God • World • Human Family • Church
Ethiopia Battles Drought A Clinic on Wheels in Kurdistan Inside Ukraine’s Only Catholic University Bearing the Cross in Egypt
one COVER STORY
When Rain Fails Ethiopians seek solutions to the worst drought in decades by James Jeffrey with photographs by Petterik Wiggers
Health on Wheels A mobile clinic delivers hope in Kurdistan text and photographs by Raed Rafei
A Survivor Speaks One World War II veteran shares her story text and photographs by Molly Corso
Where Change Is on the Curriculum Ukraine’s sole Catholic university emphasizes leadership by Mark Raczkiewycz
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Connections to CNEWA’s world People from our world an interview with Bishop Paul Hinder by Don Duncan Focus on the world of CNEWA a pictorial journey to Egypt by John E. Kozar
t Copts greet visitors in a small Egyptian village near Giza.
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OFFICIAL PUBLICATION CATHOLIC NEAR EAST WELFARE ASSOCIATION
Volume 42 NUMBER 1
By keeping their bodies healthy, you fill their souls with hope 6 Front: An Ethiopian girl fetches water from what remains of a pond in the drought-stricken Afar region. Back: Awatef Youssef and her children, refugees from Qaraqosh, collect medicine from the mobile clinic in Nafkandala, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo Credits Front cover, pages 3 (upper left), 24-31, Petterik Wiggers; pages 2, 3 (lower right), 4, 34-39, John E. Kozar/CNEWA; page 3 (top), CNS photo/Paul Haring; pages 3 (lower left), 3 (far right), 6-7, 9-13, back cover, Raed Rafei; pages 3 (upper right), 18-19, 21-22, Petro Zadorozhnyy; pages 14, 16-17, Molly Corso; page 21 (bottom left), Ivan Chernichkin; page 32, Don Duncan. ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016 Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar
34 Editorial Staff Paul Grillo Deacon Greg Kandra Michael J.L. La Civita Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. J.D. Conor Mauro Timothy McCarthy CNEWA Founded by the Holy Father, CNEWA shares the love of Christ with the churches and peoples of the East. CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches to identify needs and implement reasonable solutions. CNEWA connects you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope. Officers Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Chair and Treasurer Msgr. John E. Kozar, Secretary Editorial Office 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195 1-212-826-1480 www.cnewa.org ©2016 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
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to CNEWA’s world
CNEWA — A Lifeline in the Middle East
On a pastoral visit to Lebanon in January, CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar traveled to the city of Zahleh, a predominantly Melkite Greek Catholic city in the Bekaa Valley. Strategically located near the highway linking Beirut and Damascus, Zahleh is now home to thousands of Syrian refugees from all faith communities. To assist the refugees, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwich, B.S., of Zahleh established an emergency committee. However, the influx of Syrian refugees, many of whom are unskilled laborers, has devastated the city’s indigenous work force, many of whom labor in the agricultural sector, harvesting produce and processing and canning food items. With funds from CNEWA’s benefactors, including voluntary collections taken up in parishes across the United States, the emergency committee is reaching out to working families, such as this family pictured with Msgr. Kozar, who are now deprived of work and income. To learn more about CNEWA’s work with refugees in the Middle East, visit: www.cnewa.org/web/mideastreport.
Cisterns in Jerusalem With technical support from members of CNEWA’s Jerusalem office, the Benedictine Sisters on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem are rehabilitating five abandoned cisterns within the monastery walls. Once complete, almost 50,000 gallons of free, potable water will be available for cooking, cleaning and washing, decreasing the monastery’s monthly water bill. More than a century ago, the monastery’s four acres served as a sustainable food resource, having been planted with groves of fruit trees as well as herb and vegetable gardens. A rainwater collection network was installed to direct the
rainwater into some 26 water cisterns where it could be collected. But once the city’s water network extended to the monastery, the cisterns were largely abandoned. A deepening water crisis in the Middle East and the high cost of water in Jerusalem has many institutions returning to the “old way” to reduce costs. CNEWA Visits New Jersey In January, members of CNEWA’s fundraising team visited the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Warmly welcomed by the Rev. Bob Stagg, pastor, and Kay Furlani of the parish’s social justice ministry
group, Multimedia Editor Deacon Greg Kandra preached at all the Masses, speaking of CNEWA’s involvement in supporting the people and churches of the Middle East. If you would like CNEWA to visit your parish, drop us a line. We are always eager to share the good news of CNEWA and our efforts to uplift the poor and needy around the world. Contact our development director, Norma Intriago, at email@example.com. A Letter of Thanks “May I express our sincere thanks and great appreciation to all of you
OUR WEBSITE onemagazinehome.org OUR BLOG cnewablog.org at CNEWA and to all our beloved benefactors for being such a source of help and inspiration,” writes the Rev. Abraham Kannampala, C.M.I., who directs a home for tribal children, Chavara Balbhavan, in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Jagdalpur in India. “Without the support of all of you at CNEWA, I cannot imagine running this wonderful institution. Your support has been fabulous. On behalf of all our students and their parents, I express my sincere thanks and appreciation for your support.” We are humbled to play some small part in helping these children — whose families live on the margins of India’s highly stratified society — and remain grateful to all those who make this work possible. Outreach to Refugee Camp Members of CNEWA’s team based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa visited the Hitsats refugee camp, one of four camps located in the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat earlier this winter. Home to nearly 20,000 refugees — families, unaccompanied minors, elderly women, men, even soldiers who had fled the military — all hail from neighboring Eritrea. Many have a strong faith foundation, and CNEWA seeks to support them in whatever ways we can. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, a modest chapel has been erected on the site and CNEWA has helped to furnish it with vestments, altar cloths and a pulpit to support those who serve the community. The Rev. Ghiday Alema expressed profound gratitude and promised prayers for all those sharing the spiritual burdens of his homeless parishioners.
CNEWA Commemorates 90 Years of Service
In March, CNEWA began observations marking its 90th anniversary as an expression of the popes’ concern for the peoples and churches of the East. On 11 March 1926, Pope Pius XI founded the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Placing it under the direction of the archbishop of New York, the pope founded CNEWA to support the activities of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches — the Holy See’s congregation concerned for the Catholic Eastern churches and the peoples served by them.
In the last 90 years, as the circumstances of these churches and the needs of the people served by them have changed, so, too, has CNEWA. Instability and conflict in the Middle East keeps us focused on the needs of the displaced. Explosive growth and dire poverty in northeast Africa demand our attention for the marginalized. The everdynamic churches of India and Eastern Europe challenge us to strive harder in building the church. “In CNEWA’s world,” says Msgr. Kozar, “we are blessed with an army of ambassadors of Christ who live out mercy and compassion, which lie at the heart of the Gospel, and are at the core of CNEWA’s mandate.” Visit our ONE-TO-ONE blog for updates and features to commemorate this anniversary, including profiles of these men and women who every day, in their good works and in their prayerful lives, serve the people of God with mercy, compassion and love. Visit our website, www.cnewa.org, and our blog, www.cnewablog.org.
Only on the Web
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There is more to discover about CNEWA’s world online: • A powerful video of life in Kurdistan as seen through the eyes of health care workers operating a CNEWA-supported mobile clinic • M sgr. John E. Kozar shares some reflections and powerful images from his recent pastoral visit to Egypt
THESE AND MUCH MORE CAN BE FOUND AT CNEWA.ORG
FOR DAILY UPDATES, CHECK OUT CNEWA’S BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE AT CNEWABLOG.ORG
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Care for Marginalized
Health on Wheels A mobile clinic delivers hope in Kurdistan text and photographs by Raed Rafei
vene George considers her toddler a living miracle. During the fifth month of her pregnancy, Islamic State warriors stormed her hometown of Mosul. After a brief moment of confusion that hot June night in 2014, she managed to escape with her family. For six hours she walked, sensing an intensifying pain in her swollen feet. Then her neighbors pushed her in a cart. Gradually overcome by exhaustion, she felt certain she would miscarry. Finally, after settling down among tens of thousands of other similarly displaced Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and
Muslims in nearby Kurdistan, Mrs. George gave birth to a healthy boy. The 27-year-old now resides with her husband, three sons and two teenage sisters in Nafkandala, a small, desolate Assyro-Chaldean village in northern Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of Iraq protected against Islamist militants by Kurdish Peshmerga forces. While they survive with support from charities and aid groups, the full extent of their needs remains great. For days now, her son, Massis â€” now 13 months old â€” has been suffering from a persistent cough and a sore throat.
