20 November 2013
Father Jorge distributes blessed bread following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Honduras. (photo: Carina Wint)
In 2006, we visited a surprising corner of the world with a small but thriving Arab population — Central America:
Today, there are as many as 220,000 Arab-Hondurans. While they represent only 3 percent of the total population of 7.3 million people, they have had an outsized influence on the nation. They are most visible in business and only slightly less so in politics. Centro Social’s president, Juan Canahuati, a textile magnate with numerous other entrepreneurial activities, is considered the country’s top businessman. Coffee exporter and former Industry and Commerce Minister Oscar Kafati’s ancestors immigrated to Honduras in the late 19th century from Beit Jala, a Christian town adjacent to Bethlehem. Former President Carlos Flores Facusse’s mother came from Bethlehem.
Arab immigration to Latin America is not unique to Honduras nor are such success stories. To take just two prominent examples: former Argentine President Carlos Ménem (1989-1999) traces his roots to Syria; Mexico’s telecommunications titan, Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s third richest man, is of Lebanese descent.
Nearly all Arab-Hondurans claim Christian Palestinian origins, making the Arab-Honduran experience unique. Proportionally, there are more people of Palestinian descent in Honduras than any other Latin American country.
Arab Palestinians first came to Honduras in the 19th century, but the largest waves arrived after 1896, the year the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which then controlled Palestine, first allowed emigration. Numerous factors motivated the early emigrants. In 1909, the Ottomans included in the military draft Christians and Jews, who were once forbidden to serve, but required to pay tribute instead. Economic incentives also drove Arabs abroad. Tourism and commerce, areas in which many Christians worked, declined during World War I. And increasingly Palestine’s Arab Christians found themselves competing with the growing Jewish population, largely secular Zionist immigrants from Europe, in their entrepreneurial activities. Just as today, there seemed to be more opportunities for enterprising Arabs abroad.
But why Honduras?
Some researchers have suggested the earliest emigrants boarded ships without knowing their final destination. The choice of Honduras was not a choice at all; it was happenstance. But after conducting interviews in 1979 with many Arab-Hondurans, geographer William Crowley concluded that “many, and maybe the majority, of the early immigrants headed intentionally for Honduras.”
Most of the Arabs from Palestine who immigrated to Honduras were Orthodox. But until 1963, Honduras’s Orthodox community lacked a church, and by then many immigrants had joined the Catholic Church, the predominant Christian community in the country.
Today, the country’s only Orthodox parish, the Iglesia Ortodoxa de Antioquena San Juan Bautista in San Pedro Sula, serves more than 200 families. It is pastored by Father Jorge Faraj, a married priest whose grandparents came to Honduras from Beit Sahour, another Christian town near Bethlehem.
Father Jorge estimated that about 45 percent of Arab-Hondurans remain Orthodox, including a small number of Hondurans from Lebanon. “But I’m the only Orthodox priest, so it is difficult for me to serve the entire country,” he said.
While most Arab-Hondurans live in San Pedro Sula, there are also large numbers in Tegucigalpa and other cities. “These cities don’t have their own Orthodox parishes, and I can visit them only so often,” said the priest. “So, these people tend to attend Catholic churches. But then, they’ll come to San Pedro Sula for a visit, and they’ll always come to an Orthodox service here.”
Read more in Middle Eastern, Central American Style in the September 2006 issue of ONE.
19 November 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Palestinians Immigration Arabs
A seminarian walks down the corridor of the St. Athanasius Greek Catholic Theological Institute in Hajdúdorog, Hungary. As part of its mission, the institute provides seminarians and lay students an education in both the Byzantine and Latin rites. To learn about life as a seminarian in Hungary, read Jacqueline Ruyak’s To Be a Priest, from the March 2007 issue of ONE. (photo: Tivadar Domaniczky)
18 November 2013
Tags: Eastern Christianity Seminarians Hungary Greek Catholic Church Hungarian Greek Catholic
A young couple is married in the church of the ancient Gelati Monastery in Georgia. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the church was built by King David the Builder in the 12th century. You can find more pictures of the monastery here, and read about Michael La Civita’s journey through the Caucasus here and here. (photo: Michael La Civita)
15 November 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Village life Eastern Christianity Georgia Eastern Europe
In Ethiopia, school meals greatly improve concentration among students, such as Teklit Gebru of Sebeya. To read more about efforts to feed the hungry in Ethiopia, check out Hungry to Learn in the Autumn issue of ONE. And visit our Ethiopia giving page to learn how you can help. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
14 November 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education ONE magazine Hunger
An Armenian farmer in Anjar, Lebanon, displays some of his produce. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 2002, we profiled Lebanon’s “Little Armenia,” which includes the Beirut suburb of Bourj Hammoud and the rural town of Anjar in the Bekaa Valley region, some 60 miles to the northeast.
