24 May 2012
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Cairo on 23 May.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Today, Egyptians went to the polls for the second day in a row to vote for their first-ever, freely elected president. This comes on the heels of the extreme turmoil of the ‘Arab Spring,’ which has reverberated throughout the Middle East.
Today, The New York Times spoke with voters on this second day of historic elections:
Among the many aspects of the race still shrouded in suspense are the future powers and responsibilities of the next president. A political deadlock prevented the drafting of a new constitution, paving the way for a power struggle between the new president, the elected Parliament and the self-appointed military council. The military council has said it will unilaterally issue an interim constitution before leaving power, but it has not yet done so. It was unclear how elected leaders might respond.
For now, most Egyptians were thinking of simple hopes. “I just want a president,” said Ines Mohamed, 40, a housewife waiting to vote. “I want this to end well, to stop all the chaos, to end the bleeding of corruption.”
For some perspective on the situation in Egypt, read “Arab Spring or Arab Awakening?,” a blog post written by our Education and Interreligious Affairs Officer, Rev. Elias Mallon, back in February. Last month, our office in Canada launched a campaign to help support Egypt’s Christians during this rocky time. To learn more, visit our website.
21 May 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa Arab Spring/Awakening
Children at the Meganese Catholic School, directed by the Capuchin Fathers, cheerfully greet CNEWA visitors. (photo: John E. Kozar )
If you have been following our blog over the last couple of months, you may have read the series of posts by our president, Msgr. John Kozar, from his pastoral visit to Ethiopia. We’ve been fortunate to share a selection of the beautiful pictures he took, such as the photo above from Meganese Catholic School. These images help capture the vibrancy he experienced during his pastoral visit. In Msgr. Kozar’s very first blog post from Ethiopia he described the scene at Meganese Catholic School:
Our next visit took us to the Meganese Catholic School, directed by the Capuchin Fathers. Talk about a welcome! Some 1,000 children encircled us, chanting happily and raising high their palm branches. Even the bishop was startled at this reception. The children were so warm and welcoming and responded to my every word and gesture.
The very large campus also includes a health clinic, agricultural components and other programs. We were accompanied by members of the parents association and community elders. Their enthusiasm for the school is obvious and they work hand in hand with the Capuchin Fathers on its administration.
For more from Msgr. Kozar’s Ethiopia visit, check out the rest of his blog posts.
18 May 2012
Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Africa Catholic education Catholic Schools
Miriam Ishak, a 25-year-old Coptic woman, says she experiences harassment and discrimination in her hometown of Samalut, Egypt, because she is Christian. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Independent Catholic News recently reported about a Parliament meeting that focused on the plight of Christian women in Pakistan and Egypt:
At a well-attended meeting in Parliament on Tuesday evening, chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool, Peers and MPs heard first-hand accounts about the plight of the persecuted church in Pakistan and Egypt — and in particular about the plight of Christian women, whom Lord Alton said faced “double persecution — both on account of their beliefs and their gender.”
The charity Aid To The Church In Need presented parliamentarians with copies of their new report: Christians and the Struggle for Religious Freedom, looking at persecution of Christians in 13 countries, with an introduction asserting the importance of religious freedom; and with copies of Christian Women in Pakistan and Egypt: A Briefing. The speakers included Mrs Asiya Nasir, a Christian woman who is a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly. The meeting also heard from a Pakistani Catholic woman and two Archbishops.
To learn more about the plight of Coptic women in Egypt, read Spotlight: Coptic Women from the September 2011 issue of ONE. Photographer Holly Pickett shared with us some of the difficulties faced by these women, such as Miriam Ishak (pictured above):
Miriam Ishak, a 25-year-old Coptic woman, says she experiences harassment and discrimination in her hometown of Samalut, Egypt, because she is Christian. She says she and her fiance will move to Kuwait after they get married. As members of a religious minority, Coptic women in Egypt often face discrimination. Because of the Coptic Church’s strict divorce laws, some Coptic men and women convert to Islam in order to divorce their spouses, a decision that has far-reaching social and legal consequences on the family and sometimes the entire community. In numerous instances, a Coptic woman’s conversion to Islam has sparked sectarian violence.
