6 February 2012
The faithful proceed to St. George Kvashveti Church in Tbilisi, Georgia for its patronal feast.
(photo: Molly Corso)
In the March 2007 issue of ONE, Molly Corso wrote about the return of Orthodox traditions and practices in Georgia some 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and imposed atheism:
A crowd swelled around Bishop Tevdora Chuadze as he blessed the faithful in Tbilisi’s St. George Kvashveti Church on 23 November, the feast of St. George.
Hundreds of believers filled the church, spilling into the adjoining courtyard where they waited to kiss and venerate the patronal icon of St. George. That afternoon, all of Georgia’s television stations broadcast the baptism of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s son by the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II.
On that day, some 15 years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Communist-imposed atheism, it seemed the Georgian Orthodox Church had made a full recovery. A recent poll by the Caucasus Research Resource Center found that 63 percent of Georgians “fully trust” the church. (About 80 percent of Georgia’s 4.7 million citizens belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church.) In contrast, only 22 percent placed similar trust in President Saakashvili.
“The Georgian people were very strong, and did not lose their faith,” said Father Giorgi Getiashvili of the Kvashveti Church, one of the capital’s premier parishes.
Under Communist rule, people continued to go to church in secret. And after the fall of the Soviet Union, the church was reborn, Father Giorgi explained. “It was freed.”
For more, read A Georgian Revival.
2 February 2012
Tags: Georgia Georgian Orthodox Church
Filipino domestic workers sing choir songs, as they crowd into the tiny shelter to attend Mass with Father Kevin O’Connell at English-speaking Sacred Heart Latin Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
Yesterday the Independent Catholic News reported on a convention held by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) that has provided some hope for international domestic workers:
The Convention constitutes an international commitment to work at improving the living and working conditions of a very large segment of the work force employed in the informal sector. The very first commitment is to recognize domestic workers as employees who are legally entitled to the minimum protection that all other categories of workers enjoy.
By establishing the principle that like any other workers, domestic workers are entitled to a minimum set of protections, the Convention is an acknowledgment of the crucial social and economic contribution of care workers. Since 90 to 92 percent of the domestic work force is made of women and girls, this principle is also very significant for gender equality.
Specific provisions in the Convention address the vulnerability of particular groups of domestic workers: migrant domestic workers, young domestic workers — those above the minimum age of employment but below 18 years of age — and for live-in domestic workers.
In November 2011, we featured a story about Filipino migrant workers in Jordan who — in spite of the tough circumstances they face as domestic workers — have found solace in faith:
Some have fled abusive employers, but most cite nonpayment of wages as the main reason why they left their jobs. As runaways, they are considered in breach of their work contracts under Jordanian law and no longer have the right to work in the country. Repatriating them is a complicated process, involving possible hefty fines and other legal and diplomatic wrangling. Some have lived at the shelter for years, waiting for official clearance to return home.
Father O’Connell proceeds to one of its administrative offices. He heads to an old desk at the front of the room. Atop the desk sit several small statues of the Virgin Mary in between an outdated computer monitor and a cheap, cardboard desk calendar.
The priest smiles at the some 35 Filipino women who have gathered in the small room. Some are middle-aged, but most are very young. Sitting on stackable plastic chairs, they gaze eagerly at the priest. From behind the desk, which also serves as an altar, he begins Mass.
For these migrant women, Mass offers them the spiritual solace they need to cope with the despair that otherwise can fill their daily routine. During the Rite of Peace, the women hug each other and laugh freely. At the celebration’s end, they applaud and cheer. New arrivals often cry, moved by the joy of their first Mass in months.
For more, read Far From Home by Nicholas Seeley.
27 January 2012
Tags: Jordan Amman Teresian Association
A demonstrator holds up a crucifix and a Quran during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday. Scores of Egyptian youth protesters marking the one-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak bedded down in Tahrir Square and pledged to stay put until the ruling military council hands power to civilians. (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters)
Yesterday, thousands of protesters filled Tahrir Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the uprising that led to the ouster of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. What took place in Egypt last year seemed to echo similar protests throughout the Middle East, part of a wider movement that came to be known as the “Arab Spring.”
In the July 2011 issue of ONE, John L. Esposito, Ph.D., a professor of international affairs and of Islamic studies, wrote about the Arab Spring uprising and delved into the question, “Is Islam Compatible With Deomcracy?”:
The relationship of Islam and democracy remains central to the development of the Middle East and the Muslim world in the 21st century. As U.S. President Barack Obama stated in his Cairo speech: “All people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”
Check out this video from our September 2011 issue, in which journalist Sarah Topol talks about how it felt to be a reporter in Tahrir Square during last year’s uprising.
