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Volume 43, Number 4
  
11 October 2011
Erin Edwards




A woman prays in a church in Deir Azra, a Christian village in Upper Egypt. (photo: Holly Pickett)

Sunday night in Cairo a demonstration turned deadly when military officials opened fire on a group of Christian demonstrators, killing some two dozen of them, the New York Times reported:

Coptic leaders issued an unusually pointed statement charging that the demonstrators were set up to take the blame for a crackdown. “Strangers got in the middle of our sons and committed mistakes to be blamed on our sons,” the statement said, claiming that acts of discrimination or aggression against Copts repeatedly “go unpunished.”

In a measure of their growing distrust of the military-led government, the families of the Copts killed in the violence decided they did not trust government-run facilities to perform autopsies, fearing the results might hide evidence of the violence by security forces. After hours of deliberation with priests, activists and human rights groups, they arranged to bring forensic teams to a Coptic hospital, causing the funeral to be called off.

Inside the hospital, Mariam Telmiz, 40, sat at the bedside of a brother-in-law who had been wounded by a bullet at the demonstration. Another brother-in-law had been killed by a bullet.

The military was ready to protect Egyptian Muslims who carried a Saudi flag or even pulled the Israeli flag off its embassy, she said, “but the one who holds his cross high gets humiliated.”

For more on this story read Copts Denounce Egyptian Government Over Killings in today’s New York Times or Copts Mourn Victims in Cairo Protest from the Catholic News Service.

In the current issue of ONE, Cairo-based journalist Sarah Topol reported on some of the difficulties faced by Christian women in Egypt in the story Spotlight: Coptic Women. In the video below, Sarah talks about what it’s like to be a woman journalist in Egypt during such a challenging time.



Tags: Egypt Africa Coptic Christians

7 October 2011
Erin Edwards




Yosef Hallegua blows the shofar in a synagogue in Cochin. (photo: Ellen Goldberg)

Today marks Yom Kippur, the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jewish community. It is also known as the Day of Atonement and is traditionally marked by a 25-hour period of fasting and praying. The shofar (pictured above) is blown in synagogues to mark the end of the fast at Yom Kippur.

In the July 2006 issue of ONE Nathan Katz reported on the dwindling Jewish community in Cochin, India:

Visiting Jews often are confounded by the unique liturgy of Cochin. As waves of immigrants came to Cochin from Persia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and even Poland and Italy, each left its imprint on Cochin’s prayer service. Some composed liturgical songs in fluent Hebrew, known as piyyutim. Scribes collated these songs and copied them into manuscript books, many of which remain in use to this day.

Midway through the prayer services in Cochin, worshipers will set down the Sephardic books from Israel and open these older songbooks. Most do not need to, however. They know the songs by heart.

Within the temple’s walls are the famous hand-painted floor tiles from China, Belgian chandeliers, prayer books from Israel and Torahs copied by local scribes. Atop one of the Torahs rests a magnificent 22-karat golden crown, given to the congregation by the Maharajah of Travancore in 1803.

The ancient copperplates, bequeathing autonomy at Cranganore, are stored in the synagogue’s ark along with Torahs and a huge shofar (ceremonial horn). Characteristic of Kerala’s unique synagogue architecture is the presence of a second bima (pulpit) upstairs in the women’s section, from which the Torah is read during prayer services.

For more about the Cochin Jewish community see The Last Jews of Cochin.

Learn more about the Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur, on the web site JewishEncyclopedia.com.



Tags: India Jews

6 October 2011
Erin Edwards




The Melkite Greek Catholic Warood School in Aleppo, Syria, enrolls 350 students from preschool through sixth grade. (photo: Spencer Osberg)

In the November 2009 issue of ONE Spencer Osberg reported on the diverse community of Christians living in Aleppo, Syria, one of the “oldest continuously inhabited centers in the world”:

The Greek Melkite Catholic Church offers a host of social services. Since his installation in 1995, Archbishop Jeanbart has worked tirelessly to expand existing programs and has spearheaded many new ones.

“I feel as a pastor I have to do my part to help our people to remain, to try and help the youth not to emigrate.”

