2 January 2014
A Christian farmer works the fields near his home in northern Egypt. (photo: David Degner)
In the Winter issue of ONE, now online, writer Sarah Topol visits one family of farmers in northern Egypt and recounts the difficulties they face:
Muslim extremists vandalized some 70 Christian homes in Abu Qurqas in a week of clashes that began on 18 April. The struggles of this small Catholic farming community of 6,000 located about 160 miles south of Cairo mirror the events taking place in Coptic communities across the country (ethnic Egyptian Christians are known as Copts, which derives from the Greek, “Aigyptios,” meaning Egyptian Christian). And though the Labib’s situation is extreme, their story is representative of the perils facing many of Upper Egypt’s Coptic families in these turbulent times.
Since the January 2011 revolution that toppled Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, sectarian attacks in the country’s south have mushroomed. These days, Egypt’s Copt minority, which makes up roughly 10 percent of the population, feels a sense of anxiety as never before. Amid the general atmosphere of instability, rising prices and chronic shortages, the threat of extremist Muslim groups — both in organized politics and on the streets — has triggered sectarian attacks, along with a fear that the next bout of violence is just around the corner.
“They worry about everything related to stability; they don’t feel secure,” says Father Haidar, the pastor of the church of the Virgin Mary in Abu Qurqas. “This is their own country — they were born here, but they don’t feel safe.
“It’s the situation of Christians in the whole country,” he adds, “not just the situation of this village.” …
Father Haidar says [a] lack of accountability and justice has led many to be even more fearful, staying home and engaging even less with the society around them.
“They have been through many challenges and struggles since the revolution,” he explains. “They have lost many things — material things, as well as spiritual and psychological things,” he says of his parish community. And this loss bleeds into their faith.
“It’s not only in their daily life, it’s also in their spiritual aspects — their beliefs. We need to convince them God is with them and going to help.”
Read more about Seeds of Survival in Egypt in the Winter 2014 issue of ONE.
2 January 2014
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Farming/Agriculture Copts Egypt's Christians
Residents search for survivors after what activists said were air strikes by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo 28 December. (photo: CNS/Jalal Alhalabi, Reuters)
Missile strike kills at least 20 people in Aleppo (Los Angeles Times) At least 20 people were killed in Aleppo on Wednesday when a residential building was hit with a rocket from a warplane as the government’s daily bombardment of the northern Syria city continued, activists said. More than 500 people have been killed across Aleppo province in two weeks of a fierce government offensive with rockets and destructive barrel bombs, local doctors and human rights groups reported. Now approaching the end of its third year, the conflict in Syria has left more than 130,000 dead, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition rights group, this week. Nearly 12,000 of those were women and children…
Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop speaks about Syrian Christians (Aid to the Church in Need) Syrian-born Archbishop John Darwish heads the Melkite Greek Catholic eparchies of Furzol, Zahle and Bekaa in Lebanon. With a population of 200,000 Christians, Zahle is the largest Christian city in the Middle East. His jurisdiction straddles the western border of Syria and is currently home to 800 Syrian Christian refugee families — a total of more than 6,000 people — who have fled their homeland where they were caught in the fighting between the Syrian regime and rebel forces, and where Islamist rebels have been increasingly targeting the Christian community. Archbishop Darwish spoke with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on 18 December, during his visit to New York…
Pope Tawadros cancels catechesis on day of constitutional referendum (Fides) As the people of Egypt are preparing for a referendum to express their opinions on the text of the new constitution, the patriarch of Alexandria of the Coptic Orthodox, Pope Tawadros II, decided to cancel the traditional Wednesday catechesis that was supposed to be held in conjunction with the referendum. The constitutional referendum is scheduled on 14-15 January…
Powerful explosion rocks Beirut (Al Jazeera) A powerful explosion has rocked southern Beirut, sending smoke rising from the stronghold of the armed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, according to local residents. Five people were killed and others wounded, according to the country’s Health Ministry. Thursday’s blast is the latest sign of heightened sectarian tensions in the country, already soaring because of the civil war in neighboring Syria…
Armenian Apostolic patriarch commemorates new year with message (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin) Noting that 2013 was a year of progress, Patriarch Karekin II says: “There were also difficult times in the homeland as well as in the diaspora. We are facing deep-rooted problems such as making our country prosperous, defending our rights, reinforcing our statehood and improving our national and religious life. We are concerned with the predicament of the Armenian people living among the conflicts in the Middle East. We are hopeful that the children of Armenia will unite in the name of love for the homeland and nation. … On this New Year’s Day, I exhort our beloved people to fill their lives with spiritual healing and pilgrimage this year…”
31 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Armenian Apostolic Church Beirut Aleppo
In this 2010 photo, streetlights cast a soft glow on a Moscow street scene beside the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior. (photo: Julia Vishnevets)
New Year’s Eve has arrived. As people of the world celebrate, many use this time to reflect on matters such as the potential for new beginnings, what we might learn from the past and the reconciliation of the old with the — often radically — new. To read about how the Russian Orthodox Church is adapting to a changing world, read Orthodoxy Renewed, from the March 2010 issue of ONE.
