13 May 2013
Altar boys serve the liturgy at the Chaldean parish in Amman. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
In the Spring issue of ONE, writer-photographer Cory Eldridge profiles Christians who have fled Iraq to try and start over in Jordan:
The exodus of Iraqis has slowed since the difficult days of 2004 to 2008. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says a total of about 30,000 Iraqis are registered in Jordan. In 2011, 7,000 new arrivals registered with the agency. Last year it was half that.
Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, says hard numbers are difficult to come by in the Middle East, and the number of registered and unregistered refugees is likely much higher. UNHCR doesn’t release numbers on religious affiliation, but Mr. Bahou believes about 30,000 Iraqi Christians live in Jordan, mostly in Amman. He expects that number to remain constant — a slow trickle in, a slow trickle out and no real change overall.
While the violence after the U.S. military’s surge did abate, life never became anything close to safe. In October 2010, Muslim extremists attacked Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, and the hours-long event left 58 parishioners, priests and police dead. The slaughter cast a long pall over all the country’s Christians.
Iraqis regularly describe that event as the defining moment for them, when everything suddenly and irrevocably changed.
In a new but poor neighborhood with wide main streets and side roads packed with the haphazard dwellings of a developing slum, the Rev. Mansour Mattosha, pastor of Amman’s Syriac Catholic parish, walks up four flights of stairs to visit a parishioner — his niece.
Even before 2003, Amman hosted many Christian communities. Now, among Catholics alone there are Chaldean, Latin, Melkite Greek and Syriac parishes, as well as Coptic, Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Protestant parishes. Relations among the parishes are good: The overwhelming attitude among the faithful is: “We’re all Christians, and there’s too few of us to bicker.”
Most of these parishes can be found in one part of central Amman, called Hashami Shamali, where many Iraqi refugees live. Father Mattosha comes here several times a week to visit 20 or so families. His is one of the smallest congregations, and he serves it alone. When he arrived, there were about 200 Iraqi families in the parish, as well as the original 50 Palestinian families who established the parish in 1948. Now, the number of Iraqi families has dwindled to about 80; the rest have left for U.N.-sponsored locations from Germany and Sweden to the United States and Canada to Australia and New Zealand. Extended families who used to live in the same village, often on the same block, have ended up in multiple countries.
Read more on those who are now Out of Iraq.
13 May 2013
Tags: Refugees Jordan Iraq Chaldeans
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A girl sits on a chair placed among rubble as she sells bread on a war-torn street in Deir al-Zor, Syria, on 9 May. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Syria blames Turkey’s government for car bombings (Reuters) Syria’s information minister has blamed Turkey’s government for deadly car bombings near the Syrian border and branded Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan a “murderer,” state-run Russian TV company RT reported on Monday. The bombings took place as prospects appeared to improve for diplomacy to try to end the war in Syria, after Moscow and Washington announced a joint effort to bring government and rebels to an international conference as soon as possible...
Pontifical yearbook shows Catholic population steady, boom in vocations to diaconate (Vatican Radio) The number of Catholics globally remains largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, rising only slightly higher than global population growth for the 2010/2011 period. The number of priests (religious and diocesan) has grown, largely thanks to a rise in vocations in Asia and Africa which has helped balance the continued decline in Europe (-9% in the last decade). The same cannot be said for the number of professed women religious with a downward trend registering a drop of 10% over the past decade. But, perhaps the most surprising statistic revealed in the 2013 Pontifical Yearbook Monday was the boom in vocations to the permanent diaconate, particularly in Europe and the US where numbers have increased by over 40% in the past decade...
Report says India has highest number of child deaths within first 24 hours of life (Fides) Every year a million children die within 24 hours of birth, and two million before the age of three months. This is what emerges in a recently published report by the NGO Save the Children, in which it also records the death of 287,000 women for causes related to maternity. The first day of a child’s life is the most dangerous, especially in India, where 309,300 infants die each year in the first 24 hours of life. In “Surviving the First Day: Status of Motherhood 2013,” the NGO ranks India as having the highest number of maternal deaths in the world, with 56,000 cases per year...
Patriarch: meeting between Francis and Tawadros II caused joy, hope for unity (Fides) “The meeting between the Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II caused joy especially among the very simple people. Now the hope is that the path on the way of unity can move forward with concrete and challenging steps.” This is what was reported to Fides Agency by His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts. The patriarch outlined the hopes in the Egyptian Catholic community from the recent meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch...
Russian Orthodox patriarch pays first visit to China (New Straits Times) The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Sunday held a service in Beijing on his first ever visit to Communist-ruled China, during which he called for closer ties between the giant neighbours. Kirill, dressed in an ornate red and gold robe, held the service for about 300 people in a tent on the grounds of the Russian embassy in Beijing amid tight security, an AFP photographer witnessed. Chinese exercises strict control over religion, requiring followers to worship in state-approved churches...
