26 July 2012
Syrian refugees walk outside tents at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Boynuegin on 24 March. (photo: CNS/Osman Orsal, Reuters)
The violence in Syria escalates by the day and more and more Syrians are seeking refuge in neighboring countries, such as Turkey. Though Turkey has continued sheltering thousands of Syrians who have fled the conflict, officials are concerned that any increase in refugees will put a significant strain on their efforts:
In the Syria crisis, Ankara has hinted it might act to head off any vast influx of refugees, but has not spelled out what it would do, beyond seeking U.N. Security Council approval or at least support from its NATO allies for any such intervention.
Turkey toughened its military rules of engagement on the frontier after Syria shot down a Turkish jet in disputed circumstances last month, but has not retaliated directly.
“A buffer zone, humanitarian corridors, a safe haven are all vague concepts which will require international resolutions,” said one Turkish official, who asked not to be named.
“Definitely an aggression from Syria might be a turning point, or a massive influx of refugees,” he said. “The other scenario is the total collapse of the regime in Syria. We will reconsider our measures along the borders and protect them.”
For the moment, Turkish leaders seem wary, but more focused on coping better with the refugees they already host.
For more from this story, read Syria Conflict: Turkey Refugee Camps Struggle To Cope With 44,000 Syrians. If you would like to contribute to our Syria emergency fund, please visit our website.
25 July 2012
Tags: Syria Refugees Turkey Refugee Camps
In this 2005 photo, a couple admires the late afternoon view of the the King Talal dam on the Zarqa River, the second largest tributary of the Jordan River. The river is heavily polluted and restoration is the Jordanian governments top priority. (photo: Greg Tarczynski)
Tradition and scripture both hold that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. To this day, countless Christians from around the world flock to the river and consider its waters sacred. The Jordan, though, is nothing like it once was. It is polluted and stagnant. The Israeli government hopes to change that:
“It’s five percent of what once flowed,” said Ben Ari, who is one of the rehabilitation project leaders. "You can easily walk across without getting your head wet."
Almost all the water that feeds the river is diverted by Syria, Jordan and Israel before it reaches the south, he explained.
But for the first time, Israel — which is two-thirds arid and has battled drought since its establishment 64 years ago — has a water surplus.
This follows decades of massive investment in the country’s water infrastructure. It re-uses 75 percent of its wastewater, mostly for agriculture, and by next year, 85 percent of drinking water will come from desalination plants.
The Israeli government has chosen to use this bounty to rehabilitate the countrys rivers. The Jordan tops the list.
An average of 150 million cubic meters of water will be returned each year, said Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau when he announced the plan a few weeks ago.
“That way in ten years, we will erase our debt (to nature),” he said.
For more, read the Reuters article, Israel plans to revive ailing Jordan river. To learn more about the Jordan River, read On Jordan’s Banks in the January 2011 issue of ONE.
24 July 2012
Tags: Israel Jordan Revival/restoration Baptism
Students play at St. Charles School in Achrafieh located in east Beirut. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
In the July 2008 issue of ONE, we featured a story about the resiliency and openness of Catholic schools in Lebanon following the civil war in 2006:
Catholic schools can be found throughout Lebanon, in areas where there is little religious diversity or towns where Christians and Muslims live in segregated areas. In such places, the boundaries separating public school districts frequently coincide with community boundaries — thus reinforcing sectarianism.
Catholic schools, meanwhile, enroll students from all communities, whether adjacent, distant, Christian or Muslim. In many parts of Lebanon, they represent the last forum where Christian and Muslim youth meet and grow up knowing one another.
“Catholic schools are natural places where children can come together, sit next to each other and get to know the other person slowly but surely,” said Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, who heads Lebanon’s General Secretariat of Catholic Schools.
“It’s not like you have to shove it down the throats of people — and the kids grow to know each other, to love each other, to accept each other. That’s very important.”
For more, read Pillars of Lebanon.
23 July 2012
Tags: Lebanon Children Middle East Education Catholic Schools
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.
20 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Saints
In this image from 2006, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip attend prayers during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr at the conclusion of Ramadan. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)
Today begins the official observance of Ramadan, the most important event of the year for Muslims — but what does that mean? Last year, Elias Mallon, CNEWA’s education and interreligious affairs officer, wrote an award-winning essay in ONE about Ramadan. Below, we have highlighted five interesting facts from his essay:
The date when Ramadan begins is not set in stone.
