28 February 2014
Two Nirmala Dasi sisters visit a slum neighborhood in Thrissur. (photo: Jose Jacob)
Jose Jacob is a photographer based in India. He’s covered several assignments for ONE, and wanted to share with our readers how that work has affected him.
I live in a country where we Christians are considered a minority. I still remember in my childhood, when a TV series on the life of Jesus Christ suddenly stopped telecasting. Weeks later reports emerged that it was feared that the series would cause communal disharmony and so was being discontinued.
When I was working on my master’s degree, I had friends who were victims of the Kandhamal riots, one of the most inhuman attacks against Christians in the eastern state of Orissa. They still live in constant fear. I was again shocked by the attacks against the churches in Mangalore, which happened in the southern state of Karnataka. Investigations asked only a few questions, and received fewer answers. I found our lives very vulnerable, crushed under such communal clashes.
I took up the assignments from ONE magazine as any other that came my way, never knowing that it would change my life forever. These assignments took me to places where I saw and experienced a different side of life. I met people who had nothing to look forward to, nothing to live for — and yet I saw they were totally content. I met parents who cried during our interviews when they explained their hardships. I visited several institutions managed by Nirmala Dasi Sisters, and was humbled by the selfless services of the sisters there.
They told me their patients lived long for one simple reason: they smiled at them and took care of them as their own. The patients felt loved. Visiting the slum convent and listening to the sisters who lived there was a great experience. I have never seen so many smiling faces before, feeling completely safe in God’s hands.
St. Thomas Church in Palayur is a leading pilgrimage site for Christians in India.
(photo: Jose Jacob)
But I never really discovered my rich Christian heritage until my journey to Palayur’s St. Thomas Church. The interview with Mr. Menachery was a true eye-opener; there was so much richness to the history — and we were a part of it! The journey revealed so much about our culture. I now feel real proud to be an Indian Christian.
All of these were possible only through CNEWA, an organization so dedicated in preserving Christian values and faith across the world. The work done by the organization not only helps the needy, but also transforms their lives forever. I was really happy to document CNEWA’s services in this part of the world, and feel proud to be a part of CNEWA’s great vision.
I hope that the light of compassion this organization carries continues to spread and nurture true Christian values among all people.
28 February 2014
Tags: India CNEWA Sisters Indian Christians Thomas Christians
Perla Akiki receives Communion from her father, Father Wissam Akiki, after he was ordained to the priesthood on 27 February at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. Father Akiki is the first married man to be ordained a priest for the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church.
(photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)
28 February 2014
Pope Francis meets with 45 important interfaith leaders from Argentina who have just returned from the Holy Land. (photo: Vatican Radio/L’Osservatore Romano)
Ukraine’s ex-President makes first public appearance (BBC) Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych has made his first public appearance since being ousted last week, telling a news conference in Russia he would fight for his country. He said he was “not overthrown’, but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life. Those who drove him from power were “young neo-fascist thugs”, he said. He said current tensions in Crimea were “understandable” but stated his desire for Ukraine to remain united...
Christians fleeing Syria to return to Turkey (Reuters) When Louis Bandak fled the violence in Syria, he sought refuge in the country his grandfather was forced to abandon exactly 90 years ago this week. Bandak, his wife and two daughters are part of a small but growing trickle of Christians arriving in Turkey after three years of civil war in Syria killed more than 140,000 people. “Although I had never been here before, it does not feel strange. This too is my homeland,” says Bandak, sitting in warm winter sun outside the 5th Century Mor Abrohom Monastery in Midyat, 30 miles north of the border. While most Christian refugees are in Lebanon or Jordan, countries with which they share linguistic or cultural ties, several thousand have come to Turkey. For many it is a reversal of their ancestors’ flight around a century ago, when World War One and the subsequent building of the post-Ottoman Turkish state made Turkey a hostile land for millions of Christians...
Pope meets with interfaith group on its return from Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has met with 45 important interfaith leaders from Argentina who have just returned from the Holy Land, which the Pontiff himself is due to visit in May. Thursday’s meeting in the Santa Marta guesthouse included 15 Jews, 15 Muslims and 15 Catholics. Their trip covered many of the stops which the Holy Father is expected to visit during his brief pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The group met leading political and religious authorities and visited the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions...
