15 October 2019
Rahel cares for her daughter, Lydia, in their home in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the current edition of ONE, Emeline Wuilbercq writes about Ethiopians Breaking Free from their addiction to khat, with help from the Catholic church. Here, she adds some background to the story.
In Ethiopia, it is not always easy to talk to women. They are rather reserved, sometimes secretive, and it takes time before building a relationship of trust.
In the countryside, as in the cities, their lives are hard: even though early marriages are forbidden, they still take place. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced. A lot of girls do not go to school because they have to help their family at home.
They face many challenges, but they keep it to themselves. When they meet foreign journalists, they do not necessarily want to confide in them during the first exchange.
But sometimes, the unexpected happens.
When I talked with Rahel (her name has been changed), I honestly did not expect to discover such a frank woman, with a strong personality, when I first met her in the Abune Andreas Girls’ Home boarding school in Dire Dawa.
I remember this cheerful woman who was trying to help me and my colleague, Petterik, find someone to help us in Harar. Her English was perfect, and she felt at ease conversing with us. Little did I know at that time that she would become the main subject for my story about khat addiction.
A few days later, when we returned from Harar to Dire Dawa, Petterik and I decided to call her again and she welcomed us to her new apartment. She immediately felt the urge — or need — to confide in us. Was it because she felt isolated from those around her or that she had not yet dared to speak to her neighbors since she moved in?
During our discussion, we learned that she never received the support she needed when she decided to separate from her husband, a man whose khat addiction was becoming too troublesome. He would keep spending money on the green leaves while his wife and daughter were struggling to make ends meet.
This was an added challenge as Rahel, a young orphan girl, had already struggled throughout her teenage years. But with the help of the local Catholic church, she was able to become the strong mother she is today.
Since her husband didn’t listen to her advice, she decided to temporarily separate from him, and to raise her beloved daughter alone.
On the day that we met, she was happy to talk with people who could understand her, as she considered Ethiopians to be too conservative. “Backwards,” she even said. I quickly understood why she was using this strong word.
Rahel told me that her friends had turned their backs on her; in Ethiopia, the fault for a broken marriage rarely comes from the husband, and some think she should have given him another chance before leaving the house. But the only thing that mattered to her was that her daughter could grow up in a healthy environment surrounded by loving people — even if losing her friends was the price she had to pay.
One can only admire Rahel’s journey and the sacrifice she has made for her daughter. I’m glad that she decided to speak out. I hope her friends will read her story to understand her decision.
Learn more about Rahel’s journey in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
10 May 2019
Orphans pray at Kidane Mehret Home in Addis Ababa. (photo: Sean Sprague)
My colleague, Haimdat Sawh, and I are about to depart for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a weeklong visit to a number of the programs supported by CNEWA.
Along with our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, we’ll be visiting several schools in and around Addis Ababa, including the Kidist Mariam Center, the Meki Catholic School and St. Ephrem’s Seminary.
I invite you to join this journey by following along with us on CNEWA’s Facebook and Instagram pages, where we’ll be posting daily as we see firsthand the tremendous impact CNEWA and our donors have, through our partnerships through the local church. It’s an opportunity we are blessed to have, and blessed to be able to share.
11 March 2019
People watch a tractor excavate Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash on 10 March 2019, near Bishoftu, Ethiopia. Among the dead were four Catholic Relief Services staffers: Getnet Alemayehu, Mulusew Alemu, Sintayehu Aymeku and Sara Chalachew.
(photo: CNS/Maheder Haileselassie, Reuters)
This morning, Catholic Relief Services issued a statement regarding the tragedy this weekend in Ethiopia:
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that four members of our staff were killed when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just after take-off Sunday morning. Their names are: Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu. All four individuals were Ethiopian nationals traveling to Nairobi to attend a training on our behalf.
Although we are in mourning, we celebrate the lives of these colleagues and the selfless contributions they made to our mission, despite the risks and sacrifices that humanitarian work can often entail. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and all of those who lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy.”
There are further details at the CRS website.
We at CNEWA share in the sorrow and loss, and offer our deepest sympathies and prayers to our friends at CRS.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
3 July 2018
With much of North America sizzling through a summer heat wave, now is a good time to stay in and stay cool with the new edition of ONE, just hitting your mailbox.