“To get medical treatment for my son, we have to drive in a taxi for miles to reach the nearest city. My husband is jobless and we are drowning in debts. We cannot afford it,” she says. Aside from keeping her son warm and out of the sharp, chill winds, it had seemed that Mrs. George’s only recourse was prayer. One morning, when a white van serving as a mobile health clinic arrived in this village near the Turkish border, the inhabitants greeted it with enthusiasm. Learning about the clinic by word of mouth, Mrs. George carried her son and headed to the village’s main hall with dozens of other residents. There, the basic elements of a clinic were quickly put in place: a green, three-panel privacy screen, an orange stretcher and a table serving
Christian, Muslim and Yazidi families. Staffed by a doctor, a pharmacist, an administrator and a driver, the van departs from Zakho around 9 a.m., five days a week. Each morning, the van is loaded with supplies stored on the premises of the Syriac Catholic parish. It then makes its way to one or two villages where, typically, the clinic’s doctor provides medical consultation to some 140 patients. In the daily efforts of this small operation, displaced from all walks of life have found a lifeline — enabling many of the region’s most vulnerable people to reclaim health and hope.
eople here are very desperate, so when we come, they are very happy to see us,” says Dr. Karam Nahal, a
Some elderly Yazidi women wear traditional white headdresses. Children frolic, turning a deaf ear to dispirited-looking parents trying to rein them in. The patients carry numbers they received after they registered with the mobile clinic’s administrator. Eid Faleh, 22, enters the village’s public hall, which currently serves as the clinic space, overlooking the valley. Carrying a large, transparent folder full of medical reports, prescriptions and an X-ray scan, he helps his elderly mother sit down. “She has been feeling very tired lately,” says Mr. Faleh, a shepherd who fled Mosul after ISIS killed his cousin. His mother, Naima Khalif, had her breast removed because of a malignant tumor. There are fears, however, that cancerous cells have
“People here are very desperate, so when we come, they are very happy to see us.” as the doctor’s desk — complete with a stethoscope, a blood pressure meter, an oxygen tank and assorted medical instruments. Funded by CNEWA, the mobile clinic is an initiative of the Rev. Yousif Jamil Haddad, the pastor of the Virgin Mary Syriac Catholic Church in Zakho, a bustling city close to Turkey and a commercial hub for the export of oil from Kurdistan. “Many refugees are staying in poor, remote villages where they have no access to medical care,” says Father Haddad, explaining the motivations behind the project that began its operations last June. Today, the mobile clinic visits 22 villages scattered throughout the hilly northern edges of Kurdistan, serving a population of roughly 15,000 internally displaced
general practitioner who works with the mobile clinic in the morning while filling the afternoon and night shifts at a hospital in Zakho. Dr. Nahal is himself displaced from Mosul. The most common ailments Dr. Nahal encounters include influenza and bronchitis caused by cold weather and poorly heated homes, and skin diseases and urinary infections resulting from poor hygiene and overcrowded dwellings. But Dr. Nahal says he also sees many patients suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension and even cancer. In Mergasora, a village of bare one-level homes and farm animals, men and women wait on plastic chairs for their turn with the doctor.
spread to her blood vessels. Mr. Faleh says that in Mosul his mother underwent chemotherapy but that in this Kurdish village they had no means to treat her. Unfortunately, the drugs she needed were not available at the mobile clinic. The doctor could only prescribe painkillers to ease her suffering. PREVIOUS: Pharmacist Falah Ahmad distributes medicine to displaced Iraqis from the back of the mobile clinic. z Father Haddad collects medicine from a storage unit outside his parish church in Zakho. u Sandar Salem, the mobile clinic’s administrator, registers patients.
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CNEWA has coordinated worldwide aid — much of it from the Catholic community — to support the many activities of the churches in assisting the displaced in Iraqi Kurdistan, such as the mobile clinic featured in these pages. Generous benefactors include individual Catholics, parishes and dioceses throughout Europe and North America, as well as partner organizations, such as Kindermissionswerk, the Mennonite Central Committee, Misereor, the Raskob Foundation and Samaritan’s Purse.
To learn more about CNEWA’s works in health care, education and emergency services benefiting tens of thousands of displaced families in Iraqi Kurdistan, visit www.cnewa.org/ web/mideastreport. And to learn more about how you can help, call:
1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).
Later, making the most of the clinic’s visit, Mrs. Khalif brings her grandchildren to the doctor for a checkup. “There are many cases that we are unable to treat,” says Sandar Salem, who oversees the daily operations of the mobile clinic. Difficult medical cases are usually referred to specialists in Zakho. But transportation, even to nearby cities, remains a prohibitively costly option. The situation of the displaced is dire all over Kurdistan. Yet the presence of well-equipped free medical facilities — such as those supported by generous CNEWA donors in urban centers such as Dohuk and Erbil — makes it easier for displaced people to receive medical care. These centers, created as a response to the refugee crisis in August 2014, typically include specialized pediatrics and gynecology clinics, X-ray and medical labs and even dental services.
The mobile clinic has far fewer resources, however, particularly where psychological concerns arise. Out of work for many months after losing their homes and possessions, people feel hopeless and powerless. Depression is common. This translates physically into loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, sleep disorders and, sometimes, erratic behavior. “Today, I examined a 40-year-old woman who suffers from an obsessive compulsive disorder,” says Dr. Nahal. “She washes a chicken five times but still doesn’t find it clean enough.” Patients and their families often refuse to acknowledge mental health concerns. Even in the current situation, acknowledgement of psychological disorders remains taboo in Iraq. There are many Yazidi men who suffer from posttraumatic stress, Dr. Nahal adds.
ISIS has torn their families apart, and forced wives and daughters into sexual servitude. For those facing such horrors, the doctor says, the clinic can do little to help.
utside the town hall, the van is parked under a tree. From its open rear door, the mobile clinic’s pharmacist, Falah Ahmad, distributes medicines prescribed by the doctor. Drugs donated by local medical authorities in Zakho include everything from antibiotics to painkillers, ointments for allergies and drugs for diabetes and stomach flu. “We give away hundreds of medicine packets, but it’s never enough. There are many shortages,” says Mr. Ahmad. Safwan Elias, 32, a Yazidi farmer from Sinjar in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq, takes cold medication for his five children, his wife and himself. “We all have the flu because of the cold,” he says. Mr. Elias says he
was trapped with his family for two weeks as ISIS besieged Sinjar in late 2014. He witnessed shelling just miles from his home and at one point suffered such desperate hunger that he resorted to eating leaves from trees. Though he was able to escape before ISIS militants took over their town, thousands of Yazidis in Sinjar were not so fortunate. Today, Mr. Elias lives in a modest house offered to him by friends. As with many displaced people in these isolated villages, he is unemployed. Only a few have managed to secure employment — usually odd jobs in construction or work as seasonal laborers. Despite the scarcity of work in these villages, many of the displaced prefer to live there rather than stay in urban centers, where costs of living and rent are prohibitively expensive. Before their arrival, Kurdish villages and towns were full of empty houses;
p Dr. Karam Nahal answers a mother’s questions while giving her son an examination. t Women walk through a camp populated by displaced Christians in the Erbil neighborhood of Ain Kawa.
their residents had long since left to seek better economic opportunities in Iraqi cities or abroad. To accommodate the thousands of displaced families seeking shelter in their communities, the mayors opened these mostly rundown houses for free. Some were gradually repaired and refurnished, with plastic shields replacing glass windows and basic furniture and appliances donated or bought from secondhand shops. For food and other basic needs, displaced families receive monthly coupons from CNEWA and Caritas, the charity of the Catholic churches in Iraq. But the value of rations has
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decreased over the months — in some cases from $30 to $12 per person. Another problem facing the displaced is schooling. Mr. Elias cannot afford to send his children to school. Only some of the larger villages offer free classes in Arabic for displaced children, but transportation costs remain an impediment in smaller municipalities, such as Mergasora. Moreover, public schools in Kurdistan teach in Kurdish, a language that most displaced children do not speak. Awatef Youssef, a 30-year-old mother displaced from Qaraqosh, a once-thriving Christian town now occupied by ISIS, is more fortunate. The Syriac Catholic church provides transportation to take three of her four children to a school in nearby Levo. “I am glad my children are getting an education, but the level here is so much lower,” says Mrs. Youssef.
