2 May 2019
Cyclone Fani, at peak intensity, looms over the central western Bay of Bengal, near the eastern coast of India, on 2 May 2019. (photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, ‘Aqua’ satellite, via Wikimedia)
India evacuates nearly 1 million as powerful Cyclone Fani bears down (AccuWeather) Officials in India mobilized a massive evacuation effort on Thursday as the country braced for landfall from a potentially devastating Cyclone Fani. Nearly a million people are being evacuated ahead of the cyclone’s looming strike on the eastern India coastline as the week ends. One government official said the evacuation effort is the largest in the nation’s history…
Indian Christians seek better security at churches (UCAN India) Christian leaders in India have intensified their call to make churches safer after police arrested a man and accused him of having links to Islamic terror groups and planning to attack religious places in Kerala state…
India turning to midwives to reduce maternal mortality (Der Spiegel) In India, the second-most populous country in the world, giving birth isn’t just a fight for new life; it can also be a struggle for dignity and self-determination. For a country that has been striving to improve its maternal health indicators, India has greatly underestimated midwifery, lagging behind countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, both of which have invested in creating a professional cadre of midwives. That, though, is now changing…
Qatar brings Gaza beaches back to life (Al Monitor) The Gaza Electricity Distribution Co., in cooperation with Gaza Strip municipalities, completed on 18 April a Qatar-funded project designed to connect wastewater treatment plants to new power lines with the objective of supplying the plants with uninterrupted power around the clock…
What to expect from Pope Francis’ trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia (America magazine) Pope Francis will visit Bulgaria and North Macedonia from 5-7 May — two majority Orthodox countries with very small Catholic populations that are facing high unemployment, poverty and tensions over immigration. He goes as a messenger of peace to support these emerging countries on a visit that has a strong ecumenical dimension…
1 May 2019
Tags: India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Bulgaria
Sri Lanka is praying for calm after the Easter terror attacks on churches, and experts warn that more churches in the region may be under threat from ISIS. (video: CBC/YouTube)
Experts: Threat to churches in Asia growing in wake of Sri Lanka attacks (CNS) The grisly Sri Lankan bombings are a reminder that Asia -- not the Middle East -- is the region most afflicted by terrorist violence. The prognosis comes as the so-called Islamic State has splintered and gone back underground following the defeat of its caliphates in Iraq and Syria as well as the continued operation of other terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida in the region…
Report: Iran targeting religious minorities (Voice of America) A U.S. government body that monitors global religious freedom says conditions in Iran worsened last year, with escalated government targeting of non-Shi’ite Muslims and minority Baha’is and Christians. In its annual report published Monday, the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said Iran merits designation as one of 16 countries of particular concern based on conditions in 2018…
Latest round of Indian elections marred by violence (AP) The fourth phase of India’s staggered national election Monday was marred by multiple clashes that injured at least seven people and led to security forces firing warning shots outside one polling station…
The poor benefit from Delhi walkathon (UCANews.com) Last year was the walkathon’s first effort, and it proved to be a success, said Father John Britto, Chetanalaya director. The priest said someone participating in the walkathon usually walked the last part of their journey to work. “The money saved from walking would become the donation,” he said. Last year the program collected around 70,000 rupees which allowed them to fund nine physically challenged people plus two elderly people start small businesses similar to Kumar’s. The achievements of that program inspired participants to continue the walkathon this Lent, Father Britto said…
Waste from Kerala affecting residents elsewhere (The Times of India) Waste from neighboring Kerala continues to haunt residents of Mysuru…
Syria’s lost heritage stands about among broken minarets (Reuters) The sorry state of Aleppo’s Old City, a labyrinthine World Heritage Site and a battlefield from 2012-16, is obvious from a glance across the skyline at its shell-beaten minarets. They look down on an area that suffered massive damage in a conflict that brought down the medieval covered souk, smashed mosque domes and burnt churches. The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO in December said 10 percent of Aleppo’s historic buildings were destroyed and more than half the buildings they assessed showed severe to moderate damage…
30 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Persecution Iran
The Rev. Bryan Eyman poses with the icon of the Theotokos, the Inexhaustible Cup, Healer of Alcoholics, at St. Athanasius the Great Byzantine Catholic Parish in Indianapolis, where prayers of healing are offered for those struggling with alcoholism. (photo: CNS/Rev. John Russell via Horizons)
Numerous organizations, both private and public, seek to help those who struggle with substance abuse through programming and support services, but the Rev. Bryan Eyman has committed to a different approach: prayer.