24 January 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Africa Arab Spring
A young student at the Ephpheta Institute responds to hearing a new sound through an external hearing device. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today is the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists and writers. He is said to have developed a sign language to teach a deaf man about God, and is therefore the patron saint of the deaf as well. Since 1971 the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem has provided hearing-impaired youth with an education and the confidence to participate in their communities.
Last month, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited the Holy Land, making a stop at the Ephpheta Institute, where he took this photo. He described this moment as “a wonderful level of affirmation when a sound is recognized.”
To learn more about the history of Ephpheta, read The Miracle of Ephpheta from the January 1996 issue of the magazine. To learn how you can help support the work there visit our website.
20 January 2012
Tags: CNEWA Education Bethlehem Disabilities
Nohad El Shami, who attributes her miraculous recovery from a stroke to St. Sharbel, embraces a pilgrim’s head at the saint’s tomb. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
In the the July 2009 issue of ONE, Marilyn Raschka wrote about the reach and impact of one of Lebanon’s most celebrated religious men, Saint Sharbel. Sharbel is known for having performed numerous miracles, and continues to touch lives even today. Every year thousands of pilgrims travel to Saint Sharbel’s hermitage and tomb seeking the saint’s intercession. The most famous miracle attributed to him is that of Nohad El Shami, who credits the saint for healing her after a paralyizing stroke on January 22, 1993:
And so, on the 22nd of every month, Mrs. [Nohad] El Shami visits Sharbel’s hermitage, and with a group of pilgrims, she walks from there to the monastery and church — about a mile away — to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Afterward, she greets the pilgrims.
As the liturgy ended, the now 70-year-old, gray-haired mother of 12 walked outside and stood quietly. Pilgrims crowded around her, trying to get close enough so she could place her hands on their heads and shoulders. Parents lifted their children for her to touch.
Mrs. El Shami’s gentle smile reassured the infirmed among the pilgrims. Her peaceful demeanor affirmed the message written on a sign across from where she stood: “Shine on me, Father, that I may reflect your light.”
For more, read A Saint Without Borders.
19 January 2012
Tags: Lebanon Saints
Bishop Selim Sayegh meets with students at the Our Lady of Peace Center, a school for the developmentally disabled set up by the Latin Vicariate in Amman, Jordan.
(photo: Nicholas Seeley)
Today Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Selim Sayegh, the patriarchate vicar general for Jordan. This was in accord with Canon Law, which requires that bishops resign when they reach age 75.
We profiled Bishop Sayegh in our ‘Year For Priests’ series:
“The most [important] thing, for these poor children — for these angels, I call them — is to let them feel that they are loved,” say Bishop Sayegh. “They need love, and that’s it. And then they are happy. Spiritually, psychologically, they give us much more than we give them.”
The bishop says he never once entertained a doubt about his vocation in the roughly 63 years since that fateful moment. Today, he serves as the patriarchate’s vicar general for Jordan. And yet despite his many achievements, Bishop Sayegh considers his work with Our Lady of Peace Center his most meaningful endeavor.
“The only time we see him smile is when he joins the activities of the center,” Mr. Dayyat adds playfully.
Bishop Sayegh discusses his work in Jordan in this video from our ‘Year For Priests’ series.
The Holy Father also announced Bishop Sayegh’s replacement today: Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham of Tunis, Tunisia.
18 January 2012
Tags: Children Jordan Disabilities Amman
A woman waits for healthcare in Palestine. This is an unpublished photo from the January 2005 story, The Ties That Bind by Ben Cramer. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently met with church leaders in the United Kingdom to discuss the plight of Christians in the Holy Land and issues affecting the ongoing peace process. This comes on the heels of the Holy Land Coordination Meeting, which we’ve also covered on this blog:
“Having worshipped in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, I have seen the struggle of the Palestinian people in the very basics of living but also their deep desire for a negotiated peace between the peoples who share the land. I urge everyone to grasp this opportunity,” said the Right Reverend David Arnott.
“Last week as part of the Holy Land Coordination, where we shared our faith with the Christian communities, we witnessed the effects of occupation and insecurity on the people of this land. There is an urgent need for strong and creative leadership in order to address the core issues of this long conflict. The people’s desperate yearning for peace needs to be fulfilled and this meeting today with President Abbas reinforced our determination,” said Archbishop Patrick Kelly, who was representing the international affairs department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Today also marks the start of the The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Benedict had these words for those participating in this week of prayer:
“By his teaching, his example and his paschal mystery, the Lord has shown us the way to a victory obtained not by power, but by love and concern for those in need. Faith in Christ and interior conversion, both individual and communal, must constantly accompany our prayer for Christian unity.”
We at CNEWA ask that you remember the people of the Middle East in your prayers this week. To learn how you can support Middle East Christians, visit our website.
17 January 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Palestine Health Care Palestinian Refugees
Youth from all religious communities participate in an urban dance workshop in Beirut.
