20 May 2013
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, is the subject of a comprehensive interview by Basilian Father Thomas Rosica of Canada’s Catholic television network, Salt+Light.
Taped soon after Msgr. Kozar participated in Pope Benedict’s historic pastoral visit to Lebanon last September — and first aired this weekend — the interview includes vignettes from Msgr. Kozar’s travels, CNEWA’s concerns for the plight of the ancient churches of the East, and an invitation to join CNEWA’s mission to build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.
20 May 2013
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A woman prays in Al Qaa’s Greek Catholic church. Flooded with Syrian Christian refugees, the church is often filled to capacity. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
In the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan writes about Syrian refugees settling in Lebanon. Below, he offers some further reflections.
One of the frustrations for me while living in Lebanon was the reputation the country has in the West. The word “Lebanon” conjures up dark images of war, sectarian tensions, political crises and humanitarian displacement. These are, of course, salient features of Lebanon’s past and present; it is on this image, and the preoccupation with it in the West, that my livelihood as a journalist depended to a large degree.
But the more time I spent as a resident of Lebanon, the more I saw things in the country that are rarely reflected in Western media. I also met with strange disinterest from editors when I pitched ideas that didn’t involve some form of conflict or misery.
Lebanon is unique in the region for many reasons. It is small yet crucial to the balance of power between the West, its Mid-East allies, and “non-aligned” countries like Syria and Iran. It also has the most diverse demographics of the region, which are both a curse and a blessing. There are 17 officially recognized sects sharing governmental power in a slow, halting political system of compromise. But while this particular system of confessional politics entrenches sectarian mentalities, it also keeps a fragile kind of peace. In addition, it makes Lebanon a place to which many people from around the region feel they can flee in times of danger and crisis. Here is the paradox: While Lebanon is often a zone of conflict, it is also a perpetual refuge — now for Syrians, but in the past also for a diverse group including Iraqis, Palestinians and Armenians, among others.
Lebanon is a refuge for the exact same reason that it is also a weak political entity and prone to conflict: It contains a wide and diverse population that is loosely held together in a national pact. This loose configuration can sometimes lead to conflict, but its looseness also means that there are pockets of liberalism and conservatism that coexist; there are spaces where many kinds of people can be — and feel — safe. So while Lebanon is a place where people may run and emigrate from in times of war, it is also a place where many kinds of people can run to. It can be home to all kinds of people. It can be both a heaven and a hell and, in my experience living there, heavenly and hellish experiences tend to coexist in close proximity.
My frustration has been that Western media tends to focus on the hellish aspects only. This is why it was a pleasure to report this story, looking at Lebanon’s most recent incarnation as a refuge — one for Syrian Christians and Muslims. A bishop I interviewed for the story said, with respect to Christians leaving Iraq and Syria, “The Middle East without Christians is not the Middle East.” By the same token, I would say this: The Middle East without a pluralistic, open, welcoming Lebanon is not the Middle East.
Read more about Syrians Crossing the Border into Lebanon in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
20 May 2013
Tags: Lebanon Unity Cultural Identity Interreligious Dialogue
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At the Baladna Club in Jericho, a member of the girls’ soccer team practices. (photo: Rich Wiles)
One of the important works of CNEWA is spotlighted in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, which looks at youth centers in Palestine:
The Baladna Club is one of 20 youth centers supported by CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Founded in 1999, the club has 120 members — Christians and Muslims, boys and girls from both public and private schools.
Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, believes support for such programs as Baladna is an innovative effort to make a difference in the lives of Palestinian youths. These programs provide formative opportunities to learn, grow, work together and play together. Life under military occupation can be frustrating and dispiriting for young people; these clubs try to raise spirits, offer a sense of community and purpose, and provide stability and hope. CNEWA also set up the initial training to teach 20 nongovernmental organizations how to write proposals, plan strategically, find resources and, most importantly, think realistically.
