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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
18 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

The sisters at St. Mary Monastery in Bediani keep bees to supplement their income. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

Georgia’s rich tradition of monasticism stretches all the way back to the sixth century. In the September 2007 edition of ONE, Paul Rimple provided a glimpse into the active lifestyles of women religious in the former Soviet nation:

The seven sisters of St. Mary Monastery in Bediani, a remote village in the southern mountains of Georgia, begin their day with communal prayer at 4 a.m. Three hours later, they are tending the gardens and the bees, milking cows, making cheese, embroidering vestments and cleaning the chapel.

Georgia’s religious houses are expected to be self-sufficient, which requires ingenuity on behalf of the sisters. But the sisters of Bediani also care for six single mothers and their children, who live near the convent and have little means of earning a living.

“So many girls came for advice,” said the ubiquitous Mother Mariam, who claims her effort to care for these women and their children was unplanned. “They want to keep their babies, but either their families, or the fathers of the babies, are against it.”

For one such mother, Ketevan, the sisters’ help has been a godsend. “If it wasn’t for this place, my life would be miserable,” she said holding her 16-month-old daughter.

“My family doesn’t accept me — I’d be on the street.”

These young women face a difficult road ahead: Georgia is poor, it lacks social service programs and it holds on to a non-Western concept of traditional relationships. Most single mothers are banished by their families.

Read more about Georgia’s Alternative Lifestyles.

Tags: Sisters Georgia Monastery Monasticism Monastic Life

18 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this video, CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoom reports on the latest in a series of attacks that are targeting every ethnic group in Iraq. Instability within the nation has given rise to concerns about the possibility of civil war. (video: CNN)

Over 30 killed, 50 wounded in bombing at Baghdad mosque (CNN) At least 31 people were killed and 57 others were wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque in Baghdad on Tuesday, police said. The incident took place during noon prayers in the Habib Ibn al Mudhaher mosque in al Qahira, a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in the northeastern section of the Iraqi capital. The bombers, clad in suicide vests, detonated the explosives inside the mosque. Police said that the two bombers used pistols equipped with silencers to kill several guards before they entered the mosque and blew themselves up. Sunni-Shiite tensions and violence have been on the rise for months in Iraq…

Beirut: appeal for Catholic-Orthodox unity, peace in Syria (AsiaNews) Catholic and Orthodox churches opened their respective synods today in Beirut to discuss the grave situation facing Syria’s Christian communities, caught between warring Shiite and Sunni factions in a conflict that is beginning to spill into Lebanon. Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch also made a joint appeal for the unity of all Christians…

Syrian refugees find little help in Greece (Washington Post) Thousands of Syrians fleeing war and misery are making their way to Europe, and many are coming through Greece, whose Mediterranean islands stretch within tantalizing reach of home. Once they get here, many wish they’d never come. Greece’s economic meltdown has left little food, medicine or other aid for refugees washing up on its shores. The new arrivals are packed into detention camps, and those who stay longer hide in cramped, barren apartments, fearing anti-immigrant violence on the streets…

Israel debates branding ‘price-tag’ attacks terrorism (Christian Science Monitor) Frustrated at their inability to stem a spike in violence against West Bank Palestinians by Jewish settlers with so-called “price tag” attacks, over the weekend Israeli law enforcement authorities nearly acquired permission to treat the attackers as terrorists. Attacks by right-wing vigilantes have surged this year. But few arrests or indictments have been made after they have desecrated West Bank mosques and churches, damaged Palestinian cars, and scrawled graffiti outside the residences of Israeli peace activists…

Ethiopia, Egypt tone down talk of war over Nile dam (Daily Star Lebanon) Ethiopia and Egypt cooled talk of war on Tuesday and agreed to more dialogue to resolve a row over a giant dam that the Horn of Africa nation is building on the Nile, on which Egyptians depend on for almost all their water. “Some pronouncements were made in the heat of the moment because of emotions. They are behind us,” Mohamed Kamel Amr, Egypt’s foreign minister, told a joint news conference with his Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom in Ethiopia’s capital…

Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Ecumenism

17 June 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2008, an Iraqi mother holds her child near her new home in Syria. (photo: Spencer Osberg)

In 2008, we looked at the wave of refugees moving from Iraq, hoping to find sanctuary in Syria:

Iraq’s Christians have paid a high price for the war. Prior to 2003, about a million Christians lived in Iraq, accounting for some 5 percent of the country’s 23 million people. But as violence intensified, reaching a crescendo in 2006, extremist groups began targeting Christians. Living in small pockets within predominantly Muslim communities, and without organized militias to protect them, Christians proved especially vulnerable. Moreover, extremists increasingly viewed Iraqi Christians as collaborators with the Western “Christian” occupying forces.