We have lots of refreshing and inspiring news on tap:
All that and more can be found in our award-winning magazine. Visit this link for more. And check out the video below from our president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, describing what else you can find in its pages.
6 June 2018
Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine
Sister Frehiwot Chisha greets a class in Rosa Gatorno Kindergarten in Ethiopia. Discover how young religious sisters are being formed to lead and teach in Ethiopia in The Habit of Learning in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
20 January 2015
In this 2008 file photo, Bishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, Eritrea, speaks during an interview at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. This weekend, Pope Francis appointed him metropolitan of the new Eritrean Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Sunday, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis, bishop of Rome, had created a new Eastern Catholic metropolitan church in the northeast African nation of Eritrea. The new Eritrean Catholic Church, carved from the four Eritrean eparchies (or dioceses) of the Ge’ez Catholic Church based in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa, will be sui iuris (meaning “of its own right”) and will be subject directly to the Holy See.
According to the Vatican Information Service announcement, “the seat of the new metropolitan church is Asmara, [the capital of Eritrea,] which is elevated to the status of metropolitan archeparchy.” This new metropolitan church, which will continue to utilize the Ge’ez rites and traditions it shares with its sister church in neighboring Ethiopia, includes the eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Seghenity, in addition to the Archeparchy of Asmara. The pope appointed Bishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.J., formerly eparchial bishop of Asmara, as the first metropolitan archbishop of Eritrea.
The Holy See also announced that the re-formed Ethiopian Catholic Church, led by Cardinal-designate Metropolitan Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel, C.M., will include a new jurisdiction, erecting the Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessie, and asking Bishop Lisane-Christos Matheos Semahun, the former auxiliary of Addis Ababa, to shepherd its 18,000 Catholics.
Click here to learn more about the Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholic churches, and their ancient Ge’ez rites and traditions. To learn more about the Eastern churches, visit this new feature we have created that gathers together the profiles written on all the Eastern churches featured in ONE magazine between 2005 and 2012.
12 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia Eritrea Ethiopia’s Catholic Church Eritrean Catholic Church
In this image from August, a Coptic Orthodox bishop surveys a damaged church in Minya, Egypt. (photo: CNS/Louafi Larbi, Reuters)
CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., appears in the pages of America magazine this week, writing about the struggle for democracy in Egypt — and how this is impacting Christians:
The situation of Christians in post-Morsi Egypt has grown rapidly and significantly worse. Pro-Morsi forces accuse the Coptic Christians of having staged a military coup against the democratically elected president. Although the number of Egyptian Christians is so small (estimates range between 5 percent and 15 percent of the population) that it would, practically speaking, be impossible for them to overthrow the government, nonetheless all over the country violent attacks on Christians and Christian institutions have reached an unprecedented level. On 17 August 2013, a list was published of 32 Christian institutions that had been attacked, looted or destroyed since Mr. Morsi’s removal. When the looting and destruction of Christian homes and businesses are also taken into account, the list is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The image of Patriarch Tawadros standing with General el-Sisi has become a rallying point for the pro-Morsi, anti-military demonstrators to focus attacks on Christians as the enemy.
Egypt is experiencing the worst of all possible situations; there is no clear good side and no clear bad side. The actions of the pro-Morsi supporters who attack Christians show quite clearly what their agenda may have been all along. Yet the military’s actions and the ferocity of its response to the pro-Morsi demonstrators make it very difficult to be sympathetic. In fact, that is a major problem: it is almost impossible to be completely sympathetic to either side. Each side has grievances and each side has committed atrocities. This has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for countries like the United States and the member states of the European Union to take a clear stand on what is happening and to support one group against the other.
The situation in Egypt highlights a very important fact that is crucial for the entire Middle East. Despite all the rhetoric, democracy alone is not and cannot be the answer. Since the advent of the Arab Spring, there has been a great deal of talk about democracy. Most of it has been shallow and naïve.
Read on to learn more.