Read more about this club and others in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
20 May 2013
Tags: CNEWA Palestine
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According to reports, the Turkish government is preparing to build camps to house Syrian Christian refugees in the Syriac Christian heartland near Mardin, home to the fifth-century Deyrulzafaran Monastery. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
Why is Turkey Building a Tent City for Syrian Christians? (AINA) Nowhere in the Islamic world has a refugee camp for the Christians of one country been built across the border in a neighbouring country. Now Turkey is building a camp that will hold between 3 and 30 times the number of Syrian Christians currently taking refuge in the country. Why? Why is Turkey creating a small city to handle a flood of Syrian Christians?
Syria’s Christians left in limbo (Haaretz) Christians in Syria find themselves damned if they support the regime of President Bashar Assad, and equally damned if they join the rebellion. With both the regime and Islamists looking to settle scores, the future looks bleak.
Jerusalem family tattoos pilgrims for centuries (Businessweek) Orthodox Christians visiting the Holy Land often return home with more than just spiritual memories. Many drop by a centuries-old tattoo parlor in Jerusalem’s Old City, inking themselves with a permanent reminder not only of their pilgrimage but also of devotion to their faith.
Build Your Own Country (Fides) The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros, addressed a severe reprimand to Lebanese politicians who fail to reach an agreement to prepare a new electoral law and lead the country out of the serious and dangerous political-institutional paralysis in which it has fallen.
Egyptian Christians targeted with blasphemy charges (Dallas News) Blasphemy charges were not uncommon in Egypt under the now-ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s regime, but there has been a surge in such cases in recent months, according to rights activists. The trend is widely seen as a reflection of the growing power and confidence of Islamists, particularly the ultraconservative Salafis.
17 May 2013
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Sister Eliseea sets aside an unfinished icon of the Holy Trinity to begin another one. (photo: Andreea Câmpeanu)
An old friend dropped by the office today: Sister Eliseea Papacioc, a Romanian Orthodox nun and world-renowned iconographer. She’s visiting the United States for a few weeks, stopping in Washington, New York, Florida and Tennessee for exhibitions and talks about her work, and she came to say hello and show us some of her remarkable work.
Last year, we took readers to her Romanian studio, and she explained the prayerful process by which she creates her icons:
“Once I understood that these icons should only be made with never-ending prayer, I realized I could not write them, because I could not pray. And I was a nun,” she admits.
“Your prayer becomes the icon, and the icon becomes prayer again for the one who has it in his home and prays in front of it. It’s all mystery, a real and continuous link to God,” she explains, as she sits in her workroom’s red armchair and sips a cup of tea.
Now, when Sister Eliseea writes, she prays nonstop. She follows a simple daily routine, which begins and ends in prayer. Each morning, she wakes up at dawn and reads from the Psalms. “That’s where I get all my sap, all my spirit,” she says.
Afterward, she writes icons, which she does until the sunset. She often continues into the night, sometimes until as late as 2 or 3 a.m. However, she only uses colored paints in the daylight.
She spent some time today explaining more of the spirituality that informs her work.
“I’m very connected with God when I do this,” she said, “and God is doing everything through my hand. I can’t paint without prayer. This comes from heaven, from the words of God, and if you can’t pray you can’t call yourself an iconographer. The prayer comes in your heart from God. Through this prayer, God gives me this inspiration. It’s like I’m under his protection all the time when I paint, he’s covering me with his wings. I never know how a painting is going to be. I just start a sketch and it just comes to me.”
Sister Eliseea said she’s written hundreds of icons over the course of her life; some can be done in a matter of months, others take years. A large icon of the “Deposition from the Cross” — Jesus being taken from the cross — took three years. It is all a labor of love.
“I’m not a commercial painter,” she said with a shy smile, explaining that she doesn’t keep any of the icons for herself. “I just paint as much as God inspires me. God gives me this gift to give to people, to give away.”