10 May 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa Coptic Orthodox Church Women (rights/issues) Discrimination
At the Galilee Retreat Center outside Addis Ababa, a sister enjoys a traditional Ethiopian meal with the country’s staple starch, injera bread. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Last month, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited Ethiopia. While there, he had the opportunity to meet with many local church leaders and religious, like the sisters he encountered at the Galilee Retreat Center:
Today, we headed about one hour out of Addis Ababa to the Galilee Retreat Center located on a cliff overlooking a beautiful crater lake. The setting is idyllic and filled with peace. I was privileged to concelebrate Mass with the Jesuit who directs this center, Father Joseph Pollicino, S.J., a Maltese national who has worked here and in Sudan for many years. A special treat was to be in the presence of about 20 sisters who were finishing their weekend retreat. Mass was particularly stimulating with the devotion of the sisters, their lovely singing and the peaceful manner of Father Joe. Coupled with this ambience was the captivating rhythm of the drumbeats of the young sister who put her whole heart into her percussion instrument, a beautifully decorated native drum. People come from all over to seek the tranquility of this retreat center. Many different types of spiritual programs are offered for youth, for religious men and women, for priests, for bishops and lay groups and interreligious groups.
After Mass, we enjoyed a wonderful meal with Father Joe and all the sisters.
Read more about Msgr. Kozar’s visit to Ethiopia in his blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
8 May 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Africa Cuisine
At Mar Bishoi Church in Port Said, Egypt, a parishioner touches the patronal icon. (photo: Sean Sprague)
It was recently announced that the Coptic Orthodox Church will begin the process for electing a new pope. This comes after a 40-day mourning period for Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, Egypt, who served as pope for 41 years. Pope Shenouda III died on 17 March. The process for selecting his successor may be foreign to many:
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom has issued a detailed explanation of the papal selection process, along with a timeline which identifies key stages of the process, saying the following:
“This is an experience with which many will not have been involved in their lifetime, so it was important to provide a simplified explanation, allowing engagement at every level. Within these steps we find a robust process that includes: nominations from peers within the Holy Synod, nominations from laity through the General Lay Council, systematic scrutiny with a process of challenges and appeals, representative democratic election, and above all, the Altar Ballot that encompasses this whole process with a spirit of prayer and trustful submission to the will of God.”
You can read more about the process and the timeline here. CNEWA President, Msgr. John Kozar, wrote about a memorial service for Pope Shenouda III he attended back in March.
4 May 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa Pope Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria
Many orphaned children, like the one shown above, are cared for at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, recently returned from a pastoral visit to Ethiopia. As usual, he returned with many beautiful images of the people and places he visited. One of those places is the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa:
The director is Sister Lutgarda Camilleri of the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, a Maltese national who has worked either at the orphanage or at the school next door for more than forty years. She is a dynamo: a combination of a grandmother that everyone would cherish and a religious sister who commands tremendous respect and can bring anyone to attention with a glance or a word of admonition. She also strikes me as a person with great savvy with the government authorities. You know the type: Give them a little grandmotherly charm and, if that does not work, look right into their eyes and tell them they are wrong. Case closed.
Sister Lutgarda and her crew of two other sisters, dedicated staff members and a rotating crew of volunteers provide amazing loving care to children as young as a few months and up to the age of 16. Many of those in her charge are street children brought here by police or child welfare officials. Sometimes, the officials show up at her doorstep with more than 20 at one time. Exasperated a little, but never overwhelmed, Sister Lutgarda welcomes them into the family.
