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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
30 April 2013
Greg Kandra

A boy receives Communion at an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Temple Hills, Maryland. (photo: Erin Edwards)

A few years ago, the magazine visited a thriving community of Ethiopian immigrants in Washington, D.C.:

Ethiopians began immigrating to the District of Columbia and its suburbs in the aftermath of Ethiopia’s “Red Terror,” a violent political campaign in the late 1970’s led by the country’s ruling Marxist junta, or Derg, that led to the deaths of as many as 500,000 people.

The Derg targeted younger educated professionals, many of whom fled to Sudan and Kenya, or to Europe, before finding refuge in the United States in the 1980’s. After 1991, when the Derg collapsed and a transitional government was formed, the flow of people out of Ethiopia slowed. Yet, to this day relatives of former refugees settle in the United States.

Estimates of the number of Ethiopians in the Washington, D.C., area vary widely, with some suggesting as many as 250,000. Dr. Tsehaye Teferra, president of the Arlington-based Ethiopian Community Development Council, puts the number closer to 100,000. The community is scattered, with Ethiopians living in the Virginia cities of Alexandria and Arlington and the Adams Morgan and Shaw neighborhoods of the District of Columbia.

In 2005, the Ethiopian community in Adams Morgan tried unsuccessfully to designate 9th Street NW, between T and U streets, as “Little Ethiopia.” With or without the official designation, a short walk down either 9th or U streets shows that this stretch of the historically African-American neighborhood is unmistakably Ethiopian. Eateries such as Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant, Abiti Ethiopian Cuisine and Queen of Sheba Restaurant serve traditional stews of chopped and marinated beef or lamb, often with peppers, onions and spices, accompanied by — or served atop — injera, a soft, flat, spongy bread, to a diverse clientele.

Read more about this vibrant neighborhood in the March 2009 issue of ONE.

Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity United States Ethiopian Orthodox Church Immigration

30 April 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis shares a light moment with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a private meeting at the Vatican on 30 April. Peres officially invited Pope Francis to Israel and left their meeting saying that “all the people of Israel” are expecting him. (photo: CNS/Ettore Ferrari, pool via Reuters)

Pope meets with Israeli president (Vatican Radio) Today in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received in audience Israeli President Shimon Peres. President Peres went on to meet with Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial talks, the leaders discussed the political and social situation in the Middle East. A speedy resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians is hoped for, so that an agreement may be reached that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples, thus decisively contributing to the peace and stability of the region…

Huge explosion rocks Damascus (Al Jazeera) A blast near Syria’s interior ministry has rocked the central Damascus district of Marjeh, killing 13 people and injuring over 70 others, state television said, just a day after the country’s prime minister survived a car bomb attack. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) gave a lower toll, saying nine people were killed in Tuesday’s blast. The group, which relies on a network of activists based in Syria, did not immediately provide details on those reported casualties, but warned that the number of casualties was expected to rise…

Car bombs across Iraq kill at least 22 (L.A. Times) Shiite-dominated areas in southern and central Iraq were rocked Monday by car bomb explosions that killed at least 22 people and fueled fears that the country is sliding into a civil war. The bombings Monday — particularly in the city of Amarah, which has largely avoided such attacks — appeared aimed at jarring the country’s Shiite majority. Car bombs also exploded in a market in the center of Mahmoudiya, just south of Baghdad; a factory area in the southern Shiite shrine city of Karbala; and a restaurant in Diwaniya, also in the south. With the country in crisis, the parliamentary speaker, Usama Nujaifi, called for the government to be dissolved and for a caretaker government to be formed ahead of early elections to save the country from civil war…

European bishops meet to analyze Christian-Muslim relations (VIS) The Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe will be meeting in London from 1-3 May to discuss Christian-Muslim relations. Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux, will chair the meeting. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue will be a keynote speaker…