Meanwhile, America’s editor, Matt Malone, S.J., draws a connection between this piece and one written six decades ago for the magazine by Senator John. F. Kennedy:
Nearly 60 years after J.F.K. wrote for these pages, America once again looks at a seemingly intractable problem in the Mediterranean region. Father Mallon’s analysis is, in fact, a faint echo of Senator Kennedy’s caution, especially when Father Mallon writes that “to expect democracy in the Middle East to emerge, develop democratic institutions and thrive in a decade or two is not only unrealistic; it is unfair.” Indeed, such a course would amount to something President Kennedy himself derided in a 1963 speech, an unsustainable “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” Still, there are many in the foreign policy establishment today who argue for such a “historically naïve” form of progress, says Father Mallon: “For many in the United States, democracy means ‘just like us.’ ”
29 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Egypt's Christians Democracy Arab Spring/Awakening
Children in the village of Awo, such as 13-year-old Tiblets Gebray, often suffer from chronic malnutrition and depend on outside support during lean years. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the Autumn issue of ONE, Don Duncan writes about efforts to help in the hungry in parts of Ethiopia. Here, he offers his personal impressions of the region he visited.
I was only about 5 when Irish rock singer Bob Geldof was making headlines again. We were used to seeing him prancing around a stage singing hits like “I Don’t Like Mondays” with his band, The Boomtown Rats. Ireland is a small place and we are almost systematically proud of anyone who makes it big beyond our shores.
By 1984, Geldof was becoming known more for his humanitarian credibility than for his indie credibility. Responding to BBC reports of a burgeoning famine crisis in Ethiopia, he established a series of charity initiatives in the United Kingdom and beyond involving rock stars and rock concerts. Band Aid in 1984 and Live Aid in 1985 netted a combined total of $245 million for Ethiopia.
Almost 30 years later, Geldof remains high in the Ethiopian consciousness. Everywhere I went, the mere mention of my nationality elicited the same response: Bob Geldof!
In Europe, the legacy of the Band Aid/Live Aid era has been a deeply entrenched image of Ethiopia as a place of poverty, misery and famine. My experience so far in this county has been to the contrary, thankfully. Sure, the country has its problems but it is rapidly developing and most of the regions are stable, food secure and progressing.
It was not until I got to the northern region of Tigray that a shadow was cast on this largely positive impression. Many areas near the border with Eritrea in northern Tigray, as well as in the desert areas of southeastern Ethiopia, are in constant danger of famine. Population growth over the past 30 years, combined with the detrimental effects of climate change on yearly rainfall, have rendered many swaths of the region barren and left its population chronically food insecure. It is here that I found the schools where CNEWA is helping to provide crucial high-energy biscuits during the months where food is most scarce.
It was shocking to me to think that, while the rest of the country develops, some areas are slipping back to conditions similar to the traumatic famine that swept the country in the 1970’s and 80’s. But then I began to see terraces along the hills, dams on streams, small reservoirs, canalization and irrigation systems and other such technology dotting the landscape that spoke of a real effort to stave the effects of climate change. I was told that since the fall of the communist Derg regime in 1990 — a regime that worked on natural resource rehabilitation, but only in the villages it wanted to repopulate — the new administration has been very serious about land rehabilitation across the whole country.
It reminded me of how famine can be political. Again, I thought of Bob Geldof and the politics of his Live Aid and Band Aid initiatives. Through music and televised events, he created a widespread consciousness of the Ethiopian famine among the populations in the West and, by extension, forced Western government to stand up, pay attention and take action.
Most encouraging of all is that, unlike the external aid of the 1980’s, the land rehabilitation initiatives in Ethiopia today are managed domestically by the Ethiopian government. While much of the money for the projects comes from foreign governments and international agencies like the World Food Program, Ethiopia has taken the fore on managing its own risk with regards to drought, famine and food insecurity. This is very encouraging.
Still, for many of the homes and schools I visited in northern Tigray, this sea change is imperceptible. Their fields are still poor and their stomachs empty for much of the year. But all around them, technologies and infrastructures are being put in place that will eventually, perhaps in the next few years, return a level of productivity to their land and food to their table.
Read more of Don Duncan’s reporting in Hungry to Learn, in the Autumn issue of ONE. To find out how you can help feed the hungry in Ethiopia, follow this link.