Immigration fuels growth in Toronto’s Catholic Church (Catholic Register) Immigration hasn’t just transformed the Catholic Church in Toronto, it’s made the archdiocese of Toronto massively different from Catholic Canada outside the Greater Toronto Area. Two out of every five Catholics in Toronto were born outside the country, compared to just one in 10 Catholics who are immigrants in the rest of Canada...
10 May 2013
Tags: India Syria Pope Francis Turkey Coptic
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Roma musicians perform during a Roma funeral in Hodasz, Hungary. The majority of European Roma, commonly called “gypsies,” is Christian, with a strong representation, particularly in eastern Slovakia, of Greek Catholic or Orthodox. (photo: Balazs Gardi/VII Network)
Today, The New York Times ran an article on Roma integration into the Slovakian school system, drawing a parallel to the United States's own history of overcoming segregation:
Gazing out his window during morning recess on his first day at work, the principal of an elementary school here, Jaroslav Valastiak, was caught up short: all the children playing in the asphalt-covered yard were white, a strikingly monochromatic scene at a school where a majority of pupils are dark-skinned Roma.
Lunchtime brought another shock. The school canteen served only white children, with Roma pupils left outside with bagged rations, instead of hot food. Classes were also divided, officially on the basis of academic aptitude, but in a manner that ended up grouping students along rigid ethnic lines.
“The segregation here was as obvious as fireworks,” Mr. Valastiak said.
The 59-year-old principal has spent the past year trying to break down barriers, both physical and mental, in a painful struggle for integration that some here say echoes that of the United States more than a half-century ago.
“The situation in Slovakia now is exactly the same as it was in the United States,” said Peter Pollak, a Roma member of Parliament and the government’s plenipotentiary for Roma communities, who recently visited the United States to learn about its battles over segregated schooling and other entrenched barriers to equality.
In a continent faced with an economic crisis, soaring unemployment and bursts of nationalist populism, the elementary school here in eastern Slovakia is a microcosm of one of Europe’s biggest challenges: how to keep old demons of ethnic scapegoating at bay and somehow bring its most disadvantaged and fastest growing minority into the mainstream.
You can read the rest here.
ONE has been sharing stories of the Roma of Eastern Europe for years. To learn more about the Roma of Slovakia, see Jacqueline Ruyak's Those Who Remain Behind. Ms. Ruyak also reported on the Roma of Hungary in Our Town, which included a sidebar on the progress of anti-discrimination legislation in Eastern Europe at the time of its publication.
10 May 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Hungary Slovakia Roma
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Tawadros II of Alexandria, pope and patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis shake hands after exchanging gifts during a private audience in the pontiff’s library at the Vatican on 10 May. The pope told the Coptic leader that Christians are united in “ecumenism of suffering.” If you would like to learn more about Egypt’s largest Christian community, we profiled the Coptic Orthodox Church in the November 2005 issue of ONE. (photo: CNS/Andreas Solaro, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis meets Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II (VIS) The visit of Tawadros II of Alexandria, pope and patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood that already exist between the See of Peter and the See of Mark, heir to an inestimable heritage of martyrs, theologians, holy monks and faithful disciples of Christ, who have borne witness to the Gospel from generation to generation, often in situations of great adversity,” said Pope Francis this morning. The pontiff remarked on the memorable meeting that took place, 40 years ago, between the predecessors of both, Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, which united them “in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after centuries of mutual distance”…
Syrian refugees: your stories (The Guardian) GuardianWitness, a program seeking ground-level media from people the world over, has been running for nearly a month — including a section dedicated to the stories of Syrian refugees. Caroline Bannock, a coordinator for the program, notes: “It’s not an easy situation to document and many refugees can’t be identified, in case it puts family, left behind in Syria, in jeopardy. However, people who can, do want us to see what the situation is like for them and NGOs, aid agencies and individuals have been sharing images, text and video — when it’s safe to do so. … We have been very moved by the content that has been shared with us — so please do go and look at it, if you haven’t already…”
Saturday an international day of prayer for peace (Fides) On Saturday, 11 May, Syrian Christians of all churches and ecclesial communities have organized a day of prayer to “pray to God to grant mercy to Syria and to put an end to the violence.” The appeal to pray for Syria has been extended to Christians throughout the world. “It is too risky to move in combat areas. We will have to limit ourselves to local meetings throughout the country, in homes, in meeting places and in churches,” said the text of the appeal, published on the internet. There are four prayer intentions: the return of peace, the liberation of all hostages, the care of children traumatized by war and humanitarian relief to all refugees…