Please keep in your prayers those affected by the recent bombings in Russia — and violence the world over — that this new year may be one of peace and healing.
Happy New Year!
31 December 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Russia Russian Orthodox Church
Abune Mathias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, poses earlier this year with Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president; Argaw Fantu, regional director for Ethiopia; and Gerald Jones, former regional director for Ethiopia. (photo: Thomas Varghese)
Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox Church arrested temporarily (Zegabi) The patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church, Abune Mathias, was placed under house arrest temporarily, but has since been released, according to a report by the Ethiopian Review today. The move is reported to have been attributed to Tsegaye Behane, national security adviser to the prime minister, allegedly over the patriarch’s criticisms of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Force. Abune Mathias was reportedly interrogated for 72 hours before his release…
Israel releases 26 more Palestinian prisoners (Los Angeles Times) Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners early Tuesday, the third of four groups it promised to free as part of peace talks restarted during the summer. Most of the prisoners were from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction and were serving long sentences for killing Israelis. Israel released the five Jerusalem prisoners at a checkpoint on the Mount of Olives where they were awaited by hundreds of family members, friends and officials carrying Palestinian flags and posters of the prisoners. Adnan Afandi of Bethlehem, one of the freed men, had served 21 years in prison. “I feel that we came out from the grave and into life once again,” he said…
Aleppo archbishop says church helps everyone, ‘without distinction’ (AsiaNews) “The church in Aleppo is standing steadfast despite the bombs, hunger and cold of recent weeks,” said Chaldean Archbishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo. “We want to live and have faith, and show our solidarity to everyone without distinction of religion or faction. This is our mission, our task.” Although the situation has improved in the past few days, the city is full of poor people, the archbishop noted. Still, the situation has not stopped Christians and the church from helping others and praying for peace in all of Syria…
Russia orders security crackdown after bombings (Vatican Radio) Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered new security measures across Russia following two suicide attacks killed dozens of people within two days in the southern city of Volgograd. Local residents remain concerned however after Monday’s attack on a trolley bus killed 15 people and Sunday’s blast at the main train station took at least 18 lives. Security forces are seen in Volgograd around what was once a blue and white trolley bus, powered by overhead electric cables. It is now reduced to a twisted, gutted carcass…
30 December 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Russia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Syrian Catholic
In this 2007 image, 26-year-old Hanna Mouhamma, a beneficiary of CNEWA’s microcredit program, walks with a young calf on his farm in northeastern Lebanon. To learn more about how this program helps people develop lasting, sustainable livelihoods, read Putting the Future in Their Hands, from the September 2011 issue of ONE. To join us in our efforts to support the churches and people of the Middle East — and other regions — click here. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
30 December 2013
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Farming/Agriculture Micro Credit Program
Metropolitan Pavel, recently elected to serve as head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, has previously led his church in the United States and Canada, as well as Vienna and Budapest. (photo: Belarusian Orthodox Church)
Belarusian Orthodox Church elects new leader (BelTA) Metropolitan Pavel of Ryazan and Mikhailov has been appointed Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk — the highest office in the Belarusian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, patriarchal exarch of All Belarus, retired upon reaching the age of 75…
