2 July 2018
Pope Francis speaks to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square during his Angelus address on 1 July. (photo: Vatican Media/AFP)
Pope prays for peace in Syria, Horn of Africa (Vatican News) After praying the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis on Sunday issued a series of appeals for prayers for peace in different parts of the world…
Syria war: 270,000 reported displaced (BBC) At least 270,000 people have fled their homes in south-western Syria since the military launched an assault on rebel-held areas two weeks ago, the UN says. Many of those displaced by the fighting in Deraa and Quneitra provinces have headed towards the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. But neither country has said it will allow an influx of refugees, sparking fears of a humanitarian crisis…
Christians in India elated, as Arunachal considers scrapping anti-conversion law (New Indian Express) Christians in Arunachal Pradesh are happy following the state’s BJP government’s move to repeal the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act or the Anti-Conversion Law which was passed in 1978. Once the law is repealed, the state’s 32 percent Christian population may have a favorable view of the BJP, which is generally perceived as a party not so favourable for the minorities…
A look at the Fratelli project in Lebanon (Vatican News) Fratelli is an educational project run by the Marist brothers and the De La Salle Brothers (Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools) in Lebanon’s Rmeileh, near the ancient city of Sidon.The project offers some 70 refugee children from Syria and Iraq the chance to get an education and prepare to return to school…
Unesco adds sites in Turkey, India to World Heritage List (Khaleej Times) Unesco added Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahsa Oasis and Oman’s ancient city of Qalhat to its World Heritage List on Friday, the world cultural body said. Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings — believed to be the world’s second largest collection after Miami — were added on Saturday, alongside the city’s better-known Victorian Gothic architecture…
Vatican cricket team tours to strengthen interfaith relations (Vatican News) The Vatican’s cricket team takes off on a fourth UK tour on Tuesday, with the goal of strengthening interfaith relations high on their action-packed agenda. The team, officially known as St Peter’s Cricket Club, was established in 2013 and is made up of young men who are studying for the priesthood in Rome. It operates under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture and was set up to promote ecumenical and interfaith relations through a shared love of cricket…
29 June 2018
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Interfaith
The above video was honored by the Catholic Press Association at its annual awards earlier this month. (video: CNEWA/Daniel Moreno)
This week’s video won honors at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay earlier this month — and showcases the energy and ingenuity of some teenagers from New York who are committed to making a difference.
The video — shot, produced and edited by Daniel Moreno — chronicles a fundraiser by a group known as Relief United, which in 2017 raised thousands of dollars for refugees, and donated the funds to CNEWA.
You can read more about it here.
But the video tells a great story and really puts you in the middle of it all.
29 June 2018
Tags: Refugees Relief United
Catholic devotees in Banderdewa, India, pray on 28 June at the tomb of Prem Bhai, a lay missionary, on the 10th anniversary of his death. Read more about his life here. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
29 June 2018
New Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, greets U.S. Cardinal J. Francis Stafford during a consistory at which Pope Francis created 14 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on 28 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
New Cardinal Sako: my appointment is a message for Iraqi Christians (Asia News) Strengthening the unity of Christians, relaunching the principle of citizenship as an element common to all Iraqis and supporting the work of rebuilding homes and people, devastated by war and jihadist violence. These are the objectives set by the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako, whom Pope Francis just made a cardinal…
Leaders of Ethiopia, Eritrea to meet soon (Bloomberg) The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea will meet soon, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said, the latest sign of thawing relations between the Horn of Africa nations at odds since a border war two decades ago. A meeting between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki would cap landmark talks that began this month between officials from the two countries that fought a 1998-2000 war in which about 100,000 people died. Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after decades of conflict...
