20 July 2016
Filipinos attend a Saturday Mass celebrated in Tagalog at a pastoral center in Tel Aviv. To learn more about migrants making a new home in Israel, read Surviving Without a Country in the Promised Land in the Summer edition of ONE. (photo: CNEWA)
19 July 2016
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, leads benediction at the Al Bishara School in the Ain Kawa area of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. He visited the region in April. Follow his journey and see more dramatic photographs in United in Faith, Prayer and Love in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
18 July 2016
Women prepare coffee and snacks at a clinic operated by the Daughters of St. Anne in Ethiopia. To learn more about our recent visit to the Horn of Africa, check out this photo essay in the Summer edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
15 July 2016
St. Vladimir embraced Christianity in the tenth century, and is considered the founder of the Eastern churches in the Belorussian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Russian and Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox traditions. (photo: OCA.org)
Today, 15 July, marks the feast of St. Vladimir:
“The Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles.” Few names in the annals of history can compare in significance with the name of St. Vladimir, the Baptizer of Rus.
Born in 956, Vladimir was raised a pagan, but converted to Christianity — the first ruler of the Rus’ to embrace the faith. The people of his country soon followed his example:
Then followed an unforgettable and quite singular event … the morning of the Baptism of the Kievans in the waters of the River Dneipr. On the evening before, St Vladimir declared throughout the city: “If anyone does not go into the river tomorrow, be they rich or poor, beggar or slave, that one shall be my enemy.” The sacred wish of the holy Prince was fulfilled without a murmur: “all our land glorified Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the same time.”
“Everywhere throughout Holy Rus, from the ancient cities to the far outposts, St. Vladimir gave orders to destroy the pagan sanctuaries, to flog the idols, and in their place to clear land in the hilly woods for churches, in which altars would be consecrated for the Bloodless Sacrifice. Churches of God grew up along the face of the earth, at high elevated places, and at the bends of the rivers, along the ancient trail “from the Variangians to the Greeks” figuratively as road signs and lamps of national holiness. Concerning the famed church-building activity of St Vladimir, the Metropolitan of Kiev St Hilarion (author of the “Word on Law and Grace”) exclaimed: “They demolished the pagan temples, and built up churches, they destroyed the idols and produced holy icons, the demons have fled, and the Cross has sanctified the cities.”
The man known as the “Baptizer of the Rus’ ” died on 15 July 1015, 28 years after his own baptism. He’s buried in a crypt in Kiev, now the capital of an independent Ukraine.
A beautiful troparion in the Orthodox tradition celebrates him as “another Paul”:
Holy Prince Vladimir
you were like a merchant in search of fine pearls.
By sending servants to Constantinople for the Orthodox Faith, you found Christ, the priceless pearl.
He appointed you to be another Paul,
washing away in baptism your physical and spiritual blindness.
We celebrate your memory,
asking you to pray for all Orthodox Christians and for us, your spiritual children.
Read more about his life here.
14 July 2016
Tags: Russia Saints
Father Sherubine, his wife, Antoinette, and their children visit the Al Karma Center near Alexandria, Egypt. Antoinette volunteers at the center. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we visited the Al Karma Center in a suburb of Alexandria, Egypt, to explore how it is helping Coptic families enrich their faith:
Being a minority is never easy; being a minority newly settled in a once inhospitable terrain much less so. But such is the fate of some 40,000 Coptic Orthodox, who face poverty and isolation in the arid land west of the Nile Delta.
Most immigrated to the area from Upper Egypt to escape discrimination from Islamic fundamentalists and economic deprivation. Others came after the government encouraged them to leave the over-populated Nile Valley and settle along the desert highway linking Alexandria and Cairo. With only one church to serve them, all fear their faith and heritage will be lost on younger generations eager to escape the bleak landscape where jobs are few.
A multipurpose religious center near Alexandria, however, is providing this isolated community with an opportunity to bring their children together and strengthen their faith.
“The role of the center is to identify needy children and equip them with the tools and education to live their lives in a Christian way,” said Antoin Nabil, the coordinator of the Al Karma Center in Mariout, a southwestern suburb of the Mediterranean port city.
The center gathers children from across the desert for a three-day program of activities dubbed “Jesus the Child.” Boys and girls, ages 6 to 14, are shuttled to the center in groups of 50 to 60 for an up-close look at the life of the Coptic Church.
Read more about this Oasis of Hope in the March 2004 edition of our magazine.
13 July 2016
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Copts Coptic
Farha Nasrallah, widow of Boulos Al-Ahmar, stands with her 3-year-old daughter on the front steps of St. Elias Melkite Catholic Church in Al Qaa, Lebanon, on 10 July. Her late husband was driving an ambulance to the scene of explosion when more bombs went off. Residents of the predominantly Christian village are determined not to live in fear. (photo: CNS/Brooke Anderson)
Boulos al-Ahmar had just driven the ambulance to the scene of the explosion when more bombs detonated, killing him. When Majed Wehbe heard the first explosions near his home, he ran to the scene to help, only to arrive in time for the next set of explosions.
These men died as heroes, unafraid to run toward disaster to help others, and their Christian village wants to honor their memory by shunning the fear these explosions were designed to instill.
The Lebanese frontier village is mourning the loss of five residents to a series of explosions in late June. But within two weeks, the people were showing their determination to bring back life.