“There, they were good students. Here, they seem distracted all the time.” Much has changed for Mrs. Youssef and her family since they moved to this village a year ago. Her home, once a well-appointed house with a garden, is now a modest dwelling with unpainted walls, bare floors and minimal furniture. “Naturally, my children ask me for toys and new clothes,” she sighs. “But I can’t offer them anything.” Mrs. Youssef says she finds solace in prayer and in keeping her family’s spirits high. She tells her children they will someday soon go back to their home and their friends, despite her growing doubts. Also weighing on her mind are the deaths of distant relatives who drowned as they attempted to cross to Europe from Turkey. “It has left a scar on my heart,” she says. The unfortunate news was
widely publicized among the Christian community in Kurdistan. “My children ask me whether we will also go on a boat. They constantly express fear of the sea,” she says.
or many exiled Christians, the situation is at a deadlock. Even if their towns are one day liberated from ISIS, most doubt they will be able to return safely. Many say their trust in their Muslim neighbors has been shattered. Yazidis from Sinjar say much the same. Although Kurdish forces overtook the region last November, it remains largely uninhabited, with neither water nor electricity. The displaced from Sinjar say they would only go back if protected by international troops. The one upside of the current situation in Nafkandala, according to the village’s mayor, Bassem Hamid, is that it is fostering unity among people of different faiths.
The Youssef children wait for their mother as she collects medicine from the mobile pharmacy.
Originally home to 30 families, Nafkandala today accommodates 70 displaced families — Christian, Yazidi and Sunni Turkmen alike. “It’s much livelier. The church is packed now during the Sunday liturgy. Even Yazidis attend,” he says, adding that the local village church has introduced new religion classes for children.
t around 2 p.m., as the number of patients dwindles, Father Haddad and the mobile clinic’s staff start packing up to leave. A few people arrive before the van departs, asking Dr. Nahal for a quick last-minute consultation. For Father Haddad, the need for medical support exceeds what they are able to offer. “There is a need for more mobile clinics to cover the villages more
than once a month,” he says, adding that they are badly in need of a nurse to help administer treatments, care for wounds and remove stitches. Other challenges include inclement weather, when rain makes it difficult to reach faraway villages — especially those without properly paved roads, where vehicles can become stuck in the mud. Still more cause for concern are two Assyro-Chaldean villages the clinic visits — Sharanish and Dashtatakh — that lie in areas controlled by the P.K.K., the Kurdish rebel group fighting for an independent Kurdish state within Turkey. Technically located within Iraq, the villages are shelled routinely by the Turkish military. “We have to wait sometimes for hours to get permission to get into these towns,” Father Haddad says. “But we make sure to go as often as
we can; this is where the most desperate cases are.” Raed Rafei is a Beirut-based journalist and independent filmmaker whose writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Forbes Arabia and The Lebanese Daily Star.
TO READ MORE ABOUT THE MOBILE CLINIC, VISIT OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:
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cnewablog.org/web/ mobileclinic AND WATCH AN EXCLUSIVE VIDEO ONLINE: onemagazinehome.org/ web/videoclinic
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Care for Marginalized
A Survivor Speaks Caritas Georgia’s Harmony Center offers refuge to a survivor of neglect, war and famine
text and photographs by Molly Corso
vlita Kuchaidze survived famine, World War II, the Cold War, the Georgian civil war and the country’s turbulent early years of independence. But, at 93, she may be facing her hardest challenge yet: Along with an estimated 400,000 other Georgian citizens, Ms. Kuchaidze endures a life of abject poverty. After decades spent caring for others, Ms. Kuchaidze has become one of the thousands of pensioners who must depend on charity to survive. “How do I live right now? In the cold. Hungry. Everything has gotten so expensive,” she says. “I am used to it,” Ms. Kuchaidze adds. “I grew up half hungry. It is harder for people who used to live well.” A tiny, neatly dressed woman with snow-white hair, Ms. Kuchaidze is a quiet soul, quick with a smile. Known as a keen and attentive listener, she inspires others to confide and seek advice, and has come to be regarded by many as a “second mother” at the Caritas Georgia Harmony Day Center, where she is the eldest beneficiary. There, she spends her weekday afternoons with 35 other senior
citizens who also live below the poverty line in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. At the center, Ms. Kuchaidze receives a free daily meal, which she saves to eat at home with her daughter. She also enjoys tea and a snack, as well as the chance to pass the day in a heated room, visiting with friends. Ms. Kuchaidze spends her time reading, soaking up the warmth. These pleasures, however simple, are a luxury for her. At home, she and her daughter, Meriko, struggle
to buy groceries. On her pension, a pittance of $83 monthly, they cannot afford to turn on their electric heater. Squirreling away the provisions from the Harmony Center, Ms. Kuchaidze even saves her second cookie at teatime to share with Meriko later. They survive the cold weather, she says, by “bundling up like cabbage” — putting on as many layers of clothing as possible and then jumping into bed, under the covers. But even layers of clothing do not help when the time comes to wash clothes and bedding — by hand in water they cannot afford to heat — or when they bathe, a thricemonthly chore that requires a trip to a local bathhouse, where the water is warm but the rooms are cold. “I live in the 17th century. I just don’t have a kerosene lamp,” she says, laughing. “I have a bedroom and bathroom and the living room — all in one room. We don’t live; we just survive. So I don’t have such an interest in life.” Her friends, she adds, do not come around very much anymore.
As with most of the Harmony Day Center’s regulars, Ms. Kuchaidze worked hard to create a good life. She overcame a difficult childhood and practical abandonment and put herself through technical school. As an adult, she mended wounds and bolstered spirits on the front, raised a family and built a career. “I will be 94 and so far, thank God, my sight is good,” she says, chuckling, “and my brain still works.” “Sometimes I think about everything I have lived through and I wonder how I have survived until this year,” she says. “To live until one’s 90’s is not a short life.” Hers is the story of so many Georgians of her generation — defined, in large part, by jagged contours of the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. It is the story of perseverance in the face of oppression, of holding on to hope in spite of every imaginable hardship. It is a story of longing and loss. Ms. Kuchaidze has had plenty of practice surviving.
vlita Kuchaidze was born in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in 1922, a year after Red Army forces invaded. During this chaotic
The Caritas center has been a source of support for her. “If I didn’t come here, I don’t know what would have become of me,” she says. “I cannot imagine it.” period, factions led by Georgianborn Joseph Stalin and other party officials lent force to Georgian Bolsheviks’ efforts to seize power from the dominant Mensheviks, and political repression was a fact of life. Her parents withstood the turmoil but divorced soon after. The one-story house they shared near the city center — built by Ivlita’s great-grandfather — was divided into rooms, one for her and her mother, another for her father and his new wife.
