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.
23 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Farming/Agriculture Copts Egypt's Christians
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!
20 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Christianity
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)
19 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Village life Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church
A girl in St. Peter’s Square holds baby Jesus figurines for Pope Francis to bless during his Angelus at the Vatican on 15 December. Children observed an annual tradition by bringing their Nativity figurines for the pope to bless. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
18 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Children Vatican
Britain’s Prince Charles speaks to religious leaders during a visit to a Syriac Orthodox Church in London on 17 December. The prince of Wales was accompanied by Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal during the visit, celebrating Christian communities from the Middle East in Britain. (photo: CNS/Toby Melville, Reuters)
The prince of Wales spoke yesterday about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East:
Christians in parts of the Middle East are being deliberately targeted by Islamist militants in a campaign of persecution, Prince Charles has said.
The prince of Wales made his comments after visiting the British branches of churches based in the region.
The prince heard accounts of Christians being murdered and families forced from their homes.
Charles, accompanied by Prince Ghazi of Jordan, visited the Egyptian Coptic Church center in Stevenage and the Syriac Orthodox cathedral in west London.
The two royals met church members who had either suffered intimidation or family members whose safety they feared for.
Later at a reception at Clarence House, attended by the archbishop of Canterbury, archbishop of Westminster and the chief rabbi, Prince Charles said he felt deeply troubled by the plight of Christians.
“For 20 years I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding,” he told the audience. “The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so. This is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution including to the Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.”
To learn how you can help Christians in Syria, visit this page. And read more here about how to provide aid to Egypt’s Christians.
17 December 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Interreligious Middle East Peace Process United Kingdom
Protesters warm themselves near a fire during a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, on 16 December. Bishops from Ukraine’s minority Latin-rite Catholic Church have called for prayers and fasting in an effort to end the current social unrest in the country. (photo: CNS/Gleb Garanich, Reuters)
The protests unfolding in Kiev have evidently sparked a backlash, directed against university students involved in the demonstrations. Bishop Ken Nowakowski forwarded to us the following communication from students, who issued an appeal to the world for support and solidarity:
Appeal of Ukrainian Catholic University Students
11 December 2013
For three weeks now the eyes of the world have been upon the events unfolding in Ukraine.
It is Ukrainian youth and Ukrainian students that have initiated this mass protest movement against the corrupt and secretive actions of their government. It is they who have taken to the squares in Kyiv, and other cities and towns of Ukraine, in hopes that the authorities would listen to the voice of the people. A million-strong wave of peaceful protesters has received significant international support, for which the Ukrainian people are extremely grateful. This support has helped us brave the cold and the attacks by the riot police.
Within hours of the new attack on the Maidan on 11 December, government structures opened a large number of court proceedings, and took steps to block the work of Ukrainian and international journalists, and introduce anxiety and fear into people’s hearts.
In spite of emphatic declarations of their peaceful intentions and desires to hear the voice of the people and participate in dialogue, the Ukrainian authorities started an active offensive not merely against opposition forces and journalists reporting on the events, but against the nation’s students — the initiators of this broad protest movement.
Among the methods of pressure and bullying that our university has encountered in recent days are phone calls and visits from representatives of the police, talks with our deans and vice rectors, attempts to inspect our students’ attendance records, searches for particular student activists, summons to the attorney’s office and opening of criminal cases against students and professors.
We are convinced that these and similar steps will only increase in magnitude. After the new nighttime crackdown on the Maidan, we have resolved along with our professors to withdraw our moral loyalty as citizens of Ukraine for Ukraine’s president and government.
Now, more than ever, we are in need of your solidarity and support. We appeal to you and ask that you disseminate information about the shameful state of affairs in Ukraine, the pressure on institutions of higher learning and their students, the violations of constitutional rights and democratic freedoms and the mockery of the dignity of people who are only calling for the good and prosperity of their country, and for a dignified, honest and democratic life.
Please help, support and protect the students of U.C.U. and other Ukrainian universities who stand firm for their and the fellow citizens’ freedom, human rights and dignity.
- Students of the Ukrainian Catholic University
17 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Education Unity Youth
Pope Francis talks with three men on 17 December who live on the streets near the Vatican. As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, the pope celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with the men. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis, in characteristic fashion, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday with some of Rome’s poor:
As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, Pope Francis celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with three people who live on the streets near the Vatican. A small dog, belonging to one of the homeless men, was also on the guest list.
The pope requested that the daily morning Mass held in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae be attended by the staff of his Vatican residence “in order to create a particularly family atmosphere for the celebration,” the Vatican press office said in a written statement on 17 December.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, also invited the three homeless men to the Domus for the Mass and to greet the pope. In addition, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, represented the world’s cardinals at the Mass, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, attended.
All those present sang “Happy Birthday” to the pope, the Vatican statement said, and then joined the pope for breakfast in the residence dining room.