Syriac community receives deed for ancient monastery land in Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News) The lands of the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin have been returned to the Syriac community, completing an important step in the slow-running restoration of the group’s property...
Study shows 74% of children in Kerala addicted to tobacco (International Business Times) Kerala, India’s most literate state with more than 93.91 percent literacy rate, is also home for largest number of alcoholics, cancer patients and children addicted to tobacco. A study by National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) revealed this startling facts. The study said that 74 percent of Kerala’s children between the age group 5-18 consume tobacco. As part of the study, a total of 119 children were covered examining their pattern, profile and substance use, reported American Bazaar...
27 February 2014
Good Shepherd Sister Hannane Youssef greets CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar at the clinic she runs in Beirut. (photo: Michael J.L. La Civita)
Note: CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, and Michael La Civita, chief communications officer, are on a pastoral visit to Lebanon, focusing on the works of the local churches caring for displaced Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese families.
To most of Lebanon’s visitors, Beirut sprawls along the Mediterranean coast and climbs the steep mountain range that gives this country of 4.5 million people its name. What most do not know is that Beirut is a collection of municipalities and districts with distinct personalities and histories inhabited by families who hail from villages long lost to development. One such neighborhood is Jdeideh in the eastern district of Metn, an industrial area almost entirely populated by Christians. Churches and roadside shrines — often dedicated to the Maronite monk St. Charbel or the Prophet Elijah, better known here as Mar Elias — are as common as colorful vegetable stands. This is the Christian East Beirut of the 1970’s and ‘80’s.
Yet in the middle of Christian Jdeideh rises a Shiite Muslim neighborhood. Ramshackle structures of cinderblock, concrete and tin climb the hill of Rouweissat Jdeidet, which is capped with a snow-white mosque. Long the home of Shiite Muslims, the neighborhood is densely populated with young families, roosters and feral cats. At the base of the hill, the Good Shepherd Sisters run a dispensary that treats some 100 people a day. Founded more than 15 years ago by a Lebanese ascetic known throughout Lebanon as Pere Nour, the dispensary draws the poorest of the poor from the local community and, increasingly, Iraqi and Syrian refugee families. Most of those seeking assistance are Muslim.
Good Shepherd Sister Hannane Youssef was happy to welcome back Msgr. John Kozar, who first visited the clinic during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon in September 2012. “So much has changed since you were last here!” she said. Indeed, the facility had expanded to include more room for gynecological and psychological care, pediatrics, and eye, ear, nose and throat care. But the facility is not a fancy structure — it does not even meet the requirements necessary for accreditation by the Lebanese Ministry of Health.
“This is built with containers, prefabricated materials I myself designed and ordered,” she said.
The modest facility, which is spic-and-span and well lighted, hosts some of the finest medical professionals in Lebanon — more than 35 doctors and health care professionals — who offer their services and talents weekly to the sisters in their care for the poor. In addition to providing treatment, the sisters commission focus groups, who work street by street in the area to determine best the health needs of the community, especially the women.
“We believe the poor deserve the best,” Sister Hannane continued, and “Providence blesses us with these volunteers and support and prayers from our friends.” Moved by the generous spirit of the sisters and their team, Msgr. Kozar pointed out that the CNEWA family was privileged to support the sisters and their work.
“The spirit hasn’t changed,” Msgr. Kozar added. “This is the church of the Middle East at its best!”
27 February 2014
Abba Kidane Mariam Arega talks on his cell phone in a minibus taxi in Addis Ababa.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
In 2010, we paid a visit to Ethiopia and looked at the unusual way of life of some monks in Addis Ababa:
Though hardly the lap of luxury, the monks at this urban religious house enjoy comforts unthinkable in the far more ascetic rural monasteries for which Ethiopian Orthodoxy has long been known.
No one bears witness better to this contrast than Abba Kidane Mariam Arega, who has just arrived in the capital from the rural Georgis of Gasicha Monastery in Wollo. He is on his way to visit old friends at the Ziquala Monastery, a day’s journey from Addis Ababa.
