21 September 2015
Arab-Israeli fourth graders pray in Aramaic in 2012 at a Catholic elementary school in Jish. Israel’s Christian schools have been on strike since 1 September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
On 1 September 2015, 45 Christian schools in Israel went on strike. Consisting of 3,000 teachers and 33,000 students, the schools are considered “unofficial but recognized” by the Israeli government. Many of the schools date to the time of the Ottoman Empire and so are considerably older than the State of Israel.
The crisis and strike have been precipitated by two decisions of the Israeli government. The first decision was to cut the government funding that the Christian schools receive. Originally the state paid 70 percent of these schools’ budgets. This has now been progressively reduced — recently to 45 percent, and now to 29 percent. (The Israeli newspaper Haaretz also notes that the similarly semi-public ultra-Orthodox schools with 220,000 students are almost totally funded by the government.)
Full funding for the schools has been estimated at $52 million a year. These schools, which accept also Muslim and Druze students, are among the most effective in Israel and it is estimated that “Christian Arabs have the highest rate of success in Israel’s Bagrut (matriculation) exams, which largely determine who is admitted to a state university.” This, despite the fact that the Israeli government spends an average of 24 percent less on each high school student who is an Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent.
The second government decision was to limit the percentage of the operating costs that the schools could charge parents as tuition. Tuition was the means by which the schools attempted to fill the gaps caused by the progressive reduction of state support. Nevertheless, the Israeli government has now limited the amount parents can pay. One Christian school administrator states that the tuition cap set by the Israeli government is 2,500 Shekels ($645) per year, half of what would be needed to make up for government cuts. Thus, the Israeli government is seen as putting a double squeeze on the Christian schools by reducing their subsidies and their abilities to cover the deficits.
Negotiations have been going on between the Office of Christian Schools and the Israeli Government since May. The government has offered full funding if the schools agree to become “official and recognized.” However, this is perceived by Christian educators as an attack on their independence and a requirement not demanded of other private schools in Israel. Msgr. Giacinto-Boulos Marcusso, the patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem, sees these actions as attempts to progressively deprive young people of their identity through “ignorance, emigration or integration into national structures, the first of which is the army.”
During the third week of September the Israeli government offered the schools a subsidy of 67 million shekels (about $17.3 million). Since the costs that need to be covered amount to about to about $52 million dollars, the Board of Christian Schools refused the offer and the strike continues.
18 September 2015
Tags: Children Israel Education Catholic education Youth
Students attend a computer class at the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Learn more about their lives in “A Letter from Ethiopia” in the
Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
17 September 2015
A Caritas day care center in Tbilisi, Georgia offers classes in traditional Georgian carpet weaving, teaching new skills to young people. To learn more, read “A Child’s Rights Restored” in the
March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
16 September 2015
Sawy Abdullah Joda makes shoes at the Jesuit Fathers’ vocational training center in Minya, Egypt. To learn more about projects bringing jobs and education to Egyptians, read “From Dust to Dignity” in the November-December 2002 edition of the magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
15 September 2015
The sisters at Bediani in Georgia keep bees to supplement their income. To learn more about life in their community, read “Alternative Lifestyles” in the September 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
14 September 2015
Seminarians enjoy a traditional Ethiopian meal at Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Theological College in Addis Ababa. To learn more about the training of Orthodox clergy in that part of the world, check out “As It Was, So Shall It Remain?” in the September 2009 edition of ONE.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
11 September 2015
In this photo from 9 September, Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, the prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, participate in an ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph Church on Capitol Hill opening the In Defense of Christians Leadership Convention in Washington.
(photo: CNS/Jaclyn Lippelmann)
A gathering in Washington this week called attention to the plight of Christians in the Middle East:
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called for solidarity with the persecuted Christians of the Middle East during a 9 September prayer service at a Roman Catholic church on Capitol Hill.
The prayer service was held in conjunction with the In Defense of Christians summit held at a Capitol Hill hotel, within walking distance of St. Joseph Church.
The summit is the second for the organization, which Cardinal Wuerl noted in his reflections during the prayer service.
“All of came together (in 2014) so the people could ... express solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” he said, “and bear prayerful witness to the suffering of so many ... especially our Christian brothers and sisters.”
This year, Cardinal Wuerl said, “we are gathered in solidarity and witness” again to support the region’s Christians who face “tragedy” every day. “Much, much needs to be said about what continues to happen in the Middle East,” he added.
“After the prayer service, we can walk out and enjoy freedom. So many of our brothers and sisters cannot do that.”
Cardinal Wuerl recalled the beatitudes, as proclaimed in English at the prayer service — but also in sung chant — by Melkite Father Nabil Haddad, founder of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, and in particular, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” These, the cardinal said, are today’s Middle East’s Christians.
