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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
6 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Atsede Gebetsadik attended the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa — a school serving the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia — and has now returned there to teach. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

One of the institutions CNEWA has supported is the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. As we reported in 2013:

The school, run by the Daughters of Charity and supported by CNEWA, is located in the middle of Kachene, the poorest neighborhood of Addis Ababa. It is the only school in the city targeting the poorest of the poor and one of the very few that is financially accessible to them.

Many of the students are orphans, or have lost one parent. A high proportion of people in the neighborhood are blind. Most of the adults get by on a precarious income earned through begging or occasional labor such as weaving baskets, selling grilled corn on the street or cleaning car windows. The daily worries of the children attending the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School go beyond spelling tests and times tables.

“These children are exposed to many risks due to the poverty they live in,” says Assefa Teklewold Worka, the children’s physical education teacher. “They are exposed to tobacco, alcohol or sniffing petroleum from a very early age. They are also at risk from the various diseases that the slum they live in can bring — and, in some cases, from trafficking and coercion into sex work.”

Despite these dangers, many of the school’s students are trying to stay in the game — to get a better education and, they hope, a better life.

In fact, they are playing to win.

One of those who has won is a young woman named Atsede Gebretsadik — a graduate of the school who has returned there as a teacher. She is managing to give back some of what was given to her — and in an interview, she imparted this simple, beautiful message:

“Teaching is a really difficult profession because what you are doing is creating people’s minds,” she says. “It’s not just talk and chalk, it goes further — into the homes of these children. We realize that yes, we are poor, but we challenge this poverty with education.”

That kind of heroic spirit is continuing to make a difference in the lives of many of those CNEWA serves around the world — and Atsede Gebretsadik is a living reminder that it pays off.

To offer your support for young people like Atsede in Ethiopia — many of whom are battling not just poverty but also drought — visit this giving page.

Tags: Ethiopia Children Education

6 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Bells call Georgians to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Tblisi, Georgia. To learn more about the ancient church of Constantinople, and how it is thriving today, read Out of Byzantium in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)

Tags: Eastern Christianity Georgia Eastern Churches

6 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Children play in water from a burst pipe after an air strike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 September. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

In Syria, Eastern Aleppo faces ‘total ruin’ in a matter of months (BBC) Rebel-held eastern Aleppo in northern Syria may face “total destruction” in two months, with thousands killed, the United Nations Syria envoy has said. Staffan de Mistura told reporters that he was prepared to personally accompany Al Qaeda-linked jihadists out of the city if it would stop the fighting…

Syrian forces seize half of rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian government forces seized around half of a key opposition-held neighborhood in Aleppo on Thursday in a new advance against rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said…

Holy See: World cannot ‘lose resolve’ in migration crisis (Vatican Radio) The permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, on Wednesday addressed the executive committee meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

Russian Orthodox Church: Collaboration more important than ever (Asia News) Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov, secretary for relations between Christians from the Moscow Patriarchate, hopes cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics will result in “peacekeepers” and “moral reference points” in a world marked by armed conflicts, terrorism, persecution, consumerism, materialism. He also speaks of the difficulties among Orthodox churches. Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba catalyzed the growth of fraternal relations between Moscow and Rome…

Israel halts yacht trying to break Gaza embargo (The New York Times) Their chances of reaching the shores of Gaza were never high: Thirteen women on a yacht hoping to breach the years-old sea blockade of the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal territory enforced by the Israeli Navy. Naval officers boarded the yacht, the Zaytouna-Oliva, at dusk on Wednesday in international waters, after it had spent eight days at sea. It was searched and redirected toward the southern Israeli port of Ashdod…

Sheptytsky Institute moving to new location (Catholic Register) Canada’s premier center for university-level studies of Ukrainian Catholic theology, tradition and liturgy is moving from Ottawa to Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College. The Andrey Sheptytsky Institute will move from Saint Paul University, where it has operated since 1990, on 1 July 2017. Toronto classes will begin next September. It will offer master’s and Ph.D. programs in Eastern Christian spirituality and doctrine, liturgy, church history and ecumenism…

Tags: Syria Israel Eastern Christianity Migrants Christian Unity

5 October 2016
Don Duncan

Sami El-Yousef, left, surveys damage to a home in Gaza where a Christian woman was killed during the 2014 war. (photo: CNEWA)

In the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE, journalist Don Duncan profiles Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, as part of our special look at the Catholic Eastern churches. Here, He offers some further reflections on what it means to be a Christian in Gaza.

