8 January 2014
A mother holds her newborn in the maternity ward of the Tiramayr Narek Hospital. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
While much of North America copes this week with a “polar vortex” of near-zero temperatures, we were reminded of the hard winter others face in different parts of the world.
In 2009, we focused on Armenia, visiting a hospital that can be difficult to reach during winter:
Natives of Shirak often refer to the area as the Armenian Siberia and consider themselves exiled from much of the country’s cultural and economic life, especially the prosperity many compatriots in Yerevan, the nation’s capital, have been enjoying in recent years. Indeed, the gap between the socioeconomic development in Yerevan and the lethargy of Armenia’s rural, impoverished north widens by the day. Whereas newly constructed supermarkets, boutiques and luxury high-rise buildings illuminate Yerevan’s streets, the only signs of modern life in Ashotzk are the occasional car and Tiramayr Narek Hospital.
Ashotzk rises some 6,600 feet above sea level and is covered in three to five feet of snow six months out of the year. During the winter months, temperatures often drop to 40 degrees below zero and many of the roads are closed.
One road, known as the “life road,” is kept accessible throughout the winter and is used only in the case of medical emergencies. It extends 17 miles from the village of Berdashen, the neighboring community closest to Armenia’s northern border, directly to the hospital. Before the hospital commissioned the construction of the “life road,” residents had no way of reaching medical care in the winter months. To this day, residents still try to plan their pregnancies so that mothers give birth between the months of April and October.
“Getting to the medical center in Gyumri was impossible in winter before there was the hospital,” said Mariam Simonian, a nurse who lives in Berdashen.
Read more about the Armenian Winter in the March 2009 issue of ONE.
7 January 2014
Tags: Children Armenia Health Care Poor/Poverty
A woman dressed as a character from a Nativity scene puts a lamb around the neck of Pope Francis as he arrives to visit the Church of St. Alfonso Maria dei Liguori in Rome on 6 January. Read more about the pope’s visit at this link. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
6 January 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Rome
In this 1996 photo, Abune Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, douses a crowd with holy water. Abune Paulos passed away in 2012. (photo: Asrat Habte Mariam)
Christians around the world are celebrating Epiphany today. Several years ago we explored how this feast is observed in Ethiopia:
Since time immemorial, Ethiopians have worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus, the Apostles and saints. According to an ancient tradition, Menelik, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, carried the Ark of the Covenant off to Aksum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia. This same tradition holds that the Ark, which the Hebrews believed symbolized the presence of God among them, remains in Aksum, enshrined in the cathedral complex of St. Mary of Zion. Within the sanctuary of every Ethiopian Orthodox church, a tabot rests on the altar, a reminder of God’s revelation in word and sacrament.
As evening drew near, the city’s clergy, balancing the sacred tabots, slowly converged on Jan Meda, the “Field of the King.” In my youth Jan Meda was considered the preserve of the monarch. Situated on this majestic field is the Pool of Temqat. This pool, considered holy by believers, was to be blessed by the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, after vespers and an all-night vigil.
Elaborately decorated tents, erected on the field for the occasion, housed the sacred tabots. Meanwhile, two rows of priests, deacons, monks and debteras were formed. Separated by a patch of earth, but facing one another, the clergy began to chant the psalms rhythmically, the pace set by a priest-drummer. Throughout the night, in the tents where the tabots rested, the clergy recited prayers and chanted the holy office while the laity kept vigil in the open air.
Early on the morning of the feast Abune Paulos arrived at Jan Meda. Dressed majestically in white, and surrounded by his retinue of bishops, the patriarch took the place of the emperor, the “King of Kings, Conquering Lion of Judah,” the central figure of these ceremonies when Ethiopia was considered a Christian realm.
The celebration began with a series of sermons, which contemplated the meaning of Jesus’ baptism and the significance of God’s words: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Delivered by monks from the country’s remote monasteries, these often lengthy reflections were followed by prayers and hymns.
Finally the patriarch, encircled by his clergy, solemnly blessed the waters of the Pool of Temqat with a golden cross. The rite was simple: the patriarch plunged the cross into the waters while the assembly chanted hymns and antiphons. The crowd stirred when the patriarch sprinkled the dignitaries and faithful with the blessed water — with a hose!
Read more about this celebration in Temqat: Celebrating Epiphany in Ethiopia.
2 January 2014
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Abune Paulos Epiphany
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.
31 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Farming/Agriculture Copts Egypt's Christians
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!
30 December 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Russia Russian Orthodox Church
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)
23 December 2013
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Farming/Agriculture Micro Credit Program
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.
Tags: Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Interreligious Middle East Peace Process United Kingdom