Metropolitan Hilarion: Patriarch has stated there will be no legitimization of schism (The Moscow Patriarchate) During his stay in Athens, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, gave in interview to the Greek Romfea new agency…
Looking at Syria’s war through a Syrian photographer’s eyes (The Washington Post) For most of the war, journalists have had trouble getting into the country because of the dangers. Many have been kidnapped and killed. And, of course, Syrian journalists have been working under extraordinarily dangerous conditions. Photojournalist Hosam Katan is one of those Syrian journalists, and his new book, “Yalla Habibi: Living with War in Aleppo”, takes us into the conflict that has been ravaging his country for nearly a decade…
Outrage as winery shuns Ethiopian workers (The Times of Israel) Barkan Wineries is facing a furious backlash after an undercover investigation revealed that the company banned Ethiopian employees from coming in contact with its wine due to an ostensible doubt about their Jewishness. Israel’s chief rabbi condemned the ban as “pure racism,” the president castigated the winery and the Knesset speaker called it shameful…
Photographer captures colorful Christian churches in Kerala (The Architects Newspaper) A mixture of postmodern motifs can be seen in the architecture. Sculptures of stars, crosses, globes, and Bibles populate the facades, conveying the world-encompassing, light-radiating themes of Christianity…
28 June 2018
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Vatican Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Chaldeans
In this image from 2014, displaced Iraqis gather for Evening Prayer outside a church in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: Don Duncan)
The planet is experiencing a “movement of peoples” unseen in decades, if not centuries.
The UN recently (20 June) observed World Refugee Day in recognition of this problem. People are fleeing oppressive regimes, climate change induced droughts, floods and loss of land, wars and other forms of what the United Nations calls “drivers of emigration.” Although Europe and North America receive the greatest amount of media attention regarding the problems they face as new people try to enter, their migration problems are dwarfed by countries such as Jordan and Lebanon where refugees form up to 20 percent of the overall population. For comparison, 20 percent of the population of the U.S. would be 66 million people!
CNEWA has been in the middle of this movement of peoples — helping refugees, internally displaced people and those suffering from war and persecution in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and India. We have helped people in refugee camps obtain what they needed to get through winters, in addition to providing health, social and educational services.
It is important to note that this movement of peoples involves many types of people, leaving their homes for many different reasons and under a variety of circumstances.
There is often confusion in terms when speaking of refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, etc. Terms often have a specific, legal meaning. Putting all groupings together, the UN speaks of “populations of concern” and “forcibly displaced people.” The terminology and legal structure is, however, evolving. And the distinctions are important.
The UN estimates there are 68.6 million people in the world who have been forcibly displaced. Of these, 40 million are internally displaced people, who have been driven out of their homes and forced to live in other places in their home country. For example, many Christians in Iraq were forced to leave Baghdad for the Nineveh Plain and then driven from there to Iraqi Kurdistan. In Syria large numbers of people—Christian and Muslim—have been driven from their homes to live in other parts of the country.
The internally displaced are, however, only part of the present crisis. Millions of people are leaving their native countries entirely. And the numbers are overwhelming.
It is estimated that, legally speaking in terms of international law, there are 25.4 million refugees, 3.1million asylum seekers and 10 million stateless people in the world. The problem is unprecedented and is putting tremendous economic, cultural and political pressure on target countries throughout the world. Although countries in Europe and North America are often loudest in bemoaning the crisis, the top refugee hosting countries in the world according to the UN are Turkey (3.5 million), Lebanon (1 million), Pakistan and Uganda (with 1.4 million each) and Iran (979,000). In countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, the refugee population is so large — up to one fifth of the people— it can cause incredible— indeed existential—economic, social and political problems.
But it’s important to note that the UN differentiates between refugees, migrants, stateless persons and asylum seekers. Let’s look how the United Nations defines these terms.
According to the UN: “Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk. Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection. The refugee definition can be found in the 1951 Convention and regional refugee instruments, as well as UNHCR’s Statute.”
The UN says of migrants: “An international migrant is someone who changes his or her country of usual residence, irrespective of the reason for migration or legal status. Generally, a distinction is made between short-term or temporary migration, covering movements with a duration between three and 12 months, and long-term or permanent migration, referring to a change of country of residence for a duration of one year or more.”
Likewise the international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.” In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country. Some people are born stateless, but others become stateless. Statelessness can occur for several reasons, including discrimination against particular ethnic or religious groups, or on the basis of gender; the emergence of new States and transfers of territory between existing States; and gaps in nationality laws. Whatever the cause, statelessness has serious consequences for people in almost every country and in all regions of the world.”
Finally, while asylum seekers form a distinct category, their legal rights are not clearly delineated. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) holds that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” And “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” However, it is not worked out what limitations sovereign states may impose on these rights, since the UN clearly recognizes that sovereign states have control of their borders. An initial attempt at dealing with migration is the UN Global Compact on Migration (2017), which attempts to deal with the complexity of the problem. Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the Permanent Observer (Ambassador) of the Holy See to the UN, has been very active in developing and promoting the Global Compact on Migration.