I remember hearing a story from another journalist I knew when I was living in Beirut about a Christian woman in Gaza who had been dragged from her car by people loyal to Hamas who berated her for not wearing the headscarf in public.

There were several things that were shocking about the story: the fact that, in Gaza under Hamas, Palestinian and Muslim were now conflated with no room for other identities; the fact that women in Gaza were now being policed and confronted for their non-adherence to a conservative version of Islam; and the fact that when the woman in question protested yelling “I am Christian,” this made no dent on the men accosting her.

When I got to Jerusalem to do an interview for ONE with Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, I met up with an old photographer friend. She had just left Gaza where she had been on assignment. It had been her first time there and she was quite affected by it. She has lived in the West Bank for periods in the past but that did not fully prepare her for Gaza. The hardship of life there, the lack of security and the inhumanity of the siege imposed on the strip by Israel got to her, but so too did the heavy-handed, centralized conservatism of Hamas. Being in Gaza as a woman, she said, reminded her of being in Saudi Arabia, where she had been many times on assignment.

When I finally met with Mr. El-Yousef in his office in the Old City of Jerusalem, Gaza featured prominently during the interview.

He gave me a much more nuanced insight into the unique position of Christians in Gaza, who now number only 1,200 out of the population of two million. Their welfare and the conditions of their day-to-day lives are very much dependent on Hamas but even more so on the geopolitics in the immediate region — especially the political tones in Egypt and Israel, with which the strip shares its borders.

As in many other countries in the Middle East, the Christian population in Gaza punches above its weight when it comes to its contributions to the non-governmental health and education sectors. But this doesn’t seem to matter so much, Mr. El-Yousef told me, when political tides turn in the region. For example, when the Egyptian Revolution happened and the Muslim Brotherhood finally came into power across the border, Hamas in Gaza found itself with a powerful natural ally and was soon at the height of its power. This was bad for Christians in Gaza who suddenly found more restrictions on their ability to live by their faith. Christmas symbols such as the Christmas tree were ordered to be taken down. Steps were taken to segregate schools by sex. Christian students at the Islamic University of Gaza were obliged to take courses in Islamic law, etc.

Then, when Hamas is at a low — as happened when Israel launched the military “Operation Protective Edge” on Gaza in 2014 — the pressure on Gazan Christians is released. Unfortunately, it is during times of conflict and crisis that Christian hospitals, clinics and schools can shine the most in how they offer non-discriminatory help of all those affected.

Since that last war in Gaza, says Sami el-Yousef, there has been a change in the attitude of the Hamas leadership towards the Christian presence in Gaza: something of a turnaround. Christmas trees were once again permitted behind churches. The project to segregate schools by gender stalled and Hamas representatives actually showed up at churches to wish them a happy Christmas.

The above pattern disturbs me and it is a pattern I have seen facing Christians in Iraq, in Lebanon, Egypt and now in Palestine. When trouble looms and there is a crisis, unity and solidarity prevails and Christians and the value they bring to society are welcomed and utilized. But when things are relatively stable, old distrust and bigotry seem to emerge. It’s a sad cycle and it appears to me to be repeating itself without variation.

I wonder then, why does violence and war have to be such a key ingredient to the embrace and valuing of Christians in the Middle East? Are there any alternatives? By what means could a “majority rules, minority rights” system be encouraged or developed?

Read more about Sami El-Yousef and the Church of Jerusalem in Where It All Began in the latest edition of ONE.