28 October 2013
Tags: Ethiopia ONE magazine Farming/Agriculture Hunger Famine
Coptic Christians chant prayers during a candlelight protest after dozens were killed during clashes with soldiers and riot police in October 2011. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
In the Autumn issue of ONE, Sarah Topol reports on young Copts persevering during a time of turmoil in Egypt. Here, she offers some reasons why they dare to hope.
You read a lot of stories about Christians fleeing Egypt — they make up roughly 10 percent of the country’s 85.3 million people, and are now the largest Christian population in the Middle East.
Since the revolution, Egypt’s economy has crumbled, the political system has in some ways become even more repressive and instances of sectarian violence have mounted. One might imagine every Christian would want to leave Egypt — or at least they would be depressed by their prospects in a country they have inhabited for centuries. And while feelings of concern, fear and anxiety continue — and there are young people who want to leave — the kids I spoke with in Cairo want to stay put. In reporting this story, I was struck by how positive the young people I spoke to were.
It shouldn’t have shocked me, because you see this phenomenon throughout history; time and again, young people have asked for change because they are too youthful to have been disappointed in the past. They have less to lose than their parents. And let’s face it — your early 20’s are the time for idealism.
But what made their optimism interesting to me is that these particular young people have been disappointed. In Feb 2011, president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and many thought they toppled a dictator. They believed there was a New Egypt on the horizon.
Instead, the transition has been turbulent. Ruled by an interim military government that prosecuted more civilians in military courts in 18 months in power than Mubarak did in his nearly 30-year reign, they then saw the election of Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi. Under his term, journalists have been intimidated, the economy has continued to fail, rolling blackouts have hit the country and protests against his term have ended in more violent clashes with security services. From inflation to security to trash collection, everything in Egypt seems to be stagnating, if not getting worse. Yet the young people I spoke with were trying to stay positive, though even they admit that’s not easy. But why?
The best answer I got was from Diana Maher Ghali, a 24-year-old who is expecting her first child this fall. She had this to say about their youthful optimism:
We believe that after the dawn there is light. That’s the rule of the world; it’s not dark all the time, and it’s not light all the time, and we feel this is our time to make a change.
We didn’t live under [Gamal] Nasser or [Anwar] Sadat. We didn’t live through all those wars. We didn’t live under the English occupation. This is our time to do something and this is our time to make history as young people.
If we don’t do anything, then our kids are going to blame us in the future for standing still and watching our country fall apart. I think we get our enthusiasm from this. We try to encourage each other. If we ever give up, it’s over. It’s always important to have hope that something will change, but it’s about taking action — not just sitting in your home.
Read more about Faith Under Fire in the Autumn issue of ONE.
30 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Cultural Identity ONE magazine Coptic Christians Copts
This image from 2007 shows an illuminated cross, part of the celebration of Meskel in Addis Ababa. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Ethiopians on Thursday night marked the Christian holiday of Meskel. Gerald Jones wrote about this dramatic celebration in 2011:
Meskel means “cross” in Amharic and it a major celebration (both religious and national) that commemorates the finding of the True Cross by the Empress Helena. Tradition holds that, praying for assistance, Empress Helena had a revelation; she was to light a bonfire, and the smoke would lead her to the resting place of the True Cross. …
The major celebrations occur on Meskel Eve. Around 6 pm, huge crowds gather in the Square where many priests assemble to chant in the Geez liturgical language and dance the measured steps of liturgical dance. These days, parish youth groups also gather and sing and dance, and it is wonderful to see young boys and girls actively involved in this traditional celebration.
The International Business Times has more details:
Legend has it that on this day circa 330, St. Helena — who is known as Nigist Eleni in Ethiopia and was the mother of Rome’s first Christian emperor, Constantine — found the cross on which Jesus had been crucified. In accordance with a revelation she’d had in a dream, Helena burned a giant pile of wood and frankincense. The smoke rose into the sky and then arced back down to earth, showing her the spot where the cross had been buried. Fragments of the cross were distributed to churches around the world, and one found its way to Ethiopia, where it is now said to be buried under the Gishen Mariam Church in the northeastern Wollo region. Ethiopia, which has one of the most devout Orthodox communities in the world, is the only country that celebrates the finding of the cross on a national level.
Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity Ethiopian Orthodox Church Ethiopian Christianity