15 February 2012
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.
9 February 2012
Tags: India Kerala Cultural Identity Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Emigration
In this unpublished photo, taken in 2003, two young boys play in front of a church in a Christian Village near Homs, Syria. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
As the situation in Homs, Syria, continues to grow more bloody and violent by the day, Independent Catholic News reports that many Christians have fled the city in large numbers, including three bishops:
This is not because they have received threats — most churches and places of worship have escaped attack — but because the situation generally is “becoming more dangerous by the hour.”
Three bishops — one Catholic and two Orthodox from the Dioceses of Homs and Hama, have left. Syria’s third largest city is now mainly inhabited mainly by Alawites (President Bashar al Assad’s tribe) and Sunnis.
Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the United States closed its embassy in Syria as a result of the escalating violence.
To learn more about the history of Christian villages in Syria, read Syria’s Christian Valley from the January 2011 issue of ONE.
8 February 2012
Tags: Syria War Emigration
An elderly Armenian tends his flock. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In the January 2008 issue of the magazine, Gayane Abrahamyan wrote about the difficulties faced by elderly Armenian refugees:
In cooperation with the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Apostolic Church — perhaps the most dominant force in Armenia — provides daily meals to needy elderly people and orphaned children in six locations in Yerevan and three other towns, feeding an estimated 1,200 people per day.
“Before the soup kitchens, there were days my wife and I didn’t even have bread so we just drank water for dinner,” said 75-year-old Grisha Ohanjanian. “About four years ago, our pension was very small, just $8, which isn’t even enough to sustain a dog.
“Both of us lost 22 pounds.”
For more from this story, read Pensioners in Crisis.
7 February 2012
Tags: Refugees Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Caring for the Elderly
Sister Mariam Almiron of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word spins a small child around following Sunday Mass at the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza. There are only about 3,000 Christians in Gaza, of which a little more than 200 are Catholic.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
As a small minority in many countries of the Middle East, Christians often face great challenges. Last summer Sami El-Yousef, regional director of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission for Palestine and Israel, paid a visit to Gaza to see how the Christian community there is faring:
Life in Gaza is not easy. While the government there tolerates Christian institutions and the Christian presence, it is clear that adopting a more conservative Islamic way of life does conflict at times with the more open society these Christian institutions and individuals are accustomed to.
There is an uneasy balance that seems to be maintained and holding thus far. It is certainly not easy for a teenage girl who follows a literary Tawjihi stream and finishes tenth grade and has no option but to complete her high school education in the public school system and finds herself being veiled to go to school. Neither it is easy for college-age females who are locked up in Gaza due to the blockade and want to get a college education and have no choice other than the Gazan universities and again must be veiled to go to classes. This also applies to men and women, boys and girls engaged in joint sports activities at the local YMCA who feel that they are under the watchful eye of a conservative class that does not approve of gender integrated activities.
There are other trivial matters that affect Christians, too, such as the Muslim ban on the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. These may be little inconveniences and some of them actually may be good for you, but these are additional restrictions Christians have to deal with on top of the pressures and restrictions of the occupation and the blockade. There are no easy answers, but one needs to be aware of the difficulties of daily life in Gaza, especially to the Christian community, and to appreciate the need to strengthen the Christian institutions and the Christian presence. There are many possibilities for assistance, and we hope to be able to fundraise and implement some of the projects in the near future.
After all, Christian institutions promote Christian values of worship, love, respect, honesty, humility, hope, forgiveness, compassion, integrity and self discipline among others. Gaza can only be a better place if these values are ingrained in society, and what better way to do this other than to strengthen the Christian institutions and empower them to continue to provide their services to all Palestinians alike with these values in mind.
You can read much more here. And visit our website to learn how you can join CNEWA and support Christians in the Middle East.
6 February 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East
The faithful proceed to St. George Kvashveti Church in Tbilisi, Georgia for its patronal feast.
(photo: Molly Corso)
In the March 2007 issue of ONE, Molly Corso wrote about the return of Orthodox traditions and practices in Georgia some 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and imposed atheism:
A crowd swelled around Bishop Tevdora Chuadze as he blessed the faithful in Tbilisi’s St. George Kvashveti Church on 23 November, the feast of St. George.
