31 October 2011
A nun reads a bible outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
(photo: Paul Souders)
Today Palestine became a full member of UNESCO, the U.N. cultural and educational agency:
Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval in a hall with 173 UNESCO member delegations present.
“Long Live Palestine!” shouted one delegate, in French, at the unusually tense and dramatic meeting of UNESCO's General Conference.
While the vote has large symbolic meaning, the issue of borders of an eventual Palestinian state, security troubles and other disputes that have thwarted Middle East peace for decades remain unresolved.
For more from this story see, UN cultural agency grants full membership to Palestine.
28 October 2011
Tags: Jerusalem Palestine Holy Sepulchre
A boy plays near the construction site of a new facility at New Orthodox School in Madaba. (photo: Joseph Zakarian)
In our July 2010 cover story, journalist Nicholas Seeley reported on the revitalization of Orthodox schools in Jordan. In the story we learned that these schools also acted as a foundation for interfaith collaboration and tolerance:
“I’m in a Christian school, but I wear my Muslim veil, and nobody asks me, ‘Why are you wearing that?’ It’ normal,” says Tyba Hardan, an Iraqi-born sophomore in her first year at Amman’s Patriarch Diodoros I School.
Most teachers and students say that preventing sectarianism is not a concern and that the schools remain places where people of different faiths build trust and respect.
“That respect develops when you work with children from kindergarten through high school. They sit together, Christians and Muslims, and they grow up together. This is our contribution,” Archimandrite Innokentios says, “teaching them, guiding them into this way of accepting one another.”
For more see, Rebuilding a Sure Foundation.
27 October 2011
Tags: Children Jordan
Young girls celebrate one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion or
Mary of Zion in Askum, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today, according to the Latin calendar, is the feast day for Saint Frumentius, who is considered one of the apostles of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church venerates Saint Frumentius, however, on August 1.
St. Frumentius is the first Abune — a title given to the head of the Ethiopian Church— and credited with the founding of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
In the May 2010 issue of ONE we profiled the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and its origins:
The character of Aksum changed in the early fourth century when the emperor, Ezana, declared Christianity the official state religion. Influenced by his tutor, Frumentius, Ezana had embraced the Christian faith and later installed his former tutor as Aksum’s first bishop. Ordained to the episcopacy by Athanasius, the sainted patriarch of the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Frumentius established filial bonds with the Egyptian church that remained for centuries. Until the middle of the 20th century, a Coptic (derived from the Greek for “Egyptian”) metropolitan archbishop governed the Ethiopian church.
Ezana is also credited with obtaining the most important symbol of Ethiopian Christianity, the Ark of the Covenant. According to an ancient Ethiopian tradition, the Jews of Aksum guarded the Ark on an island refuge. It had been carried from Jerusalem to Aksum by Menelik, the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a figure Ethiopians and Eritreans claim as their own.
To learn more about The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, read our profile in the May 2010 issue of our magazine.
26 October 2011
Tags: Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Locals participate in a cultural dance at a banquet for ethnic diversity in Tbilisi, Georgia.
(photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the November 2009 issue of the magazine, we interviewed renowned photographer Justyna Mielnikiewicz. She shared a little insight on some of the photos she's made over the years documenting the Caucasus region. She describes photos like the one above as reflecting “the spirit of Georgia.” Check out the interview in the media player below, or view it on our web site.
For more about the Caucasus region see, Where Europe Meets Asia.
25 October 2011
Tags: Cultural Identity Georgia Caucasus Tbilisi
A little girl at the nursery the Nirmala Dasi sisters run in Dharavi, a slum in the center of Mumbai. The children there are mainly from families that have working mothers. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Saturday in Mumbai, 285 girls participated in a district renaming ceremony, which aims to “give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.”
The girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state.
In shedding names like “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which mean “unwanted” in Hindi, some girls chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars like “Aishwarya” or Hindu goddesses like “Savitri.” Some just wanted traditional names with happier meanings, such as “Vaishali” or “prosperous, beautiful and good.”
“Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy,” said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name “Ashmita,” which means “very tough” or “rock hard” in Hindi.