In Anjar, this transplant community of farmers was able to live off their allotted land for decades. However, recent times have brought new challenges:
Overlooking the Mediterranean, on the slope of Musa Dagh (Mount Moses), a stone’s throw from the Syrian border, more than 5,000 Armenians from six villages, were flushed from their homes by the Turks. …
Finally, in September 1939, with the help of the French Navy, they were relocated to the rugged, dry land of Anjar, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. While awaiting the construction of 1,000 single-room homes, these refugees lived for two years in tents. During the first months of their exile, malnutrition and malaria caused the death of some 500 Armenians. …
Despite the rugged climate of Anjar, the Armenians learned to work the land as they had back in Musa Dagh. In addition to 5,400 square yards of residential land, each family was allotted 9,360 square yards of agricultural land. …
“Once the lands were distributed, each family received 110 pounds of wheat for planting,” he adds. “We were able to make a living.”
“Today, I am unable to earn a living,” laments Boghos Taslakian, who is 77. “I sell my cabbages for 10 cents a pound at the market. In reality, agriculture has reached a dead end in Lebanon. My children are no longer interested — they don’t even know the exact location of the family farm. The majority of the youngsters are attracted by other activities, such as jewelry making.”
In order to make ends meet, farmers must take on other activities. After working as a farmer for more than 60 years, Assadour Makhoulian was forced to open a small supermarket in the village. Today his son operates it.
Read the rest in the July 2002 issue of our magazine.
13 November 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Armenian Apostolic Church Farming/Agriculture Armenian Catholic Church
Pope Francis meets with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of ecumenical relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, during a private meeting at the Vatican on 12 November. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis met yesterday with Metropolitan Hilarion. ANSA reports:
The senior Orthodox church official, whose post is similar to that of a foreign minister, is visiting Rome for a series of meetings including a conference Wednesday organized by the Vatican Congregation for the Family.
Tuesday’s meeting coincides with a similar session in Moscow between the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
It also comes only a few weeks before the pope is scheduled to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin on 25 November.
And Rome Reports has more about yesterday’s meeting:
(video: Rome Reports)
12 November 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Russian Orthodox Church Christian Unity Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk
The Mother of Mercy Clinic provides a wide range of services to as many as 30,000 patients each year, with a special focus on prenatal and postnatal care. (photo: Steve Sabella)
In the Autumn issue of ONE, we take readers to the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Jordan, where healthcare workers care for the growing number of refugees:
Since early 2011, more than half a million Syrians have found refuge in a country with a population of barely more than six million. Hundreds of people arrive every day, many of whom come with severe injuries, long-term health issues or both. Many women arrive pregnant — some of whom, married at a young age, are barely more than children themselves.
Early in the crisis, the kingdom offered all Syrian refugees free health care in the public system. But as the demand for care grew, it came close to bringing the system to its knees. In March, Dr. Yaroub Ajlouni, president of the Jordan Health Aid Society, reported that the health system in northern Jordan — where many Syrian refugees live — was on the verge of collapse. Beds were unavailable in the public hospitals, intensive care unit spaces and incubators were full, drugs in short supply. Since then, Dr. Ajlouni and other aid workers say the kingdom has relieved some of the crowding, quietly scaling back the amount of health care refugees can access, implementing new restrictions and asking international organizations to carry more of the burden. The crisis has affected everyone.
Sister Najma says the Mother of Mercy Clinic sees few refugees — perhaps 10 or 15 a day — but demand for its services is constantly growing, and the clinic is struggling to keep up with the increase. Part of this is because space is limited, Mr. Bahou explains, and part of it is that the same economic factors squeezing Jordanians are also putting pressure on private health care providers. “It’s getting tight, because we cannot increase the budget anymore,” says Mr. Bahou.