“I was just 4 when my parents divorced,” she says. “After that my mother started to study, at the evening schools that existed at that time. After that she went to the agriculture university.” Among her earliest memories, she says, are the times her parents would argue over who would pick her up from the kindergarten down the street. Ms. Kuchaidze would often spend hours alone. “Mama would lay out food on the table, so I could eat when I wanted to. And when I wanted to go to bed, I got ready by myself and went to bed by myself.” A few years later, when her mother completed her education, her job required her to move to another town, Kutaisi, about 120 miles from Tbilisi. “She left me here, in that room. I was in the fifth grade,” Ms. Kuchaidze remembers. At the time, the Soviet Union was in the middle of the devastating famine of 1932-1933. While Georgia was not as hard hit as some of the other Soviet republics, such as Ukraine, Ms. Kuchaidze remembers it as a time of loneliness and hunger. “I am in the fifth grade and I start thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’
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CNEWA began working in the republic of Georgia soon after the nation declared its independence from the Soviet Union. While efforts remain modest, CNEWA’s support has focused on the well-run initiatives of Caritas Georgia with street children, impoverished pensioners and provision of emergency medical care for families impacted by war. Join CNEWA in its care for the “new orphans” — the elderly — in Georgia and neighboring Armenia. To learn more, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).
I am alone. My mother was far away and my father…” She leaves the thought unfinished. “I was half hungry,” she concludes. With the resolve and foresight that would characterize the rest of her life, Ms. Kuchaidze came up with a plan. “I wrote to the medical vocational school,” she says, proud of the moment she decided how to save herself. “I studied with honors.” That resourcefulness proved a crucial trait when, afterward, she served as a nurse on the front lines of World War II. Ms. Kuchaidze remembers the exact day she was sent to war: 23 September 1943. She was 21, a
newly trained nurse and a passionate komsomolka, a member of the Communist Youth League. She was also just one of the estimated 3.4 million civilians mobilized for the war effort. Some estimates say as many as 300,000 Georgians died during the war. Ms. Kuchaidze survived. When she was drafted, the Soviet Union had been fighting Germany for two years, and the war had devastated large swaths of the union. But by 1943, the tide was turning. Each time the Red Army pushed the Nazi forces back, Ms. Kuchaidze moved west. “The front moved forward and we went with it. First through Ukraine and then on to Poland,” she says. “I have seen death with my own eyes so many times, how did I survive to sit here now with you?”
Despite the horrors of war, Ms. Kuchaidze cherishes photos of herself as a young nurse in her uniform. “I was so young and so little. A komsomolka.” She recounts her first days in a field hospital in Ukraine. “I still remember the first injured soldier who arrived at my tent,” she says. “When the medics did not have enough time to get to the soldiers as they arrived and take them to the hospital, we girls would lift them: if he was big, it would take four — if he was skinny, just two,” she recalls with a smirk. Ms. Kuchaidze’s first brush with death came even before she arrived in Ukraine. Two fellow nurses, she says, died when bombs fell at a train station outside of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. That experience — and the image of
t Sister Monica, a native of Poland who staffs the Harmony Day Center, checks Ms. Kuchaidze’s blood pressure. u At the center, many have come to think of Ivlita Kuchaidze as a second mother.
their bodies, hugging each other in death — would haunt her through the war, pushing her to give her all. She went on to survive a German bombing and typhoid fever, making a name for herself among the doctors as the “pride of Georgia.” Eventually, she reached the Polish front. Ms. Kuchaidze laughs as she remembers entertaining the Polish soldiers, fashioning together a costume that resembled the Georgian chokha — a black cloak traditionally worn by Georgian men — and dancing. A Polish soldier even asked her to marry him once, she recalls wistfully. “But I could not imagine life without my Georgia,” she says. She had to refuse.
s. Kuchaidze did not return home until well after the end of the war,
in 1946. Little of her former life remained in Tbilisi. Relatives had cleared out her room, and she had to fight to reclaim it. She had also lost her position at the hospital where she had worked. But she persevered. She quickly found another position, and studied and advanced until she could nurse in any hospital department. She married, and had two daughters. For years, it seemed, she had finally carved out a happy, stable life. Misfortune eventually struck again, powerfully: Her husband died when he was just 62. And, in an odd twist of fate, her eldest daughter died of cancer also at 62. Today, five years later, Ms. Kuchaidze is still mourning.
“I will tell you the truth: For me, now, no holiday has any meaning. I will tell you why: I buried my eldest daughter,” she says. The day center — sponsored by Caritas Georgia, the social service arm of Georgia’s Armenian, Chaldean and Latin Catholic churches — has been a source of support, she says. In the years since her daughter’s death, it has become a sanctuary, an island of warmth where she can spend her days — a crucial part of her survival. “If I didn’t come here, I don’t know what would have become of me. I cannot imagine it,” she says. For those reared in the atheistic Soviet era, public expressions of religious faith are rare. Religious faith is very personal, says Nana Medzmariashvili, who manages the Harmony Center. But until a very
recent fall, which has now grounded her, Ms. Kuchaidze would visit churches to light a candle in memory of her deceased daughter. After everything, her eyes still glimmer with humor. “Thank God for what I have,” Ms. Kuchaidze says. “Whatever I have, it is enough.” The writing of Tbilisi-based photojournalist Molly Corso has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and EurasiaNet. MOLLY CORSO HAS MORE ABOUT IVLITA AT OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:
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Accompanying the Church
Where Change Is on the Curriculum Ukraineâ€™s Catholic university emphasizes service and integrity by Mark Raczkiewycz
uriy Didula, a 25-year-old project manager, had never worked with his hands, nor had he any experience in construction. But in July 2014 he made a leap of faith, grabbed a bag of tools and, from the city of Lviv, traveled 720 miles east to help rebuild homes destroyed by war. Having just returned home from the United States — where he had completed his graduate studies at La Salle University and worked for a time at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. — he heard the news that Ukrainian soldiers had retaken the city of Kramatorsk from pro-Russianseparatist forces. “I felt I should be on the other side, among those civic organizations that are doing something in the field,” Mr. Didula says of his decision to return to his Ukrainian homeland. Despite receiving threatening phone calls after publicizing their intent on social media, Mr. Didula and fellow Ukrainian Catholic University alumnus Andriy Levtytsky headed by train to the reclaimed city to help families and show solidarity. “We wanted to help them not to feel abandoned,” says Mr. Didula. “There was a lot of damage, killing and spiritual trauma. They needed somebody to talk with them.” He now works with the Lviv Education Foundation in his hometown. The group’s project in Kramatorsk, Freedom Home, established a community and youth development center to foster a sense of belonging and cooperation — values Mr. Didula says Ukrainian institutions vitally need and frequently lack. “This is kind of a wound on the whole body of Ukraine,” he says of a young nation embroiled in a war with deep roots. z Students eat, study and socialize in a campus dining hall.
Mr. Didula credits the principles fostered by his alma mater for inspiring his seemingly impulsive decision to embark on a brick-andmortar project in a conflict zone. “I grew up in a big family of seven,” he says. “The values at U.C.U. resemble my family’s’ [beliefs in] sharing and helping those in need, not for personal wealth, but for the benefit of society.” In a nation wracked with corruption and graft at every level — recent international studies conducted by Transparency International and the Organized Crime Observatory vie with headlines labeling Ukraine as “the most corrupt nation in Europe” — the Ukrainian Catholic University distinguishes itself. Through the work of its dedicated administration and staff, students receive not only a first-rate liberal arts education, but also grounding in ideals of service and integrity, rooted as much in Catholic social teaching as in the principles of citizenship.
nique in Ukraine, U.C.U. has carved out a distinctive niche in the past 20 years, serving as one of only two Catholic universities between Poland and Japan, and seeking to excel where the national educational system has fallen short. The university focuses on programs tailored to the realities of the job market — which remains mired in confusion as surviving industries transition from Ukraine’s Soviet-era controlled market policies. Even more importantly, however, U.C.U. emphasizes the formation of future leaders, an objective stressed in the institution’s very mission statement. Anton Kukhliev won a city council seat in Krasnohorivka, located about 40 miles west of Donetsk, on the ticket of a grassroots, pro-reform party called Democratic Alliance. Without funding from any of the country’s politically influential
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“The Ukrainian Catholic University is more than an educational institution,” writes CNEWA’s project officer, Antin Sloboda of Ottawa, Canada, an alumnus of the school. “This is first of all a community of students and professors that grow together, discover reality, and search for Gospel-based solutions to address complex tasks and bring about change.” CNEWA is among U.C.U.’s key partners and thanks to its generous donors CNEWA has helped to develop it, especially in the university’s formative years.