You can see Sister Eliseea presenting a couple of her icons, below — the aforementioned depiction of the Descent from the Cross on the left, and another portraying the Annunciation on the right. Read more about her in A Romanian Renaissance from the January 2012 issue of ONE.
17 May 2013
Tags: Sisters Prayers/Hymns/Saints Art Icons Romania
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Students attend class at St. Jean Baptiste De La Salle Catholic School in Addis Ababa. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
As the school year enters graduation season, people around the world celebrate academic achievement and students prepare to embark on a new chapter of their lives.
In the November 2012 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on educational institutions renowned for their high levels of achievement — Ethiopia’s Catholic schools:
By almost every measure, Ethiopia’s Catholic schools offer a first-rate education. The most obvious of indicators, results on the national university entrance exam, offer clear evidence.
On last year’s exam, more than half of the country’s 15 Catholic high schools boasted a 100 percent passing rate. The lowest passing rate among them was a respectable 92.4 percent.
“That means almost all the students succeed to study in university,” says Argaw Fantu, head of the education unit for the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat.
Ethiopia’s Catholic schools enjoy many advantages, not least of which is the collective expertise inherited from the church’s long history of running first-rate schools around the world.
“Take our Christian Brothers,” says Mr. Aregay. “This is a congregation with 350 years of tradition working in 81 countries. Obviously, we inherit all those traditions from such a sophisticated and worldwide congregation working in the educational arena. And that holds true for other congregations — Don Bosco, Salesians, Daughters of Charity and others. That automatically gives us an advantage.”
Follow the link to read more about Ethiopians Making the Grade!
17 May 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Education Catholic Schools
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In this video, Al Jazeera's Omar al Saleh reports on a series of bombings that have killed at least 26 people in Kirkuk and Baghdad, among other Iraqi cities. In televised remarks, Nouri al Maliki, Iraqi prime minister, attributed the attacks to “sectarian hatred.” (video: Al Jazeera)
Sectarianism in Iraq stoked by Syrian war (Washington Post) A recent tide of sectarian tensions that erupted into the worst violence seen in Iraq in five years is testing the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, whose ability to contain the crisis could hinge on a conflict raging beyond his control in Syria. The prospect of a regional power shift driven by the bloody civil war next door, where a mostly Sunni rebel movement is struggling to topple the Shiite-dominated regime, has emboldened Iraq’s Sunni minority to challenge its own Shiite government and amplified fears within Maliki’s administration that Iraq may soon be swept up in a spillover war…
Syria begins to break apart under the pressure of war (New York Times) The black flag of jihad flies over much of northern Syria. In the center of the country, pro-government militias and Hezbollah fighters battle those who threaten their communities. In the northeast, the Kurds have effectively carved out an autonomous zone. After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up. A constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas is effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs. As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian state…
U.N. chief: Hold Syrian peace talks soon (Daily Star Lebanon) A proposed international conference to try to stop Syria’s civil war should be held as soon as possible, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday, but no date has yet been agreed for a meeting that appears to face growing obstacles. A rising death toll, new reports of atrocities by both sides, suspicion that chemical arms may have been used and the absence of prospects for a military solution have all pushed Washington and Moscow to agree to convene the conference. “We should not lose the momentum,” Ban said of the proposal to bring the Syrian government and opposition representatives to the conference table…
In Serbia, patriarch and president meet and urge unity (b92) Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej and President Tomislav Nikolic met on Monday and urged “absolute unity and responsibility … in the search for a solution to the Kosovo and Metohija issue.” Nikolic underscored that the patriarch and himself agreed in everything, adding that it is not easy to decide on behalf of the nation just as it is not easy to decide on behalf of the church. “Still, it is much better when there is unity among those who make decisions on behalf of the people and those who make such decisions on behalf of the church,” the president said…
16 May 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Iraq United Nations Serbian Orthodox Church Serbia
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Parishioners sing a hymn during evening Mass in the Church of Sts. Simeon and Anne in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Did you know there is a group of Catholics in Israel who regularly attend Mass in Hebrew?