“We’re trying to keep the budget as it is and absorb the higher cost of maintenance and utilities.
“We have many generous donors, but it’s not easy,” says Mr. Bahou. “We’re managing with the amount we’re receiving — we don’t have a problem — but it’s very tight. Every penny we spend, it should be used very reasonably.”
Things are not yet dire — the clinic is slated for renovation this year, funded in part by the U.S. Eastern Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. But Sister Najma says the pressure on the sisters is growing, and there is no room to treat more patients.
Read more about Overwhelming Mercy in the Autumn issue of the magazine.
And visit this page to learn how you can help support CNEWA’s work in Jordan.
8 November 2013
Tags: Refugees Children Jordan Health Care Women
Egidio Sampieri, the “bishop farmer,” and one of his helpers pick vegetables from their garden. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
In 1999, we profiled Bishop Egidio Sampieri, O.F.R., the Latin Catholic apostolic vicar of Egypt — though he was also known by another name:
Cradling a large gray rabbit in his arms, the “bishop farmer” grins. “This is my passion. I love animals.” Stacks of cages full of rabbits of all sizes surround Bishop Egidio Sampieri, O.F.R., and his two helpers as they feed countless hungry mouths with verdant leaves from the nearby garden.
True to the spirit of St. Francis, Bishop Egidio, as he is affectionately known, loves not only animals but people too. Perhaps it is his warm smile, sympathetic air and open manner that keeps the prelate at the center of a constant swirl of Egyptians, Sudanese and other Africans who seek his fatherly counsel and encouragement.
Bishop Egidio serves as Apostolic Vicar for the Latin Catholic community in Egypt. The post was first established by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839 and at that time covered Egypt and Arabia; Bishop Egidio was appointed by Pope Paul VI in 1978. Al-though the prelate charge is the Latin Catholic community, his ministry stretches much farther.
What distinguishes Bishop Egidio among church leaders in Egypt is the spirit of ecumenism that permeates his words and actions. He is a unique character in a place where religious sensitivities can run high among the various Christian and Muslim communities.
Though Bishop Egidio passed away in 2000, we invite you to read about his life and his important work, the impact of which can still be felt to this day.
7 November 2013
Tags: Egypt Unity Ecumenism Catholic Farming/Agriculture
The Godano Rehabilitation Project, which serves about 140 women under the age of 20, offers computer and beauty-school classes. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
In the Summer issue of ONE, we detailed ways the CNEWA-supported Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa is changing the lives of some of the most vulnerable youngsters in Ethiopia. However, that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is CNEWA’s support for education:
Improving the lives of poor young adult women is an important part of CNEWA’s mandate. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Godano Rehabilitation Project, which serves about 140 women (and a few men), all under 20. Many are single mothers.
“It’s a common, sad story,” said Mulatu Tafesse, the Catholic layman who founded the program. “These girls come into Addis from the country to work in households, doing the cleaning and cooking. Many of them are raped, become pregnant and are fired. They can’t go back to their families because of the stigma, so they turn to begging or prostitution, and a prostitute in Ethiopia is very likely to get AIDS.”
Mr. Tafesse takes in as many women as he can. He has had many years of experience helping the needy. During Ethiopia’s famine of 1984-1985, he helped Save the Children bring relief to starving refugees (as did CNEWA’s Gerald Jones, his then-boss). At Godano, he also utilizes his professional experience as an engineer. By modifying shipping containers, Mr. Tafesse has erected a mini-city of classrooms, workshops and leisure areas. Living quarters are nearby.
For a year, the young women learn a variety of skills — cooking, hairdressing, computer literacy, handicrafts — and are given a basic education. Meanwhile, their infants receive appropriate attention.
The women earn some money, but the larger aim is to find them jobs after a year of training. Most do, and eventually many also reunite with their families.
Read more about Breaking Barriers in Ethiopia.
6 November 2013
Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Children Education Women
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks inside a church in Aleppo, Syria, on 4 November. The following day, the Vatican embassy in Damascus was struck by a mortar round. No one was injured. Read more. (photo: CNS/Molhem Barakat, Reuters)
Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Vatican Aleppo Damascus