4 September 2012
Coptic Christians grieve during the funeral for seven victims of sectarian violence at Samaan el-Kharaz Church in Cairo, Egypt, last year. Thirteen people died and 140 were wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims initiated by anger over an arson attack on a church the week before. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
In this morning’s “Page One,” we highlighted an essay featured in America Magazine by David Pinault, a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University. The author described a recent visit to Egypt, his impressions of the country since the “Lotus Revolution,” and the declining number of Copts in Egypt since the onset of conflict. He described a conversation with a Cairo cab driver:
I told him the statistics: in 2011 and 2012, since the revolution’s onset, over 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt. “Well, I’m not going to leave,” Sami insisted. “Christ is testing us. I tell my friends to stay. Christ could end this suffering, this trial, at any time. How will you feel, I tell my friends, if you’re in Canada instead of Egypt when Christ returns?”
I pondered this apocalyptic thought as we skirted Tahrir Square, the scene of recurrent confrontations between demonstrators and Egypt’s military, and passed the blackened ruins of the Institute of Egypt. French scholars had founded the Institute after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion in 1798; its archives held centuries-old maps, books and manuscripts — a priceless treasure. But in December 2011, when government forces on nearby rooftops shot at demonstrators in the street, protesters retaliated by throwing firebombs at the soldiers. Some of the projectiles fell short; the resultant fire destroyed most of the building and much of the collection. In January 2012, Sami told me, Muslim and Christian volunteers collaborated in salvaging charred volumes from the ruins.
But what lingered in my mind was the assessment published in the Arabic-language newspaper al-Ahram by the Egyptian poet and commentator Kamal ‘Arafah. He compared the destruction of Cairo’s Napoleonic Institute to the ancient burning of the Library of Alexandria and the Mongols’ obliteration of Baghdad’s learning centers in the 13th century. Labeling Egypt’s fire-bombers “Mongols of chaos,” ‘Arafah added, “I felt pain when I saw in the videos and pictures the cries of Allahu akbar (Allah is great) and La ilaha illa Allah (there is no god except Allah) coming from young men and women while the Institute of Egypt was burning — young men and women who were ignorant of the extent of the loss bleeding from the heart of Egypt.“
When I mentioned ‘Arafah’s commentary to Sami, he said he, too, found disturbing the linkage of religious sloganeering and violence. He returned to what we had been discussing earlier, Salafist persecution of the Copts: “I’m staying. I’m not leaving my country. I’m not going to do what the Salafists want me to do.” He added that in the aftermath of recent attacks on Christian churches, when he and his Coptic friends assemble for prayer, they have the feeling, “We’re ready to be martyrs. We’re ready to be with Christ, to live with Christ.” Not martyrs in any violent sense, he insisted, but in the sense of giving witness.
For more, read Ready To Be Martyrs.
28 August 2012
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Africa Coptic Christians
Leave a comment
In this photo taken in 2000, two young girls play at a displaced persons camp outside Delle, Eritrea. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Back in 2000, Brother Vincent Pelletier, F.S.C., CNEWA’s former regional director for Ethiopia and Eritrea, visited Eritrea following the Eritrean-Ethiopian War. He recorded his observations, which revealed the effects of war on a people:
We visited a camp for the displaced in the village of Delle, about 18 miles west of Barentu. With some 45,000 residents, it is one of the largest camps in Eritrea. More people are expected to enter the camp as those who fled to Sudan during active fighting continue to return. As we walked through the camp we noticed that many inhabitants had set up shop in their tents and were selling everything from soap powder to beer. Under a canvas, a makeshift school had been organized for the children. I was relieved to see that the children in the camp looked healthy. By contrast, some of the children from surrounding villages appeared malnourished. Some of these people have been in the camp for two years.
There was a bit of commotion outside the camp as a good number of Sudanese trucks drove by. We were told that the Eritrean government currently imports a large amount of grain from Sudan.