Fleeing the sectarian violence that has engulfed Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and areas where Christians have lived for centuries, an estimated 400,000 of Iraq’s Christians have sought refuge in neighboring countries or further afield. Of the roughly half million who remain in Iraq, more than half are internally displaced, many having migrated north to the autonomous Kurdish region, which remains relatively stable.

Now, of course, many Iraqi refugees are on the move again, fleeing the civil war in Syria.

You can read more about them in two stories in the current issue of ONE: a look at Iraqis making a new home in Jordan and Syrians fleeing to Lebanon.

Tags: Syria Refugees Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees

17 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Pater meet in Bkerke, the Maronite patriarchate north of Beirut, where they issued a joint 13 June statement calling for the release of two Syrian Orthodox bishops kidnapped on 22 April in northern Syria. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy of Bkerke, the Maronite patriarchate)

Maronite patriarch consecrates Lebanon to Mary (Fides) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter consecrated Lebanon and the entire Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, praying that all the peoples of the region are freed “from the sins that lead to divisions, aggression and violence.” The solemn ceremony took place yesterday, Sunday, 16 June. A multitude of believers gathered to pray that the “land of the cedars” is not overwhelmed by the contagion of sectarian conflict that is afflicting Syria…

Syrian war intensifies Lebanon’s divisions (Al Jazeera) As violence escalates in Syria, residents of the tiny Alawite enclave of Jabal Mohsen in neighboring Lebanon brace themselves for the next attack. Tensions have long simmered between Alawites in Jabal Mohsen — a settlement atop a hill in the middle of Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli — and the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood Bab al Tabbaneh nestled at the bottom…

UNRWA: Palestinian camps in Syria ‘theaters of war’ (Ma’an News Agency) Palestinian refugee camps in Syria have become “theaters of war” in the country’s ongoing conflict, with many inaccessible to the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA’s commissioner general said Sunday. More than half of the 530,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria have been displaced and 15 percent have fled abroad, including 60,000 to neighboring Lebanon and over 7,000 to Jordan…

Christians affected by Syrian conflict (Vatican Radio) At least 93,000 people have been killed since the Syrian civil war began two years ago, while hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the violence. Among those affected by the civil war are Christian communities. A report sent to Aid to the Church in Need, written by a priest ministering in the region, describes the situation in the city of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, which has been devastated conflict…

Gaza’s ‘gypsies’ face daily discrimination (Al Monitor) The Dom are counted among the people commonly referred to as “gypsies,” who live around the world. According to a recent study, linguistic theorists have linked Domari, the Dom’s language, to the Punjabi dialect of Hindi and therefore believe the Dom’s ancestors originated in northwestern India and migrated east. The Dom settled in the Middle East, while those who settled in Europe are Romani…

Jordan’s Department of Antiquities unearths Byzantine church in Jerash (Jordan Times) Looting of archaeological sites in Jordan is a widespread problem, yet this time it has brought to light the mosaic floor of a previously undiscovered Byzantine-era church near the city of Jerash. “Underneath about a meter of soil, the mosaic floor of Kanisat Qirmerl was almost perfectly preserved,” Jacques Seigne, director of the French Archaeological Mission at Jerash, told The Jordan Times. According to the inscription, which mentions the patron and mosaicist of the floor, the mosaics date back to about 590…

Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Byzantium Gypsy

14 June 2013
Greg Kandra

Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, and Pope Francis attend a prayer service during a private audience at the Vatican on 14 June. (photo: CNS/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

Pope Francis met for the first time the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury today, and in his prepared remarks spoke about the desire for Christian unity:

Today’s meeting is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the search for unity among Christians is prompted not by practical considerations, but by the will of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who made us his brothers and sisters, children of the One Father. Hence the prayer that we make today is of fundamental importance.

This prayer gives a fresh impulse to our daily efforts to grow toward unity, which are concretely expressed in our cooperation in various areas of daily life. Particularly important among these is our witness to the reference to God and the promotion of Christian values in a world that seems at times to call into question some of the foundations of society, such as respect for the sacredness of human life or the importance of the institution of the family built on marriage, a value that you yourself have had occasion to recall recently.

Then there is the effort to achieve greater social justice, to build an economic system that is at the service of man and promotes the common good. Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers.

Read more of the pope’s remarks, and those of the archbishop, at this link.

Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Ecumenism Christian Unity

14 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

The escalating conflict in Syria has forced thousands of Syrians to leave their country. Christian families in particular face a hardship reality in the refugees camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. This short film captures the testimony of men and women longing to go back to their homeland in peace and harmony. (video: CRTN and Aid to the Church in Need)

No trace of abducted Syrian Bishops (Aid to the Church in Need) Even six weeks after they were taken, there is still no trace of the two Syrian bishops abducted at the end of April, according to Razek Siriani, the ecumenical relations and relief officer of the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo. “Since their abduction we have received no information of where they are being held or how they are,” Siriani said. The two prelates of Aleppo, Archbishop Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, were abducted by armed men on 22 April…

U.S. to begin arming Syrian rebels (Los Angeles Times) The White House declared Thursday that Syria had crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons in that country’s civil war, and in response, U.S. officials said, President Obama had authorized sending arms to some rebel groups…

Iraqi Kurdistan region struggles to cope with Syrian refugees (Al Monitor) With the continuously deteriorating security and political situation in Syria, and the growing fighting between government and opposition forces, many Syrian citizens — particularly Syria’s Kurds — have been forced to seek refuge in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. This resulted in a wave of displacement that local authorities in Kurdistan did not expect, making the need for international assistance more pressing than ever…

In Israel, Christian cemetery desecrated with Hebrew graffiti (AsiaNews) The Christian-Arab population of Tel Aviv denounces continuing cases of religious and ethnic discrimination. The last case occurred on 12 June in the local Orthodox cemetery. A group of vandals desecrated a number of tombs overnight and smeared the walls with slogans in Hebrew calling for “revenge” against Christians and the “price” they should pay for their acts against Jews. Graffiti with insults appeared on the house of Khaled Kaboub, district judge in Tel Aviv, situated not far from the cemetery…

Cardinal Tauran reaches out to Hindu representatives (Vatican Radio) On Thursday, the head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, met with leaders of the United Kingdom’s Hindu community met at a London temple, or “mandir.” Surrounded by Catholic and Hindu scholars, as well as local school children, the cardinal reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s commitment to interfaith dialogue as a way of knowing and appreciating other religious traditions and of creating the conditions for all people to live in freedom and peace…

Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran Christian-Hindu relations

13 June 2013
Greg Kandra

Arya Raghavan tends the cows at Mother Mary Home for Girls in Kerala. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In 2008, we visited an orphanage in Kerala that was transforming the lives of its young residents:

Arya Raghavan is a 12-year-old girl with a big grin and sparkling eyes. Athletic, she loves to climb trees, pick fruit and toss them to her friends waiting below. Arya lives with her younger sister, Athira, and 40 other girls at an orphanage founded by a Catholic community of sisters in Chamal, a village in India’s southwestern state of Kerala.

The future for both Arya and Athira looks bright, but that was not always the case.

Four years ago, the girls’ father committed suicide, leaving their mother, Mini, homeless and destitute, unable to support herself and her four children. Eventually, Mini found a job working as a live-in caregiver for the sick and elderly. Though she manages to support herself, she cannot provide for her children — nor can they move in with her.

Mini would have preferred to keep her family together, but she reasoned her girls would be better off in a nearby child care institution. A Hindu, she had no doubts that her girls would be well cared for by the sisters at Mother Mary Home for Girls.

In a state where the rate of suicide is two and a half times the national average, Arya and Athira’s story is all too familiar. Many correlate Kerala’s high suicide rate with the state’s unemployment rate — a staggering 20 percent — which ranks among the highest in India. Underemployment is significant as well. Families largely get by with funds from family members who work abroad; foreign remittances account for more than 20 percent of Kerala’s gross domestic product. And though the economy in India has been booming, radically transforming this incredibly diverse and complex nation of a billion people, poverty is widespread among Kerala’s 31.8 million people.

Mother Mary Home for Girls lies in the remote and beautiful valley of Wayanad, nestled between hills covered in dense tropical vegetation. To Arya, Athira and the other girls, all of whom were born to poor, broken families, the orphanage must have first appeared as an oasis.

Read more about A Place to Call Home from the March 2008 issue of ONE.

Tags: India Children Sisters Indian Catholics Homes/housing

13 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Residents walk near a damaged church on 8 June in Qusayr, Syria, on their way to inspect their houses and collect their belongings. Fierce fighting in the area in the past three weeks left dozens of rebels, troops and Hezbollah fighters dead. (photo: CNS/Rami Bleibel, Reuters)

Conflicts in Syria, Mali pose unprecedented threats to children (United Nations) Despite efforts to protect children living in war-affected countries, the evolving character and tactics of conflict are creating unprecedented threats for children, particularly in Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic, a top United Nations envoy said today. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on children and armed conflict reviews situations in 21 countries. On Syria, Mr. Ban said in his annual report that the toll the conflict is taking on children is “unacceptable and unbearable,” and urging immediate measures to protect the lives and dignity of all children…

