7 June 2013
A Lebanese family dances at an engagement party. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
We began this week with a story about Iraqi refugees finding a new home in Toronto. We thought we’d end with another image from that part of our world. Those refugees from Iraq are joining a growing number of people from the Middle East in Canada. In 2004, for example, we visited Lebanese immigrants who had settled in Montreal:
You will find them bowed in churches, whispering praise to “Allah” (God).
You will find them animated in cafes and bars, smoking water pipes and exclaiming “haram” (it’s a shame) over the latest injustice in the Holy Land or some bad call during a European soccer match.
You will find them seated in restaurants before plates of lamb sausages and salads, pounding their fists on tables and crying “mish maouleh” (impossible) in response to some devilishly tall tale.
You will find them frenzied near altars, elbowing their way to capture the perfect photograph of a loved one exchanging marriage vows and begging “lazza choue” (pardon me).
You will find them bellies bared in dance clubs, twisting their torsos and asking “in jeid?” (really) over the reported affection of some member of the opposite sex.
They are everywhere. They are Lebanese and they have found a home in Montréal.
That the most distinct people of the Middle East have found refuge and new life in the most distinct of Canada’s great cities should come as no surprise. The urbane, gregarious and multilingual Lebanese seem a natural fit for Québec’s cosmopolitan center, whose denizens fiercely protect their Francophone patrimony.
Read more about the Lebanese of Montreal from the September 2004 issue of ONE.
6 June 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity ONE magazine Canada Immigration
The Azar family shares a one-bedroom house with two other Syrian refugee families in the village of Al Qaa in Lebanon. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
The current issue of ONE features a look at refugees from Syria and Iraq, and ongoing efforts to help them. This morning, the Vatican released a document on refugees:
Catholic laity have an obligation to root out traces of xenophobia in their hearts and recognize refugees as their brothers and sisters — children of God whose dignity must be protected, said a new Vatican document.
“Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons,” a document of pastoral guidelines for providing material and spiritual assistance to people forced to leave their homes was published June 6 by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable activity.
Since the mid-1980s, the document said, the debate surrounding refugees and other asylum seekers has become “a forum for political and administrative election purposes, which fed hostile and aggressive attitudes among the electorate.”
In effect, countries are focused more on deterring newcomers from reaching their shores than they are on offering protection and a welcome to suffering people fleeing situations that threatened their lives and dignity, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the council for migrants and travelers, told reporters.
From a Catholic point of view, he said at a Vatican news conference, “every policy, initiative or intervention in this area must be inspired by the principle of the centrality and dignity of the human person.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of Cor Unum, said being Christian means trying to meet both the material and spiritual needs of refugees and displaced people, who “ask us for a commitment of love that first of all restores their dignity as persons made in the image and likeness of God.”
“Along with bread, they need love that nourishes their spiritual dimension,” Cardinal Sarah said, and that love is precisely what gives witness to “the love with which Christ loves us and saves us.”
How can you help give witness to “the love with which Christ loves us”? Visit our Syria Emergency Relief page to learn more.
5 June 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees Migrants
A boy displaced by fighting in Syria attends a class in the governorate of Idlib, Syria, on 27 May. The Vatican has reiterated its call for negotiations and putting an end to violence in Syria, saying that children are suffering the most. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)
Pope Francis today spoke poignantly about the ongoing suffering of the people in Syria:
Christians must help the people of Syria because “where there is suffering, Christ is present,” Pope Francis told representatives of Catholic aid agencies working in Syria and with Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
“How much suffering, how much poverty, how much pain; and it’s Jesus who suffers, who is poor, who is thrown out of his country,” the pope said on 5 June during a meeting with the representatives who were holding a coordinating meeting at the Vatican.
Pope Francis said it is part of “the Christian mystery” that when the faithful see what is going on in Syria, “we see Jesus suffering in the inhabitants of the beloved Syria.”
“We cannot turn our backs on situations of great suffering,” he told participants at the meeting he convoked. “The weapons must be silenced.”
The meeting was held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving. The pope wanted the aid agencies to “respond to the continuing deterioration of the already serious humanitarian situation in the country and among the refugees,” said Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, council secretary.
Visit this page to learn how you can help those suffering in Syria.