The Spring issue of ONE offers a profile of this unique community:
By any measure, it may be one of the most distinct cultures in all of Israel. With just 500 active members, including children, Israel’s Hebrew-speaking Catholic community is so small that many Catholics around the world, and most Israelis, do not know of its existence. It endures as a vibrant contradistinction: Catholics celebrating their faith in a country that is overwhelmingly Jewish, worshiping in Hebrew, marking Jewish feasts and traditions, and honoring many local customs. Yet they are undeniably, proudly Catholic.
The community was born in 1955. That year, a group of Catholics in Israel founded a pious association called the Work of St. James to help Hebrew-speaking Catholics live their faith in a Jewish society.
“The church began to realize there were thousands of Catholics in Israel who were not Arabs and not expatriates, who belonged to and integrated into Hebrew-speaking, Jewish Israeli society,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, Latin patriarchal vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics.
Some were married to Jews, while others were from Catholic branches of predominantly Jewish families. A smaller number were Jews who, like Father Neuhaus, had converted to Catholicism.
Regardless of their backgrounds, most “strongly saw themselves as Jewish historically, ethnically and culturally, and at the same time Catholic,” he says.
But between the 1950’s and the 1980’s, the community dwindled dramatically, largely due to emigration and assimilation.While members of the community come from a variety of backgrounds, all find unity in the most familiar form of Catholic worship, the Mass in the Latin rite, celebrated in Hebrew in six communities across Israel. As Father Neuhaus explains, it is the same Mass prayed around the world, but “with minor concessions to the particularity of praying in Hebrew.”
On Sundays, for example, the liturgy begins by lighting two candles representing the Old and New Testaments, signifying “their intimate unity.” The music is inspired by both Christian and Jewish traditions rooted in the region. Readings from the Old Testament, including the Psalms, are heard in their entirety, rather than selected verses, and Jewish feasts and days of commemoration are mentioned.
“Needless to say, praying in Hebrew brings out very forcefully the resonances in the liturgy with the biblical texts, particularly of the Old Testament,” Father Neuhaus says, after celebrating a weekday Mass at the Jerusalem chapel.
Read more about this community in Hebrew Spoken Here.
16 May 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Cultural Identity Catholic
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A Free Syrian Army fighter throws an improvised hand grenade toward forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al Assad in Deir al Zor on 15 May. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Syrian opposition forces plunder and destroy ancient monastery (Pravoslavie.ru) Armed extremists fighting on the side of the Syrian opposition have attacked the ancient Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Prophet Elias near the town of Al Qusayr, situated about 12 miles from the Syrian-Lebanese border, reports the ITAR-TASS agency with a reference to the Syrian state news agency. The gunmen stole church vessels, blew up the bell tower and destroyed the chancel and the font, the monastery’s Abbot Gadir Ibrahim reported on Saturday…
Jordanian Christians hold a silent march to pray for kidnapped Syrian bishops (Fides) On Tuesday, 21 May, Christians in Amman will hold a candle-lit silent march to pray for the release of the two bishops of Aleppo, Syriac Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Boulos al Yazigi, who have been in the hands of unknown kidnappers for a month…
Turkey seeks assistance with Syrian refugees (Washington Post) Facing one of the world’s largest refugee crises in decades, Turkish officials are urgently appealing for international financial assistance and calling on wealthy nations, particularly the United States and the countries of Europe, to start accepting large numbers of Syrian refugees. The stance marks a shift for the Turkish government, which had long insisted that Ankara would manage and pay for the refugee crisis on its own as a matter of national pride. But with the cost to Turkey hitting $1.5 billion, an estimated 400,000 refugees in the country and a total of 1 million expected by the end of the year, pressure is building. Turkey is even willing to organize an airlift, Ankara officials said, but no country seems eager to receive the refugees…