The archbishop focuses much of his energy on the archeparchy’s numerous educational institutions. Under his watch, the archeparchy has opened six vocational schools that provide training in business, tourism, nursing and other skilled trades. The archbishop expressed hope the schools would enable a new generation of Syrian Christians to “find a good job and encourage them to remain in the country — to continue living in this country where we have been for 2,000 years.”

In addition, the archeparchy administers numerous and well-regarded elementary and secondary schools. Open to all Syrians regardless of creed, these schools are diverse and dynamic centers of learning and culture, often enrolling more non-Christian than Christian students. Depending on a family’s ability to pay, the church awards generous financial aid packages to qualifying students and in some cases waives school tuition and fees altogether.

For more about Aleppo see Aleppo: A Syrian Mosaic by Spencer Osberg. For more about the state of Syria’s Christians, check out last week’s blog post, Syria’s Christians: Are We Next?



Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Melkite Greek Catholic Church

5 October 2011
Erin Edwards




A young girl walks along a decorated wall as she joins her friends before the start of their first communion ceremony, in the Dbayeh Palestinian refugee camp, on the northern outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)

The Pontifical Mission, our operating agency in the Middle East, has provided much support for the Dbayeh refugee camp in Beirut over the years. With the help of The Little Sisters of Nazareth, Dbayeh camp has set itself apart from most Palestinian refugee camps:

Across from the UNRWA office, in the partially derelict school compound that Pontifical Mission, in partnership with UNRWA, built, funded and once administered, 10 youngsters were sitting in a semicircle rehearsing their First Communion. All wore white cassocks; wooden crosses hung around their necks while the girls wore gardenias in their hair. Men and women stood by, offering moral support. Among them was Sister Anita, a Little Sister of Nazareth, a community inspired by the French hermit Blessed Charles de Foucauld. While her two colleagues in Dbayeh are Belgian, Sister Anita is a native of Bshirri, a village in north Lebanon.

The Little Sisters of Nazareth have had a family of three nuns stationed in Lebanon since 1971. Sister Anita and Sister Rosa have served for four years, while Sister Joanna arrived a year ago, though she has long experience in Lebanon. Based first in Jisr el Basha, the sisters left Lebanon briefly for the safety of Jordan after the camp was razed in 1976. But in 1978, the Pontifical Mission approached the sisters and, to ease their return, offered living quarters in Dbayeh.

For more about the Dbayeh refugee camp, check out Defining Dbayeh in the September 2007 issue of ONE.



Tags: Lebanon Refugee Camps Palestinians Beirut Palestinian Refugees

4 October 2011
Erin Edwards




Ethiopian Orthodox priests wear the Tabot, symbolizing the Ark of the Covenant, during the beginning of the celebration of the Ethiopian religious festivity of Timqat/Epiphany in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

Timqat or Epiphany is 12 days after Orthodox Christmas. It celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Wikipedia describes the meaning of the beautiful headdresses worn by the priests in the photo above:

During the ceremonies of Timkat, the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, which is present on every Ethiopian altar (somewhat like the Western altar stone), is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and born in procession on the head of the priest. The Tabot, which is otherwise rarely seen by the laity, represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan for baptism.

For more on Ethiopian priests check out the story, As it Was, So Shall It Remain? from the September 2009 edition of ONE.



Tags: Ethiopia Africa Monastery Ethiopian Orthodox Church

3 October 2011
Erin Edwards




A relative of a patient at Amala Hospital in Kerala, India, prays in the candle-lit grotto located near the main entrance to the hospital, which is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The grotto contains a statue of Mary draped with rosaries. (Photo: Peter Lemieux)

During the Middle Ages, entire months of the year were given over to special devotions. In 1883 Pope Leo XIII dedicated the month of October to the Queen of the Holy Rosary or Mary.

In the the current issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on church-run institutions like Amala Hospital, which has a special connection to Mary:

With a busy 1,000–bed hospital and medical institute to oversee, the Carmelite priest keeps a close eye on the clock. After the celebration, he promptly closes the liturgy with a few words of wisdom. He also requests prayers for this year’s crop of students in the hospital’s nursing program who will take their final exams that afternoon. He then reminds the group that the day is the feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, to whom the Amala Hospital is dedicated.

To celebrate, Father Paul encourages them to join a rosary procession that evening, which will begin at the chapel, wind through the institution’s rolling campus and end at the grotto near its edge, where he will hold a candlelit vigil.