Pope Francis to meet with Coptic pope (Fides) The next visit of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II to Pope Francis, scheduled for Saturday, 11 May, “could have important and positive results,” says Coptic Catholic Bishop Fahim Awad Hanna. “I also hope that we can resume the thread of theological dialogue and really start to walk towards full communion.” The event will occur 40 years after the meeting in Rome between Pope Paul VI and Shenouda III, the previous Coptic pope. On that occasion a theological dialogue between the two Churches began which in 1988 led to an agreement and a joint declaration on Christology that was to put an end to centuries of misunderstanding and mistrust…

Catholic Church in Ethiopia is a ‘small reality’ appreciated by all (Fides) “We are a small reality but our contribution to the social and spiritual life of the Country is appreciated by all,” says Father Hagos Hayish, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia. “Catholics in Ethiopia represent about 1 percent of the population, [the rest belonging] to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church or to the Islamic religion,” explains Father Hayish. “The Catholic Church, however, is well regarded by both the population and the authorities for its social activities and its attitude of openness to all, Christians and Muslims.” To promote interfaith dialogue the Interfaith Council of Ethiopia has been created, in which the Catholic Church has been called to play an important role, a sign of respect and trust…

Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Middle East Peace Process Ethiopian Catholic Church

29 April 2013
Antin Sloboda

Canadian Senator Anne C. Cools introduces the documentary “Across the Divide” to Christian leaders in a Parliament building in Ottawa. (photo: CNEWA/Antin Sloboda)

On 15 April, CNEWA Canada joined with the office of Senator Anne C. Cools to organize a special event in Ottawa highlighting the situation of Christian communities in the Holy Land.

The Parliament Hill event brought over 30 community leaders representing a variety of Christian faith traditions, including Eastern Christians, Anglicans, Catholics, Mennonites, Presbyterians and others. The highlight of the conference was the screening of a documentary about the Bethlehem University, “Across the Divide.” The film is a production of the Salt + Light Media Foundation. CNEWA Canada sponsored its presentation across many Canadian cities in 2012.

Through Bethlehem University, we can see how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has had a negative impact on the local Christians, who desire only to live in peace. Besides presenting the challenges these Christians face, the film also offers signs of hope. It shows how the leadership of the university and the students of many faiths together are committed to working for the benefit of all.

After the screening, participants shared their communities’ experiences in promoting peace in the Holy Land. Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, moderated the constructive dialogue. The Rev. Thomas Rosica, C.E.O. of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, played an important part in stimulating the discussion as a panelist.

Senator Cools concluded by encouraging leaders of the Ottawa Christian communities to continue working together so one day peace might become a reality for all in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.

If you would like to order the film, contact Salt + Light Television.

And to learn how you can support Bethlehem University, click here.

Tags: Middle East Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Middle East Peace Process CNEWA Canada Bethlehem University

29 April 2013
Greg Kandra

Camels rest beside the road to Petra. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

In 2002, the magazine took readers to the Holy Land and the ancient ruins of Petra:

The holy sites in Jerusalem and its environs have sometimes seemed at the very center of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But there is a part of the Middle East that is politically stable, quietly peaceful and where a landscape full of biblical stories can be found. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — which emerged out of the post-World War I division of the Middle East by Britain and France — a part of what Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land, has played a pivotal role in the ongoing struggle in the region.

Within the desert kingdom’s boundaries can be found some of the best preserved traces of antiquity and significant evidence of early Christianity. With its awe-inspiring ruins, Petra, the ancient fortress city carved out of rock in the Valley of Moses, is the site of many of these archaeological treasures.

Participating in an exploratory dig in 1973, the noted archaeologist Kenneth W. Russell detected some previously overlooked ruins while supervising the excavation of a colonnaded street. He saw a semicircular foundation protruding from the soil and thought this might be part of a church. Intrigued, he revisited the site several times since his initial discovery.

