1 August 2012
A Coptic priest celebrates the liturgy at a church in Deir Azra, a Christian village in Upper Egypt. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Last week, Trudy Rubin, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported on the reactions within Egypt’s Coptic community to the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi as president:
There were simmering tensions between radical Muslims and the Coptic community under the Mubarak regime, including attacks on the Copts' places of worship. To open new churches, Copts were required to get presidential permission, which was rarely forthcoming, forcing them to worship in “unlicensed,” and thus vulnerable, structures.
“We thought the revolution would solve our grievances,” Sidhom said, ruefully. “It took a lot of people by surprise that Islamists were able to take advantage of the revolution.”
Under Hosni Mubarak, she said, despite the problems, ultraconservative Salafi Muslims had no power. Now, young Salafis return from the cities to their home villages, where Copts and Muslims have lived side by side, and warn them against Christian “infidels.” She reeled off a list of churches that have been burned down since the revolution.
For more from this story, read Copts in Egypt are watching and worrying.
23 July 2012
Tags: Egypt Village life Coptic Christians Coptic Church
A woman in Aksum, Ethiopia, rests after a pilgrimage that celebrates one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion, or Mary of Zion. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague’s photographs of Ethiopians celebrating one of the holiest days on the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar — the feast of Mary of Zion — were used in a beautiful photo essay. The images helped to depict the importance and holiness of the day to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians:
Pilgrims to Aksum are not unlike the Christian pilgrims of the Middle Ages, who traveled to the Holy Land, or the Muslim pilgrims of today, who journey to Mecca. A pilgrim’s trek to Aksum is an outward expression of his or her faith, a quest for the sacred, an expedition that includes prayer, reflection, penance and almsgiving. And while this quest is not obligatory, it is a practice that has remained widespread among the region’s Orthodox Christians — clergy, religious and lay — despite coups, civil strife and famine.
Several days before the feast, thousands of pilgrims leave their homes and head north on foot (many take buses, few fly), carrying their bedding and food. Pilgrims must abstain from meat and dairy products as well as sexual intercourse for three days before the feast. Some practice acts of mortification — a rite of purification — as they process to Aksum. Others give alms to the beggars who line the paths leading to the object of the pilgrims’ devotion.
For more, read Ethiopia Celebrates Mary.
11 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Saints
Capuchin Franciscans take a break from a continuing education and formation program for catechists in Bhurat, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Through this blog, Msgr. John Kozar has shared countless stories and photos that make the world seem a lot smaller and bring you closer to the people we serve. Back in April, Msgr. Kozar shared some inspiring stories from his first pastoral visit to Ethiopia:
Another very inspiring experience on this day was a brief visit to a class being given to catechists, as part of their continuing education and formation program. And to me an amazing part of their story is that each of them has been chosen for this most important role by their respective communities. They must be men and women of great faith, willing to share their faith with others as catechists.
The big campus at Bhurat also includes a health clinic. Two sisters from India run it and do a superb job in offering first-rate healthcare in an environment of loving kindness. We ended our visit with a marvelous meal, which included the ritual roasting of coffee beans and serving of rich Ethiopian coffee. With us for the entire visit to this site were the elders, almost serving as our security team and “honor guard.” In fact, the honor was all ours.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s detailed blog series from his time spent in Ethiopia, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
29 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Seminarians Ethiopian Catholic Church
Parishioners pray during the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During Msgr. John Kozar’s first pastoral visit to the Ethiopia in April, he witnessed just how faithful the Ethiopian Catholic community is, despite being small in number:
My first exposure to the rich Ge’ez Rite would come at an early morning Divine Liturgy the following morning at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The bishop and most of the eparchy’s priests concelebrated the ancient liturgy. I was taken aback by the beauty of the liturgy, the amazing intricacy of the chanting, not just of the bishop and the priests, but all the many faithful who had assembled as well. The cathedral had a large of number of people for this ordinary weekday eucharistic liturgy, celebrated at 6:20 a.m. All of the faithful are farmers and some regularly walk great distances to attend.
Another impressive aspect of the cathedral is the outstanding paintings that adorn most of the walls. These are works of art in progress, as the bishop has commissioned an 80-year-old Orthodox priest-iconographer to paint the cathedral murals. After four years of labor, I would say this venerable priest is about 80 percent finished. He lives with the bishop and two other Catholic priests assigned there, together sharing their lives, meals and prayers. I had the honor to meet this outstanding artist and thanked him for his great gift.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s first blog post in his series from Ethiopia, A Warm Welcome.
22 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church Church
In this photo taken in 2005, two young orphans are cared for at the Kidane Mehret Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2009, thanks to generous CNEWA donors, the Kidane Mehret Catholic School in Ethiopia started offering students the opportunity to attend 11th and 12th grades. This means that young children, like those featured in the photo above, are promised a brighter future. In this month’s CNEWA Connections e-newsletter, we featured a letter from a recent graduate of the school:
We and our families are so grateful to the CNEWA family and Mr. Doty. If it were not for you, we could not have gotten a good education.