“Since 1998,” writes Mr. Sloboda, “CNEWA has provided my alma mater with more than $2 million to educate hundreds of new leaders for Ukraine’s churches and society. Most of these funds supported student scholarships, administrative costs, library development, formation of seminarians and many other programs. “CNEWA’s support of the Ukrainian Catholic University is more than financial. The close cooperation between CNEWA and U.C.U. is a genuine gesture of solidarity, and an opportunity to exchange gifts and resources.” To learn more about how you can help, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).
oligarchs, the party won 4 out of 26 seats in the local legislature in a constituency still loyal to the party of the ousted pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Mr. Kukhliev, 33, attributes his success to a program he attended in the summer of 2014 offered by U.C.U.’s Institute of Leadership and Management. “I had a breakthrough in my life,” Mr. Kukhliev says, which began when he looked around and noticed many participants were younger than he was. Youth care about deeper things than just labels, he says about the linguistic and religious differences used to justify partisan extremism in modern Ukraine. “I saw that Ukraine is changing. I’m from a war zone where everything is closed, but suddenly I saw a wider view of the world.” After returning home, he worked on community development for a year, speaking to teachers and other community leaders on reconciliation, organizing group viewings of films, fostering dialogues on history and campaigning for local elections in his town of 15,000 people. “I did everything the leadership school taught me, starting with planning. Every week we did something — we conducted seminars on the election law, we did analysis, we spoke to voters in the squares and courtyards, all on a $230 budget.” Bishop Borys Gudziak, the university’s longtime rector and present president who also serves as bishop to Western Europe’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic community, describes such a turning point as a “formative experience” that enables people to believe in themselves — something the school strives to foster in all its students. “When you’re free, when you study and live in an environment
where many things become possible, you begin to believe that sharing freedom and possibility is your vocation,” Bishop Borys says. “It is a challenge to resynthesize a Christian culture,” he adds, referring to Soviet hostility to Ukrainian Christianity and the outright suppression of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. “Of course, it is a global challenge.” To understand the challenge, one must understand Ukraine’s history, the bishop says. Millions of Ukrainian lives were lost to war, famine and political repression in the 20th century, he explains, profoundly wounding a society that still feels the weight of its turbulent history in its cultural DNA. To heal and prepare students for the challenges of the real world, the Ukrainian Catholic University treats its students with love and dignity. Its model for a traditional liberal arts education — utilizing an honor system, mutually respectful dialogue between faculty and students, and an environment supportive of challenging ideas and thinking critically — often runs counter to the state-run educational system built on rigid, outdated teaching methods. And the cornerstone of the university’s model is Christian ethics. After what Bishop Borys describes as an “arduous process,” the nation’s education ministry accredited the first Catholic university in the former Soviet Union in 2002, long after it received international accreditation in 1998. “Breaking through that postSoviet barrier took ten years of explanation, lobbying, meeting post-Soviet standards,” he says. “But some of the burden of those aspects are being disposed of,” he adds, noting that U.C.U. has been a consistent voice among those advocating reducing the regulations that govern curricula, required classroom hours and fundraising.
“There’s no place for a Catholic university where authoritarianism flourishes.” —Myroslav Marynovych
“There is a family atmosphere here.” —Vladyslav Mustafaev
“It is a challenge to resynthesize a Christian culture.” —Bishop Borys Gudziak
“What I learned in four years as an undergraduate, I learned in half a year at U.C.U.” —Oleksandra Chernova
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he university comprises two faculties — one for philosophy and theology, and one for the humanities. About a quarter of the staff is educated in the Western tradition, and the school boasts a low student-toteacher ratio of four to one, according to the Rev. Oleg Kindiy, assistant dean for international relations. The school offers degrees in 18 subjects, including theology, business, technology management and journalism. Plans are in place to found a law school and to install a rehabilitation program for soldiers, families and refugees affected by the current war. Students are steeped in the humanities and are also drawn to the university’s emphasis on inclusiveness and ecumenism — a hallmark of Catholic education. “U.C.U. is a meeting point for secular and religious segments of society,” says Myroslav Marynovych, a vice chancellor for the university and president of the Institute of Religion and Society. Born in Sevastopol to a Ukrainian mother and father of Arabic descent,
Vladyslav Mustafaev was baptized in the Orthodox Church and reared on the Crimean peninsula — making him part of the 30 percent of the student body that is not Greek Catholic, and 35 percent not from the Lviv metropolitan area. Belonging to a minority at U.C.U. has been no problem, the 19-yearold reports. “There is a family atmosphere here,” he says, but, he adds, “I’m still searching for my faith.” Mr. Mustafaev transferred from a medical school in search of an education free of graft and with a more open an equitable relationship between faculty and students. At his prior school, he alleges, “everything is for sale” — including diplomas and grades. The Catholic institution’s zerotolerance policy for plagiarism and bribery, two traits that plague the Ukrainian educational system, is yet another way the school distinguishes itself, attracting students serious about their own growth. Master’s journalism student Oleksandra Chernova enrolled after completing an undergraduate
degree on the same topic at the Donetsk National University. Born in Russia and reared in Sloviansk, about 70 miles north of Donetsk, she recently completed a monthlong internship with international news agency Reuters in Kiev and is deeply immersed in student life at U.C.U. “I hardly sleep, I always work, there’s no free time and I have no regrets,” she says. “I want to develop, to try new things.” Growing more comfortable working with experienced journalists, the 22-year-old says, is as much the result of gaining exposure and practical work as being treated like an adult at her university. “What I learned in four years as an undergraduate I learned in half a year at U.C.U,” she says. As with recently elected city council member Anton Kukhliev, faculty members also graduate into public service. In October 2015, the Ukrainian government’s Cabinet of Ministers approved the appointment of U.C.U.’s vice president for research and education, Pavlo
Khobzey, as deputy education minister. Others serve in the private sector by holding public officials accountable. Ihor Feshchenko, 23, monitors campaign financing and local government activities in Lviv for the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a local election watchdog and public accountability group. Holding a master’s degree in media communication from U.C.U., he also works part time as the assistant to the director of the local chapter of the Renaissance Foundation. Mr. Feshchenko says U.C.U. showed him the true meaning of the Christian faith and helped him find direction in his life. “It’s an intellectual atmosphere where people strive to meet goals,” he says. “This helped me realize myself through the goal to promote transparent, simple and honest rules in society.” When no side imposes its truth on the other, says Vice Chancellor Mr. Marynovych, who spent 10 years in a Soviet gulag as a political prisoner, freedom permeates. “There’s no place for a Catholic university where authoritarianism flourishes,” he concludes.
hings have not always been so rosy at the university, which was re-founded in 1994 on the remains of the longrepressed Greek Catholic Theological Academy founded in 1928 by the revered leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Venerable Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. Various Ukrainian governments have perceived U.C.U. as a threat for its independent stance and as an advocate for reform. Between 1994 and 2004, Bishop Borys braced for expulsion from Ukraine. “In 2001, I was threatened with deportation,” the Harvard-educated U.S.-born bishop says. “There was a veiled threat on television: Those
rectors of schools whose students participate in unsanctioned protests and who have American passports would be deported — and of course, there was only one.” Further, the State Security Service — also known as the S.B.U. — tried to intimidate the bishop while he served the university as its chancellor in May 2010. An S.B.U. agent had visited his office, requesting that he sign a letter addressed to him from the service and warning him about government measures that would be taken against students advocating reform. Bishop Borys refused to read, let alone sign, the letter after the officer refused to give him a copy. Western governments in some cases responded on behalf of the school and the bishop. “Different embassies often rallied in support of U.C.U., and moved back repressive measures,” he says. History professor Yaroslav Hrytsak says that the institution, as a Catholic, non-governmental university, was often treated with suspicion by the authorities. In response, the school embraced even negative attention, taking any possible opportunity to spread its message. “Our idea was to work like a positive virus,” Mr. Hrytsak says. If in the past the university and Ukraine seemed to exist in separate worlds, the two now appear to be more alike — especially since the recent political upheaval. “So now U.C.U. does not feel its ‘exceptionalism’ anymore,” Mr. Hrytsak adds. “We feel one among many.” It is still too early to predict what awaits future alumni. Bishop Borys notes that the first alumni are only in their 30’s. “We’re still in diapers as a school. It’s a very young institution; our first graduates are young,” he says. “We’re looking for the influence of relationship. Influence of integrity. Influence of mercy.”