Confident in the power of Jesus to satisfy every thirst, Father Eyman has been offering prayers for people struggling with alcoholism for the past 20 years.
Once a month, he celebrates an Eastern Christian Marian prayer service -- an akathist -- dedicated to the Mother of God, the Inexhaustible Cup, Healer of Alcoholics, at St. Athanasius the Great Byzantine Catholic Church in Indianapolis, where he is pastor. The most recent service was on 24 April.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month and, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 74 percent of the 19.7 million Americans who battle substance abuse are alcoholics. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also reports that about 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes in the United States each year, making it the third-leading cause of preventable death in the country, after tobacco and poor nutrition.
With the situation as grave as it is, the church has an important role to play in ministering to this marginalized group, said Father Eyman.
The Eastern Catholic priest attributes his commitment to prayer for the healing of alcoholics to his mother, Margaret Kelly Eyman.
“She was an employee in one of the first alcohol treatment centers in in the world,” he said.
His mother worked with Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin at Rosary Hall Solarium at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland. Sister Ignatia, along with Dr. Bob Smith, founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The nun was a family friend, and Father Eyman recalled being an altar server at her funeral.
In 1988, while he was pastor at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Father Eyman began in this area of ministry by being available for people in the fourth and fifth steps of AA’s 12-step recovery program. These two steps consist of members telling another person about their addiction and seeking to make amends for the harm they might have caused, he said. He noted then, as now, the shortage of priests to help Catholics in the AA program.
Father Eyman continued in this capacity with AA when he was transferred to St. Andrew Byzantine Catholic Parish, now Holy Transfiguration Byzantine Catholic Parish, in Mentor-on-the-Lake, Ohio. There, he also welcomed a local AA group that was seeking a larger meeting space.
In the late 1990s, his ministry with alcoholics took an unexpected and more prayerful turn. It was the advent of the internet, and one of his first online searches produced a Russian icon of the Theotokos, the Inexhaustible Cup, Healer of Alcoholics. It came with the akathist prayer service that was translated from Russian into English.
He read about the miraculous healing associated with the icon. In late 19th-century Russia, a severe alcoholic, debilitated by his addiction, had a dream in which he was instructed to go to a particular monastery and ask for this icon. Upon praying before it, he was healed of his alcoholism, after which many other alcoholics were healed before the icon. This particular monastery was closed under communism, and a family hid the icon for safekeeping. The icon reemerged after communism, and the prayer service linked with this devotion restarted.
Moved by this story and sensing a call to action, Father Eyman began praying the akathist at St. Andrew Parish in 1999, before the AA meetings, and AA members were invited to participate.
He continued the prayer service when he was assigned to St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Marblehead, Ohio, and then at St. Athanasius the Great, where he serves currently. Prayer services are held usually on the third Wednesday of each month, unless there is a scheduling conflict.
Attendance varies from month to month, from four people to 25 people, but swells to about 100 for the prayer service that marks the feast of the icon, 5 May, he said. The service includes praying for people struggling with alcoholism by name. Requests from people to include their loved ones continue to grow, he said.
“We get names from all over and we only use first names,” Father Eyman said. “For me, it’s not a matter of the number but the commitment to prayer to benefit people we may never meet. We just try to be faithful in doing it, with confidence that Christ will bring about the healing, if we are open to it,” through the intercession of Mary.
Father Eyman said some people have received complete healing from the prayer service.
“In at least four cases, they have lost the craving for alcohol,” he said. Others, even from different religions, have found the prayer “very moving and encouraging as they walked through the steps” of AA and began to seek healing from alcoholism from the Mother of God.
Father Eyman said the spiritual component to recovering from addiction “is very important for people to connect with, especially in the Catholic tradition, (where) there is forgiveness.”
“When we repent and decide to change and pour that reality out to another person, that’s when healing can begin,” he said.
“Our spiritual life and sacramental life as Catholics can be tied in with our physical well-being and (we can) help people make that connection and see that inner dependency,” he said. “It’s basically people in need of God.”
Father Eyman said he would encourage more priests to pray the service in their parishes. The impact of alcohol abuse on individuals and families is grave and “it runs the gamut,” from “prayerful priests to outright atheists,” he said.