What I am trying to say is that regular schools do not have as many resources as we have. Regular schools may have a science lab, but not enough lab material for the students. Regular schools do not have a sufficient number of computers, but we have a computer for every student who needs one. Thanks to CNEWA, we have enough.
I always thank God because He is always with me. I also thank CNEWA because you are my source of success. God willing, I want to graduate from university and help my family, my school and my country.
For more read, “We Are So Grateful to You.”
19 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Orphans/Orphanages Catholic Schools
Budding artists at work in the Asela orphanage school in Ethiopia. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Four years ago, we took readers to a remarkable facility in Ethiopia, the Asela school, where children with special needs were being given both help and hope:
Since the Consolata Fathers opened the doors of the Asela school and orphanage some 28 years ago, more than 500 boys — abandoned and often disabled — have graduated. The facility now cares for more than 150 children with diverse backgrounds from the Ethiopian region of Oromia, meeting the full range of their basic needs as well as providing them with a reputable education.
Chief among the facility’s accomplishments has been the quality schooling it offers to all its children. The general curriculum centers on traditional academic subjects, preparing most students for a high school diploma.
For those students better suited for a skilled trade, the Consolata Fathers have in recent years developed a vocational training program that offers a variety of specializations, including wood and metal works, auto mechanics, house painting and sewing. The vocational program prepares students for a certificate of technical expertise in an elected trade skill rather than the conventional high school diploma. Students in the vocational programs receive instruction from highly qualified professionals in the field and use state-of-the-art machinery, which has been installed on the premises.
Read more about Revealing Hidden Talent in the January 2008 issue of ONE.
15 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa ONE magazine North Africa
A resident of the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, studies.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
It’s a fair question any donor might ask: “Where does my money go?” Well, this Friday, we offer a few answers. Here are five things that happen when you give to CNEWA:
Your gift ends up on the table of a family fleeing the violence of Syria.
About 240 Christian families have fled the embattled city of Homs, as the situation deteriorates by the day. A parish priest and religious sisters are sheltering them away from the violence. But for as little as $108, you can give a month’s worth of lifesaving aid to one family — aid that offers food and medicine to people in dire need right now.
It ends up helping support a sister in India.
Maybe she’s a novice, prayerfully awaiting her final vows. Maybe she’s working with orphans and needs textbooks or supplies. A gift from you will go into her hands, and be an investment in a more hope-filled future. In 2011, your generous gifts sponsored the formation of 507 novices studying in India! And for the next 60 days, one of our benefactors has agreed to match any gifts to sisters, dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000. Such a deal!
It will give schoolbooks and a warm meal to a child orphaned by AIDS.
Countless children have been left abandoned or alone by disease or war. CNEWA helps provide them with hope, and a future. Maybe it’s medical care. Maybe it’s food or shelter. Whatever the circumstances, your sponsorship invests in their future — and invests, really, in our future, too.
It helps bring an end to conflict by actually getting people to talk to one another.
Part of CNEWA’s mandate by the Holy Father is to encourage ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Your gift can support local churches in CNEWA’s world, bolstering their good works, building bridges and fostering understanding and closer ties with all believers.
Maybe best of all: somebody, somewhere, will pray for you.
And who doesn’t need prayers? All the people you help, and even the Holy Father himself, will raise grateful prayers to God for you. Also, on Christmas Eve, Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, will travel to Bethlehem on your behalf and celebrate Midnight Mass at the Basilica of the Nativity for your special intentions.
Giving to CNEWA is an investment in a better, more peaceful world. We connect you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build the church, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue, affirm human dignity and inspire hope.
14 June 2012
Tags: CNEWA Children Africa Donors Sponsorship
In this 2006 image, Father Douglas May stands in front of a Cairo plaza and mosque across the street from the Our Lady Queen of Peace Home for Mentally Handicapped Children.
(photo: Octavio Duran/Maryknoll Mission Archives)
Father Douglas May grew up in a small town near Buffalo, New York, but now serves as a Maryknoll missionary in Cairo. From time to time he will offer his insights and perspectives “on the ground” from Egypt. Here, he offers a brief introduction to the work he does.
After working with Maryknoll in Kenya for four years, I returned to Egypt in late January of 2012. As the only native-born American, English-speaking priest in Egypt, I provide pastoral services for several communities in the Cairo area. On occasion, I also say the Coptic Catholic Divine Liturgy in both Arabic and English, as the need arises.
In many ways, it’s been a kind of homecoming. I have spent 18 of the last 30 years working in Egypt and was part of the formation-education team at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary for ten of those years.