As Syrian crisis grows, donors are in short supply (Los Angeles Times) Facing a growing humanitarian crisis, international relief agency Oxfam set a goal in January of raising $53 million to aid victims of Syria’s brutal civil war. So far, Americans have contributed $150,000. Oxfam isn’t alone. Mercy Corps has collected $900,000 for Syrian refugees during the 27 months of the war, a fraction of the $2.5 million raised in a few weeks in 2006 during the one-month war between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Other aid groups report similar low levels of response — a sharp contrast to Americans’ usual warmhearted giving to help victims of foreign earthquakes, floods and wars. The stinginess reflects the murky nature of the Syrian war…

Palestine decries Israel’s new outpost plan (Al Jazeera) An Israeli settlement push in the occupied West Bank, involving the building of 1,000 new homes in two new settlements, is “killing the two state solution,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah today. Earlier in the day, an Israeli settlers’ council asked Israeli zoning authorities in the occupied territory to approve the building of 550 housing units in Bruchin, an unauthorized outpost granted legal status by Israel last year…

Ethiopian Orthodox patriarch’s visit to Egypt postponed (Fides) Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Mathias I has postponed his visit to Egypt originally planned for 17 June. This act disconfirms the rumors circulating about the possibility of an “ecclesial mediation” carried out by Abune Mathias and Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II on the thorny issue of the Grand Renaissance Dam, which is causing tension in the relations between Egypt and Ethiopia…

Coptic leaders to attend 30 June protests (Egypt Independent) Senior leaders in Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church denominational council have announced they will join opposition groups’ 30 June protests to demand early presidential elections. However, the church establishment has not urged Copts to attend demonstrations, preferring to leave it to each member of the congregations personal convictions…

Tags: Children Syrian Civil War Palestine Donors Coptic Orthodox Church

12 June 2013
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis is presented with a leather Harley Davidson jacket during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 12 June. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

It’s not unusual for Pope Francis to receive gifts from people during his weekly audience. It is unusual for him to receive gifts like this:

Harley Davidson has given Pope Francis two of its classic motorcycles to mark the brand’s 110th anniversary and on Sunday hundreds will be allowed to park along the road leading to St Peter’s Square while the pontiff recites the Angelus prayer.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 bikers are expected to fill St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s blessing — the highlight of a four-day event in Rome to celebrate more than a century of Harley Davidson.

Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Pope Rome

12 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this video, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports on the state of the war in Syria. In this struggle, morale is flagging, sectarian hatred is growing and civilians are increasingly victimized. (video: Al Jazeera)

Reports of ‘massacre’ in eastern Syria (Al Jazeera) Syrian rebels have attacked a village in the country’s east, killing dozens of Shia Muslims, activists said. A Syrian government official on Wednesday denounced the attack that occurred a day earlier, saying it was a “massacre” of civilians. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 60 people were killed in the village of Hatla in the oil-rich province of Deir al Zour, bordering Iraq. The reported killings highlight the sectarian nature of Syria’s conflict that has killed more than 94,000 people, according to the United Nations…

Coptic pope holds meeting on Nile dispute (Ahram Online) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II held a meeting with Egyptian Christian public figures to discuss the ongoing row over Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project on Tuesday, in advance of scheduled trip to Cairo by head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government, which fears that the project, if completed, could negatively impact the volume of Nile water reaching Egypt…

United for reconciliation with Muslims, Christians return to Qusayr (AsiaNews) After fleeing to surrounding villages and the capital, Damascus, Christians from Qusayr are returning to their homes after almost two years. Many have lost everything; some have started to remove rubble from rooms and rebuild roofs, bringing life back to a city that in recent months had lost more than 98 percent of its population, going from 30,000 inhabitants to 500…

Coptic Christians flee from Egypt to Georgia (AINA) Coptic Orthodox say that Georgia’s strong Orthodox Christian heritage — Eastern Christianity took root here in the 4th century — motivated them to make the move. The country’s relative proximity (Tbilisi is roughly a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Cairo) and reputation for relatively lax business and visa regulations also played a role. Around 2,500 Coptic Egyptians currently live in Georgia, according to the Ministry of Justice’s Public Service Development Agency, which manages residence data. Most arrived this year and live in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi; a few hundred have settled a few hours’ drive to the west in the parliamentary seat of Kutaisi…

Turkish protesters defy warning, battle police in Taksim Square (Los Angeles Times) Protesters defying a blunt warning from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan engaged in running battles Tuesday with police who unleashed clouds of tear gas and blasts of water cannons in an effort to end nearly two weeks of protest…

Tags: Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Turkey Coptic Christians Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II

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