Happy birthday, Holy Father!
16 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Poor/Poverty Rome
The faithful pack into St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo for a funeral liturgy for slain Christian protesters. (photo: David Degner)
Sunday night, the American news magazine program “60 Minutes” on CBS broadcast a report on the plight of the Copts. The story throws a spotlight on the difficulties these Christians are having in Egypt, living as a tiny minority in a mostly Muslim country.
As the script for the report notes:
Copts have never had it easy there. They’ve been persecuted and discriminated against by the Muslim majority for centuries. They’d hoped the Egyptian revolution would change that. But it hasn’t. Instead, the last year has been one of their worst ever. Copts have been murdered by Islamic extremists. Dozens of their churches have been gutted...
Watch the report below, which includes an interview with the Coptic Pope Tawadros II. You can read more about the Copts and Faith Under Fire in the Autumn issue of ONE, and learn how to support them by visiting this page.
16 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Copts Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Coptic
In this image from March 2013, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, arrives for general congregation meetings at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Koch to meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch (Vatican Radio) The president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, heads off to Russia on Saturday for a visit being seen as an important milestone on the road towards reconciliation between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. The Swiss cardinal will spend five days in St. Petersburg and Moscow, celebrating with the small Catholic communities there, as well as meeting with Russian Orthodox bishops, priests and seminarians…
United Nations launches record appeal for Syria (BBC) The United Nations has announced its biggest ever appeal, seeking $6.5 billion for humanitarian aid to Syria. The U.N. estimates nearly three-quarters of Syria’s 22.4 million population will need humanitarian aid in 2014. The appeal coincides with a new study by the International Rescue Committee, which warns that starvation is now threatening the Syrian population. Bread prices have risen by 500 percent in some areas, according to the report. Four out of five Syrians said their greatest worry was that food would run out, the survey found…
Retired patriarch expresses sympathy for demonstrators in Ukraine (ByzCath.org) The retired leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has said the Ukrainian government should be “dishonored for what it does.” Cardinal Lubomyr Husar expressed sympathy for anti-government demonstrators who have occupied some buildings in the nation’s capital, protesting moves to withdraw from the European community and ally more closely with Russia. The demonstrators have acted “very sensitively,” Cardinal Husar told an interviewer. “The government should thank God that the people behave as they do, because it could be worse…”
U.N. plans to resettle thousands of Ethiopian refugees (Sudan Tribune) The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday that it is planning to resettle over 3,800 refugees in Ethiopia to a third country. This follows record submissions for resettlement at the Tongo, Barahle and Bokolmanyo refugee camps, where resettlement has not not been previously conducted. “Notable this year was the first emergency resettlement to Sweden of a child-at-risk from Dollo Ado, as well as submissions of several highly vulnerable women and girls out of Barahle and Sherkole camps, including victims of female genital mutilation and other forms of sexual and gender based violence,” said Julia Zajkowski, the resettlement officer at UNHCR’s Ethiopia office. The plan to resettle 3,800 refugees exceeds the U.N. refugee agency’s 2013 resettlement target by over 20 percent…
13 December 2013
Tags: Syria Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church United Nations Cardinal Kurt Koch
Italian Marcello Piacenti, project manager on the renovation of the roof of the Church of the Nativity, points to a mosaic from 1100, the Crusader period, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
As the world prepares for Christmas, the “little town of Bethlehem” is seeing one of its historic landmarks undergo a massive restoration project:
Helping restore the roof of the Church of the Nativity is like touching a piece of the beginning of Christian history, said an Italian restorer who is heading work on the first phase of the long-awaited repairs.
“I am not a practicing religious person, but working on this church is very emotional,” said Marcello Piacenti, 53, the on-site project manager and a restorer with his family’s company, Piacenti Spa, which began the work in September. “I have restored many old churches in the world, but when I arrived here I knew I had arrived to the center of everything.”
More than five years in the planning and researching, the restoration of the church’s wooden beams and lead roof and its 38 windows represents the beginning of an ambitious project, said engineer Imad Nasser, technical representative of the Palestinian Authority’s national committee for the restoration of the Church of the Nativity. Nasser said that, two years ago, it was estimated that the repairs would cost $15 million, not including the construction management fees.
Repairs are being done in several phases, as the funds become available, he said, with essential repairs such as the roof given priority. The next stage will include the completion of protection of the stone facade of the external walls once the funds are acquired, he said, noting that more than $2.7 million is still needed for that phase.
A member of the Franciscan order noted that members of the Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian churches, all of which have a presence at the Church of the Nativity, have agreed not to speak to the press in order to avoid any conflicts over sovereignty issues.
Though much care has been taken not to disturb the visitors and the church, Christmas pilgrims this year are being met with metal scaffolding, inside and outside, and protective wooden coverings around the marble columns inside the church.
Read more about the restoration.
Tags: Bethlehem Architecture West Bank Church Church of Nativity