15 March 2012
Teacher Manna Gebreyons, interacts with her students at a Catholic school in the Tigrayan village of Sebia, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2009, we interviewed Sister Winifred Doherty, a member of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, about empowering women in Ethiopia. She stressed the importance of knowledge as a tool of empowerment. Having access to education provides the opportunity for success and prosperity. Though Catholics are a minority in Ethiopia, Catholic-run schools are making a difference. Take a look at our interview with Sister Winifred Doherty below:
6 March 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Catholic Schools
Deacon Kassahun Teka, age 27, studies for the priesthood in his one-room, windowless dwelling in Meki, a rural town in southern Ethiopia. He belongs to St. Michael’s Church in Meki.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported on the evolution of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s role in encouraging those infected with H.I.V. to take their prescribed drugs while continuing to practice their faith rituals. Similarly, in the September 2009 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on how Ethiopian Orthodox clergy were adjusting to the many social and economical changes in Ethiopia. Among these changes being the general increase in public awareness of public health issues, including H.I.V./AIDS. These changes fueled adjustments to curriculum used in clergy training centers:
“When you see the potential that the members of the clergy have in such development activities, we have to get them engaged. We need to train them. The need is growing for our clergy to be more aware of what’s going on around the world rather than just limited to the Ethiopian situation.”
The program’s current curriculum already reflects this thinking.
“I’d say the curriculum is 60 percent development, 40 percent spiritual,” Dr. Legesse adds.
Participants learn about a number of issues, including alleviating poverty, gender equality, public health and environmental conservation. They also gain practical training in the latest agricultural techniques for the small-scale cultivation of fruits, vegetables, teff and beans. And they learn of the crucial importance of speaking openly with parishioners about traditionally taboo subjects, such as sexual behavior and H.I.V./ AIDS, as well as how to deal appropriately with individuals infected with the virus.
“In earlier times, a young girl went to a priest and told him she had H.I.V.,” recalls Abba Welde Gabriel of St. Michael’s Church in Meki, 12 miles from Ziway. “She asked for a blessing, and the priest said, ‘You’re too young for H.I.V. Go away.’ Now they’ve been trained to address that situation.”
The curriculum also aims to develop and strengthen the clergy’s interpersonal and communication skills. Traditional priestly formation emphasizes memorization, celebrating the liturgy, administering the sacraments, preaching and chanting. In general, this formation does not provide young clergy with the people skills required to lead a parish community in today’s fast-changing world.
“Some priests are born religious people and receive due respect, but others aren’t and don’t. They lack self-confidence,” says Abune Gregorius of Ziway. “You have to consider their position as role models for society. Priests have to live up to that requirement. The clergy training centers help them do that.”
Deacon Kassahun Teka, who serves St. Michael’s Church in Meki, recently completed the clergy training program. The 27-year-old credits it with having made him a more effective minister.
For more, read As It Was, So Shall It Remain?.
16 February 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church HIV/AIDS
Scanned letter from an Eritrean child, dated March 18, 1986.
Recently, we received a small package in the mail that reached out and grabbed our hearts. It was an example of how love extends beyond our lifetime and is carried forward, sometimes by complete strangers.
To Whom It May Concern:
Today, I purchased a file cabinet at an estate sale at the home of a married couple in Orlando, Florida. (I learned both are now deceased.) When I brought the cabinet home and began to clean it, I found that some of the hanging files had items in them. The correspondences filed under “Orphans” touched me deeply.
I can just imagine how wonderful it was for the two young children pictured in the files to have had such loving and caring parent-sponsors, and how richly rewarding it was for the couple to be part of the children’s lives.
I simply could not discard, the photos and letters, I am therefore forwarding the file’s contents to you with the hopes that you will be able to, in turn, forward them to the two individuals, who are now adults, possibly with families of their own. What treasured memories the contents will surface for them!
Everything happens for a reason in God’s clearly defined plans for us. It was meant for me to find the file and to send it to you to forward to the beneficiaries of the couple’s generosity.
Lovingly in Christ,
A caring heart performing a random act of kindness.
The accompanying correspondences date as far back as 1983. Can you imagine how deeply this family must have loved and cherished their relationships with these children whom they had never met? The physical distance was greater than 8,000 miles, but the emotional connection was so strong the donors kept their letters and photographs for 29 years!
I wish it were possible for us to locate these now-grown children. Sadly, too much time has passed and there just aren’t enough resources to even begin such a quest. But while I am unable to locate the recipients of this family’s love, I can share their story of love with you.
May God bless this caring heart for this “random act of kindness” to remind us that love — especially God’s love — transcends both time and distance.
Beth Clausnitzer is CNEWA’s Director of Donor Services.
14 February 2012
Tags: Children Africa Eritrea Sponsorship
Seminarian Philip Chasia and his wife, Mercy, stand outside their one-room house near the campus of the Orthodox Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School in Nairobi, Kenya.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
On St. Valentine’s Day, we not only remember the Roman martyr, but we often think of the powerful emotion of love. For Kenyan Philip Chasia, love is not only what he feels for his wife. A seminarian at the Orthodox ecclesiastical school in Nairobi, he also feels love for God and his vocation:
All seminarians receive a stipend during the nine months of the year they are enrolled in classes. The sum is paltry, especially for the married seminarians who must support wives and children in addition to themselves. (Orthodoxy permits married priests on the condition they marry prior to ordination.) Because the school does not offer seminarians any part-time job opportunities — something many would like to see changed — the stipend serves as the only source of income for most of them during the academic year.