Baghdad market attacks in north kill 17 (Daily Star Lebanon) At least 17 people were killed by bombs in markets in Baghdad and attacks in northern Iraq on Thursday, police said, adding to a surge of sectarian-tinged violence in the past four weeks. Attacks on Sunni and Shiite mosques, security forces and tribal leaders have mushroomed since security forces raided a Sunni protest camp near Kirkuk a month ago, igniting clashes and fuelling worries of a slide back into all-out sectarian war. Iraq has grown more volatile as the civil war in neighbouring Syria strains fragile relations between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Tensions are now at their highest point since the last United States troops pulled out at the end of 2011…
At a Jerusalem parlor, centuries of pilgrim tattoos (The Times of Israel) Orthodox Christians visiting the Holy Land often return home with more than just spiritual memories. Many drop by a centuries-old tattoo parlor in Jerusalem’s Old City, inking themselves with a permanent reminder not only of their pilgrimage but also of devotion to their faith. The same Jerusalem family has been tattooing pilgrims with Crosses and other religious symbols for hundreds of years, testament to the importance of the ancient ritual. While Catholics can get a written certificate of their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Orthodox Christians opt for a tattoo, a permanent reminder of their visit…
15 May 2013
Tags: Jerusalem Syrian Civil War Refugees Iraq Refugee Camps
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In this picture, taken last August, a Comboni nun watches over newborns at the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
With the crisis in Syria growing worse by the day, one beacon of hope remains the CNEWA-supported Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. Recently, Asia News profiled the hospital and the Comboni sisters who run it:
The war in Syria and the overcrowding in refugee camps are forcing more people to seek “salvation” in the Jordanian desert hundreds of miles from the capital Amman and the Syrian border. Interviewed by AsiaNews, Sister Adele Fumagalli, a Comboni religious in the Italian Hospital, describes the tragedy of those who are trying to escape from the horrors of war and the refugee camps. Every day the hospital opens its doors to dozens of pregnant women, orphaned children, young fathers whose dying wives have entrusted their children to them. “In the evening and in the morning,” says Sister Adele, “when we are in the chapel, our first thoughts go to those who have crossed the desert to escape in the night … we base our service on charity and we welcome these people who are struggling in silence.”
The nun confesses that the people in the refugee camps are experiencing a dramatic situation of great urgency and insecurity. According to the religious, refugees in Jordan are about 10 percent of the population and this will force the Hashemite kingdom to open new camps, but the resources of the small state may not be enough, which in less than a year has welcomed more than 500,000 Syrians. The population is beginning to demand other solutions and in recent weeks there have been numerous protests in various cities in the country. For humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations, water supply, sanitation, education, medical care will no longer be guaranteed in a few months. To survive, many have fled to Amman. Says Sister Adele: “On the road leading to the capital there are many Syrian children, that were separated from their families during the trip. They are completely left to themselves. To survive they sell cigarettes, tea, or beg passers-by.”
There are currently over 30,000 Syrians who have settled in the province of Kerak. In January, there were about 10,000. Most are people who have not found a place in the Zarqa refugee camp, in the north of the country, others come directly from Syria. The lucky ones live in small homes for rent. Up to three families with several children live in a single apartment. Sometimes they also bring the elderly or sick people with them. …
Founded in 1939, the Italian Hospital of Kerak is the only equipped clinic in the region and has about 40 beds. It is supported by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), the special Vatican agency for aid to Catholic Churches and the peoples of the Middle East. To address the emergency in Syria the structure along with Caritas and UNHCR has established a program of assistance and shelter for the needy and the sick.
”Other local organizations ask for our cooperation,” explains Sister Adele Fumagalli. “Our hospital remains the reference point for the southern part of Jordan. Our service continues with the support of the Church and of our generous benefactors.“
There’s much more at the link.
To learn how to help Syrian refugees, visit our Emergency: Syria page.
Tags: CNEWA Health Care Jordan Italian Hospital Comboni Sisters
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