What the pope can do about anti-Christian persecution (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis addressed anti-Christian persecution recently, following attacks on two Christian churches in Baghdad that left at least 38 dead. In the abstract, it’s tempting to ask what any pope can do to affect anti-Christian persecution beyond issuing a cri de coeur. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI raised the issue, and their rhetoric didn’t seem to put a dent in a scourge that claims somewhere between 9,000 and 100,000 lives every year. On the other hand, it was also once fashionable to ask what any pope could do about Communist persecution of Christians, until John Paul II played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet system across Eastern Europe. “For Christians this isn’t a surprise, because Jesus already announced [persecution] as a moment for offering witness,” Pope Francis said. “Nonetheless, on the civil plane, injustice ought to be denounced and eliminated.” Herewith are four things he could do to translate those words into action…
Russian Orthodox Church releases statement on events in Ukraine (Russian Orthodox Church) “We are aware that Ukrainian citizens have different views of the future of their country and we respect the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own way. But it is very important that it should be precisely people’s choice, free and based on the awareness of all the pros and cons, not dictated by any external will. Let adherents to different versions of this choice speak with the people through peaceful and legitimate public processes and through a calm and responsible dialogue with each other. The church is ready to assist different social groups in this dialogue and in a search for right decisions…”
Second blast in two days hits Russia (New York Times) President Vladimir Putin ordered security to be tightened across Russia after a suicide bombing on a trolley bus in Volgograd killed at least 15 people and wounded dozens on Monday, the second bombing in the city in two days. The twin bombings appeared to be part of a deadly campaign of terror ahead of the Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to begin in six weeks in Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea only 400 miles away…
Palestinian Christians keep Christmas traditions alive (Haaretz) A Palestinian college student is one of the last keepers of a fading tradition — ringing the bells of Bethlehem. Twice a week, Khadir Jaraiseh climbs to the roof of the Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. He pulls the ropes of four bells in a rooftop tower for a total of 33 times to symbolize the number of years Jesus was believed to have lived. Jaraiseh rings the bells for prayer services of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of three denominations that administer the basilica, one of Christianity’s holiest shrines. The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox denominations at the Nativity church — each of which has its own set of bells — have switched to automatic bell ringing systems. But there’s something special about the traditional approach, said Jaraiseh, who uses both hands and a floor pedal to pull the ropes…
Egyptian bishop: Violence will not stop referendum on new constitution (CNS) A 26 December attack in Cairo and other violence will not keep Egypt from going ahead with its planned referendum on a new constitution, said Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza, Egypt. “These explosions will not prevent the mass mobilization for the referendum on the constitution. On the contrary, they increase our determination … to follow through with advancing the nation,” Bishop Mina told the Egyptian online newspaper, Al Youm al Sabea, after an explosion hit a Cairo bus, wounding five people…
Al Jazeera journalists arrested in Egypt (Al Jazeera) Egypt’s security forces have arrested four Al Jazeera journalists in Cairo. Correspondent Peter Greste, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed as well as cameraman Mohamed Fawzy are being held in custody after arrested by security forces on Sunday evening. Human rights groups say conditions for journalists in Egypt have become difficult since former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was removed in a coup on July 3, 2013…
23 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Violence against Christians Russia Belarus
The Christmas tree is seen as Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 22 December. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
All of us at CNEWA send prayerful good wishes to the members of our extended family this Christmas season. Peace be with you!
Our offices will be closed from Christmas Eve until next Monday, 30 December. In the meantime, have a blessed and happy holiday!
