21 October 2011
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.
14 October 2011
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestinians
Aida Yassi, a resident of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, shows pictures of her creations from an album that spans her entire career. (photo: J Carrier)
The Good Samaritan Center in Jerusalem has been providing much needed assistance to elderly residents of the city’s Christian Quarter since 2000. In the November 2009 issue of ONE, Hanne Foighel shared the stories of the people, such as Aida Yassi pictured above, who depend on the center:
“Look,” she says, showing a picture of her work. Her remarkably long fingers delicately hold a small plastic-covered photo album.
“This is me, and I wasn’t even 14 years old when this picture was taken. I made the dress myself.”
All of the album’s pictures record the career of the now 72-year-old woman faded and worn images of the creator clothed in her dresses and gowns made at various stages of her professional life. She wants to show off her creations, but she gives up when she fails to locate her work in her crammed studio apartment.
Ms. Yassi lives in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. To reach her home, one passes through a green-painted iron gate — decorated with a cross — just off a tiny, narrow lane. She shares a courtyard with a number of neighbors, but they do not share in each other’s lives.
The room is dark: Slim beams of daylight slip through a small window carved into the wall in her “kitchen,” which is actually a shelf holding a cooking plate and a few utensils. Only when the door is left ajar does sunlight flood the tightly packed room, revealing pockmarked walls and peeling paint.
Aida Yassi has no family network. She visits the doctor on her own, walks unaided to the post office and manages other routine errands alone. Yet she needs help cooking her meals. She also depends on the regular care of a nurse, and she longs for comfort to help shut out the fear and loneliness that overcome her every so often. Fortunately, the Elderly Supportive Community Services Center, known locally as the Good Samaritan Center, provides such assistance.
To learn more about the work of the Good Samaritan Center, see Jerusalem’s Good Samaritans, by Hanne Foighel.
13 October 2011
Tags: Jerusalem Caring for the Elderly Homes/housing
In this unpublished photo from the story, A Wounded Land, a boy plays in the rice paddy field by Kuttanadu, Kerala. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Last week the India Ink blog on the NY Times’ web site posed an interesting question about the state of India’s poor: Has Globalization Helped India’s Poor?
Like the dog that didn’t bark, the study’s principal finding is a non-result: there is no systematic relationship between trade liberalization and inequality in India. Rather, a whopping 90 percent of inequality reflects differences at the level of individual households within states or within urban vs. rural areas, rather than between these groupings. And widening the lens from the household to the community, more than 60 percent of total inequality is found at the local level, within urban blocks and rural villages.
These highly localized roots of inequality have little to do with inter-state or rural-urban differences, to say nothing of trade or other international factors. Rather, they stem from factors that labor economists have long understood to be the drivers of inequality: education, work experience, family background, and, crucially in the Indian case, caste and ethnic differences.
In the January 2011 issue of ONE Peter Lemieux explored the financial crisis affecting the agricultural industry in Kerala, and the Syro–Malabar Catholic Church’s efforts to assist those affected.
The seeds of Wayanad’s agricultural crisis were sowed in the early 1980’s, when local farmers began converting their traditional, more diversified rice paddy farms into fields of one or two perennial cash crops, such as coffee, pepper, tea, cardamom, rubber and areca palm. From 1982 to 1999, land used for traditional paddies shrank by about 75 percent. Today, cash crops cover more than 80 percent of all agricultural land in the district.
While the conversion has made some farmers relatively rich, the trade off has been disastrous for most as well as for the district’s entire agricultural sector. In 1999, the Indian government began to liberalize its trade policies, opening its markets to international competition. Almost overnight, farmers in Wayanad witnessed the prices of chief crops, such as pepper, coffee and tea, plummet as cheaper produce from other countries, particularly Vietnam, flooded the market. In that year alone, pepper, a crop grown by most farmers in Wayanad, suffered a price drop of 76 percent.
For more from this story see, A Wounded Land by Peter Lemieux.
12 October 2011
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Farming/Agriculture Economic hardships
Parishioners head home after the Divine Liturgy at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Ladomirová, Slovakia. (photo: Andrej Bán)
The tiny country of Slovakia was in the news yesterday, with reports that it was holding up efforts to solve Europe’s economic crisis. We remembered that Slovakia also has a rich religious tradition, as we found when we reported on the country three years ago.
In the May 2008 issue of ONE, Jacqueline Ruyak reported on Slovakia’s Greek Catholic heritage and the historic wooden churches that remain a stronghold within the community:
In many ways, Ladomirová’s church dedicated to the Archangel Michael exemplifies Slovakia’s Rusyn Greek Catholic wooden churches. Built at the edge of the village, a split rail fence topped with shingles runs around the church. The wooden, roofed gate culminates in an onion dome crowned with an iron cross. And among the graves in the churchyard stands an old wooden bell, also shingled.
The church’s Baroque iconostasis, featuring intricate and colorful carvings and icons, shimmers in the church’s cool light.
For more, check out Rooted in Wood by Jacqueline Ruyak.
