6 June 2012
Workers at a spice factory in Cochin clean cloves before processing. Cochin is the hub of Kerala's spice trade. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the current edition of ONE, photojournalist Peter Lemieux reported on Kerala’s spice trade. Peter spoke with us about his experience reporting and photographing for the story. Watch the interview below:
To read Peter’s article Kerala’s Spice Coast, visit ONE’s online May edition.
5 June 2012
Tags: India Kerala Thomas Christians Employment Tourism
In this 1998 photo, a Bedouin shepherd leads his flock out of Smakieh to graze.
(photo: George Martin)
Contributor Nicholas Seeley covers events in the Middle East. To read more about Jordan's Christian villages, see his latest article, A Bridge to Modern Life, appearing in the May 2012 issue of ONE.
The Christian village of Hmoud seems deserted. My translator and I have been told not to expect much; residents of Smakieh, the next village over, have warned us that only a handful of people still live here, many of them elderly. Still, the emptiness of the streets is surprising. It is not abandonment; the tiny cinderblock houses are well kept and the roads are clean, but there is no one in sight.
This is particularly odd because the day is beautiful — it is surprisingly warm for early March, but not baking, and the sky is still scattered with a few puffy clouds, a last hint of the rainy season before the long, dry Jordanian summer begins.
Some villagers may still be in church — Friday morning Divine Liturgies in Jordan are often well attended, since it is the Muslim holiday, and most people have the day off from work — but there are only two cars in the street outside the Orthodox church, and almost none visible in town. Finally, we pass one yard where a family sits on plastic chairs, chatting and soaking in the sun. Finding no one else about, we stop and say hello. We explain that we’re reporters, doing a story about the area’s Christians, and soon we are sitting with them, enjoying the morning sun and learning about the lives of our hosts.
As it happens, this is the family of the local Orthodox priest, Father Sami Halasa: his wife Alice, his son Sameer and his daughter-in-law Fidaa, as well as his adult grandchildren, Lydia and Amer, who have driven in from Amman for this weekend lunch. Right now they’re all waiting for Father Sami to return from the church. As they do, they talk about the history of their family — from the arrival of the Halasa tribe from Egypt centuries before to their success today as doctors and lawyers, government ministers in Jordan and successful professionals who have spread to dozens of countries around the world.
In many ways, this is the story of Jordan’s Christians. We came to Smakieh and Hmoud, the last fully Christian villages in Jordan, expecting to find Bedouin Christians clinging desperately to the remnants of their old traditions and way of life. Instead, we found people whose outlook is particularly cosmopolitan, people who for generations have very explicitly embraced education, travel and commerce as the way to a better life. They hold fast to their Christian identity — not by clinging to the past, but by trying to improve themselves and the world.
At least, most of them do. After perhaps 20 minutes, the Divine Liturgy ends and Father Sami emerges — a solitary, black-clad figure walking slowly down the street from the church. He greets us briefly and steps inside to change. The family, we discern, is about to have lunch. As we begin to excuse ourselves, Father Sami suddenly re-emerges. Now in casual pants and a priest’s collared shirt, he settles into a deck chair and insists on being interviewed.
Advanced in years, Father Sami holds a distinctly traditional point of view. Life in the village was much better in the past, he announces — before all these machines and cars and tractors. The modern world is a corrupting influence, and people are moving away from the faith. Everyone now is obsessed with money and possessions, gradually losing respect for religion; even today, he says, gesturing toward the church, there were only three people at the Divine Liturgy. His family smiles, but there is some tension in the air; they do not all, perhaps, see eye-to-eye on this. Nor would we expect it; here, in this village, in this family, is a microcosm of one of the great struggles consuming faith communities today. Is the modernity of a globalized consumer society a blessing or a curse? How much of it should one embrace, and how far?
Father Sami’s speech ends abruptly. “I’m hungry,” he says. “You must come for lunch.” We try once more to excuse ourselves, but the Halasas won’t have it; we are guests and therefore must be fed — preferably until we cannot stand up.
As a very strict vegetarian, I have difficulties with Arab hospitality; there is little on offer that I can eat and people are often unfamiliar with vegetarian cooking. My visits usually end up being so difficult for everyone that I avoid them. But as we try to explain this problem, Fidaa Halasa smiles at me. It’s Lent, she reminds me, and in Lent, they cook without meat or cheese or eggs. There are no animal products in their Friday lunch. With pleasure, we accept and spend the next hour in their small, homey living room, being stuffed with delicious maqloobeh — a traditional Palestinian dish of rice, cauliflower and eggplant — plus salad, bread and softball-sized fresh oranges. After lunch, Father Sami produces a battered 1980’s vintage radio and sits hunched over it, listening to the news at immense volume while Lydia and Amer talk about their school and Fidaa talks about her family.
For a moment, all questions of modernity and the state of the faith are shelved. This is Arab hospitality, and it is one tradition of the desert and the nomadic life that has never been put aside. Guests must be welcomed, must be given food and water, and it is by this welcome that one is judged.
Some things never change.