In the spring of 1990, Russell returned to Petra to explore the site in depth. Both the size of the structure, with its semicircular apse, facing east, and surface materials including a portion of mosaic, helped him identify the site as a major Byzantine church.

Because of Russell’s untimely death in May 1992, he did not live to see the church unearthed. However, his friends, Pierre and Patricia Bikai from the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, followed Russell’s lead and the public can now view the church.

No one knows who brought Christianity to Petra, the “rose-red city, half as old as time” located in southern Jordan about halfway between the Gulf of Aqaba and the southern end of the Dead Sea. It is known, however, that the Nabateans, an Arab people who controlled the caravan routes from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and farther north, made this isolated and well-hidden location inside deep sandstone cliffs their capital…

Read more about Petra in Rose-Red City, Half as Old as Time.

Tags: Jerusalem Jordan Holy Land Architecture Church

29 April 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this October 2011 photo, Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter holds a press conference at CNEWA's New York office, discussing topics including hostilities between Israel and Lebanon. (photo: CNEWA/Erin Edwards)

Israel fencing off Lebanese village would violate U.N. resolution (Al Monitor) Recently, Israel began to build a fence around the northern part of Ghajar, a Lebanese village that it has occupied since 2006. Lebanese security forces revealed to Al Monitor that Israel had previously erected a barbed-wired fence around the northern Lebanese part of the village, to prevent — according to their claims — armed men from infiltrating the southern part of the village located in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Israel, however, is now intent on replacing this with a five-meter-high fence. This act ignores the 2006 United Nations Resolution 1701, which called for Israel’s withdrawal. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, in a press conference at CNEWA’s New York office in October 2011, had asked the world community to “commit itself to implementing” this resolution…

Eastern churches’ Holy Week begins with prayers for kidnapped bishops (Fides) The Christian communities in Syria are working together to plead for the release of the two bishops of Aleppo kidnapped — the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox Boulos al Yazigi — through prayer vigils, liturgical celebrations, demonstrations and sit-ins. Amid the chaos of civil war, Holy Week for the Eastern churches has begun…

Assassination attempt on Syrian prime minister sends warning to regime (Christian Science Monitor) The Syrian prime minister survived a bomb attack on his convoy this morning in a wealthy neighborhood of Damascus, though his bodyguard was killed and several others were injured in the blast. The attack in the upscale neighborhood highlights the increasing vulnerability of the Assad regime, as it is home to many government officials and several embassies — including the Swiss embassy, located only 100 yards from the blast, according to the Associated Press…

Cardinal Dolan prays for kidnapped archbishops in Syria (U.S.C.C.B.) “We join with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in ‘praying that they may return to their communities soon.’ The kidnapping of two men of peace is a sign of the terrible violence that is destroying the fabric of Syrian society. We will continue to work through all channels with the Holy See, the diplomatic and international community and all agencies of good will. I plead for their release and for a political solution that ends the violence and protects the citizenship rights of all Syrians, including minorities”…

Settlers burn Greek Orthodox church land in Jerusalem (IMEMC) On Sunday evening, 28 April, a group of extremist Israeli settlers set fire to lands that belongs to the Greek Orthodox church in Wadi Hilweh, in occupied East Jerusalem. On Saturday, three Palestinians, member of the Al Maghribi family, in Sheikh Jarrah, were injured after the settlers burnt the family’s land near their home, and the fire reached their residence…

Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Israel Israeli-Palestinian conflict Separation Barrier

26 April 2013
Greg Kandra

In Eritrea, a young Orthodox monk — wearing a modern digital watch — chants from an ancient manuscript. To learn more about the Orthodox faithful in Eritrea, read Ancient Church in Young Nation from the November 2003 issue of the magazine. (photo: Chris Hellier)

26 April 2013
Greg Kandra

In this photograph from November 2012, Coptic Pope Tawadros II conducts an interview in Cairo.
(photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