“The exact beginning of Ramadan depends on this sighting of the new moon, which occurs anytime within a two–day period. As a result it is never absolutely certain in any given year when Ramadan officially begins.
“Similarly, because the Muslim year is lunar, i.e., calculated by the moon, it is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, which is familiar to most people. As a result, every year Ramadan is about 11 days “earlier” than the year before.”
The United States Postal Service has issued several stamps related to Ramadan since 2001.
“Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr, the feast ending it, have become increasingly visible in Europe and North America in the past two decades. Immigration has increased the number of Muslims in the West and more and more people are becoming aware of the monthlong fast and celebration.
“In places where Muslims represent a religious minority, recognition of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr increasingly symbolizes a degree of social acceptance by the majority. In the United States, for instance, the postal service [has] issued [several] postage stamp[s] [across several years] for Eid ul Fitr. And more and more often, shops sell greeting cards for the holiday, and many non–Muslims now send or give them to their Muslim friends and neighbors.”
While Ramadan has similarities to the Christian fasting season of Lent, it also has distinct differences.
“More important, unlike Lent, Ramadan is not generally understood as an act of penance. Muslims rather consider Ramadan as an exercise in self–discipline, as purification and as a reminder of the believer’s dependence on the bounty of God…
“One of the more striking aspects of Ramadan, particularly to Christians and Jews, is the joy with which Muslims anticipate and observe the month. Whereas Lent is a time of quiet, penitential reflection for Christians and Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement) is a solemn day for Jews, Ramadan is a time of spiritual and physical refreshment for Muslims. It is a time to put aside the burdens and cares of everyday life and to focus on what really matters. Whereas Christians created Fat Tuesday as the last celebration before Lent, Muslims see no need to “get it all in” before Ramadan. Ramadan is a celebration.”
Can you imagine fasting — no food, no water — for over 15 hours?
“Since the month of Ramadan moves “backward” through the solar year, it occurs at some point in every season of the year in any given location. In the summer in both northern and southern latitudes, days can be quite long and the fast can go on for more than 15 hours. If 15 hours without food is difficult, 15 hours in the summer without water is even more so.”
In some communities, Ramadan helps to encourage interfaith dialogue.
“A new and popular Ramadan tradition is for Muslims to invite their non–Muslims neighbors to take part in the iftar or Eid ul Fitr. In some communities in Europe and North America, where Muslims are a religious minority, the iftar has become an important interfaith celebration. What better way to promote interreligious understanding around the world than by sharing the joy of the iftar and Eid ul Fitr?”
Read more about the Muslim period of prayer and fasting in Ramadan Observed.
20 July 2012
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Muslim Islam Ramadan
A nun prays outside of St. Mary Monastery in Georgia. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the September 2007 issue of ONE, Paul Rimple wrote about women in Georgia who have chosen a life of service to God and humanity by entering religious life and joining one of various monasteries in Georgia, such as St. Mary Monastery:
The seven sisters of St. Mary Monastery in Bediani, a remote village in the southern mountains of Georgia, begin their day with communal prayer at 4 a.m. Three hours later, they are tending the gardens and the bees, milking cows, making cheese, embroidering vestments and cleaning the chapel.
Georgia’s religious houses are expected to be self-sufficient, which requires ingenuity on behalf of the sisters. But the sisters of Bediani also care for six single mothers and their children, who live near the convent and have little means of earning a living.
For more, read Alternative Lifestyles.
19 July 2012
Tags: Sisters Georgia Monastery Vocations (religious)
In this photo, captured in early 2006, a young boy watches the sunset in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In late 2004, a tsunami triggered by a 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean devastated thousands living in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, India. CNEWA was quick to respond and immediately began an emergency relief fund, which in a year’s time raised $965,555 for the victims affected by the disaster. In the March 2005 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux wrote about the tsunami relief efforts of the local church and international community:
The Diocese of Kottar became the command center for all nongovernmental, tsunami-related social service activities in the district of Kanyakumari. Father Jeremias, Information Director of the Kottar Social Service Society, assigned NGOs to villages along the coast. Caritas Switzerland took responsibility for the heavily damaged village of Mela Manakudy and four others; the Holy Cross Sisters were sent to Puthoor; social workers from the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy of Marthandom took charge of three towns; and Social Change and Development (an Indian NGO) went to Kottilpadu.