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine War Holy Land Christians

5 October 2016
Greg Kandra

A young student in Ethiopia offers a warm greeting as he begins another school day. CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar paid a pastoral visit to the Horn of Africa earlier this year. See more images from his trip and learn more about the challenges this part of the world faces in this pictorial essay from the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Africa Horn of Africa

5 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis reflected on his recent trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan in his general audience Wednesday. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope reflects on trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on his recent apostolic voyage to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Holy Father said: “This visit complemented my visit to Armenia in June, and fulfilled my desire to visit all three nations of the Caucasus to confirm the Catholic community and to encourage all the people in their journey toward peace and fraternity.” He concluded his address with the prayer, “May God bless Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and guide his holy people in those countries…”

Four Copts, including a child, kidnapped (Fides) Four Coptic Christians, one of whom is a 9-year-old boy, were kidnapped on 3 October in the city of Manfalut, in the province of Assiut, about 220 miles south of Cairo…

Syrian government forces advance on Aleppo (Al Jazeera) Syrian government tanks crossed the frontline in the battleground city of Aleppo for the first time in four years, as a Russian-backed offensive to retake the rebel-held east escalated on the ground. Pro-government forces were “gradually advancing” after street battles on Tuesday in the divided city’s rebel-controlled neighborhoods, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…

The refugee camp at the foot of the Washington Monument (NPR) Sabrina Chang, 30, didn’t know much about the global refugee crisis. “I think I could spit out headlines that I’ve seen, but that’s about it,” she says. But then she found herself — for a moment — in refugees’ shoes. Chang visited Forced From Home, a touring interactive exhibition hosted by Doctors Without Borders, the medical aid group. The exhibit is a re-creation of a refugee camp, about the size of half a school gymnasium, with a store, a hospital and places to sleep. It began its run in New York last month and is at the foot of the Washington Monument until 9 October, then moves to Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

India announces day of interfaith prayer in response to Kashmir crisis (Fides) “We announce a major national prayer to be held on Sunday, 16 October 2016: all the bishops, all the priests, religious and laity, will animate Masses, liturgies, vigils and prayers for the good of the nation. We call on all men and women of good will to join us and pray for our beloved country, invoking God’s blessing on our population.” This is the appeal launched by Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and president of the interreligious Episcopal Conference of India, in response to the Kashmir crisis and the escalation on the border region with Pakistan…

Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Caucasus

4 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Constantine Dabbagh was a key collaborator with CNEWA for many years, spearheading efforts to help the poor in Gaza. (photo: Miriam Sushman)

How do you bring hope to those for whom life seems hopeless?

Constantine Dabbagh, the former executive director of the Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.) in Gaza, spent much of his life answering that question — helping to support clinics and other facilities backed by CNEWA in that troubled, war-torn corner of the world. “He was our greatest collaborator there for the longest time,” said CNEWA’s regional director Sami El-Yousef in a recent email.

We profiled the work of N.E.C.C. in our magazine in 2001, and Mr. Dabbagh explained his efforts to reach out to all in need, regardless of faith:

“Jesus did not help only Christians,” noted Constantine Dabbagh, executive secretary of the council’s Committee for Refugee Work. “This is the Holy Land where Jesus started his mission. It is natural for Christians to witness in this part of the world.”

Two examples of Christian outreach are the Darraj and Shajaia clinics, located in two of the most underprivileged neighborhoods in Gaza City. Both provide pre- and postnatal care as well as general healthcare to approximately 9,500 families. …

At the Darraj clinic, on Well Baby Day, dozens of mothers in traditional Muslim headscarves and long dresses entertain fidgety infants waiting for checkups. Several women have older children in tow. Pregnant women wait in another corridor. A third waiting area is reserved for patients suffering from everything from gastrointestinal distress and colds to diabetes and cancer.

Eager to teach Gaza residents the rudiments of preventative health care, the medical staff has hung posters, some hand-made, detailing the dangers of leaving small children unattended and the health risks of unrefrigerated food. They encourage breast-feeding, good hygiene, especially when handling food or changing a baby, and proper overall nutrition — not an easy task for those who live in poverty.

This heroic work continues in Gaza to this day — and we cannot forget people like Constantine Dabbagh who have helped to make it possible.

