9 November 2011
In this image, captured in December 2008, a woman waits in line to retrieve water at a roadside water point outside of Debre Zeit, Ethiopia. (Photo: Peter Lemieux)
For several months, the news has been filled with stories of hardship and hunger from the Horn of Africa, as the region wrestles with the consequences of a devastating drought. According to Caritas Internationalis, some 10 million people have been affected. Now, the region will be getting some high profile visitors — and, presumably, more attention. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has announced plans to visit the area in hopes of easing what she called the “terrible crisis” there.
Someone who knows the region well is CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Gerald Jones. He dropped us an email the other day that helps to put this situation in context.
Among other things, he noted, the “sheer size, both in geography and population, of the Horn in Africa, and the diverse populations and circumstances, make it difficult to generalize about conditions” in the region. He also said that it’s not entirely accurate to describe the region as being stricken by a “famine.” Some places are suffering more than others, but the issue really is one of drought — and, he added, “the drought is, indeed, very bad in the eastern lowland regions.”
In Ethiopia, he wrote, “not everyone is in crisis.” About 45 million peasant farmers had good rains this year, and should have a good harvest. Both Kenya and Ethiopia, he explained, have famine early warning systems (FEWS) that worked and that have helped to mitigate the situation. Unfortunately, that’s not true for Somalia.
The chaos in that country, wrote Gerald, “exacerbates the situation.” In fact, he said, there are “several Somalias” — the strife-ridden Somalia we read about in the press; the independent Somaliland; the autonomous Puntland; the independent Republic of Djibouti; and the Somali regions of Ethiopia and northeast Kenya.
Far from Africa, meantime, Pope Benedict XVI recently offered his prayers for those hit hard by the drought.
Last summer, meantime, Gerald Jones offered us a more detailed glimpse of the chronic struggles of East Africa.
9 November 2011
Tags: Ethiopia Eritrea Hunger Drought Horn of Africa
Students have lunch at St. Charles School in Achrafieh located in east Beirut. 784 students, Muslim and Christian, attend St. Charles. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
In the July 2008 issue of ONE Spencer Osberg explored the role of Catholic Schools in Lebanon during and after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war:
The war is over, but Lebanon’s Catholic educators continue to provide a well-rounded education to all, regardless of creed. Today, the country’s 365 Catholic schools instruct some 200,000 students — about 22 percent of Lebanon’s school-age population — from all of Lebanon’s 18 officially recognized religious communities. Over 25 percent of the total student body is Muslim and, in many schools, Muslim students are the majority. Likewise, the approximately 12,800 teaching staff and 900 administrators employed by the Catholic school system represent every confession.
At Notre Dame College, a school of the Antonine Sisters in the southern village of Nabatieh, most students are Muslim.
“Our students in Nabatieh are as dear to us as our students in Ghazir,” said Sister Dominique. “Muhammad, Hassan, Ahmed, Tony, Joseph or George, it’s the same thing. We do not distinguish between them. We love them all.”
For more from this story see Pillars of Lebanon.
8 November 2011
Tags: Lebanon Beirut Catholic Schools
Monsignor John Kozar presents Eileen Fay with the Croce Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
(Photo: Erin Edwards)
Here at CNEWA, one person has made more than 300,000 phone calls and written over 350,000 letters to our friends and supporters. Who is this amazing person? She is my colleague Eileen Fay. And how can she be so productive? Eileen has worked for CNEWA since 8 November 1961. That’s 50 years — today!
What a nice party we had! The Holy Father even joined us, in a way: Pope Benedict has recognized Eileen’s exceptional dedication by awarding her the Croce Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. Monsignor John Kozar, our president, presented the beautiful cross to Eileen on behalf of the Holy Father.
Please say a prayer of thanks for Eileen. She’s working hard on your behalf. And if you call our office, and she happens to pick up the phone, make sure you congratulate her for her 50 years of service to CNEWA!
The award included a diploma in a custom frame, a medal bearing the Croce insignia and a pin.
(Photo: Erin Edwards)
8 November 2011
Tags: CNEWA Pope
In this unpublished 2003 photo from our archive, a woman prays at an Orthodox church in
Kamishly, Syria. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
With all of the news of violence and unrest coming from Syria, we want to remind you all to keep the people of Syria in your prayers and thoughts:
The death toll from Syria’s revolt was reported on Tuesday to have mounted significantly as government troops pursued a bloody assault to retake Homs, the country’s third-largest city, where loyalists are facing armed defectors who have prevented the government’s forces from seizing it as they did other restive locales this summer.