5 June 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Jordan Village life Christian
Msgr. John Kozar completes morning exercises with students of Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Back in April, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited Ethiopia and had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved with CNEWA’s mission and spend time with those whose lives CNEWA has touched. In Addis Ababa, he visited Tekle Ghiorgis School and shared a moment of fun with the students there while learning about the history of the school:
Today, we returned to Addis Ababa. It was a very intense day of visiting, very poignant and emotionally very moving. Our first visit was to an impoverished area of this sprawling city, where we visited Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School. Talk about serving the poorest of the poor: this is it. These children, about 750 of them, come from the most abject of poverty and receive a completely subsidized education, plus a meal to sustain them. The school is situated on a precipice and the sisters there have creatively built classrooms from old shipping containers. Sister Bedainesh is the current director and does a superb job of making all these children feel so special. Her smile is infectious and radiates with all the beautiful children.
How about this for the background of this CNEWA-supported school: Forty years ago, the children of lepers lived in the local cemetery, as no one would let them live near to them. Two lay people decided to confront this gross injustice and actually began this school. They sought the help of a professional educator, a nun from Australia, who would assist them in establishing this marvelous outreach to the despised poor children. Today, it is a jewel and we at CNEWA are blessed to be sponsors of the children here. I did my best to share the love of all of you for these precious little ones. “Let the children come to me.”
Check out all of Msgr. Kozar’s blog posts from his visit to Ethiopia in his blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey ”.
4 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Catholic Schools
In this unpublished photo from 2004, a Palestinian mother and child await passage through the Israeli security barrier near the Arab village of Bethany. (photo: Kevin Unger)
In the July 2004 issue of ONE, Marilyn Raschka reported on the then-new wall or security barrier separating Israel and the West Bank erected by the Israeli government:
Making life easy or difficult for the Palestinians trying to cross the wall falls to the discretion of the guards.
A French friend in Bethany called with the warning: “If you come to visit today, you will have to dirty your clothes.”
At the crossing point it was clear what she meant. The guards had obstructed the crossing with huge cement blocks.
No one could say why.
The guards stood on top of the blocks and watched as young males scampered their way up. The women struggled, hoisting themselves and their children, waving their identification cards in their hands, then swinging their legs over and descending to the other side. Everyone got their clothes dirty.
The next day the blocks were gone, as were the guards. People moved freely back and forth as if there were no wall at all.
For more from this story, check out Writing on the Wall. For a more recent look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and its impact on the people, check out Living in Limbo from the November 2010 issue of ONE.
In March, Catholic News Service interviewed Joseph Hazboun from our Jerusalem office, who described his family’s life in a divided city.
4 June 2012
Tags: Middle East Palestine Israel West Bank
Archbishop Antonio Franco (center) stands in front of the Jerusalem office of the Pontifical Mission. (photo: CNEWA)
Laura Tarazi works in the Jerusalem office of the Pontifical Mission, CNEWA's operating agency in the Middle East.
On 30 May 2012, the Jerusalem staff of the Pontifical Mission invited Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio in Israel and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, to an informal gathering at the Mission’s Jerusalem office. Bidding farewell to his excellency as he prepares for retirement, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, thanked him for years of cooperation and support for the Pontifical Mission and its work in the Holy Land.
The regional director highlighted several of the projects currently underway, including youth programs, job training initiatives and support for church institutions throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. He also thanked the archbishop for his continuous support for the work of the Pontifical Mission Library and the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem, as well as the Near East Council of Churches’ (N.E.C.C.) Mother and Child clinics in the Gaza Strip.
Archbishop Franco, in turn, expressed his sincere gratitude for the the Pontifical Mission’s institutional solidarity with the apostolic delegate and for its historical presence and dedication to the church and its communities of the Holy Land.
The Pontifical Mission staff presented the archbishop with a hand-painted Armenian ceramic piece by a professional artisan from Sandrouni Armenian Art Center, beautifully illustrating Christian holy sites and scenes of Jerusalem.
Sami El-Yousef presents Archbishop Franco with a piece of Armenian ceramic artwork.
1 June 2012
Tags: Palestine Israel Jerusalem Holy Land Pontifical Mission for Palestine
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1 June 2012
Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine
An Ethiopan woman works at a farmer’s market in Addis Ababa. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In Ethiopia, opportunities for women are often limited, which leads some to seek a better life by migrating to the Middle East. Peter Lemieux explores that in the May issue of ONE:
Many experts do not believe poverty and lack of economic opportunity, alone, fully explain the root causes of migration to the Middle East.
“The main reason is economic, but I don’t think the economic need is greater now than before,” says Lettegebriel Hailu, executive director of the Family Service Association, which assists victims of domestic violence in Addis Ababa. “However, the information now is more accessible than before. I think they hear more about immigration.
“And the competition is not the same. When I was growing up, it was ‘go to church, serve your family, go to school, be good and disciplined, respect your neighbor.’ Today, youngsters want to become rich first of all. They want to dress up. They want a beautiful house. They want to earn a good salary and enjoy the good life. There’s no patience like before. They just want to be independent.”
Ms. Lettegebriel is currently designing a program that will help prepare migrants before they leave. It will provide information about life in the Middle East and the perils migrants may encounter. It will also offer training in basic skills required of domestic workers.
“They have to know what they will face there,” explains Ms. Lettegebriel. “Some don’t know how to wash a glass, make a bed, operate modern kitchen appliances, cook or speak English, let alone Arabic. They have no idea. For those who are sensible, they might change their mind. For those who still want to go, at least they’ll have skills and a sense of the consequences, and know how to seek help if they find trouble.“
Read more in the article The High Stakes of Leaving.
Tags: Ethiopia Africa ONE magazine