4 June 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War War Relief
Copts mourn after identifying a victim of sectarian and political violence. (photo: David Degner)
In the Spring edition of ONE, journalist Sarah Topol looks at how some of the men staying behind in Egypt are hanging on and seeking support, both economic and spiritual.
Meantime, the turmoil in Egypt is spreading to some unlikely places, according to USA TODAY:
Vendors at Egypt’s pyramids who are desperate to make money in a deepening economic crisis are using aggressive and even violent means to get tourists to give them some business, frequenters of the tourist spot say.
The U.S. Embassy issued a warning about increasing incidents at or near the famous pyramids at Giza about a dozen miles from downtown Cairo. Most of the incidents are due to overly aggressive vendors who in some cases come close to criminal conduct, the embassy says.
“U.S. citizens should elevate their situational awareness when traveling to the pyramids, avoid any late evening or night travel, utilize a recommended or trusted guide, and closely guard valuables,” according to a security message on the embassy’s website last week.
Read the rest here.
3 June 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Economic hardships Coptic Christians Copts
A pilgrim holds a banner bearing the words “Blessed Pope John XXIII pray for us” in preparation for a Mass at the tomb of the pope. (photo: CNS)
Pope John XXIII died 50 years ago today. One of the men who succeeded him, Pope Francis, mentioned him in his homily this morning:
The pope spoke of the saints, remembering that today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Blessed Pope John XXIII, “a model of holiness.” In the day’s Gospel, he added, the saints are those who “go to collect the rent” on the vineyard. “They know what is expected of them, but they must do it, and they do their duty. … The saints are those who obey the Lord, those who worship the Lord, those who have not lost the memory of the love with which the Lord has made the vineyard: the saints in the church. Just as the corrupt do so much harm to the church, the saints do so much good.”
John XXIII may be best remembered for convoking Vatican II, which led to dramatic reforms within the Catholic Church, including a greater emphasis on ecumenism and dialogue with other faiths. Last year, we interviewed Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who was a student in Rome during the Second Vatican Council. Describing some of the documents of the council, he said:
This is the basis for the church to reach out with great respect to the followers of different religions, conscious that the Holy Spirit is already active within their hearts and also within their religious traditions. This conviction leads to the statement that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” This does not signify by any means that the church considers all religions to be equal, since it believes that the fullness of revelation has been given in Jesus Christ. Yet the attitude of respect provides the grounds for dialogue and cooperation at the service of all members of the human race.
31 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Ecumenism Pope Dialogue
An icon of the Virgin and Child hangs inside St. Michael the Archangel in Ladomirová. (photo: Andrej Bán)
With May drawing to a close, today marks the end of the month traditionally devoted to Mary. But devotion to the Mother of God isn’t confined to just one month. For many of the faithful, it goes on all year. In Slovakia, for example, we found the depiction of Mary shown above when we visited a village with a strong Greek Catholic presence and learned about historic churches:
On a cold and wet November day, a group of carpenters hammered away at the roof of St. Michael the Archangel Greek Catholic Church in the village of Ladomirová in northeastern Slovakia. Built in 1742, St. Michael’s stands out as perhaps Slovakia’s most beautiful and celebrated historic wooden church. Surveying the men’s work, the church’s pastor, Father Peter Jakub, explained that after 40 years, it was time to replace the worn hand-cut spruce shingles.
Only some 50 wooden churches, most dating back two centuries, survive in the modern central European republic of Slovakia; historians estimate more than 300 may have been built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Approximately 30 belong to the Slovak Greek Catholic Church. A handful have been closed and restored as museums, while the remaining churches are used by Evangelical Protestant or Latin (Roman) Catholic congregations. In recent decades, the Slovak government has designated 27 of these tserkvi (Slavonic for wooden churches) as national cultural monuments.
These wooden structures are inexorably fragile, vulnerable to decay and fire. But as architectural achievements constructed during a tumultuous and religiously volatile era, they now galvanize significant interest in and support for their restoration and preservation.
The lion’s share of Slovakia’s wooden churches clusters in the eastern region of Prešov, a mountainous and heavily forested area bordering Poland and Ukraine. Rusyn Greek Catholics — who inhabited tiny hamlets scattered throughout the Carpathian Mountains — constructed most of these churches.