The confrontation may stand as one of the most violent episodes of the eight-month uprising.
For more from this story see Death Toll in Syria Mounts as Government Assault Continues on NYTimes.com. To learn more about Syria’s Christian community, check our our feature from last year’s Special Edition on Christians in the Middle East.
7 November 2011
Tags: Syria Middle East Syriac Orthodox Church
A seminarian prays in the chapel at the Latin Patriarchal Seminary in Beit Jala, Palestine.
(photo: Karen Lagerquist)
A longtime friend and supporter of CNEWA recently called me to discuss adding 10 more seminarians to the many he is already actively sponsoring. He is a charming southern gentleman in his mid-80s, and so full of energy. We had a wonderful conversation that revealed his deep passion for the proper training and formation of seminarians in the Holy Land. He fully understood the early roots of Christianity in the East and the importance of the teaching and witnessing of our faith in this region. I wondered to myself: “How many souls have been saved or will be saved, because of this man’s generosity?”
I asked him why at this stage of his life he would want to add to the sponsorships he already had in place. His answer was unique. He said, “I am approaching my final exams, and I want to get a passing grade.” Honestly, I had to think about his answer for a moment or two before I realized what he meant. He went on to explain that what we are blessed to have in life is all on loan to us from God. We are expected to do God’s work with it.
Knowing this man for the short time that I have has been very enlightening for me. He is a true man of faith who “talks the talk” but also, “walks the walk.” His life so far has been a model of Christian value, virtue and yes, humor. I told him I think he will definitely pass his final exams, but I didn’t want him to sit for them for a long while!
And those 10 additional seminarian sponsorships? All taken care of. And along the way our steadfast friend created The St. Francis Xavier Perpetual Seminarian Formation Endowment Fund, for the support, care, education and training of aspirants to the priesthood, as well as the institutions they attend.
Anyone may add funds to this special endowment fund by contacting our office.
Bob Pape is the Director of Major Gifts at CNEWA in New York.
7 November 2011
Tags: Holy Land Donors Sponsorship
A mother and child in Ethiopia wait for food tickets. (photo: Christian Molidor)
Women throughout Ethiopia have struggled for equality for quite some time. Thanks to groups like the Good Shepherd Sisters, there have been some victories in this battle:
One of the sisters’ most successful programs, Delta trains women in community organizing and civic leadership. Hundreds of women have benefited, learning how to be active agents of change in their communities. “People were sitting on their tails,” explained Sister Myriam in a pronounced Irish brogue.
“We told them, ‘You have major problems here, but nothing that can’t be solved. God is here. But God can’t do everything. He’s waiting for you to get off your backside and do something about it.’ ”
For more from this story see, An Uphill Battle by Peter Lemieux.
Meanwhile, at least one young woman from Ethiopia is outrunning her country’s history — and making some history of her own. Firehiwot Dado won the New York City Marathon yesterday. Her finishing time was seconds from the course record set in 2003.
4 November 2011
Tags: Ethiopia Africa
Seminarian Sleiman Hassan, 24, from Fuhais, Jordan, prays after lighting a candle before mass in St. Joseph Parish in Jifna, West Bank. (photo: Debbie Hill)
Today, according to the Latin calendar, is the feast day for Saint Charles Borromeo, a man sometimes called the "Father of the Clergy," and the patron saint of seminarians. In the the March issue of ONE magazine, Michele Chabin reported on the the challenges facing young seminarians in the Holy Land:
“I plan to do pastoral work and I’m preparing myself for the needs of the people,” says Mr. Hassan, a native of Jordan, who attends the Latin Patriarchal Seminary in Beit Jala, a town adjacent to Bethlehem.
“I’ve learned that life isn’t easy here, but the fact that it’s complicated challenges me to find new ways to help people and address their suffering.”
Not until shortly before noon does Mr. Hassan take a break from his duties and rest a little before tackling the three–hour drive back to the seminary.
For more from this story see, To Be a Priest in the Holy Land.
3 November 2011
Tags: Middle East Holy Land Jordan Seminarians Vocations (religious)
Sunrise illuminates the Dome of the Rock and Arab graves in Jerusalem. (Photo: Paul Souders)
Last week in Washington, CNEWA'S Vice President for the Middle East and Europe, Father Guido Gockel, addressed the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Below is the text of his address.