Pope Francis and his representative at the UN have been advocates and voices of justice and compassion for the millions of people displaced by violence all over the world. Recent discussions at the UN recognize that these people are forcibly displaced, i.e. the do not want to leave their homes. There is an emerging notion of “the right to remain,” that recognizes that the “drivers of emigration”—war/violence, poverty, persecution of minorities, climate induced changes such as droughts, disappearing island nations, etc., need to be addressed in a just and equitable way, if the problems of the contemporary movement of peoples is to be alleviated. Moreover, there is a growing recognition that people have a basic right to demand that governments do everything possible to remove the drivers of emigration which are causing the global problem.
And the Church, in part through the work of CNEWA, is seeking to bring compassion and hope to many of these people on the move.
As Pope Francis said, marking the World Day for Migrants and Refugees this year:
“Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43). The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience — from departure through journey to arrival and return. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.”
28 June 2018
Tags: Refugees Iraqi Refugees Migrants
Pope Francis leads a consistory to create 14 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on 28 June. (photo:CNS/Paul Haring)
Defending the weak or hopeless and becoming a servant to those most in need is the best promotion one can ever receive, Pope Francis told new and old cardinals.
“None of us must feel ‘superior’ to anyone. None of us should look down at others from above. The only time we can look at a person in this way is when we are helping them to stand up,” he said during a ceremony in which he elevated 14 bishops and archbishops from 11 different nations to the College of Cardinals on 28 June.
The formal ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica began with Pope Francis, wearing a miter and carrying a pastoral staff of retired Pope Benedict XVI, leading a procession of the soon-to-be cardinals -- in their new red robes -- while the choirs sang, “Tu es Petrus” (You are Peter).
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad approached a microphone to give thanks on behalf of all the new cardinals who have been “called to serve the church and all people with an even greater love.”
The 69-year-old patriarch, whose country has lost an estimated 1 million of what had been 1.5 million Christians over the years of war, violence by extremist militants and economic insecurity, thanked the pope for his special attention to the plight and struggle of “the tiny flock” of Christians throughout the Middle East.
“We pray and hope that your efforts to promote peace will change the hearts of men and women for the better” and help the world become a more “dignified” place for all people, the patriarch said.
Being made a cardinal, he noted, was not a prize or a personal honor, but an invitation to live out one’s mission more firmly dedicated to “the very end,” even to give one’s life, as symbolized by the cardinal’s color of red.
Their mission, the pope said in his homily, is to remember to stay focused on Christ, who always ministered and led the way, unperturbed by his disciples’ infighting, jealousies, failings and compromises.
On the road to Jerusalem, as the disciples were locked in “useless and petty discussions,” Jesus walks ahead yet tells them forcefully, when it comes to lording authority over others, “it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”
What good is it, the pope asked, to “gain the whole world if we are corroded within” or “living in a stifling atmosphere of intrigues that dry up our hearts and impede our mission,” including those “palace intrigues” in curial offices.
“But it shall not be so among you,” the Lord says, because their eyes, heart and resources must be dedicated “to the only thing that counts: the mission,” the pope said.
Personal conversion and church reform are always missionary, he said, which demands that looking out for and protecting one’s own interests be stopped, so that looking out for and protecting what God cares about remains at the fore.
Letting go of sins and selfishness means “growing in fidelity and willingness to embrace the mission” so that “when we see the distress of our brothers and sisters, we will be completely prepared to accompany and embrace them” instead of being “roadblocks ... because of our short-sightedness or our useless wrangling about who is most important.”
“The church’s authority grows with this ability to defend the dignity of others, to anoint them and to heal their wounds and their frequently dashed hopes. It means remembering that we are here because we have been asked ‘to preach good news to the poor ... to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” he said.
“Dear brother cardinals and new cardinals,” the pope said, the “Lord walks ahead of us, to keep reminding us that the only credible form of authority is born of sitting at the feet of others in order to serve Christ.”
“This is the highest honor that we can receive, the greatest promotion that can be awarded us: to serve Christ in God’s faithful people. In those who are hungry, neglected, imprisoned, sick, suffering, addicted to drugs, cast aside,” he said.
Pope Francis then read the formula of creation and the names of all 14 cardinals; each new cardinal recited the creed and took an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors.
One by one, each cardinal went up to the pope and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal’s ring, a red skullcap and a three-cornered red hat. The assembly applauded for each new cardinal as the pope stood and embraced each one, in some cases, speaking to them briefly and privately.