30 April 2019
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church
India's National Investigation Agency has arrested Riyas Aboobacker in connection with a planned attack by ISIS in Kerala. (photo: India Today/YouTube)
India arrests ISIS suspect allegedly plotting attacks in Kerala (The Daily Star) India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it has arrested a 29-year-old suspect linked to terror group Islamic State for allegedly conspiring to carry out a suicide attack in the southern state of Kerala…
Holy See urges Israel, Palestine to alleviate suffering of people (Vatican News) The Holy See is urging Israelis and Palestinians to alleviate the suffering of the people and pursue a future of peace and stability in the region. “Too many innocent civilians, on both sides, have paid the price of the indiscriminate use of violence and force,” lamented Monsignor Tomasz Grysa, the First Counsellor of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission at the United Nations in New York on Monday…
Students blamed for arson attacks at school in India (UCANews.com) Catholics in India’s Manipur state have accused a students’ organization of burning down a school after being angered by disciplinary action taken against some students. Seven classrooms, a records room and offices of St. Joseph School in the Sugnu area of Chandel district were destroyed by an arson attack on the night of 25 April after six students were suspended for indiscipline...
More churches, fewer churchgoers in Russia (Radio Free Europe) The Russian Orthodox Church has been building numerous places of worship in recent years, but some residents have objected to plans to place them in previously public spaces…
German Christians to present golden menorah to Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) A group of 11 pro-Israel German Christians left on a boat for Israel Monday, bringing with them a 5-foot, 265-pound gilded menorah. A life-size replica of the Temple lamp, the menorah is traveling from Germany via Rome to the port of Haifa. It will arrive on 5 May and be presented to the public on 9 May at a special ceremony in Jerusalem…
29 April 2019
Tags: India Jerusalem Palestine ISIS
Adanech Sebro and Belay Tesema chat with visitors in their home in Wonji.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the current edition of ONE, journalist Emeline Wuilbercq reports on efforts by the Catholic Church to help build stronger families in Ethiopia. She offers some additional impressions below.
In January, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. National reconciliation and the peace agreement signed with Eritrea were mentioned during their exchange.
This visit was an opportunity to highlight the contribution of the Catholic Church in Africa’s second most populous country, which is considered one of the oldest Christian nations.
Despite the small number of Catholics — they represent less than 1 percent of Ethiopia’s estimated 105 million people, according to the 2007 census — the Catholic Church is highly respected. It supports health and education and administers a few hundred schools throughout the country.
But the presence of the Prime Minister at the Vatican was also very symbolic. He is a devoted Pentecostal, his father is a Muslim and his late mother was a Christian Orthodox. The visit underscored his tolerance and respect for other people’s spiritual beliefs — qualities that characterize many Ethiopians. This has always impressed me since I arrived in the country in 2015. Here, people from different religions live together peacefully. They respect one another. They even celebrate together major religious festivities. But, they mostly don’t interfere in each other’s practices and formalities.
For instance, in January, while I was reporting on a workshop on marriage and conflict resolution for Catholic families, the first couple I met in the town of Wonji were remarkably candid. They were willing to share their experiences to people from different religious backgrounds, in a very respectful manner.
Those who attended this carefully crafted workshop are expected to spread Catholic values — such as dialogue, patience, tolerance and spirituality — in their own communities and create a network of strong Catholic families that can live and prosper as one.
Conscious of the religious diversity in their country, Belay and Adanech, the main subjects for my story in ONE magazine, were sharing their experiences without imposing their beliefs. They were giving advice to their neighbors “as a family,” not specifically as Catholics. That shows how the Catholic community is willing to help and advise individuals from various backgrounds, all while following the words of Jesus Christ: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
That also shows the uniqueness of Ethiopia.
The respect for religious diversity is far from the global norm. But living together harmoniously is possible. Ethiopia offers the world a beautiful example.
Read more about why Family Matters in the March 2019 edition of ONE.