With all that is going on in the various countries of the Middle East, I will not speak about the turmoil, the Arab Spring and the political situation Egypt, Syria or the Holy Land. I want to be quite frank. I have no hope for peace there. All the efforts of the political powers in all these years have led to a worsening of the situation.
Does this mean that I am without hope?
Not at all! I am full of hope because I have a different way of looking at the Holy Land, namely the biblical way, and this way is full of hope.
Let me start with a joke: I wanted to check out how well people understood the Bible, so when I arrived at this meeting of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre I asked one man “who destroyed the walls of Jericho?” He responded, rather upset, “I didn’t do it!” So I went to someone who looked a little more important and said, “I asked that man ‘who destroyed the walls of Jericho,’ to which he replied, ‘not me!’ ”
So this second man said, “if he said he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it!”
Somewhat frustrated, I went to the man in charge and related to him what had happened and he interrupted me and said “Stop talking, I will pay for it!”
When we look at the Holy Land from a political point of view, I don’t know what is happening. Recently a senator friend told me that the longer she is in politics, the less sure she is about what is true. What is true in the Holy Land? During the Palestinian Intifada, journalists sat comfortably in the American Colony Hotel reading the local papers from which they constitute their articles. Politicians are using the media for their own purposes.
However, from a biblical view I can see what’s going on. It is the battle between God and Satan, between good and evil.
I remember one weekend I came to my house in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Hanina. A young man was accosted by an Israeli special unit. He was stripped and, although there was no evidence of anything, one of the officers killed the young man with a gunshot to the head. The next day, the papers reported that another suicide bomber had been stopped. On the following Sunday, I heard a gunshot at the checkpoint that was about 100 yards from my home. An 11-year-old schoolboy had been shot. He was lying on the ground still alive when they flipped him over with a robot to check for explosives, but found none. Five hours or so later, when the boy finally died, the ambulence that had been in attendence all the while was allowed to take him away. The next day, the news reported that another suicide bomber had been stopped. It turned out the boy was deaf and mute and thus had not heard the soldier who asked him to stop.
At that point I was filled with anger. I began to read the prophet Daniel and asked myself, “who can I call to stop this nonsense, this tit-for-tat?,” only to realize that there is no one who can halt it. At that point I understood the words of St. Paul: “It is not flesh and blood that we fight, but the principalities and powers of darkness in the heavenly places.”
The battle is much bigger than the Israelis, Palestinians and the world powers. And Satan wants the Christians out of the region. In the midst of the conflict we often hear the speculations about Muslims and Israelis collaborating in order to get the Christians out. When Palestinian terrorists fire on an Israeli settlement, and the Israelis fire their rockets back, Christian homes have often been destroyed — not because they want the Christians out, but Christians always happen to be in the wrong place.
No one, for instance, can accuse the United States of being anti-Christian. But why were its atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only Catholic communities in Japan? The Christians just happened to be in the wrong spot.
In the battle between God and Satan, God made a covenant of peace with Abraham and his descendants. Scripture talks about a covenant of salt (Numbers 18:19). This is a custom in the Arab culture and Arabs still refer to people eating salt together as a sign of friendship. When two friends fight, people will say, “Didn’t they eat salt together?” God established this relationship with Abraham and his offspring.
First, there is Ishmael. You recall that Abraham and Sarah were already old and, as was the custom among the people, when the wife was infertile she would offer her maid to the husband so he could have offspring. It was thus that Ishmael was born through whom the Muslims trace their origin. Of him Scripture says, he will be “a wild horse of a man, his hands against every man and every man against him.” (Genesis 16:12) Isn’t that what we are experiencing? But God loves him and blesses him and his descendants, promising them to become a multitude of nations. Therefore, if we fight Muslims we fight God who has promised to bless them (I am not talking about terrorists, who blaspheme by invoking the name of God).
Secondly, there is Isaac, the son of the promise. It is with him that God establishes an everlasting covenant, meaning it is through his descendants that the Prince of Peace will come into the world. The descendants of Isaac are also not without problems. God said of them as He speaks to Jacob, “you have striven with God and men, and have prevailed.”
The way Israel is dealing with the Palestinians is appalling. And remember, there is a difference between the Jewish people who live in faith and those extremist nationalists, who are but a political power and many of whom are agnostics or atheists.