Jordan calls on U.N. to act on Syria crisis (The Daily Star) Jordan on Thursday called on the U.N. Security Council to declare the exodus of refugees from Syria a threat to international security and to organize a visit to the region. Jordan fears that with more than 505,000 Syrian refugees now in the country it risks being overwhelmed and drawn into the crisis, diplomats said. Jordan’s U.N. ambassador Prince Zeid al Hussein said in a letter to the Security Council that the huge influx across the border since the Syria conflict erupted in March 2011 “threatens the security and stability of our country”…

Coptic Pope says Christians feel sidelined and neglected (Reuters) Egypt’s Christians feel sidelined, ignored and neglected by Muslim Brotherhood-led authorities, who proffer assurances but have taken little or no action to protect them from violence, Coptic Pope Tawadros II said. In his first interview since emerging from seclusion after eight people were killed in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians this month, the pope called official accounts of clashes at Cairo’s Coptic cathedral on 7 April “a pack of lies”…

Syrian bishops’ kidnapping raises fears (The Daily Star) The abduction of two Christian bishops in Aleppo earlier this week has heightened Christian fears and deepened sectarian tensions in Syria and the region, senior Christian leaders told The Daily Star on Thursday…

Separation wall to be built in Cremisan Valley (Society of St. Yves Press Release) The Israeli Special Appeals Committee for land seizure under emergency law released its verdict last Wednesday, in the case of the Cremisan Valley against the separation wall. The verdict ruled in favor of the proposed second route, which leaves the convent on the Palestinian side of the wall…

Knights of Columbus international headquarters mounts display of Russian icons (Connecticut Post) Orthodox Christians revere Russian icons as sacred devotional pieces. But to others around the world, they are magnificent treasures, collected and cherished for their beauty, artistry and history. Simply put: The appeal of Russian icons is international, extending beyond religious or ethnic background. With this in mind, the museum at the Knights of Columbus’ international headquarters in New Haven (where the organization was founded) has mounted “Windows into Heaven: Russian Icons & Treasures,” which will be on view for more than a year — through 27 April 2014. The exhibition has opened in time for Orthodox Easter on Sunday, 5 May…

25 April 2013
Michael J.L. La Civita

Children play basketball outside of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ezraa, Syria. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

While we await word on the fate of the two archbishops abducted earlier this week in northern Syria — and offer our prayers — we plumbed through our archives and unearthed an interesting story from a gentler time about the ancient Christian villages of the plain of Houran in southern Syria.

In 2004, writer Marlin Dick and photographer Armineh Johannes spent a week in the Houran capturing in word and film the lives of these Christians who tilled the same soil as their Roman ancestors, inhabited Roman houses and worshiped in ancient Byzantine churches.

Christians and Muslims in one village, Ezraa, together venerate St. George, “the patron saint of the town’s Greek Orthodox church, built in 512, and the oldest functioning church in Syria,” the author writes. He continues:

Like their Muslim neighbors, Christians often refer to the church as “Khudr Ezraa,” or St. George of Ezraa, using its Arabic name.

“Islam and Christianity both revere Khudr,” says the village’s Melkite Greek Catholic pastor, Father Elias Hanout. “Muslims and Christians here all study together and work together. Today we have a better understanding of each other. We visit each other, attend each other’s funerals and weddings.”

What seemed like a matter of routine in 2004 is today, just nine years later, exemplary. The Houran now hosts some of the fiercest fighting between government forces and rebels. And the fate of its peoples, churches and mosques remains unknown. What we have left are words and pictures, and in my own case, the memories of a memorable visit in autumn 1998.

After I had spent a long day visiting CNEWA-supported projects in the area, an elderly parish priest and his wife welcomed me into their home. I recall fondly their delightful company, and I can still taste the anise-flavored arak, the sweet stuffed eggplant and the succulent tomatoes from their tiny kitchen.

May the Houran’s fields bring forth fruit once again, and God preserve its people.