With the new members, the College of Cardinals numbered 226, with 125 of them being cardinal electors -- those under 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave. With this consistory, Pope Francis has created almost half of the voting cardinals.
The new cardinals are from Iraq, Spain, Italy, Poland, Pakistan, Portugal, Peru, Madagascar, Japan, Mexico and Bolivia. The current College of Cardinals now represents six continents and 88 countries.
The 14 cardinals who received their red hats from the pope were Cardinals:
-- Louis Sako, 69.
-- Luis Ladaria, 74, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
-- Angelo De Donatis, 64, papal vicar for the Diocese of Rome.
-- Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 70, substitute secretary of state, prefect-designate of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
-- Konrad Krajewski, 54, papal almoner.
-- Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, 72.
-- Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, Portugal, 71.
-- Pedro Barreto of Huancayo, Peru, 74.
-- Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar, 64.
-- Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila, Italy, 69.
-- Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda of Osaka, Japan, 69.
-- Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, 86.
-- Toribio Ticona Porco, retired bishop of Corocoro, Bolivia, 81.
-- Aquilino Bocos Merino, 80, former superior general of the Claretian religious order.
28 June 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican
Hundreds of elderly Armenians who cannot afford to heat their homes during the harsh winters are being helped, thanks to CNEWA’s donors and Caritas Armenia. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
With the summer months bringing warmer weather, we were reminded recently of how some of those we serve struggle to survive the coldest of winters—and how CNEWA’s donors are making a dramatic difference in their lives.
We received a report from Gagik Tarasyan, executive director of Caritas Armenia, who wrote about one project that is literally saving lives among the most vulnerable, the poor and elderly. It is a winterization project, helping to provide shelter, warmth and health care. The needs are basic but urgent—the kind of things most of us take for granted—but the impact has been significant:
With this project we could assist the most vulnerable families ( 630 families, about 2,800 people) through paying their gas or electric bills; urgent provision of firewood to families who cannot afford electric or gas heating; provision of medication to sick people; emergency assistance in basic food and hygienic items for the most vulnerable families living in temporary shelters.
And he shared this profile of one elderly woman this project has helped:
Arevhat Oustjan was born in 1935 in Kirovakan. She was 20 years old when she married and moved to Russia with her husband. They were happy together but they didn’t have children. She was only 39 when her husband died. And she again moved to her native town after that. For 44 years, she has lived alone in her one room apartment. She grew old and developed a number of illnesses that don’t permit her to go outdoors. She has poor eyesight and her limbs are aching and swollen.
Her meager pension and welfare amount to just over $100 a month jointly. But she has many financial obligations. Her niece was battling breast cancer and she had taken a loan from the bank for the operation. Sadly, her niece died, but Arevhat must continue to pay off the debt and very little remains for her daily bread. She is so thankful to the project that supports her to make ends meet. She relies only on Caritas’ support for her daily living.
That includes keeping her home warm. Arevhat heats her house with gas heater. ”I suffered terrible winter colds at home,” she told us. ”Nothing was helpful against colds except heating. Especially in old age, heating is so necessary.”
The windows of the apartment are in poor condition, and the wind blows through them. Arevhat has to cover them with cotton cloths to keep the house warm. It was never enough. But the Warm Winter Project is now to heat her house. “Never mind that I can’t buy new windows,” she said. ”The main thing is that I don’t need to pay for heating. It’s a great help for me. The frosty and horrible winter is already in the past; I do not even want to remember the situation I had endured before. I was always jealous of the elderly who lived in warm houses in winter time, surrounded by the warmth and companionship of their children and their relatives. I am quite alone and I don’t have any of them. Now I have at least a warm apartment, for which I am very grateful to Caritas and the supporters who treat us with all their care,” she said.
Thank you to all who are making it possible for us to spread light and warmth to so many like Arevhat who have known only darkness and cold.