It is of the Jewish people that Jesus is born as a son of Abraham. He is the Prince of Peace. What is peace? Paul in his epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians tells us that peace is our reconciliation with God, and therefore with one another. As those who believe in Jesus, we Christians hold the key to peace, namely the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins is the heart of our faith; without it, there would be no Christianity. Although Jews and Muslims talk about forgiveness, it is not central to their faiths. In fact, for them their greatest virtue is “honor”; that is, honor of the nation, the race, the tribe, the family. When you do something to my family, woe to me if I don’t take revenge. I have to show that I honor my race, tribe or family. The Christian witness through forgiveness of even our enemies is crucial for peace.
Peace will come, “not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,” says the prophet Zecheraiah.
One of my frustrations is the constant talk about the numbers of Christians in the Holy Land. As Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai told journalists recently, whether we are a large number or a small number, all that matters is that the church is there.
David’s greatest sin was not his affair with Bathsheba, but that he took a census of his people. By this act he showed that his trust was not in God, but in manpower. It was very displeasing to God. In Scripture, we see that God fights the battle. He fought the pharaoh as the people were led through the Dead Sea. He conquered Jericho as the people processed around the city seven times. He fought the battles around Jerusalem when the warring armies slaughtered one another.
The battle of Midian is a beautiful example of how God fights. He tells Gideon that the army was too large, and ordered him to send those who were afraid home. But still there are too many, so God has Gideon make a selection by ordering people to drink water from the river. Only those who were scooping up the water with their hands while keeping their eyes on the surroundings were chosen: a mere 300 people were told to surround the camp holding jars with candles in them. Thus, the battle was won through people who were vigilant and filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Why then do we count the number of Christians remaining in the Middle East? Isn’t it ironic that Caesar Augustus conducted a census when the Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was born? Let, therefore, those who are fearful in the Holy Land go, and let God select “a remnant.” Scripture talks about a remnant from which Jesus was born. It will be a remnant from which peace will come.
I told you at the beginning of this talk about that horrible weekend when I sought refuge in Scripture and began to read the prophet Daniel. It was thus that I began to understand what God says to Belshazzar, “you have been weighed in a balance and found wanting” and that very night Belshazzar died and his kingdom was given to another. And a peace came upon me that has not left me. A peace that has made me take distance from the situation, as if indifferent but not so. I realized then that peace will come from above, just like it had come to me.
God asks of us is to pray for this peace to come, and to strengthen the remnant in Jerusalem so that they may be aflamed with the fire of the Holy Spirit, and to watch and pray. For peace will come to Jerusalem and thus spread throughout the world.
3 November 2011
Tags: Holy Land Christianity War Father Guido Gockel
An Armenian village in Kessab, Syria, taken in 1997. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Photographer Armineh Johannes has documented life for Armenians living throughout the Middle East for years. This photo from the Armenian village Kessab is a snapshot of a people who have maintained their traditions and culture outside of their home country. The story Little Armenia profiles Armenians now living in Lebanon:
After the near annihilation of the Armenian community by the Turks between 1895 and 1915 (an estimated 1.5 million Armenians perished), survivors found refuge in French-protected Lebanon and Syria. Most of these refugees settled in Beirut, particularly in the suburb of Bourj Hammoud. Those who settled in rural Lebanon, notably in the village of Anjar in the Bekaa valley, arrived more than two decades later.
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
For more from this story, see Little Armenia in the July 2002 issue of the magazine.
2 November 2011
Tags: Syria Middle East Armenia
Father Peter Jakub celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Basil’s in Krajné Čierno, in Slovakia.
(photo: Andrej Bán)
In the May 2008 issue of ONE, Jacqueline Ruyak reported on the restoration of historic wooden churches in Slovakia, such as St. Basil the Great:
St. Basil the Great is one of two churches that serve Krajné Čierno’s tiny population of 65. Built in 1730, St. Basil has three towers that, like its wooden gate, end in conical shingled roofs. Unlike most other wooden churches, the babinec and nave are the same width. Exceptionally small, the sanctuary allowed room for only one deacon door in its elaborately carved iconostasis. Between 1999 and 2004, St. Basil’s was fully restored. Treated with a colorless preservative, its new wood siding exudes a natural sheen.
When he first came to Ladomirová, the priest knew little about wooden churches. He now makes all decisions on restoration for the three churches, writing grant proposals and meeting with officials from the Ministry of Culture, the main source of funding.
For more see, Rooted in Wood.