29 April 2019
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.
13 August 2018
A sister carries a box of biscuits to help feed children at St. Paul Catholic Church. Hundreds of families fleeing violence have gathered there, seeking refuge. CNEWA is rushing emergency aid to support them. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic Near East Welfare Association has rushed $40,000 in emergency aid to help more than 4,000 people fleeing interethnic violence in south central Ethiopia.
Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, said the emergency assistance will provide food, medicines and sanitary items for about 733 families, including some 700 children under the age of 5 and about 400 expectant or nursing mothers. All are seeking refuge on the grounds of St. Paul Catholic Church in an area known as Galcha, which straddles a contested stretch of land dividing two related but distinct tribal groups some 270 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa. The parish, which includes some 6,000 Catholics, runs primary and secondary schools and a clinic that normally treats 180 people a day.
Since April, interethnic violence has rocked many parts of Ethiopia, especially among the various ethnic groups living in areas of south central and southeastern Ethiopia. In the east, violence has claimed the lives of at least six priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as many laity. The recent violence in south central Ethiopia has pitted the Gedeo tribe of the Southern Nations and Nationalities People region against the neighboring Guji Oromo of the Oromia region, ultimately displacing nearly a million people from both communities and killing hundreds. The majority of both peoples are Protestant; some, however, are Ethiopian Orthodox, Muslim or Catholic.
A family stands amid the ruins of their destroyed house. Recent interethnic violence in Ethiopia has claimed the lives of both priests and laity, and displaced nearly a million people. (photo: CNEWA)
“All of the IDPs [internally displaced peoples] have lost their livelihoods,” reported CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu. “Their houses have been burned to the ground, their livestock killed, their fields and crops — mostly coffee and enset, the staple for both peoples — destroyed.
“When the conflict first broke out our school compound was flooded with more than 400 people with their domestic animals,” said the pastor of St. Paul’s, Ugandan Father Tiberius Onyuthfua. “Days went by with no food and other essential provisions, especially for children under 5 and nursing mothers.”
While many of the 733 families have since been resettled with families in the parish area, they still return to the parish grounds daily for food and medical assistance. The emergency funds will enable the local jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, the Vicariate of Hawassa, which includes the parish of St. Paul, to secure supplies of fortified soya-cereal mix, high energy biscuits, beans, oil and whole wheat, as well as soap, water purifying chemicals, water containers and essential medicines for up to five months.
Sister Teresa Gebremariam distributes energy biscuits to the elderly at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. (photo: CNEWA)
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Horn of Africa, as well as in other areas of conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and India. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to displaced families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.
CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States by the State of New York and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800-442-6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195. ??In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.
11 July 2018
Netsanet prepares a cup of coffee in her humble home in an Ethiopian refugee camp. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the June 2018 edition of ONE, Emeline Wuilbercq takes readers to camps in Ethiopia where the church is helping refugees waiting for a better life. Here, she tells how she met one of the women she profiled.
As journalists, we sometimes think like novelists.
Since one of our goals is to raise awareness, we look for the story that will move our readers, provide them with new information and, above all, share an amazing character with an incredible life story. Often, even if we search, we cannot absolutely control what we find in the field. And yet, it is not uncommon to have surprises. It is when you stop searching that you come upon somebody whose personality, or resilience, is striking. By accident, you can find something other than what you were looking for.
When I was a student, I remember an experienced journalist telling me that this is what we call “serendipity.” In French, we translated it as “sérendipité”, which sounds a bit weird for a word-lover. This word was invented in 1754 by the British politician and writer Horace Walpole, who defines it as “accident and sagacity while in pursuit of something else”. Many accidental scientific discoveries were made by serendipity, such as penicillin. The concept applies perfectly to journalism. In a Le Monde article published in 2012, the journalist says that serendipity is “a matter of chance, of course, but also of sagacity, curiosity, agility, mental availability to stay on the lookout for new and surprising things.” Because you always have to be alert.