To learn more about CNEWA’s efforts to help the elderly and poor in Armenia, read ‘This Is the Only Light’ in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
28 June 2018
Pope Francis met with members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on Thursday. (photo: Vatican Media)
Pope Francis meets with delegation representing Ecumenical Patriarch (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Thursday received members of a delegation representing the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, the primus inter pares (first among equals) of the heads of the autocephalous churches the make up the Eastern Orthodox Church. At the audience, Pope Francis welcomed the delegation as a “a sign of the growth of communion between the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch,” while also recalling “the common roots of our sister Churches…”
Syrian refugees begin returning from Lebanon (Reuters) Nearly 400 refugees began leaving the Lebanese border town of Arsal to cross into Syria on Thursday, a rare case of returns which Lebanon’s government wants to encourage…
Home as a hospital: Gaza families struggle to care for wounded (Al Jazeera) Hospitals, overwhelmed by a series of injured people, have already reached the limit of their capacity. Medical staff are constantly faced with the dilemma of either discharging patients early, or having no space to receive new ones. The burden that hospitals could not handle fell on the shoulders of the families, adding emotional, financial and logistical stress to already difficult lives…
Pope creates 14 new cardinals Thursday (Vatican News) Pope Francis will create 14 new cardinal from 11 countries during the Ordinary Public Consistory in Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica Thursday evening, 28 June…
Copts mark 50th anniversary of cathedral dedication (Ahram.org) ”The Coptic Church is an ancient pride of the Egyptian nation that deserves a modern glory like its old ones.” This is how Taha Hussein, a towering figure in modern Arab literature, described in his book “The Future of Egyptian Culture” the project to establish a new headquarters for the Coptic Church. This week, 50 years have passed since the inauguration of the Coptic Church headquarters in Cairo’s Abbaseya district, opened by late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser…
Unseen Armenia: the Surb Sargis Monastery in Ushi (Asbarez.com) Ushi, roughly 17 miles northwest of Yerevan, is on the west side of the Kasakh river valley. The road to Ushi is good — travel time from Yerevan is about 40 minutes. Cab fare is affordable, but it’s best to first negotiate an approximate fare with the taxi driver. The Surb Sargis Monastery complex, dating from the 5th—18th centuries is on the west edge of the village. On a small rise next to the monastery are the remnants of a late Bronze Age to early Iron Age settlement, dated to the 2nd to 1st millennium B.C. The monastery is spectacular…
27 June 2018
Tags: Syria Lebanon Pope Francis Refugees Patriarchs
In this image from 2017, Pope Francis greets Jordan's King Abdullah II during a private meeting at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)
King Abdullah II of Jordan has been chosen as the 2018 Templeton Prize Laureate.
He has “done more to seek religious harmony within Islam and between Islam and other religions than any other living political leader,” said a 27 June announcement on the award released by the John Templeton Foundation in West Conshohocken.
The Templeton Prize, established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton, aims to recognize someone “who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”
King Abdullah will be formally awarded the Templeton Prize at a ceremony in Washington on 13 November. The price has a monetary value of about $1.45 million.
Jordan’s leader was recognized for his work to promote a peaceful Islam and bring an end to religious violence in the Middle East.
After ascending to the throne of Jordan upon the 1999 death of his father, King Hussein, King Abdullah has aggressively prodded Islamic leaders toward a uniform message reflecting the moderate beliefs of the vast majority of Muslims, as an antidote to the Islamic extremism associated with terrorism.
In 2004, he launched the Amman Message, which brought together 200 Islamic scholars who issued a declaration the following year. The declaration, which recognized the legitimacy of all eight legal schools of Islam, forbid “takfir” (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims, and established when “fatwas” (a legal opinion) could be issued. The declaration has been widely accepted by Islamic scholars and institutions.
King Abdullah also has funded the “A Common Word Between Us and You” initiative, which aims to promote understanding between Christian and Muslim communities, and proposed a U.N. World Interfaith Harmony Week aimed at understanding the values of peace in all religions. The proposal was unanimously accepted by the U.N. General Assembly.
In addition to this work, King Abdullah also has protected some of the most important religious sites in Jerusalem. The dynasty of which he has been a part has been the custodian of the Temple Mount since 1924, and in 2016 the king used his own money to assist in restoring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He also has supported legislation to restore and develop the site of the baptism of Jesus and given various Christians blocks of land to build churches there.
In his videotaped acceptance of the Templeton Prize, King Abdullah said “Our world needs to confront challenges to our shared humanity and values. And this is why I feel it is so urgent to promote tolerance and mutual respect, support inclusion and hope, speak out against Islamophobia and other wrongs, and make our values a real force in the daily life of the modern world.”
Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation, noted in a statement that “Sir John created the Templeton Prize when he realized that many of his friends and colleagues thought of religion as uninteresting and old-fashioned, or perhaps even obsolete.”
“He decided that a prize to single out people who were responsible for, in his words, the ‘marvelous new things going on in religion,’ would help them become more well known, not so much for their own benefit, but for the benefit of people who might be inspired by them,” she added.