Tags: CNEWA Gaza Strip/West Bank Children Education Health Care

4 October 2016
Greg Kandra

President Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomes Bishop Bosco Puthur to CNEWA’s New York offices. (photo: CNEWA)

Yesterday, the bishop of a young eparchy in Australia stopped by for a visit, and had a chance to share his thoughts about the unique challenges his church faces Down Under.

Bishop Bosco Puthur hails from the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle in Melbourne — an eparchy established by Pope Francis less than three years ago. Meeting with CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar, Bishop Puthur described a small group of faithful — about 50,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics live in a country of some 23 million people — but a group that is young and growing.

“About 85 or 90 percent of my faithful are below 45 years of age,” he said, “and almost 50 percent of those are below 15 years. It is a very young church, very promising. But unless we give proper faith formation to the children, they will get lost in the secular society.”

Bishop Puthur mentioned two primary challenges for his young eparchy: forming clergy and building churches.

“I had to bring in a lot of priests,” he explained. “We have 22 priests, but not all are fully working for me. Six are full time for our community and the others are shared with the Latin diocese. So our first challenge is to bring in priests.” He said a number of seminarians are now being formed in Kerala, and then transferred to Australia for theological training.

“Our second challenge,” he went on, “is getting facilities for eucharistic celebrations. There is a practical problem of getting time allotted in the Latin churches for our Sunday celebrations.”

But for all these challenges, he sees a church brimming with possibility and hope.

“To live a Christian life is challenging,” he explained. “My mission is to empower the people, so they live their Christian life in their families, in the parish communities, and share their Christian values with others. There is a mission dimension. There is evangelization involved.”

He added that part of his message to his flock is the necessity of giving back.

“I tell people, ‘One who only receives is a beggar.’ Unless we are able to contribute something to the society, and remain only on the receiving end, that is not a Christian human life.”

You can learn more about the new eparchy at its website. And to discover the rich history of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, read our profile in the pages of ONE.

Tags: Eastern Christianity Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Eastern Catholic Churches Australia

4 October 2016
Greg Kandra

Sister Hakinta Muradyan drives children to the Catholic church in Tashir, Armenia. Many of the children in the town are fatherless. To learn more about the challenges they’re facing, and how the church is helping them, read Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

Tags: Children Sisters Armenia Catholic

4 October 2016
Greg Kandra

A man inspects the damage at a wedding hall on 4 October, a day after a suicide attack targeted a Kurdish wedding party in the village of Tall Tawil in the Syrian Hassake province. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

Suicide bomber kills dozens at Kurdish wedding in Syria (BBC) At least 30 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack at a Kurdish wedding in northeastern Syria. The explosion occurred on Monday night at a hall in Tal Tawil, outside Hassake city, reportedly while the bride and groom were exchanging vows…

Report: Ten countries host half of the world’s refugees (Al Jazeera) Ten countries — which account for just 2.5 percent of the global economy — are hosting more than half the world’s refugees, a rights group has said, accusing wealthy countries of leaving poorer nations to bear the brunt of a worsening crisis. In a report published on Tuesday, Amnesty International said the unequal share was exacerbating the global refugee problem, as inadequate conditions in the main countries of shelter pushed many to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe and Australia…

‘ISIS module’ arrested in Kerala (The Indian Express) A graphic artist with a right-wing local newspaper, a Malayalee working in Oman for the last five years and an engineering student who dropped out are among the six members of the alleged Islamic State module busted in Kerala on Sunday, who are suspected to have been engaged in propagating the terror group’s ideology, according to NIA…

Israel tightens security for Jewish new year (Reuters) Israelis went to the market on Sunday for last-minute purchases as they prepared for the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown, amid tightened security and the closure of the Palestinian territories. Rosh Hashanah, the two-day Jewish new year, will conclude at nightfall on Tuesday…

Catholic, Anglican bishops seeking closer partnership in mission (Vatican Radio) Closer practical cooperation between Anglicans and Catholics in countries across the globe: that’s the primary goal of a two day visit of Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, to Rome this week. The Anglican leader arrives on Wednesday and is scheduled to join Pope Francis for Vespers at the church of San Gregorio al Celio in the afternoon…

Tags: Syria India Refugees Israel Christian Unity

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