That is exactly what I thought when I met Netsanet, the main subject for my story on the Mai-Ani refugee camp. There are about 40,000 Eritrean refugees living in northern Ethiopia. Ethiopia is sheltering over 900,000 of these people on its soil according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. We were about to go 11 miles further to another camp, Adi-Harush, when veteran photographer Petterik Wiggers came to me. He has been working in Ethiopia for 20 years and knows a great subject when he meets one.
He explained to me that while I was interviewing another woman whose story was really interesting, he sat down in a small café set up by an Eritrean refugee to have a coffee. (He is consciously addicted to caffeine.) He met her with the help of a social worker from the Jesuit Refugee Service (J.R.S.) who speaks her language, Tigrinya. He quickly discovered that her story was compelling. He had no clue he would come across such a woman, but sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways!
We both decided to go back in Netsanet’s house and we had another round of strong coffee. While talking with her, we discovered all the challenges she has been through in her life: the loss of her two husbands, the escape to Ethiopia, the life in the camp… it was all remarkable and inspiring.
If Petterik had not decided to have a cup of coffee before leaving the camp, we would have never met this amazing woman you will discover in ONE. Check out our story and see for yourself what serendipity can do!
13 August 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Refugees Refugee Camps
The Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School teaches children from kindergarten through the eighth grade. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the Summer 2013 issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan writes about the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School and how it is changing the lives of some of Ethiopia’s poorest children. Below, he offers some further reflections.
While reporting on the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa, I was struck anew by the importance of civic education — especially in schools serving students from severely disadvantaged backgrounds.
The children of this school are among the city’s poorest. They mostly hail from the surrounding neighborhood, a slum and former leper colony called Kachene. The power education holds for these children is hard to overstate. Beyond literacy and access to a job market previously out of bounds, education provides them a sense of accomplishment, helping them to recognize the dignity that is their inalienable right.
Many of these children are the descendants of lepers. While leprosy is no longer the problem it used to be in Addis Ababa, their social standing has not improved; they are the lowest of the low in Ethiopian society, a marginalized group approaching India’s “untouchables.” They face numerous obstacles, many of them cultural in character. If the children are to have any hope of overcoming their stigmas, the first step is to learn to no longer give credence to them.
At the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School, a significant part of the educational program is dedicated to civics and moral education. In these classes, the children learn they have a right to dignity. In working to ensure others acknowledge this dignity, the first step is that they themselves affirm it, and learn to comport themselves accordingly. They are strongly discouraged from begging and urged instead to pursue paid labor. The faculty seeks to instill in the children confidence in their own talents and worth, and help them see themselves as being capable of supporting themselves.
By teaching self-respect and self-actualization, the school hopes to see these lessons filter back to the parents, many of whom also resort to begging out of a sense of hopelessness. This is seen as just one of the cycles that perpetuate the poverty and misery in Kachene, and one that the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School is trying to break through education.
Civic education also highlights the social dangers many of these children face, ranging from smoking at an early age to drinking, sniffing petroleum, child labor and even human trafficking and sex work. All these risks are present, to varying degrees, in Kachene. Once again, the teachers at the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School do all they can to protect the children by educating them and strengthening their sense of self-worth.
As I mention in my article in ONE, youth unemployment in Ethiopia is rife and the overall quality of education is falling. In a country where extreme poverty is stigmatized, the fact that these children are educated, some to university level, is significant, even if it may not always bring significant material benefits to the students and their families. However, through the conversations I had with many of the students and their parents, the lessons in civics, self-respect and dignity are every bit as transformative as literacy and numeracy — but these lessons will always bear rich fruit, regardless of the economic or social climate.
25 September 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Sisters Education Poor/Poverty
In this image from 2003, a poor family struggles to survive in Ethiopia. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Several years ago, writer and photographer Peter Lemieux visited Ethiopia and documented the efforts to help children orphaned by AIDS:
Selecting needy children in a country as poor as Ethiopia may seem an easy task. In almost any direction, blight, poverty and despair are visible. Ethiopia has the third largest number of H.I.V.-positive people in the world after India and South Africa.