When I first returned, my original intention was to provide pastoral support for Catholics who speak English as a first, second or third language. It was also to be “Uncle Douglas” for many of my former seminarians who are now priests scattered throughout Egypt. But with the encouragement of the Holy See’s nuncio, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, I applied for and got the position of “International Coordinator” for the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation and the Center for Arab-West Understanding (a nongovernmental organization, or NGO).
The Center for Arab-West Understanding (CAWU) and its company, The Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation (C.I.D.T.) in Cairo, are some of the few “on-site” organizations fostering Muslim-Christian dialogue and sociopolitical pluralism in Egypt and in the Middle East. It supports forums and workshops among religious and political leaders; reviews and critiques media information on the internet, TV and in the press; runs an intern program for students from Arab and Western countries; provides an internet library; and offers translation services. The Arab-West Report is run by C.I.D.T. It is the largest English-language website in the world concerning Christian-Muslim relations and reviews Arab and Western media reports on TV, the internet and in the printed media. It has become a reliable source of information for many writers and reporters.
While my focus over my first four months has been finances and fundraising, I hope eventually to do some “on-site” work in villages where many of my former seminarians are now priests. I want to do whatever I can to help promote interreligious and interdenominational relations, along with sociopolitical and religious pluralism among Egyptians. Being a “foreigner,” I need the help of local leaders, at least on the Catholic side, to do this. Right now, we’re still in the planning stages. In the current environment, it is obvious that efforts have to be made or the sociopolitical and religious situation will only get worse.
Having a labor-relations background and some hotel management experience in the U.A.E. before becoming a priest, I hope that maybe a team approach can facilitate some positive change. I also worked for two years back in the late 80’s with the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Cairo, where I was the only Christian and only American teaching at a nursing school that was run by the society. Looking back on that experience, I realize I learned much more than I taught.
I hope to write occasionally for ONE-TO-ONE, as well as for the A.W.R. website. While I am not an academian nor an expert, I believe that my various experiences and contacts give me the ability to view things differently and offer personal reflections.
12 June 2012
Tags: Egypt Unity Ecumenism Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations
A female member of Kunama village — a peaceful, nomadic people who eventually settled near the border with Ethiopia — can be identified by her jewelery.
(photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Representing CNEWA on a visit to Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2000, Sister Christian Molidor documented a unique group of people that had settled in Eritrea — the Kunama people. Lacking an alphabet and doused in many traditions, the group experienced hard times during the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Sister Christian visited a mobile clinic in the Kunama village:
One by one the women approached the hut with their children. Only three women could fit inside the hut, especially when each mother had several children. Using the posters, a lay catechist explained how polio can be a serious health threat, how to detect the virus and why immunization would help each child. The catechist also described rehabilitation exercises to be used if a child contracted the disease. Illiteracy and language differences did not prevent the women from understanding these facts.
When it was their turn to take the vaccine, some children took the drops with stoic courage; others screamed and their mothers had to hold them while the nurse poured the vaccine into their mouths.
After each child received the vaccine, the women and children remained around the hut visiting with one another, watching others arrive and just enjoying the day “away from home.”
The African sun is unbearably hot, but following tradition the Kunama women wear layer upon layer of flowing garments. Kunama villages are desolate and colorless; it is a small wonder the women wear such lovely, brightly colored clothing. All the women wear colored beads that identify them as Kunama. Some younger women wear jewelry — in their noses, their ears, around necks and ankles; all the children, male or female, wear at least one amulet around their necks. Christians wear crosses or scapulars.
For more, read Strange But Miraculous Medicine.
5 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Health Care Eritrea Women
Msgr. John Kozar completes morning exercises with students of Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Back in April, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited Ethiopia and had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved with CNEWA’s mission and spend time with those whose lives CNEWA has touched. In Addis Ababa, he visited Tekle Ghiorgis School and shared a moment of fun with the students there while learning about the history of the school:
Today, we returned to Addis Ababa. It was a very intense day of visiting, very poignant and emotionally very moving. Our first visit was to an impoverished area of this sprawling city, where we visited Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School. Talk about serving the poorest of the poor: this is it. These children, about 750 of them, come from the most abject of poverty and receive a completely subsidized education, plus a meal to sustain them. The school is situated on a precipice and the sisters there have creatively built classrooms from old shipping containers. Sister Bedainesh is the current director and does a superb job of making all these children feel so special. Her smile is infectious and radiates with all the beautiful children.
How about this for the background of this CNEWA-supported school: Forty years ago, the children of lepers lived in the local cemetery, as no one would let them live near to them. Two lay people decided to confront this gross injustice and actually began this school. They sought the help of a professional educator, a nun from Australia, who would assist them in establishing this marvelous outreach to the despised poor children. Today, it is a jewel and we at CNEWA are blessed to be sponsors of the children here. I did my best to share the love of all of you for these precious little ones. “Let the children come to me.”
Check out all of Msgr. Kozar’s blog posts from his visit to Ethiopia in his blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey ”.
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Catholic Schools