(photo: Spencer Osberg)
In the July 2010 issue of ONE, Spencer Osberg photographed and wrote about life for youth living in Beirut, Lebanon:
Mr. [Muhammad] Ayoub belongs to a declining but active group of Lebanese youth committed to remaining in and improving their country. He and two friends founded Nahnoo as college students, organizing small outreach projects that brought together youth from Beirut’s disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“Even with the divisions, you have the same problems; you share the same goals and dreams. So why don’t you work together?” he says about the organization’s mission.
Today, Nahnoo coordinates some 60 volunteers, who tutor and mentor youth across the city. It also holds workshops for young people, aimed at teaching them the importance of tolerance and how to express themselves and solve their problems without violence. The workshops often include activities involving critical thinking, which, Mr. Ayoub says, help youngsters to better understand the complexity of the situations they encounter and that people may have different perspectives.
For more, read Lebanon’s Urban Youth.
11 January 2012
Tags: Lebanon Children Beirut
Archbishop Elias Chacour welcomes members of the Holy Land Coordination program.
(photo: Marcin Mazur/CCN)
Yesterday, the bishops participating in the Holy Land Coordination program visited the Israeli city of Haifa, where Israeli Christians, Jews and Muslims live side by side. We experienced a city that seems to revel in its complexity, where leaders, teachers, parents and children of all faiths and ethnic groups decided to go beyond the traditional speeches about achieving peace. They agreed to learn, teach, live and play together.
Yet even here, the temptation exists to associate a particular religion to a behavior or attitude. This temptation to label is very dangerous; it inflames doubts and suspicions in a region plagued with conflict and violence, and reinforces the idea that religion is part of the Middle East’s problem.
We came here to see for ourselves how religion heals the injustices of failed political policies. We met with our good friend, Archbishop Elias Chacour, the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee, who, while visiting Ottawa last October, mentioned the success of his school in the Israeli village of Ibilin. There, Christian, Druze, Jewish and Muslim students attend the same school.
We had the occasion to meet teachers and religious leaders of a number of faiths present in Haifa, all of whom reminded us that much is needed to instill the necessity of coexistence and mutual respect with tomorrow’s leaders. All agreed that education was the key to peace and that a proper space is needed where all faiths can be together as one while respecting the other’s differences. Interestingly enough, this was the theme of Pope Benedict XVI’s message of peace this past 1 January. It left us with something to think about.
Indeed, two days before I left for Jerusalem, the only mosque in my home town of Gatineau in Quebec was vandalized for the second time in two weeks. Even though Muslims represent less than .5 percent of our population, a minority of people fears their presence.
Yes, we must help parts of the world like the Middle East, but are we not falling into the same trap of intolerance and labeling here in North America? If I am reaching out to Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Middle East, should I not do the same in my home town?
Catholic, Druze, Jewish and Muslim leaders met in Haifa, Israel, to discuss coexistence. Archbishops Patrick Kelly of Liverpool and Richard Smith of Edmonton are among the bishops participating in this Holy Land Coordination program. (photo: Marcin Mazur/CCN)
5 January 2012
Tags: Holy Land Unity Interreligious Middle East Peace Process Discrimination
In this photo from 2003, Sister Nahla tends to a patient at the Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital in Mosul, Iraq, where she has been working since May. (photo: Philip Toscano-Heighton)
Today, the Washington Post reported that a suicide bomber targeting Shiites killed at least 72 people in Baghdad — the highest one-day death toll since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December. This bombing is one in a series of recent attacks resulting in many causalities. In the midst of so much turmoil and suffering, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have been a safety net for Iraqis affected by war for many years. In the January 2004 issue of the magazine, Jill Carroll wrote about their work with the wounded and sick:
Others, like Sister Nahla Francis, work outside the convent. Sister Nahla started working as a nurse six months ago at the nearby Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital in Mosul. She monitors life-support machines, feeds patients and changes bed linens. Many patients are recovering from gunshot wounds and other life-threatening injuries.
She is the only sister in the hospital and often has to explain to Muslim patients what a sister is.
“I saw a lot of different cases here. One patient came who had lost her legs and her family,” said Sister Nahla, who has been a member of the community for six years. “She told me, ‘I want to die because I have nothing to live for.’”
In such cases, “I can only pray for the patient,” said Sister Nahla.
Equally trying was the death of many children brought to the hospital during the war, she said. “The community gave me spiritual support and encouragement to continue my work here.”
Since that report, Sister Nahla has left Iraq; she now works at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, which is also supported by CNEWA.
Meantime, the author of the story, Jill Carroll, came to know all-too-well the nightmare of Iraq. In 2006, she was kidnapped by Sunni Muslim insurgents and spent nearly three months in captivity before finally being released. You can read more about her story in The Christian Science Monitor.
For more, read In the Shadow of War. To learn how you can help support the sisters and hospitals in Iraq, visit our website.
Tags: Iraq War Health Care Dominican Sisters