Exemplifying that drive and influence is Mr. Didula of the Lviv Education Foundation. Not content to stop at rebuilding homes, he has overseen the creation of five community centers, all in eastern Ukraine, by mobilizing some 150 volunteers last year. His group has established a network built on local friendships and bridge-building between western and eastern Ukraine. Now, he wants to create community centers in other parts of Ukraine. “I want to engage 500 volunteers this year in 11 cities,” Mr. Didula says. Better mobility and communication, he believes, are instrumental to ending the current conflict. “That’s why we want to encourage young people to travel from one region to another, to learn what Ukraine is at the end,” he says. “This project should be a foundation for a national movement not based on ethnic, religious or linguistic backgrounds, but on common values of sharing, helping and openness.” Thanks in part to all he learned at Ukrainian Catholic University, especially the values it imparts, Mr. Didula now coordinates this important, scaled-up effort. Note: During the editorial process, the word “civil” was added describing the war in Ukraine. It has been subsequently removed. Mark Raczkiewycz is editor at large for the Kyiv Post in Ukraine. His work has appeared in publications including The Financial Times, The Irish Times and Jane’s Intelligence. FOR MORE ON LIFE AT THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY, VISIT OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:
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When Rain Fails Ethiopians seek solutions to the worst drought in decades by James Jeffrey with photographs by Petterik Wiggers
s 9-month-old Aixet rests in her mother’s arms, Nurse Elsa Aduma wraps a special measuring tape marked in red, yellow and green around her tiny upper arm. Aixet’s eyes move quizzically from the tape to the nurse as Ms. Aduma reads out the measurement: three and threequarters inches — in the red zone, meaning Aixet qualifies as severely malnourished. “I haven’t enough milk,” says 32-year-old mother Amete Kahsay. “There’s not enough food in the house for me to eat properly.” Though the clinic does not provide food supplements, the 40-year-old nurse refers her to one that may be able to help. Operated by the Daughters of St. Anne, the health clinic in the town of Idaga Hamus sits just off the main road about 12 miles south of Adigrat, the second-largest city in Ethiopia’s northernmost region of Tigray. The dramatic scenery of
Tigray — cliffs, gorges and flattopped mesas beneath bright lightblue skies — is where Christianity took root in Ethiopia around the fourth century, its roots holding firm even as surrounding countries embraced Islam after the seventh century. But the region’s stark beauty is tied to an arid climate. Ethiopia’s reputation as “the water tower of Africa” is due largely to its central highlands to the south. In contrast, the northeastern highlands, which include Tigray, have long endured inconsistent rainy seasons. This year stands as one of the worst for rainfall in living memory as the El Niño cycle results in unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere. Many in the region declare the current situation more severe than 1984, when drought conditions triggered a famine that led to the deaths of more than a million Ethiopians.
Yet the clinic is not inundated with malnourished children. Aixet is, for now, in the minority. While images of the 1984 famine came to stigmatize Ethiopia for decades, the nation has taken steps to remedy this situation. In particular, in 2005, the government established the Productive Safety Net Program (P.S.N.P.), a welfarefor-work initiative that enables about six million people to work on public infrastructure projects, such as digging irrigation canals or building terraces for crops, for food or cash. P.S.N.P. also includes measures such as a national food reserve and early warning systems throughout woredas, local administrative organizations. q Livestock and other animals often number among the first victims of a severe drought. t Shepherds in the Afar region hike along a road.
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ONE spoke with CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, on the drought, the fear of famine and CNEWA’s own role in fighting hunger and malnutrition. The next rain is uncertain. And if people harvest nothing due to prolonged rain shortages, no grain will be available for the coming three to four months. In the most vulnerable schools supported by CNEWA in the Eparchy of Adigrat, children receive nutritious biscuits as supplements. Should that supply dwindle, schools would certainly lose many children. If the next wet season — from March to July — does not bring rain, we could very well have famine. Other than school feeding programs, people only have food supplied by the government and larger international aid organizations on which to rely. Since 2013, CNEWA has supported more than 8,000 children in 24 Catholic schools with its food programs. These schools are mostly in areas characterized by erratic rainfall and rocky, mountainous terrain. But now, due to the widespread lack of rain, tens of thousands of school children in the Adigrat area are threatened with malnourishment. Thus, school feeding programs are more needed than ever before. CNEWA is not an emergency relief organization, and it lacks the resources of such organizations to mobilize a large-scale remediation of famine. But, as an agency of the Holy See, CNEWA helps the poor of Ethiopia in its abiding and consistent support of the many social service institutions of the Ethiopian churches. For decades, CNEWA has nourished little souls by satisfying their stomachs, reducing school dropout rates and enabling children to complete their education successfully, even during food shortage years. To help feed more children and their families, call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).
Such efforts have seen some success. Since 1990, child mortality in Ethiopia has fallen from about 20 percent to 5.9 percent. Nevertheless, some 40 percent of Ethiopian children suffer from malnutrition, hampering growth. Today, an imminent crisis remains a distinct possibility. When initially faced with drought, Ethiopian minsters worked to contain the situation. The nation had already committed $192 million to drought-relief efforts. Further assistance from donor-supported social welfare systems was also promised. Before long, however, the estimated number of those affected had doubled to more than 8 million people — requiring an appeal for outside help. But precious time has been lost, and fundraising efforts are playing catch-up, further hampered by legal hurdles. Thus clinics, such as the one operated by the Daughters of St. Anne in Idaga Hamus, still wait for donor support. “We really feel guilty when we see what we are supposed to do but can’t because of lack of resources and capabilities,” says Sister Azalech, the clinic’s director. When asked about the needs of the clinic, within the sister’s Amharic reply one word stands out clearly: “Genzeb.” Money. “The international community should not wait for documentation; it should trust our reports, as we are the witnesses,” says Sebhatu Seyoum, social and development coordinator for the Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat (commonly known as A.D.C.S.), the social service arm of the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, which sponsors project funding for numerous institutions, including the sisters’ clinic. “There’s confusion of information in the world’s media — people are not starving, but they’re close to starving,” says Mr. Seyoum, who estimates A.D.C.S. needs about $20 million to
run its drought-related projects planned for the next six months. “We need to address this moment right now, before it gets worse.” In the northern reaches of the country, especially, many are echoing Mr. Seyoum’s concerns.
bout four miles from the Idaga Hamus clinic, a dirt road ends where the duncolored land drops down a steep, rocky, cactus-filled hillside to a valley floor. Here nestles St. Michael Catholic School and its 300 primary students and 31 preschoolers. Not only must students brave the steep hillside to reach school each day, but some trek for up to an hour and a half each way, says 38-year-old school director Haftu Lemlem. When the 40 students in sixth grade are asked how many ate breakfast, almost everyone raises a hand. Yet, Mr. Lemlem believes some may have been embarrassed to admit they had gone without, while others likely subsist on reduced portions. “Many students are from very poor families; some are orphans. Some families near the school have vegetable plots, but those coming from further away don’t. About half need food support.” Mr. Lemlem says so far the drought has not resulted in dropouts — which, in such a case, could be due to children being too weak to walk the long distances, or families moving in search of food and pastures for livestock — though he cautions that this could soon change; the school currently has no food support program. “With an education, they have a chance of supporting themselves, but if they drop out they become fully dependent on others,” he says.