Tags: Syria Cultural Identity Unity Village life Houran

25 April 2013
Carl Hétu

Jasmine and sisters in their apartment in Amman, Jordan. (photo: CNEWA)

This past March marked the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. When the dust from the invasion appeared to have settled, an insurgency more powerful than the invasion whipped through Iraq, its turbulence destroying what remained. Anarchy reigned and those powerless to defend themselves were its victims. Everything changed for Iraq’s Christians. Today, fewer than 300,000 Christians remain, but they live in the north after fleeing their homes in Baghdad. This past Easter, many of the faithful attended liturgies in churches protected by armed guards.

But those are the ones who stayed. About 700,000 Christians (or 70 percent of the prewar number of Christians in Iraq) were forced to leave their homeland. Among them was a young Christian woman named Jasmine. Her story reflects the stories of thousands of Christians who are now living in limbo and need a sign of hope.

I met Jasmine last year. She had been living in Jordanian capital of Amman with her mother and two sisters after fleeing Iraq in October of 2011.

Extremists demanded she convert to Islam. They laughed at her for being Christian. They harassed her sisters, who are mentally challenged. Jasmine’s father died five years ago. The family is poor and her mother is sick — but Jasmine eventually saved enough money to move them to safety in Jordan.

Now Jasmine and her family are scraping by in a poor slum. The family dreams of moving one day to North America. As with so many other refugees, she is awaiting resettlement for a new life. But the process has been prolonged and even put on hold due to the war in Syria.

It is a harsh life, but she still has hope, thanks to CNEWA, which provides families such as Jasmine’s with food, shelter, medicine and pastoral care — enabling her family and many others to live in dignity in such tough conditions.

This can only be done with your generous support.

Many more families need help. Your prayers and sacrifices are very much needed.

Click here to learn how you can help.

25 April 2013
Aleena Gichie

Some of the women of CNEWA’s world are these sisters from the Society of Nirmala Dasi (“Servants of God”) in India. In this 2007 photograph, they share a light moment over a meal at Anugraha Sadan (“House of Blessings”) in Trichur. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor,  R.S.M.)

Aleena Gichie is a charitable giving advisor for CNEWA in New York.

“In the church and in the journey of faith, women … have a special role in opening the doors to the Lord.” So observed our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. And it sure is true here at the Catholic Near East Welfare Association! Women make CNEWA work. So I want to take a moment to share my appreciation for the women of CNEWA.

First are the sisters who do God’s work in the places we serve. For example, Sister Belaynesh in Ethiopia. She runs a Catholic school that serves the poorest of the poor. But her children receive a quality education and free meals to sustain them, thanks to her careful stewardship. I marvel at how she stretches every penny into a nickel and every nickel into a dime for the sake of her children. Sister Belaynesh doesn’t have much, but she is creative. Some of her classrooms are built from old shipping containers.

There are also the women who work in the nine CNEWA offices around the world. Perhaps the best known was Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M., who has been a part of our family for many years. You probably saw her photos and stories in ONE magazine or read the emails she used to send. Sister Christian is now retired, but not without blessing us with her gifts — both on paper and in person. My prayers and gratitude are forever with her.

Eileen Fay is another wonderful woman of CNEWA. You may have had the pleasure of speaking with Eileen if you have ever called our New York office. She is a donor relations representative who has worked with us for more than 50 years. Eileen recently retired. Yet she didn’t leave us — she continues to support the mission of CNEWA by very generously volunteering three days a week.

Last but not least are the women who are reading this blog post — our donors! You deserve a special “thank you,” for you are the ones who make possible our great work. With your help, CNEWA and our partners, like Sister Belaynesh, are able to do far more good. God bless you and all of the women in our family. You are making it a better world for all!

To learn about some of the other great women working with CNEWA, check out this video. And to find out how you can help keep their work going, visit this giving page.

Tags: CNEWA Sisters Education Donors Women

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