For a closer look at Msgr. Kozar’s experience in Ethiopia, check out his series of blog posts from his trip, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
30 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Orphans/Orphanages
In this photo taken in 2000, a young man stands in a field of Meskel flowers in South Ethiopia. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
We all know that “April showers bring May flowers.” So as April ends, we offer a springtime glimpse at what tomorrow may bring.
Ironically, these particular flowers are most popular later in the year, near the fall.
Meskel flowers symbolize the feast day, Meskel, in Ethiopia. They are used to line the streets during the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which falls near the Ethiopian calendar’s new year in September. Last October, Gerald Jones, our regional director for Ethiopia wrote about this celebration.
20 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Christianity
This image from 2007 shows how Eucharist and study are central in the lives of Coptic Catholic seminarians at St. Leo the Great, located in a Cairo suburb. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)
Latest reports indicate that Egypt continues to be rocked by political turmoil and protest:
Tens of thousands of protesters packed Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square on Friday in the biggest demonstration in months against the ruling military, aimed at stepping up pressure on the generals to hand over power to civilians and bar ex-regime members from running in upcoming presidential elections.
We’ve reported extensively on the lives of Christians in that corner of the world. In 2007, the magazine profiled the Coptic Catholic Church, beginning with its very deep roots:
Egyptian Christians — known as Copts, a derivative of the Greek word Aigyptios, meaning Egyptian — are proud of their ancient roots. They received the Gospel from St. Mark the Evangelist, who brought the faith to the city of Alexandria, second only to Rome in the ancient Mediterranean world. There, he died a martyr’s death around the year 67.
The evangelist extended his apostolic activity beyond the city’s prosperous Jewish community. He called for the city’s Copts and Greeks to adopt “the way,” the early Christian description for discipleship in Jesus Christ.
Mark sowed the Christian seed on fertile ground. Centuries before the Arab advent in the eastern Mediterranean, and with it the rise of Islam, Egyptian Christianity blossomed. It provided the church with the philosophical foundation and theological vocabulary responsible for its explosive expansion in the Greco-Roman world, introduced the cenobitic and hermitic variants of monastic life and peopled the universal church with some of its greatest saints and scholars, including Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, Anthony, Macarius, Didymus, Athanasius, Arius, Cyril and Dioscorus.
17 April 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Africa
A children’s choir performs at the Ethiopian Orthodox parish in Temple Hill, a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. (photo: Erin Edwards)
In 2009, I had the opportunity to visit with and learn from members of the Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C. Washington is home to the largest group of Ethiopians outside of the country itself — pretty remarkable. You can imagine the amount of culture, history and tradition that flows through the city. From the Ethiopian restaurants to the Orthodox churches, there were many moments in which I felt as though I was in Ethiopia.
Check out my interviews below with some of the young women I met while in D.C. For more, read the accompanying article by Vincent Gragnani, America’s Horn of Africa in the March 2009 issue of ONE.
11 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church
In this photo taken in 2009, Ethiopian women carry firewood up a hill in the Eparchy of Emdibir. (photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
Throughout rural Ethiopia, women and girls carry out many of the domestic chores — which are almost always strenuous physically and very time consuming. It is not uncommon to see women, like the two pictured above, walking up hills and side roads with heavy buckets or baskets filled with food, water, or any other common necessity strapped to their bodies. Norma Intriago, a fundraiser in CNEWA’s development office, saw this first hand during a visit to Ethiopia in 2009:
“We saw women and girls working, fetching/collecting water, often walking miles to do so. [Some would] carry firewood (like the women in Gabriel’s photo) for cooking, transporting food & goods to sell at the market and caring for children. It was quite common to see a young toddler carrying her infant sibling on her back. I was stunned with all the responsibility that befalls women and girls in Ethiopia and [other parts of] the underdeveloped world, leaving little time, if any, for an education and healthcare.
CNEWA has worked with Catholic schools throughout Ethiopia for many years. To learn how you can help, visit our website.
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Women Ethiopian Catholic Church