For more, read Eritrea in War’s Aftermath.
23 August 2012
Tags: Children Ethiopia Africa War Eritrea
Leave a comment
In this 2006 image, Patriarch Paulos and bishops assemble during a celebration of the feast of Mary of Zion in Aksum. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Last week we shared the sad news of Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Abune Paulos’ death. Today, he was laid to rest in Addis Ababa:
Thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians gathered on Thursday at the St. Trinity Cathedral Church in Addis Ababa to pay their last respects to the late patriarch, Abune Paulos who died last week at 76.
Representatives from various countries, bishops and heads of churches including Coptic Church of Egypt, Syria and India, General Secretary of World Churches, representatives of the Vatican and the Greek Orthodox Church attended the funeral ceremony.
Msgr. John E. Kozar met the patriarch in April and shared his impressions of him on the blog.
21 August 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church Aksum Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Abune Paulos
Leave a comment
A resident of a home for girls hugs a sister from the Verbo Encarnado (Incarnate Word) community, which runs the child care facility near Alexandria, Egypt.
(photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
In the November 2004 edition of ONE, we featured a story about the work of the Verbo Encarnado sisters in the Dekhela neighborhood of Alexandria, Egypt. The sisters established homes for girls escaping turbulent and unstable homes for the comfort and security offered by the congregation:
The national average daily income is just over $10 a day. About 23 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Due to overpopulation, a weak economy and high unemployment, the challenges facing Egypt’s youth are daunting.
Sister María Guadalupe, the superior of the community in Egypt, says the situation in Dekhela is especially bad. The town is poor; there are few social services.
“These girls were living with their families in one room,” she says. “No bathroom, no kitchen, just one room. Sometimes there would be a bed and that’s all. So the girls were spending all their time in the street.”
For more, read Building a Brighter Future.
10 August 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Sisters Africa
Leave a comment
A child plays at the Godano Institution, a home for abused girls, women and their children. (photo: John E. Kozar)
As we mentioned yesterday, the July edition of ONE is now available online! You may have noticed something new in the last few issues of the magazine: a photograph and accompanying essay on the last page in a feature that we call Focus. In this feature, the president of CNEWA, Msgr. John E. Kozar, (a gifted and accomplished photographer, by the way!) shares one of his own photographs of CNEWA’s world and offers a reflection on what that picture means to him. In the July edition he writes about the children of Ethiopia:
As the president of CNEWA, I am privileged to visit many distant lands. And one of the special joys in each and every place is to meet the children. Children have a way of sharing with us a window into the soul of their country, their people and their tribe. The window is not cluttered or ornate; it is simple and clear and bright.
On a visit not long ago, I met the beautiful children of Ethiopia. In a way that only children can reflect, they helped me experience the joys, the hopes and the sufferings of the Ethiopian poor. They welcomed me into a world that is not sophisticated or complicated, but one that is pure, simple and sincere.
For more, check out the July edition of the magazine.
2 August 2012
Tags: Children Ethiopia Africa Msgr. John E. Kozar ONE magazine
Leave a comment
Earlier this year Msgr. Kozar met with CNEWA office staff in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Tazanesh, a sponsorship clerk; Megnote, an accountant; Rahel, a receptionist; and Meseret, a sponsorship clerk. (photo: CNEWA)
We often describe CNEWA as a “family.” It is a very large family, which includes people in need in the regions we serve, church and community leaders throughout those regions, our benefactors and of course the hardworking individuals that staff our offices. We have introduced you to some special members of our New York staff on the blog before. Today, we would like to introduce you to a few dedicated workers from our office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Msgr. John Kozar had the opportunity to meet with them during his pastoral visit in April:
I also had a wonderful visit yesterday with our CNEWA family in Addis Ababa — that is, our staff. This group of very dedicated and dynamic workers welcomed me warmly. I took the opportunity to become better acquainted with them and to share with them how I value greatly not only their performance in the office, but their input in helping me to improve on the good works of CNEWA in Ethiopia. They very readily accepted this challenge as we journey together to discover more fully who we are, what we do and why we do it. We included in our visit a lovely lunch together at a local restaurant, a treat for them and also for me, as sharing a meal together is always the best way to heighten a visit.