29 April 2019
Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics around the world celebrated Easter this past weekend — and many decorated their homes with psyanky. Learn more about the rich tradition surrounding these eggs and how they are made in The Colors of Easter in the March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Erin Edwards)
29 April 2019
The video above shows some of the thousands of Christians who gathered in Jerusalem Saturday to receive and pass on the 'Holy Fire' marking Orthodox Easter. (video: YouTube)
Huge crowds mark Orthodox Easter with ‘Holy Fire’ (The Times of Israel) Huge crowds of pilgrims on Saturday marked the “Holy Fire” ceremony at Christianity’s holiest site in Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of Orthodox Easter. Some 10,000 Christians holding candles squeezed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Thousands more crammed the square outside and surrounding streets to receive the flame, representing the resurrection of Christ, which passed from candle to candle and will be taken back to Orthodox churches worldwide…
India searches for ISIS suspects (The Daily Star) India’s elite counter-terror body National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out searches at the houses of three suspects in Kerala on Sunday in connection with a suspected Islamic State (ISIS) module in which 21 Indians are said to have traveled to Syria and Afghanistan and joined ISIS in 2016…
Indian election a battle for hearts and minds (UCANews.com) The ongoing general election in India will decide who will rule its 1.2 billion people for the next five years. But the run-up to the polls not only pitted political parties against each other but also divided Indian intelligentsia, sadly centered on a bigoted religious ideology…
Syrian refugees in Lebanon evicted (Al Jazeera) At least 50 Syrian refugees, including children, have been evicted from an informal settlement along Lebanon’s Litani River as part of an anti-pollution drive, bringing the total number of refugees forced out of the area this year to 1,500…
Sri Lanka bans face coverings (CNN) Any face covering that “hinders the identification of individuals in a way that threatens national security” is now banned in Sri Lanka, according to a statement from the country’s President. The move follows a series of bombings on Easter Sunday that killed more than 250 people and wounded at least 500 in Sri Lankan churches and hotels…
How social media and political division feed attacks on sacred spaces (The Washington Post) Inspired by the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and enabled by the largely unchecked freedoms of social media, individual extremists have launched a steady series of assaults on religious institutions around the world, the latest at a California synagogue…
26 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Muslim Persecution
In this image from several years ago, Macedonian worshipers greet Easter with lighted candles at St. Nikolai Church in Ohrid on Holy Saturday — which many there will observe this weekend.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Around the world, many Christians are still preparing to celebrate Easter this weekend. A few years ago, I posted this piece to help explain why:
At present the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches calculate the date of Easter differently than the Orthodox churches. This results in both sets of Christian churches often having different dates for Easter. The bishops believed that all Christians celebrating Easter on the same day would be a sign of Christian unity.
When I was asked to write on this, I thought that there were some deep theological differences involved. Research into the topic made me realize that I was in the exciting area of “things I thought I knew but didn’t.” To understand more, you have to start at the beginning — the very beginning.
I know that the Gospels are not in total agreement about the date of the Last Supper. The Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) see the Last Supper taking place on the first day of Passover, which began at sundown on Thursday. John, on the other hand, sees the Last Supper taking place on the evening before Passover, which according to John would have begun Friday at sunset. I was aware of a group of Christians in the early church called the “Quattuordecimans” (“Fourteeners”) who celebrated Easter on the 14th of Nisan, the same day Jews celebrated Passover. For the Quattuordecimans, Easter could fall on any day of the week. Most Christians, however, celebrated Easter on the Sunday after Passover. There were some controversies between the two groups. The Council of Nicea (325), however, settled the matter and decreed that Easter would be on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. The date of the equinox, with some slight astronomical inaccuracy, was determined as 21 March.
It would seem, then, that the question was solved in 325. What was the problem? The problem was not based on a deep, theological or mystical difference. The problem was based on an astronomical calculation: the length of the calendar year.
Read on to understand more about why there are two dates for Easter.
And to our Eastern and Orthodox siblings: Have a blessed and happy Easter this Sunday!