“We will continue to have culture, activities and late-night celebrations. We’re not just going to survive. We’re going to live our lives,” said Bashir Mattar, the mayor of Al Qaa, a village of about 15,000, predominantly Melkite Catholic, with some Maronite Catholic and Orthodox. They share the village with nearly 30,000 Syrian refugees who have fled war in their country, about three miles away.
The village is relatively poor, with the majority of the population belonging to the army, a reliable employer for an area with few job opportunities. Families live in modest homes, often decorated with canopies of grape vines. Syrian refugees live nearby in informal tented settlements.
“We will continue helping Syrian refugees so that they can live in dignity,” the mayor said at a 9 July town hall meeting, the first of its kind since the explosions, which led to the arrest of more than 200 Syrian refugees in the area. “If they get an education and have hope, especially the children, then they won’t turn to extremism and terrorism.”
Four suicide bombers hit the town in two separate incidents 27 June. They killed themselves and the five residents and injured more than 30 others. Although the perpetrators have yet to be identified, the area’s growing Syrian refugee community has been under tight security following the attacks.
Hilal Khashan, a professor of political studies at the American University of Beirut, said Al Qaa probably was not the target of the attack. He said some believe the suicide bombers got stuck in the village as they were trying to coordinate an attack in a big city.
Although there is a narrow stretch of Islamic State group-controlled land between Al Qaa and Syria, Khashan said he does not foresee a repeat of the attack, because the group does not have the constituency or resources in Lebanon to stage spectacular attacks, as it does in Iraq. Still, the bombings in al-Qaa left the Christian villages that border Syria’s Islamic-State-controlled areas shaken.
From the beginning of the Bekaa Valley until the entrance to the village of Al Qaa, 10 Lebanese Army checkpoints line the road. Inside the village, as the sun set and residents began to arrive at the town hall meeting in a building near the scene of the attacks, armored vehicles began patrolling the area. Some soldiers set up positions on the roofs of nearby buildings.
“Al Qaa is the door to Lebanon. If it falls, then Lebanon could fall,” said lifelong resident Georgette Farha Taom, emphasizing that she still considered the village’s Lebanese and Syrians to be on good terms. “We’ve always had a good relationship with the Syrians. They’re more scared than us. They fled their country. They have nowhere to go.”
The next morning, as worshipers, including some local Muslims, filled St. Elias Melkite Catholic Church, security personnel were again out in force, closely observing and sometimes checking IDs of those entering or walking by the church. Once the service started, the soldiers’ faces could be seen peering through the church’s windows, as the priest gave an impassioned sermon urging people not to be scared. He thanked the Lebanese army and honored the victims of the attacks, whose names and photos appeared at the main entrance to the church.
A prominent guest joined the congregation that day: Myriam Skaff, president of the Popular Bloc, visited the village from Zahle to show her support for Al Qaa, something she said she would continue to do on a regular basis. Although such gestures by politicians are not unusual at times of crisis, this visit appeared to give support to what locals wanted to show the rest of the country and beyond — that their village is open for business and is a safe destination.
“This is the first time since the attacks that the church is filled with people,” said the Rev. Elian Nasrallah. “There was no life after the attacks, but it’s coming back slowly.”
12 July 2016
Students attend class at St. Michael School in Aiga, Ethiopia. CNEWA is helping provide nourishing biscuits so that schoolchildren in drought-ravaged Ethiopia don’t go hungry. See more pictures here. And to help these and other children in northeast Africa, visit this giving page.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
11 July 2016
Nuns light candles on 11 July for victims of a suicide car bomb attack at a shopping area
in Baghdad. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, on the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, called for tolerance and forgiveness to fight extremism, hatred and terrorism.
Speaking at a prayer service 7 July in the Karrada section of Baghdad for the victims of the 3 July bombing that killed more than 290 people and wounded 200, the patriarch emphasized that “there is a spiritual, moral, and patriotic side for our prayer.”
“In such a tragedy, we are joining millions of Muslims in praying for the affected families, that God may have mercy on the victims and bless the wounded with a speedy recovery,” Patriarch Sako said.
“We express our shock, sadness and solidarity with Iraqis and strongly condemn these cruel acts that affected innocent people, stole the happiness of preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and converted it to a national mourning,” he said.
The patriarch said terrorism had nothing to do with religion, “but may be linked to political games that allow killing of Muslims, Christians, Mandaeans and Yezidis as ‘infidels,’” the patriarch said.
He added that “everyone should understand that killing innocent people leads to hell rather than to heaven.”
“Our prayers this evening will help us learn lessons from this tragedy and find effective and permanent solutions,” he said. “If the government was coherent and politicians worked as one team, ISIS wouldn’t be able to commit these crimes; tamper with the country’s security and stability, killing thousands of innocent people; displace millions; and destroy the Iraqi national fabric and peaceful co-existence.”
8 July 2016
Four boys in Lebanon enjoy ka’ak, a sesame-seed-encrusted bread stuffed with spices. To learn more about the history and traditions of bread in Lebanon, check out Food for Thought from the September 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
7 July 2016
Immaculate Conception sisters greet children at Our Lady of Armenia Education Center in Tashir, Armenia. More children there are growing up without fathers, and the Church is doing what it can to help. Read about Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)