For first time, Israeli police protect women praying at Western Wall (Washington Post) Israeli police with metal barriers and human chains on Friday held back thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters who tried to prevent a Jewish women’s group from praying at a key holy site, the first time police have come down on the side of the women and not the protesters. The switch followed a court order backing the right of the women to pray at the Western Wall in the Old City with practices Orthodox Jews insist are the role of men alone…
Patriarch Kirill begins visit to China (Asianews.it) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill arrived today in Beijing, the first leg of his official visit to China, which ends 15 June. In the Chinese capital, “The head of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet with government leaders in China, leaders of religious groups, and also with the Chinese officials responsible for religious affairs,” the Patriarchate Press Service said…
8 May 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Refugees Pope Francis Coptic Orthodox Church Roma
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After receiving a new zucchetto (a clerical skullcap) from a young girl, Pope Francis offers her his old one in exchange in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 8 May. The Spring issue of ONE, now available online, looks at how the new pontiff has spoken of issues important to him — and to CNEWA. Read what he had to say here. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
8 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope
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Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, prays for the safety of Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul during Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on 2 May. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Syrian bishops still missing after kidnapping (NPR) As orthodox Christians across the world celebrated a late Easter this year, Christian communities in Syria and neighboring Lebanon postponed all celebrations. Instead, they gathered in churches only to pray for the safe return of two bishops kidnapped outside of Aleppo last month. While their whereabouts are still unknown, the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime continue to trade blame for the abduction the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo. We speak to the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Beirut and his congregation about how the kidnappings have marred the traditionally celebratory time of year…
Coptic Orthodox pope and Pope Francis to hold first meeting in 40 years (VIS) From 9 to 13 May, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the See of St. Mark and head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, will visit Rome to meet with Pope Francis on Friday. Pope Tawadros’ predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, met with Pope Paul VI in the Vatican 40 years ago in May of 1973. On that occasion, the pope and the Coptic Orthodox patriarch signed an important Christological declaration in common and initiated bilateral ecumenical dialogue between the two churches…
Three suspects arrested over Armenian church shooting (Tert.am) The Istanbul police have jailed three men on suspicion of opening gunfire near an Armenian church. One of the detainees is reported to be an ethnic Armenian. According to the Turkish website Samanyoluhaber, the men fired seven shots near the St. Hovhannes church during a liturgy…
Deadly attacks strike northern Iraq (Al Jazeera) A shooting and two car bombs in Iraq have left at least two people dead and wounded 26 in the western and northern parts of the country, officials have said. Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media. Wednesday’s attacks follow shootings and a bombing which killed seven people in Iraq on Tuesday…
Ethiopian commuters bid farewell to archbishop memorial statue (AllAfrica.com) The statue of Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abune Petros, erected in the archbishop’s memory in 1941, moved to its temporary location on Friday, 2 May 2013. The decision to relocate the statue came after the Ethiopian Railway Corporation began the construction of the 20-mile Addis Light Rail Transit project…
7 May 2013
Tags: Syria Iraq Violence against Christians Orthodox human trafficking
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A little boy looks on in the southern Egyptian village of Qenna, where the church remains the focus of the Christian community. (photo: David Degner)
Recent headlines have told again and again of Copts fleeing Egypt for other countries. In the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, writer Sarah Topol and photographer David Degner look at those who have chosen to stay and are trying to build a future:
With the growing influence of radical Islam, more and more Christians are considering their options. Atef Gamil knows many Christians who have already emigrated. He wants his 21-year-old son, Bishoy, to move to England when the young man finishes his medical degree in three years. But Bishoy Gamil has other ideas. He does not want to leave Egypt.
Discussions about migration are playing out across the Coptic community, says the Rev. Shenouda Andraos, the rector of the Coptic Catholic Seminary of St. Leo the Great in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Father Andraos says the church leadership continues to tell its flock emigration is not the solution.
“The church is trying to raise awareness that we must have a positive and effective role and we cannot leave the country — this is our homeland and we have to participate in building it. It is important we don’t become terrorized, that we continue to have hope in the future.”