26 April 2019
Tags: Easter Eastern Catholic Churches
Both Christian and Muslim public prayers have been suspended in parts of Sri Lanka, and many Muslims say they fear reprisal attacks, following last weekend's suicide bombings reportedly carried out by a group linked to ISIS. (video: SkyNews/YouTube)
Sri Lanka fears new attacks as weekend prayers begin (CNN) The ongoing hunt for terrorist suspects in Sri Lanka, and fears of reprisal attacks, have cast a shadow over the country still reeling from the devastation of the Easter Sunday bombings. Sri Lankans of different faiths were being urged to pray privately amid fears of further attacks Friday, as the country’s prime minister told CNN that security forces were also working to pick up any terrorist “sleepers” — who could activate to initiate another round of attacks…
Daily life in war-weary Damascus (Bloomberg) The road to Damascus from the Lebanese border leaves nobody in doubt who has won the war that’s cast a dark shadow over the Middle East for eight years. “Welcome to victorious Syria,” a billboard says with a picture of a beaming President Bashar al-Assad superimposed over the country’s red, white and black flag. Instead of a frenzy of reconstruction and the promise of revival, Syrians have found themselves fighting another battle. Weary and traumatized from the violence, they’re focused on trying to survive in a decimated economy that shows no signs of imminent revival and with no peace dividend on the horizon…
New generation of refugees emerging in Jordan camp (Al Jazeera) Zaatari camp in Jordan near the Syrian border is home to almost 80,000 refugees — 40 percent of them aged under 11…
Indian archbishop seeks apology from pro-Hindu politician (UCANews.com) Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore has sought an apology from a pro-Hindu politician for describing Christians as dishonest and unpatriotic. Archbishop Machado, who heads the bishops’ council in Karnataka state, said K.S. Eshwarappa, a senior leader of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), should publicly apologize for his statement…
Orthodox mark Good Friday (The Times of Israel) Orthodox Christians from around the world marked Good Friday with a procession through Jerusalem’s Old City, retracing the steps Jesus is said to have taken on the way to his death. Thousands of pilgrims, many carrying wooden crosses and at least one wearing a crown of thorns on his head, visited the 14 Stations of the Cross marking the traditional sites of Jesus’s condemnation up to his crucifixion…
25 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Muslim Orthodox Damascus
A young woman holds candles during a vigil in Lahore, Pakistan, on 23 April 2019, in solidarity with the victims of Sri Lanka's Easter suicide bomb attacks. (photo: CNS/Mohsin Raza, Reuters)
At Mass a few weeks ago, I heard an unusual noise coming from the entrance of the church. Without thinking, I turned and found myself fearing the worst. An attack? After Mass I asked others if they felt the same way and, to my surprise, some did. How many of us are experiencing this type of fear in our places of worship? For most Canadians, the answer is not at all; the risk of this happening is still very slim, after all.
But it may not feel that way. This past Easter Sunday, the killings of innocent Catholics while celebrating Mass in Sri Lanka would certainly reinforce this fear. We could add to this the stabbing of a priest while celebrating Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal; just before that, the killing of innocent Muslims in a New Zealand mosque; and last year, the killing of innocent Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The list, regrettably, goes on.
Are these despicable acts of terror and inhumanity starting to have their effect on our sense of safety?
As we just celebrated the great feast of Easter — not just with chocolate bunnies but with the same spiritual vibrancy that millions of Christians still feel today — let’s remember that there is another way to fight this looming fear.
I’m refering to the Christians of countries such as Egypt who, over the past 10 years or so, have experienced the worst at the hands of well-armed and organized extremist groups that are determined to target minorities on specific feasts and in sacred spaces. Easter and Christmas, for example, are moments of particular worry for thousands of Christians in that country.
A few years ago, I traveled to Egypt and experienced how this drama plays out. One night, in a rural town, I joined a local Coptic Catholic community to celebrate Epiphany. To my surprise, I saw a small battalion of well-armed men coming to the church. They’re here to protect us, I was told. Somehow this didn’t reassure me.
I was in shock to hear that this happens all over Egypt: armed men come to Mass to protect the faithful. “How do you do it?,” I asked, referring to the heavy burden and fear on their shoulders. Their answer was very simple. “There is a level of fear, sure, but we’ve been practicing our faith, here, for more than 2000 years,” I was told. “We’ve lived through much worse and we have a mission given to us by Jesus.”
And there it is. Our journey is to follow Christ, wherever that may lead us. We shouldn’t be afraid when we are led towards people who are different from us; but, rather, we should follow the example of Middle East Christians and persevere in encountering others through dialogue, service and love, no matter what. Each day, these Christians offer inspiring works in the areas of healthcare, education and service to the handicapped, elderly, poor and so many more, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.
All are welcome. They know by experience that God’s compassion and mercy are the keys to fighting fear, building lasting relationships and, ultimately, bringing a lasting peace.
The terrorists can attack them, and yes, there will be broken families, pain, and horror, as in Sri Lanka this past Easter weekend. However, our Egyptian brothers and sisters can be witnesses that the faith will remain and love will prevail through forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion. It isn’t easy to do — but what an example to follow.
These values are the basis of CNEWA’s mission and this is why we have been working with Eastern Christians in the Middle East, India, northeastern Africa and Eastern Europe since 1926. They are the ones who started it all with great sacrifices and pain — but also with an amazing and deep commitment to Jesus.
So yes: in my parish earlier this month, for a short moment, I was distracted. But ultimately, I will keep my focus on the love of Jesus, which will help me to counter fear and to live in peace — no matter what.
Tags: Egypt CNEWA Canada