We recently reported on life in Mumbai in the July issue of ONE. The Nirmala Dasi Sisters in Mumbai work with the poor, the marginalized and children. One priest explains:
“The sisters have been in Dharavi for over 20 years. Their commitment has never wavered. And from that, we as an eparchy have gained confidence and expanded our social services throughout Mumbai. It’s worked out well and has been an excellent boost to the eparchy. We never got enmity from anyone.
“And we’ve learned a lot of things from them — involvement in the community, simplicity, commitment. They get up and do it,” adds the priest.
Five days a week, the sisters operate a nursery school and day care center that enrolls more than 60 children with working parents. The center offers meals and a structured program of educational activities. It has earned a reputation as the best day care provider around; even Dharavi’s more affluent families clamor to register their children on its long waiting list.
For more from this story see, ‘Slumdog’ Sisters by Peter Lemieux and for more about the renaming ceremony in Mumbai see, Name changers: 285 Indian girls no longer 'unwanted' on MSNBC.com.
24 October 2011
Tags: India Children
A young girl prays at St. Gayane Church in Etchmiadzin, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Photojournalist Armineh Johannes has documented the rich history and traditions of Christian life in Armenia for CNEWA for over 15 years. The seventh century church St. Gayane, featured in the photo above, is located in Etchmiadzin, the religious center of Armenia. In this story from our May 2008 issue of the magazine Paul Rimple explored Armenia’s “spiritual core”:
“Etchmiadzin is the spirit and soul of Armenians,” said Father Mkrtich Proshian, dean of the Vaskenian Theological Seminary, which overlooks the shore of Armenia’s Lake Sevan.
“It keeps the diaspora spiritually alive and is the heart of the nation.”
At once referring to the world’s oldest cathedral and a complex of structures — ancient, medieval and modern — Etchmiadzin echoes sanctity and stability. The complex houses the administrative offices of the Armenian Apostolic Church and functions as the repository of its cultural and spiritual heritage. Located west of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city, Etchmiadzin enjoys renewed celebrity in post-Soviet Armenia. Yet, it faces daunting challenges as the church struggles to redefine itself in this resource poor and geopolitically fragile country.
“The fact that it was built with stone from Mount Ararat is very symbolic,” continued the priest. Armenians have revered the region’s highest peak for more than three millennia, once believing Ararat to be the home of their pantheon of gods. Here, Noah’s ark rested after the great flood and here God offered his covenant to Noah. Though Ararat remains a national symbol, the mountain lies across the country’s border, in what is now Turkey — a fact that inspires great sorrow among Armenians.
For more from this story see, Where God Descended by Paul Rimple with photographs by Armineh Johannes.
21 October 2011
Tags: Children Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church
CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar, left, and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai, right, listen to a reporter’s question during yesterday’s news conference at CNEWA’s New York headquarters. (Photo: Erin Edwards)
To end the week, we offer another glimpse at Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai’s visit to CNEWA yesterday.
It was his first trip to the United States from Lebanon since his election earlier this year. You can find a report about his visit to our offices at this link, along with the full text of his remarks.
And to view a slideshow from the press conference, just click on the image at the top of this post.
20 October 2011
Tags: Unity Ecumenism Interreligious Maronite Church Maronite Catholic
Anna Valavanal (left) and her sister, Irin, visit the Deivadan sisters and residents in Thankamany. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the July 2010 issue of ONE Peter Lemieux reported on the fearless work of the Deivadan Sisters in Kerala, India and the community that stands with them:
Siji Valavanal and her two daughters visit the Deivadan Home in Thankamany, in the Idukki District, a few afternoons each week. Established four years ago, the home takes in abandoned elderly women. On those days, Mrs. Valavanal picks up her daughters, 5-year-old Anna and 12-year-old Irin, from school and takes them to the market, where they purchase sacks of rice, tapioca, vegetables and other staples. They then head over to the Deivadan Home, knock on the door and offer the groceries. But more important for Mrs. Valavanal, she and her daughters stay awhile and visit with some of the residents.
Anna, wearing a bright pink-checkered dress, and Irin, wearing a pretty green dress, approach the bedside of a reclining resident. The frail woman sits up, reaches her hands out and clutches Irin’s hands. Irin smiles. She then gently caresses Anna’s cheeks. Anna blushes. The elderly woman beams.