Hundreds of believers filled the church, spilling into the adjoining courtyard where they waited to kiss and venerate the patronal icon of St. George. That afternoon, all of Georgia’s television stations broadcast the baptism of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s son by the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II.
On that day, some 15 years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Communist-imposed atheism, it seemed the Georgian Orthodox Church had made a full recovery. A recent poll by the Caucasus Research Resource Center found that 63 percent of Georgians “fully trust” the church. (About 80 percent of Georgia’s 4.7 million citizens belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church.) In contrast, only 22 percent placed similar trust in President Saakashvili.
“The Georgian people were very strong, and did not lose their faith,” said Father Giorgi Getiashvili of the Kvashveti Church, one of the capital’s premier parishes.
Under Communist rule, people continued to go to church in secret. And after the fall of the Soviet Union, the church was reborn, Father Giorgi explained. “It was freed.”
For more, read A Georgian Revival.
3 February 2012
Tags: Georgia Georgian Orthodox Church
Students of the Asela school and orphanage, administered by the Consolata Fathers, a Catholic community of brothers and priests, play soccer on the playground. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
This Sunday, millions around the world will be watching American football’s biggest game of the season, Super Bowl XLVI. In many parts of CNEWA’s world, soccer is the game of choice. In this unpublished photo from the January 2008 issue of ONE, students of the Asela school and orphanage in Ethiopia practice some tricks.
Asela school and orphanage, run by the Consolata Fathers, has helped to educate many abandoned and some disabled boys since it opened its doors nearly 30 years ago. To learn more about the Asela school and orphanage, read Revealing Hidden Talent by Sisay Abebe.
2 February 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Orphans/Orphanages Disabilities
Filipino domestic workers sing choir songs, as they crowd into the tiny shelter to attend Mass with Father Kevin O’Connell at English-speaking Sacred Heart Latin Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
Yesterday the Independent Catholic News reported on a convention held by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) that has provided some hope for international domestic workers:
The Convention constitutes an international commitment to work at improving the living and working conditions of a very large segment of the work force employed in the informal sector. The very first commitment is to recognize domestic workers as employees who are legally entitled to the minimum protection that all other categories of workers enjoy.
By establishing the principle that like any other workers, domestic workers are entitled to a minimum set of protections, the Convention is an acknowledgment of the crucial social and economic contribution of care workers. Since 90 to 92 percent of the domestic work force is made of women and girls, this principle is also very significant for gender equality.
Specific provisions in the Convention address the vulnerability of particular groups of domestic workers: migrant domestic workers, young domestic workers — those above the minimum age of employment but below 18 years of age — and for live-in domestic workers.
In November 2011, we featured a story about Filipino migrant workers in Jordan who — in spite of the tough circumstances they face as domestic workers — have found solace in faith:
Some have fled abusive employers, but most cite nonpayment of wages as the main reason why they left their jobs. As runaways, they are considered in breach of their work contracts under Jordanian law and no longer have the right to work in the country. Repatriating them is a complicated process, involving possible hefty fines and other legal and diplomatic wrangling. Some have lived at the shelter for years, waiting for official clearance to return home.
Father O’Connell proceeds to one of its administrative offices. He heads to an old desk at the front of the room. Atop the desk sit several small statues of the Virgin Mary in between an outdated computer monitor and a cheap, cardboard desk calendar.
The priest smiles at the some 35 Filipino women who have gathered in the small room. Some are middle-aged, but most are very young. Sitting on stackable plastic chairs, they gaze eagerly at the priest. From behind the desk, which also serves as an altar, he begins Mass.
For these migrant women, Mass offers them the spiritual solace they need to cope with the despair that otherwise can fill their daily routine. During the Rite of Peace, the women hug each other and laugh freely. At the celebration’s end, they applaud and cheer. New arrivals often cry, moved by the joy of their first Mass in months.
For more, read Far From Home by Nicholas Seeley.
Tags: Jordan Amman Teresian Association