21 May 2012
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: CNEWA Ethiopia 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.
16 May 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa Coptic Orthodox Church Women (rights/issues) Discrimination
“Why don’t Muslims speak out against violence and intolerance and for pluralism and democracy?” This a question one often hears from non-Muslims. Less frequently, one hears Muslims reply: “We have and we do; why aren’t non-Muslims listening?”
Rarely in the media does one read of Muslim scholars and leaders condemning violence. So the question of the non-Muslims is understandable. When Muslims do take stands for tolerance and pluralism, media coverage is minimal or non-existent. In fact, Muslims are justified in their response.
This was the problem the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University and the Islamic Society of North America sought to address on Monday 14 May at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. It was entitled “Symposium on Religious Freedom and the Rights of Minorities in Islam” and it consisted of two panels. The first panel featured three scholars who spoke on the concept and history of Shari’a (Muslim law) and how minorities had variously fared in Muslim societies over the centuries. The second panel addressed the topic of “Contemporary Islamic Perspectives on the Status of Religious Minorities, Particularly Post-Arab Spring.” While the first part of the program was well done and interesting to the specialist, it was the second part that merits wider attention by the general public.
Professor Tamara Sonn of the College of William and Mary spoke of contemporary Arab Muslim thinkers who reflect on the nature of government and the status of citizens in a modern democracy where the majority of citizens are Muslim. Many, if not most, hold the equality of all citizens to be of the utmost importance. Differentiating between the executive and legislative functions of government, these scholars provide an intellectual framework for the full integration of the non-Muslim into the political life of a democracy where the majority of citizens are Muslims.
Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool of South Africa to the United States reflected on the struggle of South African Muslims against apartheid. Less than three percent of the population, Muslims in South Africa learned firsthand what it means to be a minority living with discrimination. Ambassador Rasool said that his experience as a member of a minority brought him to the conviction that, “what you demand as a minority you must give when you are a majority.” Thus, for Muslims to demand freedom of speech, religion, etc., when they are a minority is thoroughly justified. However, that brings with it the obligation to grant and protect those same rights for other minorities in situations where Muslims hold the majority. In a sense, Ambassador Rasool was calling for a human rights-focused, political version of the Golden Rule.
Qamar-ul Huda of the U.S. Institute of Peace recounted the discussions about the benefits and limits of assimilation for Muslims in non-Muslim societies. He noted that in the West, many Muslims have resisted calls to remain isolated and have become active politically in working for the public good. The rights of all citizens are central and crucial to the health of a society. Mr. Huda felt the self-isolation of minority communities was ultimately self-defeating. The dichotomies of "us and them" and of secular and religious are not helpful, he commented. It is important for Muslims in non-Muslim countries to realize the term “secular” is not opposed to “religious.” Indeed, religions often prosper better in societies that are “secular,” although some secular societies admittedly can be aggressively so and hostile to religion.
The symposium clearly showed that Muslims are struggling with how to live in new situations in an increasingly pluralistic world. In a sense, it is similar to the struggles that Catholics experienced in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the experiences of these Catholics that helped bring about Dignitatis Humanae, the declaration on religious freedom promulgated at Vatican II.
Muslim scholars and the average Muslim living in non-Muslim societies are developing new ways of looking at pluralism, democracy and the equality of all citizens in a society. The symposium at Georgetown provided a privileged opportunity to see this process at work.
16 May 2012
Tags: Unity Muslim Christian-Muslim relations Multiculturalism
Children from Zolochiv orphanage in Ukraine thank their generous supporters.
(photo: Sister Martyna Kostak)
Earlier this month, CNEWA Canada received good news from the apostolic congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Mary Immaculate in Zolochiv, Ukraine. Sister Martyna Kostak has happily informed us that renovations to their orphanage were successfully completed and that the funds given by CNEWA Canada’s donors in 2011 were used to equip an in-house gymnasium for their adopted children.
Currently in Ukraine, due to various socioeconomic problems, there are around 100,000 orphans and street children. Only a small percentage of them end up in orphanages because of parents’ deaths; the rest are orphaned mostly because of abandonment, imprisonment or alcoholism of their parents. Most of these kids are cared for by massive, poorly financed and badly managed state orphanages, which inherited their approach to dealing with social problems from the Soviet times.
With the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church reemerged from half a century of underground existence. Now, its religious orders once again engage systematically in establishment of social institutions that not only help people in need, but also teach the Gospel values of compassion, love and solidarity.
In 2011, besides supporting children in Zolochiv, CNEWA Canada has also helped orphans through the Sisters of the Holy Family in Bibrka and through the Social Center Prominnia in Zaporizhzhia, in central Ukraine.
16 May 2012
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Orphans/Orphanages CNEWA Canada
From left, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Msgr. John Kozar and Msgr. Robert Stern spoke to CNEWA staff members yesterday at a luncheon. (photo: Erin Edwards)
Yesterday, CNEWA staff members had a chance to catch up with an old friend: Msgr. Robert Stern, CNEWA’s president emeritus. He joined us for a luncheon for the CNEWA family hosted by CNEWA’s President Msgr. John Kozar — and he was there to greet another familiar face who dropped by, CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Msgr. Stern spoke a bit about what he’s been up to since he retired last fall — sorting through his many papers, traveling and getting used to life away from the office — and offered his continued prayers and heartfelt warm wishes to all of his extended CNEWA family.
15 May 2012
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai visits St. Sharbel Maronite Church in Warren, Michigan on Sunday, 13 May. (photo: Detroit Free Press).