Before dawn the next day, Abba Kidane sets out for Mount Ziquala, an extinct volcano whose peak is home to the monastery. For the next two hours, he drives along the dusty highway that cuts through the golden plains of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley.
Little by little, the sun’s morning rays illuminate the landscape. Nearing Mount Ziquala, the two-mile-high peak casts a wide shadow on the valley. As the sun climbs above the mount, its shadow gradually draws back as though a stage curtain, revealing an ageless vignette — peasants with donkeys tending their fields.
Arriving at the base of the mountain, Abba Kidane pulls into Wanbere Mariam, a small farming village whose outward appearances have not changed in centuries. Only pop music pulsating from an unidentifiable source situates it in the new millennium.
The drive may be over, but the journey is certainly not. The summit of the mountain may only be reached by hiking three hours on a winding trail. Despite the steep, rocky terrain, the monk displays no physical strain, even as his flowing black cassock absorbs the sun’s now blistering rays. The trail’s switchbacks steepen as they climb the mountain; the thick shrubs give way to forest.
Finally, the trail levels out and opens onto a swath of terraced fields. Sweeping panoramic views of the countryside are visible in almost every direction. A weathered sign welcomes visitors to the Ziquala Monastery, where some 230 monks and 120 nuns make their home.
Read more in Relevant or Relic from the November 2010 issue of ONE.
27 February 2014
Flowers and rosaries are seen at the site in Kiev where people have been killed in recent clashes protesting against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Yanukovich, ousted after bloody street protests, is wanted for mass murder. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)
Islamic group imposes rules on Christians in Syria under penalty of death (BBC) A jihadist group in Syria has demanded that Christians in the northern city of Raqqa pay a levy in gold and accept curbs on their faith, or face death. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) said it would give Christian residents “protection” if they agreed to the list of conditions. The announcement came in a statement posted online...
Tensions mount in Crimea (The Washington Post) With unrest growing in the Crimea over Ukraine’s political transformation, a group of armed men seized the local parliament and the regional government headquarters in Simferopol early Thursday morning, barricaded themselves inside both buildings and raised Russian flags, news services reported. They were reported to be wearing plain uniforms without designating marks. The Interfax news agency quoted a local authority as saying the men were from a Crimean self-defense group...
Ukrainians hope their nation has a new beginning (The Catholic Register) As Toronto’s Ukrainians woke up to news that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was on the run in eastern Ukraine after parliament had voted him out of office and that national elections are scheduled for 25 May, they gathered to pray. At Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church all three Divine Liturgies on 23 February included special, added prayers for the future of Ukraine.It caps more than a month of prayers for their homeland at the giant Mississauga parish. “We’re all Ukrainians. We do want to show our respect and solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” said Vlodko, a cantor at the church who declined to give his last name. “And in prayer, that’s the best solidarity we can show...”
Maronites to ordain first married man to priesthood in United States (The St. Louis Review) Pope Francis has granted permission for a married deacon to be ordained to the priesthood for the Maronite Catholic Church for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon. Deacon Wissam Akiki will be ordained 27 February at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. He is married to Manal Kassab and they have a daughter, Perla. He is the first married man to be ordained for the priesthood for the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church. The Maronite Church is Eastern rite and is among 22 Catholic Churches that are in union with each other and under the authority of the pope in Rome. The spiritual heritage of the Maronite Church is traced to a fourth-century hermit, St. Maron...
26 February 2014
Pope Francis blesses a child dressed as the pontiff as he arrives to lead his general
audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 26 February.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
26 February 2014
In this image from November, tents of Syrian refugees are seen at a camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, in the eastern Bekaa Valley. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
Syrian refugee crisis intensifying (Vatican Radio) In more than three years of civil war, more than 100 thousand people have been killed, and more than 2.5 million Syrians have fled their homes. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), just over 2.1 million people have sought refuge in Syria’s immediate neighbours: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Others have remained for the time being inside Syria, while fewer than 100 thousand people have declared asylum in Europe...