A mother brings her child to the Daughters of St. Anne’s clinic for a checkup.
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“We need to address this moment right now, before it gets worse.”
Further north, just shy of Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, is another St. Michael School — the archangel has particular prominence among Ethiopian Christians — in the village of Awo. Along the road, a large truck comes from the other direction to deliver bags of animal feed to a P.S.N.P. food warehouse. “Many here are pastoralists; their animals are their only collateral and assets,” says Ashenafi Aregawi, A.D.C.S.’s head of monitoring and evaluation. “Leaving aside dietary aspects, if they lose their animals they have nothing else.” School director Tesfaye Berhe worries some parents may soon remove students to work on P.S.N.P.supported schemes. Through past droughts, the school had a meal program. This year, however, the program has yet to start for want of funding, a cause for concern among students with limited access to food. One student, 13-year-old Rahel Zewde, only rarely has the chance to eat meat — it is a luxury usually reserved for major religious celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter, she says, looking away shyly and biting the neckline of her thin green and black hoodie. She adds she “sometimes” eats breakfast. Rahel lives close by with four younger brothers and her single mother — her father left them for another family — in a compound belonging to extended family. With the two main buildings bolted shut, Rahel’s family occupies a corner screened from the sun but open to the elements, and sleeps under sacking on the stone floor. When Rahel returns from school, she collects water and firewood, and looks after her brothers when her mother is away.
Sustaining Rahel in this delicate balance is her faith. “I pray to Mary, and ask her to save me from bad things,” she says.
raveling east from Idaga Hamus along an escarpment, surrounded by mountain ranges stretching as far as the eye can see, leads to Tigray’s even more arid regional neighbor: the Afar, famous for its Danakil Depression — by average temperature, the hottest place on earth. Eventually
Rahel Zewde, 13, is one of the many students at the St. Michael School in Awo who benefit from a daily feeding program.
the winding dirt road reaches the small village of Mawo and its school. With a predominantly Muslim population, most young girls wear headscarves while many boys wear local kopesa, a variety of sarong. “We have a good relationship with the Catholic Church, which has supported us through extra
buildings and water provision,” Ahmed Muhammad, the school’s 26-year-old director, says of support from the Adigrat Catholic secretariat. Thus far, he says, there have been only three dropouts out of 300 students. The school has a World Food Program-provided feeding program that offers a daily porridge at 10 a.m. “But the service is based on last year’s report. As our numbers have increased, there is a gap,” Ahmed says. “This area is normally drought-affected, so the life of the community depends on the government and other organizations,” says 40-year-old math teacher Dawit Hagos. About a mile from the school is a dam built by the Adigrat Catholic secretariat in 2012, which created a small reservoir for the surrounding area’s livestock. “Before the dam we had to take cattle far away into the hills to try and find rivers,” says Hussein Esmael, a member of the local militia, his AK-47 perched on a shoulder. “If God blesses us and we get rains we might have enough water also to irrigate the surrounding land so we can grow some crops.” A.D.C.S. also built a local water pump. Pairs of young girls work the metal lever, jumping in the air to gain downward momentum. After filling two yellow containers and placing plastic bags under caps to ensure tighter seals, girls heave them onto the backs of waiting donkeys and return home. The uneven impact of the drought makes coordinating responses even harder — some areas have experienced a 30 percent reduction in harvest, others have seen
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90 percent or even total crop failure. Recently, the road between Mawo and Tigray passes through a valley bathed in the soft light of late afternoon, still relatively green with small allotments of crops growing beside simple flat-roofed stone buildings. Absent other vehicles, with people, donkeys and cattle sharing the dirt road, the scene appeared almost biblical — a reminder that Ethiopia remains a country of very different natures. The capital, Addis Ababa, showcases another nature; construction cranes and a skyline that changes every month frame Africa’s fastest growing economy, averaging annual 10 percent growth for the past decade. This economic engine has been at the forefront of poverty reduction. Still, urban poverty in Ethiopia, while lower than the average, lingers around 25 percent. Moreover, most of the population of nearly 100 million lives outside modernizing cities capable of sophisticated food-aid allocation systems. Poverty remains, for now, an inexorable part of Ethiopian life.
thiopia’s tolerant mix of religions is given symbolic testament by Adigrat’s tallest building: the tower of Holy Savior Catholic Cathedral, the seat of the Eparchy of Adigrat. Though the Catholic flock makes up less than 1 percent of Ethiopia’s population, church leaders strive to coordinate relief throughout the region, on the basis of need rather than creed. “We are like salt in water — this situation is dissolving us,” Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin says of bureaucratic hurdles that complicate efforts to address hunger. “Though there are two sides to this: The government has followed a rational approach of containment and has tried to manage the situation on its own; and international partners need declarations, which take time.” In 1984, Bishop Tesfaselassie was studying in England. “I watched the news with tears in my eyes. I felt naked and humiliated,” he says. Because of its strong, consistent efforts to respond to that famine, the bishop notes, Ethiopia’s small Catholic Church gained great esteem among local communities. That hard-won reputation, however,
could be undermined by the current situation. “We feel quite helpless in a way,” he says. “Evaluations are taking too long. It’s terrible; the church can’t do anything. It’s possible we may lose credibility as a result, but we feel people could be harmed — that is more of a concern.” For now, only two beds are occupied in the Daughters of Charity Alitena Health Center, located close to the border with Eritrea. Mother-of-ten Nigist Zhalay has a urinary tract infection while mother-of-six Gidema Amala has a skin infection causing painful inflammation around her jaw. “Any type of illness is more likely if people aren’t getting enough nutrition,” says 28-year-old clinical nurse Solomon Sibhat. “We’re already seeing an increase in pneumonia and respiratory problems.” “This country has changed so much,” Ms. Gidema says from her bed. “Before there were trees, water, honey, the landscape produced fresh items. We have cut down too many trees.” One can debate how human error, El Niño and climate change have
each contributed to the drought, and such discussion is important for longterm countermeasures. Right now, however, those at A.D.C.S. can only think of addressing more immediate humanitarian realities on the ground. “After rains fail, problems always get worse from January onward, after people have used up their reserves,” says Daniel Zigta, A.D.C.S.’s education program coordinator. “Animals are already dying; humans are next.” While government action in coordination with international charities has prevented — for now — scenes reminiscent of 1984, Ethiopia remains in a precarious state. Those impacted by drought now number around 8.2 million. According to United Nations estimates, this could rise to 15 million by the middle of 2016. With another El Niño-induced failed rainy season, positive strides could be tragically reversed. “That experience in England left something in me,” Bishop Tesfaselassie says. “I love to see a country developing and changing through all its God-given resources. In five to ten years, Ethiopia may cope with these droughts on its own. But for that to become reality, a timely response is needed now to
secure being able to face future challenges.” Mr. Seyoum of the Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat has an even simpler message: “Don’t wait for it to be official, don’t wait for signatures — just act.” James Jeffrey is a business journalist based in Addis Ababa. His work has appeared in African Business magazine and the Austin Business Journal.
Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin leads the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat. JAMES JEFFREY HAS MORE ON THE DROUGHT IN ETHIOPIA ON OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE: cnewablog.org/web/ drought
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from our world
Bishop Paul Hinder, O.F.M., Cap. by Don Duncan
Born in Switzerland in 1942 to a family of farmers, Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia, followed a long and varied road to his present post shepherding nearly a million Catholics in Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. He entered the Capuchins in 1962, was ordained a priest in 1967, studied canon law and obtained a doctorate in theology in 1976. After more than a decade in Rome as general councilor for the Capuchins worldwide, he was ordained a bishop in 2004. From his base in Abu Dhabi, Bishop Hinder sat down with ONE to discuss the progress and challenges of the Catholic community in the Persian Gulf.