A recent visitor to CNEWA is now paying a visit to metropolitan Detroit, bearing a message of peace and unity that made headlines in the local press:
To the beat of Arabic drums and horns, one of the Mideast's most prominent Christian leaders strolled on a red carpet Monday into a Lebanese center in Dearborn as the crowd cheered.
The visit by Lebanese Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72, to a Shia Muslim center illustrated how his four-day visit to metro Detroit this week has brought together metro Detroit's diverse Lebanese-American communities.
"He's a great example for humanity," Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad, who is of Lebanese descent, said after meeting Rai.
Wearing a black cloak over a red robe with a golden cross hung around his neck, Rai beamed as he entered the Bint Jebail Cultural Center, a place named after a southern Lebanese town where many Dearborn residents have ancestral roots. A crowd quickly formed around him, taking pictures and lining up to shake his hand.
Elected last year as the spiritual leader of the Maronite Catholic community, Rai is touring North America to visit Lebanese-American communities.
Michigan has about 58,000 residents of Lebanese descent, but they come from various religions, sects and regions that at times have clashed. Tensions in Lebanon among various groups can spill over into metro Detroit. Christian-Muslim relations are tense of late in parts of the Arab world.
You can read more at the link. And you can check out our own coverage of the patriarch's visit to CNEWA last fall here, including a video of part of his talk. And for more on the Lebanese-American community of Dearborn, Michigan, read Forging a New Detroit in the January 2010 issue of ONE.
15 May 2012
Tags: Unity United States Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Multiculturalism Maronite Catholic
Pictures of the Virgin Mary are ubiquitous in the village of Hodasz, Hungary. Above, an image of Mary adorns the wall of a home. (photo:Balazs Gardi/VII Network)
Earlier this month, we wrote about how during the month of May, Catholics around the world are honoring Mary. The Catholic News Service drew attention to how Catholics in Rome pay tribute to the mother of Jesus this month.
In CNEWA’s world, the Virgin Mary is revered in various ways. Images of the Virgin Mary, like the one above, appear in almost every house in Hodasz, a Hungarian village that is home to a large Romany community. To learn more about this community, check out Our Town in the March 2008 issue of ONE.
14 May 2012
Tags: Icons Hungary Greek Catholic Church Gypsy
A Muslim mother receives care for her newborn at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, which is run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. (photo: John E. Kozar )
Yesterday, many of us in the U.S. celebrated the mothers in our lives for Mother’s Day.
With the help of CNEWA, one place where mothers are getting a lot of support is Jordan. At the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, mothers receive care both before and after their children are born. The clinic, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, serves predominantly Muslim patients. It’s here where young women get the help they need in taking the first steps to begin motherhood. CNEWA has supported the clinic for many years. In 2011, the clinic saw an increase of 4,159 new patients.
To learn more about the clinic, check out Mothering Mercies, an article from the May 2009 issue of ONE.
11 May 2012
Tags: Children Jordan Health Care CNEWA Pontifical Mission
Mother Teresa speaks to CNEWA staff members during a visit in October 1970. The late Bishop John G. Nolan, who led CNEWA until 1987, can be seen standing behind her.
(photo: CNEWA Archive )
Earlier today, our archivist Annie Grunow, shared some little-known facts about our agency revealed through items in our archive, which she maintains. One of those “little-known facts ” was about our agency’s early ties to the Blessed Mother Teresa, who visited our New York headquarters and met staff members over 40 years ago.
11 May 2012
Next month, CNEWA Canada will co-sponsor the premiere of a new documentary on the troubles facing the Holy Land, as seen through the people at Bethlehem University. The Vancouver Sun offers a preview:
The population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories is less than 11 million. But ongoing violence and anger in the region continues to create global military tensions and tear holes in the hearts of billions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and non-religious people.
Canadian Roman Catholics are offering their perspective on this land of what Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller calls “intolerance” and “fear” in a new documentary, titled Across the Divide. It premieres in Vancouver on June 3, 2012. See the preview of Across the Divide, which captures the dramatic time when a Catholic University in Bethlehem is caught in a gut-churning crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.
Shot on location in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and edited in Canada, Across the Divide offers a glimmer of hope for the divided region through the heroic actions of staff and students at Bethlehem University, which has 3,000 students, most of whom are Christian (30 per cent) or Muslim (70 per cent). The film captures the drama of a campus that, like the lives of its students, bears the scars of what the Canadian Catholic leaders call the “intractable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This film presents the story of Bethlehem University, caught in the middle of a sad reality of injustice, violence, intolerance and fear that dishonour the Holy Land, a land that should be a wellspring of hope and faith,” says Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.
“By watching this film, viewers will take a positive step toward building a future of political and religious peace and justice in the region,” adds Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and executive producer of the documentary.
Rosica adds: “Across the Divide tells the remarkable, provocative story of the first Catholic institution of higher learning in Palestine... Against all odds, Bethlehem University has become a school of justice and peace in the Holy Land, and a real bridge among many different groups of people: Arab and Israeli, Christian, Muslim and Jew. In a part of the world that has known so much conflict, animosity, monologue and despair, the Catholic Church’s presence through Bethlehem University has offered a model of peace, friendship, dialogue and hope for the world.”
To learn about the film and its premiere, check out this link. And for more on Bethlehem University, read The Perseverance of Bethlehem University from ONE magazine.
Tags: Holy Land Canada CNEWA Canada Bethlehem University Media