The administration “should try and find a way to assist married seminarians, or they should just take single men,” suggested Mr. [Philip] Chasia, who pays 2,000 shillings (about $29) a month in rent for the thin, metal house he shares with his wife. Utilities are extra.
“Because once you have a wife or child at home, you are the one who has to do everything for your family. My wife just finished high school. To work, she needs more education or a profession, which we can’t afford. Why does my wife have to suffer?” Mr. Otieno agreed. “So even though I’m going to be a priest,” he added. “I am still going to do whatever I was doing — fish and grow crops — to survive and make my life and my home happy.”
Despite these hardships, the archbishop’s words continued to hit high notes. “Again, I repeat, this is the great miracle for me. They know what they’re doing and they don’t do it because we pay them a lot. We don’t. You understand? It’s because they love what they are doing. They believe in the fruits. They are doing it with all their hearts and minds.”
To learn more about this seminary in Nairobi, check out Kenya’s Orthodox Miracle from the September 2008 issue of ONE.
9 February 2012
Tags: Africa Orthodox Priests Seminarians Seminaries
Residents inspect the damage inside St. Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church after a bomb attack in central Kirkuk, Iraq, 15 August. A parked car bomb and a motorcycle bomb killed one person and wounded 12 others in central Kirkuk, hospital and police sources said.
(photo: CNS / Ako Rasheed, Reuters)
This week’s cover story in the U.S. magazine Newsweek features a provocative, bloodstained image of Christ with the even more provocative tag line that reads, “The War on Christians.” Authored by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch activist, the article is laden with anecdotes about anti-Christian violence in the Muslim world.
“A wholly different kind of war is underway,” she writes, “an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.”
The author believes this war has been unreported or worse, ignored, by the mainstream media for fear of encouraging fear of Islam, or Islamophobia.
“But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other,” she writes. “The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity — and ultimately of all religious minorities — in the Islamic world is at stake.”
Wow. Surprising words for a self-proclaimed atheist with strong opinions about all religions, not just the Islamic faith of her ancestors.
No doubt, violence directed against Christians in the Muslim world has increased, particularly since the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the subsequent U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In the pages of our bimonthly magazine, ONE, and on the news feed on our web site, CNEWA has covered the violence directed against Christians in the Middle East. Catholic media have also diligently reported on these events, as have the mainstream media, including The New York Times.
Last September, the conservative blog Catholic Culture reported on Christian-Muslim violence in Nigeria, quoting Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos.
“At least 14 people have died in tribal clashes in central Nigeria in the early days of September . Although the violence has pitted Christians against Muslims, a Catholic bishop insists that religion is not the fundamental cause of the conflict,” the report begins.
“The violence began when Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan were attacked. Their assailants were described as Christians, but local church leaders did not recognize them. ‘I do not know who these people are and what denomination they belong to, ’ the archbishop said.
“In response to that attack, Muslims raided several Christian villages on Sunday and Monday. The bloodshed occurred around Jos, in the center of the country, where the mostly Muslim north meets the Christian south.
“Archbishop Kaigama said that the violence reflected a breakdown in overall security. ‘It is very convenient for those in authority to say that the whole crisis is about religion,’ he observed.
“ ‘Christians and Muslims are fighting. Yes, I don’t deny that,’ the archbishop continued. ‘But then, the factors that are fueling that crisis are not certainly only religions.’ He pointed to old tribal animosities, complaints about theft of cattle, and the influence of outside agitators.”
The archbishop is not denying Christian-Muslim violence. But unlike Ms. Hirsi Ali, he sees other forces at work, and believes there are factors unrelated to faith identity also fueling these hostilities. The same is true throughout the Arab world. These factors are socio-economic, political, tribal. And they are playing out in a culture beset by enormous change that even dictators cannot suppress.
“Islam is experiencing an identity crisis,” a colleague said during a recent editorial team meeting. And when a faith community experiences a crisis of identity, extremists act on their fears.
Is there a global Islamic conspiracy to create “pure” Muslim societies? If there is, which form of Islam? Sunni or Shiite? Sufi or Ibadhi? What about Alawi and Druze? As ONE magazine reported back in 2007, “the very nature of the Islamic faith, with its lack of a governing religious authority and reliance on group consensus for legitimization of Islamic identity, ensures that the continuing proliferation of splinter groups, large and small, is inevitable and will result in variations in doctrine and practice until the ‘last days.’ ”
To be sure, the author of the Newsweek piece admits no conspiracy exists: “No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.” But pulling atrocities out of context, and ignoring that context, is irresponsible — as are misleading banners and headlines.
“News reporting” such as this does not contribute to the dialogue that is necessary if Christians and Muslims are going to continue to live together.