King Abdullah joins a group of 47 recipients of the Templeton Prize recipients including Mother Teresa, who received the inaugural award in 1973; the Dalai Lama, 2012; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 2013; and Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, 2015.
27 June 2018
To continue their formation, the faithful gather for Saturday Mass in Gilgel Beles, Ethiopia.(photo: CNEWA)
Recently, we received the following update from Argaw Fantu, CNEWA's regional director in Addis Ababa:
The northwestern corner of Ethiopia bordering with Sudan is a vast low land area with very high temperature up to 50 degree Celsius (122 Fahrenheit!). This vast land surface is occupied by a tribe, the Gumuz people, one of the more than 85 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. These people are traditional worshipers of nature and very honest with their own strong ethical values — they don’t tolerate lies or stealing — but most of them have never encountered the Gospel or Christian teaching.
Now, that is beginning to change.
The area where they live is part of the vast pastoral territory of the new Bahir Dar-Dessie Eparchy. It a new area for evangelization, with very tough and challenging environment. It was the courageous Comboni Missionary Sisters who first set foot in the area called Mandura in 2000. They rented a house from an Orthodox priest and started visiting people — teaching reading and writing for kids under the shade of a large tree. They also taught hygiene to women and offered some simple advice on agriculture and farming. Slowly, they built rooms for kindergarten lessons. The Gumuz people at that time had no clue about the value of education. When the sisters started school for kids, they had to walk around in the villages to speak to parents and urge them to send their children to school.
A typical tukul, or mud hut home, of the Gumuz people. (photo: CNEWA)
Following in the footsteps of the sisters, the Comboni Missionary Fathers of the Heart of Jesus started a small mission station in Gilgel Beles in 2003; in 2011, they established an outstation of Gilgel Beles in Gublak.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Gilgel Beles and Gublak, part of an initiative supported by CNEWA. The Comboni Missionary Fathers are engaged in the pastoral activities in the areas. Most of the growing faithful are young people and women.
To support and encourage evangelization in the area, the missionaries have launched a strategy of ongoing training for catechists and coordinators. More than 100 catechists and coordinators were gathered recently in Gilgel Beles for a weekend of ongoing formation. They came from the chapels of Gilgel Beles and Gublak. The training involves a variety of participatory programs. They began the day with a rosary recited while walking around the church compound.
The weekend began by praying the rosary. (photo: CNEWA)
Lectures and classes filled the day Saturday, along with the celebration of the Eucharist. People took a break to escape the heat in the afternoon. Sunday included Mass, singing, teaching and a fraternal lunch. What a nice and creatively organized training program had it been!
The weekend of faith formation included classes taught by catechists. (photo: CNEWA)
I asked a group of young people to explain to me the difference between a catechist and a coordinator and what each does. They told me that a coordinator is the one who is able to convince people of the village to gather together for catechetical teaching, prayer and spiritual sharing. Once the coordinator does his job of gathering the community, the catechist comes in to teach catechumens — preparing them to receive sacraments — and leading the community in prayer and Bible sharing. I was amazed by how well the priests coordinated these activities.
Catechists and coordinators led discussions and shared insights with those who attended. (photo: CNEWA)
Father Isaiah, a Comboni Missionary from Kenya and a dynamic parish priest of Gublak, told me that villagers appreciate the regular visits of priests and sisters. Whenever a priest visits them in the villages and chats with them, they believe that he brings them good luck. What an amazing belief!
As a result of such enthusiastic and committed engagements of the missionaries — and their collaborative catechists and coordinators — Christian communities in the area are growing slowly but steadily. According to the recent figures, there are about 1,500 Catholics in Pawe, 1,500 in Gilgel Beles and Mandura, 1,000 in Gublak, 500 in Dibati. This makes a total of about 4,500 Catholic faithful in the area. The number of new catechumens is increasing, thanks to committed catechists and coordinators who accompany the dedicated missionary priests.
CNEWA, through its generous donors, participates in this precious evangelization mission of the church in this remote part of Ethiopia. In 2018, CNEWA committed to support formation training for youth leaders and catechists in Gilgel Beles and Gublak. How wonderful and rewarding it is to see the light of the Gospel being shared with these marginalized people!
With your support, we are able to make this happen. Thank you!
The faithful leave Mass at the close of the weekend. (photo: CNEWA)