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July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
26 August 2013
Greg Kandra

Iconographer Ian Knowles works on a new icon for the shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain, in Anjara, depicting the risen Christ surrounded by scenes from his life. (photo: Nicholas Seeley)

The Summer issue of ONE takes us back to school, to learn about the art and spirituality behind creating icons:

The instructor is patient, demonstrating the basics again and again — how to draw a line with a brush, how to mix the paint, how to find a face in a sheet of white. “Move the paper so it’s easier to draw,” he explains. “Work to your strengths, and know your weaknesses — which is a good spiritual principle! Because what you’re doing is learning spiritual life, really — in a very practical way.”

The teacher is Ian Knowles, a British iconographer who has been working in churches and convents in the Holy Land since 2008. As an artist, he creates extraordinary, vivid images. Though hewing fast to traditional styles and techniques, his pieces can feel strikingly modern, alive with spiritual purpose. It is this, as much as brushwork and technique, that he is attempting to pass along to his students.

“The purpose of the icon is prayer,” he says. “What you need as you paint Christ is to be with him, to experience him.”

Slowly, in a few places, the holy countenance begins to come to life on paper.

It is October 2012, and this is the first class of the Bethlehem Icon Center, an initiative to train students from Palestine in the ancient art of iconography. It is a project at once modest and ambitious. The classes are small and the curriculum, highly specific. But by helping students reach a high level of craftsmanship, the center’s founders hope to create something lasting and profound: not just the seed of a local craft industry, but an expression of the Holy Land’s ancient Christian culture and its role in the development of Christian art.

“Empowering local Christians, finding a way for them to rediscover their artistic, religious tradition in a very specific way — that’s exciting,” says the Rev. Timothy Lowe, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America and the rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, which is a partner of the center, along with Mr. Knowles.

Read more about Prayers in Paint in the Summer issue of ONE.

Tags: Palestine Christianity Bethlehem ONE magazine Icons

26 August 2013
Greg Kandra

Civilians watch as workers remove debris and search rubble for casualties at building hit by shelling in the Bustan al Qasr district of Aleppo, Syria, on 21 August.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)

U.N. says snipers fired on weapons inspectors in Syria (New York Times) United Nations inspectors heading toward the site of a suspected chemical attack in Syria came under fire “multiple times by unidentified snipers” as they sought to cross into rebel-held territory on Monday, the United Nations said, and the first car in their convoy was hit. While there were no immediate reports of injuries, “the car was no longer serviceable,” so the inspectors “returned safely back to the Government check-point,” the United Nations said in a statement in New York, urging the combatants to cooperate with their effort to establish what happened in the attack last Wednesday. “The team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle,” the statement said...

Pope Francis renews calls for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in Syria. “It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.” The Holy Father called on the International Community to do everything in its power to help the “beloved Syrian nation” find a solution to the ongoing conflict. At the end of his remarks, Pope Francis lead all those listening in a prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace...

Patriarch: Christians pay highest price in Mideast conflicts (Vatican Radio) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter says Christians always pay the highest price when conflicts erupt in Middle East countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The cardinal also said that outside countries, especially in the West but also elsewhere, are helping to foment these conflicts...

Egyptian military using religion in propaganda campaign (New York Times) The Egyptian military has enlisted Muslim scholars in a propaganda campaign to persuade soldiers and policemen that they have a religious duty to obey orders to use deadly force against supporters of the ousted president, Muhammad Morsi. The effort is a signal that the generals are worried about insubordination in the ranks, after security forces have killed hundreds of their fellow Egyptians who were protesting against the military’s removal of the elected president — violence by the armed forces against civilians that is without precedent in the country’s modern history. The recourse to religion to justify the killing is also a new measure of the depth of the military’s determination to break down the main pillar of Mr. Morsi’s support, the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Ethiopian nun who may be Jerusalem’s best-kept musical secret (The Guardian) From a small, spartan room in the courtyard of the Ethiopian church off a narrow street in Jerusalem, a 90-year-old musical genius is emerging into the spotlight. For almost three decades, Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù has been closeted at the church, devoting herself to her life’s twin themes — faith and music. The Ethiopian nun, whose piano compositions have enthralled those who have stumbled across a handful of recordings in existence, has lived a simple life, rarely venturing beyond the monastery’s gates. But this month the nonagenarian’s scribbled musical scores have been published as a book, ensuring the long-term survival of her music. And on Tuesday, the composer will hear her work played in concert for the first time, at three performances in Jerusalem. Guebrù may even play a little.

Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Jerusalem Syrian Civil War United Nations

23 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In a grove near the West Bank city of Nablus, women sort olives then remove stems and leaves. To learn more about the life of a Palestinian olive farmer, check out Olive Offerings, from the January 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Ahikam Seri)

Tags: Palestine Farming/Agriculture Palestinians

23 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Grafitti is seen on the walls of an annex of the Chaldean Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Cairo on 18 August. The writing in red reads: “Dog of Israel.” The message in black calls Egypt’s army chief a traitor. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, especially in the impoverished south, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in the last week were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

‘Death to Christians’ a mantra among extremists in Egypt (Our Sunday Visitor) As the war continues to rage, Copts find themselves not only as collateral damage, but as targets of a powerful political group intent on pandemonium. Nuns were paraded through the streets like prisoners of war. In a kind of reverse Passover, Christian homes were marked for destruction. And it doesn’t look like peace will be coming soon for Egypt’s ancient Coptic Church, the primarily Orthodox community that makes up about 10 percent of the population. “The situation for Copts in Egypt is really tragic, and I fear it will only get worse,” reports Sophia Jones, a Cairo-based correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor. “Coptic homes have been marked with X’s before they are burned, dozens of churches have been destroyed, as well as businesses and Coptic orphanages.” Pope Francis called for “peace, dialogue and reconciliation” in Egypt, and includes in his prayers "the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering.” Besides prayer, Catholics also can help Egyptian Christians via the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Its website specifically accepts donations in support of Copts…

U.N.: Syrian child refugees count hits one million (Vatican Radio) The number of Syrian children living as refugees has reached one million, while another two million have been displaced within the country or recruited as fighters. This latest number comes from the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF. The U.N. said that the number of children living as refugees now accounts for half of all Syrians driven abroad by the conflict…

Russia urges Syria to cooperate with chemical weapons inquiry (New York Times) Russia urged President Bashar al Assad’s government on Friday to allow United Nations investigators to examine evidence of a suspected chemical weapons attack this week, joining the United States in seeking a full accounting of what happened early Wednesday in the Damascus suburbs. “The Russian side called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the U.N. chemical experts,” according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Russia, which has supported Mr. Assad throughout the conflict, has accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate the government. The Syrian government has denied any involvement. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, said at a diplomatic forum in Seoul on Friday that he could “think of no good reason why any party, either government or opposition forces, would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter…”

Twin blasts kill at least 27 in northern Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Two explosions killed at least 27 people and injured hundreds Friday in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, according to the Lebanese health minister. Ambulances rushed to the scene, and heavy black smoke covered the sky. Preliminary estimates from the health minister reported around 350 people injured in the explosions. The blasts went off near two mosques, which were filled with people on the Muslim day of prayer. A gun battle then broke out nearby between Jabal Mohsen, which supports Syria’s President Bashar al Assad, and the anti-Assad group Bab al Tabbaneh. Tripoli has seen clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, a Shiite sect to which Assad belongs…

Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians

22 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this photo from May, a boy displaced by fighting in Syria attends a class in the governorate of Idlib, Syria. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)

Issam Bishara, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, has compiled a brief report on the state of displaced Syrian Christians — both inside Syria and abroad. An excerpt:

In a communication sent to Agenzia Fides, the Syriac Orthodox Church claimed that over 90 percent of the Christians of Homs have been expelled by militant Islamists of the Farouq Brigades, who went door to door confiscating homes and forcing Christians to flee without their belongings. Jesuit sources in Homs say most Christians left on their own initiative to escape the conflict between government forces and insurgents. In either case, the Christian population of Homs has dropped from a pre-conflict total of 160,000 to about 1,000.

Though most of the news is tragic, it is important to recall Pope Francis’ urging: “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!” As Mr. Bishara details, there is still cause for hope, as even now people are giving witness to Christ’s love and helping those people experiencing desperate need. For instance:

  • 4,800 displaced Christian families in the area of western Homs and Wadi al Nasara (“Valley of Christians”) have received food and other essentials — hygiene products, winter kits, etc. — in addition to school supplies for around 1,480 students

  • 350 displaced Christian families in Al Hassake were provided food packages

  • 1,000 families isolated in the war zones have been fed

To read the rest, click here. To find out how you can help, follow this link.

To read a Syrian Jesuit’s firsthand account of the great efforts underway to help those affected by the war — especially children — read the Rev. Ziad Hilal’s Letter from Syria, appearing in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE.

Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Relief

22 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Father Dario Escobar prays in the Hermitage of St. Hawqa in Lebanon’s Qadisha Valley. To learn more about the life of a hermit in Lebanon, see Marilyn Raschka’s Heading for the Hills, from the January–February 2002 issue of our magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Tags: Lebanon Priests Prayers/Hymns/Saints Hermit

22 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Startling images from Syria, but use of chemical weapons unclear (New York Times) Scores of men, women and children were killed outside Damascus on Wednesday in an attack marked by the telltale signs of chemical weapons: row after row of corpses without visible injury; hospitals flooded with victims, gasping for breath, trembling and staring ahead languidly; images of a gray cloud bursting over a neighborhood. But even with videos, witness accounts and testimonies by emergency medics, it was impossible to say for certain how many people had been killed and what exactly had killed them. The rebels blamed the government, the government denied involvement and Russia accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate President Bashar al Assad’s government. Images of death and chaos poured out of Syria after what may be the single deadliest attack in more than two years of civil war…

Experts say ‘little doubt’ of chemical weapon attacks in Syria (Der Spiegel) Experts are convinced that the hundreds of people who died in attacks in Syria on Wednesday were the victims of chemical weapons. It is yet to be confirmed, however, exactly what was deployed and whether the Assad regime is indeed responsible. Stefan Mogl, a chemical weapons expert with Spiez Laboratory of the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection, says that after viewing the videos he is left with little doubt: “The combination of symptoms indicates a nerve agent.” Such a thing would be very difficult to simulate, Mogl says. What’s more, many of the victims were children, making it even less likely the scenario could be faked. And the number of people affected by the attack also seems hard to explain by anything other than by the use of chemical weapons…

U.N. chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Syria (Al Jazeera) United Nations inspectors arrived Sunday in the Syrian capital of Damascus on a mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons, as Syrian officials vowed to fully cooperate with them. Their arrival comes after months of refusals by Syria’s government to let the teams into the war-ravaged country, where more than 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began in 2011. The United Nations team’s mission will be limited to investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in three areas, in particular the 19 March attack in Khan al Assal that President Bashar al Assad blames on rebels. The other two sites have been kept secret…

Monastery near Jerusalem defaced in suspected ‘price tag’ attack (Haaretz) Police are investigating a fire bomb attack Monday night on the Beit Jamal Monastery near Jerusalem in the latest “price tag” incident, Israeli shorthand for pro-settlement hate crimes. Perpetrators threw a fire bomb into the entrance hallway and sprayed the monastery walls with the words “price tag,” “death to the Gentiles,” and “revenge.” Footage from security cameras shows fire burning for several minutes, but no vegetation or wooden furniture caught fire and it died out. The Beit Jamal Monastery is known for its good relations with Israelis, who visit to buy its ceramics…

Decade of violence threatens to uproot Iraq’s remaining Christians (Al Monitor) With the rise of internal disputes and religious extremism, Iraqi Christians are fleeing Iraq at alarming rates. This fall, Rafael Aichoa, an Iraqi Christian in his 40’s, will emigrate to Australia, joining the rest of his brothers and relatives. Aichoa realized that his connection to his ancestors’ land had completely come to an end late last year, when he discovered his parents’ mutilated bodies. Unlike Aichoa’s family, Saad Touma, a young Iraqi Christian, succeeded in escaping from his captors in the winter of 2008. Now, along with the rest of his family, Touma is preparing to leave the relatively safe Iraqi Kurdistan Region for Turkey as a prelude to permanent migration to Europe. Like thousands of other Iraqi Christians, Aichoa and Touma fear that the circle of violence in Iraq will widen to include all parts of the country. In the face of repeated targeting, nearly 700,000 Christians emigrated from Iraq, out of a total Christian population estimated at 1.4 million in 2003, according to international reports based on church records and civic organizations. Ablahad Afraim, the head of the Chaldean Democratic Union Party, believes that the number of Christians remaining in Iraq is less than 400,000…

Kidnappings, forced conversions and violence against Christians in India (Fides) Episodes of violence have troubled the Christian communities in India in recent days. Police in Chennai, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, are looking for the parents who attacked their 23-year-old daughter over her conversion to Christianity and her desire to become a nun. A few days before, in the state of Rajasthan, the mother of a Christian pastor was severely beaten by Hindu extremists who had threatened to kill her and cut her to pieces if she did not convert to Hinduism…

Tags: Jerusalem Syrian Civil War Iraqi Christians Violence against Christians Indian Christians

21 August 2013
Bob Pape

(photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Next Wednesday, 28 August, Msgr. Kozar and the staff of CNEWA’s New York office will celebrate Mass for the special intentions of our donors. Over the past several months, we have asked our friends and benefactors to submit their prayer intentions and have been humbled by the hundreds of prayer requests received. If you have a special prayer intention that you would like included at this Mass, please submit it by email to

We are grateful to have this opportunity to pray for our donors and their intentions. Without the prayers and support we receive from our generous friends, we would not be able to fulfill the mission entrusted to us by the Holy Father. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to pray for you.