To learn more about CNEWA’s work in Ethiopia, read Msgr. Kozar’s blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
1 August 2012
Tags: CNEWA Ethiopia Africa Msgr. John E. Kozar
Leave a comment
A Coptic priest celebrates the liturgy at a church in Deir Azra, a Christian village in Upper Egypt. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Last week, Trudy Rubin, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported on the reactions within Egypt’s Coptic community to the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi as president:
There were simmering tensions between radical Muslims and the Coptic community under the Mubarak regime, including attacks on the Copts' places of worship. To open new churches, Copts were required to get presidential permission, which was rarely forthcoming, forcing them to worship in “unlicensed,” and thus vulnerable, structures.
“We thought the revolution would solve our grievances,” Sidhom said, ruefully. “It took a lot of people by surprise that Islamists were able to take advantage of the revolution.”
Under Hosni Mubarak, she said, despite the problems, ultraconservative Salafi Muslims had no power. Now, young Salafis return from the cities to their home villages, where Copts and Muslims have lived side by side, and warn them against Christian “infidels.” She reeled off a list of churches that have been burned down since the revolution.
For more from this story, read Copts in Egypt are watching and worrying.
23 July 2012
Tags: Egypt Village life Coptic Christians Coptic Church
Leave a comment
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.
11 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Saints
Leave a comment
Capuchin Franciscans take a break from a continuing education and formation program for catechists in Bhurat, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Through this blog, Msgr. John Kozar has shared countless stories and photos that make the world seem a lot smaller and bring you closer to the people we serve. Back in April, Msgr. Kozar shared some inspiring stories from his first pastoral visit to Ethiopia:
Another very inspiring experience on this day was a brief visit to a class being given to catechists, as part of their continuing education and formation program. And to me an amazing part of their story is that each of them has been chosen for this most important role by their respective communities. They must be men and women of great faith, willing to share their faith with others as catechists.
The big campus at Bhurat also includes a health clinic. Two sisters from India run it and do a superb job in offering first-rate healthcare in an environment of loving kindness. We ended our visit with a marvelous meal, which included the ritual roasting of coffee beans and serving of rich Ethiopian coffee. With us for the entire visit to this site were the elders, almost serving as our security team and “honor guard.” In fact, the honor was all ours.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s detailed blog series from his time spent in Ethiopia, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
29 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Seminarians Ethiopian Catholic Church
Leave a comment
Parishioners pray during the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During Msgr. John Kozar’s first pastoral visit to the Ethiopia in April, he witnessed just how faithful the Ethiopian Catholic community is, despite being small in number:
My first exposure to the rich Ge’ez Rite would come at an early morning Divine Liturgy the following morning at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The bishop and most of the eparchy’s priests concelebrated the ancient liturgy. I was taken aback by the beauty of the liturgy, the amazing intricacy of the chanting, not just of the bishop and the priests, but all the many faithful who had assembled as well. The cathedral had a large of number of people for this ordinary weekday eucharistic liturgy, celebrated at 6:20 a.m. All of the faithful are farmers and some regularly walk great distances to attend.
Another impressive aspect of the cathedral is the outstanding paintings that adorn most of the walls. These are works of art in progress, as the bishop has commissioned an 80-year-old Orthodox priest-iconographer to paint the cathedral murals. After four years of labor, I would say this venerable priest is about 80 percent finished. He lives with the bishop and two other Catholic priests assigned there, together sharing their lives, meals and prayers. I had the honor to meet this outstanding artist and thanked him for his great gift.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s first blog post in his series from Ethiopia, A Warm Welcome.
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church Church
Leave a comment