Read more about The Men Who Stayed in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
7 May 2013
Tags: Egypt Emigration Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Church
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In this August 2012 photo, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Polish Archbishop Jozef Michalik, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Poland, sign a joint message of reconciliation during ceremony at Royal Castle in Warsaw. (photo: CNS/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)
Patriarch Kirill has high hopes for unity with the Catholic Church (Interfax) “We are open to dialogue, cooperation and development of such interaction, and we have no indication that the incumbent Pope is not open to the same,” said Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. “The time of our disorder and confusion in assessing socially important problems should end,” he said…
U.N. investigator suggests Syrian rebels may have used chemical weapons (Christian Science Monitor) The leader of the United Nations investigation into possible chemical weapon use in Syria said yesterday that witness and victim testimonies indicate that Syrian rebels likely used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin. The commission she leads, however, tempered her comments with a statement today announcing that it had not yet reached “conclusive findings.” Rebel forces denied the claims…
Palestinian Christians struggle under occupation (Al Monitor) “To be a Christian from the land of Jesus Christ is a blessing that not many can claim to share. But this blessing brings with it a daily struggle to preserve our traditions and uphold Christian practices. Faith has not disappeared, hope still guides our lives, but the lack of response to our plight makes many in our community wonder whether the world really cares about us.” Father Johnny Abu Khalil, a Catholic priest from Nablus, recounts the challenges faced by Palestinian Christians…
No justice for Christian victims of Orissa massacres (Fides) Five years after the anti-Christian massacres that shocked Kandhamal district in the Indian state of Orissa, justice remains unserved. In the “pogrom” of 2008, over 400 villages were “cleansed” of all Christians. More than 5,600 houses and 296 churches were burned. There were many human casualties, and 56,000 men, women and children became homeless. As Catholic activist John Dayal reports to Fides, the investigation was carried out late and in a superficial manner…
Gunman attacks Armenian church in Istanbul (panorama.am) An unknown assailant opened fire into the air outside a small Armenian church in Istanbul on Sunday while an Orthodox sermon was being held inside, according to Turkish media…
U.N. peacekeepers seized near Syrian border (Al Jazeera) Four United Nations peacekeepers are being held in the ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where neither Israeli nor Syrian forces can operate. Josephine Guerrero, spokeswoman for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), said on Tuesday the four were “detained today by an unidentified armed group while they were patrolling” near Al Jamlah in the so-called Area of Limitation…
6 May 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Armenia United Nations Palestinians Patriarch Kirill
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Yesterday, churches that follow the Julian calendar marked Easter. In this image from 2004, a man shows off some Easter eggs at St. Clement Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. To read more about the Byzantine traditions of Ohrid, check out Answering the Macedonian Question in the July-August 2004 issue of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
6 May 2013
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In this video, Father Thomas Rosica interviews Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop Shevchuck during his recent visit to Canada. Before being elected head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on 23 March 2011, Archbishop Shevchuk served as bishop of the Eparchy of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he considered Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — a mentor. (video: Salt + Light TV)
Witness: Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck (Salt + Light TV) The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, having long suffered under Communist persecution, flourished once the Iron Curtain finally fell. The strength of this Eastern-rite church extends to the growing Ukrainian diaspora, particularly in Canada. In 2011, when the Ukrainian bishops needed to elect a new leader for their growing church, they turned to the youngest member from among their ranks: Sviatoslav Shevchuk, then only 40 years old. Father Thomas Rosica sat down with Archbishop Shevchuck during his recent visit to Canada…
Salesians ‘deplore’ Israel’s decision to proceed with separation wall (Vatican Radio) The Salesian province of the Middle East issued a press release Friday saying it “strongly deplores the verdict” of an Israeli tribunal, which has upheld the completion of a separation wall that will cut off a Salesian convent from direct access to its agricultural land and the community it serves. The lives within two Salesian monasteries a few miles from Bethlehem and the people of the nearby Palestinian community of Beit Jala will change dramatically once a nearly 20-foot concrete separation wall is completed as planned. The Salesians recently lost their seven-year battle to stop Israeli authorities from building of the wall through their property…
Young Iraqi Christians organize markets to pay for World Youth Day trip (Fides) On 1 May, at the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Baghdad, young Christians organized an open-air market in order to find funds to support the expenses of the trip to Rio de Janeiro, where they hope to travel in July to participate in the next World Youth Day. The original fund-raising initiative could represent a pilot project to be re-launched in other churches scattered throughout the country. On the pavilions of the small fair, which saw right from the beginning a strong turnout of buyers, one could find groceries, clothes and electronic products…
Israel seeks de-escalation after launching airstrike on Syria (Christian Science Monitor) A day after it launched an airstrike outside of Damascus, killing scores of Syrian soldiers, Israel sought to play down the attack as a strike against regime-ally Hezbollah, not President Bashar al Assad. Reuters reports that Israel has made several soothing overtures to its war-racked northern neighbor after launching airstrikes in Syria on Friday and Sunday. Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israeli radio on Monday that Mr. Netanyahu aimed to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime”…
Bishop Audo: Easter in the tears of our Orthodox brothers (Fides) Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo Antoine Audo describes the celebration of Easter in Syria: “They sang ‘Christ is risen,’ and while repeating those words of joy and victory, they all had tears in their eyes. All their prayers mingled with their tears.” In addition to the suffering the civil war inflicts on all the people, there is also apprehension for the archbishops who are in the hands of unidentified kidnappers…
U.N.: No clear proof of Syrian chemical weapons (Al Jazeera) A United Nations team of investigators into rights abuses in Syria has stressed there is no conclusive proof of either side in the conflict using chemical weapons, despite a team member’s claims to the contrary. “The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict,” the commission said in a statement on Monday…
Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk Separation Barrier
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