Tags: CNEWA Donors Prayers/Hymns/Saints

21 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Boys from the Malankara Boys’ Home decide not to let a little rain spoil a perfectly good game of soccer. To learn more about the Malankara Boys’ Home, read Reaching the Young ‘Untouchables’ from the Summer 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)

Tags: India Children Education Indian Catholics Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

21 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Worshipers pray in the Chaldean Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Cairo on 18 August. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, especially in the impoverished south, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in the last week were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

Young Muslim: We can only rebuild Egypt together with Christians (AsiaNews) Muhammad Elhariry, a young Muslim businessman from Cairo, speaks about the growing unity between Muslims and Christians who want to rebuild a nation where different ethnicities and religions have lived together for 1,400 years. “Muslims were impressed by the attitude of Catholics, Coptic Orthodox and Protestant victims of the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Elhariry said. “The Christians did not ask for help from other countries of the same religion, instead they believed in themselves and in the Egyptian people. … We Muslims offered to protect churches and religious buildings, but our Christian brothers and sisters said: ‘Do not waste your souls, they are so precious to us. We have closed these buildings for now. Together we will rebuild our churches once we have eradicated terrorism.’ … What is sacred to one of my neighbors is also sacred for me. I have respect for him and his free will…”

Bishop says Christians and Muslims united against Islamists (AsiaNews) “Egyptian Christians and Muslims are united to change the country,” says Yohanna Golta, Coptic Catholic bishop of Andropoli and auxiliary bishop of Alexandria. In contrast, he notes: “The Muslim Brotherhood is an international movement that is not aiming for the good of Egypt.” The prelate describes the dramatic climate of violence that pervades Egypt and criticizes those who ignore the views of millions of Egyptians and reduce the conflict to a political struggle between the military and Muslim Brotherhood…

Syria opposition alleges chemical strike (Al Jazeera) Syrian activists accused President Bashar al Assad’s forces of launching a gas attack that reportedly killed hundreds, according to the Syrian Revolution General Commission — an umbrella organization for at least 40 opposition groups Wednesday. The attack would, if confirmed, be the worst reported use of chemical arms in the two-year civil war. The government attacks reportedly took place in the Ghouta region, east of Damascus, in suburbs including Zamalka, Arbeen, and Ein Tarm. Video footage from districts east of the capital showed people choking, some of them foaming at the mouth, and many bodies with no signs of injuries. The country’s main opposition group, Syrian National Coalition, accused the regime of killing more than 650 people in the attack: “Over 650 confirmed dead result of deadly chemical weapon attack in Syria,” the National Coalition said on Twitter…

Syria divided: Crossing a bridge where a sniper waits (Los Angeles Times) The Karaj al Hajez crossing that spans Aleppo’s Queiq River is a 300-yard stretch of no man’s land that divides the two Aleppos: one held by the rebels, one by the government. Every day, a government sniper holed up in city hall picks off at least a few people. On good days, no one dies. People call it the crossing of death. The first time Battoul crossed, she kept replaying all the terrifying stories she had heard. But once across safely, her fear slipped away. “Life has to go on,” she says. “People cross and someone gets shot and they pick up the martyr and keep going…”

Gaza faces environmental disaster (Al Monitor) People driving through the municipalities of the Gaza Strip can easily tell when they have reached the Wadi Gaza Bridge. They are forced to hold their noses to avoid inhaling the odor of waste and sewage coming from the valley, which has turned into an environmental disaster. Wadi Gaza is one of the main natural features of the Gaza Strip. It stems from the hills of the Negev and the southern highlands of the city of Hebron. It is about 65 miles in length, and it extends from the armistice line east of Gaza to the Mediterranean coast. Not many citizens live on the banks of the valley anymore due to municipal neglect. Furthermore, the Palestinian families there live in constant fear that Israel will open the dams it has set up on its borders with the Gaza Strip, causing a major humanitarian disaster. In January 2010, the Israeli authorities opened the dam of Wadi Gaza without prior warning. This led to the inundation of dozens of houses and the displacement of about 100 Palestinian families. Gaza’s Civil Defense reported having to save seven people from drowning. Fred Bleiha, a local shepherd, says: “The area has transformed from a natural reserve that attracts tourists into a high-risk environmental disaster…”

Albania seizes Orthodox church (Greek Reporter) Tension still prevails in Përmet in Albania, where hundreds of Orthodox residents of the town came into conflict with police outside of the Church of the Virgin Mary. The church was forcibly taken over some days before following the orders of the municipal authorities. Photos of the scene showed crews building a brick wall at the entrance to prevent people from using the church as well as using sheet metal around columns. The municipality sent police to the church in order to implement a controversial Supreme Court decision that the church property belonged to municipal authorities…

Tags: Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Albania

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