For more on Slovakia’s Greek Catholic heritage, and the country’s remarkable churches, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 issue of ONE.
30 May 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Icons Greek Catholic Church Slovakia Slovak Catholic Church
A shepherd tends his flock in Anjar, Lebanon. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
The charming photo above comes from a 2002 profile of “Little Armenia,” located in Lebanon:
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. …
“Our major problem today is the emigration of young people,” says Sebouh Saghian, the Mayor of Anjar. “We do not have local universities, so our youth go to Beirut for further education. Because of unemployment here, the majority do not return…”
Read more about this community in the July 2002 issue of our magazine.
29 May 2013
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Cultural Identity Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
The Azar family prepares dinner in an empty lot in Al Qaa, Lebanon, where they have found refuge from the war in Syria. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
In the Spring issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan gives a dramatic look at life in Al Quaa, a Lebanese village that has lately become home to Syrian refugees:
Although she has only moved a few miles down the road, Hayat Qarnous wakes up to a world vastly different from the one she knew just a few weeks ago. Back then, she was living in Rableh, a village on the Syrian side of the Syria-Lebanon border and once the center of a quiet farming community. But since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, it has been anything but peaceful.
“War is like fire,” she says, sitting in her newfound refuge in Al Qaa, a Lebanese village just across the border from Rableh. “A fire eats everything before it. So does war. There is no peace anywhere.”
It is this lack of peace, and its consequences, that have pushed more than a million Syrians to flee their homeland since the beginning of the conflict.
About 320,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon and registered with United Nations aid agencies there. But many observers believe equal numbers of Syrians have not registered with the authorities in Lebanon; among these are an estimated 10,000 Christians.
Lebanon, with its relatively large number of Christians — more than 30 percent of the population — is a natural choice for Christian Syrians seeking refuge. Beyond religion, most of the Syrian Christian refugees have chosen Lebanon for more pragmatic reasons. Many have family living in Lebanon, either as citizens or as laborers who have migrated to work in construction or farming since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990. Others come to Lebanon, as in Mrs. Qarnous’s case, because it is the closest border to cross to safety.
“The journey between Rableh and Al Qaa used to take five to ten minutes before the war,” she says from a makeshift room she and her husband now inhabit in the hall of the Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Al Qaa. “Now it takes four hours.”
The trip is difficult and dangerous. Civilians have to navigate a complex landscape of warring factions, shelling and random attacks in order to arrive safely. Even after that, hunger, poverty and exposure to the elements await many of them in Lebanon.
Read more about Syrians Crossing the Border in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
28 May 2013
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War War
A Coptic woman prepares a meal in her kitchen in the southern village of Qenna, Egypt. As with many villages in the rural parts of the country, the majority of Qenna is Christian. Sarah Topol discusses the precarious state of Christians in Egypt in The Men Who Stayed, featured in the
latest issue of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
24 May 2013
Tags: Egypt ONE magazine Coptic Christians Copts Egypt's Christians
An Iraqi Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena administers a checkup to a pregnant, 18-year-old Palestinian refugee at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
In the midst of war, economic crisis and social upheaval, those who call the Middle East home face danger and uncertainty on a daily basis. Against the tumult that touches every aspect of life, knowing that those most vulnerable are receiving the care they need can be a blessing. Enter the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan:
Established in 1982, Mother of Mercy Clinic offers a wide range of general heath care services to thousands of patients — over 26,000 in 2008 — regardless of creed or origin. The clinic, however, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care, giving priority to needy mothers and their infants. …
Generous friends of CNEWA and a few European social service agencies fund the clinic, the annual budget of which runs around $175,000. While the clinic has managed to operate successfully within its budget, it faces its fair share of challenges.
Home to the oldest Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, Zerqa has long served as host to displaced persons — at the time of the article’s publication in the May 2009 issue of ONE, author Daoud Kuttab noted “most of Zerqa’s residents are refugees.” Since then, the combination of the Syrian civil war and continued strife in Iraq and Palestine has led to an even greater refugee presence, including the recent founding of another refugee camp near Zerqa.
To read more about the history and work of the Mother of Mercy Clinic, read Mothering Mercies. To support their mission in this time of great need, click here.
Tags: Refugees Children Jordan Health Care Refugee Camps