For more about Kerala’s health care system, check out the story, Healing Kerala’s Health Care in the current issue of ONE.



Tags: India Kerala Health Care Catholic Church of the East

30 September 2011
Greg Kandra




Msgr. John Kozar, President of CNEWA, enjoys a laugh with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley,O.F.M. Cap.
(Photo: Erin Edwards)


Boston’s Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., paid a visit to our New York offices this morning. Cardinal Sean is also a member of the CNEWA board, and was curious to meet some of the staff and see what we do. CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar gave him a tour of our offices, introduced him to the staff, and clearly had a great time.



Tags: CNEWA

29 September 2011
Erin Edwards




An Ethiopian monk prays at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
(Photo: Peter Lemieux)


Ben Cramer reported on the dwindling number of pilgrims or visitors to the Holy Land in the March/April 2004 issue of the magazine. The violence in the region at the time kept pilgrims away and depressed Christians living in the region:

The crisis jeopardizes the region’s Christian communities in ways that go beyond economics. According to Christian leaders in the area, the absence of Christian pilgrims in the birthplace of their faith is having a troubling impact on local parishioners and even the hope for peace in the Middle East.

“Pilgrimage has almost totally stopped since 2000,” says Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah. “There are a few pilgrims coming here out of true conviction, but these are only small groups, primarily from Italy, France and Spain.”

Since this story ran in 2004, the number of pilgrimages to the Holy Land has increased. According to a January 2011 article from Independent Catholic News, “...the highest number of pilgrims went to Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations since 2000. Up to 500 Christians from Gaza were also able to come to Bethlehem which was a considerable improvement...”

For more, check out Holy Land: increase in number of Christians returning home.



Tags: Ethiopia Holy Land Jerusalem Africa

28 September 2011
Erin Edwards




Photographer Sean Sprague captured these dancers during the Istanbul Gypsy & Orientale Dance Festival in May of 2010. (Photo: Sean Sprague)

Turkey’s diversity has been well documented in the pages of ONE — including members of the Roma community, seen in the photo above partaking in an ancient celebration marking the arrival of spring. The celebration includes bonfires, traditional music and dancing. Though the Roma are a minority, their culture and traditions remain strong.

For more about Turkey’s diversity check out, Turkey’s Melting Pot from the May 2011 issue of ONE.

Turkey was in the news this week, being touted as an example of progress in the disarray within the Middle East.

“Turkey is the only country that has a sense of where things are going, and it has the wind blowing on its sails,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Bilgi University.

The country’s foreign policy seized the attention of many in the Middle East and beyond after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour this month of three Arab countries that have witnessed revolutions: Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Even Mr. Erdogan’s critics were impressed with the symbolism of the trip.

For more, read the New York Times article, In Riddle of Mideast Upheaval, Turkey Offers Itself as an Answer.



Tags: Turkey Gypsy

27 September 2011
Erin Edwards




Santa Lucia (home for the blind in Abou Kir, Egypt) staff member Iman Bibawi Iskandar helps a resident practice writing Arabic Braille in preparation for an exam. (Photo: Holly Pickett)

In the May 2010 issue of ONE, journalist Liam Stack shared the stories of the sisters and children at the Santa Lucia Home for the Blind — which was built with funds from CNEWA donors.

Santa Lucia inspires dedication and devotion among its faculty and staff. Samira Ibrahim Matta was one of the first teachers hired by Father Tarcisio. Every afternoon, she teaches the intricacies of Arabic grammar, a language whose swooping letters they learn to write on small, clanging Braille typewriters. Between school and afternoon classes at the home, residents learn to read and write Braille in Arabic, English and French.

Proud of her role at Santa Lucia, Ms. Samira teaches her students not only reading and writing, but lessons about life. A few years ago, her own vision began to fade, and today she is blind. As hard as it has been for her to adjust to being blind, she uses her own, recent experiences as a way to teach the children to respect themselves and work hard.

“I don’t want to congratulate myself for what I do, it is just important to teach them to challenge themselves and the difficulties of their lives,” Ms. Samira explains.

Learn more about the Santa Lucia Home in Blind to Limitations by Liam Stack.



Tags: Egypt Africa Franciscan Sisters of the Cross





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