3 February 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Violence against Christians Holy Land Christian-Muslim relations
Students of the Asela school and orphanage, administered by the Consolata Fathers, a Catholic community of brothers and priests, play soccer on the playground. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
This Sunday, millions around the world will be watching American football’s biggest game of the season, Super Bowl XLVI. In many parts of CNEWA’s world, soccer is the game of choice. In this unpublished photo from the January 2008 issue of ONE, students of the Asela school and orphanage in Ethiopia practice some tricks.
Asela school and orphanage, run by the Consolata Fathers, has helped to educate many abandoned and some disabled boys since it opened its doors nearly 30 years ago. To learn more about the Asela school and orphanage, read Revealing Hidden Talent by Sisay Abebe.
27 January 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Orphans/Orphanages Disabilities
A demonstrator holds up a crucifix and a Quran during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday. Scores of Egyptian youth protesters marking the one-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak bedded down in Tahrir Square and pledged to stay put until the ruling military council hands power to civilians. (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters)
Yesterday, thousands of protesters filled Tahrir Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the uprising that led to the ouster of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. What took place in Egypt last year seemed to echo similar protests throughout the Middle East, part of a wider movement that came to be known as the “Arab Spring.”
In the July 2011 issue of ONE, John L. Esposito, Ph.D., a professor of international affairs and of Islamic studies, wrote about the Arab Spring uprising and delved into the question, “Is Islam Compatible With Deomcracy?”:
The relationship of Islam and democracy remains central to the development of the Middle East and the Muslim world in the 21st century. As U.S. President Barack Obama stated in his Cairo speech: “All people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”
Check out this video from our September 2011 issue, in which journalist Sarah Topol talks about how it felt to be a reporter in Tahrir Square during last year’s uprising.
26 January 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Africa Arab Spring
Monks process toward Abuna Garima Monastery, near Adwa, Ethiopia, to celebrate the visit of Patriarch Paulos, who was once a monk at the monastery. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE Michael La Civita wrote about how Ethiopia honors Mary, with a celebration that takes place annually on 30 November:
Not far from Ethiopia’s disputed border with Eritrea lies the sleepy town of Aksum (population, 41,000). Though not a common tourist destination, Aksum holds its place as an important heritage site. It is littered with archaeological ruins, including the steles for which it is famous. Once the capital of a prosperous empire that stretched from eastern Africa to Arabia, Aksum controlled the East-West trade routes linking India and Rome. Its emperors were among the first to embrace Christianity, using it to forge a distinct culture and nation from a bewildering number of ethnic and linguistic groups.
Each year, on 30 November, Aksum is aroused from its sleep. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians, wrapped in their white pilgrimage attire, or gabis, converge on Aksum to celebrate one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion, or Mary of Zion. They focus their attention on a modest shrine that is actually part of a cluster of churches all dedicated to her. Surrounded by a simple iron fence, and guarded by a solitary monk who alone has access to its contents, the chapel houses Ethiopia’s greatest treasure, the Ark of the Covenant.
To learn more about this tradition, read Ethiopia Celebrates Mary.
13 January 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Monastery Aksum
A Sudanese girl walks with her Egyptian friend, left, at the private school, Yed el Hesshan, in Alexandria, Egypt. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the September 2009 issue of ONE, Liam Stack wrote about life for Sudanese refugees in Alexandria, Egypt. While Alexandria provides a better life for many, these refugees still face some challenges:
Sudanese families must also meet the additional expense of enrolling their children in private schools. Under Egyptian law, non- Egyptian students do not have guaranteed access to public schools.
Fortunately, the vicariate goes to great lengths to fill the gap, locating and paying for suitable private school programs for Sudanese children in Alexandria. Last year, it put 113 Sudanese children through school, from kindergarten through the last year of high school, at a cost of $25,626.
Father Jal keeps a record of every student supported by the vicariate — as well as his or her school registration and receipts — in a crisp manila folder in his desk. It bulges with slips of paper.
“The public schools are cheap, but they are for Egyptian children,” explained the priest. “[The vicariate] has some places in those schools, but only a few.”
Among the private schools where children are placed is Yed el Hesshan, located near the seashore in downtown Alexandria. A high wall encloses an adjacent schoolyard where children play games, sing songs and talk about the popular American show “Hannah Montana.” It could be anywhere in the world.
To learn more, read Alexandria’s Struggling Sudanese.
30 December 2011
Tags: Egypt Refugees Africa Sudan
A woman prays in a church in Deir Azra, a Christian village in Upper Egypt. This is an unpublished photo from the September 2011 story Spotlight: Coptic Women. (photo: Holly Pickett)
2011 was a year of change throughout the world. Many countries in the Middle East underwent political upheavals — the repercussions of which will surely unfold for years to come. The people and churches we serve in the region — from Iraq to Egypt to Syria — were undoubtedly affected. Through it all, and with your generosity, CNEWA has assisted Christians throughout the Middle East.
This year has been one of change for our agency, too. In September, we welcomed a new president, Msgr. John E. Kozar.
With your continued support, CNEWA will remain a lifeline to those in need in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe in 2012! May your New Year be a blessed and prosperous one!
Tags: Egypt Africa Coptic Christians Coptic Church