Many more were involved. The Sisters of St. Ann of Luzern joined mobile medical camps sent to the coastal villages. The Syro- Malankara Catholic Bethany Sisters started rebuilding a neighborhood in Kanyakumari. Syro-Malabar Catholic Bishop George Alencherry from neighboring Thuckalay tended to the smaller settlements around Colachel.
In all, more than 60 local NGOs and 16 international relief agencies stepped forward to work with Bishop Tharmaraj.
“The response has been enormous. We have almost 100 percent coverage of the damaged areas,” Father Jeremias said. “This powerful wave of destruction from nature has been met by an even more powerful wave of generosity from mankind.”
The story remains a powerful reminder of how CNEWA, through local churches, has been able to respond to those in need. For more, read Waves of Destruction.
18 July 2012
Tags: India Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Water
Sister Piera Carpenedo, director of the Ephpheta Paul VI Institute for Audio-Phonetic Rehabilitation, tells a story using a drawing. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Today, the Latin church celebrates the feast day of St. Frederick of Utrecht, a patron saint for the deaf. For many years, CNEWA has supported the Ephpheta Institute, a center for the deaf in Palestine. Back in May, Ephpheta celebrated an expansion, which we shared on this blog:
A few days ago, the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem — a program CNEWA has supported since its inception 40 years ago — celebrated the inauguration of a new expansion. The new three-story annex will host the 11th and 12th grades, in addition to a library, a new indoor play/educational room and additional storage facilities. The physical expansion of the school premises was a historic day for many reasons. Most significantly, the students at Ephpheta will no longer finish their education at 10th grade, but will complete a full educational cycle through the 12th grade, after which they will receive a high school diploma. Thus, there will be no graduation at the school this year; the 10th graders will proceed to 11th grade and will eventually graduate in 2014, much better equipped to either move on to a university education or to some other career track of their choosing. They will certainly be better equipped to meet life’s challenges with a high school diploma in hand.
For more, read “Ephpheta Expands.” You can learn more about Ephpheta in Msgr. John Kozar’s blog series from his pastoral visit to the Holy Land back in December. If you would like to support the work of Ephpheta, please visit our website.
17 July 2012
Tags: Palestine Disabilities
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the Holy Land.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
In supporting Eastern churches, their leaders and their faithful, CNEWA’s network of friends and benefactors enables more good to be done. Today, we have in our thoughts and prayers The Syriac Orthodox Church, which has roots in Syria, a country still very much in turmoil.
Just today, one prominent Catholic leader in Damascus renewed his pleas for peace in the region:
“In Damascus, the last three days have been very difficult” as the fighting moved to the city, Archbishop Mario Zenari, the [Vatican] nuncio, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from the capital July 17.
“The situation compared to a month ago clearly is more tense,” he said.
“The situation of the Christian community is the same as the situation for all Syrians. The Christians are not targeted, but they are under the same bombing and shelling the others face,” the archbishop said.
An uprising against President Bashar Assad’s government began in March 2011. Thousands of civilians have died in the fighting since then, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. The U.N. refugee agency said July 17 that the number of Syrians seeking refuge outside the country has risen sharply in the past three months, with some 112,000 Syrian refugees now registered in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Archbishop Zenari said, “The international community must speak with one voice; otherwise the parties involved in the conflict won’t listen.” The nuncio said he was not lobbying for any specific international intervention, but “too much time has already passed. There are many ways to reach a consensus.”
Some Christian leaders in Syria have questioned the pro-democracy efforts to oust Assad, pointing out how religious liberty and the Christian communities have been protected under his leadership.
“The future is difficult to foresee,” the archbishop said. “Until now, there has been a good level of freedom of religion in Syria and good relations between Christians and Muslims. It could be difficult if that changed.”
We are still hard at work ensuring that Syrians who have fled the chaos are cared for. Learn more about our emergency Syria fund on our website.
16 July 2012
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Syriac Orthodox Church Church
A young student takes notes at Bethlehem Day Care Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
In Ethiopia, CNEWA has long supported education at all levels. Seeing children, like the eager scholar pictured above, fully immersed in their education and keen to learn, helps us to know we are making a difference. Last fall, we shared a similar image out of Ethiopia: some very enthusiastic children outside of the Bethlehem Day Care Center, run by the Good Shepherd sisters.
Tags: Ethiopia Children Sisters Education