“We know that we can offer our prayers,” he added. “Prayer helps. Prayer is effective.”
Read the rest.
10 September 2015
A resident of the Deivadan Home in Malayatoor, India, receives a blessing from 96-year-old Father Abraham Kaippenplackal, founder of the Deivadan Sisters. The sisters run the facility, whose mission is to help uplift Kerala’s abandoned elderly. To learn more, read “Fearless Grace” from the July 2010 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
9 September 2015
Syrian children walk amid the dust during a sandstorm on 7 September 2015 at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
A massive sandstorm is taking a devastating and deadly toll on parts of the Middle East this week:
Thick yellow dust blew into Middle Eastern capitals from the east on Tuesday, putting life — and war — briefly on pause.
The massive sandstorm started in Iraq and also blanketed parts of Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.
Health authorities in several countries warned people not to leave their homes, and schools closed in Jordan and Lebanon. Many flights across the region were grounded due to poor visibility. The Syrian regime even called off airstrikes against rebels in central Syria on Monday due to the weather.
While some Syrians had a brief respite from the bombing, the storm presented dangers of its own. Thousands of Syrians were hospitalized with breathing problems and oxygen supplies were running low in some areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. In the Syrian capital Damascus, health officials said they had treated more than 1,200 people, including 100 children, with breathing difficulties.
Several casualties were reported in connection with the storm in Lebanon. The country’s health ministry said two women were killed and some 750 hospitalized. Syrian refugees sheltering in informal camps in Lebanon were particularly hard hit by the storm, Agence France Press reported.
Syria’s health minister urged citizens to “avoid prolonged exposure to the outdoors” and said hundreds of people had been treated for cases of asthma and other respiratory problems.
Thick haze was hanging over Jerusalem and much of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, with officials also warning the vulnerable to stay indoors.
The view from the Mount of Olives — which normally offers a sweeping panorama of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Al Aqsa mosque compound with its golden Dome of the Rock — was completely obscured by the dust.
The thick cloud also enveloped parts of the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where residents were told to limit their time outdoors.
...The interior ministry said that dozens of Syrian refugees who had been rescued from a fishing boat off the coast of Cyprus on Sunday had been moved from a makeshift camp to a better-equipped facility because of the extreme weather.
8 September 2015
Patriarch Gregoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan of Cilicia, leader of the Armenian Catholic Church, embraces Pope Francis at the start of a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican on 7 September. The pope paid tribute to the enduring faith of Armenian Catholics through centuries of persecution. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence, with the recently-elected Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, His Beatitude Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, as well as with the Bishops of Synod of the Apostolic Armenian Catholic Church and the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.
In his homily, the pope spoke poignantly of Christian persecution:
Even today, “Perhaps more than in the early days,” said Pope Francis, [Christians] are persecuted, killed, driven out, despoiled, only because they are Christians”:
“Dear brothers and sisters, there is no Christianity without persecution. Remember the last of the Beatitudes: when they bring you into the synagogues, and persecute you, revile you, this is the fate of a Christian. Today too, this happens before the whole world, with the complicit silence of many powerful leaders who could stop it. We are facing this Christian fate: go on the same path of Jesus.”
The Pope recalled, “One of many great persecutions: that of the Armenian people... the first nation to convert to Christianity: the first. They were persecuted just for being Christians,” he said. “The Armenian people were persecuted, chased away from their homeland, helpless, in the desert.” This story — he observed — began with Jesus: what people did, “to Jesus, has during the course of history been done to His body, which is the Church.”
“Today,” the Holy Father continued, “I would like, on this day of our first Eucharist, as brother Bishops, dear brother Bishops and Patriarch and all of you Armenian faithful and priests, to embrace you and remember this persecution that you have suffered, and to remember your holy ones, your many saints who died of hunger, in the cold, under torture, [cast] into the wilderness only for being Christians.”
The Holy Father also remembered the broader persecution of Christians in the present day. “We now, in the newspapers, hear the horror of what some terrorist groups do, who slit the throats of people just because [their victims] are Christians. We think of the Egyptian martyrs, recently, on the Libyan coast, who were slaughtered while pronouncing the name of Jesus.”
Pope Francis prayed that the Lord might, “give us a full understanding, to know the Mystery of God who is in Christ,” and who, “carries the Cross, the Cross of persecution, the Cross of hatred, the Cross of that, which comes from the anger,” of persecutors — an anger that is stirred up by “the Father of Evil.”
“May the Lord, today, make us feel within the body of the Church, the love for our martyrs and also our vocation to martyrdom,” the Pope said. “We do not know what will happen here: we do not know. Only Let the Lord give us the grace, should this persecution happen here one day, of the courage and the witness that all Christian martyrs have shown, and especially the Christians of the Armenian people.”