In rare statement, Benedict denies he was forced to resign (The Telegraph) Former Pope Benedict, in one of the few times he has broken his silence since stepping down a year ago, has branded as ‘absurd’ fresh media speculation that he was forced to quit. n a rare public statement, the 86-year-old former pontiff insisted that he had freely taken the decision to become the first Pope since the Middle Ages to resign the seat of St. Peter, in a move that shocked the Catholic Church and made headlines around the world...
Patriarch appeals for unity in Ukraine (AsiaNews) The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, on Sunday launched an appeal for the unity and peace in Ukraine at the end of the Sunday liturgy, celebrated in the church of San Michele in Troporevo, in the Russian capital. The primate — reports Interfax news agency — knelt at the altar and prayed to God to grant his light to minds “clouded by violence”...
New Israeli law draws fire (AFP) A new Israeli law giving Muslim and Christian Arab citizens separate representation on a national employment commission drew fire from the Palestinians on Tuesday. “This law aims to create a new reality among our people based on religion and not national identity,” Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement...
Coptic Church denies it is planning to build first church in Saudi Arabia (Arabian Business) The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a statement denying reports it has struck an agreement with Saudi Arabian officials to build the first church in the kingdom. The rumours and reports surfaced after His Holiness Pope Tawadros II met with the Saudi Ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Kattan, in Cairo at the weekend, with the MidEast Christian News agency claiming the possibility of setting up a church had been addressed at the meeting. However, Father Paul Halim, the official spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, told the US Copts Association the reports were “untrue”...
25 February 2014
Mourners carry a large wooden crucifix past a barricade during a memorial procession in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, on 25 February. Dozens of protesters have been killed since November. (photo: CNS/ Yannis Behrakisi, Reuters)
25 February 2014
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, speaks on 25 February during a Rome news conference on the recent events in the Ukrainian capital. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)
Russia cries “mutiny” over change in Ukraine (The Washington Post) Russian leaders expressed their distrust and dislike of Ukraine’s new government on Monday, saying it came to power through “armed mutiny,” just hours after the authorities here announced a nationwide manhunt for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych on charges of “mass murder of peaceful civilians.” Russia questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine’s interim leadership, charging that it used a peace deal brokered by Europe to make a power grab and to suppress dissent in Russian-speaking regions through “terrorist methods...”
Ukrainian archbishop appeals for solidarity (Vatican Radio) The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has made a heartfelt appeal to European Nations for solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine. Speaking to a press conference held on Tuesday at Vatican Radio, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk denounced the fact that the cry of the Maidan protesters went largely unheard and ignored until the explosion of violence last week that left some 100 people dead, and thousands more injured...
Ukraine votes to send fugitive former president to be tried for “serious crimes” (Voice of America) Ukraine’s parliament voted on Tuesday to send fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych to be tried for ‘serious crimes’ by the International Criminal Court once he has been captured. A resolution, overwhelmingly supported by the assembly, linked Yanukovych, who was ousted on Saturday and is now on the run, to police violence against protesters which it said had led to the deaths of more than 100 citizens from Ukraine and other states. The resolution said former interior minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and former prosecutor-general Viktor Pshonka, who are also being sought by the authorities, should also be sent for trial at the ICC, which is based in The Hague...
Israel strikes near Lebanon-Syria border (Aljazeera) Israeli jets have bombarded an area on the Lebanon-Syria border, reportedly hitting a Hezbollah position, a Lebanese security source and a Syrian NGO said, “Two Israeli raids hit a Hezbollah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria,” the source told AFP news agency. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the target was a Hezbollah “missile base”. Lebanon’s state news agency also confirmed the airstrikes, however, there was no immediate confirmation from Lebanese security officials, and the Israeli military declined comment...
Pope Francis: Victims of war deserve mourning, not indifference (CNS) Pope Francis urged people to overcome indifference and to mourn for the innumerable victims of war and conflict around the world. He also condemned those who profit from the manufacturing of weapons and “live large,” lounging in their “parlors” while children in refugee camps starve.In a Mass homily on 25 February, the pope focused on the day’s first reading from St. James and the causes of divisions and conflict. “Where do wars and arguments among you come from,” he asked during his early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. “War, hatred and hard feelings, you don’t buy them at a store, they are here in the heart,” emerging out of people’s passions, he said...