Spiritan Father Brendan Cogavin, director of CNEWA’s needy child program in Ethiopia, said, “If you look at the files, they show case histories of children who are genuinely orphaned. The father and mother have died from AIDS or AIDS-related illnesses. They are desperately poor. If you don’t work, you don’t eat, and you don’t get any education either, because the government doesn’t provide it for free. So without sponsorship, many of these kids wouldn’t have any education at all.”
While need is everywhere, the sisters take seriously the task of selecting the neediest children for the program. Working closely with the local municipality, the sisters survey the community for families and individuals who appear to meet their criteria. Orphaned children, children of single mothers, children between 3 and 6 years of age and children from low-income families receive the highest priority.
Orthodox? Muslim? Catholic? Religion does not matter. “We see the person, not the religion,” said Sister Enatnesh Eshetu, who is on the selection committee for the Good Shepherd Day Care Center, the congregation’s other day care center in Addis Ababa.
Continue reading A Flicker of Candlelight Amid the Darkness from the September 2003 issue of the magazine.
And to explore ways to support the work that we do in places like Ethiopia, visit our Ways to Give page.
13 September 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Unity Orphans/Orphanages HIV/AIDS
CNEWA has been a longtime supporter of the Kidane Mehret Children's Home and School in Ethiopia. (photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
At CNEWA, we understand the importance of investing in children and young people. It’s an investment in a better world. In Ethiopia, much of our work supports schools and child care institutions, such as the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home and School. We have shared many stories about Kidane Mehret, whether it be that of a recent graduate’s gratitude or Msgr. Kozar’s visit there earlier this year.
Interested in helping the children of Ethiopia? Find out more on our website.
5 September 2012
Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Education Africa Orphans/Orphanages
In this photo taken in 2005, Sister Winifred Doherty, a Good Shepherd sister, enjoys lunch with children at The Good Shepherd school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo: Sean Sprague)
Back in May, we interviewed Sister Winifred Doherty in the “People” section of the magazine. It was a time of transition; her order, the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (or, Good Shepherd Sisters) was suspending its work in Ethiopia, citing dwindling vocations. Sister Winifred spoke with us about the remarkable work the sisters had done over the years.
For more from this interview, read A ‘Good Shepherd’ to Suffering Women.
23 August 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Education Africa
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.
10 August 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church Aksum Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Abune Paulos
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.
3 August 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Msgr. John E. Kozar ONE magazine
A family prepares muttsmala for the Malabar Food Festival in Ernakulam, Kerala.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
There is a vast array of cuisines unique to the cultures and regions of the world CNEWA serves. Below are five delicious recipes:
Sambar. Sambar is a vegetable soup made with tamarind and pigeon peas. It is one of the most popular dishes in South India, accompanying most meals. Enjoy it over white rice, idli (steamed rice cake) or dosa (pancake made with black gram and rice). We featured the recipe for this South Indian favorite in the November 2008 issue of ONE.
Dosa. Dosa, as mentioned above, is a pancake made with black gram and rice. It can be enjoyed with any number of the flavorful stews, sauces or soups in Indian cuisine. You can find the recipe for dosa in the November 2008 issue of ONE as well.
Tisza Fisherman’s Soup. Tisza Fisherman’s Soup, originating in Hungary, is a paprika-based river fish soup, best served hot and spicy. The original fisherman’s soup is prepared with fish from the Danube and Tisza rivers. The recipe for Tisza Fisherman’s Soup can be found in the September 2005 issue of ONE.
Sfeeha (Meat Pies). Sfeeha, or meat pies, can be found in various parts of the Middle East and Armenia. Sfeeha are a pizza-like dish filled with a combination of spices, vegetables and either beef or lamb. The recipe for Sfeeha was featured in the July 2006 issue of ONE.
Injera. Injera, a spongy flatbread made from teff, is the Ethiopian staple bread. It is used to scoop up meat and vegetable stews. It also lines the trays on which the stews are served and soaks up the juices from the meal. A meal is complete only after the last injera is eaten. The recipe for injera can take a few days preparation.
Respond in the comments and let us know if you try any of these tasty recipes!
Tags: India Ethiopia Middle East Eastern Europe Cuisine