11 October 2011
Tags: Greek Catholic Church Slovakia Ruysn
A woman prays in a church in Deir Azra, a Christian village in Upper Egypt. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Sunday night in Cairo a demonstration turned deadly when military officials opened fire on a group of Christian demonstrators, killing some two dozen of them, the New York Times reported:
Coptic leaders issued an unusually pointed statement charging that the demonstrators were set up to take the blame for a crackdown. “Strangers got in the middle of our sons and committed mistakes to be blamed on our sons,” the statement said, claiming that acts of discrimination or aggression against Copts repeatedly “go unpunished.”
In a measure of their growing distrust of the military-led government, the families of the Copts killed in the violence decided they did not trust government-run facilities to perform autopsies, fearing the results might hide evidence of the violence by security forces. After hours of deliberation with priests, activists and human rights groups, they arranged to bring forensic teams to a Coptic hospital, causing the funeral to be called off.
Inside the hospital, Mariam Telmiz, 40, sat at the bedside of a brother-in-law who had been wounded by a bullet at the demonstration. Another brother-in-law had been killed by a bullet.
The military was ready to protect Egyptian Muslims who carried a Saudi flag or even pulled the Israeli flag off its embassy, she said, “but the one who holds his cross high gets humiliated.”
For more on this story read Copts Denounce Egyptian Government Over Killings in today’s New York Times or Copts Mourn Victims in Cairo Protest from the Catholic News Service.
In the current issue of ONE, Cairo-based journalist Sarah Topol reported on some of the difficulties faced by Christian women in Egypt in the story Spotlight: Coptic Women. In the video below, Sarah talks about what it’s like to be a woman journalist in Egypt during such a challenging time.
7 October 2011
Tags: Egypt Africa Coptic Christians
Yosef Hallegua blows the shofar in a synagogue in Cochin. (photo: Ellen Goldberg)
Today marks Yom Kippur, the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jewish community. It is also known as the Day of Atonement and is traditionally marked by a 25-hour period of fasting and praying. The shofar (pictured above) is blown in synagogues to mark the end of the fast at Yom Kippur.
In the July 2006 issue of ONE Nathan Katz reported on the dwindling Jewish community in Cochin, India:
Visiting Jews often are confounded by the unique liturgy of Cochin. As waves of immigrants came to Cochin from Persia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and even Poland and Italy, each left its imprint on Cochin’s prayer service. Some composed liturgical songs in fluent Hebrew, known as piyyutim. Scribes collated these songs and copied them into manuscript books, many of which remain in use to this day.
Midway through the prayer services in Cochin, worshipers will set down the Sephardic books from Israel and open these older songbooks. Most do not need to, however. They know the songs by heart.
Within the temple’s walls are the famous hand-painted floor tiles from China, Belgian chandeliers, prayer books from Israel and Torahs copied by local scribes. Atop one of the Torahs rests a magnificent 22-karat golden crown, given to the congregation by the Maharajah of Travancore in 1803.
The ancient copperplates, bequeathing autonomy at Cranganore, are stored in the synagogue’s ark along with Torahs and a huge shofar (ceremonial horn). Characteristic of Kerala’s unique synagogue architecture is the presence of a second bima (pulpit) upstairs in the women’s section, from which the Torah is read during prayer services.
For more about the Cochin Jewish community see The Last Jews of Cochin.
Learn more about the Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur, on the web site JewishEncyclopedia.com.
6 October 2011
Tags: India Jews
The Melkite Greek Catholic Warood School in Aleppo, Syria, enrolls 350 students from preschool through sixth grade. (photo: Spencer Osberg)
In the November 2009 issue of ONE Spencer Osberg reported on the diverse community of Christians living in Aleppo, Syria, one of the “oldest continuously inhabited centers in the world”:
The Greek Melkite Catholic Church offers a host of social services. Since his installation in 1995, Archbishop Jeanbart has worked tirelessly to expand existing programs and has spearheaded many new ones.
“I feel as a pastor I have to do my part to help our people to remain, to try and help the youth not to emigrate.”
The archbishop focuses much of his energy on the archeparchy’s numerous educational institutions. Under his watch, the archeparchy has opened six vocational schools that provide training in business, tourism, nursing and other skilled trades. The archbishop expressed hope the schools would enable a new generation of Syrian Christians to “find a good job and encourage them to remain in the country — to continue living in this country where we have been for 2,000 years.”
In addition, the archeparchy administers numerous and well-regarded elementary and secondary schools. Open to all Syrians regardless of creed, these schools are diverse and dynamic centers of learning and culture, often enrolling more non-Christian than Christian students. Depending on a family’s ability to pay, the church awards generous financial aid packages to qualifying students and in some cases waives school tuition and fees altogether.
For more about Aleppo see Aleppo: A Syrian Mosaic by Spencer Osberg. For more about the state of Syria’s Christians, check out last week’s blog post, Syria’s Christians: Are We Next?
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Melkite Greek Catholic Church