or a profession, which we can’t afford. Why does my wife have to suffer?” Mr. Otieno agreed. “So even though I’m going to be a priest,” he added. “I am still going to do whatever I was doing — fish and grow crops — to survive and make my life and my home happy.”
Despite these hardships, the archbishop’s words continued to hit high notes. “Again, I repeat, this is the great miracle for me. They know what they’re doing and they don’t do it because we pay them a lot. We don’t. You understand? It’s because they love what they are doing. They believe in the fruits. They are doing it with all their hearts and minds.”
To learn more about this seminary in Nairobi, check out Kenya’s Orthodox Miracle from the September 2008 issue of ONE.
13 February 2012
Tags: Africa Orthodox Priests Seminarians Seminaries
Folk songs remain very popular in both rural and urban areas in Georgia.
(photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
Last night, people around the world tuned in to what many consider “music’s biggest night” — The Grammy Awards. Music also plays a central role in the lives of the families and communities CNEWA serves. Traditional songs, dances and spiritual hymns contribute to the rich cultures of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. In this photo, a family in Georgia sings a folk song in celebration of a wedding.
10 February 2012
Tags: Cultural Identity Georgia Tbilisi
The Eparchy of Kalyan’s dance troupe rehearses a traditional Keralite routine during an annual celebration for mothers’ groups in Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the January 2012 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux tells the story of Keralite migrants in Mumbai and the strong community they’ve created with their common faith and traditions:
Many of the migrants were Christian. Known collectively as “Thomas Christians” after St. Thomas the Apostle — who, according to tradition, evangelized among Kerala’s coastal communities in the mid-first century — most Christian Keralites belong to one of several Eastern churches. By far the largest is the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, with some 3.6 million faithful worldwide.
“Keralites who migrated to Mumbai had very deep faith,” says Father Eluvathingal. “Once they came here and found jobs — on the railways, in government or in banking — and were happy in terms of their stomach, with bread on the table, they immediately began searching to satisfy their spiritual needs.”
Without a church of their own, the first Thomas Christian migrants joined one of the many local Latin Catholic parishes. Since the 16th century, when Portuguese missionaries settled in Mumbai and the neighboring state of Goa, the Latin Catholic Church has been the predominant church in the region.
To learn more about this group of Keralite migrants, read A Church of Their Own. Check out the rest of the articles and multimedia features from the January 2012 issue online.
Tags: India Kerala Cultural Identity Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Emigration