ONE: Do you find working in an Arab monarchical system different from your previous work experience in Switzerland and Rome? Bishop Paul Hinder: I come from Switzerland, a democratic culture with participation of the people, a reliable legal system and so on. In a monarchy, you suddenly have to go to the court, to the palace or to the ruler or the ruler’s representative if you need things done. That is something very strange to my heart — or it was when I started. In the meantime, I had to learn how to work within that system. What I had to learn, and I am still learning, is that living here requires patience — patience in the relationship you cannot establish in five minutes; to be seen to take care of friendships
without selling your soul; to show you understand the problems in building the nation. We have to keep in mind that within the last 50 years, they were catapulted from the Bedouin lifestyle to a highly modern and technologically advanced situation, so the locals are also adapting. ONE: The Gulf States are becoming more tolerant of Christian migrants. The number of churches is increasing. And yet, Christian religious activity is limited to defined spaces. Does this present any problems? PH: It’s complex. We have limited space and there’s simply too much to do. What we are doing is taking the five loaves and two fish and
distributing them, knowing it’s not sufficient but hoping that it will somehow multiply on the ground. The parish priest of St. Mary’s in Dubai was here a few minutes ago. He said that during nine Masses before Christmas, they had 10,00012,000 Filipinos every evening. How do you deal with so many people? You can’t take them all for confession. On one end, it’s a pastoral opportunity, but you cannot establish individual relationships. This is one of the challenges: to meet the needs, knowing we lack the means, the manpower and the infrastructure to answer them all. ONE: Some Catholics have mentioned that the lack of space has led to an opportunity for other churches to proselytize and convert. Is this happening? PH: Sometimes, not having enough space means some people may prefer to go where they can move more easily: the Pentecostal community, the Anglicans, the Orthodox. There is also proselytism. Here on the compound parking area, Pentecostals or the “bornagain” Christians distribute leaflets and so on. Never would I have this idea; we accept converts if they come to us freely, but we do not actively propagate Catholicism among the Protestants or the Orthodox. ONE: Does ministering to a congregation of migrants limit your work? PH: It’s a delicate issue. Me too, I’m a migrant. I have to renew my residence license here every third year — if not every second. So, of course we are all in the same boat and the possibilities to intervene as a migrant are thin. Where we have direct contact with the rulers, we tell them about our situation,
avoiding too much criticism because they don’t like that. It’s not in the culture. But just to say, “look, this is the situation, maybe there is a solution for this” — that can pass. Then, the main work within the parishes is to help people. In many cases it’s simply to help them get back to their home country because here they are lost; pay a ticket or help them get out of a visa crisis; or to offer security to runaway domestic workers, for example, who have been abused in one way or another. We also help them to get to their respective embassy. ONE: The government requires that church compounds close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for security reasons. That leaves you 17 hours to divide
evening in big parishes. You have to think about the catechism, also. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 children in St. Mary’s and close to 4,000 here in Abu Dhabi. We have to teach in shifts, without the children missing Mass. So you simply reach a limit. Most of the Catholics are Latin, but there are also Syro-Malabar Catholics, the biggest Eastern Catholic community here. Then we have Maronites, Melkites, Syriac Catholics, some Chaldeans, Armenian Catholics, we have some Coptic Catholics, then the SyroMalankara, not to mention the Eastern Europeans — Ukrainian Greek Catholics and so on. I try to be in dialogue with the different groups, and I can tell you: I don’t
“What I had to learn, and I am still learning, is that living here requires patience.” the facilities among various Catholic communities. How do you strike a balance? PH: You have to distribute the cake in sections. Of course during the day there’s little to do because people have to work, but every evening you have the problem of how to divide the cake. It’s a problem especially in big parishes like St. Mary’s in Dubai and St. Joseph’s in Abu Dhabi. Besides the availability of priests who can celebrate in the respective rite or language, I have the challenge of fixing the timetable. Of course everyone wants to celebrate on Fridays, being the day of rest. So, on Fridays, we normally have 10 to 12 liturgies from morning to
think that any other issue has taken so much of my time as this. ONE: What positive outcomes have come from this situation? PH: Many of the logistical issues we have are not easy to resolve. But if you ask some Arabic-speaking Christians — here all the Arabicspeaking Christians go to the same liturgy — and many of them have told me that it’s wonderful because for the first time in their lives, they are all together. When they go back to Lebanon or to Syria, they go to their respective churches and are suddenly no longer in the same Eucharist. Here the Maronites and Chaldeans are together, for example, something that never happens back home.
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A pictorial journey to Egypt
uring my recent pastoral visit to Egypt, in a rural Christian village in the Upper Nile area, I had a fraternal exchange with a group of diocesan Catholic clergy, all of whom live and work in very similar surroundings. In the middle of our conversation, a group of beautiful children came up to me, obviously not used to having a visitor from a foreign land. I noticed on the wrists of the children a tattoo of the Coptic cross. I asked each of them to show me their tattoos in more detail. They were proud of this insignia of their faith. Though small, these crosses given at baptism are cherished for life.
Then the elder priest in our group pulled back the sleeve of his cassock and showed us his cross — much larger, a bit faded, but still distinct as a Coptic cross. The children were very attentive. Then he said something very profound: “As we age our skin stretches and the cross grows larger.” Maybe for the children, he was alluding to the size of the tattoo, but to me and the other priests he demonstrated a depth of wisdom in his faith: As we age, the crosses in life tend to get larger and heavier, but we carry them and we cherish them, as Egypt’s 8.5 million Coptic Christians do so well.
Egypt is often left out of discussions about the “Holy Land,” yet it is the land where St. Joseph took Mary and Jesus for safe haven. Sometimes the ancient history of the Pharaohs, the pyramids and the many archaeological treasures diminish the biblical importance of this land. But Christians in Egypt, unlike in most of the Middle East, are truly at the bottom of society. Generally, they are the least educated, own very few businesses and are considered “second class,” or the outcasts of society. Many live in sprawling urban ghettoes, where many make a living picking and sorting garbage. Others live in very poor rural villages where they till
the soil as indentured servants to wealthy landowners. One sister said, “They don’t dare take one head of grain to eat.” In either setting, however, their faith is alive. Despite being extremely poor and living in horrible conditions, such as sleeping on a mud floor with their oxen and pigs, they relate to their local parish as an extended family and do everything needed to sustain each other, even to the point of taking in orphans or those children or elderly who have no one to care for them. In the rural areas, most of the mothers must work in the fields along with their husbands and older children. Volunteers from the local
parishes provide daycare and watch over the children of these workers in the fields. They also teach them usable skills that improve the quality of their lives. This is another way for them to display with pride their Coptic cross tattoo. How can garbage collectors and sorters who live surrounded by mountains of garbage in Cairo’s ghettoes be considered productive? How can they sing “Alleluia” at Mass on Epiphany? It is possible because so many of them look to the cross on their wrist for their cherished identity. They are not outcasts. They are not “second class.” They are brothers and sisters to Christ, and he is their Lord.
Copts are tattooed with the cross at baptism.
When you see a report about something happening in Egypt or see some cultural or touristic highlight about that country, remember that Jesus, the Holy Family, also were there. It is a holy place, and the Coptic faithful keep it holy with their lives, their example and their prayers. CNEWA is honored to accompany them as they display their Coptic cross. Please keep them in your prayers.
Msgr. John E. Kozar
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A Pictorial Journey
Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people. Marginalized for decades, many are poor, whether living as garbage collectors and recyclers in densely populated centers near Cairo — known as Zabbaleen in Arabic — or in farming villages along the Nile River in Upper Egypt.
A Pictorial Journey
The Christian faith nourishes the souls, minds and bodies of Egyptâ€™s Copts, who received the faith from St. Mark the Evangelist in the first century. A disciple of St. Peter, St. Mark founded the church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, one of the most important centers of the early church.
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