23 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Christianity
Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, celebrates Mass in our New York offices for the intentions of our donors. (photo: CNEWA)
Tomorrow, you’ll find me in the land of Jesus. There, it’ll be my great privilege to celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass in the very place where he was born — Bethlehem. The beauty and wonder of that sacred place, on that holiest of nights, fills me with joy.
This Christmas will be especially joyful because I’m bringing with me your special intentions. Thank you for entrusting them to me — and as a special gift, I want to share with you the photo below. Today, I celebrated a Mass at CNEWA’s New York office along with my colleagues here. Your intentions were placed on the table that served as our altar, and we lifted up your prayer petitions to the Lord.
Before I begin my journey to Bethlehem, I want to thank you for your abundant generosity. You make it possible for the Church to witness to the Gospel in some of the most troubled places on earth. Your prayerful support makes a difference every single day. Please know that you and your loved ones will be remembered in my prayers at Christmas Midnight Mass — and in so many prayers from those whose lives you’ve touched.
If you haven’t yet shared your special intentions with me, there’s still time before Christmas Midnight Mass. Click here to send your intentions to me now.
May Almighty God bless you and your family! Merry Christmas!
23 December 2013
Tags: CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar Donors Bethlehem
Sister Adele Brambilla, C.M.S., directs the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan, which provides affordable treatment to those most in need — including refugees from Syria and Iraq. To read more about this institution, read Overwhelming Mercy, from the Autumn issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Comboni sister sees hope in the eyes of Syrian refugees (AsiaNews) From the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan, Comboni Missionary Sister Adele Brambilla describes the daily life of Syrian refugees. Thousands of families camp with nothing to keep them warm in the cold winter; treatable diseases are killing children. “Despite everything, hope is not dead,” Sister Adele says. “It is the refugees who are telling us that it is still alive. And those called to work together regardless of race, religion and beliefs are also holding it high so that human solidarity may still have a human face…”
Bulgaria, unready, is poor host to Syrians (New York Times) As the poorest member of the 28-nation European Union, Bulgaria has struggled to provide even rudimentary shelter to Syrian refugees, who began surging into the country from Turkey last summer after neighboring Greece, previously a popular entry point to Europe, built a fence along its border and beefed up controls…
L’Arche workshop uses Bethlehem commodity to provide work for members (CNS) The workshop Ma’an lil-Hayat is part of the international L’Arche network founded in 1964 by Canadian Catholic philosopher and theologian Jean Vanier for people with intellectual disabilities. This institution takes a local resource closely associated with the Christmas story but normally squandered — sheeps’ wool — and uses it to bring dignity and recognition to a population often overlooked and hidden in Palestinian society…
Brotherhood prisoners launch hunger strike in Egypt (Daily Star Lebanon) More than 450 imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood members launched a hunger strike Monday over their “inhuman treatment” after being jailed following the military’s overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, the group said…
Ukraine opposition forms political bloc, urges more protests (Al Jazeera) Seeking to consolidate their protest movement, leaders of major Ukrainian opposition parties demonstrating against the government of President Viktor Yanukovich said Sunday that they are establishing a nationwide political movement called Maidan (“Independence”), a reference to the square in Kiev that has been a major rallying area for the protests…
Still defiant, members of Russia’s Pussy Riot band go free (Los Angeles Times) Two members of the feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot were freed from prison Monday after serving most of their two-year sentences for hooliganism, a charge that stemmed from the “punk prayer” they performed denouncing President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed satisfaction with the amnesty and offered a gesture of conciliation. “We are happy they were released and although we denounced their blasphemous act, we never insisted that they should have been put in prison to begin with, but it is the way the law is,” Vladimir Vigilyansky, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, said in an interview…
20 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Refugees Bulgaria Italian Hospital Comboni Sisters
In this image from 2004, snow drapes the church in Kosmach, a village in the Carpathian Mountains, during the Christmas Day liturgy. To learn more about the rich history and traditions of the the people of that region, read Faith and Tradition in the November 2004 issue of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)
Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Village life Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church