On any given day, visitors drop in unannounced. Some bring sacks of rice, while others offer financial support. Together, as a community, they keep afloat these homes for the abandoned elderly. Some, such as Mrs. Valavanal and her daughters, have adopted the residents as additional parents and grandparents and stop by regularly.
“We’re happy when we come here. We sit and enjoy their company, feel their pain and hear their problems,” explains Mrs. Valavanal.
“Nowadays, society is always looking at the top level, not the low levels. Most people want to make relations with those with status, not to serve those in need. I want to create in my daughters’ minds the desire to serve others,” she says, echoing the wisdom of Father Kaippenplackal’s mother. For that lesson, Mrs. Valavanal could not have found her daughters better teachers than the Deivadan Sisters.
For more from this story, see, Fearless Grace by Peter Lemieux.
19 October 2011
Tags: India Sisters Caring for the Elderly
Lunchtime at the Bethlehem Day Care Center, Addis Ababa. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the March 2006 issue of ONE Sean Sprague reported on the impact of Catholic Schools in Ethiopia. With the support of organizations such as CNEWA, Catholic schools in Ethiopia provide a quality education to children throughout the nation:
For more than 40 years, CNEWA has provided tens of thousands of children with food, shelter, clothes and schooling. Until recently, this support was earmarked for each individual child, whether enrolled in a Catholic school or living in an orphanage administered by a religious community, said CNEWA’s Regional Director for Ethiopia, De La Salle Christian Brother Vincent Pelletier. Now, in addition to providing these essentials, the agency has begun to support the needs of the institutions as well.
“This includes salaries, administrative costs and the repair and improvement of school facilities,” said Brother Vincent. “We have also learned that the schools’ administrators and teachers were not sufficiently trained,” he added, “so we are developing teacher training workshops.” To that end, CNEWA has recruited Felleke Shibikom, a veteran administrator of Ethiopia’s Catholic schools with more than 35 years of experience.
“Over time,” Brother Vincent said, “we expect this program will raise the level of administration and teaching in the 38 schools supported by CNEWA.” This includes Merhawi Kahsay’s school in Adaga.
For more from this story, see Making the Grade in Ethiopia by Sean Sprague.
17 October 2011
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Catholic education Catholic Schools
In a grove near the West Bank city of Nablus a woman sorts olives. (photo: Ahikam Seri)
Yesterday, Israel announced the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners who will be released in exchange for a soldier held by Hamas. Many of the prisoners were convicted of violent and deadly crimes committed against Palestinians and Israelis:
They also noted that of the 6,000 or so remaining Palestinian prisoners in Israel, hundreds were being held without being charged while others were held under administrative detention for crimes amounting to political activism. And they said Israelis and others minimized the terrible toll on the families of people held for years, not knowing if or when they would be released.
“One of the reasons we want Palestine to be recognized as a state by the United Nations is so that our people being held by Israel will be recognized for what they are: prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention,” a top intelligence official in Ramallah said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak publicly.
All of this comes as Palestinian leaders continue to seek recognition of statehood from the United Nations, which some believe could finally lead to peace in the region. For some context on some of the challenges leaders will face in negotiations to define a Palestinian/Israeli border, check out the intensive multimedia package on the New York Times website, Challenges in Defining an Israeli-Palestinian Border.
Life in Palestine was the focus of a story in the January 2009 issue of ONE, when journalist Hanne Foighel reported on a small but significant part of Palestinian life and culture, the olive:
As Ms. Lavie picked olives, she became friendly with her Palestinian coworkers. One family told her about their youngest son who is in an Israeli prison and the father who used to work as a cook in Israel but no longer has a permit to enter the state. According to Ms. Lavie, the family longs for the time when Israelis and Palestinians can live and work together in peace.
“I am meeting people who really want peace and I feel that by being here with them I am helping the situation to be a little less violent.”
Looking out over his land, Nabeeh Aldeeb was moved by what he saw: Palestinians and Israelis picking olives together.
“I feel that the politicians are very far away from the people,” he said with a sigh as olives from a nearby tree dropped softly and the distinct smell of the fruit filled the early autumn air.
For more from this story see, Olive Offerings by Hanne Foighel.
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestinians